New Delhi: One would have expected prime time debates to focus on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech Tuesday extending the lockdown to 3 May, but another piece of news took over— hundreds of migrant workers gathered at Mumbai’s Bandra station Tuesday aftern allegedly hearing false news that the government was running trains to transport them back home.
Immediately, news anchors such as Rajat Sharma from India TV, Times Now’s Rahul Shivshanker and Republic’s Arnab Goswami darkly hinted at a “conspiracy”. On News Nation, the channel’s Mumbai correspondent said the crowds gathered outside Bandra station and near a masjid (which was mentioned by most news channels), were carrying no luggage, so how could they be travelling anywhere?
Most channels broadcast Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s calming speech. which earned him a pat on the back from India TV — “Acchi baat kahi”, declared the anchor.
On India Today, anchor Rajdeep Sardesai said that two images confronted the country — one of the prime minister announcing the lockdown extension and the other of migrant workers wanting to go home.
Sardesai claimed that what happened in Delhi more than two weeks ago,when migrants crowded bus stations, is now happening in west India, from Surat in Gujarat to Bandra in Mumbai, and even in Telangana. He contrasted the images of Modi, announcing the extension, with those of the migrant workers in Mumbai. “These two images have dominated headlines,” he said, but added that the big question was why these migrants were so restless and angry — “Is the healing touch missing in lockdown 2.0?”
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said that his party had been repeatedly warning of this since 24 March. He pointed out that without shelter, source of income or food, how could people expect these migrants, whose employers had shelved their responsibilities towards them, to survive? “Their demand is rational and reasonable, no one should be expected to live without food,” he said.
On Republic TV, Goswami was more aggressive than usual — telling panelists to “listen to him with a capital l” and he even asked political analyst Royden Roach to shut up and not speak over him.
Roach said that the crowd that assembled outside Bandra station yesterday was a mix of migrant workers wanting to go home and other labourers who were concerned about food distribution.
However, Goswami dismissed the gathering as a “pseudo-political protest” and said that fake news headquarters has already written a script about migrant crisis and Maharashtra migrant distress. “They tried it in Delhi, they were exposed,” he declared.
He also questioned how Congress Twitter handles were allegedly “live blogging the event”, saying “I told you so”.
“Look at the smile on Royden’s face, he knows exactly what I’m talking about,” he said to his panelists and viewers.
ANI Editor-in-chief Smita Prakash questioned how people could derive “masochistic pleasure” from what happened in Bandra and live-tweet things, as the gathering was a dangerous “tinder box situation”.
“This is not the time to play dirty politics,” she warned.
On ABP’s ‘Bharat ki Baat’, host Sumit Awasthi was less sympathetic. Showing visuals of the gatherings in both Bandra and Surat, he said that to fight coronavirus, social distancing is very important, but these images show the very opposite.
“In tasveeron ke liye zimadaar kaun hain?” (who is responsible for these images?), he asked.
On ‘The Newshour’ with Times Now, host Navika Kumar took an opportunity to clarify “rumor mongering”. She said that contrary to many reports, the Railway Ministry had confirmed that no decision has been taken to run any Jansadharan Special trains to clear the rush of stranded migrant labour from various locations. “Stay put where you are, follow guidelines, wear masks, wash hands, stay home stay safe,” she advised.
Zee News focused on PM Modi’s speech. On ‘DNA’, anchor Sudhir Chaudhary focused on the seven “vachan” (promises) that Modi asked for.
“Inn mein hi virus ka ilaaj chhupa hua hain” (In these 7 points is hidden the secret cure for coronavirus).
The first two were regular — take care of elders and those who are vulnerable to disease, respect the “lakshman rekha” of lockdown. Third, Modi asked people to build their immunity, and asked them to follow the guidelines set by the Ministry of AYUSH. Fourth and most important, he asked people to download the government’s Aarogya Setu Mobile App. He paused and for a second became an advertisement for the app — “Let us tell you, this is a kamaal ka (wonderful) app. If you download it, you can save yourself from coronavirus”. He reiterated again that downloading the app was a must.
He then resumed the rest of the vachans — take care of the poor, be a good employer by not firing but taking care of your employees, and respect “corona fighters” like nurses, doctors and policemen.
“We can win the war against corona with these 7 steps,” he said triumphantly.