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10-point roadmap for inclusive growth: CII President Uday Kotak

CII and Government will work to provide incentives and facilitation to companies wanting to shift their manufacturing operations out of China as part of their de-risking strategy, said Kotak.

Tarun Nangia

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Uday Kotak, President, CII (Left)| Narendra Modi, Prime Minister (Centre), Chandrajit Banerjee, Director General, CII (Right)

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has laid out a 10-point road map to revive growth and navigate the challenges of loss of lives and livelihoods posed by the global pandemic Covid 19 that has forced countries across the world to reset their growth paths. CII’s new theme for 2020- 21 Building India for a New World: Lives, Livelihood, Growth was unveiled by the newly elected president Uday Kotak in an online meeting on Thursday.

Emphasising on the imperative to bring back growth, the CII president said, “Growth is a necessity that should lead to creation of more jobs while CII works as a knowledge partner with the Government for building self-reliant and competitive India that is deeply engaged with the World”. CII’s press conference comes a day after its special Annual General Meeting held, for the first time, on a virtual platform, as CII commemorates and celebrates 125 years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the chief guest, inaugurated the AGM and laid out his expectations from CII and industry to get back growth. 

COVID-19 has changed the status quo of the World and we need to focus our energies to manage growth, lives and livelihoods while considering the challenges associated with life after COVID Kotak said, while presenting the following 10-point roadmap to revive growth in the post Covid world. “We are in uncharted territories and are grappling to find new ways to brave the changes. But we are confident of the resilience of Indian industry and its innovative skills to beat every such challenge,” he said.

1.Protecting lives and livelihoods

India, like many countries, is facing the challenge of saving lives and livelihoods. As India restarts, Centre, State and local authorities must work together to ramp up testing infrastructure along with robust identification of containment zones and an agile health and safety response to control the spread.

As 80% of the employment is in unorganised sector with no social security, addressing the protection of livelihoods will need measures to increase formalisation of employment through labour and regulatory reforms which would also encourage businesses to move towards formal sector.

The government has announced that labour reforms would be brought in the coming days. Some states have already announced new labour laws in the states. Industry will need to work in partnership to help create more jobs while bringing in more of the workforce under formal sector.

2. Prioritisation of Healthcare and Education:

The pandemic heighted the need for a robust healthcare system on the same strategic priority as defence. India’s public health spending at 1.3% of GDP calls certainly for higher investment in public health. A long-term strategy of dealing with future pandemics through high quality preventive healthcare, focus on nutrition, sanitation and hygiene needs to be established. India has tremendous shortage of healthcare professionals at all levels. Education plays a key role in achieving the required levels of standards in delivery of healthcare, nutrition and hygiene.

Given the vast expanse of India and penetration of broadband connectivity, the e- healthcare and e-education interventions alongside the traditional methods of delivery, can play a very vital role.

3. Mother nature

The increase in the incidence and the intensity of natural calamities, locus attacks, and spread of disease calls for maintaining harmony with nature. COVID has shown us that the climate change is for real and that industrial activity is an important contributor to climate change. India has been at the forefront of climate change mitigating measures; however, we would need to deepen our work and accord attention to sustainability in all our economic activities. This is one area that CII has been engaged in deeply in many of our activities as we have helped industry adopt sustainable business operations be it in energy usage and conservation, water use and emissions through our Centres of Excellence.

4. Fiscal deficit and financial stability

Government spending has been supporting the economy over the last few years.  For substantive economic recovery, government spending would be crucial. However, this would mean higher fiscal deficit and rising public debt which would run the risk of rating downgrades and flight of capital besides leaving the currency vulnerable. Financial stability should also be an important factor while deciding the fiscal stance. Finding the fine balance will be of utmost importance at this crucial juncture as various stressed sectors of the economy will look for relief and stimulus packages.

5. Distribution of economic pain

The pandemic has caused significant loss to the economic systems including individual & businesses, Governments and the financial sector. While the first loss is taken by individuals and businesses, the government will need bear the heavy burden of losses by stepping in as a key buffer. A battered industry will need support from government in many forms, including investment friendly policies that will drive demand and measures to help tide over the liquidity crisis.

6. Role of digital and physical

The shift to digital during COVID from physical will have a lasting impact in the post COVID times in terms of consumer behaviour. As industry find new business models, the role of Science and Technology becomes important. This tilt in favour of the digital, also has the potential to widen the rural versus urban divide. The rural population is less skilled to participate in an economy with higher digital component and bringing digital skills to rural India is key to enhance rural jobs. The bright side is that connectivity to hinterlands through the telecom and digital services is growing significantly and this can be built upon to work on a more inclusive agenda.

7. Future of jobs and social security

The post COVID world is likely to see some transformational changes in the context of jobs in the typical sense.

CII will work closely with Government to provide incentives and facilitation to companies wanting to shift their manufacturing operations out of China as part of their de-risking strategy. This will help India develop as manufacturing hub for the world. In addition, front loading of the National Infrastructure pipeline will not only create demand for industries like steel and cement but will also provide jobs. Government’ focus on enhancing agriculture infrastructure, linking farm produce to markets by APMC reforms will also help increase farm incomes and livelihoods.

8. Rural-urban re-balance

For the first time in India, reverse migration was experienced with migrant workers going back. Industry should be encouraged to set up operations in the rural hinterland. The reforms announced in the minerals and mining sector should be expedited as most mining projects are in rural areas. Similarly, development of agro based clusters could be expedited in rural areas. A vibrant rural industrial sector will also de-risk the impact of COVID on economic activities as spread of COVID is far less in rural areas. Further, industry and government should make available amenities in terms of housing, education and healthcare for workers who chose to come to the cities to work.

9. Four levers for growth:

Out of the four engines of growth – consumption, investment, net exports and government spending, the economy has been primarily growing on government expenditure. This is not sustainable as the fiscal situation is under pressure. Hence, it is essential to restart the other engines of the economy. Given demand uncertainties, private investment remains a challenge. Exports need a quantum jump and to achieve this integration with global and regional value chains is important besides being competitive.

In this scenario, CII will continuously deliberate on how the private sector can play a role in igniting the growth engines of private investments, exports and the forces of entrepreneurship.

10. Getting growth back is non-negotiable Getting growth back is essential to protect as well as generate jobs and livelihoods. CII will work intensely and closely with all stakeholders to bring back investments. Government spending in public infrastructure and direct benefits cash transfers may help boost demand initially but we need to find ways to sustain demand particularly in such uncertain times when consumers tend to save and get risk averse. The need of the hour is for government and industry to work together to return to a sustainable growth path.

In addition to these challenges, Kotak said that India will have new Governance Standards driven by a Digital world. Industry will have to work with its vendors, especially with MSMEs to ensure that progress is across the value chain. Hence, Industry has a major role to play along with the Government in bringing inclusive and sustainable growth back.

As alluded by the Prime Minister at the CII Annual Session, CII would work as a knowledge partner for the Government to build India for a new world after COVID, Kotak said.

Referring to Prime Minister Modi’s clarion call at the CII AGM to accord importance to five “I”s namely intent, inclusion, investment, infrastructure and innovation, the new CII president said CII’s work through the course of the year, and beyond, will be guided by 10 lenses enumerated above and will be focused towards finding optimum solutions to the challenges that lie ahead.

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Policy & Politics

PLI Scheme for Industry to spur investment

Tarun Nangia

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Keeping in view India’s vision of becoming ‘Atmanirbhar’ and to enhance India’s Manufacturing capabilities and Exports, an outlay of INR 1.97 lakh crore (over US$ 26 billion) has been announced in Union Budget 2021-22 for PLI schemes for 13 key sectors of manufacturing starting from fiscal year (FY) 2021-22.

The 13 key sectors include already existing 3 sectors namely (i) Mobile Manufacturing and Specified Electronic Components, (ii) Critical Key Starting materials/Drug Intermediaries & Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, (iii) Manufacturing of Medical Devices and 10 new key sectors which have been approved by the Union Cabinet in November 2020. These 10 key sectors are:

(i) Automobiles and Auto Components, (ii) Pharmaceuticals Drugs, (iii) Specialty Steel, (iv) Telecom & Networking Products, (v) Electronic/Technology Products, (vi) White Goods (ACs and LEDs), (vii) Food Products, (viii) Textile Products: MMF segment and technical textiles, (ix) High efficiency solar PV modules, and (x) Advanced Chemistry Cell (ACC) Battery.

PLI Scheme for an additional sector, Drones and Drone Components, has also been approved by the Union Cabinet in September 2021. With the announcement of PLI Schemes, significant creation of production, employment, and economic growth is expected over the next 5 years and more.

The schemes have been specifically designed to attract investments in sectors of core competency and cutting edge technology; ensure efficiency and bring economies of size and scale in the manufacturing sector and make Indian manufacturers globally competitive so that they can integrate with global value chains.

The PLI schemes are being implemented by the concerned Ministries/ Departments. There are targeted promotion activities being taken up by concerned Ministries/ Departments for identification of potential global and domestic investors by way of organizing investor networking events, investor roundtables, seminars and one-on-one meetings with potential investors.

All the approved sectors identified under PLI Schemes follow the broad framework of new and emerging technologies where India can leapfrog, overall economic gain accruing to the economy and export potential of the sectors. These sectors were recommended by NITI Aayog after detailed deliberations with concerned Ministries/ Departments followed by approval of the Union Cabinet. Any new sector for PLI will require fresh approval of the Cabinet. There is no proposal by NITI Aayog to expand scheme to other sectors.

This information was given by the Minister of State in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Som Parkash, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha today.

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Policy & Politics

Regional Trade Agreements of India

Tarun Nangia

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India currently has 11 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)/Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) with other countries/regions. In addition, it has 6 limited coverage Preferential Trade Agreements (PTAs). The details are as under:

A few instances of re-routing of goods through the countries with which India has FTAs/RTAs have come to notice. To address this issue, Government has issued Customs (Administration of Rules of Origin under Trade Agreements) Rules, 2020 (CAROTAR, 2020) with effect from September 21, 2020 to supplement the procedures prescribed under different FTAs. These rules also cast responsibility on the importers to conduct due diligence for ensuring that the goods meet the prescribed rules of origin. The newly introduced provisions act as deterrent against misuse of trade agreements. In addition, an FTA monitoring committee has been constituted with representation from government departments, trade and industry bodies to identify issues relating to misuse of FTA provisions and recommend action.

(I) FREE TRADE AGREEMENTS (FTAS)

(II) PREFERENTIAL TRADE AGREEMENTS (PTAS)

This information was given by the Minister of State in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Anupriya Patel, in a written reply in the Lok Sabha today.

(Source: DGCIS)

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Policy & Politics

FIRST SPECIAL STEEL SPAN INDIA’S FIRST RRTS CORRIDOR COMPLETED IN GHAZIABAD

Tarun Nangia

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NCRTC has successfully completed the installation of the first special steel span of the Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut RRTS corridor over the mainline Indian railway crossing near Vasundhara, Ghaziabad. This special steel span is 73 meter long and weighted around 850 tonnes. It has been installed on the piers of about 10 metreheight on both side of the Indian railway tracks by using winch and roller arrangement.

With the successful installation of this special steel span, another milestone has been achieved in the construction of India’s first RRTS corridor between Delhi to Meerut. This is the first special steel span of the 17 km priority section from Sahibabad to Duhai, which is targeted to be commissioned by the year 2023.

Another special steel span of around 150 meter is underway just before the Ghaziabad RRTS Station where under construction RRTS viaduct is crossing over a road flyover and Delhi Metro viaduct together.

NCRTC has completed the installation of this special steel span with all safety measures with full cooperation of the Northern Railway. The whole process of movement of this special steel span over Indian Railway tracks was completed within the specified blocks with minimum disruption.

In the installation process of this huge special steel span, first the whole steel structure is fabricated near the actual location on the trestle which is a framework consisting of beams. After the complete structure is ready, it is to be moved on rollers towards the piers erected on both sides. This is a very challenging and complicated process considering the high weight of the steel structure.

The fabrication of these special steel spans is so fine that they don’t need any finishing post-installation. Post this installation, the next phase of track laying and OHE installation can be carried out immediately.

For the construction of the elevated viaduct of the RRTS corridor, NCRTC is erecting piers generally at an average distance of 34 meters. Post this, these piers are joined by pre-cast segments with the help of launching gantries to construct a RRTS viaduct span. However, maintaining this distance between piers is not practically possible in some complex areas where the corridor is set to cross over rivers, bridges, rail crossings, metro corridors, expressways, or other such existing infrastructure.

To connect piers in such areas, Special Spans are being used. Special Spans are mammoth civil structures having beams made of structural steel. NCRTC is building Special Spans made of structural steel at a factory which is then transported to the sites on trailers during the night to avoid any traffic problems and assembled in a systematic way with help of specialized process. The size and structure of these steel spans are designed aesthetically in advance, in-line with the overall requirements of construction, installation, and usage.

More than 14,000 workers and 1100 engineers are working tirelessly on the 82 km long RRTS corridor where in more than 1100 piers of the elevated section have been erected, more than 50 km of foundation work and approximately 14 km of viaduct have been completed, most of which is located in the priority section.

Along with the construction of the viaduct in the priority section, the construction work of all five stations – Sahibabad, Ghaziabad, Guldhar, Duhai, and Duhaidepot is in advanced stages. Track laying work is going on by connecting rail tracks on the viaduct between Ghaziabad to Duhai.

NCRTC team is working day and night at the sites with 18 launching gantries in operation for the elevated section in the corridor. The construction work for the underground section has also started where the Tunnel Boring Machine launching shafts are being constructed.

NCRTC has managed the pace of the construction while simultaneously taking extensive pollution control measures in and around the construction sites. A dedicated team of experts are regularly monitoring the effectiveness of these measures and step-up the activities wherever necessary. Construction work is being done within barricaded zones of adequate height and thorough cleanliness is being maintained on these sites. Anti-smog guns, water sprinklers are deployed to settle the construction dust. All the raw materials, debris are kept covered at their marked sites.

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Policy & Politics

IRDAI must be allowed to regulate hospitals as well, says T.L. Alamelu, Member (Non-Life), IRDAI

Tarun Nangia

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The Member (Non-Life) of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) believes that either there must be a separate regulator for the healthcare segment or that the IRDAI must be allowed to regulate hospitals.

“We wish that there is a regulator or we are allowed to regulate hospitals,” said T L Alamelu, while addressing the 23rd CII Insurance and Pensions Summit.

The regulator also suggested that they are attentive towards the increasing price of Insurance premiums.

“Have an eye on how insurers increase their premiums,” Alamelu added.

Alamelu also mentioned that “InsurTechs and FinTechs are both ways for the industry to move forward” and that the “regulator has allowed the industry to do digital policies and we have in the regulatory sandbox encouraged this marriage between the InsurTech and insurers.”

Also speaking at the CII Insurance and Pensions Summit was Supratim Bandyopadhyay, Chairman, PFRDA.

Bandyopadhyay suggested that the country is not future ready in terms of penetration of pension schemes. The chief of the pension regulation in India advised that financial literacy and especially pension literacy could be helpful in making India ready for the future.

“We are still not future ready, and I believe lot of financial literacy and pension literacy has to go into it,” Shri Bandyopadhyay suggested.

Bandyopadhyay also said that “IRDAI and PFRDA can come together and we can create a forum through which, if CII agrees, we can work together – all three of us to create awareness in a big way.”

Talking later at the Summit, about the risks faced by the Insurance sector, was Suresh Mathur, Executive Director IRDAI.

Mathur highlighted that “Cybersecurity is constantly being rated as one of the top threats to business today.”

“Data protection is an area that will require closer examination by all the stakeholders as the volume of personal data handled by the insurers increased,” he added.

Also addressing the 23rd edition of the CII Insurance and Pensions Summit was Randip Singh Jagpal, Chief General Manager, IRDAI.

Jagpal was optimistic of where the Insurance industry is and said that, “the spread of insurance penetration has made its way to the village level through the CSEs or other post offices.”

He also added that “people are more aware as to how to meet their security needs, they look upon insurance in meeting their protection needs.”

Jagpal also mentioned that the “insurance products are being structured in a very simplified manner so there is a lot of focus on having simple products which are easy to identify and easy to explain to the customer.”

The CII Insurance and Pensions Summit was also addressed by Saurabh Mishra, Joint Secretary, Department of Financial Services, who highlighted the importance of Government of India schemes in bridging the socio-economic divide.

“The initiatives like the Jeevan Jyoti, Suraksha Bima Yojana, Atal Pension Yojana and the Ayushman Bharat scheme have been kind of stand-out initiatives that aim to provide a social security net to insurance and pension schemes. These initiatives have certainly helped addressing the socio-economic needs of the poor, the underserved, the underprivileged by providing financial security of some sort,” Mishra said.

He also highlighted that the insurance industry should “focus on steadily shifting towards increasing the access of low-cost simple insurance products including those that can be sold through all channels.”

“The other idea that necessitates regulatory scrutiny is that the application of technology in Insurance must be really assessed,” he added.

Earlier at the opening session of the Insurance and Pensions Summit, Tapan Singhel, the Chairman of the CII National Committee on Insurance and Pensions mentioned that the “industry has to keep forging ahead in terms of creating massive distribution and creating new ways of distribution – be it on e-commerce platforms or on social media platforms.”

“The industry has to work very closely with the Government in terms of providing the need for social security going forward,” Singhel added.

Talking about the issues of penetration of Insurance in the country, RM Vishakha, Co-Chair, CII National Committee on Insurance and Pensions mentioned that “do not believe that we (India) are under penetrated in terms of a basic insurance, but what I think we are is that we are grossly underinsured.”

Extending the topic further, Krishnan Ramachandra, Co-Chair, CII National Committee on Insurance and Pensions said that “even with increasing penetration, etc. we will need to factor for general and medical inflation and given that medical inflation operates significantly higher than CPI, there will need to be a correction cycle from a pricing standpoint.”

Bandyopadhyay suggested that the country is not future ready in terms of penetration of pension schemes. The chief of the pension regulation in India advised that financial literacy and especially pension literacy could be helpful in making India ready for the future.

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Synthesizing the expanding horizons of Article 21: Are the civil liberties truly infallible?

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Often characterised as ‘the procedural Magna Carta protective of life and liberty’, Article 21, in our living Constitution, is the most organic and progressive provision. Embodying the ‘constitutional value of supreme importance in a democratic society’, Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, 1950 provides,

“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

Interpreted as “the heart of the constitution”, this article offers three keywords with ever expanding definitions- life, personal liberty and state

“Life” under Article 21, has been defined as more than just the act of breathing. Through a multiplicity of Judicial precedents, it encompasses a broader range of rights, such as the right to live in dignity, the right to a livelihood, the right to health, the right to clean air, and so on. Despite the phraseology of Article 21 beginning with a negative word, the word ‘No’ has been used in connection to the word deprived.  It is a negative right granted solely against “the state”, thus limiting its parlance. ‘The state’, however, cannot be defined in a restricted sense. Synonymous to its scope in Article 12, “state” includes government departments, the legislature, the administration, local governments possessing statutory powers, leaving out non-statutory or private bodies devoid of statutory powers. Hence, the fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 only protects against acts of the State or acts performed under the authority of the State that do not follow the procedure established by law, limiting its parlance against private individuals. Although the horizons of this article have been ever increasing, and each of its terms have been redefined with the growing conscience of the judicial interpretation, its main aim remains constant-before the State takes away a person’s life or personal liberty, the procedure established by law must be strictly followed.

The reach of Article 21 was limited until the 1950s, with the Supreme Court ruling in A.K. Gopalan vs State of Madras that segregated the contents and subject matter of Article 21 and 19 (1) (d) as “non-identical, proceeding on different principles”. However, “personal liberty” was given the broadest amplitude, in Maneka Gandhi v Union of India, which included the right to travel and go outside the country all other rights related to the personal liberty of a person, and such rights could only be restricted by a procedure which is “fair, just and reasonable, not fanciful, oppressive or arbitrary.” Serving as a paradigm shift, this judgement removed the exclusivity between Articles 19(1) and 21, and any procedure established by law restricting these rights should stand the scrutiny of other provisions of the Constitution as well – including Article 14, thus giving birth to the jurisprudential “Golden Triangle” against arbitrary state action. 

“As a result of the expansion of the scope of Article 21, Public Interest Litigations in respect of children in prison being entitled to special protection, health hazards caused by pollution and harmful drugs, housing for beggars, immediate medical aid to injured persons, starvation deaths, the right to know, the right to an open trial, and inhumane conditions in aftercare homes have all found a home under Article 21.”

However, “this golden picture of infallible rights, which stands immunised against emergencies, abrogation or amendments, faced a tough test in the pandemic.  With COVID mortality on the rise and many of our hospitals running low on oxygen, a constitutional question arises: “Do we really enjoy a right to life?” In 1989, through a landmark judgment in Pt. Paramanand Katara v. Union of India the Supreme Court recognized emergency medical care as a part of Article 21 and right to health care was added to its wide catena. Furthering its stance through Paschim Banga Khet Mazdoor Samity v. State of West Bengal “and it’s obligation under Article 2(1) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ratified on 10th April 1979),” the vertex court had envisaged a robust health care jurisprudence. Coupled with a major crunch in oxygen supplies, ventilators, Personal Protective Equipment kits, the country’s doctor-to-patient ratio of 1:1,456 is approximately 30 percent below the mandated World Health Organization ratio of 1: 1000.With total public health expenditure, at 1.29% of its a gross domestic product-the lowest among all BRICS nations, the country with, all it’s judicial declarations on paper, seemed to have invited a predicted massacre. All the defences that the right to healthcare cannot be construed as absolute, fall flat when we identify the greatest casualty in the pandemic-our health infrastructure gilded in its pre-existing issues of lack of physical infrastructure and human resources. While China, with larger population, responded with massive make-shift hospitals, our State grossly failed to give teeth to its own constitutional promises.  Have we as a state made any actual progress in expanding the horizons of Article 21 to include right to healthcare?”

“The inability of the Apex Court in materialising its own judgements expanding its realm of rights “to ensure the minimum economic investment for its realization stems from the lack of periodic assessment of its own judgments”. Thus, many of its lofty declarations have remained only on paper, and its discourse restricted to the law books.  

Have we as a state made any actual progress in expanding the horizons of Article 21 to include right to Healthcare? Trusting the executive wisdom to bring alive its precedents, the Supreme court, as a guardian of the constitution mustn’t remain a “mute spectator” as it did in the migrant crisis, during the national lockdown in India. While, the initial response of the Supreme Court in the pandemic did not justify its role as the guardian protector of the fundamental rights, it’s proactive interventions in the rationale of state vaccination policies hint at a redemption. Although the pandemic has brutally exposed the fault lines in our governance, and raised disturbing questions about the realization of our essential rights, our resilience and constructive zeal will walk us through this “new-normal”, towards a day when “the distinct prisms of the constitutional guarantee of the right to healthcare” are realities in their truest sense.”

One of the very first cases referred to Project Monitoring Group (PMG) by the Prime Minister’s Office was related to an investment of about Rs 2,000 crore that had been made around the Delhi airport to set up an Aero-City that housed a number of hotels. This was not coming to fruition because of certain security concerns expressed by the local police.

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Policy & Politics

The much-maligned journalist

Anil Swarup

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The news about a couple of lady journalists being detained is nothing new. It keeps happening every other day. Much worse has been in store for such journalists who attempt to be true to their profession. There is absolutely no doubt that there are a large number of journalists who make us all proud, who do their job like true professionals despite extremely adverse set of circumstances. However, the perception about the media is perhaps determined by those that are “sold” out or have succumbed or both.

Credibility of the media has taken a severe beating in the recent past. In a survey carried out by me on the Twitter, I had a question, “According to you, which of the following institutions is carrying out its responsibilities in the best possible manner?”

1. Civil Servants

2. Judiciary

3. Politicians

4. Media

Of more than 3000 participants, 65% voted in favor of Civil Servants, 22% for Judiciary, Politicians 9% and Media was last with 5%. Most of the television channels had lost their credibility long ago. They are seen as aligned and/or promoting (some very aggressively) the agenda of a particular segment. There is hardly any news on these so called “news channels”. They are now seen and perceived as promoting particular views. Many treat them as entertainment channels. Perhaps rightly so. All objectivity has gone for a toss.

In another survey carried on Linkedin, as many as 62% voters felt that in comparison to TV news, social media and digital media, newspapers provided the most reliable news. The TV news channels were the worst in terms of reliability (4%). However, the most discussed are these channels and, perhaps for that reason they garner most of the advertisement revenue. However, newspapers are still considered most credible even though in some of the newspapers you have to wade through first few pages of advertisements to discover the page carrying news. Perhaps the huge dependence on advertisement revenue has impacted the quality of news reporting in the newspapers as well. I had personally given up watching television news channels long ago because it appeared that only decibels determined TRP ratings (though the TRP ratings have also been questioned). Soon thereafter, I gave up reading newspapers as well as it was becoming increasingly difficult to find news in newspapers.

The challenges faced by the journalists are enormous. Their job is a temporary one and, considering the number of aspirants available for each job, they aren’t many in the offing. It is easy for an outsider to criticize but it is not easy to get a job in the first place and if you lose the one you have, it is all the more difficult as you could be considered “inconvenient”.

Most of the TV Channels and Newspapers are owned by business houses. During the last century, owners of the publications did not meddle with the editorial part. Now they own the editorial content as well. The designation of “Managing Editor” says it all. This wasn’t heard of till a couple of decades ago. It has all changed now.

Governments have always been powerful on account of the advertisement muscle they had but there were rare instances of “directives” to the newspapers. There were newspapers that withstood pressure even during Emergency. However, it has all changed. There have been instances of Chief Editors of prominent national dailies being shown the door for not toeing the line. Governments have become increasingly powerful. Objectivity has gone for a toss. The attitude is simple, either you are with me or against me.

What are the choices then available with the hapless journalist? If she doesn’t toe the line, she could lose her job, as many have, and harassed. There could be criminal cases instituted against her. And, barring few mentions of protests from their associations, she has to fight her battle on her own. It is tough but she can still survive and keep her body and soul together provided she gives up her crusading spirit against all the wrongs perpetrated by those in power as they are extremely powerful and go to any extent to silence her.

The tragedy, however, is with regard to such journalists as have become loud crusaders for the ruling dispensation. They unabashedly and shamefully give up any semblance of objectivity. They take their crusading spirit to the other extreme. And, many of them benefit though bring a bad name to this laudable profession. In public perception, these are the ones that represent journalists. Hence, unfortunate terms like “presstitudes” are coined to describe them. All professions, including the civil service, have their share of the good, the bad and the ugly but impression about the profession gets determined by those that are visible. In the case of journalists, visible ones are those that are loud and “sold out”. Hence, the loss of credibility.

What can then be done by the consumers of what is dished out by journalists? In a market driven world, media also offers what we read or want to read. If the reader starts “demanding” objective reporting, even the “owners” will have no option to provide that. We have so far been demanding “masala”. Hence, TV channels have been converted into entertainment channels. It is ironical that despite poor credibility, they thrive. We can keep criticizing the hapless journalist but if we don’t change our own attitude towards news, we can’t expect journalists to be our conscience keepers. Can we?

Anil Swarup has served as the head of the Project Monitoring Group, which is currently under the Prime Minister’s Offic. He has also served as Secretary, Ministry of Coal and Secretary, Ministry of School Education.

The challenges faced by the journalists are enormous. Their job is a temporary one and, considering the number of aspirants available for each job, they aren’t many in the offing. It is easy for an outsider to criticize but it is not easy to get a job in the first place and if you lose the one you have, it is all the more difficult as you could be considered “inconvenient”.

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