New Delhi:Despite struggling to control the Covid-19 outbreak in their own countries, an analysis of western media reports on India’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis suggests an ingrained prejudice against the country.
So far, India has been able to keep the virus crisis under control. Though the number of positive cases has multiplied and the death toll has risen as well, the situation is nowhere near that faced by the European countries and the United States.
India’s “cluster-containment” strategy and early detection of Covid-19 cases in states like Kerala, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Delhi have helped in flattening the curve. Not only Kerala, but many states have received appreciation for handling the Covid-19 crisis in their states. For example, Odisha’s expertise in dealing with natural disasters helped the state in handling the spread of the virus.
India is currently under the third phase of lockdown which was clamped in March to prevent the spread of the virus and this strategy seems to have worked successfully in breaking the chain of transmission and thus preventing its spread. So far, there is no scientific report of community transmission of the coronavirus in the country.
Despite all these efforts, the western media is not sparing any chance to paint a picture as if the country has lost the war against Covid-19. For example, the BBC ran a story that Indians are dying with corona cases going unreported. The story was based on quotes of two unnamed doctors. Many experts like A. Surya Prakash, former chairperson of Prasar Bharti, see such reports as biased towards the country. Surya Prakash has been critical about the way foreign media covered Indian handling of Covid-19.
The Foreign Affairs, which published a lengthy article titled, “A Vulnerable Population Braces for the Pandemic” in March, suggested that India is not able to fight with Covid-19 pandemic, but contrary to this report, India has shown the way to tackling the crisis to many advance countries.
Similarly, the Atlantic Magazine carried out a news article in which the magazine even turned the blue colour wheel that is at the centre of the Tricolour of the Indian flag into the graphic representation of coronavirus spread in the country. The report suggested that India is on the verge of facing a Covid-19 disaster. Another report carried by Reuters said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party has advocated the use of cow urine as medicine and cure for cancer, “as if the whole country is banking cow urine therapy for Covid-19 and the Indian government is out on a picnic”. Parsing India’s efforts, Surya Prakash said: “Coming from the generation disaster was a usual phenomenon and I have seen thousands of Indian people dying due to the lack of administrative capacity and resources and I am seeing the current scenario too where the country is dealing with Covid-19 crisis. I must tell you I feel proud when I see the way the whole country, from the Union government with the Prime Minister at the top, to the state governments and from people of many groups, have come together to fight the crisis. This is something I am seeing the first time. There are marginal problems like the Tablighi Jamat—that is also a minor disturbance. All the religious places are closed and commitment is there to fight the pandemic together. But, contrary to these facts, western media reports have been suggesting all kinds of scary reports.
Surya Prakash, who was speaking at a webinar held by the JNU vice Chancellor, said: “Take the example of the bias of the western media. DW, a German media outlet, carried an interview of Arundhati Roy in which she said that India’s situation is approaching genocidal and Muslims are being stigmatized and the Modi government is exploiting the pandemic to ramp up the suppression of Muslims with Nazi-type tactics. What was more shocking is that she said that the mainstream Indian media are cynical members of the lynch mob and in my view, such opinion is not right. We have a diverse media and calling them genocidal and members of the lynch mob is shocking.”
“The most ironic allegation levelled by the western media is that India is ruled by a Hindu nationalist party. For their information, the NDA that is ruling at the federal level is an alliance of 26 political parties out of which 11 of them have seats in Lok Sabha. In states, 42 parties are ruling us, including the Communists,” he said.
Experts have also pointed out that not only media reports, but data-based prediction about the Covid-19 spread in India seems to be an effort at “plotting” rather than anything substantive.