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Coronavirus is no longer making headlines in India, but in the Far East, it remains the top story

Written by Pratik Kanjilal |
February 15, 2020 3:00:16 am
A medical worker puts on a protective suit before entering a sports centre which has been converted into a makeshift hospital to treat patients of the novel coronavirus, in Wuhan, Hubei province, China February 12, 2020. Picture taken February 12, 2020. cnsphoto via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. CHINA OUT.

The TV news suffers from chronic long term memory loss, but the rapidity with which coronavirus slid down the newslist is unusual nevertheless. Following a dip in the rate of new infections reported from China, Indian coverage of the coronavirus outbreak has turned domestic, with reports of infections which have reached our shores, and video interviews with Indians stranded on cruise ships at sea or in quarantine. One of them, the MS Westerdam, made television news worldwide when it docked in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, after being turned away from five ports in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and the Philippines. It was the reception which made news, actually, with the Cambodian prime minister turning up on the pier to hand out flowers to disembarking passengers, who were enormously grateful to be allowed to stand on terra firma again. The ship had been doomed to play a modern-day Flying Dutchman ever since nations began to close their immigration gates to traffic from China.

Coronavirus may have been overtaken by other news here but in the Far East, it remains the top story, and will dominate headlines for at least another fortnight. Thereafter, months of reporting could follow on the widespread economic effects of the outbreak. The world service of NHK, Japan’s national broadcaster, reports that the Honda factory in Wuhan, where the coronavirus originated, had delayed the reopening of the production line, though workers are reporting back elsewhere in China. In Japan, Nissan’s main plant in Fukuoka has shut down for wants of parts, many of which are sourced from China. Supply chain failures could affect industries all over the world, since China is a global supplier.

NHK also reports that Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is going through a mini-crisis of his own. He is being taken to task by the elders of his own party for losing his cool and heckling an opponent. He protests that she had launched a personal attack on him. The rest of the political community is protesting about his behaviour, which is not seen as becoming of a prime minister. The only good news from Japan is that thanks to the coronavirus crisis, business is booming in the facemask and handwash sectors.

In Delhi, the Supreme Court is going to generate quite as much interest as coronavirus is doing in the East, with its requirement that political parties must publicise the history sheets of their candidates, and justify their selection on the basis of abilities other than “winnability”. This move will have the dangerous consequence of packing legislatures with morally upright people, and will therefore earn the widespread denunciation that it deserves. On a serious note, it also militates against the principle of innocent until proven guilty. But as former Chief Election Commissioner SY Quraishi told NDTV in a completely unprovoked incident, we have no compunctions about packing the nation’s jails with undertrials who remain to be proven guilty, violating four of their fundamental rights, and should not hesitate to disbar politicians with pending cases against them from contesting, because seeking public office is not a fundamental right.

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That’s a clear, logical argument, and if it is given heed, legislatures could be depopulated with coronavirus-like efficiency. Precisely why it is unlikely to feature prominently in television debates in the coming week. They’ll be given over to the deplorable unfairness of requiring bad boys and girls to publish their history sheets online, for all to see and comment on.

On Tuesday, Arvind Kejriwal thanked Bharat Mata and Hanuman for another clean broom-sweep of the Delhi Assembly. But after the event, the most interesting talk on TV was about the Congress, which has been missing in action in the Capital. There were distractions between election day and counting day, like BJP hopeful from Hari Nagar, Tajinder Bagga, shamelessly claiming a win, not only for himself but for his party in every seat that it contested. It got so surreal that even the Times Now’s anchor, who is not exactly an impartial observer, became exasperated at Bagga’s resolve to disregard the exit poll figures.

But after the event, the post mortem was very much about the mortal remains of the Congress, which had scored a duck yet again. It would have been an academic exercise, but for the garrulousness of Congressman PC Chacko to ANI, who effectively attributed the debacle in absentia to former Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit — who is no longer around to protect her good name. If that doesn’t get the grand old party to stir its stumps in the Capital, perhaps nothing will, and it only remains to get the death certificate stamped by the chief medical officer.


And finally, a range of news providers from the Wall Street Journal to Dailymotion report that the KFC chicken bucket loved by millions has inspired KFC-themed Crocs, which look like fried chicken and smell like fried chicken. This is pop consumerism gone mad — if you eat it, wear it proudly, too.

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First published on: 15-02-2020 at 03:00:16 am
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