India March 2021-

Written by  //  May 17, 2021  //  India  //  No comments

What Is the ‘Quad’ and Should China Fear It?

17 May
India’s coronavirus vaccination drive is faltering just when the country needs it most
(WaPo) As India confronts a devastating coronavirus outbreak where thousands are dying each day, the country desperately needs to vaccinate its population as soon as possible.
Yet the vaccine drive is stumbling just when it is most crucial.
Over the past six weeks, the number of vaccinations per day has fallen by about half, from a high of 4.2 million per day on April 2 to 2 million on Thursday.
Vaunted as the largest in the world, India’s vaccine program is being hobbled by supply shortages and an abrupt shift in procurement policy that appears to be without parallel. The woes of the inoculation drive are especially striking given India’s unique advantages, including a large vaccine industry and a record of mass immunization campaigns.

12 May
Fact-checking Modi’s India
As the pandemic rages across the country, one team of fact-checkers contends with a post-truth dystopia.
(Rest of World) Misinformation is a challenge globally, but in India, it’s practically baked into the ruling party’s communications. And while the platforms that are host to this misinformation, like Facebook and Twitter, have made attempts to curtail it, it hasn’t been enough to stem the tide. The average Indian media consumer is inundated with misinformation from the time they open the day’s paper to when they lie in bed scrolling on their smartphones at night, so much so that if they don’t make the effort to seek out facts for themselves, they risk responding to a fictional reality.
India’s Strict Rules on Foreign Aid Snarl Covid Donations
International donors are raising millions, but the Modi administration has erected hurdles for overseas organizations and guided money toward officially endorsed groups.
…a sweeping change to India’s decades-old law governing foreign donations is choking off foreign aid just when the country needs it desperately. The amendment, passed by the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September with little warning, limits international charities that donate to local nonprofits.
The effect is far-reaching. Almost overnight, the amendment gutted a reliable source of funding for tens of thousands of nongovernmental organizations, or N.G.O.s, that were already stretched thin by the pandemic.

9 May
The Politics Behind India’s COVID Crisis
The coronavirus thrives off of complacent leaders, such as Prime Minister Narendra Modi—and has exacerbated the contours of global inequality.
(The New Yorker) The coronavirus thrives off of complacent politicians. At the time of that rally [on April 17th], new infections in India, by official counts, had exploded to two hundred and fifty thousand a day, a figure that last week reached four hundred thousand. Shortages of oxygen and hospital beds have driven desperate citizens—and even hospital directors—to beg for help on social media. State police have threatened or filed preliminary criminal charges against some of those seeking aid, because the “rumours” they generate may “spoil the atmosphere,” as Yogi Adityanath, a Modi ally and the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, put it. According to the Hindu, an English-language daily, he called for prosecutions under the National Security Act. On April 30th, India’s Supreme Court held that there should be no “clampdown” on those using social media to plead for oxygen or beds. Crematoriums are overwhelmed; photographs of makeshift funeral pyres have become iconic images of an unspeakable tragedy. Last week, at least a hundred and fifty people in India died of Covid every hour. The surge reflects many factors, including the fragility of the underfunded health system. But, as Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch, wrote last week, Modi’s government “appears obsessed about managing the narrative” rather than addressing urgent needs.

8 May
In India’s surge, a religious gathering attended by millions helped the virus spread
As coronavirus cases in India shot upward last month, millions of people converged on the Ganges River to bathe at a holy spot offering a chance at salvation.
When the pilgrims returned to their homes across the country, some brought the virus with them.
The precise role of the Hindu religious festival — the Kumbh Mela — in India’s raging outbreak is impossible to know in the absence of contact tracing. But the event was one source of infections as cases skyrocketed, according to local officials, religious leaders and media reports.
More than 414,000 new cases were reported in India on Friday, a global record. About 4,000 people are dying a day, but such figures are an undercount. Experts believe the number of fatalities will rise in coming days, since deaths from covid-19 lag behind new cases.

7 May
India and Its Vaccine Maker Stumble Over Their Pandemic Promises
The Serum Institute vowed to protect the country from Covid-19 and inoculate the world’s poor, but India’s crisis has pushed it past its limits.
In January, when India launched its own vaccination program while also beginning exports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged its vaccines would “save humanity.”
Instead, the unfolding tragedy has made it clear that India — even with the world’s largest vaccine maker at its disposal — cannot save itself.
Serum won Mr. Modi’s favor in part because it fit the government’s narrative of a self-reliant India that was ready to take its place among the world’s major powers. Now both Mr. Modi’s government and Serum have been humbled, and their ambitions are being called into question.

5 May
A Seattle software engineer wanted to help her parents. She created a hub for Covid resources across India.
A software engineer in Seattle was worried about her parents in India, so she made them an emergency list of local ambulances and hospitals. She has since expanded the list into a site with Covid resources in 12 cities and nine regions across India.
One evening in late April, as the coronavirus was surging in India, Prarthana Sannamani, a Microsoft software engineer in Seattle, was growing increasingly worried about her parents, who live near the southern Indian city of Bangalore.
Ms. Sannamani, who is in her 20s and has lived in the United States for four years, began scouring the internet and compiling a document with phone numbers for ambulances and hospitals for her parents, in case they fell ill.
Ms. Sannamani planned to share the list on Twitter, until she realized that only a small fraction of India’s 1.3 billion people used the social network, she said. One night, she came up with the idea of building a website. By the time she went to bed six hours later, at 4 a.m., Ms. Sannamani had created covidresourcesindia.com, with contact information for hospitals and emergency services in Bangalore.
Top court orders India’s government to present oxygen plan
By ASHOK SHARMA
(AP) — India’s government, facing calls for a strict lockdown to slow a devastating surge in coronavirus infections, was ordered by the Supreme Court on Wednesday to submit a plan to meet New Delhi hospitals’ oxygen needs within a day.
The court decided against immediately punishing officials for failing to end a 2-week-old erratic supply of oxygen to overstretched hospitals.
(AP) — India’s government, facing calls for a strict lockdown to slow a devastating surge in coronavirus infections, was ordered by the Supreme Court on Wednesday to submit a plan to meet New Delhi hospitals’ oxygen needs within a day.
The court decided against immediately punishing officials for failing to end a 2-week-old erratic supply of oxygen to overstretched hospitals.
“Ultimately putting officers in jail or hauling officers for contempt will not bring oxygen. Please tell us steps to solve this,” Justice Dhananjaya Yeshwant Chandrachud said.
With 382,315 new confirmed cases on Wednesday, India’s tally has risen to more than 20.6 million since the pandemic began. The Health Ministry also reported 3,780 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 226,188. Experts believe both figures are an undercount.

4 May
Brahma Chellaney: The Lurid Orientalism of Western Media
By trafficking in images of death, suffering, and private acts of mourning, Western media coverage of the COVID-19 crisis in India has broken one of the first rules of journalism. And while a Western double standard is nothing new, applying it repeatedly does not make it more acceptable.
(Project Syndicate) When reporting on any mass tragedy, a basic rule of journalism is to be sensitive to the victims and those who are grieving. Western media, which double as the international media, usually observe this rule at home but discard it when reporting on disasters in non-Western societies.
The coverage of India’s devastating second wave of COVID-19 is a case in point. Western media have been filled with images of dead bodies and other graphic scenes that generally would not be shown following a similar disaster in a Western country. About half of global COVID-19 deaths have occurred in Europe and the United States alone, yet Western media have avoided presenting harrowing images from those settings.Even at the height of the pandemic in the US and Europe, it was unthinkable that television crews would barge into emergency rooms to show how overwhelmed the doctors and nurses were. Yet such scenes have been broadcast internationally from inside Indian hospitals, with little concern for how the intrusion could affect life-or-death decisions.
How India descended into Covid-19 chaos
By Vikas Pandey
(BBC) …experts say that the shortage of oxygen is just one of the problems which shows both federal and state governments were not prepared, having failed to do enough to stop or minimise the damage of the second wave.
– In November, a parliamentary standing committee on health said there was an inadequate supply of oxygen and “grossly inadequate” government hospital beds
– In February, several experts told the BBC they feared an impending ‘Covid tsunami’
– In early March, an expert group of scientists, set up by the government, warned officials about a more contagious variant of coronavirus spreading in the country – only for no significant containment measures to be taken, one scientist from the group told the BBC. The government has not made any comment on the allegations
Despite this, on 8 March, the country’s health minister announced that India was in the “endgame of the pandemic“.
In India’s Covid war, the role of the military
By C Uday Bhaskar
(Hindustan Times) The Covid-19 tsunami is expected to continue in India till at least the end of May, and remain an issue of concern for the rest of the year. Hence maximising the institutional capacity of the military in the war against Covid-19, without diluting its primary operational orientation, in the backdrop of a resource crunch, is the task ahead for the Indian political and defence leadership.
India’s Covid-19 crisis and the extraordinary surge in the second wave have become a matter of global concern. Public policy experts have offered professional advice based on their own national experiences. In a recent interview with The Indian Express, Anthony S Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the president of the United States, compared the current public health challenge to a war and referred to the Indian military. He noted: “What is the role of the (Indian) military? Can the military come in and help?” Fauci added: “You should think of this, in some respects, like a war. The enemy is the virus. It is almost like wartime because it’s an emergency.”

2 May
Modi’s Party Loses a Key Election, Held Under the Cloud of Covid
By Jeffrey Gettleman and Hari Kumar
The prime minister’s party lost big in West Bengal amid criticism that his mishandling of the pandemic had fueled a catastrophic surge of cases in India.
Top parties had campaigned relentlessly in West Bengal, one of India’s most populous states and a stronghold of opposition to Mr. Modi, India’s most powerful prime minister in decades. Even with cases soaring and more and more people dying across India, Mr. Modi and other politicians held enormous rallies up and down the state, which critics said helped spread the virus.
By Sunday night, with nearly all the votes counted, Mr. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was badly trailing despite its heavy investment in West Bengal, a prize it desperately wanted to win.
… Kerala, in the south, will remain under the control of the Left Democratic Front, an alliance of centrist and left-leaning parties.

26-30 April
India’s Covid Crisis Threatens the World’s Pandemic Recovery
(Bloomberg) India’s surging new wave brought its campaign of vaccine diplomacy to an abrupt halt, after the prime minister had dubbed the South Asian nation the “pharmacy to the world” and over-promised on its ability to send millions of shots abroad.
The country’s exports and donations were a critical part of Covax, the World Health Organization’s global program to provide inoculations to low-income countries. When they all but dried up, it left many countries scrambling to find alternatives.
In India’s devastating coronavirus surge, anger at Modi grows
(WaPo) For Modi, the most powerful Indian prime minister in five decades, it is a moment of reckoning. He is facing what appears to be the country’s biggest crisis since independence, a calamity that is challenging his vision of a proud, self-reliant nation.
Modi’s own lapses and missteps are an increasing source of anger. As coronavirus cases skyrocketed, Modi continued to hold huge election rallies and declined to cancel a Hindu religious festival that drew millions to the banks of the Ganges River, despite pleas from health experts.
U.S. coronavirus aid to begin arriving in India amid record surge of cases
(WaPo) U.S. flights carrying urgent coronavirus aid for India were en route Thursday, the White House said in a statement, as health officials reported another record number of new cases across the country.
The U.S. government will deliver more than $100 million worth of supplies for overstretched hospitals and front-line health-care workers in India, the White House said late Wednesday, including oxygen support, personal protective equipment, therapeutics and rapid diagnostic tests.

28 April
Biden’s Misstep in India
The Biden administration had put cooperation with India at the heart of its foreign policy in the Indo-Pacific, but by the weekend, U.S.-India relations were facing a crisis.
(The Atlantic) President Joe Biden’s foreign-policy team supports India and is unambiguously internationalist in its instincts, especially on matters of public health. … However, key elements of Biden’s domestic-policy team, including his political advisers and the coronavirus task force, favored achieving herd immunity in the United States before sending vaccines or related materials overseas.

‘We are witnessing a crime against humanity’: Arundhati Roy on India’s Covid catastrophe
(The Guardian) It’s hard to convey the full depth and range of the trauma, the chaos and the indignity that people are being subjected to. Meanwhile, Modi and his allies are telling us not to complain
Modi’s pandemic choice: Protect his image or protect India. He chose himself
Why did the prime minister make so many reckless decisions?
By Sumit Ganguly, a distinguished professor of political science at Indiana University at Bloomington, and  author of “The Oxford Handbook of India’s National Security.”
(WaPo) Policy goals, political dramaturgy and electoral prospects are more important than the well-being of the country’s population. Had Modi and his government felt concern for India’s citizenry, they could have used the rallies and the festival as occasions to vaccinate vast numbers. The hapless national inoculation drive is especially galling, because India, between its public and privately run facilities, is the largest producer of vaccines in the world. (It has ample experience with vaccination drives, too: It eliminated polio across the country though a massive campaign between 1995 and 2011.) And instead of prioritizing its vulnerable population, India chose to pursue “vaccine diplomacy,” offering supplies to neighboring countries and various nations in Africa. Only in mid-April did Modi’s government belatedly release $400 million in funding to the Serum Institute of India, a world-class vaccine manufacturing company that is producing the AstraZeneca shots.
COVID-19 is out of control in India, where most vaccines are made. How did that happen?
(PBS) The coronavirus thrives when humans let their guard down. Following months of relaxed restrictions on face masks and social distancing and amid emerging COVID-19 variants, India is suffering a record-breaking surge of new infections that has sickened millions of people, threatening the world’s largest democracy with a fractured health care system and harrowing death toll.
India tops 200,000 dead as virus surge breaks health system
(AP) — India crossed a grim milestone Wednesday of 200,000 people lost to the coronavirus as a devastating surge of new infections tears through dense cities and rural areas alike and overwhelms health care systems on the brink of collapse.
The health ministry reported a single-day record 3,293 COVID-19 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing India’s total fatalities to 201,187, as the world’s second most populous country endures its darkest chapter of the pandemic yet. … And as in many nations, experts believe the coronavirus infections and fatalities in India are severe undercounts.
Hospitalizations and deaths have reached record highs, overwhelming health care workers. Patients are suffocating because hospitals’ oxygen supplies have run out. Desperate family members are sending SOS messages on social media, hoping someone would help them find oxygen cylinders, empty hospital beds and critical drugs for their loved ones. Crematoriums have spilled over into parking lots, lighting up night skies in some cities.
As India battles a Covid-19 firestorm, the U.S. and European nations are coming to its aid with pledges of medical equipment and raw materials for more vaccines.
(Bloomberg Politics) While most of the public anger has centered on officials in India, the international response has also drawn scrutiny. That could perpetuate a narrative that big powers are too busy looking after themselves to help poorer countries where the virus is running rampant.
And it could undercut a key message from the U.S.-led grouping known as the Quad, which Biden is seeking to mobilize as a counter point to China. Biden pitches the Quad — the U.S., Japan, Australia and India — as an outfit that can act collectively on the pandemic, delivering shots to other nations in Asia. Beijing says the Quad is about one thing – stymieing China, and that it has no road map for collaboration on vaccines and issues like climate change beyond rhetoric. China is also now offering its Indian neighbor, with whom it has tensions over territory and trade, support on the virus.
The risk is India’s terrible moment gets caught up in the broader game for pandemic soft power. And that it detracts from helping those desperately in need. — Rosalind Mathieson
Modi’s Sprawling Delhi Makeover Fuels Anger in Virus-Hit India
The government plans a new parliament and changes in central Delhi, but critics view project as wasteful expenditure amid pandemic
(Bloomberg CityLab) The planned changes will cement Modi’s legacy in one of the world’s oldest cities by reconstructing central Delhi, which houses the legislature and other historical buildings. The project covers an area as large as 50 football fields. India will get a new parliament building. The present 94-year-old structure, built during British colonial rule, will become a museum. Open spaces are poised to be repurposed for government offices. While many details haven’t been announced, media reports have said a new prime minister’s residence is likely to be built. All of it is to be readied for 2024, when Modi faces federal elections for a third term.
The massive project — which local media have estimated could cost about 200 billion rupees ($2.7 billion) — has grown more controversial as India’s coronavirus cases have exploded.

17-23 April
Indian hospitals plead for oxygen, country sets virus record
(AP) — India put oxygen tankers on special express trains as major hospitals in New Delhi begged on social media on Friday for more supplies to save COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe. More than a dozen people died when an oxygen-fed fire ripped through a coronavirus ward in a populous western state.
India’s underfunded health system is tattering as the world’s worst coronavirus surge wears out the nation, which set a global record in daily infections for a second straight day with 332,730.
The situation is worsening by the day with hospitals taking to social media to plead with the government to replenish their oxygen supplies and threatening to stop admissions of new patients.
‘Big battle lies ahead’: India being overrun by huge COVID surge
Country overwhelmed by hundreds of thousands of new cases daily, bringing pain, fear and agony amid lockdowns in New Delhi and other cities.
Many have blamed politicians for allowing superspreader events such as mass religious gatherings and election rallies to take place.
Religious leaders and hundreds of thousands of devout Hindus descended on the banks of the Ganges River in the northern Indian city of Haridwar last month for the Kumbh Mela (pitcher festival)…
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah as well as opposition politicians took part in mass election rallies in five populous states, with tens of thousands of their supporters not wearing masks or social distancing.
Tens of thousands of farmers demanding repeal of new agricultural laws have been camping on the outskirts of the Indian capital in crowded tents and makeshift townships since November.
India’s devastating outbreak is driving the global coronavirus surge
Those on the country’s front lines say the wave is worse than anything they have seen before.
(WaPo)The coronavirus pandemic has left more than 3 million dead around the world. Cases are rising rapidly. In India this surge is not a wave, but a wall.
While infections are rising around the country, some places are bearing the brunt of the surge. Six states and Delhi, the nation’s capital, account for about two-thirds of new daily cases. Maharashtra, home to India’s financial hub, Mumbai, represents about a quarter of the nation’s total.
Delhi locks down as COVID chokes Indian health system
(Reuters) Fewer than 100 critical care beds were available in the city of New Delhi, with a population of more than 20 million people, Kejriwal had said on Sunday, as social media was flooded with complaints.
Daily COVID-19 cases in India jumped a record 273,810 on Monday. Deaths rose a record 1,619 to 178,769
C. Uday Bhaskar: How India’s coronavirus trauma is being made worse by vaccine challenges and feckless decisions
(SCMP) India is vaccinating at top speed and approving more vaccines but is still struggling with the challenge of its massive population, while also letting huge crowds gather
With hospitals already overwhelmed, experts expect the latest wave of infections to peak in May, or later
Even as India copes with multiple challenges such as the emergence of new and more infectious Covid-19 strains, the lack of hospital beds and the tragic rush on cremation facilities – two anomalies merit notice.
India has provided more than 60 million Covid-19 vaccine doses to as many as 80 needy countries and, while this is commendable, the prudence of denying its own citizens its limited stock is debatable. The pandemic is a global challenge and more affluent nations with far more abundant stocks need to step up and find a more equitable vaccine distribution policy.
More incongruously, India has continued to allow vast numbers of people to assemble for political and religious events. Crowds of thousands, possibly more, have gathered for state election rallies across the country. Alarmingly, millions of devotees congregated at Haridwar in the northern state of Uttarakhand to take a dip in the sacred Ganges River and celebrate the Kumbh Mela festival

14 April
India’s coronavirus cases hit record as Mumbai prepares for new lockdown
(Reuters) -India’s new coronavirus infections hit a record level on Wednesday with Mumbai set to be locked down at midnight, but hundreds of thousands of pilgrims still thronged to a religious festival in the north of the country.

What Is the ‘Quad’ and Should China Fear It?
(Bloomberg) The informal grouping brings together the U.S., Japan, India and Australia in an alliance of democracies with shared economic and security interests that span the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The point is to maintain a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” but the unstated priority is countering China’s growing power, which rankles the leadership in Beijing. The Quad has its critics, who point out that enthusiasm varies with the political winds in each capital, question the group’s sometimes-ambiguous goals and ask just how effective it will be, given some members are wary of provoking China too directly. (March 2021)

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