Friday, December 08, 2006

Going gaga over NRIs

Every year on January 12th, the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is celebrated with great fan-fare and the Prime Minister kicks of the celebrations to mark the day Gandhiji returned to India from South Africa with a speech full of praise for the NRI and PIO community and for all that has been done by them for the country, directly and indirectly. And then unfailingly, there is always a mention of "more needs to be done" and "don't forget your responsibility towards your country". It really baffles me to see such shameless acts of begging, especially since we are a nation of a billion plus people and need to look first within before we reach out for help from a few who for reasons personal to them, or their ancestors, left the shores of our country in search of greener pastures or were forcefully taken away to distant lands.

To me, it seems just plain wrong to go about asking those who have made it big abroad to contribute to the nation-building process just becasue they are rich. I mean what right do we have to ask anyone for that matter to quite literally 'pay-up' by playing the patriotic card? If they want to, they'll do it out of their own free will, and they are doing so, so this cheap attempt of using the patriotic card is an example of how we have degraded ourselves to the levels of beggers, resorting to emotional tricks rather than give the NRIs a proper reason to invest in and help in the development of our country.

When Gandhiji returned to India from South Africa on the 12th of January, 1915, for all practical purposes, he could have been mistaken for an 'NRI' despite having left for South Africa to defend a client there. Having returned to India, he plunged into the freedom struggle and soon had the masses thronging to catch a glimpse of him during his several protest rallies and speeches. The Indians had found the answer to one of the greatest problems in someone who came from abroad. This mentality still seems to persist, in spite of the fact that we are no longer the slaves we were till 1947. Having said that, now I do believe that our minds and actions have become slaves to years of bad goverance and dependence on others to solve our problems. It really wouldn't matter even if the entire NRI community pumped in all their money, we seem to be headed in only one direction, and the currents are just too strong to turn back. God forbid I should be right.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What ails Indian media today?

I haven't blogged in a long time, owing to a sudden increase in work and poor health in the recent past. But I couldn't have chosen a more appropriate time to make a comeback with a topic that I have wanted to write about in a long, long time.

Let's be honest, spreading news now seems to have become a game, a gimmick of sorts to see whose news would linger longer in the minds of the public, like the taste of a good meal. 'News' isn't want drives today's media, TRP ratings do; the truth isn't what is being pursued, sensationalism is; matters of national concern aren't given enough space & time, matters of personal interest are. I'm not a journalist and so don't know what are the dos and don'ts taught to journalists today (if something like that is taught at all), but what I just mentioned come from pure common sense.

Last year, in 2005, (or early 2006, I can't quite recollect), I thought NDTV reached a new low when Swathi Maheshwari visited the home of an Indian truck driver who was kidnapped by terrorists in Iraq and thrust a microphone in front of his wailing mother asking her 'how she feels?'. How the hell was she expected to feel when the sole bread winner of her family was taken captive with a good chance of him being paraded in front of a camera and have his head lopped off? Personal opinion, and I'm sure there are many who agree with me on this, but that was one of the most despicable things to do by anyone, let alone a journalist. The appreciable part was that it was the news channel that was relaying information about the captives to the family rather than the Ministry of External Affairs. This, however, didn't give them the right to take a camera into their houses in their hour of grief. And their explanation of "sharing the family's grief with the rest of the country" was as lousy an excuse as any.

Our security forces (armed forces and police) and the nation's security gets the least coverage by the media, although national security should be of interest to everyone national. Terrorism in Kashmir is given it's fair share in the news, and I'm not complaining about that. But how much of news time or print space is given to such stories? The only time these make the headlines are when the number of killed exceeds 10 or so, else it takes at most a little over a minute on the 9 o'clock news or a narrow coulmn in the papers. Why is it that only when the number of those killed exceeds a certain 'magic figure' does the media decide to give more importance to the story? Is the loss of life of one jawan or officer of our security forces not as important as the loss of several of his or her comrades? And even when these incidents are reported, they are not followed up until the next major incident.

More recently, Sanjay Dutt's verdict in the 1993 Bombay blasts came out and for the entire week, the only thing that was running was Sanju bhaiyya's friends, well wishers and sister thanking God, and saying things like 'he's a nice guy', 'no one should have to go through what he has undergone', etc. Was the entire country that desperate to know what his family and friends thought at him not being branded a terrorist by the courts at the cost of what was happening to soldiers like Major Pitambare of the 3 Paras, who gave up his life while eliminating the HuMs topmost leader in the valley? This story was given a few dying seconds at the end of the 9 o'clock news and the papers next day had a narrow column mentioning it. A few seconds on TV and a piece in the paper on 1 day. Is that how much we value the freedom and democracy that our men in uniform unselfishly lay their lives for? Is this the message the media wishes to portray?

The other thing I've noticed is the media has turned from presenting the facts to presenting their opinion. In a nation like ours, where majority live by the news they hear, without bothering to form an opinion of their own based on facts, the media, knowingly or unknowingly, have started started encroaching into a territory that ought not to be transgressed. Everyone has the right to form their own opinion based on the facts presented, but the media seems to have taken it a step further and taken upon itself the role of 'opinion former', so now our democratic minds have that much less to do. This is one (dis)service we could gladly do without.

The media (electronic) in this case went out of their way in a never seen before show of solidarity for the retrial of Manu Sharma, accused in the Jessica Lall murder case. I'm still wondering where that solidarity went when it came to fighting alongside the families of the security personnel who lost their lives during the attack on Parliament, who are opposing the clemency plea of Mohammad Afzal, the person convicted of providing logistical support and accepting money, thereby endangering the security of the country and waging war against the state. I'm guessing it's partly due to our mentality towards our security forces. We think that they are there to die for the country and so when they do, no big deal. however, models like Jessica Lall are people we relate better to since she came from an upper middle class family, like most of us. So at the end of the day, the media has give this story a quiet burial. And surprisingly, there was no 'opinion' presented by the media on this.

The media has for long has claimed that they are targeted most of the times and are made to look like the bad guys. With all that they do, did they expect any better? By no means am I painting all journalists with the same brush, but it's not too hard to see what kind of journalists and what brand of journalism is under fire here. Our country operates with 3 arms- the Judiciary, the Executive and the Legislature; I just hope the media doesn't become an extension of one of these arms, or a fourth arm itself.

more as they come.
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