Tuesday, June 13, 2017

No investigation done but Subedar Grewal’s suicide declared OROP Suicide

The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:
In July 2015, the Delhi English media suddenly woke up to the Vyapam scam happening in faraway Madhya Pradesh. They woke up because one of their colleagues, Akshay Singh, met an unfortunate sudden death. The English media decided that this death was because he was trying to unearth the truth of the Vyapam scam. Journalists of India Today were not content with the post mortem report of the state government hospital. So they went on a tweeting spree, saying that their simple demand is that the visceral sample must be sent to AIIMS. The India today group also released a statement to this effect.         
The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh almost immediately accepted this demand. India Today group tells us on July 8th, that the visceral sample has been accepted by AIIMS. And since then, the India Today group goes silent. The journalists who had tweeted this “simple demand” go silent. It is now November 2016. A full 14 months have passed. There is zero news about this visceral report.
Do you see what the Delhi media did? They tried to sow seeds of doubt – Of course the state government report will not favor Akshay, therefore give it to AIIMS. They vehemently tweeted their “simple demand” to convey the impression that the government is not accepting it. But the same passion went missing once the “simple demand” was met.
We don’t even know what happened to the report – because the India Today group did not bother to tell us anything about it. They were successful in creating doubts and then chose not to further clarify anything about the doubt. It is pointless to ask why.
And now they are back to the same game-plan again. On, November 2nd, a military veteran Subedar Ram Kishen Grewal committed suicide (allegedly). Suicide letter is out, screamed the headlines. The India Today group tells that though “they can’t independently verify the authencity of the letter”, they will anyway show us what “reports say” about an application he “had for Defense Minister”. The letter is an application requesting clearance of some OROP discrepancy. And there is a footnote that says, he is giving up his life for the country.
Reading the fine print in another report tells us this letter was never submitted to the Defense ministry. Then the audio clip of his final conversation with his son reveals so many details that the media never bothered to seek in the first place – but what is fascinating is how the media tried to ‘headline’ the audio.
'I have taken poison' - Jawan's last message caught on chilling audio
They don’t tell you that the son reacted very normally to this statement. They don’t tell you about the other prodding voices. The headline makes you feel sympathetic without knowing any facts. We are then told this:
Grewal salary on retirement (2004) = Rs13000. Post OROP (6th pay commission) = Rs28000. But credited only Rs23000. Wrongly denied = Rs5000
Please look at the choice of words – “wrongly denied”. The media has played the judge in this case by declaring that this was “wrongly denied” and therefore Subedar Ram Grewal committed suicide. They don’t tell you there is an anomalies committee that is precisely looking into such things. They don’t tell you nearly Rupees. 5,500 crores have been disbursed as OROP arrears. They don’t show you the multiple tweets of army officers who vouch the receipt of these arrears. They merely tell you Rs. 5000/- was “wrongly denied”. Matter closed.
And then of course the blame on the government – “Govt ought to have handled OROP suicide lot better. Of course opposition is playing politics, that is  their job. Why give them a platform.”
Did you see it? This has been declared as an OROP suicide. India Today group can’t vouch for authencity of letter but its journalists have coined the term “OROP suicide”. Do you see how the media is playing with words so that you think the suicide is only because of the “wrongly denied” Rs. 5000/-? And when the going got tough, the goalpost was quietly shifted to “brewing resentment” amongst soldiers over 7th pay commission!
A suicide is an incredibly complex thing. Often, there are a sequence of events over a long period of time, that lead up to this unfortunate step that many people take. I argued the same during Rohith Vemula’s suicide too – there seems to have been a sequence of events that led to it. It is very rare that people commit suicide over things like Rs. 5000 when the original pension has more than doubled. I’d bet that the English media knows this but doesn’t want to focus on this.
Quite rightly, the hashtag #VulturePoliticians trended during this whole saga. What hashtag would be apt for the English media that milked this death? This article hasn’t focused on what the politicians did – because in the words of the media, they merely did “their job”. The question to be asked is – did media do its job?


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