Let us hope socially conscious media values get due recognition!

hariToday, standards in public life are declining. We can see even the once-much rated Parliament proceedings are falling in substance and gravitas. Many major bills, why, even the budget is passed without debates and serious deliberations. There are many other things like foreign funds to the political parties are passed, almost in the midst of din and disruptions and everyone feels elated that all political parties stand to share the infamy and the funds received by fair and  foul means gets okay within a minute, as if no one noticed what was happening.

Now, the media.

There is a prevailing fear and a sense of threat to the lives of the journalists. Two or more journalists in the TV news industry had resigned or thrown out of employment for reasons everyone knows.

Now, comes the latest news. That the Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi’s rather “unparliamentarily language” was deleted from the proceedings of the Rajya Sabha. That in itself is a major victory for the Parliament’s dignity and  weight. So, there are now mixed signals for  the state of the press, media and free debate.

In this environment that Mr.Harivansh, a veteran Socialist   editor and journalist who was close the late Jayaprakash Narayan and also to the other veteran ,the late Prime Minister Mr. Chandra Shekhar has been elected from the JD(U) to the high position of the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

Let us hope and even urge the veteran to see the media industry and its vast growth and also some distortions that had crept in Vadamalai Media wishes the new Deputy Chairman all success from a section of the media landscape that we occupy in the much undervalued agriculture and the rural media front.

A Progressive media man at the helm of the Rajya Sabha Rajya Sabha now has a new Deputy Chairman, namely, the JD(U)Mp Harivansh, a non-Congress man, a Socialist in the mould of Jayaprakash Narayan and  Chandra Shekhar, the former Prime Minister. This is  a happy news for various reasons.

One, the Prime Minister took a different decision this time, he gave up the post to a non-BJP candidate. And that to Mr.Nitish Kumar’s party and also to a candidate who carries lots of credibility and also stature to a post that was always seen as a prerogative of the Congress party.

Of course, the media screamed as if the heavens had fallen and the Congress under Rahul Gandhi once again lost and the BJP won in a very convincing manner. Nothing of the sorts happened. The Congress  was of course was marked by dithering, there was much slowness and there were divided loyalties in the Congress ranks.

In fact, this was seen as a diminishing  capabilities of Sonia Gandhi who, without any serious introspection, is going on with her past mistaken path.  The Congress party is carrying even now a heavy baggage of old hands, all the tired faces are retained by  Sonia Gandhi, no other younger and newer faces are seen at play.

Why not Rahul Gandhi or his young lieutenants take the initiative to contact Mr.Naveen Patnaik or Shiva Sena or why not Mr.Sharad Pawar didn’t speak to Sonia and field a Maratha candidate so that the Shiva Sena can be brought around?

As observers have noted that the Congress this time could have won this seat and only if they had not acted in their past manner. We are sorry to note that the Congress heavyweights of today are split persons, their minds are not there is their task, they are part time politicians and part time earners in their respective professions. Of course, the Congress party  found learn to think in radical lines, please drop the obsessions with dynasty. The fruits of labour wont come so easily as in the past.

Now, the point we want to highlight is that Mr. Harinash  must do everything in his domain top bring credibility to the free press and free media in the time of so much anxiety from his own brood. Free press is at stake.

Yes, Indian press and media is fairly free when we compares around the world. And, luckily, India doesn’t suffer any odium of pressmen arrested and put in prison etc. a plight we see in many other parts of world. That means Indian democracy is fairly tolerant for dissent and criticism. But lately, there is some disturbing trend.

Some journalists from the TV segment have lost their jobs and also the censorship is visible. Of course, it is not the domain of the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman to reform the media industry.

Yet, considering the prestige of the office into which Harivansh is trusted he can  really play some role.

The  Union  Agri Minister Radha Mohan Singh has not been much in the news. His portfolio is agriculture.

radhamohansinghMay be, the political transformation under Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi has been gogging headlines all the time that many of his ministerial colleagues don’t get noticed for what they have been  doing. Mr.Radha Mohan Singh in a recent article that is published in a business daily (The  Business line dated August 10 has given a summary of what his department has done so far.

As far as the narration goes the agri ministry seems to have taken a great many initiatives. We can just briefly summarise the same where for the benefit of our readers. Almost some 20 odd schemes and initiatives the dept has taken. The narration runs like a science-based management of resources and sustainable production. Nation-wide soil health card scheme tries to protect the  degrade soil etc. One related scheme is neem-coated ureas as mandatory. The other is nitrogen use efficiency.

The third is the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchavee Yojana (PMKSY). To ensure proper water use. The other very important scheme in our view too is the NEETI AAYOG designed Model Agricultural Land and leasing Act to make the interests of the land owners and the lease holders.

We would say that perhaps this is the greatest change aimed at changing the very face of rural lives that are now marked by so many restrictive clauses in the many land leasing acts, Tenancy, Tenancy Recording, Land ceiling etc. As a result of the continuation of these acts that there is a standstill in agri investments and production and productivity levels. Almost there is a stagnation and even desertion of even productive lands by well-off tenants and their families to leave the villages and go for non-farming activities.

Some states like Kerala, why even Tamil Nadu and much more the Karnataka state too have enacted acts to protect tenants that even if the tenant doesn’t pay rents they can’t be evicted from the land.

Now, times have changed there are radical changes in the socio-economic and cultural  areas, the younger generation rural youth, both boys and girls are educated and no youngster wants to remain in the villages and do agriculture. Even after the government resorted to crop loan write offs and also giving compensation for farmer’s suicides, we can see as in Maharashtra, one of the progressive and industrialised states, we see the unabated farmer’s suicide cases. Why, even in Punjab and other states we see the farmers ‘s distress reaching extreme levels.

So, this one act by the Modi government has brought some  realism in the thinking of the government. But then as in other areas too, Modi’s many promises don’t seem to take off. Now, there is much talk about the 2019 Lok Sabha elections there is very much scepticism whether any substantial land reform are possible.

This is the one  rub!  The rest of the mantri’s narrative again reads like a bureaucratic notings. Yes, there are progress no doubt. Like the eMarket connecting  the country’s 585 Mandis. So too connecting 22,000 rural markets.

There is talk of promoting indigenous livestock etc. Fisheries is one growth area. All narration has a propaganda ring.  What about the current major issues? Plantation sector is one such instance. Excess production of tea and milk. What about exports?

International trade wars are looming on the sky. What is the role of agri exports? This may be the key for future agri progress of the country. No word!
So too alternatives to the crop loan write-off and also crop insurance schemes. More premiums is collected than what the private insurance companies paid to farmers. Any radical step? Or, thought?

We are  rather disappointed by the mantri’s understanding of the crucial agri sector and there are many inter-connected issues like rural development, urbanisation and also the future of farming on the basis of anew radical thinking on relaxing land ownership so that new entrepreneurs enter this sector and invest and create new food processing industries.

Agriculture sector under the Modi regime is a fixed bag. There are certain bold thoughts and policy initiatives. Also, there is much inaction that has led to their present agrarian distress.

Why Press and media freedom is misunderstood?
Many things on the loose when it comes to public awareness?
Why then  the Supreme Court asks the government whether the Election Commission can deny tickets to criminals?
Parliament is doing its work?

SC in a dilemma? EC so weak? Press must report, explain and educate the public! The Indian  media scene is  neither optimistic nor confident! A great pity. It looks as if not many know that corruption and criminality in our politics and public life are the  two great hindrances to an open society politics.

Anna HazareAfter four years of Modi regime there are many great issues that are defying solution. We haven’t been able to nominate a Lok Pal while everyone knows this was a promise made many years ago. Anna Hazare after his famous hunger strike, now seems to be tired of the demand and he had become quieter. Poor soul! What more an individual however much one is committed to ideals can do in the present political culture which is vitiated by such high hypocrisy and so much cynicism for values.

One wonders whether the public too inks reconciled to live with the a degenerated political culture and not enthused for an optimistic alternative clean politics. The government for all its great many strides in so many areas of public life, its energy and initiative to launch a range of new schemes seems to have lost the larger vision for a great democracy. India should be  feeling pride in its democratic values, great Constitution that had withstood the many challenges, one should really speak much about how great men, great minds (Ernest Barker, the distinguished British political scientist) have spoken highly of India’s Constitution but we seem to be an unconcerned people. Or, the
ruling regime or regimes didn’t care for all the high optimism that must be informing the public.

Anyway, the latest debates in the Supreme Court about banning the criminals in the legislatures show that we are becoming more and more insensitive to  these issues. Supreme Court has been told by the Government that not to make too many adverse observations of the government policies in the PILs. In fact, the issues are becoming too unbearable by more violence, series of communal clashes, pubic lynching’s etc.

Violence is bad. Who says so? None! What a shame! The high and mighty must be saying: adhere to law and order. The courts are also held to ransom, it seems. Why the large pendency of cases in all the courts?

Why doesn’t the PM and his colleagues, all well-merited no doubt can’t take speedy steps to fill up the large vacancies in the courts? There are very many other issues of high importance like the functioning  of agencies like CHI,ED and others where a very distinct impression has gained ground they are used to take revenge upon Opposition leaders? There is widespread fear in the media and also in the judiciary itself.

So, press freedom, media freedom, independent function of the organs of public opinion   all seem suppressed, there are various events that prove this impression. No one man can rule the country, even in the USA as  the vast disappointment  upon the US President Doland Trump. Mr.A.G.Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times met the President and after the President complained of the Fake News doing damage etc, the New York Times owner within two hours came out with his tweet: I told the President directly that I thought his language was not just divisive but increasingly  dangerous”.

How many in India ,in the media, in the press and in the TV media can dare to say this to our Prime Minister? So, democracy just means something else. The Courts must be free to say that the criminals in the legislatures is a shame and they must be barred from entering the Houses. In fact, the issues are becoming much more grim.

Parliament must function  with full force and must adhere to norms, the House Chairmen powers must be enhanced and also the conduct of our legislators must be monitored more seriously. The many scames, like the 2G,can be avoided only if we deliberate more serious on  a range of reforms from  the political parties, political funding and the quality of the peoples’ representatives!

For all this to be possible there must be unfettered press freedom and also other freedoms! Only great minds can contribute and for this you have to  have a vast tolerance of dissent. Opposition also must conduct its jobs with great responsibility. Parties must desist from building family dynasties.

The meaning and significance of freedoms in a democracy must be debated widely in universities to public platforms. Fearless independent intellectuals must speak out. Civil Society, NGOs must be allowed, why encouraged and the PM and Opposition leaders must participate, must give more press interviews and a healthy and mature political environment must be created.

A major flaw in our land reform policies!

Agriculture is the Achilles Heal of the Indian politics! No politician of any worth speaks   the truth when it comes to the agriculture sector. Vadamalai Media is committed to agriculture and so we must be having lots of experience and expertise! But who cares? Care for  truth and  honesty?

agri landWe know most of the farmer leaders  who have contributed to the agriculture policy-making in the country. From Charan Singh, son Ajit Singh and the Maratha leader, Shetkari Sangahtna Sharad Joshi to Swanga Reddy of AP and others down the South, from the redoubtable Narayanasamy Naidu to his lieutenants, Dr.M.R.Sivasamy  to Dr.Nanjundaswamy of Karnataka to many others. Of course we also know Sharad Pawar, undoubtedly the tall leader of farmers today.

Yet, what we see today about the plight of farmers. Prime Minister Modi talks tirelessly on the farming scene. He must be only knowing too well that many of his policies haven’t taken off. For instance, the much-meaningful farmers crop insurance policies. Today, in a leading Tamil daily we read about the many detailed statistics about the collection of insurance premiums collected by the private insurance companies and the amount paid as compensation. What an irony!
There are so many mismatches and yet there seems no way to draw more farmers who are deserting the scheme. The statistics makes for a very discouraging reading. Why farmers commit suicides in an unabating manner? The much touted farm loan write-offs don’t seem to discourage farmers to desist from taking the extreme steps. Why there is so much farm distress?

Agriculture is becoming more and more a complex sector. No single one solution  seems to work.  We at the  Vadamalai Media  have so much first hand knowledge. We are also practising farmers! We own lands in the village and we do cultivate crops and we do incur so much losses! Yet, we stick on to farming. May be, a family tradition and  emotional attachment to the soil?

All  these long years we had learnt a lot, both positive and negative. We have talked to leaders of political parties. So, everybody knows of farming issues. Yet there is some mental block when it comes to talking the truths. Farming has become more and more unviable. Droughts, excessive rains, as of now, in our part of the country and the uncertainties and the vagaries of weather etc.

One thing we see is that there is also the rapid socio-economic changes in the countryside. Villages are getting deserted, young men and women getting educated and moving on to urban centres for jobs and securing a more better future. Now, to cut the story short, we feel that the unviable holdings of the agricultural lands discourage many well-intentioned people to engage in agriculture.

So, one way surely is to relax the very stringent existing land legislation laws. The many tenancy, land ceiling laws  were enacted in the 1950s, 60s when there was so much inequity in the villages. No more the conditions exist today. So, when, for instance when Karnataka Chief Minister, H.D.Kumaraswamy recently  relaxed  the limits of incomes of those who wanted to purchase agricultural lands there were protests from his own colleagues.

Among the many land legislations of states, it seems only the Karnataka state land legislation  seems to be the most extreme, as far as we know. We just recently carried in the pages of this journal the latest NIITI AAYOG’s model land tenancy law which happily recasts the entire existing laws of the states and suggests crucially  the need for tenants to pay the rents and also agreement to vacate the land once the lease period is over.

The Karnataka legislation is more severe. In Tamil Nadu, the existing provision is that you can’t evict any tenant even if he doesn’t pay one rupee as rent!

How many don’t know the ground level realities in the  villages. There are many instances that political intervention  is the norm of the day! If the ruling political party functionaries so want they can use the police and revenue officials and evict any unruly tenant at their swee well!

Today, many temple lands in many states are under tenancy laws and in each temple you can see the notice boards that proclaim the names of the defaulting tenants ,some of them big landlords themselves! We were recently in Chennai and visited some high profile lawyers and also saw some   Law book  shops!

Madras is a very old British administered territory, as everyone knows and the Madras  High Court has a long and illustrious history. One law firm publishes a law journal that is now 126 years old!

Yet, with all the long traditions of law and justice system, the ground level realities is ,alas, very discouraging. Much force, police and revenue   forces and high pervasive corruption all contribute not to peaceful rural living but for brutal and violence-ridden social and economic living environment only.

So, let Rahul Gandhi talk of agriculture, jobs and education as his “Deep Dive” in search of an agri policy or the PM pursue his unfulfilled policies like the crop insurance scheme, or crop insurance schemes, nothing is likely to change in the villages. Farmers would continue to be oppressed and suppressed by the existing inequities and  the populist and superficial caste and other discriminations, some sections of castes would continue to be excluded by the way  the political culture is shaping up.

Or, carrying favour with the high and mighty?

We once asked a Corporate heavy-weight, and a lady at that, who sat at the high table of Sonia  Gandhi for an ad for this media publication!

CSRThe lady was not only negative, she seemed to have dismissed our request in a nonchalant manner! This has been our almost routine experience and we have learnt a lot of lessons in corporate  social responsibility(CSR) tag given to  the corporate to spend 2 per centage of their net profits on their CSR activities.CSR is a political lobbying spends of the corporate? Yes, it looks like that. Sometime, you read some ridiculous and even plain exercise of some nonsense or other in the name of charity! Including  tending for their stray dogs as one big corporate advertises for these starry animals!

So, CSR is  community engagement, like say the PM’s swatch bharath or even  other such socially responsible production or socially responsible  employees’ relations.

But one thing is clear that we, as a nation, have not grown out of coshing with powers that be, be it the Congress leaders or by now the BJP leaders. We are a nation of cringing citizens, right?

One can speak only with one’s experiences, our experience is not beyond sceptical outlook.  Let us be clear about one thing. In spite of so many years of corporate wealth creation, from the pre-Independence days, we haven’t grown into a mature social conscious society.

Still, the rich-poor divide is so  wide, in spite of so many positive developments, the growth of corporate wealth and the sharing of the same with the employees. We remain a socially insensitive nation and society. The PSUs are supposed to make a 0.5 % to 5 % of net profit for CSR spends.

In our media ventures we have written at length about these non-profit, on selfish natures of creating and distributing wealth. There are some areas like education, culture and other intangible areas of life that sometimes a society, a country and a culture is rated high for the simple reasons they, the many institutions have survived and money had been  found and spent for some unprofit-seeking reasons.

There is college like ALL Souls at Oxford. If you see its history, it is there with no students, but only some Fellows who haven’t produced any tangible profits or incomes, but they had done the world proud by their unselfish seeking for greater ideals, ideas and truth at its best expression.

That is one reason why some of these institutions have brought glory to the countries and also to mankind. Why you give away your CSR?
To show in the audit?

So, silly! Why education today has become irrelevant to society? All such institutions have been turned into money making. Not one capitalist of the country, may be with exceptions to the pre-independent days under Mahatma Gandhi, we can recall like say the great Robert Owen in England?

One Birla, one Bajaj are the only exceptions we can recall now! Self-sacrifice, self-interest sacrifice,giving to causes greater than tangible funds for political parties. Why so much mystery surrounds the donations to political parties?

Any notable VIP has come out of controversy or  from the list of current donors?
Of course we live a new age of materialism and so much of aggrandisement is inside us to exploit to the maximum, the poor and the weak?

So, at the end of the day, what matters in CSR spends is the non-tangible ideas and ideals and thought-processes, why even including such ideal of democracy like citizens freedoms, citizens rights, human rights, human values like truth, ethics and such other higher ideals.

Even areas like agriculture, rural development calls for media exposure and media coverage where there is not much money or reward. Such non-tangible ideals are worth the CSR spends and attention. Amen!