Early Indian newspapers were advocates but with the coming of independence the Indian press blossomed as part of the largest democracy in the world. Today, India boasts some quality newspapers.
India is the seventh largest country and the second most populous with one point two billion people. It is the largest democracy with major religions of: Hinduism, Buddhism, Janism, and Sikhism. The most spoken languages are: Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Gujarati, and Tamil. India is multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic. It has the tenth largest economy in the world and faces challenges of poverty, illiteracy, corruption and inadequate health care. The country is governed under a parliamentary system, has 28 states and seven union territories. Within this diversity there are more than 70,000 newspapers, 500 satellite channels and more than 80 news channels. Save for one instance of censorship, throughout its history, the mass media has been free and independent.
Young India (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Nehru and Gandhi at the opening of the Indian National Congress, 1937. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
First Major Indian Newspaper
Major Indian publishing houses are: the Times of India Group, Hindustan Group, Anandabazar Patrika Group, and India Express Group. In 1780, the Bengal Gazette was the first major Indian newspaper to carry news under British rule. This news consisted of local, national, and international stories which promoted British interests. Some stories were reported in its entirety from news published in the British press in London. It had an audience mainly of the British occupiers and upper-class Indians.
Gandhi on the Scene
By the time Mahatma Gandhi came on the scene in the early 20th century, there were some indigenous dailies, weeklies, and monthlies. Gandhi himself became editor of Young India, Navajivan and eventually at the Bombay Chronicle before that publication was suspended by the British government officials. Navajivan was a Gujarati monthly which received financial contributions and because it did well became a weekly.
Gandhi was able to ventilate his views. Young India was taken to Ahmedabad and had a circulation of 40,000. Gandhi whose journalistic career lasted for 40 years crusaded for the repeal of the Press Act of 1910. His passive resistance and non violence philosophy came through loud and clear. Eventually he was charged and sentenced for articles that were deemed seditious. During his time in jail, Young India and Navajivan folded. After his release in 1933 and 1940, he published Harijan (English), Harijan Bandu (Gujarati) and Harijan Sevak (Hindi) which once again became his voice.
State of the Indian Press
In 1961, the Time Group launched the Economic Times because there was a blossoming of business activity within the country which was marked by a growth in trade. Since its dominion status on August 15, 1947, within the Commonwealth with Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister, the Indian press began to flourish until 1975 when Indira Gandhi imposed censorship, which was short lived. By the 1990s, there were 209 English dailies in India. In 1993, there were 35,595 newspapers. Newspaper sales in the country increased by 11.22 percent in 2007. According to World-newspapers.com-Indian Newspapers, two pre-eminent dailies of India are Hindu – a national in Madrid and the Hindustan Times in Delhi. The Times of India is another one of India’s quality national dailies. The Financial Times provides financial and industrial news.
Asian News International (ANI) is a New Delhi based news agency which gives coverage of India and South Asia. Business Review India provides digital news and a weekly e-newsletter.
A 2011 Report on Freedom in the World issued by Freedom House rated India low on political rights and civil liberties, but the country was still designated as free.
- – -
The Indian press has been mainly free throughout much of its history. It has many challenges though as it reports on the political realities of the nation, poverty, inequalities, illiteracy, and inadequate health care. Although no recent data could be found on the present sale of newspapers and readership patterns, it is left to be seen if increases in newspaper sales will beat those of 2007 at 11.22 percent.
- – -