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Swine Flu and the elitist mask of India

societyThe media has hit the panic button and the public has been terrified. Indian cities seem to be under a swine fly hysteria , if the news reported in the TV channels have to be believed.

Finally , even I am fortified. My wife has asked me not to visit movie halls for my movie review mission. So , no reviews of the running hit “Kaminey” and probably for few more weeks. *sighs*

I read an interesting article on TOI by Swaminathan Aiyer on Swine flu and media coverage. It made an interesting and thoughtful read. He criticizes the hype and panic created by the media on this swine flu issue. Agreed that swine flu awareness is needed but making it almost a 24/7 coverage and creating a hype makes it unwarranted. In India every day on an average 3,753 people die of respiratory diseases and infections , 1,973 of diarrhea and 1,479 of tuberculosis. Are this death of less importance ? Compared to this , the death reported and probably would be reported in months to come out of Swine flu would be miniscule. Why is media relatively silent on this issues ?

The reason according to Swaminathan Aiyer and I to agree with him is simple. Most of the death that could be attributed to respiratory diseases and infections , diarrhea and tuberculosis are reported from the poorer half of the India and the media targets the upper half of the India. Appalling ! The millions who die from the above mentioned comes from the bottom half of the economic scale , who lacks proper medical support , medicines and doctors and their deaths in large number is almost no news at all as if it is taken for granted.

Swine Flu , on the other hand , is a “new” disease to hit the market. So makes a good TRP rating. It is also supposedly an “elite” disease as it is carried into India from the “phoren” returns. The richer half is confused , terrified , agitated , freaked out too coz even money cannot guarantee safety. When they hit the panic button aided by the TRP hungry media , the bug panic bug catches the lower half of the society too !

Elitist diseases and poor man’s disease ?!

Of course Swine flu should be a reason for concern but it is a fad news after a while this flu too will disappear from public memory like the SARS scare few years back. But who will hit the panic button and highlight the medical negligence bestowed on the millions of poor who lacks proper medical treatment ? Who will report and take the medical battle to the lower rung of society ? Will Health ministers , PMO and media show the same state of emergency in attending the crying medical needs of the bottom half of society ?

Poor of India are rightfully Indians too and they need every care and attention by the government , media and society in general.

0 16 August, 2009 India Matters August 16, 2009

About the author

He is the lead man of GingerChai and plays the multi role of chief author, editor, business development and also of a chaiwala! (Tea maker!) He is the master brewer at Ginger Chai.

View all articles by Lakshmi Rajan


  1. Lucky

    I disagree with this..the diseases like respiratory and infections , diarrhea and tuberculosis cannot be pass to other person by touching the affected person, or being near to him or in crowd whereas swineflu is kinda killer plague,that can bring unprecedented scale of death and the city could lost possibly one third of its population

  2. Vipul Grover

    Bt thn this is purely Marxist assertion (nd um surprisd Swaminathan Aiyer tuk this stnd)
    Anyway, I feel Lucky hs also raisd a valid point.. but both d points hav their own merits nd i’ll prefr 2 tilt a bit 2 marxist one 4 d simple reason tht the topic is relatd 2 Swine Flu nd Media’s elitism. nd v cnt deny tht indian media(or 4 tht matter media in general) is elitist.

  3. Post author

    @ Lucky:

    I agree with you but am not against treatment of Swineflu . Even Tuberclosis is an infectious diseas. 1400 death in average a day in India is no small numbers. unfortunately it is not reported or given hype cos it affects mostly the lower rung of society. My whole point is media is elitist. It gives coverage to news that affect the upper half of the society who helps in their TRP and potential ad market.

    @ Vipul

    True . Even though am not a big fan of marxist I have to agree to this point on media’s elitism which ignores the bigger pictures conveniently.

  4. Ashwin Baindur

    Disproportionate reaction in the epicentre. Schools, malls, theatres closed. Parties, picnics, get-togethers curtailed. Train, plane reservations easy. Masks, masks everywhere. But the empty roads, peace and quiet bring back memories of my childhood’s Pune.

  5. Johnny

    Well, I dont think media is reporting because rich are affected with it. It is mostly because this is a new type of virus and the future is unkown.

    Whereas if you see other diseases, they are known and there is nothing(new) to report. Its become a routine. Though I agree the govt needs to take steps to reduce it.

    More people die of road accidents than any other disease, does that mean we can blame media that only when plane crashes it is flashed and not when a motorcyclst is killed?

    Also its similar in relation to bomb-blasts happening in Assam and in Tamilnadu. If a bomb blasts happen in assam it is not a big deal. Its a routine there. But if a bomb blast happen in Chennai it will be breaking news for servaral days and all updates will be reported on top priority.

    But I do agree that instead of flashing it as a dreaded disease, Media should give more importance to reducing fear and panic in public by providing more details. Some have already done it. NDTV was showing the other day comparsion between H1N1 and normal influenza.

  6. Ambi

    For all the people who are so hyped up with fear of Swine Flu… do you know that around the world, the total fatality rate of this disease is just 0.7%?

    Compare this to the 50-90% fatality rate for Ebola virus attacks.

    I simply had to sniffle my nose at office and am being asked “hey man, swine flu?”…

    *face palm*

  7. Post author
    Lakshmi Rajan

    @ Ambi:
    lol true … Other day i had gone to a department store , someone sneezed and the everyone’s eye were on him with shades of panic ..

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