Fundamentals of PUBLIC POLICY is An Online Spring School Program, A Four-Week Immersive Online Introductory Certificate Training Course conducted in March 2023. Himanshu Shekhar began his insightful session on ‘Media and Public Policy‘. He commenced the discussion on ‘Media and Public Policy’ by emphasising the importance of reshaping public policy frameworks. He underscored how it is crucial for the media to spotlight the necessary changes to enhance India’s resilience and expedite its recovery from crises like the Covid-19 pandemic.
In its 2022 report on the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations revealed that in 2020, a staggering 720 million to 811 million individuals globally were grappling with hunger, an increase of approximately 161 million compared to 2019. This statistic serves to illustrate the pandemic’s vast scale and its profound impact.
It is worth noting that India has implemented one of the largest food security programs for its underprivileged and impoverished citizens, known as the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Ann Yojna, which has been in operation since March 2020. Nevertheless, it is imperative to acknowledge that there is still a considerable population, especially among the poor and disadvantaged, who continue to require food security assistance.
Media and Public Policy
According to the World Bank’s findings, hunger had been on the rise since 2014, well before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. This increase was attributed to factors such as conflicts, economic shocks, and extreme weather events. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that in 2019, 688 million people experienced hunger, compared to 624 million in 2014.
This suggests that hunger levels were already increasing prior to the pandemic, and Covid-19 exacerbated this problem, placing significant strain on public policy frameworks. The World Bank also noted that in 2022, Covid-19 had a detrimental impact on the health and food security of millions of people, pushing 150 million individuals into extreme poverty. During this time, the national incomes of countries worldwide saw significant declines, particularly during the initial wave of the pandemic.
In India, several new programs introduced in 2020 were halted following a notice from the Ministry of Expenditure, which emphasized the need to shift focus towards combatting the virus. This underscores the importance of not forgetting the valuable lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic and its profound impact on India’s societal structure and overall framework.
He also drew attention to the increasing threat posed by climate-related disasters, citing recent instances of unseasonal rains, hailstorms, and strong winds that have wreaked havoc on crops across the nation. The adverse effects on farming communities were so significant that a specialized committee was established to assist states in training farmers to cope with climate-related changes, including higher than usual temperatures and their potential impact on various crop types.
According to him, it is now imperative for the media to place greater emphasis on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is crucial because 10 out of the 17 SDGs and 25 out of the 169 targets are directly related to disaster risk reduction.
The media bears a critical responsibility in redirecting its attention towards advocating for a comprehensive reevaluation of existing public policy frameworks. This shift should emphasize the paramount importance of prioritizing the attainment of sustainable goals, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nations, including India, have had to assess the extent to which they can allocate resources towards achieving the objectives outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). A more receptive and sensitive media is essential to navigate the multifaceted challenges posed by climate change, which demand not only immediate attention but also concerted efforts to raise awareness and drive policy changes that align with sustainable development.
Moreover, the Ministry of Science and Technology’s submission of data highlighting the gradual increase in the frequency of cyclones faced by India each year underscores the urgency of addressing climate-related issues. These abnormal climate patterns have a profound impact on agriculture, posing a significant challenge for policymakers.
Crafting effective policies to mitigate and adapt to the consequences of these climate changes is imperative for ensuring food security, economic stability, and the overall well-being of India’s population. Thus, the media must play a pivotal role in shedding light on these issues, advocating for policy measures that safeguard against climate-related challenges, and fostering public discourse to drive sustainable solutions.
He underscores the urgent requirement for a transformative shift in media culture, one that is more receptive to spotlighting the challenges within policy frameworks and the multifaceted issues confronting India in terms of food security and agriculture. He stresses the need for media to adopt a fresh approach, strategy, and focus to ensure these challenges gain prominence in mainstream public awareness. This entails drawing attention to the potential challenges the world may face in a post-COVID era.
The media holds a pivotal role in disseminating and bringing to light issues that are increasingly visible at the grassroots level. It must work towards creating a more inclusive and responsive global discourse encompassing all these concerns and challenges. Moreover, there is a necessity to scrutinize the shortcomings in India’s public health communication systems and the global repercussions witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic. India should establish a national-level crisis communication protocol and policy to effectively communicate the growing threats posed by health disasters.
The media’s role should extend to providing extensive coverage and significance to these shortcomings in public policy, ultimately paving the way for their restructuring and reform. This transformation is essential for India to bolster its resilience in addressing a diverse array of challenges in the future.
In summary, Himanshu Shekhar’s discussion underscores the media’s vital role in reshaping public policy, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Key points highlighted include the need to address hunger, climate-related challenges, and the pandemic’s impact. The media’s responsibility extends to advocating for policy reforms, disaster risk reduction, and improved public health communication. Ultimately, a responsive and inclusive media can help India become more resilient and better prepared for future challenges, making it a crucial player in shaping a sustainable post-COVID world.
Acknowledgement: Aasthaba Jadeja is a research intern at IMPRI.
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