India’s devastating second wave of COVID-19 was caused by governmental negligence, and millions of people are paying the price.
By Saurabh Kumar
In the midst of a devastating second wave of COVID-19, India is suffering heavy losses with no end in sight. After ten consecutive days recording over 300,000 new cases, Reuters reported that new cases surpassed 400,000 on Saturday, May 1. Making matters worse, experts and local government officials are confident that the numbers are significantly higher than what is being reported.
The situation is dire. There are shortages of both vaccine doses and tests, so as those who are confirmed to have the virus struggle to find space in hospitals, the rest of the nation struggles to get tested or vaccinated. At the time of writing, India has suffered almost 240,000 confirmed deaths and has almost 22,000,000 confirmed cases with an unknown amount unreported.
As the situation becomes more grim, experts are looking for the causes of such a massive outbreak and criticizing the nation’s government for glaring oversights and shortcomings. For these failures, the nation is paying with hundreds of thousands of lives.
India’s healthcare has long been underfunded. According to BBC, the nation spent a meager 1.28 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare in 2018. To put this figure into perspective, the United States spent 17.7 percent of its GDP on healthcare in 2019 with a GDP of $21.4 trillion compared to India’s $2.9 trillion and a population of just over 328 million people compared to India’s over 1.36 billion. Taking into account the lack of investment in healthcare, it is not surprising that now, in a time of crisis, the infrastructure is crumbling.
While India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—the more right-wing of the two largest partisan bodies in India as well as the party currently in power—has long touted economic optimism, such confidence may be too premature. After economic transformations that took place in the 1990s that spurred the party’s “India Shining” slogan, many believed that the nation had the potential to emerge as a prominent world power and partner to Western nations. While it is true that India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the nation still faces rampant inequality on many fronts such as gender and income, in addition to the lasting pressures of religious, regional, and caste divides.
In the past month, images of hopelessly overburdened hospitals and improvised cremation sites have flooded news media, making it all too clear that India can no longer ignore the glaring issues that the BJP has been ignoring. After 15 years of denying foreign aid, India is now accepting help from nations with vaccines or oxygen to spare. This is a stark contrast from the BJP’s purported progress making India an economic powerhouse, and a far cry from January when the nation was being called a global vaccine hub and Prime Minister Nerendra Modi was boasting that India “saved the world” through its effective handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Although the nation saw decreased cases early in the year, public gatherings were in full swing by March, sometimes encouraged by officials according to some reports. At his West Bengal rally on April 17th, Prime Minister Modi himself remarked that he had never witnessed a crowd so large. That day, India recorded over 261,000 new cases.
According to a BBC report, people are angry, asking where the government is in this time of national struggle and need. When the people of India put their faith in the government, they were met with disorganization and a public relations game. Instead of learning from other nations that were hit by seconds waves such as the United Kingdom and Poland, Modi remained more concerned with taking responsibility for anything good that came India’s way. Now, in the midst of an unconscionable number of deaths, Modi is doling out blame on state governments while he ensures his Twitter reputation stays clean.
With rising criticism of his handling of this crisis, Modi and the BJP lost state elections in Kerala and Tamil Nadu this past weekend, indicating the dissatisfaction of the Indian electorate. In the wake of a true crisis, it is time for India to face the dissonance between image and reality. That starts with Modi and his smug dismissal of the nation’s underlying issues. □
- Image source
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