VP of Indian ruling party stands firm against criticism of Covid response

1 May 2021, 13:45

By Seán Hickey

The vice president of India's BJP defends his government's pandemic response, maintaining that they are guided by data.

Jay Panda is the national vice president of India's ruling party, the BJP. He spoke to Matt Frei on Channel 4 news on Friday, where Matt interrogated the politician on the Indian Government's conduct during the coronavirus pandemic.

"I can understand the anguish that people and families go through" Mr Panda admitted, but defended the actions of the BJP in the run-up to the current crisis.

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"I am not aware of any alternative data that is any more reliable," he said, suggesting that the data the government were presented with was the best at any given time.

"Do you not suspect that the official numbers that you've got might be wrong?" Matt wondered, echoing concern by many Indian scientists that people dying of Covid in rural areas aren't being counted.

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"Isn't it your responsibility as the government to own up to that?"

Mr Panda argued that "most of the cases are coming from eight or ten states" and the numbers there skew the national picture.

"The reality is that there's also a lag in data," he added, making the case that the government will struggle to be proactive and can only react to the current situation.

Matt pushed the politician on the aspects of lockdown management that could have been taken as precautions: "Should you not have called off the Kumbh Mela?" He asked, adding that mass political gatherings in regional elections should have also been postponed.

Mr Panda argued that if this happened India would "have had riots on the ground," telling Matt that as the largest democracy in the world, the Indian government have a tall order when making such decisions.

Defending the Kumbh Mela, Mr Panda noted that "there were religious gatherings across religions," not just the Hindu faith.

"The rational decision was taken as the information was available," he insisted.