Despite the month-long crackdown on Bihar's education system, the media hasn't stopped making the toppers the butt of their jokes

No one knows how toppers made the cut in Bihar but why needle them mercilesslyPTI photo
Blog Bihar toppers Thursday, June 02, 2016 - 19:59

"I told papa to get me passed but he made me topper!"

"Hum dehaat ki ladki hain, humko nahi pata hum kaise top kar gaye" (I'm a village girl, I don't know how I topped the exams)

These are the latest statements by Ruby Rai who was declared the Bihar topper in humantities stream for class 12. She shot to fame last month when her not being able to pronounce 'political science' coupled with her defining it as something to do with cooking, which made an instant recipe for her video's burgeoning online popularity.

However, despite the month-long crackdown on the education scam in Bihar, the media has not refrained from making her the butt of their jokes - and this includes some well-known channels and digital portals. 

For instance, this article on India Times goes on to ridicule her in their opening paragraph by sarcastically calling her "Bhiar's favourite humanities topper" and "a gift that keeps on giving", in context of her apparently 'hilarious' statement about just wanting to pass the exams. In another article, the report says that Ruby "gets a zero in bullshitting". 

On May 31, India Today ran a story on Ruby who topped the humanities stream and Saurabh Sresht who topped in science along with the gaffes they made on camera by their blatant ignorance of the subjects they had apparently topped in. 

This is the original video which India Today put out, featuring both Ruby Rai and Saurabh Sresht.

While the first part of the video features Ruby who reportedly scored 444 on 500 in the board exams, the second part shows Saurabh mentioning aluminium as the most reactive element in the periodic table, when questioned by the reporter.

Images of these two students have been flashed incessantly on TV channels and they have been trolled extensively on social media too. The story can be viewed as expose of sorts about the education system in Bihar, but it is the tone that needs to be condemned. 

And the question that no one seems to be asking is why the national media is hell bent on embarrassing a couple of teenage students? 

The larger issue here is the hollowness of the education system, which, the media did raise. But a pinch of sensitivity would have hurt no one.

For instance, while Times Now was apparently the only channel that had the courtesy to place a black strip to conceal Ruby’s identity while playing the video, it used a sarcastic hashtag #BiharBrightSparks.

Aaj Tak went with a visual juxtaposing last year’s images of people scaling a building to pass chits to examinees with images of Ruby and Saurabh with the caption “farzi topper ki bahaar” (abundance of fake toppers).

Digital portals ScoopWhoop and Storypick went one step ahead in targeting the girl, claiming she said that aluminum was the most reactive element. (Their reports were based a part of the original video tweeted by IndiaToday)

The interviews are relevant to the point that they prove that rote learning is not education and that there is an institutional glitch in the evaluation mechanism. However, once the point is made, plastering these images over and over again appears to be vindictive almost.

The incident has compelled the Bihar government to accept that the system is flawed, and has asked these students to appear for exams again. 

But while everyone is taking turns in having a good laugh at two unsuspecting 16-year-somethings, the repeated use of the footage perpetuates the stereotype around Bihar being a backward state with unintelligent people.

There are some who have called the media out on its hypocritical reportage of a larger problem.



(This story has been updated.)