Editor's Picks World News Coronavirus Action Guide South Asia The World

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 Media Watch Policy Inequality

India’s ban on TikTok raises the question of censorship and artistic freedom

The Tempest Exclusive series Media Watch investigates and introspects on the intricacies of free speech around the world, right from The Tempest newsroom. 

A decade ago, no one would have thought creating 15-second lip-sync videos online would be enough to make a decent earning. From elaborate MySpace pages in 2008 to TikTok’s fast-paced micro-content in 2020, social media has evolved swiftly.

The diversity and accessibility of TikTok’s content attracted Indians, who make up the app’s largest international market, with more than 120 million active monthly users. The livelihoods of so many people were dependent on creating content on TikTok, but things took a turn when the Indian Government decided to ban Tiktok and 58 other apps with Chinese links.

The ban comes after Indian and Chinese troops clashed in the Galwan Valley of Ladakh on 15 June. Although there has been no confirmation about the casualties on the Chinese side, twenty Indian army personnel lost their lives. The skirmishes had been building up since 5 May on the Line of Actual Control (LAC). India has blamed China for encroaching beyond the LAC. This may be in reaction to India improving infrastructure in the area to build a road that connects the rest of the state to a military airbase. 

India is Tiktok’s largest international market, with more than 120 million active monthly users.

As a reaction to the clashes, the Indian government has discouraged its citizens from using Chinese products, including digital services such as apps. On 29 June, India banned 59 apps with Chinese links, including TikTok. 

India’s Ministry of Information Technology, announced that they have received many complaints which claimed that the apps were “stealing and surreptitiously transmitting users’ data in an unauthorized manner”. However, hours after the statement was made, India’s TikTok head Nikhil Gandhi clarified that “TikTok continues to comply with all data privacy and security requirements under the Indian Law”.

TikTok was previously banned in India in April 2019, due to concerns over its supposedly explicit content and cultural degradation. Back then, TikTok owner ByteDance had claimed a loss of $500,000 each day the ban stayed in effect. 

In 2020, TikTok had become a beneficiary to Indian content creators and businesses alike. TikTok democratized content creation by providing access in 14 Indian languages. Thanks to cheap data packs, a digitally hungry audience, and budget smartphones, people who had never used technology before were creating content in India.

TikTok attracted all classes of Indians, especially those belonging to rural backgrounds. These not-so-privileged users, who were previously isolated from the digital world, managed to make a name for themselves on social media.

According to Sumit Jain – a textile shop owner in central India with four million followers on TikTok – the app gives people like him an opportunity to test their talent and creativity from the comfort of their homes, instead of having to leave their lives behind, and move to bigger cities to struggle for a career in the entertainment industry.

TikTok has become a valuable tool for the expression of creativity and speech. 

TikTok lets its users easily import videos to other platforms, therefore its content has a very broad audience that spans other social media apps including WhatsApp, a popular communication medium in India. Even people who do not use TikTok are exposed to its content, transforming the app into a valuable tool for the expression of creativity and speech. 

Business and brands have also made the most of TikTok’s growing popularity for marketing and advertisements. TikTok’s content creators with a following of more than a million can earn around 30,000 INR ($400) every month through brand endorsements or advertisements. But the sudden ban on the app means thousands of influencers have lost their only source of income. Two TikTok stars, Siya Kakkar (16) and Sandhya Chauhan (18) have died by suicide after the ban – both these girls are said to have been depressed and the ban might have triggered them. 

This ban shows the volatile nature of social media and the government’s power over our consumption of content. Coincidentally, India has had a bad reputation for incapacitating free speech in the past few years. With public lynchings, defamation charges, and unprecedented censoring, the lives of anyone with differing opinions is threatened. Thus, we may not be too far from the truth in assuming that the ban was also meant to regulate free speech and the expression of opinions. 

A foreign application meant that the government did not have limitless power over content created on TikTok. While Indian mainstream media is heavily controlled by political parties, TikTok provided content with differing opinions, especially from underrepresented communities.

The nationalistic angle of the ban may be a reason why there is a lack of protest against the decision. It is supported by influencers and users alike because blind patriotism is becoming a common phenomenon among Indians. As news channels emphasize on ‘taking revenge with China’, they have managed to sway TikTok users to sacrifice this platform for ‘national security’.

ByteDance has claimed that the ban curtails the rights of the citizens of India, who have been using the app to express themselves through its content. As of now, the ban on the app is temporary. The government has asked the company 79 questions, which need to be answered by 22 July. But there seems to be no room for compromise. They do not realize that permanently banning the app will not just hurt India’s economy, but also content creation and freedom of speech.

Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!

Movies Pop Culture

I live in India and love Hollywood. But why is it so hard for Americans to stop using awful Indian stereotypes?

I’ve grown up with a love for Hollywood films and American television shows. What I don’t love though is the widely inaccurate and lack o representation when it comes to Indians and India itself. 

Honestly, where are we and why are we perceived in such an incorrect way?

The only shows I can think of that accurately represent the Indian community are The Mindy Project and Master of None – all thanks to the greatness behind the screen.


Without their help, we can’t rely on Hollywood movies and television to get it right. In their world, Indian representation is meager at best. When we do find ourselves represented – it’s so highly inaccurate and grossly stereotypical that it saddens and frustrates me at the same time.

[bctt tweet=”Indian representation is meager at best.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Take, for example, Raj in The Big Bang Theory or the way India’s poverty was displayed in Slumdog Millionaire.

Don’t misunderstand me here, I don’t have a problem with showing the reality of India, but it seems like Hollywood only sees this poverty-ridden part of my country and can’t seem to snap out of it.

India is so much more than cows on the roads, noisy markets, and Holi. 

We don’t play Holi 24/7, all 365 days of the year, y’all.  It’s a festival that comes once a year and it means a lot to us, but it’s not all that there is to us.

Reducing India to such a narrow image is disappointing.

When it comes to characters specifically – we’re either highly qualified doctors, teachers, engineers or we’re taxi drivers. That’s it. There’s absolutely no way an Indian living abroad could fall into a middle category, right?


This is appalling, considering the fact that we have a population of 1.3 billion, with 29 states, 22 languages, and 9 recognized religions. 

We should surely get at least decent amount of representation in an industry as big as Hollywood, right?

Diversity has always been poor in Hollywood and continues to be so, despite so many talented Indian (and PoC) actors and producers trying to change that.

[bctt tweet=” Reducing India to such a narrow image is disappointing.” username=”wearethetempest”]

It’s worth mentioning that Priyanka Chopra’s foray into the industry has been refreshing after watching her dominate Bollywood for years. 

When I see her onscreen, repping India at such an international level – it makes my heart warm.


As cheesy as it may sound, 12-year-old me struggled to find a character or actor in Hollywood that she could relate to. But 21-year-old me finds that solace through Mindy Kaling and Priyanka Chopra.

Hollywood filmmakers shrink India into this minuscule image of what is perceived and it doesn’t do justice to what we actually are.

Our accent is stereotyped – so incorrectly. 

Not every Indian sounds like Appu from The Simpsons, FYI. And we definitely don’t dance the way Major Lazer and his pals did in the “Lean On” music video.

[bctt tweet=” It’s sad to see our culture being reduced to practically nothing but stereotypes on screen.” username=”wearethetempest”]

The modern Indian is anything but what Hollywood presumes them to be. They pursue unorthodox artistic careers, they’re not all socially awkward, and they’re definitely not reeking of curry.

On one end, our culture and our people get stereotyped and misrepresented to no end in movies and television.

On the other end, they ignore or appropriate our culture to no end.

There was an episode of the Netflix series Fuller House where get this:  Not a single Indian character on the show, but they threw an Indian-themed party for one of the characters and there was a cow in the backyard. 

Because all Indians have cows in their backyard, right?

This narrative is so ignorant and blatantly offensive. India boasts of multiple metropolitan cities that coexist alongside villages. My country is a dichotomy and is beautiful as well. 

So don’t reduce it to what it’s not and don’t try to tell me what I look like.

We are all so beautifully unique and diverse in our own ways, with our own cultures.


We’re more than just your stereotypes.