September 03, 2009

Woes in perspective

Some interesting reflections from an Australian journalist in India, here.

What's your take on the para near the end that begins "Almost 800 ..."? On the whole thing?


Suresh said...

I'd challenge the qualifier "interesting." Fairly standard "western" reflections on India, I'd say. But of course, we have no one to blame but ourselves for this state of affairs. If, 62 years after independence, we still have a large fraction of the world's poor, the malnourished, some of the world's worst slums etc., then there is really no one to blame but ourselves. Incredibly, we still have one of the largest populations of people suffering leprosy - an eminently curable disease. (On this, there is a lovely story about Gandhi, who on being invited to open a home for people suffering leprosy, replied that he would not come to open one but would gladly come to celebrate closing one because it was no longer required.)

It's little consolation, at least to me, that things are improving over time.

Still, I don't know why Mr. Edwards felt it necessary to bring in the incidents involving Indian students in Australia. The Indian press, as press elsewhere, focuses on stories that will appeal to its readership. English language newspapers are read almost exclusively by the middle and upper middle classes, many of whose progeny go abroad to study. Not surprising then that the story involving Indian students in Australia got a lot of coverage. Equally unsurprising that stories involving poverty, the North-east, Dalits, "tribals", floods and so on get much less coverage than deserved.

I am not exactly a fan of the Indian press - at least, the English language press - but it is no more evil or stupid than its counterparts in other parts of the world, including Australia. It's too easy, petty and silly but I am sure doing a search for press coverage of say, aborigines in Australia, will throw up some interesting links too.

Rajiv said...

As a Indian student myself in Oz, I find it interesting and it made me think. Even if the press caters to middle and upper class, I myself would like to see more stories about the wider aspects of India. Sometimes I get tired of hearing the constant trumpets about how our growth is so high and we will be the next economic superpower -if not already. There's more to India!

Rajiv, now in Canberra

Chandru K said...

The article makes it look like, out of 1 billion people, 800 million are living in abject poverty! But that 800 million can be divided into lower middle class, working poor, very poor, and destitute or subsistence level poor. Instead, the Australian writer lumps the 800 million into one undifferentiated mass of very poor. There's surely a difference between someone who drives a rickshaw, and an unemployed, landless labourer affected by the Bihar floods. But they are lumped together.

Abhi said...

If I can just change the actors in Mr. Edwards comment:
"I have been to Africa and seen the poverty first hand. This certainly puts the perspective on African student's racial woes in USA."
Would Mr. Edward ever have the gall to make such a statement? Thought so.

Radhika Misra said...

my god!!! difference between the rickshaw puller and the unemployed laborer??? what about similarities? no access to decent health care, education, drinking water, toilet, and certainly not a trip abroad for his children!!!! no guarantee of income...etc etc

humari itne jalti kyon hai agar koi bahar ka aadmi ungli uthata hai??

it amazes me that we are outraged not because most of what was said was true, but that it was a "western" response and that an Australian had dared to point a finger at us!

Radhika Misra said...

also, the previous post (Dr Ramani) did not have a *single* response...just another day...maybe the press knows that only too well and hence the selective news...

Chandru K said...

Not true, Radhika Misra. Are you saying that all 800 million of those people mentioned by the writer have no access, at any time to medical care or drinking water. That's simply not true. All I'm saying is that the 800 million group is not one monolith or undifferentiated mass.

Dilip D'Souza said...

One stat that might be relevant: 700m Indians have no access to a toilet.

Anonymous said...

Bihar floods, Maoists, building collapses etc. were pretty well covered in NIE/ Hindu. I dont know if TOI and its sister publications need to be the standard.

Even these papers dont adequately cover non-urban, non-middle class sections of India but Suresh has already explained that.

With the attacks in Australia, at least part of the reaction was due to the fact that its pre-supposed to be safe.


Pareshaan said...

"Slum Life Puts Woes in Perspective" - No it really doesn't put anything in perspective. The Indians who go as students to Australia don't really relate to the Indians who live in slums.
Isee liyein hamaaree itnee jaltee hai - because we hate it when some one richer, whiter, more powerful decides to callously lump "us" with "them".
This is the Great Indian Tragedy and very few of us are doing anything to correct the situation.
I feel terrible - the article absolutely enraged me, because it was honest and because it was a white person writing it and because all I do despite the rage I feel is work for the white man hoping to fatten up on his leavings. I had a friend who'd very often opine that all Desis were "Geedarh Jaat" - I hate it every time I have to agree with him.

km said...

The sentiment behind the piece might be noble but this is hardly new. Hasn't the definition of "newsworthy" been re-written around the world? This is hardly unique to India.

What is most unfortunate is that Indian newspapers have almost completely killed long-form investigative reporting - the kind you still get to read in NYT or WaPo (or in the New Yorker or the Atlantic) or get to watch on PBS.

Anonymous said...

The Indians who go as students to Australia don't really relate to the Indians who live in slums.
Isee liyein hamaaree itnee jaltee hai - because we hate it when some one richer, whiter, more powerful decides to callously lump "us" with "them".

This is disturbing. Why cant we relate with our own fellow countrymen who live today without means to basic sanitation and hygiene? Why do we want to be disassociated from them? Is'nt this very reason media also shows apathy to them?