By Anshul Tewari:
If I ask you about the various issues or problems close to your heart, things that you wish to change, what would you say? I am guessing that your answer would revolve around issues likeÂ poverty, hunger, illiteracy, climate change, gender abuse, lack of rural development, biased media, the list is endless. Different people are passionate about different causes and issues. Different issues have different solutions. However, most of us are not able to target or solve these issues.
One of the thoughts that all of us have had since childhood has been the desire to change the world. Everyone wants to. And it is fair enough. We are all stakeholders of the planet and have an equal right to change things around us. However, how many of us get an opportunity to do that? Moreover, how many of us get an opportunity to even talk about these issues – to the right people? Less than 50%.
The political scenario is known to all. In almost all countries, it is extremely difficult for a common man to talk about his or her issues with the local politician, or someone in the position of authority.
If you come to think of it, the world population stands at about 7 billion people. India and China alone, form nearly 3.2 billion people on this planet. Global economies continue to boom and local businesses are at the right time, in the right space. The current scenario of the tech, green and development space is extremely enriching and fruitful for anyone to enter and innovate. But, the issues and problems around us continue to grow. We really wish to talk about them, but to whom do we talk? Moreover, are we ourselves completely informed about the ground reality?
Let’s talk about the country with the world’s largest population – China. A population of 2 billion people, but no free press. No media that can hold the Government responsible, or report the common man’s irritation. No media that can talk about a local politiciansÂ mischievousÂ acts and the troubles faced by the common man. With 100% control by the Chinese Government, the local media dies under the pressure of what to report and what not to report. The only other medium which should ideally be free- the Internet is also censored.
I remember a news about Ran Yunfei, a Chinese Blogger who was arrested for applauding the Jasmine Revolution and for criticising China for preventing freedom of press and disallowing free flow of information.
This is just one example of how a population of 2 billion does not have a platform to voice themselves.
Now coming to our home country – India, we enjoy a free press and democratic right to freedom of speech and expression. However, this right is not made available to us, or facilitated to the common man.
The total population stands at 1.2 billion people. However, 41.6% of our population is under the poverty line. Moreover, almost 60% of our entire population lives in rural areas and has little or no access to media and the other platforms to voice themselves. Even if they do have access to media, the bias on the part of the mainline media and the lack of coverage of these areas furthers their problems and issues.
Internet only reaches out to about 100 million people, which, considering the size of the total population is peanuts. So how do these people, or even us – who have theÂ privileges, address these issues, address the critical mass and make sure that the people in authority hear us out? Is there potentially no platform – very few, and they have exclusivity.
All in all, in India, about 1 billion people do not get a fair chance to voice their opinions – either due to no media outreach, or due to poverty, lack of knowledge or literacy, or due to lack of platforms like the internet.
That’s a total of 3 billion till now, 2 of China and 1 of India.
Now move to Africa and the Middle East. Africa has a total population of a little over a billion people. However, over 90% of them have no access to the internet. Similarly, in the Middle East, many countries have no free press, and while many do have free internet, they do not get a fair chance to voice themselves. This is evident by the number of bloggers and twitter users who have been arrested in the recent past.
THIS is the crisis.
We are looking at a population of between 3.5 billion to 4 billion people (out of 7 billion in the world), who do not get a fair chance to voice themselves and get heard. The level of participatory democracy is limited to certain people – with certain facilities and outreach. However, a large part of the world faces an epidemic which is being ignored – silently.
How do we expect to change the issues we mentioned earlier if we are not getting a chance to speak up for ourselves, for those issues or for anything for that matter.
When a local Municipal officer can shove me out of his office, just for asking him again and again about my power cut issues, which he has no answer to, then what way would I have with the policy makers?
Not only this, if teachers don’t turn up for lectures and the students can’t complain, then what kind of a freedom of expression are we looking at?
A democratic right is good on paper, but until it is facilitated, it is nothing but a sheet of paper.
THIS is what we need to change.
So, I ask you, where is your right to freedom of expression? Where is mine?
YouthKiAwaaz.com is trying it’s bit to get young people to talk about issues of importance. Speak up now!