04/24/2021, 12.16
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'Covid-19 tsunami' hits India as obituaries and cremations exceed official figures

In Gujarat six pages of funeral announcements in a city where according to the government there are only 13 victims of the virus. In the abandoned lands of Mumbai improvised pyres to burn the bodies. The New Delhi High Court: "It is not a wave, it’s a tsunami".

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The official numbers on Covid-19 deaths in India continue to set a new daily record. But they may still be only a small fraction of the actual victims of the pandemic. The latest bulletin released today speaks of 346,786 new cases and 2,624 deaths in the last 24 hours in the country. Yet the number of obituaries in the newspapers and the images of improvised pyres for the cremation of bodies in many cities is enough to reveal the extent of these widely underestimated figures.

The situation is effectively summed up by a series of tweets posted today from Gujarat, the very state where Prime Minister Modi built his rise to power, by journalist Deepak Patel. Citing the local edition of the city of Rajkot of the Sandesh newspaper, Patel talks about 6 pages out of 17 devoted to obituaries against the only usual page from a month ago.

He comments “You can guess why there are 267 obituaries in just 1 edition of 1 of the local papers today if official COVID death count for Rajkot is only around 12-16 per day. Also, you can guess why there is a need for 3 new cremation grounds in Rajkot now. But, what does Guj govt's statistics for yesterday say? It says only 13 people died due to COVID in Rajkot yesterday. It says 4 persons each died of COVID in 4 districts — Morbi, Bhavnagar, Surendranagar & Dwarka. It says no one died of COVID in Amreli & Porbandar."

Meanwhile, new pyres for the cremation of bodies continue to pop up everywhere, even in the abandoned lands of Mumbai and the capital Delhi. A fact that is leading many in India to think that the daily deaths from Covid-19 could be even 10 times more than the official figure.

In the last few hours, meanwhile, in New Delhi a new tragedy has involved a hospital: 20 Covid-19 patients died because the Jaipur Golden Hospital ran out of oxygen. The special trains set up by the government to carry supplies cannot keep up with the pace of demand and individual Indian states are competing for limited supplies. Speaking on the matter, the High Court of New Delhi declared that what India is facing "is not a wave of Covid-19, but a tsunami". The pace of vaccinations - so far indicated by the Modi government as the way out - is also slowing down: yesterday the doses administered were just over 2.5 million, almost a million less than two weeks ago.

And now many also say that a catastrophe of these proportions could have been avoided: until a few days ago India, in fact, permitted political rallies for the elections underway in some states and the Hindu pilgrimage of the Kumbh Mela, events that brought together millions of people. Many pilgrims who have returned from the Ganges are spreading the infection: they are already among the dead or hospitalized. And in all states, right in the midst of this second wave of the pandemic, testing labs have been further overloaded as local governments have mandated screening for those returning from Kumbh Mela.

In the newspaper The Hindu Suhasini Haidar also points the finger at the so-called “Covid diplomacy” carried out by New Delhi. “Focusing on India's needs in terms of vaccines, drugs and oxygen - he writes - would also have been in the interest of the world in the fight against the pandemic. Instead, on January 29, Prime Minister Modi in his Davos speech spread the wrong message that India had defeated Covid and then repeated it in parliament. The country did not prepare for the crisis by strengthening health facilities, but continued to export the equivalent of one month of the national vaccine needs”.

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