Ab bas karo 2020,’’ pleaded Aaj Tak Sunday. “How many more challenges will we face?” Coronavirus, cyclones, locusts, Delhi riots, riots in the US, forest fires, economic distress… It listed out an impressive catalogue of disasters that have already befallen the world – and India in particular – with six months still remaining in the year.
And indeed, watching television news, your eyes are rotating 360 degrees, your mind is whirring at a speed faster than the overhead fans, and after listening to doctors across news channels for three months, your body is displaying worrying symptoms — body ache, headache, oh no, sore throat.
Many of us are frightened these days and the news coverage on TV has only heightened the sense of anxiety.
If you live in Mumbai or Delhi, you may have taken to your bed by now and surrendered body and soul to ‘Ram bharose’ (ABP News) — a smart Aaj Tak anchor revised that to, ‘Ram bharose nahin, Modi bharose’ (will he get the first interview of 2020 with the Prime Minister for this vote of confidence?).
What else can you do when you hear the ABP News anchor declare with deep misgiving Wednesday that Mumbai is outstripping Wuhan in the number of coronavirus cases? In doomsday tones, she emphasised each figure as she pronounced, “5-1-0-0-0-0 cases already…” and then calmly asked the reporter in Mumbai, “Is it a cause for anxiety?”
Not going to look beyond Delhi, Mumbai
Meanwhile, rajdhani mein, there are “1-0-0-0 cases a day,” said Times Now, Tuesday. “Systemic failures… the infrastructure is collapsing… the numbers are mounting…” said the anchor with almost unholy gloom.
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“Delhi health system in ICU,” added India TV, just in case you still harboured hopes for the national capital.
Republic TV then took us to Safdarjung Hospital and Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Hospital (LNJP) for a medical horror show: at Safdarjung, it found a dead body wrapped up on beds next to those of recovering patients. At LNJP, it discovered that a patient was actually missing.
All the while, news channels repeatedly flashed Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s claim, in expressionless tones, that by July the city will have 5.5 lakh cases.
NDTV India, NDTV 24×7, India TV, and Mirror Now among others also visited hospitals where they found patients or their relatives describe what NDTV 24×7 called “harrowing experiences” – no beds, no treatment, deaths.
But, according to AAP leader Sanjay Singh, “46 per cent beds in government hospitals are available”.
“No bed in Delhi,” retorted CNN News18.
Appalled by this “Corona game” over beds? (ABP News). The ding-dong battle played out across news channels as politicians and anchors looked for people to blame… “Politicians are fighting amongst themselves, not corona…’’explained Aaj Tak’s anchor, Tuesday.
Anchors join the fight
Then, you had the BJP and Congress attack the AAP for its incompetence: “Why have they opened up Delhi?” asked Ajay Maken, Congress (ABP News) about Unlock 1, as malls and restaurants reopened in Delhi. And you had the AAP’s Atishi and Raghav Chadha hit back ferociously in arguments with anchors on India Today, CNN News18, etc.
Aaj Tak’s Rohit Sardana ticked off Atishi: you are getting upset just by the questions, he told her. Yes, because you interrupt me mid-sentence, she snapped.
Scientists and doctors didn’t tell you this but the coronavirus doesn’t just raise you temperature, it can make you very bad-tempered, too.
And why wouldn’t Atishi be angry? She had to defend Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to close Delhi’s borders, thereby denying patients from other places access to Delhi hospitals. “Is Delhi reserved for Delhi?” asked an enraged Times Now on #DelhiForAll.
It was a free-for-all on TV news: are there or are there not beds for all in Delhi hospitals? Is there community spread or is there not in Delhi? NDTV India introduced a new dimension to the problem: are there enough doctors in Delhi? What exactly is going on in Delhi?
Nobody knew. However, news channels faithfully visited hospitals, sought out patients and questioned the Delhi government, relentlessly.
This is commendable and reflects good journalistic practices. However, just wondering why no questions are being asked of Gujarat or Tamil Nadu governments, which also have high incidence of cases? In fact, when did you last see any major coverage of either state?
Earlier, Mumbai was the focus of TV news; now it’s Delhi. Besides being India’s two largest and most important metropolitan centres, with the highest number of coronavirus cases, they are also ruled by opposition parties. Just saying.
Quakes in Delhi, change in US media
By the way, News 24, India Today and India Ahead had more bad news for jittery Delhi wallahs: “Are Delhi, NCR going to face a major jolt?” asked News 24.
“Big quake coming?” inquired India Today, reminding us that in two weeks, there had been more than 10 tremors in the national capital. After a quick and impressive data update on the Delhi quakes, the anchor turned to his expert: “What do you want to say about this?”
A big earthquake is possible in the Himalayan region but it’s not necessary it will impact Delhi, replied scientist K. Siddhartha. The anchor looked quite relieved.
Far away in the United States, the country is convulsed too, but not for geological reasons. The protests after the killing of George Floyd by a White policeman have so transfixed the nation that channels like CNN International swapped the coronavirus for racial violence as the news focus.
So much so, that the funeral of George Floyd Tuesday was reported with full state honours by CNN. In death, Floyd was a hero and got a hero’s send off from the news channel with live coverage throughout the formalities accompanied by glowing words “to celebrate George Floyd, his legacy”.
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