With election fever in the air no day is boring. Political slugfests, indiscriminate attacks, conspiracy theories and the usual ‘toeing the line’ by media are fast becoming the routine. Even by the abysmally low standards set by media in India this week witnessed a new low.
Reuters India web edition ran a routine article on Narendra Modi and his election campaign dripping with brazen partisanship, condescension and appalling fall in journalistic standards.
The headline read “Biting the hand that feeds: Small towns favour BJP” – implying that the Congress party and the Nehru-Gandhi family are the benefactors who small towns aren’t favouring despite their goodies.This is an idiom used for servants who steal at their workplace or beggars who insult after receiving alms.
When it comes to India, one suspects Western media outlets can only visualize hungry kids, people defecating on the roadside, slums and child labour. The article attempts to remind uncouth natives to be happy for whatever crumbs the Congress party has thrown at them without bothering aboutdemocracy or upward mobility.
The people of rural India are not beggars looking for crumbs and such views are insulting to their dignity.The journalists concerned are not only brazenly partisan but also pushwelfare-heavy-statist policies which have kept this country poor without allowing people to unleash their potential. This is perfectly aligned to the narrative of the Nehru-Gandhis who often come and say “We sent you money” or “My father gave you computers”.
Sample this from the piece in question – “In just a few years, handouts for farmers by the Congress have helped turn the once-deprived village into a thriving retail centre, selling everything from glittery bangles to satellite dishes.
The Congress party-led government pours at least $20 billion a year into rural India in addition to free education, health and cheap food. Cheap fertilizer, seeds and electricity, 100 days of guaranteed paid work a year and new rural roads have given farmers cash to spend”
While there are factual irregularities in these claims, what is amusing is the propagation of ‘doles are good, growth is bad’ socialist narrative.Let’s take the Congress party’s flagship welfare scheme – MNREGA. The amount spent for the scheme in 2011-12 was 38000 crores out of which the wages paid accounted to 25000 crores which means the programme implementation cost was 13000 crores. In the same year according to NSS 15.4 crore job cards were given bringing the average wages per person to INR 1623.37. Only 20% of the wages actually go to poor households. Casual labour only constitutes 2% of the rural work undertaken with MNREGA contributing one thirds of it – makes it 0.67% contribution to the total rural employment. (quoted here)
The states which are lauded for the best implementation of the MNREGA e.g. Bihar are consistently lagging behind in poverty alleviation – year after year. And we have not even spoken of the rampant corruption.
We are a vibrant democracy and an upwardly mobile society. The elites in the ivory towers of Indian and Western media need to wake up and smell the coffee. There might be smell of cow dung in the air but there’s a faint smell of democracy too.