Hafta 269: India’s lockdown, the role of journalists during a crisis, police brutality, and more


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In this episode of NL Hafta, Newslaundry’s Abhinandan Sekhri, Raman Kirpal, Manisha Pande, and Mehraj D Lone are joined by data journalist Rukmini S.Abhinandan begins by bringing up Rukmini’s piece in The Print where she wrote that India could see up to 30,000 COVID-19 deaths by May. She says this is not her prediction — it’s based on current growth rate of cases, trajectories of other countries, and predictable modeling done by statisticians that show similar pathways, so this could be the direction India is headed. “Even with significant intervention, there will be not an ending, but a reduction [in cases],” Rukmini says.Discussing how the 21-day nationwide lockdown was imposed by Narendra Modi to enforce social distancing, both Raman and Mehraj think India won't be able to handle that many patients. Mehraj asks what measures exist for the homeless, and those dependent on daily wages. Raman also cites data* on the state of public healthcare in India, such as the fact that India has only 9,512 ICU beds for its 130-crore population.Bringing up the WHO’s guidelines and its emphasis on community outreach, Manisha says she was stunned by Modi’s decision on the lockdown and the manner in which he communicated it to the public. “Someone who supposedly was a chaiwallah, who rose from nowhere, is so out of touch with how Indians live.” Abhinandan says there’s a sense of “theatre” in what Modi does, in contrast to the Kerala health minister’s low-profile press briefings every day. The panel also discusses the role of journalists during a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic, India’s support for public institutions, police brutality, and much more.Tune in!*The data Raman cited — number of ventilators, ICU beds, isolation beds exclusively earmarked across states to treat COVID-19 patients — is as of March 24. This data is changing dynamically as more capacity is added on a daily basis. For instance, on March 26, the capacity was upgraded to 85,976 isolation beds, 22,772 ICU beds, and 14245 ventilators.Correction: Raman said Delhi has 252 ICU beds. The number is actually for ventilators.

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