Hafta 280: Baghjan fire, healthcare in Delhi, J&K’s media policy, and more


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In this week’s NL Hafta, the Newslaundry team of Abhinandan Sekhri, Manisha Pande, Mehraj D Lone and Raman Kirpal are joined by Anoo Bhuyan, a reporter with IndiaSpend currently writing on healthcare. Among other things, the panel talks about the healthcare crisis and challenges brought about by the Covid-19 outbreak, the fire in Assam’s Baghjan oil field, and two important media-related developments.

Beginning with the Delhi government’s handling of the Covid crisis, Anoo discusses the perceived binary between affordable-but-bad government hospitals and good-but-expensive private hospitals, mentioning the lack of accountability in the latter. She thinks that declaring community transmission is a political call, as it has to do with the admission of failure. “To say that there is community transmission is to say that it’s not in our hands anymore,” she says.

While explaining how the fire in the Baghjan oil field came about, Mehraj says: “They have been trying to douse the flames, but it will at least take a month.” He also draws attention to the ecological, economic and human costs of the fire. Abhinandan and Manisha add that a story like this would have received much more attention if it had happened close to Delhi and not in Assam.

Moving on to the new media policy in Jammu and Kashmir, Raman says it should be struck down by the judiciary. “This is in violation of Article 14,” he says. He thinks that if the policy finds success in Jammu and Kashmir, “it will spread over to the entire country”. Mehraj points out that much of what the new policy says has already existed in practice in Kashmir.

The panel discusses another media story: the resignation of James Bennet, the editorial page editor of the New York Times, after publishing a piece by Senator Tom Cotton that argued in favour of calling the military to control the Black Lives Matter protests in the US. Manisha reads out an excerpt from the op-ed, pointing out the irony in how the NYT has in the past championed sending US troops to the Middle East. She says the newspaper could have published a counter-view, adding: “An editor need not have lost a job because of that.” Abhinandan says, “On stuff like this, I don’t have a theorem I go by. I go by the specifics.” Also, Mehraj has something to say about liberal hypocrisy.

The panel also talks about previous NL Sena projects, racism in cricket, the silence of Indian elites, India’s obsession with fairness, and much more. Listen up!

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