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Indian media coverage of children deaths in America and in Bihar

Thursday March 1, 2018 12:25 PM, Vidyadhar Date

Manoj Baitha BJP

One can understand the BJP suppressing the involvement of its drunken leader in the killing of nine school children and injuring 20 other children in broad daylight in Bihar last week. But why did a large section of the media join in suppressing the news while it gave saturation coverage to the death of film star Sridevi?.

We are disturbed by the regular shooting of school children in the U.S. and rightly so. But the Indian society in general seemed take little cognisance of the Bihar killing. May be because it was in a rural area and the kids were from poor families. But so many little kids are mowed down and there is little outcry?

Similarly the death of 12 workers in a fire in a farsan shop in Kurla last December has been quickly forgotten while the death of the rich in a fire in the Kamala mill compound got wide publicity for several weeks.

The death in the fire and the road crash are more horrible than the gun shooting in the U.S.The death of the little children is particularly moving because these were real innocents and in no way responsible, they were sanding outside the school. Normally, the police and other authorities are quick to blame the victims of motor crashes in a bid to save the rich killers. The media often prepares the ground to acquit the killer through careless reporting by saying the motorist suddenly lost control, someone came in the way and so on. All this is usually a result of deliberate misleading feeding of information to gullible young reporters.

The way the media handled the killing of innocents in Bihar can only be considered unprofessional, shameful. It underplayed the news and in many cases downright suppressed it either because of political pressure or usual apathy.

None of the media had any clue to the involvement of the BJP man on the first day of the ghastly incident or even the day after. It is not as if the incident happened late in the day or night when the media could be under pressure. This happened in the afternoon, there were many witnesses naturally because this was outside a school with a lot of people in the area. The BJP’s flag was prominently displayed and it is so clearly visible in photographs. It was illegal of course but in a way it will greatly help in the prosectuion’s case.Even when the BJP man’s involvement became clear on subsequent days, a good section of the media remained silent.

Even the BJP now openly accepts that Manoj Baitha, the local leader, was at the wheel and no effort will be made to protect him. Yet, the authorities let him run away and hide for four days. Some coverage was given partly because the opposition raised the issue in the legislature and Rahul Gandhi among others made public statements.

Chief minister Nitish Kumar has responded by announcing that a pedestrian road overbridge will now be built for the safety of children. A seemingly good measure but experts feel such a measure only punishes common people. The real solution is to tame the monstrous traffic, make crossing safe for children and adults. According to experts the police too show poor understanding of child psychology. It is almost sinister to transfer the responsibility of safety on little children. Elementary study of psychology shows that children’s faculties for safety are not sufficiently developed at that age. A centre at the Cooperage garden near Mantralaya in Mumbai shows how misplaced police understanding is as children are routinely brought here for training. Dinesh Mohan, the top most expert from IIT Delhi, has trounced such measures as useless.

India has the disgraceful record of being at the top of the chart in the world in road crash deaths, with more than 130,000 in a year and this is also a highly conservative as many deaths and injuries are not recorded, reported due to corruption, social apathy

Road safety is a top priority in advanced countries it is dealt with at the highest level of governance and road deaths are reduced through policy measures. In India the deaths are rising which reflects very poorly on governance. It is sad that in India politicians and bureaucrats, who should give the lead in safety, are contributing to deaths. Last month, Mumbai’s additional customs commissioner, an official of the administrative service, no less, allegedly knocked down two early morning walkes, killing one. The vehicle then went on a further 90 metres and crashed into a police.

The government and the influential automobile manufacturers have unleashed the motor car culture on the people without providing essential safeguards. The government machinery is largely ill equipped and corrupt as has been amply demonstrated so far. Recently, the Mumbai high court passed severe strictures on the RTO regional transport government machinery for having few facilities for testing the fitness of motor vehicles.

Germany like many other countries has sharply brought down the road death figures through various measures. A record 21,000 people were killed in the country in 1970 which is a very high figure considering its population. Now, the number is brought down to 3214 in 2016.

The U.S. is doing badly after some success. The daily toll there is 29. And with all its spectacular and high expenditure on infrastructure like highways and flyovers its cities experience the worst traffic jams, including Los Angeles, the car capital. Yet, a good section of our media and the government machinery is unhappily compromised with the car culture.

(Vidyadhar Date is a senior journalist and author of the book Traffic in the era of climate change.)

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