Reality Bites: Arrogance, ignorance and incompetence do not make a pretty cocktail

"An unjust king asked a Sufi what kind of worship is best. He replied, 'in your case the best is to sleep one half of the day so as not to injure the people for a while'." –– Saa’di (13th century)

Tomatoes being wasted in the fields as they are being sold at Rs 2/Kg
Tomatoes being wasted in the fields as they are being sold at Rs 2/Kg

Rupa Gulab

It is a truth universally acknowledged that pride comes before a fall. In the Grand Panjandrum’s new India however, pride stays put even after a fall. After 17 years, India is taking foreign aid again. Aid we may not have needed if the Grand Panjandrum had held meetings with experts like epidemiologists instead of film and sports stars and other celebrities to fight Covid.

Granted that selfies with epidemiologists do not have the same charm as selfies with celebs—if you put pictures of them on your living room walls, guests could well crease their brows and ask, “Who?”. And, of course, their conservative dress sense probably offends the Grand Panjandrum’s garish sensibilities, but hey, they do know how to tame a virus or two and save precious lives!

Now that foreign aid has arrived at Delhi airport, the Grand Panjandrum doesn’t quite know what to do with it. I mean, it’s not lovely money that buys fancy planes and things that help him pretend he’s as powerful as a US president—just boring stuff like life-saving medical supplies. Days passed, and only after the media started asking questions like why hasn’t that aid been distributed yet, did we get an irate answer: there were teething problems with the distribution.

Ah. This is yet another example of pride staying after a fall. Do recall that the UN had offered India the assistance of its integrated supply chain. This offer was turned down by the Grand Panjandrum, who bragged that India had a robust system in place. We gather that he did not want the UN to know that like Railway Minister Piyush Goyal’s wayward trains, medical supplies often lose their way in India and end up in BJP party offices instead of hospitals.

Also, if the media had behaved itself and shut up, moss would have grown on those parcels of aid (the monsoon season is approaching, after all), and given our desperate Finance Minister yet another wonderful opportunity to crow that “green shoots” are showing in India.

Never forget that we owe a debt of gratitude to international media and several Indian digital media organisations that do not fall into the horrible, terrible mainstream media category. They have exposed the Grand Panjandrum’s callous indifference towards mass deaths, and their stories have inspired the world to help us. India’s star news anchors, however, are as disappointing as the Grand Panjandrum himself. Instead of asking experts on how to deal with the Covid surge, they interview his servile cheerleaders. How stupid is that?

Take Cheerleader Chetan, the “youth icon” who is on the wrong side of 40—the age when middle aged Bollywood heroes play college students and rush to physiotherapists after every dance scene. Fortunately, Cheerleader Chetan doesn’t dance for a living. Unfortunately, he writes, and it’s his political commentary that I find disturbing—he spouts school boyish nonsense to defend fascists. Consider this tweet: “#YogiAdityanath as UP CM. Because when you make the naughtiest guy in class the class monitor, he behaves best”.

Yogi Adityanath will go down in history as India’s most cruel chief minister. Apart from his violent past, his actions during the Covid surge have been particularly vicious. First, he threatened to arrest and seize property of people who send SOS messages on social media for oxygen and medicines. An alarmed Supreme Court responded with this: "Let a strong message go across to all states that we will consider it a contempt of this court if any citizen is harassed for making a plea on social media/media for making an appeal for oxygen/beds etc." This, however, hasn’t deterred Adityanath. His administration has found a way around the SC’s warning by slapping charges of “black marketing, spreading false rumours,” etc—on hospitals too!

Now, if you were a news anchor interviewing Cheerleader Chetan on India’s Covid mess, wouldn’t you ask him if he still has a crush on Adityanath? Shouldn’t you ask him why he has consistently supported this incompetent government despite all the disasters they have inflicted on Indians, starting with demonetisation in 2016? And if you didn’t ask Cheerleader Chetan those questions, are you really a journalist at all?

I sign off with an enthusiastic endorsement of Arundhati Roy’s plea to the Grand Panjandrum: “Hundreds of thousands of us will die, unnecessarily, if you don’t go. So, go now. Jhola utha ke.”

(Any resemblance with real people or events is a coincidence)

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Published: 09 May 2021, 5:35 PM