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India is going through its second surge of COVID-19 pandemic caught off-guard, after it declared rather publicly that India had vanquished the enemy in September 2020. In the last 2 weeks of April 2021, India has beaten several world records for new cases and deaths by official estimates. The real numbers are likely to much higher as the testing and reporting infrastructure remains in shambles. The triple whammy of mass gatherings, lack of administrative and infrastructure preparedness and low vaccination is probably to blame.
The humanitarian catastrophe that is played out so visually in heart-wrenching stories across the interconnected digital world is of scrambling for oxygen, scarcity of hospital beds, lack of medication and the incessant burying or cremating of the dead. The desperation in the eyes of the people as they queue outside of locked hospital gates, the oxygen cylinders supplying minutes of life to patients in cars or auto-rickshaws as they wait is heartbreaking. For members of the Indian diaspora, these pictures hurt deep and one is bound to feel helpless.
Yet through all this, there is hope. The Gurudwara’s with their oxygen langars, the elderly vacating beds for the younger and often sicker patients, the journalists who are using every social media access to request essential oxygen and drugs, the volunteers who ferry, bury and burn the abandoned dead are testimony of the good that exists in humanity. The world is rising to the call of India including efforts by the Indian diaspora. There are lessons to be learnt but first, let us help and heal.
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