The Indian economy is on a boom and the country is now past the COVID-19 scare, on account of high vaccination rates. So, a condescending West is struggling to find something to pull India down and New York Times has therefore written a totally baseless story that makes bizarre allegations against India’s COVID-19 management.
Strangely, no data or facts have been used by NYT to back up the baseless claims and absurd allegations in the story titled, “As India’s Lethal Covid Wave Neared, Politics Overrode Science”. This article seems to be a work of pulp fiction that draws its content substantially from individual opinions. So, here is our point-to-point reply to the allegations made by NYT.
Allegations about scientists downplaying the COVID-19 threat:
NYT claimed, “In September 2020, eight months before a deadly Covid-19 second wave struck India, government-appointed scientists downplayed the possibility of a new outbreak.”
The US-based news publication added, “Previous infections and early lockdown efforts had tamed the spread, the scientists wrote in a study that was widely covered by the Indian news media after it was released last year.”
If you observe closely, NYT claimed that India “downplayed” the possibility of a new outbreak and then followed its allegation by adding how the September 2020 study credited “early lockdown” for taming the spread of COVID-19 contagion. Now, the language used seems to indicate as if the early lockdown didn’t really contain COVID-19 in India.
However, truth be told- India did manage to curb the COVID-19 Pandemic really well throughout 2020 and the second wave struck India only earlier this year. So, “early lockdown” did help tame the virus. Moreover, at no time did the Indian government go lenient. Mask discipline and social distancing were encouraged all along the COVID-19 crisis which really helped India control the health emergency.
Baseless allegations against PM Modi:
NYT is borderline racist and reeks of the ignorant American culture when it comes to reporting on India. In its highly controversial story, for example, NYT claimed, “The results dovetailed neatly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two main goals: restart India’s stricken economy and kick off campaigning for his party in state elections that coming spring.”
To buttress its claim, NYT claimed that one “Anup Agarwal, a physician then working for India’s top science agency, which reviewed and published the study, worried that its conclusions would lull the country into a false sense of security.”
NYT added, “Dr. Agarwal took his concerns to the agency’s top official in October. In response: He and another concerned scientist were reprimanded, he said.”
Now, again NYT ought to be corrected on both these issues:
- When it comes to reopening the economy, there was a broad consensus in the Indian society and political establishment that the economy shouldn’t remain closed forever as COVID-19 was here to stay for a long time. So, India reopened its economy to save livelihoods while keeping all necessary precautions in mind. India didn’t really need a fake study to open up like NYT is insinuating.
- When it comes to polls, India’s election system isn’t as chaotic and confusing as America’s. We have been holding undisputed elections managed by the Election Commission of India (ECI), a Constitutional body, for the last seven decades, unlike the US. And the superintendence of elections vests completely in the ECI and it wasn’t really up to the ruling party to decide how and when elections will be held.
NYT claims India suppressed data:
What do we even say about this? On January 4, NYT had published a story titled, “In a Topsy-Turvy Pandemic World, China Offers Its Version of Freedom.” In this pro-China article, NYT had claimed, “While many countries are still reeling from Covid-19, China — where the pandemic originated — has become one of the safest places in the world.” NYT had further added, “Restaurants are packed. Hotels are full. Long lines form outside luxury brands stores. Instead of Zoom calls, people are meeting face to face to talk business or celebrate the new year.”
The US-based news publication had also stated, “The pandemic has upended many perceptions, including ideas about freedom. Citizens of China don’t have freedom of speech, freedom of worship or freedom from fear — three of the four freedoms articulated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt — but they have the freedom to move around and lead a normal day-to-day life. In a pandemic year, many of the world’s people would envy this most basic form of freedom.”
Our point is when NYT was adulating China and literally calling it freer than free countries, it really ignored how China had censored COVID-19 data and reports. However, when it comes to India, NYT alleges data suppression, even though India was transparent and honest in releasing its COVID-19 data.
NYT claimed, “Senior officials at Dr. Agarwal’s agency — called the Indian Council of Medical Research, or I.C.M.R. for suppressed data showing the risks, according to the researchers and documents. They pressured scientists to withdraw another study that called the government’s efforts into question, the researchers said, and distanced the agency from a third study that foresaw a second wave.”
So, NYT couldn’t really see how China fudged its data despite some very apparent signs, but it thinks that India suppressed COVID-19 data without any real basis to back up its claim.
India has already slammed NYT for its shoddy reporting. Speaking about the controversial article, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Dr Balram Bhargava said, “This is a provocative, attention seeking article published at a time when India is doing good and our vaccination is excellent and it is diverting attention. All the issues raised are dead ones and probably do not merit any attention.”
NITI Aayog Member (Health) Dr V.K Paul too condemned the article. He said, “We actually condemn this type of distorted out of context reporting. This is not desirable and it should not happen.”
What NYT has written about India’s COVID-19 response once again exposes the condescending character of the American publication and it reeks of frustration towards India’s ability to beat the COVID-19 crisis and accelerate economic growth.