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India: A Brief Note on the Pandemic Situation

The second wave of the pandemic in the country has become so grave that the daily number of cases has crossed well over three hundred fifty thousand, while the mortality rate has also gone up in the last one month. From an average 0.4% it has spiked to 1.7%. Every day news pours in of people dying due to the absence of oxygen supply. Hospitals are full with no beds and patients are sleeping on stretchers.

Crematoriums are not able to absorb the large number of dead bodies. Partial lock downs are imposed in some cities and some are doing with night curfews. Vaccines are not available as there are more people than the number of vaccines produced in the country. It is estimated by virologists and epidemiologists that in mid-May daily number of cases may touch five to six hundred thousand per day and deaths could be around 7,000 a day. In a word the situation in the country in regard to the pandemic is very grave and the union government has miserably failed in handling this crisis. Let us take a look at the developments in the country in 2020 when the virus invaded the country. It was due to the failure of the government in not properly checking those entering the country from abroad that lead to the entry of the virus. Though the first case was detected in the last week of Jan.2020, no measures were taken up to check the entry of travelers by air. Till the third week of March, everything was business as usual and suddenly with a few hours notice, the Modi-government imposed one of the harshest and unplanned lockdowns in the world devastating the lives of millions of workers, particularly the migrant workers. For the first time in the history of the country the migrant workers were walking hundreds of miles to reach their villages with their families having lost jobs due to the shut down. Many died midway on the highways, on rail tracks, in trains. Even before the pandemic in 2020, the economy was sliding down with many sectors facing crisis in the form of demand deficit. The rate of unemployment shot up to a new high never witnessed in the last 47 years. The agrarian economy was in distress. The pandemic accentuated this crisis-situation bearing heavily on the working class losing jobs and there was reverse migration of labour, that is, workers were going back to villages for sustenance. The adverse effects of the long and harshest lockdowns in the world were clearly visible. In a period of lockdown, governments are expected to ramp up the health care system to meet the challenges posed by the pandemic. In India the expenditure on health care is a mere 1.25% of the GDP and nothing substantial was done to allocate more funds to meet the pandemic crisis. On the other hand, the ruling dispensation was using the crisis-situation to bring in anti-worker,anti-farmer laws and intensify the attacks on the normal democratic rights of the people. It has launched a programme of privatization of public sector industries,public sector banks and insurance companies. The health sector already dominated by the private,corporate hospitals used this opportunity for fleecing the covid patients. Between the first wave in 2020 and the second wave now one expected that there will be some ramping up of the health care system in terms of building additional hospitals,infrastructure etc but the government failed in doing so and as a result today with the virus fast spreading affected people and their families are in pitiable conditions. Oxygen supply is not commensurate with the demand and as a consequence several people have died. All pandemics have second or third waves and the government failed to grasp even though experts had warned and hence what we witness today is utter unpreparedness to tackle the problem. There is a huge shortage of vaccines and the prime minister talks of self-reliance and self sufficiency. Initially the government exported vaccines but it is forced to import now. While the central government has left the decision to impose lockdowns or not to the states,it has allowed elections and huge election rallies. It has allowed religious gatherings like the recent Kumbh Mela involving hundreds of thousands to gather thereby aiding the spread of the virus. Yet our Prime Minister makes claims that the world needs to learn from India in dealing with the pandemic!