Indian government tightens its grip on Twitter as Covid-19 cases surge
Indian social media users have taken to Twitter with desperate pleas for help as the country struggles to cope with record high Covid-19 cases and deaths. But Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been accused of attempting to control the narrative with legal orders to delete Twitter posts critical of its response.
On April 21, when Mirza Saaib Beg received an email from Twitter informing him “in the interest of transparency” that the social media company had received a demand from the Indian government to take down his post on the Covid-19 crisis, the Oxford University student was not unduly concerned.
A lawyer hailing from India’s disputed Kashmir region, Beg is currently enrolled in a postgraduate public policy programme at Oxford, and is familiar with legal intricacies.
“I didn’t respond because they were just informing me, they didn’t say they were taking down the tweet,” he said. “At that point, I found it perplexing that in the thick of such a massive crisis, the Indian government had assigned manpower to look at my tweet.”
India’s devastating second wave has seen the country of 1.3 billion people reach grim milestones with the country recording over 350,000 new infections on Tuesday, and the death toll reaching nearly 200,000.
The collapse of the country’s health system has sparked scenes of unimaginable devastation in the nation’s capital, New Delhi, overwhelming medical facilities and supplies. Foreign aid to help India cope with the crisis began arriving on Tuesday, with crates of ventilators and oxygen concentrators from Britain unloaded at the city’s airport.
France is sending oxygen generators able to provide 250 patients with a year’s supply of the gas, according to the French embassy in India.