Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Floods in India??... Really??

It is, sadly - but not surprisingly - true!!

If you go to Google News and search "floods India", of the more than 5,000 links, only 4-5 are from Indian media. The figure is only indicative of the focus... even search on the websites of Indian MSM, the figures are telling...

Apparently, the media - and people - around the world are more aware and concerned about the Indian flood situation - which according to UN has affected close to 35-40mn people, has damaged or destroyed 1.28mn homes across 260mn hectares in more than 200 flood-affected districts, and is one of the worst flood disaster in recent history. UP, Bihar, Assam and Orissa are the worst impacted accounting for almost 24mn affected people (including 3mn children).

An article in New York Times reports:

    "The monsoon rains in India are a democratic force. When the skies open, the water pours on the homes of rich and poor alike. But after the deluge, the poor always suffer most.

    ....But for survivors, the real endurance test is just beginning. With crops destroyed and fields bloated with water, there will be no agricultural work for millions of landless laborers here for months, leaving them to rely on the sporadic support of aid agencies and government relief organizations.

    ...there are gradations within this poverty, and subclasses of richer and poorer.

    The flood waters began receding in mid-August, replaced by a stinking, stagnant sludge, but villages remained cut off, and many of those houses that have re-emerged are uninhabitable. Hundreds of thousands of people are sheltered beneath bed sheets along raised highways, just inches away from the traffic, which grinds past, splattering them with mud. Life cannot yet begin again for most.... those with the least to lose had lost the most...."
And the coverage from Indian media?...
...the article goes on to say:

    "At a national level, the plight of these flood victims arouses little compassion. In early August, when the United Nations declared the floods the worst in living memory, the miserable condition of the 31 million people affected in India was covered internationally but was neither front-page news in New Delhi newspapers nor featured on national news channels. Instead, bulletins were dominated by the sentencing of a Bollywood star to jail.

    Such apathy is not unusual. Newspapers in India often neglect the suffering of the rural poor, more preoccupied with the triumphs of the emerging India than with the familiar stories of extreme hardship experienced by hundreds of millions of Indians living on the land."
The statement "At a national level, the plight of these flood victims arouses little compassion" is apparently true... and not just for the MSM.

In Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's 15th August Independence Day speech, this was the only mention about "floods":

    "I urge states to look upon water as a national asset and work to resolve inter-state disputes over water sharing with an attitude of give and take. It is only through a cooperative approach that lasting solutions can be found to recurring problems, like floods and drought. We should work together to prevent the destruction caused by the ravages of nature, like floods."

Needless to say that all the images in this post are not from India media!


devi said...

Dear Madhukar,

Thank you for this post, I noticed the absence of press coverage in India for teh floods , beacsue almost every day BBC had some story about the flood and extensive coverage from on the ground.
Whereas whatever indian newspapers I read online had barely any coverage on the floods and it was amply clear that shining India has no time for flooding unless it happens at the mumbai doorsteps of the reliance clan, the share markets or stops the trains the cars that take the haves to their destinations !


TV said...

Cannot agree with you more. But then, Indian MSM would be what they are. And to see that they think nothing of criticizing the politicians!!

Thank god for BBC and the blogs, at least we are aware of what is happening.

Samir Kumar Mishra said...

Thanx Madhukar for the post. Here also we hear quite a lot about flood in region. But I guess back home our media moguls are more interested in what Sanjay Dutt said or which color saree Shilpa was wearing or which chocolate Aishwarya ate etc. For them it is not about Indian public it is all about celebrity.

This is height of impotency of Indian media.

Inquilab Zindabad said...

Great post! The image of India that the Indian media and Indian elite promote is one that will be shattered by news of such nuisance as floods.... India is suppose to be a neo-liberal success story. Events like this don't look good for investors and foreign capital.

gaddeswarup said...

Professor Shukla,
I wonder whether this is a problem with the English media reports. Last year, I followed Telugu newspapers and ETV and there was wide coverage. This year, there is news in the foreign papers. I tried some Telugu blogs and there was not much coverage. Is it possible that blogs and English newspapers cover news interesting to some groups? I remember a friend telling me that there was one Hindi newspaper which was much better than the English ones. That was a few years ago, I can enquire whether that is still true. Regards,

Supratim said...

I can not comment on the lack of coverage on TV channels, as I hardly watch TV (except for movies, cricket and football!).

But, amongst the print media, I can only say that Indian Express has been covering the floods in Bihar, Gujarat, Assam quite regularly and extensively (even if not on the front page) and they have been very critical of the "support" machinery. Don't know why this does not show up on Google, but you can certainly search their website (which isn't very good, though).

I also wonder why other "maintream" English papers have not bothered to cover the devastation and the paucity of relief. Unlike previously, none of the papers have also started a flood relief fund.

Praveen said...

I do not get too much time to watch the news or read the papers though I definitely remember that my US Clients were more aware and kept asking us about the situ ...and we were like...why are they bothered so much...we have hardly heard of it!!