With the highly contagious Omicron variant of the novel Coronavirus which made its India debut last month forecast to peak in early February, Republic Day celebrations are again likely to be subdued this year.
Although initial indications are that Omicron is less lethal than the Delta variant which peaked last summer, its high transmissibility may require mass short-term hospitalisation. This will impose enormous strain on the country’s too-few hospitals and already under-resourced healthcare system defined by chronic shortages of beds, doctors and nurses. With annual investment in public healthcare averaging a mere 1.2 percent of GDP for the past half century (cf.10.2 percent in the UK, 19.7 percent in the US and 7.1 percent in China) what can you expect?
Yet persistent under-investment in public health and education for which unfortunate children of 200 million bottom-of-pyramid households are doomed to pay a heavy price by way of chronic ailments and learning loss, is being compounded by the steady erosion of the rule of law and descent of the world’s most populous democracy into a chaotic mobocracy.
On December 26, a congregation of Hindu priests and seers gathered in the holy city of Haridwar openly called for the murder and extermination of minority Muslim citizens. And in Karnataka, emboldened young men of sangh parivar (‘Hindu family’) outfits have been barging into Christian churches and schools to interrupt religious services and Xmas celebrations. Moreover on December 25, Tejaswi Surya, a young member of Parliament, speaking perfect English, demanded forcible re-conversion of Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.
Although left-liberals persist with their belief that government should own means of production and also expend official energy in making bread, biscuits and plastics, classic political and economic theory is unambiguous that the prime duty of government is to maintain law and order and provide fair and speedy justice.
India’s police and judges to population ratios are way below the global average. Under-investment in law and order and the justice system — the outcome of continuous canalisation of public savings into non-performing public sector enterprises and self-serving failure to ring-fence the autonomy of the police, has ruined the law, order and justice systems, especially in the states. Contemporary India is burdened with 30 million pending cases, the largest judicial backlog worldwide.
Smooth functioning law, order and justice systems are a precondition of socio-economic development and progress. As the nation prepares to mutedly celebrate its 72nd Republic Day while bracing for the third wave of the devastating pandemic, there’s urgent need to return to basics and chart a revised course for our drifting Republic.
Also Read: Agenda for Republic at 72