Is Journalism Dead?

Journalism in India was once a profession, so we had heard. It has now become a trade. It has no more moral function than the selling of pizza, a fast and convenient food item of suspicious nutritional value. Journalists and press no longer regard themselves as responsible advisers of the public. To give the news uncoloured by any motive, to present a certain view of public policy which it believes to be for the good of the community, to correct and chastise without fear all those, no matter how high, who have chosen a wrong or a barren path, is not regarded by journalism in India as its first or foremost duty.

To anoint a hero, and worship him, has become the principal duty or mission of the journalists. Under this new configuration, news is replaced by sensation, reasoned opinion by unreasoning passion, and appeal to the minds of responsible people by appeal to the emotions of the irresponsible.

The script is written by drum-beaters to glorify their heroes. Never has the interest of country been sacrificed so senselessly for the propagation of hero-worship. Never has hero-worship become as blind as we see it today in India and may the rest of the world. There are some honourable exceptions, but they are too few and their voice is never heard.

Entrenched behind the plaudits of the Press, the spirit of domination exhibited by the politicians, has transgressed all limits. By their domination they have demoralised their followers and demoralised politics. By their domination they have made half their followers fools and the other half hypocrites. In establishing their supremacy they have taken the aid of “big business” and money magnates. For a long time now, in our country, money is taking the field as an organised power. The questions which, we, the people, are not willing to answer are:

WHO SHALL RULE – wealth or man?

WHICH SHALL LEAD – money or intellect?

WHO SHALL HOLD PUBLIC OFFICES – educated and patriotic free men or the feudal serfs of corporate Capital?

For the present, Indian politics, instead of being spiritualised, has become grossly commercialised, so much so that it has become a byword for corruption. Journalists and media have become willing accomplices. Politics and journalism have together constituted a kind of an intolerably insanitary sewage system.

Though it may be interesting or even entertaining, the foremost value of news is as a utility to empower the informed. The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments. Media used to be a carrier – a carrier of news, journalistic opinion, entertainment and advertising. Today, media has become synonymous with press and journalism. Coupled with social-media, print, television, internet and other in-pocket-media makes news which the journalists follow and report. Journalist and newspaper publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, the “Father of Journalism” (born as Jozsef Politzer in Hungary in 1847) must be turning in his grave in the Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.

Where has this so called pillar of democracy gone – wo haben wir erreicht – donde hemos llegado – où avons-nous attaint – यह कहां आ गये हम…….?

(first published 23 Aug 2020)

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Little Clear Notes on Indian Education

In India, education is a subject matter of regulation both by the Central government and the state governments. Education providers are both, public as well as private institutions. The predictable result is that richer and urban areas have better schools and that students in these schools have a better chance of going on to high education.

While right to education is a fundamental right and providing education the responsibility of the state, children from economically weaker backgrounds attend separate and entirely unequal state-government schools in the urban areas. In rural areas, where there are no private schools, the rural-rich send their children to the urban elite and private schools while the poor have to make do with schools without adequate physical and human teaching resources.

Access to primary and secondary education was and is unequal. The same inequality continues or rather increases for the post-secondary education.

As per a report of Ministry of HRD, Government of India titled ‘Analysis of Budgeted Expenditure on Education 2013-14 to 2015-16’ Elementary Education accounted for 50.96% of the total expenditure on education in 2015-16, followed by Secondary Education, which was 30%. The share of University & Higher Education and Technical Education was 12.84% and 4.60% respectively.

State universities, for example, educate 65% of students but receive only 45% of the various higher education grants from the states. The perversity of this is seen in this statistic: at the elite schools, students pay only 35 paise of every rupee to fund their education while at the large state universities they pay 55 paise of every rupee. Not surprisingly, the graduation rate for the elite institutions is above 90% while it is below 50% for the other tiers.

Elite state institutions are almost as lavishly funded as the old-line institutions such as BITS. The defence of spending more on these institutions and students is merit, of which, there are two kinds. Both are manufactured.

It is not that these institutions do not turn out good education work. Rather, in the battle for funding, they up their rankings by inviting more and more students to apply for a limited number of spaces – which allows them to prove their elite status by showing the small percent of applicants they actually enrol.

Elite institutions also manufacture their status through their reliance on admissions testing scores or percent cut-offs. India is famous for IIT-JEE or CPMT or CAT. There are a number of studies which prove that such tests miserably fail in predicting how students will do during their first year in the institution.

Anyone and everyone interested in higher education in India may like to read – Odile Henry and Mathieu Ferry, « When Cracking the JEE is not Enough », South Asia Multidisciplinary Academic Journal [Online], 15 | 2017, Online since 22 March 2017, connection on 19 April 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/samaj/4291; DOI : 10.4000/samaj.4291; not because I endorse the views therein, but because there is a point of view.

That we as a nation have created a ‘brahminical’ class of institutions called the IITs and the tier-1’s whose priests seem to control every regulation, every accreditation, every ranking and every policy making body on education, is not a matter of pride but shame that even in the seventh year of its rule, the NDA government is unable to finalise an education policy for the country. On the other hand, the world of knowledge has moved many leaps over these seven years and in all likelihood, India may have an obsolete education policy right on the day it is adopted, if that day ever comes.

(First published 07 June 2020)

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