COVID management: India goes from superpower to superspreader

It is imperative that rulers acknowledge their mistakes and take corrective steps, be it on policy or the vaccination drive

Vaccine
A mass vaccination drive would be the most viable option out of the COVID crisis, but India is yet to figure it out.

As on May 23, just 16.1% of India’s adult population —including 36% of those in the 45+ age group and 45.5% of those in the 60+ age group — had received at least one COVID vaccine shot. In Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh, just 9% of the adult population is vaccinated.

A comparison with select countries shows India is above only Nepal (9.02%), Sri Lanka (8.17%), Bangladesh (5.92%) and South Africa (1.8%). Israel has achieved 121.92%, the US 84.9%, Bhutan 62.52%, China 34.55% and Brazil 27.1%. My May 22, Russia could vaccinate 18.83% of its population, just above India (Source: OURWORLDINDATA).

The death toll in India has crossed 3.03 lakh, and we are next only to the US and Brazil in this regard. A mass vaccination drive would be the most viable option out of this crisis, but India is yet to figure it out.

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Raghunandan Paswan a 50-year-old daily worker in Bihar’s Vaishali district, said: “I heard about the vaccine but have not got it. I don’t know how to get it either.”

Tall claims

The Union Jal Shakti Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, on May 23, asserted that India has been working fast to increase the production of COVID vaccines. Each citizen of the country will be inoculated by December, he said.

Shekawat should perhaps answer the villager before coming up with timelines. We can only hope the Union Minister’s statement will not prove to be another lie from the rulers.

The virus is rampant where Assembly elections were recently held, such as in West Bengal. The incidence of COVID is very severe in four rural districts around Kolkata; in these areas, the vaccination coverage stands at less than 10%.

Elsewhere in the country, too, rural vaccination is totally ignored. In Bihar, for instance, while 60% of the urban population has received its shots, just 5% in the rural areas have done so.

Referring to medicines such as Remdesivir for COVID treatment and Amphotericin-B for black fungus, Shekhawat said the country has already reached a surplus state with production. Around 1.5 crore vials of Remdesivir per month are produced, and efforts are on to meet the growing requirement for Amphotericin, he stressed.

Systemic failure

He should perhaps explain why these medicines are being sold in the black market at exorbitant rates, and why those who can’t afford these are dying. If there is a shortage of a drug, we can blame the production inefficiency. However, if they are available but sold at higher prices, the system and governance should be blamed for their absolute failure.

We should learn humility and be ready to accept the truth.  Only if we take shame in our inefficiency can we introspect and improve upon. If we justify our failures with lame excuses, there will be no scope for any achievement.

If our priority is elections, and if we allow irresponsible congregations like poll rallies and melas, we are bound to die — not alone, but killing thousands of others, too.

Global issue

The world now fears India, not because we are a superpower but because we are a superspreader.  After all, a virus anywhere is a threat to life everywhere on earth. The spread of the virus in India is not just the country’s problem now, but that of the whole world.  The world has to do something to save India from the virus of inefficiency, and cruel and inhuman administrators including police.

One example of administrative failure is poor distribution of vaccine and very poor access to medical care. Most of the 3 lakh-plus people who died were killed not just by COVID but also the inefficiency of our leaders.

The Centre and the states should publish a white paper everyday announcing where vaccines and medicines are available, at what cost, in what quantity. They should have a landline number, a mobile number and an email id to take in complaints, and make the redress system work 24 x 7.

Else, it is a failure of the Constitutional machinery, and the leaders lose the Constitutional and moral right to rule this nation.

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