“Friend of mine is running around to facilitate the cremation of their grandmother after saying goodbye to a parent last week. They are also COVID positive. Positive story, no?” wrote a Twitter user in response to a seemingly insensitive tweet by the official ‘Mann Ki Baat’ handle.
At a time when Indian citizens are battling a horrific second wave of COVID-19 – that has crippled the healthcare infrastructure of the country, and resulted in a paucity of life-saving resources – the tweet invited people to share ‘inspiring’ stories for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to share in the next episode of his monthly radio programme, Mann Ki Baat, on 30 May.
Not only that, the tweet also urged people to “celebrate the power of positivity.”
The Modi government’s quest for positivity appears to be more aggressive than a mere tweet soliciting ‘inspiring’ stories.
Push For ‘Positivity’
According to NDTV, only last week, central government officials were made to attend a workshop on better communication and for highlighting the government’s “positive” work. Earlier, on 30 April, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in a virtual meeting with Indian ambassadors and high commissioners had suggested that the “one-sided” narrative in international media must be countered.
Meanwhile, Union ministers have been actively tweeting flowery praise of the Modi government. On Tuesday, 12 May, a number of BJP leaders tweeted out a curious article titled ‘PM MODI HAS BEEN WORKING HARD; DON’T GET TRAPPED IN THE OPPOSITION’S BARBS,’ written by a Sudesh Verma. As per his Twitter bio, he is a member of the BJP’s national media team.
The article was published in a website curiously named ‘The Daily Guardian,’ which crashed for a few hours soon after the BJP leaders posted the piece.
Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“Here is a prime minister who tries to work silently when a crisis comes and does not react to political statements since this is not the time to take the bull by the horns. He focuses on channelising his energy into finding solutions and works with double speed. If he also becomes a crybaby like the others, who will come up with a solution?”
It should be highlighted that this emphatic push for ‘positivity’ comes at a time when the Modi government is attracting significant criticism in India, as well as abroad, for its handling – rather mishandling – of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Centre has, in the past few weeks, often responded directly to such criticism, calling it “western bias.”
But is the ‘positivity’ campaign already showing signs of failure?
Mann Ki Baat Deletes ‘Inspiring’ Tweet
The cruel irony of the celebratory Mann Ki Baat tweet wasn’t lost on Twitter users. It garnered such significant flak that the tweet was wordlessly deleted on Tuesday night.
The resentment it stoked, however, still remained on Twitter, with Congress leader Rahul Gandhi stating that “burying one’s head in the sand is not positive – it is a betrayal of our citizens.”
While TMC MP Mahua Moitra wrote on Twitter, “Mammoth PR operation underway by the BJP to salvage PM’s image amidst COVID crisis. Need of hour is to protect citizens – not 56 inches of false bravado.”
“In the face of a grieving nation and tragedies unfolding all around us, the continued attempt to push FALSEHOOD and PROPAGANDA in the name of spreading POSITIVITY is disgusting! For being positive we don’t have to become blind propagandist of the Govt,” wrote political strategist Prashant Kishor.
Journalist Suhasini Haider commented, “Yup, lots of positivity. That’s the problem.”
Many urged PM Modi to provide basic medical facilities, and not to play with people’s lives.
While others debated whether the prime minister was “oblivious to what’s happening in India” or “he just doesn’t care.”
Yet Another Tweet That Didn’t Go Down Well
In yet another tweet, on the morning of 11 May, the same handle shared PM Modi’s advice asking people to do dhyana or “meditation.”
This tweet, too, invited a fair share of criticism and desperate pleas for tangible resources to combat the pandemic.
“All this we will do, but you please do what we won’t be able to, Narendra Modiji. Hospitals need oxygen and medicine and good ventilators. Only words aren’t enough, we need to see it on the ground,” wrote a Twitter user.
Another user shared a visual of a man hooked to an oxygen cylinder and wrote:
"“Sir, should we poor people fight death or do yoga? You’re saying do yoga. We start doing yoga, who is going to wait outside the hospital and tend to our parents and siblings?” "ICYMI: Why the Public is Angry
Needless to say, lifestyle-advice – even well-meant – is grossly inadequate at the present moment.
What India and the people of the country presently require is an unfaltering supply of oxygen, equitable distribution of vaccines across states, hospital beds, ventilators and other life-saving resources, and a determined administration prioritising pandemic-control over all else.
Besides, in the shadow of the pandemic, with visuals of corpses floating in India’s holy river of Ganga and reports of complacency by a forewarned government emerging, along with news of crematoriums running out of firewood as bodies after bodies await cremation, it may be hard for the common man to share inspiring stories of positivity with the prime minister.
. Read more on COVID-19 by The Quint.With Goa Also Shutting Down Shoots, TV Producers Are In a FixLack of ‘Positivity’ or Did PM Fail to Read India’s Mann Ki Baat? . Read more on COVID-19 by The Quint.