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Vultures Preying over COVID Crisis: Busting the propaganda of the ecosystem

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The author is an alumnus of IIT Kanpur and a Public Policy Enthusiast.

The “Ecosystem” is back with a bang after it failed miserably at the so called Farmers Protests last year. It has been failing since Narendra Modi took oath as the Prime Minister in 2014 and it’s agony has only grown multifold after the BJP won a historic mandate in 2019. This time it hopes to capitalize on the grief of people like a vulture preying on heap of bodies, on their feeling of frustration and helplessness against a pandemic that has ravaged the world. The “Ecosystem” is a complicated nexus, a part of which had been remotely exposed during the infamous toolkit episode few months ago and has little to do with political affiliations. I really wish to talk in detail on the Ecosystem but let’s leave that discussion for another day.

The second wave: Selective outrage and the blame game

The second wave of COVID19 took India by storm as the cases skyrocketed. India went from registering 50K cases/day on 24th March to more than 350K cases/day a month later, triggering an unprecedented health crisis. The cracks in the health infrastructure soon began to show up as people scampered to find hospital beds and the cities ran out of medical oxygen. Deaths too accompanied with fatality count rising to over 3K per day and left many completely shattered. The crisis still continues with combined efforts at war front from everyone, from the Centre to the States, from the international community to the private sector at home, from the PSUs to the forces and the medical fraternity and the hopes are high to get over it soon.

Amongst this crisis, the vultures were quick to spin the narrative away from reality. Out of nowhere, the Centre and the PM were projected as the villains responsible for the crisis, the usual script that has been used multiple times by the Ecosystem began to be played and the stage was set for the great drama to unfold. The usual propaganda was slowly amplified on social media and by loyal media houses to the “Ecosystem”. The political groups were definitely not missing the party and jumped in soon enough. Soon enough, the COVID crisis was being projected as the result of the Centre’s carelessness, the Kumbh Mela and the political rallies. Obviously nothing could be as far removed from the truth. At the lowest point, the vultures labelled PM Modi as a murderer. One indeed wonders how many times have we heard this statement before and laughs. The State governments found a new escape route to hide their gross incompetence and began to blame the Centre despite the fact that Health is a state subject and they are responsible for it. The blame game continues till date and is expected to go on.

Whitewashing the actual Villains: The Truth

The second wave started in Maharashtra and cases swelled, meanwhile the entire focus of the state government and the media in Maharashtra was on something else, something more sensational. Maharashtra was facing one of the biggest crisis against the incumbent government, the allegations levelled by the former Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh which were extremely severe and included claims that the Home Minister of Maharashtra was involved in appropriating extortion money. The MVA government in Maharashtra amidst such crisis was trying to save its face and the government itself, turning a blind eye to the impending disaster that was brewing. Had the Maharashtra Government taken proactive measures in March, we wonder if this massive crisis could have been averted. Suspiciously, nobody has even questioned this lapse, from the media to the intellectuals. Quite the opposite, there has been a flood of tweets and narrative as to how well Maharashtra has managed the crisis and how excellent the CM of Maharashtra is, absolving the state government of all its sins and suddenly turning them into a hero.

Delhi forms the second part of the story with the charismatic leader Arvind Kejriwal at its helm. On 2nd April, the Delhi CM claimed that the coming wave of COVID was less serious. Cases kept increasing day by day. Soon enough, claims were made by the CM that Delhi had adequate hospital beds, ICUs and Oxygen and it obviously translated to the claim that Delhi was well prepared. Tall claims had been made about the achievements that the AAP government had made in healthcare in Delhi for the past many years, little did they know that the lid was going to blow off soon. The third week of April was the week when the lid actually blew off and with it blew away all the erstwhile claims.

Delhi was frantically searching for oxygen and beds and the situation turned extremely bleak with people left crying helplessly. Subsequent revelations told how the Delhi Government had shown heights of incompetence in setting up oxygen plants sanctioned by the Central Government since December. An RTI further left the tall claims of the Delhi Government in tatters as it showed no hospitals were built during 2015-19 in Delhi. Despite the facts, nobody dared to question this sequence of events and as Mr. Kejriwal is known for, all blames were shifted to the Central Government despite the clear incompetence of “AAP ki Sarkaar”. Mr. Kejriwal continues on his advertisement and spree and crossed all limits when advertisements were published in all newspapers of the nation asking for help, a scene never before witnessed in the history of the nation.

Yogi Adityanath and Himanta Biswa Sarma: The new targets of the “Ecosystem”

The “Ecosystem” and its vultures had already projected the PM and the Central Government as the villain, it was time to move on to one of their biggest problems, the firebrand CM of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath. Yogi Adityanath has had a meteoric rise since he became the CM of the largest state in India. He quickly rose from someone whom many had apprehensions on to one of the strongest CMs in the history of UP and one of the most popular leaders of the nation. His no-nonsense approach, strict administration, development efforts and the strong actions on the law and order front in a state which had been ravaged by the erstwhile SP government and its infamous “Goonda-Raj” quickly earned him appreciation from the citizens of the state. As an ex-IAS who headed one of the largest schemes of the PM remarked, Yogi had a penchant for immediate execution of development schemes and under his leadership, UP became one of the leading state in complementing the development efforts of the centre. All this combined with his unapologetic Hindutva image and his demolition drive against the mafias of the state and the “Ecosystem” made him a terrible source of misery for them.

Yogi Adityanath had been the subject of several assaults by the “Ecosystem”. From trying to dig out stories of law and order and making a mountain out of some selective tales against the fact that the state continues to see a decline in crimes as per official figures to the incessant flaming of the infamous Hathras case, the assaults have been many but Yogi moved unfazed and his popularity remained on the rise. This occasion is not new, the vultures are trying hard to find isolated incidents of lapses in the system and propagating the same for days. The Telegraph published a story with a headline that had little to do with the actual content and the vultures spread the same like wildfire without checking the actual contents. For the people who know medical ethics, no hospital has the right to deny treatment or turn a patient away just because it doesn’t have a resource. In times of acute crisis, any amount of medical observation and care is better than lying untreated for severe cases and the UP Government rightly began hammering the hospitals that were engaged in such conduct but for the move that deserved appreciation, the headline distorted the story by 180 degrees and the “Ecosystem” propagated it like never before. Many such incidents can be busted and that is left upto the readers.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, the Chanakya of North-East became the unlikely target with the entire “Ecosystem”. Assam and the health minister Sarma has emerged as one of the best states in management of COVID in the nation. The state is one of the rare few with adequate medical infrastructure, sulprus oxygen and a fatality ratio nearly half the national average. Yet Mr. Sarma continues to be targeted for one of his statements a few months back incessantly. While Mr. Sarma has clarified the same and rebutted the entire propaganda, it continues unabated. Why would the “Ecosystem” leave the man that snatched the entire north-east out of their hands?

Vaccines: Propaganda hits a new Low

I have always maintained, Strengthening Medical Infrastructure and Vaccination are the only permanent cures for the pandemic. India, while lacking on the first ground, has made remarkable progress in the second. With support, motivation and corpus funding from the Centre and the tireless efforts of the scientists, India became one of the largest vaccine manufacturing hub in the world. Living up to its ancient values and humanity, India also supplied vaccines to the developing countries, especially those with no resources. India’s vaccination program has turned out to be a model for the world with more than 15 crore doses administered till date and is expected to grow exponentially. The vaccines developed by India received worldwide acclaim and aced the clinical trials. It remains our best hope of recovering from the pandemic.

Yet, somehow people had found flaws in this too. One of the most noted lawyers of the nation, Mr. Prashant Bhushan was found to be engaged in a subtle propaganda against COVID vaccines themselves, coming dangerously close to being an anti-Vaxxer as it is commonly called. Chattisgarh Health Minister and CM engaged in propaganda and fear mongering over the COVAXIN vaccine and were blasted by the Union Health Minister in a letter to Dr. Manmohan Singh. Things touched a new low when the Serum Institute and its CEO was targeted by the “Ecosystem”. The CEO had to be given Y category security and the company was forced to publish multiple press releases at the time when the entire focus should have been on churning out vaccines. Rahul Gandhi raised questions on the grant given for vaccine development and the pricing of vaccines while conveniently forgetting the huge risk investment made by the companies and also the fact that firms work for profit and that we are not living in wonderland. To top things up, he labelled them “Modi-Mitrs”, a term often used by the “Ecosystem” for corporates. If “Modi-Mitrs” are saving the nation from the pandemic, don’t we need more of them?

It too shall pass or will it?

There is a lot to speak but we shall keep it for another day. The “Ecosystem” will continue the propaganda till the second wave subsides and then it will find something new and latch on to it. The PM will continue on tirelessly working for the nation as he has been for the past many years and the achievements will keep shining. My only hope is that the people of the nation do not fall to the preying vultures which they have resisted till now. Constructive criticism is a necessary part of a functioning democracy but there is a huge gap between selective, vexatious propaganda and engaging in democratic debates which is the case we see today.

“Satyamev Jayate”, may the truth triumph and God give strength to the nation to overcome this crisis and continue its march to glory.

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The author is an alumnus of IIT Kanpur and a Public Policy Enthusiast.
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