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Vociferous Media Reactive Governance

July 19, 2012

Does anyone really know the number of 24 hour TV channels there are in India? I guess not. Some say there are more than 300 such TV channels. There could be more. What is clear is that all these visual media and sometime even the print media are having an impact on our polity and society like nothing has ever in modern times. The media picks up a story and the nation’s consciousness begins to revolve around it. Many a times the media picks up a story only to find that they have made the wrong choice.

The story cuts no ice. They are smart enough to backtrack pronto. Sometimes the media is not so smart and keeps harping on a story till they finally realize that they had been barking up the wrong tree. Some pig headed media persons fail to back down till the story dies its natural death.

One of the times when it was pointed out that the government was acting and reacting according to media reports was the case of a French consulate official in Bangalore alleged to have molested his 4 year old daughter. The French embassy commented forthwith that the government was acting as per the media reports. But this has not been an isolated case. Examples abound. One of the times when visual media created a storm was the case of Ruchika Girhotra alleged molestation case. The DGP who was charged with molestation was finally found to have been innocent. Media was relentless and even when the CBI gave Mr Rathod, the accused DGP, a clean chit the media tried to build up a case. It was ugly and gave the media a bad name. That the Team Anna’s campaign against corruption is totally a media creation goes without saying. It became amply clear that Team Anna was a media creation when they were forced to rope in Baba Ramdev, an ideological outcast, to keep the movement alive. Such is the power of media in these times.

These are examples of stories picked up by the media. It becomes increasingly worrisome when the governance becomes reactive rather than proactive. The importance of a leader in any political party increases exponentially if he is media savvy and keeps appearing on various TV channels. Various decisions of the government are decided on how the media is covering a story. Some say that A Raja and Kanimozhi would not have been thrown in jail if the media had not unleashed a relentless campaign. Suresh Kalmadi was taken to task because of media activism though the real beneficiaries were those who were in-charge of infrastructure projects which ran into thousands of crores. He is again not being allowed to go to London for the Olympics because media thought it was inappropriate. So many scams and cases of graft have been reported and pursued because of media ‘outrage’. But the mother of all political media campaign was the one against Narendra Modi and the alleged 2002 Gujarat ‘carnage’. The man was on the defensive and it took him all of 10 years to get a clean chit from a Special Investigative Team under Supreme Court supervision. The case is not dead yet and the lies and half truths continue. The media has labelled Modi an outcast unmindful of the fact that the man has been given a clean chit by the highest court of the land. Similar media campaign was unleashed against BS Yeddyurappa and Janardhana Reddy.

Media anywhere will have biases. India is no different. Media has a pronounced Left of Center bias here in India. Liberalism has been taken to ridiculous extremes. Media invariably has a pro-minority anti-majority stance. It is said that the anti-Hindu bias is because most of the media houses are directly or indirectly owned by Christian churches. There seems to be some truth in that. But then there is something called social media in these times of instant news and views. Such social media outlets as Facebook, Twitter, Linkdel, Foursquare and others give a platform to common citizens to air their views. There is something called Internet Hindus who have emerged as vocal lobby in reaction to the perceived anti-Hindu bias in the mainstream media.

Government spends a lot of time and resources to manage media in a way that it does not impede its own interests. The Maoists and other ‘progressive’ forces have also infiltrated media in a big way. There is a distinct pro-Maoist lobby that finds voice in the media and the government is finding it very hard to block their influence. A pro-establishment is the norm though and best of media houses do not have the guts to sustain an anti-establishment campaign for long. The principal opposition remains on the fringes of media indulgence as much for being an antithesis to the Liberal dominance as it is for being opposition per se.

Government will increase price of petrol till a media outcry will force it to decrease it by a rupee or so to placate the vociferous media. A child falls into a bore-well and the media goes crazy. Millions of rupees are spent to get that child out of the pit while another child in another part of the nation who has also fallen into a pit is left to die just because the media cameras did not reach that spot. A child stolen from a railway station is recovered in no time because media picked up the story while several others stolen in other parts of the country are ignored because the media did not find time for them. Policy decisions are reversed because of media outcry. The Kudankulam nuclear power project could not take off for a very long time because of protests covered by the media. It took the prime minister’s intervention to make it happen. Campaign against the Maoists have suffered a setback because the vocal ultra-Left lobby within the media made an encounter in Chattisgarh look like it was a carnage of innocent villagers. The security forces have since been instructed not to fire at Maoists if they have women and children as human shield – which veritably means they shall never be able to decimate them. The Guwahati molestation was the nadir for the media which took a proactive part in the whole sordid affair to get a shocking enough clip to ensure better TRP.

One political commentator, Madhu Kishwar told one of the TV News channel anchor that he was holding a kangaroo court every evening on one issue or the other. The shrill anchors do have their biases and want to hear what they want to hear from the participants in any talk. They have already made up their minds even before they record the program. Many a times their knowledge and understanding of the facts is limited which makes it hilarious to hear what they keep on harping. That they are judgmental also comes through when one finds some of them give their personal take on a subject with their signature down below the statement. Journalists have become vain and the adage of a journalistic propriety and balanced discourse has taken a beating.

It is not as if media does not play a role in other nations. But here in India the polity revolves around media coverage and perception. Its the tail that is wagging the dog now. That is the problem. These are phases in a nations process of maturity. Media will behave differently with the changing needs and changing times. As the population gets increasingly educated the media will have to learn to sober up its act. Right now its shrill and lacking in substance many a times. Government will also have to learn to give credence to the media only up to a point and no further. Governance is about doing what is right and in the right manner. If the government is sure of itself it will cease to be reactive. But to be proactive, governance will have to be meaningful. If this truly happens then that in itself will be a great victory for the relentless media.

As an aside, can’t help but wonder whether film fraternity would have reacted as it did on the passing away of Dara Singh and Rajesh Khanna were it not for the TV cameras rolling, covering every bit and piece of this event.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. arun Bhagat permalink
    July 19, 2012 11:26 am

    Media is definitely drunk with its power!! On a lighter vein, they say a drunk man never lies!! There are cases where media has definitely played a positive role as in Jessica lal murder case. Your analysis of DGP Rathor’s case seems flawed. Molestation is a change that is very difficult to prove in a court of law where the onus is on the victim to prove the crime was committed. Molestation and Rape are rarely proved.unless of course, media takes it on itself to video tape it for proof, as it happened in Assam!!

  2. arun Bhagat permalink
    July 20, 2012 11:06 am

    The Ruchika Girhotra Case involves the molestation of 14-year-old Ruchika Girhotra in 1990 by the Inspector General of Police Shambhu Pratap Singh Rathore (S.P.S. Rathore) in Haryana, India. After she made a complaint, the victim, her family, and her friends were systematically harassed by the police leading to her eventual suicide. On December 22, 2009, after 19 years, 40 adjournments, and more than 400 hearings, the court finally pronounced Rathore guilty under Section 354 IPC (molestation) and sentenced him to six months imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1,000. The CBI had opposed Rathore’s plea and had sought an enhancement of his sentence from six months to the maximum of two years after his conviction. Rejecting his appeal against his conviction by a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court, Chandigarh District Court on May 25 sentenced the disgraced former police official to one and a half years of rigorous imprisonment, enhancing his earlier six-month sentence and immediately taken into custody and taken to the Burail prison. On 11 November 2010, the Supreme Court granted bail to S P S Rathore on the condition that he should not leave Chandigarh.

    On December 28, 1993, days after Ashu was paraded in handcuffs in his locality, Ruchika consumed poison. She died the next day. Rathore threw a party that night to celebrate.

    Rathore refused to release Ruchika’s body to her father Subash unless he signed blank sheets of paper. The blank papers were later used by the police to establish that the family had accepted Ruchika’s forged autopsy report. Rathore also threatened to kill Ashu, who was still in illegal police custody. At this time, Ashu was allegedly unconscious in CIA lock-up. He had been stripped naked and beaten the previous night by drunk policemen. He was brought back to his house, still unconscious, after Ruchika’s last rites were over.

    Source :

    Your Apology expected for stating that “Rathore was found to be innocent……” Such statements not expected from a serious blogger like you.

    • July 20, 2012 1:08 pm

      Since then the case has been closed by the CBI and the complaint has been withdrawn. Rathors pension may also be resumed along with arrears. It was years after the said molestation that Ruchika consumed poison. It was never proved she consumed poison because of the alleged said incident. Her father had married twice and there was family discord. Perhaps that was the reason for Ruchika consuming poison rather than the alleged molestation. Get your facts straight before commenting.

  3. July 20, 2012 6:45 pm

    a friend recommended this website to me, he said that your posts are the best so i came to read your post and realized he was right. congratulations for writing so well.

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