Facing anger at soaring number of Covid deaths, India’s ruling party targets critics

The country recorded over 350,000 coronavirus cases on Monday with 2,812 deaths

Namita Singh
Monday 26 April 2021 21:15
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India’s healthcare system ‘collapses’ as hospitals face oxygen shortage

From censoring tweets and threatening private hospitals to blaming state government for the scarcity of medical oxygen, India’s ruling right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party has been clamping down on criticism as the country is ravaged by Covid-19.

Facing the heat over its management of a devastating second wave of the pandemic in the country, the government on Sunday ordered Twitter to block posts criticising its handling of the crisis. About 100 posts were targeted, including some from leaders of the opposition.

Reports of the Modi administration’s actions came as the country struggled with oxygen shortages and medical infrastructure problems while battling more than 300,000 daily infections of Covid.

“This decision has been taken to prevent obstructions in the fight against the pandemic and escalation of public order due to these posts,” a source told Mint, adding that the decision was made on the recommendation of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Among the tweets censored by the government was one written by Pawan Khera, spokesperson of Congress, the largest opposition party in the country.

In the tweet, the politician had questioned “the complete silence” of central government for allowing the world’s largest religious congregation, the Kumbh Mela, and political rallies to continue during the pandemic. Posts by parliamentarian Revanth Reddy, West Bengal minister Moloy Ghatak, actor Vineet Kumar Singh, and filmmakers Vinod Kapri and Avinash Das have also been blocked.

Apart from censoring voices critical of Narendra Modi’s administration, the government is also sparring with state officials over the responsibility of oxygen shortages and poor medical support.

Mr Modi’s government clashed with politicians in Delhi over the oxygen crisis in the capital.

The central government said Delhi did not submit a “site readiness report” and this led to the delay in installation of oxygen plants, reported NDTV.

But Delhi claimed the government was attempting to “hide its abject failure in setting up of oxygen plants”.

Meanwhile, Yogi Adityanath, the chief minister of BJP-ruled state Uttar Pradesh, threatened legal action against private hospitals if they falsely claimed oxygen shortages. He also directed officials to take action under the National Security Act and the Gangsters Act against “anti-social elements” who spread “rumours” and propaganda on social media and try to “spoil the atmosphere”, reported The Hindu.

“It appears like there is an attempt to tarnish the image of the government,” said Prashant Kumar, the additional director general of police in the state.

Mr Adityanath’s warning came after he said that there was no shortage of medical oxygen in the state.

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