New Delhi, April 30:
At least 21 official engagements of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April, most done over the past two weeks, were related to the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India and the country’s management of it, underlining the crisis facing the country which is now seeing in excess of 350,000 new cases a day on average.
This is the highest number of Covid-19 related reviews and meetings in which the Prime Minister has participated since March 2020, when he announced a strict federal lockdown. That month, the PM had 14 official engagements on Covid.
The list of Covid-19 engagements of the PM in April included review meetings with union government officials, conferences with state chief ministers, dialogue with foreign leaders such as the ones he had with US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, and addresses to the nation.
The PM has had at least 65 official engagements between March 2020 and April 2021 exclusively on Covid, according to the records in Press Information Bureau—the government’s publicity arm. Government officials claim that in addition, the PM has been talking to experts, political leaders and other stakeholders on the crisis, but that these are not listed as official engagements.
Between January and March 2021, when India’s covid curve showed a temporary slump, the PM’s engagements on Covid reduced. This also coincided with the campaigning for the elections in four states and a Union Terriory. the Prime Minister campaigned heavily for his Bharatiya Janata Party , especially in West Bengal where elections were held in eight phases (the last phase was on Thursday). In March this year, the PM had just one Covid-19 engagement—a review meeting with all chief ministers on March 17—apart from taking his first Covid vaccine shot at AIIMS, Delhi.
In February too, Modi had just one engagement related to the pandemic: addressing a workshop on “Covid-19 Management: Experience, Good Practices and Way Forward” with 10 Neighbouring Countries in his official programme. The PIB archive shows that in January, Modi had two official engagements: launching India’s vaccination campaign on January 16 and interacting with beneficiaries and vaccinators in Varanasi.
After peaking in September, India’s first wave of Covid-19 infections tapered off, reaching a low of 10,988 new cases on average a week on February 11, 2021. The second wave emerged in February, powered likely by variants, the relaxation of Covid guidelines, and mass political and religious gatherings. Cases have soared since. As have hospitalisations. And crucial medical commodities such as oxygen have been found to be in short supply (or at least not available when and where they are needed).
In April alone, again, mostly in the past 10 days, the Prime Minister had five engagements only on oxygen—underlining the gravity of the situation.