Below the line

| Updated on April 06, 2020

Why curb news flow?

When fake news is rampant and misinformation is floating around, information to the media should be free-flowing. Instead, the government is adopting a closed-door policy on this front.

Recently, an informal message was circulating in the health reporters’ Press Information Bureau group that they should refrain from attending briefings, and questions will be only taken from the national broadcasters like Doordarshan and agencies like ANI. After registering protest, PIB-accredited journalists alone were later allowed to attend the briefing.

Most reporters chose to log in to web cast, as online questions were promised to be answered. To everyone’s shock, only three questions from DD, ANI and one more news channel were taken. No questions were entertained remotely, and the conference was wrapped up after the spokespeople read out their statements.

Check facts, please

Shripad Naik, a Minister in the Narendra Modi Cabinet, had no choice but eat his own words the other day. Naik, Minister of State for Ayush, during a press conference in Goa last Thursday said that Ayurveda too played a role in curing Prince Charles of Covid-19 infection.

However, a day later the Prince of Wales’ office denied this, saying that the Prince did not undergo any Ayurveda treatment, but was treated using modern medicine prescribed by the UK National Health Service.

As this came out, Naik was quick to put the blame on a Bengaluru-based Ayurveda practitioner, who, according to him, claimed the credit for giving medical advice to the Prince. At a time when the government is clamping down on anyone spreading fake news about coronavirus, can the Minister responsible for promoting Indian systems of medicine be allowed to get away for publicly airing an unsubstantiated claim, which turned out to be untrue.

Protectionist move?

Buzz in the corridors of power is that the government is now looking to put tyre imports in the restricted list. Free trade supporters feel that the domestic tyre industry — which wants to stave off competition from imports — is trying to exploit the protectionist tendencies of the NDA government.

Interestingly, the domestic tyre industry is playing the raw material shortage card and knocking the government doors to allow duty-free import of carbon black, a key ingredient for tyre manufacture.

Better late than never

Over 10 days have lapsed since the 21-day lockdown was announced to contain the spread of Covid-19. It is only now that the government has set the ball rolling to exempt persons with disabilities from duties while drawing up the roster of employees required to attend essential services.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), on April 1, advised the Department of Financial Services to issue instructions to banks to exempt bank employees with disabilities from the roster process for rendering essential services.

With banking categorised as an essential service, even employees with disabilities are required to attend office despite public transport not being there in most parts of India. All eyes are now on the Department of Financial Services for implementing the exemption, which may become a reality for disabled persons working in public sector enterprises as well.

Pantajali hand sanitisers

At a time, when the government has urged sugar companies, distilleries as well as deodorant makers to make or bottle hand sanitisers, Patanjali Ayurved has become the latest entrant in the hand sanitiser segment. The company’s spokesperson on Thursday tweeted that the company has made available 10 lakh pieces of hand sanitiser at affordable prices in the market. He added that soon one crore pieces will be available in the market.

Our Delhi Bureau

Published on April 06, 2020

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