Tamil Nadu is the closest to Kashmir

Five to eight / India in the Corona crisis: Democracy is also being stolen

At the beginning of the year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi patted himself on the shoulder: Thanks to his government, India was one of the winners in the fight against Covid-19. Today you can only shake your head about it. India has become the epicenter of the pandemic.

The numbers from the end of April are shocking: a total of 19.56 million infected and 215,000 dead, most recently 400,000 new cases every day and soon 4,000 deaths. The number of unreported cases is estimated to be five to ten times higher. The misery that is hidden behind the bare numbers touches me in particular, as I was chairman of the Indo-German Advisory Group for twelve years and co-founder of the Asian Forum, an Indian offshoot of the Bucerius Summer School. The diverse, colorful country between Kashmir and Kerala has come very close to me, its people have grown dear to my heart. The pandemic also overtook three of my best friends, but they are better off than the many millions who have fallen ill.

Newsletter

Five to 8

Subscribe to ZEIT ONLINE's morning column - from Monday to Friday by email.

With your registration you take note of the data protection regulations.

Many Thanks! We have sent you an email.

Check your mailbox and confirm the newsletter subscription.

Better than the people who are desperately looking for oxygen bottles and vaccination cans; being sent away from overcrowded hospitals; who stand in line with the corpses of their relatives in front of cemeteries and crematoriums or erect stakes for them in parking lots. But they are also better off than the 30 million who have now lost their jobs for the second time and who again seek refuge in their home villages, often on foot, on long marches.

The leadership was busy with politics

India survived the first wave of corona after a lockdown was imposed in the past year with some lightning. Five million mini-self-employed had to give up and unemployment rose as high as never before. But economic output only collapsed by 8.5 percent and it soon picked up again. The number of new infections fell from 96,000 to a tenth, the number of deaths from 1,200 daily to 80. A vaccination program was launched that was supposed to immunize 400 million of the 1.4 billion Indians by July / August. But then the leadership fell into hubris.

She smugly entered a Caritas geopolitical competition with China and delivered 60 million doses of vaccine to 70 countries. She ignored the World Health Organization's warning of a second wave and disregarded the information from its own national virology institute about a new, doubly dangerous variant of the virus. Modi focused entirely on the election campaign in five states, especially in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal, where mass gatherings were frequently held. During the Kumbh Mela festival, three million believers were allowed to bathe and pray in the Ganges every day - without masks or distance, in the conviction that their faith offered them enough protection. Cricket matches were played in packed stadiums. The domestic flights were again two-thirds fully booked. As always, weddings were celebrated as large family events.

But the leadership was busy with politics. She deliberately overlooked the approaching Covid tsunami. The densely populated state of West Bengal - where Modi's party now lost just as it did in Tamil Nadu - saw the incidence rise by a whopping 1,800 percent in April. At the same time it became apparent that the vaccination program was stalling; only two percent of the population have been completely vaccinated so far and of the 166 oxygen factories decided last year, only 32 were in operation by mid-April. No wonder that a new lockdown is looming - and that foreign countries urgently need to help.

Authoritarian rule approved by the electorate

It is not just humanity that dictates that we help as best we can. India is the "pharmacy of the world" as it likes to celebrate itself. In fact, his pharmaceutical industry produces 62 percent of all vaccines, plus 20 percent of all generic drugs. As the Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin recently pointed out, BioNTech's production includes over 280 raw materials from 86 suppliers in 19 countries, a significant proportion from India. This explains the Federal Chancellor's concern that no more medicines at all could come to us from there. The European pharmaceutical industry shares this concern, as it would have to stop producing vaccines if India banned the export of basic raw materials. To prevent this from happening, it is imperative to help the Indians as much as possible.

Although we have to disregard for the time being that Covid not only cuts off the breath of the Indian people, but that Narendra Modi also takes the breath of the much-vaunted Indian democracy. Like Donald Trump in the USA and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, he embodies what political science today calls "electoral authoritarianism": authoritarian rule approved by the electorate. Under him, wrote one of his critics, India is increasingly threatening to become a Hindu version of Pakistan. This has become shockingly clear in the Covid pandemic - like so many negative things elsewhere.

Related Links

Related Links

Shashi Tharoor, India’s COVID tsunami, Project Syndicate, April 26, 2021

Rakesh Sood, Chronicle of a tragedy foretold, Observer Research Foundation, May 2, 2021

Ramachandra Guha, The Unmaking of India, Financial Times, April 30, 2021

Benjamin Fox, The Modi Blues, Euractiv, April 30, 2021

Axel Michaels, The top lateral thinker is the president, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, April 29, 2021

Adnan Bhat, Laura Höflinger, The Delhi Fires, mirror, April 30, 2021