India has over 28 lakh active Covid cases that have left the health infrastructure near collapse (File)
The Indian High Commission in Australia has slammed a "baseless, malicious and slanderous" report in The Australian - a daily newspaper - titled "Modi leads India out of lockdown... and into a viral apocalypse".
The article, which is also available online (behind a paywall), attributes the rise in cases to factors like allowing thousands to attend election rallies, permitting the mega Kumbh, ignoring experts' advice on more infectious strains, and a critical shortage of medical oxygen and vaccines.
Acknowledging the potential impact of mutated Covid viruses, the article also refers to "hubris... nationalist politics... slow vaccine roll-out, an ill-equipped health system... and promotion of the economy over containment".
The High Commission wrote to Christopher Dore, The Australian's editor-in-chief, on Monday and accused him of publishing a report "written with the sole objective of undermining the universally acclaimed approach taken by the Government of India to fight the pandemic".
The letter referred to "a number of measures" taken by the government to combat the pandemic, starting from the lockdown in March last year to the vaccination drive.
"... massive upgradation in diagnostics and treatment facilities undertaken in record time have saved hundreds of millions and have been praised by the global community..." the letter said.
The letter also referred to the centre's 'vaccine diplomacy' and export of protective equipment, and claimed it had "probably saved hundreds of millions more around the world".
The High Commission also slammed The Australian's "rush to blame the surge on the restricted election campaign by the Prime Minister of India and one religious gathering".
India has been hit by a devastating second wave of Covid infections - with daily numbers now over three lakh and the active caseload nearly three times as high as it has ever been.
On Monday morning more than 2,800 deaths were reported in the previous 24 hours.
India reported over 3.5 lakh new Covid cases in 24 hours on Monday morning (File)
The surge in cases has crippled an already-weakened health infrastructure, leaving hospitals overflowing, doctors overworked, and a lack of oxygen and medicines for critically ill patients.
Social media has been choked with desperate cries for help from family members looking for beds medication and oxygen cylinders, but the centre has said "there is absolutely no need for panic".
Prime Minister Modi, criticised for failing to anticipate the tidal wave of infections, addressed the nation on Sunday and said the second Covid wave was "testing our capacity to bear pain".
The Prime Minister has held multiple meetings over the past few weeks and has announced several measures, including setting up oxygen generation plants in every district.
Opposition parties have been critical of the centre; Congress MP Rahul Gandhi has been among the most vocal and several chief ministers have questioned the delay in widening the vaccine net.
Worried states have announced curfews and restrictions in the past few days, despite the Prime Minister last week asking for lockdowns to be used as the last resort.
The country began its vaccination drive in January and has administered over 14 crore doses since, but there are over 100 crore people in the 18-45 age group who will only be eligible from May 1.
The situation has also led the UK, the EU and the US to express concern and offer aid.
And in a sign that things could get worse, a mathematical study by IIT scientists predicts India's active caseload could rise to 48 lakh by mid-May and daily new cases could be as high as 4.4 lakh.