Will Kerala and Maharashtra turn hotspots for COVID-19 third wave in India?
Though India’s is recording lower COVID-19 caseloads daily at present—30,773 and 309 deaths on September 19th—the second wave’s effects in the southern state of Kerala didn’t subside, after it started rising from the first week of August. So far, the death rate of Kerala at 0.52% remains lower than the national average of 1.33%. This article shows why there is a spike in Kerala.
On September 19th, Kerala had 19,325 new cases and 143 deaths. Though the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is claiming that the situation of Kerala has improved, its active case tally is 181,411, ie, 4.04%, which is quite a high vis-à-vis pan-India rate of 0.99%. The test positive rate (TPR) of Kerala is 16.96% on a seven-day average.
Kerala has so far done 23,622,121 vaccinations, out of which 9,671,731 or 40.94% have got both doses. As per the National Commission on Population, Kerala’s adult population (18+ age) is 28,740,290. It will take nearly six more months for the state to complete its vaccination for all adults.
Maharashtra follows Kerala by being at number two with 3,391 total cases and 80 deaths. The death rate of Maharashtra remains significantly high at 2.12%. The active case rate of Maharashtra at 0.79% is lower than the pan-India rate. It has 51,472 active cases at present. The TPR of Maharashtra is 11.5%. Until September 16th, Maharashtra has administered 73,296,176 vaccine doses, out of which 20,613,097 have got both doses.
Even though India’s national graph of COVID-19 cases is sloping downwards since reaching a peak in the first week of May, the third wave remains an imminent threat, which can catapult the graph up. As India’s major festive season approaches, the movement of people from the contaminated zones of Kerala and Maharashtra—where many migrant labourers live and work—to other parts will grow. It can trigger the third wave unless Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government pre-emptively neutralises the threat.
Rather than acting against the pandemic, the Union government and India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been busy politicising the COVID-19 crisis and bashing political foes like the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led ruling Left Democratic Front (LDF) of Kerala and the ruling Shiv Sena–Nationalist Congress Party (NCP)-Congress party alliance in Maharashtra.
The BJP’s flagrant disregard for human lives is exposed, once more, in an investigative report published by The New York Times. The report by Karan Deep Singh shows how the ICMR tailored its COVID-19 research findings to suit Modi’s propaganda on achieving victory on the pandemic. The ICMR suppressed all information and findings by scientists that countered Modi’s narrative. This allowed the COVID-19 second wave to severely hit the country and kill thousands daily in April and May 2021, as the ICMR allowed the government and the people to lower their guards.
What is the BJP’s strategy regarding the third wave? The Party is going to organise mega rallies throughout Uttar Pradesh as the state will go to the polls in March. The same acts that fuelled the COVID-19 pandemic in April and May 2021 may be repeated by the Party as its reputation and pride are at stake in Uttar Pradesh. In such a situation, how will the COVID-19 situation improve?
Moreover, the BJP has been constantly communalising the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting from its vitriolic propaganda against the Muslim community over the Nizamuddin Markaz incident in March 2020, the BJP even created a ruckus when Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan allowed three-day-long relaxations in Covid norms during the Eid-ul-Zuha (Bakr-Eid) celebration in July 2021.
Now, amid the spike in COVID-19 cases in Kerala, the Devaswam board on Thursday, September 17th, declared that the Dharmasastha Temple of Sabrimala will be open to the devotees of Lord Ayyappa for the month of ‘Kanni’. Vijayan made it mandatory for the devotees to carry Covid vaccination certificates and also Covid negative reports. The devotees will be allowed to do monthly worship until September 21st and on any given day there will be around 15,000 devotees visiting the site.
However, the BJP isn’t opposing this move bitterly. There was no ruckus over the five-day prayer relaxations in Sabarimala during July as well when 5,000 to 10,000 devotees were allowed to visit the temple daily. This shows how the pandemic is communalised by the BJP to fan Islamophobia and polarise the Hindus.
Since March 2020, using the draconian Disaster Management Act, 2005, the Modi regime has seized control of most of the functions of the States and rendered elected chief ministers of Opposition-ruled States powerless in the matter of pandemic management. Though, after suffering an initial setback in controlling the COVID-19 situation following the first three months of lockdown from March 25th to May 31st 2020, the BJP allowed the States to manage their containment strategies, it didn’t allow them to control every aspect of COVID management.
Due to this excessive centralisation of resources and processes, the oxygen supply management suffered severely, killing thousands in April and May 2021. The supply and distribution of life-saving drugs like Remdesivir injection also suffered, resulting in large-scale black-marketing and deaths of hundreds daily in these months. Moreover, Modi’s faulty vaccine diplomacy jeopardised India’s vaccination programme altogether.
Still, the Modi regime didn’t learn a lesson from the second wave’s destruction. It continues to tilt towards the BJP-ruled States, showing utmost partisan bias in COVID-19 management. This has slowed down the vaccination drive in different States, especially the Opposition-ruled States, causing an unusual delay in administering the second dose.
In this situation, it’s unlikely that Kerala and Maharashtra can alone manage the situation when the Union continues to express hostility. In case the third wave spreads from these two states, then it will be a catastrophe for India, surpassing the destruction experienced during the second wave. Will the Modi regime work with a collaborative attitude with the States, especially the Opposition-ruled States? Or will it continue to disregard human lives? The answers shall decide how India will cope up with the challenge.
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