Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Patrika Group of Newspapers by Dr.Shripra Mathur

Dear Friends, 
Sub: Media for Change and Action!   
Just to share with you our recent fight ( Patrika gp of newspaper and its media action group meant for action agenda)....may find our campaign against Mobile Radiation Tower interesting in terms of Right Issue ( Public Health), Citizen and Expert Connect, Leading the fight to Court Rooms, losing the Advt revenue, bringing the issue in national debate and finally winning the battle! ( Final verdict has been pronounced in Rajasthan ( last week) and MP has also implemented MP Nagar Palika Act for Radiation ( last month) .....( How we went about it strategically with constant monitoring of our own stand and that of the govts and Co's )..... ( read attached pages pg 4-5 of MAG publication (this will be soon online on MAG site and will send the hard copy) which elaborates the campaign; also find the news updates in our editions on the issue in the following link) 

  • Campaign for public health for an issue which is highly debatable and still under study ( no conclusive proof of Radiation causing Cancer/ Health Hazards) 
  • Larger public cause as the issue is preemptive and there could be long term impacts
  • There was no policy in place and no norms despite the inter ministerial committee of Govt of India ( 2010) referring to need of precaution from towers and cell phones. In some states ( like Rajasthan) there were bylaws by Municipal corporation which were not effected despite them being notified 
  • Lot of pressure as Mobile/ Tower companies are big power and heavy advertisers for news media and we had our business affected after the campaign 
  • Companies are big power to influence Govt and Policies in their favour, hence despite inter ministerial committee having recommended to lower down the radiation levels to 1/10th the companies had managed the deadlines being postponed. 
  • We had first to exert pressure for compliance and no further postponement of the reduction of radiation, which was finally enforced after the campaign geared up. 
  • One prime victim of the radiation ( to whom US docs indicated that the brain cancer to his 2 brothers could be because of excess exposure to radiation) got the team to measure radiation around his residence and it was found out to be too high. 
  • This citizen took full responsibility to fight the case and helped other citizens measure the radiation levels and took personal pains in approaching the central agencies to take cognizance of the issue. 
  • Then we ( Patrika newspaper) also bought radiation measuring devise and measured radiation at different parts ( esp the VIP areas) to carry out the stories and add weight. 
  • Realizing the consequences and gravity, we raised the issue through citizens as the PILs ( Public Interest Litigation) were filed in State High Court and engaged more citizens to file more applications in the court to add volume in support of the cause in the court. Organized public dialogue and meets to educate about the issue and lead the citizens to join hands for the cause. 
  • We kept track of minutest of development in the move by govt ( central and state), companies, courts, activists across the country and keep our focus on the plight of the citizens who came forward to share how much they have suffered and faced the truth of driven by commercial gains at the cost of health. As the towers in the residential buildings had caused havoc with the citizens nearby who realized the possible linkage of their health problems ( cancer, sleeplessness and persistent head ache) to excessive exposure to radiation from mobile towers. 
  • There was no data available though to prove the fact. It was through newspaper stories, we received memorandum and applications and complaints from the citizens seeking guidance of how to get rid of towers and ways to get the radiation levels measured.  
  • We launched a helpline to collect all complaint and sent to the concerned authorities meanwhile the govt had set up a committee to review the matter but there was no expert in the committee who could give authentic report on the matter, upon raising the matter, the High Court ordered to form a Committee to measure radiation levels in different parts of the city from where the complaints had been pouring in. 
  • We nominated the members to the committee ( through Advocate of the plaintiff, who has been a member of our core knowledge group) and also invited IIT Professor ( to Patrika office) to educate the committee members about the issue to help them draft the report by understanding all the aspects and impacts. 
  • We also sent a memorandum- compiling all facts, reports, arguments and scientific reasoning to the Chief Secretary of the state ( with a copy to Govt committee on Radition and Chief Minister )  to expedite the decision in larger public interest. 
  • We linked with all stake holders to form a knowledge group including - lawyer ( of the citizen who filed PIL), activist ( who led the fight and updated all with new researches/ reports), activist in other states ( who updated us with developments and cases in their region and vice versa), experts ( from Indian Institute of Technology- who had deep research and case studies in his access), other alert citizens, citizen groups and experts who added momentum and much desired energy and technical input to the campaign to do away with any misinterpretation 
  • There was regular sharing and exchange of developments which led the campaign to desired direction and raise right issues in the newspaper to build pressure on government agencies and companies to comply with the right move 
  • We represented our case with citizen groups at every forum sponsored by Tower companies to face the fight with full confidence and argue in favour of public health
  • We lost  approx < 6 million revenue after the campaign ( will give exact valuation) as Companies withdrew their commercials from our newspaper while our competitors began to carry out the news in favour of the companies and launched the drive to counter the argument of linkage of radiation to cancer/ health hazard. 
  • Our knowledge group kept alert eye on each of the subversive moves and developments and shared immediately to design strategy to counter the move. 
  • As the matter was sub judice, intermittent court orders in favour of the citizens/ issue ( eg removal of towers from schools, hospitals...deadlines fixed to phase out the towers from schools, hospitals, playgrounds, jail premises....rebuking the companies for procrastinating...setting up a medical board to establish the linkage of radiation to cancer....asking municipal bodies to collect the cases of victims....etc) and then central govt fixing deadline for reduction of radiation by 1/10th without further delay....and final guidelines by Dept of Telecom ( Govt of India) on tower installation and radiation norms....etc kept the campaign on right track.
  • It was a 11 month old fight and seemingly tough as we had big power in front of us....and the Final outcome is: In Rajasthan final verdict has been pronounced ( on 27th Nov) and in Madhya Pradesh Municipal Act had been implemented last month.   


Dr Shipra Mathur, News Editor, Patrika Group of Newspapers 

National Head
Media Action Group 

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