Some home truths for western media
There is not even grudging acknowledgement of the aggressive efforts initiated to contain the epidemic
Most Western media outlets, for reasons best known to them, have been generally hostile to India. They have never acknowledged the strengths of our country, the most important of which is that it is the most democratic, diverse and resilient nation in the world with the most progressive laws and policies. But nobody would have expected that this hostility towards India would be on such full display when the nation was taking decisive measures to combat the novel coronavirus. Even as I write this piece, more than 18.5 lakh people are afflicted with the coronavirus, of which the US accounts for over 5.57 lakh cases and over 20,500 deaths, surpassing China, where the trouble began, many times over. The virus has claimed over 19,900 lives in Italy and 17,200 in Spain.
However, US President Donald Trump and leaders in many American states are still hemming and hawing about imposing a complete lockdown— something that seems necessary in order to contain the disease. It is generally believed that things have got out of hand in the US because of laxity in enforcing social distancing and contact tracing. India, on the other hand, thanks to the decisive action of the government, launched a massive campaign to test passengers arriving on international flights, identify those with Covid-19 symptoms and quarantine them, and educate people on social distancing. Further, when cases were detected, contact tracing was done so vigorously and systematically that it became central to the plan to contain the epidemic.
Those flying in from corona hotspots like Italy, Iran, etc., were taken straight to camps manned by paramilitary forces for quarantine. Later, the prime minister called for a mock drill on March 22 and a complete lockdown of the country from the night of March 24. Indians had never experienced anything like this, also because social distancing is anathema to us for both demographic and cultural reasons. Yet, the nation responded to PM Modi’s call in a jiffy and ensured that the lockdown was an overwhelming success, barring some pockets of resistance. That is why the total cases in India, with a population of 1.3 billion, which is four times that of the US, currently stands at around 9,000 with about 300 fatalities. Yet, India has over 1,00,000 Covid beds right now and is converting a mind-boggling 20,000 railway coaches into Covid wards.
This is not to say that we are over the hump. The next three to four weeks are crucial, but whatever the trajectory of India’s corona graph, nobody dare say that India was lax, ill-prepared or irresponsible— the adjectives that are now being used to describe the response of the most “developed” nations in the world. Further, despite the fractious nature of our politics, the nation has come together in a remarkable show of unity to fight the deadly virus. This is quite in contrast to the finger-pointing and name-calling that is currently on in the US between the federal government and the states, something that is clearly avoidable when the nation is facing a deadly epidemic. Given this background, one is amazed to see the kind of reporting that is emanating from India in Western news outlets. The New York Times, which, as the name suggests is based in the city where Covid-19 has simply got out of control, is finding fault with India’s decision to go in for a 21-day lockdown, saying that the country’s “already fragile economy will collapse”. The newspaper quotes a professor from, where else, the JNU, to say that this decision will “devastate” 50% of the workers in the informal sector.
Shall we then go by this mindless advisory, lift the lockdown and allow 10 million Indians to die? In fact, the anti-India sentiment that prevails across Western media platforms is so strong that there is not even grudging acknowledgement of the aggressive efforts initiated by the federal and state governments and institutions to contain the epidemic. For example, contact tracing in a country like India that has 1,300 million people, is like looking for a pin in a haystack, but our law enforcement and health authorities have been doing this with such meticulousness that it should be a model for other societies. Western media outlets have been reporting that the lockdown has rendered thousands of migrant workers hungry and shelterless. The picture that is being painted is that they will all die of hunger. This is utter rubbish. India today has the resilience to withstand a crisis of this nature, governments that are proactive, and a middleclass with disposable incomes and the humanitarian spirit. In fact, this is the big India story— phenomenal unity amidst diversity, caring, sharing, foresight, discipline and confidence.
But this story is missing in the Western media. What do you attribute this to? Shame over their own failures; racism; or is there something else? In fact, apart from The New York Times, many other Western media platforms including The Washington Post and news agencies have deliberately shut themselves off these facts. Sadly, there are some media establishments in India as well, who have peddled this nonsense because of their visceral hatred of the current prime minister. In fact, many of them are secretly hoping that India will fail, so that they may point fingers at PM Modi, whom they dislike. But let us make no mistake, India’s political leadership at the federal level and in the states, and India’s health administrators know what is best for India—not correspondents of New York Times, et al., who are peddling their political wares from their safe homes in Delhi. Americans must thank their stars that these journalists and writers are not advising their government. We must all remember the hard truth conveyed by the PM some days ago: “If you can’t handle these 21 days, this country will go back 21 years.” This writer’s advice to correspondents of the New York Times and other western media: India is in strong hands. You take care!
Courtesy: The New Indian Express