The Indian TV reporter, who became a social media sensation after filming a segment from the shoulders of a flood victim, is, unsurprisingly, no longer employed.
India’s News Express fired Narayan Pargaien on Tuesday, writing in a statement on Wednesday evening that “such an act by the reporter is a Grave misconduct which goes against [the] cultural values of our Channel.” Pargaien, who told the Indian media site News Laundry he has worked in journalism for more than 17 years, was reporting on devastating floods in the Uttarakhand state, northeast of New Delhi, when a local man offered to carry him through high water. The resulting video didn’t air on News Express, but it did somehow make its way to YouTube -- where it quickly went viral.
Both News Express and Pargaien himself have characterized the incident as a regrettable lapse in judgment. “See, I do agree I was wrong as well,” he told News Laundry, before launching into a tirade about his cameraman.
But some Indians are interpreting it as a more systemic problem, a reflection of the stark divisions between the country’s small upper and large lower classes. According to data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, income inequality in India has risen dramatically since the early ‘90s, with more than 70 percent of the population living on less than $2 a day.
“How many of you ever rode Rikshaw pulled by people in Kolkata?” One commenter wrote. “This sort of things happens everywhere in India. Not a big deal.”
Even Pargaien hints at this, unwittingly, in his interview. Asked how he got the idea to report from a flood victim’s shoulders, he said (emphasis ours):
“It wasn’t my idea to begin with, but there was this man who took me to his home and asked me to report the damage he had suffered. His house was in a miserable condition and he had lost a lot in the flood, and was left with very little food and water. We helped him with some food and some money and he was grateful to us and wanted to show me some respect, as it was the first time someone of my level had visited his house.”
Meanwhile, a much greater human tragedy is still unfolding in Uttarakhand. According to The Times of India, more than 560 people have died and 100,000 evacuated from their homes.