The Stream

Is politics getting in the way of India’s COVID response?

On Monday, May 31 at 19:30 GMT:
This week India recorded the highest daily COVID-19 death toll of any country since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

While there has been a decrease in the number of daily positive tests, challenges abound. A new threat is emerging – mucormycosis, or black fungus. Vaccine availability continues to be a problem, with less than 5 percent of the population fully vaccinated. And the virus is ravaging areas of rural India far from the reach of pleas for help on social media. Local journalists are reporting death on a massive scale and last week a viral video showed hundreds of bodies washed up on the banks of the Ganges River.

In the background, a political war over the narrative is raging – something critics say may even be hampering the response. An elite anti-terrorism unit this week visited the New Delhi offices of Twitter, which were closed, after the social media giant attached misinformation labels to several tweets from ruling BJP party-affiliated accounts.

The famous yoga guru Ram Kisan Yadav, aka Baba Ramdev, last week told his followers that modern medicine was “a stupid and bankrupt science”, underlining the extent of India’s misinformation problem. Baba Ramdev counts India’s most powerful politicians in the BJP as friends.

In this episode, we look at where the second surge is having the most damaging impact and ask whether India can move beyond politics and free itself from the pandemic’s deadly grip.

In this episode of The Stream, we are joined by:
Anoo Bhuyan, @AnooBhu
Health reporter, India Spend

Dr Joyeeta Basu, @DrJoyeeta
Physician and Co-founder, Doctors Hub

Dr. Sonali Vaid, @SonaliVaid
Public health professional