After going through the piece, " Beware Friendly Media" by Soroor Ahmed, a former colleague in The Times of India, I am convinced more than ever about the need to put the relationship between chief ministers ( government ?) and the regional media under the scanner. An overly fawning and friendly media vis-à-vis an irrationally hostile media need to be studied at greater depth than what has been attempted by Soroor so far.
There is of course a contradiction when he writes that Lalu Yadav survived as chief minister of Bihar for 15 years because of a hostile media while Nitish Kumar appears to be in trouble due to media which fawn over him and cushion him from criticism. All chief ministers, and I have watched some of them in the states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jharkhand, invariably seem to have a poor understanding of the working of the media. Nor do they seem aware of the role the media can play in making governance and development more effective. And all of them take a friendly media as a matter of right.
When Lalu Yadav went abroad for the first time, he insisted on taking a friendly journalist with him. Nobody questioned the criteria used for selecting the journalist concerned. And it is worth reminding Soroor that contrary to his belief, the regional media fawned over Lalu as well. Yes, some fangs were bared in course of time and even Nitish Kumar will face them some time or the other, but even the fodder-scam, in which Lalu Prasad went to jail thrice or more, was pursued by only a section of the media.
Release of advertisement by state governments, appointment by state governments to important commissions, boards etc., grants to NGOs, nominating journalists for junkets and to committees, allotment of land and houses, commercial plots and even appointments are some of the many ways by which chief ministers seek to cultivate a friendly media. Only an authority like the Comptroller and Auditor General ( CAG) of India can possibly carry out an audit in all states and expose the incestuous relationship , once and for all. This , I believe, is necessary to establish a more healthy democratic tradition and to ensure a more healthy media in the country.
But having said that, I am mildly surprised at the vehemence with which Soroor appears to suggest that compliments paid in the media to Nitish Kumar are misplaced. I am surprised not merely because scholars like Ram Guha appear to have been bowled over by Nitish Kumar and consider him as one of the best chief ministers in the country today—but also because my numerous Bihari friends tell me of the changes they see on their visits to the state. They all claim to be pleasantly surprised to find roads where none existed, municipalities which seem to have woken up, schools which have begun holding classes, teachers leaving for school in the morning and doctors actually in attendance at primary health centers. They could well be exceptions and isolated examples but accounts from half a dozen people visiting different districts and returning with similar impressions are difficult to discount.
There is little doubt, however, that media and civil society have let down the states and the people. Not just the media but even academics, activists and government employees are equally to be blamed for the states which have failed. I remember a member of a World Bank team asking me how the media in Lucknow kept a check on the government's expenses. " You are, after all, a watchdog," he had said when I made the candid confession that we did not have a clue. We neither had the skill nor the inclination to do any such thing. It was, similarly, the media's failure to take state budget documents seriously that led to the fodder-scam and siphoning of Rs. 1,200 crore of public money from the exchequer. Therefore, when Soroor writes of a Patna newspaper carrying a banner headline screaming that the state has achieved 16% growth-rate, I am not surprised. Ignorance and illiteracy in the media are hardly a state secret.
The fact that Nitish Kumar had nasty surprises sprung at him during his Vikas Yatra is again indicative of media's failures. Had the media been alert and active, they could have raised the issues and questions that people finally raised and caught the chief minister by surprise.
Most serious journalists in Bihar, and there are many that I know of, have read and appreciated P. Sainath's book " Everyone loves a good drought". But I am not aware of any attempt having been made to revisit the places and the people Sainath wrote about. Fifteen years after the book, it might be time for someone to undertake that journey and look poverty and poor governance in the face.
The writer is Consulting Editor ( East), Dainik Bhaskar, based at Kolkata.
Corruption In Govt: Nitish Kept In Dark By Friendly Media : Soroor Ahmed
Thanks Alok for such a good piece.
From my understanding,the biggest achievement of Mr' Nitish Kumar I find is that today everybody is talking about the word "Development" in Bihar including Lalu yadav and Ramvilas Paswan. If we remember correctly, this is the same state for which Lalu had famously told that, Development can't be an agenda in Bihar.
Even If Nitish Kumar doesn't do anything, he should be given credit to make the thinking process of Bihar "Positive".Thats biggest change can be found these days.Before this govt, People couldn't even imagine/talk about anything positive.Today atlease he has given some hope that something can be done.Earlier when you talk to anybody, the reaction used to be"Kya hoga Bihar mein, Kuch nahin ho sakta hai yahan".Helpness!!!!!!!
That change is there now and its visible.
If anybody is thinking that in five years, Bihar is going to be frontrunner state of country, He/She is dreaming.Thats not practical, not feasible, not possible, not realistic.
While I would not delve much into the rights or wrongs or the motivation behind some of the view expressed here, I would certainly like to remind people of few of the very hard facts (considering that people have very short memory ).
Till recently corruption was a non-issue. Forget about bitumen scam, Flood relief scam, BPSC scam, The mother of all scam the Fodder scam happened in this very state. 15 years have passed and yet all the big conspirators Lalu, R K Rana, Jay Prakash Narayan got re-elected ( numerous times ) and still reaping the rich harvest of POWER.
The largest no of criminal MPs still get elected from Bihar. The Shahbbudins, Suraj Bhans, Pappu Yadavs (Do I need to name all of them?) are our brand ambassadors.
The rate of becoming a DSP in 1996 was Rs 12 lakh. BPSC was reduced to nothing more than a cabal of the corrupts where even a job of clerk was up for sale. Useless to talk about other offices.
Institution after institution got demolished. Patna university, the coaching institutes of Ramna Road all vanished. The teachers either relocated themselves or raised their own army for security. How can one forget the gruesome killing of Dr. S. Lal.
Kidnapping became the only thriving industry in this great state of ours. The list is endless.....
Are these all people call empowerment??? If yes then empowerment certainly needs a new definition.
With this kind of impressive record the incumbent government comes to power not once or twice but thrice. And as a bonus gets an extended term at centre. Forget about India, Is there any other example anywhere in the democratic world? (My friends from other states asks me this question).
People get the kind of governance they deserve. Why to blame only politicians and beureaucrats? How about looking into our own soul for a change? The largest share of blame goes to us. The people. You and me. And yet we call a certain Nitish and ask him to clean up all the mess with a magic wand without batting an eyelid.
Look at the language. People are talking in terms of 'their friend' and 'my friend'. Is it a surprise why politicians do not bother for welfare of the state?
Its quite evident from views expressed in this post that the forces and the mindset which has brought this state to such a pass are still strong. It would be a big illusion to believe that they have been defeated (or buried) and the state is on the path of irreversible path of progress. Its like walking on a tightrope. Any slip and the sharks are ready.
Alok Kumar Singh
I do not want to loose my important time on writing big story of My beloved Bihar which is the root
of all good records of the World but since i belong from this great state brought me
to write something about Bihar.
Today only,i saw one news on BiharTimes that tourister were looted & robbed on
BothGaya Stree while they were road down to thier home. What is this? Is this
not seems to us that Nitish gets feel good or Bihar sining news not only from media
but also from his Babus,ministers (Chaplus). Nitish himself might be trying to run
a aged Bihar train in Top gear but his bureaucrat & Ministers & some of the friendly
media are keeping him blind. I would suggest Pls think out of this corrupt box & resolve
the old aged Bihar issues Pls do not believe on them otherwise they will sign off your goverment they
way they signed off NDA goverment by giving slogan feel good & India signing.
Some of my relatives claim that now bribes has increased three fold i did not imagin
how bad this goverment is. This is a real trooth i am sharing with viewers. Bureaucrats
are looting Biharies & pooting their money out of Bihar, Nitish needs to know this.
Also i request Media person if any hox news or bad news or any rumours tried to put
on national or state level news Pls strictly say no because it could hamper our state
Some time it seems to me like some politicians have hijacked the great state & will be
continues to hijacked until people start thinking out of Box.
This letter could be a eye opener for Nitish feel good or Bihar signing. Think for mass people but
not on the record given by bureaucrats. I guess his recent development march could able to give him
some kind of backup about what i have written here.
Thanks Bihartimes for knowing all of us about all these burning issues of the state.
Dhananjay Kumar Sharma
I can't be more surprised at Md. Sami's perspective over governance in Bihar. Does it fulfill the need of the people of Bihar by just talking of social uniformity? The form of uniformity that everyone in Bihar has seen is of "retrogressive uniformity". Retrogressive uniformity where rich became poor(or left the state) and poor became poorer and worse even homeless(remember the poor bihar people who had to leave the state and earn underpaid wages in Mumbai, Delhi, Punjab etc., and those victims of floods in past years) .
Previous government's social uniformity never translated into growth of any strata of soceity. I am not sure how does this kind of uniformity attract any applause? Does this kind of social uniformity poor people(leave alone the middle class and business people) deserve?
I am not sure but as history lets us, every state need economic development hand-in-hand with social development. Social liberty without economic development leads to only chaotic situation like Somalia if nothing better.
When Md. Sami accredit Lalu for providing social base for present government, I hope he has not forgotten the financial abyss that Lalu had left for Nitish, the kind of situation that had made it difficult for state to even pay the salary to its employee (leave alone providing new employment). Today, the same state employees are enjoying the significant increment in their salaries...I hope this is something that previous government had not envisaged at least.
I hope Md. Sami does not forget the plight of a common Bihari citizen and come to reality(which I always expect from the Bihar based editor of a prestigious newspaper) while making remarks over governance. Please don't overlook the truth. It does not hurt to criticise the people, but it hurts to discredit the person/government that's really doing good work. Think of Bihar first and please be more discreet while expressing own opinions.
Thanks to Bihartimes for the debate on media and its relations with state government's political chief. Mr. Uttam Sengupta needs to be supported on his advice to put only an authority like C&G of India to carry out real audit to expose 'the incestious relation' of media and govt.
But I beg to differ with Mr. Sendgupta on two points. Nobody can question Ramchandra Guha's authority but his accolades for Nitish Kumar as best chief minister must not go unquestioned. If Mr. Guha asseses the chief ministership of Nitish on some reported physical changes he may be above the others but this is quite superficial way to judge. Compared to this think about Lalu's Psychological and Morale boosting contribution to democracy. He gave the tongue to the masses of Bihar. Nitish is enjoying that power of masses and he should be thankful to Lalu.
I don't know the friends of Mr. Sengupta who are 'pleasantly surprised' to see 'roads, doctors and teachers' in respective places. But majority of such people are 'pleasantly surprised' mainly because they feel relieved of Lalu's real challenge; the power to the downtroden people. And there is no denying that Lalu era has the worst roads, eduction and health. But he is never credited for that either.
As for media, more than Lalu and Nitish, it is media houses' bosses who are real culprits to shower praises and never put any uncomfortable questions. If you have any doubts, go to Lalu or Nitish and try to ask those real touhg questions. After the rebuff, you would easily notice, in Bihar, nothing has changed.
Md Sami Ahmad
Deputy News Editor,
Indeed this is one of the best article I have ever read. But the most important point is that atleast the high society/educated people/journalists are paying attention to my beloved state and are appreciating the work of the government. Media is the third eye of society and hence they should use their third eye to make their people see the good thing and the bad things.