About a month and a half ago, on March 1, 2021, India recorded 12,286 new cases of COVID-19. On April 16, the new number of cases hit 2.34 lakh. That’s an almost 20-fold jump in six weeks. Nothing can sum up the ferocity of this second wave of the pandemic. New daily cases are more than double the peak in September of last year. [See chart below, based on health ministry data collated by NewsClick’s Data Analytics Team]
The total number of deaths has exceeded 1.75 lakh since the start of the pandemic, and the number of active cases is believed to be close to 14 lakh on April 16. Could the central government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have better responded to this unmitigated crisis? ? Or, is everything under control, a feeling you might be forgiven for inferring, if you see the enthusiasm with which the Prime Minister, his Home Secretary and various high-ranking officials of the ruling party campaign during the elections. frenzied assembly elections in West Bengal.
A series of miscalculations and perhaps negligence in the face of the impending crisis can be observed. Keep in mind that COVID cases started to increase at an alarming rate around the beginning of March, as the graph above shows.
Six weeks is a long time, especially when you see that the whole world is facing a deadly new wave of pandemic. But the Modi government – as happened last year – has prepared to take on this new challenge in a nonchalant manner. Here are some of the ways it has failed, leading hundreds of thousands of people to join the disease.
The vaccine waste
It was always a mistake to believe that vaccines would solve the COVID crisis. The number of vaccine doses needed to immunize a large enough number of Indians to gain the upper hand over the coronavirus was incredibly high, and more importantly, double-dose vaccination required a huge rally of manpower and personnel. other resources to be completed in a matter of weeks. This would lessen the effects but not defeat the virus.
Even so, some of the measures taken by the Modi government have been breathtaking. First, the government has exported or donated around 65 million doses of the vaccine to various countries around the world, praising its generosity. Today, the same government is hastily trying to import vaccines from various sources to meet the country’s own needs. This kind of cavalier attitude is unknown anywhere in the world.
It has been reported that the government has been slow to negotiate and firm up its own needs for the AstaZeneca / Covishield vaccine. India is reported to have spent a long time negotiating prices with the Serum Institute of India (SII), which produced the AstraZeneca / Covishield vaccine in India for the parent company. It appears that two full weeks after the approval of Covishield by Indian regulators, the final purchase order to the company has been placed, according to Reuters.
In the meantime, the United States had banned the export of various components needed to make vaccines, and SII was left with the problem of not being able to fulfill orders.
The Remdesivir disorder
The antiviral drug Remdesivir has been used to partially counter the coronavirus after clinical experience showed it helped. It is not a cure, but for patients who are struggling for their survival, we have seen that it helps. In India, where this drug is produced locally, there was no government regulation or surveillance either production or planning for future needs. As NewsClick reported, the manufacturing company had run out of inventory, even as hoarders and black sellers were selling it for thousands of rupees in profit.
Given that cases have been increasing steadily since the beginning of March, and last year’s experience was there with the government anyway, the government should have monitored the situation and planned for more production well in the future. advanced. It’s now interference to sort of recover the situation.
Despite the experience of oxygen shortage last year, no plan has actually been developed to increase the supply of medical oxygen. Then, as cases got out of hand and oxygen also became a black market product, Prime Minister Modi called a meeting a few days ago to “ review ” the oxygen situation. Then, it was announced that production would be accelerated, transport by tankers would be facilitated, 50,000 tonnes would be imported and so on. All this has to be done – but why only after the explosion of the crisis?
As NewsClick reported, the Bharatiya Janata party government in Madhya Pradesh announced the establishment of a new oxygen plant last year after a similar crisis, but the plant is still years away from starting production. This appears to be SOP (standard operating procedure) for dealing with crises – making big announcements to reassure people, then reverting to “the status quo” after the outcry subsides.
The board exams mess
Exams for grades 10 and 12, which are largely run by the Central Council for Secondary Education (CBSE) and various state councils, were due to start from May 4 this year. These very important exams – especially the class 12 exam – to a large extent determine the fate of students’ careers and lives.
On April 7, PM Modi delivered his usual “Pariksha pe Charcha” (discussion of exams) virtually, giving advice to students on how to deal with exam tensions and urging parents and teachers to reduce this tension. It was amid mounting clamor for postponement of exams due to the ongoing second wave of the pandemic. A week later, on April 14, PM Modi called a high-profile meeting of senior officials from the Ministry of Education and later it was announced that the jury examinations had been canceled for class 10 and postponed for class 12.
This turnaround shows once again the lack of preparation, even a lack of foresight, which hinders every step of this government. The move was welcomed by most students and parents – but they would have been spared the agony if the government had thought about it sooner. The Attitude is a continuation of his approach to education throughout the past year, with students taken to online classes without a plan or thought.
The handling of the massive Kumbh rally in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, is perhaps one of the most serious missteps, going against the government’s own guidelines. More than three million people are said to have gathered at the holy site in the largest gathering of Hindu worshipers, organized mainly by the state government led by the BJP.
It has been widely reported that all COVID precautions have been thrown to the winds. The Chief Minister was reported having said that there should be no fear as the water from the Ganga river would prevent infection. The central government, which was quick to crack down on violators of restrictions everywhere else, has remained silent on the whole affair, presumably supporting the state government.
Then, after the superior seers of the Hindu sects or Akhadas have been reported having been infected, and even died from COVID, PM Modi suddenly tweeted on April 16, it would be better if the Kumbh observances were done only symbolically! During that time, more than 2,000 participants have been officially infected, but in all likelihood hundreds, if not thousands more have contracted the virus and brought it back to remote villages across the country.
These are just a few of the awkward missteps that marked the Modi government’s handling of the second wave. Seen in the context of last year’s disastrous management – the ill-conceived foreclosure, the migrant crisis, the refusal to provide economic support to people, the destruction of economic activity, etc. – the gravity of the sins of this government against the people is still mounting.
[Pulkit Sharma collated the COVID case data]