Veteran journalist and Congress MP says no democracy in BJP
GN Bureau | February 6, 2021
The media is working under immense fear and compelled to align with the government failing which it is threatened by agencies like the enforcement directorate and income tax department, says Kumar Ketkar, veteran journalist and Rajya Sabha MP from the Congress.
Media is under fear and threat, he said. “Media is working under constant fear psychosis from multiple sources. For putting questions newspapers and news channels are threatened by government agencies like ED or income tax.”
Ketkar was speaking with Kailashnath Adhikari, MD, Governance Now, on Friday in a live webcast of the Visionary Talk series held by the public policy and governance analysis platform.
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The senior journalist and writer said that world over no company can survive and sustain if authorities put minute and micro questions because anything can be insinuated or alleged. He said that across the world companies handle multiple businesses but even those in the most evolved nations do not have answers on how to deal with Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, and others.
“There will always be something unethical attributed to companies in businesses. In India, besides facing the threat of their revenue models, many media companies are under threat by ED, IT and other authorities. Advertisements provide subsidy to TV and newspapers, and with 300-plus news channels in India they need advertisements,” said Ketkar as he added that with the economy in bad shape and lack of advertisements there are no revenues yet news organizations have to run 24x7 channels. “How do you do it? You become dependent on government support and, naturally, you will align with the government so that you are assured of that monetary support for the newspaper of news channel.”
Ketkar said in the absence of revenues, all news channels and newspapers are dependent on government sources of finance and naturally cannot disturb the government interest. They follow the government diktat and for that reason even a programme like ‘Mann Ki Baat’ which was initially meant only for children and for radio is now telecast on every channel, makes headlines and is consistently covered for next two days. “Wherever Modi is across the world his speeches are ubiquitous and covered by Indian media as if he omnipresent and speaking somewhere in the country. If the government wants Rahul Gandhi to be destroyed as ‘Pappu’, they will do it. If the government doesn’t want the Congress to be covered, fine, that will be done,” he said.
He said in media there have been 1,000 job losses within the last one month and many newspaper editions have closed down. Employees in media have been told to either give up salaries or take reductions in pay and leading media organizations have sacked large numbers of people. Most of these jobs are in the 25-40 age group. Having developed a job profile over the years they are unable to get any other jobs and are completely on road now. It’s a similar situation in other professions.
Responding to a question on the BJP’s allegations of lack of democracy within the Congress party, Ketkar said that when the RSS which is the guiding force of BJP itself is least democratic, it should not be teaching democracy to Congress. Questioning if intraparty democracy exists within the BJP or NDA, he said BJP president JP Nadda was not elected but nominated by Amit Shah. Ketkar also said that a major policy issue like demonetisation was not discussed with the chief economic advisor, Dr Arvind Subramanian, neither it was known to 99% of the cabinet before implementation.
“There is huge discontent within BJP. Privately many BJP MPs are saying that they are discontented for not being made part of any discussions and several ministers are saying that no policies are discussed. They are told what to say in parliament and handed out material in advance. The Congress party is not governing the country at present, its internal democracy is its internal affair and not a concern of BJP,” said Ketkar.
Giving his views on the new farm laws, Ketkar said with 2 lakh farmers of lower, middle, and higher middle level protesting in Delhi in the bitter cold with their families and children for more than two months, “even if you think their cause is wrong, why has the proponents of the farm Acts not held counter-demonstration, even if for a week, to defend the laws in the biting cold winter and show that the laws are being brought in the economic interest of the country.” He said the repeal of the Acts was not a new phenomenon and when the government is willing to amend the Acts clause by clause and virtually change the Act, why not withdraw them?
Ketkar said the Acts have been passed without following parliamentary procedures where you present bills in advance to all opposition parties, have a discussion after which they are sent to a standing committee or select committee which has to decide in a certain time frame. “The Acts were not sent to a select committee, there was no debate. They bulldozed and passed the bills with voice vote after we had left for dharana without following parliamentary procedure saying they have a majority without considering the division of votes and multi-party debate.”
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