Recently, a five-member Inter-Ministerial Central Team (IMCT), headed by an additional secretary, Manoj Joshi, was on a two-day visit in Mumbai on April 21 to assess the state’s preparedness in battling the coronavirus outbreak. The team visited several containment zones to take stock of the COVID-19 situation in the financial capital of the country and measures adopted by the local administration in curbing the further spread of the intractable contagion.
Besides visiting Kasturba hospital and the BMC headquarters, the team paid a visit to G-south ward, comprising of slum pockets of Worli Koliwada and Jijamata Nagar, the zone with the highest number of positive coronavirus cases in the city. As of April 17, the G-south ward had 389 patients afflicted with coronavirus. Following that, the BMC stopped issuing ward-wise break-up of the new coronavirus cases reported in the city.
However, as the IMCT visit in Mumbai was about to conclude, a spurious report was published in the Times of India claiming that the IMCT team which was in the city to review the state’s readiness in fighting the spread of the coronavirus “felt” that Worli Koliwada can be a perfect model for the rest of the country in containing the coronavirus outbreak.
The article was quoted by Shiv Sena leader and Rajya Sabha nominee Priyanka Chaturvedi to amplify the notion peddled by the Times of India report that the inter-ministerial central team (IMCT) has endorsed the containment measures adopted by the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government in Worli Koliwada as a paragon worth emulating across the country.
This will hurt the haters: A 5-member inter-ministerial team assessing the Covid-19 situation feels Worli Koliwada can become a model for the rest of the country in containing the virus outbreak&lauded the State’s efforts #WarAgainstVirus https://t.co/LvvkIKV1Rt— Priyanka Chaturvedi (@priyankac19) April 22, 2020
“This will hurt the haters: A 5-member inter-ministerial team assessing the Covid-19 situation feels Worli Koliwada can become a model for the rest of the country in containing the virus outbreak&lauded the State’s effort,” Priyanka tweeted while quoting the Times of India article.
The article published in the Times of India cites a press release issued by the Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) to claim that additional secretary, Manoj Joshi hailed the Worli Koliwada model as the best example of the coronavirus-free zone in the country, asserting that the model is worth replicating in other areas to break the virus chain.
Essentially, this means that the article published in the Times of India was based on the inputs from the Maharashtra state government and not from the additional secretary Manoj Joshi himself. The article deceptively attributes the alleged praise showered on the Maharashtra government for its measures to limit the coronavirus in Worli Koliwada zone to Mr Joshi so as to assert that a central government authorised team had commended the state efforts in tackling the contagion.
OpIndia spoke to a few officials who denied the knowledge of any such model existing and had expressed apprehensions that Joshi could have been misquoted. While our attempts to reach Mr Joshi failed, sources have claimed that Times Of India has misquoted the official, presumably, due to the press release by the state government.
Many Twitter users were quick to call out the deplorable PR hack employed by Ms Chaturvedi to show Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray’s handling of the coronavirus crisis in the state in a good light as she misattributed the Maharashtra chief minister officer press release as Mr Joshi’s imprimatur. The users pointed out that only the claims made in the article were dishonest, but the fact that the number of cases soaring in the Worli Koliwadi region was a scathing indictment of Maharashtra government’s inadequacy in curbing the rampaging coronavirus crisis.
It’s a press release by the CMO that you’re quoting. Shameless PR gimmicks by the CM while Worli Koliwada cases are on the rise is a wonderful model for the entire world to study. 🤦🏻♀️#Covid_19india https://t.co/rOswgq045b— MP (@mpopat) April 22, 2020
A senior editor pricks this PR balloon filled with fake gas. Shame @AUThackeray .Had you spent time working sincerely instead of PR, Mumbai won’t have been staring at disaster. https://t.co/ZVcHAX1oen pic.twitter.com/rtz7HjvRMw— Jiten Gajaria (@jitengajaria) April 22, 2020
Warli – maximum cases but still it’s a model. 🤦🏻♂️🤦🏻♂️🤦🏻♂️ https://t.co/aT1a1yOSwl— Atul | अतुल : सरपंच (@iAtulB) April 22, 2020
Worli, which is now being touted as a model by the PR government in Maharashtra led by Shiv Sena, attributes to 20% of the cases in Mumbai. It is thus not surprising that this “input” given by the Shiv Sena government to the Times of India would want to tout this area as a “model” to be emulated considering the Uddhav government has been under fire for the spurt of cases in Maharashtra.
While the state government indulges in indiscriminate PR stunts, it is pertinent to note that Maharashtra has been one of the worst-hit states by the menace of coronavirus. It leads the list of states with the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the country. The situation in Mumbai has been particularly dire with more than half of the state’s cases being reported from the metropolis alone. While the state’s doubling rate is 6.3 days, it is 4.3 days in Mumbai.
With the count of coronavirus cases in the state, especially in its capital- Mumbai, surging uncontrollably, the Uddhav Thackeray government is at the receiving end of criticism for its manifestly ineffectual measures in containing the infection. Perhaps, to tamp down the censure directed at the Maha Vikas Aghadi government’s bungled response to the pandemic, Ms Chaturvedi shared the misleading article published in the Times of India.
Past PR shenanigans of Maharashtra government
It is notable to mention that this is not the first time that the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra has allegedly rolled its well-oiled PR machinery to deflect the criticism aimed at it for its incompetent handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier, a slew of celebrities and journalists ran a coordinated marketing campaign to show how “well” Uddhav Thackeray was managing the pandemic even as the number of coronavirus infection in the state rose exponentially.
Recently, actor Urvashi Rautela, in her passionate rebuttal to Hindustan Times report which said that the actor had stolen her tweet from another actor Siddharth Malhotra, ended up revealing that is was the same tweet provided by Mumbai Police to both the actors, thereby adding fuel to the speculations of coordinated PR campaign commissioned by the Maharashtra government to cover-up its failures in controlling the coronavirus outbreak in the state.
Uddhav Thackeray is learning quickly from Rahul Gandhi
Recently, Bhilwara’s Devriya village Sarpanch, Kismat Gurjar, released a video and hit out at Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi for attributing Bhilwara’s successful action plan, now famously called as the ‘Bhilwara Model’, to contain the deadly Coronavirus, which has ensured that the district hasn’t reported a single new coronavirus case in several days, to Congress member and son Rahul Gandhi.
Taking to Twitter, Kismat Gurjar, said that she is hurt because Sonia Gandhi, instead of giving credit for the successful implementation of the drive to local authorities and people of the district she is attributing it to her son or the Congress led-state government. She added that PM Modi’s appeal has immensely inspired the district, which has worked together as one force to eradicate the pandemic from their village and they are the ones who should be given the credit.
Shiv Sena, which is now in alliance with the Congress party and the NCP, seems to have learnt quickly from Congress and has learnt how to take credit when one doesn’t deserve it. Rahul seems to have done it with Bhilwara and now, Uddhav Thackeray seems to be doing it with Worli, though at least, in Rahul’s case, the model actually did exist. The existence of the Worli model is still under question and nobody other than the Uddhav government itself seems to be claiming so.