The government on May 28 slammed activists and called them "prophets of doom" who are spreading "disinformation and negativity" during a Supreme Court hearing on the issue of migrants stranded at places far from their homes.
"There are prophets of doom who keep spreading disinformation, not showing courtesy to the nation. All these people writing on social media, giving interviews don't even acknowledge what is being done," said Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, adding that "armchair intellectuals" to not "recognise the nation's efforts".
The government began running trains and buses to help the migrants get home after criticism of its inaction escalated and tales of hardship were beamed daily by television channels and other media outlets.
At the hearing, Mehta asked whether all those who were criticising had "stepped out of their air-conditioned office". "The Supreme Court should not be allowed to turn into a political platform. From safai karmacharis to the Prime Minister, everyone is working tirelessly," Mehta said.
Mehta drew an analogy with Kevin Carter, the late photographer who captured the famous 'Vulture and the little girl' image. "Photographer Kevin Carter went to Sudan in 1993 during a famine, photographed a vulture waiting for the child to die, (and) he won the Pulitzer, but committed suicide on being asked what happened to the child," Mehta said, according to a CNBC-TV18 report.
"... a journalist had asked him — what happened to the child? He said I don’t know, I had to return home. Then the reporter asked him — how many vultures were there? He said one. The reporter said - no. There were two. One was holding the camera...." Live Law reported Mehta as saying.
In his suicide note, Carter, who died in 1994, said he was "depressed" and was facing financial problems.
The story of Carter is being circulated on WhatsApp, by people sympathetic to the efforts of the government to tackle the migrant issue.
The Supreme Court on May 26 took suo motu cognisance of the "problems and miseries of migrant labourers" stranded across different parts of the country amid the COVID-19 lockdown.
The apex court had issued a notice to the Centre and governments of states and Union Territories (UTs), seeking their response in the matter. It has asked for a list of all the steps taken till date by the Centre in this regard.