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Shailaja Teacher Slaying the Virus – A Kerala Model of Manufacturing Opinion?

On 6 January 2020, the Union Government deployed a high-level Central Team headed by Dr S K Singh, Director, National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) to Kerala to review the situation and assist the state government in containing the Covid-19 situation in Kerala.

Wonder what led to this? The question is natural if you are consumer of mainstream media, since the chances are that you concluded long back that Kerala has already won the battle against COVID. You might also be under the impression that it is the metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru that need to ‘learn from the Kerala model’ and win the battle against the pandemic.

Let’s ignore the ‘manufacturing of opinion’ for a moment and look at the plain facts. A total of 35,038 new cases were logged during the last seven days in Kerala. Around 5,000 new cases are being added daily to the State’s COVID-19 tally.

(Source: PIB)

A Comparison with Big Cities

During the peak COVID outbreak phases, densely populated cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru were the topic of discussion few months ago. Today, the number of positive cases barely touch the thousand mark. A report in The Indian Express has compared the peak infection point of big cities with cases reported in recent date (Jan 5, 2020) to show how a reduction has been achieved.

(Source- The Indian Express)

Hail Shailaja Teacher – A Success Story Written in Haste?

There is no denying the fact that many states and many local administrators have displayed their unique ability from time to time in tackling the pandemic. It was a journey of up and downs for many in which the initial success was reversed into a dire situation and vice-versa.

For instance, the central government made two major interventions in Delhi on different occasions when the case load spiked. Dharavi of Mumbai was most-feared initially because of its congested living space, but somehow it managed to contain the spread with the local administration and volunteers like RSS playing major roles.

But have you come across any excessive coverage on those fronts? You do get articles acknowledging such accomplishments. However, it is only in the instance of Kerala that you can see the scale of publicity peaking to international levels.

To sell a good success story you need to write a strong protagonist character. Kerala’s health minister KK Shailaja fitted the bill. The spin writers wrote as if the virus had been eliminated from Kerala for good.

Now, when India and the world is hopefully looking at the successful arrival of the vaccine, Kerala is demanding priority distribution of vaccine to the state. That itself speaks of the dire situation of the state, which got all the publicity as if the virus already died.

After all the hype, the facts are now being reported, albeit somewhere in the inner pages.