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Has India Done Better Than Its Peers? A Look At The Second Wave

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

*Trigger Warning: Covid Deaths*

“India has done better than its peers and many developed countries, notwithstanding negative campaigns,” says Prime Minister Narendra Modi in an interview with the Open Magazine on 2 October, 2021.

Banquet Halls Converted Into Covid Care Centre In Delhi
Health workers take care of Covid-19 patients at Shehnai Banquet converted to Covid Care Center. (Photo by Mohd Zakir/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Before discussing the above statement and proceeding to any conclusion, here are a few headlines from 2021 for you to read. Let’s have a look at these before going ahead:

  • 20% of India’s COVID-19 deaths in April alone. (The New Indian Express)
  • Covid19 News: Delhi’s Lalitha Hospital Claims No Oxygen Supply From 5 AM Today. (India Today)
  • From Goa Medical College Hospital to Jaipur Golden and Batra in New Delhi last month; from Nashik to Chamrajnagar. Across cities and towns, SOSs went out 24 by 7. By the time High Courts and the Supreme Court prodded governments to act, it was too late for many. (The Indian Express)
  • A nightmare on repeat – India is running out of oxygen again. (BBC)
  • Dire need of beds, oxygen’: India’s capital under siege from COVID-19. (Reuters)
  • India failed its migrant workers yet again during the second wave of Covid-19. (Scroll.in)
  • Covid-19 in India: Patients struggle at home as hospitals choke. (BBC)

The above headlines are from the time when the second wave of Covid-19 hit the country in April.

 

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India’s official Covid-19 death count by the end of June 2021 was 4,00,000. However, the actual number of deaths during the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have been much greater than the official count, according to a report prepared by the Washington-based think tank Center for Global Development, co-authored by India’s former Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian.

 “True deaths are likely to be in the several million not hundreds of thousands, making this arguably India’s worst human tragedy since Partition and Independence,” the report says.

India witnessed a high daily positivity rate during the second wave. The resources started to exhaust quickly. Hospitals had no ICU/isolation wards left; life-saving drugs were finishing quickly; oxygen supplies were interrupted and dead bodies were lying everywhere.

Other incidents that took place in the month of April were the West Bengal elections and Kumbh Mela. The large political rallies and gatherings ended up becoming the reason for a huge spike in covid-19 cases.

“Elated to see such a large crowd”- PM in Bengal Rally (NDTV)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi praised the large crowd at his rally in Asansol, West Bengal, on a day when the whole country was struggling in finding the basic necessities for their living. However, on the same day, in an interview with The Indian Express, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that it was “not right” to link the surge in coronavirus cases in India to elections.

The opposition has been questioning the PM’s continued active involvement in election rallies as the country battles a deadly second wave of infections, but it seems like the BJP government had no ears.

Coronavirus | Over 1,700 test positive for COVID-19 in Kumbh Mela over a 5-day period (The Hindu)

On 12 April, 2021, More than three million devotees took a dip in the river Ganges in the belief that bathing there would help them attain salvation. On the very same day, India logged more than 168,000 news cases, overtaking Brazil to become the country with the second-highest number of cases globally.

However, the Prime Minister took this chance to showcase his bias-ness. PMO tweeted that Kumbh (participation) should now be kept symbolic and which would give a boost to the fight against this crisis.

According to a BBC report, life-saving Covid-19 drugs were being sold in the black market for excessive rates due to the unavailability of the medicine. People were bound to buy the medicines at much higher rates. The article reads an interview of Abhinav Sharma, who says, “I had tears in my eyes. My uncle was fighting for his life and I was struggling to arrange the medicine that could possibly save him.”

People were tweeting all day. Several SOS messages could be seen on the Instagram stories. But the cry for help took a step back when a man was charged over an oxygen SOS message by UP Police.

India coronavirus: Man charged over oxygen SOS for dying grandfather (BBC)

Uttar Pradesh was among India’s worst-hit states. However, the Chief Minister of UP denied this allegation and said that none of the state’s hospitals lacked oxygen.

Shashank Yadav, who tweeted for help for his grandfather, got charged by the officers for spreading a rumour over oxygen shortages “with intent to cause… fear or alarm”.

India Faces Oxygen Crisis As Covid-19 Cases Mount
As Covid-19 cases continued to surge in India, people were struggling for oxygen. ( Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

The violation of freedom of speech came into notice way before this incident occurred. On 22 April, the government asked Twitter to censor 52 tweets that were critical of the government’s handling of the pandemic.

Around 55 journalists either faced legal actions in one form or the other (FIRs, show causes, etc.) or became victims of vandalistic activities for exercising their freedom of speech and expression by reporting on the pandemic between 25 March and 31 May.

Uttar Pradesh topped the list for most such violations, followed by Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and various other states according to The Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG) data.

Instances that point towards censorship and free speech violations that have taken place in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • The Guardian, 28 April, 2021: Facebook blocked hashtag calling for Narendra Modi to resign over pandemic.
  • Timesnownews, 7 May, 2021: Lucknow hospital puts up ‘oxygen shortage’ notice, booked for creating ‘fear’.
  • Indian Express, 15 May, 2021: Arrested for anti-PM posters: daily wagers, printer, auto driver.

 

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Now, if we come back to the PMO interview I mentioned at the beginning, it won’t be difficult to see the truth behind “India doing better than its peers and many developed countries”. Even after knowing that the new wave of Covid-19 could hit the country again, the government is busy preparing for February 2022 UP elections, witnessing huge crowds with hardly anyone wearing masks.

Many people lost their lives; many people lost their loved ones. When a basic thing like oxygen is not available to people, how can you trust humanity? How can you trust the government?

The year 2021 saw India recording several heart-breaking moments. Therefore, this quick recap of events that made headlines in 2021 was important for us to make sure we do not let this happen again tomorrow.

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