Thursday, June 13, 2024

National Press Day


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Yesterday, November 16, was National Press Day, and I wished some of my journalist friends. But for a scribe, lip service is never enough. One has got to write it down. There is an important reason for this. The voice of government is the politician, the voice of insurgents is anarchy, the common man’s voice is only the media.

In that respect, the media in India has done its job well. Easy enough in mainland India, where newspapers are big business. But in the Northeast, where circulations are small, advertising support is minimal and salaries are peanuts, the efforts of our small band of journalists have been nothing short of heroic. They have managed to keep important local issues in the public eye, and at the same time, informing and educating the public.

Of all important stakeholders in the development of the Northeast, the media has been the most ethical. Justice AN Ray, former chairman of the Press Council of India, felt that In journalism,” ethics denotes more than regulated conduct, a ‘reasoned’ and ‘principled’ behaviour where the journalist must decide for himself the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the information in his possession.” According to him, ethics stand on a pedestal much higher than law, because a judge only decides on the basis of law, with little leeway for exercise of conscience. Thus only a media committed to self-regulation can aim to serve the public as a watchdog.

One of my all-time favourite movies is Good Luck and Good Night, in which the media battles Mcarthyism, the witch-hunting of imaginary communists by high-ranking persons in government in which innocent victims are defamed, reputations of good people smeared. The press takes up the cause and in the end is able to expose and discredit these self-righteous rumour mongers. We need to be cautious about this in Meghalaya, where sometimes a small-town mentality prevails and mere gossip becomes fodder for the media.

Civil society needs to be more supportive of the yeoman, sometimes single-handed efforts of the media in our region. Citizen journalism is a recent buzzword, and is a brilliant idea where each of us can do our part for a cleaner and more progressive society.

Yours etc.,

Glenn C Kharkongor,

Via email

 Leshka : A proper perspective


‘Meghalaya’s incubus named Leshka’ by Barnes Mawrie (ST, Nov,15,2011) is outrageous and condemnable as it is full of untruths and an insult to the fraternity of MeECL engineers. It is appropriate therefore that the issues raised by him are put in proper perspective.

Firstly, Leshka is not a river but the name of a place where the river Myntdu is joined by two of its tributaries, the Laichaki & the Lamu. The Myntdu Leshka HEP was started only in 2005 and not decades ago and the dam is yet to be commissioned. In fact it is very common that a project of such magnitude in a very difficult terrain is completed in 5 to 7 years time. The initial estimates of the project of about Rs.300 crore were made way back in 1998 for two machines only. Since cement, steel, machinery and labour costs, the driving forces in the construction industry, have risen sharply over the last decade, the costs of the project with the addition of another machine are bound to also rise.

Father Mawrie is perhaps far too removed from the materialistic world that he fails to notice that even clerks, nowadays, own good houses and drive pretty vehicles that are not necessarily from corrupt means and so it is logical that better paid engineers should have the better of these. One aspect in which Fr. Mawrie may perhaps have to ponder is that one of the means in the affordability of the salaried people today is through the easy availability of bank loans and not necessarily through dubious means.

Also, if he would have attempted to find facts, he would have found out that even the big players in hydro power have never been able to complete a project of such a magnitude as Leshka within 5 years. He would have also found out that in most hydro electric projects there are some calamities or the other during construction time as the engineers have to work against all the elements of the incredible forces of nature and also very heavy machinery are being used in these projects. It is also impossible that the turbines could have spunned in the opposite direction as implied and there is also no truth that the dam had been damaged. Statistics would also show that destructions due to dam failure are more in western countries than in India.

It is perhaps worthy to inform him that in most parts of India the load shedding during the pre-monsoon periods ranges between 5 to 12 hours, in which case our state is better off and also the cost of power is one of the cheapest in the country. An official communication by MeECL had already been made regarding the reported leakage in the penstock pipes which is a normal phenomenon in any water conductor system where allowances for leakages are permissible up to a certain extent.

The tapping of the hydropower potential in the state is also not the prerogative of the MeECL but that of the government and MeECL is only implementing such schemes which it has only been allotted. The government is also doing its bit in speeding up the process of the tapping hydropower in the state. It had already allotted several schemes to various companies of national and international repute since 2007. But Alas! not a single project has taken off till now, though they are managed by big companies as is the desire of Father Mawrie, because when it comes to developing this God-given source it is far easier said than done.

Yours etc.,

Pynshai Lyngdoh


 Change of heart


I wish to tender my unconditional apology to people concerned for the misunderstanding created by my article “Meghalaya’s incubus named Leshka” (ST Nov 15, 2011) I wish to clarify that my article is a general reflection (not a detailed fact finding) on a particular case with the purpose of expressing the unexpressed discontent of the public regarding the Leshka project. That the general public is quite unhappy about the state of the project is an undeniable fact. I regret the misrepresentation of facts and the general allegations. But I have stated that I personally do not doubt their sincerity. I am only raising public concerns on the delay in commissioning the Leshka project. Lastly I have expressed my optimism regarding the benefit of the project. So I believe that an intelligent reader will not misunderstand the purpose of this article. Public opinion may be wrong or right but it remains an opinion of the masses. Anyway if I have offended individuals or MeECL in general I sincerely apologise and I wish that we will soon benefit from this great project. I do appreciate the MeECL engineers’ contribution not only to the Leshka project but others as well. The misunderstanding is perhaps because we the public are often left in the dark about the general progress of the project.

Yours etc.,

Barnes Mawrie sdb


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