Media is often called the fourth pillar of democracy and with good reason. A responsible media can play a significant role in the development of a society and by extension, the nation. However, the converse is also true, where an irresponsible media can have a negative consequence on society.
Media in India has grown and matured significantly across various mediums of print, electronic and now social media.
Impact of media on economic and social development
All of these have also had an impact in the changing the economic and social development of Haryana. Today, information is travelling in real time, across villages, something which was never possible earlier. On the positive side, the media has played an important role in educating and informing people on the latest developments in various fields, with television playing a significant role.
Media's role in critical situations
A single incident can lead to a serious communal clash, as was seen recently in June, 2014 in Tauru town near Gurgaon. A truck driven by members of a minority community accidently drove over two people on a two wheeler, wherein one of them died. The local people severely beat up the driver and cleaner, who were members of a minority community from Mewat District. What was a case of negligent driving soon turned into a communal clash, as the word spread that the driver and cleaner had died due to the beating. In situations like this, the media has to be careful in reporting such incidents that have the potential to ignite an already volatile situation, very quickly.
In such situations, the media needs to be responsible in its reporting, without compromising on the facts. However, many a time, the fact itself can trigger a negative communal reaction, therefore the role of media in such situations becomes very critical.
Misuse of media
Today, news reporting has become a tool at the hands of the government and many a times it is misused. On many occasions, the government misuses the media for its own end and to hide its own failures. We have had extreme situations where there have been floods in Yamunanagar area which saw extensive loss of property. The state government has used the media to under report the actual damage caused and also to downplay its own poor response to the situation.
The government has always used the media for selective coverage of its own schemes while using the same media to hide its own failures.
Negative influence of internet and social media
The free access to information through internet and social media is also having a negative impact in Haryana. The youth of Haryana, which was always simple in their outlook with little exposure to social evils of alcohol and tobacco, now have direct access to free pornography, etc., at a young age. This is having a negative impact on their behaviour and lifestyle. The youth is now being drawn into living up to competitive lifestyle changes that include frequenting bars and pubs, excessive spending on leisure and entertainment and increasingly turning to crime to meet their increased desire for an easy lifestyle. This is obvious from the increased cases of crime amongst the youth and from feedback taken from those arrested.
Media as an agent for social reform
Media can play an important role as a change agent . In Haryana, there are several social evils still being practised. Foremost being female foeticide (killing of the girl child). Today, Haryana has a skewed boy-girl ratio, due to this evil practice. There are not enough female partners for the young men in Haryana, many of whom have to turn to other states to get brides. The media has played a very important part in bringing attention to this problem and is continuing to play an important role in educating and influencing the youth of today, to abandon this evil practice.
The media is playing a significant role in fighting several other social evils like untouchability, inter-caste marriage, denial of female education and employment etc., and the results are showing, albeit slowly.
Where is the government?
This is where the role of the government comes in. It is the responsibility of the state government to fight these social evils and not the media. The media can at best support such efforts and act as the messenger of government's message. But in Haryana, we have seen the state government fail in its role to give priority in fighting these social evils.
Social media has been used effectively during elections by most parties, but can this be said for the current state government in fighting social evil? Why has the present administration not used the social media creatively, to speed up reforms in various areas that is dragging the development of our state?
Several instances of cases of honour killings get reported in the media. The state government offers the usual lip service in the media but very little has been done to use the various forms of media available, including social media, to inform, educate and incentivise the people to give up these social evils? Why has the state government not used the mediums available to maximum effect? Unfortunately, the only time we see the state government's presence in the media is when they have to announce political events or inauguration somewhere in the state.
The problem of rape is extensive and across the country. Haryana, is no exception. But have we seen the state's proactive involvement to try and educate the masses against this problem? Where is the Chief Minister in leading an aggressive campaign against this evil, using all forms of available media?
The problem of rape is amongst us and in our society and unless we use the media effectively to assist in waging a war against rape and other social evils, we will not be able to keep our women safe. Media can be a very effective tool for social reform but we need to bring all stakeholders like community leaders, social activists, NGOs, school authorities, the youth and include them in a state-wide campaign, to bring progressive reform in society. It is time the state government stood up and took the initiative to fulfill its responsibility to make Haryana a safer and better society.