'A Crime Against Humanity': Anguish and Anger as India Covid Crisis Surges

With Covid-19 cases soaring in India, acclaimed author and activist Arundhati Roy wrote Wednesday that her country is witnessing “an outright crime against humanity” as outside observers fear the crisis could hamper global efforts to rein in the pandemic.

As of Thursday, India now has the second highest number of total cases in the world—over 18 million—since the pandemic began, but a surge in recent weeks has made it into a global hot spot for daily infections and deaths.

So far, there have been over 204,000 official Covid-19 related deaths, but the true toll is likely far higher.

“I do not know of a single family that has not seen at least one of its members infected. We are seeing hundreds of thousands of new cases every day and many more deaths,” Pankaj Anand, humanitarian and program director with Oxfam India, said in a statement Thursday.

“The health infrastructure in India is bursting at the seams,” said Anand, “and there are widespread reports of shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies in large cities.”

According to the Associated Press: “India has set a daily global record for seven of the past eight days, with a seven-day moving average of nearly 350,000 infections. Daily deaths have nearly tripled in the past three weeks, reflecting the intensity of the latest surge.”

Headlines over the past few days—like “Round-the-clock mass cremations” and “Covid cases cross 18 million, gravediggers work round the clock”—put the crisis in bleak terms.

The crisis is clear to Jyot Jeet, chairperson of the Delhi-based organization Shaheed Bhagat Singh Sewa Dal, which provides free medical care and has been providing cremation services amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Day in and day out, we are surrounded by the smell of burning flesh, and the sounds of crying families,” he told NBC News.

The far-right government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has come under fire for its response to the pandemic. 

In an op-ed published Wednesday at the Guardian, Roy wryly described Modi as being “busy, busy, busy” with other matters like “Destroying the last vestiges of democracy,” construction of “massive prison complexes,” and watching as “hundreds of thousands of farmers [were] beaten and teargassed.”

“The crisis-generating machine that we call our government is incapable of leading us out of this disaster,” she wrote. From the op-ed:

Writing in TIME on Thursday, Naina Bajekal gave a similar picture of devastation.