Role of media during pandemic

Mahesh Chander Sudan
We, the people of India, are struggling to safely pass through second wave of pandemic as an individual, as a nation and as a comity of nations across the globe, though it is felt that the curve of infections is on plateau, and thus the current wave is likely to end. Unlike first wave of the pandemic, our scientists and medical professionals have produced vaccines to inoculate people against the potent infection and the vaccination drive across the globe is activated limited to production capacity and capability of the countries. Vaccinating around seven billion people across globe is a big challenge in terms of vaccines production, intricate logistic channel, and hesitancy in acceptance of the vaccines and involved technical/administrative skill to implement mammoth drive with reasonable safety and security. Medical and para medical staff along with other frontline workers is busy day and night to achieve set target at the earliest for containing spread of virus and irreparable loss of life.
At this critical pandemic ridden juncture, the media played a healthy role in educating people about the virus, its potency and the importance of vaccination to eradicate scope of infection and save human lives. In our context, the media remained focused throughout and helped administration in curbing spurt of hesitancy noticed in the initial stages of vaccination. It therefore helped nation to vaccinate around 200 million people and set the course of vaccination subject to the availability of vaccines. However, a recent controversy that erupted out of uncalled and unethical comments made against the allopathy medication by Ramdev, a known Indian Yoga guru questions the role of media not for exercising their primary duty of calling doctors from Indian Medical Association and Yoga guru in an episode televised by a privately owned channel for viewers’ sake but for deliberately allowing Ayurveda company representative, Ramdev, to demonstrate unapproved company product named Coronil as medicine for Carona. However, it is largely noticed that concerned TV channel televised the episode with covert design to extract commercial gains for his channel and the Ayurveda Company run by Ramdev. Derogatory comments so made against the modern allopathic system of medicines and practicing doctors across the globe by Yoga guru apparently conveys negativity with intent to stabilize dwindling business of his company during pandemic at the cost of poor people who may fall prey to the predesigned move and recklessly shun Allopathy or vaccines or both in the midst of pandemic.
Indian Medical Association is a voluntary organization of doctors of Modern Scientific system of Medicine in India, which looks or cares after the interest of doctors or the wellbeing of the community at large. Association has been formed in the year 1928 as All India Medical Association, renamed as Indian Medical Association in 1930. It enjoys status of a society registered under The Societies Act of India. Unlike Indian Council of Medical Research, it has no role in formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research in finding solutions for the health problems of the country. It therefore implies that any negative comment on government run health care system is direct attack on the autonomy of the state and needs to be tackled officially as per the law of land. In the instant case, Health Minister of India, Dr. Harshvardhan dealt it in an ordinary official manner without assigning it due seriousness and offered an opportunity to Ramdev for withdrawing his statement that offended medical fraternity especially during pandemic when the doctors are frontline warriors in war against COVID and many of them lost their lives.
The television channel in question failed to realize the seriousness of the issue and televised an episode involving two senior doctors of IMA and Yoga guru that allowed unhealthy and unbearable low grade heated exchange of words with predesigned advertisement of unapproved product CORONIL despite the earlier known claim of Ramdev of an Ayurveda Company that the said Ayurveda preparation is meant to treat Corona patients. This commercial propagation of the medicine could not be blocked by the channel management despite objections raised by other participating doctors who were hurt and aggrieved due to unfortunate comments of Ramdev about allopathy and the practicing doctors of modern scientific medication. It indicates an element of sponsorship involved in the televised episode, more so when it is known beyond doubt that the product in question does not have any approval from Drug Controller of India and the treatment given to Corona patients in Government and non-Government hospitals by doctors of modern scientific allopathic medication is as per protocol approved by ICMR and any derogatory comment from any quarter is undermining the authority of Government of India and is punishable as per law of land especially during enforcement of Disaster Management Act. Besides, medical fraternity across the globe stands united to oppose these unfortunate and derogatory comments. Allopathy and Ayurveda may complement each other in treating human beings and cannot compete or replace each other.
It is the responsibility of the management of private television channel to remain within allowed premises of rules and regulations and do not allow any person or any institute to display unbearable conduct in public domain through media platform that hurts viewers and creates suspicion about an established scientific system of medication. It is expected from media houses to use their expertise to distinguish between right and wrong so that they help public to know facts to discard fake inputs in the general interest of the nation. Media being fourth pillar of the democracy is expected to remain committed to spread knowledge so that well informed citizens can contribute towards nation building positively. Jai Hind, Jai Bharat.
The author is Wg Cdr (Retd)