On January 7, 2020, the first known case of COVID-19 in India appeared. Now, the country is home to over twenty-three million cases, second in the world to the United States, and the suffering is immense due to shortages of vaccines and oxygen.
The first wave of COVID in India had ended in late October to early November of 2020, with a high of approximately one hundred thousand cases per day. Soon enough, India’s COVID-19 regulations became less and less. Children were back in school, politicians were on campaign trials, and religious ceremonies were held. However, the relief came too early as COVID cases surged back up this spring.
For many civilians, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ignoring the second wave warnings has turned their sadness into anger. His pre-pandemic slogan of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, meaning “self reliant India,” no longer holds much meaning for citizens as they watch the death rates and infection rates heighten. Yet, according to Reuters, more than 65 percent of Indians still approve of Modi’s performance. India is stuck in a dilemma where many are angered by Modi’s reactions to the pandemic, but many others still support him regardless.
One difficulty India faces in managing COVID-19 is vaccines. In April, 2021, Modi gave his latest public speech regarding the pandemic. In this speech, he said that as of May 1, vaccines would be distributed to anyone over the age of eighteen. He mentioned that India had developed one of the cheapest vaccines in the world. Now, India is running low on the resources necessary to produce vaccines, an issue affecting not just India but hundreds of countries throughout the world receiving Indian manufactured vaccinations. At the same time, the efficacy rate of these vaccines varies from 70% to 100%, which begs the question, “Is cheaper better?”
Another issue has been the lack of necessary oxygen tanks in hospitals. On May 12, INOX Air Products, India’s largest liquid air manufacturer, explained to Quartz India that, “Nobody is understanding the logistical challenges in supplying oxygen to a nation that is at war simultaneously in 30 states. It’s a Herculean task.”
In particular, the dire need for oxygen in India is strengthened by the fact that poor air quality in India has been the cause for childhood asthma and adult lung disease. People are unnecessarily dying as they vainly await for their oxygen supply to replenish. While some hospitals have plants that can create purified oxygen on site, many lower income hospitals rely on the government’s shattered health care system. India’s oxygen shortage is a representative of the devastating truth behind the interconnected networks between demand, supply, and monetary and environmental inequality.
India’s COVID crisis has made global impacts, including impacts on students here at Concord Academy. Current CA parent Dr. Bathini discussed the tireless efforts he has put in since the crisis hit. Bathini shared, “We have been constantly on the phone helping our families coordinating care and counseling, checking in on, supporting, and following up on the doctors’ orders as well as trying to get people hospitalized. It is very emotionally taxing to deal with this and take care of outside lives like work and at home.”
When asked what role CA could play in this hard time he replied, “There should [not just] be more awareness […] at this school but trying to incorporate some emotional support would be very helpful. Standing in solidarity more than anything else for those [being] affected is really important.”
Amidst such an unprecedented pandemic, donating to organizations such as, Oxygen for India, Direct Relief, or the Indian Red Cross Society can make immeasurable impacts. Many organizations offer opportunities to donate emergency medical supplies including personal protective equipment (PPE), hand sanitizers, soap, and disinfectant sprays to frontline workers.
In the meantime, the country’s leader has shown little to no accountability for the state he has driven India into. As only two percent of India has been fully vaccinated, hopes of herd immunity are practically unheard of. By now, an end to India’s crisis would require a major shift in the country’s COVID-19 management tactics and or a major shift in the country’s leadership as a whole.