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Media as a partner in national development

MEDIA: From now to the year 2020 is a very important period for the nation. The national press definitely have to get transformed into a media of a billion people; above all, they have to play a vital role as partners in India's economic development.


President of India Abdul Kalam

The combination of economic development and preservation of a value system drawn from our civilisational heritage will transform India into a happy, prosperous and safe nation. I recall my experiences of visiting all the States and Union Territories of our nation and witnessing the unique ambience of 700 million people living in 600,000 villages equivalent to 200,000 panchayats.

I call that ambience "a scene of sweat." Farmers in the fields, fishermen in the rough seas, workers in industries, teachers in schools, knowledge workers in laboratories, knowledge and pharma industries, health workers in healthcare institutions, and many other people, have to be always remembered by the great media community.

In politics, there are two components: political politics and the other important element, development politics. Most of the media give importance to political politics. The nation's important need is development politics. Your reporting in this area is essential.

Here are some of my experiences that I feel are relevant to the media today.

The M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) is engaged in capacity building activity for rural development through rural youth. The Foundation had organised a meet of National Fellows some time back.

The title of "Fellow" is normally for academicians, intellectuals, scientists, historians and economists. Here, the Fellows I am talking about were farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen drawn from various walks of life, who can make a difference to people living in a rural ambience.

Their only potential is experience and enthusiasm to serve society. I met and interacted with more than 140 fellows coming from different rural parts of the country. It is indeed a celebration of our rural core competence.

The Foundation has really thought of an innovative scheme to recognise and train the people who are wedded to rural development and empowering them to promote rural transformation in certain areas.

I would recommend that journalists should interact with grass roots social reformers and highlight their core competence, dedication and experience in serving rural communities, which can become a model for our youth to follow.

I have addressed 12 State Legislatures so far. My central message has been how the State concerned can be economically developed with a high Human Development Index, and how to increase per capita income. I normally give 8 to 10 missions.

These missions have been developed based on the inputs from the Planning Commission, consultation with State Ministries, the core competence of the State, and the rural development profile of the State, which are mapped to Vision 2020 targets. I would suggest that the media should study, research, and analyse these missions and put forth suggestions to leaders to contribute to the development of States.

I would like to share with you an out-of-the box solution. After my address to the Kerala Legislative Assembly on the "Missions for Kerala's prosperity," there was a detailed discussion in the House among all political parties.

The media in Kerala are very alert and dynamic and they took up the mission and extended the discussion to the people and all political leaders, inviting suggestions from all of them. A leading publication in the State contributed to the document, which I presented to the State Assembly.

This publication translated the document "Missions for Kerala's prosperity" and ensured that it reached all readers and various active development groups. Also the media organised six workshops, in different places in the State, for discussing all ten missions seeking the operational problems and their solutions.

In these workshops, Ministers, political leaders, government functionaries, and media personnel participated. I also interacted with them during the concluding session through video conferencing. The media finally submitted their recommendations to the Government for implementation. This proactive step shows how the media can be an effective partner in national development.

It is very important for the media to be a partner in national missions such as Developed India 2020, PURA, and the recently sanctioned "Bharat Nirman" programme with an investment of Rs. 1,74,000 crore to be executed in four years by the Government.

There is another important programme, called the Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme covering 200 districts. In addition, the Government has also passed the Right to Education Act for providing compulsory and free education to all children between 5 and 13 years.

All these programmes are very important and the media should highlight the positive aspects and provide solutions to difficult aspects through nationwide consultations. This will certainly make a difference in the implementation of the programme and bring smiles to the faces of our billion people.

It is essential to have research wings in academic institutions developing media personnel in reporting news, event analysis, and highlights. This will enable our journalists to carry out original research on topics of national interest and provide solutions to medium and long-term problems.

Newspaper owners should encourage research being carried out by experienced and young reporters for acquiring post-graduate qualifications, which will improve the quality of the content of the print media. Participating media members must realise that continuous updating of knowledge in a research environment is essential for all media personnel.

For example, before any issue is discussed in a foreign newspaper, it is sent to an internal research group where data is studied, verified, and factual news is generated and sent for publication.

When there was a critical comment about outsourcing to India, an American journalist stayed in India and studied the issue and found that companies engaged in Business Process Outsourcing (BPOs) were carrying out business using equipment imported from the US and Europe.

Thus, they found that the BPO industries provided an indirect market for hardware industries of the US and Europe. This was immediately reported in the Indian media in a big way. Similarly a Discovery Channel media person wanted to study India's growth in Information Technology; Thomas Friedman came to India and stayed for a month and visited Bangalore and other places. Based on his news analysis, he wrote a book titled The World is Flat. Such is the power of research.

Indian newspapers and news agencies should encourage research being carried out by journalists within India in academic research institutions which will definitely improve the quality of reporting and enhance the participation of journalists in national development missions.

Missions for media

In the present development context of the nation, the media should take up the following missions for immediate implementation:

1) A media movement: Developed India before 2020.

2) Media becoming a development partner in the programme of PURA (Providing Urban amenities in Rural Area) - connectivity is the focus.

3) Celebrating every aspect of the success of the people of the State and the national particularly in rural areas.

4) Evolution of a corruption free India before 2015.

5) Promoting an enlightened society, which means education with a value system, transforming religion into a spiritual force and building economic prosperity of nations based on their core competence. For this mission, a unique world body is essential.

6) Print media and electronic media should bring honour to womanhood.

7) Scanning and digitising all old issues of the print media since its establishment and storing in a digital library to preserve our national heritage and make it available for research.

8) Media should evolve a code of conduct among themselves for ensuring that all reporting is analysed, evaluated, and researched prior to publication. This is essential for peace, prosperity, and safety of the nation. I would like to share with you a healthy practice being evolved and followed by a newspaper that is published all over the country.

This newspaper has appointed a consultant exclusively for maintaining the standard of the newspaper reporting and nurturing the name of the paper, thereby ensuring that reporters adhere to all guidelines. There is a constant review of the quality of reporting and improvement in guidelines.

This may be followed by media organisations all over the country to continuously improve quality and maintain consistency of news reporting. The Press Council of India can undertake the task of motivating every citizen to work towards transforming India into a developed nation well before 2020.

This is the mission that has to be done unitedly by all media organisations.

(Adapted from President Kalam's address at the Press Council of India during the celebrations of National Press Day, in New Delhi on November 16, 2006)

Courtesy: The Hindu

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