The region around Varanasi, one of the holiest cities in the world for Hindus, is among the worst affected by the second wave of coronavirus sweeping India.
Many angry citizens of the region, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, are now asking where their MP, Narendra Modi – India’s prime minister – is in their hour of need.
India’s devastating second wave has pushed the country’s total number of infections to 20 million and the death toll to more than 220,000. In Varanasi, with the health infrastructure swamped, patients can no longer find hospital beds, oxygen, or ambulances, and getting a Covid test can take up to a week. In the past 10 days, most pharmacies have run out of basic medicines like vitamins, zinc and paracetamol.
“We are inundated with calls saying help us get a bed or oxygen,” said a local medical professional, who did not want to be named. “With the most basic medicines in short supply, people are even taking expired drugs,” he said. “They say it’s a little less effective, but at least it’s something.”
“The prime minister and the chief minister have gone into hiding, abandoning Varanasi and its people to their own fate,” the restaurant owner said. “The local BJP leaders are in hiding too. They have switched off their phones. This is the time people need them to help with a hospital bed or an oxygen cylinder but it’s total anarchy here. People are so angry.”