Hyderabad: India celebrated its 72nd Republic Day on 26 January 2021. While many tuned in to watch the parade live on Doordarshan others switched to news channels and social media to watch and read about the tractor rally organized by the protesting farmers in the capital city the same day.
Media Cloud, an open-source platform for studying the media ecosystem, tracked millions of stories published online. Data showed that around 2,278 stories published that day, around 14.01 per cent, were about the farmers.
This was also the first time the war tank on Rajpath on Republic Day was less significant than the tractor in the capital city. The scenes of the tractors entering Delhi was all over the news channels and websites from 9 a.m on 26 January.
News websites also published hundreds of stories about rallies and clashes that took place later during the day between the Delhi police and the protesting farmers.
Importance of the Republic day week
The Republic Day week is important every year since it is the week just before the Budget Session. During the week, news channels and websites carry hundreds of articles relating to the Budget and its impact on various sectors like real estate, health, banking, small and medium industries, and also agriculture.
The scene, however, was different this year. Amidst the ongoing farmers' protest against the three controversial farm Bills introduced by the Centre and the violence in the capital, news websites mostly covered the protests. Around 9,688 news reports about the farmers' protest were published on the web between 22 and 28 January 2021, around 6.71 per cent of total news stories that appeared on the web in India.
No coverage for farmers during previous years
In 2019 and 2020, farmers and agriculture remained a less relevant topic during the Republic Day week. For example, in 2019, news websites published around 1,088 stories about farmers during the Republic Day week which is around 1.47 per cent of stories that appeared on the web.
Interestingly, only 98 stories appeared on the web on 26 January 2019. While three days before the Budget session, on 28 January, around 200 stories appeared on the web while 746 stories about the stock market appeared on news websites on the same day.
In 2020, news websites published only 852 stories about farmers during the Republic Day week which is around 0.94 per cent of the total stories that appeared on the web from India. Also, around 107 stories appeared on the web about farmers on Republic Day, which is 1.38 per cent of the total stories.
It must be noted that in 2020 the CAA-NRC protests were raging during the Republic Day week. Most of the websites were covering the protests all over the country.