OutbreakCoronavirus, COVID-19 and Chicago

Pandemic Perspective: What is Happening in India?

By Jhanvi Verma |  @RedLineProject | Posted: Wednesday, May 25, 2021

Editor's Note: Red Line Project reporter and UIC student Jhanvi Verma returned to India in July 2020 as she finished up classes remotely. Her country has been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, and she writes about her experience back home.  

I moved back to my home country when COVID-19 cases were rising in the United States to mainly save money on rent since classes were going online. I have been living in India for over a year now and I can say that I have never seen such a deadly situation before. Although, I am not surprised.

I have not been able to think about anything other than thousands of people dying from COVID-19, oxygen shortages, no hospital beds, vaccine shortage and the lockdown. The current situation forced my father to refrain from watching too much news because of how anxious it was making us. I truly felt scared when my best friend’s mother died of COVID-19 and I could not be there to console her.

A few days later, my father’s best friend and his family tested positive. I overheard my father asking him if he has ordered oxygen tanks for safety due to the shortage in the country. After two days, his daughter was admitted to the hospital as her oxygen levels were too low. Luckily, she got a room in a hospital because we knew a trustee of the hospital.

During these times, I have realized that as long as you have money and contacts, you have a better chance of surviving. I can’t even fathom the pain and suffering of the poor in the country.

In the past month, we have tried to keep in touch with friends and loved ones to make sure they are healthy, physically and mentally. Recently, I heard that a kid who lives near my house lost both his parents in 2 days because they could not get treatment. A friend’s grandmother died in her bed due to a shortage of oxygen.

Anyone who is living in India currently is going through an immense amount of distress especially when we hear that the crematoriums have been working around the clock non-stop burning the dead bodies of COVID-19 patients. In fact, there are queues to cremate loved ones. 

Whenever we try to think that the situation may improve, we come across news such as 100 dead bodies of covid patients floating in the Ganges river. What more can you think of? Another day a fire broke out in an ICU which killed many COVID-19 patients and nurses. More? Adar Poonawala, CEO of the Serum Institute of India (SII) who manufactures Covishield and AstraZeneca, has fled the country because of the threats he received from people at power.

I have a huge amount of respect for this country, but the government has neglected the pandemic in the worst possible way. Throughout the country, political organizations were rallying for months in multiple states for the West Bengal Elections despite the criticism. The politicians, including Narendra Modi, seems to care more about their votes than the voters. I mean, who would vote for them from the grave?

Due to these mass political and religious events, India ended up reporting 2,738,957 new cases, the highest in a single day. After that, India saw a 15% increase in the number of new deaths reported i.e. 26,820 new deaths in a single day.

There’s nothing but pure sadness in everyone’s lives at the moment. Almost every day, my father gets a call from a friend and/or family member telling him that, this person tested positive, a so-called person has low oxygen levels, this person can’t find a bed in the hospital, and or worse someone has died.

We all know that in order to stop the spread of the virus, we need to get the population vaccinated. It’ll take over three years to fully vaccinate India’s population. When the country had sufficient vaccine shots, nobody wanted to get them. Now that thousands are dying every day, people want the shot. India is a country that has no healthcare system in place for its citizens, if you can pay for the treatment, you will be treated. Otherwise, you’re on your own.

People refuse to believe in science, I have been hearing news of “politicians” drinking cow urine to save themselves from the virus. There’s a group of men in the state of Gujarat, who put cow dung on their bodies so that they don’t get corona. What is this country? How will that help the situation?

Not only this, we are getting a huge amount of information from social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram about the “real” condition where patients are being tortured in hospitals. On the other hand, people have been able to secure oxygen cylinders for themselves through social media. The public has been forced to help each other out when the government is not doing anything. This has led to the government has been making efforts to censor content on social media. We can’t even criticize our government now.

I read about how people have lost faith in this country and no longer wish to live here. I am privileged enough to have food on my plate and a roof over my head. I am at a place where my loved ones are safe and healthy, but what about the poor? 

This is coming from someone’s perspective who has been sitting at home and consuming the news. Imagine the anxiety and devastation of those working at crematoriums and frontline workers. If the virus reaches the population in rural India, those are the numbers that we will never know about. I am talking about thousands of deaths, maybe more.

It’s like the idea of imminent mortality that we have come face-to-face with due to COVID-19. The way we mourn the dead has changed. We have learned to expect it in a way. There’s a sense of relief when we see the reading on the oximeter as 98. That’s the new level of privilege in India.

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