Window Seat | Mrinal Chatterjee | 25.8.19

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Press Freedom in India

While the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day on 3 May this year, India slipped two points on the World Press Freedom Index ranking rated by RWB (Reporters without Borders). From 138 rank out of 180 counties of the world it came down to 140.

This index measures the level of freedom available to journalists on seven parameters: level of pluralism, media independency, environment and self-censorship, transparency, legal framework and quality of infrastructure supporting production of news and information. It neither measures the quality of journalism, nor does it look at human rights violation. The Reporters without Boarders try to reflect on the degree of freedom that journalists, news organization and netizens have in each country and efforts being made by authorities in power to respect this freedom.

While Norway topped the list, with Sweden on the second spot like in previous year’s ranking, India slipped by two points. The South Asian countries have fared poorly, with Pakistan (139), Myanmar (137), Sri Lanka (131), Bangladesh (146) and China (176).

The reason for poor ranking and slippage during 2019 in India are not far to seek. They include killing of journalists in connection with their work, hate speech targeting journalists which are amplified on social networks.

Six Indian journalists were killed in 2018, including Gauri Lankesh. They represented non-English outlets in rural areas. Hate speech targeting journalists was shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies, who are paid by particular political party or ideological outfits. Christophe Deloire, the RSF Secretary General saed “The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracy. Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters bear heavy responsibility, because they undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda. To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire”.

As India’s general elections went through an overdose of nationalism, jingoism and populism, an analysis by renowned economists Abhijit Banerjee and Thomas Piketty (March 2019) brought out how voters in India seem to be less driven by economic interests like quality of education, health care and jobs, than by sectarian interests and cultural priorities. Political conflicts were more based on ‘Identity’ and ‘religion’, rather than material benefits and redistribution of wealth.

As the economy is going through a bad phase and education and health services need serious examination and course correction- the Nation requires good, open and honest journalism and a space for the journalists to work.

Rain Water Harvesting

It looks ironical. Even as several states in India including Maharashtra and Kerala are battling with the fury of floods- India is facing one of its major and most serious water crisis.

As reported by Down to Earth in July 2019, after two consecutive years of weak monsoons, 330 million people — a quarter of the country’s population — are affected by a severe drought. With nearly 50 per cent of India grappling with drought-like conditions, the situation has been particularly grim this year in western and southern states that received below average rainfall.

According to the Composite Water Management Index (CWMI) report released by the Niti Aayog in 2018, 21 major cities (Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and others) are racing to reach zero groundwater levels by 2020, affecting access for 100 million people. Chennai has already reached that state.

However, 12 per cent of India’s population is already living the ‘Day Zero’ scenario, thanks to excessive groundwater pumping, an inefficient and wasteful water management system and years of deficient rains.

Now that it is raining, we must harvest the rain.  Rainwater harvesting (RWH) is a simple method by which rainfall is collected for future usage. The collected rainwater may be stored, utilized in different ways or directly used for recharge purposes. With depleting groundwater levels and fluctuating climate conditions, RWH can go a long way to help mitigate these effects. Capturing the rainwater can help recharge local aquifers, reduce urban flooding and most importantly ensure water availability in water-scarce zones. Though the term seems to have picked up greater visibility in the last few years, it was, and is even today, a traditional practice followed  in rural India. Some ancient rainwater harvesting methods followed in India include madakas, ahar pynes, surangas, taankas, step wells and many more. Madakas are rainwater harvesting structures found in the laterite belts of Karnataka and Kerala. They are naturally occurring depressions with high terrain on the three sides where water from the surrounding laterite slopes, mainly runoff from the rains, is accumulated. These have been traditionally used to harvest rainwater by constructing bunds on the open fourth side of the depression to check this runoff from the slopes. Ahar Pynes is a traditional water harvesting system still practiced in the south Bihar. Surangas can be compared to a horizontal well or cave excavated in hard laterite soil formations from which water seeps out, and flows out of the tunnel to be collected in open ponds. Despite their decline, they continue to be a lifeline for a large number of farmers in Kasargod, Kerala. Taanka is underground reservoir water tank built with house. This has been widely used in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.

There are several rainwater conservation methods available now, which can be easily practiced in individual homes, apartments, parks, offices, temples, churches and other such religious buildings.  In fact this has been practiced in many places and institutions including the Dhenkanal campus of Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC), where I work.  Using rainwater harvesting methods, farmers have recharged their dry wells and bore wells, created water banks in drought areas, greened their farms and increased sustainability of their water resources. Technical know-how for the rooftop RWH with direct storage can be availed for better implementation. Surf the following website for details.

https://www.indiawaterportal.org/topics/rainwater-harvesting

 Tail piece: True Heart

Before exam Boy to his Girl-Friend: Hey, All The Best

Girl-Friend: All the best to you too.

Girl scored 80 marks and boy failed.

Moral: Only boys wish with true heart.

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The author, a journalist turned media academician lives in Central Odisha town of Dhenkanal. An anthology of his weekly column Window Seat, published in 2018 has been published as a book. Write to him to get a free e-copy. [email protected]

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