Death, disease and helplessness have become the “new normal” that Indians are forced to live with when they witness the collapse from an already inadequate health system and failure of his political system which was caught napping on the rise in cases, which showed a to the top trend from February.

For many families, left to fend for themselves, social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are now used to search for hospital beds, oxygen cylinders and medicine for loved ones. These platforms have to become the “COVID-19 helplines” for most Indians.

Ironically, instead of helping its citizens when they need it, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, led by the Bharatiya Janata party, is trying.control the narrative»On social media sites like Twitter asking the company to go down tweets that criticize his handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Even as the crisis continues to engulf the country, the government has distanced itself from any blame for allowing this outbreak in cases resulting from the authorization of religious congregations like Kumbh Mela and holding political gatherings.

Turning to each other for help

From India 1.38 billion citizens feel largely abandoned by the government they helped vote for power in 2019. Waging lonely battles for the lives of their loved ones has proven to be a daunting task, leading them to turn to each other for help.

On a daily basis, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram flows are inundated with requests oxygen cylinders—Which is sorely lacking, especially in Delhi – as well as hospital beds, medicine for critically ill patients and the availability of plasma donations.

“[P]People are bypassing conventional lines of communication and turning to Twitter for help “during India’s second wave COVID-19 crisis, according to a report in mint.

The responsibility for providing medical oxygen lies with the central government, a fact that Indian courts have also pointed out when asking the Center to to employ all means necessary to supply oxygen to hospitals, especially Delhi. Meanwhile, the Center is now trying to blame shortages in the health system to the states.

In all of this, social media has played an important role in bridging the information gap on the availability of beds, oxygen cylinders and medication. There are those who have been fortunate enough to receive the help they need to save a loved one, but a majority of Indians live in rural areas and many of them do not have “access to a smartphone or use social media,” according to an article in Wire: “For the vast majority of Indians struggling for help, repeatedly calling flooded phone lines or transporting patients to emergency rooms in person is the only option, highlighting the impact of the country’s digital divide.”

How the government uses social media

Instead of responding to calls for help from its citizens, the Indian government is instead conducting a rescue exercise by asking social media platforms to remove “critical” posts from its handling of the COVID-19 situation.

“Twitter recently deleted around 50 messages and URLs ordered by the Indian government to be removed. Other social media platforms like Facebook also deleted 50 posts. The posts that were cut criticized the government for mismanaging the COVID-19 crisis in the country amid the second wave of the pandemic, ”reported mint.

India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has called for these posts to be abolished to “avoid obstacles to combating the pandemic” and disruption of public order due to these posts, “according to the government. Change. item.

As much as 52 tweets who were kidnapped were from journalists, opposition politicians and filmmakers, according to a report by the India time which cited Lumen Database, an initiative of Harvard University.

In Uttar Pradesh, one of the most populous states in India where the BJP is in power, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has required that “action be taken under the National Security Act and that the properties of those who spread ‘rumors’ and propaganda on social media be seized.” Recently a criminal case was filed against a man in the state “who took to Twitter use an oxygen cylinderFor his sick grandfather, said the Wire. The charges against him included “spreading a rumor ‘with intent to cause … fear or alarm’.”

In an interview with BBC“Newsnight,” BJP national spokesperson Gopal Krishna Agarwal responded to accusations the government was removing social media posts, saying, “When our government pointed out that these [tweets and posts]… Not conducive to the current national interest… Twitter and other social media agree. He claimed that the social media content was “based on fake news” and that it had an “agenda” – but it’s unclear what agenda the deleted posts might have had in addition to highlighting the devastation caused by the uncontrolled spread of the virus, or amplify the truth about the number of Indians who feel the government is blamed for failing to prevent the inevitable and address the crisis.

“[I]It is easier to suppress tweets than to secure the oxygen supply, ”Aftab Alam, professor at the University of Delhi, said in a statement. Tweeter cited in a New York Times article.

Meanwhile, on April 30, the Supreme Court of India, which is the highest court in the country, took note of the government’s muzzling of the information and clarified that “if citizens communicate their grievances on social media and on the Internet, it cannot be said that this is incorrect information, ”according to an article in Indian Express. He also warned that any attempt to suppress the information would be considered “contempt of court”.

Too little, too late

Following the spike in cases in India, several governments around the world have finally stepped forward and provided assistance to the country. On April 28, the country’s deaths from COVID-19 crossed the 200,000 mark. That number, however, does not seem to reflect the true picture of how serious things are on the ground, with many media reporting that deaths from COVID-19 COVID-19 are mainly under Account in India.

India added more than 300,000 new infections every day during the last week of April and overtook Brazil as second biggest number of COVID-19 cases worldwide. India is now second only after the United States, which as of April 30 was the world leader in COVID-19 cases (and had a population a quarter the size of India’s).

Meanwhile, at least eight countries have offered aid to India so far. “[T]UK, France, Germany, Ireland, US, Australia, Kuwait and Russia have announced aid to India in various forms to tackle unprecedented health crisis which is hitting the country due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic ”, according to the Hindu BusinessLine.

Non-profit organizations have also mobilized to mobilize Support necessary in the field for the dissemination of information and the provision of relief packages to migrant populations, who are often on their own.

Even as the Indians try to do everything in their power to overcome this second wave on their own, the question remains: is it too little, too late?

Ruhi Bhasin is an associate editor at the Independent Media Institute. Previously, she worked as an editor and senior journalist at The Times of India and the Indian Express, covering politics, legal issues and social issues. She can be reached on Twitter @BhasinRuhi.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.