The alarming surge in Covid-19 cases in India can be blamed largely on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, and their reckless messaging through overcrowded, unmasked election rallies as well as the Kumbh Mela.
With the two Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders addressing ‘massive’ rallies and roadshows without masks, an illusion of normality was created. A message was sent to the masses that Covid is a nightmare of the past. The virus loves crowds, as the saying goes, but it particularly adores crowds that don’t bother with masks or physical distancing. And the crowds at mega rallies in Assam or West Bengal suggest that both masks and distancing have become unfashionable.
It is rather facile for a prime minister like Modi with unparalleled popularity and devotion across the country to address people on his monthly radio talk show Mann Ki Baat and pontificate about ‘mask zaroori‘. But contrast this with Modi addressing thousands of people crammed into rally tents, sitting close to each other, so many without masks and say “amazing atmosphere” and not utter a word about Covid-safe behaviour.
Similar was the scene at the Haridwar Kumbh Mela on Monday as nearly 31 lakh people thronged to the Kumbh Mela for a holy dip in river Ganga at Haridwar’s Har Ki Pauri. Regarding the ongoing Kumbh Mela, experts have warned that holding such a large gathering in the midst of a raging pandemic can prove to be catastrophic and severely impede India’s fight against the deadly viral disease that has claimed millions of lives globally.
What is also of concern is that people attending the Kumbh Mela come from different parts of the country. Experts fear non-observance of Covid-19 protocol may result in the infection spreading to several states.
Apart from the commoners, several sadhus and seers were also seen flouting Covid-19 protocol at the Kumbh Mela. Many of them have also tested positive for the disease, including the chief priest of the Niranjani Akhada and head of the Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, Mahant Narendra Giri.