Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Akashwani news in early 1970s

I have mentioned that Bollywood music and sports were the main items of interest for me on radio broadcasts. Then there were news. Not all news interested me. I was interested in sports news on the regular news bulletin. In a regular news bulletin in Akashwani lasting 10 or 15 minutes, we first had the headlines, followed by the news in detail. In the end, the headlines were repeated again.

I especially looked forward to the sports news, which came towards the end of the bulletin and received step motherly treatment. Sports news were not regarded as important enough to merit a mention in the headlines. In some rare cases, sports news actually made the headline, and then I would eagerly look forward to the details of the news, only to find that the same one line that was read in the headlines, were read again, and that was all. To add insult to injury, the same one line would again be read out towards the end of the bulletin when the announcer read the headlines again. So in effect one single line was repeated thrice in a news item, and that was supposed to take care of sports news in a normal Akashwani news bulletin.

In case India managed to win a test match, or won a hockey tournament, the regular bulletin, though, would mention this news as the first headline. This was the only time when one could hope to hear more than one line of sports news in the regular news bulletin. The players responsible in the win were given some coverage.Rest on the coverage on this win included the congratulatory messages to the team from dignitories like the President of India,Prime Minister of India, Sports Minister, Speaker of Lok sabha, Chairman of rajya sabha,etc, etc.

The origin of most news was Delhi, and the originator of most news was the Government of India. Every news bulletin typicaly began with what the Prime Minister said or did, followed by what other ministers said or did. One minute or two was also devoted to what the Chief Ministers of congress ruled states said or did, when they came to New Delhi to meet the high command. With this kind of news, which conveyed the impression of Delhi and Bharat sarkar being an all powerful entity, people were in awe of Bharat sarkar. and often, Chief ministers of states would be dismissed on a whim, or president's rule would be imposed in some states, and it hardly made much news,unlike what we see today even for much trivial matters.

As a kid, I thought that the Government of India must be a very impressive behemoth, and its officials must surely have more than two limbs,more than one head ( each head being equipped with horns),etc.

There were international news as well, in which the Indian prime minister was shown to be active as a major player- mainly as an active participant in NAM ( non Aligned Movement) and in the organisation of British Commonwealth. Some international news was also about the aid that India received from other foreign countries.

As individuals, taking loans and becoming a debtor was considered such a stigma for individuals, but the government of India taking loans from foreign countries was almost glorified, which I could never understand. Worse,India was not even sufficient in foodstuff till late 1970s, and India would import foodstuff from US, which would send wheat deemed unsuitable for US cattle, for Indians to eat. Hopefully, things began to look up on the food front. Akashwani and other government organisations, mainly DAVP and NFDC, started to inform the public through radio,print media and movies, respectivel, that India had become self sufficient in food stuff. It was one major news for the Indians to feel proud about.Also, I never heard a news item that mentioned India having repaid any of these loans fully.

Now with the benefit of hindsight, I really admire the guts of the then India PM, who could rub USA ( the mightiest nation in the world even then) the rough way and still get away with it.It was truly a case of super power vs super poor and the super poor nation, which could not even afford to grow enough food for its population and depended on foreign financial aid to survive, would often harangue some of its own aid donating countries on many international issues. It was true cartoon network stuff where Jerry the mouse would regularly thump Tom the cat and would still get away.

Whenever India managed to do something improbable, Akashwani would broadcast it in the news and would also mention that India had become only the nth country to do that.

In 1974, we were informed that India had exploded a "peaceful" nuclear bomb, and that India was only the fifth country in the world to do so. USA and other coutries protested a lot and imposed many sanctions, but that was like trying to disrobe a person who was already naked. It hardly made any difference to India or Indians.

One good thing that Akashwani did was to have a separate 5 minute Khel samachar in Hindi( 7 PM to 7:05 PM) and Sports news in English (8:00 PM to 8:05 PM). This was a great improvement on the earlier arrangement of repeating one line of sports news thrice in the regular news bulletin.

A few months later, Akashwani came up with another brainwave. They started a sanskrit news also. And cartoonists had a field day, showing old women devotedly sitting infront of the radio listening to Akashwani, regarding the news as voice from the Gods.Incidentally, that is how Gods from the sky used to address human beings in Indian mythology, in Sanskrit, and it was also called Akashwani.

I was not like the old Indian women of these cartoons, but I would do something similar while listening to Akashwani news in later years, that I am going to discuss next.


Raja Swaminathan said... remember all the details so well !
And the timings.
I used to also listen to sports news...both Hindi and English.
And indeed, the usual news would be mainly about politics and about what the PM said...

Typically it would be something like this..."Headline : Desh mein berojgaari hataane ke liye nayi yojna".

The detail would go like this..
"Shrimati Indira Gandhi ne kaha ki desh mein berojgaari hataane ke liye ek nayi yojna banaayi jaayegi. Aaj Amethi mein Congress party ke ek vishesh samaroh mein, Shrimati Gandhi ne desh ki badhti berojgaari par chinta vyakt karte hue kaha..."

Looks like the problems remain the same...only the media - and the specific persons - to communicate them have changed.

squarecut.atul said...

Hahaha. Mrs Indira Gandhi gave the slogan-"Garibi hatao". Then in 1980s, Rajiv Gandhi actually said that Congress had fulfilled that promise and gari had been hataoed. Then in the last election, the slogan of Congress was "Congress ka haath gaibon ke saath"

In other words,the wheel has come full circle. And just imagine how three different members of Nehru Gandhi family have come into power by taking millions of Indian for a ride.

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