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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 4, New Delhi, January 9, 2021

Reflection on 2020 | Vijay Kumar

Saturday 9 January 2021

by Vijay Kumar

The year 2020 has been annus horribilis. The crisis arisen due to COVID-19 Pandemics is the one of the most unprecedented confronted by human kind in recorded history.

One of the most enduring painful images that vividly crop up in the mind is the mass exodus of lakhs and lakhs of migrant workers after the decision of abrupt shutdown in less than four hours notice. The kind of migration with suffering and tragedy of Himalayan magnitude has not been seen after the mass exodus during the partition time. The tragedy acquires poignant dimension, as it was caused by human made decision. The Corona pandemic may be an act of God and may have been transmitted from China, but the sufferings of migrant workers were caused solely by capricious, whimsical and impulsive act of announcement of the Lockdown by giving notice of less than four hours on the 24th March 2020. The tragedy that ensued in form of foot shouldering by lakhs and lakhs of migrant workers with their wives and children by walking thousands kilometers on road is the single greatest tragedy unfolded in the country since the days of partition. Even the tragedy during Partition would pale into insignificance, as it was caused by certain inevitable forces of history, and at any rate, it was not caused by the act of one man. The migrant workers braved heat, rain, lathi of police personnel and even hunger and yet they kept on trudging miles after miles in the hope of reaching their homes. The tragedy that befallen on tens of thousands of migrant workers was triggered by action of one man. In normal circumstances, it would have amounted to crime against humanity, but the pandemic of Covid-19 has provided a protective umbrella.

The second disaster for the country was the annexation of Indian Territories by Chinese forces in Galwan valley in eastern Laddakh on night intervening 15 and 16th June. After the 1962 debacle, the Galwan fiasco represented the most humiliating defeat for India with considerable loss of face. While the tragedy of migrant workers still lingers on despite the control of narrative by government, but the humiliation of Galwan fiasco has been completely erased from public memory by massive investment made by the Government in controlling – indeed manufacturing and manipulating the narrative. Be that as it may, the migrant crisis and Galwan fiasco would go down as a great set back. The human beings are gifted with both power of memory and amnesia. So far personal aspect is concerned, individual alone is responsible for his/her memory and amnesia. But the memory and erasure of the public event and public personality are perpetuated and erased through propaganda of the ruling dispensation of the day. The tragedy of migrant exodus could not be supressed,but the ruling establishment succeeded in erasing the humiliation of annexation of territories in Galwan valley by Chinese forces.

The effect of abrupt shutdown caused complete disruption in economy and that resulted in loss of jobs on humongous scale. Besides, it has aggravated the inequality. No wonder the ranking of the country on human development Index has gone down considerably. The sight of 8 to 10 years old boys and girls turning up at red lights as beggars is a poignant reminder of social and economic regression the country has sunk into.

Towards the end of the year, three positive developments took place. On November 3, Doland Trump was defeated and his defeat succeeded in rescuing the democracy from well determined pursuit towards fascism for US and other parts of the World. As the year ends, the arrival of vaccine, though presently only in developed and rich countries, is the most salutary development. However, equitable and fair distribution of vaccine, particularly in poor and under-developed countries, will remain a formidable challenge throughout 2021, and may be even in a year thereafter.


But the most scene stealer event towards the end of the year is the farmer agitation on the borders of the Delhi on all sides. This agitation has forced the establishment to negotiate with the farmers, as is evident from meeting after meeting in sharp contrast to ramming the Bills in tearing hurry on September 20, that was Sunday, and rejecting the demand of opposition party to refer the Bill to select committee for thorough scrutiny and in-depth examination. Even the requests of Opposition for subjecting the Bill to voting in Rajya Sabha were rejected and Bill was passed through voice vote, rather than actual voting. The most ludicrous aspect is the yesterday’s statement of the Government that repeal of the Bill would be long drawn process. When the Bill could be bulldozed in a day, the argument that Repeal is a time consuming process is disingenuous.

As hope is eternal to human’s breast, I must say sayonara to tumultuous 2020 with note of optimism that 2021 will usher into more equitable and humane World.

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