On Sunday afternoon while I was packing to come back to the city of sweat, I was talking to a person, we'll just call 'A' over here. 'A' is a top editor with one of the dailies, and I just happened to be watching BBC going nuts that Bird Flu had been discovered in Western Europe. The following conversation ensued. I mentioned to A how it was strange that the H5N1 virus seemed to have skipped India altogether, I mean one day you hear that birds are dying in South-East Asia and the next they're dying in Turkey.
Draw a straight line from Vietnam to Turkey (Western Turkey to be precise) and one very large land-mass appears in the middle - its called India. Now another thing, the Beeb's anchors and reporters were carrying on about how the virus is spread by migratory birds. Heck, I just thought one thing pretty fast - Bharatpur. India, could not possibly NOT have the H5N1 virus, and I scented a cover-up. A, however wasn't so sure. After all, a few years previously, the Delhi media had gone all out (EchTee in particular) trying to scream out that SARS was spreading like wildfire across India. Even Sushma Swaraj, the then health minister, bought into the stories of doom and gloom. Heck, since I had recently returned from Shanghai at that point of time, people even thought that I had the virus. Then a week later, the WHO came and said "Stupid Indian media, nobody in your country had SARS. There was no need to start the panic." However, with the birds I thought differently. Local health officials in India have a bad habit of covering up disease outbreaks. For example, people in cities - that includes people in the medai's ivory towers, have little or no clue about the spread of Japanese Encephalitis in Eastern UP and Bihar. Of course, it doesn't help when the Union Health minister is all hung up on Rajnikant's smoking habits. Fair enough, I understood A's argument against creating panic, but of course, when the outbreak was discovered, that didn't stop the papers from giving us 8-column 80-point headlines talking to terrible doom and gloom. And of course, you had the telly channels going bonkers, but its gotta be said, I agree more or less with what the spy has said, the telly channels were far more restarined in their coverage than the papers (and a couple in particular), however I still would rather watch VH1 All-Access.
Yaar, mera argument simple tha - migratory birds carry bird flu, India has lots of migratory birds, therefore, by simple deductive logic, there is a high probability that the H5N1 virus has come to India. Nope, the media was more interested in the 'possibility' that Bollywood's 'Star Son' would marry its most beautiful (and fast moving) actress. That said, the rather low-key coverage (relatively) given to Mohammed Yaqood Qureshi, an idiotic UP minister who has promised Rs 51 crore to anyone who does something not nice to the Danish cartoonist, was bewildering. Now, I don't doubt for a minute, that Mr Qureshi is responsible for most educated Muslims in India banging their heads on whatever surface they can find and I also don't believe that this character has even seen the cartoons. And fair enough, as I've said before the cartoons were distasteful - however, as The Religious Policeman points out again and again, it was quite strange (and I buy his reason) that they surfaced so many months after they were first printed.
But, he is still a minister in a (corrupt) state government and should be held responsible for his words. However, I don't doubt for an instant, that if a Praveen Togadia or even a minister in Narendra Modi's government had made a similar statement, calling for the head of say, the guys who are using the likeness of Ma Durga on Southern Comfort bottles (which as a Bong is particularly distasteful), I'm pretty sure that UndieTV and Rajdeep TV would have been all over them in a jiffy and talking of Hindu extremism and shit-shat.
Just my two cents and I just so agree with Jeremy Clarkson's column on bores this week, the man is a genius.
I usually don't make too many late edits anymore, but Amit's post reminds me of asomething that 'A' was telling me on Sunday about a ToI reporter getting arrested because it seems that there are corporators in Bombay who are as stupid and politically incorrect as our friend Qureshi. Of course, people were called and the reporter is out on bail, but why are sections of a particular community going all out to stoke communal fires. Corporators like these are as bad as rapid SS types who want V-Day banned because they don't get any. If the Maharashtra government (though dealing with the aforementioned bird-flu crisis, strange that Maharashtra seems to going from one crisis to the next) had any balls they would put this clown behind bars.
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