Posts Tagged ‘Deccan Herald’

NaMo, PaChi, chai, MaShAi and Mahabharatha

20 February 2014

Those who know Gujarat politics know that its chief minister Narendra Damodardas Modi‘s claims of having been a tea-seller at Ahmedabad (or was it Vadnagar?) railway station in his youth is a minor “fake encounter with facts”. Sonia Gandhi‘s man friday from the land of Amul, Ahmed Patel, has helpfully clarified that Shri Modiji was only a fafda-seller at his uncle’s shop.

Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped some Congressmen from revealing their upbringing.

Mani Shankar Aiyar with Doon school, St. Stephen‘s college and Cambridge in his curriculum vitae said Modi could sell tea at the Congress office, prompting the BJP (or its corporate sponsors) to do some “Chai pe Kharcha” to organise Modi’s “Chai pe Charcha“.

More recently, when Modi began doing some major fake encounters with economic facts, finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, with Harvard on his CV, stepped in to remind the world that what the BJP’s “prime ministerial candidate” knew about economics could be written on the back of a postal stamp.

The condescending comments revealed the class prejudice prevalent in Indian society and politics, writes P.M. Vasudev in Deccan Herald. But it is not something Aiyar and Chidambaram discovered with Modi on the horizon; we have grown up with it since the time of the Mahabharatha:

“With many of the negatives in contemporary India, it is possible to trace to the Mahabharatha the attitude underlying the statements of Aiyar and Chidambaram.

“At the display by the Pandavas and Kauravas on completion of their training in military skills, their guru, Drona, dared any person in the assembly to challenge Arjuna.

“When Karna rose to do so, Drona insulted and humiliated him about his lowly social position as the son of a chariot-driver and questioned how he could dare challenge a prince.

“Of course, in doing so, Drona brushed aside the main issue – namely, the skills of the contestants.

“Betraying deep-seated rank prejudices, he taunted Karna about his social position. It is a different story that Duryodhana, who had his own agenda to put the Pandavas down, stepped in and made Karna the prince of a small state, so he could compete with Arjuna ‘on a par.’”

Read the full article: Class prejudice, competence & spirit of democracy

Photograph: courtesy Daily Bhaskar

Also read: Do they teach this at Harvard Business School?

When Dr Radhakrishnan added to Bhagwad Gita

26 April 2013

Ahalya Chari, the head of the Regional College of Education from 1967-70, passed away in Madras recently, at the age of 92. Here, Krishna Vattam, the longtime Mysore correspondent of Deccan Herald, pays tribute and recounts an incident involving “Miss Chari” and another former resident of Mysore, the late president of India, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan.

***

By KRISHNA VATTAM

In my 40-year-long association with Deccan Herald as a reporter, I have had experiences of many incidents which have left a deep impress on my mind.

One such incident I am going to narrate is my visit to the Regional College of Education (RCE) and its affiliate Demonstration Multipurpose School (DMS) in the Manasagangothri campus in 1965—and the time I spent in the presence of two great teachers, one a Universal teacher, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and the other, an embodiment of Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s teachings, Miss Ahalya Chari.

It was at the invitation of Miss Chari that Dr Radhakrishnan, the philosopher-savant, had come to Mysore, to participate in a simple function to mark the planting of saplings on the campus.

It was 7 August 1965. It had rained all through the night before. But there was a bright sunshine in the morning. The rain drops that had collected on the tender leaves turned into various hues as the sunrays fell on them.

The entire surroundings seemed to be in communion with God.

It was least anticipated by the gathering that the occasion would pleasantly turn out as an event for presentation of a philosophical treatise and brilliant exposition of the profound truths of the Bhagavad Gita by Dr Radhakrishnan.

A group of girls—Vatsala, Ratnamala, Usha— accompanied by Miss Chari and teachers Anantharamaiah, S. Keshava Murthy and Mohanraj rendered in chorus an ancient prayer found on the inscriptions of the world-famous Belur temple.

The prayer, with its ennobling ideals, had an electrifying effect on the minds of those who had gathered.

It reads:

“Yam Saivah Samupasate Siva iti Brahmeti Vedantinah

Bauddhah Buddha iti Pramanapatavah karteti Naiyyayikah

Arhannityatha Jainasasanaratah

Karmeti Mimamsakah.”

The meaning is “Whom the Saivas worship as Siva, the Vedantins as Brahmam, the Buddhists as Buddha, the Naiyaayikas who specialise in knowledge as the chief agent, the followers of the Jaina code as the Ever Free, the ritualists as the principle of law, may that Hari, the Lord of the Three Worlds, grant our prayers.”

No sooner the group had completed the rendering, Dr. Radhakrishnan asked the group to recite the two lines he recited in continuation of the original three lines.

The entire gathering, having the thrill of their lives, recited the two additional lines:

“Christ & Allah

“Kraistvah Kristuriti kriyapararatah Alleti Mahammadah Soyam Vo Vidadhatu Vanchitaphalam Trailokyanatho Harih.”

The meaning is: “Whom the Christians devoted to work as Christ and the Mohammedans as Allah.”

Dr. Radhakrishnan explained that had Udayanacharya, who composed these three lines, been writing in this age he would have added those two lines which he (Dr. Radhakrishnan) had composed.

While interpreting the 11th verse in the fourth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, the book he published in the early 1940s, Dr Radhakrishnan had an occasion to comment on the wide catholicity of the Gita. In this context, he quoted Udayanacharya and added his own two lines to encompass the whole universe.

The Radhakrishnan-effect is still felt by all those who were fortunate to attend that sublime function. Though those Acharyas — Dr. Radhakrishnan and Miss Chari — are no more amidst us. I cherish that incident.

(A longer version of this piece originally appeared in Star of Mysore)

Newspaper scan: courtesy B.N. Balajee

Also by Krishna Vattam: Before the slumdogs, the Mahout Millionaire

Gangavva, yele southekaayi bandaithe kanava!

‘If there’re no trains for Muslims and Christians…’

24 April 2013

When the Union minister for minority affairs, K. Rehman Khan, announced last November a move to set up five central universities across the country where 50% of the seats would be reserved for the minorities, it quickly became an inter-communal debate, with various BJP functionaries in Karnataka joining the fray.

Ahead of assembly elections in Karnataka, the move also served to add to the stereotype.

Mohamed Shareef, writing in Deccan Herald, helps break it somewhat:

“Some people of Mysore, under the influence of vested interests, have demanded a separate university for the community and that it has to be named  ‘Tipu University’. The very idea of a separate university for Muslims is not acceptable because Muslims do not have any separate identity in this country.

“All Indians, whether you are a Muslim or a Christian, belong to the one and the same common identity and heritage. Foreign religions have been accepted and respected in this country because of the secular and broadminded attitude of the Hindu majority.

“In one way all Indians are Hindus because Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life.

“Different cultures and ceremonies certainly add colour and vibrancy to our social fabric but the over-emphasis of the diversity is useful only from a tourist point of view. The more diversity we can boast of, the more tourists we can attract.  Apart from these utilitarian points of view, the religious sentiments of the people of any nation has to be accommodated in the broader interests of national unity and national identity.

“We do not run separate trains for Muslims and Christians because the function of a train is to transport people and not to express religious identities.  Similarly a university is a place to receive education and to conduct research and it is not a forum for expressing religious views. We do not have a separate physics teacher for Muslims because the learning of physics follows only one method of science as followed all over the world by the scientific community.

“It is high time we kept our religious sentiments away from the mainstream of the civil society. “

Read the full article: Is there a Hindu or Muslim train?

Also read: Should a University be named after Tipu Sultan?

Tipu Sultan and the truth about 3,000 Brahmins

CHURUMURI POLL: Tipu Sultan vs Kempe Gowda?

Time to save S.L. Bhyrappa from Hindutva brigade

How media, police stereotype ‘terror suspects’

27 February 2013

Deccan Herald journalist Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui has walked out of the central jail in Bangalore a free man, six months after being named by the city’s police in an alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba plot to target two Kannada journalists and the publisher of the newspaper they were earlier employed in.

Siddiqui had been accused of being the “mastermind” of a gang of 15 in August last year to kill editor Vishweshwar Bhat, columnist Pratap Simha and publisher Vijay Sankeshwar, allegedly for their “right-wing leanings“. The journalists were with Vijaya Karnataka of The Times of India group, before they joined Rajeev Chandrasekhar‘s Kannada Prabha.

The national investigation agency (NIA), which investigated the case, didn’t name Siddiqui in its chargesheet on February 20 following which a special court trying the case ordered his release on February 23.

On Monday night, Siddiqui walked out of jail and on Tuesday, he addressed a press conference.

Reporting for the Indian Express, Johnson T.A. writes:

About six months ago, when he appeared in court for the first time after being named by the Bangalore Police, Siddiqui, 26, still had the glint of youthful exuberance in his eyes.

But now, the first thing that comes to mind on seeing Siddiqui after his release from prison on Monday, is the disappearance of that enthusiasm from his face. Gone is the glint in his eyes, and in its place is a serious, sad man.

Even so, Siddiqui, whose thesis suggestion for his PG diploma in mass communication—’Media coverage of terrorism suspects’—was struck down by his supervisor pulled no punches in describing his own ordeal before his colleagues, compatriots and competitors.

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siddiqui

# “The media has forgotten the ‘A’ in the ABC of Journalism [Accuracy-Brevity-Clarity].”

# “I always thought the police, media and society at large do not treat terror suspects fairly. That thinking has been reinforced by my experience.”

# “Security agencies are not sensitive towards the poor and weaker sections of society. If you look at the way the entire operation was carried out by the police and reported by the media, this insensitivity is clear.”

# According to the [Bangalore] police and the media, I am the mastermind. If I am the mastermind, why are the others still in jail? I hope they too will get justice.”

# “The media and the police need to be more sensitive toward the downtrodden, Dalits and Muslims. The way the media and the police behaved raises basic questions about their attitude toward Muslims.

# “Muslims are often cast by the media and police in stereotypes. There is an institutional bias which manifests in such cases. This is not just about me; it is about hundreds like me who are in jails [across the country] on terror charges. Muslims are not terrorists.”

# “If I was not a Muslim the police wouldn’t have picked me…. They first arrest people, then find evidence against them. What happened on August 29, 2012 was no arrest but downright kidnapping. A bunch of strong men barged into our house and forcefully took us away in their vehicles. This even as we were pleading and asking why we were being taken out.”

# “They kept interrogating me as if I was the mastermind and kept saying that I’d be in for seven years for sure. Everyone knows that jail is no fun place. For the first 30 days we were cramped in a small room. The confinement itself was torture.  They did not inform our families. They did not tell us what we were being arrested for. They made us sign 30-40 blank sheets of paper. One of these papers was used to create fake, back-dated arrest intimation.”

# “Some fair play is still possible in the system. Though justice was delayed, it wasn’t denied in my case.”

Siddiqui, who is still on Deccan Herald‘s roster, says he wants to go back to journalism, for that is his passion, but wants to spend time with his family first.

Two other journalists—Jigna Vora of The Asian Age and S.M.A. Kazmi—have been arrested in recent times on terror charges, only to be freed later.

Photograph: Journalist Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui at a press conference in Bangalore on 26 February 2013 (courtesy Md. Asad/ The Times of India)

Also read: Bangalore journo in plot to kill editor, columnist?

Anti-minority bias behind foiled bid on journos?

‘The hanging of Afzal Guru has diminished India’

11 February 2013

gandhi

On the eve of the winter  budget session of Parliament and with the Gujarat Karnataka, MP, Delhi, Rajasthan elections around the corner, the scam and scandal-ridden Congress-led UPA has stumped the scam and scandal-ridden BJP-led NDA with its early-morning announcement of the hanging of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist involved in the 26/11 siege of Bombay Afzal Guru, the convict in the 2002 attack on Parliament.

Within a matter of hours, a weak government is being seen as assertive by the lynch mobs which routinely bay for blood, and a “soft-state” is slapping its thighs in delight, although the implications of the hanging—on India-Pakistan relations Guru’s home-state Kashmir, which goes to the polls next year, on the fallout in the country, on the fate of Sarabjit Singh Rajiv Gandhi‘s killers, Beant Singh‘s killers etc—are still to be weighed.

Above all, in the very week two months after India refused to be a signatory to a United Nations resolution banning the death penalty, the hanging of Ajmal Kasab Afzal Guru, almost as if to satiate the public and political need for revenge and retribution, throws a big question mark over India’s presumed humanism of the land of the Mahatma.

Editorial in The Hindu:

Afzal Guru was walked to the gallows on Saturday morning at the end of the macabre rite governments enact from time to time to propitiate that most angry of gods, a vengeful public. Through this grim, secret ceremony, however, India has been gravely diminished….

In case after case, the course of criminal justice has been shaped by public anger and special-interest lobbying. Indians must remember the foundational principle of our Republic, the guardian of all our rights and freedoms, isn’t popular sentiment: it is justice, which in turn is based on the consistent application of principles.

For one overriding reason, Guru’s hanging ought to concern even those unmoved by his particular case, or the growing ethics-based global consensus against the death penalty. There is no principle underpinning the death penalty in India today except vengeance. And vengeance is no principle at all.

Editorial in Deccan Herald:

Even where a person has killed another, or many others, in any circumstance or for any reason, there is no justification for taking his life. The provision for capital punishment is based on a primitive idea of retribution and should have no place in the statutes of a civilised society.

Afzal  Guru did not kill, and there is no absolute certainty about his role in the events that he is said to have been involved in. Then why did he have to be executed? The question will haunt the nation’s conscience in the days and years to come.

Also read: Would Gandhi have condoned Kasab‘s hanging?

CHURUMURI POLL: Hang Afzal Guru, pardon Sarabjit?

They don’t make journos like VNSR any more

9 October 2012

churumuri records with regret the passing away of V.N. Subba Rao, the former chief reporter and chief of bureau of the undivided Indian Express—and a guru and mentor to hundreds of young journalists—in Bangalore, on Tuesday morning. He was 81 years old and had been ailing for a few months.

VNSR, as he was known to his myriad friends and colleagues, was brilliantly bilingual, churning out thousands of words each week in English and Kannada at frightening speed, from the intricacies of Karnataka politics, most of whose practitioners he knew on first-name terms, to the shenanigans of the Kannada film industry.

He wrote his weekly political commentary column “In Passing” on a typewriter with barely a mistake in the copy, the rhythmic sound of the carriage making music across the corridor of No. 1, Queen’s Road where the Express was nestled in its glory days. That column shifted to Deccan Herald, where he worked briefly.

Upon his retirement, VNSR launched a tabloid political weekly and a film weekly, both of which folded in quick time. Unlike modern-day political commentators, Subba Rao proudly wrote Kannada movie reviews with the zeal of an intern and attended every press conference without fail.

The New Delhi-based political commentator, A. Surya Prakash, who got his first job with the Express in Bangalore under VNSR in 1971, said: “The net value of all the journalists who learnt their craft under Subba Rao must run into a few hundred crore rupees.”

K.S. Sachidananda Murthy, the resident editor of The Week in New Delhi, who too worked under VNSR, sent this message to friends: “Let us remember his great leadership, quest for exclusive news, soaring prose, unquenchable curiosity and grooming of many of today’s stars of journalism. A life fit for celebration.”

For one who dealt with the high and mighty of Karnataka politics, VNSR had the unique ability to be surprised even by a small fire. His trademark reaction to every story and tip-off, big or small, was a simple “Howdaa?” (Is it so?) followed by a noisy hands-free swipe of the nose which seemed to suffer from a perpetual cold.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: T.N. Shanbag: Man who educated Bombay journos

Rajan Bala: cricket writer of cricket writers

Russy Karanjia: The bulldog of an editor

J. Dey: When eagles are silent, parrots jabber

E. Raghavan: Ex-ET, TOI, Vijaya Karnataka editor

Pratima Puri: India’s first TV news reader passes away

Tejeshwar Singh: A baritone falls silent watching the cacophony

K.M. Mathew: chief of editor of Malayala Manorama

Amita Malik: the ‘first lady of Indian media’

***

K.R. Prahlad: In the end, death becomes a one-liner

M.R. Shivanna: A 24×7 journalist is no more

C.P. Chinnappa: A song for an unsung hero

How ‘trial by media’ turned into media on trial

13 September 2012

Is it a good thing that the Supreme Court of India has not announced clearcut guidelines for media coverage of court cases? Or has it opened the floodgates by introducing a “neturalising device” that underlines the right of the accused to seek postponement of coverage on a case-by-case basis?

By introducing a “constitutional principle” has the judiciary appropriated to itself the power of the legislature to make law? And by giving credence to the complaints of corporates, has the SC sacrificed the interests of faceless and voiceless millions seeking justice and guidance from the top court?

***

The Tribune, Chandigarh: Thoughtless curbs

The Supreme Court judgment that courts can defer media coverage of a case for a short period if there is a danger to an individual’s right to fair trial will curb freedom of the Press, limit the people’s right to know and unnecessarily encourage litigation. Growing complaints of “trial by media” had prompted Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia to initiate a discussion on framing guidelines for court reporting….

There is a growing tendency in the judiciary as well as the executive to curb free speech. The Allahabad High Court banned all media reporting of troop movements after a news report hinted at a coup attempt. The government recently gagged social media sites on the pretext of restoring order. The arrest of a West Bengal professor for circulating a cartoon, the removal of cartoons from school textbooks and the slapping of a sedition case against a cartoonist for disrespecting the national emblem are other instances of executive intolerance of dissent. Vague judgments like the one in the Sahara case will only fuel this tendency.

**

Deccan Herald, Bangalore: Gag on media

A fresh threat to the right to free speech and expression, which has been sanctified by the Constitution, has come from an unlikely place, the Supreme Court of India, which has in the past protected and promoted it as a basic entitlement of citizens. Its judgement empowering courts to ban reporting of hearings in cases where there is a perceived chance of interference in free and fair trial amounts to muzzling media freedom. It needs to be opposed like all other assaults on the functioning on the media, which are becoming frequent now.

The court has propounded a  ‘constitutional principle’  which would allow aggrieved parties to seek postponement of the publication of hearings if they are seen to be prejudicial to the administration of justice. But this is disguising an unfair restriction as a constitutional doctrine, creating a devious device to undermine a basic right.

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The Indian Express: Lines of control

This “doctrine of postponement” of reporting is meant to be a preventive measure, rather than a punitive one, and is intended to balance the right of free speech with the right to a fair trial. The courts, the SC said, will evaluate each appeal carefully, guided by considerations of necessity and proportionality. However, the very outlining of the principle, in effect, leaves journalism at the mercy of the high court, rather than being internally regulated with better editorial gatekeeping.

**

The Hindu: Don’t compromise open justice

The Supreme Court’s judgment justifying a temporary ban on the publication of court proceedings in certain cases is likely to have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press and the very idea of an open trial…. Indeed, by emphasising the right of an aggrieved person to seek postponement of media coverage of an ongoing case by approaching the appropriate writ court, there is a danger that gag orders may become commonplace. At a minimum, the door has been opened to hundreds and thousands of additional writs — a burden our legal system is unprepared to handle — filed by accused persons with means.

**

Mint: Judgment and some worries

While the court prescribed tests of reasonableness, among others, on deciding issues of postponement, time is of the essence for media and citizens dependent on it for information. It is not far-fetched to presume that during this period of stasis, reporters and editors, can be arm-twisted into submission. The judgement whittles down an already embattled freedom available to the Press. It will add psychological pressure and uncertainty in an already difficult environment.

**

Business Standard: Tilting the balance

Tuesday’s judgment has done is to tilt the balance in favour of litigants seeking court interventions — which might well result in the imposition of such gag orders on the media. To that extent, the apex court’s order is prone to misuse…. The legal process (of deferement) is certain to cast an adverse impact on the freedom of the media and undermine the people’s right to know about such cases before the court.

Instead of paving the way for such curbs, it would perhaps make more sense if the courts took upon themselves the responsibility of allowing independent and comprehensive electronic coverage of court cases that both the people and the media can freely access for information or reportage. That would be a more effective way of ensuring that the coverage of court proceedings does not create the risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice or to the fairness of trials.

**

The Times of India: Chilling effect

The bench headed by outgoing Chief Justice of India S.H. Kapadia came up with an alternative approach to maintaining the balance between free speech and fair trial. Drawing upon the contempt law, the apex court devised a judicial power to order the postponement of publication as a last resort. Even this, however, may negatively impact the salutary principle that trials be held in public, as powerful defendants could routinely invoke such postponement orders….  The media is anyway a heterogeneous entity and the right of journalists to cover court proceedings is an essential attribute of a fair trial.

Cartoon: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today

Missing: Kannadiga pride at global investors meet

11 June 2012

N.V. Krishnakumar compares the just-concluded global investors’ meet(GIM)  in Karnataka with the Gujarati version of the same event, in Deccan Herald :

“During Vibrant Gujarat, the entire gamut of the state—from their culture, cuisine and language to their entrepreneurial spirit, quality of life and Gujarati pride—is marketed to investors and visitors. Without preference for any sector or district in the state, the strength of Gujarat as an engine for growth is promoted and noticeable to all investors and participants much to their own admiration.

“At the Global Investors’ Meet, a lack of vision is palpable. Government and its advisors have failed miserably to promote the overall strength of Karnataka. Along with mining rich districts, most of the attention revolves in and around Bangalore. Missing is the Kannadiga pride at the event.  There is no mention of the beauty of the state, its salubrious climate and its outstanding educational institutions. The stunning architecture, iconic food, great wildlife, the myriad places of historical prominence and cities that are in close proximity to ports and sea coast finds no mention.”

Read the full article: GIM vs Vibrant Gujarat

Photograph: Chairs being arranged during the global investors meet in Bangalore on Friday (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Whose global investors’ meet is it anyway?

Prosecuted, fined, rejected and a Rs 36,000 cr deal

Us and them: Brick and mortar vs click and cursor

Sugata Raju is new editor of ‘Vijaya Karnataka’

15 May 2012

Vijaya Karnataka, the Kannada daily from The Times of India group, has a new editor: Sugata Srinivasaraju, the former associate editor, south, of Outlook* magazine. He takes over from Vasant Nadiger who was officiating as editor following the sudden death of E. Raghavan in March.

Raghavan had taken over VK from the paper’s longstanding editor Vishweshwar Bhat, who has since moved to Kannada Prabha, the Kannada daily owned by the mobile phone baron turned parliamentarian, Rajeev Chandrasekhar.

ToI bought Vijaya Karnataka in 2006 from the truck operator Vijay Sankeshwar, who launched a new title called Vijaya Vani following the end of the five-year no-compete clause with Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd. Vijaya Karnataka also faces growing competition from former market leader Praja Vani (from the Deccan Herald group).

* Disclosures apply

Also read: Ex-TOI, ET editor E. Raghavan passes away

Is Vijaya Karnataka ready for a Dalit editor?

‘Praja Vani’ special issue guest-edited by a Dalit

14 April 2012

Many Indian newspapers now invite a “Guest Editor” to create some buzz.

Usually the guest is a boldfaced name: a cricketer (Yuvraj Singh), a godman (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar),  a businessman (N.R. Narayana Murthy), a news maker (Amartya Sen) or a celebrity.

Take a bow, Praja Vani.

On the birth anniversary of the father of the Indian Constitution, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, the Kannada newspaper from the Bangalore-based Deccan Herald group has brought out a special issue, guest-edited by the Dalit writer and social activist, Devanur Mahadeva.

Eight broadsheet pages of the 16-page main edition—plus seven out of eight pages in two four-page broadsheet supplements—have pieces commissioned by the guest editor.

In all, there are 37 pieces of text, led by an introduction from the paper’s editor, K.N. Shanth Kumar.

Each of the pages carrying the pieces has a common panel that reads “Swatantra, Samanathe, Sodarathe” (freedom, equality, fraternity) and each article carrying the piece has an icon of Ambedkar.

Among the articles, a business page report on India’s first Dalit bank; a metro section story on why Bollywood ignores Ambedkar; and an edit page piece on the need for social police.

Robin Jeffrey, whose lament on the lack of diversity in Indian (read English) newsrooms, prompted the experiment would be pleasantly surprised at the spunk of a leading regional-language newspaper.

Image: courtesy Praja Vani

Also read: 6 pages for Ambedkar; 393 pages for ‘The Family’

Anybody here Dalit and speaks English?

Is Vijaya Karnataka ready for a Dalit editor?

German visionary behind our vanishing beauties

28 March 2012

SHASHIKIRAN MULLUR writes from Bangalore: The heat has gone up and the dust has risen. Everywhere dry leaves have covered the ground, but Bangalore was beautiful this Sunday morning from upward of eye-level.

The most striking sight is of the yellow flowers: Tabebuia Argentea which flowers are tiny trumpets, and the Indian Laburnum which hang in a bunch like grapes.

The first is The Tree of Gold; and the other is the Tree of the Golden Showers—or the Vishu, whose flowers, my Malayalee friends tell me, are beloved of Krishna.

I checked now: The Indian Labernum is indeed indigenous, so you may believe Krishna knew them in his ancient time, whereas the Tubebea Argentea is from tropical Americas.

Then there are the trees with pouting purple flowers and others with lavender across their crown and in a carpet on the street at their feet.

The radiant Lady’s Tongue have blossomed too, way overhead, but they’re fallen on the ground as well. And tiny Pongam flowers which are buds even in bloom, which lay sprinkled on the ground all of last week, they are now broad mats of dry fiber—they soften your step when you walk on them.

Bees and butterflies are in a swarm over the Singapore Cherry, flicking and kissing their tiny flowers, their white petals the texture of art paper, and their quivering filaments thinner than human hair—but how they’re straight up and erect!

Many of these trees—or the parents of these trees—arrived here by a foreign hand, a German one, the hand of a man born in Dresden, and long buried in the Christian graveyard in Langford Town in Bangalore, in whose psyche he is deeper-buried and long forgotten—even if the road before Lal Bagh is named Krumbiegel Road.

Gustav Krumbiegel was dear to the Maharaja of Mysore who took him from the Gaekwar of Baroda, to improve Lal Bagh and to bring green and the colors of flowers to Bangalore and Mysore. The Gaekwar had wrested Krumbiegel from London, where Krumbiegel was creating and tending flower beds in Kiev Gardens and Hyde Park.

Krumbiegel spent time also in Hamburg, but before the War, so the fine gardens you see today in that city must’ve been planted by recent horticulturists.

Of course, many of the trees Krumbiegel planted on the avenues of Bangalore have been felled and auctioned and sold as timber. Where the trees stood, and where they’d have flourished for many decades more, over their dead roots the roads have been widened, and by the broadened streets glass and concrete have taken on the role that belongs to trees.

Not that the love of trees and flowers has fled the heart of the Bangalorean. The better apartment blocks have fine young trees in their compounds; the Royal Gardenia hotel has lawns and plants running up and down its walls in a fashion that has perhaps struck wonder in the Creator.

In developments such as the upmarket Nitesh Logos, upcoming on Aga Abbas Ali Road, the landscaping is designed by a Singaporean.

So the insides of residential compounds and corporate campuses are—and will—still be ringed in greens and flowers. The worry is for public spaces: Who will replicate the Maharaja’s initiative to get the best talent in the world for a tasteful planting of trees anew along our roads and in our parks?

Who will take the place of the Maharaja in this moment? And do what developers and software companies have done on private land?

Our politics seems set to stay weak for indeterminate time, so an initiative from the private sector is urgent: first to persuade the government to approve such an undertaking, then for the private corporate enthusiast to actually carry out the grooming—without boards larger than lawns shouting the sponsor’s brand-name, but rather with quiet love for this city which is theirs, and also ours.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News (top); Deccan Herald

Khushwant Singh: 11 secrets of a long, happy life

15 January 2012

As he prepares to turn 98 next month, the “dirty old man of Indian journalism”, Khushwant Singhis in an effusive mood, revealing the tricks of Life Sutra, in his Deccan Herald column.

1) If you cannot play a game or exercise, get yourself a nice massage once if not two times a day. Not a greasy oil massage, but powerful hands going all over your body from skull to toes.

2) Cut down on your intake of food and drink.  Maintain a strict routine for intake of food. Use a stop watch if necessary. Guava juice is better than any other fruit juice

3) Forget ragi malt. A single peg of single malt whisky at night gives you a false appetite. Before you eat dinner, say to yourself ‘Don’t eat much’.

4) Eat one kind of vegetable or meat, followed by a pinch of chooran. Eat alone and in silence. Idli-dosa is healthier and easier to digest.

5) Never allow yourself to be constipated. Keep your bowels clean by whatever means you can: by lexatives, enemas, glycerine suppositories.

6) Keep a healthy bank balance for peace of mind. It does not have to be in crores, but enough for your future needs and possibility of falling ill.

7) Never lose your temper.

8) Never tell a lie.

9) Cleanse your soul, give generously. Remember you cannot take it with you. You may give it to your children, your servants or in charity.

10) Instead of whiling your time praying, take up a hobby: like gardening, helping children.

Bonus suggestion: If you can afford it, get yourself some nice genes.

Read the full article: Secret of my longevity

Photograph: courtesy Outlook

External reading: Khushwant Singh on how to live and die

Also read: If it works for the young man, it sure works for us

‘Deccan Herald’ tests the forces of media gravity

11 December 2011

Karnataka’s oldest English newspaper, Deccan Herald, has made a brave northwards foray with the launch of its New Delhi edition on 11 December 2011, 100 years after political power moved to the national capital from the east.

Vol 1, No 1 of the 63-year-old Bangalore daily arrived this morning in the usual quiet, understated manner in which The Printers (Mysore) Pvt Ltd conducts things: no carpet bombing of copies, no “roadblock” of hoardings, no massive pre-subscription drives.

“We are happy to start the Delhi edition of Deccan Herald today. It’s the seventh edition since we launched the newspaper in Bangalore in June, 1948. Our strength is the trust we have won from our readers—a trust built on credibility and our commitment to objectivity. We offer you comprehensive coverage of news without bias,” said a front-page note from the paper’s editor, K.N. Tilak Kumar.

The launch issue with a cover price of Rs 5 has a 20-page main edition and this being a Sunday, an 8-page weekend culture section titled Sunday Herald. During the week, DH will serve Delhi versions of its usual fare:  a four-days-a-week city supplement titled Metrolife and a lifestyle supplement on Saturday titled Living.

Printed at the Indian Express press in Noida, DH‘s Delhi edition with four local pages gives the regional daily a more national profile, useful for reporters and newsmakers; and an additional publication centre that can be used to good effect on the advertisement tariff card.

But it also comes with massive challenges. The “Deccan” in the paper’s title has a distinctly south Indian feel; will it find resonance among readers in the North? Second, the New Delhi morning market is crowded with over a dozen newspapers and with at least two more coming; can DH aspire for anything more than “organic growth”?

However, for sheer chutzpah, the timing of the Delhi launch takes some doing. Newspapers like The Telegraph have  pondered coming to Delhi for at least 15 years but have not found the strength to do so. Also, DH comes at a time when the Indian newspaper industry is facing several existential issues.

But DH has established itself as a horse for the long race over six decades. The arrival, therefore, of a serious newspaper from a group which has no interests other than journalism, when the Indian media is being asked probing questions on its methods, motives and motivations, can only be good augury.

Also readComing soon, Deccan Herald from New Delhi

Finally, a redesign not done by Mario Garcia!

How Deccan Herald welcomed the Republic of India

Sauce for liberals isn’t sauce for fundamentalists?

6 December 2011

The ghastly ritual of Madae Snana at the State-run Kukke Subramanya templewhich entails members of the Malekudiya community (among others) rolling over plantain leaves of leftover food of Brahmins for wish-fulfillment—has pitted progressives versus traditionalists, thanks to the “ban” lifted by the BJP-ruled Karnataka government.

“Liberals are carrying out a smear campaign against an established centre of faith of Hindus. This ritual is not something that has come into practice in recent times. It has been around for generations and people do practice it even today. By denigrating the ritual and its practice, the liberals are hurting the religious sentiments of devotees,” a local leader has been quoted as saying.

But what is the likelihood that the equally ghastly sight of devotees happily walking over fire and flogging themselves in public (as they did on Moharram in Hubli and Bangalore on Tuesday), will tie up liberals and fundamentalists in similar knots, or exercise human rights bodies?

Or will this too pass, as it has been around for generations and devotees do it voluntarily (presumably)?

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Unlikely this is for Sachin Tendulkar‘s 100th century

Should Tirupati return only Reddy’s gold crown?

10 September 2011

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: Hypocrisy is a trait that afflicts not just humans, but the gods who are at the mercy of humans, too. And Tirupati, which proudly flaunts the title of “World’s Richest Hindu Temple” in a country where three-quarters of its billion citizens are among the world’s poorest is proof.

News reports have it that the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) board, which runs the Venkateshwara temple atop the seven hills, has asked its officials to verify with tax authorities if the Rs 42 crore crown presented to the Lord by the disgraced Bellary mining don G. Janardhana Reddy in June 2009 was purchased using “ill-gotten money”.

“If the ornament was bought form his official earnings and it was shown in the income-tax documents, we will retain it. If it is not a legal offering, the TTD board will decide whether to return it to the actual donor or to hand it over to the IT department or to the CBI which is probing the mining scam,” board member R. Surya Prakash Rao was quoted as saying.

An earlier report said that devotees had taken out a rally in Tirumala to protest against the “tainted” crown being used to adorn the idol of the good Lord every second Friday. But in that report, the TTD executive officer L.V. Subramanyam was quoted as saying:

“We have no way to ascertain whether the gifts are from legally earned money or black money.”

To be sure, the 30 kg, 2.5 feet tall crown, which is studded with 800 diamonds and a green emerald, isn’t the only magnanimous offering made by Reddy and his family. A Deccan Herald report says he had donated nearly 32 gold crowns to nearly 29 dieties in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for various favours rendered.

(The controversial gold crown (in picture) was donated when the Andhra Pradesh government of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy allocated land for his Brahmani steels project, in which YSR was alleged to have had more than passing interest till his son Y. Jagan Mohan Reddy divested his stake.)

A report in Bangalore Mirror, that the TTD board is under pressure from ruling Congress party cadres in Andhra Pradesh, should surprise nobody. There is no love lost between the Congress and YSR’s son, especially after the recent CBI raids on Jagan Mohan Reddy’s premises and the allegations of his close ties with Janardhana Reddy.

As a churumuri poll remarked when the donation was made:

“For the son of a former police constable to make the second-highest offering to Lord Venkateshwara at Tirumala after the kings of Vijayanagar is quite an achievement indeed.”

But what should surprise devotees and non-devotees is that the highly political TTD should suddenly consider only Janardhana Reddy’s donations to be suspect and worthy of investigation. And that too only after Janardhana Reddy was arrested by the CBI.

Is it TTD’s case that all the other  donations that are made to the temple at Tirupati are squeaky clean?

More to the point, if Reddy’s donation turns out to be not so clean, will TTD reopen all the other donations made by shady individuals and institutions under the cloak of anonymity? And if all the tainted donations are returned will Tirupati still retain its reputation of being the “World’s Richest Hindu Temple”?

TTD board member L.V. Subramanyam has now clarified that there is no question of returning Reddy’s crown “under any circumstances”. In effect, it means there is no question of investigating or returning any other donation. Now, what does that say about Tirupati and the large-heartedness of Lord Balaji, corruption or no corruption?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Reddy brothers and Lord Balaji 

 

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’

Should papers implement Majithia wage board?

21 June 2011

Notwithstanding the exponential growth of the print media post-liberalisation, it is clear that the voice of journalists in the publications they bring out is subservient to that of the proprietor, promoter and publisher on most issues and certainly so on the Majithia wage board for journalists and “other newspaper employees”.

Although owners and managers have unabashedly used the columns of their newspapers to rile against higher wages and build “public opinion” against the Majithia wage board through reports, opinion pieces and advertisements, a similar facility has been unavailable for journalists to air their views in the same publications.

It is as if journalists and “other newspaper employees”, whether on contract or otherwise, are in sync with their organisations in opposing the wage board’s recommendations. Which is, of course, far from the truth. Which is, of course, why a nationwide strike has been slated for June 28  to draw attention to journalists’ demands.

So, what do you think?

Is there a case for higher wages for journalists and “other newspaper employees”? Should the Majithia wage board be implemented or should wage boards be abolished? Are newspapers, which are rolling in profits, exploiting journalists with low wages and longer working hours? Or should journalists wisen up to the realities of the modern work place?

Is there truth in the charge that industry organisations like the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) are being used by big newspaper groups to prevent if not stall the new wages? Or is the contention of newspaper owners that they will wilt and crumble under the pressure of a higher wage bill justified?

Also read: Why doesn’t INS oppose no-poaching pacts?

Why Majithia wage board is good for journalists

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

Media barons wake up together, sing same song

INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

External reading: Why not wage board for all journos and non-journos in media?

9 reasons why wage board is bad for journalism

18 June 2011

The recommendations of the Majithia wage board for working journalists and “other newspaper employees” has set the proverbial cat among the paper tigers. The industry body, Indian Newspaper Society (INS), has come out all guns blazing. It has called the wage board “an arbitary and undemocratic institution”, whose recommendations are designed to stifle media freedom.

The chairman of one prominent newspaper group, with a journalistic strength of 400 out of a workforce of 1,200, has told churumuri.com his company will be in loss “from day one” if he implements the proposed wage hike rumoured to be in the 80-100% range.

“There is no way I’ll will go ahead, even if it means fighting to the very end,” says the media baron.

The Times of India, which was slightly more sympathetic of previous wage boards because of the pressure of unions, has mounted a full-throated campaign against the Majithia wage board since it appears even “contract employees” (which is what most ToI journalists are) couldcome under the nomenclature of “other newspaper employees”.

But ToI seems to be a lone-ranger in this fight. Few of the other 1,017 members of INS have shown the same alacrity on their pages; even fewer have run INS chairman Kundan R. Vyas‘ article enunciating the opposition or the INS ad.

Here, in response to Sharanya Kanvilkar‘s article slamming proprietors, promoters and publishers for waking up only when it suits them, a newspaper baron (whose group has a “board-plus” wage policy) lists nine reasons why the Majithia wage board recommendations are injurious to the health of newspapers and indeed to journalists silently exulting over the plight of their masters:

***

1) It is asked every time, it must be asked again. And again: why do we have a wage board only for newspapers? The first board was constituted in 1955 when government-owned All India Radio (AIR) was the only mass medium, and Nehruvian India justly feared that private newspaper barons could exploit journalists. But in 21st century post-reforms India?

If it is right that wages must be protected in the private sector, why should the government only start and stop at newspapers? What about all the other ‘poor souls’ in other media sectors, like TV or the internet?

Or the IT or automotive industries?

2) The quantum of hike in wages recommended by the Majithia board conveys the wrong impression that journalists and other newspaper employees are poorly paid at present. This is far from the truth.

Only one of every 10 journalists I meet complains of low wages and even she is not looking for a 80-100% jump.

The Times of India, most of whose journalists are currently on contract with a higher CTC than wage board journalists, pays the best wages in the country. Yet the fact that it is at the forefront of the campaign against the Majithia wage board recommendations shows that it is not the fear of losing money that is motivating the Old Lady of Boribunder.

This is about media freedom.

3) Every source of income and outgo in the newspaper industry is dictated by market forces. Newsprint costs, cover price, distributor and hawker commission, advertisement rates, etc, are all decided by market forces over which we have little or no control.

Yet, on the issue of wages and wages alone, the government wants to step in and play minder. Why? It is entirely logical that the government wants to be seen as a friend of journalists. But it is entirely illogical that independent journalists should want to see the government as a friend.

It is, of course, entirely nonsensical if you consider the fact that many industries cut salaries in bad times like 2008-09, and restore it when the times are better, but newspapers who are exposed to the same financial and commercial pressures, somehow cannot.

Why?

4) The wage board is within its rights to recommend a minimum starting salary for journalists, but everything that happens after a journalist joins a newspaper should be the prerogative of the management and editorial leadership.

On the other hand, the Majithia board, by recommending salary scales with a built-in annual hike and time-bound promotions, seeks to reward complacency, mediocrity and under-performance while giving efficiency, talent and meritocracy the back seat.

Do journalists want that situation?

5) The wage board has no business to fiddle with things that is none of its business. For example: scanner operators, who perform a mechanical function no different from peons taking photocopies, were classified as journalists by the previous wage board. Why?

The Majithia board also exceeds its brief and recommends a retirement age of 65 for journalists, when the government retires its staff at between 58 and 62 years.

Add to this the fact that the working journalists Act stipulates that journalists are expected to work for just six hours a day. Do professionals in any other industry enjoy this grand privilege while being guaranteed a 80-100% wage hike, annual increments, time-bound promotions and an enhanced retirement age, sans accountability?

6) Even the Union labour minister will admit that three out of four newspapers in the country have not implemented many earlier wage board recommendations, and it is in such newspapers that the majority of poorly-paid journalists work.

The chances of such recalcitrant newspapers implementing the draconian recommendations of the Majithia board are remote, if not impossible. So after so many wage boards, what is the government’s trackrecord in reaching fair wages to journalists, the majority of whom slave away in organisations which do not implement wage board recommendations?

7) Given that historical record, the Majithia board looks set to punish groups that have successfully implemented previous wage board recommendations for decades. This gives an unfair advantage to new entrants and start-ups which blithely refuse to do so.

By working with the workers’ union, my newspaper has had a “board-plus” wage policy, in which we pay what the board recommends plus something extra that we can afford. This has worked for both sides very well. Does it make sense to impose the new wage board on groups like ours, while turning a blind eye on groups which have consistently refused to implement previous wage boards?

By keeping their wage bill unnaturally low, such groups find it easy to chip into older players with greater ethical concern for the wellbeing of journalists.

8) Over the years, the government has disbanded wage boards in all other industries, but it has not and still does not have the courage to disband the wage board for journalists.

This shows clearly that though the government agrees that wage boards have lost their relevance and usefulness in the modern economy, they are sucking up to journalists by keeping their wage board alive.

Or are they simply scared of them?

9) Those arguing for a wage board for journalists contend that that TV journalists are better paid. If that is true, as it perhaps is, then it is also true that this has happened without a wage board.

Can we then logically conclude that print journalists and others will be better paid without a wage board?

And one last point: by forcing newspapers into implementing the wage board recommendations, is the government willy-nilly pushing us to use ‘paid news’ as a source of additional revenue to meet the demands of the new wage bill?

Or, worse, by worming their way into the hearts of journalists with these unrealistic proposals, is the government buying good coverage at the expense of proprietors, promoters and publishers?

Also read: Media barons wake up together, sing same song

INS: “We reject wage board recommendations”

Can the paragon of integrity hear his conscience?

13 April 2011

A South Indian view of national politics is largely, if not completely, missing from Indian media, including and especially South Indian media. It is almost as if all wisdom on what’s happening in the national capital has to flow, aided by the inevitable force of gravity, southwards from Delhi.

While reporting and analysing Delhi from Delhi makes geographical sense, the truth is it also makes it easy for news and views to be susceptible to the inevitable forces of lubrication. Additionally, there is the danger of the news atmosphere being congested by a set of usual suspects.

Deccan Herald senior editor Ramakrishna Upadhya, who writes a weekly column on topics not always concerning Karnataka, is one of the rare exceptions.

RKU, as the veteran journo who has also served at the Indian Express, Sunday Mid-Day, ETV, Vijay Times and The Telegraph is known, has now put together a collection of 112 columns over an eight-year period columns in a book titled ‘Natak Karnatak‘ (Prarthana Books, 343 pages, Rs 290). Below is an excerpt, first published in November 2010.

***

By RAMAKRISHNA UPADHYA

It is a strange paradox that Independent India’s two biggest scandals —the stock market scam of the mid-1990s, and the current telecom scam—have occurred under the benign superintendence of the man who is universally hailed as “one of the most sincere and honest” leaders that this country has seen.

As the mind-boggling, head-reeling telecom saga continues to unfold, the nation will await to see whether this turbaned paragon of integrity is also capable of listening to his conscience and acting decisively to uphold the faith of a billion people.

We are living in difficult times. Constitutionally-mandated personalities, who are expected to work as trustees and uphold public interest at all time, compromise with principles and bare themselves as men with feet of clay, completely unmindful of the exposure.

Here in Karnataka, we have a chief minister brazen enough to justify corruption and nepotism as part of his ‘power package’ and, at the Centre, we have a prime minister who willingly turns a blind eye to all the muck around him, wallowing in the belief that as long as his personal reputation is white as a lily, he doesn’t have to care a damn.

It was the same Dr Manmohan Singh as finance minister in the Narasimha Rao cabinet, who, when the Harshad Mehta-engineered scam broke out, remarked that he “would not lose sleep” over it.

After the Joint Parliamentary Committee investigated into and exposed the dubious activities of a handful of share brokers who milked the economy of crores of rupees illegally, Dr Singh’s diagnosis was that it was “a systemic failure.”

Dr Singh is now the prime minister of the country and considering the magnitude of the scam, he simply can’t get away with vague and wholly excuses. As the comptroller and auditor general of India’s report has revealed, the former telecommunications and information technology minister Andimuthu Raja arrogantly discarded the advice of several ministries and the prime minister’s own counsel in arbitrarily awarding the 2G Spectrum in January 2008 and yet Dr Singh maintained ‘silence’ till it exploded in his face.

In a stunning disclosure, the CAG has confirmed that 85 of the 122 applicants for 2G licence were ineligible, that they suppressed facts or gave fictitious information, that the cut-off date for licence letters were advanced arbitrarily, that most of these companies were created barely months before they were issued licences and that the owners of these licences after obtaining them at throw-away prices, in turn, sold significant stakes to Indian/foreign firms at high premium within a short time.

The CAG has estimated that the presumptive loss to the exchequer is of the order of Rs 1.76 lakh crore and of that, two dubious entities, Unitech and Swan alone made Rs 1,27,292 crore from the sale of equity to other players. Even major telecom players happily participated in the loot as Raja appeared to be the king of all that he purveyed, with the prime minister being a mute, disinterested spectator.

The scam had surfaced in January 2008 itself and the Left parties, to their credit, had raised a stink before the May general elections that year, but the UPA’s “resounding” victory in the polls and the principal opposition BJP’s intra-party troubles ensured that the Manmohan Singh government was able to sit tight over the mega scam.

After the elections, Dr Singh made only a feeble attempt to take away the telecom ministry from the DMK and no more than that: After all, he was only a ‘mukhota’ for Sonia Gandhi and her parivar who conducted negotiations with the DMK patriarch, M. Karunanidhi on ministry formation. With the lid on the scam still firmly in place, Raja came back with a bigger smirk on his face.

What is mystifying is that Dr Singh, who seems to love the label of ‘Mr Clean,’ never bothered to take a second look at 2G Spectrum allocation nor ordered an investigation. Is it possible then, that the amount involved in the scam being so huge that the DMK was only one of the players and the other hidden ‘hands’ must have been too hot for the prime minister even to contemplate taking any action?

But the truth could not be supressed for too long and here, the officers of the CAG must be complimented for a job thorough and meticulous. When some portions of the report inadvertently leaked out, a cocky Raja kept insisting that he had done no wrong and whatever he had done was with the ‘“knowledge” of the prime minister.

For the image-makers of the prime minister and the UPA, Raja had now become a hot potato and he had to be dispensed with. The Congress head honchos conveyed their ‘decision’ to Karunanidhi, who had no option but to accept it with the elections to the Tamil Nadu Assembly only months away and his bete noire, Jayalalitha always lurking in the corner.

If the Congress thought that the Opposition would be satisfied with Raja’s ‘head’ and Parliament would return to normal business, the supreme court’s embarrassing questions to the prime minister and the full disclosure of the CAG report have put paid to any such illusions.

Just as the land scandals involving B.S. Yediyurappa, his family members and cabinet colleagues, have reached a stage where the BJP Central leadership will perforce have to step in to lend credibility to their campaign against corruption at the national level, Dr Manmohan Singh will have to step out of his facade and initiate credible action to show that in the evening of his life and career, he has no reason to be “used” by anyone, any more.

(Copies of the book are available at Gangaram book depot, and Sapna book stall)

Read a review of the book: An insightful look at Karnataka

The Mahatma in the eyes of Deve Gowda’s son

11 April 2011

BHAMY V. SHENOY writes: I was shocked to read a news item in today’s Deccan Herald—“If Gandhi were alive, he would have been corrupt: HDK”—in which the former chief minister, H.D. Kumarswamy, is quoted as saying that it is impossible to not be corrupt as a politician in today’s India.

While doubting the strong moral underpinnings of the Mahatma, HDK categorically states that “he (HDK) was never involved in corruption” while implementing government schemes and projects as CM, but had received “donations from friends and well wishers” for strengthening the party and fighting elections.

If HDK could be as non-corrupt as he claimed, why did not the media ask him as how could he have doubts about the Mahatma?

“Corruption has become inevitable. Contesting elections and pursuing politics without corruption is impossible in today’s context.” Going a step ahead, he made his quip about the Mahatma.

Two kinds of contemporary people can come to the conclusion about Mahatma’s capacity to be in politics without compromising his principles based on India’s current rampant corruption scenario.

One is the kind that might not have read the Mahatma’s his autobiography “My experiments with truth” or any other book/s on Gandhi and thus do not know anything about him. The other is the kind that is so corrupt that it is impossible for them to think that there could be others in the world who can be honest.

Is it possible that our former CM meets both the criteria?

In this world, there are hundreds of political leaders who are not corrupt. Even in India, though their number may not be huge, we can still find some who have not been compromised. But political leaders like Kumarswamy do not have the time nor the interest to learn about those honest leaders.

They are like the frogs in a well and for them, their well consists of corrupt leaders.

What have Kannadigas done to deserve leaders who do not think that it is impossible to be honest? Can we find some honest leaders like Anna Hazare amongst us?

Also read: Nothing is what it seems when scoundrels meet

A snapshot of a poor, debt-ridden farming family

Everybody’s stark naked in the public bathroom

External reading: Evil empire of JDS triumvirate

Hopefully, nothing has been lost in translation?

9 March 2011

PALINI R. SWAMY writes from Bangalore: There are ways and there are ways of convincing your critics, but as a pioneering entrepreneur, N.R. Narayana Murthy clearly believes in taking the road not taken.

Lampooned by the writer Baragur Ramachandrappa for being asked to open the world Kannada conference (Vishwa Kannada Sammelana) to be held in Belgaum this weekend despite his “anti-Kannada stance”, the Infosys chief mentor has given interviews today to underline his Kannada credentials.

But surprise, surprise—or maybe not—Murthy sits down with Asha Rai of The Times of India and Asha Krishnaswamy of Deccan Herald to make his point, not with any of the many Kannada newspapers or news channels operating out of Bangalore.

As if his Kannadiga-ness is only to be reiterated to English readers.

The ToI and DH interviews have been dutifully translated into the Kannada publications of the two English giants, Vijaya Karnataka and Praja Vani, respectively, but surely Infosys’ well-oiled PR machine could have done better by getting their admirable chief to also sit with a few Kannada journalists?

Link via P. Ramesh

Images: courtesy Praja Vani, Vijaya Karnataka

Also read: Should NRN open the world Kannada conference?

A governor whose reputation precedes him

22 January 2011

Much like it is difficult for all the scams in theUPA-II regime to be mentioned without invoking the “personal integrity” of the prime minister Manmohan Singh, it seems it is difficult to view the sanction of permission for the prosecution of the Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa on “grave charges of corruption” without invoking the dubious history of the governor, H.R. Bharadwaj.

***

Deccan Herald says the governor, H.R. Bharadwaj, has exceeded constitutional boundaries:

“As a constitutional authority, he has every right to guide the administration, offer counsel and even pull up the government where it goes wrong. Yes, the Yediyurappa government has committed many wrongs in the 32 months that it has been in power, and as the constitutional head of the state, the governor was duty bound to ask questions and seek remedial actions. There are clearly defined constitutional boundaries and well-established conventions for the governor’s conduct.

“But Bhardwaj has adopted a crudely confrontationist approach, which was totally unwarranted. Where he was expected to exercise caution and discretion in his actions, he used his loud mouth to get himself into a tangle. If chief minister Yediyurappa and some of his colleagues have openly accused the governor of acting in a ‘partisan manner’ or like ‘an agent of the Congress party,’ Bhardwaj has nobody to blame but himself.”

The Hindu says the governor’s action is legally correct but politically coloured:

“It is one thing to turn the Raj Bhavan into a retreat for elderly or inconvenient politicians. It is quite another for the government at the Centre to use it as a political stage for undermining State governments run by rival parties. H.R. Bhardwaj has often looked more the part of an opposition leader than a constitutional head, with his politically-loaded barbs against the Yediyurappa government.

“In the latest instance, he likened the ruling BJP making complaints against him to a ‘thief scolding the police’. In the context of his earlier statements against the State government, asking Yediyurappa to take action against two of his Ministers and publicly talking about their alleged profiteering from illegal mining operations, the ‘thief’ remark certainly raised serious doubts about his motives.”

Also read: One question I’m dying to ask H.R. Bharadwaj

When a governor gets it left, right and centre

Kapil Sibal and the CAG’s ‘notional atyachar’

10 January 2011

We live in a strange, revisionist era. Nothing is what it seems, at least not for more than a few blinks.

For instance, the much-ballyhooed Pokhran II tests under Vajpayee‘s watch, we are told a decade later, was actually a damp squib. Many of the recent blasts that have were supposedly masterminded by Muslim terror-mongers were actually plotted by high functionaries of the RSS, by the admission of one of their own.

The saint of the Indian Premier League, Lalit Modi, was actually a sinner; the former saint-turned-sinner Jagmohan Dalmiya is now again a saint. The Bofors scandal that seemed properly dead and buried just last year with the closure of the case, is now back with a bang to haunt Sonia Gandhi.

Etcetera.

The 2G spectrum allocation scam that just a month ago seemed like India’s largest ripoff ever is now firmly in that revisionist realm, thanks to the new telecom minister, Kapil Sibal‘s exertions. Sibal says the “presumptive loss” of Rs 173,000 crore that the comptroller and accountant general was way off the mark.

In fact, claims “India’s greatest poet since the Bhakti movement“, with the kind of pugnacity only a Punjabi accountant can muster, that the allocation made telephony cheaper, took it far and wide, and that indeed the revenue loss was actually zero. Which, if this were a chess game, could have been called the A. Raja defence.

Little wonder, the Harvard-educated lawyer gets it left, right and centre.

***

Minister’s Point, says The Telegraph:

“If Kapil Sibal has chosen to take issue with the CAG’s performance audit of the issue of second-generation licences for spectrum, the explanation must be sought in three factors. First, the Supreme Court has chosen to take interest in the issue of the licences, and has in the process implicitly indicted Sibal’s predecessor in the ministry of communications, A. Raja. Second, the Supreme Court’s investigation of Raja’s questionable activities has raised questions about the inexplicable inactivity of the prime minister while Raja ruled the roost. Finally, Sibal happens to be a lawyer of some experience. The prime minister’s last encounter with the Supreme Court, when he used executive privilege to defend a possible error, was not very astute; a more expert response was called for.”

Kapil Denial Sibal, says the Indian Express:

“Sibal’s assumption of the telecom portfolio was a sign of hope. With his reformist credentials, he was supposed to ensure transparency in the investigation, and help the ministry, and governance, move on. That is why his Friday press conference is so disturbing….

“Brazenness won’t help the political climate. Nor will it aid in ending the stalemate with the opposition. Indeed, it strikes an odd, arrogant note precisely when the government is backing the PAC as an investigatory mechanism, and that committee specifically examines the CAG report. It’s silly to score points on the weakest part of the CAG report when the Supreme Court is monitoring the situation, and the CBI is still in the process of filing a status report to the court.”

A pyrrhic win, says DNA:

“Sibal has unwittingly tried to discredit the CAG, which could turn out to be a great disservice. It would make the beleaguered UPA government far more vulnerable than before. The brilliant lawyer that he is, Sibal picked up what was the weakest point in the report and went on to clinically decimate it. But if he believes that the 2G spectrum scam would vanish into thin air because of his legal acumen, then he may have to think again….

“It is clear that Sibal is fighting a political battle on behalf of the Congress and prime minister Manmohan Singh. But politics is not just about winning debating and legal points. It is much more about images and perceptions. The image of UPA2 in the public mind at the moment is that this government is caught up in too many scams. It has much to atone for. Instead of belligerence, this government should display is a sense of penitence and do what it can to clean up the mess.”

Don’t quibble over figures, says Mail Today:

“Even if the CAG’s figures are inaccurate or speculative, it does not acquit the government — and former telecom minister A. Raja in particular — from the charge that the process followed in the allotment of 2G spectrum was fraught with irregularities. The moot issue has always been that certain entire process — and this is a question Mr Sibal has sought to deliberately obfuscate.

“It is unfortunate that the telecom minister has to make a statement that the figures stated by the CAG have “embarrassed government and the nation” as the government has no one but itself to blame for embarrassment that has been caused. It’s unfortunate that a minister has to raise questions in this manner about a constitutionally mandated watchdog.”

Subversive Sibal, says Deccan Herald:

“The minister’s arguments are those of a clever lawyer, trying to obfuscate issues and facts and create confusion. He also adopted a posture, aggressive and theatrical enough to make people believe that there was substance in the argument. But cleverness and drama do not help strengthen a case. What Sibal has done is in effect supporting the case of A.Raja, who has also advanced the same arguments. Then why did Raja have to resign?”

When a lawyer becomes judge, says The Sunday Guardian:

“If Kapil Sibal believes what he says, he should send in his resignation immediately so that Raja can be reinstated. Why was Raja dropped from the Cabinet, at such political cost, personal anguish and Karunanidhi family heartbreak if he was innocent? At the very least Manmohan Singh owes Raja a grovelling apology. Raja should in fact sue Dr Singh and Sonia Gandhi for libel, since their decision to wrench him out of the office he coveted amounted to, by Sibal’s interpretation, defamation and humiliation on a national scale.

“Obviously, Sibal was either on holiday or so immersed in his public service duties that he was totally oblivious of media when the Radia tapes took complete control of airwaves and print. Or, perhaps, again like a good lawyer, he had no interest in any fact that would be relevant to the prosecution. Since Sibal will still need a job after resignation, he can easily step into a vacant home ministry. P. Chidambaram will surely now have to resign. Chidambaram, after all, sent a letter to the Prime Minister accusing Raja of malpractice, not mere “procedural lapses”.”

Cartoon: Shyam Jagota/ Cartoon Chaupal

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: The most corrupt government?

CHURUMURI POLL: Manmohan Singh, still “Mr Clean”?

Is Yale turning India into a “dynastic democracy”?

What you read is what they eat before they vote

27 December 2010

After a week’s break, churumuri returns to recognise the use of its bastardised namesake as an election tool in Reddy country.

From a report in Deccan Herald:

“As usual, the candidates are banking heavily on the Bellarians’ all-time favourite: Oggarane churumuri and Menasinakayi Bajji…. The Oggarane churumuri, now modified to Koli oggarane (chicken mixed with churumuri), is said to have been distributed in full spree.

Koli oggarane is said to have assumed popularity in several villages in the district…. It is learnt that in Kapagallu alone, 150 kilograms of chicken oggarane was prepared and distributed on Friday.”

Image: courtesy Deccan Herald

Also read: What is churumuri?

The book Bhyrappa won’t be writing? Or will he?

16 December 2010

Deccan Herald and Praja Vani cartoonist P. Mahmud‘s take on the writer S.L. Bhyrappa‘s description of the people of Karnataka as tarlegalu (a bunch of good-for-nothing whiners), in the weekly magazine, Sudha.

According to the newspaper, DNA, Bhyrappa said:

“Our people are lost in internecine quarrels. There is a need for them to reform…. Our people know only how to spend, not to save.”

Cartoon: P. Mahmud/ Sudha

Also read: Did Adolf Hitler fetch S.L. Bhyrappa‘s freedom?

And the mahaan elastic buddhijeevi of the year is…


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