So, what future for the media freedoms?
Media’s many roles. Recharging today
Media freedoms are under stress

India is a large democracy and in a democracy media plays a critical role. Even media itself has grown in its many new developments. After the advent of internet and the Information Technology’s revolution, the social media growth today we live in a world there are many opportunities and many threats to our freedoms and rights. Democracy also empowered people, even at the bottom of the societies, who have become affected by the Internet’s reach. The fallout from these latest developments, among which one is the growth and strengthening of monopoly powers of the great tech giants, the op four of their CEOs, those of Microsoft, Google one more were called upon by the US Congress and grilled for the their monopoly power and this power is now being misused by the companies. This is a new dangerous in the olden times, the growth of economic monopoly powers by the old style brutal capitalist exploitation, the new IT tech monopoly is also affecting the rights and freedoms of the people, the citizens in a democracy.

Where do the ordinary people come from? In this new complex emerging powers of the State?

As far as the democracy is concerned, today the freedoms of the people are extremely in danger. In such a contemporary world what role small media can play and enjoy and what sort of public service we in such small print media ventures like ours can play? Very little? Yes, it looks like that only!

However, when we look at the world outside, small media has a rule. Only small media dedicated to such priority sectors like agriculture and rural countries, where only the more powerless and the poor people, though in big majority live and work, there is a need for such dedicated small media to focus on more sensitive issues like poverty, economic opportunities, for sustainable livelihood issues. Now, in the grip of Pandemic crisis we see even the Western media, big ones like the TV channels like the BBC and other ones haven’t played more committed roles. This is the view from India. Also even the developed countries like UK and the USA, among others seem not to have taken the Pandemic crisis seriously in the first round and later after India was caught in the second wave of the Pandemic the Western nations to have woken up and imposed new lock downs!

We in India rely more upon Western media practices and we didnt have enough information about the Pandemic’s spread and the vaccine information as we all desperately needed. Especially for a media, that too a more restricted one like ours concentrating on agriculture issues, the information is almost nil. India is a large democracy and a large food economy. India has some unique economic strength. One it is a large food economy, India exports the largest rice targets. Also, India has some unique agricultural systems and at the same time we need many new experiments and innovations in agricultural practices.

So we need to keep the agricultural exports and trade issues very carefully focused on our own needs and opportunities. The Indian general media, the large print houses are of course faced with new challenges with the online media now seeking new business models. And we in the magazine are much more focused on the political and social dimensions of the many agricultural issues. We need to modernise the agri systems, with its antiquated land reform laws, the average land holdings as small as 1 hectare and two hectares and the many rural institutions like the panchayat raj, the very micro development institutions are caught up in the age of bureaucracy.

So we have to empower the rural people in a significant way. As things are they are talking about only putting cash in the hands of margins farmers to rejuvenate the rural farming functions. As of now, as far as we know there are almost no institution innovations, we still retain the Collector’s Raj. And the routine corruption-ridden revenue and police. Raj and that is a great pity. We need more freedoms, yes, and sort of liberal political atmosphere. Unfortunately, there is the reverse at the present. State of affairs, the same Tahsildar regime where the farmers have to travel physically to transact his or her farming business. Corruption, debts and litigation are the daily plight of the Indian farmers.

Of course there are certain glimmer of hope. New innovations are taking place thanks to some dynamic regions and progressive spirit of farmers. Especially in some geographical regions like Pune and Nasik. Nasik we can truly say is the say a new Silicon Valley of Agriculture Innovations, Nasik also can claim this distinction. Recently one agricultural innovator, an organic producer of fruits and vegetables appeared on our Video Conferencing site and explained how he meets the time-tested phenomenon of farm prices crash! That was very inspiring and an eye opener.

Farmers must learn to use their traditional wisdom and see to it that farm gate prices don’t lead to farmer’s mental caliber. Yes, there is no other way for farmers to learn new skills. Media like Vadamalai learnt to convey many new lessons to the benefit of not only the farming community, even the urban, educated middle classes about what is happening in other parts of the world. Media industry is a tough and risky field.

No government wants to promote media freedoms but the contrary of how to control media sector. Even inside Indian media industry is severely controlled, big industrialists buy media to control free opinion to circulate. So we live in a very restricted world, many big countries are turning into regimes, even in democracy, the ruling parties turn to this trend. Farmers, why even the ordinary citizens and those think they are educated are living in fear of authority of unruly politicians. India is itself a good example.

So we live in a challenging. Time, let us be always on alert!

A paradigm shift and its time are here and now!

The much-dreaded Covid 19 virus menace is here . We in India and the rest of the world are in the midst of this crisis. The only consolation, if we can call this time a consolation is that other more developed countries are equally in a bad situation and we have to all fall in line and co-operate with the government’s various steps that are also daily changing as the menace are changing daily. Now, it is three months since. We are all in a lockdown whose time limit is unknown as we write.

Work from home is the current slogan and how long we are to be confined in our home and how to unlock the blockade is an open question and nobody seems to have an answer. May be till the time when some new medicines come out and this as of now is very uncertain. How long the economic activity can be blocked?

There doesn’t seem to have any answer. Anyway, the reality is that we are all confined to our homes and the workplace culture has to change. And some work has to be resumed simply because the poor and the unorganised sector would be hard hit. One positive outcome of this current crisis is that the new technology of digitalisation has helped an increasing section of the workplace into turning over to the culture of work from home!

Those who are in the IT sector have been pursuing this paradigm shift for some time and it is increasingly being tried. One sector is the IT companies and also the very many small companies and ventures.
Luckily for us at the Vadamalai Media this work from home culture has been a long time practice and readers and patrons, please note that at present that all our practice has been turned over to this new online technology.

Our two sites, agricultureinformation.com and Indiaschoolnews.com have become in effect two of our latest videoconferencing sites and as of now, our two on-going ventures. It is really heartening. That the two sites are fully drawing visitors in more than good numbers than we anticipated. Of course it is too early in the day.

At this point we feel it is only right that we have to enlighten our readers and viewers. That ventures, the various language magazines, two in English and one in each Tamil and Kannada languages have been our mainstay. For over many years, nearly half a century, namely, the one on education and the one on agriculture, namely, Agriculture and Industry Survey, have been our print venture. From our print ventures we are now graduating to the online ventures and as we go on we are confident we would take the online. Ventures to new heights of glory and service to the Indian people.

It would be considered imprudent if we say and claim that serving the largest public good has been our humble pursuit that this pursuit of public good only has taken us into two important Indian sectors, namely of education and agriculture, sectors that we are intimately connected with, as are basically placed in the agri/rural sectors and we are also comfortably placed.

So, from now onwards we hope to reach out to larger sections. And wider reaches of social segments. After all, the Indian social and economic segments are so developing that still about 52 percent of Indian people are dependent upon agriculture and village economies and also the rest of them almost the same per cent of the poor are rural migrants whose plight came to light after the outbreak of the Covid 19.

Our very agricultural economy is, as we must be knowing, is basically rural migrants-dependent. And all our agricultural revival and recovery plans and targets must be only based on this micro-level realities. And that is another world altogether. Let our new realisation of this immense continent of Indian agricultural revival draw us together and a new commitment to our agricultural development. Draw us more and more new adherents to the last technologies that seem to be our only hope and a new faith!

The economic, political and strategic implications

The latest military flare-up between China and India is very unfortunate, to put it very mildly. The carefully built-up friendly relationship, inspite of several provocations to the contrary, stands shattered and a new era of co-existence has to be built up between the two neighbours, two giants of countries with largest populations. It won’t be an easy task by any stretch of imagination. It is a tough task for any leaders, not just the present incumbents but even for the future leaders.

The writer of this column was a student at Santiniketan and Oxford, the Visva Bharati University of poet Rabindranath Tagore that has a well-known Cheena Bhavan whose founder, along with the poet was Prof. Tan Yun Shan, a contemporary of the great Mao, in fact the two were students of a training college and the present writer was also fortunate to be students. I studied Chinese language under him in the 1950s and during the Indo China War in 1950-60s, Chou Enlai was sent to Santiniketan by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (who was the Chancellor of Visva Bharati and I was fortunate to shake hands with Chou when he came to visit our Chinese language class room!

It is a long story. The real donors. To the founding of Cheena Bhavan. Were the Chiang Kei Shak, the long time colleague of Mao and how they fell off and how Taiwan came into being is all very complicated. To cut the story short, I want to state here for the benefit of all Indian people that long time friends of the Chinese people and as Panditji said once in his usual style when he don’t speak at length in the annual convocation addresses is that the present flare-up too is between two incumbent governments and not between the general public of the two countries. So, this distinction must be kept in mind when we discuss the present tensions on our historic borders and the new controversies.

The one point I want to bring home here and now is that the relationships between. China and India are too long and historical and there is a great deal of religious, cultural and social and not to speak of the current interdependence and mutual relationships in the economic and political and strategic spheres.Now, there are some serious issues and I hope the more directly linked and directly engaged experts and experienced persons who could really lend more insightful inputs at the present moment. Immediate issues need to be tackled with care and caution. Certainly it is not going to be an easy task, given the current world scenario.

We understand that the two leaders, Xi and Modi had met at least 22 times and created lot of goodwill and a committed path for more co-operation and mutual. Contributions for expanded market and that means a more expanding market for products of the two countries and as things stood just till now, India is a big market for smart phones, to take one example and likewise, China has a big export market in India for its various products and services. Any disruption now, as one expert has observed that China might have intruded a small piece Indian Territory but it had lost India entirely strategically. To lose India as a friendly neighbour is an enormous mistake and one can be sure the high price paid by China for this folly would be incalculable and only time can tell how big a blunder Chinese leaders have committed.

Of course diplomacy and tactful conduct on the part of the two countries could retrieve the situation. We have to wait and watch how the current scenario plays out. Indians recognise that China is big country and economy, China lost 5 times the size of India and in the race for economic development. We are at least 15 years behind China in many critical infrastructure. Development like airports, railways and roads and even the urban development, as I had the opportunity to observe the developments there on a recent visit.

One or two troubling here. How can the two leaders fail to reach mutual trust and mutual understanding after meeting so many times and in such close encounters and friendship?

This is troubling indeed. If great leaders entertain mutual distrust and lack of warmth and imagination and other noble virtues, how can the civilisation we often talk about can survive and how much we have learnt from history and other great events, revolutions and greater disruptions, like the current pandemic and much other natural disasters, the environment degradations and climate change and. What you have can be understood by our education and spread of mutual sense of brotherhood.

In fact, this is the century of Asia and Asian people. Have much to contribute. There is a long tradition and history here for India and the Indian people. One more side-effect in the present conflict is the role and place of Asia’s small nations. Nepal, Sri Lanka and even Pakistan are all having great. Responsibilities.

You can’t create a great country and achieve any great things unless you have long-terms and vision of sorts. Democracy is the core issue.

It is time that democracies of the world wake up and stand up!

How to revive the Indian agriculture?

These current economic scenarios is far from any certainty and predictability. There are many challenges, from the external challenges and the internal turmoil. Of course, the economic and political issues, in the best of times or worst of situations are always very complex and complicated. That is why in an ironical sense both the politicians and the professional economists are always over-rated!

Now, coming to the current times we see that India as the world’s largest democracy as well as the fifth largest economy, also with the latest Chinese incursions and the prevailing Covid-19 Corona Virus Pandemic, is facing multiple challenges. Of course those who are in positions of authority, in politics and other responsible policy making spheres have special moral responsibility to play their roles with greater commitment. Now, we at Vadamalai Media and committed as we are to the nationally crucial agriculture sector, we have to write and comment with greater responsibility.

We are not in any position of political responsibility, though we feel that even otherwise, agriculture is a type of sphere where there are too many voices, both official as well as political that agriculture is one arts where everyone seems to be cut off from actual practical farming as their daily livelihood. That its one very important reason, among others, to see that Indian agricultural policy making is so skewed. That the actual farmers, cultivator is always in an exploitative situation. Now, the current scene. As one senior agri scientist who participated in Vadamalai Media’s new online venture, www.agricultureinformation.com video conferencing “Discussion Group”‘s daily event, that after the current threatening Covid 19 Pandemic, it is the agriculture sector, the farming activity is as active as the Covid Virus sector. Challenge!

Now, it is for the first time in India we, Indians themselves have realised that Indian agriculture at the all India level is very much dependent on migrant labour. On such a vast scale who and which expert, agri or non-agri who has said so far? As far as we know none! Such is the dependence of Indian agriculture that once the Corona Virus hot and when many states announced lockdowns a storm, almost like flood havoc drove out such vast numbers, the rural migrants who flooded the fields of Punjab, Haryana and West UP, not to speak of other States, many in the Southern India, also saw this vast humanity flooding out to their rural hinterlands seeking an escape from this Pandemic.

As per latest statistics, lndia’s salaried population is only a small fraction of this total work force which explains why so many migrants had to move out of cities when the lockdown was announced on March 24. The International Labour Organisation (lLO) estimates that only 22% of India’s work force falls under the category of salaried employment and 78% of people had no assured salary and was bound to suffer in such uncertain periods.

In fact, we would say that it is an opportunity now that for people at large and also for cultivating public opinion on such critical issues like agriculture, the sector for which we are committed to realise that how important agriculture sector is for such national priorities like surplus food production and also still more seriously how agriculture with its bounty of providing a food surplus that is also very critical to survive in this increasingly uncertain world. We Indian people must also know that in the rest of the world, in the Middle East and also in some parts of Africa people pay a heavy price, as in Syria, Lebanon and other neighbouring countries, there is a food crisis right now and wars and political instabilities cause an immense misery and much heartburn for people with less fortunate leaders. The important point we want to further convey is that in India too we need to pay greater attention beyond agriculture, food production, we have to equally commit ourselves, the importance of politics, good governance and also the public opinion and public perception of the quality of our leaders, politicians and the political class, the political elite whose compositions, with corruption and undemocratic composition of our political party cadres and the sort of mentality developed by our leaders to run their party machines with such huge political denotations (the latest estimate is that the ruling party collected Rs 4057.40 crores and spent Rs. 1,371.82 crores, as per the research of the Association for Democratic Reforms). We have much more to say for the nature of our highly unequal and inequitable political structures in the name of democracy. All these, not just the poverty and exploitation of the poor. So the point here is that India is much better in agriculture development issues but there are very many structural issues. You can’t separate politics from economics and so vice versa. Now, the latest announcement of the Prime Minister for free food and also direct payment into the hands of the poor to cut short the bureaucratic constraint is welcome. Let us hope the free food scheme works satisfactorily. As for the revival of agricultural economy, one important point here is that, as well know that the marginal farmers is in the majority. The average farm holding is less than two hectares per household.

To make farming profitable, we have written extensively. So, there is no point here in writing anything more. The ground level reality is that the returned migrant labour would now get back to the old haunts where they had learnt to. Earn three of four times the daily wage is. So, please don’t disturb this existing rural realities. Innovate new production techniques and let new innovations like producers farming societies and other contract farming practices come into a new life. Let the co-operative efforts plus other new initiates succeed.

There are other land reform laws still there and inhibit freedoms of farmers. In Karnataka they are making changes. We need farmers freedoms ensured. Don’t tie the land owners to some outdated land reform laws further.

Bank loans to actual farmers must be liberally provided, so too the marketing reforms.

There may be some disruptions. Disruptions are better for some time than present day anti-liberal mind set of populist politics!

Date : 15.06.2020

Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank
Hon’ble Minister of HRD
302-C, Shastri Bhawan,
New Delhi- 110001
Phones:+91-11-23782698/23782387
+91-11-23382365 (FAX)
E-mail: minister.hrd@gov.in

Sub: To draw up well-thought out higher education policy – reg:

Dear Hon’ble Minister,

Namaskar,

I had not long ago written a letter to your good self regarding the activation of library system in the States where in most of the States have not attended the activation of libraries.

Also lately I had written one more letter addressed to the Prime Minister on the need for education reforms which unfortunately had not taken off in the last six years of the BJP rule, in spite of several attempts to draw up an education policy.

I have been interested in this field for a long time.

Today I read in the Financial Times of London about how the recent Indo-China issue had led to many heart-rending scenes as circulated in the China media, the Chinese Global Times and also in the social media how the Indian soldiers are treated badly. I am sure the Government of India must be aware of these humiliations.

However, what prompted me to write this letter to your good self directly is the urgency, yes I would say so, to draw up a sound education policy that would, I am sure, meet the strategic need. To draw up a higher education policy that would add strength and also reverse the current trend towards lakhs of Indian students who migrate every year to pursue higher education in Western countries, UK and USA and also other countries like Canada, Australia.

By one latest count, again published in the FT, some around 3 lakh Indian students travelled in the year 2019 alone. You must be surely aware that it costs each Indian student nearly one crore for a first degree. While the home students, UK and USA, pay only one third of the same.

Are we not wasting so much of our foreign exchange? Simply because of our poor higher education policy in our country. Our higher education strategy doesn’t contribute to strengthen our country’s intellectual base, not contribute to the self-confidence and creativity and also in sciences and technology. We don’t match with the progress made in the new technologies, in particular in the IT and software fields, as per the latest data on, say start ups and other related tech fields.

When we write to the PMO our letters are filed under some head or other, it never gets the PM”s attention.

You have to engage the best minds of the country to draw up a well-thought out higher education policy and the comparable Indian university system. How long we are going to follow the Western education priorities?

Higher education has already become mass education and the private players have already commercialised the field that no longer contributes higher research and solving problems our country badly needs.

I am sure you are seized with the issues faced by the sector and in my opinion, the humbling truth is that bureaucrats can’t draw up a courageous and independent minded approach to the issues.

I had studied at Santiniketan and Oxford and I can say with confidence that if you don’t intervene the Indian education system won’t change for another one century and more!

Let us start right now and also we have to compete with the world higher education system.

Hope this letter triggers your thoughts and cause some action!

With warm regards,

V.Isvarmurti