On Thursday, Shiv Sena leader Priyanka Chaturvedi took to Twitter to share a Times of India report to claim that government of India’s policy think tank NITI Aayog had praised the efforts of Mumbai and also stated that the centre may adopt ‘Mumbai-model’ nationally to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The Times of India report, which was posted by Priyanka Chaturvedi to claim a moral victory, stated that the civic authorities in Mumbai can be cheerful as some of their “innovative” mechanisms to control the spread of the virus may soon be adopted it to national guidelines.
The report claimed that a team of high-powered central officials at a virtual meeting held on Wednesday, had praised the measures taken by authorities of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and the state government such as mobile fever clinics, involving private-sector doctors, focus on oxygen-supported beds as well as the door-to-door survey of senior citizens.
Citing this report, Priyanka Chaturvedi cheered that the centre has decided to adopt ‘Mumbai model’, despite Mumbai city under Shiv Sena government has been the worst affected cities in the entire country.
NITI Aayog says Times of India report is not factually correct
The NITI Aayog, the country’s leading policy think tank, however, on Thursday responded to the Times of India report to categorically state that the news item was not only factually incorrect but also tried to (falsely) convey that the NITI Aayog or Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has endorsed Mumbai’s coronavirus response strategy.
Most importantly, NITI Aayog in its response tweet, stated that it was rather worrying to see a rise in the number of coronavirus case in Mumbai. “The caseload in Mumbai continues to be a cause of concern,” NITI Aayog said in a tweet.
Following the fact-check of the NITI Aayog, the Times of India has issued a clarification on the report and changed the headline of their story. However, no change has been made to the original report despite NITI Aayog rejecting the details of the report.
TOI had peddled fake news regarding the ‘Worli Model’ last month too
Last month, 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.
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.
Interestingly, 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.
Interestingly, Shiv Sena’s Rajya Sabha MP Priyanka Chaturvedi quoted that article too, praising her party and saying, “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,”
Reality: There is no “Worli-Koliwada Model”, IMCT never endorsed it
Interestingly, the TOI article was not quoting the IMCT officials, it was referring to a press release by the CM’s office. 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.
As explained in our report, the article deceptively attributed 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 had spoken to a few officials who had 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.
The centre’s response
The Uddhav Thackeray government seems to be investing an unprecedented level of efforts in their PR machinery even as the state’s resources and administrative system crumble under the rising coronavirus cases.
In the earlier instance of the IMCT visit, the centre had not issued any rebuttals. But with the recent rebuttal from the NITI Ayog, it seems even the centre is now concerned about lies being spread over some non-existent model.
Mumbai, TOI and Priyanka Chaturvedi
In both the instances cited above, TOI was the common factor. On both the occasions, TOI had published a report claiming the Maharashtra government’s efforts in battling the pandemic in the city has been ‘praised’ by the central government and went ahead to claim that their ‘strategies’ may be adapted by others. On both occasions, it was also Priyanka Chaturvedi who peddled TOI’s claims promoting the Uddhav government.
It is also pertinent to note that Worli is Aaditya Thackeray’s constituency.
Interestingly, this desperation by the Maharashtra govt and media to promote “Maharashtra model” comes at a time of coordinated attacks against the “Gujarat model” by likes of Priyanka Chaturvedi and a section of media. Chaturvedi had shown concerns about the Gujarat government’s handling of the pandemic recently.
Rising cases in Maharashtra, especially Mumbai
Maharashtra remains the most-affected state in the country, with nearly 60,000 cases reported out of the country’s 158,333 cases. The total tally of the coronavirus cases in Maharashtra is at 59,546 and on Thursday alone it saw an addition of 2,598 new cases. The state has also seen 1,982 deaths, 85 deaths came on Thursday alone.
Meanwhile, Mumbai city has alone reported 1,044 fresh cases as its tally crossed the 35,000-mark to reach 35,485 cases of whom 24,507 were active ones. The city has also reported 38 deaths on Thursday to take its toll to 1,135.
In addition to that, there have been reports of total chaos, lack of ambulances, staff and negligence in proper handling of corpses of deceased coronavirus patients poring in. The state government had requested for central forces to be deployed in some areas of Mumbai to aid its exhausted police force.