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Uttam's Take: Ignorance is bliss

September 18, 2020 13:54 IST

We are puzzled.

On Monday, September 14, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told the Lok Sabha that timely decisions taken by the government had prevented approximately 37,000 to 38,000 coronavirus deaths.

14 lakh to 29 lakh Indians from getting infected, the Swasthya Mantri declared.

Just as we applauded Dr Vardhan's ability to provide the nation within this information came the Union labour ministry's statement in Parliament on the same day that the government had no data on the deaths of migrant workers during their hazardous and long march home, hence no compensation could be provided.

So how does one arm of the government have such numerical prowess and another arm exist in the statistical dark? As we said at the start, we are puzzled.

Unless, of course, the health ministry's claim about avoided deaths and infections was designed to show the Modi government in positive light while the labour ministry's inability to provide information on migrant fatalities during their exodus from the cities was meant to shield the sarkar from all blame.

The previous day, September 13, the Delhi police, which reports to the home minister -- who was being treated at AIIMS the same day for reported post-COVID-19 after-effects -- questioned student activist Umar Khalid about 40 giga bytes of information.

Hours later, Umar was arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for alleged complicity in the riots that erupted in north east Delhi in February.

Uttam Ghosh compares the two events -- the labour ministry's ignorance and a young intellectual's incarceration -- and is mystified as many Indians are by what occurred.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/