India is passing through a very tough period in its fight against the Coronavirus. The recent steep rise in infected cases, termed as the second wave, has pushed India to number one spot in terms of daily cases reported, ahead of the USA and Brazil that held the first two positions for a long time before India overtook USA about a month ago. In terms of cumulative cases, currently India is at number two spot after the USA. Brazil holds the third place.
The growth in terms of cumulative numbers makes an interesting reading. On 31 December 2020, USA had clocked 20.1 million, Brazil 7.6 million and India was at 10.3 million. By 10 March this year, USA added another 45% to reach 29.3 million, Brazil numbers rose by 47% to 11.2 million and cases in India grew by only about 12% to 11.6 million. However, the story after this is where the surprise comes in. In next two months till about 9 May, USA was up by only 11% to 32.7 million, Brazil by about 36% to 15.2 million, but lo and behold, India grew 93% to 22.3 million cases. This is when India was hit by the new double mutant christened as the ‘India Double Mutant’. But the story does not stop here.
Where did this new mutant begin its attack on the Indian nation – in the state of Maharashtra, but to be more precise it was in Mumbai, the financial capital of the nation. On last day of 2020, the state had only 1,754 cases. On 10 March the figure rose to 13,659 and by 6 April it reported 102,754 cases – a nearly 750% increase in less than a month. Was this spike logical? Did the state or the city of Mumbai do something different to invite this sudden surge? The restrictions that were in force were being relaxed in a graded manner over many months. The state did not do anything drastic or different that led to this rise in number of cases. In no time, this sudden rise was being attributed to a new double mutant that was spreading faster than any earlier avatar of the coronavirus.
The next stop for this mutant was Delhi, the national capital. On 31 December 2020, Delhi had just 287 cases. On 10 March 2021 it was 370 and then on 20 April the figure jumped to 28,395, a whopping 7674% increase in about 40 days. After Delhi it was the turn of Karnataka and the city of Bengaluru, the soft power capital of India. The state had only 476 cases at the end of last year. The figure rose to 760 on 10 March and on 5 May 2021 it was 50,112, a staggering increase by 6594% in just two months. Is this new double mutant very particular and choosy on where it strikes? It does appear it is; otherwise, why should it jump from Mumbai to Delhi and then Bengaluru bypassing many other states and cities en route? Does this not suggest a pattern where the new mutant first strikes the nation’s financial capital, then the political capital and next the soft power capital?
The new mutant has conveniently not hit any of India’s neighbors like Pakistan, Bangladesh or Sri Lanka, part of the Indian sub-continent. The story is same for other South Eastern and Middle East nations. USA and Brazil, the nations that held the top two positions in number of daily cases for many months, have not reported any mutants worth their salt. China where the coronavirus originated, has no mutants to report for almost a year and a half. But India, that seemed to have effectively controlled the virus by the end of 2020, suddenly finds a new double mutant in its midst, that is more deadly and spreads much faster.
In principle, the more the spread of the virus, greater are the chances of a mutant taking birth as it tends to mutate naturally. Most mutants do not present any new challenges unless there is a change in the strain of the virus. The mutants that were identified in UK, Japan, South Africa and Brazil were in the latter category as they reported a change of strain. But still these variants did not cause the same kind of havoc that the new double mutant has caused in India in a matter of few weeks. In these countries the mutants took birth when the virus spread was close to its peak. India, on the other hand, had effectively checked the virus spread and was reporting less than 15,000 cases a day nationally in January and February. For Mumbai and Delhi, the figures were lower than 300 cases a day. Yet a deadly double mutant takes birth, is this not strange?
WHO has laid down guidelines that should be observed when naming a new virus or disease that affects humans. The stress was on ensuring that it had a generic name without the added tags of any region, location, ethnicity, people names, description of animal species or any other tag that may demean any region or a set of people or even an economic activity. This was enforced by WHO when the virus that originated in Wuhan, China was referred to as the Wuhan Virus. The world body insisted on using the generic term of Coronavirus or COVID-19. But in case of the double mutant that surfaced in India, most nations and the media across the world is referring to it as the Indian Double Mutant. Sadly, Indian media, has been the most vocal in using this term instead of calling it by its generic name. Could this be a deliberate ploy to malign the nation, both by outsiders and by some within? It is no secret that India emerged stronger from the onslaught of the virus that struck last year in March. In fact, the speed of Indian recovery surprised many as also the efficiency with which the pandemic was dealt with. India’s mortality rate was close to being the lowest while its recovery rate the highest even when compared to more developed and richer European nations and the USA. India’s stock rose rapidly across the world. Indian vaccine industry was poised to become the major supplier of vaccines in the fight against the virus.
The pharmaceutical industry was not far behind in its endeavour to become the drug supplier to the world. Defense industry too was taking huge strides. In short, India’s growth and credibility stories were poised for a breakout.
Did all this hurt or not sit well with some – both within and outside our borders? Was there a deliberate attempt to derail India’s recovery and the resultant growth? It will be impossible to believe that a virus mutant is capable of targeting selectively at will to hurt a nation where it hurst the most? If it cannot do so on its own, the next obvious question is -was it aided by an external hand? Is India a victim of a conspiracy hatched to derail its growth and the fight against the virus? Are there vested interests internally who aided this? Finally, the most important question – did this mutation take place in India or was it planted in India as part of an overall sinister design? Time to reflect for powers to be to find some plausible answers to these questions.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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