The Deafening Silence On Climate Change
By Avinay Umesh-Saiyogita
25 August, 2014
India is the third largest country in terms of carbon emission. India is the second largest country in terms of population. India is the the country to hold the biggest democratic elections in the world! To exclude the rest, these three factors are enough to highlight the rising importance of India globally. Still, why is there a deafening silence on climate change in India, not only by the media but also by the politicians, subsequently followed by the people as the two former agencies are responsible for prioritizing any agenda.
Politicians and public opinion
Any observer with sound knowledge of Indian society can easily differentiate between the real issues of the country and the not-so-real issues which the politicians exploit for their own benefit . A classic example of this is how, “.....both 1992 and 2002 (riots) did was to fool people into believing that the communal divide is greater than the class divide. “As soon as you convince a society that Muslims or whatever group is the problem, you have tricked them into overlooking the real problems like labour laws, corruption, housing shortages, and poor infrastructure (and climate change), Sinha said.” The point that I am trying to make is that, politicians have always deceived people into believing, prioritizing and acting on issues that are of less importance than the once that require immediate attention. And the same happened during the general elections. Issues like Congress free India, Modi's superiority over Rahul Gandhi, and the need to replicate the development model of western countries in India as the only solution for its problems. Amidst all this, not a single senior politician, be it Modi, Rahul Gandhi or any other influential leader ever questioned this model of development, neither did they ever mentioned the threat of climate change, as if it were non-existent, as the $900 million anti-climate change think tanks in America would want us to believe.
Media on public opinion
The power that media yields is known by all and requires no in-depth explanation here. Yet, the media in India never chooses to exercise its power to influence public opinion on climate change. TV coverage of environment news in less than one percent! Be it print media or the TV. It's only on the internet that a few niche climate change media outlets and organizations along with a few individuals on social media that are busy doing the job of the mainstream news media. Instead on focusing on issues, the media focuses of personalities, as was evident by the complete surrender of media to Narendra Modi during the general elections. The root of the problem is the advertising-driven revenue system of the news media and also its slow but complete take over by big corporations. Now that Mukesh Ambani's Reliance has acquired complete ownership of India's biggest media company Network 18, there would be hardly be any report seen about Reliance's misdeeds in the news channels owned by the company. This is true not only for Reliance but also for other major companies who have heavily invested in other news companies.
We must question, why is it that neither the politicians, neither a “free” media and nor do the people ever talk about climate change with any seriousness? Why can't political parties not organize people again to fight climate change as it does during its political rallies? Why is it that some bolloywood personalities' personal life have become more important an issue than climate change which has fatal effects? Why is it that the climate change has not become an everyday issue with people? Why don't we take it with as seriousness as we take other things like celebrating a festival?
Invoking conscientizacao on climate change is the primary responsibility of the media which must result in action by the politicians.
And what are the people and civil society to do?
Well, they must act together on their own and ensure that people who yield power in the name of democracy perform their duty well. This is our only hope.
Avinay Umesh-Saiyogita lives in Bombay and work with Centre for Education and Documentation .
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