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OPINION | Where Are the Hashtags For Cyclone Ockhi That Led To Disappearance And Deaths?

Cyclone Ockhi originated from the Bay of Bengal after a depression.

Cyclone Ockhi originated from the Bay of Bengal after a depression.

The media coverage, rather no media coverage of cyclone Ockhi says a lot about our priorities. And, our failure.

The left hand corner of your Twitter timeline shows you the 'trends'—hashtags that people are using and topics they are talking about. It's strange than on a day when at least eight people have died and hundreds went missing after a depression south of Kanyakumari intensified into cyclonic storm 'Ockhi', we aren't bothered about it.

Television channels that were happy to flash hashtags during the Padmavati controversy, Hardik Patel's alleged sex tape, and whether Hadiya's story is of love or jihad conveniently forgot to create a hashtag for the cyclone.

The civic polls in Uttar Pradesh is the biggest discussion today—both on TV channels and social media. And it seems Twitter cares more about #FridayFeeling and 'TIGER ZINDA HAI MONTH' than a cyclone that has hit two states in the South—Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The state governments have shut schools and colleges and advised people to remain indoors. Train services have been stopped and police force deployed in rescue services. The meteorological department has warned that the depression over the ocean may intensify rains in the region in the next 24 hours. According to reports, over 250 fishermen have been missing off the coast of Thiruvananthapuram.

Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has reportedly spoken to Director General NDRF and reviewed the situation in the areas affected by cyclone Ockhi. Meanwhile, the Indian navy has launched a large scale rescue operation for the missing fishermen. Boeing P8I Aircraft was deployed at first light from INS Rajali this morning, which sighted 7 survivors hanging on to a capsized boat — 25 miles West of Trivandrum.

You would think this is a big news to make it to the front page of newspapers, right? You would be wrong.

The story of cyclone Ockhi killing 8 people occupied about three sentences on one newspaper. Another one carried a little picture. The more important news was Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Miss World 2017 Manushi Chhillar and saying "Beti ne naam roshan kar diya hai," or him talking about 'Aadhaar' and how it will fight corruption, or how P Chidambaram trolled the Prime Minister. Cyclone Ockhi didn’t make it to the main story on any national media. And why should it? Isn't a picture of the Prime Minister 'chilling' with Miss World a story we think will find more readers? Isn't a threat from a man, who we have never heard of, to chop an actress's nose over a fictional character more important? Discussing and trying to discover the religion of Rahul Gandhi is clearly more relevant.

For an entire month, the issue plaguing the country was the row over Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Padmavati that has seen people threatening to behead its lead actor, Deepika Padukone, or, at the least, slice off her nose. The Karni Senas occupied prime time on television channels, and basically, our lives. The Gujarat election coverage wasn't about civic amenities or the Gujarat's 'viakas' model—but about Hardik Patel's alleged sex tape and Rahul Gandhi's religion.

Journalism after all can be tough work. And let's admit it, we as national media are only making a mockery of it all. Of course, it's easier to grab eyeballs by talking about sex tapes and giving platform to irrelevant fringe group leaders. But in that process, we are missing out on the news that matters.

The media coverage, rather no media coverage of cyclone Ockhi says a lot about our priorities. And, our failure.

first published:December 01, 2017, 13:56 IST