The India problem, or is it?
What is transpiring in India is not an India problem. It is a global health crisis which could easily replicate itself here in the United States if we do not recognize patterns and similarities. When Covid19 first began its ravages in Europe, many Americans baselessly debated the legitimacy of this virus and whether precautions were required. Some states clamored for lockdowns and stockpiling of requisite equipment such as PPE and ventilators. Others balked at the idea that the virus could penetrate our borders or reach the heights of destruction seen elsewhere. The propaganda of America first revealed a lack of honest communication of this virus and its urgency. Unlike people and policies, Covid19 did not suffer your origin, your wealth, or your beliefs. While those hit the hardest were people with preexisting conditions, anyone could acquire and spread this novel organism. These statements are established facts. So why is India having such a nouveau crisis?
We watch as the people of India are feeling the ravages of this previously contained infection. Strict and deliberate measures taken by a willing leader early in the pandemic kept 1.4 billion citizens safe with forced lockdowns of homes, temples and businesses. This non-negotiable policy allowed India to enjoy relatively low numbers. Bollywood stars joined remotely in creating positive messaging of resilience and resolve. In short, the entire country contained this deadly virus by acknowledging its seriousness.
So, what has changed? A political beast intent on reelection via unsafe gathering and rallies? Its people tired of imposed lockdowns? The promise of a home-manufactured Astra-Zeneca vaccine mass-produced within India itself? A missed opportunity to realize that variants seen in the U.K. would penetrate India or that new variants would multiply and survive? The answers: all the above.
The world is asked to help India in this desperate time. The world is enjoined to share its ventilators, oxygen and vaccines to bring a falling nation back to its knees. The world is asked to help this neighbor. But the question must be asked: what is this neighbor doing to help itself? The news is replete with images of bereft citizens without governmental leadership that should be mandating the closure of its temples, wedding processionals, or other dangerous gatherings. The government, in an act of desperation and dictatorship, wants to shut down social media, demanding that negative news be hidden from view. India may be available for help amidst hardship, but is it available for the hardship of helping itself? Banning outdoor mass gatherings is a simple common-sense measure that had worked last summer. To suggest anything else is tantamount to willful suicide and the wanton disregard of public safety.
I am Indian American. I do not begrudge my parents’ homeland. To the contrary, I speak the language to near native level. I have scores of loved ones living in India who have, sadly, contracted the virus. I want this country of 1.4 billion citizens to return to its previous level of containment and self-protection. I cannot, however, accept that India is currently doing everything it can to help itself. I hope and I pray that rich and savvy I.T. (Information Technology) giants and politicians can collectively lend a hand to its suffering nation.
How do we help India? By taking a page from its lapses and ensuring we do not repeat the same. By enjoining our citizens to recognize this virus is real, it is deadly, and it does not discriminate. Covid19 is extant and is not going anywhere. It is mutating and finding efficient ways of spreading and killing. The people of India need mercy, no doubt, but it must demonstrate mercy to its own. The government must deliver swift actions and enlist the talents and dollars of its rich and powerful. Just as Mr. Ambani assisted in the building of a new hospital during Covid, so must such philanthropy continue and accelerate during these turbulent times.
To our rich nation: get that jab. We have a buffet of vaccine availability here in the U.S. which is being wasted on slow-to acknowledge Americans. If you do not take that jab, and you do not believe you are part of the solution, then watch these priceless vials of liquid mercy get shipped across the world to nations in need. Vaccine nationalism should stop, and common-sense measures to move this vaccine along to other countries must prevail. Set a deadline on vaccine availability, shut down clinics with surplus of dosages and volunteers. We have spread the message of imperative and of hope, we have invested billions of dollars for adequate vaccines to cover 300,000 million Americans, now is the time to move and share the wealth. We will do our part, who will do yours?
Yours in health,
*Doctor Abha is a practicing Internist of 20 years.