May 19, 2021
ACORN in India is once again shuffling our organizing plans around in order to meet the COVID crisis among our members, informal workers, and their communities. Once again, we are organizing dry food packets with weekly meals for thousands. Vaccines are in short supply and to get in line requires an online reservation, so we find ourselves signing up our members without access as well, even as we had been enrolling hawkers and street vendors in the government’s credit schemes to get them back to work in the marketplaces.
Masks may be off and another normal is returning in the US, UK, and some other countries, but in India the system is overwhelmed by the latest surge. Tragically, Prime Minister Modi is proving again how little prepared the country has been in so many ways, including his priority of politics and party over people.
Admittedly, it’s a bigger problem than just the Prime Minister. India spends less than 2% of GDP on health care compared to 18% almost in the United States, yet Modi has bragged about the countries’ response to the pandemic. Hospitals and healthcare workers are overwhelmed with too few beds and too little oxygen for those desperate for care and air. The medical association says that 1000 doctors have died while providing care in the pandemic and 25% of these deaths have been in the six weeks beginning the first of April. Meanwhile, daily records are being set at 400,000 cases and recorded deaths have soared past 250,000, which everyone agrees is an undercount.
Prime Minister Modi and his government are directly responsible though for stifling the response and support to this surge from nonprofits and charities, even as donations are assembled globally. In yet another effort to isolate India and increase autocratic control and reduce any dissent, Modi shepherded even more restrictive amendments to the Federal Contribution Regulation Act or FCRA through Parliament. More red tape was added, more restrictions imposed, and any FCRA recipient was required to open up an account in the state-controlled bank so the contributions and financial activity could be monitored directly by the government. Re-granting which had been common by many philanthropic organizations was essentially outlawed. The lack of notice and speed with which these changes were dictated in the fall, ironically in the wake of massive relief earlier in the pandemic, caught many organizations flatfooted and unable to accept contributions for relief. To make a long, terrible story short, Modi’s political priorities have now joined the pandemic crisis to kill people.
Some big donors and nonprofits have called for postponement of the new FCRA regulations at least until the pandemic subsides. This seems the least that could be demanded in this crisis. So far there is no indication of a positive response from the Modi government, even as the case count and death toll continue to rise.
ACORN India needs your help in their COVID relief efforts. Check out this link to donate or find information below.