Sandeep Singh: OpIndia Gets It Wrong, Should Blame Modi Not UK Punjabis For The Second Wave

If it was Punjabi farmers that spread COVID into Delhi via UK relatives we would have seen the carnage we are witnessing in Delhi in Punjab first.

Sandeep Singh
May 3, 2021 | 2.5 min. read

The Modi government faces increasing opposition and criticism on its handling of COVID-19 as India continues to reel from a deadly second wave. In an attempt to deflect for the central government, some media outlets have begun to more vigorously scapegoat the Farmers’ Protest and Punjabis for the current spike. The most obvious example of this is from a recent OpIndia piece blaming protesting farmers from Punjab’s “NRI belt” for spreading the UK Variant to Delhi. 

But this argument is extremely flawed, for many straightforward and obvious reasons. 

Punjabis were not the only ones traveling between the UK and India in the lead-up to the second wave. In any case, even those that did were required to get tested for COVID before coming back from the UK. A passenger is only allowed to fly after being certified to board, and once they land in Delhi they are tested again. 

I spoke to Ranjit Singh Sandhu, who flew from the UK on April 12 and landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi. He was tested in the UK and after testing negative, Ranjit was allowed to board the flight.  When he landed at Delhi airport the same day, he was tested again and was found to be negative.

Before leaving India, Sandhu was tested at DMC Ludhiana, in which it was found he was negative.

Gurpreet Singh, hailing from Punjab’s Ludhiana district, came to India for his marriage. His experience was very similar to Sandhu’s.  

“I flew from the UK on February 26. Only after testing me for COVID, and getting a fit to fly certificate, was I allowed to board the plane. When I landed at Delhi again I was tested.” 

When discussing the allegations being leveled at UK Punjabis for spreading COVID, he said, “how could I have spread covid when I was tested before coming to India and after landing in India? I was tested twice, and only after finding me negative, was I allowed to go to Punjab,”  he goes on to add, “when I came back from India to the UK, track and trace found a man positive, so we were told to quarantine for mandatory 10 days in a hotel. My experience says people from the UK were not taking COVID to India but a man from India brought covid to the UK.” 

Singh noted that despite this, British media did not run any story blaming Indians for COVID-19.

I confirmed with two other Indians, one from Punjab and the other from Haryana, that they too went through the same process. 

If it was Punjabi farmers that spread COVID into Delhi via UK relatives we would have seen the carnage we are witnessing in Delhi in Punjab first.

The reality is, India’s media has a long track record in scapegoating minorities for the spread of COVID throughout the pandemic. Last year, during the first wave, Indian news channels blamed Muslims for the spread of coronavirus. While the majority of  Indian media has not targeted minorities in the second wave, they have treated some issues, such as BJP political rallies and the Kumbh Mela lightly. 

OpIndia however chose to weaponize COVID transmissions, similar to last year, in order to target minorities and distract from serious government incompetency in fighting the pandemic.

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Sandeep Singh hails from Machhiwara, Punjab. As an independent journalist, he has worked with many prominent Indian news organizations. Sandeep has been following the farmer’s protest in Punjab since its onset and traveled with them to Delhi. He spends most of his time at the Singhu border protest site. You can follow Sandeep on Twitter @Punyaab


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