Hafta letters: Data gap in coronavirus numbers, government incompetence, building a community

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

WrittenBy:NL Team
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In times like this maybe start a Discord server and build an online community. Could be better than the WhatsApp groups you are doing right now.

Mahendra Varma


Hi NL Hafta team,

I hope my letter finds everyone well, safe and sound. I can’t thank enough of the crews of NL team who are out there fighting on every front to bring the news we don’t deserve, and ensuring in the insane country there is some sane news. I write this letter with a lot of anger and sadness and I said to myself that Abhinandan is the perfect person to understand.

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak, the thing that made the most sense is how underwhelmingly and hopelessly unprepared we are to cope with anything out of our comfort zone — and I am not even counting the government in the discussion.

I always knew Modi and his entire cabinet don't have an ounce of knowledge to understand the gravitas of social welfare and public infrastructure; so with an outbreak, I wasn’t surprised with lacklustre preparation.

Particularly on airline services, and the uncertainty of upcoming air travel is something I faced recently. As I was looking to cancel/reschedule my ticket booked on Air India (via MakeMyTrip), I found the entire set up a farce and harassment to the general public. Since this was an unprecedented situation, MakeMyTrip was not taking any responsibility to cancel the ticket and Air India removed its provision to cancel/reschedule tickets via the web. For any kind of ticket change, one had to call customer care which needed 10-15 dials to get connected, with an additional one hour of waiting. Clubbed with multiple calls and coordination with MakeMyTrip to get my money refunded, I ended up spending eight hours on the phone.

The icing on the cake for mismanagement was for every call I made, the executive gave me a different amount as part of cancellation. There could have been so many ways to ease a customer’s pain and even reduce the workload of the call centre executives with certain tweaks in the web application. And yet from Air India to MakeMyTrip, all of them just didn’t have it in them to fix an issue when pushed against the wall.

As all these were happening, I watched the civil [aviation] minister gloat over supporting the harsh punishment of one customer as the latter didn’t meet the eyes of the government's lap dog. I pity myself that despite 44 European, two North American and two Oceania countries, I was cursed to be born here.

A long time back Abhinandan raised a very potent point that us Indians are "chutiyas" (pardon my language) and there is very little morality and ethics left in us. No matter how technologically advanced we are, our basic instinct to screw people over at the drop of a hat won’t go. We will forever be struggling to be a well-governed country as we as Indians offer very little to society and others, while expecting much in return.

PS: I have enclosed a certain picture that someone forwarded me, and I think it was a perfect picture to showcase today’s time.

imageby :

Tariqur Rahman


Hi Newslaundry team,

Thank you for all your hard work getting us accurate information we can trust. I'm a subscriber living in the Seattle area, which was the first epicentre of coronavirus in the US. Over the past week I have been increasingly worried about the situation in India.

It seemed from news reports back then that India was protecting itself well, and there were no cases of community transmission. Turns out that was because they weren't testing for it. Why? because they hadn't detected any cases. Great logic.

There is a huge data gap. The news articles are full of useless government oratory, and barely have any numbers. The government does not give daily counts.

India needs a website tracking the total numbers of positives + total number of negatives, with a state wise breakup, something like this which picks up data from here for Washington. Perhaps Newslaundry could even do a tie-up with others on this? I see journalists tweeting some numbers.

I'm in week four of self isolation and the sense of community is more important than ever. The podcasts help, and if you can do more discussions with subscribers, that might be interesting too.



Dear NL,

I was a subscriber but I no longer live in India so I've taken to supporting independent journalism were I live. This will be a brief email.

I keep hearing Abhinandan and other panelists saying "this is chilling" or "this is disturbing" or "this is dismaying". Repeatedly. What changes after these statements? I've been hearing this for decades now and I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Modi's speech told me one thing in chilling clarity: Indians are on their own. The government may as well not exist for the vast majority of Indians. Every action from the Indian government is ham-fisted and displays utter incompetence. They can conjure up the cash for a needless statue but can't provide libraries, decent schools, or proper sanitation — all things that will pay rich dividends in the future.

How do you have faith in the future of India? As for the near future, I expect to see a disaster in India with thousands dead because of the government's incompetence and the stupidity and stubbornness of the citizens.


A former subscriber


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