6 pages for Ambedkar; 393 pages for ‘The Family’

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

Also read: Nehru birthday: 58 ads amounting to 26¼ pages

Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Rajiv death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Indira Gandhi birthday: 64 ads, 32 pages

Times, Express groups get most anniversary ads


  1. Dasu Krishnamoorty

    The secular Government of India has quotas for jobs, for seats in educational institutions and for seats in legislatures. etc. Why not have quotas for advertisements in memory of national leaders? We have quotas for national holidays etc. Are advertisements a measure of Ambedkar’s greatness? Sans Serif should not encourage these divisive tendencies. Each person is different from the other. Each group. society and community is different from the other. This does not mean they are rivals or should see each other as an enemy. Hatred is the driving force behind all the identity politics. Media have become partners in these games of regimentation. A media unit is neither secular nor communal. neither rightist nor leftist. It has no isms. It exists to inform. If the media unit has a view of its own, it can use the editorial space to express it. Kindly stop encouraging emotional partition.


    1. Sam

      Let’s face it – every human being has his own perspective and their own neutral point of view is only really ‘neutral’ in their own eyes, and not necessarily shared by others.

      The Hindu is an excellent indian newspaper, and yet, one wouldn’t call it really neutral – everyone is aware of its ‘biases’. It leans towards the left and is ‘pro-china’ (when it is fashionable today to be anti-china). Similarly, the Indian Express, and many other newspapers lean towards the right. Few even parrot the extreme right and left and believe themselves to be the ‘right point of view’.

      So I really doubt if there are any ‘neutral’ media anywhere in the world.


      Despite knowing the fact that most print media outlets depends on government advertisements for their survival, this blog only focuses on a portion of government ads on former Prime Ministers of India of a certain party. It ignores all other kinds of ads released by the central and state government.

      Interesting isn’t it? If this is supposed to be a blog on the media, why does it care WHO the government choses to ‘promote’? (After all, advertisement is about ‘advertising’ isn’t it? And political advertisements will be about politicians, political ideologies and political successes.)

      If these kinds of post are meant to be an analysis of government spending on the media, it is clearly lacking.

      The point is, this blog isn’t any different from any other medium – it has its own biases; in this case – a slight bias against the congress (and, in particular, the Nehru-Gandhi family).

      Another point is, editors / media owners often can’t resist promoting their own viewpoints.

      Readers should be smart enough to identify the biases and choose to protest about it and / or ignore about them.

      Then again, it might be just us with a bias against this blog … 🙂

  2. Law of Omerta

    “So I really doubt if there are any ‘neutral’ media anywhere in the world.”
    Sam, you are widely off the mark. What do you mean by neutral! Do you mean a hopeless moron who does not have any philosophy and ideology? Does having an ideology of our own – left, right, or whatever – mean being biased!

    Newspapers are PRIVATE property. They are run by individuals and corporations that are using their own money. the people who run media have as much right to have an ideology as ordinary citizens or members of the government.

    Lets not start tarring the entire media with the brush of being biased.

    If Sam’s idea of being unbiased is implemented by any newspaper, then that newspaper will end up being run by retards who are completely bereft of ideology or philosophy or the idea of holding an opinion on any issue.

    Lets stop devaluing the value of PRIVATE property. Newspapers are private property as much as our house or the shop.

    As far as the issue of ads in newspapers is concerned. The right to take out ads with public money should be taken away from governments. We need law to stop such wastage of public funds.

    1. Sam

      What do you mean by neutral!

      As far as I know, they are still teaching that news reporting is supposed to be factual. Opinions, if any, should be supported by research and ideally be separate from a news article, i.e. an editorial opinion, and be clearly identified as such.

      True news article rely on facts and sources and let the reader arrive at their OWN opinion / conclusion. Editorials on the other hand, may be factual but will take ‘sides’ and often support one particular point of view to persuade the reader to a particular point of view.

      Since opinions are personal, the language may often be emotional too. E.g.: “While various ministries were falling over each other to sing hosannas for the three ex-PMs, only the ministry of social justice and empowerment … “. (Emotionally laden opinion emphasized by me).


      All media outlets / editors / journalists have their own personal views (and bias) and its readers may or may not agree with most of it. That doesn’t mean we stop supporting it, if it does a good job. But we readers do need to be aware of the biases and either speak up against it or ignore it.

      Personally, I have noticed this blog shift its ‘neutral point of view’ on 2 things / issues –

      (a) Casting negative aspersions on Congress and / or Nehru-Gandhi family.

      (b) Shifting of its stance on demands of media regulation.

      For (a) posts like this one are good examples.
      For (b), a recent post suggested that this blog seems to buy into the idea that there is a ‘clever conspiracy’ by the government, against the media to ‘censor’ it in the guise of regulation.

      Notice how after that post, suddenly this blog has ‘blacklisted’ Justice Markandey and there is no article on him since then (despite his recent clarifications and the activities in support of the media).

      What really confirmed this opinion was when this blog didn’t publish one of my comment (on the same blog post) arguing against this ‘conspiracy theory’, with quotes from Justice Markandey. (Everyone moderates, but this was the first time, that I can recall, that one my comment wasn’t published just because I didn’t tow the authors line.).

      But like I said, this helps – as the biases become more apparent, it justs help me make a more informed opinion – and so I will continue to read it … until it completely manages to alienate me …

      Also, If I make an error of judgment on this blog’s ‘apparent bias’, again, I’ll be the only loser as I’ll be drawing a wrong conclusion from its future articles …

      Hope my perspective is clear to you now …

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