As I start populating this page with text, the second wave of Covid-19 has broken across India. If the first wave had been terrifying, I lack words to describe the second one. Not only are some of the new Covid variants more transmissible – some also do not seem to show up in diagnostic tests – India has let its guard down.
Between the centre’s self-congratulatory messaging about having vanquished Covid-19; people’s own fatigue with the precautions (and complacence); a bunch of super-spreader events like a fucking cricket match in Ahmedabad (at a large stadium named after Narendra Modi); election campaigning sans safeguards in a clutch of states; the homicidal decision to hold the kumbh-mela a year earlier (!); lethargic vaccination; and zero efforts to prepare for a second wave even though the rest of the world had seen them, India is now staring at the fires of hell.
Nearly everyone in the country knows someone who has been affected. Testing labs are overwhelmed. Crematoriums are overloaded. The bodies they burn dwarf government claims re Covid deaths. Some states have also stopped testing – keeps numbers down, you see. Given low state capacities re public healthcare, hospital beds are hard to find. Given low preparation for the second wave, so is oxygen. The spectre of mass death, as India saw during the Bengal famine, is very much a reality again in this country.
And so, this page. If the last week has been anything to go by, I fear we are about to see a breakdown. As an already weak public health system tries to cope with the pandemic, India will see rising mortality from other causes. As the economy slows again, we will see people slipping into poverty. Villages, for instance, will see rising debt, rising distress sales of land and other assets, kids being pulled out of schools, more straitened diets, rising inequality in villages as the more affluent accumulate assets, heightened gender and caste asymmetries, a fall in food production, drop in remittances/wages, higher morbidity due to Covid, other causes and low access to healthcare, and god knows what else.
And so, like I said, this page. If the toll mounts – at this time, I see no reason why it won’t – there is a real chance we will get shocked into shifting baselines, and normalise what would have been previously a horror. And so, this diary, to keep us from forgetting some of the specifics that seem so horrifying today.
Caveat: This is a strictly superficial list. Most of India has always been media-dark. Covid has further reduced the number of reporters traveling out into the hinterland — where I fear Covid will soon (if not already) be raging.
Note: All numbers are estimates given poor testing/medical outreach into hinterland. Assume the real number is atleast tenfold greater. With that clarification, cases had been slowly climbing — from a low on 8,947 on 8 February, 2021; to 11,563 on 1 March; 24,437 on 15 March; and 81,441 on 1 April. Here is what has unfolded since.
8 May: 409,300
Spread: Tral, Pulwama; border areas of Jammu; rural Gujarat.
Super-Spreader events: Why was the Kumbh held this year? From the Caravan:
“Kumbh was allowed to happen because the Uttar Pradesh polls are in the next eight months,” he said. “It made no sense to annoy a friendly ally just a year before elections.” The senior leader was referring to the akharas, which are militant ascetic orders and wield immense influence in Hindu communities in the Hindi heartland. He explained that deferring the Kumbh would be a heavy loss—of support and earnings—for the mahants who lead the akharas, with a mass following in Uttar Pradesh. The overall turnover of the Kumbh was expected to be in thousands of crores, he said.
Treatment. A 40-bed hospital comes up in Banaskantha, Gujarat, to treat Covid patients “with ‘Panchgavya’ therapy where they’ll be given medicines made of cow’s milk, ghee, gaumutra (urine) & gobar (dung).”
Vaccination: The big story today? Rising awareness about the anti-poor nature of India’s vaccine rollout. This report from Telangana focuses on the digital inequity coded into the State’s insistence on applying through smartphone apps. Ditto Mumbai, where urban folks are similarly thronging rural PHCs. In Gujarat, private companies like Boston Consulting Group are amongst the top vaccinators. Ditto, Mumbai. At the same time: reports of people getting “SMS messages confirming successful vaccination, but without actually getting vaccinated!”
State responses: Oxygen shortages are back in Delhi — the Centre’s deliveries have fallen. Even as cases rise in Assam, the BJP is yet to choose a CM candidate. Siddique Kappan secretly taken back to Mathura from AIIMS.
Deaths: In Hamirpur, UP, villagers start leaving bodies of their dead in the local river. From Araria, Bihar, four days after her father died of Covid, a young woman buries her mother as well.
Black marketing: BJP leader’s aide accused of selling of hospital beds in Madhya Pradesh; In Jamnagar, Gujarat, Remidesivir injections are claimed in the name of dead patients and sold in the black market. In Delhi, a Khan Market restaurant owner is charged with black-marketing of concentrators.
The day’s mustread. The Lancet:
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that India will see a staggering 1 million deaths from COVID-19 by Aug 1. If that outcome were to happen, Modi’s Government would be responsible for presiding over a self-inflicted national catastrophe. India squandered its early successes in controlling COVID-19. Until April, the government’s COVID-19 taskforce had not met in months. The consequences of that decision are clear before us, and India must now restructure its response while the crisis rages. The success of that effort will depend on the government owning up to its mistakes, providing responsible leadership and transparency, and implementing a public health response that has science at its heart.
7 May: 401,326
Spread: Almost a whole village has tested positive in Pauri, Uttarakhand; To add to the litany of places reeling under Covid, here is Lakhimpur, Uttar Pradesh. It’s struggling too.
Treatment: In Arunachal, protests by medical staff after two doctors were attacked by a patient’s kin on 5 May. The point about low state capacities in healthcare delivery – even before Covid — has been made repeatedly. This video from the Chief Medical Health Officer of Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, illustrates that rot with forensic accuracy.
Madhya Pradesh, I feel compelled to mention, has been selling seats in medical colleges for long. Here is a report on its Vyapam scam. I wrote this in 2015. In a state which has such little concern for medical training, no wonder such people become CMHOs.
Medical facilities: After a wigging by the SC and the HC, the centre’s oxygen deliveries to Delhi improve. No shortages reported by hospitals last night. Elsewhere in the country, shortages persist. In Srinagar, possibly mirroring what we have seen in Uttar Pradesh which wanted to focus on supplying oxygen to hospitals, the administration has banned the supply of oxygen cylinders to NGOs. In Amethi, Uttar Pradesh, hospitals are parlous. In Aligarh, oxygen is in shortage. In the state, a family unpacks the body of their dead patriarch to make sure his kidneys and eyes have not been stolen by the medical staff.
Vaccination: Given the difficulty of registering through the Co-Win app – unsurprising given that a, there are not enough vaccines; b, a smartphone app is the stupidest possible way to roll out a mass vaccination programme in a predominantly poor country – a bunch of coders are running scripts to find slots. This further accentuates inequality.
BIGGEST news of the day: BMGF says it will support waiver of IP rights on vaccines.
State responses: Delhi says people living in the state will get preference. The government, apart from dragging feet on placing orders for vaccines, has also gone slow on paying for ventilators. The brainiacs at Uttar Pradesh now want IAS officials to determine when Toclizumab should be administered. Ignoring the SC’s strictures about not curbing protests about Covid disarray, the state also slaps an FIR on a lucknow hospital for talking about oxygen shortage. The hospital says it will move the Allahabad High Court.
Other news. In Karnataka, Tejaswai Surya backtracks. Then denies he backtracked. In Delhi, the High Court orders seized oxygen concentrators be given, not to hospitals, but to the court for use by its officers. TN, Stalin takes charge as CM, announces the state will bear the cost of Covid treatment in private hospitals plus give income support of Rs 4,000 to families in the state. In similar vein, Kerala prepares for a lockdown with “6 services” including “1.home delivery 2. telemedicine and selected health services 3.callcentres and counselling 4.universal palliative care 5. free food or food kits to interstate migrants and 6 .subsidised or free food to needy.” All the while, the centre’s disinformation architecture, eager to deflect attention from both the bengal defeat and deepening losses to Covid, is busy fomenting hate. Lots of chatter on social media about “cauliflower farming”. Tejaswi Surya is not hate-mongering in isolation.
Deaths: Another gut-punch of a report by Yogita Limaye. This time, from Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
“It now appears that a few of the war rooms set up by the BBMP are being controlled by a select few politicians, in order to ensure beds are blocked for patients, who may or may not require it. MLA Satish Reddy is one such politico who has reportedly been using his influence to get beds blocked by the Bommanahalli Zone War Room. Last week, a man who had no business in the BBMP War Room was seen roaming around, instructing staff to allot beds to asymptomatic people. The man, said to be a close aide of Satish Reddy was shunted out of the War Room on Thursday when BBMP officials paid a surprise visit to the war room. Speaking to Mirror Now, a senior BBMP official said that he was not authorised to be in the war room. Subsequently, the officers were informed to install BBMP cameras and not allow any unauthorised people into the war room. The next day, a mob stormed into the command centre in HSR Layout, screaming slogans and protesting against the BBMP officials for ousting the man. In the presence of the MLA and local police, the men created chaos and manhandled the BBMP officials. No action has been initiated against any of the men who disrupted the operations of the war room.”
6 May: 414,433
Spread: Positivity rates are rising in Dehradun, Uttarakhand. In Goa, they hover around 45% now, down from 50%.
Super-Spreader events: The SC dismisses the EC plea against media reporting on court observations. Of the 238 policemen sent from Mizoram to Bengal for poll duty, no less than 170 have turned Covid positive.
Treatment. Oxygen: Five dead in Roorkee, Uttarakhand, due to Oxygen shortages. Eight more die in Karnataka.
Medical facilities: Poor in Pondicherry; worse in Saharanpur and Ambedkar Nagar, Uttar Pradesh; In Delhi, reports about hospital beds being hijacked by VIPs and senior bureaucrats; Bad in Ratlam, MP, as well.
Vaccination: Mizoram, Goa and Kerala are stretching their vaccines by minimising waste. Nationally, however, India’s vaccine drive has slowed further.
BIGGEST news of the day? The US and EU support waiver of IP protections on Covid vaccines. (I badly need to understand the vaccine industry)
Complications: Doctors finding complications like fungal infections in lungs due to excessive use of steroids and antivirals.
Foreign aid: Keeps coming in.
State responses: Nandurbar, Maharashtra, is a rare instance of a (poor, backward) district that anticipated the second wave and prepared for it. Telangana rolls out doorstep “fever surveys”.
Data fudging: Today, a report from Rajasthan – “The figures from the cremation grounds are consistently twice and sometimes 4-to-6 times more than the official figures for Covid deaths.”
Politics: A day after Tejaswi Surya’s attempt to score points by trying to blame muslim volunteers for the shortage of beds — the reason, of course, is something else: blackmarketing by a bjp leader – the number of volunteers drops. Several of them report harassment. In Gujarat, another politician out to inaugurate another Covid hospital
Research: I have no words. “India’s Science Ministry funds trial on effect of religious hymn Gayatri Mantra in treating COVID-19”
Outcomes. Anger: A politicking attempt by the BJP Mayor of Surat faces flak from locals. Anger in Uttar Pradesh as well.
Panic: In Guna, villagers credit water in a dry river bed with medicinal qualities.
Deaths: So much heartbreak. In Rajasthan, a girl jumps onto her father’s pyre.
Economic impacts: As expected, the first reports are coming in about people selling land and other assets to get themselves treated – this one, from Uttar Pradesh. Another tale of a worker pledging his wife’s gold to buy food. Cases of child labour and trafficking are rising as well. A study finds rising informalisation, and concludes as many as 230 million people have slipped below the poverty line. A case study from Marathwada. Who gains? See below.
Black marketing: More grime on the bed allocation scam of Karnataka. The business model, as usual, is dull in its imagination but lethal. “”BJP MLA Satish Reddy had planted his people & agents in the Covid war room & as soon as ICU & ventilator Beds would get empty in private hospitals, he would get to know it through them & book those beds in someone else’s name. And later he would give it to whoever he likes. When BBMP officials raised an issue, he fought with them. By doing so in bommanhalli, he reserved 80% covid beds for people he wanted to give it to. Tejasvi Surya has not been available to comment on this yet.” See this brave video too. (overcharging in Patna, Bihar, as well). Also, fake oxygen cylinders, old fire extinguishers painted black. And below, from Delhi (with credit to Hindustan Times).
How did we get here? As Samanth Subramanian shows in this report, the mess is a complex one, weaving around the global vaccine industry as well as hubris in the old motherland. “On April 30—a precise year since the Oxford-AstraZeneca deal was announced—Adrian Hill’s company Vaccitech, which owns the patent for the vaccine, goes public on the Nasdaq, valued at roughly $464 million. The firm’s single largest shareholder, a company started by Oxford to capitalize on innovations born at the university, is itself part-owned by asset management firms, sovereign wealth funds, and Chinese conglomerates.”
Anish Kapur has another answer. Why do we accept such loss of life so easily? “Take Black Lives Matter…. It’s possible to name George Floyd and say here is a man who represents our pain. Which Indian? What name? Ram Das? Ram Gupta? This person or that? Who cares! Hundreds of millions and they just go, nameless, voiceless, faceless, endless, endless, and it is Indians who do this to other Indians.”
5 May: 412,618
Spread: Villages in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, per Gaon Connection; Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh; Bhagalpur, Bihar; Malwa, Madhya Pradesh; Siliguri, West Bengal; Ghaziabad, UP.
Super-spreader events: Like this one in Sanand, Gujarat.
Oxygen shortages: A thread from a queue for refilling cylinders. In other news, the government’s ban on industrial use of oxygen has also gone and banned its use for oxygen-cylinder manufacturing. The ban is yet to be lifted. Workers, jobless given the lockdown, make money standing in these queues. 13 die from lack of oxygen in Chennai’s Chengalpattu hospital.
Understaffing: Buxar, Bihar. And overworked even in Kerala.
Data fudging: Testing continues to fall.
Vaccination: That is falling too. Plus, exclusion for those without smartphones.
Deaths: Continuing to be under-reported. Here, some instances from Gujarat. Haryana.
Politics: India’s not a stranger to mass deaths. But this is the first time the State is responsible for the carnage — partition was blamed on the British, on the muslims; the Bengal famine, on colonial rule — but whom do we blame for this unfolding carnage? Going by the BJP’s actions, apart from stressing “positive communication” to show the government in a good light, the people are to be blamed. That, and as Tejaswi Surya showed today, greater hate-mongering towards Muslims. DRDO’s hospitals are coming up in VIP constituencies. Inaugerations continue as well. Adityanath also announces cow hospitals with thermal screeners and oximeters for them. In the meantime, people die from shortages in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh.
Patient-Doctor conflict: Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh; Gurgaon, Haryana
Quacks: Shivpuri, Madhya Pradesh;
Hospital bed allocation scams: Bangalore, Karnataka; In MP, a government doctor runs his private clinic
Foreign aid: Going to private hospitals and central government hospitals.
4 May: 382,691
Deaths continue. There is a dip in the number of new cases but tests are falling too. No one knows what the real extent of the spread is.
Press reports aver that Covid-19 has reached the hinterland: Here is Arrah, Bihar; Gujarat’s villages; Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh; Ranthambore, Rajasthan; Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh (See that video. How is it any less horrific than what we saw during the red famine or the Bengal famine?).
Gujarat: That fancy new hospital inaugerated by Amit Shah doesn’t have enough staff. It stops admitting fresh patients.
Everywhere, the health system in unequal to the task. In Bihar, reports of overworked (and under-protected) healthworkers dying. In MP, teachers are roped into supervise crematoriums. Gazipur, Uttar Pradesh. Also see this CNN video from Uttar Pradesh. And this image of a woman taking her dead husband home in an e-rickshaw.
Oxygen shortages are very much around. Take Karnataka, on this day alone, 24 die in Chamarajanagar, another 7 die in Kalaburagi and Belagavi government hospitals and two die in Bangalore. Delhi continues to get less oxygen than it needs. Ditto, Roorkee, Uttarakhand, where 5 die. Ditto Hindupur, Andhra Pradesh, where eight die.
Chennai is bracing for its outbreak. It has been told it is, thanks to the polls, ten days behind Delhi.
Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh: A new, even more virulent, even more transmissible variant.
Amreli, Gujarat: Firewood shortage for crematoriums.
Undercounting of cases by state governments continues as ever: Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh; Uttar Pradesh walls off its crematoriums.
Every thing is still on social media. And now, an ad taken out on twitter by a family seeking a ventilator bed.
A livelihood crisis builds as well. Also see this. And this.
Madhya Pradesh: Seeking a cure amidst shortages, doctors start trying out fresh chemicals .
Blowbacks have begun: Both High Courts and the Supreme Court are posing hard questions to the government. The responses of its lawyers are angering. In the case of Jaipur Golden (see above), it says co-morbidities (not oxygen shortage) claimed the 21 who died.
A clutch of voters are getting angry about their leaders as well. In Bhopal, people are asking where Pragya Thakur is.
In all this, the government stays intransigient. Not only does work on the Central Vista project continue, we are told 22 Dec is the new deadline for completion of a new residence for the Prime Minister. We also learn that aid flying into India from other countries is still squatting at the Delhi airport. “teething troubles” are the reason why medicines, oxygen cylinders, concentrators and more are yet to reach hospitals. The government has also delayed orders for fresh vaccines. And Adar Poonawala is now talking of expanding production in the UK.
On the brighter side, the fucking IPL is finally called off. A bunch of cricketers and support staff have tested positive.
(I did not update this page the next two days. But the drift continued as ever. Among the major events, on 3 May, 24 died in a Karnataka hospital, eight died in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, 2 died in Bangalore, and 4 died in Jammu, all due to oxygen shortage.)
1 May: 392,562
Three grim events — two national and one personal. Yesterday, India posted over 400,000 new cases of Covid (with all the usual caveats about extraordinary undercounting). Around the same time, the total number of deaths crossed the 200,000 mark. And earlier today, I got the news that Covid has claimed my dear friend — and ace artist at the Economic Times — Anirban Bora. That link will take you to a thread on why he was special.
Delhi: Oxygen shortages continue. Eight die at Delhi’s Batra hospital. Count later rises to 12. Combative hearings at the Delhi High Court.
Delhi: A doctor at Max, Delhi, kills himself.
NDA: Blames local and global media; Complains to SC, saying criticism is “hugely demoralising“.
Dehradun, Uttarakhand: ABVP members enter Covid ward, take photos with patients.
Ghaziabad, UP: Over 1,000 Covid positive patients go missing.
Bharuch, Gujarat: 18 die after hospital catches fire.
Meerut, UP: Vaccination opens for 18-45. Long queues, few vaccines. Five die in local hospital due to interrupted oxygen supply.
India: Private hospital chains announce vaccination for all. They have stocks while state governments don’t.
Bangalore, Karnataka: Covid rising undetected in slums in the city.
Udaipur, Rajasthan: Over-crowded hospitals put beds in corridors. Patients wait outside on pavements. Ditto, places like Jaunpur (UP).
Vidisha, MP: Kumbh returnees go missing; 60 of the remaining 61 turn Covid positive.
Anantapur/Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh: 16 die in these two towns due to oxygen shortage.
30 April: 402,110
Mumbai, Maharashtra: Sudha Bhardwaj has all the symptoms of Covid. Still in jail. In the state, tribals struggle to access vaccination.
Andhra Pradesh: A detailed ground report on how Covid is spreading – and impacting the everyday structures of life – in the southern state.
Gujarat: Severe undercounting by the state government continues. See this set of tweets on the state; Bhavnagar; Porbander.
India: Severe undercounting challenged by cremation numbers is a pan-India pattern. See this article.
India: The list of familiar faces falling to Covid continues to rise. Soli Sorabjee passes away. So does one TV reporter, the chief secy of Bihar, a retired IFS officer. This is one wave the elite aren’t able to escape. Take Bangalore.
India: vaccination for 18-45 year olds is supp to start from tomo. It won’t. No vaccine supplies.
Uttar Pradesh: The state government decides to funnel oxygen only to hospitals – leaving patients being treated at home without oxygen. Given its claim that hospital beds are plenty, one could argue this is being handled well – as all serious cases will go to a hospital anyway. The truth, however, is that the state doesn’t have enough hospital beds (nor enough oxygen for these). And now, thanks to this new policy of defining deliverables in a manner that matches supply, a mass of patients are left to die. See this thread of videos. An update from Azamgarh. Also, rising teacher deaths thanks to panchayat elections.
Economic distress is building. Rising defaults against gold loans in the south.
Delhi: A pet crematorium gets repurposed for humans; ashes from cremations blow into houses.
Testing kit shortage: Gujarat won’t test cases with mild symptoms any longer. Also see, from yesterday.
Kerala: In all this, the state is one beacon of modernity. It begins centralised monitoring of oxygen supplies. (The first state to start this).
Bihar: Rising cases in the hinterland.
Blackmarketing: FIR against a BJP MLA in Maharashtra; blackmarketing and fake medicines in Delhi.
Gurgaon, Haryana: 7 die due to oxygen shortage in hospital.
Mumbai, Maharashtra: 12 die in two weeks due to low oxygen supply in Jogeshwari hospital.
29 April: 386,888
Another day of trying to parse where we have reached. To start with, this Guardian long read by Arundhati Roy. “In the India that is, people are expected to vote as Hindus, but die as disposables.”
Dindori, Madhya Pradesh: Vaccine hesitancy amongst tribals.
Nagpur, Maharashtra: The RSS tries misinformation. One of its members voluntarily gave up a hospital bed to help another patient, it says. Not true, says hospital.
Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh: Another (all too rare) field report from the hinterland. Cases rising steeply. In the case of Jaunpur, they are doubling every four days. Ditto near Meerut (And so too in Bhuj, Gujarat, and eastern UP)
Delhi: As reports of oxygen shortages keep coming, India’s health minister claims no shortage of oxygen. Others – crematorium workers, nurses – plug along.
Ahmedabad, Gujarat: The hospital inaugerated by Amit Shah is yet to open fully. People, desperate for their loved ones, try to force their way in.
BJP: The Amarnath Yatra will go on as planned this year. Char Dham Yatra won’t.
Uttar Pradesh: No less than 577 teachers deputed for panchayat elections have died from Covid. A video flagging dismal conditions in a Covid hospital at Baghpat surfaces. A dead body lies untended. A patient lies on the ground.
West Bengal: Today is the last day of polling. In the state, cases are rising fast.
Karnataka: 280 acres allocated outside Bangalore for fresh crematoriums. I cannot help wondering about the rising demand for wood.
Deesa, Gujarat: 5 die due to lack of oxygen in civil hospital.
28 April: 386,888
Agra, Uttar Pradesh: Oxygen cylinder taken away from patient for a VIP.
Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh: Close to 70 dead due to Oxygen shortage.
Surat, Gujarat: A hospital rolls out an intelligent triage system. Unlike Mumbai, which has a similar system for triage running for the whole city, the Surat initiative is an individual one, created by the hospital, not the State.
Maharashtra: Sanctions funds to Haffkine Institute to manufacture Covaxin.
Delhi: images of bodies lining up at crematoriums are doing the rounds.
Bihar: Anecdotal reports about Covid cases in the state’s rural hinterland. Ditto, Haryana. Ditto, Bareilly. Ditto other parts of UP.
In the middle of all this distress, the Uttar Pradesh government continues to crack down on folks asking for help.
Rajpipla, Gujarat: 12 dead from Covid. State stats say none did.
27 April: 379,459
Uttarakhand: Surreal. Despite everything, the last ‘Shahi Snan’ of Kumbh, 2021, is held today.
Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh: A sorely needed dispatch from the hinterland. Jyoti Yadav reports from a village near Varanasi: “In Tilamapur, one of the 760 villages of Varanasi, most households have at least one family member suffering from fever or cough, according to villagers. The adjoining Ashapur village, too, witnessed “over a dozen deaths” in the last 15 days due to “fever and cough”. Another report, published today in Scroll, from Uttar Pradesh has similar conclusions: “Situated on the outskirts of Varanasi town, Ramna was of late seeing four-five deaths each day, of people showing Covid-like symptoms…”.
Ahmedabad, Gujarat: More on state failure. This time, an update on the parlous functioning of the state ambulance service. And here is another report, government hospitals in Porbander are turning patients away.
Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh: Anger at media.
Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. Deaths to due oxygen shortage. The state’s CM, however, alludes to false oxygen shortage claims by hospitals.
Delhi: Anger at hospital. Rising morbidity as other ailments go untreated. Number of tests falls further. Mass cremations. In the meantime, the Delhi High Court requisitions 100 rooms in the Ashoka hotel for the use of judges, other judicial officers and their families. On the same day, educative hearings in the Supreme Court where, when asked about low oxygen supply, SG Tushar Mehta, who is representing the centre, says: “It’s not my job”. And work on the Central Vista continues unaffected. In the capital too, a hospital which talks about oxygen shortage is told by the local administration to arrange oxygen on its own or face consequences.
Madhubani, Bihar: Oxygen shortages + death.
Beed, Maharashtra: A harbinger of the future? Mass transport of bodies in ambulance.
Bangalore, Karnataka: Undercounting of fatalities? This is a charge that can be levelled against most of India. Per @DrEricDing: “13.5 million new India #COVID19 cases per day? New model by @IHME_UW says so despite only 233k official confirmed daily cases—implies a 58x underdiagnosis in India. @IHME_UW models also project deaths will continue to rise until mid May—and likely 1 mil deaths by August.”
Warangal, Telangana: Another day, another large BJP rally.
HIsar, Haryana: 5 die due to oxygen shortage in hospitals.
26 April: 319,435
Sasaram, Bihar: As lockdowns start, livelihoods are suffering.
Funeral pyres: Expanding into parks in Delhi; burning more brightly in the indo-gangetic plains;
Oxygen: Shortage in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh; in Vadodara, Gujarat; in Delhi, where deputy CM follows in the footsteps of Piyush Goyal and says Delhi hospitals shouldn’t “unnecessarily raise alarm for oxygen”;
West Bengal: BJP Rallies continue.
News from outside the big metros is hard to come by. A message from a friend in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, flags high overcharging by hospitals for beds and ventilators, astoundingly high test positivity ratios, long waiting lists at crematoriums, and cases rising in villages. And here is a report from Agra where an oxygen shortage forced ten hospitals to discharge 1,000 patients. And also this heartbreaking image.
Gurgaon, Harayana: Two die in hospitals due to oxygen shortage.
25 April: 354,531 (*)
Kolkata, West Bengal: Every second person tested for Covid in Kolkata is proving positive!!!
Uttar Pradesh: Even as Oxygen shortages continue in the state, ‘Yogi’ Adityanath claims otherwise.
BJP: Adityanath’s claim is a part of a larger pushback by the party. The RSS tells people to be wary of folks spreading ‘negativity’. Reports emerge of the Centre getting Twitter to take down tweets critical of the government.
BJP: Big questions emerge re whether the government is unduly favouring Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech.
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh: Three senior doctors die due to Covid.
Kerala: Citizen’s donations for Covid relief come as a ray of hope.
Amritsar, Punjab: Six die due to oxygen shortage in hospital.
24 April: 349,313
Delhi: More reports of Oxygen running low at hospitals. 20 dead in Jaipur Golden hospital due to oxygen shortage. Max starts turning patients away. AIIMS emergency closed due to low Oxygen.
Panipat: Oxygen-related deaths in a hospital. Ditto, Gwalior.
Uttar Pradesh: More turn Covid-positive after Kumbh.
Jaipur, Rajasthan: Black marketing of surgical and N95 masks.
As expected, very few reports from rural areas. Here is Maharashtra.
Amritsar, Punjab: 5 die in hospital due to Oxygen shortage.
Supreme Court: Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta tells SC “So far we have ensured that nobody in the country was left without oxygen”.
Delhi: Twitter censorship by state begins.
23 April: 345,147
Jabalpur: 5 dead due to Oxygen Shortage. Second such incident in eight days, says media.
Indore: Overload. Hospital sets up board saying ‘no admission’.
Delhi: 25 patients have died due to oxygen shortage in Delhi’s leading Ganga Ram Hospital.
Delhi, Rajkot: Other hospitals report acute shortages as well. Two die in Rajkot.
Travel advisories by US, Canada, UK.
Gujarat: Home minister Amit Shah to inaugerate a Covid hospital in Ahmedabad – instead of just flinging it open given patients are sitting outside hospitals, dying as family members beg hospitals to admit them. It does get inaugerated the next day. But desperate patients reach only to be told it is yet to start accepting patients.
Gujarat: Oxygen shortages and Covid cases in tier 2 cities and rural districts.
Maharashtra: Bombay and Pune cases falling.
Prayagraj, Uttar Pradesh: Contractors/Middlemen charge Rs 22,000 for cremations.
Supreme Court: 23rd is a Friday. SC, after criticism of its attempt to move Covid cases out of HCs, lists its Covid hearing for the coming Monday.
Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh: 476 funerals in one day in the city.
Virar, Maharashtra: 14 Covid-19 patients die in a hospital fire.
Meerut, Uttar Pradesh: 3 dead due to oxygen shortage.
(WHAT FOLLOWS BELOW WAS COLLATED ON THE 23RD. AND SO, IT’S EVEN SKETCHIER THAN THE STUFF ABOVE. BUT SEE ANYWAY, THIS IS THE FORTNIGHT IN WHICH CASES ROSE FROM 1.4 LAKH TO 3.32 LAKH)
22 April: 332,503
Delhi: Oxygen shortage continues. See this too. And this shattering BBC video.
Kanpur: 476 cremations in the district; state data says 3 Covid deaths.
Delhi: mass cremations have started. Crematoriums start expanding, one onto its parking lot.
Bangalore: Crematoriums overloaded. State gives permission for cremations on private land.
Testing: More talk of governments cracking down on Covid tests.
21 April: 315,802
Haryana: Oxygen Wars. Haryana refuses to dispatch oxygen to Delhi.
Damoh, Madhya Pradesh: Oxygen Wars. Panicking relatives of patients at local government hospital look oxygen cylinders from a shipment that just arrived.
Nashik, Maharashtra: Oxygen leak at hospital kills 24 Covid-19 patients.
Acute Oxygen shortage reported by Delhi hospitals. Some go to HC, which cracks down.
Bidar, Karnataka. Rural patients lie on pavement outside government hospital hoping for treatment.
Delhi: Clientelism in a pandemic. BJP MP Gautam Gambhir hoards FabiFlu stocks.
WB: 10,784 cases in a day.
Centre tells states to procure vaccines on its own. Sheer abdication, many say.
20 April: 294,290
Gwalior: Overloaded bus ferrying migrant workers trying to get home, thanks to the latest Covid lockdown, has an accident. Three dead.
Delhi: SC overrules Allahabad HC order telling state government to lockdown five cities.
Gujarat: Yet to sequence which variant is spreading in state.
19 April: 256,947
Delhi (and elsewhere): Redux. Migrant workers start heading back.
UK discourages travel to/from India.
BJP: Health minister Harsh Vardhan writes, who had claimed war against Covid had been won + blasted government officials for not prioritising “cow science” covid or no covid + exulted at crowds at Modi’s election rally in Bengal writes boorish letter to Manmohan Singh saying the Centre is fighting Covid super and it needs no help from anyone.
Pune: Grassroots healthworkers raise money for the state to hire more doctors.
BJP: Keep oxygen demand low, Piyush Goyal tells doctors to not give oxygen needlessly.
18 April: 275,306
Indore: As Oxygen shortage builds, BJP politicians keep a truck waiting for two hours so that they can get their photo opp.
Congress: Manmohan Singh writes to Narendra Modi asking for revamp of vaccine policy.
17 April: 260,778
BJP: Hardeep Puri: Those criticising government handling of Covid are “on the side of the virus”
15 April: 216,850
India: Vaccinations fall during three day “Tika Utsav”
14 April: 199,569
Nagpur, Maharashtra: 5 die due to oxygen shortage in Kandri Covid Care Centre.
13 April: 185,248
Maharashtra: Janata Curfew in state.
12 April: 160,694
Gujarat: BJP leader stockpiles Remidesivir tablets.
9 April: 144,829
Delhi: Migrants, fearing lockdown, start heading home.
(This post will be updated every day. Please feel free to alert me to events I have missed. The idea is to focus on ground-level developments and large policy decisions re Covid)