ROLE OF MEDIA IN THE PLIGHT OF MIGRANT WORKERS

INTRODUCTION

Everywhere, every day, exciting things are happening. Each day is filled with news. People learn news and views during reading newspapers and magazines, talking over the telephone or they are kept informed by watching TV or listening to the radio. The press, the radio and television play a big role in the life of the society. They inform, educate and entertain people. They also influence the way people look at the world and make them change their views.

Mass media plays a very important role in organizing public opinion. Millions of people watch TV and read newspapers in their free time. Most of people can’t do without a newspaper in the underground or during the lunch break. TV also dominates the life of the family most of the time. It is also a habit which is impossible to resist. The radio is turned on most of the time, creating a permanent background noise. So, Mass Media become a very important part of our life. Mass media denotes a section of the media specifically designed to reach a large audience. The term was coined in the 1920s with the advent of nationwide radio networks, mass-circulation newspapers and magazines. However, some forms of mass media such as books and manuscripts had already been in use for centuries.

ROLE OF MEDIA IN THE PLIGHT OF MIGRANT WORKERS.

Lately, due to lock-down in the country a lot of people are suffering. But if we take a deeper look we will realise the class of people most affected are the migrant workers. The plight of migrant workers is beyond belief for normal people these days. What is strikingly shocking is the way media is covering it or rather, ignoring it. What we see in the media is merely a piece of a big puzzle. Media is more focused on petty issues these days. The role of media has now been shifted from information broadcasting to sensational and slandering. The media is focused more on how the government is working on papers rather than the ground reality.

Other than the need and chaos amongst the workers to go back home, no media mentioned how badly people of this strata is affected by the COVID. They, being vulnerable and having lack of amenities (masks or sanitizers) are one of the major people (quantity-wise) affected by this virus. Thousands died and no media talked about it.

But where does the problem actually lie? I believe the problem actually is in their overall economic condition in India and particularly the condition of low paid workers in India. In spite of many government schemes implemented to make their position better, it keeps on getting worse by the day because of lack of implementation per-se. All of the funds assigned for these schemes, hardly half of them reach the targeted audience. But of course, the media doesn’t acknowledges it.

CASE LAW

ALAG ALOK SRIVASTAVA VS UNION OF INDIA (31st march 2020)

The petitioners-in-person who are Advocates practicing in this Court have filed the instant writ petitions in public interest for redressal of grievances of migrant labourers in different parts of the country.

 In the above writ petitions, the petitioners have highlighted the plight of thousands of migrant labourers who along with their families were walking hundreds of kilometres from their work place to their villages/towns.

The concern of the Petitioners pertains to the welfare of the migrant labourers. They are seeking a direction to the authorities to shift the migrant labourers to government shelter homes/accommodations and provide them with basic amenities like food, clean drinking water, medicines, etc. The writ petitions were listed on 30.03.2020 when we directed Mr. Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General appearing for the respondent – Union of India, to submit the response of the Union of India. A status report has been filed on behalf of Union of India today.

The respondent – Union of India has referred to various steps that were taken to prevent the spread of Corona virus [COVID 19]. Reference is made to the institutional response regarding the management of the spread of the disease scientifically at the highest level. Early steps taken by the Government of India to prevent the spread of Corona Virus have been highlighted in the Status Report. It is mentioned in the Status Report that an expert group has been constituted under Dr. Vinod Paul, Member, NITI Aayog to provide guidance for prevention of the spread of the Virus in the country. Experts from cross sections in the medical field and public health fraternity are members of the said Expert Committee.

Various other measures taken by the Central Government in dealing with the needs of the lower strata of the society by providing basic amenities viz., food, clean drinking water, medicines, etc. have been dealt with in the status report.

Apart from the announcement of the relief package totalling Rs.1.70 lakh crore under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, the Status Report refers to other schemes which were formulated to ensure that the persons in need are taken care of. The anxiety and fear of the migrants should be understood by the Police and other authorities. As directed by the Union of India, they should deal with the migrants in a humane manner. Considering the situation, we are of the opinion that the State Governments/Union Territories should endeavour to engage volunteers along with the police to supervise the welfare activities of the migrants. We expect those concerned to appreciate the trepidation of the poor men, women and children and treat them with kindness.

CONCLUSION

 When the lockdown was announced There were so much of fake news everywhere including social media that it will go for around 3-4 months. Despite of the fact that govt had not made any such announcements of news. This also added to the fear of migrant labourers.

Media was creating unnecessary panic. It was creating a lot of fear in the minds of migrant labourers and this was the main reason why there was a panicked movement of the migrant laborers from one place to another. 

Because as soon as it began to form the headlines of every news article, newspaper, televisions, social medias that this lockdown will prevail for some indefinite period, all the migrant labourers wanted to rush back to their native places without giving it a thought about the actual news.

All these issues are addressed in this act perse. Although the Supreme Court appreciated the role that media plays in contemporary society. It is obvious that we cannot restrict the role of media too much because it will then not be able to justify itself as the 4th pillar of democracy.

Court also issued directions to the news media particularly that it must refrain itself from reproducing specially the messages and whatever is transmitted through the social media. What so ever is getting transferred through social media that can cause panic particularly with regard to the migrant labourers, news media should not disseminate any such news in newspapers, news channels without checking the validity of the same. They should not broadcast it or publish it. 

After the judgement of Alag Alok, specific guidelines are issued by ministries, press councils and news broadcasters association to curb down the rising exploitation for migrant workers. Media has to be very particular regarding any news that is being circulated on TV, newspapers. They have to ensure that it is not fake. This is when the Disaster Management Act was also invoked.

SEC 54- Who so ever is responsible for creating panic or fake alarm during this time was liable for punishment that may be imprisonment extending from 3 months to 1 year along with fine. So, in this way this was the role media was playing in aggravating the position of migrant labourers in India.

In the words of WHO, it has been rightly said that we are fighting an infodemic as well as pandemic.

 

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