A Deeper Look Into India’s COVID-19 Crisis

VACCINES/RESOURCES

Multiple vaccines have been approved in India so far. Sputnik V, Covishield and Covaxin  As of this writing, just under 9% of the population has received at least 1 dose and just under 2% are fully vaccinated. Beginning on May 1, 2021, all Indians ages 18 and over will be eligible for vaccinations at some sites.

VACCINE APARTHEID 

The US refused to export raw materials for weeks despite criticism, and only recently lifted the export ban. 

Debate is emerging over the role of wealthy nations in creating an inequitable vaccine rollout, including restrictions on exports of vaccines, raw materials used to make them, and intellectual property held by vaccine companies, and the stockpiling of vaccines, all leading to a shortage of vaccines in developing countries. Globally, around 75% of the vaccines have gone to only 10 countries. In addition to pointing out how unjust this hoarding of vaccines is, people have highlighted how it may prevent the end of the pandemic. Rapid community spread in developing countries without sufficient vaccines can lead to new mutations of the virus that may become resistant to existing vaccines. To see an end to this pandemic there must be global cooperation and accountability for wealthy nations who choose to act selfishly. 

India has chosen to curtail their exports of COVID-19 vaccines due to their own coronavirus situation worsening. This has triggered setbacks for vaccination drives in other countries, more than 70 countries from Djibouti to Britain received a total of more than 60 million doses of vaccines from India. At a time when most richer countries are criticised for hoarding vaccine doses, India stands out for sending millions to poorer countries that wealthier countries are failing to supply for. They have adopted a ‘vaccine diplomacy’, allowing foreign ambassadors to visit pharmaceutical factories in Pune and Hyderabad and providing doses to poorer countries. Wealthier countries have chosen an alternative route of ‘vaccine nationalism’ in which they prioritise the vaccination of their own citizens before giving away vaccine doses to other countries, this is despite the fact that those wealthier countries having 60 percent of the global vaccine supplies for themselves and have enough supplies to vaccinate their populations several times over. The contrast in behaviour is definitely striking. 


https://www.fairobserver.com/region/central_south_asia/heya-shah-india-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine-news-distribution-exports-world-news-today-12879/ 

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/india-vaccine-diplomacy-serum-astra-zeneca-oxford-covax-china-14392598 


Bill gates doesn’t want to open “intellectual property” of vaccines

Bill Gates has voiced out in a recent interview that he disagrees with the idea of sharing vaccine formulas with developing nations around the world due to the complex manufacturing and quality assurance process of making sure that the vaccine is safe. He then continues to say that once developed nations are fully vaccinated, then the vaccines can be distributed to the developing nations. This is problematic, this is the main reason why the world is lagging behind on the global vaccination drive – supplies have been limited by design. The world is clearly not the developed nations priority despite the current problem being GLOBAL.. The ‘vaccine nationalism’ many wealthy countries have embraced will prolong the global pandemic, if it doesn’t end in poor countries, it won’t end in rich ones either.


https://www.wionews.com/world/will-rich-countries-share-vaccines-or-patents-380945    

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-04-27/vaccine-hoarding-set-to-backfire-on-rich-nations-as-india-reels 

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/covid19-vaccine-apartheid-us-coronavirus-b1837039.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-55825559


Take Action against vaccine apartheid:

EXTENDED CAUSES

A multitude of factors contributed to the increase in cases.

Rich people can flee while the middle class and lower class suffer

https://www.businessinsider.com/super-rich-fleeing-india-country-records-new-daily-global-record-2021-4


Upper class has more access to vaccines. 

https://www.wsj.com/articles/indias-covid-19-agonies-highlight-growing-rich-poor-gap-in-vaccinations-11619542171


Religious gatherings: Kumbh Mela,  (which the government encouraged), Iftar celebrations for Ramadan, Gudi Padwa, Navratri, and more

People are not wearing masks

B.1.617 Variant of covid is spreading, particularly in the province of Maharashtra and the large city of Mumbai.

The president of the Public Health Foundation of India, K. Srinath Reddy, stated himself that they had “completely let down [their] guard and assumed in January that the pandemic was over—and COVID surveillance and control took a back seat”, after the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, ignored the warnings of a new COVID variant. 

Political rallies and campaigns are still being carried out despite the devastating number of COVID-19 cases. Akhilesh Jha, the data head of the federal Department of Science and Technology wrote in Hindi on LinkedIn, “You hold rallies as people head to funerals”. 

The undertaking the project of reconstructing central Delhi, a massive project with an estimated cost of about $2.7 billion, has attracted controversy as India’s citizens have questioned the need for spending on new government structures at a time when the nation is dealing with a large number of cases. 

The Indian government has requested Twitter to take down 52 tweets criticising the government’s failure to deal with Covid-19 in India. Twitter complied, making said tweets inaccessible to the Indian population. By doing so, it downplays the severity of India’s Covid-19 situation by restricting awareness amongst the Indian population.

WHY KERALA ISN’T FACING OXYGEN CRISIS IN THE SECOND WAVE

GOVERNMENT

It was reported that when the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, was made aware of the new Covid variant, he ignored the warnings that this variant could lead to a second wave – which it did. Because of the decline in cases from September 2020 to mid-February 2021, experts and authorities believed that the worst was behind them. The president of the Public Health Foundation of India, K. Srinath Reddy, stated himself that they had “completely let down [their] guard and assumed in January that the pandemic was over—and COVID surveillance and control took a back seat”. 

To make matters worse, political rallies and campaigns are still being heavily carried out ahead of state elections in West Bengal. This is despite India recording more new cases of Covid-19 than any other country, and was done even by the leaders of the country – Prime Minister Modi and his ministers. Akhilesh Jha, the data head of the federal Department of Science and Technology wrote in Hindi on LinkedIn, “You hold rallies as people head to funerals”. He is also undertaking the project of reconstructing central Delhi, a massive project with an estimated cost of about $2.7 billion. This project has grown to be controversial as India’s citizens have questioned the need for spending on new government structures at a time when the nation is dealing with a devastating number of COVID-19 cases. 

The people of India are disappointed and angry at Prime Minister Modi and their government; they have continually acted on self-interest instead of the people. A culmination of this are hashtags such as #ResignModi and #SuperSpreaderModi trending on Twitter.

But Prime Minister Modi is problematic on Twitter for other reasons too – By censoring tweets about the Covid-19 situation in India. This was first reported by MediaNama, a website providing information and analysis on technology policy in India. The Indian government has requested Twitter to take down 52 tweets criticising the government’s failure to deal with Covid-19 in India. Twitter complied, making said tweets, which were written by Members of Parliaments, filmmakers, an actor, journalists, etc inaccessible to the Indian population. By doing so, it will downplay the severity of India’s Covid-19 situation by restricting awareness amongst the Indian population.

In March 2020, Prime Minister Modi had set up a care fund to combat Covid-19 in India, urging all citizens to donate. He appealed that “This will go a long way in creating a healthier India”. Everyone donated, ranging from the rich to the poor, totalling to over 100 billion rupees. But since then, where has all the money gone? Because of the government’s lack of transparency with its people and unwillingness to spend these funds publicly, this care plan has since been renamed as the “PM does not really care”; with concerns, controversy and doubts arising as the trust and integrity of the government is being questioned.


https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/how-indias-second-wave-became-the-worst-covid-19-surge-in-the-world 

https://www.medianama.com/2021/04/223-twitter-mp-minister-censor/ 

https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/pranavdixit/twitter-blocking-tweets-india?origin=thum 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-53151308 


MEDIA SENSATIONALISM

Foreign media has always had a past of inflating news in developing countries. This is no different with the Covid-19 outbreak in India, in which media outlets seemed to have disregarded journalist ethics and integrity in their coverage of it.  For example, the New York Post used a misleading image in an article on India’s Covid-19 situation. It was titled “Covid-19 surge ‘swallowing’ people in India, the footage shows people dead in streets”. An image of a woman lying unconscious on the road with someone trying to wake her up was used. However, this image was from May 2020 on a gas leak incident in Visakhapatnam. Moreover, there are no other images in the article supporting its claim that “people [are] dead in streets”. The pandemic has thus revealed the western media’s unhealthy obsession, for instance with linking India’s outbreak with funeral pyres. Media organisations such as the Washington Post and Reuters posted pictures of funeral pyres from India to highlight the severity of the pandemic, yet when the pandemic took its devastating poll on the US and other western countries, images of burials were hardly used to symbolise the outbreak.


https://www.opindia.com/2021/04/nypost-fake-news-people-dying-streets-covid-19-india-retracts-funeral-pyre-details/ 


Perhaps this is all linked to a normalisation and sensationalism of suffering in developing countries. Western media have been accused of using ‘poverty porn’ to gain traction. Images used to highlight the COVID outbreak in India often include private moments of suffering and mourning of losing a loved one or at cremations, etc. As consumers of media, we need to ask ourselves why it is necessary for graphic images of suffering to be the pushing force for action. We have become so desensitised to suffering, especially in developing countries. This is because that is all we are fed by the western medias – when all we are shown about developing countries are suffering, all we expect is suffering, making us slow to action. We would also like to disclaim that this is in no way a critique of Indian journalists who are doing everything they can to support India’s battle against COVID. But rather, this is a critique of western media in enabling ‘poverty porn’, and us as media consumers for buying into that one-sided, flawed narrative. 

We in no way mean to downplay the seriousness of the covid outbreak in India. It is devastating and needs immediate action and help. Coverage of India’s covid outbreak also requires the discussion of the role of western countries. The hoarding of vaccines has contributed to the poor distribution of vaccines in India, but western media predominantly focuses on the local government’s bad management. Again, this one-sided storytelling leaves western consumers of media feeling desensitized and isolated from the reality in India, when in reality their own easy access to vaccines, and voting decisions directly impact Indians.  

THE UNDER-APPRECIATED WARRIORS OF THE COVID-19 CRISIS IN INDIA

“I used to cremate three to five bodies everyday before the second wave and now, I am cremating more than 15 bodies a day alone”

Ashu Rai, one of the dozens of cremators trying to manage the Covid surge in New Delhi’s largest crematorium, Nigambodh Ghat

Cremators at the cremation site, work 12-hour shifts, earning only Rs 10,000 ($134.43) a month, and they rarely wear PPE kits since it causes difficulty in breathing.

We need to appreciate the countless other front-liners, including doctors, nurses, cleaners, cremators, journalists, security personnels, activists, etc.

Whether it be spreading awareness or donating, we need to be recognising their hard work and showing our support for them.

Mental health during covid resources: 

For those living in India and Indians around the world with family and friends in the country, please take care of your mental health. This is tough, but keep hope. Here are some excellent resources to help you with caring for your mental health:

https://www.vogue.in/wellness/content/verified-mental-health-helplines-and-services-pan-india-suicide-helplines-therapists-counsellors

https://www.ourdemocracy.in/Campaign/covid19mentalhealth

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1I-90ogSH3S8hZHVCZ8T6BPzh8cB9XT-ykSLgZNytpH8/edit#gid=0

https://www.instagram.com/p/CNuhnsPJrET/?igshid=1flq3bm40z7lr

How to Help

Publicly Sourced Document for Mutual Aid

Sources

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