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India, the world’s largest democracy, is now powered by a cult of personality
In another state ruled by Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, the government organized a weeks-long religious fair where millions have gathered to take a dip into a river. Millions. The state’s chief minister said faith would protect the devotees. The Wire later reported that the fair was supposed to take place next year but was moved up for astrological reasons. The fair officially ends Friday.
The other day, as I sat beside my mother, she read out to me from a newspaper that New Zealand and Australia have begun quarantine-free travel. In Israel, they are phasing out outdoor mask mandates. I listened, silently hoping that she and I are still here together to read my next story when it gets published.
While my 30-something friends in the United States are sharing vaccine selfies, 60-year-olds here are facing difficulties getting their second doses. In Mumbai, 71 vaccination centers have shut down because of a shortage.
In praise of vaccine selfies
Yes, it’s true — Britain recently had a harsh lockdown, and the United States and Europe went through bad coronavirus spikes and dreadful economic problems last year. But no matter how bad the virus got there last year, those places will not run out of vaccine this year. And that makes all the difference.
The initial U.S. Embargo on the export of vaccine raw materials may not have directly caused the current crisis in India, but it’s a bitter contrast with the way President Donald Trump threatened trade retaliation if India didn’t export hydroxychloroquine — which doesn’t even work to treat covid-19 — to the United States last year. Millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses sit idle at U.S. Facilities right now while their trials get finished — Americans aren’t using them, and they could save lives here, even though we might have to pay $8 per dose in a country where the per capita monthly income is $150. The patent waiver and technology-sharing agreements that rich countries cannot seem to work out could provide life support to the teetering health-care systems in the global south.
In India, millions of people will never forget what we have gone through over the past two weeks (although those on the margins have always been used to it). We are in the deepest of the pandemic crisis. We are tired and crumbling. And it’s clearer and clearer every day when I look at news from the rest of the world that we are all alone.