Media adviser to the Prime Ministers
Development journalists, progandists and even Geologists!
The recent passing away of H.Y.Sharada Prasad, the long-time media adviser to Indira Gandhi, gave rise to a spate of moving tributes to his memory. Prasad very much deserved all the fulsome praise for his remarkable qualities. We also knew him for a long time, almost for the best part of his media career when he started as the editor of Yojana, the Planning Commission’s publicity magazine.
It was the time when patriotism mattered and development journalism was very much a respected and even a priority of journalist creed.
Alas! Today, journalism is everything except development! Prasad used to reply to letters, all sorts of letters, and we particularly we remember he once wrote to say that he would publish one of our articles in Yojana. Very many years later, around 1985 when we met him at the Prime Minister’s Office at the South Block he was the very same person and this time also he wrote back to acknowledge our letter. It is very rare persons in such specs remain unaffected (or uncorrupt of character and other aspects of life).
So, while we pay our own tributes to the memory of such a journalist who was a role model for others in the profession, we have to see the radical changes in the profession these days.
First, media world is itself changed. Print media is very commercialised to the extent of no one trust the big media houses, owned by business houses as well as family owners who also double themselves as editors and publishers.
Commercialisation is driven by profits and in an extremely competitive world there are all sorts of motives, including ulterior motives, even if there is no altruistic motive of pursuing and reporting truth.
TV is also becoming lately motives-driven; selectively we see persons and personalities built up by an obliging TV network. In the regional languages, as in Tamil, we see how politics and even vendetta is built into the TV network to the total detrimentation of values.
Now, development journalism is just a word and no one seems to care. Though there are dedicated individuals and also dedicated readership, for agriculture, rural development, environment etc.
But development journalism and journalists have graduated to commercial journalism which goes in the many names of consumer journalism, fashion and celebrity journalism.
In the process, we also see journalists bitten by these virtues and viruses, Sharada Prasad, were a wonderful human being, then he also fell for the virus. The virus of Emergency apologist and propagandist.
Goebbles are lurking in every Prime Minister media adviser, these days. Sanjay Barua, till recently media adviser to Dr.Manmohan Singh, says many things in his own tribute to Sharada Prasad but then Barua himself didn’t or couldn’t play his legitimate role. This is the dilemma of many development journalists.
One hopes the media advisers to the high and mighty must basically be driven by certain value system, to promote development, to make truth accible. But in a democracy like India’s this is not happening.
Prime Ministers themselves avoid media, no PM’s media conferences as in Nehru’s times and we; the citizens are not able to find out what the Prime Minister is doing actually.
There are all sorts of contradictions in the media policy of the government. It reflects fully in the working of the UPA government.
There are exceptional journalists who rise up to great heights. These are the examples in UK and USA. In India too we have journalists like Kuldeep Nayar and H.V.Kamath, to name just obvious names, which have gone on to become legends in their own life time.
Why? And how?
They stood for certain basic principles, basic truth-telling traits.
So, ultimately, it all depends upon the individuals concerned.
The point here is that in the pursuit of mindless commercialisation of media, both print and TV, we seem to have forgotten development journalism as a fashion.
Development journalism is no more a fashion! Yet, we at Vadamalai Media don’t know any other journalism except pure and old-fashioned development and rural development and what have you!
Now, we see that our basic sectors, agriculture, rural development, education, health are true development sectors and high priority.
But we don’t find that on any of the Prime Minister’s or the President’s overseas trips, the jumbo jets carry too many journalists from the established newspapers and the TV industry. Hardly have you got a name from agriculture! Or, other development sectors.
Why? We ask why again!
The reason, if we can say it so, mere stupidity! Stupidity on the part of our establishment! Bureuacracy, Ministers, our party leaders and others.
Our Information and Broadcasting Ministry can be safely wound up and no earthquake would take place! Their own DD channels are scandals while other private channels are compared.
The ministry is supposed to give publicity to the government schemes. Now, every other ministry spends money, it seems, on its own.
So, in the end only the Delhi-based newspapers are favoured most of the time or the others are very established and they know these ads would come automatically. Because the PM and his colleagues would badly need their favourable coverage.
Now, the point is agriculture touches all the ministries and depts., from PMO to agriculture, finance, commerce, and food processing and panchayat raj to rural development.
Mr.Sharda Pawar must allot a separate media budget and must nurture the agriculture media in the vernacular and the English language so that the government would get independent feedback and the farmers would also get wide coverage, in-depth studies.
The agri media is a poor cousin, everyone neglects and it is scandals we see the glossies published from New Delhi get special supplements from State governments!
Why? The Chief Ministers know that such bogus publicity would have pull with Sonia Gandhi or others.
This scandal must stop. There must be invitations to all agri media publications and every time our big jumbos take off, there must be the poor correspondents (yes, the look very poor and haggard for most of the time) these correspondents are not covered under any wage board etc.
So, please, we request the Prime Minister and the Agri Minister and the Finance Minister, not to mention the I&B minister to allot budgets for the travel and tour of the agri media correspondents ,both inside and outside the country so that our agriculture gets the much needed feedback and policy inputs.
Now, Vadamalai Media single-handedly has been publishing this magazine plus two more in the regional languages for many years.
In fact, seeing our own strength we were invited by Israel and Holland for their special agricultural events.
Only we publicised the floriculture shows and pointed out how our officials fail to perform their duties.
We could do much to wake up the slumbering agri establishments, ICAR, the very many bodies under it, in Hyderabad and in various parts, we could also inject reality in many of our theory-based agri policies, we could make the Indian farmers to learn new technologies and their implementations. What we write we have demonstrated in our various media. From IT in agriculture and rural development to e-governance to biotech applications in agriculture.
So, we can take some pride and courage to say what we are saying here! Let us hope that development journalism is given its due honour and place.
Please don’t imagine, we mean the government in Delhi, that you have any media policy. You don’t! So, please wake up and listen to what we are saying for quite some time! Agriculture, rural development, education, health, environment are the basic issues and these issues need much explaining and investigation and an open exchange of views. We could recall the days of Pandit Nehru when things were more open-minded! Now, we seem to be thriving on our closed minds!