Public Perception vs. Public Opinion!

What all these have to do with us, India and the Indian public opinion?

media_digitalchannelsYou see, there are certain developments, short and long term that we don’t perceive in our day to day preoccupations! A day’s news by whatever means we read, through the twitter or other social media outlets, as this trend is growing widely ,through the younger generation as ‘users’, not as the traditional readers, is driven widely by sort of trending as they say.

Print media is now terribly old fashioned, it seems. The readership of the print media is declining in the West, why even now in India. The online media, the use of the Internet based mobile media in particular is terribly fast growing and grips the attention of one and all, young and old, urban and rural users.

TV news channels are almost exploding, with some 900 odd ones and we don’t know how this TV news would evolve. As it is, the TV news channels are also owned and operated, taken over and also transformed into propaganda weapons in the emerging economic and political transformation.

But what it has to do with our own domain: the rural and agri sector?
Does a narrow segment like the rural and agri sector has any place, any space?
A question worth asking and also finding an answer!

We all seem to be rushing and rushing all the time! Towards what? That is not a question asked by anybody, high and low, arrogant and assertive?

Just now there is a new book before us: A Feast of Vultures by Josy Joseph (Penguin).We ask our readers o read this timely book to know where the new India is going.

Here are some thoughts. We know the role of media is shaping public opinion. But things are changing so fast that we are likely to be distorted by the very same media, both old and the new, public opinion is both shaped and articulated by a responsible media. But is the media sector or industry, as it is evolving, evolving with any self-discipline or self restraint?

We are afraid it is not! See the TV channel owners of these days. It is said by veteran observers that real estate owners and other sort of adventurers are entering into this sector. The most dangerous developments are also here.
India’s top industrialists are buying over the online (TV) media for the heck of warning and rendering unemployed even the most gifted of the TV anchors.
In one day, this happened and there was none to raise any voice!

There is a ministry of Information and Broadcasting, now luckily headed by a senior leader and let us hope there is now a new awakening to turn Indian media scene into one of healthy and positive and liberalising force. And thereby, let us hope, we give the Indian people a truly free media environment, a new sense of resurgent freedom of expression, freedom of opinion and thereby a truly liberated Indian society and people.

In the new book referred to above I find that how the old India of the pre-liberalisation era is now replaced by a new era where new generation of a new political class as well as the new class of businessmen who don’t give a thought to twist and turn the policies, however, correctly or through some hunch crafted to some ends and yet they end up as serving just the opposite?

Damn the common man, the poor and the under privileged. They are not the concern of our new rulers but it is only grabbing power, feeding your greed and succeeding. The ultimate symbols of success or call it by whatever names you c fancy, the Mukesh Ambani’s new opulent home Auntilia!

For every Ambani there are many new ones, the same ambition, the same drive and also the same environment to breed and catalyse! Where is democracy going? Anyone asks? Where is the new economy marching anyone cares to question?
Democracy? Oh, what is promised since the ages? What we are delivered now?
Serious questions! But there are answers, don’t panic!

Democracy must reach out to the common man? Where is he? He or she is in the remote limits. The most ignored and silenced thereby.

Freedoms for all! That is democracy. There are a thousand obstacles and yet thousand possibilities. Luckily, there a Constitution that ensures our rights and obligations. But we have to articulate the public perception. Basic moralities are the gift of gods. So, we can be sure that the public perception would judge the rulers, the wrong doers and also the rightful ones.
That is what is the purpose of the media values, as we see it.

Public perception had always played a role in history. That is what had made revolutions inevitable. Even today, we have to live carefully. Otherwise there is danger to our polity and peaceful lives. Right and Wrong! Good and Bad! Public perception is all about this only!

Public opinion? That is the job of the media. There are many perspectives here. One can choose one’s priorities.

Climate change? Environment? Rural development or rural depredation? Urbanisation or smart cities?
Who can articulate, who can communicate?

This is the burden of the media, be it old or the new. There are so many negative features: in Chhattisgarhi, Raigarh, Jindals, Vedanta and other natural resources guzzling new industries are causing a great deal of wrongs. 5 lakh death in 2013, half in India and China from air pollution. Coal alone a great cause of this pollution. Statistics are too many.

Only hard working, dedicated few individuals, journalists, media men and women can brave the many hostilities and expose what cause so much misery for the mass of people.

That is high media! It is for us to choose! Goodbye!

First, the farmers’ suicides hit the new government. Even as we write there is a young farmer had committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh in Prakasam district, ironically when the Prime Minister Mr.Narendra Modi was on the AP soil laying he bhoomi puja for the new state capital. The CM and other state heavyweights are all celebrating the great vent.

InaugurationIs this not a greater irony when the development of the states, the country’s development dialogue is the topic of the day.
So, a pulses price that has another skyrocketing season is on us.
What sort of an agriculture system, ministry, and administration we are having.

We don’t have even a proper monitoring system. Where do we turn to when we want to know the sate of agriculture and progress of rains, sowing and cropping patterns?

Where is our achievement in the progress of science and technology?

Now, our digital India must help us first to do these priority issues.

In fact, what are our development priorities?
Have we really spelt out yet?
We are afraid we haven’t done anything in such serious manner/
We talk of UN reforms? What are our credentials?

We have to open our world, our country, and our world concerns in a big way. Our media both print and TV channels are still primitive, in the sense we are timid about many things.

Unless our Dhoordharshan is liberalised, unless we aspire for some poor imitation, even if it comes to that, we have to spire to imitate, say BBC. If Al-Zazaara can world fame and recognise where are we, a big nation and a very big tradition of tolerance etc. See the ground reality now? Is it wrong if the world laughs at us, the way we conduct our affairs?

Anyway, let us turn to agriculture and here we like to say that we need a vigorous agri media space.

Vadamalai Media, our company is the pioneer in agri media; we publish three magazines, in three languages besides an online media (www.agricultureinformation.com).

Indian agriculture system must have an updated weather monitoring system.

Rain patters and related cropping areas and other information must be made available at the farmers’ doorsteps.

This is now possible through our man y mobile applications.
Pulses prices have caught pubic attention because of the urban consumers’ concerns.

India is the world’s biggest pulses producer and also the largest consumer. So, we need a very well-organised pulses growth plan.
In Karnataka, in Kalaburgi district, there used to be four lakh hectares of toor dal crop, this year unfortunately, this year the crop extant fell to one lakh hectares, owing to deficient rain fall.

But then the agriculture minister must be a vigorous person, he must visit such regions, agri officials too must be seen touring the major pulses growing areas of the country.

Pulses traders are the cleverest of the traders. They hoard and raise prices.

This time, by using stringent laws, food and civil supplies ministry had turned the department into a law and order sector.
We have imported this year from all major pulses growing countries, from USA to Australia to Myanmar to Russia and of course in a major way from Canada.

Let   the government    make a new plan, let us turn this crisis into an opportunity to make better planning and better forecasting.

It is easy to criticise, but we also know unless we point out the alternatives none benefit. Our plea is to use the latest available technological tools so that farmer stands to benefit by growing   the various essential commodities of mass consumption.

Private trade in India is very much in the pulses import and distribution picture. So, it becomes more important the ministry and various state departments become active partners in administering a corruption-free regime.

Technology drives the new opportunities
Specialised media defines the core strengths of a society and the country.
India is still borrowing from the West. For ideas, why even full-scale print magazines.

Print-Vs-DigitalPrint media is facing challenges from the Internet media.  The days we take the media as just printed newspapers and magazines. Those days are gone.

Also, the every idea of media freedom. Now, media is both an ideal and an industry.One the one side we see the media being controlled and curbed by corporate entry.

In India itself we see big takeovers by corporate houses the big TV channels.Thus, ordinary citizens’ voices, viewpoints are drowned by the big industry interests.

Why, even the Prime Ministers and powerful leaders don’t like to interact with the media, no interviews are granted nor any reasons given. Democracy to that extent is stifled.
As a business and an industry it is the new media, the Internet-based new devices and gadgets that are pervasive in the media space. Google, Face book and other social media, twitter, mobile devices rule the day.

The BBC of course scored high. There was also the reported speech of the latest director or head of the DD. In India we have had so many government -controlled government companies. One such remaining entity is of course the DD.

The government’s attempt to reform the public broadcasting, from the days of V.B.Keskar, the Nehru minister in charge of the radio is known.

Today, where are we?

Now, under Mr.Narendra Modi we seem to be getting ready to take on the new Prime Minister’s penchant for razzle-dazzle and display of a showmanship in its making!

The private media. It not strictly private, not owned by small people but by big corporate is about to display its own muscle.
The corporate control of the Indian media, both print and the TV is not yet a fully reported story.

In India we have already the syndrome, a national syndrome, to praise those in power and underplay those who lost power.
In spite of this syndrome we have an established mindset.

So, we see not a balanced reporting and exposure but a biased one of continuing to praise one party and its sycophants and also giving very biased reporting in the regional media.
So, our politics and public is also very one-sided.

Now, coming to specialised media, like the ones dedicated to say, agriculture and education and other spheres like environment and even science, it looks that is a lost cause!
There are also no in-depth edit page articles anymore.

It looks the best period in Indian writing and reporting was in the 1930s, 40s and 50s and afterwards we find the whole scene changed.

With the coming of the regional politics dominated by film personalities the whole gamut of reporting, the emergence of the TV news channels the whole atmosphere changed. Not for the good?
Yes, we are constrained to say so.

There is now the new threat of the online media. The very existence of the print media magazines and newspapers is under serious threat. The famous take-over of the prestigious Washington Post by the Amazon billionaire founder had shaken the faith of the media world totally. Jeffrey P.Bezos has to make the print version viable.

What did he do?

He has now come out with the idea of putting the Post through his Kindle sales!

Yes, he has come out with many new insights. He says that there is a cognitive overhead; the praise is Bezos’s own!
The number of decisions readers have to make before they get what they want is a new growing problem.

This principle was the driving force behind Amazon’s one click buying decision! It is one of the Amazon’s guiding ideas for a new app being introduced that will deliver the Washington Post to some of the Amazon Kindle tablet owners for free.

It is the first formal collaboration between the two companies, the Washington Post company and Bezos, own Amazon.

The new app. with pre-loaded stories, pictures and even advertisements was designed with close collaboration with Bezos. This is announced by an India tech brain, the technology officer with Amazon, his name being, Shailesh Prakash.

Anyway, the point here is that India is also now embarking on its foreign reach mission. Mr.Narednra Modi is on the offensive so to say to take India to world audiences.

His digital India plan also fits well with his technology expansion into diverse areas. Our Indian media is also facing serious challenges.

One, the credibility gap. India is not seen as a nation of very independent media practitioners. There is every challenge to the independent media.

Yet, as we have been experiencing in our own limited, small scale manner, there is also great deal of opportunities to integrate the print and online media reach.

Our agri portal, www.agricultureinformation.com, is now the world’s largest portain in this specialised segment.
Online subscriptions are the only way to reach out a wider audience. New and innovative tools are coming up.

E-commerce opportunities are also opening up.
Online audience is also growing fast.

Our farmer’s information delivery model, farmer’s exchange, is a promising business model and there is scope for unlimited experiments to take out the audience reach to a more global scale.

It is one thing for any media to win credibility. This would be our core pursuit.

It is another thing to grow in an exponential manner to bigger market. This we are already experiencing growing our subscription drive online. There is much promise on the horizon.

Every day is a day of opportunity and innovation. That is the media industry’s popularity even in times of disruptive technologies. Anyway, media industry is a very exciting field. It shapes the minds and kindles new thoughts for new business ventures.

Time to live through a more turbulent time for India only now comes through! Only now onwards!  The biggest crisis is the credibility crisis!
Who would trust the leaders?
The Prime Minister’s American visit is fine!

1-potoBut will the Indian people trust when it is said that the PM would sign an agreement with the US President to make way for the American nuclear power plant suppliers to set up nuclear facility in India?  Why there is worry and anxiety and even downright some indignation as well?

The Prime Minister, as usual, himself doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t speak out his mind on the event of such a big visit. Visiting USA and getting to meet the President is a big thing. Unfortunately, India doesn’t behave or conduct itself with any degree of dignity and protocol. We have only to see other, even; distant countries like the Brazilian President, Dilma Rousseff, cancels her US visit on the ground that the USA had indulged, in a shameless manner tin spying on the very same president’s phones and other devices.

Now, the scandal of American spying and also with Indians, we ourselves allowing our own government here to do the spying on our own citizens, in such blatant manner and yet no voice is raised inside the  country. Where are Brazil’s nerve and our own nervelessness! In fact, our own foreign minister showed himself a poor representative for India!

We seem to be living at a time when we, as citizens, dont care for our own self-esteem and self respect as a nation. In this very peculiar time of ours we are asked to trust our non-speaking Prime Minister to trust him. And that too on such a momentous subject like nuclear power plant purchase with so many risks and hurdles, like the right of the Indian citizens to get compensation in the event of an accident. Bhopal disaster is very much a live subject to us, even now.
And we have seen how the “liability” clause, if any is simply dismissed by the so-called foreign investor.

Now, as for the atomic power production, we, even now, have to be reassured not just be the officials. This term officials are used more and more under the present government. Even under the current discussion about what the Prime Minister carries in his pocket to his counterpart is not known. Mr.Salman Kurshid is a gentlemen politician we grant but his own credibility is on stake. He had not got this portfolio by the dint of his own merit. So, he has to work extra hard to prove himself.

He must be seen as if he is in close touch his boo. This doesn’t seem to be happening. So, when Mr.Kurshid assures about his boss’s own credibility, to that extent the government’s many voices get lost in the very many contradictions, why even in the very weakening of such an exercise. So, India has to sustain the pain and dismay of the people when the PM meets his US counterpart and when Manmohan Singh voluntarily (?) or Obama’s asking (?) one wonders what exactly the language our PM   would utter?

4-potoThis is greatest of the mystery of the modern day politics and India’s own contribution to diplomacy. We in India haven’t been accustomed to any such high level diplomacy, we don’t trust high level public figures, we seem to be left to languish in the world of weak and very ineffective government officials, however high sounding is their status and how much the very government wants us to believe it, we have no choice but to put the faith in god and only relax!

Yes, such is the level of our democracy. A very, poor concept that in the last 66 years we all believed it had matured to a concept of vibrancy. But where is the vibrancy?

We are all saddled with so many contradictions much ridicule?
Yes, we are now presented with the next two leaders: Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi. These two it seems likely are to take over India after the 2014 elections. Now, we see that the whole apparatus of Indian democracy is reduced to a farce about which not many are talking bout.
Even the media is caught in the pressure of its own self-survival.
You watch the high level of discussions on such quality channels like NDTV, NewsX and even the Times Now. At the end of the day we find that we somehow come round to live with the same sort of bogus and farcical debates.

We seem to take Mr.Narendra Modi as given factor. He is, not anybody elese, either from with the BJP or outside. In the same vein, we find that only Rahul Gandhi is presented, not anyone else either within the Congress party or outside.

So, when an intellectual like U.R.Ananthamurthy, from Karnataka says, expresses an opinion, that he won’t like to live in a country that would have Modi as the Prime Minister, the BJP doesn’t react in any wise manner. Why only Modi? Why not other faces? More benign faces?
In the same way, why only Rahul Gandhi? He has by all indicators shown that he is not ready; he is not fit for the job.

But there is a great deal of hypocrisy, every sphere of life, starting from the incumbent Prime Minister to the humble citizens. What sort of a person or personality is the Prime Minister who, out of the blue, opts for Rahul Gandhi as the next Prime Minister?

This is the person who is going to meet US President Obama and also assures him a dilution (in all likelihood) and how else the already reluctant producers could be convinced to come to India and invest? In the USA there are over 100 nuclear plants and yet no new plant has come up lately.

So, we have to live with only with these sorts of very weak, weak-minded and also weak-willed persons to fix our fate over the nuclear power as a solution for India’s long term future.

Certainly, the debate on nuclear power must go on in India. With more vigour and more objectivity. There are great many issues. The new Iranian President, Hasan Rowhani, had publicly stated that Iran would not build nuclear weapons. Great. We, India has to congratulate him. Japan knows to India. The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Abe, is a nationalist (in the Japanese own sense) and he wants to see Japan emerges as big power in South East Asia. Fine. So, the Japanese might come forward to invest in India. But the Japanese are highly committed to nuclear non-proliferation treaties.

2-potoWhat Indian should do? This question is yet to come with the Japanese official position on nuclear co-operation. India is woolly, even now on so many nuclear issues. Are we a weapon making nuclear power?
Are we willing to sign a comprehensive test ban treaty?

Such questions, the government, officially, won’t talk out.
But what prevents people from talking out. Our citizen groups must interact with Japanese citizen groups. The point here is that we, the citizens, can’t leave the Indian high risk, high security issues to non-serious, non-speaking and shall we not say. Non-capable persons and others who managed to come to the high occies not through laid down Constitutional and democratic ways but through backdoors.

The time to live through a more turbulent phase in India begins. Only now onwards.

The power of political legitimacy!

New Delhi exudes power and authority. Power and on authority on whom?
The people? That is a subject no one asked. Being in Delhi and if you don’t talk of politics, then, it amounts to cowardice. During the Mughal times, then, under the British Indian people did live peacefully or otherwise for some centuries.
Now?

Now, there is democratic politics and that is a positive factor in Indian history. But where are we now? Why all these corruption and misdemeanour?

Intellectuals and ethically minded are also in politics. But there is not much visibility. Even otherwise, those who call themselves intellectuals, writers and poets, the sort of people who are expected to be swayed not by power but by values, truth, transparency, honesty, intergirty etc are nowadays are afraid of powerful politicians.

The new segments like media, may be, not academics, not certainly universities, are scared of political power, political forces. The latest case of Yogendra Yadav, the just expelled member of the University Grants Commission shows how we have become so paranoid of power, that is exercise of brutal power and that too by very cowardice manner, Through some faceless bureaucrats. We know from our interactions with universities, VCs and others, more so through the Central Universities, how discredited some of these universities and also university bodies.
So many wrongs are done and being perpetuated.

NDTV_247Just when the Yadav controversy broke out, on the NDTV debate on September 5, we saw how the farce of appointing 16 VCs for the central universities was done in one or two days!

Is this the way to run the universities?

Also, there is so much frustration in the higher education circles, more born out of poor management, poor signals from New Delhi and where is the light?
We don’t know for sure!

But what we know for sure the rot had set in at the top and it is eating into the vitals of the society. Indian higher education needs a strong hand, before that a well articulated vision. The HRD minister would do well for his own reputation if he takes some bold initiatives and invite some VCs, past and present and also some interested, let us call busybodies to come and interact with him, the minister.
Why Delhi is door hai and so the minister can alternate his interactions in justified nearby geographical locations.

Now democratic governance is at its worst low. There is simply no commitment for truth, transparencey, and ethics. There is so much arbitrariness, so much ignorance and disrespect to intellect that intellectuals in India have become a set of cowards.
What is the point of getting Padma awards and other awards if your intention is to stand by the so many wrongs of the establishment?

So, the Indian intellectuals are not contributing to new articulation and clarifications as to what is Indian democracy achieving, what freedoms are, what other new manifestations of some of the precious concepts. After the scandal over the Edward Snowden and Assange, the Wiki Leaks founder and others had done for individual’s freedoms and human rights have done, it is a poor consolation when we are patting ourselves on our backs that we are democracy.

India didn’t open its mouth when Snowden knocked at our door. See what the rest of the world is doing?

Even a small, tiny nation like Bolivia, we say tiny, when we compare with our vast geography, but Bolivia is a brave nation. It has filed a case against USA as a bully and sued the great power for refusing to let the Equador President place was blocked by USA through other European nations.

The sentiments of even small nations are on par. Where is India and where are our thinking people, the intellectuals, writers and poets, not to speak of the media people?

Indian media didn’t do itself proud for the simple reason that it has now become embroiled in its own credibility!

The point is that Indian learnt to live by the day. Indian politicians have taught us this art. This is very dangerous.

If by any chance, there is so much overwhelming sign on the road today (you have to see the outside of the BJP and Congress offices in New Delhi to see the crows, the number of cars parked outside of these offices.

So, there is a mood swing in the air. If the BJP captures power, it will just undo what the Congress had done so far. The new government might rename the airports, bridges and others that now bear the ruling dynasty.

Why not? You can see this happened in TN and UP.

Where will be the current office holders?

Only the really committed intellectuals and party old hands or the new committed youth cadre, has to bear the burden of the fight for truth, honesty, transparency and also for the few freedoms we have fought for all these years. The RTI, Lokayukta, Lokpal and even human rights as entitlements are all to be fought for as vigilantly as ever!

Beware; there is no alternative except to be on eternal vigil for peoples’ freedoms!

Jai Hind.