Over the past several months, we have watched images of the world map transform into darker shades of red as the COVID-19 pandemic reached far and wide. Despite the differential spread, very few countries have been spared, and it has felt like a bad dream that refuses to end. As we attempt to make sense of this uncertainty, the pandemic and its consequences can only be understood by considering multiple factors like politics, health, economics and social practices. Furthermore, it is also abundantly clear that solutions can only be found by international and inter-disciplinary collaborations, unencumbered by barriers of any kind. The world has become a laboratory for the pandemic, and we are part of an experiment at the intersection of nature and culture.
As old arrangements in the international order between nations: north-south, rich-poor, developed-under-developed, is shaken by the disease, scientists and scholars try to make sense from the available but incomplete information. Organizations that emerged from 20th century structures like the WHO, began to look imbalanced and ineffective in dealing with the spreading disease. Other international aid agencies have also failed to cope with the demands of the current situation. It is local administrative and health personnel who have been dealing with the crisis in their respective countries. The pandemic resulted in exposing several fractures in the system, both internationally and within countries. Apart from the differential rates of infection, the handling of the crisis has also resulted in variation in the spread of the infection and the loss of life above and beyond endemic factors. The COVID puzzle is very complex. From policy and governance, delivery of health care, natural resources, biological vulnerability, demographic features and uneven wealth distribution to personal health and hygiene, very few spaces have been left unexamined.
India has experienced several epidemics. Given the climatic, demographic and social conditions, infectious diseases still count for a large percentage of deaths, unlike wealthier nations. Among these are Tuberculosis, GI tract infections, Dengue, Malaria and other infectious diseases. Yet, in the past, viruses like AIDS, EBOLA and SARS have seen fewer cases than predicted by mathematical modeling. There was a time when it was estimated that the AIDS crisis would be uncontrollable, but this did not happen. Yet, during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, there was a massive loss of life in India. Given this scenario, many questions about current crisis emerge. With the density of its population, the inadequacy of health infrastructure, relatively low levels of education and poverty, COVID-19 should have wreaked havoc in the country. Deriving my data from available sources, in this presentation, I will attempt to make sense of India’s figures, and also discuss how dealing with one crisis effectively resulted in other emergencies. How effective each government has been, is something only hindsight will reveal. For now, we can only attempt to make sense of the ongoing analysis of incomplete data.