This is the role that the media has forgotten to perform. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find a front page anchor in The Times of India (July 7) under the caption "Bandh loss stats way off mark?" Written by Rukmini Shrinivasan of the TOI Insight Group, I think it should be a lesson for other newspapers.
We all know that the media has lately become a mouthpiece for not only the government but also for the Corporate. The credibility of the media is at the rock bottom. They have simply been putting out whatever the government and the industry says without ever questioning the veracity of the claims. With the advent of the pink newspapers and subsequently the TV business channels this trend became more gory.
Not that things are going to change overnight, but the analysis of the economic losses from Monday's bandh should hopefully inspire more of such analytical reports. For instance, I don't know why the media did not question Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when on his flight back home from Toronto G-20 meet he said that India would seek Warren Anderson's extradition from the US. But when he met US President Obama he did not even make a mention of this.
I thought any responsible media would have questioned the PM for his double talk. How can the PM be allowed to make a different statement for the domestic audience and at the same time bow before the US leadership? He did it because he knew the Indian media has lost its ability to bite.
If only the media had played its role, the government of the day would get know what governance really means. Similarly on the recent hike in petrol prices. With all the public sector undertakings dealing in oil raking in profits I don't know why the media did not question the UPA-II on its claims. If only the media had come out with quick analysis, like the TOI report today, the government would have been forced on the back foot.
I know it is difficult to be quick with such analysis for the simple reason that the Indian journalists by and large have given up on reading. It is only to cover up the growing illiteracy within the top hierarchy of the tribe that the media often takes refuge behind its obsession with bollywood and titillation saying that this is what the audience needs.
But hopefully this can change if the viewers/readers demand more analytical reports. It is our silence that is in a way the cause behind all kinds of useless reports being fed on to us. If you were to use your SMS to send some sensible messages (rather than only voting for meaningless questions often asked, which actually help the tele-companies make more profits) we will continue to be fed with gossip and sub-standard reportage.
Meanwhile, here is the TOI analysis Bandh loss stats way off mark? Read it, and you will realise the need for what I am saying.
Bandh loss stats off mark?
TOI Insight Group
On Monday, industry associations were quick to put out figures estimating the loss suffered by India on account of the bandh, figures that were then repeated ad nauseum as talking points by UPA members. A closer look at the numbers, however, shows that they were way off base if not entirely impossible to calculate.
Ficci put out a press release citing a figure of Rs 13,000 crore. ‘‘We spoke to our regional offices in various states to get an overview of the situation. Then we looked at the aggregate national income, and adjusting for holidays, looked at what the daily figures would be. We then looked at the sectors that were affected and what the losses would be. For example, in agriculture only trading and transportation would be affected,’’ said a Ficci official who asked not to be named.
With Assocham pegging the losses at Rs 10,000 crore, the CII figure of Rs 3,000 crore was the most conservative of the lot. ‘‘We used a top-down and a bottom-up method to arrive at the figure,’’ a CII official told TOI.
As per CSO, India’s GDP at factor cost (the figure Ficci said it used) at current prices for 2009-10 was Rs 42.3 lakh crore. Assuming 8.4% growth, as Ficci did, this would work out to about Rs 48 lakh crore for 2010-11, factoring in inflation. Assuming 365 days of work, this comes to around Rs 13,000 crore per day, which is the Ficci estimate for losses from the strike.
In other words, the Ficci estimates amount to saying the bandh was not just much more effective than even its organizers are claiming but absolutely total, shutting down all economic activity in India for the day.