The Prime Minister of India and all his Cabinet men and women ought to watch television news, rather than appear on it. They will then see what India sees: chaos.
And maybe what they will see will make them reconsider the political public messaging we see.
They will see themselves holding crowded political rallies in West Bengal – from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi (even though he has belatedly cancelled rallies). This, when the Prime Minister is imploring Indians to stay at home and step out only when and if necessary.
And then they will see the headlines across news channels: “Monster surge’’ said India Today, “Over 18 lakh cases active in India”, it added.
“30,000 new cases in second wave,” announced Zee News; “Oxygen crisis in cities,’’ declared India TV; “Mega Covid Surge,” said Mirror Now; “Deaths surge across nation,’’ mourned Times Now; “Did we let our masks down?” asked its anchor Rahul Shivshankar; “Tsunami in city after city,” said Zee News.
And they will see the same headlines repeated across channels daily— “Biggest ever one day surge” as the number of cases reach new heights every day. “No beds, no oxygen…” is the other constant frightening refrain.
Chaos in the capital
The PM and all other politicians in power will also see what we saw in horror — crowds of men and at least one woman – jostling outside liquor stores in Delhi after the ‘curfew’ lockdown was announced.
They will see channels condemn the latter the queues, call out ‘#StopSuperspreaderEvents’ (Times Now), but it was only on Tuesday evening that India Today’s Rahul Kanwal directly cornered them. “Why did you put votes over lives? … Why put the blame on the public?” he asked as footage of election rallies by Modi, Shah and Mamata Banerjee rolled on.
Meanwhile, the lady at the liquor store was so disdainful of all efforts by the authorities to control the pandemic that when asked by Zee Hindustan if she was more concerned about obtaining her next peg than her safety, she tartly replied, “Yes, this is medicine.”
All the Prime Minister’s men and women will see the burning pyres across different cities of India. Aaj Tak showed a night skylight glitter with smouldering fires in different cities. In Lucknow — and at Delhi’s Nigambodh Ghat, the channel’s reporter said 68 pyres of Covid-19 victims had been burned.
In Surat, India TV found a crematorium overflowing and at least one worker said there were over 100 bodies each day, In Bhopal, the News 24 reporter said people complained that the government was lying about the number of deaths.
They will see hospitals that are sagging under the burden of more patients than they can carry—on Tuesday, channels like NDTV 24×7 interviewed Dr D.S. Rana of Delhi’s Ganga Ram Hospital who said that the hospital had only eight hours of oxygen left for patients.
Zee Hindustan visited a hospital in Valsad, Gujarat. “Shocking pictures,” said the reporter, “on the bed is a patient, on the floor beside him is a body….”
They will see patients everywhere, angry, anxious, bereaved and bewildered.
ABP News had women crying outside one hospital and a relative of another woman declaring he was prepared to pay up to Rs 3-4 lakh if the hospital would admit her. Another woman with Covid-19 lay in the back of a car for five hours waiting, waiting. “Waiting for five days,” said a man outside Dr Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital (India Today)
Zee News visited Deen Dayal Upadhyay Hospital in Delhi where people waiting outside were angry and said that while the government claimed there were beds available, they still couldn’t get patients admitted. One man said they were told to carry the stretchers themselves. Another man was furious: “The government talks big,’’ he said hotly, “that’s all.’’
In Lucknow, India TV caught up with a young man whose young pregnant wife was Covid-19 positive, ready to deliver a baby, “but no hospital beds”.
Prime Minister Modi and his men and women will see reporters ring up hospitals and clinical laboratories to ask for test sample collection, only to hear the same reply, each time: “Not possible’’, “We have stopped collections’’.
They will listen in to the ABP News reporter conduct a sting operation and find out that the much sought-after drug, Remdesivir, is selling on the black market for thousands of rupees. On Aaj Tak, another sting found oxygen cylinders going at a premium — ‘Saanson ka Saudagar’ it labeled the sellers.
They will see people leaving the cities of Mumbai and Delhi in droves despite the PM’s advice to stay put. “Fear of Covid is driving them out,” said the reporter on NDTV India. “Horrible situation,” said the Republic TV reporter at Delhi’s Kaushambi bus stand.
They will also see Baba Ramdev doing what he can to boost the immunity of the nation with yoga on India TV, daily. An impressed anchor announced, with seeming expert knowledge, that “will power can also help you fight corona’’, while Ramdev executed a headstand amongst other yoga poses, which he says will help reduce stress.
What will governments and politicians think or say after they have watched all the horror and tragedy unfold on television news? Will they wonder why they allowed a Kumbh Mela in Haridwar, poll campaigns in states like West Bengal, which is now seeing a terrible spike in cases?
Or will it be back to business as usual? “Mamata 3 roadshows, Smriti Irani 3 roadshows’’ announced Zee News on Wednesday…
“Mujhe maaf karo sarkar’’, pleaded Aaj Tak as the bodies piled up across the country.
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