Inequalities are shaping how we’re fighting the Pandemic — and how we’ll remember it
The first wave of the 1918-19 influenza pandemic did not have much impact in India; it was the second wave that was the most devastating.
It is now thought that 12 million people died in India during the flu pandemic, the equivalent of 4 percent of the population at that time. Most of these deaths were concentrated in a few short months from September to December 1918. This quote is from Punjab’s sanitary commissioner at the time:
The hospitals were choked so it was impossible to remove the dead quickly enough to make room for the dying….; the burning ghats (cremation site) were literally swamped with corpses; the depleted medical service, was incapable of dealing with more than a minute fraction of the sickness requiring attention.
India’s COVID-19 crisis: A call for people’s unity
There is no enmity between the working class people of each country. Rather than being duped by the bourgeoisie into stirring hostilities under the banner of “patriotism,” we should instead unite to mutually resist our capitalist oppressors.
In recent days, the pandemic in India has rapidly deteriorated. Without a doubt, it is India’s working class people who suffer the most.We have always advocated treating our neighbors with kindness, as indicated by the words “世界人民大团结万岁” (“Long Live the Great Unity of the World’s Peoples”) inscribed on the banner atop the Tiananmen gate tower.
So it is perplexing that some of our nation’s pundits took the opportunity to jeer at India in order to flaunt their own superiority.
Destitution, hunger and the lockdown
ON March 24, 2020, Narendra Modi had announced that the country would go into a lockdown after four hours! This nation-wide lockdown was to last till the end of May, after which there were local lockdowns but not a general one.
It brought acute hardship to millions of the working poor, among whom the migrant workers’ woes received global attention. What was striking about the Indian lockdown was that, in contrast to virtually everywhere else including the U.S. under Trump, no compensation was offered to the people (except paltry amounts to a few specific target groups) for their loss of incomes because of the lockdown. They were pushed into a situation of income loss, destitution and hunger, from which they had not recovered even months after the lifting of the lockdown.
Patents versus the People
ON October 2, 2020, even before any vaccines against COVID-19 had been approved, India and South Africa had proposed to the WTO that a temporary patent waiver should be granted on all such innovations. In the following months, 100 countries had supported this demand. And on May 5, the U.S., usually the most ardent defender of the patent system, agreed to a temporary patent waiver on anti-Covid vaccines, committing itself to “text-based negotiations at the WTO”.
The basic argument for such a move arises from the urgent need at present to expand vaccine production. A patent works by creating artificial scarcity so that prices are kept high for a longer period and the innovating firm can make profits that are large enough supposedly to recoup the investment made in developing the patented product, but the scarcity of vaccines is precisely what the world can ill-afford at present. When thousands are dying around the world, saving lives has priority over firms’ profits, for which patents on vaccines must be removed.
Behind the lives lost during the pandemic lie India’s failing public institutions
The numbers keep rising. Daily counts of those afflicted and those dying are matched with images of horrifying suffering: of desperate scrambles for hospital beds, the dire need for oxygen, mass cremation without the rituals and respect for the dead, and soul-shattering public mourning by countless bereaved. As a nation, we watch with helplessness and consider the pandemic to be the culprit that has wrecked our celebration of having beaten it and is now despoiling our international reputation to be the next superpower.
In what should be a collective and mass grieving for the deaths of our citizens–deaths that were unwarranted, a result of the government’s malignant neglect–is also the time to reckon with some deeper truths; that these pandemic-marked deaths were in the making long before COVID-19 struck us in early 2020.
Crisis and Predation: India, COVID-19, and Global Finance
With the advent of COVID-19, India’s rulers imposed the world’s most stringent lockdown on an already depressed economy, dealing a body blow to the majority of India’s billion-plus population. Yet the Indian government’s spending to cushion the lockdown’s economic impact ranked among the world’s lowest in GDP terms, resulting in unprecedented unemployment and hardship. Crisis and Predation shows how this tight-fistedness stems from the fact that global financial interests oppose any sizable expansion of public spending by India, and that Indian rulers readily adhere to their guidance.
A Country Gasping for Air
Indians Pay the Price of Government Inaction as COVID-19 Surges
It feels like the end times in New Delhi. Ambulance sirens blare through the night, a constant reminder of the unbelievable tragedy unfolding in the city. India is currently experiencing a devastating, record-breaking second wave of COVID-19, with the capital especially hard hit. Every night ushers in a now sadly familiar ordeal. Desperately sick patients go from hospital to hospital, begging for oxygen. The hospitals, with only hours of oxygen to spare for their own patients, turn the afflicted away. Relatives and friends post urgent pleas on social media, trying in vain to source the third most abundant element in the universe. But not for love of God or money is there any oxygen to be had in the city.
Lessons for India from China’s food import
In our country where mainline economists revel in cut-paste prescriptions in the name of agricultural reforms, China’s example illustrates how the transformation from state-regulated to market-oriented farming has brought it to the brink of an unmanageable food crisis.
Speaking at an international conference in 1998 at the University College Cork, in Ireland, to commemorate 150 years of the Great Irish Famine that killed nearly one million people, I was asked a question: who will feed India? This question cropped up at a time when the world was already deliberating a hypothesis floated by the well-known environmental researcher and thinker, Lester Brown.
Factory to the World?
The Production Linked Incentive Scheme aims to build an Indian manufacturing base across 13 key sectors. What works. What doesn’t
On March 10, the $274 billion, Cupertino, California-based Apple Inc. announced it is starting production of the 5G-compatible iPhone 12 in India. It appeared like a routine announcement. After all, Apple has been assembling older generation iPhones in India through contract manufacturers since 2017. It wasn’t.
It might have been a small step for Apple but was a giant leap for Indian manufacturing. India’s new Production Linked Incentive (PLI) Scheme to reduce import dependence and promote local manufacturing had lured three of Apple’s Taiwanese original equipment manufacturers – Foxconnn Hon Hai, Wistron and Pegatron – to pump in millions of dollars to expand Indian facilities. They will move a step up from assembling imported parts here to making or sourcing more components locally. Like Apple, about 70 firms have shown interest in availing the PLI Scheme to set up manufacturing facilities in three key sectors: mobile and electronic components; pharma-APIs (active pharmaceutical ingredients); KSM (key starting materials) and medical devices.
India-China dispute: The border row explained in 400 words
Relations between India and China have been worsening in recent months. The two world powers are facing off against each other along their disputed border in the Himalayan region.
In 400 words, here’s some background to help you understand what’s going on.
What’s the source of tension?
The root cause is an ill-defined, 3,440km (2,100-mile)-long disputed border.Rivers, lakes and snowcaps along the frontier mean the line can shift, bringing soldiers face to face at many points, sparking a confrontation.
The two nations are also competing to build infrastructure along the border, which is also known as the Line of Actual Control. India’s construction of a new road to a high-altitude air base is seen as one of the main triggers for a clash with Chinese troops in June that left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead.