|Volume 6 | Issue 03 | March 2012|
Ministers with foot-in-mouth disease
Last year, the Commerce Minister said food prices would decline if people ate less. The LGRD Minister and Secretary-General of the ruling party ignores the daily killings on our borders as “incidents” of no consequence. The Communication Minister thinks the more illiterate the bus/truck driver, the better; while another minister said that it was sufficient if they could identify a goat or a cow on the road. Now the shipping minister, also a transport big-wig, wants tolls and extortion to be legalised to stop rampant corruption in the transport sector. Half the Prime Minister's time is spent in warning various ministers, members of parliament, government officials and party people to behave, all to no avail. Will the Home and Population Ministers, tomorrow, declare that Sagar and Runi actually volunteered to reduce our population? Are we supposed to listen in awe at their "wise words"?
On road accidents and responsibility
While people continue to be injured and killed in road collisions all over the country, our respected ministers are sparring over who is responsible -- the drivers, the roads, animals, etc., and people, in their helplessness, are going around forming human chains, trying to draw attention to the issue and have something done to remedy it. Following the deaths of some renowned figures in road accidents and heavy coverage in the media, some related ministers were changed and, so far, there has been some improvement in terms of road construction, etc. But my question is, why do we have to wait for people to die for us to realise the sorry state of our communications and transport sectors? More specifically, why do we have to wait for famous people to be killed for our lawmakers and even the media to start caring? Why is the obviously unsafe condition of our roads and vehicles not enough for people to want to do something about them? We may be a country of 160 million plus people, but that does not make the value of even one life any less. It is no less valuable to the loved ones of those affected and it should be of no less value to us. It is high time we and especially our leaders start to value the lives and well-being of our citizens, and I mean of every citizen.
On the duty of the press
The saying "bad news is good news" has never proved truer. Nowadays, one cannot open up a newspaper that is not covered in news of crime and violence, photographs of victims -- injured, maimed, dead. With the new trend of featurising news stories, hard news is now accompanied by various "human interest stories" -- complemented by touching photographs, of victims while they were alive, happy, with their families, their children. Now it is not enough to say so-and-so was brutally murdered. We want to know, and are told, everything about everyone and everything. Nothing is private anymore, nothing is sacred, nothing is left innocent. In the race and business of selling news by making an impression in what ever means possible, in attempts to make everything appealing to the human mind and heart, we, and especially the media, seem to have closed our/their own minds and hearts. We don't think twice about divulging in detail the life of a five-year-old child who may very well have seen his parents being murdered -- his experiences, his fears, his trauma. We don't bat an eyelid at the portrait of a little girl gone to see her mother at the hospital after the latter was brutally abused by her husband, the child's own father. We don't stop to think for a second that, years from now, when these children will be grown up against the odds of struggling to put aside such thoughts and memories, these stories and photographs will be preserved for generations and dug up time and again to remind them of the trauma they should be trying to forget by seeking professional help as well as the support of their family and friends. We don't hesitate to publish stories the truth of which we are unsure but which sufficiently feed the human need for gossip and gore. So what if the facts change tomorrow, after the case has been properly investigated and proven in court? We need to sell our papers and our electronic news today!
I would like to appeal to journalists in our media to refrain from such exploitative, heartless practices. They have a responsibility to inform us of events and the facts surrounding them. They can even try to make their stories more appealing by writing them in an interesting manner. But they do not have the right to invade the private lives of people and families, spread unfounded rumors about them and not give a second thought as to how the portrayal of victims and their families may affect them for life. We want news, yes, but not at the cost of basic decency and humanity. We need a comprehensive media policy which will guide the media in our country and going by which deviating media can be held to account. This policy should certainly include provisions on news related to different groups such as children, women, minority communities, etc. If a sense of propriety and humanity cannot properly guide our media then we can only hope that strict guidelines and stern action against deviants will.
To pardon or not to pardon
I am awed to the point of being shocked at our country's President's merciful nature. One after the other he is granting pardon to proven criminals, murderers at that. On what basis, I ask? Were they victims of circumstance? Was it self-defense? Did they have no other way? Or is it that, despite committing pre-planned, cold-blooded murders as proven in a court of law, they just that they have the right connections? That they come from families of influence? Not only have they been spared the death sentence, but in some cases, even the life term has been waived, with the ultimate punishment being a few years in jail. For some of the criminals who were absconding, it is not even that, for their jail terms are being calculated from the date of issue of the arrest warrant years ago, thus their having to spend no time at all behind bars. What does this say about the legal system of our country? That one is above the law simply if they have the right connections? That one can do anything with impunity if they have enough influence? Basically, that "anything goes". Except for the victims, who not only do not get back the loved ones they have lost, but who are not even provided with any solace, any closure, any peace of mind at all at the fact that at least the killers of their loved ones have been punished. These are unfortunate times where it has become difficult to distinguish between wrong and right, sympathy and empathy. Mercy is undeniably a great quality; but so is fairness and the quality of being just, and we do expect it from the supreme leaders of our nation.
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