Thursday, July 8, 2010
From time to time Indian media is in need of new whipping boys, whom it can target without in rhyme or reason in its shows and by doing so give a flip to its own TRP ratings. Till few months ago, the satraps in the media were crying hoarse about Global Warming. Dour faced celebrities would appear on the TV and sermonize about the polluting lifestyles of the middle class. And once the sermonizing sessions would be over the same celebrities would hop into their air-conditioned limos and be driven back to their plush air-conditioned bungalows. Over a period of time the lid got lifted from the Global Warming scam, but that didn’t happen before the media created frenzy had enabled many Global Warming acolytes to collect huge sums of money as donation.
The controversy over the so-called BT Brinjals took the same route. The media supported the alarmists who are anti-science and anti-progress and blindly supported a ban on BT crops. This brought in immense pressure on the government and BT Brinjals had to be banned for many more years. It doesn’t even matter to our media that that these crops are being used in many developed countries in the world, with no ill effects at all on their populations. Now our journalists found another whipping boy- telecom towers. Tahelka, which has made a name for itself, in conducting most thrilling kind of sting operations, tried its best to sting the telecom towers this time. It did succeed to a limited extent. The article did manage to conjure an aura of horror, even though it was not as frightening as Alfred Hitchcock’s famous film Psycho.
Two TV channels – Star News and Headlines Today - picked up Tahelka’s journalistic story. We had the usual debates, with some so called doctor types coming up on TV and claming that radiation from telecom towers and even from mobiles can lead to all kinds of health issues. We heard things like radiation is bad for pregnant ladies and their unborn babies. Sperm count in men is known to decrease by constant exposure. Some in one of the debates said that recent studies done in Europe show that tumors can be induced in rats, which were exposed to the same power levels and distances that normal cell phone users are exposed to from the phone’s antenna. But it was never clarified, where in Europe these tests had been done. Was it done in the same laboratory where they tested for the so-called Global Warming and BT Brinjal? Is there a laboratory in Europe that specializes in the propagation of pseudo-science?
In any case, for this story we didn’t even need to go as far as Europe. India has enough pseudo scientists of its own. A Delhi based company called Cogent, whose main business is creating of anti-radiation garments, has done the so-called research into the ill effects of radiation. So it was rightly pointed out by a debater in Headlines Today that Cogent has some kind vested interest in over emphasizing on the dangers of radiation. Then there is the fact that in a modern society we are exposed to radiation not just from telecom towers and mobiles but also from microwave ovens, from electronic telephones, from TV transmission and TV sets, from WiFi modems, from FM radio and from much else. So why single out telecom industry? Why aren’t Tahelka, Headlines Today and Star news talking about radiation from TV towers and TV sets?
The whole issue telecom towers causing radiation is so unbelievable that those who are indulging in fear mongering in its name seemed to look quite ridiculous on TV. They also seemed to be having some kind of vested interest in targeting the cell phone industry alone. As this controversy has come out on heels controversy over 2G and 3G allocations, it is possible that there might be a larger conspiracy behind this kind of stories being planted in the media. Telecom has been the biggest success story that India has had since independence. In the days of MTNL, Indians had to wait for 10 years before getting connection, and 99% of the country was without any phone. Today we are the fastest growing telecom market in the world. It would be a tragedy if the country’s telecom story were allowed to get derailed on the basis of some false stories in the media.