Campaign Mode

Nov 09 2013, 09:37 IST
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SummaryTV occupies the moral high ground on domestic abuse, superstition and unemployment.

Every year, some TV channel goes to a village near Ujjain to cover an archaic rite in which men lie face down on a road to be trampled by the cattle of the community. All the cattle, in ceaseless motion, like sheep in the waking nightmares of insomniacs. ANI did the story in 2012 and this year, it was the turn of News 24. It is apparently an ancient practice, the locals declare that they are hugely satisfied with it, but the media decries it as an embarrassing throwback. “Why is the administration a mute spectator?” demanded News 24. “Stop this superstitious tamasha!” Why? The big story here is that India has an event like the running of the bulls and the palio which have helped to make Pamplona and Siena huge tourist destinations, and Incredible India probably doesn’t even know about it.

India is taken up with the running of the mad cows. The case of an air hostess, who had locked up her underage domestic help and gone overseas, broke a week ago and now, a BSP MP and his wife are in custody for allegedly torturing domestics, one of them to death. Demanding ethics in the home, Sagarika Ghose’s Face the People wrested the moral high ground from its owner Arnab Goswami, who was more taken with the idea that two MPs had been arrested in 24 hours — the other being the BJP MP Dinu Solanki, in connection with the murder of the Gir forest activist Amit Jethwa.

The idea also engaged Ghose’s guest Kiran Bedi, who spoke of the “poor quality of people who come to the legislatures” (Isn’t that class by another name?) but the host kept the focus on the abuse of domestic workers. She wanted viewers to take a pledge to make their homes sites of “exchange” and “caring”, rather than engines of “class differentiation”. The programme concluded that the yawning gulf of class allows the incredibly powerful to prey upon the incredibly powerless. Extremely well-meaning but, as @tehseenp tweeted ironically on the show, many viewers probably engaged underage help.

Of course, TV has little time for such stories. It’s busy putting the country in campaign mode. Even India TV, which is usually preoccupied with sundry astrologers, resplendently jewelled snake oil salesmen and surprisingly interesting shows on the country’s lesser-known pilgrimages, is on the campaign trail. Its Ghamasan Live show from Gwalior

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