By Firoz Bakht Ahmed*
After decades of playing second fiddle to their English cousins, Hindi newspapers have finally managed to come out of the woods. Truth is that they are flourishing as never before for they have become the average man’s cup of tea. Besides, their prospects for future are still brighter. Editions and supplements are proliferating at a phenomenal rate spurred by a frenzied consumer boom that has assumed enormous proportions in recent years. Journalism not only in Hindi but even regional languages as well, has bloomed by leaps and bounds.
Today’s Hindi belt readers in Delhi, Utter Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar and even Maharashtra are not disappointed. According to Vishnu Prasad Tripathi, senior editor, Dainik Jagran, Hindi dailies are the winners in the sense that the fringe dailies of yester years like Dainik Jagran, Navbharat Times, Hindustan, Nava Bharat (of central India), Punjab Kesri, Dainik Bhaskar, Amar Ujala, Rajasthan Patrika, Prabhat Khabar, Sandhya Times, Aaj, Ranchi Express, Rashtriya Sahara, Swatantra Bharat, Lokmat Samachar and Ajeet Samachar, Sanmarg, Swadesh etc. cater to their varied tastes. Strangely enough all these and many more have now become major players in their regions. They are now at par testing the might of the more high profile and financially healthier established English dailies.
Newspapers in Bengali, Malyalam and Telgue have been known to be forerunners in the field as the most highly circulated single editions. The reason can be the absorption of modern technology or colour printing of photographs. When the English metropolitan papers like The Indian Express, The Pioneer, The Asian Age, The Statesman, Deccan Chronicle, The Sentinel, Millennium Post etc.,flaunt their graduation into colour printing technology, it is only to keep pace with their language counterparts and big players like Hindustan Times, The Times of India, The Telegraph, Deccan Herald, The Hindu etc.
Nevertheless, the Hindi newspapers do it owing to their prosperity and more importantly that they are getting a flurry of advertisements. And mind you, these Hindi papers have also known quite promptly how to be market oriented and commercially wise. Besides, they are even quicker to find out the choice of their readers. That’s the reason why Punjab Kesri has changed its form to that of a tabloid as this form of newspapers sells like hot cakes.
Quips, Chandra Bhushan, a senior editor with Navbharat Times that the truth is that regional Hindi journalism is in the driver’s seat with Hindi being the lingua franca. This is proved by the fact that a few English dailies in the ever increasing and prospering Hindi belt have already folded up. They could not stand up to the onslaught of these up and coming Hindi dailies and weeklies that had more content and better printing besides toeing the line of the reading public.
That over the years the Hindi Press has picked up and profited, has been evident from the fact that once the big Hindi newspapers like Nav Bharat Times, Hindustan, Jansatta and Rajasthan Patrika have to face stiff competition to survive from dailies like Rashtriya Sahara, Dainik Jagran and Punjab Kesri.Published from Punjab and Delhi Punjab Kesri is more like the tabloids in England especially The Daily Mirror, with its front page tending to be titillating with arresting vivacious pictures and gossipy news.
These Hindi newspapers are so advanced now that they have threatened the already established old Hindi dailies like Navbharat Times, Hindustan and Jansatta. Once a highly prestigious newspaper during the editorship of Prabhash Joshi and the pillar of Hindi journalism, Jansatta is now out of the race. After Prabhash Joshi the sting and poignanycy is missing. To compete with their lesser Hindi counterparts,Hindustan and Nav Bharat Times, have to bring about additional supplements almost daily lest they should lose the race for survival to Punjab Kesri, Dainik Jagran or Amar Ujala.
According to Anurag Kothari, senior editor of Rajasthan Patrika, today, the mainline subscription is of the Hindi newspapers as the common man who doesn’t have a drawingroom to showcase an English newspaper, caters to the Hindi daily. However, some people who feel complexed and are occupied with the English syndrome, do keep an English daily in the drawingroom, however, they themselves read a Hindi newspaper!
Keeping this thing in mind and that Hindi has become as important as English, the management of The Hindustan Times of late has brought about some drastic changes in its Hindi cousin Hindustan. In fact it was Dainik Jagran that started the rat race by bringing a Delhi city supplement Inderprashta almost two decades ago. The Hindustan replied it with Dilli ke Rang, Nai Dishayen and Hnidustan City. Besides, it has also redone its important daily feature pages. And lo Nav Bharat Times was not far behind in pleasing the Delhi’ites with a tabloid Hello Dilli! As if this were not sufficient, Nav Bharat Times came up with its educational supplement Vidya Times on the lines of its English brother Education Times of The Times of India.
Herjinder Singh, the editorial consultant of Hindustan is of the view that Hindi Press has entered a new era where its future can be nothing but bright. Owing to the upswing of Hindi journalism, Hindi newspapers are on a fast track. In fact some of them have been the trend-setters. The way the editions of some of the Hindi newspapers like Dainik Jagran, Nava Bharat, Dainik Bhaskar, Aaj, Amar Ujala, Rajasthan Patrika and Lokmat Samachar, Deshbandhu, Uttar Ujala, Sun Star, Awam-e-Hind, Sanjivni Today, Hari Bhumi, Mahamedha, Divya Himaxhal, Dainik Chingari etc have proliferated in the Hindi belt is a wonder. What is greater wonder still is the fact they have all been faring quite well despite cut-throat competition within themselves.
For example in Jaipur, the monopoly of the most highly circulated Rajasthan Patrika has beenchallenged by the versatile Dainik Bhaskar and Navjyoti besides a couple of fringe dailies. Quite ironically, some papers picked up owing to the wrath of some political groups or heavyweights. A couple of years ago the Nagpur offices of Lokmat Samachar/ Lokmat Times/ Loksatta belonging to the Darda family, were torched by the Shiv Sena activists owing to reports against the party. Similarly Dainik Jagran in U.P. survived the onslaught of the Kalyan Singh government. long time ago After the attacks, there was a tremendous hike in the circulation of both the papers.
Opines Jawahar Lal Kaul, a senior Hindi jourtnalist associated with Jansatta for a long time, that the so called national or prestigious English dailies have always remained confined to the drawing rooms of the Westernized elites. Kaul’s remark seems to be tainted with prejudice against the English papers but there’s no denying the fact that our country has registered dramatic growth in the past decade. The readership of the Hindi papers has considerably shot up during the last deacde and a half as against those of English that has remained stagnant. The example is that of the Bhopal English dailies National Mail (from Dainik Bhaskar management), M.P.Chronicle (from Nav Bharat management) and the English Rajasthan Patrika.
The success and popularity of the Hindi newspapers thanks mainly, is owing to the fact of their having access to the latest technology. In fact great credit is to be given to the Hindi dailies as they have reached tremendous heights both in terms of business and quality plus the reporting. Every Hindi paper contains business pages and columns on latest trends in the share bazaar. The increase in advertisements and flow of funds has perked once sluggish and unattractive papers to a glorious spot they could hardly have dreamt a few years ago. An example of this is a Varanasi’s traditional Hindi daily Gandiva that used to be printed on lithographic press. It has its offices in most major cities of India.
Quite a few 6 and 8 page dailies have increased the number of pages to 16 or 24 in addition to a supplement almost a day. The once single edition dailies are printed from as many as 8 to 12 cities and even more like— Dainik Jagran, Amar Ujala, Rajasthan Patrika, Aaj, Nava Bharat, Dainik Hindustan, Rashtriya Sahara, Lokmat Samachar etc. In fact some of the English dailies mushroomed only after the grand success of their sister Hindi dailies. The only thing that the Hindi scribes regret is that elusive status accorded to their English counterparts. But seeing the up going graph of the Hindi Press, the day is not far away that the Hindi scribes will be one up against the English ones! The only thing they lack is the thappa (stamp) which too is coming to them!
*Grandnephew of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, social commentator. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org