The Times of India and Hindustan Times lead with central government’s aggressive efforts to trace all participants of Delhi’s Tablighi Jamaat meet while The Indian Express takes an overall view of the crisis in the country including chief ministers’ video-conference with PM Modi.
Pink papers report a major drop in passenger vehicle sales. The Economic Times makes special mention of impulse foods disappearing from grocery store shelves amid a surge in demand for items like instant noodles and frozen snacks in the second week of lockdown.
The Times of India focuses on the Centre’s admonishment of the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi’s Nizamuddin which led to 389 positive Covid-19 cases in ‘389 linked to Tablighi meet..’ The report notes the magnitude of the group’s role in the spread of the disease: “It showed 389 (almost 20%) of the 2,000-plus cases identified across the country were linked to TJ. Nine deaths were reported in Telangana,” the report said.
For all of us who don’t understand how the Tablighi Jamaat was allowed to have so many people on its premises, a small item ‘Doval reigned in Tablighi…’ says that the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval had been asked to visit the Nizamuddin markaz early on 29 March and he “convinced maulanas to cooperate with the authorities after a section of Tablighi Jamaat members refused to let cops and health officials enter the building to conduct a medical examination”.
Meanwhile, in `Food trains race to ferry foodgrains…’ TOI says the Food Corporation of India is busy coordinating the procurement of wheat through ‘food trains’. The focus, the report notes, is to “meet the requirement of ‘deficit states’ such as Bihar, UP and West Bengal…to ensure that 80 crore poor do not go hungry during the lockdown”. And they’re doing this by moving record quantities of grain through the Indian Railways.
Also, the migrant worker exodus has prompted the government “to expand testing in high-risk zones” reporting a large number of cases. The report ‘Govt looks to expand testing in high-risk zones following exodus’ notes that the details of this modification will be notified Thursday. As TOI notes, so far only “symptomatic individuals who have undertaken international travel …symptomatic contacts of positive cases and symptomatic healthcare workers are tested for Covid-19’’.
‘Hurting, States knock on Centre door’ declares The Indian Express ahead of the video-conference between chief ministers and PM Modi. The lead story reports that “large-scale migrant worker movement” has left several states “including Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan and West Bengal” scrambling to find funds. It reveals that “some state chief ministers have already noted that the announcement of a 21-day lockdown was made without taking them into confidence”.
It’s not just state governments, the export industry is also staring at huge losses amid the lockdown. The report, `Allow limited resumption’ says that at an interaction with Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, exporters urged the government to allow limited resumption and highlighted “that if it does not find a way soon to re-open manufacturing units under lockdown, Indian products will lose their international markets to China, which has resumed production”.
Also read an exclusive interview with AIIMS Director Randeep Guleria who maintained that the “national lockdown is a very significant strategy to contain the spread of coronavirus” despite its implications on the economy. He also emphasised that data should be looked at in order to understand how long the lockdown should continue and if there should be graded lifting of lockdown.
Like TOI, Hindustan Times also focuses on the Tablighi Jamaat’s trail. It, however, pegs the number of positive cases linked to the congregation at 358 as opposed to 389.
The other worrying news is in the report, ‘PPE scarcity a concern…’ about the scarcity in personal protective equipment after five more doctors tested positive in the national capital. The report quotes Dr Srinivas Rajkumar T., general secretary of the resident doctors’ association at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), who said that the doctor are still using an HIV kit, which doesn’t cover the body entirely and there are still no “proper PPE kits that can prevent droplet infections”.
The scariest headline on Page 1 is the `White House projects 240k could die in US’ saying “100,000 to 240,000 deaths could take place before the outbreak is over” as infections crossed 200,000. Vice President Mike Pence is quoted to say that the US appears to be following the “trajectory akin to hard hit Italy”.
Back at home, the Good and Services Tax (GST) collections saw an 8 per cent decline “over the same month a year ago to the lowest in five months”. The report notes that “auto sales in the month for India’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki were down almost by half…”.
There’s a small item about the protests that triggered in Jammu and Kashmir over the change in the domicile policy. “According to the Union home ministry notification, any person who has stayed in Jammu and Kashmir for 15 years or studied in the region for seven years and appeared in the Class 10/12 examination will be eligible to call it his or her domicile, or permanent home,” the report notes.
The Telegraph leads with what other newspapers largely ignore — the migrant movement. In its opening paragraph, it notes that the “religious event in Nizamuddin in New Delhi has swept under the carpet the unpleasantness surrounding the migrant exodus fiasco in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak”. “Why our attention must be diverted,” asks the daily, unhesitatingly. The report addresses a series of questions about why the migrants left Delhi, what they do and how they travel.
The second half of the paper lists all the latest developments including scientists’ calls to find as many mild cases, CBSE’s push to skip 20-plus exams for all students, primarily Class XII students, and the revision of the anti-malaria drug guidelines. There is no mention of Tablighi Jamaat on Page 1.
The New Indian Express leads with an alarming update on the increase of Covid-19 cases in Tamil Nadu and also indicates why. In ‘110 new cases in TN: All Delhi returnee’”, the newspaper says a “whopping” 110 new cases in the state were linked to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in Delhi last month. The report quotes Health Secretary Beela Rajesh who said 1,103 people who attended the conference have come forward to get tested.
Another story: ‘100 + foreign Tablighis in U.P booked’, notes that Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba has asked states to launch a “war footing” to trace all participants of Tablighi Jamaat gathering as well as “intensive tracing of all contacts of the participants”.
The other important story indicates a change in treatment of Covid-19 cases — “Centre drops anti-virals from its recommended list”. The newspaper says the Centre has asked doctors treating severe Covid-19 patients to “stop administering HIV drugs” like the “Lopinavir-Ritonavir combo” and instead administer a combination of anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine and antibiotic Azithromycin. It says the revision came “following a study published by New England Journal which said the anti-HIV drug combination did not work in 199 patients analysed”.
Mumbai Mirror’s big story of the day is about the five nursing staff who tested positive in Mumbai. “The sharp rise comes even as the medical community continues to complain about a lack of personal protection equipment for those in the frontline of the fight against the pandemic,” the report notes.
It’s odd that the first death in the highly congested Dharavi settlements is not reported on page 1.
No where on the front page of The Economic Times is there news about the major slump in auto sales. Instead the paper leads with ‘Co Promoters & Insiders can’t Buy Shares Till Jun 30’ on how “promoters won’t be able to buy shares of companies between April 1 and up to June 30 — a window that’s wider than normal…”
Alongside the lead is a graphic titled ‘Helicopter Money & Bold Reforms’. It comprises ET-recommended reforms that the Narendra Modi government “has a mandate to deliver”. It includes measures like easing fiscal prudence, more privatisation etc.
Another story, ‘Impulse Food Supply Runs Dry on Lack of Clarity Over Govt Rules’, notes how impulse foods like instant noodles and frozen snacks have disappeared from grocery store shelves amid the nationwide lockdown. PepsiCo and Nestle have “restarted manufacturing lines on a very limited basis in some plants” while ITC and Parle Products have “restricted themselves to manufacturing non-premium products for the time being”, it reports.
Mint’s lead ‘India Braces For Hotspot Flareups’ notes the containment efforts by the government after identifying several hotspots. These include Delhi’s Nizamuddin area and “77 containment zones” in Mumbai as well as other such hotspots in Noida, Mysuru, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Kerala and Rajasthan’s Bhilwara.
In a really brief mention, “Covid-19 drives down auto sales”, Mint reports a 52 per cent fall in vehicle sales in India from a year earlier. The newspaper predicts a “disastrous” month ahead for automakers.
What ET ignores and Mint briefly notes, is given huge prominence here. Business Standard’s rhyming lead, “Lockdown crushes Motown” reports a 64 per cent drop in automobile sales. The figure differs from the one quoted by Mint, i.e. 52 per cent. It reports that Tata Motors witnessed a 68 per cent fall in passenger vehicle sales and an 87 per cent slump in commercial vehicles like trucks and buses. The lockdown has led to the shutting of showrooms and in the case of MG Motors, the shutdown of a manufacturing plant, notes the report.
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