‘Has there ever been, or will there ever be, a public debate – on the television or in the published media – about the maximum population that India, as one nation, can afford to have?
On the evening of 4 December 2018, I attended a book launch event at Constitution Club, New Delhi. An important book, The TRP Trick – how television in India was hijacked, painstakingly authored by Dr N Bhaskara Rao, was launched that evening. The event, attended by many dignitaries and nearly hundred influential leaders from across the related industry, seemed to be covered live by Doordarshan.
Dr Rao, an eminent mass-communication expert and a pioneer of social research in India, has authored several books in his more than 40 years of professional career, which include books on governance, media, elections and interstate politics. His studies are considered as the benchmarks in various fields of his expertise. He is the founder chairman of Centre for Media Studies (CMS) and Marketing & Development Research Associates (MDRA).
The event started by speeches from Dr Rao and Dr A. Surya Prakash, the current chairperson of Prasar Bharati, as well as speeches from other dignitaries, followed by a vigorous panel discussion. The panel comprised six eminent panelists, including a film maker, an entrepreneur private television channel owner and a bureaucrat.
The event extended much beyond its scheduled time period and, therefore, not much time was left for the Q & A session. However, when it was announced that no time was left for taking any more questions, I got up, introduced myself to the audience and requested my question be heard, as I had travelled from across 10,000 km to be there.
I started by thanking Prasar Bharti for the important role that it has been playing through the last seven decades or so in educating and entertaining India. I mentioned how much my father (a retired Chief Engineer, living in Jammu) enjoys listening daily to Vividh Bharti (on the radio) and Doordarshan (on the television) for their respective range of rich – educational, social and entertainment – programmes. In his own words, my father says he gets much more value for money (which is his time) from Vividh Bharti and Doordashan rather than from private television channels.
And then, to everyone’s surprise, I asked Dr Prakash if Doordarshan had ever telecast programmes related to the population issue in India or if there has ever been any public debate or discussion on Doordarshan or Vividh Bharti about the maximum population that the country could afford to contain. Unsurprisingly, I received no answer! Did my question validate the book title but in a different way?
It is true that talking openly about the population issue is a taboo in India and, as such, no politician who is willing to come to power, or cling to power, will ever speak about it. However, one would expect Prasar Bharti to be concerned with the country’s high population growth, which is obviously at the core of the most, if not all, current issues of India?
Doordarshan was founded by the Government of India, as India’s largest broadcasting organisation, on 15 September 1959. It is owned by the Broadcasting Ministry of India and is one of two divisions of Prasar Bharati. It is supposed to be an autonomous public service broadcaster.
For TRP reasons, one would expect no private television channel in India ever touching the population issue in the country. That evening, however, it was claimed that Doordarshan was different than most private channels in terms of its core objectives, social engineering, education and service to the nation, which is true to a great extent. Therefore, should Doordarshan not also rake up the population issue, as service to the nation, and its accountability to the current and future generations, before it is too late to restore liveability of the country?
Can anyone answer please?’ … Bill K Koul