Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 5 Issue 112 | September 15, 2006 |

   Cover Story
   View from the    Bottom
   Straight Talk
   Special Feature
   Photo Feature
   Dhaka Diary
   Book Review
   New Flicks

   SWM Home


Gassing About Edibles


It has been said perhaps as many times as one has switched on a TV channel that a certain transmission is a turn-off simply because of its monotony. Such disparagement is usually reserved for serials, songs and superstars. But thanks to lack of genuine journalistic initiative the tube has a new product, which viewers are not taking seriously any more.

The repetitive manner in which newspeople are portraying almost daily the unabated price-rise of essentials, one of the deplorable characteristics of the jote sarkar, is not only boring but the news treatment seems like making a travesty with the purchasing power of the source of power. I predict load-shedding.

It's the same market, the same shopkeeper with the same shirt (they only show the top half), the same question and the same answer, but thankfully not the same potato or the same dhyarosh or the same bowl of boot (now priced at almost Taka one per piece @ Tk 80 per kg). That is because people are compelled to buy them; they too have children at home and they too sometimes get hungry.

“The way not to vary is not to think” is how Ernest Renan, the French philosopher and historian put it. Our journalists have chosen the easy path--go to a raw bazaar often next to their channel studio, focus on the glistening veggies and the dibbas of powdered milk, grab a couple of shots of some disheartened buyers unable to grab their listed items, record the smiling tota paakhi narrate the comparative price of different items in his well-stacked shop, jump to the big question “why” the price is rising, and finally hear from the content seller that he has no choice because of this or that reason. That is one easy path viewers have stopped eating, meaning aar khay na, however prickly the pangs of hunger may be.

In the initial days of this continuing financial loot by some and torture on many, the general excuses were (take your pick): it has been raining, there has been a flood, the transport strike is taking its toll, the month of Ramadan is here, this is the Eid season, the Puja festival, the tightening of the border, and so forth.

After they managed to repeat those pretexts in over two dozen interviews the shop owners switched to blaming something else, and the most original one was a Gafargaon-variety begoon bikreta attributing his audacity to the rising price of the (US) dollar. Hah!

To add to our misery we have been ridiculed by advice of too much sugar being bad and that gur was better than sugar, (the next day gur got up and was sprinting away), of the choice we have of switching from rice to potato, of oil being bad for health, and of the virtues of eating less at night during the month of fasting.

As if to squeeze the truth out of these fast-talking businessmen, it stopped raining, the annual floods gave up, the transport strikes, they succumbed at the minister's table and pre-emptively religious festivals came once a year.

Their back against the wall and exhausted of all explanations, only towards the fag end of the present government's tenure, the ever-smiling vendor is admitting that the price of the essentials he is selling has been raised because it has risen from where he buys his things, and so what can he do. I have never seen a happier helpless person on television.

That having been resolved the photojournalist and his companion script journalist should never again venture into the same market with the same query. Their obvious next destination should be the place wherefrom the vendor says he buys his things. Reporting should not be limited to narrating the obvious; it should endeavour to unearth news.

The pattern of reporting is sadly similar in the print media; only the boredom and the falsehood are more obvious on television, as is the self-gratification of the wrongdoers.

A responsible investigative journalist should ask the responsible entrepreneurs, if found, why the price of essentials is rising in the retail market even when they are not coming from across the border or being bought against the dollar. They should demand to know on our behalf how the five-Taka kumra of Keraniganj can transform into a fifty-Taka sohurey shaheb at the city's Shantinagar? (We must have enjoyed shanti at some point in our history) Only then will they be able to report that they have “seen the cat” (syn-di-cate).

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2006