Pandemic, Media and UP Election

By the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal

Just as we are moving towards the end of “second wave” and hoping this wave will not resurge after unlock. The focus has returned to the same old dirty tricks and political gossiping on news media over the next assembly elections in the state of Uttar Pradesh.

Rather than asking questions about the state of preparation for the third wave and readiness of our health infrastructure. News channels are busy speculating if New Delhi would change the CM face in Lucknow or how many seats can the BJP win. TV anchors run reports on election strategy, whose conspiring against whom and who will be promoted or demoted in the ranks of the saffron brigade; it’s like a circus that goes on and on in the name of news but I sometimes wonder if this hyperactivity over elections in UP is really needed now? Have we forgotten that barely a month or two ago bodies were floating in the rivers of Uttar Pradesh and people were scouring for oxygen and medicines?

Given we may have assembly elections sometime around Feb or March next year, how prepared are we today to fight the third wave? As per news reports, there is a plan of setting up around 416 Oxygen plants in the state of which 72 have been installed but will they be enough if the third wave hits us during or before the assembly elections? Shouldn’t there be media reports on the progress of these plants and the claims government is making? As per MyGov data, in UP around 2.98 Crore people have been vaccinated of which 2.56 Crore got the first does while only 42 lakh got the second one. Can someone explain why only about 15% of the inoculated population in the state got the second dose? Many experts believe that only one does may not be enough to counter the newly reported variant, the delta plus. The state govt. has only now woken up to the threat and has given orders for genome sequencing. The thing is does Uttar Pradesh have enough time to prepare for the third wave before it goes into assembly elections? What if the wave came early?

But the biggest question of all is that can Election Commission be trusted to conduct elections safely. During and after the Panchayat Election in the rural areas of UP, against the advice of experts and common sense, the second wave took a deadly toll. Given the Madras High Court’s acerbic observation on Election Commission, there is doubt that elections in UP can be safely conducted without running the risk of infections. With an abysmally poor health infrastructure in state that cannot be reasonably assumed to be in fighting capacity before the next wave presents itself, it raises serious questions on the safety of elections due to be conducted next year.

The media should do its job to ask tough questions but given its reputation, accountability and responsibility are things too much to ask for from our media.

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