Omicron: Modi sleepwalks taking India towards 3rd wave

Lessons from second wave forgotten, Modi leads BJP brigade to poll rallies

Politics

December 30, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Omicron: Modi sleepwalks taking India towards 3rd wave

Body being cremated during the second Covid-19 wave in India (MIG Photos)

Barely six months after the catastrophic second wave of Covid-19 that had left the entire country gasping for oxygen and killed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have forgotten the gruesome sights and lessons, as large-scale election rallies continue to be held even as governments across the country begin imposing mindless restrictions on ordinary citizens.

If one scans the headlines from the past two weeks, there have been two different kinds of stories that have dominated the national news. One is a political rally, or an inauguration of a multi-billion rupee project by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, preferably somewhere in Uttar Pradesh. The other is the spike in Covid-19 cases, after almost six months of continuous declines and the knee-jerk response of governments, with night curfews and restrictions on citizens’ movements.

On the face of it, both the bits of news seem completely unrelated to each other. But flashback to the early part of 2021 and look at headlines then. And one can see the scary similarities. Headlines spoke of little else other than the rising cases of Covid-19 and Modi’s rallies, then in West Bengal where the BJP was desperate to push Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress out of power.

For the first four months of the year Modi and his government behaved as if the coronavirus had been vanquished and indeed, he did claim so in these many words after the first wave slowed down towards the end of 2020. Thus, despite warnings from hundreds of experts as well as political opponents, notably Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, of an impending second wave unless due precautions were taken, Modi took several decisions that can only be written down as blunders by an uncaring and incompetent leader.

Modi drove India into second wave

First, Modi allowed and even encouraged millions of devotees to gather in big crowds at Haridwar for the Kumbh Mela, which saw nearly 2 million persons turn up from across the country in the three months that the holy festival lasted. Though the government claimed that it had set proper testing facilities, its lies were blown to smithereens when reports emerged of government faking numbers of tests and even the few tests that were actually conducted, were mock or simply wrong.

While the Kumbh was going on with much flourish and as if the pandemic had never existed, the BJP was busy campaigning for elections in five states spread across the nation, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry in the south and Assam and West Bengal in the east. For almost four months, the ruling party spared no efforts in bringing thousands to attend key rallies, without any respect for the much-vaunted social distancing or masks that Modi repeated incessantly on national television whenever he could take time off electioneering.

No surprise then that within a few weeks, the number of Covid-19 cases began mounting rapidly and across the country, marking the beginning of the second wave. Within the blink of an eye, it seemed, the virus had reached every nook and corner of the country, leading to a flood of patients lining up outside hospitals. As Modi and his entire government had been busy campaigning, in a matter of days, the entire healthcare system collapsed, coinciding with an unprecedented shortage of medical oxygen.

Covid patient breathing oxygen through limited stock available at LNJP hospital during second wave of Covid-19

This led to thousands dying in hospitals and many times more than that dying outside the hospitals or at home, mainly due to lack of oxygen. The gut-wrenching scenes of people gasping for that precious breath of oxygen or scrambling to find an empty hospital bed or even a small oxygen concentrator that would allow their loved ones to live, have all been recorded and made not just national, but global headlines.

But with hospitals overcrowded and understaffed and near total absence of oxygen led to almost 4 million deaths, even though the government tried to hide the true count and declared only a small percentage of these daily occurrences. The lies were duly exposed when gory images of bodies of victims thrown in the rivers, notably the Ganga, and the serpentine queues outside crematoriums were published by the media.

One of the worst outcomes of the second wave was that the virus had actually spread deep inside rural India, where medical care, availability of doctors as well as hospital beds, worse than the least developed parts of Africa.

The entire country, and especially Modi, had been forewarned about a disastrous second wave, but his insatiable hunger for total power, winning every election along with the incompetence that has been the hallmark of Modi and his government for the past seven years, brought death to every nook and corner of the country.

Blast from the past coming

Less than six months later, Modi and his team seem to be well on their way to ensure a replay of the massacre once more as the PM spends hardly any time on governance and almost every waking minute either posing for cameras or seeking votes.

Even though there have been various warnings by health experts from all over the world that the healthcare systems were again headed to collapse in view of the sharp spike in cases, Modi either does not seem to have grasped the seriousness of the situation, or as is more likely, has chosen again to ignore the perils that he has exposed the common citizens to by not ensuring a major scaling up of preparedness of the healthcare system, setting up extra hospitals and ensuring that there are adequate stocks of medicines as well as the critical oxygen.

Another important step that the government ought to have taken was to immediately vaccinate the hundreds of millions of children for whom the vaccination is yet to begin. This, despite the fact that all the reports from across the world show that children are amongst the most vulnerable to the Omicron variant as they have not been vaccinated, unlike the adults. Thus, Modi should be in his office ensuring that this is done and done now.

However, instead of preparing the system and mounting supplies, the governments so far have come up with ridiculous measures like shutting markets, gyms, parks and imposing night curfews, as if the Omicron variant got into the act only after 10 pm in the night and the thousands attending the political rallies every day are immune to the virus.

A medical emergency needs a scientific mind and a science-driven approach for tackling. Instead, for the two years of coronavirus, Modi and the governments, including state governments, have so far come up with illogical and ineffective steps only. In the current scenario, it would be nothing short of a miracle if an even more searing third wave did not burn the country down and this time targeting the youth and the children. The citizens need to be prepared for a repeat of the traumatic scenes from early 2021.

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