A particular clip of Kumar questioning a BJP leader allowed inside the ICU of a hospital in Muzaffarpur — even as Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan was present there — is making the rounds online, prompting people to call Kumar a hero.
In the video, Kumar is seen grilling the politician, asking him why he had been allowed into a space barred to the public and the media.
Kumar asks the the BJP leader why he was sitting in the nurse’s chair. “Are you a doctor?”
The reporter’s relentless questioning of the BJP worker’s presence prompts enough embarrassment for him to step out of the ICU and remove his shoes.
Online, people have hailed the journalist’s work.
This willingness to question the ineffectiveness of public services is typical of Kumar’s reporting.
In April, during Narendra Modi’s election campaign, he had spoken to vendors in Varanasi who had been asked to shut shop and move away from the ghats of Ganga for two days — at the cost of their livelihood — ahead of the prime minister’s visit to the city.
The same month he also reported on the state of the Patna Medical College, Bihar’s biggest government hospital, after an ill man was found unconscious at the hospital’s main gate. In his report, Kumar is seen questioning the delay in the control room’s response and the apathy of the security personnel nearby.
It’s not difficult to understand why Kumar’s reporting is being hailed. It’s the kind of TV journalism we hardly ever see anymore.
Praise for such reporting is heartening at a time when Indian media seems to bow to the pressures of those in power. But it is also important to remember that this should not be a rarity.
This is the work expected of all journalists. Questioning those in power and exposing those who abuse it is not only a fundamental function of journalism, but also essential to a healthy democracy.
Take the Bihar’s current health crisis.
Minister of state health and family welfare, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, had to defend himself after he was seen nodding off at a press conference on the situation in the state.
Bihar’s health minister was heard callously asking how many wickets had fallen in the World Cup match between India and Pakistan on Sunday, in the midst of a press conference on the crisis.
Just today, HuffPost India reported on how the same minister got an exclusive ambulance for his convoy even as the encephalitis crisis in the state spiralled out of control.
At a time when leaders seem to be shirking accountability and responsibility while dealing with a crisis, the function of the media becomes more critical. This sort of media coverage must be rule, not the exception.