The visuals from our next-door neighbour, India, are just horrendous. The record-breaking surge in coronavirus cases and the reports from India have left the entire world in shock. According to the Indian health ministry, 3,689 people have died within the past 24 hours. Last month, India became the first country in the world to register over 400,000 coronavirus infections in a single day. The situation in India continues to get worse. The second wave of coronavirus has exposed the Modi administration.
The Modi administration gravely mishandled the COVID-19 crisis in India. From declaring a premature victory after the first wave, the Modi government is now downplaying the crisis. According to a report published in the New York Times, “Interviews from cremation grounds across the country, where the fires never stop, portray an extensive pattern of deaths far exceeding the official figures. Nervous politicians and hospital administrators may be undercounting or overlooking large numbers of dead, analysts say. And grieving families may be hiding Covid connections as well, out of shame, adding to the confusion in this enormous nation of 1.4 billion.”
We have seen how journalists in India are being attacked online for telling the truth. The Modi government, it seems, is more worried about its international image than handling the crisis. From pro-Modi actors like Kangana Ranaut to media channels like Times Now to websites acting like the government’s mouthpieces, we have seen journalists Rana Ayyub and Barkha Dutt being attacked for their journalism. What is worse is how Indian government is also directly involved in intimidating those critising it. The police in Uttar Pradesh (UP) – a state run by BJP’s Yogi Adityanath – filed a criminal case against a man who used Twitter to appeal for an oxygen cylinder for his grandfather. CM Adityanath also asked the UP administration to “crack down” on hospitals that discharge patients due to shortage of oxygen or “complain” about it to the media. Just a week ago, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said it had asked Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms to remove some posts “in view of the misuse of social media platforms by certain users to spread fake or misleading information”. Such sort of censorship and intimidation just points to one thing: the Modi government is more interested in its image-building than addressing the disastrous COVID-19 crisis. Hospitals across India have run out of beds, oxygen supply is dwindling, the vaccination rollout programme is slow. All of this combined with election rallies and large gatherings that were allowed by the government in recent months led to catastrophic results.
Pakistan government has offered relief and support to India. Prime Minister Imran Khan as well as others expressed their solidarity with India in this difficult time. We hope and pray that the situation changes for the better in India.