The Right Advice

There are scary times, more so with WhatsApp and social media playing a key role, working as both a watchdog, and a resource. But with so many messages floating around, how do you separate the genuine from the fear mongering? Which is why most doctors have started signing off their WhatsApp advisories, so you can trace the source and weigh the advice accordingly. Interestingly, amidst the oxygen shortage I saw a very reassuring message from a patient at AIIMS, who told us about the advice given to him by AIIMS director, Dr Randeep Guleria, Dr Neeraj and others at AIIMS. It’s a simple piece of advice: the patient was told to immediately lie on his chest and start deep breathing. As he says, “I was told don’t give up easily but work for it, take deep breaths whenever your oxygen level goes down.” This message has since gone viral with a lot of doctors also appearing on TV with the same advice. And the name of this concerned citizen-cum-patient—Bharat Lal, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Water Resources. Bharat has been one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s key bureaucrats in Gujarat as well, and is one person who is always ready to lend a helping hand, whether in Delhi, Gujarat—or AIIMS. One wishes him a speedy recovery.

The Right Messaging

Clearly, the Modi government has now moved into disaster management mode, given the rising cases, and also the social media attention on the lack of vital medicines and oxygen supply. Suddenly, we are seeing Union Ministers sending messages about success stories, about the number of people who returned home from hospitals after becoming healthy as well as the recovery rates. There is also a WhatsApp message that went viral, accusing the Gandhis of fear mongering and adding to the panic. However, it is not just the Opposition but even RWA groups and family chats that are sending out such stories and that is the real problem. For this the only damage control will be to ensure that the supply chains open up, both in terms of medicines, oxygen and vaccines. A senior cabinet minister who is part of PM Modi’s damage control strategy says that the necessary steps are being taken and the situation would stabilise within a few days.

The Pessimist-Optimist Divide

Last week I did a “Roundtable” with three panellists without anyone from the BJP (scheduling issue rather than an ideological one). It was interesting to see the flow of conversation, which then did not go in for scoring petty points between the Government and the Opposition, but one could discuss the issues at hand—namely Covid solutions and the state of the economy. On the show were Milind Deora (Congress), Kalikesh Singh Deo (BJD) and Dilip Cherian (political commentator). And so there was no polarising talk, no secular vs communal trade-offs. But the only divide on the show was which panellist was optimistic about the state of affairs and which one was pessimistic.