Ravish Kumar has won the Ramon Magsaysay Award 2019 in the category of Journalism, Literature, and the Creative Communication Arts, before him one of India’s most respected voice in journalism Mr Palagummi Sainath, had received the same prize in 2007 for his extraordinary reporting on poverty and rural life. The citation said Sainath was being recognized for his “passionate commitment as a journalist to restore the rural poor to India’s national consciousness”.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award is Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize. The citation for Ravish Kumar explained his work as “harnessing journalism to give voice to the voiceless” and his “unfaltering commitment to professional, ethical journalism of the highest standards”. Ravish began his work in NDTV-India in 1996. As per the report, he was initially engaged in the low profile work, but with his dedication, passion, and consistency for real reporting, he achieved independent promotion in the NDTV, where he could produce useful reports with his creativity and imagination. Today, he has created his own space for stories in the Television media, and in spite of all difficulties, Ravish has established himself as a credible option in Hindi journalism.
Ravish Kumar, experimented with a new format in the history of Indian TV news called “Ravish ki report”. In his show, he broke the norms of studio room news and went on the field/ground to better understand the issues of the common public and speak to them. His courage to bring news and investigate the matters is unbelievable, especially in the age where everyone is fine with imposing self-censorship.
He faces many difficulties in doing his job as a journalist, threatened/harassed by internet trolls and hate mongers. Even the BJP leaders boycott his program. But such situations do not discourage him; he has discovered new ways to report on the TV screen. He has raised pertinent issues of the common people on the National Television. He has started unique series such as the Job series, Railways series, University series etc., and his work has helped people get justice in this democracy.
In the Job series, he spoke to many students who have cleared competitive exams, but due to the callousness of the government policies, nothing happened for months or even years in many cases. After his program, those youths raised their voice, and most of them got a response from the respective departments. Similarly, in a different series, he raised the issue of the timings of the running trains; after that, one can see the change in those regions.
Ravish’s understanding of caste, gender and communalism are different from the other mainstream Hindi journalists. He understands and recognizes the importance of the Indian constitution and its provisions which ensure justice for the marginalized sections of the society. He has been a staunch supporter of inclusion or inclusive policies based on gender, caste or religion. Once, he said, the way we have communalized our society through different kinds of nationalism, it will only harm the majority community in the long run.
The situation is even more perturbing for regional reporters residing outside the metropolitan world of India. This is really scary for the ones who work in those circumstances without any security. During my field visit to remote locations of India, I got the chance to interact with press reporters at the district or block level. They were paid meagre salaries, and their income was based on the number of incidents they managed to report.
In these adverse circumstances, Ravish has created new ways of taking a stand and giving voice to the pressing issues of the country. This is the job supposed to be done by all media personnel. Since most of the journalists today have chosen the easy way out, Ravish Kumar’s efforts make him special. I hope young journalists will learn from the path he has chosen and do honest and consistent work, which is necessary for democracy.