Friday, December 23, 2005

Debate won, life lost [Vidarbha Suicides]

Following is another article on the now-many suicide reports from Vidarbha, Maharashtra.
Debate won, life lost : HindustanTimes.com
Initially only a few reporters even wrote about it. P. Sainath had followed the suicide trail for quite some though, through his articles in The Hindu. I read some coverage about it local newspapers too (Sakal). But none of the so called larger print or new media had prominent space for it, while they were busy discussing the lives of celebreties, ideal combination of the India cricket team and why FDI is better for India etc.
I have had a few discussions, with my friends here on the role of media in such situations. There are usually two arguments:
(1) the media delivers what the people wants to read and what sells, in this case sleaze, sensational news etc. The logic also being, it is mutual situation and the media will publish/broadcast what the people want and if they want {\bf real} issues they will have programs on those lines.
(2) the media is more than just a reflection of public interest, but one that has some social obligations and presents the entire spectrum of reality and it is for the people to choose what they wish to read. In the absence of such spectrum of choices, the people dont have a chance to get information about things that they might be interested even if they are.
I am of the opinion that media's role is the latter, where media plays a proactive role to present all matters of potential concern.

The other point regarding the Vidarbha suicides is its marked similarity in pattern with the suicides of farmers in
Andhra Pradesh (2004) and Wayanad Kerala (2005).
The Maharashtra government has announced a debt-relief package of Rs 1075 crore.
The bigger problems to be addressed being the decreasing state support for the agriculture sector, entry of multinationals, farm subsidies resulting in price crashes, increase in cost of inputs, entry of Bt cotton with mixed reponses as regards to its productivity etc. The bigger issue bein, how the state supports the agriculture sector in terms of infrastructure, controlled price inputs, seed security etc.
Unless those are addressed, the cure is for the symptoms and not the disease.

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