Doomscrolling The Covid Crisis In Two Indias
A worker stands near a funeral pyre of a Covid-19 fatality, on the outskirts of New Delhi, on April 23, 2021. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

Doomscrolling The Covid Crisis In Two Indias


As this country skyrocketed to the top of the global Covid-19 charts, recording the highest single-day total cases on five successive days, two Indias became clearly visible.

In one India, citizens pleaded for oxygen, hospital beds, medicines, and the right to dignity after death. In the other, India’s worst health crisis since independence was an affront to our image and dignity. A tragedy to be battled with “positivity” and misinformation. I’ve used quotes and tweets (in italics) to juxtapose the two.

Doomscrolling The Covid Crisis In Two Indias

In the other India, images of funeral pyres were clickbait. In my India, they were a searing acknowledgement of how we had failed a nation. Here, cries for help pierced through hearts and made people weep. In that India, cricket’s premier league teams were tweeting videos of “that winning feeling”. In this India, there was only loss.

“Dear friends, yesterday I lost my father due to Covid…I don’t want to lose my mom now.”

“We have been trying to get Malvika a bed since yesterday. She is six months pregnant. Please. I know you all our tired. So am I. But can you please make some calls and get me a legit lead.”

“Let’s try and not be a cry baby,” solicitor general Tushar Mehta said in response to the Delhi government’s plea in the High Court for oxygen, even as time ran out for many.

This is urgent: need oxygen cylinder for someone in Lajpat Nagar, he is very old and his levels are going down. They have only one hour of oxygen left at home. Any leads? Please help.

Delhi people, this is an urgent case. we’ve tried 100s of POCs and none is working, so please help with something which can work urgently. A friend is admitted and hospital has run out of oxygen and he urgently needs it.

Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia urged hospitals in Delhi not to raise unnecessary alarms about oxygen shortage.

Medeor Hospital of Delhi is telling the patients that they have run out of oxygen and asking attendants to take away their patients.

Doctors at Pentamed hospital in Delhi say they are running out of oxygen. dozens of lives hang in the balance here if they run out.

For families, the trauma didn’t end with the deaths of their loved ones. The New York Times’ Sunday front page highlighted this aspect of the crisis.

Journalists who shot images of funeral pyres raging across the country were described as peddlers of “pandemic porn”; an industrialist accused an editor of taking “macabre ghoulish delight” in India’s misery. The editor was only reporting what she saw.

Author Mahesh Rao said his friend returned home from a crowded crematorium with a token number. In the responses to him, many shared horror stories of long waits and a “death traffic jam”.

“This storm has shaken the nation,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his radio address on April 25, sounding more like a philosophical observer than the elected representative accountable for this country’s healthcare infrastructure.

The Telegraph newspaper calculated that in his 4,732-word address, Modi mentioned the word ‘oxygen’ only once.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, always a step ahead of other chief ministers, ordered officials to use the National Security Act and the Gangsters Act to seize the property of those “anti-social elements” who were spreading “rumours” on social media to “spoil the atmosphere”.

In Kanpur, bodies are now being burned in some of the city’s parks.

A 70-year-old person requires urgent Oxygen Support in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh.

“Shared idealism is the need of the hour!” Health Minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted. Young Indians might have shown some if they weren’t so busy being sick.

A+ plasma for a Kashmiri patient. Age: 30. We have been trying since morning for a bed, please help.

Jitender. Age: 29. Needs a hospital bed with oxygen.

O2 levels dipping and X-ray shows pneumonia. Patient is 34 and has now also contracted pneumonia along with Covid. Currently on oxygen home set-up. Need a doctor's visit in Patel Nagar, Delhi or hospital admission URGENTLY.

The Air Force said it had airlifted cryogenic oxygen containers from Air Force Station Hindan to Panagarh for recharging, in support of the fight against Covid-19.

But in some cases, even a uniform couldn’t save lives.

1965 War hero Abdul Hameed's son died for want of oxygen in Kanpur earlier in the day.

I have myself served AIIMS for past 10 years. Still can’t get my father admitted to Trauma Centre.

Myself a doctor and my father an air force officer. He is sick. Like really sick. His room air saturation is 70%. He has leukemia. Ferritin and CRP through the roof (7500, 650).

Father of a Serving Army Officer NEEDS B+VE COVID PLASMA.

“Instead of being critical…let us shed all our differences and fight the real enemy, coronavirus, unitedly under the leadership of PM Modi,” industrialist Harsh Goenka tweeted.

Goenka shamelessly ignored the deeper question: Who created these differences?

As families fought to remain families, Minister of Law & Justice Ravi Shankar Prasad retweeted news that volunteers from the RSS—that original upholder of family values—distributed Ayurvedic Kadha in Shahdol District Hospital & Medical College, Shahdol, Madhya Pradesh.

If anyone has any connection in Delhi for procuring Remdesivir medicine (6 doses) please contact me. My mother is in a critical situation.

Any possible sources would be greatly appreciated. Hello everyone. My cousin sister is Covid positive her Spo2 level is now 55. Please anyone help me.

Prominent Indians didn’t fare much better in this tsunami that temporarily upset many bastions of privilege.

Padma Bhushan Pandit Rajan Mishra (Rajan-Sajan Mishra) is critical in Delhi having corona and heart attack..urgently needs bed and oxygen. Please help immediately.

A cabinet minister did take note but conveniently left out a few details about his death.

“Pandit Rajan Mishra passes away. Classical music has lost a stalwart,” Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted, sharing a famous composition. “Condolences to his admirers, students, followers and friends.”

Priya Ramani is a Bengaluru-based journalist and is on the editorial board of

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of BloombergQuint or its editorial team.

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