The role of the media has been crucial: Reetika Khera

Subscribers to the ‘Aadhaar’ model are the first victims of this new system.

Dissecting the world’s largest biometric ID system, ‘Aadhaar’, Professor Reetika Khera from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, delivers the Seventh TG Narayanan Memorial Lecture 2018-19 on, “Aadhaar, Welfare and the Media”.

Khera’s extensive research on Aadhaar, interrogates the necessity of this new biometric system and the impact it has on welfare schemes like the Public Distribution System (PDS) and National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA).

Engaging with the welfare angle introduced other crucial investigations about big data, machine learning, artificial intelligence, civil liberties, human rights, Indian democracy and surveillance, making subscribers to the aadhaar model the first victims of this new system.

Promises of eradicating corruption in welfare schemes did not bear enough material as provisions to continue corruption exist post the introduction of aadhaar . Quantity fraud and overcharging continue to hamper welfare schemes, while identity fraud could be potentially eliminated given the successful implementation of the aadhaar as a universal system. However the existing scenario reveal more people being hindered by the implementation of this system. More than 20 deaths have been recorded across the country due to aadhaar.

Contrary to the government’s claim of millions without an ID, An RTI revealed, about 99.97% of availed aadhaar cards were acquired by providing existing document evidence, clearly indicating the minimal reach of this system.

Similarly the mandate of aadhaar hampers other welfare programs  like the NREGA, midday meal and pension schemes. “welfare needs aadhaar like a fish needs a bicycle” said Khera, emphasizing on the irrelevance of aadhaar in welfare schemes.

In the initial stages, media was used as a propaganda tool by the government often engaging in damage control to maintain faith among people in this new biometric system. However when the middle class were impacted with the mandate of linking aadhaar cards to bank accounts, the narrative of the media considerably changed. “ the role of the media has been crucial in both getting us into this pickle and getting us out of the pickle,” she added.

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‘Breaking news mania’ undermining journalism : Mani Shankar Aiyar

Reminiscing his love-hate relationship with the media, former Union minister and diplomat Mani Shankar Aiyar delivers the convocation address to the ACJ Batch of 2017-2018 on the topic “Media And I, Writing Well Is The Best Revenge”.

Highlights

  • In his convocation address, replete with witty anecdotes, Aiyar makes important points relating to the role of media.
  • As media advisor to Prime Minister, Aiyar had a ringside view of the functioning of media and he shares some incidents which throws light on the delicate balance between ethics and practice of journalism.
  • Aiyar points to the inter-dependent relationship between politicians and media. The former need publicity and the latter need subjects to report about.
  •  Aiyar says, he became a journalist to counter bad journalism. “If you can’t lick ‘em join ‘em,” Aiyar quipped talking about how he became a columnist.
  • Joking about a rabble-rousing television anchor, Aiyar said that the syndrome makes reporters and anchors actors in their own stories practising extreme partisanship.
  • Aiyar concludes that freedom of expression is not only a constitutional right but also a constitutional duty.

The former Union minister elaborated his association with media – often adversarial as he was with the government. Later, he says, he became a columnist so that he could counter bad journalism from within. His speech was full of anecdotes illustrating important points relating to the role of media and the inter-relationship between media, politics and government.

Summarising his confrontation with the fourth estate, which began as early as his university days in Cambridge, he goes on to recollect his many encounters with several journalists throughout his illustrious career.

He emphasises on the need for good journalism and advises how the students could be good journalists. He wraps up asserting that freedom of expression is not only a constitutional right but also a constitutional duty especially for journalists who exercise that right every day.

Mani Shankar Aiyar

Mani Shankar Aiyar, was born on 10th April 1941 at Lahore in pre-partition India.  He was educated at The Doon School and St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, where he graduated in B.A. Economics Honours standing first in the University, and subsequently took an M.A. in Economics from Trinity Hall, Cambridge, U.K., which, in 2010, honoured him with an Honorary Fellowship of the College.  He started his career with the Indian Foreign Service in 1963, during the course of which he served in Brussels, Hanoi, Baghdad and Karachi, besides various assignments particularly in economic posts, at Headquarters.

From 1985 to 1989, he was on deputation to the Office of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, following which he took voluntary retirement and embarked on a second career in politics and the media. 

He was thrice elected to the Lower House of Parliament from Tamil Nadu (1991, 1999 and 2004) and also served a six-year term in the Upper House (2010-2016) as the President’s nominee.  In 2006, he was conferred the Outstanding Parliamentarian Award by the President of India.  He served as Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas from 2004 to 2006, during which short period his contribution was recognised as so significant that the Indian School of Mines conferred him with a  Doctor of Science Honoris Causa. He served as a Cabinet Minister holding several different portfolios from 2004 till 2009. 

He has also made a reputation for himself as one of India’s leading columnists and is often seen on television.  He has thus far published nine books, including Pakistan Papers and Confessions of a Secular Fundamentalist. 

He was married in 1973 to Suneet Vir Singh and they have three daughters.

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