afaqs! news bureau

Amitabh Bachchan's mother's day ad has hidden message about Aarogya Setu

As the Government's Aarogya Setu app fetches polarised views for and against individual surveillance, Big B asks us to support it.

Most of the messaging by brands on Mother's Day involves thanking Mothers for supporting us through the hard times and being a hard-working inspirational figure. However, this Mother's Day ad is a little different.

In this commercial, Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan takes us on a trip down memory lane - reminding viewers how their mothers used to care for them when they were sick. The ad is entirely in Hindi and the monologue stretches for a full minute, describing how as children, we were used to telling our parents all about our aches and pains. He urges users to do so if they feel any of the symptoms of the coronavirus too (These symptoms include a dry cough, fever, throat irritation, and so on.)

This is not an awareness ad for a hospital or a healthcare-led organisation. The ad is for the BJP government's newly introduced Aarogya Setu app. The app aims to create and maintain a healthcare database of those who fall sick/might potentially be suffering from the covid-19 virus. Within two weeks of its launch, it became one of the country's most downloaded apps - with nearly 90 million downloads so far.

Aarogya Setu equips users with knowledge of how many covid-19 cases there are, in the area that they live in and it also offers access to telemedicine, e-pharmacies and diagnostic services. However, to make all these features available, the app requires access to the phone's Bluetooth and GPS. A user who is doubtful whether he/she has contracted covid-19 has to enter an array of personal details on the app - including details of healthcare which is classified as sensitive information. Independent reviewers of the app have raised concerns about the privacy of the app - which has been made mandatory to download for government employees and for employees from some private companies too.

The message for the Mother's Day ad seems to be a simple one - to be transparent with your symptoms in the face of a pandemic that the government is struggling to contain. However, citizens don't have clarity on how secure the app is, or of the parties who can access the healthcare database.