Data Dashboard of India. Source: news.google.com
Day 407: Overwhelmed
This morning, on the 407th day of the pandemic in India, the numbers look as though Covid-19 has just begun showing its potential and possibilities of what it can do to a population.
The lockdowns are back. The central government has made it clear that it does not intend to impose a national lockdown. The states are free to decide based on their assessment. Every Indian state is on the brink of being overwhelmed by the surge in infections, deaths and the ensuing demands on public infrastructure. The daily loss of lives have been over 2500 for the last three days. Confirmed infections have been above 300,000. This is the second wave. The country almost seemed to have ducked the first wave and gone ahead to enjoy its festivals, weddings and political rallies. And then, it all came crashing down.
India is paying the price of its complacent behaviour during the first phase of the pandemic. I hope the lessons are learnt, so that necessary preparations are made for the effects and devastation that are ahead. Epidemiologists suggest that the virus has mutated and the ‘double mutant’ virus is behind the high numbers of infections and deaths that have happened in this week.
From the armed forces to private sector, every resource and capacity that can be extracted, is being lined up. Over the weekend, IAF planes flew with oxygen tanker trucks to deposit them back to the factories for refilling. Indian Railways ran emergency services with trains ferrying the tanker trucks to several cities. Indian corporates are stepping in by diverting oxygen meant for manufacturing to medical services.
The pandemic has embedded itself a level deeper. Every known family and professional network now has people asking for contacts and access to essential medicines and ICU beds.
Indian bureaucracy and governance at all levels of center and state governments is muddling through this crisis with little coherence and coordination. There was a good show of coordination and response mechanisms during the first wave. Then, it was all squandered away. The states are united in the magnitude of the situation they face and little else.
Several countries have extended help to India as it fights the pandemic. There are oxygen plants being flown in from Germany. Expressions of support from USA, UK, China etc.
Meanwhile, the central government and the PM’s office continues to play down the situation and working hard to maintain the illusion that they are in control. The convenient federal-state relationship game that has gone on in this regime has had people to bear the consequences.
Sometimes, it feels as though people deserve the government they have. The leadership reflects the attitude that the people of this country seem to have – complacent, overconfident and woefully under-prepared. So, it hardly surprises that we have short sighted, self-serving and opportunistic individuals heading public offices of this country.
Scenes outside railway stations have returned to the early days of the pandemic – the unsettling landscape of hundreds of workers and their families waiting to board a train for their hometowns. The only respite is that the trains are operating. The country has turned into a big vortex. Every aspect of life today is seeing a churn.
In February this year, on the 347th day, I was wondering if keeping the count of pandemic days serves purpose any longer. We were on a vaccination drive and it seemed that maybe, the country is getting away with less human loss. Here we are on the 407th day breathless, counting lost lives and where the arrivals in cremation and burial grounds do not stop.