Editorial: Do not go gentle into the night

One year on, India has fully inoculated 48% of its people, done away with lockdowns, opened up public utilities and State borders.
Editorial: Do not go gentle into the night
Representative image

Chennai

Exactly one year ago, India, like the rest of the world, was in the throes of a pandemic. The nation had just breached the 1 crore mark in COVID caseloads in December 2020. But we were optimistic as vaccines had made it to the developed world and were headed to India, less than a month later in 2021. Year One of the pandemic was marked by muted celebrations of festivals. But what we did not foresee was the horror unleashed by the second wave of the crisis, more specifically, by the Delta variant, which hit India in April 2021, just as life had begun returning to normalcy, with the distribution of vaccines gathering pace.
One year on, India has fully inoculated 48% of its people, done away with lockdowns, opened up public utilities and State borders. The nation had gotten back on its feet, as it learned that shutting down the economy was not a luxury we could afford. As normalcy returned, so did developments that wouldn’t seem unnatural in the ordinary scheme of things — like the Assembly elections held in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal. MK Stalin who had been waiting in the wings for several decades finally steered the DMK to a historic win and assumed the office of Chief Minister in May this year. Mamata Banerjee and her Trinamool Congress also delivered a resounding victory in West Bengal against the gladiatorial BJP. The ruling party had failed to unseat the reigning supremo of Kolkata despite a blitzkrieg of rallies and pumping in crores to swing the vote in its favour. In Kerala too, the CPI (M) kept the BJP at bay as far as leadership was concerned.
Election defeats aside, one of the biggest about-turns that the Centre had to execute was to repeal the controversial farm laws. The decision, which came after thousands of farmers endured a year-long wait while protesting on the borders of Delhi, was a testament to the heart of democracy alive and beating in India. But this was also a year when several violations of personal liberties and the freedom of expression took place. Everyone from journalists to activists and even stand-up comedians found themselves booked on trumped-up charges of sedition.
Not everything was gloom and doom for the BJP, as despite a few missteps, the Centre managed to streamline the distribution of COVID vaccines for its 1.4 bn population in a commendable manner — from granting emergency use authorisations to vaccine makers on a priority basis to making good on its commitments to distributing indigenous vaccines to far-flung regions of Africa and Asia. India also found a reason to cheer during the Tokyo Olympics as Neeraj Chopra’s javelin struck gold, while the brilliant efforts of our Paralympians brought home an unprecedented 19 medals. Chennai also had a moment in the sun when Kamala Harris, who has roots in the metropolis was sworn in as the Vice President of the US. The appointment marked a major milestone for America, in addressing matters of racial and gender equality. The year that has gone by, also dealt us a body blow when India’s first Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat was martyred in a helicopter crash in the Nilgiris. The veteran officer had taken it upon himself to modernise India’s military along international standards.
Looking back, 2021 seemed like a year, when we mustered the courage to keep going on in spite of the odds. We have lost much — families and friends to the virus, livelihoods following natural disasters and more. Now, we are faced with the threat of the Omicron variant, which is growing at an exponential rate. This time around, we are backed by the strength of science, vaccines and experience. As we step into the New Year, it makes sense to fall back on the words of the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas who wrote, “Do not go gentle into that good night; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

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