Kerala Floods: Can Delhi Media Please Act Like A National One Too?

The severity of a tragedy is not inversely proportional to its distance from Delhi.

Updated
Opinion
2 min read
Kerala struggled on Sunday, 12 August, to cope with floods that have inundated half the state. 
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Kerala is battling the worst flood in its history. Thirty five out of the 42 dams in the state are overflowing. The biggest of them, the Idukki reservoir, is releasing more than 5 lakh litres of water per second. The rivers Periyar and Chalakkudi are swollen, inundating low-lying areas of Ernakulam district.

Tourist hotspots of Munnar and Wayand are isolated. So much so that the news of a landslide which killed five took over 12 hours to reach the outside world. Pathanamthitta district is similarly stricken.

Thousands have been trapped in their homes without electricity, food or water. Since the distress helplines are also inundated, people are frantically calling local TV channels, asking for their family and friends to be rescued. The trapped, themselves, have no way of asking for help since their mobile phones are useless by now.

The death toll has reached 324.

However, if your primary source of news was Indian TV channels (a bad idea in any case), you might be surprised.

Sure, the death of a former prime minister is important. Whether it is more important than a state of over 3 crore being faced with death and devastation, is arguable. What is beyond argument is that it doesn’t justify you banishing this tragedy from your tickers, teasers, top bands and your minds.

Too busy to read? Listen to it instead.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s death doesn’t absolve you. The day before, when this tragedy was building up, you were busy dissecting and trisecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day speech.

In fact, Kerala’s pain is older than that. The state has been witnessing abnormal rains for the last ten days and 30-odd people had died last week itself. However, you have assiduously kept the national spotlight on the usual propaganda fare.

Kerala is battling on its feet. This is not a time for finger pointing, but to lend a helping hand. People are by and large behind the rescue efforts. The diaspora, across the globe, is united, helping in whichever way they can. But the state needs more help. It might come their way if you did your jobs.

TOI’s cartoon on the floods has prompted a lot of anger in the state.
TOI’s cartoon on the floods has prompted a lot of anger in the state.

When Delhi was mildly flooded sometime last year, and a few roads and low-lying areas were submerged, mostly due to bad planning, many of us migrants in the city received frantic calls from home. “Are you okay? We saw the floods on TV,” they asked. Such was the ferocity of the coverage.

What doesn’t trouble journalists on their way from home to office is news, too. And the severity of a tragedy is not inversely proportional to its distance from Delhi. As Shashi Tharoor tweeted, “The further you are from Delhi in today’s India, the less you matter.”

Now compare this with two of the most read international publications.

  • Screenshot of The Guardian website on 17 August, 5 pm.
  • Screenshot of Al Jazeera website on 17 August, 5 pm.

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