One very quick I-day thread with some constitution-media-citizenship thoughts. Noob disclaimers apply of course. So I encourage people who know better to chip in. Also I am an NRI and it is easy for me to say etc arm chair etc. I know. Still...
So for some years I have been working on a podcast history of the Indian constitution. It went on abrupt hiatus in 2015 after 14 episodes. (I went to do a Masters.) But it will resume this year with production help from an Indian media company. Details soon.
Working on this podcast it is impossible to miss the peculiar federal structure of the Indian state. And while it is important for politicians and agencies to be cognizant of this, it is also good for citizens to know this. That there are lists...
State, center and concurrent. These lists pre-date Independence. And there are aspects of colonial mischief in it. Which is perhaps why India's structure is different to other dominions such as Australia and Canada. Today the structure seems natural to us... But is it?
This topic has and will be touched upon in podcast. Anyway what does that mean for citizens? One of the more pernicious trends more recently is a certain flattening of news. Where everything is national news. Everything is Modi's India etc. Why? I think 3 reasons.
1. Because moreorless this is Modi's thing. I am responsible for everything. I will save you. I am the leader. Also this is moreorless the BJP's thing. A single portfolio of political ideas for most of India. Not new of course. But there it is.
2. Because this is perfect for news biz. Put three OB vans in Delhi and maybe one in Mumbai, make everything a 'Central' issue and you never have to bear the expense of actually covering India. Which is enormous. Absolutely enormous. India is extremely expensive to cover...
I did some numbers recently for a talk. And I think the FT has more people covering business in London than maybe Mint and ET has covering business across India. Across. India. We know literally nothing about state finances, state business policies etc. But Rafale???
3. And finally this flattening is enabled by social media which reduces Indian news to the lowest common national and international denominator. Maybe with the odd story filed by an American foreign correspondent who also has no choice but to conflate a 'story' with 'India'.
All of which is ok if you are consuming news for the purposes of entertainment, flinging sizzling hot zingers at each other online, trolling, or if you actually think you only care for the Delhi perspective on things...
But if you are consuming news with a view to highlight problems, make a difference, etc, then why not tailor your news consumption also into three lists: state, center and concurrent. For defence track delhi, for PDS and hunger track states etc.
Because that is how governmet works in India. You simply cannot outrage at Delhi and then hope it filters down into PDS reform in Ongole or Sunabeda or Chavakkad. On the other hand if you outrage directly at Trivandrum, or Chavakkad you may find yourself having more agency...
More agency in your anger, in your questioning mind, in your capacity to make sense of processes, in your need to pitch in with government in some way. Or in your general need to be angry at the right things.
So for instance I am currently talking to an MP back home to see if I can help with chronicling some Kerala tribal history. Nothing big. But it seems a better thing to do than general raging at the state of 'tribals in India'. (Which is fine, if that is your general aim.)
This is not regional chauvinism. I am not saying worry about Kerala and nobody else. But just the general acknowledgment that this is a big country with complex rules and intricate power structures. And if news is a tool of self-empowerment for you...
...then sometimes you take a chainsaw to the sequoia and sometimes you take the butter knife to the coconut palm. So resist flattening. Resist this 'nationalization' of everything. Step back. Choose your outrages. And keep an eye on the concentric circles of society we live in.
Of course all this easier said than done. And you all have your own things going in life and all. But maybe applying a little federal structure to your news can really help. And make you less despondent. The closer you get to people, the nicer they often seem. The end.
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