TrialSite reported on the horrific situation in India as this latest wave of the pandemic sweeps through the world’s second most populated nation. Perhaps the worst of the pandemic’s wrath now rips though a country that experienced better conditions just months earlier than America and elsewhere. Unfortunately, the country just broke another record with a reported 352,991 new cases and 2,182 virus-associated deaths. That’s the fifth day in a row that the country has reported the world’s highest daily caseload in this second wave, which started in March. With over a million cases in just a few days, medical facilities face shortages of oxygen and ICU beds. Places such as New Delhi face particularly bad conditions, now under a lockdown order until at least May 3. With severe shortages, the city doesn’t have oxygen production facilities but rather depends on the central government. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, strongly criticized for being far too lackadaisical over the last months, desperately now tried to get ahead of the crisis, most recently leveraging funds from PM-Cares to order the immediate boost in oxygen production for medical purposes, including the set up of 551 dedicated medical oxygen generation plants in public medical facilities across the country. In the meantime, the U.S. White House declared help is on the way now.
According to the HealthWorld (from the Economic Times), this move is forecast to contribute approximately 1,500 tons of oxygen to the daily supply, estimated to be around 6,600 by last Friday, according to government sources.
That Leadership Thing
While most mainstream press typically avoids much critical perspective here, other media are raising the specter of gross negligence among India’s political leadership class as the contagion leads to cremation fires lighting up the night sky—disposal of all the dead that in many cases couldn’t get into a hospital for oxygen and an ICU bed due to a lack of planning and action over the past half year.
While the “PM Cares” had actually been around since 1948 in a form known as the “Prime Minister’s Relief Fund,” Modi changed the title to personalize the fund’s branding. So, the Prime Minister has gone to great length as a much beloved nationalist-leaning figure to connect with his nation. But will he now connect with the responsibility and accountability gaps on display for the world to see?
India is now the 5th richest country in the world as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) at $2.6 trillion. That’s right, the only countries richer from a GDP perspective are the U.S, China, Japan and Germany.
Yet it’s still considered a developing nation and although its widely known that income and wealth distribution in India is highly polarized, (possibly a legacy of a highly socially stratified culture via the ancient caste system now banned in practice since 1950), the country arguably has one of the largest middle classes in the world along with China and America. The country made great sacrifices many decades ago to promote mass education for all, which paid off in a big way as it became an elite global hub for technology and science-based industry. Its’ been a remarkable story. Combine this with the fact that India also has the distinction of being the world’s largest democracy and also happens to be one of the largest, if not the largest, English speaking country. India has so much potential for its 1.4 billion population and contribution to a global economic system.
Yet the leadership should have been on ever ready alert. They knew better. While the country experienced its first wave in the pandemic by August and September of 2020, cases waned thereafter and many months of relative calm ensued. Yet other parts of the world continued to struggle with the pathogen, including the world’s richest economy of the United States. A glaring mistake of the Indian political class was to not observe and learn from other places over the past half year.
Rather, politics as usual ensued despite the fact that the world was under an all-out attack by the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen. India loosened up behavior, which led ultimately to an increase in cases.
As emphasized in The Wire recently, much of the so-called mainstream media here seems more an extended public relations office for those in power. With elites supporting all sorts of inappropriate activities and events—such as open political gatherings during the political season here that were in actuality “super spreader events,” any hard hitting, objective fact checking was quickly positioned, and tainted, as an attack on India.
Pathogen Knows No Social Class
While India’s socioeconomic stratification still remains severe, many might assume that this latest wave would be most severe in the massive slums in many of India’s several large cities. Yes, the pathogen swirls around in those communities but according to some account, the affluent demographic now has been hit hard by the pandemic. As local press shares, wealthy cities such as Mumbai and Pune account for nearly 30% of the active cases in the state of Maharashtra. According to some reports, 90% of all active cases in the past week concentrated in high-rise buildings with only about 10% of such cases originating in the slums, reported the Indian Express. Now bankers and business tycoons turn to Twitter for emergency help and mask wearing, avoided just a month ago, but now is commonplace even amongst friends and family. The rich and powerful, too, plead for hospital bed space.
Lack of Global Cohesion, Coordination & Orchestration During Pandemic
TrialSite has commented generally on the lack of true international cooperation and collaboration during this pandemic, in meaningful ways that correspond with the devastating toll of this contagion to people around the world. From Chinese suppression and coverups in the earliest days of the pandemic—as well as jingoistic messaging out the press there and vaccine diplomacy—tensions between both the U.S. and China have grown despite the common threat to the entire world, and its economies.
The U.S. dropped out of the World Health Organization (WHO) and didn’t participate at all in international efforts via that organization until the Biden administration recently rejoined. But the WHO has disappointed on a number of fronts and it’s as if the vast networks of leadership and influence helping to drive world order over the last decades have frayed and fractured, leaving a fragmented, haphazard situation. Now India needs the help, and just yesterday the U.S. White House reported that the Biden administration and the U.S. Department of Defense are mobilizing supplies in support of its seven-decade partner, including shipments of ventilators, PPE, testing kits and therapeutics. However, days earlier, according to some press reports, they refused to lift some form of embargo on the export of raw material necessary for vaccine production in places such as India. The U.S. State Department shared that its first obligation was to American needs. But with the growing deadly toll of the contagion, increased pressure mounted to ship vaccine inputs and shots, such as those by AstraZeneca. Reports are that France too is sending supplies, including oxygen. Russia is flying generators down to India. Although the two are adversaries, China purportedly extended an offer while attempting to tarnish the U.S. in the process.