Being on the boards of two very substantial Indian companies, I probably follow the politics of India more closely than many of you. I have not been there in twelve months and in fact, like most of us, have not been out of the U.S. Nonetheless, I am almost in constant contact with my associates given Zoom virtual calls and emails. My colleagues are universal supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who has been crowned as the political “messiah” of modern-day India. He is a renown populist with no hesitation to advocate the Hindu way as the only way.
When the pandemic first arrived in India, Modi ordered immediate lockdown, sent the migrant workers back home to their villages and India appeared to be back to “normal” about the time Narendra Modi Cricket Stadium was inaugurated this past February. Nothing like dedicating the most important sports stadium to yourself while you are still in office. Things began loosening up about that time. Covid-19 vaccines made in India were being exported with only modest amounts administered in India, though each recipient received a vaccination certificate with Modi’s image on it. As the storm had passed with victory declared by Modi, the scientific bodies monitoring Covid- 19 ceased meeting. Campaign super spreader events such as that shown below with a Modi cut-out were in full swing.
Springtime also brought numbers of religious events like the one shown below with large crowds being blessed by bathing in the Ganges. Everyone also went back to work in the big cities as India had “weathered the storm.”
In April the world of India turned upside down. In part, it was due to a false confidence that the pandemic had been conquered despite the increasing presence of a far more dangerous Covid mutation. Moreover, with only 5% of the 1.4 million population vaccinated and very low vaccine supplies following the export of Indian manufactured vaccine to some 74 countries, the crowded country was at its most vulnerable point. As infection rates and deaths reached unprecedented levels, shortages of the resources to meet the runaway health crisis became readily apparent. Available hospital beds were a thing of the past. An Indian associate of mine called an important contact in government to find hospital beds for his family. If the situation below exists in Delhi, one can only imagine what is going on in the countryside.
Oxygen became a prime commodity and a black market quickly developed as well as unconventional outlets alongside the road as shown below. Planeloads of oxygen cylinders are being flown to India as aid missions. Moreover, it is readily apparent that the sixty percent of the population, or some 800 million people who somehow survive in abject poverty, are the hardest hit. Given the harshness of the prevalent caste system, they were borne as “inferior people.” Therefore, the vast majority of them have no access to proper medical treatment and certainly lack the privilege to make a call and be admitted to a hospital or to stumble on a vaccine jab. Maybe those deaths will go into a secondary category as to their meaningfulness to government or simply be ignored.
India has always seemed crowded with little free space. However, the space shortages are now obvious in the crematoriums that operate around the clock and have expanded their space into the parking lots as evidenced below. Moreover, bodies have begun washing ashore the Ganges River where temporary crematoriums have sprung up.
At some point, the magic touch of Modi will begin to melt away if nothing else due to the heat of the funeral pyres. Could it be the beginning of the meltdown as Modi’s BJP Party lost a recent state election in West Bengal? The Covid 19 lessons always seem to be the same—follow the science, not the politicians and take the necessary precautions be it masks or whatever seems to work. There is little room for debate on the efficacy of the various Covid vaccines though getting the jab is certainly an individual choice. On the other hand, Covid suicide is anything but painless and it does bring on many changes to your family and friends. Estimates for upcoming loss of life to the Covid spread in India are staggering. Moreover, as was the case elsewhere in the world, it really did not have to be that way. Thanks to the Financial Times, The Times, and The New York Times for their coverage in India.