RTE – The reality or: Why the media asked you to stop worrying and love the law?

by plainspeak

So you came back home from your office and switched on the Tele and heard, among other things, the news that the RTE was deemed constitutional by the honorable(I mean it, well, at least till S H Kapadia is at the helm) Supreme Court of India. You scratched your head as to how a law could have been challenged to have been unconstitutional in the first place. So, you decided to take the help of Barkha, Rajdeep, Sagarika and Karan to clear the confusion. So, you faced the nation, saw the buck stop and heard the last word. Midst all the noise a few things stuck in your mind. Reservation in admission, 25% and the poor. So, even if you had little misgivings about possibly losing a seat for your kid in a school of your choice, you also felt little guilty for feeling that way and felt bad for not having enough sympathy for the poor. But, let me tell you one thing. What you heard in the media wasn’t the whole truth. That has been the most unsettling part in this whole episode. The media has shown that it cannot be trusted to tell the whole truth, it can’t be trusted to dissect the details , it can’t be trusted to tell you the most important points of the story(especially if they are subtle). So, to test yourself whether you really got the full details of the law as it is(and not as the media has told you) answer this simple question.

                          Is the 25% reservation in admission for the poor?

The answer to the first question is : No, the reservation is not just for the poor, unless you consider a son of an IAS officer belonging to the scheduled castes/scheduled tribes as poor. The reservation is for two kinds of people.
1. The disadvantaged group: People belonging to the SC/ST, the socially and the educationally backward class or such other group having disadvantage owing to social, cultural, economical, geographical, linguistic, gender or such other factor, as may be specified by the appropriate government, by notification.
2. The economically weaker section.

The first group is for the groups which the governments can (through notification) say deserve reservation, of course in exchange for votes. The second group is the group, which the TV news studios and the newspaper editors, told you the reservation was for. The percentages for each will be decided by govt notifications which will no doubt reserve a larger chunk for the former group.

So, the media withheld the truth. Why? If an engineer who works a day job can unearth these details, why couldn’t the media do it? Were they too lazy to read a 13 page document put out on the web?(See RTE notification 2009) The media by either being incompetent or complicit sold the RTE. Imagine a news reporter telling you this. “Breaking news: RTE is deemed constitutional, says the Supreme Court. As you know, the RTE reserves 25% of the seats for the SC/ST and other disadvantaged groups and also the poor”. Would this be as easy a sell as “RTE gives a ray of hope to the poor”, “SC verdict a shot in the arm for the poor”. It is important to remember that a majority of people only read/see the headlines. They don’t bother to see the whole story. And they buy lemons.

So, was it incompetence or complicity in crime? Grey’s law states: “Any sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice“. I would say in this case the incompetence and malice need to share a  50-50 blame. Below are the reasons I think the media behaved as it did on the RTE issue.

The Indian media sees the issues in black and white according to the prevailing axioms in the news media.

  1. Middle class have it  easy and don’t care for the poor. They sit in A/C offices and salary is credited to their account at the end of the month.
  2. People who say that caste oppression has declined significantly are urban elitists.
  3. Dole out schemes are good
  4. Muslims are the victims, always.

Below are the reasons for the existence of these axioms among the incestuous(absolutely the right word) world of journalism in India.

  1.  It is a very easy cop out to root for a scheme which would be beneficial in the short term. It feels good in your cockles(or maybe below the cockles) when you are supporting the poor, over champagne. You say, “Hey they are giving assured jobs to the rural poor. How could it possibly be bad?. I’m rich but I don’t oppose such a good scheme for the poor. Look how good a person I am”. You think you will be termed a sadist if you oppose such a scheme. You can’t distinguish selfishness from greed and think it’s a vice.

2. It requires moral courage to tell the other community is wrong. More moral courage than what is  required to accept that your community is wrong

Here is Bill Maher on the topic:

“Speaking of Muslims, the vast majority are law abiding, loving people who just want to be left alone to subjugate their women in peace. But I gotta tell you, civilized people don’t threatened each other; we sue each other. Threatening? That’s an old school desert shit, and I’m sorry, you can’t bring that to the big city. I’m very glad that Obama is reaching out to the Muslim world, and I know Muslims living in America and Europe want their way of life to be assimilated more. But the Western world needs to make it clear: some things about our culture are not negotiable and can’t change. And one of them is freedom of speech. Separation of church and state is another. Women are allowed to work here and you can’t beat them. Not negotiable. This is how we roll, this is why our system is better…”

Bill Maher again: 

“I know a whole generation has been raised on the notion of multiculturalism; that all civilizations are just different. No! Not always. Sometimes things are better! Rule of law is better than autocracy and theocracy; equality of the sexes, better; protection of minorities, better; free speech, better; free elections, better; free appliances with large purchases, better! Don’t get so tolerant that you tolerate intolerance.”

The journalists don’t have that moral courage.

3. This reason is one of the most important. They don’t understand Economics 101 and are very poor in Mathematics(and thus we can say poor in logic) and have very less I.Q. How else can you explain the 2G scam, which was a “scam” to even a high school student with a decent I.Q, be defended as “Zero loss” and not opposed by the journalist Barkha Dutt. Most of them are fans of Communism/Socialism forgetting that  it has never been successful anywhere in the world in practice.They believe that the govt should give grains to the poor, fuel to the poor, houses to the poor, clothes to the poor(when it is cold) and I don’t know what else. They don’t understand that it takes money to do all that creating huge fiscal deficit, and it creates a moral hazard if people are spoon-fed.They hate Capitalism forgetting that the developed world is developed because of that. In short, they believe the govt should give fish. They don’t realize it is easier and far better if govt taught fishing to those people.

4. The last reason is the most shameful. No ideology is behind this. Or, probably there is. Lets-take-the-viewer-for-a-ride-and-get-the-govt-ads-and-what-not-by-being-shamefully-pro-Congress-ism.
It doesn’t take Einstein to realize this.Just 2 minutes of watching NDTV and CNN-IBN.

  •  If somebody is accusing a person of rape, NDTV will ask. “Hey, you have spat on the road. You are no saint”. So, a Kiran Bedi will be attacked for a petty thing for taking on seeped-in-corruption govt. If even Gandhi reincarnates and comes and attacks the govt, they will find some fault in him. Our country’s media must be the only media in the world(ok, maybe North Korean media too) which attacks people taking on the govt(and also the opposition) more viciously than those in the govt.
  •  Using misleading headlines. So a headline which should have been, “President finally forced to give back Army land” becomes “President gives back land”
  • Giving unprecedented coverage to people of govt. So, a party which comes fourth in assembly elections is given the most coverage, and speeches of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi are shown live.
  • Taking at face value all the things by certain people. So, 2 +2 will become 5 if Digvijay Singh says so. If Digvijay Singh says a person  is an RSS man, it will get huge coverage(damage to brand value done). But an accusation against govt will get minimum coverage and all sorts of questions will be asked of the person making the accusation. If Sanjiv Bhatt says that he was there when Hitler shot himself, or that he saw Netaji die or that he was there when the Titanic sank, they will believe him, no questions asked.
  • Giving least coverage to the most important things. So, a Subramanian Swamy case against PC or Sonia is not covered till they can no longer not cover it.
  • To the Indian media, “dog bites man” is not news. “Man bites dog” is news. So, a case against Subramanian Swamy for offending religious sentiments is news, but a FIR against Sonia for doing the same is not news. If you ask why this is a big deal. Imagine a chocolate company is accused of selling substandard chocolates with worms. Would the chocolate company want the news to be reported? No. Is it news worthy? Yes. Will the brand value of the company come down? Yes. So, they are essentially displaying behavior of brand managers of govt. So, if a Sanjiv Bhatt is accused of human rights violations(you didn’t know, did you?), they give minimum coverage of that since if that is given more coverage it would mean he is less credible. So, they act as brand managers of the supporters of ruling party.
  • Spit and run journalism when convenient, and always advantageous to the ruling party. So, a BJP MLA is accused of seeing porn in assembly(damage to their reputation done and brand value of BJP nosedives) without evidence but news of a Congress spokesperson who allegedly does casting couch(to the Judiciary, no less) is suppressed even when electronic footage is there and it is sure to generate huge TRP.
  • Exclusive interviews exclusively for the make benefit of the ruling party. So, a Oprah Winfrey kind of interview with Priyanka Gandhi and the family of the PM Manmohan Singh is arranged, conveniently, just before the elections where as a formal laid back kind of interview with L K Advani’s family
  • Exclusive interviews with no tough questions asked. So, a Kapil Sibal goes unchallenged in spite of his Economics  Nobel  Prize winning “Zero loss” theory.
  • Finally the most important point. No interviews with Rajmata or Yuvraj. I am sure if you ask Rajmata “Solve for x in “x^2 – 2*x + 1 = 0″, she won’t be able to answer it”. If you ask what fiscal deficit(which we now are having plenty because of her/Ahmad Patel’s/NAC’s(since she can’t think for herself) policies) is, I am sure she won’t be able to answer that. Nor is Buddhu(Rahul Gandhi for the uninitiated) questioned about the policies. They(Sonia/Rahul) know that if they are asked tough questions the fate of Sarah Palin awaits them. But, the media won’t call their bluff. Or it doesn’t want to call their bluff. In return for what?

So, the media sold you a lemon. A law which would :

  • Benefit the rich among the disadvantaged groups(read certain castes whose votes the govt wants to vote-bank-ise)
  • Force unaided schools to reserve seats(The time when they will ask for reservation in pvt companies is not faraway if this is not opposed. They would say, “Hey we are giving you tax breaks. So, implement it”)
  • Further bureaucratize(license raj 2.0) the whole schooling system making it more corrupt.
  • And the most important thing is that they are telling you that socialist/communist laws are the norm. They are saying “You pay your taxes, you middle class friend, we will implement schemes where govt plays nanny to 120 crore people, will discriminate among castes, incentivise poverty. We will implement these nice sounding schemes which will look good on paper(to journalists and some think-thanks whom the journalists will interview) and of course will get us votes, but one small problem, it will tank our country’s economy. But, who cares. We’ve got our perks. So, enough of this my friend. Go work and don’t forget to file your taxes”
P.S.:  Some other good blogs on RTE.