The second wave was obvious. But in January, with a sense of national pride over low cases and vaccines we failed to foresee the actual picture. Journalists love to make headlines saying that Indians have lower mortality rates without mentioning that Indians are younger in average. Sensational headlines sell better than honest ones which often get labelled as anti-India or pro-Pakistan.
Today, almost half-a-year after January, India feels ashamed to be one of the only places in the world that faces the pandemic to an extent which it shouldn’t, given the data available from others mistakes. The story of India is pretty simple, it plays similar to the Aesop’s Fable named “Ants and the Grasshopper”.
Mistakes we made
The mistakes were made collectively. One cannot blame a single entity or a certain group of people (which we often love to do). But rather the general neglect despite of seeing countries like UK and France going through a tough time when India was stable. This neglect combined with an inflated sense of optimism fueled by nationalism made us believe that because we have vaccines available at a time of low cases, there won’t be any more troubles. Yet, we knew the population of India, but no one bothered to know about the possibility of a second wave.
Of course, the economy had to be stimulated and the stores to be opened, but the simple enforcement of mask mandates wasn’t much of an ask. Simple measures can go a long way. The ‘Narendra Modi stadium’ hosted two matches with nearly 1,30,000 people — almost everyone without a mask — to watch international cricket matches. The cricket craze went further as to hosting the IPL tournament which later has been cancelled. The ball dropped completely when the festival of Kumbh Mela was held with tens of thousands of devotees gathering up in close proximity. The law does falls to the whims of religion even in the direst conditions.
With the political season in full swing due to elections, the government had an acute lack of apathy towards the pandemic. Massive rallies were held shouting and chanting the names of deities to win elections. The government didn’t prepare for the second wave but the minimum we could do is at least not contribute to it. Weddings further added to the flame.
The election in the key state West-Bengal was lost by Modi. During the voting period the pandemic opened in full flair. The approval rating for the Prime Minister has been slumping at a sharp slope ever since, but is still significantly high.
What India is seeing is a mixture of over-bureaucratic incompetence and arrogance in terms of religious matters and social issues such as weddings. The government failed to enforce laws because it itself didn’t follow them. The cluster effects of many faults are what have led to the grim situation. At some point it’s a structural problem of a bureaucratic government which goes down a foxhole when asked the questions.