Thursday, 9 August 2012

Role of the Media and the Anna Hazare Movement

The Anna Hazare movement, which appears to have now subsided, raises crucial issues relating to the role of the media.

The first and foremost role of the media is to provide accurate and objective information to the public to enable it to form rational opinions, which is a sine qua non in a democracy.Obviously the people cannot go everywhere to collect information about important events,and hence the media acts as an agency of the people for supplying such information. Hence it plays a vital role in a democracy. 

For instance, Nikhil Chakravarty wrote about the terrible Bengal famine of 1943, and P.Sainath highlighted the farmers suicides in Vidarbha, Andhra Pradesh, etc

The problem, however, arises, when journalists do not maintain detachment and objectivity, and instead identify themselves with the event. This is precisely what happened to a large section of the media in December last year during the Anna Hazare stir. Most journalists practically became part of the movement instead of remaining detached observers and reporters. It reminded one of the Babri Masjid Ram Janmabhumi agitation when a section of the media (particularly a large section of the Hindi press) practically became kar sewaks.

A journalist must maintain some distance and detachment from the event he is covering. He has to cover and report the event, not become part of it. He should behave professionally, like a doctor who does not get personally involved with his patient while doing his best for him, or like a lawyer who does not identify himself with his client, while arguing for him. If one gets identified with his subject how can he maintain accuracy and objectivity?

A journalist may have sympathy for the subject he is reporting, but he must never forego his critical faculties and rational analysis.

Even a little rational thinking reveals that the Anna Hazare movement was only an emotional outburst and cannot make even a scratch on the prevailing rampant corruption in the country. Yet, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, Anna led the gullible people of India in a dance of stupidity, ably assisted by most of our media. I was reminde of a line in Shakespeare's Macbeth "It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing".

In those days one never heard of a critical analysis by the media of the Janlokpal Bill, whose enactment Anna was insisting upon.Probably nobody had even read it.

Section 2 (e) of the Bill states that employees covered by the Prevention of Corruption Act come within the purview of the Lokpal. There are over 2 crore such employees, 39 lac Central Government employees, 55 lac employees of public sector undertakings and statutory bodies, 1.2 crore state government employees, and other categories like cooperative societies employees, teachers, judicial officers, etc.

Now if this law is made there are bound to be tens of lacs of complaints every year. This will require perhaps 2 lac lokpals to deal with them. These lokpals will have to be provided salaries, staff, housing, offices,etc. placing an additional heavy financial burden on the state exchecquer And considering the low level of morality prevailing in our country it is almost certain that most of them will become blackmailers. It will be creating a Frankenstein monster,a parallel bureaucracy which will at a stroke double the corruption in the country. And who will guard these praetorian guards? A body of superlokpals?

Should the media not have coolly and rationally considered all this instead of joining the revelry and merry making at Jantar Mantar and Ramlila grounds?

Apart from the above, there is a second role of the media, which is particularly important in the transitional period (from feudal agricultural to the modern industrial era) through which our country is passing, and that is of giving leadership and guidance to the people in the realm of ideas.

This transitional period is always a very painful period in history, full of turbulence, turmoil, wars, revolutions, social churning, intellectual ferment, etc. A study of the history of Western Europe in the 17th to 19th Centuries, when European society was passing through its transition, shows that it was only after going through this fire that modern society emerged in Europe. India is presently going through this fire. We are going through a very painful period in our history, which may last another 15 to 20 years.

In this transition period the role of ideas, and therefore of the media, becomes extremely important. The media is not an ordinary business which deals with commodities, it deals with ideas. To help society get over the transition period faster and with less pain the media should promote modern scientific ideas and combat backward feudal ideas and practices like casteism, communalism, and superstitions. In this connection I may refer to the glorious role played by the European media when Europe was passing through its transition. Voltaire attacked religious bigotry, Rousseau attacked the entire feudal system and Thomas Paine proclaimed the Rights Of Man. In my opinion the Indian media should play a similar role. Instead of pandering to the low intellectual level of our masses and perpetuating it, it should seek to uplift it so as to make the masses part of enlightened India.

When Anna Hazare called off his fast and said his movement will now enter politics, the media should have immediately asked him what exactly does he mean? Unfortunately most of our politics is on the basis of caste and religion. If he forms a party, which caste (or caste cmbination) will it represent? Without such a vote bank all his candidates will lose their security deposits.

Recently Anna said that he will not contest elections because each election costs 15 to 20 crore rupees, and he does not have that money, but he will support honest candidates. Now there is a clear contradiction here. Anna admits that an election (presumably a Lok Sabha election) costs 15 to 20 crores. Then where and how did the 'honest' candidate he supports get this 15 to 20 crores? These, and many other, are the questions our media should ask, but does it do so?

I have sometimes been misunderstood by a section of the media for criticizing it, but I criticized it as a well wisher, not an enemy. Kabirdas said "Nindak neeray raakhiye, angan kuti chawaye". I repeatedly said that instead of focussing on frivolous issues like lives of film stars, cricket, fashion parades, astrology, etc, the media should focus on the real issues facing the nation like poverty, unemployment, price rise, healthcare, etc

The Indian media has a glorious role to play in the coming days, provided it realizes its mistakes and corrects itself. I am sure the Indian media will do so, and thereby win the respect of the Indian people

( Published in Hindustan Times on 09th August,2012)


  1. Really a gud article sir ! quite informative though wid all the pros n cons of lokpal bill wid d true analysis of role of media !media is the one who plays a vital role in transforming the minds of ppl instead of transforming India !its the high time for media to understand their act n provide real n correct guidance to the ppl without considering casteism !it shud b free from all sorts of discrimination while reporting any event!!

  2. Justice V.R.Krishna Iyer (one of the greatest judges ever in the history of Indian Supreme Court) & Justice Santosh Hegde (ex-SC judge and Team Anna member) and eminent lawyers like Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Mahest Jethmalani have endorsed the idea of the Jan Lokpal and its provisions. I wonder why should people accept only your view and not of other legal luminaries who are as capable as you or maybe more.

  3. If your argument about size of Lokpal agency was considered about 150 years ago, when there were much less resources and tehcnology available, we wouldn't have a thing called 'Indian Railways'.
    Although I don't know if the requirement that you give, of 2 lakh lokpals, is true or not, but even if it is, its the need of our country.

    1. Feeding 80% of our people who're poor is the need of our country. Providing them and their children with basic amenities like water, electricity, sanitation, healthcare, education and work is the need of our country. A gigantic institution that consumes so much money and resources and does not add to our economy is not something we can yet afford.

    2. If this institution ends up saving more money, it actually helps in ensuring that money marked for those 80% is used for them only, and not for someone else, then, in my view, it is needed

  4. There is a contradiction in your article as well. You give examples of Voltaire and Paine, and say, "Instead of pandering to the low intellectual level of our masses and perpetuating it, it should seek to uplift it so as to make the masses part of enlightened India.".
    But you assume that if team anna enters politics, it would play by the existing dirty rules(caste/money etc), and won't try to enlighten people, educate them.

    1. And there is a clear contradiction in your comment. You don't need to enter politics to enlighten/educate people. Mahatma Gandhi enlightened the entire nation to his philosophy of non-violence without ever entering the political sphere. Politics is a different track altogether.

    2. I never said that entering politics is a must, I said why does the writer assume that they will also copy the present parties and indulge in corruption to gather 15-20 crores of money, why the writer isn't giving them a chance to see if they can come up with something innovative to force some change in our elections;
      Why the judge is judging before they have committed any crime without giving them a chance of arguing even!

    3. The innovation was revealed by the way to treat alcoholism: Tie a man to a tree and beat him up. Brilliant, right? See, if you think in a rational manner and uplift yourself, from your current low levels of intellect, you stand some chance to understand or critique. Without money and cast backing, not more than 40 - 50 MPs get elected. Instead of fantasizing, do some fact-checking. And these honest people cannot be created overnight and be voted in to clean up the system. Don't be mindless. That's it!

    4. The team built the movement from scratch, if an IIT-cum-IRS, a Supreme Court Lawyer, a former Law Minister, a former IPS officer...I believe that if they intend to do something, it won't be some blank shot. And its better to hope from them than resigning to have to choose between BJP and Cong.

      And whatever you are saying, 'fact checking...fantasizing' must have been said about Voltaire and Paine about whom the author talks about in the article
      If not in 2014, then in 2019, someone has to start sometime to reach somewhere

    5. "See, if you think in a rational manner and uplift yourself, from your current low levels of intellect"...What is your intellectual solution to the problem by the way if things have to be changed?

    6. You are talking about credentials: We have one of the most qualified PM in the world. PhD from Oxford would put him ahead of the people you mentioned as intellects. Talking about credentials, I suppose Amartya Sen (use google to find out more info on him) is far superior to these people. Look at what he is telling. And how long did your great former Law Minister stay in power and why?

      When you are talking about doing a 'fact-check' with regards to Voltaire and Paine, clearly shows you lag total understanding of the French Revolution. Please read it, will benefit you. I'm not opposed to anyone individually, but their making sound others like thugs and themselves as immaculate is stupid. By the way your IITan, IPS officer and lawyer duo have all allegation against themselves. If they are innocent unless proven guilty, so are others.

      Coming to a rational solution, well, let me tell you, I don't have expertise on this matter, though I hold a doctoral degree in Economics from the US. Point is, it's a complex matter and should not be over simplified with an aim to fool people. Don't fall prey to cheap talks. We need to increase professionalism and raise the moral standards of people of this country. Also if we fight poverty and uplift the standard of living, corruption is known to have gone down. (Read the French revolution and the British revolution for better understanding.)

    7. Its not just about credentials, its about will power too. PM has his own compulsions, call it coalition dharma or anything else. And this is what Amartya Sen say, "But I believe that their reading of corruption or what causes corruption or how it can removed is wrong there." I disagree with him as I think one of the major reason for corruption to survive in high places is because they really don't have much to fear, investigation drag on for years, judgements take decades.

      And Amartya Sen and PM maybe more qualified, but it was Aruna Roy and Arvind Kejriwal with others who drafted the RTI, which has proved quite usefel in uncovering corruption. And both support Lokpal, with a little differences, and I will take either one.

      And which allegations are you talking about, the allegations are as superficial as the arguments the govt. gives against this bill. And if they are true, no one stops them from punishing them, they have all the police/cbi under them.

      Agreed its not a simple solution, but its one step forward. I have heard the 'raise the moral standard' thing, which sounds good, but when one goes to the ground level where one has to give bribe for even getting basic things, and there is no other option, no where to complain, one can't preach morals. No one is inherently corrupt, but the situations force even the most ethical ones to do things or die.

    8. So you would disagree with a former Supreme Court Judge, a Nobel Laureate and continue trusting your instincts? I'm not saying that some people are always right, but the people in consideration Justice Kajtu and Amartya Sen are well informed. They are the people who could give you clear insights and without bigotry, because they will never seek your or my vote.

      Another example that you have fallen prey for a propaganda. No doubt both Ms. Roy and Kejriwal did their bit for the implementing the RTI Act (2005), they did not draft it. Point out some official sources which make that claim?

      Let's take this example: I don't accept the points made by Anna, Baba or Kejriwal, because Justice Katju and Amartya Sen raise their objection to it. Another eminent person who shares this point of view is former CJI Justice Verma. But you will support Lokpal bill, because Kejriwal and Ms. Roy support it. Can we conclude from the about two points that you are wrong or I am right? I guess not. It does however make sense to trust people who do not seek our votes, because they do not have any selfish agenda. Please ponder this.

      Raising morals in poverty struck country is never easy. We should fight poverty and educate people. This will help us raise the morals. This transition may take next 20 - 25years. There is this fanaticism, superstition and backward ideas prevailing in our country. Even the Bengal responded better than us to the 1943 famines. We ought to focus on that and not support a bunch of egoistic people with self-benefiting agenda.

      And please validate your points. I choose not to argue on opinions, but facts. Cheers!

    9. Here's the link for my claim on Justice J.S.Verma's point of view:

    10. If it comes down to the people who are supporting or speaking against, then Justice Santosh Hegde has served as SC Judge as well as Lokayuktya of Karnataka, so is in much better position to understand the implications.
      He was a member of Team Anna, for which I guess no link is required.
      Then we have Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer

    11. Even former CEC J M Lyngdoh supports it.

      Even I don't accept everything Anna says and nothing that Ramdev says, Anna's intentions can still be trusted, but Ramdev seems to be having some other plans. But other people associated have sacrificed too much and already done too much, if they were just interested in elections, they could have joined any party last year itself by compromising with the govt., govt too would have been very happy to do that.

      As for Aruna Roy and Kejriwal's contribution to RTI, their names are mentioned in most articles/discussion but I fail to locate any official list of persons who contributed to draft on the net. So, if you have a link for that, kindly share.

      But, people will support it, people will oppose it; doesn't necessarily mean one of the sides is evil. I have tried my best to follow the debates on news channels on the Bill between Team Anna members and government reps. And I found Team Anna's arguments much more convincing than governments. Hence I support the Bill and the people fighting to get it passed.

    12. Poverty and Corruption to me appear to be part of the same vicious circle. Try to do something good, run schemes, eduate the poor, provide them basic facilities, and you will encounter endless queue of people looking to loot the money, so unless there is some sort of control to take care of that which is independent of the govt and accessible to the people easily, these schemes will go waste. There are already so many reported cases of misuse in NRHM/NREGA, who knows how much of the wrong doing went unreported.

      One has to tackle both things, poverty as well as corruption, targeting just one will prove to be a waste.

    13. For a change, I'm finding someone making argument to the point, instead of showing fanaticism. Both the above comments are sensible.

      JustCurious: You will not be able to find any official source citing their names, because this is how the system works. Both Ms. Roy & Kejriwal would have provided the inputs and the bill would have been drafted by the Parliamentary drafting committee. This draft would have further been validated by the Standing Committee, which, after going through the bureaucrats, is passed by the Parliament.

      Your point on Anna and Ramdev is correct as well. No one can doubt Anna's intentions. I'm a critique of his methods (even understandings), but can never raise doubts on him. Ramdev on the other hand seems like a crook (if not a buffoon). Having said that people around him aren't essentially the right ones. They may not be corrupts, but are highly egoistic. This is a battle of ego for them, that's it. I too have followed this entire drama quite keenly. Why I don't find Team Anna's argument appealing is: They assume that they are right, to begin with. Their self proclaimed moral high worries me. Also, their use of public sentiments to provoke people, even on trivial matters give me an impression that they are spreading a panic amongst the people. Remember, when someone insists that you are under attack, they are doing so with selfish intentions, somewhat like in the book 'Angels & Demons'.

      Anonymous: In an ideal world, we could tackle both together, effectively. Alas, we are not living in that world. If you ask me to prioritize in between poverty & corruption, I will go with poverty. And then managing effectively may do some good to people.

      Once more, would like to pass my token of appreciation for making this debate logical. I didn't take it seriously when I began.

    14. I guess we can continue this discussion for ages, and I do partly agree with you.
      But if they don't take a strong stand for their arguments, they would be labelled as unprepared and confused. Also, they just didn't come up with lokpal bill few weeks ago, it has been in process for many years, so they must have come across different viewpoints.
      Agreed there have been some dramas involved, but as you say, we are not living in an ideal world, there are some necessary things they have had to do, which even I would have preferred them not doing. But I doubt in current stage, India can have a 'perfect' revolution, with its so much complexity and diversity, and I see this as the best chance we have, if it succeeds, it gives people like me hope that such movements can create systematic change, and so even if the Bill or other things don't come out as expected, I will know people can revolt against it and hope to succeed.
      But if this movement doesn't succeed, many will lose hope anything can ever make any impact on this system in the near future. I talk so as I haven't seen any movement making some serious impact, farmers are still dying, bhopal survivors are still suffering etc etc.

      PS: Read this article:

      Although the focus is on Kejriwal's failure, but what this doesn't tell us is he has accepted many failures, and said that with each failure he has tried to improvise, and this process is what has bought him here. So, I believe if this Lokpal does become what Justice Katju fears, he won't hesitate to accept and correct so. And people who would have seen success of this movement would believe others also have a chance. But for now, keeping in mind all shortcomings that may have been in the Bill/movement, i think it deserves a chance.

      Thanks for the discussion :)

    15. Wish more people in our country, followed the way in which we carried out this debate/discussion, based on points and not personal attacks. Definitely restores my faith in online forums or social media.


  5. No sir its not about Where an honest candidate gets 15 to 20 crores. The ultimate question you missed is Whom is this money paid to? The Pandalwala and the loudspeakerwala? NO. That money is paid to the (*drum rolls*) MEDIA, to get favourable publicity. Sure as sun rises in the East.

  6. Sir i completely agree with your thoughts. Thank you so much for enlightening us. Sir i am biggest admirer of you in this whole world. I am per suing my L.L.M from Delhi university. Dreaming of becoming a Magistrate and want to serve my country by giving rational judgments like you did. Sir you always inspired me by your judgments. Presently reading your recent book "Justice with Urdu". Thank you so much for writing such a beautiful book .

  7. Sir, I do not agree with your thought.
    Anna shows the entire country that there can be a different thought other than being corrupt.
    Anna is mature enough to choose the correct way to handle political issues.
    At some point of time you said that 90% Indians are fools and Anna is idiot. Again you are trying to avoid the point what Anna is trying to convey. He might have tried to do the things very fast and falling trap of media, however the educated india will definitely understand the theme and sideline the propoganda of Corporate Media which run for money and mostly inclined to some specific political party. Anyway to answere your question of Anna's votebank, atleast the youth irrespective of any biasing will vote for him if he keep focused to his agenda. He will be the nightmare for so call established political parties, evenif if can not put up a candidate on his own. At this point of time India needs change, we are frustrated, disgusted with the entire system, we need relief.

    1. The maturity of Anna was discovered when he argued that the way to treat an alcoholic is to tie him to a tree and beat him up. This was done 250years ago. Right, if you want India to be pushed back by 250years, we will vote in the 'chosen ones'. The Bhushans have some allegations against themselves. Kiran Bedi and Arvind Kejriwal have some controversy attached to their names, but Anna finds them perfect. So, what he decides should be the will of the country? Fools like you are too easily taken to rides by crooks who sit behind the simpletons to Hazare and operate. That's it!

  8. I agree with your point on the role of the media but at the same time I don't agree that we need to have 2 lac lokpals to deal with all the time. Unfortunate that our systems are not that stringent to take action on people who don't do their minimum duty. If every Government department and every single individual do their minimum duty without expecting anything we don't need any lokpals. Well given the fact that we need to deal with these situations, we either need to have strong monitoring and acting system on the cases where there is lot of corruption or to strengthen the existing systems like police department/CBI/Judiciary by first making them corrupt free and giving them the freedom with more powers to act quickly. People need to believe in some system where they feel that there is something which can be approached and get their problems solved easily and quickly. It is that fear that should be brought in every one if they are not doing their intended duties without expecting anything. If Lokpal can bring that fear and the justice then let it take the people force it needed. Let us bring in the youth of this county be part of the lokpal and we can give more employment to the people. Many companies deal with tens of thousands of complaints every day. We can make use of technology to speed up the process and complaints. It is not that all the time we need many people in lokpal, once the system is set up and every employee has the fear in him that some one will question if he is not doing his duty, eventually you see the complaints getting reduced. Ideally it is the attitude that needs to be changed in people towards their duty and if it is not easy to change then we need some strong whistle-blowers to make it right be it lokpal or some other system. Instead of spending money in unnecessary things let us spend in something which can make our systems clear and transparent. Well as you said Media needs to play a vital role in this and also it is the attitude of every single individual that matters a lot ultimately..!!!

  9. Why do you not speak ill of the Congress ever? Is it just because Ambika Soni is your family friend and Salman Khurshid and Kapil Sibbal often visit your place?
    Who speak so much against Anna who is atleast trying to fight corruption (without any personal motive) & not against the Congress who is doing scams of lakhs of crores every month? I have never seen you pull up the Congress party for any scam. Infact you go on to defend people like Manu Singhvi who brought disrepute to the Supreme Court chambers..
    Are you a man of honour Justice Katju? Is this how a man of honour takes sides?

    1. Reply Justice Katju. We've seen you rushing to the media and blatantly speaking against Nitish Kumar and Mamta Bannerjee. But don't you ever find any flaw against the Congress?

  10. Another case of a political bigot, posting comments. Is Justice Katju criticizing Advani or Sushma Swaraj or Nitin Gadkari?

    With you polarized mind, you may presume guilt in each of Govt.'s action, but that is not how law works in our country. Please read something about principles of natural justice. To you, Anna Hazare's every action may look immaculate, but many don't find it that (especially the ones with some education). These Anna or Baba movement are very similar to circus, in which a whole lot of semi-urbanized youths may participate. That does not make it a right movement.

    Point out once instance where Justice Katju has supported Abhishek Manu Singhvi? (Assumption is not an evidence). Before questioning Justice Katju's honors, think about yourself. If you had achieved something, you wouldn't be posting such baseless questions. Please uplift yourself from your present low levels of intellect.

    Look what Dr. Amartya Sen (Nobel Laureate) has got to say: Is he too an agent of Congress? Moron, please read and reply!

    1. Sorry to say, even you don't seem to me much of an achiever. Just because somebody has a different opinion than yours, you start using terms like "moron" and "having low level of intellect".
      Please be a little tolerant.

    2. I'm not bragging, but I hold a PhD in Economics and working as an Asst. Professor at a reputed US University. I don't want to make this a battle of credentials. However, it's not the different opinion that bothers me, but a judgmental opinion, based on opinions and not facts. Please read from reputed sources before making allegations. You have a right to disagree with Justice Katju, but there is a way to that. And I beg your pardon for using the word 'moron'. It was used in the heat of the moment, and not intentionally to offend you.

      Please be more neutral before you start reading stuff. Distinguish between OPINIONS & FACTS.

  11. Sir - A very beutiful article.

  12. I really like the role that the Media have played in Annaji's Movement.The support the Team Anna gets from Public is due to Media. It is the Media who have deliver the message to every door.