As India fights one of the worst humanitarian crises of the COVID-19 pandemic, India faces increasing scrutiny and criticism of its second wave of treatment.
Exceeded the official number of coronavirus cases in India 20 million on Tuesday, almost doubled in the last three monthsAlthough the death toll has officially exceeded 220,000.
Experts estimate that both infection and mortality numbers can be much higher.
Social media feeds are packed with footage and photos of crowded graveyards, dying patients on stretchers, hospital overruns, and temporary wood-burned bodies outdoors.
As the virus continues to devastate India, Modi’s government is cracking down on criticisms of social media, especially its response.
As the catastrophe continues, Indians use the hashtags #ModiFailsIndia, #ResignModi, and #NoVoteToEvilModi.
India was one of the first countries to implement a national blockade in March 2020. The move left millions unemployed and caused extreme financial hardship, but cases of coronavirus were successfully controlled.
At the beginning of 2021, India maintained a low daily infection rate, Brazil, US and UK buckled in a surge Of the virus.
Just two months ago, in early March, India’s Health Minister Hirschwaldan triumphantly declared it at the “late stage” of the pandemic, strengthening the country’s “stable supply of vaccines” and killing Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Praised his leadership in the containment of common viruses. ..
Until recently, India’s containment of the virus created complacency, said Peter Meyer, an associate professor of international affairs at the University of Adelaide.
“The situation in January and February seemed to be really nailed. Daily cases have decreased. People were advised to go out. That’s what good work they did. It was a self-blessing about what I was doing. I thought people could relax, “Professor Mayer told SBS News.
During that time, Modi appeared in rallies and television speeches, publicly praising India’s success in controlling infection and containing the virus.
According to Professor Meyer, the problem was that neither the public nor the government was thinking about preparing for a possible resurrection.
“If I could do more, I don’t know if anyone could have predicted it completely,” he said.
Politics over health
As the second wave worsened, Modi continued to campaign in various states, engaged in large-scale rallies, and praised the large number of people gathered.
“As far as I can see, there are crowds everywhere,” he said at a rally in eastern India on April 17. “You did something extraordinary.”
At this point, the country had already recorded more than 200,000 new cases per day, lacking oxygen and hospital beds, and overwhelming the crematorium.
At this point, Professor Meyer said Modi believes that politics is more important than a worsening pandemic.
“(Modi’s) attention was elsewhere-on other issues. There was an election, especially this was just counted in West Bengal. The COVID-19 pandemic did not get his full attention. . “
At the same time, people did not wear masks or keep social distances as often as needed.
“People have become careless. I think people weren’t as careful as they should be about what’s happening in other parts of the world.”
Kumbh Mela Festival was held
The Kumbh Mela Festival, one of the largest religious festivals in the world, is held every 12 years in the sanctuary Haridwar and attracts millions of pilgrims.
In March, the government allowed a month-long Hindu celebration to take place in northern Uttarakhand.
In April, state Prime Minister Tyrus Singh Rawat, who is also a member of Modi’s party, said the rally was held on the sacred Ganges and should keep the virus away.
“Ma [mother] Ganga’s blessing is in the flow [of the river].. So there shouldn’t be a corona. “
“If Kumbh Mela had fallen now, they would probably have canceled it,” said Professor Meyer. “But when it was decided to move on, I didn’t think it would be such a big catastrophe.”
Following the increasing number of cases, the Indian government has been criticized for handling vaccine deployments.
The country is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of vaccines, but vaccine distribution centers have been in short supply since April. Currently, there are few jabs enough to reach the country’s 1.36 billion people.
The Modi government prioritized vaccine diplomatic initiatives over stockpiling vaccines for its own people.
By late March, India had exported more vaccines (60 million doses to 76 countries) than it would administer to its own people, according to local media.
Professor Meyer said exporting vaccines is a way for the Modi government to build positive relations with India’s neighbors.
“Vaccine exports are an exercise of soft power, and China has responded to being a kind of big brother to neighboring countries and places in Africa,” he said.
But at this point, he said the case hadn’t reached the current spike. “It didn’t seem like an urgent need, because at that point they seemed to be in control of things.”
Does this affect Modi’s legacy?
Professor Meyer says it is too early to determine if the second wave of India will damage Mr. Modi’s reputation.
“He has time. He doesn’t have to go to polls until 2024,” he said. “And he is smart and relentless.”
But he said that Mr. Modi’s praise for the country’s previous success in handling the outbreak of the virus meant that he had to take responsibility even if it failed.
“It’s a kind of danger to his party that he’s a kind of sun figure. The rest of the little planets run around him and say,” Yes, boss, whatever you want. ” So, in a sense, it’s really hard for him to escape that responsibility. “
Professor Meyer said Modi could announce drastic policy changes to divert attention from the crisis, at least after the worst.
“In these previous situations, Modi responded by doing what we call a’popular distraction’-a sudden, unexpected, headline-grabbing policy initiative.
“The second wave certainly hurt his reputation. Is it deadly-I think it’s too early to tell.”