India responds with help of International Nations to its Covid-19 Crisis
India Current Second Wave
India is currently facing a monumental battle against its second wave of Covid-19 infections. Beginning in mid-March, the number of Covid cases rose rapidly and is now breaking world records with totals of over 400, 000 cases per day. As of the 7th May 2021 deaths have reached 3,915 per day although the actual total is likely to be higher due to the crematorium being overwhelmed.
Scientists are also saying that the real number of infections and deaths are likely to be much higher due to the sheer number of patients overwhelming India’s historically underfunded health system (NPR, 2021). Hospitals in the worst-hit states including Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka are now struggling to cope with the daily number of admissions. Many simply do not have enough beds or the necessary medication and facilities to ensure patients have the best chance to recover. Demand for Oxygen has increased 7x and most patients now are being asked to supply their oxygen upon admission.
Modi Contradictory Leadership over the Pandemic disproportionately affects the Poor
The cause of the severity of this second wave has been linked to the relaxation of social distancing policies under Modi. As such Modi has been deeply criticised for allowing the mass gathering of people to go ahead, for example permitting festivals such as the Kumbh Mela where tens of thousands of Hindu Devotees take a dip in the Ganges. Additionally, Modi himself has led large political rallies for the upcoming elections in April even as the current Covid situation was becoming increasingly unmanageable. This is a marked difference from last year when Modi managed to contain the spread of Covid fairly successfully through harsh measures and lockdowns. This time, however, Modi has instead blamed the current Covid crisis on the faltering vaccine rollout program and ill-equipped state governments rather than taking on a more assertive leadership role.
In either case, those now suffering are the poor. Monthly wages for low-income workers have reportedly fallen by 17% (The Hindu, 2021) which is pushing many to expose themselves to Covid unsafe working conditions to earn a wage. Additionally, people who live in the more rural areas of India are struggling to obtain the information and medical care they need. In general, there is less public health awareness in these areas, to the point where many villages are reported to understand the current wave of illness to be the ‘seasonal flu’ (Aljazeera, 2021).
Which countries are responding?
Over 40 countries are involved in assisting India in its current fight against Covid-19, transporting oxygen production plants, ventilators, medicine and the raw components for Covid vaccines. These countries include the US, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K, European nations as well as India neighbouring nations such as Bhutan and Bangladesh. In total India is expected to receive more than 500 oxygen generating plants, more than 4,000 oxygen concentrators, more than 10,000 oxygen cylinders, and 17 cryogenic oxygen tankers (Laskar, 2021).
However, there have been concerns over the mounting delays in the supply of aid to those in India who need it most. Although the Indian government deny there are any issues with its ability to distribute supplies, states such as Kerala had still not received any aid by 5th May 2021.
Challenges to the Aid Distribution Chain
One of the major challenges in the distribution of aid is that there is little information available as to where the aid is going. This is raising questions both in India and donor countries as to how aid is distributed with mounting pressure on the Modi administration to release more information about their distribution system.
Other challenges are the nonuniform manner in which supplies arrive, often packed to the various standards of each donor country. This means that Indian workers have to unpack and then re-pack, slowing the process of distribution. The pressure then on India to distribute aid efficiently could be assisted with by a more international standard of packing from donor countries.
In either case, the Indian government has stated that it is working around the clock to send supplies to key areas in India that are under strain. As such there have been some successes. Punjab for example had received 100 oxygen concentrators as of 5th May 2021.
For now though, many on the front lines in India are still waiting for the system to adequately support the work they are doing to save lives.
Menon, S,. (7th May 2021) India Covid: how bad is the second wave? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/56987209
Hunter, J,. (6th May 2021) India Covid aid: Is emergency relief reaching those in need? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-56999104
Aljazeera. (7th May 2021) India’s COVID cases rise by record 414,188; deaths swell by 3,915, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/7/indias-covid-cases-rise-by-record-414188-deaths-swell-by-3915
Aljazeera. (5th May 2021) India’s Modi slammed for COVID handling amid spiralling crisis, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/5/5/crime-against-humanity-indias-modi-slammed-for-covid-handling
Frayer, L and Pathak, S,. (30th April 2021) India is counting thousands of daily Covid deaths. How many is it missing? https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2021/04/30/992451165/india-is-counting-thousands-of-daily-covid-deaths-how-many-is-it-missing
The Hindu, (5th May 2021) Coronvirus; Average monthly income for workers fell by 17%, https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-average-monthly-income-for-workers-fell-by-17/article34491703.ece
The Strait Times, (19th April 2021) Modi under fire for campaigning as India reels from coronavirus deaths, https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/south-asia/modi-under-fire-for-campaigning-as-india-reels-from-coronavirus-deaths