Note: Due to some error this article was deleted. We are re-publishing it. Any data mentioned in this article is in accordance with the data available on May 19, 2021.
Indian Health Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan, tweeted an article by Prof. Pankaj Chaturvedi’s as a rebuttal to The Lancet editorial that discussed about the extremely poor handling of the covid emergency by the Indian Government. Yet In reality, Prof. Chaturvedi’s article is just a desperate attempt to pose the Indian government as ‘The Saviour’ standing between the pile of bodies of its citizens.
He just throws some numbers, incomplete arguments and distorted context at you but never explains what he is implying, directly. Just another addition to the perception building propoganda that comes out in all forms everyday in this country, but before you jump to any conclusion lets dissect Prof. Chaturvedi’s article to understand what’s wrong with it.
The Lancet (a renowned medical journal) editorial refers to the projection made by ‘The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’, which is a independent global health research centre at University of Washington and said.
“India will see a staggering 1 million deaths from Covid-19 by Aug 1. If that outcome were to happen, Modi’s Government would be responsible for residing over a self-inflicted national catastrophe”
Chaturvedi claimed this is reminiscent of British Colonial Era in India as they belittled Indians because they wanted to occupy India which makes no sense considering above statement. The current total death toll (official) is 278,751 (Worldometers.info). So if by Aug 1, 721,249 more people die, wouldn’t it be called a ‘Catastrophe’ ? Wouldn’t the ruling federal government be ‘Responsible’ for such ‘Catastrophe’ ? The answer is yes and no matter who gives that answer it won’t change a thing.
Then Prof. Chaturvedi goes on to say
“The issue is much larger than what the editorial conveys. The solutions are much more complex than one can imagine”
One, if the issue is much larger than what the editorial portrays which means that the federal government is trying to hide the real state of covid emergency from its citizens, which only harms the perception Prof. Chaturvedi is trying so hard to protect.
Two, Nobody is denying that the solution is complex. The criticism is that there is no visible effort to be seen, neither on screen or in data, to try to achieve that goal. Moreover if the current government can’t handle the situation or come up with an effective plan of action then at least they can step down rather than doubling down on their lies.
Later on Prof. Chaturvedi goes on comparing ratio relating to death due to covid & the current population of countries like USA, UK, FRANCE to India. This is to demonstrate that India like other countries have lost only 0.02% of its population(Not to forget the actual death toll is much much higher as multiple independent news organisations across India have been reporting from Hospitals & Crematoriums).
This comparison is completely void of valuable context as it carefully omits the fact that India is the only country in the world right now, which is experiencing six-figure spike in covid cases daily. Iran is the only country with the five figure spike (of 13,930) in the last 24 hours. If you put that into perspective, you might understand that how Indian federal government’s handling of covid-19 crisis is much worse than they actually claim. Moreover, just because you’re not the country with the most number of covid deaths, does not prove your complacency.
This baffling article doesn’t end here as Prof. Chaturvedi now flips the manner of how he compares the statistics among world countries when it comes to vaccination. He simply states the specific number of vaccinations done by each country rather than resorting to percentage of population vaccinated.
This is to demonstrate that India has accomplished similar amount of vaccinations (180 million) as other leading vaccination countries (e.g. USA @ 256 million), but this method doesn’t hold up when you consider the percentage of population vaccinated. India has administered first dose to about 9% of its population while USA has given the first dose to approx. 50% of its population.
This comparison holds up better than prof. Chaturvedi’s method because a government is responsible for all of its citizens rather than their ranking. What really counts is how many lives they can save and what efforts they’ve made for that to become a reality. This can be measured only through criticism.
Upto this point prof. Chaturvedi was at least trying to make logical arguments in defense of indian government but then he runs out of wit and comes back to same-old-same-old stupid arguments presenting bad things as good. This is what he said –
“There are more reasons to appreciate the Indian Government. It lifted the ban on export of HCQ and exported HCQ and Paracetamol during the height of epidemic. Despite shortage of vaccine in India, our government had the magnanimity to export 66 million dosage abroad on humanitarian grounds”
Why is this bullshit? Now the covid-19 has crept into the rural areas of India, many villages which already didn’t have the medical infrastructure as good as the urban cities, even normal medicines are in huge shortage and even if they’re available somewhere in some quantity they’re being sold on much higher prices than rural people can afford. So ask yourself, should India first replenish its medicine stock or should it export medicines in all foolish proudness? Remember who this government is responsible for. Its citizens.
Same is the case with vaccinations. Prof. Chaturvedi even outright lied about vaccination data. Yes, indian government exported 66 million covid doses abroad but 84% of those 66 million were on commercial basis not humanitarian grounds.
Prof. Chaturvedi talks about ‘Magnanimity’ of indian government. Ask those families who have lost their loved ones, to covid, lack of medicines, lack of oxygen, lack of ambulance, lack of hospitals and what not, if they see even a tiny bit of magnanimity in the indian government? No. Again, remember who this government is responsible for, who it collect taxes from. Shouldn’t they have saved that magnanimity for its citizens? They are dying even now.
At this point prof. Chaturvedi began to forgot the purpose of his article which is to counter The Lancet Editorial, and started pointing out positives which are actually false positives. He said that India is publishing a lot of data regarding genome sequencing of covid virus and that the government is sharing the all the data, which could facilitate further research upon the virus & its variants, through press conferences.
Both of these claims are either incorrect or greatly exaggerated. According to a study published on the Down-to-earth website, India has been able to sequence less than 1% of all samples taken until now.
The data released by press conferences is far from being sufficient or actionable. More than 300 scientists from India, including Prof. Partha Majumdar & Prof. L.S. Shashidhara have requested PM Modi to help them through funding & various permissions to run a transparent, reliable and timely data collection process which could actually help them make forecasts which would help India better prepare for what’s to come. This letter itself is a proof of India’s lack of proper governance & planning in this pandemic.
Maybe prof. Chaturvedi foresaw that someone will point out the responsibility to indian government, so he made the laughable excuse that “In India’s federal structure, as per the Constitution, health care is a state subject”.
When the central govt. is taking authority over every aspect of health politics (controlling vaccine production & distribution, countries health programme & policy, printing PM Modi’s photo on vaccination certificate, media claiming PM modi as ‘Vaccine Guru’ etc.), can they really just dust their hands of off responsibility when it comes to people dying of mismanagement? No. A big no. Central government is playing the key role in this emergency and denial will only make things worse.
Prof. Chaturvedi also said that it was impossible to build an infrastructure in less than six months but in his selective avoidance he forgot to mention that scientists & experts were pointing out the red flags in current system and what we need to avoid harsh consequences, but indian government never gave any heed to their advice.
Also even the basic infrastructure is already so weak, which the current government had seven years to improve upon but didn’t, that they’re barely functioning like a makeshift system.
He even had the gall to defend the government carrying out political rallies in the middle of second wave and allowing the kumbh mela to happen. He defended kumbh mela by saying the cities like Mumbai & Delhi have more population density than the gathering of kumbh mela.
As if everybody in the Mumbai & Delhi live their life like the people in kumbh mela. As if it’s the people of these two cities who don’t stay at home and the people in kumbh mela are the ones who wear face masks & maintain social distancing.
He even said that people have developed herd immunity in slums just because 50% of some selected sample were found with antibodies (presenting the data with distorted context, see here), which only means that we all should just throw the covid appropriate behaviour out of the window and just because a city has a higher population density then any amount of gathering, as long as it is less than the same, is justified. This kind of logic is preposterous. Not to forget that people living in slums have nowhere to go to unlike the people gathering in events like Kumbh Mela.
For political rallies done in Bengal election, he argued that they were more important than curbing covid situation in India. How? He never explains but only assumes that we somehow know what he’s talking about. That’s the best he could come up with.
Rest of the article resort to Whataboutery of all kind saying that everybody else is responsible for country’s loss but the politicians who hold the power in their hands, that politicians have now been reduced to punching bags and now are some kind of heritage which should be protected from all kinds of criticism.
What does this analysis say about the role of criticism? It’s this “When a certain number of people invest their absolute trust & power in a particular place or ‘group-of-people’, then everything outside of it automatically becomes the enemy. Then freedom & safety becomes an illusion. Then even the help & valuable-criticism from someone outside of that group will always seem hostile and we will forever be at war if that were to happen.
Hence instead of stifling criticism and opposing voices to maintain the perception they have built among their supporters, the indian government has to embrace all critique and use all their efforts to save lives of its citizens.