Indian author Arundhati Roy has criticised Narendra Modi’s government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis, slamming him for his early triumph over coronavirus and describing it as “outright crime against humanity.”
“The system hasn’t collapsed. The government has failed. Perhaps ‘failed’ is an inaccurate word, because what we are witnessing is not criminal negligence, but an outright crime against humanity,” Ms Roy wrote in The Guardian.
Describing the current government as a “crisis-generating machine,” Ms Roy said it is “incapable of leading us out of this disaster”.
She said “Modi the magician” took a bow for saving humanity by containing the virus during the first wave while “boasting and gloating” about the virus doing less damage than predicted by experts.
“Now that it turns out that he has not contained it, can we complain about being viewed as though we are radioactive? That other countries’ borders are being closed to us and flights are being cancelled?
“That we’re being sealed in with our virus and our prime minister, along with all the sickness, the anti-science, the hatred and the idiocy that he, his party and its brand of politics represent?”
India is witnessing an enormous spike in the second wave of the pandemic after the rise of cases dropped last year dropped. India’s Covid-19 death toll surpassed 200,000 on Wednesday as the World Health Organisation said variants are behind the spike.
India saw the highest ever number of cases on Wednesday with 379,257 fresh infections and 3,645 deaths. There have been a total of 17.9 million cases.
The healthcare system is in a dire state with a lack of beds, hospitals turning away patients, shortages, and the black market selling medicines and oxygen. Parks and public spaces are being turned into crematoriums to contain ever-increasing deaths which are said to be higher than the official death toll.
Ms Roy describes oxygen as the new currency on “India’s morbid new stock exchange”.
“Senior politicians, journalists, lawyers – India’s elite – are on Twitter pleading for hospital beds and oxygen cylinders. The hidden market for cylinders is booming. Oxygen saturation machines and drugs are hard to come by,” she said.
“It’s as if there’s an invisible UFO parked in our skies, sucking the air out of our lungs. An air raid of a kind we’ve never known,” Ms Roy said on the shortage of oxygen and people dying of hypoxia.
Hitting out at Mr Modi’s politics of “polarisation” and attempts to stifle criticism, Ms Roy said the top minister of Uttar Pradesh, Ajay Mohan Bisht, has sent the message to the people to “die without complaining.”
The minister, best known as Yogi Adityanath after becoming a monk, had declared that there was no shortage of oxygen in any hospital in his state and said those spreading rumours on social media would be arrested and have their property seized.
The system has not collapsed, Ms Roy noted, as it is being played out on “Modi-aligned Indian television channels.”
She blamed both the Modi government and the previous Congress government of dismantling the already existing “little medical infrastructure,” spending just about 1.25 per cent of gross domestic product on healthcare.
“The system has not collapsed. The ‘system’ barely existed,” she said. “This is what happens when a pandemic hits a country with an almost nonexistent public healthcare system.”
Ms Roy concludes it by asking Mr Modi to take a “break from his hard work” and leave on his customized VVIP $564m Boeing 777, Air India One, for the rest of the country to clean up their mess.
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