TEXT Isha Chincholkar
EDITOR Suhani Lotlikar
Have you recently come across any rural issue headlining the front page? Social media users are vaguely informed of the Hathras Case and Farmer’s Tractor Rally but has there been any exclusive print feature covering the same for traditional readers? In the Indian media, there is a clear lack of coverage of happenings in Rural India. According to the Centre for Media Studies (CMS), space given to rural stories that account for almost 69% of the population is about 0.07 percent. Most of the national dailies such as Times of India and Indian Express from the metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore are unable to cover rural India centric topics.
The coverage of rural India is limited to crimes taking place in rural villages and some typical agricultural announcements. Reporters only travel to villages at the time of a ‘crisis’. For instance, when the Hathras rape case got a lot of attention from the people living in ‘centres’, a lot of urban reporters travelled to the village to cover the scene. But the media did not cover the Lakhimpur rape case which took place in rural Uttar Pradesh. Neither did the newspapers included the story on their front page nor did they follow up on that case. Hathras came into the limelight firstly through social media platforms but Lakhimpur rape case was never dissected. In the month of November, the state of Bihar held their Legislative Assembly elections. Newspapers gave large prominence to the promises made by the parties, counter attacks of opposition but none of the national newspaper reporters reached rural Bihar to cover any news during this period. One of the current issues- The Farmer’s Protest too gained momentum on social media first. The feeders of our agricultural country had to travel to the capital city of Delhi as they were unable to gain any media coverage from their villages. Even when they got coverage, some news-channels like Zee News, Republic linked farmer’s protest with ‘Khalistan’ taking away the focus of the issue and failing to provide a platform to farmers.
A classic that is recommended to every journalism student to read is a book named Everybody Loves a Good Drought. It is a collection of reports on rural India, written by the renowned journalist P. Sainath. His reports point out the flaws in the healthcare system, education, rural poverty schemes, etc. The book consists of data that was available in the year 1966 but those sore numbers have still not changed in the year 2020. The representation given to rural issues is close to negligible. P. Sainath says the mainstream media is an institution that is defined by ‘excluding the mainstream.’ Sainath is also the founder and editor of PARI (People’s Archive Of Rural India) which is an online alternate media model which focuses on rural India. Other small portals such as CGNET, a voice-based online portal that allows people in the forests of Chhattisgarh to report local news in Gondi by making a phone call. They provide representation to people and communities who do not get any space in the mainstream media. By not giving enough representation to rural India, the practice of good journalism is fading away from the basic ethics of journalism.