We lost many journalists during the pandemic, there was no special provision or arrangement by the government for them, and no one was given any aid or relief. PIB issues a circular that the needy accredited journalist can seek help but 75 per cent of good working journalists are not accredited and have no say. Finally, different press clubs, unions, press trusts have started free vaccination drives for journalists and also helped them with some provisions.
From 2020 March to 2021 April hundreds of journalists succumbed to the coronavirus pandemic. Every day an average one journalist loses a life which is not only shocking but heartbreaking. The total number of verified COVID-19 positive journalist’s deaths from 1 April 2020 to 30 April 2021 amounted to 103.
The state of Uttar Pradesh has the highest recorded death of media persons with 19 deaths, followed by Telangana at 17, and Maharashtra at 15. These are the number of those journalists who were known and had identity due to their banner, but freelance writers who actually did ground reporting and who no less than mainstream journalists reported about pandemic passed away without any mentions.
Covid has infected over 3.86 lakh more people in India is yet another disturbing daily high and killed 3,498 in the last 24 hours. The record number comes even as a huge international aid operation has been launched with many countries promising help. Maharashtra reported 66,159 new cases and 771 deaths as of now. The Mumbai civic body has cited vaccine shortage and said it is stopping vaccination for three days.
The politics is heated up; India with such a high number of COVID cases has exposed the medical infrastructure. Political blame games and diverting tactics could not erase the fact that there is no preparedness in the central government to battle the pandemic. After Maharashtra, Kerala, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Delhi have the highest number of infections.
April 2021 which has seen the unabated rise of cases in what is being termed India’s ‘Second Wave’ has also been the worst for journalists, cops, medical staff, front line warriors in India. On average, two journalists have died every day this month.
Whichever newspaper or news channel one sees the horrible coverage of a pandemic taking people’s peace away. Even if mainstream media is trying to hide something, social media is doing its job of post circulations and spamming quite aggressively. There is panic in people, a second wave of the pandemic has made people hopeless.
Social media, on the other hand, is an unfolding drapery of calamity. People beg for help finding hospital beds and life-saving medicines. Friends and acquaintances call and text asking if you know where they can get an oxygen concentrator for the home. In one way or another, everyone is battling the virus.
Everyone, it seems, except the Indian state. Once again, ordinary citizens feel as if we’ve been abandoned by our administrations. Even in the face of an unparalleled emergency, state and federal officials seem more interested in point-scoring and blame-shifting than in cooperation.
No one ever imagined such fragile Indian states. There’s no escaping the essential incongruity of 21st century India. It is one of the world’s largest economies, determined and ambitious, and its government has vast resources. But it is also, still, a poor country, with a per capita income of one-fifth China’s. The state’s capabilities are spread truly thinly across India’s billion-plus people.
Huge money got deposited to the welfare funds of the Prime Minister and Chief Ministers, but the tragedy is that the government preferred to spend all its money on election campaigns by making people vulnerable to COVID infection but they did not give a thought to people’s safety. The crowd was in pain to attend the rallies.
Previous lockdowns really shrunk the pockets of people. Many remained penniless, jobless. They preferred the threat of infection and death by being part of election rallies. Government spending on health, in particular, has always been shockingly low. In the villages of Uttar Pradesh, the needs of hundreds of thousands of people might be filled by just five health centres — and not a single qualified doctor.
And citizens need more than the basics. In Delhi, the local government often talks up its expenditure on primary health centres, which are indeed vital. But that hasn’t made up for the lack of tertiary care, which is what most Covid-19 patients need. Delhi has only 5,000 usable ICU beds for its roughly 20 million citizens; less than a dozen were free on April 30, according to the official dashboard. India has a younger population than most other countries, and there was a discussion of preexisting immunity among the population. The government gave importance to Kumbh Mela, stadium inaugurations, public gatherings and they miserably failed to protect people.
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