The media is playing a very important role in how urban India perceives what architecture is. They are full of adverts and articles promoting high-rise apartments and swanky new commercial complexes. They are full of images of tall glass & ACP clad structures, innumerable housing projects that are sprouting up at each nook & corner. There is a constant bombardment of visuals in both the print & electronic media.
However, through all this, behind all this, the media is indirectly manipulating public opinion and aspiration by its constant bombardment of visuals and information. Its like, if you want to be called successful, you need to be living in an apartment, one that boasts of a swimming pool. This, regardless of the fact that there may be acute water shortage in urban areas. And to take matters further, one is further enticed that if you own one flat already, you need a second one as an investment option. The projects that are coming up today are also reflecting these unbalanced desires. There are luxury housing projects which boast of lavish golf courses inside, all totally ignoring the amount of water and power required just to maintain such facilities. By constantly bombarding people’s senses, the media is making the people believe what it wants to believe, aspire for what it wants them to aspire so as to maximise their own profits and those of their invisible masters. Gradually, the ability of people to make a choice for themselves about the kind of habitation they want is being carefully manipulated to suit the needs of the developers and real estate players, by a media which is under their payroll.
The effect of this is that an artificial demand is being created, a bubble, which pushes up the prices of land and liveable space in all our urban areas. All the usable land inside our cities is presently more or less used up. The developers have thus already turned to taking over agricultural lands, as was seen in the recent farmer agitations in Greater Noida. The agitations were for obtaining the right price for the agricultural land taken up for real estate development. In the agitation and its subsequent media coverage, we seem to have missed a crucial point totally. The bare truth remains that land which was to be used for agriculture was taken over for building construction. There is not even a question raised over whether this is ecologically feasible, whether this is good for our cities in the long run, whether the modification of the landuses will not give rise to other anomalies? All these questions have been blithely ignored and covered up by the media.
And what of the disruption and displacement caused to the farmers? The issue has been oversimplified as to one over adequate compensation, when other far graver issues like the loss of livelihood of the farmers, displacement and resettlement of these farmers, impact on their lifestyle, loss of social structure etc, have been pushed to the background or worse still, haven’t even been raised at all. By paying direct compensation (which goes to the men in the family), it further puts the women folk at a huge disadvantage. The liquid cash in hand is blown up on alcohol and unwanted luxuries without thinking about the future, often leading to families ending up literally on the road....why arent the media with their experts unable to see this? Is it because they do not want to see?
Similarly, the aspiration for the concrete box is one of the media’s creations. The subsequent loss of vernacular architectural forms due to blind usage of concrete is largely as a result of the misinformation campaign in the media. Instead of turning to local resources and building materials, the media celebrates foreign imported materials which are ill suited to our climate and context. ‘Expert’ opinions are given by ill-informed experts, which are then vociferously propagated and endorsed by the media establishment, leading to the kind of non-architecture that we are witnessing in our urban spaces. The lack of urban infrastructure, the loss of personal space, the lack of sanitation etc are issues which do not interest the mainstream media today, unless there is the element of sensationalism to it.
The media needs to play a far more proactive role to check the overexploitation of resources and to expose the mechanism of greed that has beset our real estate sector today. The media also needs to remember that in a democracy like ours, the media has a very important role in presenting a balanced picture to the citizens so that they can make an informed choice, to act as a check for unbridled greed. The kind of brainwashing and propaganda that the media is presently carrying out very subtely needs to be stopped. By reducing the people’s faculty of thought, by controlling it, by manipulating it to suit its own agenda, the media is doing a great disservice to the country.