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How The Wire and Dainik Bhaskar followed Congress ‘toolkit’ model, belittled institutional fight against COVID-19 by Modi govt

Interestingly, what The Wire and Dainik Bhaskar want to do is negate the institutional fight against COVID-19 to peddle an agenda and insinuate that the Modi government and their ministers were not doing anything simply because they were not making a song and dance about individual help on social media.

From the past few weeks, many media houses are trying to paint a picture that union ministers and BJP leadership are not providing any support for the Covid-19 patients and people affected by the pandemic. They have alleged that the ministers and leadership were busy singing praises of the central government.

On May 18, Hindi daily Dainik Bhaskar published a comprehensive report in which they listed ten union ministers and showed how they “failed” to reply to any SOS query published on social media platforms. The ministers they listed included Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Road Transport and Highway Minister Nitin Gadkari, Minister of External Affairs Dr S Jaishankar, Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javdekar, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman, and Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Naqvi. Congress used the report to push its propaganda to show the Indian government in a bad light.

Bhaskar published how these ministers tweeted about the preparations government has been doing to fight Covid-19, posted condolences messages, and wished for birthdays and festivals. However, these ministers “did not help” any patient by replying to SOS calls on social media platforms.

Tweets by Dainik Bhaskar and The Wire

A similar report was published by the left-leaning media house The Wire. The report titled “When Social Media Was Flooded With COVID SOS Calls, Union Ministers Only Praised Centre” tried to explain how ministers were busy praising the centre and did not reply to SOS calls on social media platforms. Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Piyush Goyal, Dr Harsh Vardhan, Nirmala Sitaraman. And Dr S Jaishankar was on the hit list of The Wire. Interestingly, The Wire’s report was based on Dainik Bhaskar’s report itself.

Connection of these reports with Congress’s Toolkit

Dainik Bhaskar’s report was published on May 18, just before Congress’s toolkit was exposed. Around 12 hours later, The Wire used the report as the base and published its own report explaining how union ministers allegedly did nothing but only praised the central governments during the Covid-19 crisis between May 1 and May 15.

Both news agencies did mention some work that the ministers told about on their social media platforms related to Covid-19 relief, but the reports majorly talked about their alleged “incompetency.”

Now, if we compare the reports’ structure with the Congress Toolkit, it talked about taking a series of actions to “amplify the image of a clueless and insensitive BJP and to corner it on its mismanagement.” The ministers they wanted to highlight were Amit Shah, Dr S Jaishankar, Rajnath Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman, and others. It said, “Cover stories in weekly magazines which reinforce the same image of missing government can be encouraged in amenable publications.”

It has to be noted that The Wire was in the list of “friendly” media houses that were meant to be approached to get such reports covered.

Its more about institutional help rather than individual help

When you are running a government, it is not possible to run from pillar to pillar to provide help to individuals. Let’s see what all these ministers were doing during the period these reports have mentioned.

Home Minister Amit Shah: Instead of checking his personal account, which he was barely using the whole time, it would have been better if the news agencies had a look at his office’s account. Recently, Amit Shah was busy tackling the situation amidst Cyclone Tauktae that affected four states/UTs, including Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Daman. He has been working extensively to formulize guidelines for Covid-19 management across the country. 

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh: Defence Minister has been on the frontline of the fight against Covid-19. He coordinated with the defence institutes, including the Army, Navy, and Air Force to ensure delivery of essential supplies to different locations across the country. He also enabled defence institutes to procure supplies without going through a long process of approvals. Rajnath Singh’s efforts made it possible for DRDO to not only establish oxygen plants at several locations but also to establish make-shift hospitals and develop a special drug, 2-DG, for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

Road Transport and Highway Minister Nitin Gadkari: It is the transport minister’s efforts that made it possible to transport medicines and medical oxygen in different parts of the country. He had held several meetings on the spread of Black Fungus with local administration in his constituency and ensured they have ample support from the government to tackle it. It was his efforts that made it possible for the Genetic Life Sciences to get approval for manufacturing Amphotericin B used in the treatment of Black Fungus. The medicine will be available at almost 70% less price than the current market price by the end of the month.

Minister of External Affairs Dr S Jaishankar: EAM has been busy communicating with the international counterparts to procure medical supplies and other aid for India’s fight against Covid-19. Unfortunately, he has to deal with incidents like irresponsible statements given by the Chief Minister of Delhi against Singapore. He is also responsible for ensuring there is support for the foreign investors in the country so that the economy does not take a hit amidst the second wave of Covid-19.

Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan: Dr Harsh Vardhan is the main man in the fight against Covid-19. Being the health minister, it is his responsibility to formulate the guidelines and be in touch with the state health ministries to ensure everyone has an ample supply of medical equipment, medical oxygen, medicines, and other supplies. If India has been able to administer 14.46 crore doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, Dr Harsh Vardhan deserves a major chunk of the credit.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal: Railway Minister has been working extensively in the fight against Covid-19. From running Oxygen Express to deliver medical oxygen in different parts of the country to establishing isolation wards using Railway coaches, the minister has been busy running pillar to post, providing every possible help in tackling the situation. Notably, Railways has also had its own hospitals, which are being used for the fight against Covid.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javdekar: Union minister Prakash Javdekar’s office has been working extensively in ensuring every news, every guideline about Covid-19 management reaches the masses in time. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is also fighting the misinformation about the disease on social media and in print and electronic media.

Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal: Education Minister has been working to issue necessary guidelines for the educational institute. Amidst Covid-19, the education of lakhs of students is at stake, and he has been busy managing the education sector in the country. Notably, even today, he held meeting with directors of education institutes, including IITs, NITs, IISCs, etc., about Covid-19 management, online education, and more.

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman: Finance Minister has been on the front of providing essential funds for Covid-19 management. From tax exemption on medical equipment to providing the state with the necessary financial support, the finance department under Sitaraman has been busy the whole time.

Union Ministers like Smiriti Irani and BJP MPs like Tejasvi Surya have been on the frontline of Covid-19 support. It is evidently visible on their timelines that they have been active in replying to SOS calls. These ministers were conveniently ignored by the media houses as it would not have suited their agenda.

Interestingly, what The Wire and Dainik Bhaskar want to do is negate the institutional fight against COVID-19 to peddle an agenda and insinuate that the Modi government and their ministers were not doing anything simply because they were not making a song and dance about individual help on social media.

While the Ministers were busy in fighting COVID-19 institutionally, there were several affiliate organisations that were involved in providing help at an individual level.

BJYM, Sewa Bharathi, RSS, and other affiliated organizations

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the largest volunteer organization in India, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth wing of Bharatiya Janata Party, and Sewa Bharati, an NGO affiliated to RSS, have been actively participating in Covid-19 relief programs. They are helping Covid-19 patients, their families, and people affected by the Covid-19 pandemic by supplying medicines, arranging medical support, online consultancy, food, ration kits, and more.

It has to be noted that RSS has been in the frontline to revive few hospitals as well that are now being used for Covid-19 relief. The organization is helping doctors and healthcare workers in giving medical care to the patients. These organizations have also established isolation wards across the country where Covid-19 patients can stay in isolation during recovery.

It is easy to point fingers at the government and say they are not doing anything, but in reality, the government and the ministers are running from pillar to post to save as many lives as possible. The second wave of Covid-19 came like a major shock for the healthcare infrastructure in the country, and everyone from PM to ministers and from CMs to bureaucrats everyone is working extensively in stabilizing the situation.

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B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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