Thursday, September 7, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



The media and society

IN the context of Mr Praful Bidwai’s article (‘‘The media and society: dangers of playing up trivia”, August 21), I would like to say that newspapering is more than a mere business. According to the Press Council, ‘‘it is a profession committed to the large purpose of public service through discussion of news and views in a sober, objective and fair manner’’.

The Press must be aware of its place in society and the pleasure and limitations of its calling. Indeed, journalists should not claim rights and privileges denied to an ordinary citizen. Obviously, they have to obey general laws of the land like those protecting the right to reputation and fair name.

In other words, journalism is and must remain a gentleman’s game. Corruption, injustice and inequality must be boldly but soberly fought but let the ethical codes, voluntarily adopted, prevail. Let there be no unnecessary intrusion into one’s privacy. Let not confidence be betrayed. Let the laws and morality prevail.

Unjust laws must be opposed but there is a way of opposing them. Gandhiji underlined the moral responsibility of the Press while recognising its power. He said in his autobiography: ‘‘The Press is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent of water submerges the whole countryside and devastates crops, even an uncontrolled Press serves but to destroy.’’

There has been a sea change since then. I do not hesitate to say that even the usually responsible newspapers are no more free from transgressing the accepted norms.

Of course, there is need for care and caution. Criminal and other transgressors have all the resources at their command. Hence it is all the more necessary not to malign or expose to public ridicule the odd honest person who may be serving his conscience and society.

However, the demand by a section of the politicians for a code of conduct for the Press is absurd. Social and moral responsibility cannot be imposed. We have a Press Council which, besides safeguarding press freedom, prevents the violation of journalistic norms. It tries to redress the grievances of citizens against newspapers and of newspapers against the authorities.



Spreading IT knowledge

The pace with which the IT industry is growing in India can be judged by the good decision taken by The Tribune to launch a weekly pullout, Log in Tribune, released on Mondays. The information being provided in the pullout concerns almost every field.

It is quite useful for children, beginners, computer literates, professionals, technologists, industrialists, educationists, etc. Those who are planning to adopt computer as a career or who are at present in this field can benefit immensely from the pullout.

The column “Latest Offerings” providing the latest rates of computers with specifications is very useful but it needs a little revision in the manner that the rates in other cities, apart from Delhi, should also be mentioned to help the purchasers there.


Common tests for RECs & IITs

“It was the vision of the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Nehru, that the high standard technology institutions were essential for the overall development and prosperity of the country. He had appealed to the developed countries to establish such institutions in India. With the result, five countries came forward to set up the Indian Institute of Technology at Delhi, Kharagpur, Kanpur, Mumbai and Chennai. The Government of India could establish the sixth one at Guwahati to fulfil the demands of the north-eastern states.

These six IITs, having very limited seats and infrastructure, are unable to cater to the growing population of India which has crossed the hundred crore mark. Due to the paucity of funds, the government cannot afford to open more IITs. The need of the hour is that the Government of India should upgrade all the existing Regional Engineering Colleges to the level of IITs and conduct a common entrance examination similar to that of JEE.

All the existing seats at the IITs and the RECs should be brought under one roof. Centralised or a zone-wise counselling should be held to fill the seats. All the state governments should support the Central Government to upgrade the RECs by extending full cooperation and contributing their share to this noble cause.


No mediation offer

I was surprised to read the headline “UK willing to mediate: Straw” (Sept 6), attributing certain comments on Kashmir to British Home Secretary Jack Straw during his visit to Amritsar. The news item also quotes Mr Straw as saying that “Britain is willing to provide the lead to resolve the issue”. These comments are not correct and do not reflect what Mr Straw actually said.

The British Government’s policy on Kashmir is quite clear. There is no question of mediation by the UK. As Mr Straw said in Amritsar: “The Kashmir issue should only be resolved between India and Pakistan through bilateral talks. Britain is ready to help only if both sides ask. It would be impertinent of me to offer advice if it is not wanted.”

British High Commissioner
New Delhi

Functioning of police

THE nephew of a Punjab minister has been allegedly beaten to death by the Malerkotla police. His fault, as per the police version, was that he was involved in a case of gambling.

Custodial deaths are taking place despite the clear warning to the police by Mr Sarabjit Singh, DGP, Punjab, that in such an event a case under Section 302, IPC, would be registered against the policemen involved.

In our country most of the crimes such as gambling, smuggling, illegal distillation, flesh trade, plying of vehicles without valid papers, illegal trade in dollars, pick-pocketing, sale of bogus lottery tickets, duping by travel agents, manufacturing of synthetic ghee/milk, adulteration in edible items and petroleum products, sale of narcotics and harmful drugs are going on allegedly in connivance with the local police. The police in Maharashtra is the best one among all the states from every angle. But Mr Julio Ribeiro, ex-DGP, Punjab, has written in his book, “Bullet for Bullet”, that when he took over as Commissioner of Police of Thane district and later of Bombay, he found that many crimes were being committed with the active backing of the police, and he had a hard time to curb the menace.


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