Archive for June, 2010

Getaway of the Louts in Gateway to the South

30 June 2010

From the New Indian Express:

# Nearly 35,31,918 metric tonne of iron ore illegally stored and exported from Karwar and Belekeri ports between November 2009 and March 2010.

# Nearly 57,17,370 metric tonne iron ore exported from the two ports over the last five months, when the total number of permits issued by the department of mines and geology was only 21,85,452 tonnes.

You do the math on the Rs 2,500 crore scam.

Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Dismiss BJP govt in Karnataka?

Why has corruption become such a small issue?

GOOD NEWS: Karnataka beats AP, TN, Kerala

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: Karnataka, Bihar of the South?

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt CM?

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

Those who live by the Reddys shall die by them

The lessons from Justice Hegde & Justice Hegde

Karanth, Kuvempu, Gokak & the one by three car

30 June 2010

Left to right: Masti Venkatesh Iyengar, D.V. Gundappa, K.V. Puttappa, M.V. Seetharamaiah, K.Shivarama Karanth, A.N. Krishna Rao and G.P. Rajaratnam. Photograph by T.S. Nagarajan, circa 1955

The conclusion of the world classical Tamil conference in Coimbatore has provided an opportunity for K. Vijay Kumar, former joint director of the Karnataka information and publicity department, to jog his memory on the world Kannada conference held in Mysore 25 years ago, in Star of Mysore.

“The inauguration of the conference received attention as the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was attending besides the great literary giants Kuvempu, Shivaram Karanth, V.K. Gokak and other well-known personalities.

“That was the time when highest tight security was being given to Rajiv Gandhi and this posed a real problem for us and the police in various matters. The venue was the vast open Palace grounds, and to control the entry of a large number of people from various gates around it was difficult.

“A late-night meeting was called by the then deputy inspector general of police (DIG), P.S. Ramanujam, himself a scholar, wherein he explained how he had been asked by the PM’s security people to minimise to the barest the entry of vehicles, even VIPs’, inside the Palace.

“We were worried about bringing Kuvempu, Karanth, Gokak together as they were the chief guests to be seated along with the PM on the dais and in fact, Kuvempu was to inaugurate the conference.

“The DIG said only one car for all the three with a pilot police jeep was permissible.

“Our [information and publicity] secretary Chiranjiv Singh and myself took the responsibility of bringing them to the palace. Karanth was staying at his son Ullas Karanth‘s place in Kuvempunagar; Kuvempu at his residence in V.V. Mohalla and Gokak was staying at Hotel Dasaprakash Paradise in Yadavagiri.

“We told the three previous night about picking them up in the morning. Accordingly, we picked up Karanth and reached Kuvempu’s house and Gokak also joined there. Kuvempu took some time as he was not too well and Dr. Prabhushankara was waiting with a soft pillow for Kuvempu in hand to accompany him.

“The time to reach Palace was already approaching. As Karanth began to look at his watch, Gokak suggested that he and Karanth would go in advance. Chiranjiv Singh asked the then director of information, B.N.S. Reddy, to accompany them. The car assigned for all the three had to take them with the pilot jeep.

“Then we began to plan as to how to enter the palace with Kuvempu though there was Chiranjiv’s car but without an escort police jeep which was a must. We had to rush as the time was short.

“Anyway, we reached the main gate of the palace and the crowd near the gate began to cheer ‘Kuvempu-Kuvempu’ seeing him in the car and the security personnel couldn’t stop the car entering the Palace. Chief minister Ramakrishna Hegde was also waiting to receive the poet. We heaved a sigh of relief.”

Text: courtesy Star of Mysore

Photograph: courtesy T.S. Nagarajan

Also read: A picture worth 7,000 words

CHURUMURI POLL: Mandira B. or Mayanti L.?*

30 June 2010

Now that the quarter finalists of the FIFA World Cup have been identified, the most tempting churumuri poll to conduct is, “Who will win the World Cup?” But that would be too predictable, although the results are not. And, moreover, there is no “Indian angle” to it, therefore not enough maza.

We could also tell you a joke. (Like, what’s the difference between the English football team and a tea bag? Answer: a tea bag stays in the Cup longer.)

So, to fill a vital blank in the soccer discourse, and given our commitment to all things Indian and sport, here’s the next best thing we could come up with: who do you think is the better presenter?

Cricket’s Mandira Bedi (left), the wide-eyed Punjabi girl who gingerly learnt the game with experts while she adjusted her noodle-straps? Or football’s Mayanti Langer, the Kashmiri lass whose breakneck diction cannot distract conspiracy theorists from wondering if she is a surreptitious product placement for Adidas’ Jabulani ball?

On the other hand, if you are such a crashing bore, you could still entertain us by predicting who will take home the World Cup.

* Please feel free not to take part in this poll should it offend your (soccer and/or gender) sensibilities.

Even the tallest of flying birds has to start small

29 June 2010

A brand-new sarus crane (2010 model) watches her mother peck at a bowl of food at the Karanji Lake in Mysore on Monday.

Photograph: Narayan Yadav/ Karnataka Photo News

The little trick Yedi picked up from Tricky Dick

29 June 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: I was resting in the Cheluvamba Park after completing my rounds when I met my friend, the Ace Political Expert (APE) just completing his sprint-cum-walk.

As we sat facing the country’s first radio station named Akashvani—so christened by Prof M.V. Gopalaswamy in 1935—I allowed APE to catch his breath and then asked him a question that was bugging me.

“Tell me APE-raayare, when does a politician start sobbing in public?”

APE considered the question from all aspects just as Christiano Ronaldo would, before making an incisive pass in the penalty area.

“It is a rather difficult and sensitive question, Ramu,” he said. “Let me answer by searching for situations when a politician may not cry in public. If a dear friend or a close family member dies, most people cry, but they cry in private. Sometimes, they hug the surviving members of the family etc. Tears are very precious. They are dropped in heart-felt situations that reflect deep loss and gut-wrenching pain. It is not meant for public exhibition.”

“I see,” was all I could muster.

“News of  a  sudden unbelievable death or a near or dear one, or a major disaster can evoke a very spontaneous response. The well can burst. Since  the news comes  like a bolt from the blue, the  response is immediate it and can happen in public or private. But such situations are very rare and are non-repetitive.”

“That’s interesting, too,” I said.

“Sometimes it could be tears of happiness—‘ananda bhaspa’—when you hear of great, unexpected news such as winning a lottery or your government being saved from the  clutches of the mining lobby. These too can spurt a lachrymose reaction, but again it is not sobbing that takes place in public.”

“Can it happen after finishing a long and arduous exam, or the completion of a two-year period of rule or misrule? You ar so relieved that…. “

“It is possible, especially when you least expect it. Sometimes you expect to fail in a paper and through divine grace,  a grace marks of 5 takes you to the safer side. Or, you expect your government to fall after your own colleagues want you to go and suddenly the situation gets reversed and you are asked to continue. A convict saved from the gallows at the last minute may cry in public out of relief. But, mind you, a repeat of the show is very rare.”

“What do you mean?”

Charlie Chaplin with his acting skills made us laugh and cry, sometimes simultaneously. But even the best of actors like the tragedy king, Dilip Kumar, or our own Raj Kumar could never do an encore on screen or  in public. Not in the same role. It calls for a special talent. More so, when nobody really knows the reason.”

“Why is sobbing in public more and more common, these days?” I asked in all innocence.

“I wouldn’t know. In 1952 Richard Nixon, long before he became President of the United States, was accused of tainted wealth. He came on TV and cried. He was even accused of accepting a dog as a gift from one of his supporters in Texas. Nixon, finally said, ‘Regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep it’. His dog, Checkers, in fact won the day for him and his speech was called the Checkers speech.  Nixon came back as President in 1968 but had to leave office in ignominy after his role in Watergate scandal when he faced imminent impeachment.”

“So there is some history to showing emotions in public?”

APE summed it up nicely as we got up.

“Yes, but Nixon is certainly not a good example for politicians of any hue or any country to emulate. But what I am worried he is. Karnataka is becoming home of crybabies with politicians crying in front of, or for, public,”’ said APE as we got up.

File photograph: Karnataka Photo News

How will media react if Emergency is reimposed?

29 June 2010

With  nearly 60% of India reputedly being under 25 years of age—in other words, with three out of five Indians having been born after 1985—it stands to reason that the 35th anniversary of the declaration of Emergency by the Indira Gandhi government should have come and gone without creating a ripple.

That, and the fact that the news channels and newspapers were too busy celebrating panchamda R.D. Burman‘s birthday and the World Cup to be bothered of the more serious things affecting life and democracy.

Nevertheless, the press censorship during the Emergency is one of the darkest periods in contemporary Indian media history, when promoters, proprietors, editors and journalists quietly acquiesced to the firman of the government to not publish anything that was considered antithetical to the national interest in the era of “Indira is India”.

Censors sat over editors in newspaper offices and crossed out material (including cartoons and pictures) that didn’t conform to the official policy; criticism of the government was a strict no-no; over 250 journalists were arrested; 51 foreign correspondents were dis-accreditated, 29 were denied entry, seven were expelled.

In The Sunday Guardian, the weekly newspaper launched by M.J. Akbar, the veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar recounts life under censorship, names the pussies and lions, and says the media today is “too niminy-piminy, too nice, too refined” if such a disaster were to strike again.

***

By KULDIP NAYAR

L.K. Advani was right when he told journalists, “You were asked to bend, but you crawled.” Even then, the courageous part was that nearly 100 journalists assembled at Delhi’s press club on 28 June 1975 and passed a resolution to condemn press censorship. But subsequently, fear took over and they caved in.

They were afraid to speak even in private.

The press council of India (PCI), the highest body to protect press freedom, became a part of the establishment. The then chairman, Justice Iyengar, stalled a resolution to criticise press censorship by local members of the PCI. Justice Iyengar informed the information minister V.C. Shukla about his achievement in not letting the resolution of condemnation passed.

Except for the Indian Express, the leading light during the Emergency, practically all papers preferred to side with the government.

The two of the worst were The Hindu and the Hindustan Times.

Hindu’s editor G. Kasturi became a part of the establishment. He headed Samachar, the news agency that was formed after the merger of PTI, UNI and Hindustan Samachar. He obeyed the government diktat on how to purvey a particular story or suppress it. He could not withstand government pressure.

The Hindustan Times, owned by the Birlas, was always with the Congress. K.K. Birla, then its chairman, took over as chairman of the Indian Express and changed its editor by replacing incumbent S. Mulgaonkar with V.K. Narasimhan, who proved to be a tough nut to crack. Birla was the complete opposite of Ramnath Goenka, the owner of the Indian Express. Goenka fought the government tooth and nail and staked all that he had built in his life….

The Times of India was edited by Sham Lal, who had impeccable credentials. Girilal Jain, the resident editor in Delhi, too stood by the principle of free press. Both were pro-Indira Gandhi but against press censorhip. However they felt handicapped because the management wanted to play it safe. Not that Shantilal Jain, who owned the paper, was in any way pro-Emergency, but he had burnt his fingers when the paper was taken over by the government at the instance of T.T. Krishnamachari, then the finance minister, who doubted the paper on certain matters.

Leading regional papers were against the Emergency but did not want to face government wrath. Eenadu, under Ramoji Rao, refused to toe the government line but stayed within the contours of the Emergency to avoid trouble.

Ananda Bazaar Patrika owner Ashoke Sarkar was a man of courage and gave his blessings to his principal correspondent Barun Sengupta’s fight against the emergency. The paper, however, managed to escape the wrath of the then West Bengal chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who was the author of the Emergency.

My friend K.M. Mathew, the owner of the vast empire of Malayala Manorama, stood his ground and despite the pressures on him showed where his sympathies lay when he invited to open a photo exhibition at Kottayam after my release from jail. The country was still in the middle of the Emergency. Yet, Mathew showed his annoyance in his own way.”

Text: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

CHURUMURI POLL: Dismiss BJP govt in Karnataka?

28 June 2010

Normal human beings can’t hide a simple secret.

How on earth do the abnormal human beings who now lord over the state of Karnataka hide 5 lakh tonnes of illegally mined iron ore without anybody noticing? How on earth do they manage to transport 25,000 to 40,000 truck loads of such ore—worth between Rs 150 and Rs 250 crore—across various jurisdictions in 400-500 trucks a day, for months, without anybody noticing?

How on earth do the abnormal human beings manage to illegally export Rs 1,200 crore (or more) of iron ore from the State’s ports over a year, and fabricate 41 gunny sacks of forged permits, without anybody noticing? How on earth can the confiscated ore suddenly “disappear” without anybody noticing?

How on earth can this daylight loot—of the State’s resources, of the State’s environment, of the State’s reputation as a civilised law-abiding State—go on without causing anger and outrage, unless ideology has made us abnormal too and inured us to sleaze and corruption of mind-numbing proporations?

Has law and order completely broken down in Karnataka?

Is the State fit for the imposition of Article 356?

BJP leader Sushma Swaraj, the leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, blesses State ministers B. Sriramulu (left) and Gali Janardhan Reddy in Bellary in January 2009. It was Swaraj's election against campaign against Sonia Gandhi in Bellary in 1999 that brought legitimacy to the Reddy brothers.

***

Editorial in The Indian Express titled ‘Contempt of Port':

“It’s already become clear that Karnataka politics has become deeply compromised by interests vested in the mining economy…. B.S. Yediyurappa himself appears to have made little attempt to follow up on the former Lok Ayukta N. Santosh Hegde’s complaints….

“The state’s politics, particularly that of the ruling BJP, has been deeply influenced by the power of those, especially the Reddy brothers, who run the iron ore mines of Bellary. Karnataka’s government cannot afford to continue to show itself unable to clean house. The open contempt for legality visible at Bellikeri port is extremely disturbing.”

Editorial in Mail Today titled ‘Government of plunderers':

“The decision of Karnataka’s Lok Ayukta Justice N. Santosh Hegde to resign from his post is a damning indictment of the BJP regime in Karnataka. Justice Hedge’s complaints are a comment on how partisan interests are guiding the functioning of the Karnataka government.

“This episode reiterates two vital issues. One, the mining lobby led by the Reddy brothers, who are ministers in the Yediyurrappa government, continues with its operations, robbing the state of valuable natural resources and damaging the environment.

“Two, as Justice Hegde’s case makes evident, the office of the Lok Ayukta in the states where it exists is unable to live up to its mandate on account of lack of adequate powers and its dependence on the state government on crucial matters.”

Also read: Why has corruption become such a small issue?

GOOD NEWS: Karnataka beats AP, TN, Kerala

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: Karnataka, Bihar of the South?

When did a Rs 10 crore bribe stop moving us?

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt CM?

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

Those who live by the Reddys shall die by them

The lessons from Justice Hegde & Justice Hegde

English news channels have 0.4% viewership!

28 June 2010

Cynics and critics of the media cannot stop bad-mouthing the English news channels and their shrieking, shouting, table-thumping, finger-wagging anchors. They lambast Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai and Arnab Goswami, accusing them of being everything from trivial to sensational to anti-national.

Opinion makers and talking heads from politicians to penpushers move heaven, earth and everything else in between to appear on the English news channels. Advertisers drop everything else to flock to them. Viewers cannot stop accusing them of everything that is wrong with the country short of the monsoon. Yet….

Yet, is this all futile?

Using data collated by the television audience measurement agency (TAM), Archna Shukla of the Indian Express reports that this could all be very misplaced. That, despite its growing social and rural acceptance, English news channels boast of such a minuscule viewership that it probably does not even count.

From a snapshot of television consumption in India in the Sunday Indian Express:

1. There are 134 million households which own television sets in India; 70 million are in rural areas, 64 million in urban India

2. India is the world’s second largest broadcast market in viewership base as well as the total number of channels (500)

3. An average Indian watches television for two and a half hours a day, South Indians are glued to the idiot box for longer

4. There are more news channels (81 and counting) than general entertainment channels

5. News and current affairs channels has 7.5% viewership share; GECs have 51%.

6. Hindi has 43% reach and audience; the regional language channels put together account for 37%

7. Hindi speaking market is larger but South Indians watch TV for longer, spending close to three hours a day

8. English channels, news and otherwise, gets only 11% of viewership share

9. English news channels have a 0.4 per cent viewership

10. Men watch sports, news and movie channels; women watch soaps and serials

Read the full story: How India watches television

Television in India

4 cars, 3 SUVs, 8 bikes and 16 autorickshaws

27 June 2010

Devotees throng the ISKCON temple on Chord road in Rajajinagar in Bangalore on Sunday, overlooking the Namma Metro project, as the gopuras of two other temples in Mahalakshmi layout loom over the horizon.

Do autorickshaws stand to lose the most when the trains are up and running?

Photographs: A replica of the Metro coaches, imported from South Korea, on display on M.G. Road on Friday (Karnataka Photo News)

***

The Namma Metro photo portfolio

Oh God, what have they done to my M.G. Road

Saturdays, girlfriends, popcorn and other memories

Every picture tells a tale. Babu‘s can fill a tome.

Not a picture that will make it to Lonely Planet

Amar, Akbar, Antony. Or Ram, Robert, Rahim

Only a low-angle shot can convey its great girth

Lots of work overground for an underground rail

The unsung heroes in the dreams of Bangaloreans

The crotch, the nose, the hand and your phone

27 June 2010

On the one hand, the mobile phone revolution in India has provided cheap and easy access to the great unwashed. On the other hand, it has also erased the difference between public and private—and obliterated what little courtesy, civility and etiquette was left in the country.

Talking loudly on it (or peering repeatedly at) in the presence of others, even if it disturbs others; not keeping it on silent mode in buses, trains, theatres and concerts; using it recklessly while driving or after landing; forwarding silly messages or downloading loud ringtones, we do it all with a shamelessness that can only be Indian.

The poet and writer Vijay Nambisan in Deccan Herald:

“A friend in Mysore said some years ago the one thing she thanked the mobile phone revolution for was that the men she saw on the street were better behaved. ‘Earlier they could scratch their crotch with one hand and pick their nose with the other,’ she reported. ‘Now with the phone to hold they can do only one of those things’.”

What is your most obnoxious cellphone story?

Photograph: Bureaucrat V.P. Baligar (middle) and home minister V.S. Acharya (right), work their phones while Union environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh holds forth in Bangalore  in this June 2009 file photo (Karnataka Photo News)

Read the full article: Why are we like this only?

Also read:Are cell phone users the most obnoxious humans?

BUS UNCLE: The Chinese man who topped YouTube

At least, it’s better than picking your ear or nose?

6 ways how every petrol price hike rips you off

26 June 2010

GOVINDA K. writes: Last night, the Union government hiked petrol prices. Even before the official announcement was made, most of the petrol bunks started sporting “No Stock” boards. Minister R. Ashok “raided” many petrol bunks and warned those who had stopped supplying petrol.

This did not come as a surprise for me as I had seen all this happen ad nauseam for years. Some of my relatives own petrol bunks, and I had seen them discussing petrol price hikes, since the times of George Bush‘s Iraq war when too petrol prices saw a steep increase, at closehand.

This is how it all happens:

1. The news of price originates from petroleum ministry office. That flows down to the offices of each oil marketing company (Bharat Petroleum, Indian Oil Corporation, Hindustan Petroleum, etc) and finally comes to the ears of the service station dealers. Such news usually starts doing the rounds almost two weeks before the official increase.

2. The dealers are usually tipped off by their sources in the oil marketing company on the payment of a certain prefixed amount. This was the trend some years ago. Now, due to the internet and continuous speculation by media, dealers come to know about price hike from other sources too.

3. If a cabinet meeting is scheduled to be held on a particular date when news of a hike is in the air, then it is almost always a sure sign of a price hike effective midnight.

4. When there are strong reasons to believe that there’s going to be a price hike, the dealers pay a certain amount of money. On such payment, the dealer is supplied with stocks on demand. There is more demand for stocks in such situations. Those dealers who make a higher payment will be given stocks on preference.

5. There is yet another way of making more profit. If the dealer pays more money, the people in the supply plant will send an extra load of fuel in a tanker which will be parked at the service station. Note that a fuel tank at a service station can only accommodate a certain limit of fuel. When dealers want to make more profit, they fill their tanks full and get an extra fuel truck.

6. Just a day before the price hike, the service station boys will be advised to go slow on fuel supply. And in few hours, they start putting “No stock” board and totally stop the fuel supply.

How is it an extra profit?

For every litre of petrol or diesel, the oil marketing company fixes a certain amount as commission for the dealer. During price hike, the dealer buys the petrol at the older rate and stops supply. He sells the same fuel at a higher price when the new rates become effective.

The commission given to the dealer on every litre of petrol is about Rs 1.20.

After the latest hike, a dealer will get Rs. 1.20 (commission) + Rs. 3.50 (price hike) = Rs. 4.70 (total) per for every litre of petrol. That’s the profit margin.

Fuel is measured in terms of KL (kilo litres) or 1,000 litres. Usually in one load, an average dealer buys about 4 KL of petrol (4,000 litres) and 8 KL (8,000 litres) of diesel. One load is sufficient for a period of 2-3 days. If the service station is situated in a city like Bangalore, one load will be just sufficient for one day.

You have all the variables, just calculate the amount of profit made by a dealer taking one load of fuel.

On the other hand, when there is a decrease in price which is not often, the same sources in the oil marketing companies can be relied upon to inform the dealers not to place orders. Even for this, there will be an amount to be paid for the “informers”. Hence the dealers make sure that they do not suffer any loss.

In both the cases, it is the common man who suffers due to NO STOCK!!

Photograph: BJP workers stage a dharna in Dharwad on Saturday against the increase in prices of petroleum products. (Karnataka Photo News)

Why does this poor, selfless soldier cry so much?

26 June 2010

Never trust a woman who laughs too much, and a man who cries too much, is a bit of native Kannada wisdom that is clearly alien to chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa who has shed tears for public consumption every year since taking over the reins of the State.

Two years ago, the self-confessed “farmer” wept copiously when meeting the mother of a farmer who was shot dead in firing in Haveri. Last November, he broke down in front of television cameras because he had had to drop his pet-minister Shobha Karandlaje and his pet-bureaucrat V.P. Baligar for “selfish ends”.

It was lights, camera, action replay during his speech at the Sadhana Samaavesha to mark two years of BJP rule in the state at the palace grounds in Bangalore on Friday.This time, the alleged provocation was the constant needling of the opposition parties of his government’s every move.

Is Yediyurappa not as strong as the BJP’s media minders would like us to believe? Or is he just using (or hoping to use) tears to wash away his troubles and tribulations?

Photographs: B.S. Yediyurappa at the BJP government’s sadhane samavesha in Bangalore in June 2010 (top); during a television interview in Delhi in November 2009; at the residence of Shanthamma, the mother of a farmer who was killed in police firing shortly after he was sworn in June 2008 (bottom);  Karnataka Photo News and TV grab

Also read: Why are our brave, macho men crying so much?

***

The B.S. Yediyurappa photo portfolio

Is it an idol? Is it a statue? Is it a mannequin?

One leg in the chair, two eyes on the chair

Yedi, steady, go: all the gods must be crazy

Kissa Karnataka chief minister’s kursi ka: Part IV

Why did the chief minister cross the road divider?

Sometimes you are up, sometimes you are down

Dressed to thrill: Yedi-Chini bhai bhai in Shanghai

Survival of fittest is a great photo opportunity

Drought relief one day, flood relief the next

How a chief minister should drink tea. (Or not.)

Let the rebels know, the CM will not bow one inch

Even four pairs of hands can’t stave off the flak

Yediyurappa regime slips into yet another sandal

Behind every successful cyclist, there are a few men

Life’s a cycle. What goes up must come down.

A leg up for the one is a leg up for the other

The emperor’s new clothes has a loose button

Two lessons from Justice Hegde & Justice Hegde

25 June 2010

With a 90-minute press conference bringing to nought the tens of crores being squandered in advertising the “sadhane” (achievements) of the two-year-old B.S. Yediyurappa government, the paid pipers of the BJP are back at what they do best: shooting the messenger, attributing motives, and slapping their thighs without a hint of remorse.

Without bothering to be bothered about the core issue: the brazen sleaze and corruption—cutting across gender, party, ideology, age, religion—that tests the trust and faith of the common man in the democratic system, and in the seriousness of those he has elected to at least put up a pretence of putting an end to it.

But the motives and motivations of Justice Nitte Santosh Hegde, who has cast the first stone, is not to be sniffed at; his pedigree not to be piffled with. Justice Hegde draws inspiration from Justice Hegde, his father Justice Kowdoor Sadananda Hegde. One took on the Congress, the other took on the BJP.

***

From Business Standard:

“Justice N. Santosh Hegde, till this week the Lok Ayukta of Karnataka, a former Supreme Court judge and the son of the famous late Justice K.S. Hegde—who resigned from the Supreme Court of India in protest against his supersession by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, contributing to events that culminated in her imposition of national Emergency—has spoken for millions of concerned citizens across the country by quitting his post….

“Hegde’s resignation does not herald his entry into politics. He scoffs at such suggestions. His wife Sharada (who is a Punjabi grown up in Karnataka) and he have no children. He lives simply, has a flat in Bangalore and an ancestral home in Mangalore. He often talks about his mother Meenakshi, who greatly influenced his life. She was responsible for imbuing her children with values of humaneness.

“His father K.S. Hegde, who was also Speaker of Lok Sabha between 1977 and 1980, had made it clear to his children that while they would get the best education possible, making something of themselves was up to them — they would get no help from their father.

“But what Hegde has in common with his father is a sense of justice and an abiding commitment to principle. The senior Justice Hegde had resigned from the Supreme Court, the junior one, too, quit the government because he was not allowed to work.”

Read the full stories: here and here

Links via Gouri Satya

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

***

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt State?

Why has corruption become such a small issue?

GOOD NEWS: Karnataka beats AP, TN, Kerala

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: Karnataka, Bihar of the South?

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt state?

24 June 2010

The Lok Ayukta of Karnataka, Justice N. Santosh Hegde, has provided an appropriate curtain-raiser to the “Sadhane Samavesha” (convention of achievements) of the two-year-old BJP government in Karnataka by shining a grim light on the dark and devious role being played by B.S. Yediyurappa‘s regime in shielding the corrupt.

Justice Hegde has exposed the BJP government’s efforts to thwart his efforts to catch the corrupt; he has shown how corrupt officials were reinstated despite the cheif minister’s assurances; he has thrown light on how 5,00,000 tonnes of iron ore transported illegally from Bellary and seized by forest authorities “disappeared”. Etcetera.

Simply put, Justice Hegde has shown how the Yediyurappa dispensation which takes the high moral road in public takes a low immoral one in private. At another level, the charges are more proof of why Karnataka continues to to the corruption charts. Naturally, political motives are being attributed to the timing of the Lok Ayukta’s resignation as indeed the revelations made by him.

Questions: In his lust for office, is B.S. Yediyurappa shielding the corrupt? Or is this nothing compared to the corruption of the Congress and JDS? Is this more proof that BJP is no different from the Congress? More to the point, looking at the kind of headlines Karnataka is making, is namma cheluva naadu, India’s most corrupt State?

Also read: Why has corruption become such a small issue?

GOOD NEWS: Karnataka beats AP, TN, Kerala

How China changed the politics of Karnataka

CHURUMURI POLL: Karnataka, Bihar of the South?

When did a Rs 10 crore bribe stop moving us?

CHURUMURI POLL: India’s most corrupt CM?

How the BJP completely lost the plot in Karnataka

Those who live by the Reddys shall die by them

A picture not for the eyes of Shri Ashok Kheny

22 June 2010

City slickers can barely get a good word in sideways about him. But an overly reverential party worker does not hesitate to show Janata Dal (Secular) national president H.D. Deve Gowda‘s his diving skills at a meeting of the party in Chikamagalur on Tuesday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Should a former President fall at a Godman’s feet?

Umbrellas, shoes, our democracy—and theirs

Head to toe, the essence of a good Kannadiga

A silhouette coloured by The Great Painter…

21 June 2010

A silhouette coloured by The Great Painter as he departs over the horizon at Kukkarahalli Lake in Mysore on Monday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

The curious case of Zakir Naik & Shekhar Gupta

21 June 2010

The gentleman on the right of the frame wants India to be ruled by Shariat laws. He recommends death for homosexuals. He supports Osama bin Laden if he is “fighting the enemies of Islam”. He says revealing clothes make women more susceptible to rape.

Yet, the gentleman on the left, Shekhar Gupta, introduced him as the “rockstar of tele-evangelism” in March 2009, on his NDTV show Walk the Talk:

“…but surprise of surprises, he is not preaching what you would expect tele-evangelists to preach. He is preaching Islam, modern Islam, and not just Islam but his own interpretation of all the faiths around the world.”

In February this year, the paper edited by the gentleman on the left, the Indian Express, ranked the gentleman on the right 89th on its list of the most powerful Indians in 2010 (jury: unknown), ahead of  Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, with large numbers dripping all over:

“His sermons on Peace TV-English boast of a viewership of 100 million. The channel is aired in 125 countries. Peace TV Urdu has 50 million viewers. He has given 1,300 public talks including 100 in 2009, 10-day peace conference attened by 2 lakh…”

Now, with the British government announcing that the gentleman of such affection—the gentleman on the right, Dr Zakir Naik—will not be allowed into Britain because of numerous comments that are evidence of “unacceptable behaviour”, the journalist-author Sadanand Dhume writes in The Wall Street Journal:

“If you’re looking for a snapshot of India’s hapless response to radical Islam, then look no further than Naik. In India, the 44-year-old Dr. Naik—a medical doctor by training and a televangelist by vocation—is a widely respected figure, feted by newspapers and gushed over by television anchors….

“When the doctor appears on a mainstream Indian news channel, his interviewers tend to be deferential. Senior journalist and presenter Shekhar Gupta breathlessly introduced his guest last year as a “rock star of televangelism” who teaches “modern Islam” and “his own interpretation of all the faiths around the world.”

“A handful of journalists—among them Praveen Swami of The Hindu, and the grand old man of Indian letters, Khushwant Singh—have questioned Dr. Naik’s views, but most take his carefully crafted image of moderation at face value.”

But the Indian Express is, if nothing else, extremely touchy when its judgments are questioned.

With Dhume’s article doing the rounds, it has run an editorial in response to the British decision, curiously titled “Talk is Cheap”:

“By disallowing Zakir Naik from delivering his lecture in Birmingham, Britain has simply made him a cause and handed him a megaphone, ensuring that his voice is amplified on blogs, social networks and other forums where disenfranchised and angry Muslims gather.

“This is not to say that Naik’s televangelism is not entirely free of objectionable or sometimes plain ridiculous content…. Naik is simply one corner in a larger field, and his ideas have been debated, endorsed or demolished, as the case may be, on very public platforms…. Words must be fought with words alone, not clumsy state action.

“Zakir Naik talks of ideas that some might abhor, but some others take all too seriously. Not permitting open discourse is to constrict the free play of disagreeement and disputation.”

Photograph: courtesy NDTV 24×7

Read the full column: The trouble with Dr Zakir Naik

Follow Sadanand Dhume on Twitter

Seven-and-a-half hours in the day of your CM

21 June 2010

Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa‘s media schedule for Monday, 21 June 2010.

Forty interviews in all, in slots of 20 mintues each spread over seven-and-a-half hours, have been lined up by his media secretary, N. Bhrungesh, with the members of the press to enable the CM to hold forth on his pet themes of development, governance and progress on the completion of his second year in office.

The hard work will not show till Thursday, June 24, when the 20 Kannada, 13 English, three Urdu, two Telugu, and one Tamil media vehicles all simultaneouly begin running their “exclusives” and “breaking news”.

Has namma R.K. Laxman drawn his last cartoon?

21 June 2010

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: A question mark hangs over India’s most famous exclamation mark after a further slip in health of Rasipuram Krishnaswami Laxman, the iconic cartoonist of The Times of India.

The 86-year-old Laxman, who has drawn cartoons for ToI for 63 years, has been airlifted to Bombay, reportedly after suffering a “mild stroke”, and is receiving treatment at the Breach Candy hospital, family sources say.

(A report in The Times of India says he suffered three mini-strokes between Thursday and Saturday.)

Already a shadow of his former self after a first stroke seven years ago which affected his left hand, R.K. Laxman, as he is known to newspaper readers, was first admitted to the Sahyadri hospital in Poona, where he currently lives, but was airlifted to Bombay on Sunday evening.

Mysore-born Laxman was last spotted at the engagement ceremony of his grand-niece in Bombay earlier this year.

Despite his first stroke, Laxman returned to draw the “You Said It!” pocket cartoon for The Times of India every morning, although the state of his health showed in the scraggly lines and often times in the cartoon being desultorily buried in the inside pages.

On days he doesn’t come up with a cartoon, ToI dips into its archives.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: Making all of us smile can make one of us cry

Look who inspired R.K. Laxman‘s common man!

External reading: The Ramon Magsaysay foundation citation

Does Sri Krishna need Walt Disney for inspiration?

20 June 2010

“Scandal” and “controversy” are the middle names of ISKCON.

Weighed down by the dum maaro dum bestowed inflicted on it by Bollywood, the cult has been accused of being a CIA outfit; its gurukuls have been infamous for sex scandals, child abuse, molestation and homosexual abuse; there have been whispers of its founder being murdered.

Its mid-day meal scheme Akshay Patra has slumped into a row.

It falls to a pattern, therefore, that ISKCON’s proposed Krishna Lila theme park on Kanakapura Road in Bangalore, for which the bhumi pooja took place today (in picture), should have been begun on a litigious note, with charges of land grabbing flying around between ISKCON and the Congress’ D.K.Shiva Kumar.

Money for the 28 acre, Rs 350 crore “family edutainment” theme park inspired by Disneyland, and aimed at weaning Indian kids away from western comic-strip icons Superman and Spiderman, will be raised by developing a “heritage township” on the 42.5 acres near the hillock.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

A small lesson from Sir MV for our munde makkalu

20 June 2010

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji was reading the Mahabharatha and closed the book just as I entered.

Hegitthu, Ajji? How was your Bharatha vaachana?”

Alvo! Karna’s extraordinary character is so inspiring. He gave off even the Vajra Kundala to Krishna masquerading as the old Brahmin, fully knowing it was life-threatening for him. He donated every bit of what belonged to him. Truly he was a Dani, the eternal donor.”

Adikke alva ajji, he was called ‘Dana Shura Karna.”

“I know but compare him to our present-day leaders. Even the money collected for victims of natural disasters are gobbled up. How can our leaders buy plane tickets from that money, kano? Paapa alva?

Papa? Punya? You think they can even distinguish one from the other. They keep saying, ‘I have been serving people for the last 50 years. Janaseveye janardhana seve and all that’.”

“The poltishans made t-shirts out of the money collected for rehabilitation of victims of floods who have nothing to wear. Naachike, maana maryade ne ilva? Don’t they have a sense of shame?”

Ajji’s sense of outrage was the same as the collective outrage of the nation against politicians who connived to spirit Warren Anderson out of the country.

Ajji continued: “Also people who were afflicted with floods, uprooted from their houses in North Karnataka are still living under zinc sheets in hot summer temperatures. It is worse than sudugadu. Is it not callousness that our government that is patting itself on its back about the success of the global investors’ meet cannot rehabilitate the victims even after a year after the tragedy? It is like rubbing salt on the wounds. They are treating people like cattle.”

“Yes, Ajji.”

“We are hypocrites—all of us, each one of us. We talk of pooje, puraskara, dharma etc. We don’t hesitate to loot the hundis or steal the sarees and ornaments that devotees donate to the deity. We even collect money from the poor and very poor for disaster victims and gobble ‘em up.”

Eega ‘Nanna seveye Janardhana seve antha aagide‘. ‘Let me look after my interests by hook or crook,’ that is the dictum.”

“We had such great selfless people serving the State. I have heard Sir M. Visvesvaraya gave away his entire profitend fund of Rs 2 lakh to start a polytechnic institute in Bangalore. When the Maharaja asked him to name it as Visveshvaraya Institute, he refused and called it Sri Jayachamarajendra Polytechnic Institute.”

“Very true Ajji, except it is provident fund not profitend fund. Eega adu ‘Profittu nanna Fund’ aagide!”

“Former chief minister S. Nijalingappa did not even have a house of his own, despite being a chief minister and president of the Indian National Congress Party. Our maharanis pawned their jewelry to raise funds for the construction of Krishnaraja Sagar dam.”

Nija Ajji. Even the royalty were selfless as against some of our present day leaders who behave as if they are royalty but go about making money by illegal means.”

Howdappa howdu.  Each poltishan thinks he is Maharaja and probably has more money than what Maharajas ever had.”

Ajji, you mentioned Vishvesvaraya. I was reading of a small incident concerning him and his mother Akkachamma. Visvevaraya was very strict about not using official facilities for his personal matter. That included the car, even pencils and candles. Let me read out from his biography*:

“Once, Visvesvaraya’s mother Akkachamma returned from their village Muddenahalli with him in the government car. She was not keeping good health and was not able to get down from the car.

“Visvesvaraya directed the driver to drop her at her house in Chamarajapet.

“Aware of the rectitude of her son she said, ‘No’, got out of the car with some effort, rested for a while and left for her house in her son’s personal car.

“He exclaimed, ‘Mother. You are proud of your son being a Dewan, but I am much more happy and proud at your refusing to use the government car for personal use’.”

“We had such great and selfless people to lead us our State. Now, all we have is a bunch of hoodlums trying to line their pockets at every opportunity,” sighed Ajji.

***

*From ‘Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya’ by V.S. Narayana Rao, National Book Trust Publications, 1988, page 133

***

Also read: Why the queen sold her diamonds and jewels

Sir MV: The world’s 7th most famous Mysorean?

One question I’m dying to ask R.V. Deshpande

‘Indian daily journalism is uniformly second-rate’

20 June 2010

Bill the bard, put it better, of course: “‘Tis the time’s plague, when madmen lead the blind.”

Aakar Patel is no Shakespeare, but he makes a similar point: Indian media doesn’t know but they are trying to show us the way. Patel, formerly of Asian Age, Deccan Chronicle, Mid-Day and Divya Bhaskar, tears into our information providers in a column in Lounge, the Saturday supplement of the business daily Mint.

Indian journalists do not know how to ask questions. Indian journalists look for validation of their views rather than fresh information. Indian newspaper proprietors are more knowledgeable than their editors. Indian writers are rarely asked to write for publications abroad because they are so bad. Etcetera.

“There are good journalists in India, but they tend to be business journalists. Unlike regular journalism, business journalism is removed from emotion because it reports numbers. There is little subjectivity and business channel anchors are calm and rarely agitated because their world is more transparent.

“Competent business reporting here, like CNBC, can be as good as business reporting in the West. This isn’t true of regular journalism in India, which is uniformly second-rate….

“You could read Indian newspapers every day for 30 years and still not know why India is this way. The job of newspapers is, or is supposed to be, to tell its readers five things: who, when, where, what and why. Most newspapers make do with only three of these and are unlikely to really you ‘what’….”

Where would Indian journalism be if it weren’t for its columnists?

Photograph: courtesy My Space

Also read: SEBI chief: Business journalism or business of journalism?

Raju Narisetti: ‘Good journalists, poor journalism, zero standards’

New York Times: Why Indian media doesn’t take on Ambanis

CNBC barbs that resulted in a Rs 500 crore lawsuit

Pyramid Saimira, Tatva, and Times Private Treaties

How come none in the Indian media spotted Satyam fraud

When a music mag (Rolling Stone) takes on Goldman Sachs

When Jon Stewart does the business interview of the year

Also read: Aakar Patel on working at The Asian Age

Prime minister, maybe, but not a very good sub

An EGOM a day keeps the doc’s decisions away

18 June 2010

A standout feature of the accident-prone second term of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has been its seeming inclination to act first and think later, be it the creation of Telangana, the tabling of the women’s bill, or the insertion of a caste column in the census.

A concomitant feature has been the constitution of an “Empowered Group of Ministers” (EGOM) at the drop of a hat, as a device to buy time, to rectify hastily taken decisions, and to build consensus in what is at the end of the day, a coalition government.

At one time, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, for instance, headed nearly 50 EGOMs.

***

Pratap Bhanu Mehta writes in the Indian Express:

“The way in which the government uses the EGOM is unsettling…. The EGOM has become a peculiar institution. It is a backhanded acknowledgment of several things.

“First, that government gets into action only in a crisis which has in part been created by its own ministers. Second, the EGOMs signal a vacuum [on the part of the prme minister and the Cngress president] to fulfill one important function of government: to reconcile differences and be decisive.

“Third, the EGOMs may directly be contributing to skewed governmental priorities. Fourth, constantly referring to EGOMs is a signal that routine political coordination within the cabinet and party has broken down. An EGOM is more like a huddle in a crisis to broker deals than it is an instrument to promote public reason.”

Cartoon: courtesy E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

Also read: Is Manmohan Singh becoming a rollback PM?

For once, please say ‘Thank You’ to the media

17 June 2010

The Bhopal Gas Tragedy—not the 1984 one but the 2010 repeat—had everything going for it to be quickly consigned to the deepest crevices of our consciousness. A ridiculously long overdue verdict, a farcical sentence, poor (mostly Muslim) victims in a non-metropolitan city, the short memory of the public.

And then the fact that 1984 happened before the era of satellite TV.

Will media activism secure justice for Bhopal?” was, therefore, a question well worth asking on 8 June, after Judgment Day saw the eight accused get a comical two-year term (with a proviso for immediate bail) for killing 15,274 and maiming 574,000 people 25 years and six months earlier.

Would the media go hyper like it had done for Aarushi, Jessica and Ruchika, was a doubt on many a cynic’s lip.

To its redounding credit, it has.

The Bhopal issue has had an incredible run over the last two weeks, each day unravelling new and unknown facts and facets of the complicity of politicians, bureacurats, diplomats, industrialists—all those who allowed the tragedy to happen, all those who let the killers to run away, all those who want us to forgive some and forget the rest.

The media is often accused of lacking stamina and hunting in a pack. But for once, print and television—and indeed online—rose to the challenge, in India and the United States. And if the prime minister has had to constitute a group of ministers, the other reason is media pressure; the main reason of course is obvious.

The grid above gives a sampling of the vast array of people the media tapped over the last 12 days. Quotes, photographs, videos, official documents, CIA reports, newspaper clippings have all been unearthed to get to the bottom of the story and piece together the jigsaw.

So much so that former Union Carbide chief Warren Anderson‘s house was staked, and his wife was interviewed at her doorstep.

The media hasn’t done a favour to the nation, of course, but a service that is expected of it. But in the ocean of cynicism that surrounds the media—of political patronage, ideological bias, paid news, corruption, etc— surely there is no harm in saluting a passing island?

It’s a miracle if or when you return home tonight

16 June 2010

The difference between humans and animals is, well, how you treat other humans and animals. The streets of India that is Bharat, provides daily proof that while humans are among the most evolved of animals, the price they place on other humans is, well, abysmal.

This, here, is proof. On Wednesday at the coffee board junction close to the Vidhana Soudha in Bangalore, a ramshackle goods vehicle carrying steel rods braked suddenly only for the sharp rods to pierce out of the carrier on to the road. Fortunately, the death toll was zero.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News


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