Tag: BJP

Anonymous employees’ letter talks of Times Now’s blatant PR in the name of journalism

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By Rajiv Shah

Veteran economist Amit Bhaduri, who gave up his status as professor emeritus of the Jawaharlal University (JNU) in protest against “throttling” of dissent in JNU in January 2020, has in an email alert released a letter, purportedly written by “former and present employees of Times Now” which talks “beleaguered and disillusioned employees” of the top English news channel, run by the Times of India group.

Insisting that the letter must be published immediately everywhere “in solidarity to make a turning point in journalism possible”, the anonymously written letter is addressed to top bosses of Times Now – Rahul Shivshankar, Navika Kumar and Padmaja Joshi.

Earlier forwarded on WhatsApp, I did not care to reproduce it, as I thought it may be from what has come to be known as WhatsApp University for fake news, but since it has been released by Bhaduri through the Dalit group Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre (PMARC), here is what it says:
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We, the former and current employees of Times Now, never imagined that we would come to a situation where we would have to write an open letter to remind the editors of the channel about the basic ethics and values of journalism. We are tired, dismayed, upset, angry and disillusioned looking at all that is unfolding around us and we have never felt so helpless. As journalists we were taught one thing: Always be on the side of the people. Always be on the side of humanity. Always hold those powerful accountable for their actions. But what Times Now is doing in the name of “journalism” these days is nothing but blatant PR for a government that has failed on every count and let down the people of this country.

Even as we write this letter to you, some of our colleagues and their families are paying the price because of the government’s incompetence in dealing with the COVID19 situation.

As journalists, we have all the information about what’s happening around us. People are waiting in ambulances or on streets to get a bed in a hospital. Even worse, critical patients have to gasp and gasp and gasp for breath for hours, before they get Oxygen support. Some of them die while waiting. Life saving drugs are unavailable and good samaritans on social media platforms seem to be doing more than the government in helping the patients find these facilities. A prominent hospital in the national capital had to approach the High Court to get oxygen cylinders from the government to keep its patients alive. Hospitals have to tweet tagging the authorities to highlight how they are running short of Oxygen. States are fighting with each other claiming the Oxygen to be “theirs”. This is the reality we are living in today.

The entire system has collapsed. Let there be no doubt about that. More than this being a medical emergency, it’s a humanitarian crisis that’s unfolding right in front of our eyes. And what are we, as journalists of a powerful brand like Times Now, doing for the people of this country?

We still blame the opposition. We divert attention from real issues. We discuss overtly communal Hindu-Muslim stories. We spin every story that is not in favour of the government. And we maintain absolute silence when it comes to questioning the inept central government. We do not have the courage to even take Narendra Modi’s name and criticize him for the current mess we are in. We cannot even add a picture of Amit Shah while showing visuals of other opposition parties who are violating COVID19 guidelines by organising large rallies in election bound states. That’s how spineless we have become.
Remember how all of you used to cry “policy paralysis” during the UPA regime? Despite the entire system being in shambles now, have we even once called out the central government for its inefficiency?

It is very apparent that the editors of Times Now are not willing to hold the BJP government accountable for its mismanagement of COVID19 pandemic. When thousands of Indians are dying across the country, the least that is expected of us is to ask tough questions of the government and show the the ground reality as it is. Instead we choose to find soft targets, engage in selective targeting of non-BJP governments and leaders and peddle BJP IT cell agenda.
Precious air time where people’s sufferings can be brought to the notice of the government is being used to target the farmers, which obviously suits the BJP agenda. This is a classic example of how media is trying to divert the attention from real issues.

Instead of asking questions to Prime Minister Modi for his callous attitude and misgovernance, the editors are hell bent on saving his image and protect him from getting a bad name.

It’s also disheartening to see how messages sent by members of BJP IT cell are cut, copied and pasted by the channel and how it becomes prime time debates, thereby setting the country’s news agenda. Messages posted by a turncoat, a troll and a government lobbyist Shehzad Poonawala becomes the top story and he ends up getting more air time than the channel’s own reporters and editors.

What have we reduced ourselves to? A channel that consistently spoke for the voiceless janta, has now become a full blown propaganda machinery of the government. The channel that claims to put the nation first is oblivious to the sufferings of its own citizens.
When will you speak up for the people? When will you stop forcing your entire editorial team to work for the BJP’s agenda? How many dead bodies you want to see before turning around and holding the government accountable? Is your privilege blinding you from seeing how people on ground are suffering? How much more blood do you want on your hands?

Respected editors, your choice is simple: Be on the side of humanity or be on the side of BJP. If you choose the latter, you are not only failing this profession, but also this country and its people.

To colleagues in other national channels, stand up and speak out. If we don’t do it now, history will never forgive us.

Source- counterview.in, April 25, 2021.

Reasons I decided to install and uninstall the nationalist Koo. But nothing ideological

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By Rajiv Shah

The “nationalist” Koo fever appears to have caught up with some Union ministers, BJP politicians, some right-wing actors, media, and professionals. I too decided to try it out by downloading what is tom-tommed as a Twitter alternative on my mobile phone, thinking, perhaps it would give a little insight into right-wing news stories, which interest me.
Immediately after downloading Koo, I found that I am being invited to “follow” Union ministers, BJP politicians, a few actors, and top cops who have become famous for their closeness to powers that be. But that was expected. I decided not to follow any of them, as I knew what they would be saying. So, I looked up if any news media or journalists are there, whom I could follow.
Yes, a few news media were there. I decided to follow Republic TV. I also clicked on the “follow” button for News 18 and CNBC TV-18. There were three or four others in Koo’s “offer” list – frankly, I couldn’t recognize any of them, hence decided not to follow them. Then I looked at the journalists’ list – the only worth, and known, person following Koo seemed to be Ashutosh, who was formerly with Aam Aadmi Party. I couldn’t identify others.
I decided to look at the list of those who have joined Koo. Among well-known actors, as of today, the only top one I could identify was Anupam Kher (even Kangana Ranavat wasn’t there). As for others, they may be great, but I couldn’t recognize them, call it my poor Bollywood general knowledge.
Among ministers and politicians, the names appeared were only of BJP persons – Union minister Piyush Goyal, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan, loud-mouthed Sambit Patra, Amit Malaviya (the BJP IT cell man whose fake tweets are by now a legend), and Shejad Poonwalla (who calls himself proud Indian Muslim by faith, Hindu by culture, Indian by ideology). Others “worth mentioning” are Poonam Mahajan, SG Suryah, Giriraj Singh…
I installed Koo on my Samsung mobile phone, which was released in June 2017 – not a good one from today’s standards, but for my use it is good enough. I installed Koo app by “offering” my mobile number (I had to, unlike Twitter, where either phone number or email id is enough). I one-time password was immediately recognised and I was on Koo.
While I was browsing through Koo, I found a few major issues, all of them technical: One, that my mobile got heated up for unknown reasons; Koo crashed thrice, and though I was not “pushed out” of the app, when I tried to get out, I just couldn’t – I had to “close all” option to get out!
So, what is the moral of the story? Technically, nothing wrong in installing Koo, provided you have a phone that permits it, it doesn’t get hot (no double meaning here!), the app doesn’t crash, and you can easily move out of the app without using the “close all” function. I am not such a big nationalist, hence I was not much concerned about whether the app had a Chinese investor.
Nor am I much concerned with its “insecure” factors, about which some experts have reportedly drawn attention to. So, install it, if you want to follow and see what not-so-top ranking politicians or an avowedly extreme right-wing media (Republic TV) have to say.
Two hours after installing the app, I decided to uninstall it. Reason? As I said, my mobile would unusually heat up. The app would crash. It stopped heating up after I uninstalled it. Nor – as I have said – am I such a big nationalist that I should promote the app just because it supposedly an Indian startup. Capitalists, American or Indian, talk of being “nationalist” because that suits their economic interests. I wouldn’t mind using an app, whether Indian or foreign, even Chinese, if it works well and serves my purpose.
The developers of the app say they are “proud” Indians; maybe, but that surely doesn’t impress me. Let them first ensure that top Indians, ranging from Prashan Bhushan, a known Modi critic, to top Modi supporting academics supporting Modi (Arvind Panagariya or Sujit Bhalla, who are on Twitter), join in to provide some facade of objectivity; lest it would be seen as a right-wing (extreme?) app.
Post-script: I would have liked to continue with controversial Koo – dubbed nationalist – had the developers allowed me to do at least on my computer, as Twitter does… But they don’t seem to have be allowing that. So, let’s hope for the best, and good luck and sorry to Koo developers!

- The views are that of the author.

Source- counterview. in, 12 February 2021

When Ahmed Patel opined: It’s impossible to win a poll in Gujarat if you’re a Muslim

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By Rajiv Shah

AHMEDABAD, 26 November 2020: Ahmed Patel has passed away. It is indeed sad that he became another Covid victim, like thousands of others across the world. His loss appears to have been particularly felt in the Congress corridors. I know how some party leaders from Gujarat would often defend him even if one “negative” remark was made on him. “I personally cannot tolerate any criticism of Ahmedbhai”, Shaktisinh Gohil, Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat, appointed Bihar in charge ahead of recent assembly polls, told me about a couple of years ago during a tete-e-tete in Ahmedabad.
I have known Ahmedbhai, though not intimately. The first time I met him was in Gandhinagar. It was 1997, when the BJP hadn’t yet taken over. The elections were to take place in December. Just posted as the Times of India reporter to cover government, I was called for a dinner at a very ordinary government-owned flat in Sector 16 where former Congress minister Urvashi Devi who later switched over to BJP, but now is not with any party, used to live. It wasn’t very far from the helipad.

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I first heard of Ahmed Patel in Delhi during the Emergency days, when I had just finished his post-graduation in English literature from the Delhi University, and was desperately looking for what I should do next, and finally landed up as a trainee proof reader (imagine!) in the “National Herald”. I vaguely remember, he was mentioned in newspapers as part of those who were close to Sanjay Gandhi, a terror during the Emergency.
Apart from this, all that I knew of Ahmedbhai was, he had stopped fighting elections after he was defeated from his Bharuch Parliamentary seat, from where he won continuously between 1977 and 1989. During my 1997 meeting I pointedly asked him why didn’t he fight any elections thereafter. Defeated by a BJP non-entity, I distinctly remember the explanation he gave me: “It’s impossible to win elections in Gujarat if you are a Muslim.”
Polite, suave and soft-spoken, I recall Ahmedbhai requested: “Please don’t quote me”, and I obliged. While as a reporter who covered Gandhinagar, I kept in touch with Ahmedbhai, often phoning him up, and did meet him a few times during Congress gatherings in Gandhinagar, I found, he always wanted not to be in the limelight. Every time I would talk to him, he would insist, “Don’t quote me.” I had learned a few alleged tricks of keeping sources alive.
I remember how, after I joined the Times of India in 1993 as assistant editor and hadn’t yet been sent to Gandhinagar in 1997, a very close friend of mine took me for a dinner with Bharatsinh Solanki, son of Congress stalwart Madhavsinh Solanki. Bharatsinh, then a Congress MLA, talking to me “off the record”, sharply criticised Ahmed Patel, blaming the latter for trying to “destroy” the Congress. I didn’t pay much need to what Bharatsinh was saying.
When in Gandhinagar, soon after BJP took over reins of power in 1998, I found, there was an internal tussle between what were regarded as Madhavsinh Solanki group and Ahmed Patel group. A former foreign minister and Gujarat chief minister in 1980s, Madhavsinh (now in his 90s) – whom I would often meet – addressed several meetings called to criticise Ahmed Patel. I attended these meetings in Gandhinagar, including one in the Town Hall.
After Narendra Modi took over as chief minister in October 2001, I didn’t hear much of Ahmed Patel in Gandhinagar, except for a story by my editor, Kingshuk Nag – I don’t remember the timing of the story, but it either appeared ahead of the December 2002 assembly elections or the 2004 Lok Sabha polla. The explosive story, carried as the front page flier, said Ahmed Patel had a “secret” meeting with Modi at a hotel near the Ahmedabad airport.
I had no reason to contest the veracity of the story. After all it carried the byline of my editor, whom I have known as an extremely well-informed journalist. However, what I clearly remember is, it did give air to the rumours (I still don’t know if these were totally baseless) that Ahmedbhai was, in some ways, “hand-in-glove” with Modi. These rumours were particularly widespread among Gujarati journalists, who generally know much better of things political.
Be that as it may, Ahmed Patel had tremendous clout – so much so that he could strongly influence media houses. Ahead of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, I was approached by my office to do a profile of Ahmed Patel. I was happy, as here was an opportunity to write pros and cons of a political leader, who was the key political adviser of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi. Even as I was talking with different people, I told not to write. The reason I later learned was, the Delhi TOI office didn’t want a story that would embarrass Ahmed Patel. “He has helped TOI several times”, I was told.
I had written a story in 2007, based on a Gujarati book, “Karmayog”, carrying Modi’s speeches, where he had said, manual scavengers, while doing their cleanliness work, had spiritual experience. About 5,000 copies of the book were withdrawn. A decade later, I was enjoying dinner with some of my neighours in Ahmedabad, and suddenly I got a phone call from Ahmed Patel. Soft spoken as ever, he asked for the book, recalling my story. I told him I didn’t have it, wondering to myself why it took Congress to wake up 10 years late. Was Congress was like that?
Be that as it may, during my interaction with bureaucrats in Gandhinagar, I would often learn how IAS officials would approach Ahmed Patel in order to be empanelled in Delhi for important postings during the ten year long UPA rule, which ended in 2014. “Talk to Ahmed Patel, he would be of help”, is what babus would whisper, I was told. Indeed, most of the senior bureaucrats knew him personally.
My daughter got married in 2008. Deciding to keep it a very small affair, I made it a point not to call any politician. The only politician I had called was Madhusudan Mistry, whom my daughter had met a few times when he was not a politician but ran an NGO in a Gujarat tribal area. While returning home from the hotel, I suddenly got a phone call greeting me. I was pleasantly surprised, as I hadn’t been regularly keeping much in touch with him…

Source- counterview.in

NEWS ANALYSIS – Lesson for Indian Muslims from Bihar: Learn to distinguish between friends and foes

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BJP and AIMIM are two sides of the same coin—one playing on Hindu passions and the other polarising Muslims. They feed on each other and help each other grow.

By Zafar Aga

Communities in decline often fail to distinguish between friends and foes, ending up paying a heavy price for their folly. It would appear after the Bihar election results that Indian Muslims are yet to learn from past mistakes and are continuing to commit political blunders that hurt their own interests.

It appears that a large enough section of Bihari Muslims voted in Bihar for Assaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) over others. It undoubtedly helped the party win five seats and enable polarisation of votes on communal lines in others in the Seemanchal region. Whether Owaisi stood in the way of victory and defeat of either side is for psephologists to analyze. But by disrupting an essentially direct fight between the BJP and the opposition alliance, and by turning 20 crucial constituencies into three or four-cornered contests, Owaisi achieved a result that worked in favor of the BJP.

By becoming the single largest party in the ruling alliance, BJP finds itself in a position to dictate terms to a lame-duck chief minister and much weakened Nitish Kumar. Political interests of the community have neither been served by the defeat of the Maha Gathbandhan or by clipping the wings of Nitish Kumar against an openly hostile BJP.

The number of Muslim MLAs in the newly constituted Bihar Assembly has come down from 24 to 19. And for the first time, there is not a single Muslim MLA in the ruling alliance. Muslims in Bihar, if not Owaisi, must share part of the responsibility for this decline.

Bihar is one of the few states in the country where major communal riots have not taken place in the last three decades. In 1992, when the Babri Masjid (mosque) was pulled down and half the country witnessed violence, rioting, and arson, and later in 2002 following the train set on fire in Godhra, Bihar remained riot free.

When mob lynching became a norm in many BJP ruled states after Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, Bihar reported no such barbarity. Besides, communal peace continuously for three decades was conducive for the Muslims in the state to progress in many ways. Will the peace last is a question that only Time will answer.

While obviously, Owaisi’s communal politics must be held partly responsible for placing Bihari Muslims at the mercy of the BJP, there are still many Muslims in and outside Bihar who defend Owaisi and his brand of politics. Their argument is that Owaisi is the only political leader who frankly and forthrightly stands up for the “Muslim cause’’ both inside and outside Parliament. He does not shy away even publicly stating that he would never say ‘’Bharat mata ki jai”. For many Muslims, it is gratifying to see that he ‘exposes vote bank politics of the ‘secular parties’.

Indeed, Assaduddin Owaisi is one of the few politicians who boldly and publicly stand up for Muslim causes. But that is what his politics is all about. He consciously and cleverly plays up Muslims’ victimhood to win their sympathy. It is the same politics that the BJP under Narendra Modi plays to cash in on the Hindu victimhood. Basically, both are the two sides of the same coin, helping each other to thrive.

Bihar election results are a classic example of BJP and AIMIM helping each other to grow in the state. The BJP is the single largest party in Bihar while Owaisi has managed to win five assembly seats in the state where his party had none till now. While one polarizes Muslims, the other polarize Hindus.

But how far does the new Muslim messiah’s politics really help the ‘Muslim cause’ really! Who — Muslims or Owaisi — is the gainer of AIMIM’s brand of politics? Look at the status of Hyderabadi Muslims who have been the backbone of the AIMIM for many decades now and you get a clue about it. The AIMIM shares power at the Hyderabad municipal level as well as represented in the Telangana assembly. But the AIMIM, which is almost as old as the Republic, has not made much significant difference to Hyderabadi Muslims or Muslims living in other parts of the country.

Densely populated Muslim localities in Hyderabad are as squalid as they are in other cities. But one does get to hear allegations about the Owaisis-dominated Trusts growing from strength to strength with educational institutions like medical college, engineering college, and many other educational institutions spread across Hyderabad. Owaisi’s critics say that they might be having the tag of minority educational bodies but they charge fees like other private institutions.

Besides, Owaisi’s much-acclaimed politics of ‘Muslim cause’ is not a new phenomenon at all. It is an old strategy of Indian Muslim leaders to play up the emotional Muslim card to garner the minority community’s sympathy to succeed as a Muslim spokesman. Ambitious Muslim leaders have often played up Muslim passions without bothering for its consequences for the community or the country.

I still remember the stubborn stand of the Babri Masjid Action Committee during the long period of mosque-temple tussle in Ayodhya. ‘Babri masjid nahi hataey ga’ (Babri mosque will not be moved at all). ‘Once a mosque, always a mosque’. It used to be the rhetoric of the committee with Allah ho Akbar slogans in public rallies. Similarly, Muslim Personal Law Board took up the cause of Triple Talaaq for over three decades with ‘no-compromise-on-personal-law’ stand.

Indian Muslims paid a heavy price for the emotional rhetoric in both cases! The babri mosque is history now. Instead, a grand Ram temple is coming up on its site. The country’s Parliament has already passed a law banning Triple Talaq. Playing up the Muslim card helped the BJP to openly play up the Hindu card to build up majoritarian politics that now overwhelms Indian Muslims so much so that they are virtually reduced to second class status.

Indian Muslims must learn from these experiences. If Muslim bodies engage in raising rhetorical slogans like Allah ho Akbar (God is Great), RSS outfits will go for slogans like Jai Sri Ram rhetoric. Its consequences can never be good for the minority community. Instead, the BJP will benefit from a Hindu backlash to consolidate its majoritarian politics as it has been doing since Muslim outfits like Babri Masjid Action Committee began taking up Muslim causes.

It is simple political logic; one brand of communalism will generate another brand of communal politics. And in this game of competitive communalism, the minorities will surely end up paying a very heavy price— something that they ought to have realized by now.

Bihar is not just a blunder. It is political hara-kiri on the part of those Muslims who opted for the blunt ‘Muslim-cause-politics’ of Assaduddin Owaisi. He loves to play with fire to bargain for a few seats without bothering for consequences.

If Indian Muslims do not learn from their mistakes now, Allah bhi unhey nahi maaf kare gaa (even Allah will not forgive them) — as they themselves often love to say. It is high time for the community to learn to distinguish between friends and foes.

Source- nationalheral.com, 21 November 2020.

NEWS ANALYSIS: Power shifts from OBCs to upper castes in Bihar after three decades

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By Zafar Aga

Upper Caste control of power in Bihar is the political message of the NDA victory in the Assembly election. It has ended the 30-year old dominance by OBCs in the state

NEW DELHI, 11 November: Defying exit polls and the popular mood on the ground, the NDA has managed to win the Bihar assembly elections. The final tally as announced by the Election Commission late last night is 125 seats for the NDA and 110 seats for the Mahagathbandhan in a House of 243.

Despite losing the election by a whisker, Tejashwi Yadav-led RJD has emerged as the single largest party with 75 seats compared to the BJP’s 74 seats in the Bihar assembly. The Congress and the Left parties won 19 and 16 assembly segments respectively.

There are many issues that the Bihar assembly results have thrown up. But three major political currents sum up this election.

First, upper castes finally managed to take back control over state power after over three decades in Bihar from OBCs. Secondly, Nitish Kumar has been reduced to a puppet in Bihar politics even if he is made the chief minister of the state for the fourth time in a row. And finally, Lalu Yadav’s legacy of social justice is not yet over as Tejashwi Yadav emerged as the tallest opposition leader to fill his father’s vacuum on the ground.

Narendra Modi-led BJP had cut out two-game plans to wrest Bihar from the backward castes’ control to deliver it to the upper castes. Plan A was to somehow stop Tejashwi Yadav-led Mahagathbandhan from coming to power as it primarily represented OBC political aspirations through social justice plank. The BJP’s plan B was to cut Nitish down to size to push non-Yadav backwards to a secondary partnership in power with the primary goal of making upper castes the key players in post-Lalu Yadav Bihar.

BJP strategists put up two proxies to facilitate their job. Owaisi-led All India Muslim Ittehad ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) was pitched into the minority-dominated Seemanchal region of Bihar. The AIMIM’s task was to dent the Muslim vote bank that has been a solid base of the RJD since 1989 and made a winning Yadav-Muslim (M-Y) combine for Lalu’s social justice politics.

The second BJP proxy in this round of Bihar assembly election was the Lok Jan Shakti Party’s (LJP) new boss Chirag Paswan, whose assignment was to cut Nitish Kumar to the status of being the secondary partner so that non-Yadav backward castes too lose their bargaining strength in the new power dispensation.

Both AIMIM and the LJP seem to have delivered on their assigned tasks well. The AIMIM has won only five seats. But it has damaged the Mahagathbandhan’s prospects in at least 10 seats in the Seemanchal region where it polled second. Every vote polled by the AIMM basically divided the anti-BJP vote, helping the BJP win those seats where the Mahagathbandhan could have easily won without the AIMIM’s presence.

The LJP itself won only one seat out of the 137 seats it contested. Bihar analysts, however, point out that it heavily hit JD (U) nominees in about 75 seats, reducing Nitish Kumar’s strength to 43 seats in the assembly.

Nitish, the second pole of non-Yadav OBC politics in Bihar, was thus cut down to size, paving the way for the upper castes to call the shots in Bihar’s power structure. Modi and his team thus managed to stop the OBCs’ dominance in Bihar politics for the last three decades.

But Tejashwi-led RJD still managed to emerge as the single largest party, signaling that the OBCs may be down but they are still not out of Bihar’s political game. Being young with a tremendous mass appeal cutting across castes, Tejashwi remains a thorn in the flesh of upper castes in post-Lalu Bihar politics.

Upper castes in Bihar have been struggling for three decades to roll back the politics of social justice. It is, indeed, another feather in Narendra Modi’s cap who can claim that he restored Bihar to the upper caste Hindus after capturing Uttar Pradesh from the OBCs.

It is no minor victory personally either for Modi who has emerged as the sole leader of Sangh politics of upper caste domination in the country. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the two key power centers in the country, are now firmly under the control of upper castes, courtesy Narendra Modi. And, it makes him the darling of the Indian power players who sustain him despite his blunders like demonetization and the sudden and harsh COVID-19 lockdown which hit a sledgehammer blow to the economy.

Source- National Herald