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Pandemic failure, democratic backslide: Why India’s autocratic turn under Prime Minister Narendra Modi matters to Canada and the world

journal contribution
posted on 2024-03-07, 21:07 authored by Sanjay RupareliaSanjay Ruparelia

The desperate search for scarce oxygen supplies, frontline workers on the verge of breakdown, funeral pyres burning through the night: the second wave of the pandemic in India is a genuine humanitarian catastrophe. Officially, the daily number of cases and deaths exceeded 300,000 and 4,000 at their peak this spring. Independent epidemiological studies suggest the toll might be even worse, between 8000 and 32,000 excess deaths a day, according to reports in the Economist.

Yet it was only in January that daily mortality rates officially fell to less than 200 a day, leading Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare at the World Economic Forum: India “has saved humanity from a big disaster by containing Corona effectively.”

New Delhi proceeded to launch a national vaccination drive, setting a target of 250 million by July, a bold figure in absolute terms. More strikingly, the Modi government decided to distribute vaccines freely to its neighbors in the subcontinent, and then to many low-income countries far beyond. A desire to match China’s vaccine diplomacy, and India’s impressive production capacity, motivated and enabled its largesse. The move stoked national pride and cast rich western democracies, which were hoarding limited vaccine supplies for themselves, in a terrible light.

Then a disaster unfolded. How did it go so wrong?




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