India's COVID situation is the worst.
The First Wave:
The first covid positive case in India was reported on 30th January 2020. Protests going on since the beginning of the year started to disperse and so, much like every other country in the world, it didn't take long before the panic started to settle in and misinformation hit the air. Masks and sanitizers started to disappear from the stores, maybe that should've been our first warning. As places of large gatherings, including colleges and offices started to close up, and cases slowly rising, the Indian government too followed the path of other countries and declared a nationwide total lockdown of 21 days on 24th March 2020. The lockdown was not as successful as deemed by the media. Not only did the covid cases jump from 519 (24th March 2020/nationwide) to 9352 (13th April 2020/nationwide) but also due to the poor planning of lockdown, the migrant workers and daily wage earners were severely hit and the situation started getting much worse as the lockdowns kept getting extended till the end of May. This had massively adverse effects on the economy of India, with experts guessing the shrinkage of the economy by approximately 10% give or take. The panic, the hopelessness of lockdowns, and rising cases also began impacting the mental health of the citizens of the country in a negative way.
Government's response to the first wave:
On 26th March 2020, the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan scheme was announced that aimed to cover 80 crore poor people in a ₹1.7 lakh crore package. People under this scheme will get 5 kg wheat OR rice with 1 kg of their preferred pulses every month for the next three months. (On average, 1 kg lentils will feed a family of 4 for a maximum of 20 days.) Although such schemes and packages were announced at the beginning, as the first wave started peaking for the first time during September 2020, no more of these packages were announced during this time. It was not until mid-November 2020, that a new ₹1.19 lakh crores covid relief package was announced by the finance minister, along with ways to boost the economy. India's economy shrank by 23.9% in the second quarter of the year, the highest for any major economy out there. For comparison, just because the government compared with the US too, the USA's economy shrank by 9.5% during the same time period.
As multiple vaccines started getting clearances and people started to recover, and according to the mathematical simulation called the 'Indian Supermodel' that talked about Indian reaching herd immunity, it was estimated that covid will come under control by February 2021. The largest vaccination drive, as described by national media, commenced on 16th January with healthcare workers being the priority. A number of cases in February of 2021 fell down to approximately 10,000 per day and people thought they could breathe. Until they couldn't. Colleges started to open up, along with offices and movie theatres. As the lockdowns were lifted, people started going out in heavy numbers. Buses, trains, parks, highways started flocking up. During late February 2021, cases started rising up, and this time, it was faster than ever. Within two months, the cases started hitting peaks of September 2020 and higher. Before anyone could realize it, the protests started to disperse again. The government failed to come up with a plan that actually works, vaccines started to run out from places, even though it was being given out to the people with specific criteria. Mumbai was the first major city, along with Kerala being the first major state, to be struck by the second wave, its doctors tried warning about the grim situation of oxygen running out, overcrowding of hospitals resulting in patients not getting enough beds and medicines running out of every store out there. As the second wave started moving around the country, with cases hitting peak numbers of 2 lakh each day, people wanted answers from the government.
Government's response to the second wave:
The ruling central government held multiple rallies during this time for West Bengal, Assam, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. 'in all directions I see huge crowds of people... have witnessed such a rally for the first time... Today, you have shown your power.' was a statement made by the prime minister in West Bengal right as India recorded 2.34 lakh cases in a single day, the highest in the world. Such huge rallies became a weekly bout while the citizens of this country were running out of space in crematoriums. After outbursts on Twitter and people demanding answers, PM Modi decided to still not to hold a press conference, instead, he addressed the nation on Tuesday 20th April 2021 where he stated things like lockdown should be the last resort, stay indoors, don't spread panic, asks the youth to maintain appropriate behavior around them, mentions government is working on providing oxygen and 50% of the vaccines produced will be sent directly states and hospitals, talks about India having the cheapest vaccine. He also talked about how saving lives is important, but so is saving the economy. His address to the nation failed to provide any light on the collapsing healthcare system, the control of the virus, and the plan going further which drew a lot of online attention. The government failed to accept that their inadequacy resulted in this second wave wreaking havoc on people. They failed to build up any infrastructure, improve anything healthcare-related or do anything significant that would've guarded the citizens against the second wave. Around the globe, it was evident that the second wave is worse due to the mutating tendencies of a virus. The ruling government eventually announced that it would hold the upcoming election rally in West Bengal virtually.
Twitter's covid relief:
Indians on social media, particularly Twitter (the Indian side of Twitter is often referred to as desi twitter) started calling and verifying information about hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, medicines, and basically any services that were needed. Due to this, countless patients were able to secure hospital beds along with oxygen cylinders and medicines. Although it sounds like an amazing thing, these users are teenagers and young adults, taking time out of their lives, not caring about their own mental health, giving up on academics to do something that they were never asked to do. They had to step up because the government was too busy with rallies. They had to step up because the politicians were too busy playing politics with remdesivir They had to step up because they have sympathy for people around them. They had to step up because if they didn't, we all would fall down. Together.
Writer - Hamza Ansari
Editor and Graphic designer - Vaishnavi Bhojane