Morbid Morbi, immoral media and a demagogue’s vanity

As if the collapse of a cable bridge in Morbi wasn't tragic enough, the media actually blamed the victims even as PM Modi, despite being in Gujarat, took his own sweet time before visiting the town

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets the injured admitted at Morbi civil hospital
Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets the injured admitted at Morbi civil hospital

Mohd Asim Khan

The cable bridge collapse in Gujarat’s Morbi in which at least 135 people, including children, have died, is beyond tragic. The Centre and the Gujarat government, both led by the BJP, were quick to announce ex-gratia payments for the victims, but were quicker in swearing off any responsibility for the incident.

As it emerged that the contract to renovate and maintain the bridge had been given to a company whose expertise lies in making wall clocks and CFL bulbs, the lapdog media lost no time in throwing its towel in the ring. Leading the chorus was Sudhir Chaudhary of Aaj Tak who outrightly blamed the people atop bridge at the fateful moment for their own misfortune.

Logo ki bhi toh kuch zimmedari banti hai… log kahin na kahin khud bhi is hadse ke doshi zaroor hain (People too have some responsibility…people (victims) too are responsible for this accident to an extent)," he said.

Aman Chopra of News18 was unexpectedly milder in not directly blaming the victims. He tried to peddle arguments based on 'science' and argued that 'mechanical resonance' was behind the collapse of the bridge.

So, who created this mechanical resonance? Obviously, the people who were present on the bridge at that time. What this implied was: nobody in Gandhinagar or Delhi was to be blamed; it was the crowd on the bridge that managed to create the 'mechanical resonance' which caused the bridge to collapse.

PM Modi was in Gujarat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi happened to be in Gujarat, his home state, on a three-day visit starting October 30 when this incident happened. He visited Morbi today, November 1.

Earlier, the Prime Minister inaugurated various development projects in the poll-bound state, as scheduled. Some people questioned why could the PM not alter his schedule and rush to Morbi on October 30 itself, when the incident occurred, or even the next morning?

Modi, during one of his public addresses on Monday, had apparently got emotional over the incident. But even this 'grief' did not cloud the PM’s focus on the camera.

A small video clip shows that during the inauguration of railway projects in Ahmedabad, a person inadvertently veers into the camera frame that was focused on Modi. The Prime Minister gives a grumpy look and makes an angry gesture at the person to get off the frame. 

One of the reasons why the PM chose not to visit the Morbi hospital on Sunday or Monday could be that the inauguration of the projects could not be postponed as the announcement of elections to the Gujarat Assembly is imminent.

It was supposed to be announced along with the Himachal Pradesh election schedule but surprisingly, or not surprisingly, the Election Commission withheld it.

With the announcement of the election, the model code of conduct will come into force.

Morbi civil hospital being renovated before the PM's visit
Morbi civil hospital being renovated before the PM's visit

A more plausible reason for the delay in the visit could be that the civil hospital and the small town was not prepared to receive the PM. Loose plaster and stained walls in the hospital, and the town’s dusty roads are neither photogenic nor quite add up to the widely-sold ‘Gujarat Model’.

The local administration quickly swung into action and mobilised all its resources to renovate the civil hospital and lay down new roads in the town, rather than tend to the survivors of the incident.

Finally, Modi visited the hospital. Before his visit, competing hashtags #Go_Back_Modi and #GujaratWithModiJi topped Twitter's trending lists on Tuesday.

Twitter trends can be manipulated. But it will be the voters of Gujarat who will decide which trend they follow when they go to exercise their right to elect a new government.

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