BY | June 23, 2013

By Soroor Ahmed (NVONews.Com)

When thousands of people were killed, displaced and left stranded in Uttarkashi after cloudburst and flash flood media sparked off a controversy: whether the Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi should have made aerial survey or not or whether Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde should land there or not. It was said that there is no scope for sight-seeing in this colossal tragedy.

Some television channels even took bytes of various opposition politicians––even of Arvind Kejriwal of Aam Admi Party––to create an atmosphere that what they have done is totally wrong and immoral.
No doubt there is absolutely no scope for picnic and fun-making in this unprecedented human tragedy.
But inherent in this very debate is the role of media itself too?

If trips by the VVIPs cause hurdle in the work it is also true that sometimes it is essential to have first hand understanding of the situation. It reflects the seriousness of the situation and the relief workers get momentum. They feel that they are being monitored and watched.

Isn’t it the fact that President Barack Obama visited the areas hit by Superstorm Sandy within a couple of days after it swept across the north-east of the United States on October 29-30, 2012. But that visit was not dubbed as sightseeing by the media there. He did so at the height of the election campaign of his Presidency.

If the visit by the Prime Minister and Home Minister can be flayed one can raise a very pertinent counter question: where is there need for such a large army of journalists and camera-persons to land in the entire region. They are visiting different disaster hit areas on the same helicopters, which are meant to rescue people. After all these journalists and lensmen are taking extra seats in choppers meant for the people stranded there for days.

Are the viewers really so much interested in watching the miseries on their TV screens for the sake of entertainment? Do we really need to market such loss of life and property?
One or two journalists or camerapersons are all right. But there are hordes of them all over the disaster hit zone. No doubt they are doing hard work.

But the big question is: Is there any need for such round-the-clock telecast and should we really allow so many of the mediapersons there? Does such big media presence really help the government machinery engaged in relief and rehabilitation works? May be or may not be.
These questions will definitely be asked if the media raises doubt over the trip of the Prime
Minister or home minister.
Interestingly, the media was much less critical when, of all the chief ministers, Narendra Modi, decided to take an aerial trip on June 22. Why a chief minister of a far-off state make survey of the region, when he was not at all directly or indirectly responsible for the relief and rehabilitation works?

In that case CMs of all the state should be flying all over Uttarakhand everyday? But most electronic channels were selective in their criticism.

Interestingly, when Shinde said that none of the VIP helicopters would be allowed to land and chief ministers of different states––except Uttarakhand–– should not take such trip, the BJP MP of Gorakhpur, Yogi Adityanath asked as to why the Home Minister himself went there after six days. Perhaps he was not aware that it was difficult to land there in the initial days of the tragedy. Not only that what he implied is that such visit is essential.

It needs to be recalled that when a similar natural disaster struck north Bihar, when river Kosi turned its course and swept away thousands and displaced 3.3 millions the chief minister of the state, Nitish Kumar, undertook an aerial trip and called the disaster a ‘parlay’ (doomsday). But there was no media criticism then. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh later made a trip to announce relief and rehabilitation package.


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