Media, urban citizenship, globalisation: dystopic visionsBy Kishore Budha • Sep 24th, 2008 • Category: Audience, Commercialisation, Media Practice, Must Read
A protest by residents of Gurgaon in Delhi over a garbage dump there became salient for Hindustan Times. The composition of the news constellates, or belonging together, raises the salience of a militant citizenry. The two dominant stories of the day are all Gestalt theory advocates the grading of news using visual elements such as headlines. Layouts are used to signify to the reader the importance fo the news via dramatic and eye-catching type faces, colours, pictures, juxtapositions, while the headlines, copy, and pictures try to advance frames and agendas. The newspaper appropriates the narrative and voice of the Gurgaon’s residents and frames it as a crisis for India’s claims of development. The newspaper raises the alarm that if the issue is not fixed, Gurgaon will no longer be the beacon of a “new, globalised India”. This reflexts the anxieties of the media and elite urban Indians who reimagine the city as a site for India’s struggle to gain prestige in the global arena.
Mario Garcia and Pegie Stark Adam’s eye-tracking studies demonstrated that the dominant photo is the main entry point into the page. Here we can note a picture along with another graphic element in the form of a large sized and weighted headline “Gurgaon Collapsing”, which is half imposed on the picture. The headline serves as a frame for a crumbling infrastructre, official neglect, which is an emphatic position taken by the newspaper. The salience of the headline is raised through a dual strategy of rhetoric as well as its Venn-like association with the equally dramatic picture of a protesting individuals. They hold placards that read: “Stop Dumping Now”, “Stop dumping, save ground water, save our lives”, “Dengue Centre, Courtesy MCG and HUDA”, “जानलेवा कचरा डालना बंद करो” (Transl: Stop dumping life-threatening/deadly rubbish).
Two reports deal with the dramatic spectacle in this constellation. One headlines issues a threat: “Fix it. Else Ho Chi Minh City, Manila are waiting” (Mahapatra:2008). The other states: “No dump yard for a city of 2 million”. Both are features (rather than reports) that deal with the impact of a large open rubbish dump in Gurgaon, which the residents are protesting against.
It was to be the signpost of the new, globalising India.
But the unedifying, unprecedented sight of CEOs protesting the dumping of garbage of Gurgaon’s streets is an indication that a shiny Indian dream is collapsing.
..Gurgaon was to do to Delhi what Pudong did to Shanghai – put it on the global business map.
Pudong made that jump into the first world. Gurgaon is sliding further and faster every day into the third world.
The headline is an articulation by the newspaper on behalf of Gurgaon’s residents as this demonstrates:
Raman Roy, a pioneer in the business process outsourcing industry, warns, “there is a serious risk” that companies that were looking to come to Gurgaon might go for a rethink.
“The growing popularity of Manila and Vietnam as an outsourcing destination is a result of our own undoing,” said Roy. Making it worse is apathy.
We should take note of the fact that the newspaper is identifying itself with the activist residents of Gurgaon, whose plans to hold a protest was well publicised in the same newspaper the previous day and the day before. Cricketer and celebrity Yuvraj Singh had joined the protesters, which was widely covered the previous day:
The second headline in the constellation was a report on the state of affairs, laying the blame on the Haryana Urban Development Authority for having collected more than Rs 3000 crore from developers in the name of developing basic infrastructure between 1978 and 2005. Hindustan Times took up the role of activist for the sake of the Gurgaon’s residents, who are largely made up of outsourcing companies and gated communities. Two prominent talking heads were displayed between the two headlines: Raman Roy, CMD of Quatrro, and Marc Vollendweider, CEO, Evalueserve. The quote by Vollendweider buttresses the newspaper’s alarm of Gurgoan “sliding into the third world”. He is quoted as saying: “I am Swiss, it has been difficult to accept how you cannot have public transport and power all day”. This point by an expatriate sums up the tensions of urbanisation as the city is imagined as a site for India’s entry into global citizenship.
Mahapatra, Rajesh (2008) “Fix it. Else Ho Chi Minh City, Manila are waiting” Hindustan Times 24 Sep, Delhi, p1
Ahuja, Sanjeev K (2008) “No dump yard for a city of 2 million” Hindustan Times 24 Sep, Delhi, p1
Kishore Budha is one of the co-founders of Subaltern Media and the founder-editor of the peer-reviewed Open Access journal Wide Screen. He holds a PhD in media and communications studies from the University of Leeds, UK and has professional experience in print journalism, internet news, and public relations industries. His interests include Critical Theories of Media and Communication, Semiotics, Transnational Communication, Film industry & production, Film theory, Film and history, Communications Policy, Visual Culture, Communication Technologies, Web media and Communication
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