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Rant masquerading as reportage

Rant masquerading as reportage

Many people reporting on India for foreign media can never appreciate anything good in the country. Not even its success against Covid-19.

In my opinion, India’s performance against the deadly coronavirus cannot be called bad by any stretch of the imagination. At present, there are 11,555 cases and 396 deaths in India, as compared to over 26,000 deaths in the US and 21,000 in Italy. India’s population is more than three times that of the populations of the US and Italy put together. Besides, they have far better healthcare facilities comparatively.

And yet, the Foreign Policy carried a story on April 10 with the self-explanatory title, ‘Modi’s India Isn’t Prepared for the Coronavirus.’ Even the title, like the story, flies in the face of facts, common sense, and reason.

The author, Kapil Komireddi, wrote, “Consider the sequence of events. The first Covid-19 case in India was reported on Jan.30. Yet as late as March 13—two days after the World Health Organization had declared the outbreak a pandemic—a senior official in the health ministry was assuring Indians that coronavirus is not a health emergency. India was one of the first countries to ban flights and bar travelers from China. But the appearance of alertness concealed inertia: It wasn’t until March 19 that the government ordered a halt on most exports of lifesaving equipment. An inventory of what was available, made public three days later, revealed the extent of the government’s negligence in the crucial weeks when the global march of the virus had become unstoppable…”

In journalism schools, this story can be used to teach students how not to write a copy, for everything about it is wrong. The writer slams the government for not having declared a health emergency. And then, in the very next sentence, says that India was one of the first countries to ban flights and bar travelers from China. This, he explains, was just “the appearance of alertness” that “concealed inertia.”

The article is full of terms like inertia, negligence, and carelessness. To accept the gist of the article, one has to shut one’s eyes and banish reason. For there is no correlation between what is argued in the article and the objective reality. While “the global march of the virus had become unstoppable,” the government in India remained inert, negligent, and careless, says Komireddi.

This negligent and utterly sloppy response by the Government of India must have triggered a catastrophe in the country. Thousands, if not millions, should have died, but the fatalities are still in hundreds. Just because India didn’t declare a health emergency on March 13 doesn’t mean that the Narendra Modi government wasn’t doing anything. In fact, the authorities had begun working even before Covid-19 was declared a pandemic. Even when the World Health Organization, following Beijing’s diktats, was lulling the world into believing that the coronavirus was not dangerous, India was planning its own strategy. As late as January 14, the WHO had infamously tweeted, denying human-to-human transfer of the novel coronavirus. The Indian government, however, relied on its own wisdom and resources.

<a href="https://indianarrative.com/health/india-did-better-by-not-trusting-who-615.html">As I mentioned earlier</a>, India was off the blocks in January itself when most countries were still asleep. Top officials met over the issue as early as January 8 and 15 with representations from various stakeholders (health and non-health sectors) and the WHO. Moreover, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, a medical practitioner, has been monitoring the situation right from the beginning. Evidently, Komireddi, the author of the FP Policy article, was either not aware of these facts, which are in the public domain, including official releases or chose to peddle his ignorance. This is either professional incompetence or an ethical lapse. Maybe both.

The magazine introduces Komireddi as the author of Malevolent Republic: A Short History of the New India. A passage from the book may explain his rant of an article. “India under Modi has undergone the most total transformation since 1991 [when the economy was opened up to the free market and an astonishing boom unleashed]…the New India he has spawned… is a reflection of its progenitor: culturally arid, intellectually vacant, emotionally bruised, vain, bitter, boastful, permanently aggrieved and implacably malevolent: a make-believe land full of fudge and fakery, where savagery against religious minorities is among the therapeutic options available to a self-pitying majority frustrated by Modi’s failure to upgrade its standard of living.”

One need not be a Modi admirer to know that this sounds like a wild, angry tirade without rhyme or reason. Just like the FP article..