The media, particularly the TV news channels, have been full of reports about the travails of migrants making their way from one state to another, some almost across the entire country. The fact that the government launched ‘shramik specials’ on 1 May that have, till now, transported over six lakh migrants has been given little attention. This one-sided reporting, in fact, has been responsible for the desperation of the migrants, who would otherwise have been a little more patient and waited their turn on the trains. A big deal was also made of who exactly was paying for the tickets, creating further confusion and panic. Trains have also begun plying for other categories of stranded persons, which will substantially relieve people’s immediate suffering.
Having done its bit to stampede the migrant workers into desperate acts, much of the media is now critical of the move to allow inter-state travel as it is likely to spread the corona virus to hitherto untouched areas. It is a legitimate concern, but overdoing it once again could lead to ill-treatment of people seeking to return home. If the matter was viewed from the national perspective, instead of political ones, it would be for the good of all. It must be noted that there is no ‘outsider’ here, looking in. Everybody is in it together – the people who are dying of the disease are in considerable number, true, but the life of every single person on the planet has also been disrupted in an unprecedented way. It would be extremely short-sighted at this point to use the situation to grind one’s personal axe.
The media, being major influencers, have to set an example as well as promote cooperative behaviour while reporting the facts – including those inconvenient for government. However, it cannot be forgotten that everybody’s objectives are the same – saving lives and reviving the economy. There may be some politicians whose level of desperation is higher because of impending elections, but others mostly are working from within a comfort zone from that point of view. So, politics can be set aside for a while and the higher needs of humanity given greater priority. It is indeed staggering that even in such a situation there are nations and forces continuing to indulge in acts of aggression and cruelty, seeking even to take advantage of others’ plight. Reports such as Iranian border guards throwing Afghan migrants into a river to drown, or terror groups carrying out suicide attacks in Afghanistan show how regressive the behaviour is of certain sections. It becomes all the more important, therefore, for relatively more civilised societies to present a better example.