In India, a game to relish is being played by newspapers. The flow of information has stopped and in stopping this flow the biggest role is that of newspapers themselves. Not only are the newspapers happy at this, the Government too is relishing this situation. In the last 25 years, the ‘localisation’ of news has taken place very fast. Twenty or 25 years ago, the thread ceremony (‘janeyu’) ‘mundan’ (head shaving ceremony of children), marriages, birthdays and news like that of small crimes did not find a place in newspapers. But first State editions of newspapers came out, then their regional editions came out, and now going beyond district editions, the extent has reached the tehsil edition level. The news section of newspapers is mostly based on news at the district and tehsil level. The people are happy to see their news published in a newspaper and newspapers also find it convenient to publish small local items of news as they don’t need to go far elsewhere. In this situation, news of crime acquires more prominence but the scope of such crime related news items and the circle of people reading is small. In fact, now news does not go the mile even a district. Those people who think that their news has been published in a newspaper and now the whole district or the whole State has become familiar with that news are under a big misconception. The truth is that not even the district officials read their news because if there are two or three different types of editions available, then the district official tends to read only that edition which covers the area where his home is located.
Earlier, the news published in newspapers served and acted as a ‘control’ or check on officials and they feared that if the news reached those sitting in the capital or reached Ministers, they may have to face and answer questions. Therefore they paid attention to the news published in newspapers and tried to see that the problems reported were solved or sorted out, so that such reports were not published in newspapers. But now district officials are very happy with the situation because now they do not need to focus on news. Therefore, the effect of news on the administration and governance has ended. Not only this, the quality of reports has also come down. Twenty or 25 years ago the foremost aim of searching for and verifying reports was that news should not prove to be incorrect and news should not lose its newsworthiness. That is why reports published 25 years ago were accorded attention by the administration and in governance, but now they do not worry at all.
Earlier, the hopes of an individual disappointed from everywhere were reposed on news reports published in a newspaper, because it seemed to him or her that if a matter that was not being heard anywhere was heard by newspaper people, then the problem would be easily solved. But now even this hope of the people is gradually dying out. Now people have started saying that news can get published in a newspaper at a very small price. Of course, these kind of charges or allegations that newspapers which came out in a district were involved in activities like blackmailing were made earlier too. By threatening to publish news about local contractors or about ‘small’ officers they were able to extract some money. Maybe this happened at some places, but that it would happen on a large scale was never imagined. Today the situation in the entire country is such that there is so much widespread discussion of paid news that every newspaper seems like an object in the market. Some newspapers took money and started the ‘trend’ of publishing news during the election run-up with the result that the general reader began viewing every newspaper with suspicion. But the greater danger in this is that of ‘localisation’ of news because in such a situation what may have occurred in one district does not come to light in another district. What may have occurred over half a district does not come to light in the entire district. On the first page, some incidents that have taken place in Delhi are certainly there, but they are just a glimpse. The result is that the reader is left entirely without knowing and therefore untouched by events and problems in the country. The struggle for land, atrocities against the poor, or some intense opposition by the people against some injustice do not find a place in local newspapers. And if it does find a place, the information does not reach the entire district leave alone neighbouring districts or the State.
This entire situation is very dangerous, because news published earlier in newspapers gave an indication or inkling to the administration and those engaged in governance of what was happening amongst the people but today the administration cannot get that kind of information. Their sources of information are just the Intelligence agencies, and the kind of understanding with which they carry out their work and tasks – well, there is a long list. That is why the administration and those engaged in governance realise neither their responsibility to the people, and neither does they pay any attention to those problems which are creating unrest and discontent at the grass roots level.
In such a situation there is only one medium of television left before the people to understand nationwide news. Television channels too mostly keep harping all day on sensational news. The medium of Doordarshan is certainly there for providing news to the people, but regretfully, Doordarshan too has embarked on the same path which other television channels are following. Actually, news channels take only the comic aspects of news, the shallow aspects of news and the ‘glamour’ of news to the people. Those news items which are not ‘glamorous’ are useless and disposable for them, and therefore they don’t pay attention to them, they don’t even cover them. This whole situation is alarming for the entire country. The people in the north do not get news or information of people in the south and people in the south do not get news or information of people in the north. The struggle for land in the country is increasing the number of Nasalizes gradually, acting like the addition of ‘ghee’ (clarified butter) to fuel a fire but the Government has no information of this and State leaders have no information at all on this. Therefore, it should be acknowledged that newspapers are affecting people’s lives in two ways. They do not want to allow information to go those people who can solve the problems of the people; and to those people who have problems they give an opportunity to organise themselves in a most dangerous manner and create an atmosphere of disappointment and despair in the country. If we ponder over the kind of new problems that will be created in this country because of this nexus between newspaper owners, officials and politicians, our minds will reel. In spite of this, localisation process of newspapers is continuously progressing fast and the amazing thing is that Governments, taking it as a good sign for themselves, are sitting calmly, silently and smiling.