Rajat Sharma, whose claim to fame is anchoring the TV show “Aap Ki Adalat,” has found himself amid controversy.
It is ironic that as a journalist and an anchor for the famed “Aap Ki Adalat,” who is known for asking tough, straightforward, and controversial questions from his guests appearing on the show, pointing out facts, and seldom asking wicked questions that have known to be unpleasant for the guests.
While their expressions and body language clearly showing their unease at being asked these awkward questions, in several cases caught or nearly, as they try to squirm out of the situation with a half-baked smile and equally half-baked answers.
Therefore, this comes as a surprise that the man known to be notorious and a fact finder and checker should find himself in a controversy for spreading fake news.
He recently tweeted that 190 countries have made a booking of 2 billion doses of India’s “Make in India” Covaxin.
What might be behind this tweet is worth pondering upon as the audiences take center stage, and he takes the seat in his own “Aap Ki Adalat.”
Rajat Sharma is also the Editor–in–Chief and Chairman of India TV, and as soon as he claimed this false news, the news went viral.
In his tweet, he claimed that a consortium of countries – 190 in total had ordered 2 billion doses of Covaxin and further in his enthusiasm challenged that those who are criticizing the “made in India – Covaxin” should enlighten themselves with this news and “not fall prey to misunderstandings, believe the facts.”
However, as it turns out, it is Rajat Sharma who should cross-check his facts just as he has requested for the general public to do and “stop” spreading false news and fake stories to people who are susceptible to information being dished out without having the reason to question and find facts.
Covaxin is India’s answer to Covid -19 and made by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. It was granted permission for ‘restricted’ use in emergencies only on January 3, 2021.
However, a debate has ensued on the efficacy, and the safety of the vaccine since not much data has been shared on the same, and the vaccine is still undergoing Phase – 3 clinical trials.
Both the scientific and activists community are uncertain about the efficacy of the Covaxin and believe that it may have been approved in haste to jump in the race for Covid vaccine as is happening around the world.
The question here is pertinent, has Covaxin has been approved, and propaganda of the same is being carried out because India – does not want to be out of the race for an effective vaccine for this dreaded virus and wants to ‘shine’ as one of the countries that has ‘effectively and indigenously’ developed a vaccine on its own?
Imagine the prestige of the same, a country with 138.69 crores population which accounts for 17.7% of the world’s population has succeeded in developing a vaccine for Coronavirus all by itself and is also ready to ‘help’ the world with this success.
Rajat Sharma is known to have close ties with BJP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Amit Shah and was an active RSS member in his youth.
He was also awarded Padma Bhushan for his contributions through journalism in 2015.
However, his tweet claiming the above was caught on, and questions on the clarity of the same came pouring in. To make a smooth escape from this controversy, Rajat Sharma tweeted and tried to confuse the questioners by saying that COVAXIN is an initiative by WHO, according to which a consortium of 190 nations has booked 2 billion doses.
In his tweet, he said, “He wants to make one thing clear about Covaxin and COVAX. COVAX is the name of the WHO program, which is a consortium of 190 countries; GAVI has booked 2 billion vaccines along with Serum Institute and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, while Covaxin is India’s vaccine, which has been approved by the government.”
This, too, as it turns out, is not true – Bharat Biotech is not part of the COVAX programme; instead, Serum Institute of India (SII) is a part of the COVAX program. And please note that the vaccine produced by SII – Covishield – is also not indigenous but developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. AstraZeneca has signed an agreement with Serum Institute of India (SII) to produce 1 billion doses for low and middle–income countries.
Rajat Sharma had also courted controversy when he had openly supported Baba Ramdev’s “Covid cure” when his Patanjali Ayurveda had claimed that its ‘Coronil Kit’ was a Covid drug but later had to swallow his words (Baba Ramdev) when he clarified that it was merely a health supplement.
Rajat Sharma had then chosen to forget being a notorious fact finder and had tweeted, “What does it matter if it is called medicine or immunity booster?”
Well, it does matter, for as a journalist, it is the responsibility and duty to report on stories and facts that are correct and true.
As a journalist, one is bound by profession to present facts that are independent and without bias. It is a journalist’s responsibility to report on facts that have the potential to cloud the judgments of individuals who rely on media for the correct presentation of information.
As a journalist and head of a news channel, it is the responsibility of the persons concerned to check and cross-check all pieces and bits of news before it is dished out to general unsuspecting and trusting audiences.
Irrespective of one’s personal views and which political parties one may favor, journalists and heads of a news channel are responsible for divulging facts and figures that are true even if they are not as per their sentiments.
As a person, who has cultivated an image for himself basis his anchoring ‘Aap Ki Adalat’ as someone who does not bow down to political pressures and does not shy away from asking questions that are both personal and professional for the guests appearing on the show, Rajat Sharma asks them straight, without an expression on the face and waits patiently for an answer while the guests squirm in their seats and struggle to find the best words, tumbling over their sentences to answer the straightforward and challenging questions.
If one is at liberty to ask these questions and cross-check them with available facts, then perhaps the same should apply, as is the case in point here.
Maybe there is a need to look deeper into what is being spilled out both as personal tweets and news that comes out from news channels and time to cut the drama and reaffirm the oath to report truth and nothing but the truth.