每日英語跟讀 Ep.K221: Politics Steered India’s Defense To Virus Threat
The forecast was mathematically based, government-approved and deeply, tragically wrong.
In September 2020, eight months before a deadly COVID-19 second wave struck India, government-appointed scientists downplayed the possibility of a new outbreak. Previous infections and early lockdown efforts had tamed the spread, the scientists wrote in a study that was widely covered by the Indian news media after it was released last year.
The results dovetailed neatly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two main goals: Restart India’s stricken economy and kick off campaigning for his party in state elections that spring. But Anup Agarwal, a physician then working for India’s top science agency, which reviewed and published the study, worried that its conclusions would lull the country into a false sense of security.
Agarwal took his concerns to the agency’s top official in October. The response: He and another concerned scientist were reprimanded.
In the wake of the devastating second wave, which killed hundreds of thousands of people, many in India are asking how Modi’s government missed the warning signs. Part of the answer is that senior officials forced scientists at elite institutions to downplay the threat to prioritize Modi’s political goals.
“Science is being used as a political weapon to forward the government narrative rather than help people,” said Agarwal, 32.
Senior officials at Agarwal’s agency — called the Indian Council of Medical Research, or ICMR — pressured scientists to withdraw another study that called the government’s efforts into question.
Agency scientists described a culture of silence. Midlevel researchers worried that they would be passed over for promotions and other opportunities if they questioned superiors, they said.
“Science thrives in an environment where you can openly question evidence and discuss it dispassionately and objectively,” said Shahid Jameel, one of India’s top virus experts and a former government adviser who has been critical of the agency.
“That, sadly, at so many levels, has been missing,” he said.
India is hardly the first country where virus science has become politicized. The United States remains far short of taming the disease as politicians and anti-vaccine activists, fueled by disinformation and credulous media, challenge the scientific consensus on vaccines and wearing masks. The Chinese government has tried to obscure the outbreak’s origin, and vaccine skeptics have won audiences from Russia to Spain to Tanzania.
印度不算是第一個病毒科學變得政治化的國家。美國遠遠談不上控制疫情，而政客和反疫苗人士被假新聞和不實媒體搧風點火，質疑疫苗和戴口罩的科學共識。中國政府試圖在疫情起源打迷糊仗，且從俄羅斯、西班牙到坦尚尼亞，都有人聽信疫苗懷疑論者。Source article: https://udn.com/news/story/6904/5769922