‘Don’t give up…whatever may be happening to democracy’

Fight for democracy - Justice Patnaik & Journalist Sharma

‘Don’t give up…whatever may be happening to democracy’

Ex-SC judge Patnaik says, strive hard to protect it

Media doesn’t empower people with correct information any longer, says journalist Vinod Sharma

NEW DELHI, Sep 17 (The CONNECT) – “Regardless of whatever is happening to democracy, we can't give up,” said former Supreme Court judge A. K. Patnaik.

“We must strive hard to protect its values,” he said speaking as the chief guest at a national webinar on International Day of Democracy organized by S. Jaipal Reddy Memorial Foundation on Wednesday evening. The webinar was live on YouTube and continued late into the night, said a press release. Several followers of the late Jaipal, students of political science, politicians, family members including his wife Lakshmi, sons Arvind and Anand Reedy joined in the webinar.  The foundation has been created in memory of former Union Minister late Jaipal Reddy.

Narrating an anecdote, Justice Patnaik said a Government in Tripura allocated 75% of advertising budget to their own paper. In that context, he said, “we can’t dominate or influence the minds of the people. Government should be fair to all newspapers.”

Veteran journalist Vinod Sharma described Jaipal Reddy as a Chalta Phirta democrat. He was the bravest face of Indian Democracy. He was the original Shashi Tharoor in oratory.  He joined Congress in 1965 and left the party when the Emergency was imposed as it sabotaged democracy. It was the best example of his democratic values, Sharma, political editor of The Hindustan Times, recalled. 

Media is a strong pillar of democracy, Sharma said, and pointed out that in the current scenario, “Media doesn’t empower people with correct information any longer”. Even if they do, they do so with vested corporate interest which is a danger to democracy.

India is the only country that doesn’t have a tradition of paying for information. Here Newspapers are sold for Rs 5 which is not possible in any other country. So, newspapers depend on advertisements for their support, which is controlled by the corporate world and is doing great disservice to society. Information is power. RTI empowers public opinion, he added. 

Another panellist former RTI Commissioner of Andhra Pradesh Dileep Reedy recalled that Jaipal Reddy and two qualities—forgiveness and recognizing his own mistakes which are good for any politician to uphold democratic values. “But, unfortunately, democracy is being diluted by running after the corporate world,” he said and stressed: “We must protect democracy,”

Dr Purushotham Reddy, former Head of Dept of Political Science -Osmania University, said Democracy is important in the difficult times we are living in.  

Giving an example of how democracy is made a laughing stock in Telangana, he pointed out that “nearly 290 contempt court cases pending against the Chief Secretary and other bureaucrats.”  “But the Government is not perturbed,” he remarked.

L. Pushpa Kumar, Law Centre-1, Faculty of Law, Delhi University, moderated the webinar.  

S. Jaipal Reddy Memorial Foundation announced winners of the essay writing contest that they organised on Democracy. In all 82 participants from across India participated. Mugdha Anand from Dr Ambedkar College, Nagpur won the first prize.

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