Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call to not listen to rumours about the Covid pandemic is not out of place. Although he spoke about the pandemic in his monthly 'Mann ki Baat' broadcast, he made no mention of the oxygen and vaccine shortage facing the country today. However, it is a fact that rumours can affect preventive endeavour. One can only hope that those segments of the ruling party making unscientific claims — including those who said wearing masks is not necessary — are convinced of the same. We must avoid creating panic by making frightening assumptions. On the other side, actual facts must be made available. The government's performance in this regard is not that creditable. Complacency and the resulting indifference are as dangerous as panic. The second wave of Covid has such a huge impact on India, for it encouraged inaction through hollow claims rather than making the necessary preparations for vaccines, oxygen and infrastructure in the short period when infections were less. The resolution passed by the BJP national executive stated that India had defeated Covid under Modi's leadership. This made preparations irrelevant amid news of the second wave in Europe and elsewhere. The Prime Minister's speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos may now seem ridiculous. "Our country has saved humanity by effectively controlling corona. Initially importing masks, PPE kits and test kits, today we are serving our citizens by meeting our domestic needs and exporting them and serving others."- when Modi said this in January, many variants of the virus were starting to find victims. Our attitude against facts and indifference opened the door to them.
As the Prime Minister himself pointed out, the fight against Covid is the struggle of the whole country. Unfounded claims and hollow praises are best avoided, as well as rumours creating misconceptions. Accurate information and statistics are essential for preventing the pandemic, and it is essential to disseminate them also to prevent the spread of false information. If the government cares about the lives of its citizens and not just its own branding, it should also provide the opportunity to cite and criticize shortcomings. It was at the same time when Modi was calling for a halt to speculation, that quite a few tweets were banned. They were in fact not spreading panic and speculation, but pointing out the failings of the government. It was probably hashtag campaigns like #ModiMadeDisaster that provoked the central government. They are, however, neither fake nor rumours; they are criticisms. If you have facts to the contrary, that is how the hashtags should've been dealt with. Curbing dissent will only further validate the campaign.
Another facet of the Centre's stance is its response to the letter the former PM Manmohan Singh sent to the present PM. Modi did not even acknowledge that he received such a letter. It took a union minister to mention that and he even immaturely insulted the recommendations. It is the lack of transparency that is leading to these confusion and rumours. This government has perfected the art of not being transparent. Which vaccines are available, how many would be given for each of the states, what about those younger if they say it would be free for everyone 45+, what it would cost, whether it is the companies or the government that decides the prices, what about the availability of oxygen - there is no clarity on any of these questions not because rumours are being spread, but because no one knows exactly what the state of the matter is.
The government should also realise that there is a term from the ancient Greek tragedies that is circulating regarding India's current covid crisis - 'hubris', meaning 'arrogance'. In times of disaster, instead of humility and self-introspection, it is meaningless to resort to bans and suppression to solve the crisis. Once they start seeing the reality as it is, it is not just the rumours but the virus that can be eliminated.