Is India Winning The Fight Against COVID-19?

Updated: May 18, 2020

When a country is hit with a nationwide health crisis, its arms of support scramble to fight it. Can a country plagued with poverty, overpopulation, sub standard sanitation and a vulnerable healthcare system combat the virus? When analysing India’s efforts of reducing the spread of the virus, one cannot ignore the inevitable impacts that come as a result of the 40 day lockdown which was imposed in an attempt to slow the spread. The lockdown has disproportionately harmed marginalized communities due to a loss of livelihood and lack of food, water and other basic needs. India has approved a relief package of 1.7 trillion Rupees (22.5 billion USD), in an attempt to deliver essential aid and insurance to workers and other vulnerable members of society. A projected figure of about 50 lakh rupees of insurance per healthcare worker has been mentioned by the centre. The fund also covers food and medical supplies for the poor, in addition to existing ration subsidy schemes. Senior citizens, widows, the handicapped and daily wage workers are also under the purview of the package. Collateral free loans have been promised to Self Help Groups and local cooperative establishments. But concerns have emerged that grassroot deployment of this aid won’t be as effective as projected. Humanitarian groups like the Human Rights Watch are expressing their concerns over the stigmatization of individuals and a rise in vigilante violence. The growth of a communal angle in the form of growing islamophobia is another problem, after a large Muslim congregation, by an Islamic Missionary movement named Tablighi Jamaat, took place. Indian media, often characterized by its use of divisive rhetoric, flashed headlines which read “Save India from corona jihad”. This ties into the broader issue of how a country so large and so diverse copes with crises. A toxic manifestation of this is scapegoating. We see this in the form of growing islamophobia and anti-China rhetoric. Several videos of Muslim men spitting on cops and workers have been going viral on social media platforms, however, multiple news sources and fact checkers have revealed that these are older videos which have resurfaced. The number of cases in India have been controlled for the time being, although the rise in asymptomatic cases is something that many politicians and healthcare officials have expressed concern for. Social distancing practices have been actively promoted by government media and private actors. Several states are giving private actors active incentives to increase the production and distribution of PPE. In a bid to ramp up rapid mass testing, India imported a million kits from China, which have been reported to be faulty by several states. The Indian Council Of Medical Research (ICMR) has urged states to halt testing with Chinese kits. Another thing to note is the new development regarding a malaria drug (hydroxychloroquine) widely touted as a potential COVID-19 cure has been shown to result in higher death rates than an alternative antibiotic named azithromycin. Healthcare experts say that the next few weeks will be crucial as a result of a spike in asymptomatic cases and the setback India has suffered as a result of faulty kits.

Author : Mihir Yeddur