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‘Whole families’ wiped out by Covid carnage in rural India | India News


NEW DELHI: After devastating India’s largest cities, the latest Covid-19 wave is now devastating rural areas in the second most populous country in the world. And most villages have no way to fight the virus.
In Basi, about 1.5 hours from the capital New Delhi, around three-quarters of the 5,400 people in the village are ill and more than 30 have died in the last three weeks. It does not have sanitary facilities, doctors or oxygen canisters. And unlike India’s social media literate urban population, residents cannot appeal to an army of strangers on Twitter to help.
“Most of the deaths in the village have occurred because oxygen was not available,” said Sanjeev Kumar, the newly elected head of the farming community. “The sick are being rushed to the district headquarters and these extremely sick patients have to travel about four hours,” he said, adding that many do not arrive on time.
It is a scenario that unfolds throughout India. In interviews with representatives from more than 18 towns and villages in different parts of the country, officials described the scale of the carnage, from whole families dead to bloated bodies floating in the Ganges River and farmland abandoned due to a lack of workers.
Many people said that the scale of the crisis is much larger than official figures reveal, and that villagers fear leaving their homes even if they have a fever and local authorities do not adequately record deaths from viruses. India has reported 274,390 deaths since the start of the pandemic, according to figures from the Health Ministry.
Anger is rising in both Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration and local authorities for failing to bolster medical infrastructure following a wave of viruses last year, including obtaining sufficient supplies of oxygen and vaccines. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party last month lost local elections in Basi and other parts of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, just as the country began registering nearly 400,000 new cases a day.
The sentiment on the ground suggests broader problems for Modi and his fellow BJP leader Yogi Adityanath, the prime minister of Uttar Pradesh, who has been mentioned as a possible successor to the prime minister. The state holds elections next year.
“We had full support for Modi and Yogi, but now, whatever happens, we will vote for the BJP,” Sahab Singh, 72, said in the center of Basi, which was practically empty. He pointed out that people were too scared to leave their homes.
During the recent elections to appoint village heads, many poll workers were infected, including 59-year-old Kumarsain Nain, who contracted the virus along with his 31-year-old son. Unable to walk and panting, Nain’s family took him to a nearby hospital last month after they couldn’t find an ambulance with oxygen support, said another son, Praveen Kumar.
“After we got to the hospital, the doctors said that he had died, but instead of registering Covid-19 as the cause of death, they put him into cardiac arrest,” Kumar said. “The doctor told us that it was not necessary to check if my father was positive for Covid-19, since he was already dead.”
His brother died shortly after at another clinic about 30 minutes away, at the same time as six other patients who were also receiving oxygen. “My suspicion is that the hospital ran out of oxygen, which led to the deaths,” Kumar said. “Holding elections when the government knew that the cases were increasing and the infection was spreading is a criminal act.”
Representatives from both the prime minister’s office and the health ministry have not responded to a request for comment. Modi addressed the issue on May 14 after a meeting with several senior ministers. “I want to warn you about the crown. The infection is spreading rapidly in the villages, ”said the prime minister. “Efforts are being made to deal with this.”
Baijayant “Jay” Panda, a senior Modi BJP official, told Bloomberg Television on Monday that the latest wave of viruses has been a “humbling experience,” but noted a significant vaccination rollout and the provision of injections to more than 80 countries in a world. outreach effort.
He defended Modi’s response, saying that the electoral authorities made the decision to proceed with the polls and that the states were responsible for building oxygen plants that received federal funds.
“It is not just the prime minister who thought that we had overcome the greatest ravages of the crown; the consensus in India in early January was that we had,” said Panda. “Many of the epidemiologists who are criticizing today are registered in October saying that the worst is over and that we should not have so many restrictions.”
Covid-19 adds to Modi’s woes alongside a severe economic downturn, rising unemployment and protests by farmers against a law that is perceived to favor big business, according to Nikita Sud, associate professor of international development at Oxford University and author of a book. on Hindu nationalism.
“It is too simplistic to say that the mismanagement of Covid means the turning point for the Modi regime,” Sud said. “However, the regime seems out of place for the first time since he came to power in 2014.
As Delhi leaders struggle to contain the crisis, horrific scenes are unfolding across India. Last week, in the eastern state of Bihar, residents woke up to find up to 70 bloated bodies floating in the Ganges River. With crematoria overflowing as the death toll rises, they feared these bodies were Covid victims whose families could not allow them to rest properly. Since then more bodies have been reported along the river.
Both the federal and state governments “have failed us all,” said Rajesh Sharma, a travel company owner in the Hindu pilgrimage town of Ujjain, in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
“India had a full year to prepare, but except for shipping vaccines out of the country for personal credit and glory, not much was done,” he said. “There are no hospital beds, there are no medicines. People have been left to die. In and around Ujjain, entire families have died in the last two weeks. ”
In Punjab, a northern state that borders Pakistan, local authorities are asking volunteers among India’s 1 billion accredited social health activists to visit every home to urge people to get vaccinated and see if anyone has a fever. . While the group is well known for working in difficult conditions to deliver childhood vaccines and basic first aid to villages, the scale of the current crisis is unprecedented, said Balbir, one of the workers.
“A lot of people are so scared that they don’t even tell anyone about their fever,” she said, asking to be identified only by her first name due to fear of a backlash from local authorities in the Ludhiana district, where the infections they are spreading rapidly. “Despite such a large increase, they still haven’t provided us with adequate protection: no masks, no gloves, nothing.”
Uttarakhand has also been hit hard. The state in the foothills of the Himalayas saw virus cases spike nearly 20-fold after hosting more than nine million people for the Hindu religious festival known as Kumbh Mela between March 31 and April 24.
“There is not a house in Rishikesh where people are not sick; Haridwar is also in a similar condition, ”said Navin Mohan, who helps organize excursions to the holy cities on the banks of the Ganges.
“The pandemic is now truly out of control,” Mohan said. “Thousands are dying and will die in the next few weeks. The government is manipulating the numbers, but the reality is visible to everyone. ”

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