You may wonder why suddenly I have this doubt. After all we invented ‘zero’ which I am sure, helped us humans to count better. Remember the book, ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity?’ a book written by Robert Kanigel on Mathematician Ramanujan. Well I live three miles from where he lived and ploughed the secrets of mathematical equations.
So the answer should be ‘Yes we can count.’ But off late, I have read a lot of news from one of the world’s leading broadcaster who has serious doubts, not only about our counting ability but about everything we do or don’t do in India.
I am writing this piece with a caveat on Covid-19. We are not, by any stretch of imagination, out of the woods yet. We still have a long way to go. Any mistake we make, even if it is a small one, can cause lot of agony, anguish and unprecedented damage to the society we live in. But we seemed to have done few things right so far. But not according to this biased broadcaster and their chief correspondent in India. I will come to that in a minute.
From the beginning of the threat, India did take it more seriously than the most powerful nation on earth. I am comparing India and USA only because we both are big countries in size with huge population. Of course India is one third of USA in size but has four times more population. Please also keep in mind GDP of USA is about seven times bigger. We were the first close borders, lock down such a big country, formed high level committees to monitor the spread of disease. For once every state leader in India is unanimously following the direction given by the center.
Let us first compare the leaders of both countries. Mr. Trump first said Covid-19 is just like a flu and in USA, every year, anywhere between 27,000 & 45,000 people die of flu. So there is nothing to worry about. Next he said, “One day this will disappear like magic. Let us not waste time talking about Covid-19.” He was not finished yet. He visited CDC headquarters and declared, “People wonder how I get an handle on these things. My uncle Dr. Trump was a renowned scientist and taught in MIT. So I have inherited his genes. I am a stable genius.” Believe me I am not making this up, he went to CDC wearing his re-election campaign hat. You can google all these (you should be able to get these gems in Trever Noah shows).
Our poor Chaiwala’s son Prime Minister did not say any of this but quietly asked country’s top officials to draw a plan to face the threat. After declaring himself as a person with humble beginnings, he suddenly can’t call himself ‘a stable genius’ and his uncle Mr. Modi had taught in IIT.
USA reported it’s first case on 22nd January and India on 31st January. This is the figure as of yesterday for both counties. I have taken the following statistics from this website (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/?).
USA has reported 508,126 cases and 19,827 death and India 8,063 cases and 249 deaths. Death per million of population is 60 for USA and 0.2 for India.
This biased broadcasting corporation first started saying “Is India testing enough?” Then, “Why India is testing so little?” This is when scientists from ICMR were explaining the logic behind it. Even today this news agency is saying the actual cases in India must be many time more (than actually reported). This is where I have my doubts about the motive behind these articles.
Let us assume USA and India reported their first case on the same day (India reported one week after USA). Since we live in stone age while compared to others, it took us some time to send the figure (you should also keep in mind, we can’t count). As of yesterday, USA reported 508,126 cases. So, at the same rate of infection India should be having 2 million cases (let us forget demography, resistance to virus all aside, after all every one made a claim we should be testing at the same rate as South Korea without considering anything else). Since we have reported only 8063 cases, we have hidden (or not tested) or did not know to count 2,000,000 – 8063 cases = 1.992 million cases. So far so good. USA, with all their advanced medical facilities has 19,287 deaths which means India should have had 77,148 deaths till now (4 times population). Or for that matter if India had hundred times more cases and we did not test, isolate and treated them, most of them would have died (this is a very serious disease).
Mohan Ram who predicted that we would lock down till 15th of April before it was declared officially, told me this, “It is definitely possible we are not testing enough. But at the same time, there may not be so many infections as well. While we can hide or turn a blind eye to the infections, deaths can’t be hidden. We have higher tolerance to virus. For example, flu kills thousands of people in the western world every year. But we don’t see any deaths because we have developed resistance. I am not saying this we can escape Covid-19. But my assumption is rate of spread and mortality will be substantially less in India.”
For the record, I would agree with my friend. After all he has been treating patients for last thirty years with unsurpassed attention and commitment.
So where have hidden 77,148-8,063 bodies. Even the news agency, with all its bias, would agree India could not have hidden 70,000 corpses. Even they know, this accusation would not stick. We are not China. Our own press would have exposed it (if we had hidden something), not to mention one billion people carrying smartphones who would have recorded it, if indeed, such a thing had happened. And by the way all these records (Births/deaths) are available online in India.
They are not done yet. They accuse Mr. Modi of sheer shortsightedness for declaring lock out without warning and without preparation forgetting 40 million migrant workers? So how long should he have waited. As Indian Express pointed out, it was Sophie’s choice for Mr. Modi. For people who have not seen or read about it, here is a one liner. In the movie, Sophie upon arrival at Auschwitz, was forced to choose which one of her two children would be gassed and which would proceed to the labor camp. To avoid having both children killed, she chose her son, Jan, to be sent to the children’s camp, and her daughter, Eva, to be sent to her death.
It was similar choice for Mr. Modi, says the article. If he had waited for all the migrants to settle down or go back to their home town, it might have been too late to prevent the infection from spreading fast. If he did not wait, there would be chaos and suffering for the millions of migrant and marginalized people. It was a tough choice. But he took one, not like the most powerful leader on earth (so they say) who dismissed the who thing as non-sense and hoped his county would be back on track by Easter.
I don’t understand why we don’t get to see this New Agency not publishing any article saying how other countries screwed up, from Italy to their own country UK to Spain. For the others, this tragedy is happening in spite of their best efforts. But for India, it is all because we don’t have enough beds, we have not tested, we have no hospitals, we have no doctors and we have no leader who could guide us through this.
We may not test as much as other countries. We may have less ventilators per thousand people. We may not have enough ICU beds. But we are determined to fight this disease and fight we will.