Ranjona Banerji: Journalists blinded by ‘bhakti’

01 Sep,2017

​By Ranjona Banerji

 

Mumbai had one of those torrential rain days coupled with a high tide this week. Citizens had no warnings and rushed to work as usual. As the morning progressed, it was clear that it was going to be one of those days.

TV cameras rushed out to bring home the water-logging and distress in India’s financial capital to homes across the country. As usual, they went to the few spots in the city that are easy targets. If someone overturns a bucket of water while passing Milan Subway in Santa Cruz, the water will collect; because the subway runs below road level. (There is also a flyover on top of it.) This is Class V physics, also common sense: the first not taught in schools, the second missing in action in TV newsrooms looking for a sensational picture.

Laziness of imagination apart, brave reporters were out in the rain, marking out the problems faced by people and the various misdemeanours of the municipal corporation. The horrors of July 26, 2005 hovered above everyone’s minds. International TV channels focused on Texas and the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey.

Was there anything in the coverage of a beleaguered, belaboured city that could have been better? More focus on the effects of over-development, of replacing all the city’s natural drainage areas with buildings, of the destruction of mangroves in the city’s coastal areas, of all the promises made about better warning systems and water draining systems after 2005.

Still, it was quite amusing to watch Arnab Goswami of Republic TV get out of the studio and wander around Mumbai in his sopping wet suit.

One does not necessarily want to sound like an evil commie liberal type but if only there was as much coverage of the floods in Assam and Bihar or even Gujarat, where hundreds have died…

 

**

 

Soon after he announced on the evening of November 8, 2016 that all Rs 1000 and Rs 500 would cease to be legal currency by midnight that day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave a melodramatic speech about how people could “shoot” and “burn” him if demonetisation does not a), control black money and end corruption, b), end terrorism because the funding was cut off, and, c) stop counterfeit money.

In his Independence Speech this year, Modi assessed that Rs 1.25 lakh crore in black money had been detected by his demonetisation scheme.

This week​,​ the Reserve Bank of India after much dithering released the official figures. Almost 99 % of the demonetised currency was deposited in banks. The amount that has not come back: Rs 16,000 crore. Even journalists blinded by bhakti and with limited arithmetic skills would know there is a vast difference between Rs 1.25 lakh crore and Rs 16,000 crore.

In a normal world, journalists would be on to this in a jiff. Contrast the reaction in the Indian television media compared to how US President Donald Trump was pilloried for trying to fudge crowd figures at his inauguration.

But no: Instead we give plenty of airtime to Union finance minister Arun Jaitley to now inform us that confiscation of cash was not the goal of demonetisation. Any journalists willing to openly ask on TV why the​P​rime ​Minister of India lied to the people?

To be fair, NDTV’s Left, Right and Centre did a good show on the RBI figures, with most economists bar the ever-loyal Sunil Alagh agreeing that demonetisation was a disaster. Newspapers and websites have also excoriated the government and Modi. But the rest of national news television? I would not hold my breath for too much more on the story.

As Bhupendra Chaubey of CNN

​-​

News18 tweeted soon after the RBI released its report: “The truth of #Demonetisation May have been a contentious economic policy move but was a masterstroke on the political move front”.

This is after Chaubey’s channel provided some reasonably good coverage of how people suffered after demonetisation.

The goal posts on demonetisation will shift once again and our national news carriers will look away in their “new normal”. Getting wet in the rain is so much more fun.

 

Ranjona Banerji​ is a senior journalist and commentator. She is also Consulting Editor, MxMIndia. The views here are her own​

 

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One response to “Ranjona Banerji: Journalists blinded by ‘bhakti’”

  1. Amit Khanna says:

    The same is the case with another set of journalists who are blinded by hatred. There’s no objectivity on either side. Shameful

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