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Bt Brinjal to Dal

Those strong,discomfiting sensations

Finally you took a decision people were looking forward to,it’s a tough one but one that many would say is a good one,what made you take it…?” This was Times Now to Jairam Ramesh after the minister’s not-now-maybe-later-we-shall-see-what’s-the-hurry decision on Bt brinjal. This was what,genetically modified journalism?

The point is absolutely not where Times Now stands on the issue of Bt brinjal. If you agree with the minister,as you absolutely can,say so. Or don’t say it. Just ask him to explain his decision. But how do you confidently claim (a) people were looking forward to Bt brinjal being put on hold and (b) many are saying this is a good decision? I mean,Times Now didn’t even take an SMS poll on Bt brinjal.

You can ask,what’s the big deal. Why should I even bother? News TV wasn’t exactly a substantive participant in the intense debate on Bt brinjal. Or that this will remain the case till someone makes a movie titled “My Name is Bt Baingan” and one of the Thackerays demands that the film be renamed with the Marathi expression for “Bt”. There’s much to this argument. But there’s more to the argument that it is strange that we have come to a point where we don’t really expect general news channels to make substantive contributions to complicated public policy issues. I don’t know whether general news channels find this odd. But I find it odd. And I would find it odder if the channels don’t find it odd.

Or,maybe,news TV thinks it does make substantive contributions to debates on complicated public policy. Maybe it thinks this is the way it makes such contributions: in that same interview,Times Now,having divined the opinion of “many”,didn’t ask any question on policy or procedure or politics. Instead,it asked Ramesh why he “lost his cool” three times during Bt brinjal public hearings. I applaud Ramesh for not losing his cool when he was asked this; he had good reason to. I applaud him for coolly saying this is the kind of stuff the electronic media loves to talk about.

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Times Now bristled at that,saying the minister must not have been following the channel because,apparently,if he had he would have known that this is not the kind of stuff it focuses on. Really? Wow. And this is the difference between smart politicians and us ordinary folks. Ramesh kept a straight face. Me? If I had been in the Times Now studio,I would have collapsed.

However,even at home,news TV often results in my suffering from strong,discomfiting sensations. NDTV’s We the People (on Mumbai and Sena and Shah Rukh) brought to me the following observations. An actor-panellist asked what is this climate where people who are doing no wrong are having to say sorry whereas many people who are doing wrong are not having to do any such thing. This means…? What does this mean? And what does this mean — I will vote for the Shiv Sena and the MNS if they propagate love; this was from another panellist. Or,tell me if you can figure out this one,courtesy of another actor-panellist: Shah Rukh Khan’s views (IPL should have had Pakistani cricketers) do not make a Pakistani player better than an Indian player.

Then,a member of the audience suddenly asked why aren’t politicians talking about the price of dal. I,as they say,rest my case.

saubhik.chakrabarti@expressindia.com

First published on: 13-02-2010 at 01:30:31 am
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