Now that the pious outrage over Narendra Modi’s tasteless remark describing Sunanda Pushkar as a “50-crore rupee girlfriend” of Shashi Tharoor has subsided, I hope we can examine the issue in perspective.
I write this after viewing Modi’s entire speech on YouTube, delivered during the election campaign in Himachal Pradesh. It provides an illustrative example of how our media steadfastly avoids discussion on serious issues and picks up only sensational and titillating tidbits, especially with regard to women, even while pretending to be guardians of women’s rights and honour.
The bulk of Modi’s speech dealt with burning issues such as price rise and Centre-state relations. He focused in particular on the impact of inflation on poor households and addressed specific issues concerning women among the masses. For example, when talking about the effect of the quantum leap in the price of gas cylinders, he expressed concern that the unrealistic quota of six gas cylinders per household per year would affect people in the hill regions more adversely since the cold weather increases the consumption of gas. He pointed out that it would force poorer households to revert to using firewood. That, in turn, would increase women’s drudgery, since they would have to spend hours cutting and gathering fuel wood from forests leading to further deforestation.
He then described how the Central government had torpedoed the piped gas supply programme of the Gujarat government, claiming that the state had already provided cooking gas pipelines in 300 villages covering seven lakh households. His plan was to have covered 20 lakh households by this year. Piped gas costs half as much as cylindered gas. But the UPA government passed a law stipulating that only the Central government can supply piped gas.
As per Modi’s claim, that project would have saved the Centre Rs 15,000 crore worth of cooking gas subsidy and spared three crore gas cylinders for use elsewhere, but it was sabotaged because the Congress felt threatened by the growing support for Modi among the women of Gujarat. He then declared that he had filed a petition in the Supreme Court to challenge this needless encroachment on the powers of the state government.
Modi also talked of perennial power shortages and blackouts in the rest of the country while Gujarat had succeeded in providing uninterrupted electricity to every single village and household. Access to affordable and efficient forms of cooking is an issue of utmost importance for virtually every woman in India. It is a life and death issue for poor rural households where women have to spend hours walking miles on rough terrains scrounging for fuel wood, cutting thorny bushes and trees and carrying loads of firewood for cooking on smoky chulhas that further endanger their health. Deforestation is also a life and death issue for people who live in hilly regions, especially women, because with disappearing forests, fuel, water and fodder become scarce and landslides become a common occurrence. Absence and/ or shortages of electricity have kept our villages impoverished by crushing the emergence of small enterprises and industries in villages.
Finally, Modi critiqued Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi for bragging in election rallies that the Congress party was the one facilitating development by giving money grants to state governments while state governments ignored or mismanaged development works. Modi echoed Nitish Kumar, saying that the Congress talks as if the money coming from the Centre is its personal wealth, which it is distributing as charity.
Neither print nor electronic media chose to investigate and discuss whether the claims made by Modi regarding the piped gas project and universal rural electrification in Gujarat are accurate or exaggerated. Similarly, the Congress party’s use of Central funds to arm-twist chief ministers undermines federalism and vitiates Centre-state relations, impairing the health of our democracy. The Centre’s near-total monopoly over key sources of taxation leaves state governments at the mercy of the Delhi durbar, distorts state policies and development programmes. For example, most state governments end up pushing liquor sales because that is one of the few sources of revenue they can impose directly. Villages that lack clean drinking water have a plentiful supply of government-patronised liquor shops. This drains out incomes of poor households, leads to greater domestic violence and strengthens the hold of political goondas who own these liquor thekas in villages.
But the media did not spend a fraction of the time discussing these vital issues concerning women and democracy. Instead, for hours and days on end, we heard militant feminists breathing fire and brimstone and TV anchors emoting profusely only over the insult levelled by Modi at Shashi Tharoor’s wife.
If Modi’s concern for reducing women’s drudgery is genuine, if he has actually delivered piped gas to seven lakh rural households and intends to cover all the rest, if every household in rural Gujarat is getting round the clock power supply, his frivolous remark against Sunanda Tharoor is not enough to damn him for being anti-women. Mere lip sympathy for women won’t do. I prefer politicians who care for women’s well-being in concrete ways.
The purpose of writing this is neither to defend Modi, nor brush away his uncouth remark. It is only to highlight the fact that when serious issues are shoved under the carpet and a highly disproportionate amount of time is spent on relatively frivolous issues by our national media, is it not fair to complain that large sections of our journalist biradari, especially our 24x7 news channels, are trivialising politics in general and women’s concerns in particular in their insatiable hunger for high-decibel cockfights over sensational sound bytes? No politician dare marginalise the life concerns of the mass of our women as systematically as large sections of our media do, with their disproportionate attention to glamour dolls, film stars and the doings of the fashionable elite. It is easier to call monstrous politicians to account than media monsters.
I know by writing this piece I will be damned forever by my “secular” friends. To those who see Modi as evil incarnate and want to see him defeated, I can only request: please have the courage to stay close to facts and fight him on his home ground. Taking potshots at a straw man or caricature will only weaken the case against him.
The writer is professor, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi, and founder editor ‘Manushi’
It is often seen in the media that after sensationalizing for a day or two the issue is totally ignored without any follow up. Several instances in the recent past occupied peak reporting time to be only forgotten the next day. What happenned to events at The Kolkata hospital, Guwhathi incident, Kanda issue, Telgi and race owner case of poona ? Media should introspect and the time they occupy with Gujerat can be better spent in mitigating problems of North east, Kashmir and Naxal hit areas. Sad that we are in a country where good work is not recognised and the chase is to gain TRP's
You have to live in Gujrat to see the development done by modi. It is phenomenal on every front. You drive towards Nashik in Maharashtra from Dharampur in Gujrat; the tribal villages in Gujrat have 24 hour 3 phage electricity,good roads & prosperous. Moment you cross boarder & enter maharashtra, the sqalour & poverty is self evident. People coming from other states to Gujrat are amazed at Women safely venturing out of their homes alone when needed even at late nights. I wish we had few more CMs like Modi.
The media is anti-everything but its own rating & we reported first attitude.....
Pushkar, It was a good read, but unfortunately you have made it very obvious who you support. Had you been any other politicians supporter, I am 100% sure you would have come out with a great article (giving one sided facts). I admire you for this... you have Achieved what you wanted. Great.. Now you too have followers like your other media friends.
People like Sadanand are influenced by media hypes. In fact if you have serious concern for women, please challenge Mr Modi's views. I have heard Congress leaders and Mr Modi. The difference is, that Congress leaders are always blaming opposition, people, CAG as though they do not make any mistakes in spite of several allegations. When you hear Mr Modi speak, he connects with the masses and their concern.
It is so true that, every indian should read and oust manmohan singh govt and shut the mouth of media.Prabhakar
It is so refreshing o read a balanced article,media is failing its duty by trivialising important issues an blowing up irrelevant ones,kudos to madhouse knish war for her courage
It is a fine example of thinking outside the box, examining issues without blinkers.
Ms. Kishwar has jumped the gun again. Had she reflected calmly, then a seasoned academician and an experienced investigator in her would have spotted the anomalies that plague Modi's claims in his election speech. For example the 15000 crores saving in LPG subsidy that but for Centre's intransigence would have been Nation's does not amount to more than 2800 crores even by most liberal interpretation. There are bigger holes in Modi's story. Please see the following link for the whole story. http://searchlight-is-on.blogspot.in/2012/11/madhu-kishwar-modi-and-mainstream-media.html Regards,
even if the saving is INR 2800 crores, is it not money which is being saved for the naton? your claim of INR 2800 can also be debated..perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between
Congratulation for ur daring true in so called secular country
Madhu hit the nail on the head. Well done! To anyone with any self respect and sense of ownership towards India, the present incumbent party's and it's media stooges' drivel will appear obvious. The media will target Modi through propaganda, that will at best make our bourgeois middle class writhe in 'agony' over 'women's rights' , scream the depravity of 'old school' Modi in the comfort of their living rooms and then quietly retreat to their selfish, hypocritical, corrupt existence. And for anyone with any perceptiveness, Modi's propaganda comes second to his work as an adminstrator and builder. And his propaganda is direct, not reactionary, and addressed to the common man and woman who know their plight in the rest of India (outside of Gujarat). This guy has come on the cover of TIME unlike any other Chief Minister or politician of similar powers, he knows his stuff and does his work. And does it well.
Very good articulation and analysis... good to see balanced view
Now , this is really the Journalism of Courage. Truthfully and Literally. Kudos!! who else is daring this?
It's not Modi, its the Moody media which looks for sansani-ated sensationalized stories from almost everywhere. Be it Aarushi Talwar or Narendra Modi, media sees, tastes and smells the flavour esp, when the matter concerns women. Stories of Rape becomes Rape on a DALIT girl and etc. Modi is a sensible orator and he had very sensibly put all the facts in his speech. It's the media which is under immense pressure from the Congress led UPA 2 for 'what to report and what to showcase' starting Robert Vadra to Manish Tiwari and the DIG-VIJAY SINGH. SAD SAD and SAD
Fair article. Modi should be contained not by such frivolous remarks, but using facts from his own economic growth! Visit my blog below to see how Modi's own GDP growth rate, debt/gdp ratios, literacy, human development indices etc show a completely different picture from the usual trumpeting by his marketing machinery. Wordpress blog: IamAmangoMan shortlink: wp .me/p2PlLD-1 (remove space)
Thanks for daring to tell the truth Madhu. If Modi's claims of piped gas being significantly cheaper are true, why is this not being discussed more widely? Its sad that sensational stuff is pushed at the cost of news that can make real difference to lives of people
After a long time I see an article worthy of spending time. A balanced analysis and a just analysis. And I hope, for once, we will desist from labeling it secular or communal. That kind of name-calling has become quite appalling at least because in this land not a single party can be called secular.
News is hardwork!!! Views are free (fookat) Old maxim never learnt by modern media self-acclaimed practitioners who turn jurists of democracy and personalities turning from the first day of appointment as anchors or new reporter
The analysis done is in the right spirit and that is why it tempts us to read it on the whole without any prejudice but with a right mindset and positive frame of mind. I would say if we have such real media in the coming days we will see many things in black and white. Many congrats for such excellent article as well as hats off for your daring.
This is really a good take at our sensational news seeking media. It is extremely important for the media to take up and showcase the Real issues threatening the society rather than running after the half true, half twisted facts. Media commands great power in influencing the opinions of masses and hence it becomes extremely important for them to present well researched, comprehensive facts and viewpoints to their readers/ viewers.
Actually modi pointed out the corruption done by tharoor.he clarified in parliament that he dont even know the sunanda pushkar..and later married her.media always present there point of view ..and they try every possible thing to defame modi ..media dont show when congressi remarked modi,s mother .they abused modi mother..but where was media then..,,actually corrupt always hides corruption and corrupts
Congratulations Mr Madhu, With the current crop of journalists looking only for commercially profitable avenues, ego-satisfying debates, buttering the masters etc, it takes a little bit of conscience & courage to talk about Truths, and look at perspectives that may not be 'Secular' et al. Hats off for all the hardwork. May your good work get contagious....
Very well written and insightful article. The information provided is completely fact based and helps in understanding the real issues of common people and women. I wish there are more writers like you.
Congrats for IE publishing other side of truth . Please carry forward fow well being of the people and country.
Really fact based and insightful article. This is what I call a fair and unbiased journalism. May we read more such fact driven articles from you and others.