New Delhi: During the first two weeks of May when social media was filled with SOS messages for ‘oxygen’ and ‘ventilator beds’, Union ministers were proactive on Twitter praising the prime minister and the Centre’s efforts in managing the pandemic. A report by Dainik Bhaskar analysed 1,110 tweets of ten ministers in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet between May 1 to 14 – when the coronavirus infections during the second wave hit record highs.
The report revealed that none of the ministers helped a COVID-19 victim find an oxygen cylinder or a hospital bed through their official Twitter handles even as people were dying for want of oxygen and ventilator beds.
The report revealed home minister Amit Shah made just one tweet related to the preparations to deal with the coronavirus, between May 1 to 14. However, Shah’s Twitter timeline has more posts related to election, birth and death anniversaries and condolences – a seeming indifference to the fact that India was reeling under the second wave of the pandemic.
This is in stark contrast to how many ministers rushed to share an article written by a BJP leader that defended Modi, at a time when the prime minister was facing flak in the country and abroad for his handling of the pandemic.
PM @narendramodi has sanctioned ₹322.5 Crore to procure 1,50,000 Oxycare System through PM-CARES Fund.
— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) May 12, 2021
During the same period, defence minister Rajnath Singh has only five tweets related to COVID-19 preparedness which includes efforts by the army and his visit to Lucknow. He has also retweeted some of Modi’s tweets.
उ. प्र. सरकार और @DRDO_India ने मिलकर लखनऊ में बहुत कम समय में ‘अटल बिहारी वाजपेयी कोविड हॉस्पिटल’ तैयार किया है। सेना के चिकित्सकों की देखरेख में चल रहे इस हॉस्पिटल में कोविड के मरीज़ों का उपचार पिछले सप्ताह से ही चल रहा है। आज वहाँ जाकर मौजूदा स्थिति की जानकारी प्राप्त की। pic.twitter.com/LCxyAUI4LM
— Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) May 11, 2021
According to Dainik Bhaskar, external affairs minister S. Jaishankar made 37 tweets related to the preparation of COVID-19 from May 1-14. Most of these tweets thanked representatives of other nations for supplying COVID-19 related medical supplies to India, and included updates on the G7 summit. After some Indian delegates tested positive at the G7 summit, Jaishankar tweeted about conducting meetings in virtual mode. On May 8, a few days after he had come in contact with some persons who had the viral infection, he tweeted that he did not have COVID-19.
Was made aware yesterday evening of exposure to possible Covid positive cases. As a measure of abundant caution and also out of consideration for others, I decided to conduct my engagements in the virtual mode. That will be the case with the G7 Meeting today as well.
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) May 5, 2021
Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman made a total of 48 tweets, out of which 22 were related to COVID-19. One of her tweets was related to GST on vaccines. Other tweets spoke about PM-Kisan, housing schemes, etc. She also retweeted many of Prime Minister Modi’s tweets.
11/ If full exemption from GST were given, the domestic producers of these items would be unable to offset taxes paid on their inputs and input services and would pass these on to the end consumers by increasing their price.@ANI @PIB_India @PIBKolkata
— Nirmala Sitharaman (@nsitharaman) May 9, 2021
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan tweeted 247 times during this period. Most of his tweets were related to COVID-19, including figures on cases, information about vaccines and hospital visits he made and efforts by the government. In many tweets, he defended Prime Minister Modi and the Central government as they faced questions of mismanagement.
Medical equipment supplied by GoI are not faulty.
It’s appalling how even relief measures are bearing the brunt of an infodemic being fuelled by vested interests using baseless reports & incomplete facts
Complete truth around ventilators in Aurangabad.https://t.co/Lqyb4vuboE
— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) May 14, 2021
Union railways minister Piyush Goyal tweeted mostly about the ‘Oxygen Express’. Some of his tweets also defended the Central government’s efforts to curb the spread of the virus in the country.
Nothing is further from the truth than the claim that Centre dropped ball on COVID preparedness.
If States had taken Centre’s early warnings & feedback more seriously, the current surge would not have been as fierce, writes Minister @PrakashJavdekar jihttps://t.co/cACTKOe7I9 pic.twitter.com/pyWMD32zY0
— Piyush Goyal (@PiyushGoyal) May 10, 2021
Union minister Prakash Javadekar’s Twitter timeline from May 1 to 14 has updates on vaccines and praises the government’s efforts. He has also retweeted several tweets from the Twitter handles of Modi, BJP and PIB.
Education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal (Nishank) has 285 tweets during the same period. Of these, 83 tweets were related to COVID-19, including messages on vaccines and awareness of the virus. According to the report, at least 24 tweets praised Prime Minister Modi.
Union Minister for Roads and Transport Nitin Gadkari had 32 COVID-19 related tweets, including updates on official meetings, vaccination drive in Nagpur and a visit to Genetic Life Sciences in Wardha to oversee production of Remdesivir. His tweets also include birthday greetings, death anniversaries and condolences. He has mostly retweeted posts of his office’s Twitter handle. Unlike many of his colleagues, he has not mentioned Prime Minister Modi in any of his tweets.
Minority welfare minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi made a total of 47 tweets, of which 13 were related to COVID-19.