[The Superintendent of Tihar Jail, went a joke recently circulating on WhatsApp, had staked his claim for the Chief Ministership of Delhi, because he had the requisite number of MLAs! The mainstream (Big) media has had a field day, reporting with great ‘earnestness’, what even the ordinary person on the street can see is an orchestrated move to harass and discredit the AAP. A leading paper even did a status report on all the cases against AAP MLAs a couple of days ago, as if it was simply ‘reporting’ (with a straight face). Some day, hopefully we will be able to come out with a more detailed analysis of the ways in which sections of the big media have – even in the person/s of their most benign representatives and columnists – played footsie with the regime at the Centre. This dispensation and its utterly unprincipled and unethical ways are truly unprecedented and this phase of our history has emerged as the dirtiest chapter of parliamentary democracy in India. In the meantime, online news forums have kept the tradition of actual reportage and fairness alive. Here are some extracts from a report by JYOTI PUNWANI, courtesy The Hoot (linked below), on the mohalla clinics and the strange politics of the media that surrounds reportage around such measures undertaken by the Delhi government.]
The AAP’s mohalla clinic experiment drew the attention of The Washington Post. Its article (`What New Delhi’s free clinics can teach America’, March 11, 2016) was also carried by the Chicago Tribune. A University of Southern California delegation came to study mohalla clinics in July.
But our print media didn’t think this important experiment was anything special. Not all covered it; of those that did, some didn’t carry the report in all their editions….
The Indian Express carried a long report in April, after the second batch of clinics opened, in its Delhi edition (“In rented rooms across Delhi, part 2 of ‘mohalla’ clinic project takes off’’). Livemint hada detailed report last month, after more than 100 clinics had opened (`Mohalla clinic: AAP offers affordable healthcare model at doorstep’); and earlier this week, The Hindu evaluated their performance in its Delhi edition (`A thousand promises of prompt health care’).
Among news websites, Newslaundry did a lively report immediately after the first clinic opened (`Mohalla clinics come to town’). In January, Catch News did a report (`#MohallaClinics: AAP has diagnosed Delhi’s health problem. Can it cure it?’), and a follow-up in April after the second batch opened (`AAP Mohalla clinics: rented homes turn clinics, private docs appointed’).
A two-part article appeared in Scroll.in in May (`The clinic at your doorstep: How the Delhi government is rethinking primary healthcare…) Indeed, news websites, rather than newspapers, seem to have given the new experiment the space it deserves.
Going through the reports on mohalla clinics, it became clear that the possible removal of some of them was only the latest move against them. A few days before the NDMC issued this order, the Lieutenant General (LG) of Delhi had got into the act. Consider the sequence of events:
On August 5, the Delhi High Court ruled that the LG was the administrative head of the capital. After the judgment, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia specially requested Najeeb Jung not to transfer the Health and Education secretaries as these two bureaucrats were essential for the AAP’s new initiatives in these sectors.
On August 31, Delhi papers reported the transfer of these two officials by the LG. The man put in charge of Health was the Environment Secretary. Reportedly, the AAP government had recently sought action against this gentleman for delaying the ban on the deadly Chinese manjha used for flying kites. To further twist the knife in the wound, he was not transferred out of the Environment ministry and made Health Secretary, but given additional charge of health.
This action was taken after chikungunya had started wreaking havoc in Delhi. The transfer was reported on August 31; on the same day, The Quint reported more than 400 cases of chikungunya and dengue each in the capital…
Days after the transfers came the NDMC’s order about the removal of porta-cabins. The NDMC is BJP-controlled.
Both Jung’s actions and the North Delhi Municipal Corporation’s order, so far as it affected mohalla clinics, were arbitrary acts which endangered the health of Delhi’s poorest citizens. Enough space has been devoted to the AAP-Jung fight. But such actions form the nitty gritty of the dispute. Without knowledge of how exactly the LG is thwarting the measures being taken by a government elected by an unprecedented mandate, the AAP-Jung conflict ends up looking like a fight between two executive heads, one of them hysterical. That’s exactly the way the media has projected it. Why?…Read the full report here.