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Aarogya Setu is ‘priority’ as Modi govt plans big publicity campaign for its Covid work

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The Aarogya Setu is a healthcare app launched by the Narendra Modi govt.
The Aarogya Setu is a healthcare app launched by the Narendra Modi govt.


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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government’s flagship health mobile application Aarogya Setu, and fake news items busted by the Press Information Bureau’s fact check unit top a list of subjects that are going to feature in a large-scale publicity campaign amid the Covid-19 lockdown.

According to top government sources, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) will be carrying out the campaign in at least 13 states. While subjects like the app and the PIB drive will be publicised across the board, some campaigns will be state specific.

Publicity activities on other topics, such as making masks, and importance of social distancing in states like Bihar and Tamil Nadu, will follow. The state of Delhi will see a campaign on the initiatives taken to help migrant labourers and informal sector workers.

The move has been prompted by a set of suggestions received by an empowered group on information, communication and public awareness — one of the 11 such groups set up last month by the Ministry of Home Affairs to control the spread of Covid-19, and to tackle the challenges emerging out of the nationwide lockdown until 3 May.

The empowered group on information, communication and public awareness is headed by former I&B secretary Ravi Mittal. However, after his transfer last week, there are chances senior IAS officer Amit Khare, who is holding additional charge of the ministry, may also get an additional charge of the empowered group, according to sources.

Khare, who was I&B secretary before Mittal, is however already heading another empowered group.

ThePrint had earlier reported that busting fake news, examining media narratives for effectively predicting trends, showcasing a proactive India tackling Covid-19 and ensuring positive press coverage are among the tasks to be overseen by the empowered group.


Also read: Relaxed lockdown between 3 and 15 May but no public transport likely, PM Modi tells states


Aarogya Setu & busted fake news top priority in all states

The empowered group on information, communication and public awareness has received suggestions on a variety of topics to be publicised across the country and the need for carrying out wide-scale ‘Information Education Communication (IEC)’ activities on them, said the sources.

The publicity activities will be undertaken by regional media units of the I&B ministry, which includes units of PIB, Doordarshan, All India Radio, and Bureau of Outreach and Communication. A state-wise list has been drawn up for this.

Among the list of activities, widespread publicity of Aarogya Setu features prominently in the charter for the majority of states, including West Bengal, Bihar, Delhi, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu.

Fake news busted by the PIB’s fact-check unit — like on the price of Covid-19 testing kits, among others — is the other prominent activity to be publicised across most states.

A senior government official said the “priority” could be to get the masses to download the Aarogya Setu app. “But the effort might be futile if the target group is not reading newspapers or social media,” said the official, who did not wish to be named.

List for states

The state-specific list features advice against mass gatherings for Friday mosque prayers in Bihar, creating awareness on sanitising hands and wearing masks in slums and rural areas of Karnataka, and public messaging on the need for vocational training for the people in Uttarakhand.

For Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh, publicity of the message of social distancing is also on the list.

Promoting content to motivate frontline workers in Haryana and creating awareness against social stigma related to Covid-19 will be the other activities.


Also read: This Punjab district was Covid-free for 28 days. Then one truck driver entered


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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


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