For some days, it has been widely discussed about the success stories of Delhi government in both education and healthcare sectors. The well wishers of Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) along with Delhi chief minister CM Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia have flooded the social media space with appreciative messages. Latey it was added colour by a frontpage positive news item in The New York Times, USA’s largest selling newspaper, where Delhi’s education minister Sisodia was lauded for his innovative initiatives.
But the article also created sensation among the readers and it entered into controversy as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders claimed it a paid feature. A number of AAP leaders criticised the BJP led Narendra Modi government in New Delhi stating that they could not digest the appreciation received by Sisodia from a foreign newspaper and hence engaged CBI and ED to harass him for ‘wrong reasons’. They went ahead claiming that the Kejriwal-Sisodia led AAP will make a big difference in 2024 general elections where Modi would face the ‘defeat’.
It may be mentioned that NYT in its international edition on 18 August 2022 published a news-feature titled 'Our children are worth it' with two photographs (one featuring Sisodia too) where it narrated the story of improving the government schools in the national capital. Along with the infrastructures, the pupils have been provided uniforms and mid-day meals. The outcome is also astonishing as the report claimed that 100% of students passed grades 10 and 12 examinations, earlier it was below 90 percent always.
CM Kejriwal, who was elected to the post in 2015, assured all possible support to the schools with basic minimum facilities. Moreover, a number of education experts have been engaged in designing new curriculums in those institutions. Unlike other parts of India, where students are leaving the government schools (to enrol in private institutions), Delhi has now been witnessing a reverse process. AAP leaders claim that nearly 250,000 students left private schools in the last few years to join the government ones.
The Delhi government continues building new classrooms (if not the school buildings) with essential facilities for toileting, laboratories, sporting events, etc. Guardians of the students have also been engaged in the process of decision making along with the teachers (who are regularly trained) and concerned government officers. The monthly meetings among them witness serious discussions on various day to day affairs including the shortage of teachers in a particular subject, which are solved with convictions.
The critical voice of BJP leaders against the news-feature was so loud that the NYT had to make a clarification that the particular item was based on impartial, on-the-ground reporting. The widely read newspaper, headquartered in New York, rejected the allegation of advertorial arrangement to publish the news-feature. Its management asserted that the journalism from NYT is always independent, free from political or advertiser influence.
AAP leader Kejriwal in a recent tweet stated, ‘Delhi has made India proud. Delhi model is on the front page of the biggest newspaper of US. Manish Sisodia is the best education minister of independent India’. Assumed as an honest politician by many Indians, Kejriwal also did not bother to clarify that NYT did not publish the story in the front page of its New York edition (but in its international edition). He made the sweeping statement as if all editions of the biggest US newspaper published the news-feature.
Questions may be raised about why it is important to talk about an edition of a newspaper in the days of world-wide-webs. But if one talks about the front page of a newspaper, it should be clarified in which edition (or was it in every edition) of NYT had used the story. Pertinent observation remains, for reasons best known to the editor, NYT preferred local readers not to get the story in physical papers, as it did not appear in the front page of the New York edition. The impressive front page story in the international edition was not given a single column space in the American edition. Quite an amazing story itself!