Agree or not, let me call it China’s coronavirus, cleverly dubbed COVID-19, which has caused havoc worldwide with millions already dead and counting. Unfortunately, India has experienced an unexpected surge in deaths, despair, and infections (second wave) while things seem under control in the United States and other countries. The U.S. has about 60% of its population at least partially vaccinated leading to the relaxation of the masking and social distancing expectations, a poor policy decision in my informed opinion. How can we be sure and complacent that the second wave caused by a variant like India is less likely in the U.S.? India had a relatively lower death and infection rate in late 2020 compared with the United States which appears to be turning tides in 2021.
Is India’s war against the deadly pandemic as bad as the “fake” media and/or political leaders of the non-BJP parties make of it? While, every death of a loved one means 100% for a family, the statistics as a country deserve to be reported accurately and respected. Reportedly, there are 87 nations with as many Prime Ministers or Presidents in Europe and North America combined with a cumulative population of about 1.34 billion. India with nearly the same population has just one Prime Minister Modi. However, the pandemic has resulted in nearly 82.7 million infections and 1,9 million deaths in 87 countries in comparison to 22.7 and 0.25 million, respectively in India. The readers may do the math in the rates of death and infections and decide whether India deserves to be complimented for overall good management by the leadership or be continuously bombarded with complaints by dubious minds. I must repeat that the statistic is not comforting for grieving families, but India deserves due recognition for her all-out efforts on a war footing.
What the sensational media likes to portray in the headlines is multiple bodies of the dead on the sacred funeral pyre as if all of India is on fire. Many elite and powerful belonging to the Lutyens media for decades, once favorite of the ruling party, now sit around to gossip, sway opinions and create sensational news. The combination of politically corrupt minds and Lutyens media are the deadliest. They are unwittingly incapable of differentiating what deserves compliments and/or criticism and where it is appropriate to condemn and complain rationally. For example, they are squarely complaining why did Modi not impose a complete lockdown which was criticized in 2020 for the socio-economic hardships for everyone. Even a nationalist and populist leader like Modi who has dedicated himself to further the development, dignity, democracy, and diplomacy on behalf of her country can’t win the crooked minds who refuse to rationalize and analyze the facts.
Everyone is asking why there are not enough hospital beds, respirators, and oxygen supply to meet the growing needs of the patients? The questions are justified but why point fingers only at the central government and Modi’s leadership without mentioning that healthcare is truly the State issue per India’s constitution. It is very unfortunate and in fact inexcusable, that the Chief Ministers of Delhi, West Bengal, Kerala, and Madhya Pradesh among others have done little to nothing to improve health infrastructure since the first wave and with funding and/or equipment made available through PM CARES fund.
The hue and cry for oxygen surprised me the most. I had never heard of this kind of crisis due in part because many States failed to install oxygen generation plants after 2020 coronavirus. India’s biggest challenge was not the overall oxygen generation capacity but the logistical nightmare in transporting oxygen to the cities across the country. Where is the credit for dozens of oxygen trains, air force planes, and navy ships transporting tankers from wherever they were available? It seems that Lutyens’s media has a very short-lived memory. How can they forget what was happening in New York in the most advanced economy just last year- not enough hospital beds, respirators, and PPEs when the coronavirus was raging unabatedly? The point is that the tsunami-like second wave in India emerged too fast without warning that even the most advanced healthcare systems could not be sufficiently ready. India’s leadership, health professionals, and people on the frontline worked 24×7 to save lives as best as possible risking their own. Those who died must be saluted for their heroic efforts and deserve our highest compliments and accolades.
Looking back, India managed to ward off the pandemic well in 2020. Then people became unduly relaxed and complacent about masking and social distancing. The country assumed premature “victory” over the vicious COVID-19 to find it raging havoc in April 2021. India unveiled indigenous vaccines, the first such scientific innovation encouraged and fueled by the leadership and started vaccination in mid-January. However, the dubious politicians willfully characterized it Modi-vaccine to spreading rumors that it will make individuals impotent. Even the vaccine was politicized to create a wedge based on religion. Such misinformation campaign led to hesitancy for vaccination which was offered to all at no cost in the government facilities. While vaccine production was in full swing with limited usage in India, there was a stockpile of this highly sought-after commodity which the Modi team rightfully used to save lives and earn global goodwill through diplomacy.
When the pandemic returned with vengeance creating fear, the demand for vaccination increased which could not be met with the manufacturing capacity. In part, the U.S. had placed an embargo on the export of raw material to manufacture vaccines and thus affecting the production capacity. It was only Modi’s global leadership and diplomacy which led the U.S. to lift the embargo. Then came a hurried policy decision to vaccinate everyone above the age of 18 which was well-intended but poorly timed to exacerbate the demand with an already limited vaccine supply. What the media and politicians are questioning now is why Modi help hundreds of countries earlier and thus created the shortage of vaccine in India as if Modi had a lens to see the future. Perhaps, few people know that the vaccines need to be preserved at very low temperatures which limits India’s capacity to hold vaccines in storage for too long. The vaccines transported to the field for vaccination in secondary and tertiary sites severely limit the storage capacity. In my view, the Modi team must accept criticism but not the blame for miscalculation and the poor timing of policy decision to lower the age to 18.
India’s most recent decision to give a second vaccine nearly 3 months after the first dose is fully backed by scientific facts but the media and politicians refuse to accept it. The fact is that many other countries are doing the same to have a larger population with at least one vaccine as a hedge against infections. People with crooked minds to defame and blame Modi are once again blowing it out of proportion and the media is being irresponsible in not educating the public at large.
The last point about the large political rallies for Parliamentary elections in several States, the Panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh, and the congregation of Kumbh, an event every 12 years. In my view, all political parties and the Election Commission should have worked together to scale back the large rallies sooner than they did at last. However, there is no justification for blaming only Modi and his party. The Panchayat elections in Uttar Pradesh should have been postponed rather than letting the fatalities build up in the rural areas due to campaign gatherings and celebrating victory. Allegedly, over 700 schoolteachers lost their lives because of their duty as election officers, a loss not only to their families but to the education force which is already stressed. Likewise, Kumbh should have been scaled back to allow only the religious leaders to do their rituals in a more controlled environment. With all that criticism, let me confess that hindsight is always 20/20. I am not the decision-maker, nor I know what was at stake in not letting the elections and Kumbh happen? It is important to mention the misguided farmer’s agitation going on for months. It is likely a hotbed for rising cases of infections and possible deaths but the select politicians backed by the Khalistan movement are not willing to let it go. Why Lutyens media do not give them the wisdom to go home and return, if they must, only after the raging coronavirus?
The most concerning is that even the educated and well-informed argumentative Indians lose objectivity and succumb to politics for the wrong reasons and personal gains. Lately, the opposition parties appear to have the sole objective of “opposing” Modi because they don’t know how to win elections against the policy of development and raising hopes and inspirations for the young minds of India. What politicians of ill-will do instead is to spread rumors and misinformation and promote nepotism and corruption. Some members of Lutyens media having lost credibility in India are now working for the Western outlets. They are occupied in crafting blame, creating fear and anxiety, develop false and fake narratives about India, and condemn what Modi says and does? Most unfortunate is that they are engaged in such practices at the peril of India which offered them wit, wisdom, and wealth through education and made them the elitists. The other unfortunate part is that many Indians still believe the fake narrative of the West more than the nationalist viewpoint of emerging Indian media.