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The pandemic is as much a political, economic and social phenomenon as a public health challenge and medical problem. Every aspect of the pandemic – contact tracing, quarantine, testing, treatment, vaccine trials, lockdown – is closely connected with politics. For instance, the timing and severity of lockdowns depended on potential political gains or losses. The promise of free vaccine echoed during local elections held in the course of the pandemic. Politicians rushed to inaugurate clinical trials of vaccines, push hasty regulatory decisions and tried to bask in the success of scientists and vaccine companies. Top government agencies and functionaries engaged in scapegoating – a phenomenon seen in the nineteenth and early twentieth-century pandemic –to blame a religious group for the pandemic. The state resorted to technology-based surveillance for tracking citizens, while tools like geofencing infringed upon their privacy and data security. The government set an agenda for the media by telling editors to emphasize positive news and assure citizens that ‘the government is committed to countering the impact of Covid-19.’
Why science and epidemiology were twisted for political gains? How the pandemic management was misused for projecting political leadership as a saviour? How the lockdown that led to the worst migration crisis since the partition in 1947 was marketed as a ‘strategic policy intervention’? The book is an in-depth investigation into such uncomfortable questions.
Dinesh C Sharma is an award-winning journalist and author based in New Delhi, India. His journalistic pieces appear in national and international media, including The Lancet. His book on the Indian IT industry, The Outsourcer (MIT Press, 2015) was awarded the Computer History Museum book prize in 2016. Another book, Know Your Heart (HarperCollins India, 2014) explored the links between heart disease and the politics of the state. His upcoming book is about technological and social innovations that have shaped India since 1947. Dinesh is the Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow for 2020-2021.
“An incisive commentary on social and political aspects of the pandemic response” – Dr Vivekanand Jha, Executive Director, The George Institute for Global Health, India
"This book is science journalism in the true sense. It is an excellent effort to discuss the interplay of science and politics of the pandemic at the regional, national, and global levels" – Dr Abdul Ghafur, infectious diseases expert
“As a brilliant science communicator, the author provides timely, analytical and straightforward narrative with guidance for the future of societal accountability of science and scientists” – Dr Rajesh Tandon, UNESCO Co-Chair on Community-based Research & Social Responsibility of Higher Education