The world's most neo-liberal country
Of course, this honour had to be hard-won. The standards set by United States and United Kingdom are high. India joined the bandwagon early, of course, signing up to go down the road early in the 1990s, but it only took a lot of hard work of dismantling institutions and buying up the democracy to finally arrive at the billionnaire raj. While other nations had to tread with stealth, careful not to completely wreck the modern social contract their nations are based upon, India was bold, cheered on by its middle class - which hoped to be a beneficiary - and went about marginalising minorities, steamrolling the environment and tearing up constitutional protections in a breakneck speed. All in the name of development, the neo-liberal nirvana!
But even that was not enough! After all, President Trump was denying the existence of the virus and was happy to send American workers to death as long as their bosses, the Financiers, can work from home. Boris Johnson in the UK was ready to concede the bodies piled up high for keeping the profits coming in. The callous, the uncaring, the narrow, the cruel seemed to be everywhere: It was hard to do better than that.
Then there was the final lap - and the opportunity to leap forward! The pandemic brought, as was expected, a deadly second wave, making a mockery of the country's premature celebration of victory of the virus. No amount of fake science and showmanship could keep it out and this time, people were dying. Horror of horrors, the middle class people were dying! People who could afford private healthcare was dying! The precious vaccines were being taken by poor people, those 'extra population' many middle class-men think India can do without. The situation was terrible and something had to be done.
There were examples to follow. Biden administration in the US could turn around the country's situation in less than 100 days by putting stringent rules and making vaccines available everywhere. Just as rich white people do, United Kingdom was putting enormous resources on the vaccination programme, universally accessible and free at the point of use, and it was delivering, effectively ending its second wave in a space of 12 weeks. But these ideas were not acceptable to India - it was social healthcare - and vaccines were in short supply. Something had to be done.
And, that was India's victory lap: The brilliant idea that vaccines should be made available in the open market, so that who could afford it, can buy it. Because they are in short supply, the people who can pay, must have it first. There will be half of those available for the states to buy, but, let's be clear, that will be half of what was already inadequate. This is the type of bold, unthinking moves that the Indian middle classes want their government to take: Just like the overnight breaking the back of India's cash economy, the complete disruption of agricultural supply chain and callous abandonment of India's migrant workers to their fate in the early days of the pandemic, this is a master stroke! There is no country that can beat India any more in the blind faith that businesses know best and markets can fix even the most intractable of the problems, as long as it is fixed to favour those with money.
Therefore, the winner is.. India! The international press seems to agree: It has been given all the headlines. Of course, there are some people dying without even the basic healthcare and soon, those who do not have the money, wouldn't have the vaccine, but that should not distract us. After all, as the Twitter nationalists are saying, people died in all the countries from this pandemic, and India should not be singled out for its callousness. Let's just look at the bright side, this wonderful experiment in free market economics.
What can be better than pricing life and making it the state policy? A poor country has beaten its rich cousins again in imagination, and truly deserves the honour to be the World's most neo-liberal country.