Indian Americans are afraid to open their WhatsApp these days, lest there be another grim message about another death due to Covid-19 in India.
Such news has become scarily recurrent — about family members, relatives, friends, acquaintances, colleagues — and it makes them feel heartbroken, hapless and angry to learn there are shortages of hospital beds, oxygen and medicines, and even black marketing of oxygen and fake medicines back in India.
Bay Area-based entrepreneur Gopi Mattel last week lost his 38-year-old nephew in Bengaluru.
“He was raised by my mom and is very close to me and my siblings,” Mattel, who is General Partner, Lifeboat Ventures, told indica News. “He worked hard in his life and tried to make a good life for his family.”
His nephew, Vimal Muralidharan, and Vimal’s wife were blessed with twin babies – a boy and a girl. Covid-19 took Vimal away within days.
“Hospitals were too overwhelmed to consider and treat my nephew,” Mattel said. “Our family is devastated. The deep anger and frustration we are feeling has to do with the fact this seems to have been largely preventable.
“Epidemiologists have been very clear that the epidemic happens in waves. India is in deep crisis like many countries, but with the resources available and amount of time available for planning, we are certainly a country that has had one of the worst responses in the world.”
Indian social media are filled with pleas for help — for oxygen cylinders, for hospital beds, for medicines such as Remdesivir.
“Other countries have built whole Covid ICU hospitals in days. India could have created facilities around every city for the surge that was expected. We could have created masks, ventilators, oxygen, etc in more than adequate quantity. We are the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world!” said Mattel.
“The government could have commanded the pharma industry to turn over their factories for Covid-19 vaccine production and could have produced 2 billion shots ready for rollout and massively stamped out the chance of spread.
“But none of these happened – and we are now depending on the charity of the world to solve our problem,” Mattel said.
Many Indians as well as Indian Americans share his anger and frustration.
Santhosh Addagulla, an IT engineer in California, echoed Mattel.
“It’s hard to understand,” Addagulla told indica News. “You send vaccine to other countries and now you’re begging for it. And above that you are asking poor, who cannot afford daily wages, to pay for it.”
“You killed your own people by not vaccinating them on time,” said Addagulla.
He said his close friend lost his father to Covid, and his mother and several other cousins were in hospital with Covid.
“My friend voted for [Narendra] Modi, was proud of his leadership skill, but no more.” Addagulla said.
“We are paying the price of Modi’s pride,” said Addagulla. “Look, he asked people to clap, people listened to him; he asked to light the diya, people listened to him… but he himself went out without masks in rallies and allowed public gatherings. People followed him.”
Addagulla pointed out that India had sent vaccines to 85 countries, and now in India people cannot get vaccines.
Many second-dose appointments have been cancelled.
Modi in a television address announced vaccination for all above 18 years but those vaccines have not yet been made available to the people.