India's Covid Crisis Decimates Country's Middle Class

Indian economy shrank 7.3% in fiscal year 1920-21, its worst performance since independence in 1947. Nearly 230 million middle class Indians have slipped below the poverty line, constituting a 15 to 20% increase in poverty since Covid-19 struck last year, according to Pew Research. Middle class consumption has been a key driver of economic growth in India. Erosion of the middle class will likely have a significant long-term impact on the country's economy. “India, at the end of the day, is a consumption story,” says Tanvee Gupta Jain, UBS chief India economist, according to Financial Times. “If you never recovered from the 2020 wave and then you go into the 2021 wave, then it’s a concern.”  

India's Economic Performance Since Independence. Source: Bloomberg

Mainstream Indian media have long been afraid to cover the incompetence and failures of Prime Minister Modi's government. But this is finally changing with the COVID pandemic hitting India's newsrooms. Dozens of Indian reporters and their family members have died after being infected with coronavirus. 

Middle Class Decline in India, China. Source: Pew Research

The disastrous turn in the situation on the ground couple with the change in media coverage have brought focus on Modi government's failed policies in handling the deepening health crisis and its devastating impact. The images of large numbers of people gasping for breath and dying on the streets for lack of oxygen have shocked the world. The covid crisis has exposed the hollowness of India's super-power delusions fed by the country's western boosters who see it as a counterweight to China. An example of such western propaganda is a recent novel by retired US Admiral Janes Stavirides. 

Increase in Debt-to-GDP Ratio During Pandemic. Source: Business Standard

Prime Minister Modi's government has taken on significant debt to cope with the crisis of covid pandemic. As a result, India's debt-to-gp has increased 17% to 89.3%, the third highest among emerging economies. By contrast, Pakistan's debt-to-gdp has risen by a mere 1.6% to 87.2% during the pandemic, according to figures released by the IMF.  

Modi's Hindutva Rate of Growth in India

The authors of "2034: A Novel of the Next World War" portray Indians as heroes whose statesmen-ship de-escalates World War III, negotiates peace and helps India emerge as the new global superpower. Patel, the Indian uncle character of the Indian-American deputy national security advisor Sandeep Chowdhury tells him, "America’s hubris has finally gotten the better of its greatness." The authors imagine the United Nations headquarters moves from New York to Mumbai after the war. Had this book been written after watching thousands of Indian victims of COVID19 gasping for breath and dying daily on the streets of New Delhi, I think Ackerman and Stavridis would have conceived  and developed a completely different plot line for their novel.  

Related Links:

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Rape as a Political Weapon Used By Hindutva

Hindu Nationalism Inspired By Nazism, Fascism

Rise of Islamophobia After Sept 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks

700,000 Indian Soldiers Versus 7 Million Kashmiris

Modi's Kashmir Blunder and India-Pakistan Nuclear Conflict

Is India a Paper Elephant? 

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Hinduization of India

Brievik's Hindutva Rhetoric

Indian Textbooks

India's RAW's Successes in Pakistan

Riaz Haq Youtube Channel

VPOS Youtube Channel


Anonymous said…
India’s external debt was US$ 563.5 billion at the end of December 2020. It recorded a marginal decrease of US$ 0.5 billion over its level at end of December 2019. The external debt to GDP ratio increased to 21.4% at end of December 2020 from 20.1% an year ago.

India's total foreign exchange (Forex) reserves stand at around US$590.185 Billion on 29 January 2021, the highest ever, with the Foreign Exchange Assets (FCA) component at around US$547.218 Billion, Gold Reserves at around US$36.294 Billion, SDRs (Special Drawing Rights with the IMF) of around US$1.508 Billion and around US$5.165 Billion Reserve Position in the IMF, as per Reserve Bank of India's (RBI) weekly statistical supplement published on 29 January 2021.[3] The Economic survey of India 2014-15 said India could target foreign exchange reserves of US$750 Billion-US$1 Trillion.[4]
Riaz Haq said…
Some #Modi Bhakts are trolling his critics. The tragedy unfolding for #Indian-#Americans is nothing to "lol" about as some #Hindutva trolls are doing on #socialmedia while attacking critics of #BJP. Many have lost multiple family members. Read "The Quint"

A tech entrepreneur and community activist based in San Francisco Bay Area, Bhushan has lost seven family members in India to COVID-19. While he remains thankful for those recovering, the loss of loved ones has hit him hard.

Bhushan’s aunt passed away, followed by his uncle a few days later. Their California-based daughter and Bhushan’s cousin, Ruchika Kumar wrote in a Facebook post, “Mummy was right in calling papa a copycat. He copied her even in death…”

Indian Americans are an educated and high-income migrant community. Even though most of them have moved to the US willingly for professional opportunities, they always carry a bit of yearning for their motherland in their hearts. Watching India surrender to the virus, have left them bereaved and exasperated.

“The difference is access to life-saving health care. Here (Santa Clara county, California) the guidance was reasonably clear. Data was published, and you could trust the data. Numbers were not being underreported. In India the official figures have no bearing of reality. How do you have faith in what’s going on?” says Sanjiv Sahay.

Desis are constantly swaying between optimism in America and gloom in India. Happy and boisterous social media groups, connecting them with their loved ones in India, have turned into a harbinger of death. Laughter has been replaced by much-needed prayers.

A resident of Foster City in California, Sonia Bhanot was to be in Delhi this spring, to meet her mother and sisters. She felt confident to make the long journey after getting fully vaccinated. She has had to put her travel plans on hold given the public health situation in India.

“I haven’t met my sister after her husband passed away last year. I was hoping to visit. There are family members and close friends in Delhi who have COVID-19. Some are recovering. Hamare liye to COVID khatam hi nahi ho raha. Pehle yahan, ab wahan. I am not removing my mask, even if others do,” says Sonia.
Riaz Haq said…
#Modi's #vaccine policy flip-flops. Before 2nd wave hit #India hard, health officials had repeatedly said there was no need to vaccinate all adults. But in the past few weeks, the government has said all adults would be immunized for #COVID19 by December.

India initially planned to vaccinate only 300 million of its health/front-line workers and the most vulnerable in the first six to eight months of the year. But Modi expanded the programme to all adults from May 1, though supplies were not meant to rise until June, leading to widespread shortages across the country. read more

* Modi's government asked individual states to buy vaccines from domestic manufacturers or import the shots themselves to inoculate their adults aged below 45 from May 1 onwards. Many states floated global tenders to import vaccines but none could secure doses via that route. Delhi's chief minister complained Indian states were made to compete against each other internationally for a scarce commodity. read more

Modi reversed the policy on Monday, saying the federal government would offer vaccines to all adults free of charge starting June 21. Rates for private hospitals - catering to those willing to pay for their shots - will be capped. read more

Modi said in a televised address all vaccine decisions have been taken based on consultations with state leaders.

* Modi's government placed no advance orders for vaccines from companies such as the Serum Institute of India (SII), the maker of the AstraZeneca shot, before it was approved in early January. It signed a purchase deal with SII nearly two weeks after the company's licensed version of the vaccine was authorised for emergency use. read more

Last week, the government placed its first advance order for a vaccine still undergoing Phase 3 trials, as it tries to speed up the immunisation drive. read more

* Until the second wave hit India ferociously, health officials had repeatedly said there was no need to vaccinate all adults. But in the past few weeks, the government has said all adults would be immunised for COVID-19 by December.
Riaz Haq said…
Can #Modi Shift Narrative? "So much death, so much despair — children lost their parents overnight, elderly parents lost their young children, people lost their spouses,” said Shruti Chaturvedi, an entrepreneur doing relief work in the state of Goa, #India

In the face of crisis, Mr. Modi has displayed a talent of inventing a new narrative and switching personas, including combative national champion, digital leader and spiritual guide. At times he could seem deeply relatable, at others above it all. And he had what the opposition lacked: an ability to take his message viral.

During the 2019 election, with the economy weakening, he emphasized the threat from Pakistan. Referring to an earlier comment Mr. Modi had made, his party projected him as the nation’s toughest “watchman,” boasting about the size of Mr. Modi’s chest as a sign of his strength.


Mr. Modi’s approval rating is still above 60 percent, according to one poll. But the growing dissatisfaction suggests the prime minister may not so easily be able to change public sentiment by pushing emotional nationalist causes or shifting his image as he has done in the past. Rather, like any other politician, he may increasingly be judged by his ability to deliver.

“There was a template — that if you invisibilize problems you do not want to focus on and convince the rest of the population that only the visible part is the entire part, that seemed to work in the past,” said Kota Neelima, the founder of the Institute of Perception Studies in New Delhi. But in a once-in-a-century catastrophe, she said, “you actually notice the government is absent.”

Perhaps the most telling criticism has come from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a powerful organization with millions of members that has long supported turning India into a Hindu state and that has placed its hopes in Mr. Modi.

The R.S.S. recently tried to help the positivity campaign by holding a series of lectures by influential figures called “Positivity Unlimited.” But in his own speech, Mohan Bhagwat, the R.S.S. chief, couldn’t entirely deflect blame from Mr. Modi’s administration: Both the government and the people had lowered their guard, he said.

Mr. Modi picked up many of his skills as a communicator as an R.S.S. volunteer, said Badri Narayan, a social historian and political analyst who has written extensively about the group. Its “language of mobilization” emphasizes storytelling loaded with symbolism echoing thousands of years of history.

“He was trained in that pedagogy of oratory,” Mr. Narayan said. “He came to learn how to use storytelling for bigger messaging, and he evolved that training in his own ways.”

How Mr. Modi will emerge from the pandemic could depend on those talents, which have bailed him out in the past.

To become prime minister, Mr. Modi overcame a reputation tarnished by his alleged involvement in fanning religious violence when he was chief minister of the state of Gujarat two decades ago. For a time, he was banned from entering the United States on grounds that he had violated religious freedoms. He successfully rebranded himself as the Hindu nationalist who could be India’s development champion. Soon after winning election in 2014, he traveled to the New York and spoke for an hour in a packed Madison Square Garden to chants of “Modi! Modi! Modi!”

In seven years as prime minister, he has tightly controlled his image. He prefers choreographed rallies and selective interviews over news conferences, avoiding vulnerability while offering plenty of content for his social media apparatus and network of celebrity supporters.

Riaz Haq said…
#COVID #pandemic could be #Indian leader #Modi's undoing but he remains wildly popular despite his failure to kickstart #India's staggering #economy, to create millions of new #jobs and to provide #healthcare to India's poorest citizens. #BJP #Hindutva

Dr. Satyendra Kumar Tiwary thinks of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as superhuman. A leader like Modi comes along "once in 2,500 years," he says, and should be remembered among the greats in India's history, like Mahatma Gandhi, and even the Buddha.

"The world will never see another leader like Modi," said the 47-year-old professor of general surgery from Varanasi, which is both Modi's parliamentary constituency and one of the holiest cities for Hindus. "He is not a man, he's superman. He's a saint."
Like so many Modi supporters, Tiwary boasts that the Prime Minister, at 70, works more than 18 hours a day and has never taken a day off work in 23 years, echoing a claim that senior officials from Modi's Bharatiya Janatiya Party (BJP) have made many times.
It is precisely this image of a hard-working people's man -- with little time for a personal life, but plenty for yoga and his Hindu faith -- that catapulted Modi to a landslide re-election in India's 2019 general vote. His party's unapologetic Hindu nationalist agenda attracted 100 million more votes than the main opposition.
Modi, who has ruled India since 2014, has remained wildly popular despite setbacks in his efforts to kickstart the country's staggering economy, to create millions of new jobs and to provide healthcare to India's poorest citizens.
Dr. Satyendra Kumar Tiwary pinned the blame on state governments for India's coronavirus crisis.
Dr. Satyendra Kumar Tiwary pinned the blame on state governments for India's coronavirus crisis.
But India is now gripped with a catastrophic second wave of Covid-19 that has left its crematoriums overflowing with bodies and put its health system under enormous strain. Modi is taking heat over his mismanagement of the national health crisis, for holding rallies during regional elections with no social distancing or mask-wearing rules, and for failing to prevent the gathering of millions of pilgrims at the Kumbh Mela religious festival, which contributed to one of the country's most dramatic surges in infections.
Just as the pandemic contributed to the defeat of Donald Trump in the US, Modi was "almost certain" to take a hit politically too, said Ashutosh Varshney, director of the Center for Contemporary South Asia at Brown University.
"A very large part of the base is hugely disenchanted because they've lost their loved ones. They've lost their siblings, their parents, their children," he said.
Modi's loyal base
Modi may be 70 years old, but he also has legions of young Indian supporters.
Rishabh Mehta, a 24-year-old university student, said he was drawn to Modi's unwavering nationalism and thought well of the leader's achievements on improving India's defense systems.
When asked about the country's high Covid-19 death toll, Mehta said he believed the numbers had been inflated by state leaders seeking to tarnish Modi's image. Mehta believes there is a targeted "campaign going on to defame the ... central government."
Most experts and critics say the opposite, and Indian media organizations are gathering more and more evidence that show country is undercounting the dead, whether deliberately or simply because India is unable to measure the pandemic's true impact.
But Mehta's loyalty has remained strong, even after losing one of his close friends to the virus. Mehta himself took his friend to hospital in the capital, New Delhi, where he described chaotic scenes of "people shouting, people coughing, people crying" in desperation.
"It was a very horrific moment for all of us," he said.
Riaz Haq said…
#COVID19 Punctures #Modi’s Aura as Some Supporters Sour on #India’s Strongman. There are few #Indians right now who don’t know, within one degree of separation, somebody who died in the past year. #BJP #Hindutva #Islamophobia #economy #jobs via @WSJ

Veteran political experts said the Covid-19 crisis has tarnished Mr. Modi’s aura of invincibility and sparked the kind of vocal public criticism that his government has tried to muzzle in recent years. Indians have taken to social media to rail against Mr. Modi and the BJP, with hashtags such as #ModiResign and #ModiFailsIndia going viral.

“There are few Indians right now who don’t know, within one degree of separation, somebody who died in the past year,” said Irfan Nooruddin, director of the South Asia Center at the Atlantic Council, a think tank based in Washington. The visuals beamed out from all corners of India—including people dying outside hospitals and dead bodies floating down the Ganges River—serve as a visceral punch reminding every Indian of how badly the government bungled the pandemic, he said.

“The notion that Modi could not be criticized, that you couldn’t really say anything against the government—that has been punctured,” he said. “And that I think is a big step.”

Even Indian media outlets, which in recent years have increasingly shied away from critical coverage of the government, have aggressively covered the breakdown of India’s healthcare system, Mr. Nooruddin said. The Supreme Court has also harshly criticized the government for failing to ensure hospitals had adequate oxygen and other medical care.

The opposition Congress party has repeatedly criticized Mr. Modi’s leadership and the government over the slow pace of vaccination and deficiencies in the country’s healthcare system. “The prime minister is also missing along with vaccines, oxygen and drugs,” opposition leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted last month.

The prime minister’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar, a spokesman for the BJP, said Mr. Modi’s government has been working to protect the Indian people by ramping up healthcare capacity, working to get oxygen to the areas that need it and creating supply chains to deliver vaccines. He said the farmers’ protests contributed to the spread of the virus and that the state governments, which are largely responsible for regulating healthcare in India, were unprepared for the speed of the surge. To blame the prime minister, he said, “is simply not understanding how governance functions in India.”

Riaz Haq said…
South #Indian state of Andhra Pradesh reported over 130,000 deaths in May 2021, or nearly 5X the usual number of deaths reported in the month. Excess mortality reported by the state from January to May 2021 was 34X the official #COVID19 toll in the period.

Death registration data shows the second wave of Covid-19 hit Andhra Pradesh much harder than what has been captured in official data.

More limited data available for Tamil Nadu, on the other hand, shows a more modest increase in mortality: between January 1 and June 13, Tamil Nadu registered 129,000 excess deaths over the average, roughly 7.5 times the official reported Covid-19 toll for the same time.

Officially, India has reported 370,000 deaths from Covid, substantially lower than the death tolls in the United States and Brazil, and among the lowest deaths proportionate to its population. India has officially reported just 266 deaths for every million people, as against nearly ten times that number in Brazil.

However, doubts persist over the proportion of its Covid toll that India is able to accurately capture. Some of the undercounting is a legacy of India’s problems with state capacity; even pre-pandemic, India was able to capture only an estimated 86% of all deaths, with death registration as low as 35% in states like Bihar as of 2018.

However, some of it is specific to the pandemic: despite the guidelines of the World Health Organisation and the Indian Council for Medical Research that encourage adopting as liberal a definition of a Covid death as possible, Indian states have systematically adopted an excessively stringent definition – only deaths of people who tested positive for Covid prior to death and died with a typical progression of disease in hospitals are typically counted as India’s Covid dead.

Simultaneously, there is some evidence that routine health services were severely affected. Doctors across the country have reported premature deaths in their patients with chronic disease on account of being unable to access life-saving measures, including dialysis and cancer treatments.

All of this has driven attempts in India to gauge “excess mortality” – the difference between mortality from all causes during the pandemic and in normal years. Across the world, countries make updated all-cause mortality data freely available. The United Kingdom and South Africa are among the countries that publish this data weekly, and Peru recently significantly revised its official count upwards to account for this excess mortality.

Indian states collect all-cause mortality data every day through the Civil Registration System which functions under the Office of the Registrar General of India. The process is decentralised down to the sub-district level in every district in the country. But states are not making this data public.

CRS data for Madhya Pradesh accessed by showed that Madhya Pradesh saw over 160,000 reported deaths in May 2021, or nearly five times the usual number of reported deaths in 2018 and 2019.

In all, Madhya Pradesh saw more than twice as many deaths between January 1 to May 31 this year compared to the 2018-’19 average. There were over 180,000 “excess deaths” in 2021 over the usual, and over 42 times the reported Covid death toll for the same period.

Riaz Haq said…
#India’s devastating #coronavirus surge turned children into orphans. The full severity of India’s recent wave of infections — now receding at last — is hard to grasp. #COVID #Modi #BJP #economy

BHOPAL, India — The nights are the hardest.

Five-year-old twins Ruhi and Mahi go to sleep late. In the dark, they often wake up crying or seized with fear.

In the morning, their great-uncle dresses them and combs their hair. They ask him the same question over and over: Where are our parents?

Your mom and dad are with the doctors, he tells the girls. They’re at the hospital.

The truth is too difficult for him to speak. Ruhi and Mahi’s parents are both dead, swept away in a matter of days during the calamity of India’s second wave of coronavirus cases.

The girls’ father, Mohan, known for his helpful nature and devotion to his daughters, died on April 30, his lungs straining on a ventilator at a government-run hospital in this central Indian city.

Three days later their mother, Rita, died at home in a rooftop room with pale yellow walls, crushed by sickness and grief. Her daughters were asleep nearby.

The full severity of India’s recent wave of infections — now receding at last — is hard to grasp. In April and May, the virus overwhelmed hospitals and killed nearly 170,000 Indians, according to official statistics. Experts believe the true figure is far higher.

Perhaps no phenomenon encapsulates the nation’s losses like the number of children orphaned in the surge. What happened to Mohan and Rita’s daughters is not unique: Nearly 600 children in India have lost both parents to covid-19, said Smriti Irani, the government minister for women and child development, in a tweet last month.

Even that figure may understate the tragedy. Across India, more than 3,600 children have been orphaned as a result of covid and other causes since the start of the pandemic, according to an affidavit filed this month by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights.

Although India’s situation is extreme, the country is far from alone. The pandemic has killed parents of young children around the world. Researchers in the United States used Census Bureau data to estimate that about 43,000 American children had lost a parent to covid since March of last year. There were also families in the United States where both parents died.

In India, the ferocity of the second wave left hospitals too full to treat the sick. Many died because they could not get enough oxygen or other treatment, leaving their families with the unanswerable question of whether their relatives might have been saved with proper care.

Most of the children orphaned in the surge are staying with relatives. A small minority have been placed in institutional care, say child protection authorities. The perils are myriad: Children who lose their parents are at higher risk of depression, dropping out of school and being exploited, experts say.

In April, messages began to circulate on social media allegedly seeking adoptive parents for children whose parents had died of covid. The appeals became so widespread that the authorities issued a warning that such direct adoptions are illegal and could be used for child trafficking.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently announced that the national government would cover educational expenses and provide health insurance to children orphaned by covid, as well as set aside funds they could access upon turning 18. In such trying times, Modi said, according to an official statement, “it is our duty as a society to care for our children.”

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan donates relief supplies to #Afghanistan to fight dangerous #India variant of #coronavirus. Supplies include ox­ygen cylinders, oxygen concentra­tors, ICU ventilators, BIPAPs, digital X-Ray machines, Thermal guns and PPEs kits. #COVID19

KABUL (Pajhwok): Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has handed over Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) to Afghanistan to combat Covid-19, according to a media report on Thursday.

In a statement issued, the NDMA said that on behalf of the government of Pakistan PPEs and medical equip­ment have been handed over to the Ambassador of Afghanistan to combat Covid-19.

SAPM Health Dr. Faisal Sultan was the chief guest of the ceremony held here. Special Representative of Prime Minister for Afghanistan Muhammad Sadiq and Ambassador of Afghanistan were also present on the occasion.

The relief items included 500 ox­ygen cylinders, oxygen concentra­tors, ICU ventilators, BIPAPs, digital X-Ray machines, Thermal guns and PPEs kits. The SAPM Health highly ap­preciated NDMA’s effort to deal with emergencies and its role in combat­ing Covid in Pakistan. The Ambassa­dor of Afghanistan while appreciating the role of NDMA also appreciated this timely assistance in helping Afghani­stan to control the pandemic.
Riaz Haq said…
#India Official Warns of Early Third #COVID Wave As Highly Transmissible & Dangerous #DeltaVariant Spreads Further Faster. The virus is believed to be responsible for India’s “devastating second wave” and continues to pose a high risk to the unvaccinated

India may be hit by a third wave of Covid-19 far sooner than predicted because people are ignoring guidelines, the Times of India cited Randeep Guleria, director at the state-run All India Institute of Medical Sciences, as saying.

Infections could start rising again in 12 to 16 weeks, the report quoted Guleria as saying. That compares with the four to five months new waves are expected to take to peak, the Times of India reported on Sunday.

Guleria earlier told a television channel that a third wave could come as early as in six to eight weeks time, according to the report.

He said the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus is believed to be responsible for India’s “devastating second wave” and continues to pose a high risk to a large section of the population that has not yet been vaccinated, according to the Times of India report.

India’s confirmed coronavirus cases have surpassed 29 million, with more than 380,000 deaths. Experts believe both numbers are vastly undercounted.
Riaz Haq said…
Mr. Biden announced this month plans to donate 500 million coronavirus vaccine doses produced by Pfizer to the rest of the world. Of those doses, 200 million are expected to be exported this year and 300 million in the first half of next year.

Outbreaks in countries such as India and Brazil have underscored the gap in vaccinations between rich and poor countries, with many developing nations still struggling to administer vaccines.

Of those being donated through Covax, 14 million will go to Latin America, 16 million to Asia and 10 million to Africa. The White House also listed more than two dozen countries and regions that will receive doses directly, including Colombia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ukraine, Bosnia, the West Bank and Gaza.
Riaz Haq said…
#India's #economy under #Modi. #GDP is shrinking, inflation rising. High budget deficits forcing India to borrow heavily. #BJP #Hindutva #CIOVID #DeltaVariant

Narendra Modi stormed India's political stage with grand promises - of more jobs, prosperity and less red tape.

His thumping mandate - in 2014 and again in 2019 - raised hopes of big bang reforms.

But his economic record, in the seven years he's been prime minister, has proved lacklustre. And the pandemic battered what was an already under-par performance.

Here's how Asia's third-largest economy has fared under Mr Modi, in seven charts.

Growth is sluggish
Mr Modi's avowed GDP target - a $5 trillion (£3.6 trillion) economy by 2025, or roughly $3 trillion after adjusting for inflation - is a pipe dream now.

Independent pre-Covid estimates for 2025 had touched $2.6 trillion at best. The pandemic has shaved off another $200-300bn.

Rising inflation, driven by global oil prices, is also a big concern, economist Ajit Ranade said.

But Covid is not solely responsible.

India's GDP - at a high of 7-8% when Mr Modi took office - had fallen to its lowest in a decade - 3.1% - by the fourth quarter of 2019-20.

A disastrous currency ban in 2016, which wiped out 86% of cash in circulation, and a hasty roll-out of a sweeping new tax code, known as the Goods and Services Tax (GST), hit businesses hard.

This spurred the next big problem.

Joblessness is on the rise
"India's biggest challenge has been a slowdown in investments since 2011-12," said Mahesh Vyas, CEO of the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE). "Then, since 2016, we have suffered too many economic shocks in quick succession."

The currency ban, GST and intermittent lockdowns all reduced employment, he added.

Unemployment climbed to a 45-year high - 6.1% - in 2017-18, according to the last official count. And it has nearly doubled since then, according to household surveys by CMIE, a widely-used proxy for labour market data.

More than 25 million people have lost their jobs since the start of 2021. And more than 75 million Indians have plunged back into poverty, including a third of India's 100 million-strong middle class, setting back half a decade of gains, according to estimates by Pew Research.

Mr Modi's government has also created far short of the 20 million jobs the economy needs every year, Mr Ranade said. India has been adding only around 4.3 million jobs a year for the last decade.

India is not making or exporting enough
'Make in India' - Mr Modi's high-octane flagship initiative - was supposed to turn India into a global manufacturing powerhouse by cutting red tape and drawing investment for export hubs.

The goal: manufacturing would account for 25% of GDP. Seven years on, it's share is stagnant at 15%. Worse, manufacturing jobs went down by half in the last five years, according to the Centre for Economic Data and Analysis.

Exports have been stuck at around $300bn for nearly a decade.

Under Mr Modi, India has steadily lost market share to smaller rivals such as Bangladesh, whose remarkable growth has hinged on exports, largely fuelled by the labour-intensive garments industry.

Mr Modi has also hiked tariffs and turned increasingly protectionist in recent years - in tandem with his rallying cry for "self-reliance".

Infrastructure building is a rare bright spot
Mr Modi's government has been laying 36km (22 miles) of highways a day on average, compared to his predecessor's daily count of 8-11km, said Vinayak Chatterjee, co-founder of infrastructure firm Feedback Infra.
Riaz Haq said…
Third wave abating! #Pakistan's #COVID19 positivity rate drops to 1.69%, the lowest in 8 months!! The country last recorded its lowest positivity rate at 1.64% on October 18, 2020. #Coronavirus #pandemic

Pakistan's coronavirus positivity rate is down to 1.69% today, according to daily data issued by the National Command and Operation Center. This is the lowest positivity rate recorded by the country in eight months.

The country last recorded its lowest positivity rate at 1.64% on October 18.

A major decrease was also seen in the daily number of COVID-19 cases detected in Pakistan.

In the last 24 hours, 663 new infections have been detected and 27 people have died from the virus, according to the NCOC.

The NCOC said a total of 39,017 tests for COVID-19 were conducted in the last 24 hours.

The total number of deaths from COVID-19 in the country so far has reached 22,034 and the total number of cases has reached 949,838, while 894,352 people have recovered from the virus so far. The active number of cases currently stands at 33,452.

During the last 24 hours, the most deaths occurred in Punjab followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Out of the 27 deaths, 17 people died on ventilators.
Riaz Haq said…
#Bangladesh to go into nationwide hard #lockdown from Monday June 28, 2021. The daily #COVID #infection rate rose to 21.22%, up from 15% a week ago. #DeltaVariant #India

All offices will remain closed; no one will be allowed to leave home without emergency

Amid the dramatic surge in coronavirus infections, Bangladesh is going into a nationwide hard lockdown from Monday (June 28) for seven days.

In a notification on Friday, the Information Ministry said that all government and private offices, except for emergency services will remain closed during the lockdown.

All kinds of transports, except for those carrying emergency supplies, will remain suspended, it said before adding ambulances and vehicles used for healthcare services and media will be exempted from the curbs.

No one will be allowed to leave home without emergency purposes.

The Cabinet Division will issue a detailed notification on Saturday, reads the notice by the ministry’s Press Information Department.

The announcement comes after the national Covid-19 advisory panel on Thursday recommended imposing a nationwide shutdown for two weeks, with all kinds of offices remained closed.

Soon after the panel made the recommendation, State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain told the media that they were all set to impose a complete shutdown any time.

As Covid-19 cases kept growing at an alarming rate since mid-March this year, the government was forced to impose a nationwide lockdown for one week from April 5 to contain the spread.

Later, a stricter set of restrictions on public movement and gathering were extended several times, including the latest one till July 15.

Additionally, the authorities across the country has been imposing district-wise restriction on public movement in areas with higher Covid-19 infections till now.

But now, with the fresh directive, a strict lockdown will take place across the nation.

On Friday, the death toll from Covid-19 rose by 108, the second highest single-day jump since the pandemic unfolded last year in Bangladesh.

The caseload surged by 5,869 to 878,804, according to the latest government data. The daily infection rate rose to 21.22%, up from 15% a week ago.

Amid the dramatic surge in infections, public experts fear that the pandemic in Bangladesh could take a catastrophic turn.

Riaz Haq said…
#India is in the grip of severe #poverty amidst #COVID19 crisis. There's increasing malnutrition, homelessness and unemployment in the country. #Modi #economy #BJP #Hindutva

The Covid19 persists to trigger havoc all over the world and many countries are stumbling under the deadly wave of the pandemic rapidly transforming into hunger and malnutrition disasters. The bigger challenge is however to deal with the poverty caused by the pandemic, and it has unveiled the reality of our system and increasing the existing inequalities. The economic consequence is expected to be sensed for years. Lockdowns seem to have halted the rise in the cases, but many people lost their jobs and were in a situation where they were unable to support their families. A country like India which makes up approximately 17 per cent of the world’s population observed one of the sharpest decline in the GDP wiping the gains achieved in the last decades. Unemployment has raised to the highest level over the last decades as economic activity has come to a screeching halt which is since 90 per cent of the labour force is in zones with no social security. Increasing poverty, homelessness, unemployment directed to the unparalleled increase in infant mortality, mental health problems and even suicides. Around 230 million people in India plunged into poverty- living on less than US$5 per day. Inequality in India has escalated to an extraordinary level as Mukesh Ambani became the 4 wealthiest men in the world in this pandemic while it’s deprived stand unsteadily at the brink. According to a report by Oxfam,1 per cent of Indian elites held 4 times the wealth of 953 million (70%) people. For impoverished covid 19 is not a concern but the socioeconomic catastrophes which could lead to soaring in child labour and child marriages. Dalit who is deemed as a lower caste and face everyday intolerance and inadequate access to social
Riaz Haq said…
After #COVID surge, some signs of internal dissent against #India's #Modi. Doing badly in #UttarPradesh would be a major setback for the #BJP, analysts say, and could have a knock-on effect on the next general election. #Hindutva #coronavirus #pandemic

Govind Pasi, a grassroots member of India's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), says he got no help from his connections in the ruling party when his wife contracted coronavirus and died at home for lack of proper treatment.

Now, he says, he is done with the party that has ruled India since 2014 and with its leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"I am heart-broken, nobody came to help us when we needed help the most," said Pasi, 45, speaking in Balai village in Uttar Pradesh state. Nearby, on the banks of the Ganges river, scores of bodies of people believed to have died of COVID-19 have washed up.

Anand Awasthi, a district vice president of the BJP, said he was aware of the death of Pasi's wife and that the party was trying to get him monetary compensation. He said there was some confusion around her death relating to whether a government database established she had COVID, but did not have details.

Pasi is among more than a dozen ground and mid-level BJP members who told Reuters they are disillusioned with the government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has devastated India. In addition, six state lawmakers in Uttar Pradesh have written letters criticising the government for not responding to frantic calls for help from their constituents, which Reuters has reviewed.

A high-profile national level BJP official in New Delhi said he was taking a sabbatical because of the "failings of providing basic medical care, mixed messaging on lockdowns, abysmal medical oxygen cylinder shortages and clear lack of priority".

He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing worries about a backlash for stepping out of line.

The BJP is a mammoth organisation, claiming 150 million members, and Reuters could not determine the degree to which the unhappiness has spread. But it is highly unusual for those within the party to speak out against Modi, who has dominated Indian politics in his seven years in power and whose control of the BJP has been unquestioned.

The BJP headquarters and the prime minister's office did not respond to requests for comment.

Kailash Vijayvargiya, a senior BJP leader who is one of its nine general secretaries, told Reuters he had no knowledge of any unhappiness or dissent within the party.

"The pandemic was tough for everyone and we know some of our workers also lost their loved ones," he said. "At so many levels we have helped each other and there were times when we could not because the situation has been very difficult."

Modi, a Hindu nationalist who gets wide support in the country's majority community, has faced criticism before, including for a shock demonetisation that threw the economy into disarray and haphazard tax reform. But the shortage of hospital beds and medical oxygen in the COVID crisis and the country's stuttering vaccination programme have battered his reputation for action and competence, analysts and opposition leaders say.

Analysts say public anger over the handling of the pandemic coupled with even some disaffection in the party rank-and-file could hurt the BJP when it faces its next political test - an election early next year in politically crucial Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state and currently ruled by the BJP.
Riaz Haq said…
#India #Covid: AI shows #Pakistani Twitter prayed for neighbor. Artificial intelligence (AI)-driven study which looked at thousands of tweets from #Pakistan posted between 21 April & 4 May says overwhelming number were indeed positive. #Modi #coronavirus

It is perhaps not surprising that the fractious relationship between historic adversaries India and Pakistan has spilled over into social media in recent years.

But at the end of April, as India struggled with a ferocious second wave of Covid-19, citizens on either side of the border shelved their barbs in favour of supportive hashtags like #IndiaNeedsOxygen and #PakistanStandsWithIndia.

Experts say it is well known that supportive hashtags do not always mean positive tweets - users often "hijack" them for anything from trolling to wishing happy birthday to a cricketer or Bollywood star.

But an artificial intelligence (AI)-driven study which looked at thousands of tweets from Pakistan posted between 21 April and 4 May says an overwhelming number were indeed positive.

Researchers, led by Ashiqur KhudaBukhsh of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in the US, used machine learning tools to identify the tweets that expressed kindness, empathy and solidarity.

They collected 300,000 tweets with three biggest trending hashtags: #IndiaNeedsOxygen, #PakistanStandsWithIndia and #EndiaSaySorryToKashmir - the last a reference to the long-running dispute over the Himalayan territory. Of these, 55,712 tweets were from Pakistan, 46,651 were from India and the remaining were from around the world.

The researchers then ran the text from these tweets into a "hope speech classifier" - a language processing tool that helps detect positive comments. They looked for patterns to identify if the text had "hostility-diffusing positive hope speech", or words like prayer, empathy, distress and solidarity.

Their study found that tweets containing supportive hashtags originating in Pakistan heavily outnumbered those containing non-supportive hashtags and also had substantially more likes and retweets. Their method also amplified the positive tweets, making it easier to find them quickly.

"Our research showed that there's a universality in how people express emotions. If you search randomly, you'll find positive tweets a little over 44% of the time. Our method throws up positive tweets 83% of the time," Mr KhudaBukhsh said.

Riaz Haq said…
Wealth Gap in #India: Ambani is worth $80 billion, $15 billion more than last year. Adani 's wealth jumped from $13 billion last year to $55 billion. Meanwhile, number of people who are poor (with incomes of $2 or less a day) is up 75 million. #COVID19

The report noted that the Gini coefficient — a popular measure of inequality — increased from 74.7 in 2000 to 82.3 last year. The higher the number, the greater the disparity in income. A rating of 0 means that income is equally distributed throughout a society, while a rating of 100 means that one person takes home all of the income.
India slipped into a rare recession last year, after a lockdown that lasted for almost four months. While the economy recovered this year, unemployment numbers approached record levels this May after a massive surge in Covid cases this spring.
According to an analysis by Pew Research Center, India's middle class shrank by 32 million people last year as a consequence of the economic slowdown, compared to what it was expected to be without the pandemic.

"Meanwhile, the number of people who are poor in India (with incomes of $2 or less a day) is estimated to have increased by 75 million because of the Covid-19 recession," senior Pew researcher Rakesh Kochhar wrote in a post in March, adding that it accounted for nearly 60% of the global increase in poverty. That increase didn't account for the second wave.
By comparison, the change in living standards in China has been "more modest," Kochhar added.
Many households coped with the loss of income last year by cutting back on food intake, selling assets, and borrowing informally from friends, relatives, and money lenders, according to researchers at Azim Premji University in the Indian state of Karnataka. The researchers estimate that some 230 million Indians fell into poverty — which they defined as income of less than $5 a day — because of the pandemic.
"An alarming 90 per cent of respondents ... reported that households had suffered a reduction in food intake as a result of the lockdown," the researchers wrote in a May report examining the impact of one year of Covid in India. "Even more worryingly, 20 per cent reported that food intake had not improved even six months after the lockdown."
The Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab has been studying the impact of the pandemic on workers from some of India's poorest states. In a report on young migrant workers from the states of Bihar and Jharkhand, the researchers found that Covid-19 pushed men out of salaried work, and women out of the workforce entirely.
"They [women] had this one chance of working. Now they are back home with their families and being pushed to get married," Clément Imbert, associate professor of economics at the University of Warwick and one of the researchers, told CNN Business.
Now, as India braces for a potential third wave of Covid-19, researchers hope the government can introduce some bold measures to cushion the impact on the world's weakest.
Riaz Haq said…
#India’s Biggest Job Creators Being Killed by #COVID19 #Pandemic. Small businesses employ over 110 million workers & are the nation’s biggest non-farm employer. Their revival is key to getting jobs on track for domestic demand and #GDP growth. #Modi. #BJP

Small businesses may be the bedrock of the Indian economy, helping expand its industrial base and creating jobs by the millions, but the pandemic has shown it’s better to be bigger, according to research by Societe Generale.

The so-called micro-, small-, and medium-enterprises haven’t benefited much from the government’s stimulus steps such as liquidity and loan moratorium, forcing them to let go a large swathe of their employees, Kunal Kundu, an economist with Societe Generale GSC Pvt. in Bengaluru, wrote in the report. While the bigger companies sailed through with a minor blip, he said.

Read: $277 Billion Package May Not Give Immediate Boost to India

Given that small enterprises account for more than 110 million workers and are the nation’s biggest non-farm employer, Kundu said their revival is key to getting jobs on track, and, in turn, domestic demand.

Here’s how Kundu sees small companies faring poorly compared to larger ones:

MSMEs, which have a much higher staff cost-to-sales ratio, saw a 10.5 percentage point drop in the ratio between the second and fourth quarters of 2020, while the drop for the larger companies was only around 5 percentage point
Despite large-scale layoffs, MSME’s margins continued to suffer not just because of high and rising input costs, but also because of a sharp increase in their financing cost
Small businesses also face a double whammy on the tax front. Currently, these businesses are liable to pay consumption tax as soon as they raise an invoice, irrespective of whether or not the invoices have been settled. Failure to pay goods and services tax, in turn, leads to an additional burden in the form of penalties
Riaz Haq said…
#Indian Rupee Slides Toward Year’s Low as #India’s Trade Deficit Widens. India’s widening trade deficit & elevated commodity prices are bearing down on the #currency , reinforcing a recent downward trend pushing it toward a new low for the year.- Bloomberg

After months of wild volatility in the rupee, India’s widening trade deficit and elevated commodity prices are bearing down on the currency, reinforcing a recent downward bias and pushing it toward a new low for the year.

That’s the view of traders who’ve seen the rupee whipsaw from being Asia’s best performer in the first quarter to its worst in April when another wave of Covid-19 infections took hold.

This volatility and the prospect of tapering by the Federal Reserve have also reduced the attractiveness of India’s currency for carry trades, adding to its headwinds.

“We expect oil and broader commodity complex prices to remain elevated in the short term, which will weigh on India’s trade balance,” said Standard Chartered Plc’s Parul Mittal Sinha. “We maintain a bearish view on the rupee,” said Sinha, who heads the bank’s India financial markets and macro trading for South Asia.

Standard Chartered and RBL Bank Ltd. forecast the currency to depreciate to 76 per dollar by year-end, while their peers at Deutsche Bank AG have a slightly less pessimistic projection of 75.

The rupee closed at 74.6350 on Friday while Brent crude, the benchmark for India’s oil imports, was around $76 per barrel, up more than 45% since the start of the year.

Amid the devastating human toll that the coronavirus is taking in India, the rate of increase in new infections is slowing, which is improving the prospects for reopening the economy. But as the Covid curve flattens and consumers and businesses become more active, demand for imports is also set to increase, weighing on the currency.

Updated trade data due Thursday are expected to confirm the deficit widened to $9.4 billion in June, from $6.3 billion in May. Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd. estimates that billion dollar deficits will continue and average in the “double digits” as the economy reopens.

Technical indicators also point to further depreciation of the currency given dollar-rupee’s moving average convergence-divergence gauge, a measure of momentum, remains above zero in bullish territory. The pair has room to run before reaching resistance at April’s peak of 75.3362.

Yet even RBL Bank’s domestic markets head Anand Bagri, who expects the rupee to weaken, sees pockets of support for the currency, including inflows for equity offerings.

Notable among these is a $1.3 billion initial share salesfrom Zomato Ltd., and Paytm’s bid for shareholder approval of a $2.2 billion stock sale that would set in motion the process for the country’s largest ever debut.

The Reserve Bank of India also has $600 billion of currency reserves to draw on to curb any sharp fall in the rupee.

‘”We expect the RBI to remain proactive with its FX intervention strategy to ensure limited volatility in the rupee and to prevent excessive rupee depreciation from feeding into inflation,” said Kaushik Das, chief India economist at Deutsche Bank.

Riaz Haq said…
#Indians Sell Their #Gold As #Covid 2nd Wave Pushes Millions Into Poverty. Many Indians who had clawed their way out of poverty face grim job prospects as #lockdowns crippled the #economy. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva #Islamophobia #coronavirus #pandemic via @ndtv

Paul Fernandes, a 50-year-old waiter in India, last year took out a loan using his gold as collateral to pay for his children's education after losing his job on a cruise liner. This year, he is selling his gold jewelry to meet expenses, after failed attempts at starting a home business and finding another job.
"A gold loan is after all a debt that I am taking on," he said from his hometown in the coastal state of Goa. "Selling my jewelry means I am not obligated to pay someone back along with an additional interest on that."

With the pandemic pushing millions into poverty or bankruptcy, many Indians are now turning to their last resort: selling their gold jewelry to make ends meet. In rural India, the biggest bullion buyer, a brutal new wave of the virus has had a catastrophic impact on the economy and incomes. With fewer banks around, people in rural areas rely on gold in times of need as it can be easily liquidated.

The likelihood of financial distress caused by the second wave is much higher and it could lead to more outright sales of gold, unlike in 2020, when consumers chose to take out loans against their stash of the metal, according to Chirag Sheth, a consultant at London-based Metals Focus Ltd.

Gross scrap supplies, which include old gold melted to make new designs, may exceed 215 tons and surge to the highest in nine years if a new wave emerges, he said. For a nation that imports almost all its gold mainly from Switzerland, higher local supply will also limit overseas inflows.

"You already had a financial problem last year and you got out of that problem through gold loans. Now again, you are having financial problems this year with a potentially third wave on the way, which can again mean lockdowns and job losses," said Sheth. "We can expect distress sales in a big way in August and September when the third wave could actually set in."

Many Indians who had clawed their way out of poverty face grim job prospects as lockdowns crippled the economy. More than 200 million have gone back to earning less than minimum wage, or $5, a day.

Signs of Distress

In an initial sign of stress among consumers, Manappuram Finance Ltd., one of the nation's biggest gold loan providers, auctioned 4.04 billion rupees ($54 million) of gold in the three months through March from loans that turned sour following a sharp drop in prices.

That compares with just 80 million rupees auctioned in the prior nine-month period. The jewelry was sold as Manappuram's borrowers -- typically daily wage earners, small time entrepreneurs, and farmers -- couldn't afford to repay the money.
Riaz Haq said…
Top #Indian newspaper raided by #tax authorities after months of critical coverage.Under #Modi, several critical media outlets have found themselves in tax investigators’ crosshairs, raising fears about the health of the independent press in #India. #BJP

“The raid is the outcome of our aggressive reporting, especially during the second wave of the pandemic in April,” Gaur said by telephone. “Unlike some other media, we reported how people were dying for lack of oxygen and hospital beds.”


Indian tax authorities on Thursday raided one of the country's most prominent newspapers in what journalists and the political opposition denounced as retaliation for the outlet's hard-nosed coverage of the government's pandemic response.

The Dainik Bhaskar Group, whose Hindi-language broadsheet boasts a combined circulation of more than 4 million, was raided simultaneously in at least four locations, including at its headquarters in Madhya Pradesh state.

Surabhi Ahluwalia, a spokeswoman for the tax authority, said searches were underway at multiple locations across the country linked to the group, but she declined to share details about the case. She said the department usually conducts searches in matters of tax evasion.

But the justification of tax evasion was panned by government critics, who pointed out that Dainik Bhaskar has been persistently needling India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with its coverage, including as recently as this week.

India used spyware to hack journalists and others

The Press Club of India said in a statement that it “deplores such acts of intimidation by the government through enforcement agencies to deter the independent media.”

Under the administration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who rose to power in 2014, several critical media outlets have found themselves in tax investigators’ crosshairs, raising fears about the health of the independent press in the world’s largest democracy. Reporters Without Borders, an advocacy group for journalists, recently placed India at 142nd place in its press freedom rankings, roughly on par with Myanmar and Mexico.

Om Gaur, Dainik Bhaskar’s national editor, said his staff’s mobile devices were seized during the raids as a “tactic to harass journalists.”

“The raid is the outcome of our aggressive reporting, especially during the second wave of the pandemic in April,” Gaur said by telephone. “Unlike some other media, we reported how people were dying for lack of oxygen and hospital beds.”

The tax investigation “is not going to change anything for us,” he added. “We will keep doing good journalism.”

As covid-19 roiled India this spring, Dainik Bhaskar splashed photos of funeral pyres on its front pages, reported on corpses floating in the Ganges River and repeatedly challenged the government’s narrative about the disaster and its official death statistics. Gaur, the editor, contributed an op-ed in the New York Times that made waves in his home country.

The paper has sometimes taken a less-than-orthodox approach to holding government accountable: As citizens in the state of Gujarat struggled to procure covid-19 medication in April, the paper published the phone number of the BJP’s state president in a massive front-page headline.

Riaz Haq said…
Forecaster Who Predicted #India’s #Covid Peak Sees New Wave Coming. India may see daily cases grow again to 150,000 in October. New variants, rate of vaccination key to tipping the balance. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva

We're tracking the latest on the coronavirus outbreak and the global response. Sign up here for our daily newsletter on what you need to know.

India is likely to see a rise in Covid-19 infections building into a new -- though smaller -- virus wave that may peak in October, according to a mathematical model by researchers who accurately predicted the tapering of a brutal surge of cases earlier this year.
Riaz Haq said…
#Japan expands tougher quarantine rules to #India, #Greece, #Romania. Several countries, including Austria, Ecuador and France, are already under 3-day rule & dozens of others are being subject to tougher quarantine requirements. #Omicronindia #COVID19

India, Greece and Romania, as well as four U.S. states, will be added Sunday to Japan's list of places from which returning Japanese nationals and foreign residents will be subject to stricter quarantine requirements as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

Travelers from the three countries, Colorado, Hawaii, Minnesota and New York will be required to spend three days of their two-week quarantine period in government-designated facilities.

The expansion of the list was announced by Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno on Friday during a press conference after a government task force made the decision as the number of people infected with the new variant increases globally.

A number of countries, including Austria, Ecuador and France, are already under the same three-day rule and dozens of others are being subject to tougher quarantine requirements, such as having travelers stay in government-designated facilities for 10 days.

Japan found its first infection of Omicron on Tuesday, prompting it to deny re-entry of all foreigners, including residents with long-term visas, who have recently been to any of 10 African countries likely to have widespread infections of the variant.

Japan has also banned new entries by foreigners from around the world.

Riaz Haq said…
#Indian man fined 100,000 Indian rupees ($1,322) for wanting #Modi’s face cut from #vaccine drive. #India’s PM Modi is the focus of a huge #advertising blitz touting his government’s triumphs in fighting #COVID despite nearly 500,000 deaths. #pandemic

An Indian man who went to court to complain about Prime Minister Narendra Modi promoting himself as the face of the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination drive has walked away with a fine for “wasting” the judge’s time.

India’s Hindu nationalist prime minister has been the focus of an enormous advertising blitz touting his government’s triumphs in fighting the pandemic despite nearly 500,000 Indians dying of COVID-19, according to official data. Health experts fear the actual toll could be much higher.

Modi’s visage has been plastered on billboards and even on the side of passenger planes alongside a triumphant message celebrating India’s recent milestone of one billion administered vaccination doses.

The campaign is at odds with the fierce criticism levelled at Modi’s government since the pandemic began, with political opponents dryly suggesting his face should also be printed on the death certificates of COVID-19 victims.

Peter Myaliparampil of southern Kerala state had objected to Modi’s face being printed on his vaccine certificate with a message exhorting the public to fight the coronavirus.

He told a court that India’s inoculation rollout risked becoming “a media campaign” for Modi’s benefit.

In his petition, Myaliparampil said he had paid for his own vaccine and the image of Modi on his certificate “served no utility or relevance”.

But the Kerala High Court threw out the case, saying it appeared to be politically motivated and fined him 100,000 Indian rupees ($1,322) for wasting its time.

“If the petitioner … is ashamed to see the picture of his prime minister, he can avert his eyes to the bottom side of the vaccine certificate,” the court’s judgement said.

Myaliparampil’s lawyer told the AFP news agency they would appeal against the decision.

India has recorded more than 477,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths, more than any other country except the United States and Brazil.

The government has justified using Modi as the face of the media campaign, with the junior health minister telling parliament in August that it created awareness about coronavirus prevention.
Riaz Haq said…
#India's staggering COVID-19 death toll could be 6 million, by far the highest #COVID19 death toll in the world -- greater than the #US at more than 811,000. #Modi #BJP #pandemic #Delta #OmicronVariant - ABC News - via @ABC

New research suggests that India’s COVID-19 death toll during its first and second waves might have been significantly undercounted, with the actual number potentially 12 times higher than the official stats -- over 6 million people.

That would be by far the highest COVID death toll in the world -- greater than the U.S. at more than 811,000.

India was devastated by a crushing wave of the delta variant in April and May, with supply shortages, makeshift clinics and images of funeral pyres burning nonstop.

There was a sense at the time that the number of deaths was an undercount and a study in July indicated that deaths could be 10 times the official toll, although that research had limitations.

MORE: EXPLAINER: Why India's pandemic data is vastly undercounted
The new study, by researchers in the U.S. and India from the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, a public health research institute in Washington, D.C., indicates that the “reported COVID-19 deaths greatly underestimated pandemic-associated mortality” and was particularly acute among older and poorer people.

According to government statistics, India logged 478,007 COVID-19 deaths from the beginning of the pandemic, marked at Jan. 3, 2020 to Dec. 21, 2021, and nearly 35 million cases during that time.

The study -- which is focused on the Chennai District on the country's southeast coast -- indicates the number is likely much higher, finding that that the death rate there was 5.2 per 1,000, "a 41% increase over typical mortality levels in the city.”

The study uses data on "all-cause mortality" within the district, i.e. the death rate from all causes of death for the population in the given time period are considered.

“On the nationwide figures, the 5.2 deaths per 1000 resident would indicate over 6 million deaths nationwide if the results could be extrapolated to the entire country,” Professor Ramanan Laxminarayan, an economist and epidemiologist and the study's lead author, told ABC News. He is the founder of the University of Washington's Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy in DC, which contributed to the project.

Deaths were substantially higher in older age groups.

Greater increases in mortality were observed in communities with lower socioeconomic status during the second wave of infections from March 1-June 30, 2021, but not during the first.

Laxminarayan said that there were limitations to the study -- Chennai, as an urban area, might have been more affected than many parts of the country which were rural.

“But by the same token, Chennai has some of the best public health and healthcare facilities in the country and so the mortality rates in Chennai were likely lower than in other parts of the country,” he added.

The study notes that the true burden of disease is still “uncertain” due to restrictions in disease surveillance and a lack of official death records.

Riaz Haq said…
#India was slow to identify and publicize the emergence of #DeltaVariant, setting off deadly global resurgence of #COVID19 that took millions of lives. #Modi #BJP #Hindutva #Islamophobia

Unknown at the time, Amravati’s flare-ups were the first visible warning that the SARS-CoV-2 variant now known as delta had started along its devastating path. Within weeks, thousands of people flooded Amravati’s underfunded healthcare network as the city turned into Ground Zero for what would become the most confounding version of the pathogen first identified in Wuhan, China a year earlier.

Amravati was a precursor to the horrors that would grip all of India, and spread globally. As January drew to a close, Bhushan was already sensing that the city of more than 600,000 residents was becoming a petri-dish for a form of Covid-19 his team hadn’t treated before. Earlier, patients’ symptoms improved in under two weeks, but now they were battling the virus for “almost 20 to 25 days,” he said. “It was a nightmarish situation.”

Despite those first, ominous signs, what followed goes some ways toward explaining why two years into this pandemic, the world remains on the brink of economy-shattering shutdowns, with another new variant emerging out of vulnerable, under-vaccinated populations. But while South Africa acted swiftly last month to decode the heavily mutated omicron and publicize its existence, India’s experience perhaps better reflects the reality faced by most developing countries – and the risks they potentially pose.

India’s hampered response was characterized by months of inertia from the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and a startling lack of resources, according to interviews with two dozen scientists, officials, diplomats and health workers. Many asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak to the media or were concerned about talking publicly about India’s missteps.

The actions India did — and didn’t take — as delta emerged, ultimately saddled its people and the world with a ruthlessly virulent incarnation of the coronavirus, one that challenged vaccines and containment regimes like none before it. Delta upended even the most successful pandemic strategies, snaking into countries like Australia and China with stringent “Covid Zero” curbs in place and effectively closed borders. It’s been the most dominant form of Covid for much of this year, when more than 3.5 million people died of the virus — almost double the toll during the first year of the pandemic.

Multiple scientists interviewed by Bloomberg News said that the way India handled the early days of delta fueled its rise. The variant’s identification was delayed because the country’s laboratories were flying blind for much of 2020 and early 2021, partly because Modi’s government had restricted imports of vital genetic sequencing compounds under a nationalistic agenda to drive self sufficiency, they said. There were repeated efforts to warn the administration about the new strain in early February, the scientists said, yet India went public with details of the more transmissible variant only at the end of March.
Riaz Haq said…
#India's staggering COVID-19 death toll could be 6 million, by far the highest #COVID19 death toll in the world -- greater than the #US at more than 811,000. #Modi #BJP #pandemic #Delta #OmicronVariant - ABC News - via @ABC

Even though omicron is quickly becoming the more dominant form of Covid in the U.S. and elsewhere, quick action has bought time for scientists to decode the extent of its transmissibility and severity. South Africa identified and broadcast details of the new variant just weeks after seeing a spike in cases in one province.

By contrast, for much of 2020, India’s efforts tracking the virus were sparse, meaning the exact origin of delta still remains murky. To date, the country has only sequenced and shared 0.3% of its total official infections to the GISAID database.

India has been held back by the fact that only a handful of government laboratories and states were making consistent efforts in the first year of the pandemic to map the virus, even as millions were being infected in the country’s first wave, according to people familiar with the matter. Bhramar Mukherjee, an epidemiologist and biostatistics chair at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, said India’s sequencing efforts were hurt by “bureaucracy, politics and a sense of exceptionalism that we have conquered Covid and there is no need to worry about variants.”

“The need to share data and samples is so key,” she said. “When South Africa started collaborating and sharing with the rest of the world, progress also increased like a process of contagion: exponentially. India is always protective of its own data.”

Inside India’s scientific agencies a lack of institutional dynamism, along with a culture of subservience to Modi’s government — highly sensitive to commentary on its handling of the virus — had taken hold, said one former official. That meant critical questions weren’t being aired by experts out of fear they’d derail their careers, the person said. In many cases, India’s health ministry simply wasn’t listening to or making decisions based on advice coming from those expert bodies, according to this official.

Attempts to ramp up sequencing in India were also critically curtailed by an inadvertent ban in May 2020 on the import of reagents, the chemical needed to fuel sequencer machines. The `Make in India’ campaign, Modi’s drive to ensure the country is less reliant on places like China, meant publicly-financed labs weren’t able to import items worth less than 2 billion rupees ($26.5 million) for months. India mostly uses sequencers manufactured by San Diego-based Illumina Inc. and the U.K.’s Oxford Nanopore Technologies Plc, which run on patented reagents that can’t be substituted locally.

Scientists in India and abroad now provide varying dates for when delta began circulating there. Samples retrospectively added to GISAID show at least one delta-linked lineage in India as far back as September last year, while the World Health Organization places its first discovery there in October.

Current and former Indian government scientists say there are often errors when manually uploading information to the database and those datelines are likely to be wrong. December 2020 is when delta was initially sequenced in India, they say. Certainly, the first person to decode the mutations wouldn’t have known its full enormity at the time since not all changes in a virus are significant. Only when you begin to see spiraling outbreaks marked by similar characteristics do you realize that a variant of concern is at play, they said. But Amravati offered the clues needed to make that connection as early as January this year.

Riaz Haq said…

In last 5 years under #Modi, income of poorest 20% #Indians fell 53%, the 2nd lowest quintile (lower middle class) saw 32% decline in their household income. Upper middle (20%) & richest (20%) saw their household income rise by 7% and 39% respectively #BJP


While the pandemic brought economic activity to a standstill for at least two quarters in 2020-21 and resulted in a 7.3% contraction in GDP in 2020-21, the survey shows that the pandemic hit the urban poor most and eroded their household income.

Splitting the population across five categories based on income, the survey shows that while the poorest 20% (first quintile) witnessed the biggest erosion of 53%, the second lowest quintile (lower middle category), too, witnessed a decline in their household income of 32% in the same period. While the quantum of erosion reduced to 9% for those in the middle income category, the top two quintiles — upper middle (20%) and richest (20%)— saw their household income rise by 7% and 39% respectively.

The survey shows that the richest 20% of households have, on average, added more income per household and more pooled income as a group in the past five years than in any five-year period earlier since liberalisation. Exactly the opposite has happened for the poorest 20% of households — on average, they have never actually seen a decrease in household income since 1995. Yet, in 2021, in a huge knockout punch caused by Covid, they earned half as much as they did in 2016.

How disruptive this distress has been for those at the bottom of the pyramid is reinforced by the fact that in the previous 11-year period between 2005 and 2016, while the household income of the richest 20% grew by 34%, the poorest 20% saw their household income surge by 183% at an average annual growth rate of 9.9%.

Coming in the run-up to the Budget, the task for the Government is cut out.

“As the Finance Minister is finalising her budget proposals for 2022-23 to give shape to the roadmap for economic revival of the country,” said Rajesh Shukla, MD and CEO, PRICE, “we need a K-shaped policy too that addresses the two ends of the spectrum and a lot more thinking on how to build the bridge between the two.”
Riaz Haq said…
#India Is Stalling the #WHO's Efforts to Make Global #Covid #Death Toll Public. Over a third of the additional 9 million deaths are estimated to have occurred in India, where the government of PM #Modi has stood by its own count of about 520,000. #BJP

An ambitious effort by the World Health Organization to calculate the global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has found that vastly more people died than previously believed — a total of about 15 million by the end of 2021, more than double the official total of six million reported by countries individually.

But the release of the staggering estimate — the result of more than a year of research and analysis by experts around the world and the most comprehensive look at the lethality of the pandemic to date — has been delayed for months because of objections from India, which disputes the calculation of how many of its citizens died and has tried to keep it from becoming public.

More than a third of the additional nine million deaths are estimated to have occurred in India, where the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stood by its own count of about 520,000. The W.H.O. will show the country’s toll is at least four million, according to people familiar with the numbers who were not authorized to disclose them, which would give India the highest tally in the world, they said. The Times was unable to learn the estimates for other countries.

The W.H.O. calculation combined national data on reported deaths with new information from localities and household surveys, and with statistical models that aim to account for deaths that were missed. Most of the difference in the new global estimate represents previously uncounted deaths, the bulk of which were directly from Covid; the new number also includes indirect deaths, like those of people unable to access care for other ailments because of the pandemic.

The delay in releasing the figures is significant because the global data is essential for understanding how the pandemic has played out and what steps could mitigate a similar crisis in the future. It has created turmoil in the normally staid world of health statistics — a feud cloaked in anodyne language is playing out at the United Nations Statistical Commission, the world body that gathers health data, spurred by India’s refusal to cooperate.

“It’s important for global accounting and the moral obligation to those who have died, but also important very practically. If there are subsequent waves, then really understanding the death total is key to knowing if vaccination campaigns are working,” said Dr. Prabhat Jha, director of the Centre for Global Health Research in Toronto and a member of the expert working group supporting the W.H.O.’s excess death calculation. “And it’s important for accountability.”

To try to take the true measure of the pandemic’s impact, the W.H.O. assembled a collection of specialists including demographers, public health experts, statisticians and data scientists. The Technical Advisory Group, as it is known, has been collaborating across countries to try to piece together the most complete accounting of the pandemic dead.

The Times spoke with more than 10 people familiar with the data. The W.H.O. had planned to make the numbers public in January but the release has continually been pushed back.

Recently, a few members of the group warned the W.H.O. that if the organization did not release the figures, the experts would do so themselves, three people familiar with the matter said.
Riaz Haq said…
#India #Covid-19: 'My father did not have to die'. The oxygen cylinder placed under hard vinyl bench on which he lay did not work. His ambulance was slowed by random police checkpoints, his condition worsened before he reached hospital #Modi #BJP @BDUTT

In April 2021, when the news first came that my father had Covid, I was at a crematorium in Mumbai, fighting back tears, as an elderly man in a wheelchair waved goodbye to his wife.

Covid was already my whole life. I travelled more than 30,000km (18,641 miles) by road across India, through the first wave and then again thousands of kilometres by both air and road through the more lethal second spell.

I'd been the chronicler of death and despair; but now the news had come home.

I am forever haunted by my decision to take my dad to hospital in a private ambulance.


Last summer hundreds of thousands of people died when an unprepared India was hit by a catastrophic second wave of Covid-19 and its health care system buckled. Journalist Barkha Dutt, who was chronicling the pandemic, lost her father to the virus in April 2021. Here she writes on her loss, and other daughters who suffered the same fate.

It's been a year since I have been able to hear music; a year since the death of my father to Covid at the peak of India's insatiable second wave.

So, a few days ago, the faint strains of a familiar tune felt like a jolt to the system.

Guantanamera Guajira Guantanamera…

My hand trembled as I heard the chords of the Cuban folk song that has been variously sung to invoke romance, patriotism, protest and change.

Inside I was shaking.

Memory can be a beast.

For my sister and I, this was Papa's Song that marked the milestones of our lives, played out on scratchy cassettes when we were kids, remastered for an eight-track system in our teens, graduating to CDs when we went to college and finally heard on loop at his desktop. Here, he was surrounded by grandchildren, dogs, meccano sets, and odd looking wires - bit parts of kettles, speakers, coffee makers - machines he was repairing for friends, sometimes opened up for the sheer joy of tinkering with them.

SP Dutt - 'Speedy' to friends and family - was one of the hundreds of thousands of Indians taken by a virus that pummelled our health system into submission. In the wasteland of a nation's grief, April was indeed the cruellest month as oxygen ran out, hospitals shut their gates to patients who died on the streets, vaccines were delayed and elections were mockingly on schedule.

We could only turn to each other, daughters desperate to save fathers, as institutions collapsed.

In Mumbai, Samridhi Saxena, reached out in the hope that I could help her father with an oxygen cylinder. He was struggling with a rare neurodegenerative disease.

From Patna, Manisha called to say her 53-year-old father may die because the hospital where he was admitted no longer had oxygen.

In Bangalore, 21-year-old Bharini asked me: "How strong am I expected to be?" She lost her biological parents in an accident, now her adoptive mother had died from Covid.

Journalist Stutee Ghosh and I mirrored each other's gnawing guilt - that somehow we were letting down our fathers; but also the guilt of knowing that even in our worst moment, we were better off than hundreds of thousands of other Indians, just because that our dads were in hospital and not stranded on the road.

Her father, like mine, didn't make it. And over the weeks, her grief mutated into rage at "the indignity in death for so many who are dying and not even being counted by the government".

We were bereft. As daughters. And as citizens.

Before my father died, we always valorised our mother, Prabha Dutt, who we lost when I was 13 years old to a brain haemorrhage. As India's first woman war correspondent, who died at 40, she was the stuff of legend.

Riaz Haq said…
Opinion Forget the WHO. India owes its people the truth about covid-19.
Image without a caption
By Barkha Dutt

That very night in April 2021, the oxygen supply to the intensive care unit of the hospital where Manju was admitted ran out. Manju, just 30, was among 20 patients who died; this was just one case among scores in hospitals across the country. Amid oxygen shortages, hospitals posted desperate SOS messages, families carried bottle-size oxygen cylinders to their relatives, and Sikh gurudwaras that usually feed the poor for free organized oxygen drives instead.

Despite this catastrophe, India’s Parliament was informed this year that there was not a single death from oxygen shortage reported by any state during the pandemic.

The unforgivable erasure of these covid-19 deaths has been underscored again by the recent dispute between the World Health Organization and the Indian government over exactly how many people died during the pandemic. According to the WHO, there were 15 million excess deaths worldwide in 2020 and 2021, more than double the official covid-19 death toll of 6 million. WHO estimated 4.7 million people died in India, a figure nearly 10 times the official number. The Narendra Modi government has fiercely contested the WHO’s mathematical modeling and released official data that shows only a 6 percent increase of all-cause deaths in 2020 from 2019.

I am not an epidemiologist. I can’t speak to whether it's a factor of 10 or 4 that separates the government-acknowledged fatalities from the actual count. But as someone who spent two years traversing the length and breadth of India, I witnessed exactly how and why people fell through the cracks.

Based on my reporting, at least hundreds of thousands of Indians — most of them abjectly poor — would have died overlooked, forgotten and eventually uncounted.

The reasons were manifold. Oxygen shortage led to several hospitals closing their gates to new patients, unwilling to take on the moral and legal liability of more deaths on their watch. Then there was the stigma that made many, especially in rural India, averse to getting tested. Along riverbanks in northern India, bodies were hurled into the water or left in the sand in the cover of night; grave keepers and boatmen told me this was either because the poor didn’t have money to buy wood for cremation or because they were too frightened to own their dead.

There was also the maze of bureaucracy that families had to navigate to get a death certificate listing covid-19 as the cause of death. Those who didn’t get an RT-PCR test but died from covid-like symptoms during the peak of the surge, for instance, were not counted in the tally. In rural India, where primary health-care centers were often closed or abandoned during the pandemic’s peak, a test was often not easily accessible. But in April and May 2021, community leaders in every village I traveled to testified to a sudden spike in deaths in their area.

In the city of Bhopal, 45-year-old auto rickshaw driver Vikas Singh Chauhan died after driving from hospital to hospital in vain. “We don’t have any proof” of cause of death, his wife, Jyoti, told me in tears.


India is free to question the credibility of the WHO, whose poor handling of the origins of covid-19 has weakened its authority. But it owes an answer to its citizens.

As epidemiologist Prabhat Jha told me, the government could lead its own investigation by asking a question about covid deaths to every family in the upcoming census.

To link the question of how many Indians really died to faux nationalism is in fact anti-national. Indians who died deserve to be so much more than numbers.

How can they not even be that?
Riaz Haq said…

"If I run away again, my mother will curse me," said Bhuniya. "Now, there's nothing left. My account is empty and there's little work in the village."

The story echoes across India. During the pandemic, Rosa Abraham, an economics professor at Azim Premji University in Bengaluru, tracked more than 20,000 people as they navigated the labor market. She found that after the first lockdown, women were several times more likely to lose their jobs than men and far less likely to recover work after restrictions lifted.

Pandemic Impact on Employment
How India's Covid lockdowns affected employment for men and women

Increased domestic duties, lack of childcare options after school shutdowns, and a surge in marriages — which often confine women's autonomy in India — help explain the difference in outcome.

"When men are faced with this kind of a huge economic shock, then they have a fallback option," Abraham said. "They can navigate to different kinds of work. But for women, there is no such fallback option. They can't negotiate the labor market as effectively as men do."

Dreams of freedom or a well-paid office job were replaced with what she called "distress-led employment," essentially unpaid work on a family farm or taking care of the home. Prior to the pandemic, Indian women already performed about 10 times more care work than men, around three times the global average.

"It is the unfortunate situation that the decision to work is often not in the hands of the woman herself," Abraham said.

The decline in workforce participation is partly about culture. As Indians became wealthier, families that could afford to keep women at home did so, thinking it conferred social status. On the other extreme, those at the lowest rungs of society are still seen as potential earners. But they tend to work menial or unpaid jobs far from the formal economy. In the official statistics, their labor is not counted.

In many villages, patriarchal values remain ironclad, and a stigma against girls persists. Though illegal, sex-selective abortions are still common. Akhina Hansraj, senior program manager at Akshara Centre, a Mumbai-based organization that advocates for gender equity, said Indian men often think "it's not very manly if their wife contributes to the family income."

"They want to create this dependency," Hansraj said. "People believe if women get educated, they might work and become financially independent and then they may not obey and respect the family."

Marriage is a sticking point in India, where most weddings are still arranged. After the first lockdown, in 2020, the country's leading matrimony websites reported a spike in new registrations. In some states, marriages among children and young adults — many of them illegal under Indian law — jumped by 80%, according to government data.

Madhu Sharma, a Hindi teacher at the Pardada Pardadi Educational Society, a girls' school in the northern town of Anupshahr, said she might intervene in three child marriages a year. During the pandemic, when the campus closed, the number increased three to four times.

"Before Covid, children were always in touch with their teachers and also with me," she said. "After Covid, when the children had to stay at home, keeping in contact with them became a big challenge."

Financial considerations often tipped the scales in favor of marriage. Social distancing and warnings against large gatherings meant parents could hold small, less-expensive ceremonies at home, rather than the multi-day celebrations that are common even in the poorest pockets of society. During the direst stretches of the pandemic, some families married off daughters because they couldn't afford to feed another mouth.
Riaz Haq said…
#India confirms #Asia's first #monkeypox death. The 22-year-old #Indian man died on Saturday in #Kerala. It's only the fourth known fatality in the world from the disease in the current outbreak. #Modi #Disease #BJP #Hindutva #Health

India confirmed its first monkeypox death on Monday, a young man in the southern state of Kerala, in what is only the fourth known fatality from the disease in the current outbreak.

Last week, Spain reported two monkeypox-related deaths and Brazil its first. The death in India is also the first in Asia. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global health emergency on July 23.

The 22-year-old Indian man died on Saturday, Kerala's revenue minister told reporters, adding that the government had isolated 21 people who had come in contact with him.

"The person reached Kerala on July 21 but visited a hospital only on July 26 when he displayed fatigue and fever," Minister K. Rajan said, adding that there was no reason to panic as none of the primary contacts were showing symptoms.

Kerala's health minister, Veena George, told reporters on Sunday that the man's family told authorities the previous day that he had tested positive in the United Arab Emirates before returning to India.

India's federal health ministry had no comment on the death, except for saying that the government had formed a task force of senior officials to monitor monkeypox cases in the country, where local media have reported at least five infections.

The WHO said late last month 78 countries had reported more than 18,000 cases of monkeypox, the majority in Europe.

It says the monkeypox virus causes a disease with less severe symptoms than smallpox and occurs mainly in central and west Africa. The disease is transmitted from animals to humans.

Human-to-human transmission happens through contact with bodily fluids, lesions on the skin or on internal mucosal surfaces, such as in the mouth or throat, respiratory droplets and contaminated objects.
Riaz Haq said…
PM Modi: The Joke Indians are Not Allowed to Crack
4 April 2022, by THOMAS Rosamma

Parul Khakhar, a poet from Gujarat, posted a poem on Facebook in May, expressing her anguish at the sight of bodies flowing down the Ganges at the height of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. ‘Shav vahini Ganga’ – Ganges the Carrier of Corpses – was read widely, translated into several languages and shared on social media. The state government’s literary mouthpiece came down heavily on the poet, claiming it was “misuse of a poem for anarchy”.

Ganges, the Carrier of Corpses
Translated by Salil Tripathi
Don’t worry, be happy, in one voice speak the corpses
O King, in your Ram-Rajya, we see bodies flow in the Ganges
O King, the woods are ashes,
No spots remain at crematoria,
O King, there are no carers,
Nor any pall-bearers,
No mourners left
And we are bereft
With our wordless dirges of dysphoria
Libitina enters every home where she dances and then prances,
O King, in your Ram-Rajya, our bodies flow in the Ganges
O King, the melting chimney quivers, the virus has us shaken
O King, our bangles shatter, our heaving chest lies broken
The city burns as he fiddles, Billa-Ranga thrust their lances,
O King, in your Ram-Rajya, I see bodies flow in the Ganges
O King, your attire sparkles as you shine and glow and blaze
O King, this entire city has at last seen your real face
Show your guts, no ifs and buts,
Come out and shout and say it loud,
“The naked King is lame and weak”
Show me you are no longer meek,
Flames rise high and reach the sky, the furious city rages;
O King, in your Ram-Rajya, do you see bodies flow in the Ganges?

Riaz Haq said…
In the absence of real data, India's stats are all being manufactured by BJP to win elections.

Postponing India’s census is terrible for the country

But it may suit Narendra Modi just fine

Narendra Modi often overstates his achievements. For example, the Hindu-nationalist prime minister’s claim that all Indian villages have been electrified on his watch glosses over the definition: only public buildings and 10% of households need a connection for the village to count as such. And three years after Mr Modi declared India “open-defecation free”, millions of villagers are still purging al fresco. An absence of up-to-date census information makes it harder to check such inflated claims. It is also a disaster for the vast array of policymaking reliant on solid population and development data.


Three years ago India’s government was scheduled to pose its citizens a long list of basic but important questions. How many people live in your house? What is it made of? Do you have a toilet? A car? An internet connection? The answers would refresh data from the country’s previous census in 2011, which, given India’s rapid development, were wildly out of date. Because of India’s covid-19 lockdown, however, the questions were never asked.

Almost three years later, and though India has officially left the pandemic behind, there has been no attempt to reschedule the decennial census. It may not happen until after parliamentary elections in 2024, or at all. Opposition politicians and development experts smell a rat.


For a while policymakers can tide themselves over with estimates, but eventually these need to be corrected with accurate numbers. “Right now we’re relying on data from the 2011 census, but we know our results will be off by a lot because things have changed so much since then,” says Pronab Sen, a former chairman of the National Statistical Commission who works on the household-consumption survey. And bad data lead to bad policy. A study in 2020 estimated that some 100m people may have missed out on food aid to which they were entitled because the distribution system uses decade-old numbers.

Similarly, it is important to know how many children live in an area before building schools and hiring teachers. The educational misfiring caused by the absence of such knowledge is particularly acute in fast-growing cities such as Delhi or Bangalore, says Narayanan Unni, who is advising the government on the census. “We basically don’t know how many people live in these places now, so proper planning for public services is really hard.”

The home ministry, which is in charge of the census, continues to blame its postponement on the pandemic, most recently in response to a parliamentary question on December 13th. It said the delay would continue “until further orders”, giving no time-frame for a resumption of data-gathering. Many statisticians and social scientists are mystified by this explanation: it is over a year since India resumed holding elections and other big political events.
Riaz Haq said…
India’s #Modi's Wild Vanity Project Already Has Eight Dead #Cheetahs. #Indian prime minister’s PR attempt to reintroduce big cats to #India was doomed from the start, scientists and conservationists say. #BJP #Hindutva

Twenty cheetahs were shipped to India from Southern Africa in a historic intercontinental translocation designed to restore the big cats to the country for the first time in 70 years.

The first delivery was timed to coincide with the Indian prime minister’s birthday last year. Amid huge fanfare leading up to the big day, enormous billboards across major cities in the country advertised this achievement of Narendra Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Cheetahs—the agile big cats known for their remarkable speed and striking appearance—were declared extinct in India in 1952. Now Modi—the most powerful Indian leader in decades—seemed to be saying he could turn back time and bring these beautiful creatures home to a resurgent India.

The results, so far, of this grandiose plan have been tragic.

The first eight cheetahs arrived from Namibia last September, and another 12 cheetahs from South Africa were introduced to the Kuno National Park—located in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh—in February this year.

Hopes across the country were sky high, but even before they arrived, scientists and conservationists were raising major concerns about this unprecedented plan.

Kuno National Park emerged as the location for the reintroduction of cheetahs, beating out 10 surveyed sites in five central Indian states, according to the government’s action plan. Studies by conservation researchers, however, disagreed.

The action plan, devised by the Wildlife Institute of India, says that this decision was influenced by Kuno National Park’s “suitable habitat and abundant prey base.” Scientists, again, disagree.

While the ambitious plan to reintroduce cheetahs was being put into action, there were murmurs of concern among India’s wildlife community. They said the plan was “ecologically unsound” besides being costly and “may serve as a distraction rather than help global cheetah conservation efforts.”

Modi ignored their fears. In 2012, the Supreme Court of India had already intervened by putting a stay on the government’s plans to import cheetahs, and in 2013, the apex court reaffirmed its position, emphasizing the necessity for the government to present a comprehensive study before any consideration could be given to introducing cheetahs from Africa.

In 2017, the National Tiger Conservation Authority in India made an appeal to the apex court to reconsider its decision. Following the appeal, the Supreme Court granted permission in 2020 to introduce the cheetah on an “experimental basis.”

Many raised objections.

‘Flawed from the start’
As time passed, the fears of the wildlife community began to materialize as one by one, the big cats started losing their lives. Since March this year, a total of eight—including three cubs born to a Namibian cheetah named Jwala—have lost their lives at the park, adding to the growing toll of cheetah deaths.

Many argued the grand project—which cost $6 million so far—is on the brink of failure.

Dr. Arjun M. Gopalaswamy, a renowned big cat scientist in India told The Daily Beast: “The project was already flawed but now these unforeseen deaths, inexplicable deaths have made it far worse than what we thought.” He says the project is now at a “salvage point.”

India, despite the mounting demographic pressure, has lost only one large wild species of mammals since its independence from the British in 1947—the cheetah. And hence its reintroduction “has a very special significance for the national conservation ethic and ethos.” The Indian government believes that bringing back the cheetah will have “equally important conservation ramifications.”

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