Development finally becoming hot?

19th Jun 2009
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Is Social Development finally becoming hot? Is this the new politics for the News Media? 

The times they are a changing and

the answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind. No, this week’s column is not about a sudden nostalgia for Bob Dylan, but it is about the possibility of hope.


For long, the news agenda in India has been dominated by the practise of politics, which in many cases was distinct from the practise of democracy. The television media equally followed their print counterparts in this agenda setting, drawing their staff as they did in the 90’s heavily from newspapers.


When the media cried out this general elections that this is an issueless election, what they really meant was that there are not that many shenanigans with regard to making and breaking governments. The Third Front was perhaps the only platform providing some scope for such antics taking place.


So what could the fresh news agenda possibly be? Usually many of the important development issues considered soft news: women’s health, education and poverty are often given to cub reporters and to women reporters to cover, with the inbuilt bias that these are not that important beats. With the same inbuilt gender bias politics, defence, industry, home affairs , trade considered the hard news agendas are often given to senior and male reporters . This clearly signalled where the news priority lay for the news media. 


But of late there is increasing interest in development issues and it is likely that these stories will begin to enjoy greater priority and visibility with editors in both newspapers and television news. The first concrete stimulus for this lies in the way the election results have been this year and the resulting selection of the ministers in the new government.


It’s now well documented that the Congress is bullish on development demonstrated by selecting experienced and driven blood like Kapil Sibal for HRD .Other picks include Ghulam Nabi Azad for Health , Kumari Selja for Urban Poverty Alleviation and Jairam Ramesh for Environment and Forests. So called soft ministries have gone to well known names.


These decisions are flowing from India’s electorate, both in towns and villages, who have demonstrated through the poll results that they want to get back to what is really important to them: development, education, financial security and food security. 


Lastly and not the least Rahul Gandhi has made development hot. Whether it’s his impassioned speech to the Parliament last year, in defence of the Nuclear deal, which highlighted how rural Indians like the now famous Kalavati could benefit from better availability of power or his penchant for spending nights in huts; development is clearly a sincere priority for Gandhi and this will further drive attention on these issues.


So, the times they are a changing and blowin’ in some fresh hope and inspiration for truly shining a light on the issues that matter. 


Next Week: Corporate Social Responsibility, lip service or an opportunity for change?


-Paarul Chand: The guest columnist is a communications entrepreneur, specializing in social advocacy and research, writing and life skills training.

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