Flix Friday, April 24, 2015 - 05:30
Even as most channels pitted politicians against each other on debates about the farmer suicide in Delhi during an AAP rally, CNN IBN’s show titled “Isn’t it time to put the spotlight back on farmer’s issues?” hosted by journalist Zakka Jacob was an admirable honest attempt to get to the heart of the issue. IBN's show did not have a single politician.    A farmer named Gajendra Singh died on Thursday, after he attempted to hang himself at the AAP rally in Delhi. There is however, uncertainty whether he intended to kill himself, or whether it was a political stunt gone wrong. Most politicians have begun to shed crocodile tears, but the episode has nevertheless, focused attentionn on farmer suicides.   Of the four panelists on CNN-IBN's show, three were farmers’ leaders and they spoke about various aspects of the crisis – the political class’ apathy arising from the fact that there are no powerful / influential farmers’ leaders in the political class, remunerative prices, debt, and so on. The fourth person was an analyst.   IBN’s show is a good development for two reasons. One, it telecast a news show that actually bothered to look at a complex issue in as comprehensive a manner as possible by listening to the people who are actually facing trouble. Two, it inadvertently gave space for a view that gets little space in the media otherwise; it does credit to the anchor that he did not interrupt the speaker.   Food analyst and Principal Adviser to the Commissioners of the Supreme Court Biraj Patnaik essentially spoke about mindsets. He said that starting from 1992, every government at the centre has consistently reduced the budget allocation for agriculture – a point that some economists and journalists have made in the past.   Economists have also analysed the impact that the reduction in budgetary allocation and other policies have had on farmers’ distress. But the real question is why – when nobody disputes that three lakh farmers have committed suicide and there is general acceptance that farmers are in distress – has no change happened?   Patnaik addresses this particular question when he says: “Somehow, any investment that is made for the farmer in this country, the media along with the middle classes is convinced that it’s a dole that it’s somehow bad for the economy. And I think a change in mindset is required.”   He also mentions how much land is to be acquired from farmers when they are poor to begin with, and how pro-corporate every news channel “including yours (IBN)” was when the budget was presented, but this goes unquestioned. He adds: “Somehow we have convinced ourselves, the media and the middle classes, that anything done for the farmer is done for votes”.   Later in the show, describing the farmers’ plight in the current economic scenario, Patnaik’s choice of words actually pinpoints the heart of the problem. Patnaik differentiates between the country and its people when says: “India seems to have prospered, but a large number of Indians have not prospered.”   This differentiation – of looking at development in terms of economic indicators, as opposed to human indicators – is one of the major debates in the world, one that is taking place not just among economists and planners, but also among writers, social scientists, researchers and common people who are fighting for their right to live, and not be sacrificed on the altar of “development”.   Another question raised by many people is – who pays for development, and who benefits from it? It is a question that needs answering if we call ourselves a democracy not just in terms of a political system, but also a social one.   It was a bit out of character though when the anchor declared: “We didn’t want to make this political, we wanted to keep politics out of the death of this farmer.”   It is precisely politics through which a solution will emerge, because otherwise, how is it that both the Congress and BJP agree on having the same economic policies at the centre since 1992, while simultaneously declaring their undying love for the Indian farmer?   Jai Kisan.    Video of 3dRdPU8_M7A