[MJR] Crime & transport are issues of national importance

20 Apr,2012

By Ranjona Banerji


Newspapers in Mumbai this week have been pre-occupied – and quite rightly – with two major issues: transport and crime. A fire at a signalling cabin crippled the Central Railway’s Main and Harbour lines, affecting some 40 lakh commuters. The problems are not likely to vanish fast either.


The coverage has been comprehensive and detailed – and it is difficult to fault any paper here.


In fact, even with the other more sensational case of murders and the underbelly of the glamour industry, newspapers have shown remarkable restraint while still providing blanket coverage.


Both stories in a sense are not Mumbai-centric. The collapse of a commuter system in the country’s financial capital means that millions cannot get to work on time, if at all. This affects productivity and, ultimately, profits for everyone. Also, for other large and growing metros there is a lesson here about the importance of infrastructure and alternative public transport systems.


The case of the murders may be murky but also affect the nation. Thousands still flock to Mumbai as the mecca of the film and television world. Many of these are innocent or naïve in the ways of the world and get easily conned by the criminal elements that hang around the fringes of the industry. The three murders being investigated – an old gentleman whose son was fooled by the suspects, a young man who was trying to cut business deals with them and a young model – are cases in point and all the victims came from outside the city.


The larger point is that these are issues – logistic and sociological – which affect the whole country. Newspapers elsewhere should take them up. And not just for the salacious context of the murders.


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The successful launch of Agni V got its space on TV and in newspapers but perhaps nowhere so much as on Twitter and in cyberspace. People were breathless with excitement over this great achievement by India and there was little or any objective or even critical comment. It is quite difficult to be critical about “nationalistic” issue on the Internet because of the waves of patriotism which sweep all over it!


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The fifth edition of the Indian Premier League reveals some maturity on part of the Indian media. The last four years have been filled with enthusiastic hyperbole or visceral hatred all over TV and pages of print. Since last year was something of a flop and the opening ceremony of this season a damp squib, there was general wariness all around.


However, with the IPL being treated more as a sporting encounter with elements of fun rather than a be-all-end-all mega-event which must bring our lives to a standstill, it is well on its way to being a success. Media hype has been limited but media coverage has been adequate. This year, hysteria over the owners and their glamorous friends has been limited.


The worst you can say about the IPL is that the studio shows are enormously irritating and tacky, where seasoned cricketers are forced into silliness by the hosts. When these same hosts prance all over the cricket field, they are no less silly and the cheerleaders in the studio just look tacky. No one seems to care much about those on the field either – and their dancing hasn’t reached the high level of gymnastic ability and artistic proficiency that American cheerleaders have to display. In fact there is a lot of wiggling and waving but practically no dancing. Just saying.


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As you may have guessed, I have been sadly deficient in my TV news watching this week. Blame it on the weather – didn’t want to get any hotter under the collar!


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