If P Sainath’s article in today’s [10 May] Hindu is true, then The Times of India is absolutely false. In the article titled, Reaping gold through cotton, and newsprint, Sainath shows how The Times of India deceived people on behalf of the corporate bigwig, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech. TOI deceived both its readers and the cotton farmers of Maharashtra.
TOI’s report, published originally on Oct 31, 2008 and reprinted on Aug 28, 2011, claimed that “The switchover from the conventional cotton to Bollgard or Bt Cotton … has led to a social and economic transformation in the villages…” Sainath shows that the farmers in the villages concerned were far from happy about the switchover and that TOI had manipulated the truth and statistics in order to produce a report that is favourable to Monsanto. In plainer words, TOI must have accepted bribes from the company.
TOI has accepted time and again that it sells its news-space to potential buyers. It may publish news reports highlighting the achievements of a politician or a political party provided it is paid to do so. Similarly, actors or other public figures can buy the news-space in the paper. The gullible readers will believe the published news to be the truth, since it is news and not advertisement.
The problem with this is not just that the paper earns profits at the cost of truth. The more serious problem is the deception perpetrated in the process.
A newspaper is a social watchdog. It has many duties toward the people. It has the duty to bring the truth to the people as far as possible. It has the duty to uphold social justice and other values that can bring about the welfare of the people. A newspaper manipulating the truth for financial benefits is not unlike a policeman who swindles people. The whole foundation of a society can crumble if a newspaper indulges in such malpractices.
Perhaps, it is not surprising that The Times of India is the only English newspaper in the list of the 13 papers approved by Mamata Banerjee in the 2500-odd State libraries in West Bengal. Ms Banerjee wants the people of West Bengal to read only doctored truths, doctored to suit her views.
At the end of Sainath’s article, The Hindu has made a “Disclosure: The Hindu and The Times of India are competitors in several regions of India.” I hope it will be a competition of the truth trying to win over falsehood. I hope the former will win.