There is amazing news from India!
Good news from India is remarkably scarce of late, particularly in the Western media which is continuously bewildered by the superficial chaos of a very, very messy democracy with rampant, visible poverty, noisy sectarian uprisings and terrible governance. Add to that a divisive nationalistic leader and you have perfect recipe for liberal commentators to be brutally critical of India.
In March India had hit rock bottom. A sweeping tsunami of COVID hit the country. India had been complacent, as it had been relatively spared a catastrophe at the height of the First Wave. The number of Indians vaccinated was in the single digits. People moved freely without masks in misguided political rallies and in mass gatherings, such as the one for the Kumbh Mela, where tens of millions congregated for the major Hindu pilgrimage and festival.
A “Second Wave” of COVID struck! We saw pictures of devastation – overflowing hospitals, people dying on the streets, and unending video footage of burning funeral pyres. It looked bleak indeed – India was shut down. The economy, already crippled, was once again in a free fall and the misery was unimaginable. Officially 400,000 deaths were reported by the Government but foreign and private media talked of a toll 5 – 10 times worse. Confidence in the country’s ability to govern itself and deliver basic services to the people was so low that we heard predictions of an existential collapse of the country.
But India has engineered an amazing turnaround! (Please see this excellent video commentary by reporter Shekhar Gupta of The Print newspaper). By the way his numbers are in Crores, which is used in India to denote 10 Millions. So 63 crores is 630 million.
As of the end of August India has completed 653 Million vaccinations – the largest of any country on earth. Last Friday 10.3 million people were vaccinated in a single day. Here are some astonishing statistics:
- 50% of all eligible adults in India have been vaccinated at least once as of August 30th. It was single digits four months ago.
- India plans to produce 1.25 billion doses of vaccine in the next four months to the end of this year!
- In June the Government of India told the Supreme Court that it plans to do 1,350 million vaccinations from August to December this year, A stunning number that caused some incredulity in the press. Now India is well on the way to achieve this goal.
- The logistics for doing this are mind bending. India has deployed 42,000 inoculation centers – mostly government but many private – around the country. Many centers are mobile and medical workers travel from home to home or village to village to provide the jabs. They hand carry portable freezers full of thousands of doses of mostly Indian manufactured vaccines that are rugged in the sense that they don’t require extremely low temperatures.
- There is very little vaccine hesitancy in India. The people respect science and medical workers coming to their villages with medicines and jabs is not unusual for them. India has seen much success in eradicating diseases like small pox and polio through mass vaccination efforts.
- All available vaccine doses – 250 million in September, 300 million in October and rising from there to over 400 million in December will be eagerly consumed.
- By the end of this year anyone in India who wants to be vaccinated will be vaccinated – a virtually universal vaccination rate for the country of more than 1.3 billion people!
This turnaround will have a much needed salutary effect on all aspects of India’s rebound – economic and geopolitical. Its economy will normalize and, unless some horrible mutation happens, we can expect no Third Wave. Even if COVID persists in an endemic ever-mutating state India has developed world class technology to be at the cutting edge of vaccine innovation and delivery. In the quarter ended June 2021 the Indian GDP had a V-shaped recovery even though COVID was still raging, and economic observers are optimistic that with COVID behind it India can grow even faster for many following quarters.
Great news indeed! I did catch the initial news feed but remained skeptical given India’s historically poor data collection (inconsistent and inflated numbers), the tendency to brag, along with uncertain production and distribution realities. Shekhar Gupta lays out a credible basis for the positive assertions. I can’t say I’m completely convinced on the numbers, but greatly relieved its trending for the better. Thanks for underscoring this success Ashok!
I can confirm first hand on the efficiency being shown in India during vaccination. The appointment system works, each and every vaccination is well tracked, the certification process is instantaneous. As example, I took my 2nd dose and 5mins post, I had an SMS confirming the vaccination and my certificate confirming that I am fully vaccinated. For a developing country full of poor uneducated people, this is amazing!
I believe the root cause of this efficiency is Aadhar + digitalisation + smartphone penetration all coming in together at a extremely large scale. 10yrs ago, expecting most of the people to book appointments online and having a digitally verifiable identity was impossible to even plan for. Due to this, most of the online initiatives were tagged as elitist and not considerate towards “Bharat”. But now, by design it is considered ok for govt to launch digital initiatives since it is now mass-market. And people are easily able to take part in this!
In some way, the credit should go to :
– Nandan Nilekani : the driver for Aadhar and ensuring it penetrates to each and everyone!
– Mukesh Ambani : the driver for extremely low cost 4G smartphones and Network in India
– the brutal 2nd wave which coincided with vaccinations being easily available, which got everyone out of their lethargy!
Thanks Dhiraj for this informative response. Some people are skeptical about govt statistics but personal experience such as yours speaks volumes.
This could be a real turning point for India.
Thanks, Ashok! This is fantastic news!! What I hear on frequent, recent calls to India is the virus seems to have magically vanished and life is returning to normal. Indeed they may escape a third wave. What a far cry from April and May when people (even in 30s and 40s) in our own network of relatives and friends were dropping like flies. I do hope that folks will not drop their guard, and will continue taking precautions.