COVID-19: It is easy to point fingers at India but…

Vickey Maverick.
6 min readJul 23, 2021

…it is difficult to discuss the country’s struggles in the right context. When the media is busy highlighting India’s mismanagement of the corona virus situation it conveniently forgets the fact that even the most developed of countries have struggled to control the pandemic, and their respective governments have been overwhelmed with the magnitude of the crisis

In these troubled times when countries with a few million people, and far superior medical facilities, have struggled to contain the virus imagine the plight of a country of 1.4 billion

This illustration by Kureel has been sourced from social media [Image used for representational purpose only]

It is on expected lines and there’s no element of surprise whatsoever. However, it is projected in such a manner that it is the only such case and everywhere else it is perfect.

Confused?

Well, this is about how India is being discussed among media and critics alike as regards it COVID-19 management and figures. This week the Center for Global Development (CGD), a Washington, D.C. based nonprofit think tank, released the most comprehensive study on the impact of the coronavirus in India, and it suggested India’s death toll could be a staggering 10 times higher than the official tally.

According to the Indian government’s figures the official death toll stands at around 419,000 — second only to the United States (616,000 approximately). The CGD study concludes many more people died during that period, and the death toll is up to 10 times higher than the numbers put forth by the Indian government.

While the numbers may come across as a surprise to most it is actually obvious. Is it possible to submit an exact number when a country’s population is 1.4 billion? Isn’t COVID death undercounts are happening almost everywhere? Experts in the United States admit their country’s death count maybe twice as much. Ditto for Europe. As for those major countries that are boasting about their achievements suffice to say they need to be complimented for doing a good cover up. Can China’s numbers be believed? Can it be safely said that China hasn’t misreported or held back information? If not, then why double standards in the case of India.

What has to be understood here first is the methodology. In the United Kingdom, for example, the death toll is a higher number because they count it differently — the officials count 28 days of positive diagnosis as COVID deaths. Likewise, in Poland if a person dies after he has left the hospital with a negative test, it is not counted as a COVID death — even if many of those deaths may have occurred owing to complications linked to COVID.

In many of the lesser developed countries many of the deaths aren’t officially registered in any given time, let alone during a pandemic. What about Africa? The recent reports of rising cases notwithstanding the numbers from the continent continue to remain on the lower side. Isn’t it because many cases have not been reported? In such a scenario pointing a finger solely at India and the Indian government though convenient, is rather unwanted.

Let’s have a look into facts. Even if it is assumed that the actual death toll in India is indeed what has been mentioned in the CGD study the number comes up to around five million. Also, the number of reported cases in India is around 30.15 million. Let’s, for the sake of convenience, assume this number is also misrepresented and also make it twice over. That makes it around 60 million cases. What is the population of India? 1.4 billion, and that is not taking into the account the illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and the Rohingya refugees who are yet to get officially registered.

Compare this number to some of the numbers of the developed countries that also find themselves among the top in terms of the number of cases. France, for example, has reported almost six million cases. That’s approximately a 10th of its population. Ditto for the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain. Mind you these countries have far better medical facilities when compared to India. How did their medical systems get so overwhelmed then?

It’s a fact that the Western media likes portraying India in a negative light. Accept it or not, the country’s achievement does not get the same space in western media outlets as the negative stories do. Multiple media organizations showing images of corpses being burnt while reporting about corona virus cases in India is as inhumane as it can get. Isn’t it?

Before the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a classification for the variants, what is now being labeled as the Delta variant was widely reported as the Indian variant in the media. Mind you, this is the same media that avoided labeling the original virus as the China virus or the Wuhan virus. Did anyone say double standards?

Likewise, when the Indian government indulged in vaccine diplomacy and helped many countries in need, sending them vaccine and medical supplies in quick time it got negligible coverage. However, when the country suffered massively in the second wave and there was an acute shortage of supplies, this became the headlines.

It is understood that things have to be reported. But is it necessary to repeatedly show images of corpses being burnt? Is it human? To what extent can a media organization go ahead with this kind of sensationalism? It is these questions that merit a discussion first. But they are conveniently avoided, simply because though it seemingly has the license to criticize media is always at the forefront when it comes to avoiding criticisms, or for that matter shirking responsibility.

That said, blaming the Western media only won’t be appropriate. Helping them in their endeavor is esteemed members of the Indian media, who sell their souls for a few dollars more. There’s one instance of a prominent Indian journalist drawing sympathy in the western media outlets for her father’s death, while also making comments at the state of affairs and mismanagement of the corona virus situation in India. Death of a family member is as personal as it gets. How can a person stoop so low as to derive benefits out of that?

It is people like these who give their country a bad name, far more than a foreign source will ever do. The fact that India did exceedingly well when it came to handling of the situation was also either neglected or underreported. Yes, the second wave did catch the country by surprise but to point out only the negative aspect tantamount to ignoring all the good work done. How many countries have managed the COVID situation well? The few that have done so, like New Zealand, have considerably less population.

Even the most developed of countries like the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy have struggled in their handling of the corona virus situation. Mind you, these countries have a fraction of India’s population. The less said about China the better. In any case it is better to look elsewhere than trust the data and information provided by the source nation. Had it been careful in its handling the virus would not have spread in the first place. It could have been curbed at inception. Isn’t it?

This is by no means a defense of the Indian government. The death toll in India is definitely much bigger than it has been reported. The government has been at fault on many counts. But which government is not? That said, it is also a fact that it is pragmatically impossible for any government to handle the situation well when the population of a country is bloated.

Besides other factors have also to be taken into account. The deaths in India are grossly underreported because a majority of Indians that live in small towns and villages, with no access to healthcare, cannot even afford a test, let alone medication.

If countries in North America and Europe are running out of beds imagine the situation in India. In such a scenario to take data from a few states, and then applying that to whole the whole of India is neither conclusive nor appropriate.

In the final analysis there is one question that begs an answer. Which major country and government has handled this pandemic situation well?

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Vickey Maverick.

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