Posts Tagged ‘The Telegraph’

Democracy by SMS: Do we really know the best?

12 February 2014

The Aam Admi Party in Delhi has made a virtue out of “consulting the people” whenever it has a sticky decision to make. Should Arvind Kejriwal take Congress support to form the government? Place a missed call. How should members of Parliament make laws? By asking the mohalla sabhas.

Inherent in this line of thinking is the wisdom of the crowd. That the top is uniformally rotten, compromised and far from the salt at the bottom of the earth.

Really? asks the economist Prabhat Patnaik in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The view that the top-down approach should be eschewed and the people, as they are, should be entrusted with decision-making, is based on flawed thinking. It idealizes the people as they are, and sees them as a pure and undifferentiated mass that is entirely a repository of virtue.

“In fact, however, the people in their empirical state of existence, are neither pure, nor pristine, nor homogeneous, nor free of the web of local-level power relationships.

“Consulting the people under these circumstances amounts to bowing before these power relationships; apotheosizing the people under these circumstances amounts to glorifying these relationships; and the decentralization of power and resources under these circumstances results not in an elimination of corruption, or even necessarily in a reduction in its level, but rather in a decentralization of corruption.”

Image: courtesy CNN-IBN

Read the full article: Wrong at the top

The market, media, and the great dumbing down

3 December 2013

As the TV channels go through the same motions in an election season—predictable opinion poll by predictable pollsters, followed by predictable panel discussion with predictable panelists and predictable cliches, followed by predictable conclusions—Malvika Singh asks a not-so-predictable question, in The Telegraph, Calcutta.

Is the media’s task to supply what it thinks the public wants, or is to shape what it should want?

“When confronted with this question of supreme superficiality laced with high-voltage ego, media men and women explain away their inadequate rendering of events by suggesting that ‘the people’ want the mirch masala and the sensational, not substantive information, and that they are, in fact, reflecting the level and interests of the public.

“Is that what, say, the school curricula should do too? Should university lecturers dumb themselves down for lazy students? Should novelists and storytellers write junk because there is a market out there for the sub-standard? Should Bharatanatyam dancers do the hip-hop? It sounds so frightfully absurd that it merits no discussion when one is told that ‘the market wants it’.

“Surely, the challenge is to shape the market with facts, ideas and wonderfully crafted entertainment based on great stories?”

Read the full article: The endless babble

Also read: Is Modi media biased against Rahul Gandhi?

‘Indian TV is like nautanki, a real-life soap opera’

‘Regional TV better than English news channels’

The four forms of Indian political populism

2 December 2013

Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“Populist politics in India is of roughly three sorts: majoritarian, Mandalist and Congressite. Narendra Modi’s populism is clearly of the first sort. His appeal is founded on his ability to channel ‘Hindu’ grievance, his short way with minorities and his economic stewardship of Gujarat.

Nitish Kumar is a good example of the Mandalist alternative, which promises affirmative action, redistributive State action to help deprived and marginal communities, and stability of law and order.

“The Congress, once the grandmaster of a pluralist populism, finds its best lines stolen by the Mandalists. Weighed down by a dysfunctional dynasty and a clueless dauphin, it is an incoherent party with neither mass politicians nor an ideological position.

“One part of it wants the Chicago School to run the Indian economy even as the other part tries to legislate into being the right of Indians to education, work and food. Given its deserved reputation for corruption and incompetence, the Congress gets credit neither for economic reform nor economic welfare. Its political trump card, pluralism, is cast as the appeasement of minorities…

“The Aam Admi Party’s managerial populism consists of its promises of rational, incorrupt, technocratic governance is similar to one half of Modi’s appeal, his claim to being an efficient economic manager who minimizes sarkari corruption. The difference is that the AAP isn’t lumbered with the communal baggage of the other, unverbalized half of Modi’s charisma: his credentials as a Hindu ‘heavy’ earned a decade and more ago in Gujarat.”

Read the full article: All things to all voters

The runaway kid who runs an idli-dosa empire

29 October 2013

From The Telegraph, Calcutta, the story of Jayaram Banan, the son of a bus driver in Udupi who ran away from home to Bombay as a boy, and now runs a chain of south Indian restaurants in the north under the brand name Sagar Ratna.

“I worked as a serving boy and then manager in small-town restaurants before moving to Delhi, where I turned entrepreneur,” he recalls. Banan opened a canteen-style idli-dosa outlet in Delhi’s defence colony market in 1986. He called it Sagar.

“The butter chicken-loving Delhi lapped up his southern fare. Apart from the Sagar Ratna chain, Banan runs Swagath for south Indian coastal cuisine. Launched in 2001, it now has 10 outlets.

“Some of Banan’s restaurants are exclusively owned, some are parnerships and some franchisees. “We plan to double our turnover and the numbers of restaurant in the next five years,” he says

For the record, even today Jayaram Banan stands outside his very first Sagar Ratna™ outlet in defence colony and welcomes guests for half-an-hour every day at 7 pm.

Vir Sanghvi wrote:

“I discovered that he has never once sat at a table and eaten at one of his restaurants. Most days he eats at the Defence Colony Swagath but takes the meals in the kitchen. I’ve known him to drink the odd whisky but he will not touch liquor at one of his restaurants. As far as he’s concerned, the restaurants are places where he is meant to serve, not enjoy.

“His dedication and drive are also exemplary. He leaves home at 9 am every morning and rarely returns before 11.30 pm, trying to visit as many of his restaurants as he can. On Sundays, he leaves at 7 am and visits all 29 restaurants in the Delhi area. There is no other way of maintaining standards, he says.”

Photograph: courtesy Growth Institute

Read the full story: Bon appetit

Also read: How V.G. Siddharth built Coffee Day cup by cup

Why Vasudev Adiga wants a COO for idli-vada-sambar

A good dosa is like your first love: unsurpassable

Is ‘Modi Media’ partisan against Rahul Gandhi?

11 October 2013

In a cash-strapped election season which has seen “corporate interest and media ownership” converge, it is arguable if Narendra Modi is getting a free run. Every whisper of the Gujarat chief minister and BJP “prime ministerial aspirant” is turned into a mighty roar, sans scrutiny, as the idiot box ends up being a soapbox of shrill rhetoric.

In marked contrast, there is only grudging media adulation for the Congress’s Rahul Gandhi even on the odd occasion he does something right, like two Fridays ago, when he barged into a Press Club of India event to stymie an ordinance passed by the Congress-led UPA government, intended at shielding criminal Members of Parliament.

What’s up, asks Malvika Singh in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The press and the Opposition leaders began to pontificate on the language used by Rahul Gandhi. They spent hours damning the use of the word ‘nonsense’, which only meant that something makes no sense.

“They were clutching on to whatever they could find to ensure they gave no credit for Rahul Gandhi. The bias was crystal clear and gave the game away.

“Why is the press distorting the simple truth? Is it because the press would have to doff its hat to Rahul Gandhi, about whom it has been rude and sarcastic? Why is the press being partisan? Why the double standards?”

Read the full column: Put an end to chatter

Photograph: courtesy Press Brief

Also read: How Narendra Modi buys media through PR

Modi‘s backers and media owners have converged’

‘Network18′s multimedia Modi feat, a promo’

What Manmohan Singh should really be doing

29 August 2013

download-funny-sonia-gandhi-manmohan-singh-picture-photos-hindi-jokes

As bad news oozes even from newspapers dedicated to making readers feel good—as growth falls, jobs vanish, stock markets tank, the rupee plunges, investors flee, gold prices rise, the deficit soars—all that the country gets from the man at the very top is silence: thundering, deafening, ear-exploding, mind-splitting silence.

The prime minister’s twitter handler assures us that Manmohan Singh has actually made 1,300 speeches since taking office in 2004, but was anyone listening? Is anyone convinced? On the other hand, the PM is on his way to the United States soon and China after that.

Why, asks Malvika Singh in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as the leader of India, should be visiting every state capital of this ailing country, reaching out to the people, explaining the overwhelming crisis and creating a future to look forward to, instead of only travelling to international capitals, particularly in a hugely disturbed year.

“As the head of the Union, he has ignored the country he rules and has not at all been active in this subcontinent.

“He is seen nowhere in India.

“He addresses no one in India.

“He has become much like a roving ambassador of India in Western capitals.

“There have been many trips overseas and the result has been abysmal, both in matters of foreign policy and international investment. With the exception of a ‘strong relationship’ with the United States of America, the relationship with the rest of the world has been polite and non-committal. And we all know well that the release of a bailout by the International Monetary Fund does not need a prime minister to travel to the US. His representatives can tie up the deal.”

Cartoon: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu

Read the full article: Back into the mire

Also read: Why Manmohan Singh should talk to the media more

Does Manmohan Singh not trust the Indian media?

How our first three Bharat Ratnas proved right

17 August 2013

In The Telegraph, Calcutta, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the grandson of the Mahatma, writes on what the nation’s first three Bharat Ratnas—C. Rajagopalachari, Dr S. Radhakrishnan and Sir C.V. Raman—presciently said as India’s freedom loomed over the horizon and how they have all been proved right.

C. Rajagopalachari: “We all ought to know that Swaraj will not at once or, I think, even for a long time to come, be better government or greater happiness for the people. Elections and their corruptions, injustice, and the power and tyranny of wealth, and inefficiency of administration, will make a hell of life as soon as freedom is given to us. Men will look regretfully back to the old regime of comparative justice, and efficient, peaceful, more or less honest administration. The only thing gained will be that as a race we will be saved from dishonour and subordination.”

Dr S. Radhakrishnan, 1947: “Our opportunities are great but let me warn you that when power strips ability, we will fall on evil days… From tomorrow morning — from midnight today — we can no longer throw the blame on the British. We have to assume the responsibility ourselves for what we do. A free India will be judged by the way in which it will serve the interests of the common man in the matter of food, clothing, shelter and the social services. Unless we destroy corruption in high places, root out every trace of nepotism, love of power, profiteering and black-marketing which have spoiled the good name of this great country in recent times, we will not be able to raise the standards of efficiency in administration…”

Sir C.V. Raman: “Success can only come to you by courageous devotion to the task lying in front of you and there is nothing worth in this world that can come without the sweat of our brow. I can assert without fear of contradiction that the quality of the Indian mind is equal to the quality of any Teutonic, Nordic or Anglo-Saxon mind. What we lack is perhaps courage, what we lack is perhaps driving force which takes one anywhere. We have, I think, developed an inferiority complex. I think what is needed in India today is the destruction of that defeatist spirit…”

Gopal Gandhi writes by way of conclusion:

“The first three Bharat Ratnas foresaw more than ordinary mortals can. But even they could not foresee the self-contradictory piquancy of our predicament today.

“The liberal Indian, the Indian with a secular conscience, an innately democratic instinct, a value for civil rights, is shown up as effete, a political pansy, whereas the macho rattler of sabres, is offered to the nation as its saviour.

“A country with its work ethic weakened, its abilities outstripped by narrow self-interests, and its domination by the power and tyranny of wealth well-nigh complete, is easily persuaded to say ‘give us a benign dictator’. Fascism comforts the sloth of mind, the slow of thought, the valuationally sluggish. Fascism excites the timid, the languid and the bored.

“And so we are seeing rise in the very heart of a democratic but languorous India a poison plume of the most corrosive intolerance. In the coming months the nation will be obsessed with who will ‘make it’ to the Lal Qila next August 15. That is only natural. But we should be agonizing about what kind of flag will be unfurled on its ramparts — the great national tricolour or one with a skull and crossed bones sewn behind it.”

Read the full article: A chronicle foretold

Should there be reservations in higher judiciary?

2 July 2013

The incoming chief justice of India, Justice P. Sathasivam, has stirred the hornet’s nest by his comment that there should be reservation for members of the scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and the other backward classes in the higher judiciary, such as Supreme Court and high court judges’ posts.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Calcutta, Justice Sathasivam says members of the SCs, STs and OBCs could be elevated to the higher judiciary by giving them certain concessions in the appointment process, provided they fulfilled minimum requirements.

“We need to have some sort of reservation and representations for SCs, STs and OBCs. But at the same time we cannot ignore the minimum standards which are already in vogue for appointment. It does not mean we have to select a person far junior or who lacks merit. But we have to give them some concession….

“They must satisfy the minimum requirements. It is in our (judges) mind. You can also say it is in my mind. I am anxious that persons from SC, ST and OBCs are appointed. Of course, there are members of the OBCs who are already in the higher judiciary,” the judge is quoted as saying.

Question: Is reservations for judges a good idea?

Also read: Why reservations in judiciary is a bad idea

So, how many Dalit or tribal friends do you have?

Any wonder private sector hates reservations?

CHURUMURI POLL: Who should be IT minister?

31 May 2013

What qualifications must an elected MLA possess to become a minister? Whose prerogative is it to nominate a minister?  Who decides what portfolio a minister must be allotted? Should ministers of certain specific portfolios possess some certain attributes? And should external inputs be given consideration at all in the ministry-making process?

These are evergreen questions and they gain currency in the light of the decision of the new Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah to name S.R. Patil as the State’s information technology minister—and the quite extraordinary intervention of former Infosys man T.V. Mohandas Pai and Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.

# “Surprised at choice of minister for IT/BT. Need a person who can work with global companies and a lot younger. Sad day for us,” tweeted Pai.

# “CM can’t afford to be seen to be viewing IT/BT lightly — these are priority sectors for Karnataka,” said Shaw on her micro-blog account.

In a report for the Indian Express, correspondent Saritha Rai writes:

“Pai and Mazumdar-Shaw were only echoing the widespread feeling in the industry — though no one else said it openly and even these two later backpedalled — that a suave, urban-educated, technology-savvy minister would have better suited.

“The industry was backing choices such as Krishna Byre Gowda and Dinesh Gundu Rao — both dynamic, articulate legislators in their forties. Patil, from backward Bagalkot district, is a lawyer by training with a background in the co-operative movement and is not exactly known for his tech-savvy.”

In a report for The Telegraph, correspondent K.M. Rakesh writes:

“I thought either Krishna Byre Gowda (son of former minister C. Byre Gowda) or Dinesh Gundu Rao (son of former chief minister R. Gundu Rao) would get the IT/BT portfolio,” said a Congress lawmaker.

Rahul Karuna, crisis manager with a BPO, said the IT/BT ministry deserved a heavyweight. ‘We were expecting a big name or a young minister. It’s not about the age or looks of the man; it’s that this portfolio deserves a more powerful politician.’”

Obviously, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, but implicit in these statements are stereotypes that boggle the mind and should shame the likes of “suave, urban-educated and tech-savvy” Pai and Shaw. That a 65-year-old man from Bagalkot (still very much a part of Karnataka)  is not cut out for the likes of them in Bangalore. That his age, language and tech skills, and mofussil background are all against him in the slick world.

But above all, the arrogant assumption that the IT/BT industry shall decide the choice of IT minister, not the chief minister. If the children and women of Karnataka (whose number vastly outdoes the number of IT/BT professionals) cannot decide who the next women and child welfare minister will be, what right does the IT/BT industry have?

Yes, Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna did wonders for the industry. But do M/s Pai & Shaw know if he knew how to switch on a computer via UPS, send an email or write a blog before he took over as chief minister? And didn’t he come from Somanahalli in Maddur taluk of Mandya district? And where specifically have the dynamism of Dinesh Gundu Rao and Krishna Byre Gowda been displayed for the industry to be batting for their case?

Question: is the pampered IT/BT industry batting out of its crease?

Is the answer to India’s hungry stomachs, chikki?

14 May 2013

The food security bill is the next big social welfare item on the UPA menu as it hurtles towards elections. The idea is unexceptionable, to use India’s surplus and rotting foodgrains to feed the poor, hungry and malnourished. And the hope is that like NREGA, free food and direct cash transfer will win a third term for the Congress-led coalition.

Except that food is a state subject, except that the opposition isn’t playing ball, except that it can get all very messy. Also, in a large and diverse country with differing tastes every mile of the way, there is the question of what to give the needy. The economist Ashok V. Desai suggests chiki or chikki, what passes off as kadalekaayi mithai in Karnataka.

He writes in The Telegraph:

“We need an eatable that is durable, light and solid. The only such Indian eatable I know is chiki. It is common in Maharashtra; as trains run between Bombay and Poona, young men cling to the windows and sell packets of chiki to passengers. The chiki they sell is peanuts or sesame seeds embedded in gur (unrefined sugar).

“One gets variants of chiki all the way north; in Delhi, they are a seasonal ware sold in winter by rehriwallahs (hand-cart pushers) who sell murmura (parched rice), chana (parched gram) and bhel (a mixture of dry edibles mixed with chillies, chutney, sweetened tamarind water, etc).

“A round biscuit of chiki with water is an adequate, nutritious and balanced meal in the absence of normal food. It can be standardized into an industrial product.

“The government should subsidize — that is, give a negative excise duty to — this standardized chiki. To do so, it will have to license chiki factories; it should ensure that they employ the most efficient, mechanized technology. As long as they meet the standards of technology and quality, there should be no limit on the number of factories; the number of hungry poor will limit the production.

“If the government ensures the elimination of hunger by chiki, it will no longer have to buy millions of tons of foodgrains, give out billions in bribes, and bring prosperity to trillions of mice. And it will have a readymade solution for famine anywhere in the world; all it will have to do is to buy a few thousand tons of chiki and ship them to Bottomlessland.

“Maybe the rest of the world will develop a taste for some brands of chiki, and it will become a sizeable export. It will go towards bridging India’s yawning payments deficit. The finance minister should persuade his boss to take this idea seriously.”

Read the full article: Guidance for the robber

Image: courtesy Taste a Bite

CHURUMURI POLL: Is BJP guilty of ‘arrogance’?

7 March 2013

07nda

Replying to the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, prime minister Manmohan Singh was unusually belligerent, invoking memories of 22 July 2008, when he spoke in a similar vein after the UPA had won a controversial vote in favour of the civilian nuclear deal on which he had staked all.

Five years ago, he had said:

“The Leader of Opposition, L.K. Advani has chosen to use all manner of abusive objectives to describe my performance. He has described me as the weakest Prime Minister, a nikamma PM, and of having devalued the office of PM. To fulfill his ambitions, he has made at least three attempts to topple our government. But on each occasion his astrologers have misled him. This pattern, I am sure, will be repeated today. At his ripe old age, I do not expect Advani to change his thinking. But for his sake and India’s sake, I urge him at least to change his astrologers so that he gets more accurate predictions of things to come.”

Yesterday, days after Narendra Damodardas Modi said the PM was only a “nightwatchman“, the PM said:

“In 2009, they (the BJP) fielded their Iron Man Advaniji against the lamb that Manmohan Singh is and we all know what the result was. The BJP will lose again because of its arrogance…. I am convinced that if people look at our record, they would repeat what they did in 2004 and 2009.”

The PM’s “aggression” has caught many by surprise. Coming a day after Rahul Gandhi‘s admission that becoming prime minister was not his life-objective, there is even talk that this was as close as Manmohan Singh could come to bidding for candidacy for a third successive term as Prime Minister.

Questions: Is the prime minister’s charge of arrogance against the BJP valid? Or is he merely venting his frustration? Is it possible, just possible, that Manmohan Singh could be proved right again? Or is this just a pipe dream?

Infographic: courtesy The Telegraph

Seven things Amartya Sen told Sharmila Tagore

4 February 2013

Why do more young people read stories titled “Seven things Amartya Sen told Sharmila Tagore“?

For the same reason that more young people are interested in knowing the pet name of Hrithik Roshan than in politics or policy. Which is, because “the stupidity and the villainy of human beings is overemphasised and the ignorance is underemphasised.”

Amarya Sen, the Nobel laureate, was in conversation with Sharmila Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore‘s descendant, at the Calcutta literary meet on Saturday.

He also said, among other things:

1. One-third of Indians don’t have an electricity connection. When the newspapers hollered last year that 600 million Indians were “plunged” into darkness, what they didn’t mention was that 200 million out of those 600 million never had any power. So they were not specifically “plunged” that night, they are plunged into darkness every night.

2.  India is the only country in the world that is trying to have a health transition on the basis of a private health care that doesn’t exist. It doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world. We have an out-of-pocket system, occasionally supplemented by government hospitals but the whole trend in the world has moved towards public health systems. Even the United States has come partly under the so-called Obama Care.

3. India is a country where there is more open defecation than any other country for which data exists. Forty-eight per cent of households in India do not have toilets. That’s larger than any other country. Chad comes slightly close but no other country. The percentage of homes without toilets is 1 per cent in China, it’s only 9 or 10 per cent even in Bangladesh.

4. There is so much to be learnt from China in terms of economic growth. But not in terms of democracy… China spends 2.7 per cent of its GDP on public health care — governmental expenditure. We spend 1.2 per cent. When Jamshedji Tata was setting up Jamshedpur, he felt it’s not only an industry, it’s a municipality. He felt I have to provide free education, free health care for everyone, not only my employees but anyone in the neighbourhood.

5. China wouldn’t be a country to learn about democracy from but Brazil could be, Mexico could be. Good efficient public services with cooperation of the unions is very important for any country and since 1989 Brazil has transformed itself with that. In the same period, India has risen in per capita income but its position in living standards has declined. In South Asia, we were the second best, after Sri Lanka, and now we are the second worst, only ahead of Pakistan. I think Bangladesh has overtaken India in most of these categories, except per capita income.

6. In the 2011 February budget, the government had put in a very modest import tax on gold and diamond imports. And there was such a lot of protest that they had to withdraw that. Because that’s an organised group; a group of underfed kids is not.

7. When people say that this (rape) happens in India, it doesn’t happen in Bharat, they completely overlook the fact that Dalit girls have been violated, molested and raped over the years and there still isn’t adequate protection against that.

By the way, Hrithik Roshan’s pet name, which used to be Duggu, is H-Ro.

Read the full story: The Telegraph, Calcutta

Photograph: courtesy The Times of India

What Minoo Masani’s wife thought of Sonia G

5 November 2012

These are quite extraordinary times we are living in. The floodgates have opened, indeed the floodgates have been prised open. And what till not long ago used to be taboo topics—the wheeling-dealing of Robert Vadra, the business acumen of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, the status of Priyanka‘s marriage, etc—is now meat and drink.

***

Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

In Zareer Masani’s recent memoir of his parents, And All is Said, he quotes a letter written to him by his mother in 1968.

“Yesterday we went to Mrs Vijayalakshmi Pandit’s reception for Rajiv Gandhi and his wife,” wrote Shakuntala Masani, adding, “I can’t tell you how dim she is, and she comes from a working-class family. I really don’t know what he saw in her.”

And All is Said was widely reviewed when it was published, but no reviewer seems to have picked up on this comment. Shakuntala Masani was the daughter of Sir J.P. Srivastava, once one of the most influential men in India, an industrialist with wide business interests and a member of the viceroy’s executive council besides.

Shakuntala’s husband, Minoo Masani, was a well-educated Parsi from a family of successful professionals, who was himself a leading politician and writer. By upbringing and marriage Shakuntala Masani was a paid-up member of the Indian elite. Hence the condescending remarks about the working-class Italian whom Rajiv Gandhi had chosen as his wife.

Read the full article: Family romance

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Is this Congress’ Bofors—II?

If the Mahatma could rethink his xenophobia…

8 October 2012

Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

R.K. Narayan did not write in Kannada, but his works sensitively portray the people, culture and landscapes of the state of Karnataka. His 1938 book, Mysore, remains a classic of travel-writing; still valuable for anyone who seeks to know about, or visit, the shrines, towns, and water-falls of the southern part of the state.

The Malgudi of his novels was almost certainly based on the town of Nanjangud, on the banks of the river Kabini, some 15 miles from Mysore. The name, Malgudi, was made up from the names of two venerable Bangalore localities, Malleswaram and Basavangudi.

The restaurant-owners, printers, shopkeepers, teachers, housewives and students who people Narayan’s stories are as authentic Kannadigas as one can get. Which is why the television serial, Malgudi Days, was such a hit in Kannada and among Kannadigas. And it continues to be watched, 30 years after it was first made, available in DVDs that can be downloaded from the internet.

I hope the Kannada writers [who claimed Narayan was, so to say, a ‘foreigner’, have the good grace to withdraw their protest after this necessary intervention by Girish Karnad and U.R. Anantha Murthy. To admit that one was wrong, or mistaken, is in the best traditions of writing and scholarship. Besides, there is the example of Gandhi; if he could rethink his impulsive xenophobia, so can the rest of us.

Read the full column: Good Kannadigas and bad Kannadigas

Also read: Four reasons why R.K. Narayan deserves a memorial

What Kannada racists can learn from a Raja-rishi

How can Bhyrappa & Co be the same as Yedi & Co?

The best actor in the history of Hindi cinema is…

27 July 2012

Indian film fans and critics and “writers” can barely think beyond Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Kamal Hassan, Rajesh Khanna, et al when talking of the “greatest actor” produced by Bombay’s film “industry”.

The writer and academic Mukul Kesavan undertakes the necessary course-correction in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

Waheeda Rehman is, by some distance, the best actor produced by Bombay’s film industry in the 1950s and 1960s, and arguably the best actor in the history of Hindi cinema….

“While Guru Dutt is crucial to Waheeda Rehman’s stardom, her roles in his films are circumscribed by his narcissism. Her main task is to look ravishingly beautiful and this she does. It is to Guru Dutt’s credit that he frames her in ways that highlight her loveliness. But that is her role in his films; she’s a lovely prop.

“She is there so that the Guru Dutt character can be reliably loved by someone beautiful while he works his way through several sorts of male angst. It is a tribute to her abilities as an actor that within these constraints she comes across as a believable character.

“Waheeda Rehman is Hindi cinema’s greatest actor but it is a mistake to make that claim, as often happens, on the basis of her work in Guru Dutt’s films. Guru Dutt sprinkled her with stardust; as an actor, she made herself.”

Read the full article: An actor of genius

Also read: Conceited, egotistical, narcissistic, the greatest?

The sexiest South Indian actress is…

Satanic Curse if you ogle at this maami

Is the media to blame for Team India’s worries?

17 January 2012

India Drown Under. Surrender Down Under. Wallopped! Tigers at home, lambs abroad.

The adjectives are tripping off TV screens and sports pages, following the precipitous fall in Indian performance in Australia, where the 0-3 scoreline looks less from a cricket series, more from a tennis match.

The blame, as usual, is being laid at the door of the IPL and the surfeit of Twenty20 cricket. The cricket board is being slammed for ignoring domestic cricket, for short sighted selection, etc.

But how much of the blame does the media carry?

Calcutta-born Andy O’ Brien, a former journalist with Sportsworld magazine, now happily settled in Australia, on the debacle of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his World Cup winning boys, in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“If one was to compile international media clippings of this tour, mention of Sachin Tendulkar‘s milestone would probably outnumber 10:1 any analysis of the outcome of a Test match or the shortcomings of the Indian team….

“Are Indian cricket fans more interested in Sachin getting his century of centuries or in winning a Test series? Or is the truth that this almost cosmetic overemphasis on the peripheral is a coincidental cover-up of the fact that, by and large, Indian cricket reporters tend to be too soft on their cricketers?

“Not many are willing to bite the proverbial bullet and risk their “contacts” with the team or the hierarchy. If always seemed to me, even when I was a part of this wonderful hardworking group of people, that the business is not so much about writing or cricket, but what contacts you have and can tap, to produce a “cosmetic/glamour” story with banner headlines.

“That trend has grown and as a result many reports now deal with either the mundane or the inconsequential part of the game.”

Photograph: Australian captain Michael Clarke tosses the coin at the start of the third Test match against India in Perth, as captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni looks on, with ICC match referee Ranjan Madugalle (right) and Channel 9 host, Mark Nicholas.

Read the full article: Let go of that cockiness and arrogance

Also read: ‘Today’s cricket journos are chamchas of cricketers’

It’s an ad, ad, ad world and it’s even official

20 December 2011

Rajiv Gandhi‘s 2011 birth anniversary: 108 ads across 48 pages in 12 newspapers surveyed by churumuri.

Indira Gandhi‘s 2011 birth anniversary: 64 ads across 32 pages in the same 12 newspapers.

Now, the Union information and broadcasting ministry has put a figure to the advertising blitz: Rs 7 crore in all; Rs 4.79 crore on Rajiv’s and Rs 2.46 crore on Indira’s ads.

The I&B ministry’s computation, which obviously includes other non-Delhi and non-English papers, does not take into account the death anniversaries of the two, or the birth and death anniversaries of Jawaharlal Nehru. In all, 393 pages of advertising were published on the six anniversaries, on the pages of 12 newspapers this year.

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.”

Image: courtesy Mail Today

Also read: Nehru birthday: 58 ads amounting to 26¼ pages

Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Rajiv death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Indira Gandhi birthday: 64 ads, 32 pages

Times, Express groups get most anniversary ads

6 pages for Ambedkar; 393 pages for The Family

‘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

Stepmotherly affection for Father of Constitution

6 December 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: For all the lip service it pays “dalits and the downtrodden”, for all the tokenism of a Dalit as speaker of Lok Sabha, and for all the buzz about a possible Dalit replacement for Manmohan Singh as prime minister, the Congress-led UPA government has issued a measly six pages of ads in 12 newspapers to mark the birth death anniversary of the father of the Indian Constitution—and the icon of Dalits—Dr B.R. Ambedkar.

In contrast, the State government of Uttar Pradesh, headed by Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party, has issued seven pages in the same 12 newspapers surveyed by sans serif.

The Centre’s six pages of ads for Ambedkar is in stark contrast to the 393 pages of ads issued by various ministries and departments of the Union government and Congress-run State governments to mark the three birth and three death anniversaries of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi in 2011.

While various ministries were falling over each other to sing hosannas for the three ex-PMs, only the ministry of social justice and empowerment is in evidence for Dr Ambedkar. The only State government advertiser is the Delhi commission for safai karmacharis.

***

The breakup of the Ambedkar ads today are as under:

Hindustan Times: 24-page main issue; 2 Ambedkar ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 26-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

Indian Express: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 compact page

The Hindu: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Statesman: 16-page issue; 1 ad amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Telegraph: 24-page issue; 0 ads amounting to 0 broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 24-page main issue; 0 ads

Business Standard: 14-page issue; 0 ads

Financial Express: 18-page issue; 0 ads

Mint (Berliner): 24-page issue; 0 ads

***

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.”

Photograph: courtesy Sepia Mutiny

Also read: Nehru birthday: 58 ads amounting to 26¼ pages

Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Rajiv death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Indira Gandhi birthday: 64 ads, 32 pages

Times, Express groups get most anniversary ads

Liberalistion, Sachin Tendulkar & the elusive 100

2 December 2011

Muttiah Muralitharan took 1,334 international wickets: 800 in Tests and 534 in one-dayers. Shane Warne had 1,001: 708 in Tests and 293 in one-dayers. Yet, no one remembers any of us losing sleep when they conquered the 1,000 mark.

Yet, why does Sachin Tendulkar‘s “100th international hundred” (he has 51 in Tests and 48 in one-dayers) send commentators, newspapers, TV channels, advertisers into a tizzy, when we should really be looking at the real number, which is 78?

Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

“The real cricketing illiterates are the people who believe that adding ODI centuries to Test centuries and arriving at a hundred gives you a heroic landmark. It doesn’t. This isn’t just a meaningless statistic, it’s a pernicious one because it equalizes two different orders of achievement…

“It is to speak and think like a child with 99 coins in his piggy-bank, 51 made of silver and 48 of lead, who is dying to acquire one more coin of either kind because he will then have a hundred metal coins. The child can be indulged because he’s too young to know better but what of the grown men and women who follow cricket and report and comment on it, who carry on as if something monumental is about to happen each time Tendulkar crosses 50 and then mime tragedy when it doesn’t?

“Even children know that winning a game of checkers isn’t the same as winning a game of chess even though they’re played over the same 64 square….

“Tendulkar, whose 22-year career shadows India’s history since ‘liberalization’, has become, through no fault of his own, the totem of New India’s self-congratulatory middle class. He is at once their redeemer and their guarantee of self-worth. He must, therefore, be a singular genius: in the heaven of cricket, there must only be one god: Tendulkar. And so a copywriter’s meaningless catchphrase becomes a cricketing statistic: a hundred international hundreds.”

Read the full article: Trivial pursuit

Photograph: Coca-Cola commemoration can still waiting to be uncorked

Also read: Why some of us just love to hate Sunil Gavaskar

It’s official, RG greater than IG greater than JN

19 November 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: For the final anniversary of the year of India’s “Family No. 1″—the birth anniversary of the nation’s first woman prime minister Indira Gandhi—there are 70 advertisements amounting to 32 published pages in 12 English newspapers that have been surveyed through the year by sans serif.

With this anniversary, the total number of government ads to mark the three birth and three death anniversaries of the three former prime ministers from the family—Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi—in the year of the lord 2011 goes up to 393.

In effect, the government has bought space amounting to 190¼ pages in the 12 newspapers.

# The Times of India is the biggest beneficiary of the ad blitz to mark the six anniversaries among the general-interest newspapers with 65 published ads followed by Indian Express 62, Hindustan Times 57, The Hindu 42, The Pioneer 41, Mail Today 36, The Statesman 25 and The Telegraph 18 ads.

# The Economic Times and Business Standard top the list of the busines dailies with 14 ads each, followed by the Financial Express with 11 ads. Mint (from the Hindustan Times stable) has received just one ad for the six anniversaries.

# As a group, the Times group has received 79 ads in all, the Express group 73 ads, and the Hindustan Times 58 ads.

While it is natural that ToI and HT should garner so many ads given their large circulations in the national capital, the second place for the Express group is revealing considering it sells less than five per cent of market-leaders ToI and HT in the Delhi market, which both sell in excess of 5 lakh copies.

The tabloid Mail Today, which has the third highest circulation among the Delhi newspapers, too gets fewer ads than the Indian Express.

***

The affection of various Union ministries, departments and State governments for the three departed leaders of the family is revealing.

While Rajiv Gandhi tops the charts with 177 advertisements amounting to 89 pages for his birth and death anniversaries, Indira Gandhi comes second with 134 ads amounting to 64 pages, followed by Pandit Nehru at a lowly 82 ads amounting to 37¼ pages.

***

The breakup of the Indira Gandhi ads today are as under:

Hindustan Times: 24-page main issue; 10 Indira ads amounting to 4¼ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 32-page issue; 11 ads amounting to 4¾ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 28-page issue; 14 ads amounting to 5¾ broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 42-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 5½ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2 broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 20-page issue; 8 ads amounting to 3 broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 18-page issue; 6 ads amounting to 2¾ broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 26-page issue; 0 ads amounting to 0 broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 16-page main issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¼ broadsheet pages

Business Standard: 18-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ pages

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

Mint (Berliner): 12-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.

Among the advertisers wishing the dear departed leader happy birthday this year are the ministries of information and broadcasting, commerce and industry, steel, women and child development, health and family welfare, culture, water resources, statistics and programme implementation, north eastern region, micro small and medium enterprises, social justice and empowerment.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh. Besides, there are ads of the national commission for women.

***

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.”

Also read: Nehru birthday: 58 ads amounting to 26¼ pages

Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Rajiv death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Indira Gandhi birthday: 64 ads, 32 pages

Nehru’s CTC (cost to country): 58 ads, 26 pages

14 November 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: There are 58 government advertisements amounting to 26¼ pages in 12 English newspapers today to mark the birth anniversary of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In contrast, there were 108 ads amounting to 48 pages to mark his grandson, Rajiv Gandhi‘s birthday in August.

All told, so far this year, between three death anniversaries (Nehru’s, Rajiv’s, Indira Gandhi‘s) and two birth anniversaries (Rajiv’s and Indira’s), various ministries of the Union government and Congress-ruled State governments have spent taxpayers’ money in buying 323 advertisements amounting to 158¼ published pages in the 12 surveyed newspapers.

The breakup of the Jawaharlal Nehru ads are as under:

Hindustan Times: 24-page main issue; 11 Nehru ads amounting to 4½ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 30-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 3¾ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 24-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 4¼ broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 2¼ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 2¾ broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2¼ broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 16-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 22-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1 broadsheet page

***

The Economic Times: 30-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

Business Standard: 16-page issue; 2 ads amounting to 1 page

Financial Express: 22-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ page

Mint (Berliner): 24-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.

Among the advertisers wishing the dear departed leader happy birthday this year are the ministries of information and broadcasting, commerce and industry, steel, women and child development, health and family welfare, human resource development, micro small and medium enterprises, youth affairs and sports.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan and Delhi. Besides, there are ads of Nehru Yuva Kendra and the national book trust.0

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.”

Also read: Rajiv Gandhi death anniversary: 69 ads, 41 pages in 12 papers

Jawaharlal Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv Gandhi birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

Indira Gandhi: 64 ads, 32 pages; Vallabhbhai Patel: 9 ads, 3 pages

Lessons for a Kannadiga in swachcha Cantonese

6 November 2011

The question of English continues to puzzle India and Indians even after six decades of independence from the English. Every academic year, every government in Karnataka (and elsewhere) ties itself up in knots on just when or whether English should be introduced into the syllabuses of students.

Buddhijeevis like the novelist U.R. Anantha Murthy argue that a child must speak and learn exclusively in her mother tongue until she enters high school lest she become totally disconnected from her social and spiritual roots. Dalit activists suggest that the promotion of Kannada is an upper-class ploy to keep them away from the fruits of modern learning.

As the historian Ramachandra Guha writes in The Telegraph, Calcutta,

“Dalits say that once the Brahmins denied them access to Sanskrit; now, the descendants of those Brahmins wish to deny the Dalits access to the modern language of power and privilege, namely, English.”

While we continue to look at speaking English merely through the prism of power, privilege and livelihood, there is yet another dimension to it, as Sunaad Raghuram discovers in the former British colony of Hong Kong.

***

By SUNAAD RAGHURAM in Hong Kong

As the Jet Airways Boeing 777 began to activate its ailerons in sight of the Hong Kong International airport by the South China Sea, and heaved its gargantuan body sideways, aligning its pudgy nose with the dark grey of the runway in the distance, I peered groggily out of the window to see the lazy bobbing of fishing boats in the haze covered morning, with the October sun still haven’t woken up.

Out of the swank, squeaky clean airport which seemed to have halls large enough to house an assortment of aircrafts within their own expansiveness, I approached an elderly man and asked him the way to the taxi stand.

“No English,” he waved.

Even as I wondered if it was one of those things that I spoke to that one man in the vicinity who incidentally did not speak English, I noticed a line of red taxis, all Toyota Crowns.

Hailing one of them, I pushed my baggage into the rear of the car and sat down next to the driver and said, ‘Hi, good morning. Let’s go the Harbour Plaza Hotel, Tokwawan’.

The ease with which I threw the hotel’s name at him, I thought, would give him the impression that I was one of those travellers whose trip to Hong Kong was perhaps the 17th! The taxi driver looked at me, smiled a weak smile and didn’t do anything much else.

“Well, this is where I need to go,” I said to him, pointing to the name of the hotel and its address that I had written down on a piece of paper. Only when he stared blankly at it did I realize that even he did not speak or read or understand English.

Getting off the car, I walked up to a woman in uniform, may be an airport volunteer.

“I need to reach Tokwawan, the Harbour Plaza Hotel.”

Perhaps the familiarity of the sounds that I uttered rang a bell in her. She walked up to the taxi and said something which immediately elicited a nod, a smile and a wave of the hand from the driver who beckoned me to hop in.

Off we drove past the harbour bridge with its amazing pylons and cables of sheer steel that resembled its more famous cousin, the Golden Gate in San Francisco; the mesmerising views of the sea and the skyscrapers along its edge that seemed to rise out of nowhere amidst the clouds; the emerald coloured hills in the distance with their velvety looks; and finally the hotel.

On the third day, on a train along the Orange Line from Hong Kong Central to the Disney Resort in Sunny Bay on Lantau Island, I did small conversation with a Filipino woman who spoke impeccable English.

“Why don’t people in Hong Kong speak English all that much although the whole area was under the British for such a long time,” I ventured to ask.

She smiled and answered my question in just one word: “Defiance.” And then she said, “the thought here was; you have come to rule us, so you better learn our language.”

Yet Hong Kong is so much like legendary New York in parts. The mind boggling high rises; the million apartment blocks that have so many houses in them that the architects and the builders themselves seem to have lost count; the vibrancy, the power, the pace, the glitz, the showiness and the social electricity of Tsim Shat Tsui, the central business district; with its grand hotels, boutiques, restaurants, shops and showrooms that showcase the very best of the world’s fashion from clothes to jewellery to watches and shoes.

Louis Erand, Rado, Ebel, Breitling, Tag Heuer and Rolex. A piece of the last named brand that I chanced upon was a diamond encrusted one with a whopping $ HK 3,56,000 price tag, the equivalent of a little over Rs 21 lakh! And then, Prada, Louis Vuitton, and Blvgari.

The magnificence of Victorian grandeur amidst modern day razzmatazz. Bentleys, Ferraris and Lamborghinis zoom around as if they are regulation here.

But in their showrooms somewhere in Hong Kong, I suspect, you better ask in Cantonese!

Congrats, your taxes have helped buy 265 ads

31 October 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: After the advertising blitzkrieg to mark Rajiv Gandhi‘s birth and death anniversaries, and the death anniversary of his grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru earlier this year, Union ministries and Congress-led State governments and departments have once again splurged heavily to mark Indira Gandhi‘s death anniversary today.

In the 12 newspapers surveyed, there are 64 advertisements of various sizes, amounting to approximately 31½ published pages to mark the assassination of the former prime minister on this day, 27 years ago.

In contrast, Vallabhbhai Patel, the late Union home minister, whose birth anniverary too falls on October 31, gets 9 advertisements in the same 12 newspapers, amounting to 3 published pages. While there are multiple advertisements for Indira Gandhi, no paper has more than one ad for Patel.

The breakup of the Indira Gandhi ads are as under:

Hindustan Times: 22-page main issue; 9 Indira Gandhi ads amounting to 4¼ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 30-page issue; 13 ads amounting to 6¼ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 22-page issue; 9 ads amounting to 4 broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 36-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 2¾ compact pages

The Hindu: 24-page issue; 8 ads amounting to 4 broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 3¼ broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 16-page issue; 4 ads amounting to 2 broadsheet pages

The Telegraph: 22-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2½ broadsheet pages

***

The Economic Times: 26-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ pages

Business Standard: 14-page issue; 2 ads amouning to 1 page

Financial Express: 20-page issue; 1 ad amounting to half a page

Mint (Berliner): 24-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.

Among the 13 advertisers wishing the dear departed leader are the ministries of information and broadcasting, commerce and industry, steel, women and child development, health and family welfare, human resources development, development of north east region, and social justice and empowerment.

The state governments advertising their love are those of Rajasthan, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh. Besides, most newspapers carry an advertisement inserted by the Congress party.

All told, so far, this year, tax payers money have been spent in buying 265 advertisements amounting to 132 published pages in the 12 newspapers.

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.”

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

Jawaharlal Nehru death anniversary: 24 ads over 11 pages

Rajiv Gandhi birthday: 108 ads across 48 pages

What Sonia Gandhi’s illness reveals about media

22 September 2011

Congress president Sonia Gandhi, scooped by Indian Express photographer Anil Sharma, as she leaves her daughter’s residence in New Delhi on 14 September 2011.

Nothing has exposed the hollowness of so-called “political reporting” in New Delhi, and the fragilility of editorial spines of newspapers and TV stations across the country, than the Congress president Sonia Gandhi‘s illness.

Hundreds of correspondents cover the grand old party; tens of editors claim to be on on first-name terms with its who’s who; and at least a handful of them brag and boast of unbridled “access” to 10 Janpath.

Yet none had an inkling that she was unwell.

Or, worse, the courage to report it, if they did.

Indeed, when the news was first broken by the official party spokesman in August, he chose the BBC and the French news agency AFP as the media vehicles instead of the media scrum that assembles for the daily briefing.

Sonia Gandhi has since returned home but even today the inability of the media—print, electronic or digital—to throw light on just what is wrong with the leader of India’s largest political party or to editorially question the secrecy surounding it, is palpable.

Given the hospital she is reported to have checked into, the bazaar gossip on Sonia has ranged from cervical cancer to breast cancer to pancreatic cancer but no “political editor” is willing to put his/her name to it, taking cover under her right to privacy.

About the only insight of Sonia’s present shape has come from an exclusive photograph shot by Anil Sharma of The Indian Express last week.

In a counter-intuitive sort of way, Nirupama Subramanian takes up the silence of the media in The Hindu:

“That the Congress should be secretive about Ms Gandhi’s health is not surprising. What is surprising, though, is the omertà being observed by the news media, usually described by international writers as feisty and raucous.

“On this particular issue, reverential is the more fitting description. Barring editorials in the Business Standard and Mail Today, no other media organisation has thought it fit to question the secrecy surrounding the health of the government’s de facto Number One.

“A similar deference was on display a few years ago in reporting Atal Bihari Vajpayee‘s uneven health while he was the Prime Minister. For at least some months before he underwent a knee-replacement surgery in 2001, it was clear he was in a bad way, but no news organisation touched the subject. Eventually, the government disclosed that he was to undergo the procedure, and it was covered by the media in breathless detail.

“Both before and after the surgery, there was an unwritten understanding that photographers and cameramen would not depict Vajpayee’s difficulties while walking or standing. Post-surgery, a British journalist who broke ranks to question if the Prime Minister was fit enough for his job (“Asleep at The Wheel?” Time, June 10, 2002) was vindictively hounded by the government.

“Almost a decade later, much has changed about the Indian media, which now likes to compare itself with the best in the world. But it lets itself down again and again. The media silence on Ms Gandhi is all the more glaring compared with the amount of news time that was recently devoted to Omar Abdullah‘s marital troubles. The Jammu & Kashmir chief minister’s personal life has zero public importance. Yet a television channel went so far as to station an OB van outside his Delhi home, and even questioned the maid….

“Meanwhile, the media are clearly not in the mood to extend their kid-glove treatment of Ms Gandhi’s illness to some other politicians: it has been open season with BJP president Nitin Gadkari‘s health problems arising from his weight. Clearly, it’s different strokes for different folks.”

Read the full article: The omerta on Sonia‘s illness

Also read: Why foreign media broke news of Sonia illness

How come no one spotted Satyam fraud?

How come no one saw the IPL cookie crumbling?

How come no one in the media saw the worm turn?

Aakar PatelIndian journalism is regularly second-rate


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 7,343 other followers