PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: For all the lip service it pays “dalits and the downtrodden”, for all the tokenism of a Dalit as speaker of Lok Sabha, and for all the buzz about a possible Dalit replacement for Manmohan Singh as prime minister, the Congress-led UPA government has issued a measly six pages of ads in 12 newspapers to mark the death anniversary of the father of the Indian Constitution—and the icon of Dalits—Dr B.R. Ambedkar.
In contrast, the State government of Uttar Pradesh, headed by Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party, has issued seven pages in the same 12 newspapers surveyed by sans serif.
The Centre’s six pages of ads for Ambedkar is in stark contrast to the 393 pages of ads issued by various ministries and departments of the Union government and Congress-run State governments to mark the three birth and three death anniversaries of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi in 2011.
While various ministries were falling over each other to sing hosannas for the three ex-PMs, only the ministry of social justice and empowerment is in evidence for Dr Ambedkar. The only State government advertiser is the Delhi commission for safai karmacharis.
The breakup of the Ambedkar ads today are as under:
Hindustan Times: 24-page main issue; 2 Ambedkar ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages
The Times of India: 26-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page
Indian Express: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page
Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 compact page
The Hindu: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page
The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page
The Statesman: 16-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page
The Telegraph: 24-page issue; 0 ads amounting to 0 broadsheet pages
The Economic Times: 24-page main issue; 0 ads
Business Standard: 14-page issue; 0 ads
Financial Express: 18-page issue; 0 ads
Mint (Berliner): 24-page issue; 0 ads
Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:
“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”
Photograph: courtesy Sepia Mutiny