Leading from the front – Nation News

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In the war against the COVID-19 pandemic, state chief ministers are at the forefront. And it’s a battle on two fronts, enforcing lockdowns and keeping fresh cases in check, while also striving to avoid an economic meltdown.

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The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails,” wrote American author John Maxwell. Leaders across the globe are being tested today on how they plan to adjust to this new wind, COVID-19, that is threatening mankind’s very existence. The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest existential crisis human civilisation has faced since World War II. The only applicable preventive measure to this deadly virus is doing something inimical to basic human instinct, social isolation. The impact of practising this is not only psychological but, more devastatingly, fiscal too. To enforce this strategy of isolation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shut down the country for three weeks.

India, however, is a federal country, and its real engine resides in the states. The responsibility to implement the lockdown without irreversible social and economic disruptions and to prepare the country for the financial consequences of the country being in stasis for three weeks lies primarily with state chief ministers. Several of them are political heavyweights with decades of experience. Yet, even they are overawed by the scale of the crisis. No amount of preparation is enough and the margin of error is non-existent. The COVID-19 wind is blowing hot and cold and chief ministers have had to make rapid adjustments, mostly in augmenting health infrastructure and providing relief to those worst hit, the poor. They know the immediate task of saving lives will be followed by the bigger challenge of averting an economic meltdown.

In these extraordinary times, the personal intervent­ion of these state chieftains has also given India’s war aga­inst COVID-19 a new dimension. Politics has taken a backseat, collective welfare is now the common goal. That’s perhaps the only silver lining in this dark cloud engulfing our world.

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