CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

CENTRE for POLICY ANALYSIS

“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex” - Karl Marx

OPINION


COVID-19 Crisis Exposes Fatal Weaknesses of 'Strong' Leaders


Many believe that the solution to all problems is a single, strong leader. A leader who is sure of his intentions, who does not get tired of saying that he is not going to bow before anyone. One who will defeat every opponent and, most importantly, who is a patriot above all others who can identify every traitor.

These days, there is no shortage of such leaders the world over. A few years ago those leaders were extolled who talked about world peace and strengthening democracy; now these values are being abjured. It is now believed that such leaders are unnecessarily lenient and the drum roll is for "strong leaders".

The Corona crisis is the right time to evaluate the contribution of some such "strong" leaders. Have they been able to deal with this crisis? If so, we should really appreciate their strength. But if not, then we should examine what use-or whose use-their strength is being put to.   

Think about the three strong leaders who come immediately to mind in today's context. All three have very good relations with those who run the levers of power in this country, so people would also certainly be curious about how they have performed.  

The first is Jair Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil, whom our countrymen know little about, though he was the special guest of our government-and all of us-at the Republic Day parade on 26 January. Let us forget for a moment what is said about him and review instead his attitude during the time when a Covid-19 epidemic was looming on the horizon. Then there's British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. He got a by-election conducted on the Brexit question and also secured a very firm victory in it. The Opposition Labour Party opposed India's CAA-NRC-NPR triad before that election. Naturally, India's government could not bear this opposition and persons of Indian origin in Britain, who support this government, poured their hearts and their resources into making Johnson win. The third is Donald Trump-the President of the United States. Trump has an affinity for our Prime Minister, and Narendra Modi and his government spent all of February preparing to receive him in India.  

These three strong leaders share many characteristics.  

All three refused to take the Covid-19 threat seriously. On 24 March, when more than a thousand positive cases had been reported in Brazil, and more than 100 people had died, Bolsonaro, addressed his nation. He told his people that all the talk about quarantines and travel restrictions was nonsense. He asked his citizens to return to work and school. All the while, his own Ministry of Health advised him to the contrary. Still Bolsonaro said that it is not necessary to maintain physical distancing and added that the virus is not fatal, but only a "small flu". A few weeks later, on 17 April, Bolsonaro sacked his Health Minister and installed in the post a new minister who has business interests in private healthcare institutions. Bolsonaro then insisted that it was more important to keep industry running than to impose restrictions due to the spread of the Coronavirus.  

Certainly it is a result of this strong leader's attitude that, to date, there have been 54,043 cases of Covid-19 reported in Brazil and 3,704 have died.  

Following his landslide victory, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson went on a vacation. When he returned, the first case of Covid-19 had surfaced in China. But this news did not have any significant impact on him. He started preparing for the expansion of his Cabinet and celebrations for leaving Brexit. The first positive case turned up in England on 29 January. The number of cases kept escalating but they did not add to Johnson's worries; and on 3 February he delivered a speech in which he exhorted people to not succumb to the growing threat of Covid-19, and insisted that it is the economic situation that needed to be worked out. Through February, particularly among the elderly, the scourge of this virus escalated. But on 7 March Johnson went to watch the England vs Wales rugby match and shook hands with everybody there. Not only this. He said that he will shake hands to demonstrate exactly how this disease will be tackled. After this, two and a half lakh racing enthusiasts were also allowed to participate in a festival.  

News of the deaths from Coronavirus also started coming in on the same day. A few days later, the Health Minister of England himself fell ill with Covid-19. Now the attitude of the government changed a bit, but a lot of time had already been wasted. England’s magnificent National Health Services (NHS) has been weakened by successive governments, who had strongly preferred the privatisation of health services. The result is that there are not enough materials or resources at hand to deal with this epidemic. As the cases piled up day by day, it became impossible to treat them. Johnson’s pregnant girlfriend fell ill too, and on 27 March, Johnson himself tested positive for Covid-19-and had to resort to the same NHS that his party had started hollowing out decades ago. So far, Johnson has not been able to return to his job but he has had to admit that the NHS saved his life. At the time of writing this article, a total of 1,43,464 people have contracted Covid-19 in England, out of which 19,506 have died.  

America is the wealthiest and powerful country in the world. Its forces are deployed on military bases all around the world. It has enough weapons and military equipment to destroy the entire planet. Even President Trump never tires of proclaiming himself the most powerful and influential leader in the world. But the dawn of the Coronavirus crisis has unceremoniously torn the veil that covered all the fatal weaknesses of the system-of uncontrolled capitalism-that Trump serves with full force and which props up his bravado.  

Just like Bolsonaro, Trump also adopted a non-scientific attitude towards the Corona crisis. In the first week of March, when 149 Corona cases had been reported and 11 people had died, he continued to minimise the severity of the crisis before the public. His experts repeatedly said that there was a need to increase testing, but Trump kept repeating to his countrymen a dream of a magical vaccine that is going to be ready soon. On 6 March, Anthony Fauci of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told Trump at a meeting that it could take 18 months for a vaccine for Coronavirus to be ready. Trump retorted that he would have liked if Fauci had said it would take just about a few months. In a speech the same day, Trump told the American public that the vaccine would be available very soon.  

Covid-19 positive cases, and deaths, continued to climb throughout the US in March. Trump's response continued to be very strange. First he made wild accusations against China and started calling Corona a "Chinese virus". He hinted that China may have hatched a conspiracy to spread the virus. At the same time, he intensified his attacks on immigrants coming into America to such an extent that by the time American states were demanding federal funds to deal with the pandemic 27,000 Americans had already died of the virus. Now Trump handed over a contract worth $500,000,000 [one-and-a-half times what had been spent by his own regime thus far] to build 25 kilometres of the wall that is being constructed between the US and Mexico, to a politically-connected company.  

Not only this, because of his bizarre way of thinking, when the United States had the highest number of cases and its death toll from Corona was the highest in the world, Trump continued to direct people, overtly or covertly, to move around freely and decried any restrictions on industries and business. Last week there were strong demonstrations against the existing restrictions in three American states led by Democratic Party governors. Protesters were even seen bearing weapons and they raised loud provocative slogans. Long queues of vehicles piled up on the roads, honking their horns, demanding restrictions be lifted. The protesters were Trump's supporters, who had organised themselves for these agitations openly on social media platforms.  

Christian fundamentalist supporters of Trump also attended these protests. One held the banner that said, "Jesus is the vaccine". Trump made two kinds of interventions in the aftermath of these demonstrations. On the one hand, he called for people to fight for freedom. On the other hand, he talked about how to deal with the Corona pandemic. But he and his ideology and those who support it are being held responsible for these demonstrations. Due to such activities, and the kind of thinking that encourages them, the situation in America today is that there are at least 8,26,024 positive cases of Covid-19 and some 75,405 people have died.  

Some people say that Trump is insane-many senior American politicians, journalists, scientists, etc. have said so many times. This is also said about Bolsonaro and Johnson. But the point is that these strong leaders constantly engage in nonsensical and unscientific talk before the public. They fake a million laughs for all the world to see. But when it comes to protecting the interests of private industries, they work with complete dedication, focus, and retain full control over their wits.  

Bolsonaro has intensified the attacks on the Amazon forests several times over during the Corona crisis. Thousands of square-kilometres have been set ablaze in the forest which is considered critical for human survival in the future. Bolsonaro has declared his intention to destroy this forest, as well as the thousands of tribals living in it, but he has cleverly said that the destruction is to prevent the inhabitants of the forest from living on like antiquarian creatures...   

Cuban doctors used to serve the people who lived in the remote villages of these forests, providing them healthcare. As soon as Bolsonaro assumed office in 2019, he sent these doctors back to Cuba. Teachers have stopped coming to teach in tribal schools because the government has stopped paying them. Bolsonaro's disastrous policies came to light on 2 April when a tribal woman living in the Amazon forest was declared Covid-19 positive.

It is no coincidence that just a few days before, on 30 March, when the French leadership proposed not to reach a trade agreement with Brazil due to Bolsonaro's disastrous policy towards the Amazon forest, Boris Johnson refused to support it, and for this Bolsonaro thanked him again and again.

Trump is also very loyal to his real agenda. He is fiercely opposed to providing any kind of public convenience and is engaged day and night in protecting the interests of the private sector. His allegiance is proving to be the biggest enemy of the health of the American public today and this is a truth Trump wants to conceal at any cost.  

In the first two years of his rule, he fiercely slashed staff in government-run scientific institutions. 1,600 government scientists quit their jobs. After Corona, Trump cut the funding, in the 2021 budget, for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by 16%.  

Trump, a staunch advocate of privatisation, has always looked at the question of public health from this rigid position. During his election campaign, he attacked Obama's limited health insurance scheme and when he came to power, he has tried his best to make this scheme meaningless. In 2018 there were 30 million (3 crore) people in the US who were denied health insurance. Now that the numbers of the unemployed has increased, in just the last few weeks, by more than 15 million (1.5 crore), the unemployment figures will only worsen over time. As a result, every Covid-19 patient is asking the big question-who will pay for their treatment?  

Not only this, millions have not been able to afford health services over the last years due to the fear of expensive treatments. These people can now be more easily hunted down by the Novel Coronavirus. This is why the proportion of African Americans is very high among Covid-19 patients. Now doctors are warning that if people do not go to a doctor from fear of expenses, they will not get themselves tested for Covid-10 either and this will make it very difficult to deal with the pandemic.

Not only this, profiteering related to private health institutions is also making the crisis more serious. It may seem beyond imagination that private health institutions are letting go of employees during this crisis in order to save costs. One reason for this is that these institutions were earning well by treating the diseases of the ,rich'- plastic surgery, beautification, straightening of teeth, and so on. At the moment there is no  possibility of people seeking such treatments, so the staff is being discharged.

The problems of health workers don't end with assuming the risks of treating Covid-19 patients. They are also fearful of falling ill themselves, or infecting a member of their family. Recently, a nurse of Indian origin died in the Covid-19 ward and with this the facility to get her husband and daughter treated in that hospital was terminated.  

On the other hand, private health insurance companies are laughing all the way to the bank. People are paying their insurance premiums due to the fear of contracting Covid-19 but because they are also afraid that it will be very difficult to recover money from insurance companies, they are shying away from seeking treatment. Insurance companies are taking full advantage of this.

Dr Gaffney, a ICU physician in the US, has said that the way the healthcare system is run in America is further exacerbating the epidemic.  

And this is the system of healthcare that Trump wants to keep alive, with all his might. Johnson wanted to adopt this system of private health services by privatising the NHS, which had once been the norm in England-he may change his opinion after being treated. Bolsonaro is such a blind devotee of privatisation that he wants to burn his country's most precious asset- the Amazon forest-and hand it over entirely to multinationals.

These 'strong leaders' pose many threats not only to their countrymen, but to people everywhere in the world. That is why the strong leaders of other countries and our own country should make it a habit to avoid their destructive policies, by not considering them as their ideals. Instead, countries should start protecting their people from the dangers of privatisation.

The good thing is that a different example of such a strong leader exists in our own country. The Chief Minister of Kerala is also considered a very strong leader. But his strength comes from a strong relationship with the public, especially the poor hard-working people. The Left tradition, which he is a part of, has also laid down a strong basic structure of healthcare (and other services) in this state. That is why when the first Covid patient was found in Kerala on 30 January, the strong leader, the strong people of his state and the strong healthcare services of the state were ready to face this new challenge.

The author is a former Member of Parliament and vice president of the All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA).      


OPINION

  • River in a 'Court of Law' - Legal issues pertaining to its personality
  • Syria: A Testament To International Moral Bankruptcy
  • When the State Sought to Muzzle Privacy, U-Turn Now Only to Accommodate SC Verdict
  • The Bull in A China Shop Wrecks Indian Economy
  • When Buddha Looks The Other Way: The Plight Of The Rohingya
  • A Fatal Blow to The Judiciary
  • The Dramatic Rise in Wealth Inequality
  • Wild And Baseless Speculations of Crisis in the CPI(M)
  • Budget 2018: Fantabulous Schemes With Not A Paisa Earmarked
  • Kasganj: Sankalp Foundation and the Politics of Hate
  • PM Modi Sounds the Election Bugle: Congress and Hindutva the Agenda for 2019 Polls
  • The US Game Plan in Syria
  • Both Nehru and Patel Were the Need of the Hour in 1947-48
  • The Battle of the Two Begums of Bangladesh
  • Why Bangladesh Matters
  • Kejriwal's Apology is Not What the Media Claims
  • Arrest of a '5-minute Dalits' Proves Why SC/ST Act Dilution Will Grossly Impact Real Dalits
  • The Dalits and the Law
  • Winners May Be Losers In Karnataka's Catch 22 Endgame
  • Jinnah and the BJP
  • Jawaharlal Nehru (Nov 14 1889- May 27, 1964): We Still Live In A House That Nehru Built
  • Implications of Trump-Kim Summit: Nuclear Pays!
  • Thomas Reuters Foundation Survey: Measuring Safety, Generating Outrage
  • ROADMAP TO A CEASEFIRE: AFGN - PAK
  • What Are People Voting for?
  • Foreign Policy: A Double Whammy Awaits India
  • Changing Discourse
  • Assam: The Mythology of "Immigrants"
  • Imran Time is Here
  • 71 Years on, Forsty Relations Countinue
  • To Stop Climate Change, We Need to Open Bordera
  • Make Use of Bid to Postpone Provincial Elections
  • Cringing and Fuddled at 71
  • Ensuring Strident Voice Will Not Become Majority Voice
  • Nehru, Vajpayee and Modi
  • Religious Bias Okayed
  • The Oslo Accords: A Bloody Legacy of Betrayal
  • Crushing the Campus
  • Three Stories And Task of The Office Of Missing Person
  • Drama Over Indo-Pak Meeting
  • An ill Wind
  • Symbolic Actions Alone Are Insufficient For Long Term Change To Occur
  • If Democracy Subverts Itself
  • Returning Land to Civilians is a Promise That Needs Follow Up
  • Democracy In Crisis: What we Know and What we Don't
  • Reparations Office Can Bind The Nations Together
  • Implementation Challenges Facing The Ayushman Bharat Program
  • Subverting the Central Bank
  • Under the Yoke of New-Imperialism: A Fake War of Patriotism and Treason
  • India Joins the Club
  • The Third Phase
  • President is Best Situated to Resolve Political Crisis
  • No Country for Adventure: Challenges Extreme Sports Athletes Face in India
  • Setting A Perilous Political Precedent
  • What Rahul and Modi can do in the Next Four Months
  • Finding a Win-Win Solution to Break the Deadlock
  • Temple in the Age of Colliders
  • Four Parameters of a Political Solution at This Time
  • Resolve National Question With President's Support
  • Decapitating the Leadership
  • Four Takeaways From the 2018 Election
  • Science of Words
  • The Ace up Modi's Sleeve
  • The Government Must Not Deny The TNA
  • The Prolonged Wait For Justice And For Political Leadership
  • Endgame in Afghanistan
  • Pluralist Ethos is More Relevant to National Identity
  • A Concerned Citizen's Points For Inclusion in The Manifesto of Political Parties
  • In My Own Voice: Circle of Unreason
  • RBI To The Rescue of Modi Government - It's Election Time!
  • Say No to War
  • A terrifying Fallout
  • The Type of Leadership The Country Needs
  • Death Wish as Nationalism
  • Politics on Kashmir Need Not be About Optics Alone
  • Why an Urban Job Guarantee Scheme is Not a Bad Idea
  • National Security: The New in 'New Normal'
  • Re-Promulgating an Ordinance is a Fraud on the Constitution
  • Elections 2019: India at a Crossroads
  • Peace and Inclusive Development
  • NYAY Providing Basic Income Fulfills the Vision of Mahatma Gandhi and Changed Election Narrative Based on Basic Issues
  • Advani Should Blame Himself For Promoting Modi
  • Kashmir: Tracing the Degeneration of Mainstream Politics
  • Elections and the Issue of Civil Liberties
  • Jumlanomics:Chronicles of a Post-Truth Bharat
  • BJP: Hiding Failures, Targeting Nehru
  • A Mayawati Moment
  • Godse is a Synonym of Hindu Nationalism, Agenda of the RSS Combine!
  • Development Beyond Numbers
  • A Rational Approach to Countering Extremist Violence is Needed
  • In My Own Voice: Is This the Sprit of Democracy?
  • Prevention is The Best Migration Cure
  • The Rise of Hate
  • The Right Mantras for India's Change
  • Coming Home - Where Family Overpowers All
  • Easter Sunday Bombing Used to Create a Major Rift in Sri Lankan Society
  • Hacking Humanity
  • Environmental Rule of Law in India
  • Peace is a Word That West Has Taken From Afghans
  • Trump's War Games
  • Modi & States
  • Who is an 'Outsider' in West Bengal?
  • China on Maps
  • 19th Amendment Will Correct Itself at End of President's Current Term
  • Authoritarianism and the Crisis of Public Ethics in India
  • Presidential Candidate The People Want
  • Has India's Kashmir Cape Given Pakistan Reason for War?
  • Icons and Ideology of Religious Nationalism
  • Why NRC in Assam May Create Another Kashmir
  • Campaign to Abolish the Executive Presidency in Sri Lanka is a Red Herring
  • As US Tries to Isolate Iran, China Steps In
  • Of Hindi and Hierarchy
  • Why Sri Lankan Elections May Bring Far Reaching Change
  • What US Policy Tells Us About India's Growing 'Friendship' With It
  • Gandhian Philosophy is a Critique of Modernity and Power
  • Inner Party Democracy is Just as Important as Funding
  • India's Foreign Policy Has Dug Itself a Deep Hole
  • 'Broken Promises' and Politics of Hate': Is Political Autonomy The Way Forward For J&K?
  • The Ninth Betrayal: America Has Let Down Khurd, Yet Again
  • Who Benefits From The WhatsApp Hacking Case?: Pertinent Question Left Unanswered
  • State Elections Results Expose "Limits" of BJP's Nationalist Agenda
  • "Religious Belief" vs. "Rule of Law": Did SC's Ayodhya Verdict Legalise Building of a Theocratic State?
  • What Does Trump's "New Refugee Ban" Mean for America's Immigrants?
  • India Must Change Course as Rajapaksas Return on Sinhala Buddhist Wave
  • The Supreme Court's First Judgment Without an Author
  • Geopolitics in South Asia Renders Millions Stateless
  • "Shakespeare's Vision of the Improbale" Unfolds: Is Modi Today's Macbeth?
  • Sri Lanka Under Rajapaksa: Finding Areas of Mutual Agreement
  • "The Game of Religion is Played by Men": Women Speak From the Margins of Ayodhya Dispute
  • Telangana Ecounter- Failure of Local Police Poses Grave Danger to Democracy
  • The Changing Nature of War and Diplomacy
  • Sri Lanka: Government's Cooperation A "Temporary Phenomenon"?
  • The Role of Corruption in This Season of Revolts
  • New Citizenship Law to a "Brazenly Divisive Agenda"
  • Youth Agitation Against CAA Brings a Historic Generational Shift
  • "Digital Authoritarianism": With Internet Shutdowns Normalised, the Digital Space is Democracy's New Battleground
  • Sri Lanka: The Challenge of Development Amidst Devolution of Power
  • The Political Divides that Split India
  • 'Never Again': Echoes of Nazi Crimes Remain Alive 75 Years After Auschwitz
  • "Legacy of Mutual Suspicion" Plagues Opponents of the Modi Regime
  • "Toxic" India Sliding into an Environmental Abyss
  • Manufacturing Hate: From Anurag Thakur's 'Shoot the Traitors' to Pistol-Bearing Youth's 'Yeh lo Azaadi!'
  • Kejriwal Isn't Communal, But His Desire Not to be Seen Anti-Hindu May Prove Self-Defeating
  • Religion States Won't Oppose US-Taliban Deal
  • Lessons From Pathogens: Coronavirus, A wake Up Call?
  • The Geopolitics of the Covid 19 Pandemic
  • Cold War Begins As Nations Fued Over Coronavirus
  • India Fights Coronavirus...With Scriptures, Morals and Police
  • The Burden of COVID 19
  • Do Israeli Settelemnts in Occupies West Bank Constitute a War Crime ?
  • The Global Debate on COVID-19 Lockdown: Listen to Divergent Scientific Voices or Risk Manipulation by Big Businesses?
  • Sri Lanka's Easter Bombings And The Demand For Justice
  • How India Can Solve the "Catch-22 Situation" of Allowing Migrant Workers to Return Home
  • The Time for Universal Basic Income Has Arrived
  • COVID-19 Crisis Exposes Fatal Weaknesses of 'Strong' Leaders
  • The Pandemic Has Taught Us the Importance of Maintaining an Ecological Balance, Will we Remember IT?
  • The Muslim Elite Has Let Down the Muslim Poor
  • "There is Nothing Nationalist or Non-Nationalist in Reporting"
  • Why WHO Took 3 Months to Declare a Global Pandemic
  • A Political Lockdown That Silences Voices
  • The 'Relief Package' of Online Education May End up "Institutionalising Drop Outs"
  • Can Democracy Survive the Coronavirus?
  • As China Ups the Ante, This is What India Must do...
  • Tackling Racism With Compassionate Reporting-CNN Leads The Way
  • Sri Lanka: Pluralism In Governance Required In The Absence of Parliament
  • Idia's Tactical Non-Solutions To China's Incursions in Ladakh
  • "At The Brink of A New Cold War": Sino-US Ties at a Crossroads
  • In Light of Rising Conservatism, Can The Personal be Political Again?
  • India-China: The Complete Breakdown of Trust, How and Why
  • Rethinking Development After Covid-19
  • The Pandemic Must Transform Our Agriculture
  • Treacherous Road to Make Manu History
  • The 'American Way of War' Is Built On A Foundation of Racism
  • Covid -19 And The Crisis of Education-An Insight
  • Governments That Preach Non-Violence Must Lead By Example
  • New Status of Hagia Sophia Signals The Death Of Secularism
  • Covid 19 and Furthering of Sectarian Agenda in Education
  • Biden's "Conventional" Approach vs Trump's "Whimsical" Handling of Foreign Policy
  • Why Arguments Against Reservation are Flawed
  • Curfew Welcomes One Year of Abrogations in Kashmir
  • Ayodha: What is BJP's Motive For Holding Ram Temple Ceremony Amid Pandemic?
  • New Education Policies of India And Pakistan Will Further Divide, Within and Without
  • Does India's Handling of China Make Sense?
  • Return of the Rajapaksas in Sri Lanka
  • An Independent Supreme Court Is a Must for Democracy
  • Does Rule of Law Trump Tide of Public Opinion?
  • UAE-Israel Deal Accelerating Fragmentation of West Asian Politics
  • Congress And Its "Unprecedented Political Challenge""
  • Does The 20th Amendment Threaten Pluralism in Sri Lanka?
  • Digital Hate, Now A Profitable Commodity
  • Rising Cases, Unemployment: Is India Ignoring Fears Stoked by the Pandemic?
  • Surging Pandemic, Slumping Economy - And the Crisis of Democracy
  • Anxious Leader, Passive Citizens and "Criminalised" Governance
  • Parliamentary Session Merely A "Notice Board" For Government Decisions?
  • The Collapse of Democratic Institutions Under Majoritarian Rule
  • Mughal MUseum Rekindles Question of India's "Slavery""
  • Babri Masjid Demolition Case: Court Ignored Findings of Liberhan Commission
  • As Politics of Hate Takes Over, The Biggest Casualty is Compassion
  • Hathras: The Last Opportunity to Reflect
  • India Joining Ranks of Illiberal Democracies
  • Rising Uncertainties May Lead to Election Chaos in The us
  • 'Secularism': A Dirty Word
  • Is Bihar Tired of Nitish Kumar Rule?
  • In Crisis: India Now A 'Pale Shadow of Former Self'
  • Economy VS. People: Differences Between US and China's Response to Covid-19
  • Trupm is Gone But Trumpian Populism Lives on
  • Bihar's Silent Voters: Explaining the BJP-JDU Alliance
  • How Many X-Factors Can an Election Take? Many, it Seems
  • Objectivity and Fascism
  • Is The Saudi Kingdom Moving Towards Recognising Israel?
  • Asaduddin Owaisi: An 'Exasperating Opponent' For Right,Left, And Centre
  •