Sonia Singh, who is an eminent journalist and editorial director at NDTV, recently published her book called Defining India, Through Their Eyes wherein she brings out the perspective of our country from the point of view of various influential personalities who have contributed to the progress and growth of India. She discusses the book and the personalities she has embodied in her book at the SheThePeople.TV’s Women Writers’ Fest which was held in Hyderabad on September 7.

Singh talks about how Aruna Roy, a political and social activist, fought for the right to information act to be passed. “The story of how that came about is amazing because no sane government would pass such a law as it works against them yet she managed it. So, that’s a model for women to get that act through parliament but also unanimously. Every party came together to support that and it’s the one act that has been used so powerfully against them. That was an interesting story of an IAS who could change the world and she did,” she added.

“Television has been a huge asset to Indian democracy. However, where my worries are is that we cannot become a mouthpiece to the powerful. That is something that we must guard against as it challenges the very notion of our democracy.”

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She also mentioned how Sania Mirza started playing tennis in a playground which had cow dung on it because there were no proper courts and the initial challenges that she went through. “The important thing for her is that today the people who are breaking records are women athletes. This is the first time ever that people are supporting all the women athletes. Men athletes have been left behind by the women athletes. She said that she couldn’t have dreamt this happening 20 years ago. She said that when she was growing up, her idol was Steffi Graf because there weren’t any sportswomen playing the game who she could look up to. Now every girl wants to be Sania Mirza or Mary Com.”

She also recounted the story of the Dalai Lama who was at the border of Tibet, Bhutan and India and was deciding where he should go to get refuge. “He got a call from India to come to the country and how that one moment changed the course of history,” Singh noted.

“The story of how that came about is amazing because no sane government would pass such a law as it works against them yet she managed it.”

Since Singh has been a journalist for decades, and since now we are at crossroads as far as  Indian television is concerned with regard to the kind of coverage, credibility and the rat-race of breaking news is concerned, she said that television has still been the most powerful tool of the media giving voice to the voiceless. On the crisis going on in media, she said, “Television has been a huge asset to Indian democracy. However, where my worries are is that we cannot become a mouthpiece to the powerful. That is something that we must guard against as it challenges the very notion of our democracy. How do we look at addressing these issues? Is the model broken? In these terms I often look at funding as I feel that television has become a public service run for private profit-making companies and it cannot function like that. It has to be about public-service with a public-revenue model almost like any subscriber-based news organisation where the people are paying for the news that they are getting instead of the government. As long as our television depends on advertising and government ads as revenue, there will be a problem. It needs to be fixed and I would like to see it fixed the most.”

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