FEATURE OF THE MONTH
Media Remedies: the India Angle
You may have noticed that this piece moved up the page and into this slot. Well, it seemed like a natural sequel to last month's feature Media Conspiracies, in which the media was viewed as part of the problem, indulging in a skullduggery of sorts. But in a country like India, with its multiplicity of ethnic voices rising from centuries of slumber, and their newfound independence, the problem of 'manufactured consent' by the nexus of media-government-industry that Noam Chomsky speaks of, is arguably not as big a problem as it is in the West, where the media is overwhelmingly corporate. In India the burgeoning new and independent—to the extent that the advertisers allow it to be!—media could actually become part of the solution; the media not as a chronic ailment but as a reliable remedy for the ills of society as a whole.
The Indian media has always had the potential to transform itself and the nation.
TEHELKA. One of the truly remarkable developments in Indian journalism took place a few years ago when Tarun Tejpal and his partners launched a dynamic website named tehelka.com, which presented features on art, literature and public affairs. But it also engineered, through carefully planned "sting" operations, two landmark exposés of wrongdoing: one in cricket, the other in government. Tehelka, which means making waves (or more elementally, 'rocking the boat', as the case may be), was true to its name in exposing wrongdoing here. But precisely on that account it fell on bad times when Tejpal and his colleagues(including two important investors) came under fire—they were even harassed and charged—from various quarters, especially those adversely affected by these investigations.
Due to the lawsuits that followed the site no longer operates as it did, but is now devoted to launching and signing up subscribers for a weekly print edition that is slated to come out in January 2004. Tejpal was energized by this legal assault and decided the best way out was to start a print version of the mission that tehelka.com symbolized; a weekender that will specialize in public interest journalism—exposés, investigations, intelligent discourse on issues vital to the public at large, and most crucial, holding those in power accountable. In an interview that appears in the Sahara Time (Nov 29, 2003), a weekly broadsheet, Tejpal reiterated that without accountability there can be no democracy. So far he has had many well-wishers, donors and subscribers from public life and the highly visible professions who believe in this people's movement. It should be welcomed with fanfare and enthusiasm by all Indians.
May it fluorish, but more importantly, may it appeal to the people's conscience, transform them, and motivate them to act and bring about change in the way we're ruled. Let's hope it succeeds in saving India from the malfeasance of its rulers by relentlessly keeping an eye on their misdeeds. Let's also hope that some of them will be brought to book—and with due process, put behind bars.
There are scores of commentators in the media, but now we are about to have a proper vehicle among the already free and vibrant media to do what must be done if this country is to have any hope of a better future. Recently, the media, both print and electronic, have given us the following no-holds-barred exposés: the Telgi stamp-paper scam, the Judeo Singh—a Union Minister—bribe caught on video, and the senseless murder this month of an honest engineer, Satyendra Dubey, a government servant who blew the whistle on the corrupt Minister-Bureaucrat-Mafia nexus in the National Highway Project. We may finally see some light at the end of the dark tunnel of public affairs in India.
Pardon this long preamble but how appropriate it is to my title below! To salute the good tidings that tehelka will bring us I offer a short piece that highlights the power of the media to act as a remedy for many of the ills that plague us, day in and day out.
Media to the Rescue