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The Atlantic publishes distorted Indian flag in a report, denigrates India’s efforts to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak

Ms Vidya has displayed an unflinching determination in advancing her anti-Modi propaganda, no matter if it comes at the cost of insulting the country's national flag and undermining its efforts in dealing with the pandemic.

While India is girding itself to tackle the menace of Wuhan Coronavirus, the contagion that is responsible for ravaging many countries, including developed nations across the globe, some of the ungrateful Indians are exploiting this global crisis to push their anti-Modi animus on western news dailies. It is of little concern for them that their animosity for PM Modi often imperceptibly segues into their hatred for India.

In one such instance, the feature image of the article titled- “The Callousness of India’s COVID-19 Response“, penned by Vidya Krishnan in ‘The Atlantic’, shows a distorted version of the Indian flag in which the much hallowed Ashok Chakra in the Indian flag was replaced by the artistic image of deadly pathogen- Novel Coronavirus. The article attempts to belittle the Modi government’s efforts to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus that has left powerful nations floundering as the tally of those afflicted by the pathogen hit the 530,000-mark worldwide, with the fatalities of more than 25000 people.

The sanctity of a nation’s flag is inviolable. However, the hatred for PM Modi amongst some individuals like Vidya is so intense that they have no qualms in eroding the sanctity of the national flag if it helps their propaganda of showing the Modi government in the bad light. The insult to the Indian flag is also a punishable offence under the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971, which prohibits the desecration of or insult to the country’s national symbols, including the National Flag.

In the article, Ms Vidya tries to stitch two mutually independent events- the demonstrations following the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the country’s response to the novel coronavirus to peddle her propaganda against the Modi government. Ms Vidya uses the opportunity to once again rant against the Citizenship Amendment Act, accusing the government of engineering a “pogrom” in Delhi which she claims witnessed dozens of deaths, many of whom were Muslims. According to Ms Vidya, the Centre was too engrossed in stamping out the anti-CAA protests that it missed acting on the emerging threat from the coronavirus.

However, Ms Vidya is not only being disingenuous about protests that erupted after the legislation of the CAA, but she is also being economical with the facts of the incidents surrounding the anti-Hindu CAA riots in Delhi. Violent hoodlums and vandals ran amok in the name of ‘peaceful’ protest against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Vandalism, arson, stone-pelting and violence was a hallmark of these so-called non-violent anti-CAA protests. Ms Vidya also doesn’t mention the Shaheen Bagh protests, where anti-CAA Muslim protesters squatted on one of the busiest thoroughfares of the National Capital for more than 90 days, causing grave inconvenience to the commuters and residents. The demonstrators continued protesting at the site despite the Supreme Court’s scathing observation that protesters cannot protest by blocking passage for others. It was only after the threat of the coronavirus became too palpable that the protesters at Shaheen Bagh vacated the site and scampered away, although initially for more than a week they were saying that they will not vacate the site despite the threat of the disease.

Ms Vidya also attempts to disparage PM Modi’s call for a total lockdown amidst the coronavirus outbreak as a “headline-grabbing initiative announced with little warning, but one that will do little to address the myriad problems India faces in dealing with the coronavirus”. She claimed that the Indian establishment has pushed the onus of fighting the coronavirus on the population instead of “instituting an official support system”. In addition, she expressed strong disapproval of the sweeping restrictions imposed by PM Modi, claiming that the people at the bottom rung of the economic ladder will be worst hit by the lockdown while the wealthy and upper-middle-class would manage to make it through unscathed.

Though there is a grain of truth in Ms Vidya’s assertion that the poor stand to lose due to the lockdown, however, Ms Vidya is oblivious to the fact that the coronavirus is an unfamiliar pathogen with the ominous characteristic of being highly contagious. The poor and the underprivileged which Ms Vidya seems to take up the cudgel for are the most susceptible to contracting the infection. In the absence of a blanket lockdown, they remain the most vulnerable lot of the society and may potentially act as a vector of the pathogen, devastating their own lives and of those surrounding them. PM Modi realised this grim fact and therefore placed equal importance on their physical as well as financial health in the country’s battle against the coronavirus.

While calling for a lockdown for 21 days in the country, PM Modi acknowledged the uninviting fact that in the absence of any vaccines and antidotes to cure the infection, social distancing and harsh measures of restrictions are the only way to keep the country’s population safe from the menace of the virus. In fact, PM Modi’s call for a total lockdown was also in accordance with the scientific wisdom and empirical evidence that suggest that imposing sweeping restrictions does play a crucial role in blunting the spread of the virus and in dramatically reducing the mortality rate.

Scientists and doctors across the world are advocating the imposition of grating restrictions to bring the contagion to heel. With a population of 1.3 billion people and the public health system not as robust as in the western countries, several medical practitioners have hailed PM Modi’s decision to call for a total lockdown to avert the imminent explosion of the coronavirus cases and the subsequent overwhelming of the public health system as experienced in countries like Italy and Spain. In fact, American Psychologist Tom Pueyo appears to concur with PM Modi’s strategy to suppress the contagion at the outset at the cost of the economic shutdown. In his comprehensive strategy to effectively deal with the coronavirus outbreak, Pueyo suggested all-encompassing restrictions be imposed as early as possible which would be gradually lifted, preventing the overburdening of country’s public health system and biding country time for the virus to mutate or doctors to come up with an antidote.

The World Health Organisation, the premier body responsible for the international public health lauded PM Modi’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus in India. However, as predicted, WHO’s praise for PM Modi didn’t find any mention in Ms Vidya’s distinctly prejudiced article.

Ms Vidya then goes on to term the relief package of $22.5 billion announced by the finance minister as a “pitiable package”, comparing it with the fiscal stimulus announced by relatively affluent countries of Europe. She ignores the basic fact while the package announced by India just a social welfare package aimed at the poor, the large packages announced by other countries are comprehensive economic revival package which includes large handouts to business and industry. India’s finance minister N Sitharaman announced what is touted by many as first instalment of relief package of $22.5 billion, aimed at providing a safety net for those who are worst-hit by the covid-19 lockdown. Besides, low-income earners as of now used to get 5 kilograms of rice or wheat per month at a heavily subsidized rate. Now, the government will top that up with an additional 5 kg of either rice or wheat per person for the next three months, and 1 kg of pulses per household for that same period — for free.

But Ms Vidya, in her article, was keener in deriving masochistic pleasure in comparing India with the wealthy nations of Europe and the United States. In addition, there were too many ridiculous assumptions made by Ms Vidya here while denouncing India’s preliminary relief package. The underlying assumption that India should match the percentage of GDP expended by the European countries is premised on the fact that India’s reserves are on par with the European counterparts for it to unhesitatingly release a gargantuan fiscal stimulus. Moreover, the situation in European countries is particularly grim, warranting the enormous fiscal stimulus envisaged by their government. The situation in India is so far reasonably under control for the government to announce a comparable relief package. There are other factors such as the size of the country, the population of the nation, the economic prosperity, per capita income and other facets that dictate the government’s decision while zeroing in on the extent of the relief package. But it would be overstretching Ms Vidya’s mental faculties to expect her to process such fine nitty-gritty of a nation’s response to a pandemic.

Moreover, when the sole agenda of the writer is to spew anti-Modi propaganda behind the veneer of “critically analysing India’s response to the pandemic”, one expects her to resort to obfuscation and distortion of the available facts in the public domain to make her case strong. This explains how Ms Vidya perversely inserted seemingly disparate and disconnected issues such as anti-Hindu Delhi riots and Citizenship Amendment Act in an article which was meant to review India’s action to halt the spread of the virus. Ms Vidya has displayed an unflinching determination in advancing her anti-Modi propaganda, no matter if it comes at the cost of insulting the country’s national flag and undermining its efforts in dealing with the pandemic.

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