India is saving the World from the pandemic. Here’s how.
India’s tremendous contribution to the world in combating the Covid-19 pandemic since last year is not only being overlooked, but also being demeaned by some. Although the negative narrative is failing, more needs to be done by countries to acknowledge and aid India, so the world can fight this pandemic better.
This month a year ago, I remember some experts and epidemiologists quoted on news articles and appearing on TV shows predicting that India was staring at a Covid-19 abyss. Before July 2020, they claimed India will have 300–500 million cases. And predicted it’s going to be a Covid carnage in India.
Many international news organizations, like the BBC and Reuters, were talking of a ‘Tsunami of Covid cases’ hitting India, with a Covid-19 catastrophe looming large. Fortunately, India escaped both the Covid carnage and the catastrophe. The Tsunami turned out to be a wave and only one has hit.
As India fought the pandemic successfully, the media narrative soon changed to questioning why the Tsunami didn’t happen and why the small wave was receding fast. The same experts and epidemiologists who were predicting 500 million cases were again on your favorite news sites and TV shows. With new narratives on the pandemic’s ‘performance’ in India.
By the end of the year, their explanations were ranging from herd immunity gained through unabated spread of the virus, to Indians having prior immunity to Covid because of BCG vaccination, endemic dengue, and even dirty living conditions.
There were even claims of India not testing properly and hiding deaths. This was when millions were being tested by ramping up production of test kits. And hiding large number of deaths is next to impossible in a federal India governed by multiple parties with hundreds of media outlets.
Now, I wouldn’t question the expert narratives and reasoning. Some of their explanations could have played some part in India’s Covid story. But the fact of the matter is, India has controlled Covid-19 instead of letting it become a catastrophe. India and Indians took the right steps in controlling the pandemic. And this doesn’t get credited enough.
From shutting borders to China and other hotspots very early, to banning the export of masks and protective equipment, to subsequent scaling up production of these items to not just satisfy India but the rest of the world, and in creating and manufacturing testing kits in the millions, India did the right things in the right time and fast. India not only helped itself but was quickly helping the world with test kits, drugs, and protective equipment.
The most important reason for India’s success in controlling Covid-19 comes from an early and strict all-India lockdown. This was done to slow the spread and get the country prepared. It was a tough decision to shut down an under performing yet 3 trillion dollar economy overnight. But the Government did it to save the millions of lives that could have perished as the experts had predicted.
Encouragement of universal mask wearing and its enforcement definitely helped in a crowded country. Indian prime minister Modi, who’s hugely popular among the masses with his speeches influencing hundreds of millions, neither did loose time in messaging nor did loose talk like some other world leaders. He took the virus very seriously from the start.
In fact, he donned a mask himself early on and requested everyone to do so at every speech. The PM and other politicians alike insisted on social distancing and hand washing, both nationally and in the states. India relayed the same message daily before every phone call any Indian made. This important message in controlling Covid reached millions of callers a day like propaganda. The public heeded.
Indians took the virus seriously. With little debate or complaints, they adhered to the strict lock downs and the social rules that came later. Even the poorest of the poor sacrificed to help the country overcome the pandemic. The Government meanwhile arranged the world’s largest direct cash transfer to help them using the much praised Aadhar without leakages. It also supplied them with free rations.
All these measures by the Indian government and compliance by Indian citizens helped India control Covid-19 at home. But more importantly, it has saved the world too. Because India, the pharmacy of the world, getting severely affected and paralyzed must have been devastating for the world’s economy and its recovery from the pandemic.
Not to mention, with such a large population, if India hadn’t controlled Covid well, the chances of a super-strain emerging to take over the world was a real and dangerous threat. This risk has by far reduced now, thanks to India’s fight against this pandemic under severe economic and geopolitical stress.
The world shouldn’t forget that after failing to disclose the virus outbreak on time and letting a pandemic happen out of it, China also sent out its army to the Indian border to take advantage of the severe distress India may fall into. But India’s successful fight against the virus foiled the expansionist power’s plans.
India not just put a super virus on retreat. It also made a superpower retreat. Something that all of South Asia, ASEAN, and the world have taken notice of. Slightly, but surely, shifting the balance of power perception in Asia and the world. This wouldn’t have been possible if India had failed its fight against Covid.
India’s fight against Covid is still on. And it is putting up a valiant fight using vaccines while helping the world again. India is manufacturing many different Covid vaccines. It is also vaccinating itself in more than 30,000 centers. India is now exporting millions of vaccine doses directly and as part of UN’s Covax program to scores of countries.
It has taken care of entire South Asia by the Vaccine Maitri program. India has donated free vaccines to Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and 45 million doses to even arch rival Pakistan under the Covax program. Pakistan was otherwise staring at paying a whopping $13 a dose to China for Sinovac. Something China would be happy to give a line of credit for, so it can debt trap Pakistan further.
India has now exported over 50 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the world’s countries. And this is not just saving lives in poor countries but even in Canada, UK, and South Korea, who are having difficulties procuring their quotas of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. If the developing world is able to vaccinate itself so early, it is only because of India.
As India helps countries vaccinate their populations early, it is vaccinating itself at a record pace of over 3 million doses a day! India is also making its own vaccines like Covaxin which is now emergency authorized and has shown 81% efficacy in phase-III trials interim results. All this helps India’s ability to help the world get vaccinated fast.
And this is again saving the world from the pandemic. Because the faster the world vaccinates itself against Covid-19, the lesser the chances of a new dangerous strain emerging to threaten us in the future. And faster will this pandemic go away, again saving millions of lives.
But even as a tremendous success story unfolds from a poor south Asian country, vested interests like to paint a dismal picture of India as usual. Take this article, for instance, from Ms. Rupa Subramanya writing in Nikkei Asia. She says “India cannot vaccinate itself, let alone the rest of the world”.
Agreed, they published the opinion piece in December 2020. A month before India set out to export its vaccines and start vaccinating itself. But any journalist with some sense and simple search skills won’t write such a ridiculously titled propaganda piece.
With a bit of journalistic research, they will find that India produces 1 in 3 of world’s most essential vaccines. And supplies 60% of all the world’s vaccines. It also runs the largest vaccination program in the world inoculating millions of women and children every year.
How could a country that produces most of the world’s vaccines and inoculates millions every year in such a diverse, large nation not be able to vaccinate itself against Covid-19? Especially, when India’s world renowned vaccine manufacturers taking bold and smart bets, were already producing Covid vaccines in their millions by December 2020?
Well, it was just an opinion piece. She can say what she wants out of political and ideological hate against a government. But there are hit job articles published too, sponsored or incentivized by an adversarial Govt., agency, or pharma planting such negative stories against India for geopolitical or commercial gains.
Just like how the media narrative changed from “India is going to mess up and face a Covid catastrophe” to “How India’s Covid numbers are wrong” to “India is dirty so it saved itself from Covid”, the narrative has now changed to poking holes with India’s vaccination and vaccine exports.
The international media influenced by nation states, special interests, and bias, demean India’s efforts in fighting the pandemic. This is really frustrating when India is doing so much for the world. When the very countries where these media and journalists operate from, hoard their vaccines and medical supplies. And price it so high when they do sell, that most of the developing world cannot afford.
There have been a series of articles published on the international media painting a dismal picture of India’s vaccination program against Covid and its Vaccine Maitri program in supplying the world. They have raised serious doubts on India made vaccines, tried to say India’s vaccination is very slow, and even that India may be running out of vaccines.
To create a narrative as if India is exporting vaccines leaving its own people short. Then they ask questions on “why India is exporting vaccines?”. And make up an agenda for it. As if the world’s largest vaccine maker and exporter needs one! They themselves set the narrative, then ask the questions, and create propaganda out of it.
Whether it is an adversary sponsored hit job to show India’s Covid and vaccine success in a bad light for geopolitical purposes, or it is pure hate politics and ideology driving such absurd articles like Rupa’s, the fact of the matter remains that India is far ahead in vaccinations and helping the world vaccinate itself. Period.
The amazing success of India and its contribution against Covid-19 isn’t going unnoticed by some renowned politicians, scientists and economists of the world though. There has been appreciation coming in the recent weeks from far and wide.
From the UN chief Antonio Guterres to renowned scientist Dr. Peter Hotez to IMF’s chief economist Dr. Gita Gopinath have lauded India’s contribution and help with vaccines in recent days. Politicians like Canada’s Justin Trudeau, Swedish PM Lofven, and scores of world leaders have appreciated India’s help to supply vaccines for their countries.
No matter what poor painting of India a news media organization does, or politically motivated story a journalist cooks up on the country, India’s contribution to the fight against Covid cannot be afforded to be overlooked by the world. Because in India’s success rests the success of the world and humanity.
“India’s huge efforts in combating global pandemic is a story that’s not really getting out in the world.” — Dr. Peter Hotez, highly regarded American scientist in Covid-19 advisory and vaccine development.
There’s now ‘The Quad’ comprising India, US, Japan, and Australia agreeing to help India with funds to produce more vaccines. Which is good news. Such news from the Quad sends a strong message to many. It also helps the world heal faster.
The Quad’s statement is also important when envious nation states seem like they want to halt India’s production with cyber attacks, or impede exports through sinister means. Including using fake news and fake vaccines, making Rupa’s pessimistic predictions come true.
Only from acknowledgement comes appreciation, and from appreciation comes supportive action like the one pledged by Quad partners. It is high time the world acknowledges this extraordinary contribution to humanity in times of a huge crisis by a developing nation called India.
So that more can be done to help India help the world end the pandemic besieging all of us. India saved the world from a pandemic before. It is doing it again.