September 22, 2011The omertà on Sonia Gandhi’s illnessNIRUPAMA SUBRAMANIAN
It is not surprising that the Congress should be secretive about its leader’s health. What is surprising though is the news media’s submission to the secrecy on an issue that is of public concern.
In February 2010, following a convention that the President of the United States will make public the results of his annual medical examination, the White House released details of President Barack Obama’s first health check in office. This included his medication history, the doctor’s recommendation that he follow a diet to reduce his cholesterol levels, and kick his smoking habit.
In the United Kingdom, there is no convention of revealing the medical histories of leaders. In September 2009, amid rumours about Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s health, a BBC journalist asked him during an interview that was going out live on air if he was taking “prescribed painkillers and pills” to help him cope with his work pressures. The question angered the Labour Party, which described it as an “intrusion” into the Prime Minister’s health. But within weeks, Downing Street took what The Guardian described as “the unusual step” of revealing the results of Mr. Brown’s eye check-up that showed two tears in his retina. It said it was disclosing the information in the interest of “transparency” and to put an end to the rumours.
In India too, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had to undergo a heart surgery in early 2009, the government went public with details of his medical condition. On Sonia Gandhi’s health, however, the silence continues even after her return from treatment for an illness that has not been made public — but is widely believed to be cancer of some kind.
All that the nation has been told is that almost immediately on her return, the Congress president chaired a party meeting to choose candidates for the Uttar Pradesh elections to be held early next year. No photographs of Ms Gandhi have appeared since her return; the media have used file photographs or old footage to announce that she is back in India after her treatment, and in reporting that she has resumed work as party president. The most recent photographs of her are from her visit to Bangladesh in early August.
Dr. Singh is perhaps among the handful of people who are informed about the state of Ms Gandhi’s health. But officials in the Prime Minister’s Office are not in the know. The Home Minister, the Home Ministry and the Intelligence Bureau also appear to have been kept out of the loop.
Her absence from India, from around August 4, the day the party first announced she had gone abroad, to September 8, when her arrival back was announced, coincided with a stormy period in national politics. Anna Hazare’s hunger strike for the Jan Lokpal Bill plunged the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government into a crisis. The Congress needed all the leadership it could muster but stood exposed for having none. While it is debatable if Ms Gandhi could have steered the ship any better, Rahul Gandhi’s late intervention by way of his speech in Parliament certainly failed to work the miracle that the Congress had hoped for.
The Gandhi family and the Congress party have dealt with Ms Gandhi’s illness as a “personal matter” that requires no public explanation. True, politicians are entitled to privacy in matters of health. But this right to privacy cannot hold if it impacts on their work. Ms Gandhi has led the Congress for more than a decade; her party’s election victories are credited to her leadership. The argument that Ms Gandhi does not hold high office, is not the head of the government, and therefore her illness is not a matter of public importance, hardly holds. Since 2004, she has been seen universally as the main power centre in the UPA. Clearly, several matters of national importance ride on her health, including her ability to lead the party into the next election, and the issue of succession in the Congress leadership, should this become necessary. These are not private matters.
The hush-hush is reminiscent of the secrecy that surrounded the condition of Leonid Brezhnev as the Soviet leader’s health deteriorated through 1982. While the official line was that he was suffering from only a minor ailment, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union had already worked out a line of succession.
On the other hand, we have the openness of former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani’s battle with prostate cancer, whose let’s-talk-about-it attitude helped the cancer awareness campaign in the U.S. turn him into an iconic survivor of the disease. More recently, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez spoke publicly about his battle with cancer.
That the Congress should be secretive about Ms Gandhi’s health is not surprising. What is surprising, though, is the omertà being observed by the news media, usually described by international writers as feisty and raucous. On this particular issue, reverential is the more fitting description. Barring editorials in the Business Standard and MailToday, no other media organisation has thought it fit to question the secrecy surrounding the health of the government’s de facto Number One.
A similar deference was on display a few years ago in reporting Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s uneven health while he was the Prime Minister. For at least some months before he underwent a knee-replacement surgery in 2001, it was clear he was in a bad way, but no news organisation touched the subject. Eventually, the government disclosed that he was to undergo the procedure, and it was covered by the media in breathless detail.
Both before and after the surgery, there was an unwritten understanding that photographers and cameramen would not depict Mr. Vajpayee’s difficulties while walking or standing. Post-surgery, a British journalist who broke ranks to question if the Prime Minister was fit enough for his job (“Asleep at The Wheel?” Time, June 10, 2002) was vindictively hounded by the government.
Almost a decade later, much has changed about the Indian media, which now likes to compare itself with the best in the world. But it lets itself down again and again. The media silence on Ms Gandhi is all the more glaring compared with the amount of news time that was recently devoted to Omar Abdullah’s marital troubles. The Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister’s personal life has zero public importance. Yet a television channel went so far as to station an OB van outside his Delhi home, and even questioned the maid. The keyhole coverage ended only when an agonised Mr. Abdullah put out a brief statement about his separation and a request that he and his family be left alone.
Meanwhile, the media are clearly not in the mood to extend their kid-glove treatment of Ms Gandhi’s illness to some other politicians: it has been open season with BJP president Nitin Gadkari’s health problems arising from his weight. Clearly, it’s different strokes for different folks.
The mystery of Sonia Gandhi’s illness
By Ramakrishna S R | Box Populi – Wed, Sep 28, 2011
Why isn’t anyone telling us what’s wrong with Sonia Gandhi? That’s the question an opinion piece in The Hindu is asking after India’s most powerful politician returned from a US cancer hospital.
Nirupama Subramaniam writes: “That the Congress should be secretive about Ms Gandhi’s health is not surprising. What is surprising, though, is the omertà being observed by the news media, usually described by international writers as feisty and raucous. On this particular issue, reverential is the more fitting description. Barring editorials in the Business Standard and MailToday, no other media organisation has thought it fit to question the secrecy surrounding the health of the government’s de facto Number One.”
Omerta refers to a ‘code of silence’, when people in the know conspiratorially refuse to discuss a matter of importance in public.
The Telegraph, UK, quoted sources as saying Sonia had been suffering from cancer for eight months. There is no official word on it yet, and a reclusive Sonia has been busy mediating between Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram on the 2G note controversy.
The law frowns on the unauthorised disclosure of medical details, so why should anyone be curious? Nirupama Subramaniam argues citizens should know, since Sonia’s health determines the fortunes of the nation. She writes: “True, politicians are entitled to privacy in matters of health. But this right to privacy cannot hold if it impacts on their work. Ms Gandhi has led the Congress for more than a decade; her party’s election victories are credited to her leadership. The argument that Ms Gandhi does not hold high office, is not the head of the government, and therefore her illness is not a matter of public importance, hardly holds. Since 2004, she has been seen universally as the main power centre in the UPA. Clearly, several matters of national importance ride on her health, including her ability to lead the party into the next election, and the issue of succession in the Congress leadership, should this become necessary. These are not private matters.”
In the absence of an aggressive tabloid culture, details of politicians’ illnesses don’t quickly make it to the headlines in India. But many celebrities use their situation to draw attention to a disease, and canvass for research. After a horseriding accident that left him confined to a wheelchair, actor Christopher Reeve campaigned on behalf of people with spinal cord injuries.
NewsX reported Sonia has a benign skin cancer, and no dire illness. Squamous skin cancer, a doctor who came on the show said, is common in the West, and is handled easily. Manmohan Singh, Vajpayee and other leaders have also benefited, says The Hindu, from the omerta of the press.
In India, several politicians have thrived even when they were in physical distress. Jayaprakash Narayan inspired the movement against the Emergency from a hospital bed, while M G Ramachandran and M Karunanidhi, both crippled by severe diseases, have ruled Tamil Nadu well into their late years. Rajinikanth recently came back from Singapore, and his problem remains undisclosed to this day, but his fans remain steadfast.
The question of whether it is ethical to publish details of a newsmaker’s illnesses remains, but the illness itself is no big deal in India. Politicians have such tenacity that they can swing things in the world out there even when they lie motionless in hospital beds or sit breathless in wheelchairs.
While the media in India may hush up problems afflicting our leaders, The Telegraph, UK, shows no confusion when it comes to medical stories. Late last week, it published this story with a heading guaranteed to startle those used to the feeble medical coverage in the Indian papers: Shoaib Akhtar’s genital warts keep him out of Pakistan’s World Twenty20 squad.
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19Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0 9 hours ago
Does India got sophicicated Cancer hospitals? If so why the hell all these Corporate Politicians and Celebrities visit overseas for treatment and this media always run behind them to show how much they enlarged their nose ,etc……… how much they reduced fat,AIDS treatment etc……..there… More
27Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!1Raja 5 hours ago
there is no health problem. she went to swiss to transfer all the black money to some other safe heaven. people are being fooled.
10Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0Rajagopal 2 hours ago
She might gone there to park her illegal assets in the name of illness.
10Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!3Ashish 2 hours ago
The congress party is fooling the people, looting the people .. and here we are .. helpless .. no leader in sight
3Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0ASHOK about an hour ago
is she ailing i doubt? there is nothing secretive about ailment… something else definitely…
0Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0Babu 2 hours ago
4Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0Prafulla Kumar 2 hours ago
Congress Govt. is always a corrupt Govt.. But why allies keep mum. What Lalu, Mulayam, Mamata Didi r doing? Of course there is no choice left with we Indians.. All parties r corrupted. Where to go.??. Whom to tell.?? No political party, heartily accepts to pass Jan lopal Bill. P Chidambaram ka get… More
2Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0SImplice 34 minutes ago
Question is not what is wrong ? Question is whats right with all the politicians ?
2Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0Rahul 34 minutes ago
She is not suffering from cancer. Its the country is suffering from the cancer named “CORRUPTION”. She was on a visit to Switzerland to safe guard here share of benefit from the countries illness.
9Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!1Vidyut 5 hours ago
When the money used for a secret ailment belongs to the people of India, the public has a right to know what the ailment was. So let us not be squeamish about asking these questions. How much money was spent? Wasn’t an equivalent treatment available in India? Why is every RTI application on the… More
2Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!2Dr. K L Chowdhury 2 hours ago
The secrecy is designed to make her seem even more imponderable. more enigmatic, more elevated than the common citizen and, therefore, more other-wordily. The mystery is designed to titillate the inquisitiveness of the incredibly credulous Indian masses, to further enhance their adoration and… More
0Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0Vikky about an hour ago
KISI NE SAHI KAHA HAI……. THERE IS AN END TO EVERYTHING………….. IN HINDI……… UPAR WALE KI LAATHI ME AWAJ NAHI HOTI LEKIN CHOT BADI GAHRI HOTI HAI…………… PUBLIC KE KHUN PASEENE KI KAMAI……………LUTERO KE ILAAZ ME HI KHARCH HOTI HAIJ……. STILL AS A HUMAN FOR A LADY… More
1Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0Jithender K about an hour ago
wealth & health of Indian politicians is Omreta. Indians have right to question it but unfortunately get no answer. May God save us. I doubt it very much!!!
1Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0Allama Prabhu 2 hours ago
This is certainly a point to ponder ! Look at the other irony….India advocates for Medical Tourism and the Top leaders like Sonia goes out of the Country for getting BETTER medical treatment(which obviously in their opinion not available in India). AND THESE ARE OUR LEADERS !!!!
0Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0Syriac about a minute ago
If she openly tells, then it is Okay, otherwise leave it
0Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0Arun about a minute ago
People of India has right to know why India is not fit for treatment of their leaders, when it is considered safe by ‘politicians’ for rest of its common man. Secrecy is not an issue, why should she be treated abroad ? Best of the doctors in India can be appointed to treat her at home if required.
0Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0Lakshmi 4 minutes ago
It should be made a rule that ALL politicians should get treated in GOVT. hospitals ONLY. That way, our hospitals have a chance to get better, or we have a chance to see somebody face the consequences of their deeds!! In any case, we will benefit.
0Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0Syriac 4 minutes ago
Let the health problem be purely their personal problem.Why we have to poke in to other person’s private life
0Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0Ajay 5 minutes ago
hi everybody.What is so secret about cancer that it should be hidden .If it were aids or HIV well one could have understood.One never goes to a cancer speciality hospital to treat broken nails
With India becoming an important place for medical tourism going abroad is questionable .With the… More
0Please sign in to rate!Please sign in to rate!0SHAPE Shiv N Shachindra 5 minutes ago
we have lot of other iportant work to think
Soania Gandhi may not be the PM of India but she is undoubtedly the most powerful politician in the country. As the author has mentioned, she is treated with more than usual deference both by the Congress party as well as by the media.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 01:13 IST
What a superb article! I have often wondered about Indian media. They surprise us, shock us, make us leap with joy with the same rush as our heads dangle in shame and disgust. Apparently whoever thought that media should be an impartial and a judicious body was a fool. The silence that surrounds Sonia Gandhi’s health is deafening. People have the right to know if she will be around to lead the UPA around the next elections. Whatever strategy they make chalk out about successor ship has no bearing in the knowledge of physical well being of the nation’s de facto number one. You have portrayed this very clearly and very strongly.
There is still hope left for the media when prominent newspapers are doing the rounds. So we will turn to The Hindu for authentic and timely information.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 01:21 IST
Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs keeps things private on his illness. Let it stay that way if they wish. Dont forget Paparazzi in trying to get into personal details caused the death of Diana.Few things cannot be revealed and shared at a certain point of time. Else it causes unneccessary frenzy.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 01:33 IST
What about former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi who ‘served’ the state in a wheelchair for around a year? Aren’t you aware of that? Of course it’s different strokes for different folks.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 02:02 IST
Rightly said, “different strokes for different folks” and certainly “kid-glove treatment to Gandhi’s”… are TV media listening…??
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 02:11 IST
There is a grand management going on by Congress. Media is part of this grand design. Media and Judiciary of India are independent on paper (and In theory) the reality is they are controlled by powerful politicians. Employees do not comment on CEO in public.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 02:12 IST
Congratulations.The Hindu has once again brought to light the deficiency of the media. First,it was paid publicity.That certainly brought corruption in the media.Now,it has brought out the partisan approach of the media. It is an unfortunate truth that media is more into TRP ratings and circulation than objective reporting. Wish the media created God,Anna launches an agitation to free the media from its evils and corruption. One has also to remember that the Gandhi surname from Indira to Rajiv to Sonia and Rahul has nothing to do with the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi.The media refers them as Gandhis which many take it as something to do withMahatma Gandhi. Wish the media acts more objectively and without being unduely influenced by monetary considerations.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 02:20 IST
For more than five decades now, Congressmen are sycophantic towards members of the Nehru dynasty, to the extent of periodically losing face, elections and fortunes till such members learn their job — it was so with Indira, Rajiv, Sonia and now Rahul. True, the media has played its subservient role. Even yesterday in Sainath’s incisive article, wealth growth of Sonia Gandhi (no kin of the Mahatma), Rahul, Priyanka and Robert Vadra was conspicuously absent. Even when these luminaries are interviewed, searching questions are never asked. This feudal attitude extends further. Since UPA came to power, MMS has been ridiculed and held responsible for every ill and scandal facing the country. But Sonia is NEVER taken to task, and of course it is the prerogative of Rahul to be the PM in waiting, while it is sacrilegious for the leader of the opposition to even dream of that post. Truly, greatness and awe have been thrust on unworthy people.
from: Jay Ravi
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 02:24 IST
Kudos to the author for raising taking up this issue. One of the fundamental traits of dictators is that when they are alive they will never allow secondary leaders in line for immediate succession (except family members). Such dictators form “committees” and create a power-structure in such a way that the former will never be challenged or even compared with anybody else including the committee members. If something happens to the dictator the whole country will be paying with political uncertainties, etc. This is why in mature democracies leadership ascension plans are developed within the parties as well as for top positions in the country. Another trait of dictators is that they keep information about their own health and whereabouts secret to thwart new leaderships coming to replace them. It should be noted that health information and whereabouts of top leaders are made public in mature democracies. Indians have a right to know such things about the most powerful person in India.
from: Haridas Ramakrishnan
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 02:54 IST
Greetings. I am happy for all your points. When somebody says its personal, why can’t we leave and let them take some rest. why we still need to know her medical problems. We can still pray for good health without knowing the medical problem. please let us give some personal space in this facebook and twitter age.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 02:55 IST
The Hindu is no exception either! It gives importance and covers MK’s rhetoric ahead of even the CM, sometimes. It never commented about the health of either the PM or Sonia but blames other news media!
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 04:45 IST
Sonia Gandhi does not hold any public office. Her health is of no concern to the citizens of the world ! She may be the darling of the congress party. That does not mean the whole world should be concerned or be privy to her health problems. If shameless congress men wish to lick the boots of a foreigner, so be it. It is none of the concern of the media or the citizens.
from: D. Sundara Rajan
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 04:59 IST
An excellent and well documented article. I am too short of words to appreciate this type of reporting and also in a way self-criticism about media sensitiveness about priorities. No doubt, politicians are entitled to privacy but it also hinges on the position he or she occupies. The final observation about BJP president Nitin Gadkari’s health condition scores and nails the issue pointedly. Kudos to our Paper, ‘The Hindu’. This type of news reporting only has made people like mefeel, rightly so, for nearly 65 years now, that reading your paper is like a staple food.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 05:02 IST
Ordinary people will honour the right to privacy of Mrs.Sonia Gandhi, with regard to the nature of her undisclosed illness, the nature of treatment and the place where the treatment was given amd would wish her speedy recovery but will be interested to know whether the Congress party or Mrs. Gandhi family will permit the visiting foreign dignitaries to call on Mrs. Gandhi as was the practice/ protocol,if any,hitherto followed or disallow such a practice or suspend/ terminate the protocol if in existence, on grounds of privacy.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 06:13 IST
Let’s not forget that Sonia Gandhi is also a citizen of India like everybody else and she also deserves the same fundamental rights which are provided to all citizens by the constitution including the right to privacy (as part of right to life, article 21). Frivolous demands asking for intricate details of illness go against right to privacy, after all – what extra public purpose the ‘details’ of illness serve when the party had already informed that she is undergoing treatment in USA? Lets also respect our ethics and age old culture which teaches us to keep unpleasant news within the family rather than making a public mockery of our problems. Moreover, if she was officially the PM, the demand for more information was more logical. Perhaps, the hyperbole and transient nature of our media has forced the politicians to be more reclusive about such things (though all are not successful). Media might love to be compared to BBC, but the differences are too glaring to be ignored as of now.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 06:23 IST
The Sonia Gandhi phenomenon is an enigma. The unquestioned political power she enjoys in the country today is inexplicable. The Indian media is reverential to her as pointed out by Nirupama Subramanian. Even opposition politicians hesitate to directly attack her. Her open promotion of her son as the next Prime Minister of the country has never been seriously questioned by politicians or the media. In a democracy it is very uncommon that a person wields such unchallenged power!
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 06:29 IST
Mrs. gandhi is not the chief executive of the nation. She is the president of a political party which is clinging to power with the help of other parties. Her health condition does not warrant an opinion and waste web real estate. I am wasting my time and web real estate by responding to an article which has no relevance.
from: mani sandilya
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 06:42 IST
The mystery surrounding Ms.Sonia’s ailment is not something that the Congress Party should treat as a state secret.The concern of the people is genuine and needs to be addressed as they are not curious or inquisitive.Keeping only the PM in the loop probably is to doubly ensure that he meant what he said about keeping his chair warm for the Gandhi scion whenever the latter is ready to take charge.Sycophancy at its height!
from: Raj Kumar
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 07:28 IST
The Congress party should go public on UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi’s surgery and health. The media’s deferential attitude in being silenct is hardly justifiable for the most powerful woman in Indian politics.
from: R S Sarma
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 07:50 IST
It only confirms the widespread suspicion that the media is more or less under the control of the powers that be. The current Congress government at the center is a manipulative government. Its strategy seems to be: use the media to fool the people.
from: Akka Chandar
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 08:22 IST
We are a little tired of our politicians wasting the country’s resources to fly off to foreign lands for the slightest medical ailment. Why are they not treated in India? If our medical establishments are ‘suspect’ of substandard treatment, why have they not been made world class. It is high time the government stopped this free medical junkets to the US or Europe.
from: Rajasekar Thunghabadra
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 08:37 IST
I am in total agreement on the article and equally amused the way Arnab Goswami and Rajdeep Sardesai are keeping quite on this issue. The way they reported every other ailment including Nitin Gadkari clearly indicates it wasn’t an oversight but a deliberate ‘miss’. I don’t expect Barkha to speak on since everyone know NDTV’ ‘biased’ approach!. But this silence make me wonder if TOI and CNN-IBN also also biased when it comes to Ms.Gandhi.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 08:38 IST
It’s strange that Sonia’s health is kept out of public purview and that no entity from media (including “The Hindu” which voices this opinion piece) felt responsible to bring it out in the open, is only stranger!
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 08:43 IST
Did you read The New Indian Express Op-Ed by Ram Jethmalani on 20th Sep titled “A Needless Secrecy” ? So looks to me suddenly all of you (newspapers) are co-ordinating to publish an article on a not so important topic of Sonia’s health. It is waste of time to know about her health, when millions in India don’t have minimum health care or access to doctors.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 08:44 IST
The medias’ silence on Mrs Gandhis’health status was glaring . Many aam aadmi were already raising the same questions as in this editorial as to ” how come not even 1 newspaper/ TV in the Indian media is covering her illness , nor coming up with a daily medical update , knowing very well her importance & status in the ruling Govt.” Once again the Indian media has let the citizens down , and given an opportunity to question its credibility , when it is partnering the ruling Govt in maintaining the silence on a topic of national importance . The question that comes up then is ” how many such issues of national importance are being wrapped up in secrecy by the Indian media , just to be on the right side with those in power “? I am glad atleast THE HINDU , ( again it is The Hindu ) has broken that silence and raised pertinent questions , which all other media must not only take note and respond, but also hang their heads in shame .
from: VJ Nambiar
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 08:53 IST
We all know how media is controlled in India. No news about the First Family ever comes out of Media. Nobody questions why Crown Prince has to visit Sikkim and in what capacity while the rescue operations are still going on?
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 09:28 IST
Befitting the objective, the present article reflects the slavish and discriminatory mentality of the media people even in this age of modernity and emancipation.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 09:45 IST
I feel Ms. Sonia Gandhi’s health and treatment are her family’s personal issues. It’s only ethical that the media is not intruding into that private space. It’s upto the the Gandhi family,to release a statement regarding the same or not.Right through the course of the treatment, the family kept the public informed of the progress she was making and about when she can expected back home.
from: Nyapathy Srinivas
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 10:09 IST
While Ms. Gandhi has been relentlessly lashed out for her status of being the de facto Number One within the Government, it suddenly become a matter of convenience to call upon it, when one is demanding >info on her health. I’m of the opinion this acknowledgment for convenience implicitly promotes that role, what one should be worried about or ask the Government is how they plan to mitigate the absence and do they have an equation for the future minus her and a larger public debate on it would be productive and also inevitable. While I may in principle share the author’s view on equating a leader’s health to that of the Nation’s, the urge to publicly debate on one’s health condition and NOT the implications of it cannot justify violating one’s right to privacy. Honestly, I find it difficult to comprehend why anyone but an authorized Doctor of medicine would want to know the finer details of her health status – I’m sorry, did you all invite yourself to be part of her extended family ?
from: Felix Selvaraj
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 10:09 IST
Indian Express did a piece on it long time back.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 10:37 IST
Mrs.Gandhi’s health is her own matter, not for public consumption.
from: Dr.Abdul Kadir
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 10:37 IST
Does the choice of word ‘Omerta’ give a clue to the reason for media’s fears?
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 10:38 IST
One should appreciate Ms. Subramanian for her courage to write this piece which is taboo as far as print and electronic media is concerned. Mrs. Gandi is the numero uno of the Congress party, who leads UPA II ruling combination. Suddenly she left for America and later public came to know she had under gone an operation there. This kept not only ordinary congress workers but also general public in suspense. Still she came back all were worried about her health. Congress party or the persons very close to her should have given some information about her ailment because she is a public person. We see congress party through her face. People have a right to know how seriously ill she is because she is the defacto ruler of this great nation. No body suggests she should give her medical report for public consumption as American Presidents are doing. American Presidents are not only ruler of that country but he is commander of many military establishments spread all over the world. They want to establish their fiefdom where ever their bases are. They want to be ready for any invasions as done in Iraq and Afganistan and also as done in Bosnia. American President is the ruler as well as military commander without uniform. Our leaders are not like that. At least to the knowledge of we simple folks information about health checks is advisable.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 10:42 IST
Every citizen has got a right to protect ones privacy. But there are subtle exceptions to it. People in the glare of a common man, especially if they are politicians or people of international fame, have a moral responsibility to be open about themselves to the public. Their very political existence is because of the popular support of the people. If people are not taken into confidence, then it may become difficult for people to support such people who are extremely discreet in their activities and whereabouts, even if it concerns their health. Sonia Gandhi and the Congress team should understand this vital fact, and clear the air once and for all, before it is too late.
from: Vinod Kumar
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 10:54 IST
An excellent opinion, and observation about the Indian media’s silence on Ms. Gandhi. But however, I beg to differ in comparison with world leaders. We received updates from our PM Manmohan Singh because he is the leader of the nation and not Ms Sonia Gandhi. She is only the Chairman of the UPA/ ruling coalition. She may be a king maker but definitely not a news maker when it comes to aam aadmi’s roti. She is far removed from the realities and doesnt make a difference to the common man. I think the media silence reflects the same and is justified.
from: Ashwini Iyer
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 11:02 IST
I contradict the author in his views. Why should our media start broadcasting someones eles’ illness (no matter who it is) just because politicians are going public about it in other countries ? Why should we know the specificity of the disease ? May be the sufferer doesn’t want to make it public. It is certainly right that media did not focus on the suffering of Mr. Vajpayee.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 11:05 IST
I think news about Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s health should remain in the private domain so long as public money is not spent for her treatment or foreign travel for the same. We don’t have any absolute right, nor do we need, to know what she is suffering from or how she is recuperating.
from: Mukul Kanti Dutta
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 11:36 IST
Never knew ‘The Hindu’ would chide at its other peers for not having invaded the personal space of a woman. Its amazing how in the same breath one is mocking keyhole investigations, and is building a case for ‘investigating’ into health of someone! She might be the most powerful person in India today, but she IS entitled to provacy. If she doesnt want to disclose details of her illness, its her decision.
from: Rajat shukla
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 11:49 IST
Our media is more concerned about their own popularity than our people and country’s goodwill. Except few most of the media is under the hands of corporates and politicians. So dont expect every news to be on air.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 12:40 IST
You have very rightly pointed out that “it’s different strokes for different folks”. This is very much apparent that media extends “kid-glove treatment” to Gandhi family and for obvious reasons. Amongst all the national newspapers, you guys show more apt understanding of issues and do more responsible reporting. Keep up the good work guys.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 13:18 IST
Personal health details should remain private, whether or not Obama declares them. Unless it seriously starts affecting the nation’s administration. The critique on the media is another thing.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 13:54 IST
Sonia health issue is over she is back now,please discuss something like Fake Currency in RBI vaults,monetry health of country and its regulators,corruption,country defence.
from: Bhardwaj satish
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 13:55 IST
Editorial rightly argued by provding international examples. Though she not heading the government but total policies and strategies of that government decided by her constituted and chaired core committee. If she decides today had the power to replace PM with somebody else. So her health condition and fitness obviously public domain and now there is no reason for hiding her medical check-up and post operation details to put in public.
from: Raghavendra R Pawar
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 14:21 IST
Well, Sonia Gandhi’s health details could have been made public. But making comparison to U.S.President’s regualr health bulletin is highly inappropriate – as she doesn’t hold any Constitutional position. Moreover, Sonia Gandhi is not the only person whose health condition is not discussed in public ; the media does not dicuss Mr.Vajpayee’s health either – and very little was known about the late Kanshi Ram’s health when he was alive. Or has it become one more excuse to indulge in our favorite pastime of the Gandhi family bashing ?
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 14:39 IST
I think HIndu have no right to assume that the illness is cancer. It could be a nothing or something. Would anyone of us like to have our kids illness broadcasted in public for getting admission to schools. I don’t think so. A line needs to be drawn by the media. Most probably the family will divulge all the details but till then do not assume anything. Is Hindu the lokpal now.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 15:06 IST
TIMES TV and CNN IBN are owned and controlled by industrial houses. They have to be very careful while reporting on the supreme leader. Remember what happened to Ashok Jain? The Hindu though, could have behaved different.
from: Hilary Pais
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 15:12 IST
First thanks to the hindu for breaking media silence on Ms Sonia Gandhi health. What puzzles common man is not ill-health of her but the silent media. It reaffirms opinion that our media is not free.
from: P krishna
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 15:24 IST
A very balanced article,as usual,THE HINDU continues to be the most sober newspaper in India today.
from: jameel m ali
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 16:19 IST
The Indian constitution envisages article 21 for every citizen of the nation and Mrs Sonia Gandhi is no exception.Being a chairing leader of a major political party doesnt breach her right to freedom under article 21.The media has been covering Anna Hazare and his So called August revolution all this while.Since there’s nothing major to cover at this moment ,thanks to poor show of Indian cricket team in Britain they have shifted to this Enigma.Medias role is getting ambigious and vague at the same time.Its high time that our Media understand its sense of responsibilty and cover sensitive issues rather than senseless ones.Thanks to The HINDU for their exemplary work .
from: Anurag s Thakur
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 16:40 IST
The author has been able to see, how post independance press and media is subservent to Nehru-gandhi family and fears there displeasure.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 17:24 IST
@Abdul Kadir: “Mrs.Gandhi’s health is her own matter, not for public consumption.” Yes you are correct if Mrs Gandhi lives like any other ordinary citizen without high profile security every visiting foreign dignitary paying obsceience to her. It is fallacious to ignore her de facto status of head of the state with extra ordinary powers with out responsibility. Nothing happens in this country without the approval of invisible Mrs. Gandhi and poor Dr. MMS is left to bear the cross when things go wrong and credits goes to Sonia.
from: N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 17:31 IST
We in India should try to respect the privacy of our politicians and every body knows Ms. Gandhi under went an operation for a cancerous tumor. Why should she for that matter the congress party make it public on the issue which has no or least influence over the governance of India.
from: P.S. Srinvas
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 17:34 IST
We ought to respect the lady’s privacy. She has the right to keep her illness private. No public interest is served by making it public. Yes, she is an important politician, but does not occupy any contitutional position warranting public interest in dislcoure of her illness. Moreover, finding the media at fault or being submissive is even more absurd. Indian media has commendably respected the privacy of the lady and refrained from making intrusions in to the strictly private affairs of a woman. The media ought to be lauded for their respectful silence.
Please dont write such articles for the sake of raking up something spicy though at the cost of violating an indviduals’s right to privacy.
from: Syam Kumar
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 17:49 IST
I cannot agree with the argument that Sonia Gandhi should make the results of her health check public. Health related information in classified as sensitive personal information under most privacy laws and no one can be under any obligation to share it with anyone, let alone the whole world.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 18:00 IST
Excellent article!!! Once again the Hindu stands apart from other media publications.
from: Nitn sharma
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 18:32 IST
Ms. Gandhi is Chairperson of the National Advisory Council, ruling Govt.of Inddia from behind the screens. The media has been deliberately silenced. Kudos to the Hindu for raising the issue.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 18:39 IST
The Hindu is wrong on this. She is under no obligation to report personal health details. Obama is the President and the Commander of the Armed Forces, and THAT country requires that his medical report be made public (maybe). We don’t require all our politicians to publish their health details. She is entitled to her privacy. And the media (for once!) has conducted itself the way it should. I applaud them for that restraint.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 18:46 IST
Ms Gandhi is the numero uno of the UPA II government. She is a leader of national importance and hence her health is of concern. Though not detailed medical reports like some other leaders but some information about her health has to be made public.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 18:48 IST
Nirupama Subramanian’s choice of the word “omerta” is in a very bad taste, bordering on malice. The free online dictionary says that the word is of Italian origin, and means “A rule or code that prohibits speaking or divulging information about certain activities, especially the activities of a criminal organization” or mafia. One may or may not agree with a national leader of some stature but unparliamentary language is totally unacceptable to civil society.
from: Dr. V. Nageswara Rao
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 18:58 IST
The mistrust in government is leading to a larger role for the NGOs. Mistrust about the media is building up too. If media doesn’t read the writing on the wall, non-traditional media will rise to the challenge.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 20:11 IST
I thought this is a common knowledge. The media is bought by congress. Even when you watch TV news, you get the same impression that they are biased. I admire “The Hindu” integrity so far. Hope the awareness among people will change attitude of Media.
from: raj Bahadur
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 20:12 IST
A nice article, shedding light on the hypocrisy of Indian media.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 21:18 IST
I do read The Hindu several times a day but I have no interest whatsoever about Sonia Gandhi’s health and I don’t think rest of the janta should have. She is not a PM leading a country in a crisis, nor head of armed forces in the middle of a war, not my boss during performance appraisal season and not anyone’s math teacher just before board exams.This is not US nor Venezuela and there are far more important items other than Sonia Gandhi’s health in India. So get on with it and let Sonia Gandhi take care of her health and leave her alone as a good human being who respects individual privacy.
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 22:09 IST
What does the author imply after all? Is she saying that the media should treat others the same way they’re treating Sonia, or that they should treat her the same way they treat others? Either way, I feel this is an unnecessary and provocative pointer at the media. It’s like asking them, “Why are you behaving maturely today? Aren’t you supposed to be irresponsible all the time?”
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 22:09 IST
i have a few reservations regarding this article: 1. sonia’s health is a private matter and if she doesn’t wish to reveal it to the public, it is her right to do so. also, i dont think the aam aadmi is worried abt her health either. He has lots of other things to worry about. 2. ‘…widely believed to be cancer…’. the choice of words and the context looks like i am reading a Page 3 magazine. is there any proof to back this claim??? expected much more responsible reporting from India’s national newspaper. 3. Again, i am not sure if the author used the word OMERTA intentionally… it is a strong word with a negative meaning. gives an impression that the country is being run by mafia…
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 23:07 IST
One’s health issue is his/her own issue. The decision whether to make it public should be best left to the person. Even if the person is in power/ has some responsibilities, he/she has a right to decide whether all details of the problem need to be made public. Everyone in this country should respect an individual’s privacy. Even a discussion if at all it has to be done, should be done on a general manner without mentioning any names.
from: Harish V
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 23:38 IST
I am personally not really interested to know the details of Sonia’s illness as long as I can be reliably reassured through a medical certificate that it would not have implications on her public duties!I am more concerned about why she had to go to the US when the care here now is comparable.If this was paid by her personally then of course I would not be bothered but is she went on public money then we are more than entitled to know whether the treatment was available here!
from: Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad
Posted on: Sep 22, 2011 at 23:39 IST
Mr.Sundara Rajan’s views are 100% correct.1) Sonia Gandhi does not hold any public office. Her health is of no concern to the citizens of the world ! She may be the darling of the congress party. That does not mean the whole world should be concerned or be privy to her health problems. It is none of the concern of the media or the citizens. 2)The Indian Media’ modes operandi is very suspicious most of the times on specific issues which is impacting the public (either be terrorist attack, genocidal issues like Srilanka war crimes, or scandals like 2G,or inflation etc..). That way media in North operating like aliens in giving a wrong messages, biased views, own versions, congress oriented views etc without having a realistic views from South or feelings of the people. Even they are bit reluctant to share the open criticism on the websites (CNN-IBN, NDTV etc..).
from: RBS Varuna
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 06:53 IST
India is India not America or Britain. The mind set of Indian people are not to the standard of the West. Therefore to their own reason they might have kept the bottle closed. I mean not to disturb the apple cart. No problem.
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 06:53 IST
As a fellow human being I wish Sonia Gandhi good health. If the tax payer has spent huge amounts of money on her medical care in USA (believe me, medical care in USA is very, very expensive), the tax payer has a right to know how much he/she spent.
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 07:03 IST
Sonia Gandhi may not be holding any ministerial position but she is a public representative and therefore the peoples’ concern about her health is genuine. There should be total transparency not only about her health but also about the expenditure incurred out of the public exchequer. The electronic media’s silence is surprising. Have they failed to obtain the information or have been threatened not to talk about it. If the later is true then it is most unfortunate.
from: S L Gera
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 09:28 IST
I think If Sonia Gandhi declared her sickness to Indians her popularity will increase.When she declared openly that she not contested for prime minister post at that time she was most respectable leader in India.Now also she must be open and take in confidence to people of India who love and respect to her,popularity of her increase will triple.
from: Ramesh Raghuvanshi
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 09:53 IST
It is nice to see some one from the media has pointed out to the Sonia ji’s mysterious illness. it is every one’s privacy needs to be respected but the No-word-on-this stance of the Congress certainly raises some wispers and murmurs. is it not protective and uncommon behavior by the Congress? As a public figure there shouldnt be deliberate hesitations on such issues. we dont know what illness! not even where she got treatment! this is over the board secrecy.
from: manush pareek
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 13:36 IST
Regular readers of The Hindu blindly praise their newspaper for writing such provoking articles, when in fact Ram Jethmalani wrote a op-ed piece on this topic in The New Indian Express, a few days before this article. Secondly, instead of lamenting the media silence, why didn’t The Hindu do some investigative journalism and provide us the facts of Sonia Gandhi’s illness/whereabouts? It is akin to writing an article about ‘Who would bell the cat’. All The Hindu faithfuls are happy that someone finally spoke about the cat!
from: Ananth Ramakrishnan
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 18:31 IST
Yes. There it is. I have been, for the last few days, thinking what has happened to Arnab Goswami, Rajdeep Sar Desai, Burkha Dutt, Rahul of HT. They all rush to any spot where there is a news for their viewers. Why then in the case of most powerful lady and her health which required a serious medical attention abroad. All these persons I have mentioned above, or at least one or two of them, owe an explanation to their viewers why this steel wall erected between us.
from: Rohit Krishna
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 19:42 IST
Dear Sir,Mahatma Gandhi did not have any Position in the Congress Party or the Govt. Yet upto his death he used to weild unparalleled power and control over practically all in our country. This was because he had LEADERSHP.We may not agree or grudgingly accept that Soniaji has established de facto control over the PARTY in power and de jure control over the Govt. through MMS. It is creditable for her to make MMS the PM although he is not from LOK SABHA and he does not have control over the Party and the Ministers who are selected by her and they have unstinted allegiance to her. Enviable but unbelieveable.This is why we were subjugidated for a long time by the BRITISH.Our National Character is SLAVISH in character.We are happy to follow as a result there is dirth or lack of indegenous leadership.
from: R.Anapati Ghosh.
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 20:29 IST
Appreciate your courage to raise a genuine issue certainly in public interest. Unfortunately, media did not dare to raise the issue for reasons best known to them. Sonia Gandhi may not hold any ministerial post in both term of UPA government but we should not forget that she was the leader of main opposition party “Congress” during the last NDA regime. It was no less important post than any ministry of the ruling government. Transparency in regard with the health of people’s representative irrespective of his/her status must be maintained as the issue is always in the interest of electorates concerned.
from: B. Srinivas
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 21:12 IST
Health issues are personal. Have you guys heard of HIPPA laws (google it) in the US. One can be arrested and imprisoned for obtaining and seeking another persons health info without proper authorization. If a person does not want to divulge his/her health info then she has a constiutional right to it.
Now what is this Indian obsession about knowing other poeples life history? I dont like Sonia Gandhi maybe but I would request all the commentators to post their medical history on the internet before requesting another human beings history. This stands even for a politician. They have the right to their privacy. The problem is in India privacy is considered suspicious. This is due to cultural and tribal backwardness. There is no allocation for personal space. This why we are called “interfereing Indians”
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 21:20 IST
Very often I used to feel that we Indians lack certain basic decency and culture when it comes to the behavior of a civilized society. I even envy the western culture in this aspect. From the article written by MS.Niruppama, and the flood of praises for the same from my dear fellow Indians, I once again feel how uncivilized and uncultured are all we, as a society. How much enthusiasm and interest we generate on trying to know about such trivial things, as a person’s health and her privacy.
Posted on: Sep 23, 2011 at 23:55 IST
I very well feel that the information regarding the illness of Ms. Gandhi should definitely be made public. It is not subject to seeking in intrinsic details for her illness but a right of any citizen of India to know the state of health of the people who govern their constitution. When frivolous details of a leg-cramp or other health issues of sports people are highlighted, this important subjugation is no different..
from: sagar babbar
Posted on: Sep 24, 2011 at 00:31 IST
In India the role played by media is not always impartial and fair. They are also influenced / silenced by various factors well known to themselves.
Posted on: Sep 24, 2011 at 08:49 IST
Kudos to HINDU for the forthright article. Health of Sonia Gandhi and hence her physical capacity to handle public affairs deserve to be in public knowledge though not necessarily under undue scrutiny & glare. Of late the media and sections of TV media have shown utter pussilanimity in even objectively discussing or disclosing such matters known to them.On the other they have treated the ‘Indian ruling family’with a hands-off reverence. The ruling party rushes to the press with even drop of a hat to tom-tom most inane things in their favour but desist giving details of health condition of their only leader. It is their bounden duty to reveal such details is missed even by the national press. This shows their lack of objectivity and a tendency to feed aam janata with only the buttered part of all news.Perhaps they dont wish to give the real picture of a lame duck government headed by an ailing leader. How long can media camouflage the stark reality behind this smokescreen?
from: Mohanram Subbarao
Posted on: Sep 24, 2011 at 18:00 IST
Mrs Sonia Gandhi is the head of NAC in the status and prieveleges of a cabinet minister.Her treatment is footed by the Govt. She also controls the destiny of India by default.Her health is a matter of concern to the country. Her decision making ability could be affected by health and the nation may have to pay a price.
Posted on: Sep 25, 2011 at 16:35 IST
Great article. kudos to Hindu news paper management for printing this piece. I dont like Sonia Gandhi and dynasty. What she is most powerful person in the country and sometimes I feel government is in standstill because of her illness. I hope she will recover fast and start making decisions. Media should start investigating and report the reasons for undue secrecy maintained.
Posted on: Sep 25, 2011 at 23:58 IST
The article by ms.Subramanian is really good, though not the first as pointed out by some readers. Quite a few readers have reacted perversely without realizing the importance of her position and the inability of the PM to control his ministers as has been well demonstrated recently. The secrecy is all due to the fact that her next in line of command is still not ready to shoulder the huge responsibility. The nation has a right to know since her condition was serious enough to take treatment in USA, what arrangements will be made to tide over the interim period if there should be a relapse.
from: s. jagannath
Posted on: Sep 26, 2011 at 23:50 IST