It’s a measure of how confused everyone is about everything related to the coronavirus ‘catastrophe’ (Mirror Now) in India that news channels are not merely ‘gasping’ at what they behold, but they’re also grasping at straws.
Perhaps they reflect the unorganised-disorganised response of the authorities to what is a petrifying human tragedy — you have only to watch the news to see what India Today calls the ‘chaos’.
And in the middle of all the mayhem, Republic TV has become a channel of calm. Given its history of vitriolic broadcasts, this is a warning that something is wrong, very wrong.
Republic TV has been reporting the news, not airing its views: ‘Surge in cases in Tripura’, ‘PM speaks to 4 CMs’, ‘Aid arrives from S. Korea’, ‘Covid treatment-effect and impact’, ‘Metro in Delhi stopped’ – that’s a sample of its bland, straightforward headlines this week.
And then, this happened: on Monday afternoon, the channel discovered the real cause and culprit of the deadly surge of virus: China’s ‘biological warfare’, attributed to a 2015 report by Chinese military scientists who, allegedly, investigated weaponising coronaviruses.
According to one Captain (retd) Alok Bansal, the expert chosen by the channel, India’s Covid numbers were under control until the India-China standoff at the Line of Actual Control (LAC) last June. Then the graph began to rise, ‘not a natural phenomenon’ – apparently, China unleashed bio-warfare on India and presumably continues to do so. Channels like Zee News and CNN News 18 also broadcast the news but without the LAC conspiracy theory.
This is just one example of how channels are looking hither and thither, all over the place, trying to make sense of what is happening. Fact is, nobody quite knows.
Take a look at a random choice of Wednesday afternoon stories at approximately 2.30 pm.
On Mirror Now, a video of police beating up a man who stepped out to buy medicines for a patient.
Republic TV said WHO had issued a clarification on the ‘Indian’ variant — now, there is no such thing.
CNN News 18 considered the possibility of vaccines for youngsters.
India Today interviewed people who had tried and failed to obtain a vaccine slot.
Aaj Tak found people queuing up for vaccination at a Jaipur hospital where no vaccines were available.
Earlier Wednesday, channels had Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia telling us the capital had all but run out of vaccines.
A case of vaccines, vaccines everywhere, but not a jab to get? (Apologies, Coleridge). Or, as India Today said, ‘Chaos’.
Onto the bodies
And then there were the bodies.
Times Now asked, ‘Who is to blame for the indignity?’ as it screened images of bodies in rivers at five different places in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
‘Rivers of life now channels of despair’ was its epitaph. On Aaj Tak, we saw the naked bodies bobbing up and down quite clearly despite the mosaic film covering them.
Bharat Samachar claimed there were 1,200 to 1,400-plus bodies floating in the river — the ‘stench’ from them intolerable to those living by the river bed.
Switch to News X — it said Uttar Pradesh had the “Highest stock of vaccines”, and had “floated tenders to procure 4 crore doses”.
Cut to Zee News and a village near Baghpat, UP, where the reporter found no hospitals, government or private. “There is only death,” mourned one villager.
Cut to Republic TV: ‘WHO praises UP for Covid management’. CNN News18 quotes the UP Chief Minister saying ‘Tackled second wave’.
Then switch back to Mirror Now where people on the streets in Ayodhya, UP complained that the medical infrastructure is “shoddy”.
Confused? So you should be.
Vaccination story is no different
The same confusion visits the vaccination story. One moment CNN News 18 is telling us how Covaxin is set for trials on children and in the other it informs that states say they have no vaccines.
India Today asks “Where’s my vaccine?’’ The channel features adults aged above 45 years who try to be vaccinated in Mumbai and Delhi and come a cropper.
If there are no vaccines for the 60-plus age group, what will we do for the children — even if Covaxin is approved for them?
Meanwhile, ABP News is in a celebratory mood: ‘Covid will lose and lose very soon,’ it prophesied, adding that India had vaccinated more people and faster than the US, UK and China.
What solace is that to the woman who has spent five days trying to book a vaccine slot but to no avail (News 24), or to the grey-haired wife who is making the rounds of Mumbai to get her husband vaccinated—he took Covaxin and is already 12 days late for the second dose (India TV)?
So too is the medical advice that is being freely dispensed across news channels, daily. It is so confusing. News 24 told us the Goa government has said every adult should take the drug ivermectin. Dr. D.N. Rana at Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital says he took it — he still got the corona. Did it help, asks the anchor, “Can’t say,” replied the good doctor.
Story after story on channel after channel showed us people lining up to buy remdesivir – the drug was being sold in the black too, just like oxygen. But doctors in TV studios, like Dr M.C. Mishra, formerly AIIMS, tell us remdesivir is not part of Corona protocol (Zee News). Huh?
One doctor on Zee News tells us to hold our breath to a count of whatever; another on News 24 says do proning — lie on your stomach as cricketer Irfan Khan told us he did. Baba Ramdev’s cure for everything is ‘kapalabhati’ (India TV, Aaj Tak).
The latest controversy is over plasma — ‘to use or not to use,’ asked CNN News 18 on Wednesday after scientists wrote to ICMR asking for it to be removed from Covid treatment. And for a year, we’ve been hearing it was the final frontier for critical patients.
‘Decline in active cases for second day,’ said Times Now; ‘Cases surge in villages,’ warned Aaj Tak.
Try making sense of this. And, remember, we haven’t even got to the black fungus or third wave…
We need a breather, guys. Come on now take a deep breath, hold it….
Views are personal.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)