Adani’s Dharavi redevelopment: Massive protests, dismal media coverage?

Thousands rallied in front of Adani’s office in Mumbai to protest the project on December 16.

WrittenBy:Nikita Singh
Date:
Uddhav Thackeray and Gautam Adani.

Over the past two decades, several governments in Maharashtra have spoken of giving a facelift to Mumbai’s infamous slum of Dharavi – ostensibly the most thickly-populated area in India. Months after the BJP-Shiv Sena faction assumed power in June last year, the task was assigned to Gautam Adani’s Adani Group through fresh tenders.

The opposition – Shiv Sena’s Udhhav faction and the Congress – have alleged that the BJP “gifted” the Rs 23,000 crore project to Adani, purportedly at an inflated rate and after modifying the tenders’ conditions to allegedly serve the conglomerate’s interests. On December 16, thousands of opposition party workers rallied in front of Adani’s office in Mumbai to protest the project and its allocation to Adani.

The rally was also a show of strength by the opposition. But did the issue make it to the TV screens and newspapers?      

Not quite.

Adani-owned NDTV’s coverage of the opposition’s protest was cursory. 

But the channel aired Adani Group’s statement which “emphasised” that the project was awarded through a fair and “internationally competitive” process. 

The media network’s anchors on both its Hindi and English channels read out the Adani Group’s statement: “It is important to note that the tender conditions were finalised during the tenure of the MVA government.”     

Newslaundry looked at Hindi channels Aaj Tak, News18 India, Times Now Navbharat, TV9 Navbharat and ABP, and did not find any noticeable coverage of the protests against the Dharavi redevelopment project. Although the news was covered by the media outlet’s Marathi channels – News18 Lokmat, ABP Majha and TV9 Marathi

Aaj Tak network’s English channel India Today also covered the controversy in a special report in Rajdeep Sardesai’s show. The report detailed the controversy and the allegations made by Uddhav against Adani, and Chief Minister Eknath Shinde’s retort. But it did not delve into the December 16 protest.   

Meanwhile, Mathura mosque case was the top news on Hindi channels on December 16 and 17. The primetime shows too seemed to have given the Dharavi redevelopment controversy a miss.  

News18’s Amish Devgan and Aman Chopra covered the BJP leaders’ take on the Mathura mosque case. The channel’s thumbnail read: “Ayodhya taiyyar, Kashi aur Mathura ki baari iss baar (Ayodhya is ready, Kashi and Mathura this time)?”

Times Now Navbharat too covered the mosque-temple issue extensively. 

However, Aaj Tak’s Sudhir Choudhary did not follow suit. In his December 17 primetime, he delved into the sexual assault allegations by a woman judge against her senior – besides covering the Hindu pride of the BJP’s new CM elects, and “sudden” heart attacks.     

Print coverage 

And what about leading English news dailies?

On the morning of the protest, Hindustan Times’s Mumbai edition didn’t have it on page 1 but as the main story on the city page. The report – titled “Thackeray camp gears up for morcha against Adani” – said the protest was against the Eknath Shinde government’s “alleged favouritism” though the police hadn’t granted permission for the rally at the time of publishing. 

A shorter report detailed the clash between two groups in the slum – Dharavi Redevelopment Committee and Uddhav-led Dharavi Bachao Andolan. The committee members cited former Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s support for the redevelopment.      

As for the protest itself, it didn’t technically make its way to HT’s front page on December 17, but it appeared on the flap. 

Interestingly, Hindustan Times had earlier reported that changes in the rules and development rights commissioned by the state government earlier this year would help the Adani Group “earn more” through the project.

In the Mumbai edition of The Times of India as well, the protest was on the front flap. It cited Uddhav as saying that one of the reasons for the Maha Vikas Aghadi government being pulled down was to award the project to Adani. Another report – headlined “Adani won open bid, finalised during MVA” – quoted a Dharavi Redevelopment official as saying Adani had acquired the tender through “competitive bidding”. 

The Indian Express carried two stories on the Dharavi redevelopment project in its Mumbai edition’s city page on December 16, the day of the protest. 

The main report focused on Uddhav’s march and his allegations against the Adani Group, while another detailed the controversy. The page also carried a snippet on regional Congress chief Varsha Gaikwad pointing out flaws in the Adani contract. 

A day later, the protest too was the main story in the newspaper’s city page. The headline quoted Uddhav as saying “Dharavi project world’s biggest TDR scam”. It also carried two pictures of the protest, showing a sea of protestors. 

In The Hindu on December 17, Uddhav’s protest was covered in a two-column story titled “Uddhav’s march opposes Adani’s Dharav temple” on page 4. It came along with a small picture of the protest.   

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