• The one thing that stands out during this crisis is that the Prime Minister has abandoned his mistrust of the media and even included us in the list of Essential Services needed to get us through the corona lockdown. Of course it’s interesting that he includes print and electronic media, but not digital, but that’s another story. The main point being that this is a trust that should not be abused. We owe this not just to the PM but the public at large. Yet we have reporters haranguing doctors for breaking curfew mistaking them for insurance agents! There is also the case of a famous digital mogul’s wife, who tweeted that she was not screened at T3 after returning from abroad recently. The PMO apparently raised this with the aviation ministry and valuable time was wasted in tracking the footage of her arrival at T3, after which she is also seen undergoing thermal screening. When asked, she replied that no doctor had examined her. Clearly a waste of resources that could’ve been used better.

•  Misuse of responsibility is also something we are seeing in our police force. Given the short notice to the curfew and the all too alive memories of the mixed messaging during demonetisation where the goalposts were changed daily, it is but natural that some citizens will break curfew to stock up. With the police coming down heavily (in some cases literally) on those breaking curfew to stock up, a scooterist came up with an ingenious placard which he pasted on his back, saying, I am going to buy rations, please don’t beat me.

• The PM’s reliance on bureaucracy is well known and in some cases, well placed. For the nodal ministries that are handling the virus fallout and prevention are Civil Aviation and Urban Development, and Foreign Affairs. A former diplomat, Hardeep Puri is in charge of the first two, while another is in charge of Foreign Affairs (S. Jaishankar). The other key ministry is of course Health, which has a former doctor by profession, Dr Harsh Vardhan at the helm.

• There was one “oops” moment for Dr Harsh Vardhan, our Health Minister. To Rahul Gandhi’s credit, he has consistently been raising the alarm on Covid-19 and asking the government to take the threat more seriously ever since February, if you look at his Twitter timeline. But perhaps it’s a credibility issue or perhaps it’s just politics, he was hushed up by none other than the country’s Health Minister. Take a look at this Twitter exchange of 5 March, when Rahul tweeted that “The health minister saying that the Indian Govt has #coronavirus under control is like the Capt of the Titanic telling passengers not to panic as his ship was unsinkable.” To which a Dr Harsh Vardhan replied”: “Its really sad that Gandhi family chooses to demoralise our countrymen by likening a serious global crisis as coronavirus to one of the deadliest peacetime marine disasters in history. Rahul obviously `knows’ more than WHO which is saying there is no need to panic.” Of course while the Health Minister was also trying to contain the situation by not inciting the public to panic, the Twitter exchange has since gone viral.

•  Since there is nowhere else to go, everyone is going to social media. So with all eyes on you, one has to be very careful of what you post, especially public figures. As Amitabh Bachchan found to his cost when he tried to pass off the PM’s call to clap and bang bartans at 5 pm on 22 March as a time of Amavasya when the darkest forces are at its strongest. In his tweet Bachchan had claimed that the shankh vibrations could reduce or destroy the virus’ potency. When he was scolded by the Twitteratti for propagating such unscientific stuff, Bachchan deleted his tweet. And then posted another one claiming that flies spread the virus, which was denied by a health ministry official, Luv Kumar, at his daily briefing. Must say Bachchan cannot pull off being an Unccientific Old Man with the same panache he pulled off being an Angry Young Man.

• Another place where most of the conversations during the lockdown are happening are of course on WhatsApp. An interesting exchange happened on my school WhatsApp group when news broke of film producer Harvey Weinstein being infected with corona. Weinstein, as you know, has been found guilty of sexually assaulting actresses when the #MeToo scandal broke. Hearing that he could be infected with corona, a school friend said, “I knew it. Corona is a woman!” That’s corona humour for sure—as they say Bura na maano, Corona hai.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *