December 16, 2016 will go down in history as one of the landmarks in the annals of the Disability Rights Movement in India.
This historic legislation will directly impact at least 26.8 million differently-abled individuals in the state. Because that amount is from the 2011 population census, ”; World Bank data indicates that the particular count might be as great as 80 million. Either way, India has among the greatest handicapped populations in the whole world, even greater in relation to the total population of several states. As it had been pending in Parliament this bill was a much awaited one. Now that the bill has been passed, it's provided some relief to most of the disability rights groups that have been demanding this for years.
Nevertheless, it has also raised many questions about how the media covered the passage of this bill. Given the absolute size of the handicapped population in India, one could have anticipated the Indian media would cover this extensively and deeply — more so because this was the only bill to have been passed by Parliament in the nearly washed out winter session.
But little interest was shown by the media organizations in analyzing the bill as well as showing telecasts of the discussion of the bill.
The purpose is just not that talk over demonetization is not important; of course it is. Yet, shouldn’t the media have concentrated their attention on the bill, even for only a day? The print media was only marginally better as most of them covered the passage as a news report. None of them examined the bill greatly. The advantages and disadvantages of the 58 modifications in the bill were left undiscussed. When the bill was passed in the Rajya Sabha, not an individual newspaper put this as its front page headline. Only the online media revealed some expectation, on the bill with some good analytic pieces.
Media houses may contend that it is their prerogative to choose things to focus on and what to discuss at length. That is valid, but their focus shows that disability rights are not on their “precedence list” and never were. Disabled people are the most marginalized and invisible segment of Indian society; they're also among the biggest minority groups in the country. In this ratings- driven world, media organizations chose to cover matters that'll capture more eyeballs. They know that a huge percentage of the differently-abled inhabitants don’t have access to their newspapers or their stations and consequently that citizenry doesn’t matter. This low coverage of disability-related problems is a persistent issue, not just a one-off case.
Compare this to the amount of time the media committed to the Lokpal anti-corruption bill, the Goods and Services Tax Bill or Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) reforms and it’s easy to how ignorant Indian media, at least mainstream media, has been with regards to the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Bill.
The possible lack of discussion and analysis of the bill shows the dearth of knowledge in addition to interest in disability among journalists. When some news channels do cover “handicap,” they either do it in a type of a campaign (showing that their news team spent a day with children with handicaps in certain NGO) or in a gentle interest story about how exactly a differently-abled individual is getting the better of his / her disability by doing something incredible that even able bodied people find hard to do (e.g, painting with legs or sketching by holding a pencil in the mouth).
These are really patronizing approaches on display. Such stories are charity- have quite a myopic vision of handicap, where they attempt to portray a man with disability in “extreme” conditions and based. The person is shown to either be extraordinary or extremely determined by others; media houses refrain from showing differently-abled folks as ordinary human beings. This is as “the other because Indian society at large view individuals with disabilities.” This “othering” of millions of differently-abled folks is a reason for this attitude in newspapers and on TV.
Individuals in the media are also the products of society, but a better comprehension of society is likely from them to the remaining portion of the masses. Media outlets would be the watchdogs for society. But the mainstream media has time and again neglected in covering handicap. Indian media did although Indian contingent won four medals, including two golds, a silver, and a bronze medal the Paralympics is correctly covered isn't even this season. As of now, there's not even a single journalist who covers just “disability, ” a huge issue area where a lot of amazing reports could be covered. Yet every media house has at least one theatre reporter.
Second, the near-zero representation of differently-abled folks in media itself is fairly amazing. There has not been any study regarding how many differently-abled journalists there are in India. I wonder if the amount would cross the single-digit mark.
Media organizations won’t unless they themselves start hiring individuals with disabilities as journalists, be sensitized about handicap. This might undoubtedly affect the newsroom environment also it might give a chance for a “substitute voice” to come out as well as make its mark — not merely on disability but on issues that are different at the same time.
Lastly, those who consider handicap a non-issue or as an issue which may be blown off or put on the backburner, must remember that anyone can become disabled at any moment. Bodies that are competent are merely temporary and never permanent, making handicap an issue that should really concern everyone.