September 20, 2020

Tripura Govt’s Priority is Throttling Media, Not Covid-19 Management

Haripada Das

THE democratic and rational-minded people of Tripura were bewildered to hear the rude threat of the chief minister against the media, which has been critical of its Covid-19 management, particularly its criminal callousness in providing minimum healthcare at the Govind Ballabh Pant Hospital, the main hospital of the state.  

While addressing a government programme at the inauguration of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in Jalefa in South Tripura district on September 11, chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb belligerently threatened the media which is critical of his government, saying “some media being over-enthusiastic are misguiding the people of Tripura. History shall not forgive them, nor do I.” He forcefully repeated the same, “Neither the people of Tripura nor myself, chief minister Biplab Deb, will pardon them. And history stands as evidence, I inevitably get the work done that I promise.” 

Having been signalled by the chief minister, BJP storm-troopers soon plunged into action. They carried on physical attacks on two media persons and inflicted fatal injury on both of them. The day Parasar Biswas, a local representative of a newspaper of Ambassa in Dhalai District, came out of hospital after Covid-19 treatment, the BJP miscreants raided his house on September 12. Parasar posted a video clip condemning the vengeful speech of the chief minister threatening the dissenting media. Parasar, who was mercilessly beaten up by the BJP miscreants, is now under treatment again. In Matai of South Tripura district, Ashok Dasgupta, another newsman, was physically assaulted by the BJP miscreants on September 13. They tried to snatch away his camera and other articles. Conspicuously, till now the BJP has not expressed any reaction on these two attacks. 

In another attempt to squeeze the media, on September 11, the government served notice under the Disaster Management Act to one of the leading dailies of Agartala asking for submission of documents in support of veracity of three news items published in that daily. However, the daily declined to submit such document.


Such a vengeful utterance was made by the chief minister, who is also in charge of health department, in view of publication of a series of news items containing severe criticism of the government over total breakdown of health services for the last one month. G B Pant Hospital has been declared as major Covid-19 hospital in the state. Some of the news items reported that a sudden rise in mortality of Covid-19 patients in the last one month was due to lack of sufficient oxygen supply in Covid-19 ward. Supply of oxygen with optimum level of pressure is an unalterable method of treatment of critically active Covid-19 patients. But the patients were regularly complaining that the oxygen pipe was not releasing oxygen with optimum pressure. On enquiry, ultimately the fault in oxygen line was detected. But it is not yet sure, whether the fault is set right. Similarly, there are serious shortages of ventilators which are most essential to treat the critical patients. Several well-circulated media of Agartala published vivid experiences of the patients discharged from the Covid ward. They informed that if a patient dies, relatives are not informed immediately. Dead bodies are piled up inside the Covid wards for several days. Not to speak of nutritious diet, food served in the Covid wards is so distasteful, hardly any patient eats it. Covid wards are left uncleaned continuously for 2/3 days. Toilets and bathrooms of Covid wards are worse than hell. The patients themselves have to come downstairs to collect medicines and food. There is serious shortage of water in the hospital wards. Number of doctors and nurses in the hospital is one-third of required strength. That apart, a good number of senior doctors and nurses are either infected with coronavirus or barred from corona treatment for age factors. Thus, the charge of Covid wards rests upon the most junior doctors or apprentice students. Hardly any doctor or nurse steps inside the Covid wards. Though demand from every corner is raised to fulfill all deficiencies and convert the G B Pant Hospital into truly a hospital, the government hardly pays any heed to it.

The CPI(M) Tripura state secretariat in a statement has condemned and protested the threat posed by the chief minister against the media. It is a sign of naked authoritarianism and a blatant attack on the freedom of press, the statement said and added the chief minister has resorted to this aggressive path to hide the utter failure of the government in providing minimum healthcare to the people. Most of the anti-BJP parties, various organisations, Tripura Journalists Union, Tripura Working Journalist Association, have strongly protested and condemned the anti-media threats of the chief minister and subsequent attacks on the journalists. Assembly of Journalists Forum in its meeting held on September 13 issued an ultimatum to the chief minister to withdraw his comment and express regret within three days. Authoritarianism wins for a short period, but ultimately it is destined to be doomed. The people of Tripura are waiting to see that destiny.