Note: In this article I shall concentrate only on the situation in India and its response to COVID-19. I shall not talk about whether COVID-19 is something which justifies the global panic, a topic I have already discussed in two prior articles, here and here.
I should have known it would be this way, but I was still taken somewhat by surprise when the Modi regime not too subtly attempted to turn the COVID-19 issue into a Hindu versus Muslim affair. It happened like this:
There is a Muslim movement called the Tablighi Jamaat which was founded in India in 1925 and which is focussed on “purifying” the faith from within. Although fundamentalist, this group is and always has been entirely peaceful and one important reason the then Brutish rulers of India tolerated it was that the very concept of jihad has never, in any form, featured in its teachings. I’ve read Tablighi Jamaat literature, by the way; the amount of rituals required by them even before doing such a thing as going to sleep is mind-boggling, and I’m not surprised that most Muslims avoid these people just like most adherents of any religion avoid hectoring True Believers telling them how they should live their lives.
Anyway, this Tablighi Jamaat has its headquarters in a mosque complex called the Nizamuddin Markaz in Delhi. From the 13th to 15th March – remember those dates – it held a congregation attended by 2000 delegates from all over India and abroad; there were people from this city as well as from such countries as Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Barbaria, Malaysia and Indonesia. Many of the delegates, who dispersed back to their home places or elsewhere in the country, subsequently developed symptoms of COVID-19 and several have died.
Suddenly, the Modi media are playing up the Tablighi Jamaat as a dangerous fundamentalist organisation, hinting that it deliberately sought to spread COVID-19 around the country, and the people who attended the function are being “tracked down” on television channels as though they were terrorists, not possible and certainly unwitting carriers of a disease. The word “manhunt” is in fact being used to talk about the Jamaat’s current head, Maulana Muhammad Saad, whose whereabouts are allegedly, at this writing, “unknown”. Modifellating Bhaktonazis (the term I use for Modi worshippers) are flooding Indian WhatsApp with videos (some of which date back to 2018, and are about a totally different Muslim group, the Bohras) as “proof” that the Jamaat are “spreading Coronavirus deliberately”. The 960 foreign delegates have been declared persona non grata, as though they’d bring the virus back in if they fell ill, recovered, and decided to visit India again. One Gangadhar J., a businessman from this city, has gone on Fakebook demanding that Modi implement an emergency. Because, obviously, we are not being oppressed quite enough already, you know.
All this is despite the fact that when the Tablighi Jamaat meeting was held, legally there was no restriction on gatherings; 13th to 15th March was seven to nine days before Narendrabhai Damodardasbhai Modi’s allegedly voluntary “People’s Curfew” of 22nd March, and nine to eleven days before his three week long national lockdown, which began on the 24th. Ergo, while the wisdom of holding a congregation in the middle of a pandemic can be questioned, legally there was nothing against it. And though the Nizamuddin Markaz literally shares a boundary wall with the local police station, it had ignored the gathering totally.
Some of the Modifellating Bhaktonazi claptrap is so ludicrous as to be amusing. There’s a famous Pakistani cricketer called Shahid Afridi, who’s set up a foundation for providing emergency medical equipment to South Asian countries (not just Pakistan, all South Asian countries). Two equally famous Indian cricketers, Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh – no, they are not related – called on Indians to donate to the foundation. Modifellating Bhaktonazis on Twitter immediately declared these two gentlemen “anti national traitors”. That is despite Yuvraj Singh being the prime reason why India won the cricket World Cup in 2011 while said Modifellating Bhaktonazis were sitting at home watching him on television.
Meanwhile, the brunt of the “anti-coronavirus” efforts continue to fall, quite literally – in the shape of police batons – on the backs of the poor.
At the time of writing (the evening of 2nd April, less than halfway through Modi’s national lockdown), there have been, officially and including the dead and recovered, 2341 cases.
I believe that this is a gross underestimate. I believe that the actual number is at least ten to twenty times, and probably fifty to a hundred times, greater.
Here are my reasons, as expressed in a message I wrote on WhatsApp :
1. COVID-19 is asymptomatic in at least 25% of cases - that means it produces no symptoms at all, not a sniff, not a cough, not a sneeze. But the people infected are still fully capable of passing on viruses.
2. The great majority - up to 74% of the remaining 75% - show subclinical symptoms, that is, mild temperature and/or cough with or without sneezing (that in this season can be just mistaken as common cold, industrial pollution, pollen or dust allergy, or not even noticed). But these 74% like the other 25% are also fully capable of passing on the virus.
3. Therefore, fully 99% of the infections don't show up as symptoms that get reported to any medical professional*. That's anywhere in the world, not just here.
4. Unlike SARS, for instance, even the remaining 1% of COVID-19 sufferers are infective long before they start displaying symptoms. This is basically why this virus spreads quickly. In this it's identical to most respiratory viruses; SARS was actually an exception.
5. There aren't enough test kits to test everyone or even more than a small sample.
6. In India we have a peculiar set of circumstances that make it extremely unlikely that the majority of the remaining 1% will visit any doctor:
(a) The widespread illiteracy and ignorance of the rural population and the urban poor. Most of them don't know what a Coronavirus is. They don't know what it does. All that they know is that suddenly they can't work and they're beaten by police if they step into the streets. Since they have to make a living somehow they'll do whatever they can and social distancing is the last thing on their minds.
(b) Indians as a nation don't want to go to the doctor. It's literally the last resort. Even for toothache the first thing they do is buy a painkiller from a chemist’s shop and try to get through it. If they have any illness their first stop is the local homeopath or kaviraj (herbalist) or some quack or astrologer. The doctor is reserved for when all other treatments have failed.
(c) I am ashamed to say this but a huge number of Indian doctors are openly contemptuous about the problems of the poor. Step into any North Indian hospital and watch how they talk to poor patients and compare it with how they behave with the middle class (the rich wouldn't go to those hospitals anyway). Their only interest is to shove off the problem, give a few pills and get rid of the patient. The last thing they would do is take a detailed history and do all the necessary, and expensive, tests, which the poor don’t want because they’re unaffordable in time and money anyway. Not only do they don't have time for that, they know that if they do come up with a Coronavirus case they...
(d) …run the real risk of being locked into quarantine, or as in Telengana thrown out of their rented houses, and this is a powerful incentive to not find any Coronavirus case. Especially true for private practitioners.
(e) The vicious behaviour of the police, which makes it difficult to impossible for poor people even to go to the hospital if they're sick. Those photos and videos of police beating poor people that keep being shared on Indian WhatsApp, often as a joke? They are not funny. They are an acute danger to everyone, not just the poor, because people being forced out of public view aren't people who cease to exist or who are incapable of contracting or passing on the disease.
(f) The Nizamuddin Markaz thing where certain television channels are treating the tracking down of attendees as though it was a manhunt and they're dangerous terrorists. For reasons we don't need to go into here, Muslims in hyperpopulated North India are overwhelmingly confined to ghettoes in squalid conditions, and have become habituated to treating any authority as a threat. They believe that they could be blamed en masse if any of the Tablighi Jamaat attendees admits to being among them so they'll hide the fact.
(g) Migrant workers in general know that if they are isolated they'll lose livelihood and they'll do a lot to hide from authority to stop being put in isolation. Also any worker who is found infected with COVID-19 can say goodbye to employment for the rest of his or her life, and knows it, too.
(h) Typically when poor people die they die at home and not in hospital, their deaths go unrecorded, and if they die of Coronavirus nobody will be any the wiser.
(i) A villager who knows or suspects he has COVID-19 is at risk of being attacked by other villagers, his family thrown out, his house burnt, himself lynched, as a "contaminant", so he's got an extremely good reason to keep silent about it.
The whole system is in fact giving the poor an incentive to not go to the authorities if they fall sick. This is not a viable way of countering an epidemic.
*Just 1% of infected people developing severe symptoms may sound as not much of a problem, and, yes, normally it would not be a problem. It would definitely not be a problem in a country which has not systematically neglected its public health care sector in favour of obscenely expensive and corrupt private healthcare. But in India, which has, and which also has a gigantic population, 1% means more cases than the hospital system – such as it is – can bear. The Modi regime has attempted to convert some train carriages into makeshift hospitals, and Modifellating Bhaktonazis on WhatsApp are celebrating it as a triumph, as though a train carriage is an adequate substitute for a purpose built hospital. Spoiler alert: it isn’t.
Literally minutes after I’d written the above message, news broke that doctors in Indore, in central India, had been attacked after they’d gone to a poor locality to track down people who might have come in contact with COVID-19 positive people. The locals, terrified (for reasons I mentioned above) at the idea of someone in the locality being found COVID-19 positive, assaulted the doctors and two of them were injured. Modi media, ignoring the reasons why people might be reluctant to be compelled to starve for weeks and be stigmatised for life, promptly went ballistic, and it’s almost certain that we’ll see a further militarisation of the so-called “anti-Coronavirus effort” shortly.
Talking of militarisation, I’m anticipating being conscripted into the “campaign” in the near future. Yesterday – 1st April, and, no, it was not an April Fool’s joke – the government of my state, which has yet to see a single confirmed case but has imposed a curfew on top of Modi’s lockdown, asked doctors, dentists, and traditional medicine practitioners (“AAYUSH”) to report to the district health authorities for service in the Great Big War On Corona. At the moment this is still “voluntary” but I doubt it will stay that way for long.
Before I finish, let me make four additional observations unrelated to the rest of this article.
First: While everyone’s going on and on and on about COVID-19, which (as readers of my previous articles will be aware) I do not consider to be anywhere like the threat it’s presented as, the real holocaust is already upon us – has already been upon us for years now. It has nothing to do with viruses; it concerns drug resistant bacteria.
Right, while everyone’s going off their nut at COVID-19, drug resistance in bacteria is exploding and is already a terrible problem. Ask any doctor or dentist and you’ll hear the same thing: antibiotics we could rely on to be effective ten years ago are usually totally useless now. diseases like tuberculosis, once almost eliminated, are making a roaring comeback. In fifteen to twenty years the antibiotic era – which has doubled life expectancy after WWII – is likely to be over. What then?
I don’t know. And you don’t know, either, because this isn’t something the media sees fit to tell you.
Second: If I see another idiot babble online about how COVID-19 should be tackled by developing “herd immunity” I’ll hit them over the head with a, regrettably virtual, hammer.
What is this “herd immunity”? As far as I can make out, it’s the idea that if enough people in a population become resistant to an infectious disease, there won’t be enough vulnerable people left for the infective agent to find new victims. Therefore, the proponents of this idea aver, people should attempt to contract the illness to become immune to it.
Now this might have made sense a couple of hundred years ago, when most populations were largely isolated and any travel was a slow affair stretching over days to weeks, or even months, allowing for enough time for infected people to develop the illness and die or recover in between. In today’s era of mass air transport, where even the opposite side of the planet is only hours away, however, it’s a bad joke. Either every member of a population is immune, or else those not immunised will remain at risk until and unless the infective agent is isolated and eliminated.
I’ll give you an example that I’ve seen myself. India began mass vaccination against poliomyelitis many decades ago; by the time I was a child, in the early 1970s, vaccination against polio was standard. I remember being vaccinated myself; it’s one of my earliest memories. However, there used to be a family that lived a few hundred metres from here. The father, on the premise that his parents and he had never contracted polio despite not being vaccinated, chose to not vaccinate his own son; the child, of course, developed polio and is on crutches for the rest of his life.
All this is common sense, and the only reason I can think of that proponents of “herd immunity” continue to push their bunkum is that they think of themselves as cattle. Their intellect certainly suggests it.
Third: People who imagine that the rights they are so eagerly giving up in order to “fight COVID-19” will ever be restored, or that the actions that governments and their corporate owners are taking to “fight the virus” will not be used as a precedent in future, are likely to have a rather interesting rude awakening.
Fourth: If western governments insist on trying to blame China for “spreading Coronavirus”, well, then, China can quite legitimately charge said western governments' overlord the Imperialist States of Amerikastan for spreading the fall armyworm caterpillar, a devastating pest of crops from maize to rice to fruit. This caterpillar, which is of North American origin, is eating its way across Africa and Asia, and is actually a near-perfect bioweapon, since it devastates crops literally overnight, appearing apparently out of nowhere.
And, seeing that it mysteriously turned up in Africa, all the way across the Atlantic - somehow skipping Amerikastan-allied Europe - and then as mysteriously in Asia, an actual bioweapon it might be, too.
I absolutely would not exclude that.
I absolutely would not exclude that.