Dear Arnab, Here’s What The Nation Really Wants From You

Posted by Anurag Singh in Politics, Staff Picks
May 8, 2017

Dear Arnab,

Welcome back. I am sure you’ve been waiting for this day since November 14, 2016. So have I, because the hysteria of your presence on national television grabs us all. For some of us, you define the narrative, while for others, you show where we are headed as a nation.

I had hopes that you would make a comeback and redefine journalism. At least that’s what your promos on Twitter and banners around the capital claimed. And you’ve done that – for all the wrong reasons. I would love to appreciate your display of nationalism but as they say, nationalism is just paper on the cracks and is often used by those who don’t have anything tangible to offer. The media is often considered the fourth pillar of democracy. That’s a huge responsibility, Arnab.

I would have loved to hear you talk about one from the plethora of problems which are vastly more important than Shahabuddin speaking to Lalu Prasad Yadav over a call. The most important being unemployment.

Very recently, the Press Trust of India came out with a report, saying:

Unemployment figures for 2015–16 could be an alarm bell for the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled government at the Centre.

What’s more worrying than a 5% unemployment rate is the manner in which we define unemployment in India. This problem is well represented by author and columnist Vivek Kaul in his book, “India’s Big Government: The Intrusive State and How It’s Hurting Us“. 

I will borrow a few data points to highlight the issue and bring your attention to it:

  1. In rural areas, only 52.7% of Indians who were available for work all through the year were able to get work for that entire year. This means that close to half of rural India cannot find work for all the 12 months of the year.
  2. In urban areas, this figure was 82.1%. This explains why people migrate from rural areas to urban areas.

Basically, a huge proportion of the population is not able to find work all through the year. Now that you are an entrepreneur, I want to bring up the problem with India being called the land of entrepreneurs. Close to half of our workforce is self-employed – which is a worrying sign. Why? Look at the table below:

Source: Report on the Fifth Annual Employment-Unemployment Survey, 2016.

I couldn’t find any reason to romanticise the idea of India being a ‘Land of Entrepreneurs’. Can you? If only we had sufficient jobs available, two-fifth of our entrepreneurs would have switched to other opportunities rather than earn ₹5000 or less every month. This is not something which has suddenly happened post-2014 – this has been happening since independence. We need you to talk about these issues because there doesn’t seem to be any real difference between the governments since independence barring superficial paint jobs. With all due respect, we need an engine overhaul.

This book is out in the public domain, and large parts of it are available on the internet as well. I am sure Republic, ‘India’s first Media Tech company’, can gather even more insightful details than these. And you must – because you know what, the nation still wants to know! After all, we have entered the New India‘! This would have been one earth shattering story for a comeback.

Yet, here you are, making your comeback with an expose on a regional political leader with no official involvement in the government. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that #LaluExposed was a hoax or was not required. All I am trying to say is – your priorities are wrong. This ‘expose’ is more like a drop in the ocean of our problems as a nation.

I really appreciate your crusade against corruption – I really do. However, I fail to understand how you can overlook the corruption in the very definitions of the socio-economic problems we face today. They say ignorance is bliss. If we are not presented the real picture, we will always stay delusional.

Your selection of topic might be debatable, and you might say – aren’t we all entitled to present our ‘Mann Ki Baat‘? Unfortunately, your profession only allows you to be a watchdog for democracy, not a bodyguard for a particular ideology. I know there’s a thin line in between, but you, of all people, should be able to pinpoint the difference. You can deem me an “anti-national” as you have done to so many, over and over again, in your erstwhile playground, “The Newshour”.

The first day of The Republic made me feel like it’s 2012, with all the ear-splitting allegations and the zeal of bringing corrupt politicians down. The only difference is that, back then, it was against the government in power, and now it’s against the opposition. One is bound to feel that your agenda is clear and the beneficiary is constant. This is not a very healthy sign for democracy. You are an influencer and one of the most prominent of them all. People wait to hear what you have to say. Don’t feed them what they want – feed them what they need. That’s your job, Arnab!