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India is gasping for breath as the second Covid-19 wave hits the country

On the eve of 14th April 2021, in a small town in India, a very close family member of mine tested positive for COVID-19. The events that followed left a devastating scar on our family. Aged 67, my mom’s aunt kept fighting for her life till her last breath. As soon as she was tested positive, she needed to be admitted into the hospital, but there were no beds available across the city. It took one whole day to find a hospital bed in a government hospital. It took another day to find a bed with ventilator support.

On the morning of 18th April 2021, she passed away. Her daughter, also tested positive, was admitted in a private hospital on the opposite side of the city, completely unaware of her mother’s death. In between, her distressed husband was desperately trying to procure a dose of Remdesivir injection while tending to the needs of his family who were fighting for their life.

This is the story of countless Indians who are experiencing the devastating second wave of COVID-19. As of 28th April 2021, India is recording the highest number (379,308) of daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases and the highest number (3645) of daily new confirmed COVID-19 deaths. There is a major shortage of oxygen supply and hospital beds. The healthcare system is coming to a collapse and the medical staff is being pushed to their limits. There is a sense of panic and extreme grief across India.

[Image description: Patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) get treatment at the casualty ward in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital, amidst the spread of the disease in New Delhi, India April 15, 2021. ] via REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
[Image description: Patients suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) get treatment at the casualty ward in Lok Nayak Jai Prakash (LNJP) hospital, amidst the spread of the disease in New Delhi, India April 15, 2021. ] via REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
“I work in a private medical college and a 500 bed hospital. During the first wave, the hospital had allocated 250 beds (5 wards) to the COVID-19 patients. Now, the second wave has seen an influx of 300+ patients everyday. From 250 beds, our hospital has now dedicated all of the wards including 5 ICUs towards fighting COVID.” said Dr. Avijit Misra, a medical intern at Bharati Hospital and Medical College Pune when I spoke to him. “Government hospitals are also full. There is an increase in makeshift hospitals by the government which has helped a lot, but it is still not enough”, he added.

How did it become so bad?

The government of India had one year to prepare for a catastrophe like this. Ever since the start of the pandemic, the government was supposed to set up 150 oxygen plants but only started bidding for it after 8 months of delay. As of April, only 33 out of the 162 government-sanctioned oxygen plants are functioning.

Along with the shortage of oxygen supply, the transportation of the oxygen from the factories to the patients is a big hurdle that is contributing towards the crisis. India cannot ensure 24/7 road supply of oxygen due to the shortage of cryogenic oxygen tankers. The travel time for the transportation of the oxygen from the factories to the patients has increased from 3-5 business days to 6-8 business days, and the duration is much longer for the remote and rural parts of India.

This comes after a claim made by the National Executive of BJP (the ruling party) in February that the battle against Covid-19 has been triumphantly won. While praising the leadership, the party declared “with pride” that India has “not only defeated Covid-19 under the able, sensitive, committed and visionary leadership of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, but also infused in all its citizens the confidence to build an ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat ‘(Self -reliant India)’.”

After the declaration, mass gatherings and crowd events became a normalcy. Events such as election rallies and religious events were sanctioned by the government. The rallies and the religious events were seen as an attempt by the ruling party to please and secure its vote bank, as their policy has historically reflected Hindu nationalist positions. The government led by PM Narendra Modi, has also been constantly downplaying the extent of the crisis and shutting down voices which have been instrumental in raising awareness and providing help to those affected.

[Image description: Amit Shah at an election rally] via Arun Sankar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
[Image description: Amit Shah at an election rally] via via Arun Sankar/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The price is being paid by the common man

While patients are affected on one side, helpless relatives running around in search of hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, and medications are also being forced to put themselves at risk. Families are being admitted to the hospital together but not all of them are going back home healthy and recovered.

The medical costs are only increasing. A middle-class person cannot afford a bed in a private hospital. Those who can, are being charged Rs. 15 thousand – Rs. 20 thousand ($2011 – $2682) just for the bed. The injections, oxygen cylinders and medication prescribed by the doctors are also in short supply and are being sold at 10 times the price in black markets.

[Image description: Table showing the comparison of prices of COVID-19 medications and oxygen cylinders in India] via BBC
[Image description: Table showing the comparison of prices of COVID-19 medications and oxygen cylinders in India] via BBC
People coming from rural parts of India to bigger cities to get help are being turned back. Families are fighting in the hospitals for bed space. “Phrases such as ‘my patient is younger than yours. At least, give them a chance to live’ can be heard across India,” said Dr. Misra.

In the midst of this tragedy, it is easy to feel helpless right now, but there are ways in which we can help:

1. Amplify

The best thing you can do right now is to use your influence to amplify and share the SOS alerts from those in need on your socials. One share can help save a life.

Instagram accounts to follow that are spreading awareness and amplifying SOS alerts:


Websites & Google Docs:

2. Donate

There are a number of organizations that have come forward and directly purchased resources for the front-line workers, donated supplies, or helped amplify the needs of vulnerable patients. Here are a few:

Local Agencies:

  • Ketto (Mission Oxygen- Helping Hospitals Save Lives) – You can donate to their efforts directly on their website
  • Hemkunt Foundation – Oxygen Suppliers. Donate here 
  • Khalsa Aid – Donate here
  • Milaap – Individual crowdfunding website. Donate here
  • Youth Feed India x Helping Hands Charitable Trust – Food Packages. Donate here
  • Care India – PPE Kits. Donate here

International Agencies:

  • United Nations agencies (UNICEF and WHO). Donate here
  • American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin – Oxygen Machines. Donate here
  • Care India – PPE Kits. Donate here
  • The Association for India’s Development – Protective equipment and food packages. Donate here

As I look back, I think that my family members were among the luckier ones to have at least gotten a hospital bed and oxygen support. We don’t know when this calamity will end. The road to the finish line looks too far ahead. The battle against COVID-19 continues with our healthcare workers on the front line. We cannot be spectators anymore. We need to step in and help those in need. 

In retrospect, the second wave of COVID-19 did push India to become Atma Nirbhar

World News South Asia The World Inequality

The Hazara Community has been suffering for years, yet no one comes to their aid

If there’s anything the first few days of 2021 have reaffirmed for us, it’s that being part of any minority group in any country puts one at double the risk of unjustified prejudice. Just now, we’ve witnessed white supremacy on the steps of Capitol Hill in the United States, with pro-Trump rioters all but casually being let into the building to loot and wreak havoc. The ease with which these domestic terrorists practically walked in, knowing their white privilege will see little to no repercussions for their actions, was startling. Especially in stark contrast to police brutality and the peaceful Black Lives Matter protests that took place last year, where people were attacked, arrested and even killed for fighting for their right to live.

Allow me to redirect your attention to other side of the world. Towards the Hazara Community of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Hazaras – Afghanistan's oppressed minority | Morning Star
[Image Description: a group of Hazara women wearing brightly coloured headscarves smiling at the camera] Source: Morning Star
Hazaras are a Persian speaking ethnic minority from the Hazaragi region of Afghanistan and the third largest ethnic group of the country. They have Turkic and Mongol roots, with notable East Asian ancestry. Most of the Hazaras are Shi’a Muslims, and that has put a target on their backs. 

Most of the Hazaras are Shi’a Muslims, and that has put a target on their backs.

The existence of a strange binary has led to a growing divide between not just the major religions, but also various sects within one religion; one “right” set of religious beliefs to be followed, while all other “wrong” ones to be eradicated. This binary has overpowered many Sunni Muslims’ (usually those in extremist groups) outlook on things; a sense of righteousness trumping any shred of humanity when they believe eradicating Shi’a Muslims, Ahmedis, Qadianis and the like is the equivalent of eradicating the “wrong” from their society. Never mind that this mindless eradication is something even Islam does not condone.

The Hazaras have been one of the most persecuted minority groups in Afghanistan since the 1890s, during which 60% of their population had been eradicated. Half of the Hazaras were driven out of their villages due to the killings, and forced to migrate to other countries due to the injustice and poverty they had to suffer. There are large groups of Hazaras residing in Pakistan, Iran and various parts of Europe, Australia and Canada. The Hazara community residing in Pakistan, about 900,000 people, had immigrated to the country for better opportunities. Most of them reside in the Balochistan province, where they work in labor jobs and coal mines in order to support themselves and their families.

Religious and sectarian violence and prejudice run rampant in Pakistan, with Hindus and Christians residing in the country constantly being on the receiving end of it. Shi’a-Sunni clashes are sadly a common occurrence in the country, with thousands of Shi’as being killed by extremist groups and mobs since 2008, according to the Human Rights Watch. Even the country’s politics have long stood to serve Sunni Islam over the other sects, with the Pakistani Legislative Assembly (PLA) passing the Protection of Foundation of Islam bill last year, which states Sunnism as the only acceptable form of Islam. This was followed by over 42 blasphemy cases being registered against Shi’as in Pakistan, one of them being on a 3 year old child.

It’s a clear example of state politics enable behaviour towards and against other groups by favouring one.

On Sunday, 3rd January, 11 Hazara coal miners were kidnapped and brutally murdered by the terrorist group Islamic State (IS) in the Mach area of Balochistan. One family related to five of the deceased say they no longer have any male relative to even attend funeral prayers and take bodies for burial.

Hazaras continue protest on 5th day, refuse to bury slain miners despite PM's request - Pakistan - DAWN.COM
[Image Description: A group of Hazara men sitting in front of coffins, with a picture of one of the deceased miners visible.] Source:
Sadly, this is only the latest incident to happen in the cold-blooded persecution of Hazara people, which has been going on for years. Militant groups have attacked and killed large groups of Hazara Shi’as traveling in vans or buses, at processions and weddings, and have bombed Hazara mosques over the last two decades. Even children of the Hazara Community are not spared.

The outcry against the Hazara genocide is loud, with hashtags like #StopHazaraGenocide, #HazaraShiasWantJustice and #HazaraKoJeenayDo (Let Hazaras Live) being on the forefront of twitter trends. GoFundMe pages, non-profits, and initiatives such as The Grief Directory and Imamia Medics International are working to raise money and awareness for those affected by such acts of terrorism.

The real question is: when will those who have the power and means to help them actually do something?

When will those who have the power and means to help them actually do something?

It has been six days since the murders of the miners, but their families and thousands of the Hazara Shi’a Community continued to stage sit-ins on the streets of both Quetta and Karachi, in below freezing temperatures. They refused to bury the bodies of their loved ones until their voices reach the Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan; until he comes to Quetta himself to meet the mourners and show that he does, indeed, hear their cries and will take immediate action. 

“If someone really is concerned about our security and tragedy we are facing, it must be reflected by their moves,” said Maulana Sadiq Jaffrey, the leader of a Hazara political party. “We will not call off our sit-in and bury our loved ones until Prime Minister Imran Khan personally meets the mourners”, said another party leader Syed Agha Raza.

Khan only just arrived in Quetta, after convincing the families to arrange the funerals. Just the day before, he gave a poorly worded statement to the grieving families; insinuating they are blackmailing him into visiting by not burying the deceased.

Regardless, justice is yet to be served for the Hazara Community after being massacred for years. Minority groups all over the world continue to be persecuted, simply for their differences, with little to no action being taken for their right to live and peacefully co-exist with others. It’s as if a few factors like religion, race and gender are considered enough to determine one’s worth. To determine whether voices should be heard, or to determine whether rights matter. To determine whether one is any more or less human the other.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Justice delayed is justice denied. It is only so long until the silence becomes deafening, and the inaction shows how much one truly cares about those being wrongly persecuted.  

But, as always, we still continue to hope for better days.
It is, after all, only the beginning of a new year.


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