The biggest misfortune today in India is not hunger, poverty, unemployment or lack of development but it is when problems like such remain unaddressed. While on the one hand a gigantic percentage of poor people live on the streets and in pathetic conditions, the media industry in India is busy in promoting only cricket and Bollywood celebrities.
News like “Amitabh Bachan is suffering from severe fever, Shilpa’s has dandruff, Ashwariya has given birth to a baby girl and Sachin is back” is ‘breaking news’ for the Indian media particularly broadcast media, thereby leaving aside all socio-economic issues of the country.
Instead of being the watch dog of the society, media has turned out to be a mouthpiece of few chosen people (less than 1% of total population). The way it performs its services is enough to prove that this particular industry is simply there to make money.
If Shahrukh Khan cuts the cake, it will be shown as the breaking news but if a poor man dies of hunger, it will not be even condemned. If Katrina is not present for Salman khan’s birthday bash, it will become top priority for most media houses. And when a poor, debt ridden farmer commits suicide, it will not even be castigated. If Sehwag makes a mistake during a game, it will be broadcast for days together but if a politician or any bureaucrat is involved in a scandal, it will given the least of coverage.
What irritates me most is when needless information is broadcast again and again. Although media is often considered as a mirror of the society with an aim to update, educate and amuse people but unfortunately it seldom performs that duty. It sends out a very disturbing message of media having no social responsibility at all. The Indian media, by way of its obsession with only celebrities, has clearly exemplified its role which has nothing to do with socio-economic problems of the society.
According to the latest report by Global Hunger Index (GHI) published in 2011, India holds 45th rank among countries with hunger crisis. Besides, a study by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, it was found that there were 650 million people (53.8% of population) who live below poverty line in India, of which 340 million people (28.7% of the population) live in severe condition. In addition, the UNICEF report of 2011 shows that, one in three malnourished children globally are in India.
However, I firmly believe that India as a country is not poor. It might be an exaggeration for many but it is a fact. The recent scams involving, top businessmen, bureaucrats support this fact. The 2G scam involved a staggering amount of Rs. 176,000 crores, common wealth scam (Rs. 36,000 crores), Satyam scam (Rs. 14000 crores), Investment scam in Kerala (Rs.1000 crores), Education scam in Maharashtra (Rs. 1000 crores). In short, scams in India have gained massive proportions with one after the other and there are chances that even a mathematician could commit a mistake to convert these huge amounts into billion figures.
Now, imagine if such scandals would not have happened, and if such money would have been allocated into priority sectors, the story of India would have been different. The country would not have been topping the list of having the highest number of child labourers in the world. Besides there would have not been a growing rate of unemployment in the country causing frustration to the youth. It is reported that more than 40 million people in India are still unemployed.
On the one hand, crime rate is increasing steadily and on the other hand inflation has become the worst nightmare for a common consumer. The poor are dying on the streets due to starvation and due to severe chill of winters and the burning heat of summers. A considerable population of rural India is still living without basic necessities of life such as electricity, water supply and sanitation facilities. Farmers continue to commit suicides and the so called menace of ‘un-touchable’ is still prevalent in India.
Moreover the human rights violation and custodial deaths have become the order of the day. The ‘Human Rights Watch global report’ released in the last month of January demonstrated that human right excesses committed by security forces continues, particularly in J&K, the northeast, and areas facing Maoist rebellion. The report highlights that India is yet to revoke the draconian laws thereby allowing abuse of human rights.
The main tragedy is that all these problems are untouched and unaddressed. The media is making hue and cry for no reasons. They highlight such issues which are of no significance and value. It looks like as if the Indian media is misusing its right of freedom of speech. I wonder why Salman Rushdie’s visit to India turned out to be a biggest issue for them. Though on one hand the reaction of Indian Muslims to Rushdie’s visit was quite appreciable but I failed to understand the intention of media, the way they highlighted the case.
The responsibility of any media outlet is to make administration responsive to the requirements of citizens and to help the nation to grow. However, time is not too late. The Indian media can still make a difference by separatin its core responsibilities from business and politics. Although earning money is important but earning money should not be the legitimate goal. The media industry must stand as a responsible pillar in the community and it must learn to respect the needs of the society as a whole. Both Indian media as well as Indian bureaucrats should now wake up from a deep slumber to change the fate and fortune of their nation.
The author is a Ph.D Research Fellow in Department of Commerce (SOM), Pondicherry Central University and can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org