Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Media's (Lack of) Coverage of Workers' Rally in Delhi


I received this message as an email from a friend. I cannot but agree with him entirely. (Image courtesy Reuters)

Media Coverage of Workers' Rally in Delhi: Interesting Case
There was a huge workers' rally organised by 9 central trade unions in Delhi today, protesting against price rise, violation of labour laws, unemployment, social insecurity etc. Lakhs of workers from across the country participated in the rally making it one of the biggest witnessed in Delhi in recent times. However, none of the major TV channels have shown even a glimpse of the rally so far. Interestingly, the major foreign news agencies like Reuters and AFP as well as the BBC have already covered the rally, noted its political significance and highlighted the issues being raised by the workers (see below). Why are the Indian media persons so insensitive to the voice of lakhs of workers from their own country?
Thousands in India protest high food prices

By Krittivas Mukherjee

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of trade unionists, including those from a group linked to India's ruling party, marched through the streets of the capital on Wednesday to protest food prices, piling pressure on a government already under fire over graft.

The demonstration in New Delhi was the latest in a wave of protests sweeping across the world, including the Middle East and Africa, ignited by a worldwide spike in food prices.

India, Asia's third-largest economy and home to more than a billion people, has been grappling with double-digit food inflation. Hundreds of millions of poor have been hit the hardest.

In one of the largest anti-government protests in New Delhi in recent years, at least 50,000 people representing trade unions from the country's political parties, marched through the centre of the capital towards the parliament building.

In a sea of red flags and hats bearing their union name, protesters chanted slogans and carried banners calling on the government to provide food security.

"Prices will now kill the common man," read one banner.

"We get paid 100-125 Rupees (1.36 to 1.70 pounds) a day. How are we going to survive on this if prices are so high?" said Kailash Sain, who had travelled to the capital from the western state of Rajasthan.

"We have come here so that our voices reverberate inside the house (parliament) and they can see what pain the common man is going through," said another demonstrator, Akhil Samamtray from western Orissa state.

Protesters arrived by bus and train from all over the country and the numbers were expected to rise.

PJ Raju, secretary of the Congress' trade union, told Reuters around 100,000 people from his party alone would be joining the protest.

The presence of trade union members from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's ruling Congress party -- a rare instance of a protest against their own government -- is a telling sign of the concerns within the party about government policies that have been unable to tame inflation.

The government has looked increasingly helpless as it tries to introduce policies to rein in food prices, which analysts say have come far too late.

India's central bank, the Reserve Bank of India, has raised interest rates seven times in a year to try and tame rising prices but has warned fiscal policies would be largely ineffective against rising food prices which stem largely from bad weather and problems on the supply side.

The protests also come only a day after Singh relented to months of opposition demands for a parliamentary probe into a multi-billion dollar scandal over sales of telecoms licences for kickbacks.

The scandals have piled enormous pressure on the reformist 78-uear-old prime minister, seen as a lame duck who plays second fiddle to Congress party head Sonia Gandhi. Some believe further revelations could force him from power early and lead to an interim leader before a 2014 general election.

(Writing by Jonathon Burch; Additional reporting by C.J. Kuncheria: Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Sanjeev Miglani)


BBC News

23 February 2011 Last updated at 07:00 GMT

Thousands of people have gathered in the Indian capital, Delhi, to take part in a rally to protest against rising food prices and unemployment.

A steady stream of protesters, carrying red flags, has been marching through the streets of central Delhi since early morning.

The rally has led to massive traffic jams in the city.

Trade unions who have called the rally say nearly 40,000 people will attend a meeting at the Ramlila grounds.

Thousands will then march to parliament, they say.

Security is tight across the city with thousands of policemen deployed at the rally ground and along the route of the march.

The protest has been organised by major trade unions, including the All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and the Centre for Industrial Trade Union (CITU).

The Indian National Trade Union Congress (Intuc) - which is backed by the governing Congress party - is also supporting the strike saying it wants to remind the government about its commitments to the poor.

Food inflation has been consistently rising in India, pushing up household budgets.

The cost of pulses, milk, wheat, rice and vegetables has gone up sharply. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said food prices are an "area of concern".


Mass rally against inflation in Indian capital

(AFP) – 2 hours ago

NEW DELHI — Tens of thousands of people gathered in the Indian capital on Wednesday to protest against inflation, complaining that rising prices were increasing hardship for the country's many poor.

The mostly working-class demonstrators, many carrying Communist flags and shouting slogans against inflation and corruption, converged on the centre of New Delhi for the rally, with surrounding roads closed to traffic.

The rally was organised by the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), which joined forces with other unions to pressure the government over inflation before the unveiling of a new annual budget on Monday.

"Workers from 19 states, thousands of women among them, are reaching Delhi and will march to parliament to seek their rightful share in the country's so-called 'robust growth story'," said a CITU statement.

The CITU said it expected 800,000 to one million people, though this figure could not be independently verified. Police were unable to estimate the number of demonstrators.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described inflation as a "serious" threat to India's growth, and the government has been racing to boost vegetable and other supplies to bring down soaring food prices.

The most recent data show annual food inflation at 11.05 percent, down from its highs of nearly 20 percent, while headline inflation as measured by the wholesale price index is at 8.23 percent.

Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat told AFP that nearly 2,000 policemen had been deployed in central Delhi to keep order during the demonstration.

"We have instructed the police to ensure that the crowd does not vandalise government buildings or monuments in central Delhi," he said.

One protester, Jagdeesh Thakur, president of a secondary school teachers' association in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, said the left-leaning government was "on the wrong path".

"We need to control inflation. Stop unemployment and stop privatisations," he told AFP. "The government is on the wrong path. It has forgotten the poor. It is only interested in helping the rich."

Rishi Pal, a 52-year-old member of a farmers' union from the northwestern state of Punjab, said: "We need the government to control prices. Poor people can't feed their families.

As well as surging inflation, a host of corruption scandals ranging from the Delhi Commonwealth Games last October to the sale of telecom licences has sapped the energy of Singh's administration and led to months of bad publicity.

On Tuesday, Singh agreed to set up a cross-party investigation into the licence sales in 2008 that has led to a police investigation and the arrest of his former telecom minister, A. Raja.

Opposition parties wrecked the last session of parliament in 2010 by holding protests every day demanding an inquiry into the cut-price sales, which could have cost the country up to $40 billion in lost revenue.

The government, a coalition led by Singh's Congress party, is expected to pass its budget for the next fiscal year on Monday next week.(end)

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