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Window Seat: 75 Years of Independence

14/08/2022 at 7:05 AM

Gandhi in Cartoons

As we celebrate ‘Azadike Amrut Mahotsav’along with putting up Triranga in every household- we should be discussing the vision for a nation that has recorded history going back to over 5000 years and a present mired with several problems and pressing issues. 

Contrary to conventional belief, vision is not a gift with which a select few are endowed. Neither does it entail an aha moment that comes out of the blue. It comes about as the result of the focused thinking – sometimes stretching to several years – that goes into searching for a solution to a serious challenge.

Having a vision is like looking at the present from the future’s standpoint – putting one’s mind in the future, imagining it, and then looking back to the present to see how to get there. This “time-forward thinking” is not easy as it may seem because of the way we are wired –  seeking comfort in the “familiar present” while dreading the unknown future. One needs to be bold to explore new horizons and a new reality. It is also important to fight off “anti-visionary” forces, external as well as internal, such as ego, negativity, lack of confidence, shortsightedness, looking for immediate transitory gain, and so on.

A carefully crafted vision demands compelling communication too – in language that is clear and simple so that everyone understands. That is when it becomes a collective property and generates shared passion and commitment. It is then the leader’s responsibility to maintain the team’s focus.

A powerful vision, then, becomes a magnet and pulls everyone towards it. It becomes a unifying force for those who subscribe to it.

We are waiting for that vision- which would take the country forward. We have got a glimpse of the goal thanks to the immortal line of Rabindranath Tagore- but we need a roadmap to reach there.

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake”

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Prajatantra, which used to be one of the front-ranking newspapers of Odisha turned 75 on August 8. It not only played an active role in the freedom struggle but also worked as a training ground for many journalists and broadened the scope of journalism in Odisha.

Prajatantra first started publication as a weekly from Balasore on October 2, 1923. Dr. HarekrushnaMahatab (Nov. 21, 1899-Jan. 2, 1987), freedom fighter, author, historian, and politician published the weekly from Town Press with the twin objective of portraying the condition of people and carrying on the campaign against British imperialism. Its publication was planned at the Swaraj Ashram, Cuttack, which was one of the centers of the freedom movement. JatiyaKaviBirakishore Das was associated with Prajatantra from the planning stage. Prajatantra started publishing from its own printing press on January 27, 1926. It was priced at 2 paise. It stopped publication on December 28, 1930, in protest against the Press Ordinance of the British government. The printing press was seized on 1932.

However, after one and a half decades, it reappeared on August 8, 1947, as a daily with renewed vigor and strength under the fostering care of Dr. Harekrushna Mahatab, the first premier of the State on the eve of the transfer of power who became Chief Minister of Odisha after independence. Besides Dr. Mahtab as the editor, it had the services of Jatiya Kavi Birakishore Das, Gopabandhu Choudhury, Niranjan Pattanayak and Kulamani Samantray.

Prajatantra played an important role during the crucial period of the integration of the princely states of Odisha with the province under the guidance of Dr. Mahatab. Besides being an influential newspaper, Prajatantra was also the training center for journalism for aspiring journalists. It was one of the first Odia newspapers to have emphasized feature writing and investigative reporting. It introduced content for different segments of readers. It had a page for children titled Meenabazar, and a page for women titled Narijagata. It introduced content on entertainment, business, science, and sports. It tried to provide the readers a wholesome editorial content.  Dr. Mahtab’s column ‘GaonMajlish’ was a trendsetter in column writing. It won him the Sahitya Academy award in 1983.

Prajatantra was also a training center for statecraft for many journalists who later occupied important positions in public life and politics. JanakiBallavPattnaik (January 3, 1927- April 21, 2015), who started his career as a journalist with Prajatantra went on to become Chief Minister of Odisha for two terms in 1981 and 1985. He became the Governor of Assam from 2009-2014. In fact, Dr. Mahatab brought journalism and body politic- closer. In many people’s opinion, it was too close… at times even indistinguishable. This aspect of Odia journalism – a very close relationship between politics and media- is one of its unique features. It has been discussed at length in my book History of Journalism in Odisha (Sephali, 2013).

After Dr. HarekrushnaMahtab, Bhairab Chandra Mohanty, Chintamani Panigrahi, Nilamani Routray, Janaki Ballav Pattnaik, Sriharsha Mishra, and Chandrasekhar Mohapatra were the editors.  After Chandrasekhar Mahapatra, Dr. Mahtab’s adopted son BhartuhariMahtab became the editor. He is continuing except for a short period when Biswambhar Parida and Mahasweta Mahtab were the editors.BhatruhariMahtab is a five-time MP from the ruling BJD party.

How much land does a man need?

My friend Samir Ranjan Das is a banker by profession. But his long-time fascination and love for the writings of writer-philosopher Manoj Das have turned him into a quasi-philosopher. Presently he is in Gujarat. And this is what he wrote on his social media platform:

“Today throughout the day I was in a Sub Registrar office in Ahmedabad for some official work. People after putting a thumb impression on land documents rub their figure in this pillar. As if this pillar is made for that purpose! I was thinking someone should paste the story “How much land does a man need?” by Leo Tolstoy in all Sub Registrar offices where people go to a sale and purchase land.”

Photo: Samir Ranjan Das

To know more about Manoj Das see this: http://www.worldofmanojdas.in

To read the story by Tolstoy surf:


About the Author:

Journalist turned media academician Mrinal Chatterjee lives in Dhenkanal, Odisha. He also writes fiction and plays.

He can be reached at [email protected]


This is the personal opinion of the author. The views expressed in this write-up have nothing to do with those of prameyanews.com

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