Covid-19 Purges Lives
In recent days, India has set a new global record, under PM Modi’s government, for a rise in daily Covid-19 cases in the last week. The death toll is gaining unprecedented momentum; outside the crematoriums, makeshift pavements are being made to deal with a massive and unexpected influx of dead bodies.
Reportedly, the situation of graveyards in India is no different. The government of India now seems to be paralyzed in the face of the new wave of Covid-19. Hospitals are short of the staple instruments to deal with the Covid-19 calamity and are turning the patients away. Patients are also struggling to get proper treatment at home due to the black marketing of oxygen and drugs.
According to Reuters, India’s death toll is now nearing 200,000. Many experts claim that the official numbers released by the Indian government of the total death toll and positive cases merely represent the tip of the ice-burg, with the actual count being very high. During this entire crisis, when different countries and organizations are stepping out to help India, PM Modi seems to have abandoned his populace.
What Led India to This Catastrophe?
It was merely three months ago when life in India started feeling normal and PM Modi’s government glorified itself for containing the novel coronavirus with comparatively less death rates as compared to many countries of the world – especially the developed nations. The battered livelihood in India was now being back to normal: schools were reopening, friends were getting together, and seasonal political activity was recouping.
In February 2021, Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) passed a resolution hailing Modi as a “visionary” who had defeated Covid-19. The daily count of Covid-19 positive cases was like a drop in the ocean with barely 13000 positive cases on the daily basis. The first wave of coronavirus seemed to ebb away from India, but the tale of this disaster crested after April 14th, 2021.
This day was of great significance in India as many Hindus and Sikhs gathered to celebrate their religious new year. Indian Muslims celebrated the first day of Ramadan along with their families and friends. Hindus assembled in the Haridwar temple to celebrate their ritual festival – Kumbh Mela – one of the world’s largest religious gatherings.
Hindus from all over India shoved and jostled to a ritual dip in the Ganges. This religious festival made India pay a heavy price by stealing thousands of lives to date and ticking a load of Covid-19 positive cases gently upwards. For the first time in India, the number of daily cases surpassed 200,000 in a single day, across the country. It has continued to bulge since, reaching almost 315,000 just one week later.
India, with this daily count, holds the record of having the highest rate of corona positive daily cases, ever. Another instance of imbecile decisions and policies of the Modi government is that as the cases began tickling up in early March this year in the opposition-run state of Maharashtra, instead of helping the state government to counter the burgeoning number of cases, it started blaming the state government in hopes of bringing it down.
Similarly, another big mistake by the Indian government and other political parties is that they held massive rallies without masks or following of the SOPs in West Bengal. Even the Home Minister of the Indian government, Amit Shah, was on the campaign trail for the first 12 of the 18 days of April.
This did not only add fuel to mushrooming the risk of propagating pandemics in the state but also distracted the central government from fighting the coronavirus. The Health Minister of the Modi government has been found claiming that covid-19 could be cured by drinking cow urine. Such dull-witted ministers and biased policies of the BJP government have also played an imminent role in aggravating the pandemic in India.
The most vulnerable in the current situation in India, among all, is the poor people who hardly earn their livelihood. Utter Pradesh and Bihar are among the hardest hit by the pandemic this time and both regions lack rudimentary health resources, resulting in a tripling of the coronavirus cases from 20000 on the April 13th to 60000 cases on the 19th of the same month.
Modi’s Response to the Second Wave
Crowded cities and a rickety health care system are the second major problem. The overzealous Modi government still ranks first, which makes it hard for the Indian government to curb the disease. Mr. Modi himself promoted the Kumbh Mela. It was only after the head of the second-largest of the 13 ‘akharas, circle of Hindu devotees, died due to coronavirus that PM Modi suggested that a symbolic pilgrimage be more appropriate this year.
Mr. Modi and his government appeared to be slow in responding to this avalanche of grief. His party was the last one to cancel the election campaign in West Bengal due to their inexorable desire to win control of the state. Modi is paying the price of hubris just like Donald Trump in the US, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Boris Johnson in Britain did.
India has 400 news channels in its 24 states, and most of these channels have grown dependent on the government advertising money for their survival. This made them save their harsh questions for political leaders not named “Modi”. Reportedly, New Delhi has ordered Twitter, the only source where the actual situation of the country could be seen by the lens of the common people, to remove the tweets which are critical of the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Although belatedly, the Modi government has now moved to mitigate the catastrophe. It is now throwing money at procurement. The government of India has announced to release 400m to aid the Serum Institute to boost production. Previously, India was vaccinating only 3m people on daily basis. This barely exceeds the real numbers of daily covid-19 positive cases in India.
The allocation of money to Serum Institute and fast track authorization of half a dozen foreign vaccines will help to vaccinate more people on daily basis. The Indian government has also ordered its armed forces to assist at choked hospitals and free up oxygen supplies held in reserves at military facilities.
Although all these steps will help to mitigate the devastating situation of India, mere inoculations are of limited use. If we look back in history with the Spanish Flu, a century ago, India survived the first wave, too, but the second wave proved to be more destructive. About a third of the 50m deaths of people around the globe were of Indians.
Ramifications for the Rest of the World
The plight of India in the wake of the second wave has worldwide consequences. One of the major implications for the whole world due to the Covid-19 ‘‘tsunami’’ in India is the disruption of vaccine supplies to many countries.
Mr. Modi, the president of India, boasted in January this year, “We [India] not only solved our problem but also helped the world fight the pandemic”. It has now restricted the export of vaccines; it merely exported 1.2m doses in April, compared with 64m in the previous three months.
The Serum Institute of India which made commitments to Britain, the European Union and Covax, and the African states, now seems to have defaulted. African countries which were highly dependent on the Indian vaccine now seem to be left in the lurch. Another, and much more daunting, menace of the second wave in India is the emergence of new mutations of the virus.
One such variant which was first discovered in India, Double Mutant, has already been found in many countries of the world – including the US and UK. Recently, a new variant, Triple Mutant, has also been found in India.
The World’s Response to the Crisis in India
Amid the second wave of Covid, many countries of the world have stepped out to help India in this devastating situation. To date, 12 countries have offered their assistance to the Indian government to serve humanity when many Indian states are flagging the scarcity of medical gear. It is a sign of happiness that countries do not merely stick to their national interests, humanity has proved to be supreme than the national boundaries.
The offer of help has not only been made by India’s allies; Pakistan and China have also come forth in this situation of a humanitarian crisis in India. Although the Indian government has not yet responded to the offer made by Pakistan, this step by its neighboring country has won the hearts of many people in India.
Other countries which are helping India include Germany, UAE, the US, Russia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, France, European Union, and Australia. The US had refused to allow emergency exports of vaccines to India, but now President Biden has stated that the US is ready to help India – although he has not offered any specifics in his message.
The WHO has also stepped forward to help the country. More than 2600 WHO experts are already working in the country on different health projects. 4000 oxygen concentrators have been provided to India, mobile field hospitals are being set up, and laboratory supplies are being provided by WHO for testing. Meanwhile, Tarik Jasarevic, the spokesperson of WHO, has also urged the people of India to not stockpile essential supplies.
Options for India
PM Modi commands tremendous authority over the masses of the country – especially the Hindus. This is the perfect time for him to make use of his power and adopt strict policies to curb Covid-19 and to hamper mass gatherings including religious festivals. It is also time for them to correct the country’s course by abandoning the Hindutwa ideology.
He and his partisans should discern that India can only survive by adopting liberal policies. India should also accept Pakistan’s offer of assistance. This way, both states can avoid allocating their resources, unnecessarily, on defense and this amount can then be used for improving the living standard of the destitute in the countries.
This could be a start of a new era of cooperation and development not only in India and Pakistan but also in the whole of South Asia. This Covid-19 relief assistance can open new doors for cooperation and solving the years-long border disputes of the Indian state with its neighbors.
Prior refusal by the US to provide vaccines to India is sufficient for the country to understand who its real friends are and who are merely serving their national interest and will desert India during tribulations. Modi government should impose strict lockdown measures and limit intercity and interstate travel, without turning its back on the migrant workers, as it did in the first wave of the pandemic.
India needs to magnify its vaccine production and augment its vaccination drive to counter the massively growing number of Covid-19 positive cases. BJP government and the Indian government should admit that their medical, education, and other sectors require more resources than the defense sector.
This will only be possible if the Indian establishment and Hindu nationalists realize that their dream of Akhand Bharat is nothing more than a mare’s nest and that this is the apt time to relinquish this ideology. The rest of the world should treat the Indian circumstances as a test case and should be on standby to help other countries in case of a resurgence of Covid-19 on a humanitarian basis.
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