Vile & Wah-Wahs on the Vax

05 Jan,2021


By Ranjona Banerji


Rajat Sharma is one of India’s most watched TV personalities. He is also a spreader of fake news, especially when it comes to defending the Modi Government and its decisions.

Here is one of his latest claims: That 190 countries have pre-booked the Bharat Biotech Covid19 vaccine, which has been hastily been given approval by the drugs controller before all test protocols have been completed. As AltNews shows, Sharma is lying.

These “journalists”, who will cross into any sort of territory, no matter how vile or stupid, just to support the government, are legion. Like Sudhir Chaudhury of Zee who had informed us that the new post-demonetization ₹2000 notes had GSP-enabled chips in them and so on. Or Smita Prakash of ANI who on Twitter this week said: “Hope someone is keeping a list of India’s hall of (in)fame of anti-vaxers. They should get refused medical treatment if, god forbid, they do get Covid. Hospital admins please note”.

What irks Sharma and Prakash and others like them? That several doctors, scientists, experts and journalists (minus the inverted commas) had questioned the Modi government’s decision to give “Restricted Emergency Use” approval to the Bharat Biotech vaccine, Covaxin as a “backup”, before it had finished basic protocols. Like Phase 3 testing, publishing the results and getting peer reviewed. All other vaccines have followed this route, except those done by Russia and China. Is it any wonder that the world’s two largest authoritarian governments are role models for the BJP and its acolytes?

Several medical and regulatory experts questioned the terminology used, explaining that “restricted emergency use” does not exist in our rule books.

Anyway, as globally respected scientists like Dr Gagandeep Kang expressed their bewilderment at the government’s decision to approve Covaxin ( gs_ssp=eJzj4tVP1zc0TDYoKrIwTDc1YPTiS09MT8xLSU0tUMhOzEsHAI6iCaE&q=gagandeep+ka ng&oq=Gagan&aqs=chrome.2.69i57j0i433i457j46i131i433j0l2j0i433j46i433.4764j0j15&sourceid= chrome&ie=UTF-8) the founder of Bharat Biotech, Dr Krishna Ella, appeared on TV and ranted against everyone especially his competitors, as in other pharma company vaccines like Pfizer and Moderna, and manufacturer Serum Institute of India.

Intriguingly and it obviously went unchallenged by most TV channels, Dr Ella also questioned “emergency restricted use” and also denied vehemently that his vaccine was a “backup”. It was the real deal, “give me a week I will give you data” and so on.

Let me get cynical. Whichever side of Modi Love you stand on, this is a story. A massive embarrassment for the government in terms of questionable decisions and the consequent confusion. Then the manufacturer that the government sought to promote is on a rampage of his own. Then the government itself has resorted to its usual illogical blame games to deflect attention.

But you know how it works in India. The editor in chief and owner of the BJP government-favoured news agency ANI has asked “hospital admins” to deny medical treatment to anyone who questioned Covaxin approval before its protocols are done.

Thus we are in a state of flux, where sections of the media are happy to play with lives just to keep Narendra Modi’s ego happy.

Thankfully, there are questions being asked by some newspapers and websites and several journalists. A shoutout here to Faye D’Souza’s discussion on protocols available on YouTube:

How far this will help us, who knows. NDTV has a story on how Bhopal Gas victims say they have been used as vaccine experiments without giving them vital information.

This is us. The media’s role in Modi worship is now dangerous to the health of the nation. And I’m not being melodramatic.


Then there are India’s farmers, camped outside the national capital because they’re not being allowed in. Journalists have started calling these areas “borders” as if Delhi is a separate nation where Indian citizens need a passport to enter. And perhaps it is, as far as the Modi government and BJP are concerned. Because the protests to repeal the farm acts are now in their fourth month, and people have been waiting in the cold and rain for almost two months. Six rounds of talks have failed. The government will not sway from its acts which only appear to favour its favoured corporates. The farmers are in the for the long haul and continue to be bombarded by teargas shells and hatred from the government and its fans, and love and support from the people of India. The main coverage still comes from independent journalists.

The mainstream media? Well, the kindest I can be is that when it comes to farmers, it is slowly, too slowly, waking up to the enormity of what’s happening.
As for the rest? What do you want me to say? Ram Bharose?


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia every Tuesday and Friday. Her views here are personal



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