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Modi is right: Government deserves no credit for bringing Covid under control in India

It is not government action or even the people’s resolve that brought Covid under control in India. It’s just luck, and herd immunity.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Parliament recently that no government should be given credit for fighting Covid, only the nation deserves praise. He is partially right.

If Covid has come under control in India, with daily deaths now in double digits, it is not because the government was able to control the pandemic. It is at best a mix of herd immunity and good luck. The government doesn’t get credit for either. It wasn’t national resolve, given how people did not wear masks in large swathes of India, how they did not follow social distancing.

First, let us look at the spread of the virus. According to the third and latest nationwide sero-survey by the Indian Council for Medical Research, 21 per cent or over 1 in every five adult Indians had post-Covid antibodies. For children, the figure is 25 per cent, and for urban slums, 31 per cent.

Also read: Time for Modi to play the elder statesman and repeal the farm laws

Herd immunity: The real Covid policy

This data alone shows how badly the government failed to contain Covid. Neither the government, nor the great people of this great nation were able to prevent the spread of the deadly virus. If 21.4 per cent of 130 crore people got Covid, it means almost 28 crore people were infected.

Twenty eight crore people got Covid and the debate is whether it’s the government that gets the credit or the nation for saving us from the disaster. The truth is that we did not avert any disaster. We embraced one.

We know that this national average hides the fact that big cities, the economic engines of India, like Delhi and Mumbai were very badly hit, and are likely to have achieved herd immunity with over 50-60 per cent infection rates, according to sero-surveys detecting antibodies. These are probably among the highest infection rates in the world.

In other words, India’s real Covid policy (contrary to what the government claimed) was herd immunity, also known as Bhagwan Bharose, leaving it to the faith in God. Countries like Britain and Sweden that pro-actively tried to achieve herd immunity failed miserably. In India, with only 1.55 lakh deaths in a country of 130 crore people, herd immunity seems to have been the way.

The high rates of undetected infection in India did not cause the scale of hospitalisations and deaths that they have in the United States and parts of Europe. That’s because of some obvious reasons, such as India’s young population. We learnt very early on that Covid is deadly for the elderly and for those with co-morbidities. Even so, the disease could have caused a lot more hospitalisations and deaths than it actually did.

That’s where unknown factors come in. Scientists will be researching these unknown factors for years to come. It may be a very long time before we know how and why the virus affected different populations differently. At no point, not even at the peak of infection in September, did Covid in India become as bad as it did in countries like the UK or US.

We do know that the virus mutates, and we can’t give credit to the government of India for making sure the Indian mutations were tracked and studied in a timely manner. As the virus moved from Europe to India, Mumbai to Delhi, West to East, urban to rural, it is possible that it mutated into a less deadly form. Just as there are new strains in the UK and South Africa that are deadlier, it is possible the South Asian strain(s) was/were less deadly.

There must be differences either in the virus or in the host humans in South Asia for it to have behaved differently. South Asian countries, including India, were not as smart, fast or advanced as countries like Vietnam or Singapore to be able to contain the virus with rigorous testing-tracing-isolating. Even Kerala that succeeded in doing this initially lost the battle.

Then there are the theories of BCG vaccine, immunological dark matter and T-cell immunity because of the widespread prevalence of common cold and flu, or a healthy presence of a protein named AAT in Asians. Until scientists can figure out what happened, we can call it a stroke of luck.

Also read: Don’t laugh at Anna Hazare. He was himself the victim

India woke up late

None of this means government effort or national resolve have anything to do with bringing Covid under control in India. Narendra Modi may have been able to manage the political narrative around it and get public approval, but history will judge the Indian government differently. History will judge how India woke up late to the onslaught of a pandemic, was slow in scaling up testing and PPE kits, failed miserably in medical capacity overnight, ran quarantine centres so bad that people ran away from there — and we’ve only begun complaining.

The response of the Indian governments, both at the Centre and the states, was so bad that across party lines, leaders were busy fudging Covid data, both of cases and deaths, and governments were doing everything they could to prevent people from getting tested even when they had symptoms. Everyone was complicit in this: from Arvind Kejriwal to Vijay Rupani, from Mamata Banerjee’s government to Modi’s. The only honourable exception was Kerala.

The worst of all was the migrant labour crisis, the prime example of a poorly planned, poorly implemented lockdown. The migrant labour crisis actually spread Covid to villages. Narendra Modi should only count on good luck, both his and India’s that this did not result in a 1918 Spanish Flu-like situation in which millions had lost their lives.

That is what it boils down to, Covid in India: Luck, 1.55 lakh Indians weren’t lucky enough to survive it, and nobody sheds a tear for them because human life has no value. If the rest of us survived, it is not because of the government but despite it.

Shivam Vij is a contributing editor at ThePrint. Views are personal.

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  1. Another writer- blinded only by his hate for Modi and the BJP writes about the COVID-19 pandemic eleven months later as if he knew everything that had to be done to prevent this pandemic and now – “Look! Modi didn’t know anything about Corona, and I am the only one who can tell you what he did wrong,!” I guess The Print is a home for such destitutes who will not be cared for by anyone, who can show their body sores in the hope of a few pennies – never mind the entire world duffered because of Corona, but let me beat the “Down down Modi!” band again, because that’s the only thing I know. So, if India loses at Test Match, or a space rock hits earth, guess what line will Shivam Vij take? No prizes for guessing- these folks are way too clever aren’t they?

  2. you say that good journlism costs but there is no journalism in the present time under Modi. it is all Modi bhagti.
    Journalism has fallen prey to greed of money and awards.

  3. The learned author is a die hard critic of Modi, with or without evidence, for obvious reasons. But that sort of reporting while enjoying the fullest freedom of expression, betrays his approach not visited by objectivity at all. In the process it is reflecting up on the fair image of this esteemed magazine as well.

  4. Covid19 in India came under control owing to the simple “home remedy” solutions followed by majority of Indian families from time immemorial. When you are not well, typically your mother or wife will prepare Kashaya and give, make sure that your eat good and hot breakfast, lunch and dinner in time, and take good rest. 99% of the time, you wouldn’t need to see a Doctor.

    Covid19 was no different. In one family, two young persons; one who had surgery and contacted virus and other who was taking care of him at the hospital contacted virus, both of them died because of isolation, non-availability of home care, etc. In the same family, other two members contacted virus, they decided and health workers also suggested, to stay at home, take good care and homeopathic medicine. They recovered.

    I am coming from a village. In my experience, I have seen people falling sick because of alcohol, smoking, chewing of pan (packets, chemically laden) and chemicals used in the farming causing pollutions in the air, water and food they consume.

    If I am permitted to say, migrant workers and many families who were living in cities moved to their less crowed home towns and villages and saved themselves. Cities were overwhelmed to handle cases. Therefore in my view if longer time is, allowed for people to travel to safer places before the locked down, that would have done more good.

  5. Modiji has surely overcome this Covid crisis too. Despite 150,000 deaths he has come out a clear winner. Game over for the Opposition.

    He is a great mastermind he overcame the crises caused by demonetisation, GST, Doklam, Pulwama, 370, Ladakh standoff, CAA, Delhi riots, Covid, etc…now the farmer’s protest is the next challenge…whether he will come out of it unscathed remains to be watched with bated breath. All indications with the latest crisis are that he is super confident of himself and that he is 100% sure that his decisions are always made in overall interest of the majority of the people of India.

  6. India is an amazing civilization. It develops antibodies to Covid without getting Covid. It is also possible our medical personnel are chumps and cannot detect Covid antibodies correctly. Regardless Modi bhai is the greatest.

  7. Read this report. India needs Vaccines to achieve 5 trillion US$ economies Indian Vaccine costs Rs400 to 500/-. The Russian Vaccine cost Rs 600 to 700/- But Russian Vaccine has not been tested in the tropical Climate. But Indian Vaccine has been tried on 22250 patience and found to be effective. So far there is no bad report. In India, only foolish people who have insurance and money will take the Vaccine which nobody knows the long term side effects. India has reinvented a homoeopathic medicine costing Rs 4 to 5/- per head. It has no side effect if the patient takes the prescribed dose as instructed by the AYUSH ministry. By using this medicine Coronavirus recovery rate has gone up from 50 to 93.68%. The fatality rate kept below 1.5 %. India could achieve this because the people of India and the Govt are open-minded and does not depend on one kind of treatment. This attitude is not there in European countries and South & North American countries. Their people are dying like Mayflies. Even Trump lost the election because of Coronavirus. This is my view They are all for multinational companies. But the Indian Govt  is encouraging multi-national companies to develop Vaccine to meet the whims and fancies of all categories of people.’ India has achieved full success by using Homeopathy medicine because of the PM. He told the doctors I have given medicine which is best suited for Indian conditions. I cannot wait for any Vaccine like all other countries are waiting. He cares about the nation’s interest than the preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or experience.’ Now Coronavirus has proved the Indian way of life is better for survival.

  8. Here are some actions taken by a first world nation, a member of the G7.

    They could have locked down airports a year back.
    They could’ve mandated covid tests on arrival
    They could’ve increased contact tracing. They reduced it.
    Despite having seen deaths during SARS, their health system failed to respond
    Their app failed
    They could’ve got rapid tests earlier.
    Their lockdowns are hilarious and confusing at the same time. They didn’t go in for the Australia – NZ type
    They tied up with China for the first covid vaccine effort
    They’re still not sure how many vaccines will reach them each week
    Senior citizens in old age homes continue to die.
    Money paid to businesses as Covid relief found its way into the pockets of shareholders as higher dividends.

    And now their pin up prime minister is asking India for vaccines.

    Nash. The govt didn’t do anything here too.

  9. If everything can be blamed on luck, then why criticize the government on anything? Blame it on luck too
    Ig government did anything decent then it’s luck if something wrong then it’s purely Modi’s fault..
    Are Bhai hypocrisy ki bhi seema hoti hai

  10. 1. India will not be able to handle Covid! There will be corpses in the street!

    2. Ok, the number of cases and deaths are low but that’s only because the government is hiding data.

    3. Ok, the data is not as far from the truth as we thought, but the lockdown will destroy the economy!

    4. Ok, so even Donald Trump is agaisnt lockdowns, so lockdowns must be a good thing, but the pandemic will not end until the vaccine comes!

    5. Ok, vaccine is here, number of deaths is low, there was no apocalypse as we had predicted, but that has nothing to do with the government, it was just dumb luck.

  11. Dear the Print,
    Good try to confuse the people. I feel the credit shall go to Gov. Of India… Why Modi name is repeated, it is Gov. Of India with all the support system it has.
    Why we need to politicize every issue the current Gov. dose. Look at the end results. Lockdown was required, for sure it was doesn’t matter which government did it.
    It’s easy to criticize, but so difficult to provide solutions. Wasn’t expecting such an article from you… Politically inspired.

  12. First of all, every country did only “fire-fighting” India also the same. Reason is a new disease, no history, no time to wait etc. As far as India is concerned, (1) in general, the immunity of Indians is much more than the people in advanced countries and (2) holiday tourism and weekend escapes are not a way of life in India.

  13. If good happened it is sheer luck, if bad, then Modi is bad…what nonsense have you guys published! Believe me, you won’t be able to get lower than this.

  14. The credit should go to Congress government to get immunes all kinds of viruses and also keeping our municipal condition is such a shaped that we can withstand any living conditions dirt etc. Also our street food walas to make us so strong that for us Pattat bhi hajam aur lakhad bhi hajam. Corona also we hajamed.

  15. Dear Print,

    This is one of the most obnoxious write up I have seen in Print. Mr. Vij If you want to hate Mr. Modi, please do it. The hard fact is continuous Govt efforts have lead to people wearing masks and social distancing. This govt has worked on changing mindset. The Govt hospitals and doctors have really done an outstanding job. This was irrespective of which party was in power in states. States have coordinated exceptionally well with center which has led to the control of pandemic.

  16. Dear Mr. SG your The Print isn’t getting a penny from me, not because I don’t appreciate a differing point of view, far from it but because I don’t appreciate urban naxals spewing venom against my motherland. They can spew venom against Modi, for all I care but not against our country.

  17. This is not a fair assessment. Tamil Nadu government did a fantastic job in managing the pandemic, tracking every urban household on a daily basis, providing good treatment to those infected and creating awareness. Why do we need run ourselves down ? You cannot compare a city state like Singapore to India.

  18. Shekhar Gupta gets credit for having an idiot like Shivangi Vij as a contributor so he can get away with pulling down Modi while everyone one is looking at Vij.
    Good cop bad cop does not fool serious readers.

  19. Deja Vu! Since Independence.

    All good because of nothing. All bad because of the Governments.

    A logic of a section of media, “experts” and many those with opinions!!!

    Great for a vibrant democracy?

  20. But surely, you would have scalped him if Covid had gone uncontrolled.
    So if failure would have brought discredit, success should bring credit.
    it is as simple as that Mr. Holmes.

  21. Seems Mr.Vij can’t digest that India did a better job controlling the virus. For HERD IMMUNITY ATLEAST 60 – 80% of population needs to be infected. India has completed 202million test but total positive cases are 10million. Do the math Mr.Vij. Don’t be a toolkit journalist

  22. Somehow this article sponsored by print seems like one written from an angle of anti-nationalism. ‘the great people of this great country’ is a lament to India and its people.

  23. It would be great to see a meta-analysis on Influenza vaccination per capita by country alongside SARS-CoV-2 data.

    There may be a correlation in immunological dark matter and T-cell immunity due to the naturally occurring widespread prevalence of common cold and flu that is stymied by Influenza vaccination. The UK must be one of the most vaccinated nations on the planet against Influenza and has some dire results regarding SARS-CoV-2.

  24. If ever in life, you feel optimistic about anything, go ahead and read the print. Trust me, you will start feeling depressed.
    Somehow or the other, you guys fail to write anything positive. Most of the times, your views are either negative or critical of some or the other person or organization or government.
    Moreover, your hatred for Modi government and Indians in general is legendary.
    Hope sanity prevails someday.

  25. I live in Germany and the state of COVID or the way it has been managed here makes me feel very proud of India. In a country of 8 Cr, daily infections were trending at 40K+ a month or 2 ago. Dec saw highest number of deaths. All because of severe mismanagement. Do you know Shivam that no incoming passengers were tested or were required to have a negative COVID test to enter Germany? Or that Germany has not being doing contact tracing because infections are over 50 per 100,000. Now think about the scale of India and do the math, think how hard it would have been for the Govt.

    Please however, continue to rant against Modi. The more you rant, the more you empower him. And it is because of people like you that he will be re-elected in 2024. Only if you and the likes of you had the wisdom to call out the good work and criticze the bad, your pov would have merit

  26. Modi was being modest, we all know the pandemic was best handled by this government in the whole world
    If he does not get credit for this than he is not to be blamed for anythong either.

  27. If there was some award for consistent negative reporting, Shri Shivam Vij will win it hands down. As an aside to Shri Shekhar Gupta, as long as you employ pamphleteers masquerading as journalists, you will never achieve your subscription target.

  28. I fail to understand how Kerala is an exception?
    The health minister undeserving lapped up accolades in the beginning. Now Kerala is reporting the highest number of cases and accounts for 50% of the daily count.

  29. In Kerala, testing is at abysmal levels even with such a high rate of positivity. So, can’t really understand your poor attempt to excuse the Kerala government.

  30. Opinion column should be right at the bottom as accidentally we read them and then go aah oped no wonder.

    Oped should be open for general public who can rebut any opinion with facts or every oped must have a counter,only then it should get published.
    Twitter is a nuisance so any rebuttal goes unnoticed but only noise is heard and admonished.

  31. Its neither luck nor herd immunity.
    Its just Mr. Vij and his pontifications which did the job. Modi, as usual, is getting the credit which actually is due to Mr. Vij.

  32. I am sure there are thousand other better ways to handle the Co-vid crisis, but in hindsight everyone can be wiser and make criticism sitting in ivory tower. There is learning along the way and adapting to changing realities. when no cure is available. Are we saying we handled even worse than other countries??. As a rational reader and a person who can understand ground realities and the humungous effort required for the crisis one can only say we did better than most countries say what may be the reason. What we are talking here is human lives for which no credit can be taken by anyone and if yes, then lost lives needs to be counted as well. I think some people can only attach political lens to every situation as the desire to create sensationalism for obvious reason of “bread and butter”.

    True journalism is not about the criticism or sensational reporting but more having a balanced view in terms of what worked well and what did not and could have been done differently (as there is no one template which has worked across the world and even USA and Europe are still struggling). In democracy each one can air their views and opinion and guess this is one of those minds who thinks he could have done a better job albiet nobody reached out to him else world would have been a better place.

    You can hold to your views and I can to mine like many others.

    Truly yours
    – An Indian

  33. Shivam, its good that you signed off stating these were your personal views. I agree to what you have said. What I object to is that you have veiled sarcastic criticism of the government. I live in NZ, where even 1 community case sparks rumors of level 3 lockdown. In a nation of 5 million people, we have had quarantine breaches, lapses in security, shortage of ppe etc. So its not fair to say government didn’t do their bit, why not write an article on mentality of our population and blatant disregard for rules. Lives were lost and the near and dear of those who died have shed more than a tear. My friend based in NZ lost his father in Pune. We were there for him. Human lives matter so try and be constructive in these hard times rather than mope about it. Modi is not God. Even the 1st world leaders looked pathetic in their response to Covid. So what were you expecting Modi to do? Cry on TV about souls lost, he pleaded to people on live broadcast. Did it matter? Why don’t you focus on educating people and spreading more awareness rather than write such article. But again, these are my views.

  34. What a great revelation by the Contributing Editor of ThePrint ! -If Covid has come under control in India, with daily deaths now in double digits, it is not because the government was able to control the pandemic. . && ….No government effort or national resolve have anything to do with bringing Covid under control in India. If Government led by Mr. Modi and various state Governments can not be credited for its efforts to control of pandemic, then why Modi Government should be held accountable for big losses to economy it entailed ?? IN ACCOUNTANCY DEBITS ALWAYS EQUALS TO CREDITS , if books of accounts are maintained in ordinary coarse of business — ( This is Axiomatic in Accounting jargon ). What is your valued opinion on this , Mr Editor ? Life , politics , etc etc are not uni-directional. However Some of journalist may see and report , write only NEGATIVES -only. Please avoid this. Readers of 2020 s are not readers of 1960-90 of Congress era who took sermonizing by party hired and sponsored writers as Gospel Truth.

    • Agreed. This trend in journalism even by the Print is disheartening and does ñot bode well for journalistic integrity and independence.

    • You need help brother. I believe in being critical of the ruling government but this is hatred, not being critical. Modi government has handled the much better than almost all other countries, keep in mind we are worlds 2nd largest population. If europe, US or south american countries were as populated as india there would have been thousand dead people on streets.
      So thank your God that you’re in india.
      Criticise the govt where is makes sense, for instance where there is a definitely a few points worth criticising but saying being able to get over COVID was luck is sheer hatred.

    • Demographics and also the prevalence of communicable diseases in India and similar countries – The impact of Covid is less in overall in countries with high incidence of communicable diseases – an area of research too.

  35. I know reporters job is to be cynical and doubt every thing. lighten up Shivam we need to pat our selves, once in a we our old civilization does things right, of course you think what ever the white anglo saxon says and does is right, and we Indians are foolish people only luck played a role, give governments both at state and central played a very positive role give them some credit, the bureaucrats, and poor ignorant citizens like me and others played a role.

  36. PM’s remark was just out of humility. But it cannot be denied that the government handled the pandemic in a very professional manner.

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