Through the day, more than 60 reporters, spread across 26 districts, reported on the plight of farmers.

StandWithFarmers Tamil news channel dedicates day-long coverage to drought farmer crisis
news Farmer Crisis Friday, January 06, 2017 - 07:09

They had already lost much of their kuruvai (summer) crop, and with the samba (winter) crop too failing because of severe drought, farmers in Tamil Nadu find themselves in a perilous situation.

According to various reports, almost 60 farmers have died in the delta districts of the state, while many have committed suicide, others have died out of shock.

The unexpected death of former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, the change of guard in AIADMK and DMK and cyclone Vardah have kept the media busy in the last two months. Though the crisis in the farming sector was rapidly unfolding, it had never managed to hog headlines as much as the other newsbreaks.

While most news organisations stick to stories from urban India, catering to their target audience, Tamil news channel Puthiya Thalamurai (PTTV) broke the norm by dedicating daylong coverage to the crisis in the state’s agricultural sector.

Through the day, more than 60 reporters, spread across 26 districts, reported on the plight of farmers. Other news stories from the state and rest of the country were only mentioned in headlines intermittently and were not part of the bulletins otherwise.

The coverage included stories of farmers from Nagapattinam, Dindigul, Salem, Villipuram, Thiruvarur, Thiruvallur, Madurai, Thoothukudi, Thanjavur and other districts.

On Twitter, the hashtag started by PTTV, #StandWithFarmers was trending. People from across the state voiced their support and anguish using the hashtag on social media.

Even in the previous days, the channel had been extensively covering the drought situation. The focus on the plight of farmers began even as the government is yet to officially declare a drought. 

“We had news stories, interviews with farmers, interactions with ministers and bureaucrats through the day.  I had travelled to Nagapattinam, Thiruvarur and few other places. It was then that I realized that this was a bigger issue than what was being projected and our agriculture was on the brink of being fully destroyed,” PTTV’s Managing Editor Karthigai Chelvan told The News Minute.

He points out that while the death of politicians or even the murder of a techie grabs headlines and gets non-stop coverage, there is not much space for farmers’ issues on media. “Every issue has its own importance and we felt that this needed to be highlighted. We did not think of viewership or TRPs. All our reporters too were excited at getting an opportunity to cover the crisis,” he said.

While the programmes from morning were focused on paddy cultivation, the afternoon show was on sugarcane.

Experts like Professor Janakarajan from Madras Institute of Developmental Studies and a crop insurance executive shared their thoughts and advice in a panel discussion.

More than just having a monologue with farmers, the channel also took these issues to the government, prompting top ministers and bureaucrats to react.

“I strongly believe people will listen, they will watch these issues. When we put out the hashtag, many people messaged us declaring their support for the farmers. We need to tell the farmers that we care,” Karthigai Chelvan says.