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India must address its lack of ethics

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India must address its lack of ethics
Ethics have always been absent in Indian society. To prevent another humanitarian crisis, it must address that fundamental problem, writes Ankita Mukhopadhyay.
People carrying a body to a cremation ground in New Delhi

There is no doubt that the Indian government has been highly incompetent in handling the COVID-19 pandemic. Before we hanker for a change in government, it's necessary to understand the nadir of ethical values that has played a vital role in independent India's biggest humanitarian crisis.

Many people have been robbed of their mental health, sanity and money in this pandemic. There are no rules anymore if you want to save someone. People are paying as much as ₹50,000 ($683; €560) for an ambulance; ₹100,000 or more per day for admitting their loved one in a hospital. We are shelling out black market rates to buy basic needs like medical oxygen and anti-viral drugs.

How did we reach this stage of ethical imbalance and moral abrogation?

An ethics system that has consistently failed us
DW's Ankita Mukhopadyay

DW's Ankita Mukhopadyay
We had almost 75 years to create a democracy to protect the needy and create opportunities for people across caste and class lines. Instead, the privileged have accrued more privilege and the poor have gotten poorer.

Over the past seven decades, basic necessities like quality healthcare have become confined to the private sector, which mainly caters to the privileged or the connected. When the pandemic put pressure on the private sector, the rich and privileged pulled all strings possible for their loved ones, leaving the needy in the lurch.

Today, the most wealthy man in India isn't willing to squander even 10% of his wealth to help the same country whose broken system enabled him to earn as much as a quarter of the nation's GDP. Meanwhile, celebrities are calling for donations from citizens of a country where almost 30% of the population lives below poverty line.

The pandemic has also laid bare the gross lack of ethics in highly qualified administrative and police officers. Why are most of our bureaucrats unable to administer the country efficiently or hold politicians accountable, but can be found at the frontline to secure favors for themselves and their children?

It's a common adage in India that in anything that involves the government, the process will be slow and government officers will be lazy. This has happened because we have built a system that has reduced the competent to incompetence.

A country that wants to become a $5 trillion (€4 trillion) economy must first instill trust in its system before setting more ambitious goals.

  • People shop at a crowded vegetable market amidst the spread of COVID

    COVID in India: Life goes on as bodies pile up
    Social distancing, a farce?
    People — many without masks — shop at a vegetable market in Mumbai. India has been struggling to contain a massive coronavirus outbreak, with nearly 24 million infections recorded to date. The country has logged around 260,000 deaths linked to the virus. According to medical experts, these numbers are vastly underreported.
Stop looking for role models
It's time Indians stopped looking for role models to escape their reality and started advocating for actual reform. We have to accept that our lives won't be solved by money, good degrees, immigration to the West, religious gurus or by becoming a government servant.

Our life in this country is much bigger than pursuing shallow goals and it's our responsibility to collectively work towards development.

But development is a pluralistic term and requires collective effort. The first step is to appreciate our federal structure and work towards strengthening our state governments.

The political center, led by the BJP, is there to facilitate administration, but not become the center stage of vile religious bigotry. Religious politics will simply do more harm than good to India as it will divide the nation. The concept of divide and rule was used by the British to break up India into two religions, but we must not go back to that route if we really want to get rid of our colonial hangover.

The ruling party must get ahead of the curve and prepare for the next wave of the pandemic and create safeguards for the needy. The first step in this process is to not make vaccines, a basic necessity, a reserve of the privileged.

It's true that India needs to see change, as soon as possible. But, before we call for change, it's necessary for us to tackle this rot within our ethics which will tear at the fabric of anything that comes in its way — even a new government.

Coronavirus crisis in India impacts mental health
 

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