When the data released by India’s National Statistical Office (NSO) on Monday showed a contraction of almost 24 percent in the country’s GDP of the first quarter of the year, outrage and worry came pouring in from all sides. This is the sharpest drop the country has seen in 41 years. Although most experts expected contractions because of the slowdown brought by the pandemic, none had predicted a number beyond 20 percent.
Many Indians believe their government is doing its best to curtail the spread of COVID-19 in India, which just a couple of days ago climbed to the number 2 rank when it comes to the most number of cases in countries worldwide. But many are also angry over what they perceive to be silence from PM Narendra Modi and Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, when it comes to the issues the country is facing today. People have taken to social media, as they do, for expressing their disappointment. Some are critical, some are angry, some have tried to deal with it using humour. And amidst this is one tweet that has gone viral.
The tweet went so viral that it birthed a Facebook event which plans to do exactly what it promises: Bang pots and pans and clap in the hope that if nothing works, the ideas that the prime minister used during the beginning of the lockdowns would.
The event is hosted by the satirical page “Pictures Of Taimur Ali Khan To Distract You From Real Issues”. The page is a commentary on media’s use and obsession with the kid of a famous Bollywood couple. It uses the star kid’s pictures to grab your attention (because who doesn’t love famous babies?) but then talks about issues that you should be paying attention to, instead. “Since news outlets are busy drooling over Taimur, we had to create this page to tell you guys about what's going on in our country,” the page says.
The event’s description says it plans to bang thalis (plates) to make the GDP grow: “At 9 pm on the ninth day of the ninth month, we will bajao thaalis and scream "Grow GDP, grow" from our balconies. Maintain social distancing and keep your cameras handy for some instant PR work with a peacock or something.” For those of us who aren’t caught up with pop culture, the “peacock or something” is a reference to PM Modi’s recent tweet where he was sharing “precious moments” with the peacocks at his residence.
This parody is inspired by PM Modi’s initiative in April when the country was just entering the pandemic. He had asked the citizens to turn off all lights and instead light candles on April 5, for 9 minutes at 9 pm, to mark the fight against the coronavirus. Before that, he had announced a nationwide curfew on March 22 and along with it, had asked all the citizens to bang pots, plates and pans, and clap, to applaud the essential workers who were risking their lives amid the spread of the virus. The slogan is inspired by Union minister Ramdas Athawale, who led the “go, corona, go” chant to get “rid” of the COVID-19 outbreak.
While paying homage to the frontliners is noble, what irked some citizens is how Modi’s addresses always left out the real issues—from migrants walking hundreds of kilometres home in the absence of public transport in the lockdown to how the doctors did not have access to essentials.
Post these two addresses, Modi only addressed the nation twice later about the coronavirus: once in May, and then in June. The ministries have been largely silent on the sky-high number of coronavirus cases. On August 27, the Finance Minister declared the slowdown an “act of God”.
And so, where the people responsible seem to have given up, citizens are coming up with their own ideas of defeating this slowdown—taking a page out of PM Modi's own book. The situation in the country has taken a dreadful turn with the number of coronavirus cases sky-rocketing and a free-falling GDP. And when things are so bad, humour is perhaps the only way we can deal with it as humans.
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