Did India act on time to control Coronavirus?

Mumbai: Media Matters for India (MMI) has prepared an in-depth video proving how Modi government has failed in controlling the spread of Covid-19. It has also detailed how Godi media is trying to create hatred among the communities. MMI have apparently shot or collected various video clips from other sources and put them in chronological order.

MMI says, on 13 December 2019, China informed World Health Organisation (WHO) of its first case of Coronavirus. Many countries, which are doing very well now, immediately started taking measures. For example, Taiwan was supposed to become the biggest hotbed after China, but it did not. Because, it immediately started testing people coming from abroad. And today, when most of the world is struggling, Taiwan has only six persons dead and less than 400 infected. They did not even lockdown their country and their economy will not be hampered like others. Countries like Sweden, Germany and South Korea have also been doing a fantastic job because they acted on time.

“Did India Act on time?”

MMI questions whether India has acted on time after receiving the information about the spread of virus in China. Then it leaves the question to the readers to find the answer.

They have put forward the following facts in chronological order:

13 Jan 2020: First case of Coronavirus outside China was confirmed.

30 January: Public health Emergency of International concern declared.

17 February: WHO issues guidance on mass gathering and taking care of travellers who were found to be ill.

21 February: WHO Director warns that the window of opportunity is narrowing.

11 March: WHO characterizes COVID-19 pandemic.

MMI says that people may not be aware of these developments because Indian media were busy with other news during that time.

MMI asks the viewers if they remember what was happening in India during January, February and March?

India welcomed Donald Trump, and over a hundred thousand people gathered together at the Sardar Patel Stadium on February 24, just seven days after WHO issued warnings against mass gatherings.

People supporting the Citizenship amendment Act beat a man during a clash with those opposing the law in New Delhi, February 24, 2020. (Reuters/Danish Siddiqui)

Delhi faced communal riots that began on 23rd February incited by the BJP functionaries. “Shoot the traitors of the country,” was the slogan given by a junior minister in the Union Cabinet.  This started a day after WHO Director General warned that the time to act is now.  MLAs were being bought and a government was being formed in Madhya Pradesh on 23rd March, i.e. 11 days after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

The question: Is the Indian media blaming minorities for the spread of virus to save the face of the government which did nothing during the most crucial time to stop the virus? 

MMI shows the following tweets of PM Modi:

 “had tasty Litti Chokha for lunch with a hot cup of tea” ….#HunarHaat,

and MMI says, this is what our Prime Minister was tweeting 20 days after Public Health Emergency of International Concern was declared.

The MMI further adds, on February 27, WHO had warned about something very important but India did not stockpile COVID protective equipment for health workers, despite clear WHO guidelines. Instead, this is what Modi ji tweeted one day after the WHO warning:

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“Tomorrow’s Samajik Adhikarta Shivir at Pryagraj will be among the biggest such camps for senior citizens, Divyang sisters and brothers. Assistive Aids and Devices would be distributed. It is a part of our efforts to ensure a better quality of living for them.” (twitter: @narendramodi).

The MMI gives another example from Karnataka and says, lockdown was openly violated in Karnataka’s Kalaburagi. Huge crowd participated in Siddalingeshwara Chariot Festival.

MMI states, it is true that a few sections of different communities are committing stupid acts in India during the pandemic but the whole community cannot be blamed for actions of a few. Especially, with the intention of shifting the blame of the failure of the government to those who are uneducated and unaware.

Displaced Syrian children and their parents attend a workshop on Covid-19 organised by medical volunteers at a camp near the town of Atme, close to Syria’s border with Turkey, in Idlib province. AFP

A few days ago, two cases of coronavirus were detected in Gaza, Palestine, and it was found that these two people had attended a Tablighi Jamaat programme in Pakistan. Indian media is creating a communal divide by blaming minorities for spreading the coronavirus.

The MMI questions, “is it not shameful that the Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme had to say this for India?”

“Having COVID-19 is not anybody’s fault. Every case is a victim and every case needs to be treated with sensitivity as the health-workers would treat them, so it is very important that we are not profiling COVID-19 along racial, along religious and along ethnic lines. This is not helpful.” said Dr Michael Ryan, the Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme.

But our media continues to propagate hatred against one community even in these trying times.

Some celebrities are working overtime to fuel the fire. Babita Phogat, the Indian wrestler tweeted in Hindi:

“It might have spread through bats there, in India illiterate pigs are spreading the virus.” She used the hashtag #Nizamuddinidiots.

“I have not written anything wrong in my tweet. I stand by my words and will continue to do so”, says Babita Phogat.

The MMI says that all this is being done to distract people from the failure of the government and blame one particular community as the villain.

They show a clip from Arnab Goswami’s TV channel, who was shouting rudely:

“Who gathered the crowd near the mosque in Mumbai’s Bandra? Why the crowd always gathers near a mosque during the lockdown? Thousands of people who came to Bandra station, they were not labourers, they were rented actors. This is a conspiracy to defame Modi government. Friends, understand that this is an international conspiracy against India.”

The MMI interviewed several labourers in Mumbai who said:

Labour No. 1: “We have not even seen bread since 21st March. We are all the ones who used to make bread. We are labourers, I am not alone, there are many others.”

Labour No. 2: “It has been four days that we have not eaten a proper meal.”

Labour No. 3: “I work in a hotel and cook North Indian dishes. I earn about Rs. 500-600 on daily basis. I am helpless now because hotels are closed. I have nowhere to go.”

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Labour No. 4: “I work on a tandoor in a restaurant. I earn Rs. 600 on a daily basis and eat. We earn and come back here to sleep. Once the money runs out, we go back and earn again.”

Labour No. 5: “Modi has ordered this, where do we go now?”

Labour No. 6: “Will they all not fall sick because of hunger? Where should they go? They all belong to different states. They have no shelter over their heads to protect them from rain. All of them are struggling and the police beat them up.”

Labour No. 7: “The police chase us away if we sit here. They ask us to go away. The trains are closed. Where should we go?”

The MMI further states that in any case, no one can deny the fact that the two biggest boasters of the world have failed in controlling the spread of coronavirus in their respective countries. Trump has blamed it openly on the immediate past President Barak Obama.  He blames Obama for the lack of coronavirus tests and says, “I don’t take responsibility at all.”

They showed a clip from PM Modi’s speech on TV when he addressed the people on 19 March 2020 where PM Modi said:

“. . . and how would you thank? By clapping, by banging utensils, by ringing bells on 22 March.”

On 22 March, people came out from their homes with candles, torches and gathered in hundreds. They even took out procession clapping their hands ignoring prohibition orders.

As the privileged class got busy with this stupidity keeping aside all norms of social distancing, it conveniently forgot about millions of migrant labourers who have got nothing to eat and hundreds of miles to walk. The Migrants were saying:

“We will die of hunger before virus can kill us.”

There were thousands of migrant workers hitting roads in a bid to return to their homes and villages. Those who have stayed back in cities and towns are now desperate to go back home.

The MMI uploaded another video of April 2 of PM Modi where he addressed the country for the second time within a fortnight.

“I will say again, light candles, lamps, torches or cell phone’s flashlight, on the 5th of April, in the night at 9 O’clock for 9 minutes, light for sure.” Said PM Modi.

On 5th April, jubilant crowds were seen on the roads, violating the lockdown law for the second time. They were seen with torches in their hands beating drums chanting “go back, China virus go back, go go corona go, go back go back.”

The MMI comments that Narendra Modi is a public servant and he is accountable to the people of India for his actions and inactions alike. It should not be this easy for any government to escape it failures by using media to divide people on communal lines.

“If you desire an honest government that really works for you, you need to work hard to get your facts right and question what is wrong. Stay safe and stay home and stop watching television news because it is sold out to the government,” advises the Media Matters for India.

Media Matters for India (MMI) are dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing and correcting conservative misinformation in the Indian media. 

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