Journalism- Then and Now

The 12th anniversary issue of Outlook (link via Abi) carries a discussion on the changes in journalism in the last twelve years, though I’d say that the changes started in the late 1980s.

Some of the most incisive insights are by P. Sainath. Here are a few excerpts from the discussion. All the comments below are by Sainath.

The biggest trend is the growing disconnect between the mass media and the mass reality. A very tiny Indian press, for a hundred years, served a very large social purpose, and tried to speak for the masses. Today, paradoxically, a gigantic Indian press serves a very narrow social purpose, which continues to narrow everyday

If 80 per cent of your revenues comes from advertising, and 20 per cent from sales—what that means is you’re going to give advertisers four times the importance you give readers. Their preferences and priorities take precedence

You see it in the simplest and most direct way: the organisation of beats.

Many beats have become extinct. Take the labour correspondent: when labour issues are covered at all, they come under the header of Industrial Relations, and they’re covered by the business correspondent. That means they’re covered by the guy whose job is to walk in the tracks of corporate leaders, and who, when he deigns to look at labour, does it through the eyes of corporate leaders. Now find me the agriculture columnist—in most newspapers, the idea doesn’t exist any more. If you lack correspondents on those two beats, you’re saying 70 per cent of the people in this country don’t matter, I don’t want to talk to them, they don’t make news.

That is, until the elections, when they screw the media’s happiness

Everyone keeps dividing journalism into serious and non-serious journalism—it’s a bogus division. What is called non-serious journalism is in fact a very serious business proposition, or at least it’s perceived as that by the media owners. They divide journalism into what’s serious…and what makes revenue.

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The World’s Most Armed Country

We all know about the big arms race during the Cold War and the drain it was on the economies of especially the former socialist bloc. While the United States continues to be the dominant military power, it is not a surprise that it is also the most armed country as far as the civilian population is concerned. India comes a distant second. The cause of the rising per capita arms is attributed to…rising affluence!

The United States has 90 guns for every 100 citizens, making it the most heavily armed society in the world, a report released on Tuesday said.

U.S. citizens own 270 million of the world’s 875 million known firearms, according to the Small Arms Survey 2007 by the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies.

About 4.5 million of the 8 million new guns manufactured worldwide each year are purchased in the United States, it said.

“There is roughly one firearm for every seven people worldwide. Without the United States, though, this drops to about one firearm per 10 people,” it said.

India had the world’s second-largest civilian gun arsenal, with an estimated 46 million firearms outside law enforcement and the military, though this represented just four guns per 100 people there. China, ranked third with 40 million privately held guns, had 3 firearms per 100 people.

Germany, France, Pakistan, Mexico, Brazil and Russia were next in the ranking of country’s overall civilian gun arsenals.

On a per-capita basis, Yemen had the second most heavily armed citizenry behind the United States, with 61 guns per 100 people, followed by Finland with 56, Switzerland with 46, Iraq with 39 and Serbia with 38.

France, Canada, Sweden, Austria and Germany were next, each with about 30 guns per 100 people, while many poorer countries often associated with violence ranked much lower. Nigeria, for instance, had just one gun per 100 people.

“Firearms are very unevenly distributed around the world. The image we have of certain regions such as Africa or Latin America being awash with weapons — these images are certainly misleading,” Small Arms Survey director Keith Krause said.

“Weapons ownership may be correlated with rising levels of wealth, and that means we need to think about future demand in parts of the world where economic growth is giving people larger disposable income,” he told a Geneva news conference.

“Educating” Caste

Harsh Mander, one of the rare bureaucrats who have acted with conscience and who resigned from the Indian Administrative Services in the wake of the Gujarat pogrom in 2002, writes on caste discrimination in schools and how traditional behavioural patterns are re- created in what are supposed to be modern institutions.

In a dilapidated slum shanty near the banks of the Ganga in Patna is settled a group of families whose profession is to clean dry toilets with their bare hands, and to carry human waste on their heads to throw into the forgiving waters of the mighty river. I found that not a single child studied in the government school, which, as it happened, was located literally just across the road from the scavenger colony. It took a while to coax from the guardians the reason for their steady resolve to keep their children away from school. It transpired that they had indeed sent their children to the school initially. It is a custom in many government schools for the teacher to send children on errands. The upper-caste children were assigned tasks such as to fetch tea. The children from the scavenger colony were asked to wash the toilets, or to clean up after a dog had soiled the school premises. The children could not bear the shame, and refused to return to the school…

Children in rural India, and even parts of the cities, learn early the rules of caste, which survive unremittingly through their lifetimes, even as their country races into the 21st century. A survey of practices of untouchability undertaken in 565 villages in 11 major states of India reveals shockingly that in as many as 38 per cent government schools, dalit children are made to sit separately while eating. In 20 per cent schools, dalit children are not even permitted to drink water from the same source…

Caste discrimination in mid-day meals is seen in various ways. The first is defiance of the Supreme Court orders to appoint cooks from dalit backgrounds. In states like Tamil Nadu only 14 per cent of the cooks are dalit. In many places where, although, dalit cooks have been appointed, upper-caste parents retaliated by not allowing their children to eat the meal, threatening to withdraw, putting pressure to replace the cook with an upper-caste cook and so on…

Almost 27.6 per cent dalits are prevented from entering police stations and 25.7 from ration shops; 33 per cent public health workers refuse to visit dalit homes, and 23.5 per cent dalits still do not get letters delivered to their homes. Segregated seating for dalits was found in 30.8 per cent self-help groups and cooperatives, and 29.6 per cent panchayat offices. In 14.4 per cent villages, dalits were not permitted to enter the panchayat building. They were denied access to polling booths, or forced to form separate lines in 12 per cent of the villages surveyed. Despite being charged with a constitutional mandate to promote social justice, local institutions of the Indian State facilitate untouchability.

Dalit settlements are often segregated from the main village, and these traditions are reproduced even by the government, when building Indira Awaas housing colonies for dalits or by NGOs, post-2001 earthquake reconstruction in Gujarat. In nearly half the surveyed villages (48.4 per cent), dalits were denied access to water sources. In over a third (35.8 per cent), dalits were denied entry into village shops. They had to wait some distance from the shop, the shopkeepers kept the goods they bought on the ground, and accepted their money similarly without direct contact. In teashops, in about one-third of the villages, dalits were denied seating and had to use separate cups.

In more than 47 per cent villages, bans operated on wedding processions on public (arrogated as upper-caste) roads. In 10 to 20 per cent villages, dalits were not allowed to wear clean or bright clothes or sunglasses. They could not ride their bicycles, unfurl their umbrellas, wear chappals on public roads, smoke or even stand without head bowed.

We found that restrictions on entry by dalits into Hindu temples were as high as an average of 64 per cent in 11 states, ranging from 47 per cent in UP to 94 per cent in Karnataka. Such restrictions endured even after conversion of dalits to egalitarian faiths. As many as 41 of the 51 villages surveyed in Punjab reported separate gurudwaras for dalit Sikhs, and even where dalits worshipped in gurudwaras frequented by upper caste jats, they were served in separate lines at the langar, and were not permitted to prepare or serve the sacred food. In Maharashtra, despite mass conversions of Mahars to Buddhism, dalits were denied temple entry in 51 per cent villages. Reports from Kerala and Andhra Pradesh chronicled divisions in the church between dalit converts and others, even discrimination against ordained dalit priests…

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India’s New Cities: Globalization’s Perfect Storm

Eurozine has write ups on two Indian cities in its current issue whose editorial is titled “The city as stage for social upheaval“. One is on Calcutta/ Kolkata and another on Bombay/ Mumbai (the latter in German, though). In the backdrop of the architectural history of Calcutta, Swapan Chakravorty observes the more recent changes wrought about by globalization:

Now that the city has to adjust to the global market, the Communists find themselves saddled with the ironic task of imposing the orderly claims of civil society against the carnival of the fringe. The old industrial map has changed with the dismantling of the protectionist economy. The premises of defunct factories are being handed over to developers who build condominiums, malls, and multiplexes. The patriarchal communitarianism of the neighbourhood has no place in these new enclaves. The fishermen in the eastern suburbs have moved out, with developers buying up every available piece of land flanking the Eastern Bypass. Derelict warehouses along the river may be soon converted into Singapore-style restaurants. The High Court has banned political processions and meetings on weekdays; crackers and microphones are illegal; the Election Commission has outlawed political graffiti. Communists now plead with their own trade unions to ignore the workforce in information technology so that American clients are not upset.

About Mumbai, the editorial observes:

In Mumbai (Bombay), with its 19 million inhabitants, the enormous wealth disparities take on grotesque manifestations. In India’s biggest city, slums are cleared to make way – quite literally – for golf courses. Ilija Trojanow describes how, among the bureaucratic classes, the word “Slum” has become a synonym for “encroachment”. The efforts of the wealthy to keep the poor at bay reminds him of the laager mentality of the European settlers in South Africa. There, life within the barricaded settlements that kept out the indigenous population was seen as orderly and harmonious, everything outside filthy and chaotic. That mentality led directly to the Apartheid regime: a comparison not at all far-fetched in the context of contemporary Mumbai.

Cross- posted at How the Other Half Lives.

"We locked away Gandhi on Feb 28"

“Terror was unleashed at Godhra Station because this country follows Gandhi, we locked away Gandhi on Feb 28 (2002), reform yourselves or we will forget Gandhi. Till we follow Gandhi’s policies of non- violence … kneeling before Muslims, terrorism cannot be eliminated. Brothers we have to abandon Gandhi.”

– Praveen Togadia (quoted from his speech in the video)

A heart wrenching documentary Final Solution on the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and subsequent elections in the Hindutva laboratory.

Link to google videos

Link via comment at All Things Pakistaniat

Tips and Tricks to Kill Baby Girls

Renuka Chowdhury, India’s Minister for Women and Child Development on India’s “distinction” of killing 10m baby girls in the last two decades alone (I will neither comment nor respond to comments on this post; I have no words except unfathomable silences)

“Today, we have the odd distinction of having lost 10 million girl children in the past 20 years,” Chowdhury told a seminar in Delhi University.

“Who has killed these girl children? Their own parents.”

In some states, the minister said, newborn girls have been killed by pouring sand or tobacco juice into their nostrils.

“The minute the child is born and she opens her mouth to cry, they put sand into her mouth and her nostrils so she chokes and dies,” Chowdhury said, referring to cases in the western desert state of Rajasthan.

“They bury infants into pots alive and bury the pots. They put tobacco into her mouth. They hang them upside down like a bunch of flowers to dry,” she said.

“We have more passion for tigers of this country. We have people fighting for stray dogs on the road. But you have a whole society that ruthlessly hunts down girl children.”

According to the 2001 census, the national sex ratio was 933 girls to 1,000 boys, while in the worst-affected northern state of Punjab, it was 798 girls to 1,000 boys.

The ratio has fallen since 1991, due to the availability of ultrasound sex-determination tests.

Although these are illegal they are still widely available and often lead to abortion of girl foetuses.

Chowdhury said the fall in the number of females had cost one per cent of India’s GDP and created shortages of girls in states like Haryana, where in one case four brothers had to marry one woman.

Economic empowerment of women was key to change, she said.

“Even today when you go to a temple, you are blessed with ‘May you have many sons’,” she said.

“The minute you empower them to earn more or equal (to men), social prejudices vanish.”

The practice of killing the girl child is more prevalent among the educated, including in upmarket districts of New Delhi, making it more challenging for the government, the minister said.

“How do we tell educated people that you must not do it? And these are people who would visit all the female deities and pray for strength but don’t hesitate to kill a girl

Full report