Individual’s private life should not decide nationalism

Bhubaneswar: The private life of an individual should not decide his nationalism, said eminent journalist Rajdeep Sardesai on Saturday.

“The issue started with the killing of an innocent man on the allegation of a rumour that he had stored beef in his house. Is that the kind that the India we want? Do you want a country which will decide what a person does inside his kitchen is going to decide his nationalism?” he asked while speaking on the topic “The single biggest news story in 2015 and its impact” at the sixth annual convention of OTV “Foresight 2016” in the city here.

He said in incidents like this shocking news, perfectly reasonable, rational and decent human beings get caught in this kind of shrill polarised debate on intolerance. That is the kind of story India does not need to showcase for the rest of the world.

“We talk of India moving to the 21st Century, we talk of high growth rates. But we cannot resolve the basic matter of what one can and cannot eat in the comfort of his house,” he observed.

Talking about politics in the country, Rajdeep said the monsoon session of the Parliament was washed out because of Lalit Modi. While the Congress and the BJP members were clamouring to bring back Lalit Modi to India, the latter was having the last laugh while enjoying his holiday in Montenegro. Legislation, not agitation, is the primary job of Parliamentarians. “Is this the kind of politics you want?” he asked.

He said another major story of 2015 was the Vyapam scam. “People mysteriously disappeared and some of them died because the Vyapam examination, run by the Madhya Pradesh government, had been corrupted.

“Congress says Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the prime accused. The fact is Vyapam also existed during the reign of Digvijay Singh as the chief minister who is from the Congress. It is typical that both Congress and BJP will blame each other while both them have to answer for it. On the other hand, the innocents have lost their lives in the process because they bribed and paid money with the hope they would get a job”, Rajdeep said.

Criticising the BJP government’s “Achhe Din” slogan, he said the recruitment of peons in Chhattisgarh bears ample testimony to the hollow promises of the Modi government.

“The Chhattisgarh government had advertised for recruitment of 30 peons last year for which over 75,000 candidates, including some qualified engineers, had applied. Is this the “Achhe Din” the government is talking about? It is easy to sit in San Fransisco and talk to Mark Zuckerburg as some of our political leaders want to do,” Rajdeep pointed out.

He, however, said the biggest story of this year is the story of agrarian distress or what is happening in rural India today. Citing the plight of the farmers in Maharashtra, he said while around 3,000 farmers committed suicide in the last 12 months, the veteran leader of the state who was the chief minister and who is in active politics for nearly four decades, Sharad Pawar celebrated his 75 birthday like a maharaja.

“In the last week alone, another 10 people have died of starvation deaths linked to agrarian distress in Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh. We have three successive crop failures in the country. Large parts of India are suffering from agrarian distress. Should the Prime Minister of the country not go to one farmer widow’s family? Is it not your responsibility as the Prime Minister of the country?”

Talking about the state of journalism in India, Rajdeep said “Our national headlines these days are on what is happening in Delhi and Mumbai and not even in Chennai, even when there was a flood like condition in 2015.”

“If there is a small fire in Connaught Place, it will be breaking news throughout the day. But the tragedy is, it will take probably 50-100 people to die in a state like Odisha for us to wake up. Then you ask yourself are you truly a national media?” Rajdeep asked.

In a state like Jharkhan,d there are lots of serious conflicts and issues for debate, but none of them are finding place in the national media. “When it comes to national media, states like Jharkhand, Odisha and Chhattisgarh are dark holes. That’s why I congratulate OTV for its effort,” Rajdeep said.

On the future of journalism, he said the future is strong in regional media and regional channels because in Delhi we are practising doorstep journalism.

“We had print journalism till 1990 in the country and then the television revolution came. Now to my mind, the next revolution will be mobile. Everything will be available on mobile enabling everyone to get the news.”

“The most positive story I did last year is on two Indian brothers, sons of a stone cutter of a nondescript village in Uttar Pradesh who qualified for IIT. While one brother was in the top 10 list, another brother was in the top 20 position,’ the eminent journalist said.

“When I asked them what you will do after graduation, they said they want to ensure 24X7 electricity in every village in Uttar Pradesh. To my mind, the story of the sons of the stone cutter is the great Indian story,” Rajdeep said.