Archive for August, 2011

How The Times of India pumped up Team Anna

31 August 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Six minutes and 20 seconds into his vote of thanks at the culmination of Anna Hazare‘s fast-unto-death last Sunday, the RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal heaped plaudits on the media for the support it had lent to the Jan Lok Pal bill agitation by “articulating the outrage of the nation”.

Pointing at the jungle of anchors, reporters, cameramen and crane operators in the media pen in front of the stage at the Ramlila maidan, Kejriwal said the “media weren’t just doing their job… they are now part of the movement”.

Verbatim quote:

Hum in saari media ke shukr guzaar hain. Yeh aap dekhiye, abhi bhi camera lekar, tadapti dhoop mein khade hain, yeh log. Yeh zaroori nahin, kewal inki naukri nahin thi.  Yeh log ab andolan ka hissa hain. Raat-raat bhar, chaubis-chaubis ghante, bina soye in logon ne hamari andolan mein hissa liya, hum mediake saathiyon ko naman karte hain.”

Kejriwal’s general gratitude was for television whose frenetic and fawning coverage instantly took the message to parts of the country print wouldn’t dream of reaching in the next half a century. (A TV critic wrote last week that a survey of TV coverage of Hazare’s Jantar Mantar fast in April found 5592 pro-Anna segments versus just 62 that were anti-Anna.)

But if Kejriwal had to choose one English language publication in particular for rounding up “Middle India” in round two of the fight for a strong anti-corruption ombudsman, the honour should surely go to The Times of India.

From the day after Anna Hazare was prematurely arrested on August 16 to August 29, the day he ended his fast, the New Delhi edition of The Times of India took ownership of the story and played a stellar role in mobilising public opinion and exerting pressure on the political class.

# Over 13 days, the main section of the Delhi edition of The Times of India, covered the Anna Hazare saga over 123 broadsheet pages branded “August Kranti” (August Revolution), with 401 news stories, 34 opinion pieces, 556 photographs, and 29 cartoons and strips.

# On seven of the 13 days of the fast, the front page of Delhi ToI had eight-column banner headlines. The coverage, which included vox-pops and special pages, even spilled over to the business and sports pages, with the Bofors scam-accused industrialist S.P. Hinduja offering his wisdom.

In launching a toll-free number for readers to give a “missed call” if they wanted a strong Lokpal bill, ToIwas almost indistinguishable from the India Against Corruption movement behind Hazare. ToI claims that over 46 lakh people have registered their vote.

In short, backed by an online campaign titled “ACT—Against Corruption Together” plus the Arnab Goswami  show on Times Now, the Times group provided substantial multi-media heft to the Jan Lok Pal campaign.

In its almost completely uncritical coverage of Round II, The Times of India provided a sharp contrast to the almost completely cynical coverage of Round I by The Indian Express four months ago, the former batting out of his crease for for the wider constituency of the reader, consumer, voter and citizen.

Remarkably, also, for a publication of its size and girth, ToI took an unhesitatingly anti-establishment stand in its headlines and choice of stories, showing where it stood on corruption—an issue agitating readers in its core demographic—in a manner in which most large newspapers are loathe to do.

There were only token negative pieces like the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid calling the protest “anti-Islam”; Dalits wanting a Bahujan Lokpal bill; or Arundhati Roy calling Hazare’s stand “undemocratic”. On the whole, though, ToIcoverage was gung-ho as gung-ho goes, especially judging from some of the mythological, militaristic headlines.

Just what was behind the ToI‘s proactive stand still remains to be deciphered.

Was it merely reflecting the angst and anger of its middle-class readership? Was it taking the scams, many of which it broke and which brought the Lok Pal issue to the head, to its logical conclusion? Or, does the involvement of its in-house godman in the proceedings, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of the Art of Living, lend a clue?

Was it willy-nilly taking part in the dark rumours of “regime-change” swirling around Delhi? Or, was it just doing what a good newspaper is supposed to do: taking a stand, making sense of an increasingly complicated world to a time and attention strapped reader, and speaking truth to power?

Whatever be the truth, the fact that ToI took such a popular-with-readers, unpopular-with-government stand when it is involved in a no-holds-barred campaign to stall the implementation of the Majithia wage board recommendations for newspaper employees, speaks volumes of its conviction on the Lok Pal issue.

***

August 17: Coverage on 14 pages, 34 news stories, 2 opinion pieces, 41 photographs, 1 cartoon

Lead headline: Govt can’t stop August Kranti—Morning arrest turns into nightmare for Centre as Anna refuses to leave Tihar unless allowed to protest

Other headlines: 1) A million mutinies erupt across India; 2) Congress’s big blunders; 3) Emergency is the word for Gen Y; 4) Anna held, people hurt; 5) Intellectuals draw parallels with Emergency, JP movement; 6) Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: Govt is being arrogant; 7) The Indian protester rediscovers Gandhigiri; 8) Emergency makes a comeback to political lexicon; 9) Annacalypse Now! Angry India on the streets; 10) Emergency redux, say legal experts

Editorial: Wrongful arrest—government action against Anna Hazare leaves it isolated and sans goodwill

Opinion: State vs Anna—Hazare’s arrest serious questions about India’s ‘democratic’ claims

Opinion poll: 92% say govt’s handling of Anna is undemocratic

***

August 18: Coverage on 10 pages, 36 news stories, 3 opinion pieces, 56 photographs, 4 cartoons

Lead headline: People march, govt crawls—sledgehammered by nationwide outrage, UPA withdraws almost all its earlier curbs on Anna protest

Other headlines: 1) Global bank VP on ‘fasting leave’ from Hong Kong; 2) India Inc backs Anna; 3) Dabbawallas, NGOs building ‘Anna Army'; 4) This way or no way, says Anna; 5) Govt fails to move Mount Anna; 6) In Hazare and Baba Ramdev, govt has two powerful adversaries; 7) ‘9 months to arrest Suresh Kalmadi, 3 mins for Anna'; 8)

Editorial: Anna wins the day—With public anger swelling, government must take a stand on corruption

Opinion headlines: 1) Have a referendum on sticking points; 2) Let an independent arbiter decide; 3) Are you an Anna dater, a Jokepalwalla or, worst, a piggyback passionista? 4) Civil society frustrated at lack of government action

***

August 19: Coverage on 9 pages, 26 news stories, 4 opinion pieces, 27 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: Judiciary out of Lokpal? Team Anna softens stand

Other headlines: 1) Brand Anna is a rage: youth wear him on T-shirts; 2) Protesters rename Chhatrasal stadium after Anna; 3) Sensing hour of reckoning, Tihar protesters give war cry; 4) ‘Gandhi’ takes world media by storm; 5) Indian editorials slam govt handling; 6) Fight to go on for generations, says Aung San Syu Ki; 7) Expatriates in south east Asia rally round Anna;

Editorial: Seize the day—reform is a powerful anti-corruption tool

Opinion headlines: 1) It’s the middle class, stupid; 2) 10 measures to reduce corruption

***

August 20: Coverage on 8 pages, 30 news stories, 3 opinion pieces, 46 photographs, 2 cartoons

Lead headline: Anna rides wrath yatra, ups ante

Other headlines: 1) On fourth day of fast, 74-year-old outsprints cops; 2) He gives supporters a run for their money; 3) ‘I am Anna’s Krishna in the Mahabharata against graft'; 4) Cap fits: no weakening satyagraha—gives call for ‘second freedom movement’, will fight till last breath; 5) Amma Hazares join the cause; 6) Protest tourism: why Anna catches their (foreigners’) fancy; 7) ‘Parliament isn’t supreme, public is’

Editorial: When khaki met khadi—a confused cop learns about being civil, through agitation

Opinion headlines: 1) Which democracy do we want? 2) Reclaiming moral authority

***

August 21: Coverage on 8 pages, 25 news stories,  2 opinion pieces, 36 photographs, 1 cartoon

Lead headline: Angry tide forces Manmohan’s hand

Other headlines: 1) 35% drop in crime during Hazare’s fast; 2) Parents bring kids to Anna ki pathshala; 3) Painter plans to capture ‘Anna legacy’ till passage of bill; 2) Parents want kids to see history being made; 5)  Over one million join ToI anti-graft drive;

Opinion headlines: 1) Arrest corruption, not those who protest against it; 2) Why I’d hate to be in Hazare’s chappals

***

August 22: Coverage on 7 pages, 23 news items, 1 opinion piece, 28 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: All roads lead to Annapolis

Other headlines: 1) Crowding glory—over one lakh throng Ramlila ground; 2) Protestors take metro, ridership at New Delhi jumps by 50%; 3) Religious lines blur for Anna’s cause; 4) Anna gives call for revolution to surging masses; 5) Lockedpal: earn our trust, team Anna tells govt; 6) Anna’s  army pickets netas’ homes

Opinion headline: Re-negotiating democracy

***

August 23: Coverage on 10 pages, 30 news stories, 2 opinion pieces, 46 photographs, 1 cartoon

Lead headline: Govt may relent, put PM under Lokpal

Other headlines:  1) Gen Y  rocks to Anna’s beat; 2) At maidan, 80,000 celebrate carnival against corruption; 3) Behind the public face, a very private man; 4) Aam admi thinks bill is cure-all; 5)  Anna proves the power of the big idea: management gurus

Editorial: Start talking—dialogue and flexibility can break the Lokpal logjam

***

August 24: Coverage on 9 pages, 35 news items, 1 opinion piece, 38 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: Govt bends 70%, Anna seeks 90%

Other headlines: 1) 22 newborns in MP named after Anna; 2) ‘Don’t let them take me'; 3) Unsung soldiers: they sacrifice daily bread for Anna; 4) Maidan doesn’t sleep, volunteers up at dawn; 5) Anna critic Aruna Roy briefs Rahul on grievance bill, calls on Jairam Ramesh; 6) Anger against plutocracy legitimate, saysPrakash Karat

Opinion headline: Beyond Anna’s India—is anger against corruption blinding us to other evils?

***

August 25: Coverage on 8 pages, 30 news items, 4 opinion pieces, 38 photographs, 2 cartoons

Lead headline: From breakthrough to breakdown

Other headlines: 1) Braveheart Hazare baffles doctors; 2) Judge follows his conscience, speaks out for Jan Lokpal bill; 3) Destination Ramlila maidan: get a free auto ride; 4) Critic Aruna Roy comes calling; 5) Aamir Khan is brain behind picketing MPs; 6) ‘542 VIPs are making a fool of 120 crore people’

Editorial: The Lokpal moment—it’s a good time for Anna to end his fast and join the discussions

Opinion headlines: 1) Fasting as democracy decays; 2) Celebrities endorse Anna movement in large numbers—they are citizens too

Online toll: 22.7 lakh join ToI online campaign against graft

***

August 26: Coverage on 8 pages, 32 news items, 3 opinion pieces, 38 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: PM walks extra mile, Anna unmoved

Other headlines: 1) 5,000 cops to fortify PM, but Anna army sneaks past posts; 2) Witnessing power of people, says Army chief; 3) Hardliners holding up Lokpal resolution; 4) Angry Anna: UPA ministers take the hit in virtual world; 5) ‘Sonia Gandhi would have handled situation better’

Editorial: Seize this opportunity—Anna Hazare shows flexibility, the govt must do so too

Opinion headline: Finding the middle ground

Online toll: 25,30,251 votes

***

August 27: Coverage on 11 pages, 34 news items, 3 opinion pieces, 50 photographs, 3 cartoons

Lead headline: House hopes to send Anna home

Other headlines: 1) Downcast but steadfast; 2) Fast hits country’s financial health—reforms put off because of Anna stir, may take a toll on growth; 3) Sports icons one with Team Anna

Editorial headline: A carnival called India—from Gandhigiri to Annagiri, it’s dhak-dhak go

Opinion headline: Saintliness in politics cuts both ways

Online toll: 32,09,129 votes

***

August 28: Coverage on 9 pages, 35 news items, 2 opinion pieces, 64 photographs, 1 cartoon

Lead headline: Anna wins it for the people—To break fast at 10 am today as Parliament bows to Hazare’skhwahish and PM sends letter

Other headlines: 1) Anna’s next: India tour for clean leaders; 2) Anna superfast arrives; 3) Anna sets House in order

Opinion headlines: 1) Don’t mess with the middle-class; 2) How to reverse the trust deficit

Online toll: 39,74, 515 votes

***

August 29: Coverage on 12 pages, 31 news items, 4 opinion pieces, 48 photographs, 2 cartoons

Lead headline: Only deferred fast, fight goes on: Anna

Other headlines: 1) Can’t trust govt, have to keep watch: Prashant Bhushan; 2) ‘Battle is won, war has just begun'; 3) ‘This victory is our second freedom'; 4) Anna among top brands online

Editorial: Dance of democracy

Opinion headlines: 1) Has Anna really won? 2) Ways to fit the bill—accommodating Anna’s three key demands will require imaginative lawmaking

***

Also readIs the Indian Express now a pro-establishment paper?

Is the media manufacturing middle-class dissent?

Should media corruption come under Lok Pal?

CHURUMURI POLL: Right to recall MPs, MLAs?

28 August 2011

The “resolution” passed by both houses of Parliament last night that saw Anna Hazare accepting coconut water and honey from a Dalit girl and Muslim girl this morning, marks a defining moment in the brief history of the Indian republic. In having to give in to his three “sticky” demands, the MPs and through them, the government, have had to listen to the millions who joined him physically (and silently) in the outrage against unbridled State-sponsored corruption.

In a democracy that had become a one-way, top-down monologue, where “We, the People” had to meekly accept whatever “They, the Politicians and Political Parties” dished out, the conversation has been restored, even if at gunpoint and even if many in government and Parliament (and their paid pipers in the establishment media) do not like the sound of it. That much should be clear even to a school girl and should be heralded as such.

Still, as Hazare himself points out, it is half a victory, and a more treacherous road is ahead. But what even this half-a-victory—achieved without a drop of blood being shed, achieved without a gunshot being fired, achieved without a life being lost—shows is that there is nothing impossible beyond our reach if we want it badly enough. We only need to ask, and ask for it loudly enough across the country for the deaf souls of our democracy to hear.

Corruption is certainly not going to end with the passage of the Lok Pal bill, if and when that happens, but it is a step to put the fear of the good lord in the crooked. Hazare has indicated that electoral reforms are next on the agenda, and has spoken of demanding the right to recall representatives who do not measure up to our expectations, and the right to reject candidates put by political parties to represent us.

Questions: Will a right to reject or recall achieve the same kind of traction as the more secular, universal issue of corruption did among the people? Is it feasible? Will parties and politicians accede to such a demand as easily? Or are Hazare biting off more than they can chew?

 

The shortest route to a man’s heart is through…

27 August 2011

In theory, some Lucknow maulvi has issued a fatwa against “politically motivated” iftars. In practice, that is an edict that is meant to be violated flagrantly; the breaking of the fast at the end of the day during the holy month of Ramzan providing secular lubrication for the social intercourse that is so palpably lacking.

From the president to the prime minister, from Congress to the JDS, iftar parties are on in full swing across the country.

The former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy and his brother, H.D. Revanna, and their JDS colleague, P.G. R. Sindhia, do the honours at an iftar in Shivajinagar in Bangalore on Friday. The gentleman in the middle is the former Union civil aviation minister, the vachana-spouting C.M. Ibrahim.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: A Hindu iftar for a good Muslim doctor at work

Gandhi & Anna: a tale of two fasts and two rulers

26 August 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The ongoing fast by Anna Hazare to usher in a Lok Pal has entered the 11th day.

What is most striking with the manner in which Hazare’s fast has been dealt with by the current “rulers” in contrast to how the British handled Mahatma Gandhi’s numerous fasts.

***

Since they were the rulers  of an Empire where ‘the sun never set,’ the colonisers could have spirited Gandhiji out of India, thrown him into a jail in some far corner of the world, and made him totally irrelevant.

Worse, they could have fed him slow poison and got rid of him and by the time the news reached India, it would have been some months, if not years, especially since there was no ‘breaking news’.

In short, the British could have done anything to break the freedom movement. It is to their credit and to their sense of fair play that they did none of the above and allowed Gandhi his right to protest.

Result: the freedom struggle took root and finally they had to quit India.

***

Cut to 2011, Anna Hazare’s fast.

Kapil Sibal, P. Chidambaram, Ambika Soni and Manmohan Singh attacked Hazare’s movement in their interactions with the press and in Parliament.

The Congress party’s spokesman Manish Tiwari even declared that ‘Anna was corrupt from head to toe’ for which he tendered a meek apology later.

After inviting civil society members, the government resorted to dirty tricks to damn their character on some pretext or other. They even had the temerity to arrest Hazare and send him to the same jail where Suresh Kalmadi, A. Raja and Kanimozhi were lodged, only to release him when the public reaction got too hot.

Above all, we have seen a number of devious, duplicitous statements unbecoming of a government, which seems to have forgotten that it remains in power only at the pleasure of the people.

Obviously, hindsight is 20/20 and the history books could well tell us a different story of how Gandhi was treated by the colonisers. Still, the question remains: were the British far more humane in their treatment of Gandhiji when an Empire was at stake than the Congress-led UPA has been of Hazare who is merely fasting for a tough piece of legislation?

Photograph: The front page of a newspaper in 1933 with news of Gandhi‘s fast

Certainly won’t be inaugurated by Yediyurappa

25 August 2011

Even as Bangaloreans warm up to a new launch date, this time September, a Namma Metro train swerves towards KSCA stadium at Anil Kumble circle on M.G. Road, on a trial run in Bangalore on Thursday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Why on earth does Bangalore Metro look so ugly?

At Anil Kumble circle, a sharp googly towards KSCA

Should ‘media corruption’ come under Lok Pal?

25 August 2011

The more-than-just-a-neutral-observer position taken by sections of the media on the Anna Hazare agitation has clearly begun to rile politicians, and at least two of them cutting across party lines have argued in the last couple of days that the media too must be brought under the purview of the proposed anti-corruption legislation.

Exhibit A: Union minister for law and social justice, Salman Khurshid.

According to a report in The Hindu, Khurshid asked Headlines Today executive editor Rahul Kanwal as to why media corruption should not be investigated under the Team Anna version of the Lok Pal bill.

“Do I need to go back to the Niira Radia tapes? Now you are asking why the government has not investigated. If we go ahead with the investigation, we would be accused of being insensitive. If we do, there would be a mass moment for the media.”

Exhibit B: Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav.

Again, according to a report in The Hindu, Mulayam’s demand that the media also be brought under the Lok Pal was met with thumping of desks by his colleagues.

“We [Samajwadi Party] suffered in the hands of media [during the polls],” he said during a debate on corruption. Even as a section of the treasury and opposition benche demanding that “media corruption” be also inquired into by Lokpal, Mulayam went on to state that it had become a practice for electronic channels to collect money during polls and air views in support of one party.”

Photograph: Television reporters deliver their piece to camera at the Ramlila grounds in New Delhi on Tuesday, against the backdrop of the stage on which Anna Hazare is fasting for the Lokpal bill

Also read: The ex-Zee News journo on Anna Hazare team

Ex-Star News, ToI journos on Anna Hazare team

Is the media manufacturing middle-class dissent?

S.M. Krishna revives Churumuri’s RKN campaign

23 August 2011

The minister for external affairs, Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna, may be creating news for all the wrong reasons in the year of the lord 2011. But he has struck the right PR note by reviving churumuri.com‘s acclaimed campaign for recognition for India’s original English writer, R.K. Narayan, in his hometown, Mysore.

When churumuri.com was launched in 2006, we made an all-out effort to get Narayan his due place in the landscape of Mysore, where he spent almost all his life and from where he gave the world, Malgudi.

A churumuri delegation comprising the photographer T.S. Satyan, the historian Ramachandra Guha, and the writer Sunaad Raghuram even made a representation to the then governor of Karnataka, T.N. Chaturvedi, armed with reader suggestions on how Narayan’s memory could be perpetuated.

After all the usual noises from the usual quarters, the campaign died a slow death.

Now, S. M. Krishna, a close friend of  RKN’s brother, R.K. Laxman, has given the campaign a fresh lease life in this, the 10th year of Narayan’s passing away. He has written to prime minister Manmohan Singh and railway minister Dinesh Trivedi to name a train between Mysore and Bangalore as Malgudi Express, and urged communications minister Kapil Sibal to release a stamp.

It might be too early to hail this attempt, but at least for trying, Krishna deserves some plaudits.

Also read: All the stories in R.K. Narayan campaign

T.S. SATYAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knews

T.S. NAGARAJAN: The R.K. Narayan only I knew

CHURUMURI POLL: Anna Hazare and the media

21 August 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from Delhi: The media coverage of the Anna Hazare-led anti-corruption movement, like the movement itself, is a story in two parts—and both show the perils of the watchdog becoming the lapdog, in diametrically opposite ways.

In Act I, Scene I enacted at Jantar Mantar in April, sections of the Delhi media unabashedly played along with the establishment in a “crude and disgusting character assassination”, discrediting civil society members in an attempt to strangulate the joint Lokpal drafting panel, without  showing any remorse.

In Act II, three scenes of which have been enacted in the past week at Tihar Jail, Chhatrasaal Stadium and now the Ramlila Grounds, there has been no need to invoke Armani and Jimmy Choo, after the government’s spectacular cock-ups at the hands of high-IQHarvard-educated lawyers who recite nursery-school rhymes to wah-wahs from unquestioning interviews.

On the contrary, it can be argued that the pendulum has swung to the other end this time round.

The Times of India and Times Now, both market leaders in number termshave made no attempt to hide where their sympathies lie in this “Arnab Spring”, when the urban, articulate, newspaper-reading, TV-watching, high-earning, high-spending, apolitical, ahistorical, post-liberalised, pissed-off-like-mad middle-class gets worked up.

When the market leaders go down that road, the others are left with no option but to follow suit.

Obviously neither extreme can be the media’s default position. However, unlike last time when there was little if not no criticism of the “orchestrated campaign of calumny, slander and insinuation“, at least two well known media figures  have found the courage to question this kind of wide-eyed, gee-whiz reporting.

Sashi Kumar, the founder of India’s first regional satellite channel Asianet and the brain behind the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), in Outlook*:

“In the race for eyeballs, a section of the media—some TV channels in particular—give the impression of sprinting ahead of the story and dragging it along behind them. What defies imagination, even as it stretches journalistic credibility, is that the messengers become the lead players, directing the route the story will take, conjuring up twists and turns where there are none, and keeping the illusion of news-in-the-making breathlessly alive….

“The relationship between such media and their essentially middle class consumers is becoming uncomfortably incestuous. When respondents cluster around a camera for a vox pop, they are not so much required to offer their independent view on an issue as add to the chorus of opinion orchestrated by the channel. A photo op masquerades as a movement. Dissident voices get short shrift. It is more like a recruitment drive than a professional journalistic exercise to seek and purvey news.

“Increasingly, the channel’s role seems to be to trigger and promote a form of direct democracy by the middle class. Politics and politicians are routinely debunked; even representative democracy doesn’t seem to make the grade.”

NDTV group editor and star anchor Barkha Dutt too strikes a similar note in the Hindustan Times:

“Critics of the Hazare campaign have questioned the media narrative as well, accusing wall-to-wall TV coverage of holding up a permanent oxygen mask to the protests. It’s even been pointed out that Noam Chomsky’s scathing commentary on the mass media -‘Manufacturing Consent’ would be re-written in TV studios today as Manufacturing Dissent.

“But again, if the TV coverage of the protests is overdone, it only proves that the UPA’s perennial disdain for the media — and the diffidence of its top leaders — has given its opponents the upper hand in the information battle. There is something so telling about the fact that 74-year-old Anna Hazare made effective use of the social media by releasing a YouTube message from inside jail and the PM of India’s oldest political party is still to give his first interview to an Indian journalist.”

Questions: How do you rate the media role in crafting the Anna Hazare movement? Has it been too unquestioning, or has it played the role expected of it? Has it tapped into middle-class sentiment with an eye on circulation and TRPs?

Also readThe ex-Zee News journo on Anna Hazare team

Ex-Star News, ToI journos on Anna Hazare team

What an idea RG! 108 ads, 48 pages in 12 papers

20 August 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: There is yet another advertising blitzkrieg by Union ministries and Congress-led State governments and departments in today’s newspapers on the former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi‘s birthday.

And it beats the number of ads on Rajiv’s death anniversary hollow.

While there were 69 ads amounting to 41 published pages in 12 newspapers on May 21, there are 108 ads amounting to 48¼ published pages in the same 12 newspapers today.

Hindustan Times: 24-page issue; 14 RG ads amounting to 7 broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 32-page issue; 21 ads amounting to 9 broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 28-page issue; 15 ads amounting to 6½ broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 11 ads amounting to 6½ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 13 ads amounting to 5 broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 11 ads amounting to 3¾ broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 16-page isuse; 7 ads amounting to 3 broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 26-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 3¾ broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 16-page issue; 2 ads amounting to ¾ of a page

Business Standard: 18-page issue; 2 ads amouning to ¾ of a page

Financial Express: 22-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¼ pages

Mint (Berliner): 16-page issue; 0 ads

This computation is only for 12 English newspapers; many other English papers have been left, as indeed has the entire language media which are more numerous than the English ones, several times over.

Last year, on the 19th death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, the historian Ramachandra Guha wrote in an edit-page article in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests that on May 21, 2010, perhaps Rs 60 or 70 crore were spent by the taxpayer — without his and her consent — on praising Rajiv Gandhi. Since the practice has been in place since 2005, the aggregate expenditure to date on this account is probably in excess of Rs 300 crore.”

Among the 21 advertisers wishing the dear departed leader happy birthday this year are the ministries of information and broadcasting, micro small and medium enterprises, power, health and family welfare, tourism, housing and urban poverty alleviation, new and renewable energy, women and child development, commerce and industry, steel, and social justice and empowerment.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan, Haryana, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, all Congress-ruled States. And the departments putting their money where their mouth is are the Rajiv Gandhi centre for biotechnology, Navodaya vidyalaya samiti, national small industries corporation, national commission for women, and the coir board.

And, of course, the Indian National Congress.

Also read: Rajiv Gandhi: 69 ads over 41 pages in 12 newspapers

Jawaharlal Nehru: 24 ads over 11 pages in 12 newspapers

Bangalore journos, papers in mining scam report

19 August 2011

As the epicentre of illegal mining that has already claimed a chief minister’s scalp, it was just a matter of time before the media in Karnataka too got embroiled in the dirt and grime of slush money.

And sure enough, Bangalore’s oldest English daily newspaper, Deccan Herald, carries a report today which swings the spotlight on journalists and others associated with journalism.

The news report, authored by Asha Krishnaswamy, shows payments made by a mining company to various individuals and institutions.

Among the identifiable names are those of two English newspapers (Deccan Chronicle and Bangalore Mirror). The initials which bear a likeness to two wellknown Kannada journalists, and an aviation company promoted by a media baron with print and TV interests in two States, are also on the list. Besides a “press club function” finds mention.

The purpose for which the payments were made is not clear.

The documents showing the payments were allegedly seized by income-tax authorities from the managing director of one of the firms involved in “illegal mining activities”. They form part of the U.V. Singh report that was part of Lok Ayukta Santosh Hegde‘s report that felled B.S. Yediyurappa.

Although no denomination is mentioned alongside the figures, a la the Jain hawala diaries, the Deccan Herald report says that it is “obvious” that is in rupees/ lakhs. All the 55 accused whose initials figured in the Jain dairies were acquitted.

Screenshot: courtesy Deccan Herald

Read the full stories: Illegal mining fed the tribe of bribe

Also read: ‘Editors are lobbying on behalf of corporations’

Bangalore journos named in site allotment scam

Only in India: 90% off for journalists!

Cash transfer scheme is already here for journalists

Media houses are sitting on plots leased at one rupee!

Anti-corruption campaigner’s “error of judgement”

The WikiLeak cable on the journalist who…

‘Editors, senior journalists must declare assets’

The ATM generation that’s backing Anna Hazare

18 August 2011

R. Jagannathan, the editor of First Post, says there is a “new” middle-class propelling Anna Hazare‘s anti-corruption movement. It has five distinct traits, it can dump you as easily as it pumps you up, and it is here to stay:

1. The new middle class knows that you can’t get anything done by being reasonable. Just as the Dalits or OBCs get their reservations and caste-surveys done not by reasoned debate in parliament but through an exercise of street power, it has learnt that you get what you want when you are unreasonable enough.

2. The new middle class has discovered its spending power and wants goods and services made to order. Politics, for it, is not about democracy and constitutionalism. It is about delivering governance.

3. The new middle class is impatient and self-obsessed. It is the ATM generation, where you put in your card and get your money. It does not believe in negotiating with people, with bureaucracy, and with the political establishment. Corruption and bribery are obstacles to its progress.

4. The new middle class has a consumerist view of democracy. It will vote if voting is made easier. Its ideal of democracy is something you can give your opinion on through a website poll or a tweet or a Facebook post.

5. The new middle class is a product of the decline of the public sector and the rise of the modern private sector.

Read the full article: Why Anna’s middle-class is different

Photograph: Activists of “India Against Corruption” at a dharna at Freedom Park in Bangalore on Thursday in support of Anna Hazare. (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Is only urban middle class backing Anna Hazare?

The peripatetic life and times of Jayant Kaikini

17 August 2011

The poet, writer, lyricist and biochemist Jayant Kaikini on growing up in Gokarna, studying in Dharwad, living in 18 different addresses while earning his daily bread in Bombay, returning to Bangalore for journalism, television and films—and how Vicks vaporub fetched him his life partner, Smita, somewhere along the way.

Also read: Anusithide yaako, means are as vital as the end’

Jayant Kaikini: The wrath of the sambaar-lover

The UPA’s Hazare cock-up in 179 simple words

17 August 2011

India’s self-proclaimed “national newspaper” The Hindu has long invited barbs of twits and critics who conflate the masthead with the religion and abhor its secular stance. It has been seen to be pro-establishment, afraid to ruffle feathers of the government of the day, unwilling to say it like it is. And, after the 2G scam, members of the Hindu undivided family have themselves levelled charges of duplicity if not complicity.

The first 179 words of an editorial in today’s paper, titled “Corrupt, repressive and stupid“, should slay many of those demons:

“A corrupt government devoid of moral authority is ill equipped to deal rationally with legitimate public anger. By ordering the illegitimate detention of Anna Hazare before he began his fast in support of stronger anti-corruption provisions in the Lokpal Bill and the arrest of a large number of peaceful protesters in the national capital, the United Progressive Alliance government revealed its ugly, repressive face.

“No representative government in a democracy can deny citizens their fundamental right to dissent and peaceful protest. Insisting on unreasonable, inequitable, and suspiciously contrived conditions that everyone knows the protesters cannot accept is tantamount to denial of the democratic right. Instead of honestly dealing with the issues raised by successive corruption scandals, the UPA government chose to cover up.

“When that became unsustainable, it resorted to slurs and dirty tricks, and incrementally raised the level of repression to smother voices demanding accountability and corrective institutional measures. It is no wonder that from time to time such a government gets into panic mode, miscalculates, and commits acts that everyone outside the regime recognises as politically stupid.”

Read the full editorial: Corrupt, repressive, and stupid

Cartoon: courtesy Surendra/ The Hindu

Is only ‘urban middle-class’ in love with Anna?

17 August 2011

It might appear blindingly obvious that corruption affects every Indian, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh or Parsi. Yet, to the credit of the status quoists, they have succeeded in painting it as an urban middle-class issue (id est “minority”), from which the rural underclass (id est “majority”) is somehow magically disconnected, even uninterested if not complicit.

The burgeoning, in-your-face Anna Hazare phenomenon too suffers from the same optical illusion, as sections of the political establishment (and their drumbeaters in the media) paint his campaign as an “urban middle-class” fixation, something that apparently only leaves tech-savvy, TV-watching, non-voting, candle-lighting “people like us” (PLUs) frothing at the mouth.

Vinay Sitapati, a former journalist who is currently a graduate student at the department of politics in Princeton University, expands the logic some more in the Indian Express:

“The answer lies in a fundamental shift in the middle class, starting with economic liberalisation in the early 1990s. The pre-liberalisation middle class was typically from professions that grew around the state — such as lawyering, accountancy, medicine, and of course, government service.

“This relationship mattered: it meant that the earlier middle class understood the Indian state; they were less ignorant of the processes of democracy that characterise parts of the Anna Hazare movement.

“The opening of the Indian economy in the ’80s and early ’90s dramatically changed this. A 2005-06 study found that of India’s current middle-class, 56-62 per cent is privately employed. This is significant. It indicates the growing ability of Indians to imagine social mobility in private ways, outside of the state….

“The new corporate middle class has little patience with the politics of dignity and identity that are — for better or worse — central to Indian politics. For them, the state is about providing services for which they pay with their tax money. Representation and social justice have little meaning. Consequently, they have contempt for electoral politics….”

Read the full article: The blind spots of India Shining

Photograph: Nursing students take part in a peace march in support of Anna Hazare in Bidar in north Karnataka, on Tuesday (Karnataka Photo News)

CHURUMURI POLL: Bharat Ratna for Anna Hazare?

16 August 2011

For months, a country utterly lacking in genuine heroes has been desperately groping around to find somebody, anybody, deserving of the nation’s highest civilian honour. The name of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar is on most lips, not least because he does something very well which many understand, because his stellar feats will never ever be repeated by anybody who ever plays the great game again, and because everybody loves a winner.

But Sachin is still 38. Sure, he hasn’t put a foot wrong in his long, luminous career, but he has a lifetime ahead of him and he might yet do many things after hanging up his boots that might take the sheen off the Bharat Ratna to everybody’s regret. Moreover, decorating a sportsman who has doubtless provided hundreds of hours of entertainment to millions but changed nobody’s life but his own and that of his family is fraught.

Allow us therefore to propose an alternate, unlikely Maharashtrian: Kisan Baburao Hazare.

At 74, Anna Hazare, as the small man who speaks Bambaiyya like Sachin might when he is that old is known, is not everybody’s favourite public figure, especially of those who see a tinge of saffron in his white attire. Still, in bringing corruption to the national centrestage when neither the Congress nor the BJP were interested, in jumpstarting the movement for the Lok Pal bill which had been hanging fire for 38 years, in resolutely even if obstinately sticking to his convictions, he has been a revelation.

And after today, when his early-morning arrest evoked shades of the Emergency a day after August 15, Hazare has united vast sections of urban, middle-class India; his release by the end of the day a standing testimony to the power of the people against an arrogant, repressive regime, whose Harvard-educated ministers (Kapil Sibal and P. Chidambaram, if you have to name them) show what they don’t teach at Harvard about democracy with their every word and deed.

Make no mistake. A brazen, scam-tainted government with much to hide might yet bury its hand in the sand and bulldoze its way on the Lok Pal bill; the great protectors of our democracy who can do anything for cash may shamelessly back it in the name of parliamentary democracy; Hazare’s own struggle may yet peter out like so many have before; and high corruption of the sort we have seen over the last few months might be here to stay.

Still, in his stamina in sticking to an issue, in his single-mindedness to achieve his dream, and above all in his desire to change things which has the potential to change the lives of millions of Indians—all traits most Indians will happily agree they do not possess—does Anna Hazare qualify, even if only notionally, to be crowed Jewel of India ahead of SRT? After all, he has some practice, having received the Padma Sri and Padma Bhushan earlier.

Photographs: Protestors in Bangalore wear masks of Anna Hazare demanding his release (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Sachin for Bharat Ratna?

Is India getting increasingly intolerant to dissent

May a thousand Anna Hazares bloom across India

CHURUMURI POLL: Death of India in Test cricket?

15 August 2011

India’s 0-3 scoreline with a match to go in the four-Test match series against England will only surprise those who have only passing acquaintance with the game, shout Chak de India or Jeetega bhai jeetega as if the other side is only playing to help “us” win, and are only bothered about how much Sachin Tendulkar scores.

The deep cracks in Indian cricket—an ageing batting lineup, an unfit fielding side, injured bowlers, poor bench strength, a preponderance of limited overs cricket, etc—had been papered over by the heady (even if unexpected) World Cup victory and the anything-goes Twenty20 format of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Truth is, India’s strength was always going to be tested in the longer, more testing format of the five-day game against quality opposition, and not surprisingly all these cracks have been exposed most mercilessly by England. That it should come after all the hoo-ha over the centenary Test match is only incidental.

However, defeat is a part of sport. What is more worrisome is what the future portends for the Indian Test team.

As it is, the only top-order batsman with runs in this series has been the 38-year-old Rahul Dravid; the bowling still depends on an always injured and hobbling Zaheer Khan, who is 32. With Sachin Tendulkar and V.V.S. Laxman both on the other side of 35,the simple question to ponder is, is the golden era of India in Test match cricket, which began at the turn of the new millennium, over? Will future Indian teams (at least for a while) only shine in the shorter, more paying versions of the game—and mostly at home? Or will this too pass?

External reading: The worst-ever debacle?

Has the IT boom quelled Bangalore’s tensions?

13 August 2011

A City whose population doubled from 30 lakhs to 60 lakhs between 1981 and 2004. A City which attracted five MNCs a month between 1995 and 2005 (which should peg their overall figure at least 600). A City which contributes 34% of India’s $50 billion outsourcing revenue.

A City a third of whose population lives below the poverty line; nearly 15 lakh in slums. A City only a third of whose garbage is collected. A City which has lost 70 per cent of its trees since 1990. A City where more than half the population is from abroad or other parts of India….

Not fanciful numbers from Upendra‘s “Super, but cold statistics being bandied about India’s most “globalised” City—and, therefore, India’s most vulnerable City should there be a recession—Bangalore, by global consulting firm$, expat academic$, NGO$ and thinktank$.

Quoting a recent American paper, Rupa Subramanya Dehejia reported in the Wall Street Journal recently that a 1%  rise in India’s GDP quelled the chances of communal riots by 5%. Writing in Lounge, the Saturday supplement of the business daily Mint, Samar Halarnkar makes a similar point about Bangalore:

“A transformation so rapid, from small town to global metropolis, is obviously not easy on those who see change but are not a part of it. So, the 1990s saw the most visible, violent protests against change. This was the decade when farmers and Kannada chauvinists ransacked the first outlet of Kentucky Fried Chicken, picketed multinationals Cargill Seeds and Monsanto, and protested the Ms Universe contest.

“As the economy swelled to embrace more people, such protests quickly faded, as did Bangalore’s once-regular riots and confrontations—between Hindu and Muslim, Tamilians and Kannadigas, between congregations of various languages in Christian churches.”

Link via Sahridaya Shobhi

Read the full article: Urban change

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

BANGALORE‘A city whose soul has been clinically removed

C.N.R. RAO: If IT takes away Bangalore’s values, burn IT

PAUL THEROUX: Bangalore’s idiots who speak an idiolect at home

CHURUMURI POLL: Who killed Bangalore?

Bharat as seen from the City of Baked Beans

When ‘Jaya He’ is not the end but the beginning

12 August 2011

On the eve of the 65th Independence Day, The Times of India unveils the full version of the national anthem, with 39 voices—including Dr M. Balamurali Krishna and Nithyashree Mahadevan—singing the additional four Bengali verses penned by Rabindranath Tagore.

Also read: Say Ee Mungu nguvu yetu Ilete baraka kwetu

Jana Gana Mana makes foreigners uneasy, says NRN

How do you say, ‘Be the change you want to see’?

Just one question I’m dying to ask S.M. Krishna

11 August 2011

Although former Karnataka chief minister S.M. Krishna is in charge of what his handlers like to think is the weighty external affairs ministry, the consensus is that the “Son of Somanahalli” got the portfolio because he was considered a malleable lightweight who would just be glad he got the high-profile job and not come in the way of a prime minister who had made “foreign policy” his legacy issue.

(That, and the fact that the Congress high command had to repay him for his “contributions”.)

Nevertheless, Krishna’s MEA tenure has not been short of theatre. For starters, there was the well-advertised five-star stay in a hotel. Over the last few months, he has been bouncing into the public eye with one faux pas after another. In February, he read the speech of the Portugese foreign minister at the United Nations for a full three minutes; in June, got into a flap for extending an official trip to Britain to watch Wimbledon.

A fortnight ago ago, news of his threatening to sue The Times of India for mentioning his name as among those who would be indicted by the Lok Ayukta in the illegal mining scam, made it to TV news bulletins. Six days ago, the litigious advisors guarding his carefully coiffured image, advised him to threaten to sue the news agency PTI for calling him “absent-minded” in a news story which showed him, well, absent-minded in the Lok Sabha.

Now, as if to prove PTI right, Krishna has urged Pakistan to release an octagenarian doctor on humanitarian grounds, although the wheel-chair bound Dr Mohammed Khalil Chisti is lodged in a jail this of the border in Ajmer, Rajasthan. “We will, certainly pursue this at the level of the high commissioner,” he added.

Admittedly, one must take into account Krishna’s age. After all, at 79, he is the oldest member of the Manmohan Singh team. The fact that he still has the energy to fly off to distant countries speaks enormously of his stamina. Still, there is such a thing as calling a spade a bloody shovel, and it is clear that Krishna, used as he was to the kid-glove treatment at the hands of the Bangalore media, is being thoroughly exposed on the national stage.

What is the one question you are dying to ask the patron saint of IT-BT after his latest gaffe?

Like, is he the first human being who nods in agreement with what he is about to say? Like, does he demand frappe from his son-in-law’s Cafe Coffee Day whereever his work takes him?  Like, is it true that he turned down the Oscar award this year for the best performance in a foreign language?

Please keep your queries short, civil and “G category”.

Also read: Can Maddur vade usher in peace to the subcontinent?

Our man from Maddur is shorter than you think

S.M. Krishna on the kidnapping and release of Dr Raj Kumar

Five Hindus and a Christian invade Mysore palace

11 August 2011

All decked up in their traditional attire, the elephants for the Mysore Dasara—Balarama, Arjuna, Abhimanyu, Sarala, Mary and Ganga—arrive at the main Amba Vilas palace to a grand reception on Thursday.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

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2008: They come in all sizes: XXXL, XXL, XL and L

2010: Time to pull out the words ‘world-famous’ again

The make-up stays, just in case somebody asks

US Nobel laureates are naked in global hamaam

11 August 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Since 1990, of the 40 Nobel prize winners in economic sciences, 30 have held the passport of the United States of America.

In the last 10 years alone, of the 22 winners, 18  have come from the US of A.

Their subjects range from studies of economic governance of countries and macro and micro economics, to fluctuation of markets, economic governance of boundaries of firms, business cycles, etc.

All very imposing and impressive, indeed.

***

The group of thirty, often abbreviated to G30, is an international body of leading financiers and academics which aims to deepen understanding of economic and financial issues, and to examine the consequences of decisions made in the public and private sectors related to these issues.

The topical areas within the interest of the group include:

•    Foreign exchange, currency, etc.
•    International capital markets
•    International financial institutions
•    Central banks and supervision of financial services and markets
•    Macroeconomic issues such as product and labor markets, etc.

Their agenda looks grand, too.

***

Yet, there is a fundamental question to be asked.

Of what use is all this expertise, all this global recognition, if it is not of use to the world?

In other words, how is it that neither the Nobel prize winners, especially from US, nor the worthies of G30 have been able to predict the double dip recession that the United States is currently facing, which is affecting markets and economies of countries across the world?

It was the same story in 2008 -10, when none of them foresaw the subprime mortgage fiasco which affected the middle-class in the US and in Europe too. The unemployment and underemployment that touched the working class may stay permanently or at least for a decade more.

Maybe, the world lives in hope, which is why the dire predictions of the odd Cassandra like Joseph Stiglitz do not sound like music to the ears. Maybe, the world lives in hope, which is it respects the pessimism of “Dr Doom“, Nouriel Roubini, only in retrospect.

Or, maybe, it is not the job of the Nobel laureates at all to play soothsayers and “predict” what is going to happen next, although some like Paul Krugman have done that to no avail.

Still, looking at all the gloom that the US economy is causing around the world, the question needs to be asked if only to come to terms with what’s happening.

Photograph: The 2005 Nobel laureates in economics, Thomas Schelling and Robert Aumann (courtesy Nobel Foundation)

It isn’t a pretty sight when a giant walks no more

10 August 2011

An elephant lies motionless in a trench in Tithimathi near Virajpet on Wednesday. It is not clear how and in what circumstances the animal met its end.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: The leopard, the kite, the elephant and the prize

T.S. SATYAN: The Raja said, why don’t you go with Mohini?

‘The Hindu’ is being run like a ‘banana republic’

10 August 2011

N. Murali, the managing director of The Hindu, has retired. Below is the full text of his farewell letter to employees of the paper, in which he minces no words in describing the current phase of the paper, under the current editor-in-chief N. Ram, as a blot, second only to that during the Emergency under Ram’s mentor and their uncle, G. Kasturi.

***

10 August 2011

Dear Colleagues

Sub: Farewell communication

As the curtain comes down on my forty-year-old career at this institution, it is time to thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the affection, support and goodwill extended to me.

Our committed and loyal employees are our 132-year newspaper’s most valuable assets.  They have stood by the institution through all the ups and downs, taking immense pride in a newspaper that over a century has become a way of life with successive generations of loyal readers.

The Hindu has acquired the status of a public trust in which tens of thousands of its  readers have placed their utmost faith, looking up to it as a moral force against wrong doing and an authentic voice of reason,  objectivity, truth and fairness.

These are the core values on which The Hindu was founded and which constitute the kernel of its soul and philosophy.

Looking back over the last 40 years that I have been fortunate and privileged to have served this great institution, it is indeed heartening to see our iconic newspaper and the organization grow from strength to strength, while maintaining the unwavering trust and loyalty of its employees and its readers.

My long career has been one of satisfaction and fulfillment but has also seen extremely challenging times with some ups and downs.

I have always stayed focused and brought a lot of intensity and passion to my job.

I have pursued unwaveringly what I strongly believed in and stayed true to my core values and beliefs and core competency.

I always strove to pursue ethical business practices.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been an integral part of the impressive growth and development story of The Hindu during these decades along with its dedicated employees.

In accordance with my intention to retire from any active role that I communicated to all the directors on September 25, 2009, I have now formally communicated to the directors of honouring that word when I complete 65 years of age on August 11, 2011.

While it sums up my feelings of the horrible happenings in our institution for the past eighteen months, I owe it to all of you to take you into confidence and elaborate on them in this farewell communication.

I strongly believe that as a matter of good corporate governance there should be institutional mechanisms and norms like entry norms, qualifications, career progression and retirement norms, applicable to all shareholding family members in this organization just as all other employees are subjected to these rules and norms.

When I had proposed 65 as the age of retirement for a Director from any active role, it was with a view to ensuring a smooth succession at the top leadership of the company and of the newspaper while giving professionally qualified younger family members an opportunity to move to the top most echeleons.

That suggestion was accepted by all concerned including the Editor-in-Chief who convened an informal meeting of all the five editorial directors on the same day i.e., 25 September 2009.  An editorial succession plan was also agreed upon as follows: N. Ram to step down from any active role on May 4, 2010 and N. Ravi who had been the Editor between 1991-2003 would take over as Editor-in-Chief; Malini Parthasarathy would become Editor of The Hindu, Nirmala Lakshman would become Editor of the Sunday Magazine, features and Frontline, and K.Venugopal, the Editor of Businessline.

Ram confirmed his commitment to retire and also this succession plan to me not once but twice shortly after.  When everyone took his word at face value and in good faith, in the month of February 2010, he reneged on his commitment to retire to my utter shock and dismay.

That act of breach of faith triggered a whole series of unsavoury events which have taken an ugly turn and which are all now in the public domain.

In these 18 months matters have reached a very low point indeed—with a brazen and crude display of factionalism, opportunistic and vote-bank politics, quid-pro-quo deals, bad faith, vindictive acts, selective targeting of individuals and pursuing personal agendas by some board members all combining  into a messy ‘slugfest’ among the Board members.

There is no question that these anti-institution actions by a coterie of the Board have seriously eroded the quality, reputation and credibility of The Hindu and have also severely impaired the competitive ability and profitability of the whole enterprise.

It is indeed unfortunate that editorial primacy has been sacrificed at the altar of excessive commercialism and vested interests to pander to the wishes of some of the directors who have a crass disregard of the values The Hindu has always stood for.

The overcentralised and autocratic management of the editorial side sharply contrasts with the chaotic fragmentation of the non-editorial side.

While conditions have been created by this faction of the Board to ease out professionally qualified and senior editorial directors, all the directors on the non-editorial side, an overwhelming majority of whom, are not adequately qualified and also lack the necessary experience, continue to hang on to their positions that were earlier dished out as part of exchange of favours.

Shockingly, N. Ram, the Editor-in-Chief continues in his all powerful post for an indefinite period.  There is again no word yet on K. Venugopal’s stepping back.

The Editorial side is run like a ‘banana republic’ with cronyism and vested interests ruling the roost and finding space in the editorial columns.

Murdochism’ with some of its most undesirable and sinister features has taken firm hold of the newspaper.

Quite apart from the blatantly pro-CPI(M) and pro-China tilt in coverage, Ram’s abuse of his position in The Hindu and influence peddling has been unrestrained by any ideology.

Two recent events have brought this to the fore.

The first is the coverage or non coverage of the 2G scam and turning The Hindu into a mouthpiece of accused A.Raja, going out of the way to organize an interview with him and  publishing it on the day of his resignation.

The second and most recent incident has been brought out by the Gujarat police officer Sanjeev Bhatt in his affidavit filed in the Supreme Court which shows Ram as being the recipient of an e-mail on a matter as sensitive and serious as the investigation and related matters of post Godhra 2002 riots in Gujarat.

Sanjeev Bhatt has annexed an email to his affidavit which is very revealing.  In that email that S. Gurumurthy sent to Ram on February 17, 2010, he had annexed a note on the investigations into the Gujarat riots case. “Here is the note, I would like you to go through it that you understand the issues before you talk to the person concerned,” goes the email.  We all know who the “person concerned” that Ram was supposed to talk to is.

The periodic and extensive friendly interviews of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksha done by N. Ram and carried in full op-ed pages served only as a smokescreen to hide the alleged war crimes that the UN committee indicted the Srilankan government on.

In my book, the two major blots on the journalistic record of The Hindu over the last forty years relate to its stand on the Emergency that was in force between June 1975 and March 1977 and on the largest scam in the history of independent India, the 2G scam.

Under it’s then Editor, G.Kasturi, The Hindu disgracefully extended tacit support to and even collaborated with the Emergency regime.  On the 2G scam, under the Editor-in-Chief N. Ram, The Hindu shamefully acted as an apologist and mouthpiece of the prime accused A.Raja.  It had only muted coverage of the 2G scam.

While The Hindu editorially asked for the resignations of Ashok Chavan, Suresh Kalmadi and B.S.Yeddyyurappa, there was not even a whisper about A.Raja’s resignation.

On the other hand, two obliging interviews of A.Raja were specially arranged to be done, not by the correspondent covering telecom, but shockingly by R.K.Radhakrishnan who used to cover matters relating to DMK.  After A.Raja’s resignation and arrest, a change in stance reflecting a shameless and seamless U-turn is all too obvious even for a school kid to miss.

When media is used as a means to achieve private ends it undoubtedly becomes a calamity.

Primacy of editorial on which The Hindu has always prided itself has been sacrificed at the altar of vested interests and crass commercialism pushed by some directors who have scant regard for the legacy and larger calling and ideals of The Hindu.

Any claim of professionalisation in the appointment of Siddharth Varadarajan as Editor of The Hindu is a sham as professionally qualified and experienced family members on the editorial side — N.Ravi, Editor, Malini Parthasarathy, Executive Editor and Nirmala Lakshman, Joint Editor — have been selectively targeted for removal.

Double standards of the worst kind are at play.

The unfairness of it all is evident from the fact that some next generation family members, with little or no experience have been fast tracked into plum senior foreign postings with huge financial outgo, that normally only very senior journalists aspire to.

The so-called theory of separation of ownership from management was suddenly sprung only to vindictively and selectively target a few individuals. As stated earlier, N. Ram and K.Venugopal continue in their positions even as the so-called principle is not applicable to a few next generation family members and even as the business side directors continue in their positions for an indefinite period.

I am happy to recall that I stood vindicated by the Company Law Board order of December 22, 2010, which indicted the board faction that removed my responsibilities, as lacking in probity and good faith.  I am thus stepping down with my head held high and with my self-respect and dignity intact.

I am also extremely happy and proud that I have been able to keep my word of honour, which unfortunately has not been the case with N. Ram who ought to have stepped down on May 4, 2010.

I am deeply pained that The Hindu that I grew up with and which I was proud to be an inseparable part of during the last four decades is not The Hindu that we see today.  The Board faction that has perpetrated the gross injustice and vindictive acts must bear the cross for the current sorry state of affairs.

It has only succeeded in pushing The Hindu deep into an abyss.  It requires the combined efforts of those sections of family members who are still yearning for its return to former glory and all its dedicated employees to pull the newspaper out of this abyss.

It is now time to bid adieu to all by wishing you the very best in your life and saying how fondly I cherish my long association with you.  My thoughts will always be with everyone of you and your well being and with the great institution I am proud to have been an active part of.

Yours sincerely

N. MURALI

***

Also read: Why N. Ravi quit The Hindu after 20 years as editor

Nirmala Lakshman: I didn’t step down; I resigned

Malini Parthasarathy quits as Hindu‘s executive editor

India’s most corrupt state? No prizes for guessing

9 August 2011

B.S. Yediyurappa is gone as the chief minister of Karnataka, but B.S. Yediyurappa is still here as the power behind the new chief minister of Karnataka. The Reddy brothers, who were indicted by the Lok Ayukta, are out of the new ministry, but V. Somanna, who was indicted by the same Lok Ayukta, is in.

Like a wind-up doll, Yediyurappa makes much of his “development agenda” and the BJP, which is now mortally scared of his hold over Lingayats and his support among MLAs, thinks the problem is over if you can deftly bury your head in the sand (or the Bellary ore).

This snapshot of a CSDS survey makes nonsense of such claims.

Respondents in the State were asked which government was most corrupt: the one in Delhi, the one in Bangalore, or the one in their city. The answer is unambiguously clear: the State government of B.S. Yediyurappa. Worse, that number is the highest for all the 11 States which were part of the CSDS survey.

Overall, a total of 39,000 respondents in 1,300 locations in 325 assembly constitutencies were polled for the survey. The fieldwork was done between between July 25 and 31, 2011, ie before Yediyurappa remitted office before being allowed to act as the puppeteer behind the throne.

View the full survey here: State of the Nation

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

The state of the State is three up and three down

‘Mining scam has destroyed BJP’s 2014 hopes’

‘Mining scam has destroyed BJP’s 2014 hopes’

8 August 2011

The BJP likes to see the B.S. Yediyurappa problem like it has done the Narendra Damodardas Modi problem: as a local problem of a local leader. But in the era of 24×7 television and with national parties like the BJP and Congress becoming franchise operations, how you deal with a local problem can have far-reaching national impact.

Editorial in the Economic & Political Weekly (EPW):

“The massive loot of iron ore in Karnataka under the BJP government has been known for some time. The role of the “Reddy brothers” of Bellary, both prominent BJP leaders and state ministers, in the affair has also been well known. Until now Yediyurappa and the BJP government had been seen to be unable to stop these two barons of Bellary because of their money power and patronage of the saffron party.

“What the report of the Lok Ayukta and retired Supreme Court judge, Santosh Hegde, has done is to provide strong proof of the direct involvement of Yediyurappa and his family in the illegal mining and export of iron ore. The report has also exposed the entire BJP government in Karnataka as corrupt.

“The two will only further degrade the attempts by the BJP to position itself as a credible alternative to the Congress at the Centre. But given the large number of corruption cases the UPA itself is involved in, the Congress cannot be relieved at the BJP’s discomfiture.

“What the report has really done is to destroy the credibility of the principal opposition party with regard to corruption. This may cost it dearly in 2014….

“While both the BJP and the Congress share a consensus on the broad contours of economic policy, there is one significant difference in the way they deal with the popular anger and opposition to the growth obsession. The BJP tries to deflect this anger by deploying religion in public spaces and communal divisions within communities; the Congress seems to primarily rest its political strategy on throwing sops and making some concessions to popular demands.

“The latter appears preferable only because the former is so dangerous to social life. The real alternative to such corruption and loot cutting across political parties is for the emergence of an alternative politics and a different set of policies. That, unfortunately, does not appear to be a real possibility in the present times.”

Read the full editorial: Karnataka’s landmine


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