No Vaccine against Media Stupidity

08 Jun,2021


By Ranjona Banerji


Ranjona BanerjiOn June 7, 2021, at 5 pm, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation. After several self-congratulatory statements, he then announced that his government was now going to reverse his early COVId19 vaccination policy of letting the states fend for themselves and begin a centralised policy. Not from today, June 8, 2021 but from June 21, International Yoga Day.



This is The Telegraph, Kolkata, front page, June 8, 2021:

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday announced a centralised vaccine policy, taking the corrective measure after a countrywide outcry and a Supreme Court observation that the government’s policy was “arbitrary and irrational”.



Then there’s Navika Kumar of Times Now, in a tweet sent out at 11.26 pm on June 7, 2021, which she has since deleted. The tweet claimed: “I’m being told that reverting to centralised procurement policy for vaccines was on the @narendramodi @PMOIndia table on June 1. A detailed presentation & his ok was inked on the same day. SC hearing was on June 2. Over to the Opposition.”


You can be kind and say she was misinformed. Or you can be real and know that Kumar is one of the leaders of the “pro-Modi at any cost” brigade. She is correct to the extent that the Supreme Court did call the Centre’s vaccine policy for 18 to 44 year olds “arbitrary and irrational” on June 2, 2021.


However, it is also true that on May 31, 2021, while the hearing on the Centre’s vaccine policy was on in the Supreme Court, Justice Dy Chandrachud said to the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, “I was reading the Constitution. Article 1 says that Bharat is a Union of States. When the Constitution says that, then we follow the federal rule. The Government of India has to procure the vaccines and distribute it. Individual states are left in a lurch.”


There is no ambivalence here.


Only the equivocation of Modi’s pets in media who cannot for the life of them question this government on anything. Even when the lives of so many Indians are at stake.


Navika Kumar’s programme on the night of June 7, 2021 was about absconding jeweller Mehul Choksi and how the Modi government was going to get him back to India, rah-rah!


Who can blame her?


How about the venerable Hindu?


Malini Parthasarathy, member of the owning family, sometime editor and currently Chairperson of the Hindu group, tweeted that she felt that the Prime Minister’s decision for a centralised vaccine policy was “excellent and time-sensitive”. As it turns out, the Twitter handle @RURALINDIA, revealed to us that Parthasarathy had also called the Centre’s decision to leave vaccine procurement to the states “sensible”.

Meanwhile, while we understand that Parthasarathy believes that whatever the prime minister does is sensible even when his actions are directly contradictory, The Hindu published a fact check, which found that, to put it bluntly, Narendra Modi’s several claims on India’s vaccination history in his 5 pm address to the nation on June 7, 2021 was riddled with lies.


“Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech on Friday presented a view of India’s vaccination history that is at odds with the facts. “If you look at the history of vaccinations in India, whether it was a vaccine for smallpox, hepatitis B or polio, you will see that India would have to wait decades for procuring vaccines from abroad. When vaccination programmes ended in other countries, it wouldn’t have even begun in our country,” claimed Mr. Modi in his address.


“India, even before Independence, was among the countries that indigenously manufactured vaccines almost years within they were discovered, historical records suggest.


“While there have been several challenges to the uptake of vaccines, their availability was the least of the problems.”


I have still to find a cogent explanation from India’s brave media on why Modi’s great policy – does anyone remember the Tika Utsav minus any tikas from a few weeks ago? – has to begin on June 21, 2021.


I know the answer from reading between the lines. We do not have sufficient vaccines to start today.


However, this analysis in The Wire lays bare several of the contradictions and lies in Modi’s new policy:


That so many influential sections of India’s media will still allow Modi to get away with lies and prefer to roll in the muck, shows us the extent to which we have sunk. India’s current COVID19 figures may be not as bad as they were two weeks ago but we have still lost too many, and too many still struggle. As the Supreme Court, the Opposition, members of the public have all pointed out, the current mess is on the Centre and it has not gone away.


This article from the BBC revisits the suffering in UP.


The next few days will tell us which members of the Modi Bhakt Media are on their toes with the Modi Government’s vaccine procurement policies. Don’t hold your breath!


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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