In light of health sector experts and experiences of other countries, the nation is taking a very important decision today,” Prime Minister NarendraModi announced in a televised address to the Indian nation on March 24. “From midnight tonight onwards, the entire country, please listen carefully, the entire country shall go under complete lockdown.” For a full three weeks, no one would be permitted to step outside his or her home—a drastic and unprecedented imposition of isolation and quarantine on 1.3 billion people in a bid to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Many of us who have studied history and are living in this day and age, may have heaved a sigh of relief that we have left Nazi Germany, the plague, the world wars and maybe even 9/11 behind us and in the pages of history. But, fortunately or unfortunately, we are bang in the middle of World War III today. Fortunately, for those who will live to tell this tale to their grandchildren and unfortunately for those who may not see the end of this Pandemic.
I write this today from Mumbai, India on the 9th of April, locked as I am in my house since the last couple of weeks at 7 a.m. in the morning. It is important to clock the date and time because the developments are so fast and so frequent, rather so sudden, that no one can predict how different the situation will be an hour from now.
As I stepped out to walk my dog yesterday with my mask firmly on my face, avoiding the occasional passer by deliberately by yards, I heard merry chirping of birds loudly and clearly, a sound I never recall hearing in the din of traffic and human chatter which is the characteristic feature of Mumbai. I breathed in fresh air and the deserted streets looked almost surreal, like a picture straight out of the Twilight Zone.
Selfishly speaking, India has still managed to raise global eyebrows for keeping a better check on the pandemic as compared to far more powerful, economically superior and technologically advanced nations. Again selfishly speaking, rarely have we seen a time and situation where the global superpower USA has had to plead, to the point of hinting at a threat, for an antidote for the Pandemic from India which has loads of it in its kitty. India is the biggest manufacturer of hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug that is being touted as 'game-changer' in the fight against COVID-19 and is being aggressively sought by US President Donald Trump.
A news item this morning reads, “India to supply these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by pandemic; countries like the United States have been seeking India's help to allow the sale of hydroxychloroquine tablets to treat the growing number of coronavirus patients.”
India manufactures 70% of the world's supply of hydroxychloroquine, according to Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) secretary-general Sudarshan Jain. Psychologically speaking, this puts India in a pole position globally in the fight against the epidemic. It increases India’s bargaining power on several international tables in one shot. The optics too is hugely favourable for India and once this passes, all this will enhance India’s stature hugely across the globe.
When this passes, and pass it will, we in India will be the inheritors of a resurgent India with enhanced global image and greater newfound respect. It will then be up to us to build on that.