Viveck Goenka, Chairman and Managing Director of The Express Group, on Wednesday spoke at the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards event. Here’s the full text of his speech:
Our Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi ji, our chief guest for this evening, winners of the Ramnath Goenka Awards for Excellence in Journalism for the work done in 2015, members of the jury, Mr Deepak Parekh, Justice Shri Krishna, Mr Qureshi, Mr Sasi Kumar, Ms Pamela Philipose, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure to welcome you on behalf of the Ramnath Goenka Memorial Foundation to the 11th Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards.
On an evening that could not be more special and more relevant, for we have the privilege of the presence of the Prime Minister. A prime minister who has redefined the way the government reaches out to a nation of one and a quarter billion people. A leader who constantly surprises us in the way he signals the power of his office. That is why it is appropriate, it is none other than the Prime Minister who joins us today to applaud journalism which in the true spirit of Ramnath Goenka, founder of the Express Group, speaks truth to power in this the 25 years of his passing.
I don’t think Shri Modi ji will mind if I share with you an anecdote related to this evening. I had sent him a letter inviting him to the awards and then met him personally to invite him to come. We talked about his favourite subject — vikas. He talked about how the railways could build a new architecture of governance, set right the irrigation challenges we face, sow the seeds of a new revolution in agriculture, tap the potential of solar energy and other forms of non-conventional energy while reducing the consumption of power through LEDs and, of course, his success in eliminating corruption in many many areas.
Extempore, he reeled off facts and figures, I could hear his mind buzz. I could sense very tangibly that he had huge dreams for this country and is confident of achieving them, no matter what the challenge is or the linesman en route, minor or major. After a while, I asked him if he would present this year’s Ramnath Goenka awards. He reacted as if the question was needless. ‘Of course’, he said. That spontaneous response effered my belief, in fact my conviction, that despite the bitterness in our public discourse these days, despite the name-calling, despite the tu tu-main main, our politicians are the only figures whose shoulders are the broadest, when it comes to criticism and questioning whether we are being fair to them or unfair. That is a testament to our democracy, to the world’s largest democracy of which Shri Modi ji is the Prime Minister. To the space that it offers to facilitate consensus and yet nurture arguement, dissent and disagreement.
The work that we celebrate today, the award-winning stories, all draw their strength from these valuable spaces. From investigating bad loans by corporates to diving deep down in Chennai when it went under water, taking the raps of money power in elections to investigating why the air quality in Delhi is amongst the worst in the world. A staggering range of stories that have one thing in common– they are fair and rigorous in their asking of questions.
And if we celebrate those who ask the questions, it is only natural that we acknowledge those who are finding the answers. I am delighted to announce that the Ramnath Goenka Memorial Foundation has decided to institute a new set of awards for this reason. The RNG journalism awards reinforces the values of Ramnath Goenka as a newspaper publisher and the new awards, the Ramnath Goenka Changemaker Awards, will be in tune with his vision of governance and social change. A vision that counts the Constituent Assembly debates, of which he was a part, of his interventions and policies for equity and justice. The Changemaker Awards will celebrate district magistrates from across india, who have best scripted and/or implemented change in their districts. Change that has touched men, women and children, change that has improved life literally on the ground, brought about by officers, the genuine ambassadors of good governance, we will shortly announce details of the awards and their application processes.
Taken together, the Ramnath Goenka Awards for Excellence in Journalism and the Ramnath Goenka Changemaker awards will, I strongly believe, celebrate and nurture men and women at their committed best, those who embody the best spirit of citizenship.
Now, for this year’s Ramnath Goenka Awards for Excellence in Journalism, please join me in welcoming the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modiji for presenting the Ramnath Goenka Awards for Excellence in Journalism and then share with us what we have all been waiting for, his Mann Ki Baat on the media, the medium and the message and, of course, on us the messengers as well.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.