Archive | November, 2009

The gains from masking reality

19 Nov

How can a media hawking editorial space to politicians and their parties for personal use, capture the reality for its readers and analyse it with sensitivity and honesty?

BY MRINAL PANDE IN THE HINDU 19/11/2009

To most of the smart whiz-kid managers planning to reinvent the print media as a lucrative multi-language business, the small-town market today is by and large an autonomous phenomenon, somewhat constrained by politics but not reducible to it. This theory has the genius of appearing to bow humbly before the reciprocal issue of how the vernacular media affect and shape local society and vice versa, while actually planning to straddle it, whip in hand.

The vernacular media establishment needs to watch out for such perfect-sounding inventions that never actually do what their labels claim, like diet pills or hair restoring substances. Attractive as the managerial dreams may look, the Hindi media themselves have so far not negotiated on their own terms the actual relationship between the uppity new investor and the class-specific vernacular readership. They lack a specific and clear system that can effectively firewall editorial in case the deal goes sour after an initial positive showing.

Many recent steps redefining news and its dissemination in the newspapers were taken hastily after bypassing the editorial department. They may have introduced lethal and invisible viruses within the system that may corrode and finally kill the newspaper. The vernacular media may be feeling cocky, having pulled themselves out of physical poverty under their own steam, but they have yet to learn how to deal firmly and decisively with another kind of poverty — that of the professional, ethical kind.

One is not being paranoid here. Not too long ago, some major dailies introduced a devilishly cunning scheme of offering what was innocently labelled ‘Ad for Equity.’ This met with loud applause from many managerial bosses all over. But before long the realty, aviation and automobile sectors went into a tailspin, and the scheme left the companies that had adopted it red-faced and holding bags of (economy class) air tickets, empty flats, unsold cars and so on.

A little later, during some of the Assembly elections in 2008, the local editions of several multi-edition Hindi dailies started displaying laudatory and frequently contradictory news items on their front pages about specific candidates contesting from the respective areas. With zero news value, none of these items merited such display, but through the election period the front pages and op-ed pages of some dailies continued to carry the mug-shots of particular candidates, even predicting a record win for him or her.

The dailies may or may not have collected some Rs.200 crore with this little duplicitous exercise in psephology, but a new idea of what has now come to be called ‘political advertising’ was planted across the country, triggering a trend. And soon one heard that the marketing and media marketing managers at several media houses were getting ‘creatives’ prepared about what was on offer, in time for the general elections. Several party functionaries who manned party ‘war rooms’ during the period, when quizzed, confessed to having been shown ‘impressive’ PowerPoint presentations by major newspapers, and in turn professing an interest in the offerings.

The hard copy version of one such offering made on behalf of one Hindi daily published from a rich western Indian State blatantly delineates the phenomenon. The script claims that some 36 Lok Sabha seats in two major cities in the State, including the State capital and the surrounding areas, were ‘feeded’ by the daily. The proposal then lays down a clear sequential map of activities it can spearhead to promote the party or individual candidates, quoting prices. At the local level it addresses the candidate, his or her supporters and well-wishers, the district-level party office, the local MLA or MLC or corporator, other local political leaders, the local advertising agency and the guardian Minister of the ruling party. At the State level it is the State political party office, Cabinet Minister and State-level political leaders, businessmen and industrialists and a State-level advertising agency. At the national level it addresses the central offices of political parties (media cells), national-level political leaders and Central Ministers from the State.

The working modalities include putting in place dedicated teams each day, comprising political or city reporters and correspondents, sub-editors, area advertisement managers and area sales managers, to do the needful. Fifteen days’ general coverage is priced at Rs.20 lakh, while seven days of exclusive coverage is pegged at Rs.25 lakh. Along with this, specially prepared four-page supplements in colour, exclusive interviews, positive views of the voters, positive editorial analysis, “only positive coverage” and “no negative publicity of opposition candidate or party,” and extra copies of the newspaper on payment basis, are on offer — at a price, of course. There is flexibility in making the payment: 50 per cent can be paid in cash and 50 per cent by cheque. The last frame in the presentation, ironically titled The Way Ahead, suggests that the daily would be willing to offer publicity on ‘other occasions’ also, apart from the election-time offer.

What a complex trade! Vernacular media readers are getting younger and more volatile and more demanding. But they mostly sit in small towns where an elegant bank with an ATM stands in the middle of shanties and huts with TV antennae, where after leaving the railway station or the airport one almost always plunges into the darkness of a grim, squalid, pot-holed road, where in the marketplace besides the glittering shop windows with Dior watches and Mont Blanc pens, the unlit windows of local shops lie empty. Private capital that has arrived in small towns, piggy-back riding the Hindi dailies, has only built shining sanctuaries for the rich. The Hindi readership has neither the means nor the intention to develop the rest of the city or ‘cusbah’. Its children cling to dreams of escaping to a big city and making it big there.

How can a media hawking inviolable editorial space to politicians and their parties for personal use during elections, capture this reality for its readers and analyse it with any degree of sensitivity or honesty? To read many marketing-driven Hindi dailies today is increasingly like entering a mind with multiple personality disorders, where endless, fierce and frantic discussions continue over everything from Beijing’s beastliness to Bt brinjal and Raj Babbar, next to cloyingly hagiographic accounts of how Rahul ‘Baba’ alone led his party to triumph in the byelections. Actually there are too many people now in the industry whose answer to the question, “what are the media for?” is, “to make money.”

Certainly there is nothing wrong in a restructuring of the industry, making it more productive and vibrant. The Janata Party government began the process and the BJP and the Congress have all continued to support this process. The government-controlled audiovisual media were certainly too big and lumbering and arrogant and were easily pushed to the margins by the leaner and more efficient private players. But why have the hugely successful Hindi print media that have always been in private hands and quite free professionally, begun to trivialise their own base and con their readership for piffling short-term gains? If this trend continues, the readers will react, and the next round of closures will have more serious implications, not just for those who will lose their jobs but also for the readers’ understanding of where they live and how their reality is inviolable and a part of the nation’s reality.

Hindi newspapers inspired by the capitulation of their big brothers in the media business may dent the case for India’s vernacular press, but cannot demolish it. When it does its job, a professionally run vernacular paper, funded jointly by advertising and paid-for-circulation, remains the best bet as a scrutineer of democracy and the best guard for the inviolable reality of our public spaces.

(Mrinal Pande is a senior Hindi journalist and writer.)

http://www.hindu.com/2009/11/19/stories/2009111952420800.htm

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Hindi media and an unreal discourse

19 Nov

Mrinal Pande IN THE HINDU 18/11/2009

The Hindi media have seen humongous growth, but seem perilously close to entering a phase of ‘refeudalisation.’

“Far too many people — especially those with great expertise in one area — are contemptuous of knowledge in other areas, or believe that being bright is a substitute for knowledge. But taking pride in their ignorance is self-defeating,” wrote Peter Drucker.

Drucker is a guru to many who run businesses in India, including the Indian language media which constitute a fast-growing sector. But almost all of India’s print media mandarins, trained at top business schools and hired at salaries that far exceed those paid to editors, hardly try to familiarise themselves with the socio-economic intricacies of the Indian markets through vernacular publications. They would rather put their faith entirely on reports prepared by foreign rating agencies, to which the Hindi belt is the largest homogenised market in the country, period. These, 11 of India’s most populous States, from the central Himalayan States of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand to Bihar and Jharkhand in the east, involve many variables. They face many pulls and pressures, and have cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity. But these are seldom factored into media-planning exercises. This is but hubris.

India’s earliest English language dailies, some of them closely modelled on their British counterparts, were launched for the “cultured” classes. For most of the readers and the editorial decision-makers of many of these English dailies, the only reality was the city, and the only viable working systems were those created by the British media. When India won its freedom, all eminent politicians, from Congressmen to the Muslim ‘Leaguees’ to the Communists, were united by the English language despite the love for Gandhiji and the people’s languages most of them professed. After 1947, in both India and Pakistan, the English newspapers began to be referred to as the ‘national’ dailies, despite the fact that they often catered to less than 10 per cent of the population. For over half a century the branding helped them collect the largest shares of advertising revenues.

The growth of the vernacular press, especially the Hindi press, in India was to follow another, somewhat Habermasian trajectory. In 1845, Raja Shiv Prasad Sitara-e-Hind, the ruler of Varanasi, launched the Hindi daily Banaras Akhbar. It was soon followed by Raja Lakshman Singh’s Praja Hitaishi (1861), Raja Rampal Singh’s (of Kalakankar) Hindusthan (1883), and Maharaja Srilal Baldev Singh Joo’s (of Rewa) Bharat Bhrata (1887). Raja Rampal Singh chose a bright young law student by name Madan Mohan Malviya to head his paper, but ensured that his name (Atra Bhavan Sada Samar Vijayi, Maharaja Ram Singh Joo) was printed below the masthead as that of the Chief Editor. Malviya quit two years later, angered by the unprofessional conduct of the Raja who was mostly vacationing in London.

By the early 20th century, change was in the air. In 1920, the Hindi daily Rajasthan Kesri was banned in Udaipur state after it sharply criticised the feudal classes for their lavish lifestyles that contrasted with the poverty of their subjects. And by 1936, Madan Mohan Malviya, who had had a nasty run-in with the feudal press earlier, emerged as a notable follower of Gandhiji. He prevailed upon the owners of Hindustan Times to launch a Hindi daily to serve the common man. This kick-started a second phase — that of a gradual democratisation of the Hindi media.

Rupert Murdoch once said that it is incredibly hard to make oneself believe that other people exist in the same way that we do. The greatest challenge before journalism in any democracy is to convince people of this fundamental truth. During the phase that began in the 1940s, editors and journalists of the vernacular press, mostly recruited from small towns and semi-rural areas, had somehow grasped this fact instinctively. Together with their avid new readers, the Hindi journalists underwent a unique expansion of the heart and mind as they began to report and write and absorb the fascinating reality of India beyond its big cities and the party headquarters offices. Their writings may have been less polished, their dailies less well-produced, but it was as though India had at last learnt to speak for itself. It is this aspect of the vernacular media, including in Hindi, which one finds the most beautiful and endearingly human. And with this, the Hindi newspapers, as in the case of their Tamil, Telugu, Kannada or Bengali counterparts, managed to create a republic for the humblest readers sitting far away in Samastipur or Farrukhabad or Almora.

As the idea of the inviolable human dignity of news became central, a new public language for democratic discourse was created effortlessly. And when in 1979 the first National Readership Survey revealed that the vernacular papers, particularly those in Hindi, now commanded several times the readership of the English newspapers, it did not surprise the readers or journalists of the vernacular press.

Between 2002 and 2005, a new Cinderella story was written. Readership in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand recorded a phenomenal annual growth of 14 per cent. Over two-thirds of these readers were based in small towns and rural areas. Despite continuous political turbulence, poverty, rise in crime and a near-breakdown of law and order, or perhaps because of these, the poor but news-hungry readers in Bihar were ready to spend Rs. 5 a copy for a slim Hindi newspaper, almost three times the price of the (considerably fatter) English dailies.

Today, according to the Indian Readership Survey, 2009 (Round 1), the list of India’s top 10 dailies has only Indian language newspapers, and six of them are in Hindi. India’s largest-selling English daily, The Times of India, now stands outside of the Big 10, at No. 11. And, according to IRS 2008 (Round 2), its total sales (133.4 lakh copies a day) is but a fraction of the vast numbers sold by the top four Hindi dailies: Dainik Jagran (557.4 lakh), Dainik Bhaskar (338.3 lakh), Amar Ujala (293.8 lakh) and Hindustan (266.3 lakh).

But ironically, with such humongous growth the Hindi media seem perilously close to entering the Habermasian third phase of ‘refeudalisation.’ During this phase, Habermas had predicted, the state and the corporates would seize control of the lucrative media businesses and the public sphere would degenerate — till the media become a mass ‘product’ and the reader a mindless consumer driven by advertisers’ choices, not his or her own. This is not a very pleasant thought. But given India’s half-open markets, the vernacular media’s wide readership base, and the fact that journalists are also informed consumers, perhaps we will ultimately have an unfinished revolution of sorts where the informed consumers and the system will beat back the predatory market forces again and again. In the Habermasian Kali Yuga, do not be surprised to see print media readers being subtly assisted by the state when they demand a more professional dissemination of news.

There are two reasons for this: one, the print media are infinitely less of a threat to the ruling class compared to the increasingly ratings-driven, ‘breaking news’-seeking, visual media. And since your enemy’s enemy is your best friend, the ruling class will not allow market forces to starve the print media at the expense of the visual media.

The second reason has rather insidious implications. Over the last few years, as disposable incomes in small-town India have risen, the wall that stood between English and vernacular publications has begun to crumble. After almost all the editors of English dailies, like the Hindi media barons before them, have turned owner-editors, they have quickly sensed the advantage in forming protective guilds across regions. Unbelievably, new bands of brotherhood are being formed by the marketing managers in order to formulate strategies, sign ‘no poaching’ pacts, and share information about the best clients and the cleverest (although they are often the most unprofessional) practices. Media barons are no longer dismissive of their vernacular publications, and the Hindi owner-editors are also coming out of their small, simple and static world and sending their sons to Wharton or the Indian Institutes of Management. The vernacular readers may have grown up on a diet of only language papers, but they now send their children to English-medium schools. The brave new bi-lingual households of the future are the new focus area. That is where the action is.

(Mrinal Pande is a senior Hindi journalist and writer. )

http://www.hindu.com/2009/11/18/stories/2009111854990800.htm

RECOMMENDATIONS Third Monitoring & Evaluation Report 2009 on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005

15 Nov

The M&E of the implementation of the PWDVA has reached another milestone in its third year. With the experience of having undertaken a nationwide evaluation of data with a primary emphasis on adequacy of infrastructure in the previous two years, the focus this year has shifted to a comprehensive assembling and analysis of the KAP of key stakeholders. Hence, in addition to finding continuing evidence of the need for effective and adequate infrastructure, the data analysed this year also points to the need to review certain aspects of the substantive and procedural law. Specific suggestions with regard to effective capacity-building of implementing agencies, towards ensuring adequate infrastructure, and creating a system of accountability for all the stakeholders have also been put forth.

Although a definitive conclusion as to the nature of amendments required in the PWDVA cannot be made at this nascent stage, recommendations highlighting the areas that require in-depth evaluation in the coming years have been provided in this chapter. In the next two years, LCWRI and ICRW seek to track these issues through data collection and analysis in order to suggest specific amendments to the PWDVA. The recommendations in this chapter have been provided with the understanding that the Law in order to be effective, ought to be responsive to the needs of its users and practices of the stakeholders.

Definitions and Coverage

Definitions

(1) There is a clear gap in the understanding of domestic violence as defined by the Law. While most stakeholders recognise emotional and verbal abuse as forms of violence under the Law, physical violence, which is visible in nature, appears to takes precedence over other forms. Sexual violence within marriage is clearly not recognized as a form of violence. This selective interpretation of domestic violence will and does influence the subsequent implementation of the Law by various stakeholders.

Trainings with stakeholders should be undertaken to clarify that domestic violence can take various forms and is not restricted to physical violence alone. The trainings must focus on sexual, emotional and verbal abuse as key components of the definition of domestic violence and undertake an in depth examination of these aspects so that women facing sexual, emotional or verbal violence receive as much attention from stakeholders as women facing physical domestic violence.

(2) Analysis of orders indicates that a combination of various forms of abuse are experienced and reported by the AP. This is consistent with our experience with Third Monitoring & Evaluation Report 2009 women who say that they face multiple forms of domestic violence, and is reiterated by the POs who say that domestic violence co-occurs1. The most common forms of abuse seem to be economic and physical (either singly or in combination with others). The predominant form of economic abuse reported is dispossession or the threat of dispossession of the AP from the shared household and refusal to provide maintenance.

This trend strengthens the case for equitable distribution of matrimonial property and underscores the continuing relevance of the issue of dowry and the need to strengthen the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961.

(3) The right to reside remains an area of major concern for women. There is much confusion amongst the implementing agencies as to the scope of the definition of right to reside. Many POs and Police officials were unable to distinguish between the right to reside and the right to share in the property. Many felt that the Act gives the AP a right of ownership over property, which it does not. The right to reside is most affected by the Supreme Court judgment in Batra v Batra. The analysis of orders show that this judgment has been used to deny Residence Orders to married women and widows by providing the reasoning that since the premises belong to the mother-in-law and fatherin- law, and not the husband the home is not a shared household. However, what is encouraging is that in both Delhi and Maharashtra, the courts have distinguished the facts of the cases before them from that of Batra. They have upheld the AP’s right to reside, on the ground that in Batra v Batra, the husband’s claim to have left the house of his parents was false and done with the intention of denying the right of the wife.

There appears to be a clear need to further explain the scope of “shared household”under the Act and the right to reside as providing a right of residence, irrespective of ownership, title, or interest in the premises

Coverage: Aggrieved Person and Respondent

(4) As recorded in the previous M&E Reports, married women continue to remain the primary users of the PWDVA followed by widows. While the information gathered from order analysis shows that applications by daughters were limited, mothers have used the Law in a number of instances. However, by and large there appears to be a perception that the Act is predominantly a matrimonial law. A fair level of misunderstanding exists with regard to key concepts such as the definition of AP2 and of Respondent3. In the case of the AP, it arises mainly in the case of a mother-in-law wanting to fi le a complaint against her daughter-in-law. With regard to the Respondent, there seems to be general clarity that it is ‘any adult male person;’ the husband is shown to be the sole Respondent in a majority of orders examined. However, the confusion arises with regard to female relatives of the ‘adult male’ and is prevalent amongst the Judiciary as well.

Whilst trainings and awareness creation can help reduce the confusion with regard to these definitions, there still remains a need to revisit these definitions in the PWDVA. Perhaps a clarification is needed, that, female relatives of the husband/male partner come within the purview of the Act

Practices and Procedures

Pre-Litigation

(5) Counselling at the pre-litigation and litigation stage of proceedings have completely different objectives and requirements, which are rarely understood by all the relevant stakeholders. At the pre-litigation stage, counselling should be provided to the AP to restore her self-esteem, provide emotional support and assist her in making an informed decision as to whether she wants to initiate legal proceedings. As far as the Respondent is concerned, the focus should be on helping them acknowledge their past acts of violence and counsel them to stop further violence. The objective of court directed counselling at the litigation stage is mainly to prevent violence, and where the woman so desires, attempt settlement. It is difficult to gauge who is providing counselling services at the pre-litigation stage. However, findings have made it clear that women need pre-litigation counselling in  addition to pre-litigation advice as provided under Section 5 of the Act. The courts appear to continue to rely heavily on counselling and mediation. However, the concern here remains whether the courts are able to distinguish between counselling, mediation and settlement.

Therefore, there is a need to understand counselling as mandated by the Law and its intent, in order to counter practices that might work against that intent. Findings clearly indicate that the meaning and objective of counselling under the Law, by whom and at what stage, need further elaboration. Hence, counselling needs to be defi ned and its objective at both the pre-litigation and litigation stages needs to be clarifi ed through appropriate amendments to the provisions on counselling under the Act and Rules.

(6) The objective and purpose of the DIR, of serving as a documentary record/evidence of violence and simplifying the procedural requirements in accessing courts, has not translated into practice. Findings have indicated that POs neither fi ll out a DIR each time a woman approach them, nor do they maintain any other record of the woman’s complaint or visit. This could have negative implications in case the woman decides to fi le a case in court at a later stage as no record of the history of violence would be available. Better understanding with regard to the purpose of the DIR is required. Perhaps practice directions from relevant High Courts clarifying this issue would help achieve uniform interpretation and usage.

Litigation

(7) Findings from order analysis in Delhi lend credence to the fact that in the absence of a DIR to accompany the application fi led before the court, it is the woman whose interest gets compromised. In practice, the courts appear to interpret the proviso to Section 12(1) of the Act to mean that a DIR needs to be recorded by the PO or that they must necessarily consider the information contained in the DIR before passing any order under the Act. This problematic interpretation by the courts may therefore make a difference between availability of speedy reliefs and delays in proceedings. One of the most disturbing observations has been the lack of information/limited reference made to the role played by POs in the process of litigation.This finding needs to be tracked and verified in the coming years to develop a better understanding about the role of POs within the litigation process.

(8) In most states, the practice of POs seeking assistance from Police in the discharge of specific functions under the PWDVA is gradually emerging. However, usually, it is  only upon court direction that such assistance is provided. This can be attributed to the common misconception amongst the Police that as the PWDVA is a civil law; they have a limited or no role to play in its implementation. Therefore, clarity on the role of the Police in the implementation of the PWDVA, perhaps by way of trainings or directives is essential to ensure consistency in the nature of assistance provided by them. Both the Police Department and the Judiciary are ideally placed to provide such directions.

(9) As in the previous M&E Reports, reliefs that are most commonly sought and granted are Maintenance Orders, Protection Orders and Residence Orders, with Maintenance Orders being the most commonly granted, followed by Protections Orders and then Residence Orders. The relief of maintenance sought is primarily on refusal to maintain the wife and children as well as desertion or dispossession from the shared household. The number of ex-parte/ad-interim orders being granted is extremely low. This is a negative trend as it defeats the purpose of granting immediate relief to the woman facing domestic violence and extricating her from a violent environment. Hence, it is strongly recommended that the courts do not hesitate to grant ex-parte or ad-interim orders where there is a prima facie case and where the denial can, and often does, lead to imminent harm or danger. Interim orders are being granted in Delhi and Maharashtra and Maintenance Orders are the most frequently provided interim relief. However, more emphasis needs to be placed on the significance of immediately granting interim orders. They should be granted as a matter of routine whenever the AP can prove a prima facie case in her favour, without going into technicalities of procedure.

(10) The PWDVA vests the Judiciary with discretionary powers with regard to procedure to be followed when dealing with domestic violence cases. This was done

with the intention of allowing the Judiciary space for creative interpretation and initiative. However, in certain instances, it appears that this discretionary power is resulting in a lack of uniformity in procedures being followed. Therefore, it may be recommended that there is a need for guidance with regard to procedures. In the absence of amendments to the Act, this could be provided by High Courts in order to address the confusion or delays but at the same time, care must be taken to ensure that the directions provided do not defeat the intention and object of the Law.

(11) By and large, the procedure being adopted by the court is that at the interim stage, decisions are based on affidavits in Form III while at the final stage, Section 125 CrPC procedure is followed. A unique but disturbing trend of a large number of compromises or settlements has emerged9 in Gujarat. Although it was not possible to determine the reasons for this trend, perhaps in many of these cases compromises are imposed on women in the name of maintaining family, which in the process expose her to continued and/or even greater violence. In view of the fact that a similar finding emerged in case of Himachal Pradesh in the Second M&E Report, it is essential to undertake a detailed analysis of this development in states where such high rates of settlement and compromise have been observed over a period of time, to understand the factors that encourage such high rates of settlements.

(12) Order analysis has revealed a trend where a majority of appeals are being preferred at the interim stage of the proceedings as opposed to being made against final orders. This is of concern as the execution of the interim order passed gets stalled during the appeal proceedings. Thus this practice should not be allowed and encouraged as it defeats the purpose of providing immediate reliefs to the woman in order to extricate her from the violent environment. It is recommended that the Act should be amended to the effect that appeals are disallowed at the interim stage in domestic violence cases and are disposed of within a stipulated time frame so as to prevent prolonged proceedings that defeat the very purpose of immediate reliefs mandated under the Act.

Post-Litigation

(13) Filing complaints for breach under Section 31 the PWDVA remains the predominant method of enforcement of orders. However, one of the problematic aspects that require the immediate attention of the higher Judiciary as well as policy makers is that, in a majority of cases, no direction for enforcement/compliance of orders is included in the orders themselves. This acts as a barrier for the woman who must approach the court separately for such a direction. It is recommended that a direction for enforcement be contained in the order and in addition the courts direct the Police to assist the POs in the enforcement of the order should the need arise. Further, a mechanism, to track orders passed by courts and their subsequent execution, needs to be set up.

(14) Findings10 indicated that the court is failing to provide updates to the Pos regarding the proceedings of the case and copies of orders from the court are also not being forwarded to them. This acts as a barrier in the implementation of the PWDVA, as POs are expected to enforce orders.

Infrastructure

(15) There has been a gradual increase in the appointment of independent POs on a full-time basis over the past 3 years. Whilst it is desirable that a cadre of independent, full-time POs with the requisite qualifications and gendered perspective be appointed, they would not be effective without adequate infrastructure and budget such as allowance for transport, mobile phone, private office space, and official letterheads and so on. Thus, what is needed is not merely infrastructural aid but institutional status as well. There is a need to review and perhaps ensure some uniformity in the qualifications of POs, particularly in view of the need to appoint a full-time cadre of POs to effectively implement the Law. However, a defi nitive conclusion as to what the qualification and role of the PO ought to be can only be arrived at following a separate study which includes comprehensive data collection and analysis of practices in this regard across the states. Regular and systematic assessments and reviews should be undertaken by states with regard to the type of support being given to POs. This will facilitate an assessment of whether or not suffi cient support is being given to the POs to enable them to perform the role that is envisioned under the Law. If it is the case that support is lacking, then this can be looked into and rectifi ed. If it is the case that despite the support being given, the PO is still unable to perform his/her duty,then the state can consider what other types of support should and could be made available to the PO .

(16) Ambiguity surrounds the issue of who is to serve notice, the limitations faced by POs when they are required to do so, and the resultant difficulties faced by women litigants. Hence, there is a clear need to address this issue and provide the requisite personnel/assistance to POs or in the alternative, designate the Police/court process servers to undertake this responsibility. The High Courts of Delhi and Andhra Pradesh have set a good example by bringing clarity and consistency through their practice directions.

(17) The collation of national infrastructure data highlighted the fact that three years after the coming into force of the Act, nodal departments of most states were still unable to provide detailed information about the role of SPs, Shelter Homes and Medical Facilities as it is still not clearly visible. Hence, there is a need for coordination between stakeholders and the adoption of a uniform practice of reporting to nodal departments regarding their structure and functioning, as discussed further in the Monitoring and Accountability section below.

Budgetary Allocations

(18) To date, it has been reported that 17 states have made budgetary allocations for the implementation of the PWDVA. However, there is no systematic basis for making these allocations, and much is left to the discretion of the individual states. There is a definite need to increase budget for support and for allocation of funds to implement the Act. It is suggested that a scheme should be formulated to ensure a regular annual flow of a specified amount every year with ongoing financial monitoring.

Awareness Creation and Capacity Building

(19) The findings of this Report highlight the fact that knowledge of the Law and attitudes of the stakeholders hold equal importance as an imbalance of either can hinder or frustrate the objective of the Law. Further, it is clear that there are gaps in the understanding of the PWDVA and its coverage amongst Police, POs and Judiciary which need to be addressed. Trainings undertaken by LCWRI have demonstrated that there is a significant level of positive change that can be achieved even through limited (in terms of length and exposure) interventions, if there is comprehensive coverage of the Law and a gendered approach is adopted. This leads to the assumption that for all stakeholders to be covered and for the impact to be sustained, there is a critical need for systematic and more intensive trainings. In order to achieve this, trainings must be institutionalised and the primary responsibility must vest with nodal departments and training academies. As a first step, states should undertake systematic orientation training on the PWDVA, thereby having a trained and sensitised body of implementers of the Law from the outset. This should particularly be ensured every time a cadre of POs, new batches of Police Officers and Judges are inducted into their respective services. This ought to be followed up with special refresher programmes for in-service officers. Professionals and persons with expertise in the area of gender and domestic violence should be invited to conduct these training programmes. In fact, the training interventions conducted with the Judiciary, made it clear that Judges respond well to professional experts such as medical professionals, Lawyers etc. At the same time, a specific component of gender sensitisation with a specialist exploring the attitudes of the Judges is crucial.

(20) The LCWRI model of capacity building or Training Interventions to bridge gaps and ensure effective implementation of the Law works effectively, as indicated by our findings. It is recommended and hoped that the participants trained will take on the responsibility of further training and sharing information and knowledge gained with their colleagues and juniors. However, this is an aspect that would require some time and tracking in the years to come.

(21) There are gaps in awareness and knowledge amongst the POs on specific  procedures to be followed in general and with regard to the fi lling of DIRs, serving of notice and reporting of breach in particular. With regard to the Police, findings are clearly indicative of gendered perceptions. As the Police are often the first to be approached by women facing domestic violence, these gendered perceptions, if not addressed through appropriate training and sensitisation workshops can be impending barriers to women accessing the law. Hence, training programmes with the POs, Police and other relevant stakeholders need to be conducted to address this issue in a comprehensive manner.

Monitoring and Accountability

(22) The existence of varied practices and lack of adequate infrastructure, budget and trainings across the states reiterates the need to institutionalise the M&E of the implementation of the PWDVA. The State needs to adopt a comprehensive system for the monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the Law on an annual basis as recommended in the First and Second M&E Reports.

(23) To date, there is no system of mandatory reporting to the nodal department by all stakeholders. In fact, the information provided by the nodal departments show that it is only the POs who report to them. Therefore, over a period of time, a misconceived assumption has developed; that it is mainly the PO who is responsible for the implementation of the PWDVA and that other stakeholders do not have much of a role to play. Hence, there is an urgent need to ensure accountability through developing a robust system of mandatory reporting on specific indicators15 for all stakeholders, including the Judiciary. As the Judiciary follows a distinct reporting structure, it is recommended that there is regular sharing of information regarding the PWDVA between the higher Judiciary and the nodal departments.

(24) Currently, performance in cases fi led under the PWDVA does not form a part of the criteria against which the Judiciary is evaluated. Provision of information as to the exact nature of the cases is left to the discretion of the individual Judge. The issue of domestic violence should be given the priority and focus it deserves. Therefore, it is recommended that cases fi led under the PWDVA should be included as part of the duty performance system of the Judiciary. A similar approach can also be followed in case of POs, with the development of an incentive-based performance and appraisal system to facilitate accountability and better implementation of the Law.

(25) A major obstacle in the identification of the total number of cases fi led before the courts under the PWDVA, arises due to the existing system of registering and labeling cases. In some courts it is a miscellaneous application, while in some, it is registered as a criminal case or a domestic violence case. Uniformity in the description and registration of the cases under the PWDVA in the Court Registry is a much needed requirement.The First M&E Report identified three models of implementation of the PWDVA. This year’s M&E Report has not been able to track the existence of these models, across all states due to the specifi c focus on a few states. However, these models continue to exist in the 3 states studied this year, Andhra Pradesh (Public Model), Rajasthan (Private Model) and Delhi (Mixed Model). Tracking these models continue to remain relevant in the years to come.

PWDVA – PROTECTION OF WOMEN FROM DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT

LCWRI- LAWYERS COLLECTIVE WOMENS RIGHTS INITIATIVE

PO – PROTECTION OFFICERS

FOR THE REPORT PLS DOWNLOAD

Staying Alive Third M&E Report 2009.pdf

Politics and the Praetorian Guard

7 Nov

P. SAINATH  IN THE HINDU NOVEMBER 07 , 2009

Public response to the exposure of “paid news” and coverage packages has been huge. There is anger and anguish over what the media have done and persist in doing.

And so we have a government in Maharashtra, almost, the loaves and fishes having been evenly shared among a swollen cabal of crorepatis. Choosing the Chief Minister was the easy part. The Congress method of picking a Chief Minister is more transparent and effective than we give it credit for. Essentially, the high command hands the elected legislators a menu and says they are free to choose any flavour so long as it is vanilla. If the going flavour at the Centre changes to strawberry, well then, it’s “See? Pink vanilla!”

Government formation has proved more complex. The Nationalist Congress Party held out for more than a slice of the cake. It sought half ownership of the bakery and seems to have got it. It has the vital jagirs of Finance, Home, Power and Rural Development. And has managed an almost equal number of portfolios as the Congress despite that party having won 20 seats more. What accounts for this? This time round, there was a marked lack of gusto among some of the Congress seniors who were most aggressive towards the NCP earlier. After all, each one of them had hoped to be Chief Minister. That didn’t happen. And so, in their view, if life gets a little tough for Ashok Chavan, so be it.

Vilasrao Deshmukh is among the saddened. He had worked hard for his party’s win and for Chief Ministership. Ever since Mr. Deshmukh became a Union Minister, it was almost as if the Indian Union had only one State in it: Maharashtra. So frequent were his visits there. Mr. Deshmukh did fairly well during his tenure as Chief Minister, even if his State did not. His assets — going by the affidavits he filed in the 2004 State elections and in 2009 (for the Rajya Sabha) — went up by over Rs. 27 million. That is, while Chief Minister, his worth increased by around Rs.5.5 million a year. Or by not much less than half-a-million a month on average.

But a Chief Minister’s duties are onerous. Which could explain why his gains were dwarfed by the re-elected MLAs in Maharashtra. Their average asset growth, according to National Election Watch (NEW), was over Rs.35 million. Even here, re-elected crorepatis fared better, says NEW. Their assets grew by well over Rs.45 million, on average, these past five years. So Mr. Deshmukh’s prosperity, or his affidavit, is quite modest by these high standards. On the surface, the MLAs in Haryana appear to have outclassed those in Maharashtra. However, they started on a much lower base. In Maharashtra for instance, MLA Suresh Jain saw his assets rise by a trifling 200 per cent. Haryana MLAs averaged 600 per cent. But Mr. Jain was already worth over Rs.260 million in 2004. That became Rs.790 million by 2009. Which means his assets grew by well over Rs.8 million a month on average in that period. Still, there is no scoffing at Haryana’s entrepreneurial spirit. Its re-elected crorepatis clocked an increase of over Rs.93 million between 2004 and 2009.

A sweet share of this money power directs itself at the media. Unless the Election Commission of India studies at least one State in depth, it will be hard to gauge the extent to which large sections of the media have sold both space and soul. “Know your candidate” was a feature quite often seen in newspapers during the Maharashtra poll campaign. On the surface, this seemed to be a service by a newspaper for its readers. In truth, it was really a hit job for rich candidates, dressing their paid-for propaganda and advertisements as “news.”

Well, thanks in part to NEW, you do know your candidate better than you might otherwise have known. Maybe it’s time to know your media. Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh would be good States for a solid study on how newspapers and TV channels made millions misleading their audiences. As the Vice President points out: “The Press Council has noted that paid news could cause double jeopardy to Indian democracy through a damaging influence on press functioning as well as on the free and fair election process.” The Council’s guidelines also state that “the press shall not accept any kind of inducement, financial or otherwise, to project a candidate/party.” But too many in the media did exactly that.

A great pity. Elections have often been the one part of India’s democracy to be proud of. That is fast eroding. Money power is well ahead of muscle power (though the latter is often merely a function of the former). It starts at elections to the students unions in colleges and universities, and gains full scale at the State and national level.

Oddly, in this grim landscape, one oasis that could be a model — and not just for universities — has had no elections for over a year now. Elections to the Students’ Union of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNUSU) have been stayed by the Supreme Court. The reason: perceived non-compliance with the recommendations of the Lyngdoh Committee. Yet that Committee’s report acknowledges the strengths of what could well be the most unique student union elections anywhere. (Disclosure: this writer was a student at JNU nearly three decades ago. And is a member of the University’s Executive Council now. And a reporter who has covered most general elections since 1984 and a large number of State polls since 1982).

For almost four decades, the students of JNU have held their elections without a trace of money or muscle power. The students set up an election commission to conduct the polls. The university authorities have no role in this. No one can remember a whisper of rigging or malpractice. Poll violence has been unknown. The worst that candidates in this campus can do is talk you to death. Seriously, though, these are polls to be proud of. More so in a society which is firmly headed in the reverse direction. Here is autonomy at work, democratic participation at its best. A live tradition that sparkles in contrast to the thuggishness of elections on so many campuses. The campaigns still run mostly on meetings, handmade posters and pamphlets.

About two-thirds of Central universities have seen no elections at all. Even though the Lyngdoh Committee called for them. That is, even though students of those age groups there can vote in the national election. Can belong to political parties or even hold a seat in Parliament. In JNU, the elections are held with great zest and vibrant debate. School and university-level general body meetings ensure that those voted in are held to account for their actions. These GBMs can last hours with packed attendance. Something that hits you when you see the Lok Sabha deserted even as Bills involving life and death issues for millions come up for discussion.

It would be a travesty if the example the students of JNU have set for the rest of us is gutted on the ground that their polls do not comply with the minutiae of a Commission’s report. (A report that, in fact, sees the JNU model as suitable for smaller universities.) It would be a thumbs down for diversity, pluralism and autonomy. (All in short supply in the public sphere today.)

But back to money power, the media and the moguls of politics. Public response to the exposure of “paid news” and coverage packages has been huge. There is anger and anguish over what the media have done and persist in doing. (There will be more on that subject. Watch this space.) Also heartening is that so many working within the media that have embraced such practices are hurt and appalled by it. But in some vital sectors, silence rules. “Convergence” has a political meaning too, when it comes to the cosy integration of the government, the media and the corporate world.

Many forget that “India Shining” was not just a stupid slogan. It was a campaign on which the then government spent thousands of millions of rupees of public money. The great gainer from this being the corporate media. New links to this chain are forged each day. You can see that in every sphere from politics to hyper-commercialised sport. You could see it in the unease of the media as a whole Parliament session focussed on almost nothing but the battles between two corporate behemoths. You can view it in the Union government, the BCCI, IPL and sections of the media that gain directly from these links and the revenues involved. That’s just a couple of instances. The chains are complex, and their links increase daily. This has a distinct meaning for the content of media.

Decades ago, columnist Murray Kempton described editorial writers as those who come down from the hills after the battle is over — and shoot the wounded. In the Maharashtra elections, they served as the Praetorian Guard of the moneyed and the mighty.

Politics and the Praetorian Guard

By P. Sainath in The Hindu

Public response to the exposure of “paid news” and coverage packages has been huge. There is anger and anguish over what the media have done and persist in doing.

Media greed during elections poses serious ethical questions

6 Nov

Electoral malpractices such as bribing voters, impersonation, intimidation of voters by the goons of rival candidates, tampering with vote lists, and manipulating the location of polling booths to suit the needs of particular contestants have been as old as the Indian Republic.

Many of these complaints were heard in the first General Election, held in 1952. Every subsequent election saw new additions to this list of improprieties, which included abuse of power by bureaucrats and the police in support of the ruling group.

The 1970s saw a spurt in electoral violence, large-scale rigging of polls, booth capturing, ballot stuffing, and the mass removal of the names of voters from the electoral rolls. That has been checked, to a large extent, by the various measures adopted by the Election Commission of India (ECI) to clean up the electoral process.

But the ECI has completely failed in one area, that is, in curbing the corruption of elections through money power. The 2009 elections witnessed the worst in this regard.

Truly shocking was what happened during the run-up to the Maharashtra Assembly elections in mid-October 2009 and the Lok Sabha and Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh earlier in the year. In both cases, the authors and chief perpetrators of the election-related malpractices are sadly from the media — which ought to have been, and actually were in the not-so-distant past, in the forefront of the campaign for free, fair, clean, and violence-free elections.

Selling news space

In both States, influential sections of both the print and broadcast media sold their news space or news slots to electoral candidates or their parties, throwing to the wind all professional and ethical norms and probably violating the law as well. In both States, the media, mostly Indian language newspapers and TV channels reportedly made hundreds of crores of rupees in these deals. The transactions enabled the contestants to buy space and publish all they wanted to project themselves in favourable light to the electorate. Those who refused to purchase the “coverage packages” were reported to have been denied publicity.

While P. Sainath exposed this shockingly extensive malpractice witnessed in Maharashtra in his edit page article, “The medium, message and the money” ( The Hindu, October 26, 2009), the “cash transfer scheme” in Andhra Pradesh involving influential sections of the media, was actually brought to light in May this year by the Press Academy of Andhra Pradesh and the Andhra Pradesh Union of Working Journalists based at Hyderabad. But somehow this failed to get wider attention.

Thanks to the efforts of the two organisations, the Press Council of India (PCI) is looking into the matter. It has constituted a two-member committee to go into the phenomenon of “paid news.” The Press Council’s intervention followed a representation to its Chairman, Justice G.N. Ray from a group of senior journalists, who included Kuldip Nayar, Ajit Bhattacharjee, and Harivansh.

Many journalists have expressed their anguish over the “selling of news space,” which would jeopardise public trust in the media and lower credibility. The Council expressed serious concern over the phenomenon of paid news. It could cause double jeopardy to Indian democracy through a damaging influence on press functioning as well as on the free and fair election process. There was an urgent need to protect the public’s right to information so that it was not misled in deciding the selection quotient of the candidates in the fray, the Council said. PCI Chairman Ray described the media “scheme [of] paid news” as “nefarious.”

In Maharashtra

As for Maharashtra, the Election Commission is yet to take any initiative in going after this malpractice. Towards the end of his article Sainath appreciates the “fine job” done by the Commission in curbing “rigging, booth capturing and ballot stuffing” through its “interventions and activism.” However, he comments: “On the money power front … and the media’s packaging of big money interests as ‘news’ … it is hard to find a single instance of rigorous or deterrent action. These too, after all, are serious threats. More structured, much more insidious than crude ballot stuffing. Far more threatening to the basics of not just elections, but democracy itself.”

The intervention of the Press Council of India and hopefully of the Election Commission can go some way in reiterating the responsibility of the media in putting its house in order, not to speak of its role in ensuring that the play of money power in one of its crudest forms is exposed and curbed.

However, the issue needs to be taken beyond this. This may entail taking a fresh look at the functioning of the self-regulating mechanism in the media. More truths have to be brought to light, for instance, the role of journalists in such shameless media misadventures and how far they can be used for or forced into such questionable assignments. Do journalistic ethics concern only journalists? Do they relate solely to the news and editorial functions of the media or also to their business side?

These and many other questions may surface in the months and years ahead if such tendencies continue and spread to more sections of the media. The strengthening of the self-regulatory system of the media is certainly an urgent imperative.

The link to the article

Media greed during elections poses serious ethical questions

Electoral malpractices such as bribing voters, impersonation, intimidation of voters by the goons of rival candidates, tampering with vote lists, and manipulating the location of polling boo… »
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