Actor-turned-politician Kamal Haasan on Monday wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, expressing his dismay at the “ill-planned” implementation of the three-week countrywide lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak, The Hindu reported. Haasan said he feared that the “mistake” of demonetisation of 2016 was being repeated, “albeit at a much bigger scale”.

In his first letter to the Prime Minister on this issue on March 23, a day before the lockdown was announced, Kamal Hassan had urged the government to take adequate measures to protect the vulnerable sections from the impact of the uncertainty that came with this virus.

Haasan, the founder of the Makkal Needhi Maiam party, said that on one hand the prime minister was asking the more privileged people to put up a spectacle of lights, on the other, the “poor man’s plight was becoming a spectacle”. “While your world lit up oil diyas in their balconies, the poor are struggling to gather enough oil to bake their next roti,” he said.

Coining the acronym “HED” or Hunger, Exhaustion and Deprivation, Haasan said the Covid-19 infection will continue to infect people, but the malady of HED is far deadlier than the coronavirus. “Its impact will be felt long after the Covid-19 has vanished,” he wrote.

Haasan also blamed the prime minister for “outsourcing responsible behaviour” to the common people, and transparency to the state governments. “This is the perception you are creating, especially amongst those who spend enough time working toward and intellectualising for a great today and tomorrow for India...It’s the intellect that guides one into choosing a path of righteousness, equality and prosperity for all,” he said.

“The focus on merely keeping people’s spirits alive through warm and fuzzy campaigning is probably leading your establishment into ignoring certain actionables that could actually save lives,” Haasan said, referring to Modi’s call to citizens to bang pots and pans, and to light candles at home to mark the fight against coronavirus.

He said the system had failed to stop congregations of “ignorant and foolish people” in different parts of the country which become the biggest hubs for the spread of the epidemic in India.

“Events of these magnitude get etched in history for two reasons, one being the devastation (illness and death) that they cause due to their core nature,” the letter said. “The second being the long term impact of what they teach humans to prioritise and the kind of socio-cultural changes they bring about. I am extremely saddened to see our society plagued by an outbreak that is far more dangerous and longer lasting that any virus that nature has ever hurled at us.”

Haasan said that India’s biggest potential is its human potential. “We have tided over bigger crises in the past. We will overcome this too but it must be done in a way that brings everyone together and doesn’t become yet another reason to choose sides,” he said.

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