Covid infections continue to climb in the country, with an all-time high of 1,340 deaths recorded in India yesterday. In response, some media houses have shown a spine and are asking hard questions of their state governments.
Even mainstream Hindi news channels are rising to the occasion. Last night on their primetime shows, Aaj Tak, ABP News and TV9 Bharatvarsh broadcast bulletins on the issues facing the country.
On ABP News, Rubika Liyaquat invited representatives from the BJP, TMC, Congress and JDU to ask why political rallies were still happening in West Bengal and why the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar was continuing as scheduled. Describing Covid as a "secular" virus, she said, "It neither sees the establishment nor religion."
Liyaquat singled out BJP's national spokesperson Zafar Islam for this question. When he said that Kumbh was a question of faith, she replied, "Will the virus see faith?" She also cited infection numbers in Uttarakhand and reports of Covid-linked deaths and cremations in various states.
On Thursday, Uttarakhand recorded its highest single-day spike in cases, with over 2,200 cases of which 600 were reported from Haridwar, where the Kumbh Mela is taking place. On April 13, Maha Nirvani Akhada head seer Kapil Dev died after contracting Covid while attending the Kumbh.
On Aaj Tak, anchor Rohit Sardana's panel comprised seers and heads of monasteries from Haridwar. He asked why the Kumbh Mela couldn't be cut short. "If a man goes to earn blessings and loses his life in the process, what good is that blessing?" he said.
On TV9 Bharatvarsh, anchor Nishant Chaturvedi asked why the government was unprepared a year after the pandemic began. In three separate segments, he reported on shortages of oxygen and Remdesivir, the possibility of another migrant crisis owing to fresh restrictions at states, and the increasing cases at the Kumbh Mela.
If the Kumbh Mela goes on as scheduled, he said, it could prove to be "fatal".
The exception last night was, unsurprisingly, Zee News. Sudhir Chaudhary steered clear of asking questions to explain why we should spread "positivity" and not "fear". On his part, India TV's Rajat Sharma did show the situation in various hospitals and talked about a black market of medical supplies, but he stopped short of naming the Kumbh Mela while citing the situation in Uttarakhand.