COVID-19 in India: The Absence of an Empathic Government
India, one of the most populous nations, is grappling with a fierce second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. While countries all across the globe are contributing in India’s fight to tackle the virus with medical supplies, the Indian government's role has come into scrutiny for bringing the country to a dire helpless state that it is in now.
The Indian news media, which is considered to be the flag-bearer of keeping the Prime Minister’s public opinion, are struggling to keep up his image as a diligent and persevering leader. In a recent piece, Arundhati Roy, a celebrated author and also a fierce critic of the ruling government, wrote in a piece denouncing the willingness of PM Modi to tackle the virus. In a recent editorial in the Guardian calling the Indian government a crisis generating machine she said,
"This virus is an international problem. To deal with it, decision-making, at least on the control and administration of the pandemic, will need to pass into the hands of some sort of non-partisan body consisting of members of the ruling party, members of the opposition, and health and public policy experts."
Public social platform, Twitter was also abuzz with the same sentiment. Citizens by tweeting in a large number held accountable the PM and demanded his resignation. While Twitter was reeling with #ResignModi, another petition demanding the PM's resignation was signed by over 800 thousand people.
The freedom of expressing dissent towards the government is another cause of worry for many. Over 15 people were arrested in a recent incident in the state capital Delhi for putting anti-modi posters. These incidents of suppression have been criticized by many. In a recent piece the medical journal by Lancet came harshly on PM Modi and criticized the ill handling of the crisis and said that it is more concerned with removing criticism on Twitter than trying to control the pandemic.
“The message that COVID-19 was essentially over also slowed the start of India’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign, which has vaccinated less than 2% of the population. At the federal level, India’s vaccination plan soon fell apart. The government abruptly shifted course without discussing the change in policy with states, expanding vaccination to everyone older than 18 years, draining supplies, and creating mass confusion and a market for vaccine doses in which states and hospital systems competed,” The Lancet said.
Currently, states have imposed partial or complete lockdown and have clamped down unnecessary movement to minimize the jump in cases. The cases have started to see a minute drop but the number of deaths seems to be a cause of worry. The virus which was perceived to be restricted to major metropolitans is now taking rural India. Dozens of bodies were found floating the holy river of Ganges and buried on the banks of it. Thousands still across the country stand in queues for oxygen and other COVID-19 specific medical supplies. This begs us to ask, should the PM take responsibility and resign?