Sorry, Morbi, for a weak media…

01 Nov,2022

Image courtesy: Twitter feed of PIB Ahmedabad/Gujarat

 

 

By Ranjona Banerji

 

Ranjona BanerjiThe deaths of at least 134 people in Gujarat after the bridge they were on collapsed is a national tragedy. The suspension bridge in Morbi, Gujarat, had recently been repaired and renovated collapsed on Sunday evening.

Gujarat is in campaign mode or to put that more correctly, the BJP from top to bottom but especially the top, is in campaign mode.

The state of Gujarat has been sold to India as a “model” state since at least 2012, in order to bolster then chief minister Narendra Modi’s push to become prime minister. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the electorate clearly believed it. Fake news and Photoshop were both very effectively used – infrastructure from other countries and places – from Singapore to the US and anywhere in between but obviously not Gujarat – were presented as being in Gujarat as proof of Modi’s great skills and as a promise of what India could expect when he became Prime Minister.

The Covid-19 pandemic provided ample evidence that Gujarat’s administration and healthcare infrastructure were unable to cope and that rampant lies were being told about the treatment of patients and the number of deaths. The horror of the pandemic forced a pro-Modi pro-BJP media to report with rigour on the lies being told and the indignities inflicted on patients and their families in Gujarat.

It did not take long however for the mainstream media to revery to its usual rah-rah position when it comes to Modi and the BJP.

Don’t get me wrong. The Morbi bridge collapse has been covered: that’s how we know about what happened.

But and this is a significant but, the narrative is full of pro-Modi pro-BJP nuance.

The first step is to blame the opposition for saying anything at all: why are you playing politics in a national tragedy and blaming the Gujarat government, let the facts emerge.

The second step is to blame lowdown government functionaries and those in the company which carried out the repairs/

The third step is to blame the people themselves for being on the bridge, shaking the bridge, crowding the bridge.

But the fourth and most important step is to protect the Prime Minister. Modi who is on an election campaign in Gujarat. He however did not visit Morbi immediately after the accident. He carried on with his campaign visits and just issued a statement about how sad he felt. The media then made it its business to pump up and promote Modi’s decision. The attack on other parties followed.

At no point, from within the mainstream media and especially television, were there any cries for resignation and responsibility at the top. Except of course of security guards and ticket sellers at the bridge.

Rumours that the company which had the contract for repairs may not have had the requisite expertise or that someone from Gandhinagar insisted that they be given the contract remain unsubstantiated. That the hospital which Modi is going to visit is being refurbished is also being shown without comment. For any other administration, any other politician, there would have been outrage and insistence on accountability at the top. But not when it comes to Modi and the BJP.

This is how criminal incompetence has been allowed to thrive in India. And the mainstream media is fully culpable. The deaths of these people will soon be forgotten and we will carry on as if nothing happened. The Government at the Centre has to protected at all costs. The lives lost are meaningless.

Meanwhile, there is this from Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. After the accident, people on these platforms could not view anything on the Morbi bridge collapse because they were told that the Gujarat and Morbi hashtags went against Meta’s “community standards”.

This is what makes it very hard to trust Meta and what makes it very easy to believe that it is in cahoots with the BJP. Today, Meta has said that the hashtag was blocked in error.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/more-than-130-people-dead-in-cable-bridge-collapse-in-indias-gujarat-state-11667206283?st=vbbnjdzzeagmjip&reflink=article_copyURL_share

 

Yeah, right.

Our deepest condolences to all those families who have lost loved ones at Morbi. And our sincere regrets that we do not have a more robust system, including a strong media, which would help you get justice.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia on Tuesdays and Fridays. Her views here are personal

 

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