True, like all other governments–even of much-maligned Lalu Prasad–Nitish made some promising start for which the NDA, which he was leading in Bihar, was duly rewarded in the 2009 Lok Sabha and 2010 Assembly elections. While doing stories journalists have the right to both criticise and appreciate the works done by any government. But the Fourth Estate primarily remains a watchdog.
Some private television channels which are screaming from roof-top that the health sector has simply collapsed in Bihar can not escape the responsibility for this sorry state of affairs. Why only talk of health, the situation is equally pathetic in almost all other sectors.Before criticising chief minister Nitish Kumar these media-houses should at least make a public confession what the hell they had done on the entire system.
It is not that the previous Bihar governments were good–they may be equally or more bad–yet there used to be some ray of hope. Now there is hardly any sign of improvement as things are not on ventilator, but are dead. One just not need to learn rocket science to understand this situation. The answer is simple. By making a beeline to honour Nitish with “Best Chief Minister Award” in the initial years the media wreaked havoc in Bihar.
The tragedy is that they are not going to concede this fact. True, like all other governments–even of much-maligned Lalu Prasad–Nitish made some promising start for which the NDA, which he was leading in Bihar, was duly rewarded in the 2009 Lok Sabha and 2010 Assembly elections. While doing stories journalists have the right to both criticise and appreciate the works done by any government. But the Fourth Estate primarily remains a watchdog.
The corporatization of the media has brought about the concept of rewarding the chief ministers–and this depends on the prospect of advertisements it gets from the respective state. One needs to understand the difference between the Nitish Kumar government and the Lalu-Rabri regime or the previous Congress governments.
While in the past the Press as well as Judiciary would stand as the vanguards of democracy. After the advent of Nitish everything has changed. When the media does not criticise any government when it is due it is not only shielding any chief minister, but giving a clean-chit to the entire bureaucracy, technocracy, police, academics etc.
In Nitish’s case the media-houses were not only avoiding criticism they were in the initial years honouring Bihar with the award of best governed state.The big question is: Is it the job of the media-barons to dole out awards to the governments. After all this is the responsibility of the electorate.When the media starts over-praising the government it has a detrimental impact on the state government machinery.
In such a case nobody works simply because there is no pressure from any quarter. One need not feel shy in comparing the two situations. For example, when anything wrong used to take place a person had an option to approach the newspaper office and get the matter highlighted or exposed.
Even the judiciary was quite active in pulling up officials in the court. So even if the political executive was not functioning upto the mark there was some scope for the media and Judiciary to intervene and get the work done.Even the infamous fodder scam was the example of extra-ordinary judicial and media activism.
Today Lalu and his predecessor (now late) Dr Jagannath Mishra and many other top officials were convicted. Contrast it with Srijan Scam which involves more than Rs 2,000 crore–that is more than double of fodder scam. Neither the media nor the judiciary had shown any activism though the origin of this massive case of corruption is in the Nitish Kumar regime itself.
Not to speak of Srijan Scam, in the last 15 years Bihar has been rocked by about a dozen mega-scams involving thousands of crores. Some of them are Staff Selection Commission Scam, Toppers’ Scam, School Enrolment Scam, Uterus Scam to name a few. Has anyone heard about them since they were unearthed.
Do anyone knows as to how many people have been convicted and officials dismissed. If not, why? One only sometimes hears about Shelter Home Scam, which leads to the death of about three dozen girls. But even this one was not unearthed by any media person but was the result of the social audit by researchers of Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
What more can one expect in Bihar in such a situation. The media should stop pretending to be an objective agency. They have been fully exposed. Not to speak of the devastating 2008 Kosi deluge for which no responsibility has yet been fixed, media-persons in Patna (who themselves were among the victims) are yet to do any follow-up story in the fortnight long water-logging in the city. Has anyone been sacked or sent to jail? Who will ask this question?
(The writer, a senior journalist, is based in Patna. The views are personal.)