As a vicious second coronavirus wave has made India the worst-hit country in the world, its prime minister, Narendra Modi, is at the center of a national reckoning, one that comes amid India’s stark reversal from declaring victory to suffering its gravest emergency in decades.
New cases have reached about 400,000 a day, a grim world record. Vaccines are running short. Hospitals are swamped. Lifesaving oxygen is running out. Each day, cremation grounds burn thousands of bodies. And a series of accidents at hospitals have added to the grief, with the most recent one early Saturday in the western state of Gujarat killing at least 16 Covid-19 patients and two health care workers.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to take down posts critical of the government and threatening to arrest ordinary people for pleading for oxygen. Countries including the United States have restricted travel from India.
Mr. Modi’s party and the government declined to answer specific questions but listed actions the government has taken, including Mr. Modi holding more than a dozen meetings in April with Air Force officers, pharmaceutical executives and many others.
In a statement, the government said it “maintained a steady pace of coordination and consultation to prepare an adequate response.” It added that the administration in February had “advised states to maintain strict vigil” and “not let their guard down.”
Any Indian leader would have faced challenges. Hundreds of millions of poor people live cheek by jowl, easy targets for a highly contagious virus. India has long neglected public health — a problem that predates Mr. Modi.
vastly understate the toll. Though India is a vaccine powerhouse, producing vaccines to protect the world, it didn’t purchase enough doses to protect itself, and when infections were low, it exported more than 60 million shots. On Saturday, vaccinations were supposed to open up to Indians 18 and older, but several states reported that shortages forced them to delay their expansions.