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4 Of India’s Biggest Newspapers Have Overlooked The Assam Floods: News Mills Study

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Like every year Assam and various parts of Northeast India have faced heavy floods, but major national dailies did not even pay heed to Assam floods.

“It’s the same story every single year. While the poor die due to the floods, the relief and rescue operations are never adequate. There are no preventive measures. One wonders why the national media ignores the issue all the time,” says Pranjal Saikia, a resident of a flood-affected North Lakhimpur village.

A natural calamity of this magnitude deserves front-page coverage, but sadly, most of the time it is found as a news capsule in the national section of newspapers which hardly catches the attention of the readers. While a few national dailies covered the news in their national section occupying a half-page space, others did not even bother about the situation Assam is currently facing.

The News Mill conducted a study by analysing the New Delhi editions of four national dailies from July 10 to July 15, 2017. Sadly, we found that flood-related news got very little coverage across the top dailies. The Indian Express, The Hindu, The Times of India and Hindustan Times, were considered for the same.

The Indian Express carried a story on the Assam floods on the front-page. On July 14, the newspaper did a half-page package on the floods on Page 13.

The Times of India, New Delhi edition, carried the news on their nation pages for 3 days but it never made it to the front-page of the leading newspaper.

The Hindu carried the news twice on the front-page, while rest of days they covered the news either on the national or the east section.

The Hindustan Times almost completely missed the sorrow of Northeast and they carried just a small story on Page 10 of the newspaper on July 15.

As per our study, we found that major national dailies did not even bother carrying in-depth flood-related stories of Assam on their front page. “If the New Delhi editions of national dailies are not honestly covering the news on their front-page, then how the people concerned will know? Is this not a national emergency?” said an Assamese living in New Delhi for past 10 years.

Assam is always neglected in all possible ways, be it flood-related news or general news. We are not given any space in these dailies,” said a final year Assamese student at Delhi University.

The reason behind choosing the New Delhi editions for the study is because I believe that most bureaucrats, politicians and top level government employees subscribe them. They are the people who can actually raise their voice for the pain of Assam. People’s representatives mostly reside in New Delhi, more than in their constituency, so this would help them to understand what their state is facing and how it is neglected by top dailies. Newspapers have the ability to attract a good number of readers and create activism for some very serious issues, but if there is no space for Assam floods then how would a reader living 2000km from Assam know about the pain of the state.

To put the figures forward, according to Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA), more than 17 lakh people in 26 districts of Assam were affected with the flood-related death toll shooting up to 82, according to this report published by The Times Of India on July 30, 2017. At least 18 people died in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh due to rain-related calamities like a landslide. Of these, four died in an Indian Air Force chopper crash which was on a rescue mission in the Papum Pare district of the state. Properties worth crores were damaged in Manipur since cyclone Mora hit the state.

Spread across 430 sq km, UNESCO world heritage site, Kaziranga National Park is 70% submerged and over 124 wild animals have died. Movements on the NH-15, which connects Assam with Arunachal Pradesh, came to a halt as the national highway is partially damaged due to rising water of Ranganadi, a tributary of River Brahmaputra. According to a report in The Indian Express, approximately 1.27 lakh people have taken shelter in 322 relief camps. Union minister Kiren Rijiju led a central team to take the stock of the situation on July 13, 2017.

According to some inputs received from remotest part of Assam, the medical relief is yet to reach. Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a package of ₹2,000 crore for the flood related reliefs and study for Northeastern region, but the medical facility, which is essential during natural calamities of such extent is yet to reach to the people who are hoping for something from the government agencies.

My personal opinion would be, the agencies should primarily focus on health as during flood there are many possibilities of spreading life hazardous diseases

The original piece was published here. 

Image Credits: Tanmoy Bhaduri
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