If you thought the government was merely clueless in its mishandling of the protests against the recent gang-rape, and the spiralling outrage at the violence unleashed on the protesters, you need to see their attempt to cover-up by putting up an official release on Press Information Bureau (PIB) under the title: 'Action taken by Government in Delhi Rape Case' today:
1. (24.12.2012) PM addressed the Nation
Prime Minister addresses the nation and expresses concern: Says anger and anguish is justified. Promises that Government will “examine without delay all aspects concerning safety of women and children and punishment to those who commit these monstrous crimes”.
Well, this is what the PM finally read out on the NINTH day after the gang-rape on December 16, a full 48 HOURS after students took to the streets demanding to hear from his administration in response to which they were tear-gassed, water-cannoned and lathi-charged, apart of course from being prevented from, well, protesting.
The sheer, staggering banality of what the PM read out in his characteristic impassive style was, of course, not a surprise. Most of the speech had already been tweetred the night before by his official account. But the PM added a special touch that trended through the day on Twitter: after finishing reading out from the prepared text, he paused, and while looking into the camera asked, "Theek Hai?"
Perhaps he was just asking the camera-man for feedback, as was clarified later:
RT @ani_news: Earlier a question toANI's cameraman was inadvertently broadcast by some news channels as we fed PM's message. Lapse rectified— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) December 24, 2012
This "inadvertent broadcast", of the prime minister seeking reassurance from the cameraman, and the bureaucratese of "lapse rectified", of course, renders the need for any further commentary unnessary. But the blundering bunch of Keystone Cops did not stop there, they still went on to list this "PM addressed the Nation" as this government's #1 achievement. And if getting the PM to deliver his usual homilies and cliches indeed was such a big achievement, surely it could have been organised on Day 1 itself? Perhaps it all would have been "theek hai" then.
2. Helpline setup for women:
A three number helpline with number 181 has been setup for women in distress
There was utter confusion about something as simple as this. First they announced 167 as the number and then came up with 181, as being "easier to remember". They are now promising to make it functional by December 31. So much for what has been "set-up."
3. (24.12.2012) Home Minister appealed to the protectors. [Yes, he did appeal to the 'protectors' according to the PIB]
Home Minister through interview to various channels appealed to the protesters to return home as the Government has taken firm action on all issues.
Just a rough summary of the litany of excuses offered by the government and its flip-flop with regard to the gang-rape of December 16 is instructive. First, they said they didn't know who to talk to. Then they said Sonia Gandhi had talked to the protesters and all protests should therefore have ceased: “When someone like Soniaji has met some of the students, why were the protesters still protesting after that?” the home minister asked today.
Indeed, why were they? Perhaps because it still remains shrouded in secrecy and serious questions have been raised about the claims:
Why did protestors who met Sonia Gandhi bend to touch RPN Singh's feet. Who are they. Why is their identity being treated like state secret?— Rahul Kanwal (@rahulkanwal) December 24, 2012
Besides, the home minister added helpfully today, as the Press Trust of India reported, governments can't just go around talking to people on the street: What if, horrors, tomorrow the Maoists protest with weapons at India Gate, would we expect the government to go talk to them? Perhaps we should not ask what the government's stated position on willingness to talk with the Maoists is, but the unprovoked violence by the cops on peaceful protesters -- the only firm action taken by the home ministry -- has been well reported. The home minister also blamed the hijack of the protests by "some political elements", wanting us to forget his government's culpability in letting matters spiral so much out of control, regardless of whether or not violence itself was engineered to justify the crackdown.
If the home ministry's official statement of "action taken" hoped to carry the day by sheer assertion, the real action seemed to be going on behind the scenes as the I&B ministry on its part decided to arm-twist the media with an advisory:
All News and Current Affairs satellite Television Channels
Ministry of Information & Broadcasting
“A” Wing Shastri Bhawan
23rd December, 2012
Whereas a number of private satellite news TV channels have been showing programmes covering round-the-clock direct telecast of the events relating to public demonstration being held in New Delhi in the wake of the unfortunate and tragic incident of gang rape of a young girl on 16th December, 2012 in a moving bus.
The channels have been covering the agitation and the efforts of the law enforcing authorities to maintain law & order, as well as the commentaries of the channel reporters to portray the incidents from their own perspectives.
Whereas this incident and the public outcry in its aftermath are a very sensitive issue and any inappropriate media reportage thereon is likely to vitiate the law and order situation.
It has been observed that some private satellite news TV channels in their 24X7 coverage have not been showing due responsibility and maturity in telecasting the events relating the said demonstration and such a telecast is likely to cause deterioration in the law & order situation, hindering the efforts of the law enforcing authorities. (emphasis added)
Whereas Rule 6(1)(e) of the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994, which contains the Programme Code to be strictly adhered to by all private satellite television channels, provides that no programme should be carried in the cable service which is likely to encourage or incite violence or contains anything against maintenance of law and order or which promotes anti-national attitude.
Now, therefore, all private satellite television channels are advised to scrupulously follow the Progarmme Code laid down in the Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 and to ensure to telecast the matter in a responsible manner with due care, maturity and restraint.
Any violation of the Programme Code will invite such action as provided for in the Cable Television(Regulation) Act, 1995 and the Rules framed thereunder as well as the terms & conditions stipulated in Uplinking & Downlinking Guidelines.
Joint Secretary to the Government of India
Clearly, the thinking seems to be that if the protesters can't be driven off the streets, perhaps they could be made to disappear from the TV screens.
Meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh Congress Committee President Botsa Satyanarayana also had some wisdom to share with reporters in Hyderabad: "Do we roam in streets at midnight as we got Independence at midnight? It would have been better if the girl did not travel by a private bus at that time."