It is the bane of India that propagandists and their lies are not quarantined even during a pandemic. As India tries its best to contain the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic that claimed thousands of lives across the globe, propagandists who don the cloak of journalism and politicians who lie in chaste English have come out of the woodworks to spread blatant lies against the government of India. Sadly, even in the time of a pandemic, for such elements, belittling the Prime Minister is far more important than ensuring that as a public figure, the information they choose to decimate does not lead to more panic, confusion and disenchantment. It all started when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the PM CARES Fund.
The PM CARES Fund is an emergency fund that was set up to provide relief to those affected by the Wuhan Coronavirus. The PM CARES, or the Prime Minister’s Citizen Assistance and Relief in Emergency Situations Fund has been set up as a public charitable trust. The Prime Minister is the chairman of this trust and its members include Defence Minister, Home Minister And Finance Minister.
As soon as it was launched, the fund received a thumping reception with thousands of people donating to it, including industrialists, Bollywood stars and the average folk. That the call of the Prime Minister was being heeded to obviously did not sit too well with his detractors. No sooner was the fund launched, did conspiracy theories and blatant lies started filling the internet, especially, Twitter.
Yesterday, Suhasini Haider, an alleged journalist with the alleged newspaper called The Hindu spread baseless ‘source-based’ information about the PM CARES Fund.
Sources: Foreign contributions will only be accepted to the “PM cares Fund” as the situation with the Coronavirus is unexpected and of far larger proportions than previous calamities.— Suhasini Haidar (@suhasinih) April 1, 2020
Haider wrote that according to her ‘sources’, India has taken a decision to accept foreign donations to the PM Fund and that those contributions will be accepted due to the unexpected and far larger proportions of the pandemic compared to previous calamities. She added a disclaimer, presumably to mislead her readers that previously the Government of India had rejected foreign aid, including most recently when UAE, Qatar etc offered aid for Kerala floods.
This thread was then quoted by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor to further the lie.
He alleged that the Government of India did not accept funds for Kerala floods because it ‘hurts their ego’, but accepting foreign funds to fight a pandemic is fine by them.
In as if a relay-race, Suhasini then quoted a fellow propagandist quoting her tweet to spread lies, to spread further lies! She alleged that the government of India has “presumably” waived off registration process for the PM CARES Fund that would allow it to take foreign contributions.
Presumably, the Govt has waived these requirements for the new PM care fund https://t.co/ez93EaOyY9— Suhasini Haidar (@suhasinih) April 1, 2020
The truth of the matter, however, is far from what Suhasini Haider’s sources or her presumptions are alluding to.
Firstly, there is an ocean of a difference between individuals and organisations contributing to an emergency relief fund and sovereign countries offering aid.
At the time of the Kerala floods, it was a sovereign nation that had offered official aid to India to fight the calamity. During that time, the same controversy had raised its head and it was then reported that it was actually the Congress government that had set up a rule that India will not be accepting Foreign aid to fight calamities. It is pertinent to note here that foreign aid here pertains to other sovereign nations announcing a relief package for India.
For example, after the Tsunami of 2004, Manmohan Singh had not only refused aid for India but Instead, handed over cheques for $25 million to Sri Lanka, $1 million to Indonesia and $500,000 to Thailand for relief and rehabilitation.
After the Caribbean country of Haiti was hit with a disastrous earthquake in 2010, India had also donated $5 million towards the country’s reconstruction.
In 2013 when floods ravaged Uttarakhand, the then US secretary of state John Kerry had announced a $150,000 aid to India. At that time, the Congress-led central government had turned down Kerry’s offer and also aid from other foreign countries. A Telegraph report from 2013 said, “India has made it clear to both the US and Japan, which offered $200,000 towards Uttarakhand relief, that it will not accept the aid and that any funding must be given to NGOs of the foreign governments’ choice”.
Post the Uttarakhand floods in 2013, the then external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin had said, “As a general policy in case of rescue and relief operations, we have followed the practice that we have adequate ability to respond to emergency requirements.”
It is thus evident that Shashi Tharoor’s propaganda is nothing but a wilful lie to score political points instead of focusing on fighting a common enemy – the Wuhan Coronavirus pandemic.
As for Suhasini Haider allegation that India has decided to accept foreign aid even though it refused to do so after the Kerala flood, it is a worse lie than the one peddled by Shashi Tharoor in response since Suhasini claims to cover the Diplomatic Affairs beat. She not only completely ignored the difference between a foreign country offering aid to India and individuals making contributions, but also chose to hide a vital fact.
In 2018, after the Kerala flood, the Ministry of External Affairs had released a press-briefing regarding the issue of accepting foreign aid.
In the press release from 2018, it is clearly mentioned that while in accordance with the policy set by India, the aid from foreign governments will not be accepted, “Contributions to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund and the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund from NRIs, PIOs and international entities such as foundations would, however, be welcome”.
It is thus evident that accepting contributions from individuals and organisations based outside India is not a “new policy” that has been devised by the GOI in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic, but it was also a policy that was in place during the Kerala floods.
Another question that was raised by Suhasini Haider and several others was the need to set up a separate fund when the PMNRF already exists.
Some important questions about the new PMCares Fund. Why not deploy the PMNRF, which has a balance of 3800cr? https://t.co/0wNWYBpZfx— Suhasini Haidar (@suhasinih) April 2, 2020
It is rather tragic that an alleged journalist of Haider’s standing misses simple explanation perhaps due to the spectacles of hate that she seems to have donned. The PMNRF is for any natural calamity and disaster which includes aid that might be needed by specific states. The PM CARES Fund focuses on the fight against COVID-19 which affects the entire nation. It, therefore, makes sense because the people making the contributions would be far more open to the fight against a national enemy. In fact, it is pertinent to note here that Suhasini Haider’s favourite country, Pakistan, has also set up a similar fund to fight the menace of the Coronavirus pandemic. Interestingly, Suhasini, who jumps at the first opportunity to hail any effort by the failing state has not commented on that yet.
In the face of the pandemic that has claimed thousands of lives across the globe, it is unthinkable that certain elements have resorted to spreading blatant misinformation without doing their due diligence about the subject. What is even more tragic is that such fake news and misinformation is coming from the very source that is meant to educate the masses and dispel rumours. However, one is hardly surprised that the media has turned itself into the propaganda arms of the Congress and is playing the role of the disruptive opposition party just as well as the Congress.