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  • Raghav Sand

Mann ki Baat or One ki Baat

Selecting the Medium

Shri Narendra Modi, the current and 14th Prime Minister of India, started giving messages on radio in October 2014. He chose the day of Vijaya Dashmi (Dussehra), falling on 3rd October that year as the day of initiation, and has since featured in seventy-nine episodes.

Yeh Aakashvaani Hai (This is All India Radio)

The All India Radio (AIR) started functioning in the decade of 1930’s; prior to this the radio ecosystem in India had transmissions from radio clubs in Bombay (Mumbai), Madras (Chennai) and Calcutta (Kolkata). On 20th July 1952, first national programme of music was broadcast from AIR. Today AIR reaches out to 99.18% of the population spread over about 91.85% of the area through 262 broadcasting centers. Radio was chosen as the primary medium for Mann Ki Baat due to its reach and affordability.

Interaction or Distraction?

In the early days of Mann Ki Baat, it seemed to generate curiosity and general public interest. Over the years, it seems to have lost listeners and there is a sense of fatigue among the most loyal of followers. PM Modi, gives an account of his government’s actions since the last broadcast and lays the foundation for upcoming initiatives. With availability of information through other prompt and instant modes, all of this seems out of sync with times.

For the past many episodes, I have felt that the PM is trying to divert attention from subjects that need immediate discourse. When he introduces a topic or tries to set the agenda, it gives an impression of deflecting from the core issues. As the nature of interaction is primarily one way, the whole exercise becomes ‘one ki baat‘.

Passive Democracy

I cannot recall the last time the leader of India took unscripted questions from media persons in a press conference. There is good reason why elected leaders across party lines hesitate from this impromptu sessions. Citizens expect answers to questions which have immediate relevance. Not many Chief Ministers can boast to be doing any better in this regard, as they too remain silent on issues of immediate public concern. Politicians in India are in campaigning mode 24*7, yet their conduct during a parliament session and within the parliament is far from exemplary.

Governance is an ongoing and continuous process; governments may come and go, but important issues should not be brushed under the carpet. In conclusion, this passive one-way communication is nothing but public relations exercise. Democracy & one-way communication are not compatible in the long term. When governments choose to talk in monologue mode, are they trying to interact or distract from the pressing issues?

Ideal Versus Idle Scenario

Current state of affairs are less than ideal and can be safely termed as idle. In times of heightened uncertainty, citizens will benefit from a more humane approach from elected representatives. To seek assistance from those charged with governance is not asking for pity, but a polite reminder for taking up urgent action on pressing issues. Ideally, the government should hold dialogue with media persons from various affiliations and association. Once in a while talking to common citizens would also help in building trust.

Will the Real Media Please Stand-up!

Every individual or group that embarked upon the journey of journalism must have some inclination to unearth truth still left in them. The partisan and hounding nature of media has lost all grace and civility. One section of media can see no good being done by the government, while another set of media houses see nothing wrong happening in the country.

The funding and advertisement money that is being pumped across media outlets seems to have colour and pre-programmed narrative. By diverting attention and pursuing character and personality assassination, media houses have become views channel. Here views means both opinions and how many eye-balls can they generate to bargain with advertisers.

What is the Real Issue?

Has news become a tool to settle scores in public view or have the politicians lost all faith in current media ecosystem? Are these politicians running away from tough questions or are they looking to cozy up with whosoever is ready for some quid pro quo?

This one way method of communication is not restricted to those in power. Primary opposition parties tend to interact with videos or tweets. In all this mess, the citizen feels haplessly stuck between a rock and hard place.

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