What are people doing in India

Opinion: India - a catastrophe with an announcement

On Whatsapp I am a member of a group in which people offer each other help in dealing with Corona. Almost every second someone asks about oxygen bottles, about antiviral drugs or where there are still vacant intensive care beds.

With every desperate cry for help, I wonder how the Indian People's Party, BJP, messed up its pandemic management so fundamentally. The government had a year to prepare for this wave of infections. But in early 2021 she became increasingly complacent, temporary COVID-19 isolation centers were dismantled, social distancing and lockdown rules were eased.

Modi praises itself

Looking at other countries, it had long been clear that a new wave was coming. India's health system has always been sewn to the edge. There has always been a supply gap. Experts have warned against this for years.

But somehow those responsible thought that Hinduism, a few temples and defiance of the coronavirus would be enough to cope with the threat. On March 20, Narendra Modi, who is a hero to many, announced that people should stay home to prevent another lockdown.

In his speech, Modi boasted how his government has fought the virus so far. However, he did not present a plan on how to quickly invest in the underfunded health system.

Now the government has no choice but to hold the opposition and the non-BJP-governed states responsible for what went wrong. A lot of dirty laundry is washed in the process - and that puts countless lives at risk, both those who voted for the BJP and everyone else.

Oxygen cylinders are a scarce commodity in India

A bitter reality

It's actually a shame that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently didn't have the opportunity to travel to India. What would he have seen? A country in which nobody adheres to distance rules, in which hardly anyone wears a mask or otherwise observes any corona measures. Some people claim to this day that the virus has long been defeated in India.

Many Indians have believed they could fight the virus by taking any medication with no proven effect. Or believe the advertisements for any remedies that you keep getting on Whatsapp.

While many believe that the government was already doing what was absolutely necessary, the new virus variant was already on the rise. Experts and doctors warned in detail about a new wave. The government did: nothing.

Soon the calls for help and the demands to finally do something grew louder. Of all those who had family members who were fighting for their lives. Those who didn't want to watch their loved ones slowly die.

I myself was a victim of this new wave. My father-in-law could not be admitted to the hospital quickly enough and he developed pneumonia. He died last Thursday.

Many are not even lucky enough to get a hospital bed. In New Delhi, the hospitals are totally overcrowded, with more than one patient per available bed. If you can't get hold of a bed, you will die in the hallway or in the ambulance. Oxygen bottles and antiviral drugs are hoarded by black market vendors. Innocent people have to raise thousands of rupees just to buy essentials.

Shameless election campaign

Almost everyone I know has some heartbreaking story to tell by now. India's health care has collapsed under the burden of Corona. Doctors hardly get any sleep and run out of energy. Microbiologists are now coming to hospitals to replace doctors.

DW editor Ankita Mukhopadhyay lost a family member to Corona in India

Indian crisis management is currently probably the worst in the world. But the Modi government meanwhile believes it's a good idea to put money into campaign rallies with thousands of participants - instead of just saving lives. Without any shame, they publicly refuse to admit mistakes. When the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, himself suffering from Covid-19, wanted to rush to give advice to help, it was rejected.

What surprises me the most: The ruling party is hoarding the drug remdesivir. She is holding back data on Indian vaccine development. And it completely overlooks the now proven fact that the virus is transmitted via aerosols.

The Indian people must punish the government for their failure in the next elections instead of relying on their usual religious policy. It is not the religious division that is destroying India - but the complete failure of the government to fight this pandemic.

The text was adapted from the English.