How India defied doomsayers to fight a 'Machiavellian virus with Maoist ability'

Nobody knew the virus when it first came knocking. Everyone had their own views about it. Many, in the early days, thought that it would be ...

Nobody knew the virus when it first came knocking. Everyone had their own views about it. Many, in the early days, thought that it would be gone by the time the rerun of the original Ramanand Sagar Ramayan was over in Doordarshan.

People thought, like other Chinese products, this too won’t last long. But that was not to be. This was a sticky virus. One product the Chinese would be proud of, if their intention was to create a bio-weapon, as some credible studies suggest.

The last time a virus of this scale hit us was more than 100 years ago. It took a long time for people to forget what a virus gone crazy can do, more so the one suspected to be engineered in a Chinese lab! In 1918-19, influenza killed more people in two years than both the World Wars combined could consume in 10 years. Such an ability to kill made Sir William Osler once say, “Humanity has but three great enemies: Fever, famine and war; of these by far the greatest, by far the most terrible is fever.”

For this very reason Dr Swapneil Parikh, a Mumbai-based doctor who co-authored one of the first books on the ongoing pandemic, The Coronavirus: What You Need to Know About the Global Pandemic, with Maherra Desai and Dr Rajesh Parikh, called the virus, in an interaction with this writer last year, “Machiavellian in their machinations and Maoist in their ability to retreat only to advance again”. Adding that a virus “can bring down empires faster than human revolutions”, he pointed at how Spaniard Hernán Cortés, with just 900 men, was able to conquer Mexico “because the smallpox virus which one of his slaves carried killed over half the Aztecs”. He added, quoting his own book, “The West was won using viruses for bio-terrorism rather than the whitewashed Hollywood accounts of the bravery of cowboys.”

So, when the Wuhan virus first hit India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did the right thing by announcing a nationwide lockdown for 21 days on 24 March 2020. Many thought this would be enough to pack the bag of the virus. But COVID-19 refused to go away, and the lockdown period kept on increasing. Critics went after the government for going overboard with the lockdown and killing the livelihoods of the people to save their lives!

Ironically, the same set of people took on the government for its “delayed” response when the Machiavellian COVID-19 with Maoist character made a deadlier comeback. In the second wave, lakhs of people lost their lives and even those who survived were left with lifelong scars. It made global headlines. In an era when “violence is desirable” for the media and “death a bonus”, sensation invariably trips significance while reporting an event. Any way not a big fan of PM Modi and his government, as one can easily assume given the fact that an American media giant actually put up an ad asking only anti-Modi journalists to apply for the job, the media space was full of grim stories — from people dying outside hospitals to dead bodies left to fend for themselves at cremation grounds. The India story was all but over.

The Modi government also faced other hurdles, mostly uncalled for. One just needs to remember how the Opposition reacted when India announced Indian medicines for COVID-19. While the country was celebrating, there were politicians who dubbed it vaccine nationalism. Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor saw “chest-thumping vaccine nationalism”, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury questioned the move by advising the government not “to short-circuit the regulatory process for political gains”. One Samajwadi Party leader even went to the extent of calling it the “BJP vaccine”!

Thankfully, beneath these obituaries, written gleefully across most Western capitals, in connivance with some of our political leaders, India continued to doggedly fight its COVID-19 battle. The country started vaccinating its people from 16 January 2021 and in the next 10 months it scripted several success stories. And on 21 October, a major milestone was achieved when India administered more than one billion COVID-19 jabs. If the Health Ministry data is to be believed, over 75 percent of India’s all eligible adult population have been administered at least the first COVID-19 vaccine dose, while 31 percent have received both the doses.

The process of administering vaccines only gathered momentum with each passing day. While India took 85 days to reach the 10-crore mark, and 45 more days to double that number, it took only 29 more days to cross the 30-crore mark. In fact, the fastest has been the last 50 crore doses that came in just 76 days – less than what India took to vaccinate the first 10 crore people!

So, all in all, it took the country 281 days to administer 100 crore jabs. For those who take delight in statistics, India is currently at the second place in the total number of vaccinated people, after China (whose numbers are invariably dodgy), and is followed by the US, Brazil, Japan, Indonesia, Turkey, Mexico, Germany, France, Russia and the UK.

India plans to fully vaccinate its entire adult population by the end of this year. This is a daunting task: the remaining 90 crore doses will have to be administered in just over two months. In other words, India has to administer about 1.2 crore doses every day to reach the magic figure.

It may look difficult today, but given what India has achieved in the past 10 months, one now knows that anything is possible in the country. And even if we don’t reach that magic number by 31 December, the fact is it’s just a statistical delight. India has already shown the appetite to fight the pandemic. This is undeniable.

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India World News: How India defied doomsayers to fight a 'Machiavellian virus with Maoist ability'
How India defied doomsayers to fight a 'Machiavellian virus with Maoist ability'
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