Ranjona Banerji: No disaster is not big enough to present as a disaster

16 Jun,2021

Ranjona BanerjiBy Ranjona Banerji

 

Two big stories hit us this week. Or did they? They were big stories. But because of the cascading effect a massive media blitz might have on the Union Government and its ruling ideology, well, umm.

 

The first was an allegation of massive corruption in the acquisition of land for the building of the contentious Ram temple at the site of the Babri Masjid. The second was an investigation into Covid-19 testing at the Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand earlier this year which showed that 25 percent of the tests conducted were fake.

 

Have you seen the earth shake and heard the repercussions? Of course, you haven’t. Because although both these reports appeared in the media, the rest of the media did not consider either of these two news items as important as less than 500 people standing in a corner of Azad Maidan in 2011 shouting about corruption.

 

The land acquisition “allegation” was presented as something “the opposition” had said. But the allegation is no less important for all that. Let us not ever forget that the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, by the RSS and its cohorts, was not just the destruction of an old mosque but of the social fabric of India. From which we have not yet recovered and for which we still pay a heavy price.

 

Corruption allegations over this Ram Temple, apart from the legal and governmental twists and turns, are not new. But while mythical corruption affected us greatly in 2011, actual corruption like land price scams, collection scams, vanishing money scams, these do not affect us quite so much. So, although this particular scam was covered by “the media”, it was couched in that “opposition said” cloak to distance all media owners from any possible repercussions or accusations of journalism.

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/ayodhya-ram-temple-trust-accused-of-land-scam-at-ramjanmabhoomi-site-2463018

 

And now, the Kumbh Mela. This is a remarkable investigation by The Times of India’s Dehradun office, into a government probe on false figures. The probe reveals, “…many of the four lakh Covid test results issued during the Kumbh festival in Haridwar were fake… at least 1 lakh test results were forged by a private agency”.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/1-lakh-covid-19-tests-during-kumbh-festival-fake-report/articleshow/83525633.cms

 

The details in this investigation, based on a government probe, are very frightening. The level of cheating, the manner in which the numbers were forged, the fake addresses, the use of data and private details of some citizens…this was not some amateur effort. This required large-scale devious planning and logistics.

 

Uttarakhand has been in the grip of Covid since the Kumbh Mela and it is still in lockdown. Government figures about tests, positivity rates, recoveries and deaths are widely considered untrustworthy, and several investigations have found massive discrepancies.

 

And yet. Here we are. A massive super-spreader was encouraged by the BJP and the Union Government, from the Prime Minister downwards. Have you felt the ground shake?

Uh-huh!

 

Like the rise in fuel prices or the rise in retail prices or the rise in sectarian violence or the rise in attacks on freedom of speech, the plight of India’s farmers, thinkers, activists, unless the media presents these to the people as they are, you will not see an uprising like India Against Corruption. All those TV channels which made under 500 people in a corner of Azad Maidan look like 500,000, they were part of a massive effort to take control of India.

 

Having achieved that objective, having handed over control, no disaster is now big enough to present as a disaster. Including huge corruption. And of course, including the pandemic.

 

I know people will argue, and rightly, that the “opposition” has a primary role to play here. But I take you back to 2011. Who played you then? You thought it was citizens in anger? Think again. And look at where we are now. Put on your TV. Does it represent what you see around you? Ha!

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She is Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. Her views here are personal.

 

 

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