Friday March 22, 2019
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Senior journalists, authors slam scribes for ‘selife with Modi’

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New Delhi: The primary job of journalists as the Fourth Estate of a democracy is to ask tough questions to powers-that-be and in order to do so it is essential that they maintain some distance from the latter (duh).

The logic is simple: if we made friends with those we are supposed to question, we would not be able to perform our foremost duty of holding them accountable. Or so we are taught in journalism schools.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi organized a Diwali Milan function for mediapersons on Saturday at the BJP Headquarters wherein the journalists could be seen jostling and vying with each other to take selfies with the former. The pictures quickly went viral on social media, especially on Twitter, where people began raising questions on the lowering standards and ethics of Indian media.

Senior journalist Nihal Singh while speaking with NewsGram took a dim view of the bonhomie and mob mentality displayed by Modi and the journalists at the BJP Headquarters.

“I think it’s funny and at the same time shameful too. If students indulge in such things, it’s understandable. But not for journalists who are supposed to perform the important task of holding the elected representatives accountable to the people of India,” Singh said.

The fact that there was no question and answer session showed that Modi wanted a controlled environment and one-way communication. This is how he is, the senior journalist added.

“I have read books written about Modi and the best was one written by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay that is ‘Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times’. At a certain stage when the author came close to know the real Modi, the latter cut him off completely.”

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay seems to concur with Singh. NewsGram spoke to the Modi biographer to understand his perspective on the issue.

“There are two kinds of journalists in India: those who take selfies and those who don’t. The lure and fascination for power and inclination to flaunt one’s political connections is stronger in the former. Modi is only obliging such journalists; he is more than happy with a one-way dialogue process. Yet I feel Modi’s romance with the media seems to be almost over if we compare this event with last year’s ‘Diwali Milan’. The enthusiasm was lacking,” Mukhopadhyay said.

Prabhakar Kumar, head of the CMS Media Lab, told NewsGram that such instances make it tough for the journalists to do their real job i.e. asking questions.

“They ought to maintain some distance. Journalists these days wish to flaunt their closeness to ministers and thus their value and worth. Nira Radia case is an apt example in this regard. In a way, we could say that media is not a mirror of the society anymore and this is not good for democracy.

“For instance, in London BBC reporters asked him tough questions like on the ‘growing intolerance’ in the country. Can Indian journalists question him in this regard? It is a pity that he is open to questions in a foreign land, not in India. This is how Modi operates. Even during 2014 Lok Sabha polls, he strategically gave interviews to selected journalists and media houses. He’s the one who chooses and journalists are only obliging him.”

Many senior journalists NewsGram spoke to were of the opinion that ‘Diwali Milan’ reflected poorly on the Indian media.

Shemin Joy, Principal Correspondent with Deccan Herald, said that taking pictures with dignitaries and ministers was fine, but the manner in which it was done spoke volumes about the journalists present there.

“It’s like they were crazy about taking selfies with Modi. The mob mentality of the journalists is the issue. They forget that it’s always their prestige that is at stake, for it reflects poorly on them. Even with Manmohan Singh, my answer would have been the same. In a way, Modi is showing a mirror to media and telling the journalists that ‘this (selfie) is what you deserve and you should be satisfied with it. No need to ask questions.’

“This is happening because of the lowering standards of Indian media. That elegance which used be there once seems to be missing now. It’s no surprise that ‘Presstitude’, an objectionable term, is now associated with the Indian media. Verily, we’re ourselves responsible for our plight.”

Next Story

Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

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VOA
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. Pixabay

For people streaming in from rural areas around New Delhi, the first stop is a collection of busy city intersections where contractors select daily wage labor from the crowds of young and old waiting every morning to get work.

Many standing at these intersections say they get work for barely half the month. “I have the ability to work hard. I never turn down any work. But I would prefer to get a cleaner, permanent job,” says 29-year-old Tek Chand. “The problem is one day I have money to buy rations, the next day I don’t.” Like millions of others, he migrated from his village three years ago to seek work and a better life in the city.

FILE - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, arrives with his cabinet colleagues on the opening day of the budget session of the Indian Parliament, in New Delhi, Jan. 31, 2019. VOA
As India prepares for general elections on April 11, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being attacked by opposition parties for failing to make good on a promise he made in 2014 to create millions of jobs for India’s huge young population. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party rebuts that criticism and says India is generating new opportunities as it becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies.

Job creation is a massive challenge for a nation with one of the world’s youngest populations — half the country’s 1.3 billion people are under the age of 25.

Recent data shows that joblessness has soared to record high levels. Opposition parties have made joblessness one of their principal election planks and have accused the prime minister of failing the estimated 8 to 10 million young people who enter the workforce every year.

The independent Mumbai-based Center for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates that unemployment reached 7.2 percent last month and that 11 million jobs were lost in 2018. With a working population of 500 million, that translates into more than 30 million people waiting for jobs. An unpublished official survey that showed unemployment at a 45-year-high has also been widely quoted by Indian media.

India's main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019.
India’s main opposition Congress party President Rahul Gandhi speaks during a public meeting at Adalaj in Gandhinagar, India, March 12, 2019. VOA

On the campaign trail, the head of the main opposition Congress Party, Rahul Gandhi, who is seen as Modi’s principal challenger, talks repeatedly about a “jobs crisis.”

“Our government is refusing to accept that we have a massive crisis and potential disaster in front of us,” Gandhi told a group of university students in New Delhi recently, many who will be first time voters.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party dismisses concerns about the job data saying it does not capture the real picture because it focuses only on the 15 percent of Indians who work in the formal economy. It points to a recent industry report that jobs have been created in the medium and small sectors.

The BJP says millions of people have found work in the transport and infrastructure sectors or as delivery boys in booming online businesses as India becomes one of the world’s fastest growing major economies. They point out that the issue is not jobs but livelihoods, and point to millions of people who are not counted in job data.

They are self-employed people like cab owner Chain Pal Singh. As the app based taxi business boomed, Singh’s friend, who operated a cab, persuaded him to quit his job and take out a loan to buy a car. His decision has paid off — in four years he has earned enough money to invest in two more cabs.

Singh says he is much better off than when he held a job. “I used to earn about $225 dollars a month. Now in some months I can earn almost double that amount. Its beneficial for me.”

Following defeats in key state elections in December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told parliament last month, “This truth has to be acknowledged. The unorganized sector has 80 to 85 percent of the employment.” He pointed to millions of commercial vehicles sold in recent years and questioned if they had not generated jobs for drivers.

Economists admit India’s large informal sector has made it difficult to calculate employment, but they say joblessness or underemployment remains the country’s biggest challenge. While scarcity of jobs is not a new problem, two disruptive economic steps in the last two years exacerbated the problem.

In 2016 a sweeping currency ban meant to tackle the problem of illegal cash, dried up jobs as it created huge currency shortages, particularly in small businesses and in the countryside. A poorly-implemented tax reform known as the Goods and Services Tax a few months later was another blow to businesses.

Meanwhile, Modi’s “Made in India” campaign, which aimed at making India a manufacturing hub like China, has made a slow start and sluggish labor-intensive sectors cannot cater to growing numbers of job seekers.

“We can’t keep patting ourselves on the back that we are the fastest growing economy specially if all these other indicators are not growing at a rate that will absorb the growing labor force,” says Santosh Mehrotra, a human development economist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

“More young people are entering the labor force, millions want to leave agriculture but can’t find construction work because construction activity has slowed down because the investment rate in the economy has slowed down.”

Also Read: The Mental Health ‘Epidemic’: About Six in Ten Teen Say, They Feel A Lot Of Pressure To Get Good Grades

He points out that exports, another sector that created a number of jobs has also not been performing well.

As the campaign heats up, the opposition will try to keep the spotlight on jobs, or lack of them, even as the BJP tries to focus on national security following a recent confrontation with Pakistan. The final verdict on whether to give Prime Minister Modi a second term in office will be delivered by millions of voters when they cast their ballots. (VOA)

One response to “Are There Enough Jobs In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Led India?”

  1. If the employment picture is bleak despite the construction of so many more Kilometers of roads, railways, air ports, bridges, toilets and other infrastructures compared to the five or even ten years of UPA government, imagine where we would be if we had UPA III government .