The Indian press needs to change along with changing times but without allowing its core values to be undermined, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu N. Ram observed here on Monday.
He was giving the keynote address after M. Jagannadha Rao, a former Supreme Court Judge and chairman of the Law Commission, unveiled a statue of Nyapathi Subba Rao Pantulu at a central location near the District Court complex. Subba Rao was one of the six founders of The Hindu (in 1878), a lawyer, a freedom fighter, a Congress leader, Rajahmundry's first Municipal Chairman, and the man responsible for starting many institutions in the this historic city.
The busy site where the statue was installed has been named ‘The Hindu Square.' Rajahmundry MP Vundavalli Arun Kumar unveiled a plaque, adding an important landmark to the city.
Quoting from an editorial tribute published in The Hindu in January 1941 — which hailed Subba Rao as a man of “magnificent vitality,' a promoter of “liberal Hinduism,” and one who was able to sustain his enthusiasm for public causes over a whole lifetime — Mr. Ram noted that Pantulu was open to modern ideas and change but had his roots in tradition and culture.
He recalled a message from the octogenarian, published in 1938 during the diamond jubilee celebrations of the newspaper, which made the point that the six young men who were members of the Triplicane Literary Society started out with the ambition of moulding public opinion in a forward-looking direction without any thought of financial viability. That was the founding vision.
Mr. Ram emphasised that the strengths of the Indian press were largely derived from its rich history of more than 200 years, and especially the history of the nationalist press tradition. The value of the press as a major democratic institution rested on the following roles it must play: the credible-informational, critical-investigative-analytical, educational, and agenda-building functions.
However, because of market pressure, decline in core values, and rogue elements entering the media, there have been negative developments in recent times.
Mr. Ram spoke about the scandal of “paid news” and wanted news organisations to act firmly to put it down. He regretted the fact that the Press Council, which had commissioned a detailed report, was unable to come to a decision on whether or not to release it.
“The Press Council is divided on this issue and its Chairman's hands seem to be tied,” he observed.
Mr. Ram also assured his audience that for The Hindu, Andhra Pradesh has always been important, as important as any other State in its primary circulation and readership domain.
Alluding to the political situation in Andhra Pradesh and the season of World Cup football, he hoped South India's largest and most populous State, which had tremendous development prospects, would not allow “own goals” to be scored.
Justice Jagannadha Rao recalled the great contribution Subba Rao Pantulu made to Rajahmundry by starting many institutions and promoting social reforms. He highlighted his many-faceted personality.
Mr. Arun Kumar said The Hindu continued with the traditions and values since the time Subba Rao Pantulu and others started the newspaper, and added that only The Hindu had the guts to write editorials against paid news.
MLC K.L. Durgesh said the ideals and deeds of Subba Rao should not be forgotten after installing his statue, but should be practised. MLA R. Suryaprakasa Rao said for people like Pantulu, society and its development were important.
Mayor A. Veeraraghavamma said the statute should have been installed much earlier. Municipal Commissioner K. Manik Raj said he was happy that the statue of a great man was installed during his tenure.
Narasimha Rao, a grandson of Subba Rao Pantulu, recalled the help extended by all sections in installing the statue and naming the square after The Hindu. AICC member Jakkampudi Vijayalakshmi was also present.