Media clients responding to Covid-19 in India

As Covid ravages India, coverage of the pandemic and dealing with the fallout has been the focus of most of our clients’ work. Scroll and Josh Talks, two very different media clients, are using quality information to address different aspects of the pandemic.

News site Scroll has been leading the drive to hold the government to account for its actions and inactions in dealing with the catastrophe – something that even the establishment media can no longer ignore – and recent investigations have revealed a range of failings.

But Covid isn’t just a health disaster. The economic impact has been devastating, with the employment prospects of tens of millions of young Indians seriously damaged. Josh Talks, a media platform that seeks to inspire, inform and upskill young people, continues to expand its work helping people get onto and climb the economic ladder.

Holding authorities to account

India’s second wave has been made more deadly by oxygen shortages in hospitals. An investigation by revealed that the national government waited until October 2020, eight months after the pandemic began, to invite bids for a $27 million contract to place oxygen generation systems inside more than 150 district hospitals. Six months later, most still aren’t up and running. Hospitals in the states of Haryana, Maharashtra and Gujarat have been issuing distress calls for urgent supplies of oxygen, with patients dying because of shortages.

Another recent investigation, “No pensions for five months: How Jharkhand’s poor were left poorer during the pandemic”, highlighted how the state government failed to provide monthly pensions of Rs 1,000 per person to 1 million impoverished senior citizens, widows and people with disabilities for at least five months from July 2020. In one district, pension funds were diverted to make payments under the authorities’ Covid-19 relief package. A week after published a report on the delay in disbursement, the National Human Rights Commission issued a notice to the government of Jharkhand and the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, giving them six weeks to submit a detailed report on the delays.

Stories of resilience and inspiration

With its aim to empower young people through videos and events, Josh Talks has supported millions of people during the pandemic across a range of areas. For example, through its videos it initially gave doctors a platform to talk about Covid-19 and the steps to take to reduce the risk of the virus, and later to help spread awareness about the safety of the vaccine and limit wrong assumptions about it. Additionally, working with partners including Facebook and UNDP, Josh Talks hosted a series of webinars entitled, #StrongerTogether. The webinars facilitated a conversation between policymakers, industry leaders and the public about concerns surrounding Covid-19, such as mental health and wellbeing, the impact of the virus on small and medium businesses, and the need for social protection programmes to help entrepreneurs post-pandemic.

During these bleak times, Josh Talks, which has been likened to an Indian Ted Talks for young people, continues to inspire and inform its growing audience of 50 million monthly users. Last month, it published 76 motivational videos which received almost 80 million views on YouTube, 10% more than the previous month, and added 380,000 new subscribers, taking the total to more than 11 million. Publishing in ten vernacular languages, it also launched a number of new partnerships and collaborations, including agreements with TakaTak, WhatsApp and Diageo India.

Recognising that unemployment is one of the biggest issues for its viewers, particularly during the pandemic, Josh Talks introduced Josh Skills, a course platform for job-seekers and students that teaches skills they can leverage to find the right job and generate income for themselves and their families. It provides courses to improve people’s prospects in the job market, such as spoken English and computing, and continues to attract thousands of new members. Last month it added a number of community-building features, including enabling students of its English course to meet new people, practice with them and build friendships.

Co-founder Supriya Paul has just published, All You Need is Josh: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Conviction in 21st Century India. In recognition of the great work she and Josh Talks are doing, Supriya received a 2021 Amazon Smbhav Award in the Women Entrepreneur of the Year category.

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