Ramlal Banwari, a debt-ridden farmer from the drought prone land of Vidarbha; Choti, a 11-year old school drop-out from Orissa; Anjayyah, a victim of malnutrition from Andhra Pradesh, all have a story to tell. Not only these people, but there are thousands of other such people each with a tale of their own, waiting for somebody to narrate their grievances. And, media has truly been God-sent to these rural people.
Media has since long been a platform which has ensured that even the tiniest of the voices are heard. It acts as a link between the government and the people, facilitating a two-way communication. There are many issues that have been resolved, thanks to the intervention of the press. Media has always been the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for our rural folks. The woes of the primitive Chenchu tribe of Andhra Pradesh are an example of this. Media has come to the rescue of many villagers in the Polavaram dam issue concerning their rehabitation and resettlement.
Unemployment is an obvious problem that requires immediate attention. Rural youth struggle to earn their living as many of them are not aware of the government welfare schemes specially designed for their benefit. People have come to know about the various schemes through the print and electronic media which give the required details. Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act is one of that kind. This scheme has received a huge positive response due to the wide publicity done by the media.
The cluttered villages were made into a healthy society as the media dragged them out of the devastation done by factories and industries located around their places. Villages like Pragnapur in Medak district in Andhra Pradesh, which houses many industries, has seen its pollution levels rise. The media intervened at this juncture and saved the people.
It is not just health issues; the press has covered various social issues also, like dalit-discrimination and dowry deaths. There was a huge response for the girl-child campaign. It is a slow process but there has indeed been a change in the attitude in the local community towards the girl-child. Many other campaigns have been flagged off in the rural areas like the HIV-awareness campaign.
The graph of literacy rate in rural areas has shown consistent rise in recent times. This is a transformational change brought about by the press. A report states that there has been an increase of 12.63% in the literacy rate in rural India of which 1.2% has been media’s contribution.
The media has presented some very heart-rending stories of the indebted farmers committing suicides. The reaction from the government was also heart warming by addressing the issue by waiving their loans. ‘The Hindu’ revealed some stark figures to prove it. But here, the media should have played a larger role. A number of farmers were not aware of the waiver and continued committing suicides. The media could have communicated the facts to the villagers.
Sadly, all this is of the past now. Financial motives are powering the media now and the need for higher revenues is compelling the media houses not to enter the rural market with a full-fledged program. This has led to misguidance of the common rural Indian.
Yes, rural press is a costly affair to set-up and the revenues cannot be much, but why not begin somewhere. Big corporates like AIRTEL and TATA are now concentrating on developing their rural market base, why not tie up? Why not raise funds from the prospective advertisers whose target market is the rural citizen?
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