Nitish’s Ads mute Bihar media

IN Media Practice | 12/07/2010
The state's advertisement budget has jumped even as criticism of Nitish Kumar's government in the local and national media has slumped.
The manner in which facts and figures are being manipulated by the government is a real cause for concern, reports BIHAR TIMES

July 9 does not mark the completion of four-and-a-half years of Nitish Kumar’s rule, yet we are made to believe it - like many other things. Nitish became the chief minister on November 24, 2005. So every year on that day the state government comes out with report cards and advertisements worth crores. In that sense April 24 should mark the completion of four-and-a-half years and not July 9.

But coming out with report cards and advertisements on April 24 would not have served the purpose as people’s memory is proverbially short. By the time they go to vote they may forget much of the work done by the government.

In Bihar we are made to understand many things with the help of newspaper advertisements. It is not that the government does not have its quota of successes and failures ?" all governments have these ?" yet the way in which dates, facts and figures are manipulated with the help of advertisements is a cause for concern in a democracy.

Bihar Times has already exposed how a premier national daily played up the growth rate story and then honoured the chief minister with a business award weeks after the state government gave the publication advertisements worth millions.

According to the story done by thehoot.org, a news portal, on April 12 last, the Nitish Kumar government increased the quantum of advertisements to media by four times compared to the previous governments. Naturally newspapers and TV channels cannot do this story. In this age of internet it is the news portals who dared to challenge him.

Thehoot based its story on information procured from the RTI, therefore, there is no need to question it. "In just the last four years of Nitish’s regime, from 2005-09 till February 28, 2010, the state government gave advertisements for around 38,000-odd works and spent Rs 64.48 crore on them whereas in the period of six years the Lalu-Rabri government had spent around just Rs 23.9 crore,’’ thehoot reported.

So on July 9 it was celebration time for media barons again. Even small Urdu newspapers with a circulation of a few hundred copies, or may be thousands, got three to four pages of advertisements. Since all the advertised achievements had already been hightlighted on November 24 last, there was nothing new left to propagate. Thus most of the space was filled with photographs of the chief minister, the deputy chief minister and some Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist priests.

So while many dying vernacular dailies have become crorepatis in the last four years or so, the national dailies and television channels ?" passing through a period of recession - are all praise for the chief minister for keeping them alive and kicking.

It is not surprising that no chief minister of an Indian state, other than Nitish, has got awards from three big media houses. Therefore, it is natural for them not to ask why electricity production in Bihar did not increase by a single megawatt in the last four-and-a-half years.

The state’s propaganda machinery repeatedly tells us that an IIT, the off-campus centre of Aligarh Muslim University, the Nalanda International University and a Central University for Bihar have come up in the state, when the fact is that all these are central government institutions and cannot be highlighted as achievements of the state government. The tragic fact is that the state government has failed to provide land for these projects. In the case of AMU, it has made a mess. The students’ wing of the alliance partner, the ABVP, is opposing its establishment in Kishanganj. Similarly CUB has been awaiting land for many months.

Ironically, the state government has nothing to say about its own colleges and universities on this occasion as they all are locked up. Strikes and agitations have become a regular feature in universities and colleges over the last four years. Never in the state’s history have so many strikes take place in such quick succession.

It is true that doctors are now attending primary health centers, but that is because of thousands of crores of rupees pumped by the Union government under the National Rural Health Mission. Even the money for the doctors’ pay and medicines comes from the Centre.

And for the state government’s prestigious Patna Medical College Hospital the less said the better. Now the PMCH stands for Patient Marna Chhata Hai as over 500 patients, according to government figures, died due to strikes in the last four years.

The chief minister became so fed up with the strikes that in June 2008 he even threatened to close down the PMCH because of the repeated agitations by junior doctors. Cases were filed against them, but then nothing happened.

None of the engineering and medical colleges of the state have sufficient faculty. Teachers from polytechnic institutes are teaching students of Muzaffarpur Institute of Technology and Bhagalpur Engineering College. Yet the state government wants to open more medical and engineering colleges.

The state government boasts that the law and order situation has improved yet no mention is made about the manifold increase lynching cases. Policemen do not accept FIRs as they have to show that the crime rate has fallen.

With the media in its pocket the state government has learnt the art of marketing its achievements. The state appropriates the success of all the centrally-sponsored schemes, from Hunar to the distribution of bicycles, and holds the Centre responsible for failures ?" be it be it NREGA or any other flag ship scheme.

And none in the media dares to ask how Rs five crore from the Kosi relief fund was returned after 22 long months and why it was left unspent?

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