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Health or Image

Posted in Featured, View Point

Published on May 31, 2021 with No Comments

Opposition is the very breath and soul of a democracy. The ability to pose questions to the democratic government and the government’s aptitude to take those in its stride can neither be exaggerated nor down played. Mature democracies have their treasury benches and the opposition so cohesive that they cannot be separated from each other while having their roles to be performed.
Opposition works as a watchdog of public interests and keeps the ruling party on its toes and criticizes the policies and programs of the government which they think are not in accordance with the benefit of the public. At the same time, for the thriving democracy, the government and the ruling party considers feedback and criticism as a vital aspect and more so during an extraordinary crisis.
With the second wave of pandemic creating a maximum toll, the government in India is not taking the opposition along. Thus affecting the very institution of democracy. Consider, External Affairs Minister of India S. Jaishankar is busy telling diplomats how to counter negative foreign media coverage. The Information and Broadcasting ministry has been holding a chain of high-level meetings to counter any “negative reporting” by press and is busy working out messages to ensure that the “image” of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not blemished. At the same time, BJP leaders and its IT cell are working overtime and are making full use of social media to counter criticism, brush things under the carpet and ensure the Prime Minister’s image remains intact despite serious lapses in handling Covid crisis. But the certificate for vaccination must have the picture of the Prime Minister !
The national capital has had its worst days. Rather than letting the Delhi Police assist the Arvind Kejriwal government to enforce lockdown, the central government uses cops to make multiple arrests for posters asking the Prime Minister of India a direct question on shortage of vaccine. Another case of misplaced priorities.
Former prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh who is known for his intellect and academic achievements, writes to the government with well-meaning advice. A very congenial and learned health minister responds or is made to respond with a nasty letter written in a political and sarcastic tone. Even a well meaning advice is not taken in the stride.
When the Congress Working Committee criticizes the government for mismanagement of the pandemic, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president promptly shoots off a letter to Sonia Gandhi, accusing her party of creating ‘false panic’. Whereas the panic is much more for those running from pillar to post for securing beds in hospitals or for those who trying to secure a slot at the crematorium for their near and dear ones. Cops land up at the office of Twitter to handover the summons as it classifies the letter from BJP leaders as “manipulated media”. Interestingly, those posts were concerning the response to the criticism by the Congress party.
All these measure that the Narendra Modi government has taken were unheard of in any striving democracy. These are not excessive measures, but unkind and bizarre reactions when working together with states should be the government’s prime focus. Narendra Modi’s government has reached this stage, as the pandemic seems to be of a lesser concern. Image, projection, publicity are the major concern. At a time when India is at war with second wave of Covid-19, Prime Minister Modi and his team are busy confronting not the virus, but voices that seek to evaluate them, or as much as give them feedback. At the same time, the government machinery is being used to managed headlines and not health. Any government or leader with care for the basic traits of democracy needs to have the ability to admit errors and apply correction in the course and above all has respect for diverse views.
Various measures adopted by the Modi government convey its misplaced priorities of managing public perception and reactions to its policies. While doing this, the care for patients of Covid has taken a back seat, and the government paraphernalia is just being used for image building.

 

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