Covid crisis temporary brake, it will improve: Prakash Javadekar
The coronavirus crisis will be just a temporary “brake”, information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar, said, explaining that the government is trying to save lives even as it keeps an eye on the economy. From April 20, many sectors will open up, providing livelihoods to many, he added in an interview to Hindustan Times. Edited excerpts:
The world is in the grip of the coronavirus disease. Lives and livelihoods are at stake. How do you view the situation?
This is a global crisis of which no one had an inkling. So the world was caught unawares. Many countries fumbled on imposing a lockdown . Now, not just WHO [World Health Organization] but the entire world acknowledges that India imposed a strict lockdown and also effectively communicated -- what is social distancing, washing hands and wearing of masks.
We have also worked to ensure that livelihoods are not lost. From April 20, there will again be work opportunities.
Some people have carried out negative propaganda. Facts were twisted to create rumours -- that there was a hospital with separation of patients on religious basis or other such. We have worked to quash those rumours
You mentioned fake news. How do you view the problem of fake news, especially on platforms such as WhatsApp? A lot of misinformation is carried on these platforms.
We are a democratic country. These platforms, WhatsApp and others, work independently and are encrypted. We only have the Information Technology law of 2000 regarding these platforms. Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad deals with this sector. In such cases, we have also referred instances to them for appropriate action. We will follow up and see what they do.
One of the problems which has flared up again (after the extension of the lockdown) is that of migrant workers. They came in search of livelihoods but are stuck in other states. Many of them want to return.
I actually don’t want to comment on this, but people must understand the size of the problem.
If two to four crore people travel from one state to another that what would be the state of affairs? If there is even one infected person in a train or a bus, who will guarantee the safety of the others? Now, from April 20, work is also starting in many sectors. So, (it is) better to go back to work and earn. The district administrations are also helping them.
As the Prime Minister has said that we need Jaan [life]and Jahan [world]. We need life and also work. If we don’t have life then what is work, and if there is no work then life will be difficult. Therefore, from April 20 you will see many major industries restart…in rural areas; work related to highways, agriculture, food processing will begin. I have full faith that daily wagers who could not work for 20-21 days because of the lockdown will see a different situation.
In Mumbai’s Bandra, a crowd of migrants gathered especially at a time when the focus is on social distancing. The incident also saw an FIR against a journalist for a report that allegedly caused this. As I&B minister, how do you see this situation?
First of all what happened in Bandra, where so many people who were not even carrying bags, gathered. Was it because someone had promised food or someone had incited them? Nineteen (other) people have even been arrested. There will be investigation and the facts will be known.
The media, especially the print media, has been hit hard because of the lockdown -- in terms of both advertising revenue but also circulation. As I&B minister, what are your views on this?
I am also worried, I have submitted a note to my party about the situation. The issue is because of some superstitions, blind faith or some WhatsApp message, people have stopped buying newspapers. They think it will give them the virus and the distribution chain has got affected. I think that is the situation. All of us have to come together to dispel such doubts. There is a problem. The media’s job is to create awareness on this. Government is also very proactive on this.
But any industry or business factors in profits and losses. I am sure there will not be any retrenchment, not only in media, but in any sector. Because people will be required when India rises again.
As the heavy industries minister, are you planning any steps that may boost the industry?
We have readied a mechanism to push e-vehicles, frame one and frame two. I reviewed it yesterday and planning something. The working of the auto sector is related to another ministries but we also work keeping it in mind. Overall, I believe this is a temporary brake. Things will improve. The country that manages to save its people will move ahead.
There are concerns that the fight against Covid-19 is getting polarized, especially over the Nizamuudin congregation incident.
I don’t think that people are divided. People are united and I don’t think they are viewing it from a religious prism. There was an incident of negligence and the country has seen the consequences. That is also a reality.