Lauren Frayer

Lauren Frayer covers India for NPR News. In June 2018, she opened a new NPR bureau in India's biggest city, its financial center, and the heart of Bollywood—Mumbai.

Before moving to India, Lauren was a regular freelance contributor to NPR for seven years, based in Madrid. During that time, she substituted for NPR bureau chiefs in Seoul, London, Istanbul, Islamabad, and Jerusalem. She also served as a guest host of Weekend Edition Sunday.

In Europe, Lauren chronicled the economic crisis in Spain & Portugal, where youth unemployment spiked above 50%. She profiled a Portuguese opera singer-turned protest leader, and a 90-year-old survivor of the Spanish Civil War, exhuming her father's remains from a 1930s-era mass grave. From Paris, Lauren reported live on NPR's Morning Edition, as French police moved in on the Charlie Hebdo terror suspects. In the fall of 2015, Lauren spent nearly two months covering the flow of migrants & refugees across Hungary & the Balkans – and profiled a Syrian rapper among them. She interviewed a Holocaust survivor who owed his life to one kind stranger, and managed to get a rare interview with the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders – by sticking her microphone between his bodyguards in the Hague.

Farther afield, she introduced NPR listeners to a Pakistani TV evangelist, a Palestinian surfer girl in Gaza, and K-pop performers campaigning in South Korea's presidential election.

Lauren has also contributed to The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the BBC.

Her international career began in the Middle East, where she was an editor on the Associated Press' Middle East regional desk in Cairo, and covered the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war in Syria and southern Lebanon. In 2007, she spent a year embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, an assignment for which the AP nominated her and her colleagues for a Pulitzer Prize.

On a break from journalism, Lauren drove a Land Rover across Africa for a year, from Cairo to Cape Town, sleeping in a tent on the car's roof. She once made the front page of a Pakistani newspaper, simply for being a woman commuting to work in Islamabad on a bicycle.

Born and raised in a suburb of New York City, Lauren holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from The College of William & Mary in Virginia. She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, rusty French and Arabic, and is now learning Hindi.

MUMBAI — Santosh Pandey's wife is the head of their village, population about 1,600, near the holy city of Varanasi in northern India. He sometimes answers her phone. So he's up to date on what's happening in town.

And what's happening these days, he said, is horrific.

Fifty people from his village, Ashapur, and a neighboring one, Tilamapur, have died in the past two weeks. Most died at home, gasping for breath, with fevers. But only five or six of them were officially counted as COVID-19 deaths, Pandey said.

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MUMBAI — Sagar Kishore Naharshetivar has been driving a van around southern India with his father lying in the back, hooked up to an oxygen tank. His father has COVID-19 and needs treatment. This past week, they've tried hospitals in three different towns, even crossing state lines from Maharashtra to Telangana.

All the hospitals are full.

MUMBAI — About 100 vaccination centers abruptly shut down Friday in India's financial capital, Mumbai, amid a shortage of doses and as the country confirmed its highest daily jump in coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.

MUMBAI — India confirmed another record jump in COVID-19 cases Wednesday, as the world's biggest vaccine maker said it was "very stressed" and needs help from the Indian government to boost production.

India is struggling to speed up vaccinations amid its sharpest spike in coronavirus infections since the pandemic began. Authorities are also trying to balance stricter curbs on movement while also ensuring fair voting in five regions holding state elections throughout the month.

MUMBAI — India on Monday recorded its biggest daily jump in coronavirus infections, joining only a handful of countries, including the United States, to cross the threshold of 100,000 new cases in a single day.

A surge is happening across South Asia. Pakistan's prime minister and president are among those to test positive in recent weeks. A one-week lockdown began in Bangladesh on Monday.

MUMBAI — India on Wednesday recorded its biggest jump in COVID-19 deaths so far this year, as authorities in worst-hit Mumbai commandeered private hospitals and nursing homes amid an unprecedented wave of coronavirus infections.

It turns out a COVID-19 vaccine that stirred controversy in India may be effective after all.

NASHIK, India – In a dusty lot outside a wholesale market in western India, farmer Ambadas Sanap leans on the lip of his flatbed truck, surrounded by crates of green peppers and tomatoes. If he could get away from all this for just one day, he says, he'd travel to the capital to protest.

He wants his voice to be heard.

But Sanap, 44, cannot afford to take time off from laboring in his fields or hawking his produce at this sprawling government-run wholesale yard. He's got nine family members to feed.

On Feb. 1, the editor of an award-winning Indian magazine got a call from his social media manager: The magazine's Twitter account was down.

"I said, 'Are you sure? Can you just refresh, and check again?' " recalled Vinod K. Jose, executive editor of The Caravan, which covers politics and culture. "But she said, 'No, no, it's real.' "

A massive search-and-rescue operation was underway Sunday in northern India for at least 140 people missing after part of a Himalayan glacier broke off, triggering an avalanche of rock, mud, water and debris that swept away a hydroelectric dam.

Video recorded by witnesses from across a valley showed a torrent of water and debris breaking through a dam that's part of the Rishiganga Hydroelectric Project, more than 300 miles north of New Delhi.

Outside a train station in rural India, wiry men in flip-flops rake rotting coconuts and soiled plastic wrappers onto burlap tarps, then sling them into the back of an idling truck. They start toiling at dawn, sometimes scooping trash with bare hands, for a monthly full-time wage of about $95.

But there's at least one thing these men say they feel lucky about: As sanitation workers, they're among the first Indians eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Last September, India was confirming nearly 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day. It was on track to overtake the United States to become the country with the highest reported COVID-19 caseload in the world. Hospitals were full.

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To India now, where two months of peaceful protests turned violent. Farmers are locked in a standoff with the Indian government over agriculture reforms, and today it came to blows in the streets of the capital, as NPR's Lauren Frayer reports.

Tens of thousands of farmers rolled into India's capital Tuesday on tractors festooned with Indian flags, overshadowing a traditional military parade on a national holiday. They broke through barricades, clashed with police and occupied the ramparts of the 17th century Red Fort – a tourist attraction and symbol of Indian power.

It was one of the biggest protests in New Delhi in living memory, posing a fresh challenge to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was reelected in 2019 in a landslide.

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Cheers erupted in hospital wards across India on Saturday as a first group of nurses and sanitation workers rolled up their sleeves and got vaccinated against COVID-19, at the start of what's likely to become the biggest national vaccination campaign in history.

India aims to vaccinate 300 million people by July, though it could take an additional two or more years to inoculate all nearly 1.4 billion Indians. The shots are voluntary. Hospitals and clinics have been setting up and rehearsing for weeks.

As India embarks this weekend on what may become the biggest national vaccination campaign in the world, some scientists have raised questions about one of the two vaccines the country of 1.4 billion people has authorized for emergency use against COVID-19.

More than 5 million vaccine vials arrived early Wednesday at hundreds of hospitals and clinics across India. Inoculations start Saturday. India aims to vaccinate 300 million people by July.

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India's total reported coronavirus cases have surpassed 9 million – a milestone so far crossed only by the United States.

But new infections appear to be declining in India, with 45,882 new cases reported Friday, compared to daily tallies that were more than double that, in September.

Some scientists have questioned the reliability of India's testing regime and kits.

After Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris paid tribute to her mother, Shyamala Gopalan Harris, an Indian immigrant, in her victory speech Saturday night, Twitter erupted in celebration of Indian moms.

One Twitter user posted a video of his own mother, dancing to Indian music.

Firecrackers erupted Sunday in a tiny village surrounded by lush green rice paddies in southern India, where Kamala Harris' maternal grandfather was born. Residents wrote in colorful rangoli powder on a dirt lane in front of their homes: "Congratulations Kamala Harris. Pride of our village."

Harris will be the first Asian American elected vice president in the United States, in addition to becoming the first Black vice president and the first female vice president. Harris was born in California. Her late mother was born in India, and her father is from Jamaica.

Sometimes the call comes from a teenage girl.

She is pleading for help, "saying her parents are trying to get her married but she wants to stay in school," says Vijay Muttur.

He's the child protection officer in the town of Solapur in south-central India. After India went under a coronavirus lockdown in late March, his phone has been ringing off the hook. He's hearing from girls under the age of 18, from village elders, from social activists and child-care workers.

Updated at 10:30 a.m. ET

A week before the U.S. presidential election, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed a military agreement Tuesday in India before heading to Sri Lanka on a multicountry tour aimed at pushing the Trump administration's anti-China message.

Pompeo was joined in New Delhi by U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper. Together they signed a pact with their Indian counterparts to share sensitive satellite data, often used to steer missiles and drones.

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper are both in India's capital today. They signed military agreements and pushed the Trump administration's anti-China message. NPR's Lauren Frayer has details.

(SOUNDBITE OF TRUMPETS)

Citing a "reprisal" by the Indian government against its human rights work, Amnesty International said Tuesday that it had to lay off staff and halt operations in India.

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Visitors are capped at 5,000 a day. Everyone must wear a mask and have their temperature taken. Tickets are digital. Selfies are allowed, but no group photos. And no touching the gleaming white marble.

Those are among the new coronavirus-era rules at India's Taj Mahal, which reopened to tourists at sunrise Monday for the first time in more than six months. The monument shut on March 17, just days before India imposed the world's biggest coronavirus lockdown, when infections were still low in the country.

With nearly 98,000 new coronavirus cases confirmed Thursday, India again broke the record for the highest daily tally of infections for any country since the pandemic began. It is on track, within weeks, to become the worst-affected country in the world.

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