Despite earning the dubious distinction of veering towards trivia, the media merrily goes on wafting emotive and jingoistic stuff at the cost of issues like GST – Goods and Services Tax, writes Pulse Media Critic
This winter, Delhi experienced a bewildering predicament. Instead of dropping down, the temperatures around parliament seemed to soar! Sometimes nothing ensures good camaraderie better than a good drubbing! So, the BJP’s Bihar defeat seems to have played catalyst with regard to relations between the Government and the opposition. Swords are still drawn, of course. But at least they’re ‘talking’. And really, what better ice-breaker than a hot cup of tea shared together between the Prime Minister and the Congress leadership that occupies prime time instantly?
The tea was about the GST (if that rhymes, it’s only proper and it should— our Prime Minister is man of rhetoric). The GST, put simply, is a tax which the Indian media knows more about than the common man on the street but never bothers to explain. Be it our politicians, be it experts, be it India Inc, or be it those five odd big editors of the media who set the discourse -- nobody has bothered to explain the GST to the common man. But the slogan persists. You can hear it in every newsroom:
Pass it, Pass it, Pass…
Please don’t harass it,
Drink your cups of tea,
Pass the GST.
But let’s return to the change in weather. Rather, let’s broaden the scope. ‘Climate Change’ has become the flavor of the season again. The city of lights has not only rekindled the resolve to fight the growing menace of terrorism but also plays host to one of the world’s most contentious debates. In the spotlight of the channels and the newspapers, India has pitched itself as a sunshine destination for renewable energy, indulged in some self eulogy as a responsible nation which traditionally cares about environment too and also proposed a grand solar alliance of nations to tap Lord Surya’s indomitable energy.
Meanwhile, the beginning of the devastating Chennai floods, was overlooked by the media and billed as ‘just another natural disaster’ (normal practice, going by Assam or Bihar flood coverage in the past). They focused instead on other urgent matters such as the soap opera surrounding Sheena Bora, Peter Mukherjea, Indrani Mukherjea, Siddharth Mukherjea... one loses count. This drama took precedence for the electronic media over cursory affairs, such as the fact that half of India’s districts are in drought or that a metro like Chennai was on its way to becoming a gigantic swimming pool.
Then, of course, there is the matter of hashtags. There has been a new ‘Chicken and Egg’situation in town for a while. It is called ‘Twitter and Media’. One never knows which drives which. A recent favourite was #RahulStumped, when the Congress heir apparent, buoyed by the 27 seat achievement of his party, decided to improvise something of a snap poll, live, with the college students of Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru. The house was divided. But, without really bothering to question the students present, channels ran with the Rahul Stumped headline all day. A student wrote an open letter to the media the next day, exhorting it for sensationalising a discussion instead of actually delving into the merits and demerits of policy points raised and discussed.
(Another victim of hashtag-media was Aamir Khan. With an unprepared finance minister sitting in the audience, Khan decided to join cause with what the FM had termed a ‘manufactured protest’ at an award function. He too broke his silence on ‘intolerance’ (the new buzz word in India’s socio-political landscape). Then, even though Aamir had not said at any point that he wanted to leave India, the wheels of the media were set in motion. ‘Aamir wants to leave India’ was the new pet headline. Twitter did its bit and more. The Cultural Right Wing joined its voice to the chorus with the by-now-jaded “Go-to-Pakistan!” Aamir later quoted Tagore and reiterated his utmost allegiance to the nation.
In parliament, the makers of modern India were eulogised on Constitution Day. Rich tributes were paid to Dr B R Ambedkar, with no political party losing an opportunity to appropriate his legacy. Some hard facts about manual scavenging were highlighted. Still, over one million people in India do the most menial job of scrapping human excreta. If India can eradicate Polio, it may also perhaps try to find a solution for this. Implementation and awareness will the key. The media can play a crucial role.