While at the beginning of the pandemic, India stepped up and helped the world by exporting essential medicines like Hydroxychloroquine and vaccines under Vaccine Maitri, the world media has turned vulture as India battles its deadly second wave of the pandemic. The External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar, reportedly has asked diplomats to not get bogged down by negative reports in international media about India and COVID-19 and take charge.
According to a report in Indian Express, S Jaishankar has told diplomats to counter the one-sided narrative that the international media has been peddling about India’s “failure” to handle the pandemic.
While maximum of the time during the interaction was spent talking about the logistics to mobilise resources from the rest of the world to fight the second wave of the pandemic, one of the subjects that had come up was how to counter the biased narrative in the international media. Jaishankar also reportedly told the diplomats to take charge and counter the narrative instead of getting bogged down by it.
Amidst a surging Coronavirus wave, India has become the centre of attention for media all around the world. This has led to wider coverage of India in the worldwide press, focusing on the imagery of the customary Hindu funeral pyre as a way to “shock” their non-Indian audience and spreading panic and fear. After controversial journalist Barkha Dutt was seen reporting from crematoriums, now photographs of tragic funeral pyres, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, have now become valuable commodities, bought and sold in the Western press.
The British-American media company Getty Images now hosts multiple images depicting multiple Indian funeral pyres lit ablaze on their website. From here, any potential media group around the world can buy these images, in three different sizes, with the largest size priced at about Rs. 23,000. In fact, most of the large versions of the images are priced at Rs. 23,000.
We had recently reported how Reuters had posted 6 articles and 7 pictures of funeral pyres from India in a span of just 2 days, all, on their home page.
It is pertinent to note that while most international media platforms, like New York Times, New York Post (that recently spread fake news about India and COVID), Al Jazeera, Washington Post and several other media outlets indulge in vulturism, fear-mongering and spreading fake news about India in the time of need, Indian media was rather circumspect and supporting when last year, the USA went through its worse peak.
In April 2020, New York was facing its worse bout of the Wuhan Coronavirus. Body bags in the hundreds were being pulled out like trash out of the homes of people who died because of Coronavirus, without even getting a chance to get tested.
Daily Beast wrote at the time, “Emergency Medical Service data first reported by Gothamist suggests the undercount of individuals who have likely died from the virus is massive. On Tuesday alone, 256 people were pronounced dead at home across the five boroughs. Until this month, about 25 people in New York City were found dead in their homes on a typical day, suggesting that most of Tuesday’s calls were related to the outbreak that has already killed over 5,400 people across the state and infected 140,386 more”.
They further reported, “According to New York City Fire Department data obtained by The Daily Beast, first responders have reported 2,192 “dead-on-arrival” calls over the last two weeks. On average, the department handled about 453 of those calls over the same period last year”.
At the time, across New York, 45 refrigerated trucks were made to be on stand by, so dead citizens in body bags could simply be stored there and counted later. According to Daily Beast, “The Federal Emergency Management Agency said that New York will also receive 250 ambulances, about 500 EMTs and paramedics, and 85 more refrigerated trucks to help with the overload”.
It, therefore, stands to reason that a global pandemic touches every country without discrimination, even white countries that seem to believe that they have the right to deride India, despite having a much higher death rate. While India has seen 208,330 deaths, the United States of America has seen 589,207 deaths since the pandemic began. While the US has seen 33 million cases, India has seen 18 million despite its staggering size and population. While India has a 1% death rate, the USA has an over 2% death rate.
It is, therefore, incumbent upon the western media to show some amount of restraint while reporting the COVID-19 crisis in India and perhaps, the statement of S. Jaishankar to take the propaganda on instead of being bogged down by the negative reports would go a long way in setting the facts straight.