Poverty, PM & Pretend Journalism

12 Aug,2022



By Ranjona Banerji


Ranjona BanerjiSome problems are key to most Indians right now.

Foremost amongst these is inflation and the high cost of living.

Recent videos have emerged of people going to ration shops to collect the grains and sugar due to them and being told that they will not get what is rightfully owed to them unless they spend Rs 20 on the Indian national flag. Most of these people say they have come with a little money – maybe Rs 100 – and thus this expenditure of Rs 20 is very high for them.

I can guarantee you that 10 years ago, this would have been major news and would have dominated every news channel and outlet.

I send you back, if you can remember that far back, to 2011 when Montek Singh Ahluwalia of the erstwhile Planning Commission, said that Rs 32 a day was a reasonable limit for the poverty line in India. He was roasted for this amount. Journalists tried to live on that amount. Others went around shops trying to glean how much one needed to survive and more. Anger and some investigative work.

Sharad Pawar, as Union agriculture minister also faced media anger and heat when he said that South India was eating too much wheat and thus chasing wheat prices up.

The late Shivraj Patil resigned as Union Home Minister after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. One of the major media criticisms against him was that he changed his clothes three times in one day.

Look around you today.

People have starved. They have walked for miles without sustenance only to be doused with bleach. They have died in massive numbers from a pandemic badly managed. They have to choose between food and a flag because of vanity and symbolism.

And where is the brave media?

Is it bothered about the Prime Minister equating wearing black to protest against rising prices to black magic practices against him?

Imagine the extent of the fear where the sheer malevolent absurdity of such a statement cannot be challenged by the television media? A media which is ready to ridicule just about every opposition leader, every human rights activist, every artist and artiste who speaks up for the downtrodden, or against abuse or in favour of democracy.

A TV anchor from one of these “all hail the government” channels was heckled by a crowd. Every similar TV anchor, who has remained silent when journalists have been killed, attacked, jailed without cause for actually doing journalism, has been frothing at the mouth in defence of their fellow anchor. Kudos to them for actually finding it within them to stand with one of their own. What they need to do now is just rebrand themselves as “TV anchors” and disassociate themselves from journalism. They have not practised it for ages and they have not stood with us when we have been attacked by their precious government. Those other anchors who feel they might be helped by them in the future, forget it. This so-called concern must have followed a government diktat.


But when it comes to pretend journalism, what have we got?

Attacking Nitish Kumar for ditching the BJP in Bihar. He has not been praised for “Chanakya Niti” or embraced as a hero like Eknath Shinde who broke the Maharashtra government to shift the Shiv Sena to the BJP. Heroes and villains are clearly marked. Hero = Pro BJP. Villain = Anyone who is not.

If Nitish Kumar flips again, he will be welcomed as a returning hero.

The black magic comment has been turned against the Opposition parties, because when the PM says something, it must be true.

Black Magic I know as a chocolate brand.

Not as government policy. But I do not obviously work in television.

As for the starving poor, well. To quote the defenders of demonetisation, who were not questioned by our dear anchors, there will always be poor people in India who will suffer. Don’t waste time talking about them.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia on Tuesdays and Fridays. Her views here are personal


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