Posts Tagged ‘The Times of India’

Because action speaks louder than words?

3 August 2011

Never believe anything until it is officially denied,” is an old, if cynical, saying.

So, the media reported yesterday that B.S. Yediyurappa broke Venkaiah Naidu‘s laptop computer after he was asked to step down as Karnataka’s chief minister by the BJP parliamentary board, and that he slapped a BJP minister (from north Karnataka) who has been one of his closest buddies who woke up him with bad news.

Naturally, the official denials were quick in coming.

The dhoti-wearing Naidu clarified he did not carry a laptop, although it could well have been a laptop placed in front of him. And although several newspapers carried the story, The Times of India, which frontpaged it has clarified it was sourced from two anonymous BJP insiders.

Now, as it to put an official stamp on the incident, Amul even has an ad.

Keep quiet… Mr Naidu, you are an RS member from Karnataka. Tell me, how many times have you visited the state and spoken to the MLAs and MLCs who got you here. You know nothing about Karnataka.”

And those who don’t respect the Constitution?

21 July 2011

After his suggestion that the Bhagwad Gita be taught for an hour every day to school children was resisted, Karnataka’s minister for primary and secondary education, Vishveshwar Hegde Kageri, has been quoted as saying that if “someone does not respect the Gita, they have no place in India. They should leave the country and settle abroad.”

Editorial in the Indian Express:

“Apart from ignoring the constitutional injunction against introducing religious material in public schools, Kageri has displayed the worst instincts and rhetoric of the right, publicly stating that those who disregard a certain Hindu religious text do not belong in India….

“It is the politics represented by people like Kageri that remind us how important it is that our state schools remain faith-neutral…. [His] words are a reminder of the still-real danger of those who would shape education to their own ends, and they undermine one of India’s founding values. If anyone has a problem fitting into this plural and secular nation, it is people like him.”

Editorial in The Times of India:

“Whether Kageri or the state BJP likes it or not, there is a constitutional issue around religious preaching by State schools. Article 28(1) of the Constitution forbids religious instruction of any kind in educational institutions wholly funded by the State….

“Kageri’s approach also sums up another common ailment of Indian education ministers. They still do not see their job as expanding the boundaries of education and promoting useful skills that will empower the young, but as prescribing what should be taught, using schools and colleges to disburse patronage, policing the boundaries of Indian culture, and turning education into a tool of political propaganda.”

Cartoon: courtesy Prasad Radhakrishnan/ Mail Today

Why Indian media can’t laugh at Murdoch’s plight

18 July 2011

SANJAY JHA writes from Bombay: Rupert Murdoch, the emperor of media leviathan News Corporation, shuttled on a transatlantic flight over a tumultuous week-end that saw a popular British Sunday tabloid bite the dust, never to rise again.

News of the World (NOTW) was founded prior to the Great Indian Mutiny of 1857, but closed with a 72-hour notice period in tragic infamy on account of startling revelations about its surreptitious hacking of private mails and messages, in a manner both macabre and sleazy.

For Murdoch, the closure was not a generous act to protect the Holy Grail but a calculated trade-off for acquisition of the more alluring BSkyB.

Greed is a driving ambition, often meeting a ruinous end.

It could happen in India too.

Despite much heart-burning and pious pontification, the Press Council of India report on paid news accumulates dust in dark dungeons, like used files. It does manifest our questionable standards, the media’s inability to smother its own insuperable demons.

While we hyperventilate to the world, our own backyard emits a sordid stench. Paid coverage is stealthy advertising, which legitimizes self-promoting campaigns on unsuspecting readers posing as dispassionate reporting. It is indeed an ethical violation of astronomical proportions, but everyone seems nonchalant, blissfully blasé about it.

Dileep Padgaonkar once famously stated that The Times Of India editor was the “second most important man in India”. That was not hubris or a silly exaggeration , it was a near-factual assessment. But today no media big gun can make such lofty claims.

Multiple channels and news publishers have made mass distribution of news our new business reality.

Once I waited every Sunday morning to read Khalid Mohamed’s review of a Bollywood blockbuster. Now several experts miserly dole out glittering stars on Friday itself, even as thousands of faceless bloggers become the new film critic.

It’s literally first day, first show.

Media is now truly democratized; so truly there are no king-makers. With Facebook, Twitter and blogs gathering high-speed on the social networking highway, media activism has also assumed formidable power to influence public opinion, so far considered the sacrosanct preserve of an elite club.

India’s subterranean media revolution is underway.

Media organizations must also frequently take core ideological or strategic positions on sensitive issues, it will enhance their quality. That’s what often distinguishes the print media from television. The snarling watchdog needs to be just that; it can’t have a shrill bark, a toothless bite and lazily snooze when Rome burns, reacting only under extreme provocation.

For instance, last year when Shiv Sena became a quasi-sarkar in threatening to black-out Shah Rukh Khan’s My Name is Khan, the conventional protocol of TV channels of giving both sides a voice was rather superfluous , even preposterous.

Even to a naïve outsider, Shiv Sena was indulging in unlawful transgressions exploiting media platform shamelessly to espouse its parochial claptrap. The worst indictment of the media is when it willingly succumbs to made for TV manufactured events.

Whatever happened to professional discretion?

Aren’t leaked reports also obtained often with at least moral illegality with an in-built clause of quid pro quo?

In a country bedeviled by innumerable scams, a deadly diabolical nexus between criminal elements, political leaders and business-builder behemoths, media is critical. But discharging that onerous responsibility is not a child’s play.

Like WikiLeaks, one foresees alternative mediums to emerge to fill the gaping vacuum created by status quo coverage these days . Investigative journalism has become comatose in a commercially dictated news content age. Something is gone missing.

Are we becoming tabloid-like, allowing any bearded spiritual free-agent, violent wife-beater or a just-released bone chopper to capture India’s attention? Can we then be so self-righteous as to take umbrage under “mere reporting”?

Oh, come on! For all the political faux pas of the government, the media should have used its own grey cells to fathom Baba Ramdev’s bona fides. The modern-media is society’s crucial “ influencer”, not a reseller of titillating tales. Media integrity is a non-negotiable instrument. We need to enforce it.

I hear several grumble ; why does the media never do a comprehensive follow-up to serious unresolved issues instead of chasing the next wife-thrashing maverick promoting his televised marriage? Whatever happened to several disproportionate assets cases against powerful CMs?

Who really covertly leaked the Radia tapes, and why?

How is Lalit Modi “ officially absconding” and purchasing large mansions in downtown London without a valid passport? Whatever happened to the Srikrishna report on the Bombay riots?

Narayan Rane had publicly stated that he was aware of powerful people who knew about 26/11 terrorist attacks—really? If so what happened? Despite singular success stories like Jessica Lal, the CWG and 2G scams, Gujarat riots and several successful petitions, paradoxically enough, media itself is losing the perception battle.

Aamir Khan’s Peepli Live! ridiculed media to atrocious levels but to appreciative applause.

In India, where our daily lives resembles a cacophonous collage of absurd and horrendous tales, news television often degenerates into infotainment category. The truth is that good news is boring.

It’s like breathing. It’s predictable, monotonous, rhythmical, but it is also bloody necessary.

Or else we have the kiss of death.

We are too often celebrating India’s unseen imminent demise, our own pornography of grief. It is time we appreciated that even thorns have roses. At least one channel has begun to share a daily dose of cheer.

Competitive journalism is natural marketing warfare, after all, newspapers and TV channels are not in the charity trade. But intent is pivotal. Phone hacking is unambiguously unethical. Bribery pay-offs of police personnel is contemptible. Killing news to protect favoured parties is equally lamentable.

But isn’t paid news also guilty of disingenuous, distorted presentation of facts?

In the long-run , media houses that practice quintessential consecrated ethical behaviour will survive. Others will flounder.

The editor is media’s conscience-keeper, its guardian angel. They are the ones who must separate the wheat from the chaff, and ensure that the chaff does not get headline attention. But the quarter to quarter pressures of EPS for the publicly listed media companies can result in editorial compromises.

The editors need to be sacrosanct, inaccessible to advertisers and CEO’s business plans, working behind a Chinese wall. Editors should have no employee stock options, and must not be on boards of these companies either; that will eliminate conflict of interest issues.

Instead, they should be compensated by equitable fixed salaries, benefits, bonuses, and given flexibility for research projects, reimbursed higher learning expenses and encouraged to author books and take up teaching assignments.

We need to de-link organizational bottomline numbers with editorial policy.

Editorial independence is a must; they cannot be the brand managers with brains. Also, celebrity editors could do with relative anonymity . Anonymity powers the personal brand. Proximity to suave glib talking industrialists or political power-brokers can be jeopardous as was evident in the Radia tapes.

David Cameron flushes crimson on his selection of the arrested former head of NOTW, Andy Coulson. Tony Blair too is red-faced. And more is still to surface.

Every media company must make public its own independent advisory board with an ombudsman , besides an industry watchdog. Ethical workshops are needed, as young recruits can be susceptible to short-cut methods for quick career windfalls.

Press, public relations , big business and the politicians will have to tread with circumspection as there could be grave overlaps on account of the vested , conflicting interest of each. The unholy nexus is no longer a well-concealed secret. The path is slippery , shaky and serpentine. It is easy to become the news of the world. Very easy.

Good night and good luck!

(Banker turned web entrepreneur, Sanjay Jha is the founder of Cricket Next. This piece originally appeared on the website Hamara Congress)

Image: courtesy Time

What would you do with Rs 1,000,000,000,000?

5 July 2011

With gold and other jewels tumbling out of the vaults of the Padmanabhaswamy temple in Trivandrum—figures upto and beyond Rs 100,000 crore are being mentioned, more than twice Rs42,000 crore of Tirupati—newspapers are busy calculating the true value of the haul (at current gold prices) and what can be done with the windfall.

The Times of India reports that one lakh crore rupees is almost equal to Wipro’s market capitalisation of Rs 1.04 lakh crore, nearly one-third of Reliance Industries, and the more than twice Posco’s proposed investment of $12billion in India.

ToI says the gold will…

# Almost meet the cost of rolling out food security Act (around Rs 70,000 crore) and NREGA spend (Rs 40,000 crore)

# Meet central government’s education budget for two-and-a-half years

# Help meet government’s interest liability for over four months and seven months’ defence spending

Mail Today reports that Rs 100,000 crore can be used to…

# Build 290 super-speciality hospitals

# Lay 14,000 kilometres of national highways

# Buy 255 multi-combat aircraft such as the Eurofighter

# Build 1,000 sports arenas like the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium

The Supreme Court will, of course, decide who the money belongs to: the temple, the temple board, the State government or the Centre. But what do you think should be done with the gold?

Why 1983 is still vivid, and 2011 is already a blur

4 July 2011

Santosh Desai in The Times of India:

“When it comes to the 1983 cricket World Cup, many Indians would believe that they have a ball-by-ball memory. It seems as if every wicket, every boundary, every gesture and every turn of phrase used by the commentators is etched in our memory. That was 28 years ago, and then when we try and cast our minds back a couple of months to the 2011 World Cup victory, curiously instead of memories what we have is some noisy static and a distant and somewhat wearied sense of pride that we need to dredge up.

“Of course, this has partly to do with the crowded cricket calendar and the fact that the seemingly interminable IPL occurred even before the champagne corks landed on the ground, but that can hardly be a full explanation…. The abundance of memory that surrounds the 1983 win points to the fact that events have a rich afterlife and that the idea of any event is constructed not only at the time it occurs, but is continuously added to and re-interpreted through the lens of moving time.

“In that sense the ‘1983 world cup victory’ did not occur only in that year for we have added layers to that edifice and have consumed it in different ways over the years. It lives on as a visual memory etched into our minds. It is enjoyed not only for the gloriousness of the final outcome, but is bathed in incandescent retrospective light,with every event leading to the eventual victory suffused with an almost sacred energy….

“The greatest pleasure of winning the World Cup in 1983 lay in chewing the memory cud for decades thereafter; now the pleasure lies on the Next Big Thing on television.”

Read the full column: Why 1983  is still vivid, 2011 is a blur

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?

Why Majithia wage board is good for journalists

19 June 2011

The recommendations of the Majithia wage board for journalists and other newspaper employees have clearly split newspaper owners and newspaper workers.

The big dads of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) have rejected the recommendations, taken out advertisements, filed cases and published articles to build “public opinion”. But two small newspaper owners, both members of INS, have told sans serif that they feel they are being used in the current joust.

The big players who rarely empathise with their woes and often trample all over them, they say, are firing from their shoulders only because they stand to lose the most.

Meanwhile, while journalists on “contract” maintain a studied silence, workers of newspapers and news agencies have accused INS of spreading falsehoods and exerting pressure on the government. They have now served notice of a nationwide strike on June 28 over the delay in the implementation of the wage board recommendations.

Lost in all the melee is the voice of the ordinary newspaper employee not on contract.

Here, in response to a media baron’s contention that the Majithia wage board recommendations are bad for journalism, an anonymous sub-editor, formerly with The Times of India, makes an impassioned argument for higher wages as recommended by the wage board for one  simple reason.

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You can argue at length against the Majithia wage board but the fact remains that print media journalists are being paid less than lower division clerks, school teachers, bank employees, marketing and advertising executives in media firms, etc let alone engineers, doctors or MBAs.

Being a senior sub-editor in a news organisation that implements the wage boad, I am earning Rs 18,000 per month. My wife with a simple B.Ed. degree earns as much working fewer hours than I do.

A friend of mine is a senior sports correspondent with a reputed news agency. He has been hired on contract basis at a package of Rs 40,000 (cost to company) although he gets only Rs 30,000 in hand.

He has to pay a rent of Rs 8,000 in Delhi apart from spending money on his travel. He works from 11 am to 10 pm at office and sometimes also after he returns home.

Is he not entitled to a better life?

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The chief benefit of the wage board is that employees— though getting paid less than contract employees—are saved from being exploited like machines for 18 hours a day and being paid less than what other professionals with similar or lesser qualifications do for working fewer hours.

I began my career with the Times of India after completing post-graduate diploma in journalism. I was paid less than what the receptionist (who was a graduate) looking mainly after matrimonial section and working fixed hours was receiving.

I met a fresher graduate recently who is working as sales executive with the telecom company, Idea. He delivers post-paid SIM cards at home. I was astonished to learn that he is earning more than I am and had a more or less fixed working time.

Is it a crime to choose journalism as profession where one is ready to devote one’s heart and soul for the sake of news, where one has to beg for quotes and bytes, where the pressure is no less than in any MNC and the only incentive is to share the truth?

Does that mean one is not entitled to good life?

No wonder many of my friends have quit the profession. No wonder that journalism is not attracting the kind of brains it used to once upon a time.

Majithia wage board—whether you all succeed in getting it scuttled or not—is the need of the hour.

Newspaper barons are rolling in riches. Newspaper marketing and advertisement executives are being paid higher for the product that will not be sold if does not contain the main item: news.

Also read: 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: Muzzling the media

Future of the Press at stake?

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:

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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”

BCCI, Infosys, Anil Kumble & a silly PR exercise

15 June 2011

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: You scratch my back and I will scratch yours, is India’s most famous sport, especially in the upper crust of society. And the country’s richest sporting body, BCCI, and the country’s second largest IT company, Infosys, have just shown how it is played, in full public glare.

Monday’s Times of India had a story that BCCI was in talks with Infy to prepare, hold your breath, “an exhaustive injury database” following the flurry of injuries to its top players—Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Zaheer Khan, S. Sreesanth—who have all skipped the ongoing West Indies tour because of various aches, pains and niggles.

According to the report, former India captain, KSCA president and NCA chairman, Anil Kumble, was in touch with Infosys to develop a software for injury management of players.

“But the talks are informal and at a very preliminary stage,” said BCCI chief administrative officer Ratnakar Shetty. “We have been using the infrastructure of Infosys like their ground at Mysore on a regular basis.”

Reading the report, the first thought that crossed my mind was: who first scratched whose back first? And who is deriving more pleasure out of the experience?

Infosys or BCCI?

Think about it.

Indian cricket for all its dhoom-dhamaka is still a stiflingly small sport. The number of international players, and the number of domestic players seeking to gradaute to the international level, is small. And to tabulate their injuries, you need Infosys, when a coach in shorts with a spreadsheet can do the job?

And what about Infosys?

The $7 billion company refrains from getting into the product-making zone, doesn’t make big mergers or acquisitions that will take it to the next level, but is happy to be doing silly odd jobs that a 20-year-old with a 486 could be doing after class-hours?

Today’s Hindustan Times hits the nail on the head by calling the BCCI-Infosys what it is: a silly PR exercise. Reason: sports clubs around the world have long used software to spot talent, plot diet plans, record medical data, and track players from the junior to professional levels.

HT says Brentford FC, a lower-division English football club, asked a software developer called PlayersElite to come up with the required software to manage its players.

“It cost £5,000 (approximately Rs 3.5 lakh) to develop the software, and requires a further £400 (Rs 30,000) per month to maintain it,” says its head of youth recruitment, Shaun O’Connor.

But to see BCCI, Infosys and Anil Kumble in this tech tango—as if they are sending a man to the man—offers a sobering insight into both Indian sport and Indian business. Why haven’t we heard of Cisco or Microsoft or Sun Microsystems doing likewise with NBA or World Series or whatever?

Because it is not rocket science, Sherlock.

All BCCI needs to understand why its players are falling like flies is to look at its own timetable and an exhausting  circus called the Indian Premier League (IPL). But why would BCCI or Anil Kumble cut off their own legs, when one runs the IPL and the other advises the Royal Challengers (RCB)?

OK, this is nitpicking.

Maybe Kumble as the new KSCA president wants to build sport-industry relationships, with the “future” in mind. Well then, BCCI doesn’t even have a website of its own. Maybe, they should also ask N.R. Narayana Murthy & Co to help them design a website while they are working on “an exhaustive injury database”.

It will be total paisa vasool.

***

Photograph: Anil Kumble with wife Chethana arrives for the wedding reception of Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy‘s son Rohan Murthy, who married Lakshmi Venu of the TVS family at the Leela Palace in Bangalore on Sunday, June 12 (Karnataka Photo News)

Also read: Why don’t we hear of IT excelling in sport?

Biggest. Largest. Highest. Mostest. Anywhere.

BCCI & Infosys: Made for each other in Mysore

Questions for Anil Kumble & Javagal Srinath

Everybody a loves a few (weekend) contortions

4 June 2011

As Baba Ramdev commences his fast to retrieve black money, the imagination of cartoonists takes flight.

Cartoons: courtesy Neelabh Banerjee/ The Times of India, Shreyas Navare/ Hindustan Times

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Also read: Yoga puts Mysore on top of New York Times‘ list

Pattabhi Jois: ‘Bad lady, why forgetting bakasana?’

Be it known that this picture is not upside down

How a world-class yoga photograph got to be shot

Jawaharlal Nehru: 24 ads, 11 pages in 12 papers

27 May 2011

A week is a long time in politics, especially if you are a dead Congressman.

On May 21, the 20th death anniversary of the assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, various ministries, departments and State governments unleashed an advertising blitzkrieg in the media.

Result: 69 ads totalling 41 pages in 12 newspapers.

Today, on the 47th anniversary of the death of his grandfather, Jawaharlal Nehru, the sycophancy deficit is palpable: Just 24 ads amounting to 10¾ published pages in the the same 12 newspapers surveyed last week.

Meaning: India’s first and longest-serving prime minister gets 45 fewer ads (amounting to 30¼ pages) than his grandson who was in office for five years against Nehru’s 17.

Hindustan Times: 22-page issue; 4 JN ads amounting to 1¾ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 30-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¼ broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 20-page issue; 5 ads amounting to 2 broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 42-page issue; 4 ads amounting to 2 compact pages

The Hindu: 20-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1¾ broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1 broadsheet page

The Statesman: 16-page isuse; 1 ad amounting to half a broadsheet page

The Telegraph: 16-page issue; 1 ad amounting to half a broadsheet page

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The Economic Times: 32-page issue; 0 ads

Business Standard: 20-page issue; 1 ad amouning to half a broadsheet page

Financial Express: 24-page issue; 0 ads

Mint (Berliner): 32-page issue; 0 ads

Also, unlike dozen or so ministries and departments that were falling over each other to remind the nation of Rajiv Gandhi last week, just four ministries—information and broadcasting, women and child welfare, steel and power—and one State government (Delhi) seem to have taken up Nehru’s cause.

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

M.R. SHIVANNA, a true 24/7 journalist, RIP.

22 May 2011

churumuri.com records with regret the passing away of M.R. SHIVANNA, an unsung hero of Indian journalism, in Mysore on Saturday. He was 55, and is survived by his wife and daughter.

For 30 years and more, Shivanna slogged away in remarkable obscurity and was one of the pillars on which stands India’s most successful English evening newspaper, Star of Mysore. Starting out as a sub-editor in the local tabloid, Shivanna, a son of a farmer, had grown to be editor of the family-owned SoM at the time of his death.

Shivanna was no poet. His prose wouldn’t set the Cauvery on fire, nor was it intended to.

First in at work and last man out of the office, he wrote simple functional sentences day after relentless day. While dozens of young men cut their teeth at Star of Mysore on their way to bigger things in Bangalore and beyond, Shivanna stayed on, lending his boss K.B. GANAPATHY the kind of quiet solidity every owner and editor can only envy.

Here, CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY, one of Shivanna’s myriad ex-colleagues, who moved from Star of Mysore on to Frontline, The Week and The Times of India, among other ports of call, pays tribute.

***

By CHETAN KRISHNASWAMY

“(MRS).”

For decades, lakhs of Mysoreans have seen these three letters of the alphabet appended to thousands of news reports in Star of Mysore and Mysooru Mitra, Mysore’s dour media siblings, steered successfully by its founder-editor K.B. Ganapathy.

For most readers, these initials are a daily mystery, unravelled only in the anniversary issue of the two newspapers in February and March, respectively, when a mandatory “long-form” piece or an interview appears with the full form of the byline: M.R. Shivanna.

But for the remainder of the year, (MRS) was a byword for his straight, unaffected style.

As a journalist, Shivanna knew his limitations and that perhaps was his greatest strength. In a world of flamboyant story-tellers, he was the odd man out. Shorn of scholarly airs or intellectual pretensions, MRS pursued his vocation with a constancy of purpose, a fierce diligence that is rare in a profession where careerism has taken hold.

At times it seemed as if MRS literally lived in the newsroom, straddling two worlds, two sensibilities.

He finished his work at Star of Mysore, which is an English evening newspaper, in the afternoon, only to seamlessly drift to the other part of the building and discharge his duties at Mysooru Mitra, the Kannada morning daily form the same group.

You called the office at any unearthly hour, and more often than not MRS would pick up the phone, ready with pen on paper. A bulk of the information from across the districts was communicated over phone by a network of stringers and reporters, who spoke in varying  degrees  of clarity. MRS was an expert in tactfully prising out ‘news’ from these guys, night or day.

MRS was a 24×7 journalist before 24×7 became business jargon.

***

In 1990, just before taking up my journalism course, I ventured to work in Star of Mysore as a trainee.

K.B. Ganapathy, after a cursory chat, called in MRS and asked him to take me under his wing and put me through the paces.

At first glance, MRS was distinctly unimpressive: He was frail, he had a funny moustache, he tucked his shirt out, walked with a slouch and was staccato in his speech. He fobbed me off to his colleague at the desk, Nandini Srinivasan, who helped me tremendously through the early years.

Over a period of time, slowly, steadily I built some rapport with MRS. Sometimes he would call me out for an occasional smoke which I would readily accept in the hope of having a good conversation. But MRS would keep to himself and allow me to do all the talking, seldom proffering advice or insight, a genial smile displaying his tobacco-stained teeth.

There was a manic phase, of about a month or so, when I drank with him regularly at a fancy bar in Mysore. These sessions were unremarkable, almost matter-of-fact,  as MRS insisted that the Hindi music be played at an exceptionally high volume. There was no chance for exchange of ‘journalistic views’ leave alone banter.

Through the years in college, my association with Star and MRS continued. He would give me occasional assignments and background on stories that I was following.  Although writing in English did not come naturally to MRS, he honed it over the years through repeated practice.

His news reports were structured tightly in the classic “5 Ws and 1 H” formula, and it served him well.

There were reams and reams of buff paper on which he wrote with a cheap ball point pen that leaked, smudged and grew errant due to over use. He had this peculiar habit of bringing the nib close to his lips and blowing at it, like as if he was fanning a dying cigarette. He did that always, probably to fuel his pen’s fervor.

As an old-school journalist brought up on letter press, MRS also used and understood sub-editing notation better than most journalists. He used a red ink pen to underline a letter twice for capitalisation, a hurried swirl to denote deletion, “stet” if he wanted something to stay as is.

And for all his limitations with the language, if you were ever at a sudden loss for a word, those standard ones that you use to embellish journalistic copy, MRS would spout it in a second. The words swam in his head all the time.

Instinct and Intuition guided his journalistic disposition.

Passion and Persistence gave it  further ballast.

***

In 1993, “MRS” won the Karnataka Rajyothsava award. And as it happens in journalistic circles, there were whispers of how he had engineered it all, how it was a complete joke, how he was underserving, etc. MRS continued unfazed, doing what he did best, day after day after day. In due course, the tired critics went to sleep.

Many years later, at the Taj Lands End in Bombay, I hastened to the breakfast buffet for a quick bite before a conference. I had by then quit journalism to join Intel.

I heard a familiar “Hello, Chethu”.

I swung around to see MRS holding a bowl of fruits.

Over breakfast, he told me that Intel had flown him down to cover the event and simply amazed me with the information he had collected about the company’s latest products and plans. He kept jotting down notes verifying and cross-checking facts as we spoke. That evening we promised to get together but it didn’t happen.

During R.K .Laxman’s  last visit to Mysore about two years back, MRS took on the entire responsibility of hosting him in the City. Apart from ensuring that the Laxmans stayed in a friend’s hotel he organised their trip to Chamundi hills for an exclusive darshan. Laxman was profusely thankful to him during the visit.

On their last day in Mysore, MRS called me over the phone. He began with enquiring about my well being and slowly moved on to  a long conversation on Laxman’s perspective on various issues around him. I took the journalist’s bait and went with the flow filling him with facts, quotes, trivia.

I imagined MRS at his desk, his pen scribbling away on sheafs of paper, periodically blowing into his nib, probably conjuring the headline, the lead, the middle for his copy.

MRS will continue to write wherever he is. In the end, the smudges don’t matter really.

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

***

IN MEMORIAM

Naresh Chandra Rajkhowa: journo who broke Dalai Lama story

Chari, a lens legend at The Hindu

Harishchandra Lachke: A pioneering cartoonist

T.N. Shanbag: Man who educated Bombay journos

Rajan Bala: cricket writer of cricket writers

Jyoti Sanyal: The language terrorist and teacher

Russy Karanjia: The bulldog of an editor

Sabina Sehgal Saikia: The resident food writer

M.G. Moinuddin: The self-taught newspaper designer

Rajiv Gandhi: 69 ads over 41 pages in 12 papers

21 May 2011

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: On the former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi‘s 20th death anniversary today, different ministries of the Congress-led UPA government are falling over each other to demonstrate that the “collective flame of political sycophancy” continues to burn brightly and shamelessly.

While Rajiv Gandhi’s widow Sonia Gandhi and their son Rahul Gandhi talk of “austerity” when it suits them, nearly a dozen Union ministries and a couple of State governments have released tens of ads through the government-controlled Department of Audio Visual Publicity (DAVP) to remind Indians that such a man as he walked this earth.

In eleven English news and business papers published out of New Delhi, there were 65 advertisements amounting to 38¼ pages, glorifying The Great Leader, without whom India wouldn’t have entered the 21st century.

Hindustan Times: 24-page issue; 9 RG ads amounting to 5¼ broadsheet pages

The Times of India: 32-page issue; 10 ads amounting to 6 broadsheet pages

Indian Express: 28-page issue; 10 ads amounting to 5 broadsheet pages

Mail Today (compact): 42-page issue; 8 ads amounting to 7 compact pages

The Hindu: 22-page issue; 6 ads amounting to 3½ broadsheet pages

The Pioneer: 16-page issue; 7 ads amounting to 3½ broadsheet pages

The Statesman: 16-page isuse; 4 ads amounting to 2½ broadsheet pages

***

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

Business Standard: 14-page issue; 4 ads amouning to 1¾ broadsheet pages

Financial Express: 24-page issue; 3 ads amounting to 1½ broadsheet pages

Mint (Berliner): 12-page issue; 1 ad amounting to one compact page

Among the departments and ministries seeking to remind the nation of Rajiv Gandhi’s magical powers are the department of information and publicity; the ministries of commerce and industry, tourism, human resource development, social justice & empowerment, power, micro small and medium industries, information and broadcasting, steel; the state governments of Haryana and Rajasthan; and Rajiv Gandhi centre for biotechnology.

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.”

On his birthday in August last year, The Telegraph reported that “Union ministries released more ads on Rajiv Gandhi’s birthday today than on the anniversaries of the rest of India’s Prime Ministers put together in the past one year, Press Information Bureau sources said.”

For the record, The Telegraph received four ads amounting to 2½ pages this year.

A governor whose time has come… to go?

18 May 2011

Editorial in The Hindu: Bharadwaj has to go

“Unabashedly partisan in his motives and actions, Karnataka Governor H.R. Bhardwaj has been, for a long time now, a disgrace to the constitutional office he holds. Bhardwaj, through his actions, has again brought to the fore the issue of Governors acting as political agents of the Centre in States ruled by opposition parties. If this situation is not to continue indefinitely, Bhardwaj must be made an example of. His continuance in the Raj Bhavan in Bangalore is no longer tenable. Gubernatorial posts are not for trigger-happy political adventurers.”

Editorial in The Times of India: Missing the point

“Real problems of governance which threaten the future of the state have been ignored thanks to Bhardwaj’s fatuous and repeated insistence on imposing President’s rule. Corruption, nepotism and abuse of power are rampant in Karnataka under Yediyurappa‘s administration. But these do not amount to the sort of constitutional breakdown that would justify President’s rule. India is a federal country, which has served it in good stead. It is best kept this way.”

Editorial in the Hindustan Times: More partisan than the party

“A few months ago, the Yediyurappa government was on the ropes following allegations of corruption. Today, thanks to Bhardwaj’s ill-advised moves, the chief minister has been able to cast himself as being more sinned against than sinning. Bhardwaj’s conduct is bound to raise the issue of partisanship of governors who formerly owed allegiance to one or other political party. Though they are expected to rise above partisan politics, all too often old habits die hard or they are used to settle political scores. Which brings into disrepute an institution which many feel has outlived its shelf life.”

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

A governor whose reputation precedes him

To err is human, to eff up repeatedly is divine

13 May 2011

If only they weren’t taken so seriously by TV news channels, election surveys and exit polls should be published on the comics pages, for the unbridled fun they offer—after the declaration of results.

Above is The Times of India‘s composite  infographic of all the surveys done by various TV stations and polling agencies for the five states that had elections to their legislative assemblies.

Most pollsters got Bengal bang on, CNN-IBN gets Kerala right, Assam is kinda tricky for all, and Tamil Nadu is, well, impossible for all, only C-Voter comes close.

Below are the leads at 1 pm.

West Bengal: Trinamul Congress 215, Left front 72

Tamil Nadu: AIADMK 195, DMK 37

Kerala: UDF 72, LDF 65

Assam: Congress 81, AGP 10, Others 35

Little wonder, CNN-IBN’s resident number-cruncher Yogendra Yadav of CSDS began proceedings this year by grandly denouncing the fact that each election was seen as a test of pollsters.

Infographic: courtesy The Times of India

Is Indian Express now a pro-establishment paper?

21 April 2011


PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: The Indian Express of Ramnath Goenka is an unputdownable chapter in the book of Indian journalism. Unlike many of its English counterparts—whose grammar was constricted by Wren & Martin, and the Raj—Express was the archetypal desi bully.

“Anti-establishment,” was the Express‘ calling card.

Its reputation was built on stones pelted at the power elite: taking on dictatorial prime ministers (Indira Gandhi for the Emergency, Rajiv Gandhi for the anti-defamation Bill), slimy corporate chiefs (Dhirubhai Ambani of Reliance industries) and corrupt chief ministers (A.R. Antulay of Maharashtra, R. Gundu Rao of Karnataka).

“Pro-people,” was the Express‘ middlename.

Unlike its servile peers who crawled when asked to bend, Express‘ founder himself took part in Gandhi‘s march from Champaran and led the protest against the anti-defamation Bill. The paper backed Jayaprakash Narayan‘s Bihar movement, and battled for civil liberties and human rights, some times at the risk of closure of the company.

Whatever its other motives and motivations (and there were a few), the Indian Express sent the unambiguous signal to Indians that the Express was theirs; a paper that would speak truth to power, a paper they could bank on in taking on the bold-faced names of the establishment.

An Encyclopaedia Britannica entry on Goenka accurately calls him a “crusader against government corruption”.

On his birth centenary seven years ago, Express launched a website on the “man who had the courage to stand up for truth.”

So, how would Ramnath Goenka look at his baby today, as its editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta leads an extraordinary ad hominem attack on the Anna Hazare-led “people’s movement” against corruption, pillorying NGOs, the middle-class and “civil society”—and allowing itself to be become the weapon of first choice in what Express columnist Soli J. Sorabjee calls the “crude and disgusting character assassination” of its lead players, the lawyers Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan?

***

Since the day Anna Hazare sat on the fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on April 5, demanding the constitution of a joint government-civil society committee for the drafting of the Lokpal bill—and especially after he succeeded in his mission—The Indian Express has bared its fangs in a manner that few would expect any independent newspaper to do.

At least, few would have expected an “anti-establishment”, “pro-people” paper whose tagline is “Journalism of Courage” to do.

Over a 16-day period (April 6 to 21), through 21 news reports, seven editorials, 15 opinion articles, three cartoons and one illustration, almost all of them variations of the same theme, the northern and western editions of the Express (the southern editions are under a different editorial management after the Goenka family split) has left no one in doubt on whose side—and which—side of the debate it is.

Against the sentiment on the street and in the homes and offices of its readers—and with the political-business-bureacuratic-fixer-operator cabal in whose interest it is to spike the bill in whatever form it may emerge, by tarnishing its movers and shakers.

The only place there has been any space for the other side in the Express since the protest began and ended, has been in its letters’ column, with one letter (from a former Express staffer) getting pride of place on the op-ed page as an article.

Otherwise, it has been a relentless torrent of scepticism, cynicism, criticism, distortion, inneundo, insinuation and plain abuse in The Indian Express. Words like “illiberal”, “fascist”, “dangerous”, “self-righteous”, “self-appointed”, “authoritarian”, “dictators”, “Maoist” and—pinch yourself—”missing foreskins” have spewed forth from the paper’s news and views pages to convince the world why the movement is the worst thing to have happened for Indian democracy.

Here’s a sampling of the headlines, introductions and blurbs over the 16-day period:

***

# April 6, news report, by Maneesh Chibber, headline “Activists’ Bill calls for Lokpal as supercop, superjudge”, text “The Jan Lokpal Bill…. includes a set of highly unusual provisions….”

# April 7, news report, by Maneesh Chibber and Seema Chisti, headline “Cracks appear in Anna’s team”, intro “Justice Santosh Hegde objects to ‘certain’ clauses’, Aruna Roy warns: can’t bypass democratic principles”

# April 7, news feature, by Vandita Mishra, headline “Anna’s fast, main course: feed politicians to vultures & dogs”

# April 7, editorial headline “They, the people”, intro “Illiberal, self-righteous sound and fury isn’t quite the weapon against corruption.”

# April 7, opinion, by Pratap Bhanu Mehta, headline “Of the few, by the few”, intro “Lokpal Bill agitation has a contempt for politics and democracy”, blurb “The claim that people are not represented by elected representatives, but are represented by their self-appointed guardians is disturbing. Anyone who claims to be the ‘authentic’ voice of the people is treading on very thin ice indeed”

# April 8, news report, headline “First political voices speak: cause just, method fascist”, intro “Self-selected can’t dictate terms, says SP; who will choose 50% civil society, asks Raghuvansh [Prasad]“

# April 8, news report, by D.K. Singh, headline “UPA problem: NAC shoe is on the other (NGO) foot”, text: “…the anti-corruption legislation looks set to land in the turf war between competing gorups of civil rights activists.”

# April 8, gossip item, headline “Lady in hiding?”, text “When the fiesty retired IPS officer (Kiran Bedi) was not seen, it naturally set off talk, with people wondering whether she had quietly withdrawn from the campaign.”

# April 8, editorial, headline “Carnival society”, intro “There is nothing representative about the ‘civil society’ gathering at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar”

#April 9, news report, by Seema Chisti, headline “Jantar Mantar core group lost out last year, struck back with Anna”

# April 9, editorial, headline “Make it better”, intro “This anti-politics juggernaut is both contentless and dangerous”

# April 9, opinion, by BaijayantJayPanda MP, headline “Cynicism vs hope”, intro “How odd that we should undermine democracy in this year of pro-democracy movements”, blurb “The Jantar Mantar movement is now poised at a crucial juncture. It could get irretrievably hijacked by those of Hazare’s supporters who have scant respect for politics. If wiser heads prevail—those who respect the institutions of democracy like parliament and the courts—then we could well be at the cusp of a magical moment.”

# April 10, news report, headline “[Baba] Ramdev attacks ‘nepotism’ in bill drafting committee: pita mukhiya, beta sadasya?”

# April 10, news report pointer, headline “Ally NCP speaks out: joint committee will be joint pain for constitution and democracy”

# April 11, opinion, by Mihir S. Sharma, headline “Not a very civil coup”, intro “Snuff out those candles: democratic society should trump civil society, every time”,  blurb “Let us not glorify middle-class anger when it is expressed as an antipathy to where democracy’s gotten us, as fury at not having more power than is gifted by the vote you share with a villager. That way lies the pain and disillusionment of a dozen cuddly dictators”

# April 12, editorial, headline “Rs 100, a sari, a bottle”, intro “That’s all Hazare says a vote means. Who gains from such disdain for democracy?”

# April 12, opinion, by Neera Chandhoke, headline “The seeds of authoritarianism”, intro “Democracy needs civil society. But not Anna Hazare’s version, contemputous of ordinary voters”

# April 12, opinion, by Madhu Purnima Kishwar, headline “Why tar all politicians with the same brush?”, intro “We need to reboot corrupt systems, instead of demonising our political class”, blurb “Politicians can be removed through elections, whereas we self-appointed representatives cannot be voted out when we exceed our brief”

# April 13, news clipping quoting New Age, view from the left, “Anna Hazare afterthought”

# April 13, opinion, by Seema Chisti, headline “We the bullied”, intro “Can our basic democratic procedures be so easily dispensed with?”, blurb “The quick and easy path in this case is also the more dangerous road, and it is one on which we have already embarked—all because there are some people around who talk loud enough to make claims about representing ‘the people’. We, the electors and those we elected, have just given them a walkover.”

# April 13, opinion, by Ashwini Kulkarni, “Governance comes before a Lokpal”, intro “For a Lokpal bill to work, you would need systems that create the paper trails necessary for prosecution”

# April 13, opinion, by Nityanand Jayaraman, headline “The halfway revolution”, intro “Am I wrong in suggesting that the candle-holding middle-class Indian is not very different from the Maoist in ideology?”

# April 14, editorial, headline “Over to the MPs”, intro “On the Lokpal bill, Veerappa Moily is falling all over himself—and could trip Parliament too”

# April 14, opinion, by Javed Anand, headline “Why I didn’t join Anna Hazare,” intro “In his post-corrupt utopia, we should look forward to leaders like Narendra Modi“, blurb “I do not wish to spoil the show for those celebrating the ‘second movement for Independence’ that Anna has won for us. But I cannot hide the fact that I, with my missing foreskin, continue to feel uneasy about the Anna revolution—for more reasons than one.”

# April 15, news report, headline “CEOs, banks, firms in list of donors put up on website of Hazare movement”

# April 15, news report, “Doubt your role as good lawmaker: SP leader to Shanti Bhushan”

# April 15, opinion, by Farah Baria, headline “See the spirit of Anna’s movement”, intro “Don’t nip our fledgling civic consciousness in the bud”

# April 16, news report, headline “Lokpal talks off to CD start”

# April 16, news report, headline “My view is keep judges out, says Anna, colleagues disagree”

# April 16, news report, headline “The other society: CIC, Aruna Roy, Justice Verma to hold parallel meet”

# April 17, news report, by Swaraj Thapa and Amitabh Sinha, headline “Lokpal should have powers to tap phones, prosecute: non govt reps”

# April 17, news report, by Seema Chisti, headline “Why the hurry, and do we really need more laws, ask legal luminaries, activists”

# April 17, opinion, by Meghnad Desai, headline “Which Hazare?’

# April 17, opinion, by Sudheendra Kulkarni, headline “MODI-fy the Lokpal debate”

# April 17, opinion, by Tavleen Singh, headline “Our sainted NGOs?”

# April 19, editorial, headline “law and lawgivers”, intro “So will Anna Hazare respect Parliament’s supremacy after all?”

# April 20, news report, by Pragya Kaushika and Ritu Sarin, headline “Bhushans get two prime farmhouse plots from Mayawati govt for a song”, intro “No lottery, no auction in allotment of two 10,000 sq m plots to Shanti Bhushan and son Jayant

# April 20, editorial, headline “Case must go on”, intro “The judicial process must remain disconnected from the Bhushans-Amar Singh spat”

# April 20, opinion, by A.P. Shah and Venkatesh Nayak, “A gigantic institution that draws powers from a statute based on questionable principles”, blurb “Clauses 8 and 17 turn the Lokpal into a civil court that will reverse the decisions of the executive such as grant of licences, permits, authorisations and even blacklist companies and contractors. This is not the job of an Ombudsman-type institution.”

# April 21, news report, headline “Mess spreading, Sonia washes her NAC hands of Lokpal Bill”, intro “Reminds Anna Hazare that he knew NAC was at work on Bill until fast forced the issue”

# April 21, news report, by Krishnadas Rajagopal and Tanu Sharma, headline “On plots allotted by govt, the Bhushans have high standards—for others”

# April 21, news report, by Tanu Sharma, headline “Shanti Bhushan may not have been in panel if plot known: Santosh Hegde”

# April 21, opinion, by Sandeep Dikshit, MP, headline “Whose bill is it anyway?”, intro “The fight against corruption cannot be appropriated by a clique”, blurb “The very reason why this committee was formed was because it was argued that we need more opinions and contributions to the Lokpal Bill. Having accepted this, can the protagonists then state that every opinion, every fear expressed by those outside this group is an attempt to sabotage this bill?

# April 21, opinion, by Dilip Bobb, headline “In search of civil society”, intro “Anna Hazare has given ‘civil society’ an identity card, but who qualifies for membership?”, blurb “Is civil society the preserve of groups predefined as democratic, modern and ‘civil’, or is it home to all sorts of associations, including ‘uncivil society’?”

# April 21, news clippings quoting Organiser, view from the right, headlines “Whose Hazare?”, “Check that bill”

***

It is no one’s case that the campaign for the Lokpal bill, or the clauses contained in the draft Jan Lokpal bill, is without its flaws. It is also no one’s case that those behind the movement are angels, who cannot be questioned or scrutinised.

But when viewed through a journalistic prism, the Express campaign raises two questions.

One, can a newspaper—notwithstanding its right to take a stand it likes on any issue—can a newspaper shut out the other side completely as if doesn’t exist? And is such a newspaper a newspaper or a pamphlet?

Example: on April 19, “civil society” representatives led by NAC members Aruna Roy and Harsh Mander, condemned the campaign to malign Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan. The Indian Express ignored the news item that found place in most newspapers.

And two, whose cause is the Express championing in indulging in such a hit job on a campaign that has struck a chord with millions?

Express fires from the safe shoulders of “democracy”—a word that invokes titters among many ex-Express staffers. But is the Express really speaking for the people, or has it become a plaything of the “establishment” which was shamed into acting on a piece of legislation that had been languishing for 43 years?

***

None of this is to downplay the first-rate journalism that the Indian Express still delivers on most days of the week.  Even in as messy a story as the Amar Singh-Shanti Bhushan CD in the current anti-Hazare campaign, Express demonstrated far greater rigour than its compatriots Hindustan Times and Times of India, which fell hook, line and sinker for the “establishment” story.

Nevertheless, there is no denying that Express has begun to play a meeker role in exposing corruption in high places.

In the last three years, Express has been wrongfooted by its compatriots on all the big corruption stories that have gripped the nation’s attention and spurred the campaign for the Lokpal bill: the 2G spectrum allocation (The Pioneer) and S-band (The Hindu) scams; the CWG, IPL and Adarsh housing scams (The Times of India); the black money and Swiss bank accounts story (Tehelka); Wikileaks (The Hindu); and the Niira Radia tapes (Outlook and Open).

Simultaneously, Express, which increasingly shares a strange symbiosis with Indian and American thinktanks, has veered disturbingly closer to the government, be it in reflecting the UPA government’s thrust for the Indo-US nuclear bill; its muscular approach to tackling the Maoist threat in mine-rich tribal areas; in demonising the Chinese, or in plumping for road, airport, dams, infrastructure and nuclear projects, overriding environmental and social concerns.

Indeed, from being a paper deeply suspicious of big business, it has become the go-to newspaper for corporate honchos seeking to put out their story. Ratan Tata‘s first interview after the Radia tapes hit the ceiling was with Shekhar Gupta for NDTV‘s Walk the Talk show.

And for a paper deeply suspicious of power, the paper now publishes arbitrary “power lists”, without ever revealing the jury or the methodology behind the rankings. (Shekhar Gupta was decorated with the nation’s third highest civilian honour, the Padma Bhushan, by the UPA government in 2009.)

The question that arises is: are all these concentric circles somehow linked in the Express‘ astonishingly one-sided campaign against the anti-corruption movement and the people behind it?

***

Historically, in India, large publications (think Times of India and The Hindu), have tended to play along with the establishment because of the kind of business and other interests involved. But a small-circulation paper bending backwards to stroke the crooked and the corrupt doesn’t present a pleasant sight.

It doesn’t sound civil, but it is a question that must be courageously asked: has Ramnath Goenka’s bulldog of a paper become a lapdog of the power elite, luxuriating among the rich and famous, while peeing at the feet of the people it was supposed to defend?

In other words, has The Indian Express become a pro-establishment newspaper?

Illustration: courtesy C.R. Sasikumar/ The Indian Express, April 20

***

Also read: Arnab edges out Barkha on Express power list

The curious case of Zakir Naik and Shekhar Gupta

A columnist more powerful than all media pros

‘Editors and senior journos must declare assets’

‘Media standards not keeping pace with growth’

18 April 2011

Sanjaya Baru, editor of Business Standard and former media advisor to prime minister Manmohan Singh, delivered the second H.Y. Sharada Prasad memorial lecture on media, business and government at the India International Centre on Sunday, 17 April. This is the full text of his address:

***

By SANJAYA BARU

I first met H.Y. Sharada Prasad in 1982 in the very room in which I later sat in the Prime Minister’s Office. He knew me only as Rama’s husband!  I was in Delhi on a visit from Hyderabad where I was a University lecturer and went to call on him because Rama had asked me to.

I would meet him occasionally during my days at the Economic Times and Times of India and tried hard to get him to write for the editorial page of the TOI, when I was in charge of it in 1994-96. He always declined the invitation with a smile. Finally, when he chose to write a column I had already left TOI and it was M.J. Akbar who managed to get him to do so for The Asian Age and Deccan Chronicle.

Perhaps as a consolation he called me one day and told me that he had informed Encyclopedia Britannica that he would stop writing the chapter on India that he had written every year for close to fifty years, and henceforth they should approach me for the chapter.

I was flabbergasted, flattered and honoured.

The editor of Britannica wrote me a warm letter saying that I must be someone very special because after a “life long” association with EB, “Mr Prasad has chosen you to inherit his annual contribution to the Britannica.” I have written that chapter since, every year.”

On 2 June 2004 I joined the PMO in the morning and called on “Shouri mama” (as Sharada Prasad was called by his friends and family) the same evening to seek his blessings and take his advice. He spoke to me at length about the office itself, and the significance of every nook and corner.

“You are sitting in the same room in which Jawaharlal Nehru first sat as Prime Minister,” he told me, referring to the corner room next to the cabinet room. Nehru had to wait for a month to move into what is now the PM’s room, since that room’s earlier occupant, Girija Shankar Bajpai, would not vacate it till the room assigned to him was ready, that being the present principal secretary’s room.

I too had occupied that very room briefly till I moved into the much larger adjacent room, the one Shouri had occupied with great distinction for almost two decades. After letting me know that I was sitting in Nehru’s first room in the PMO, he added with a mischievous smile, “of course Natwar (Singh) also sat there!”

He regaled me with stories about the various occupants of the PMO during his decade and a half there, about their egos and their foibles. He gave me valuable advice on how I should discharge my duties both as media advisor and speech writer that stood me in good stead throughout my four-and-a-half years in the job.

On a couple of occasions when I had difficulty convincing the PM and his senior aides about my media strategy in dealing with an issue, I would called Shouri and having received his endorsement of my plan inform the PM that Mr Sharada Prasad has approved my idea. The PM would instantly fall in line and allow me to go ahead, over ruling the dissenters. Securing Shourie’s imprimatur was enough.

For a man who wielded a powerful and elegant pen for the Prime Minister of India, who had the unquestioned trust and confidence of a powerful Prime Minister like Indira Gandhi, who had travelled around the world with her, hearing her read out his prose, whom generations of Indians had seen in Films Division documentaries and front page photographs sitting next to Mrs Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, here I was with him on my first day in the PMO in his two-room, Punjabi Bagh DDA flat.

Every day of my four-and-a-half years in the PMO, I would recall that first evening that I spent with Shouri.

Don’t fool yourself, I would tell myself, you may be here today, but one day you too will have a modest apartment to retire to. Shouri was among the very few who worked with Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi who had no Vasant Vihar or New friends Colony or Maharani Bagh house to leave for his children. It is the combination of his wisdom and simplicity, his prose and wit, his deep knowledge of both India and the world that makes him a truly unique occupant of that all powerful corner of Raisina Hill. This memorial lecture is dedicated as much to Shourie as to the values he embodied.

***

One of the things that Shouri said to me when I met him the evening of my first day at the PMO was that during his long tenure at the PMO he kept in regular, almost daily contact, with key interlocutors in just five newspapers – Hindustan Times, Indian Express, The Statesman, The Hindu and Times of India. That was a different world.

While India reported less than 500 newspapers in the years Shouri first came to deal with them, and only one television channel, by 1991 there were 923 newspapers and still only one TV channel. But Shouri regarded dealing with just the top five English dailies adequate to influence the rest of the media. These five, he presumably believed, set the tone and the agenda for all others to follow. It is also possible he believed having these five on one’s side is what mattered as far as the PM was concerned.

In 2008, the year I left PMO, the Registrar of Newspapers reported that 2,337 newspapers were in circulation in India. In 2004 there were already several news TV channels, but by 2008 the number had more than tripled. By the time I left my position in mid-2008 I would normally be dealing with at least a couple of dozen newspapers and TV channels every day.  The era when one could happily say that the PM’s media advisor kept in touch with just five top English newspapers was long gone. Not only had Indian language TV and print become more important, but even English language TV and print had burgeoned and the internet had arrived.

It was during my last days in office that I acquired a Facebook account and Outlook magazine put me on their cover, along with some celebrities, for being the first PMO official with a Facebook account. Twitter had not arrived by the time I left office. Today Shouri would not be able to recognise, much less relate, to the media scene in India. My 84-year-old parents take pride in letting me know that they neither watch TV news, nor spend more than a few minutes reading a newspaper. They have opted out of daily news.

But, the rest of India has not. Nowhere has there been a bigger boom in media than in India.

At the last World Association of Newspapers convention in Hyderabad in 2009, India was hailed as the great global hope for media, especially print. The WAN invitation to the Hyderabad convention said:

“Developing literacy and wealth are part of but far from all the story: Great credit needs also to be given to Indian newspaper professionals, who are re-inventing the newspaper to keep it vibrant and compelling in the digital age……. Although broadband and mobile are booming in India, print newspapers are growing right along with them. The country has more daily newspapers than any other nation and leads in paid-for daily circulation, surpassing China for the first time in 2008. Twenty of the world’s 100 largest newspapers are Indian. Newspaper circulation rose a further 8 percent last year.”

Salivating at the India numbers, News Corp top executive James Murdoch told a FICCI–Frames conference in Mumbai last month that “India’s media industry is a ‘sleeping tiger’  waiting to be awakened.” He described global media firms as “grey and tired”. “The impressive achievements of the last two decades have not even begun to fulfill the potential of this great land,” said the son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch.

This boom is witnessed in every language, with Hindi’s Dainik Jagran emerging as the great success story in print media. But with growth have come its wages. The quantitative expansion of Indian media continues to outpace its qualitative development. Extreme inequality in compensation structures means there are some journalists who get world class compensation that would be the envy of even developed economy media, and there is a mass of under-paid staff, many of whom with low skills and lower motivation.

Speaking at the Silver Jubilee of the Chandigarh Press Club in September 2005, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said:

“With the rapid growth of media in recent times, qualitative development has not kept step with quantitative growth. In the race for capturing markets, journalists have been encouraged to cut corners, to take chances, to hit and run. I believe the time has come for journalists to take stock of how competition has impacted upon quality. Consider the fact that even one mistake, and a resultant accident, can debar an airline pilot from ever pursuing his career. Consider the case that one wrong operation leading to a life lost, and a doctor can no longer inspire the confidence of his patients. One night of sleeping on the job at a railway crossing, an avoidable train accident, and a railway man gets suspended. How many mistakes must a journalist make, how many wrong stories, and how many motivated columns before professional clamps are placed? How do the financial media deal with market moving stories that have no basis in fact? Investors gain and lose, markets rise and fall, but what happens to those reporters, analysts, editors who move and make markets? Are there professional codes of conduct that address these challenges? Is the Press Council the right organization to address these challenges? Can professional organizations of journalists play a role?”

Apart from the problem of quantitative growth outpacing qualitative development, there is also the challenge of conflicting objectives and a clash of cultures. News media has become subsumed into the larger business of information and entertainment. This is in large part a consequence of the growing dependence of media, especially news media, on advertisement revenues, though India still has a substantial segment of the market that is still willing to pay for news.

One of the consequences of this growing dependence on advertising revenues, as opposed to subscription revenue, and the competition from competing media is that news media has become increasingly a mish-mash of news, views and plain entertainment.

A recent  FICCI- KPMG report, Hitting the High Notes on the Indian media and Entertainment Industry in 2011 not only unabashedly refers to ‘media and entertainment’ as one industry, but also points to the growing inter-linkages between the two sides of business. News is entertainment and entertainment is news! And, the stakes are high.

According to KPMG, the Indian Media and Entertainment (M&E) industry stood at US$ 12.9 billion in 2009. Over the next five years the industry is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13 per cent to reach the size of US$ 24.04 billion by 2014.

A PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report titled ‘Indian Entertainment & Media Outlook 2010’ predicts that the industry is poised to return to double digit growth to touch US$ 22.28 billion growing cumulatively at a 12.4 per cent CAGR to 2014.

Apart from the phenomenal growth prospects, which have become the envy of media companies around the world, and therefore attracting many of them to India, it is important to also note that there has been a vertical and horizontal integration, along the technological spectrum, of news, entertainment and communication. Print, TV, radio, film, music, gaming, mobile telephony, internet and banking and finance are all getting integrated. New technologies will integrate the businesses and the markets even more.

The KPMG report adds, “While television and print continue to dominate the Indian M&E industry, sectors such as gaming, digital advertising, and animation VFX also show tremendous potential in the coming years. By 2015, television is expected to account for almost half of the Indian M&E industry revenues, and more than twice the size of print, the second largest media sector.  The contribution of advertising revenue to overall industry pie is expected to increase from 38 percent in 2007 to 42 percent in 2012.”

When news and entertainment become two sides of the same coin, indeed some would say the same side of one coin, with advertising revenue being the other side of the coin, and when the distinction between news and views gets blurred, journalism enters an uncharted territory where there are as yet no professional yardsticks to judge either purpose or performance. But it is not just the integration of businesses that is having an impact on media. It is the integration of business with politics and politics with business that is now shaping news media, and not just at the national level.

***

Tamil Nadu is a particularly good example of the complete backward and forward integration of media business and politics. The ruling political party dominates print, TV and film production and distribution. In Andhra Pradesh the Y.S. Rajashekhar Reddy family was well on its way to achieving this kind of integration of business interests in media and politics.

The relative ease with which the Karunanidhi-Maran families in Tamil Nadu and the YSR family in Andhra Pradesh, to a lesser extent the Pawar family in Maharashtra have acquired substantial stakes in media, entertainment and politics is a pointer to trends at the national level. There have been reports that the Congress Party plans to start its own TV and print media businesses. The Left walked down this path in Kerala but was unable to achieve the kind of dominance that DMK has succeeded in acquiring in Tamil Nadu.

The FICCI-KPMG Report shows that while there has been a phenomenal expansion of the media business, in almost every major language segment and in most states 3 dominant players together control between 65 per cent and 75 per cent of the market. In other words, the media pyramid in India is highly skewed. A few newspapers/ channels at the top of the pyramid, controlling close to three-quarters of the readership and/or viewership and a large number of small players below sharing the rest of the cake.

Part of the problem in regulating the media business arises because of the growing links between politicians, political parties and the media and entertainment business.

In Andhra Pradesh, for example, the top two media companies, with print and television business, are Eenadu and Sakshi – the former owned by the pro-TDP Ramoji Rao, and the latter owned by YSR Rajashekhar Reddy’s son Jagan.

In Tamil Nadu the power and influence of Kalanithi Maran’s Sun TV is even more brazen. Indeed, the DMK as a party has acquired enormous control over the entire media business including circulation, cable network and film distribution.

In Maharashtra, every media company has its own political interests. Across the country in almost every State, including the North-East, the nexus between politics, business and media is very close and pervasive.

With such visible and known links between political parties and media companies, what is the kind of regulation that government qua government can impose? Indeed, in a democracy the question does arise whether government or even a quasi-official body should have any powers at all to regulate media.

This market structure is ripe for oligopolistic practices and it has been alleged for a long time that such practices have become all too common in India. Very often the intense rivalry and competition between professional journalists in rival media firms masks the implicit collaboration and non-compete clauses – including deals on advertising, circulation and hiring of journalists – between the firms themselves.

Indian media needs a framework of reference to define what constitutes a competitive structure, what policies amount to being restrictive trade practices, how can such practices be curbed and who curbs them? Has the time come for the Competition Commission of India to consider a framework for regulation of cross-media ownership, predatory pricing and other restrictive and unethical business practices, including the phenomenon of ‘paid news’, in the media and entertainment industry?

A few years ago when the former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India, G.N. Bajpai, convened a meeting of all editors and suggested that the media accept a SEBI code for journalists reporting on markets and companies, a majority of the editors gathered there opposed any SEBI imposed code and instead offered to come forward with a code of their own that media companies could adhere to. Nothing has been heard on the subject since.

Institutions like the Press Council of India have lost their élan, and the Editors Guild of India has become a club of former and future editors with little influence on those presently occupying the hot seat! The inability of the Editors Guild to reverse the phenomenon of ‘paid news’, which it campaigned against, even though many members of the Guild were in fact guilty of the crime, illustrates this better than any other example.

A related issue of internal governance that has profound implications for freedom of press is the nature of editorial control in media. Just as politicians have become media barons and media barons have become politicians, establishing a continuum between media, politics and government, there is a parallel continuum between media, business and editorial leadership, with publishers and CEOs becoming editors and editors becoming publishers and CEOs.

Time was when many professional journalists worried that the post of editor was being devalued with print and TV companies not naming editors and dividing up the editor’s work among several persons, both journalists and managers. As a consequence, today several print and TV media have no single editor and, therefore, weak editorial control and leadership.

As some of the conversations recorded in the famous Nira Radia Tapes reveal, senior journalists not only worry about the fate of politicians in power, but they also worry about their company’s bottom and top line. Given the unabashed blurring of roles, an increasing number of business persons and politicians are now quite blasé about using carrots and sticks to influence and brow beat the media.

But a far more insidious development has been under way – namely the integration of the positions of publisher/ CEO with that of Chief Editor/ Editor. The job of Editor has been under threat in Indian media for a long time, but today professional editors – who have no ownership stake in the media company – are becoming an endangered species.

Owners or CEOs are editors and editors have become shareholders or CEOs. Those who worry about content also worry about revenue. It is not difficult to see what this means for editorial freedom. It is also not difficult to see that the famed separation of powers between “Church and State” in the media no longer exists.

Owner/ CEO/ Manager/ shareholder- editors either impose corporate objectives or their personal whims. Editors who speak eloquently about the freedom of the press and autonomy of media are often the first to impose their dictatorial and arbitrary style on their own colleagues.

Editors, who demand accountability from elected representatives of the people, are often quite happy to censor dissent and straitjacket diverse opinion within their own organizations. When such tyrannical editors are also owners or CEOs of their media establishments there is no internal court of appeal for a journalist.

***

The burden of my song has been to draw attention to the fact that the impressive growth of Indian media in recent years has not been matched by a similar rise in professional standards, both on the editorial side and in business ethics and practices of media firms, and media accountability.

As a consequence, despite the phenomenal growth of the media and the high visibility of media personalities, the public regard for journalists has not in fact risen. A recent poll in the US and UK rated ‘nursing’ as the most ethical profession and ‘journalism’ as among the least ethical ones!

I have not been able to find a similar poll in India, but the result is unlikely to be very different.  Concerns about corruption in the media are just beginning to surface. When a couple of cases get exposed their impact on the credibility of our profession would be hugely destructive.

Because of all these trends, Indian journalism is presently facing a crisis of both credibility and competence. In the past few years we have witnessed increased public scrutiny of the executive, the legislature and even the judiciary. More recently we have witnessed some early signs of a similar scrutiny of the media.

The cynicism and anger that have come to characterize public criticism of the other three ‘estates’ will sooner rather than later be seen in the criticism of the media. Each of the ‘four estates’ have from time to time drawn public attention to the short-comings of others. Sometimes three of the four have combined to bring the fourth to heel.

So far we have not seen in India a coming together of the executive, legislature and the judiciary in a joint bid to discipline or rein in the media. During the emergency, when media was under attack, the judiciary was in fact an ally of the media. When the Rajiv Gandhi government proposed an anti-defamation law, the entire media stood as one and with support from other political parties resisted the move.

Today, the media will find it more difficult to defend itself against such scrutiny and regulation. The day may not be far when public opinion will demand more accountability and transparency on the part of media organizations. With public opinion on its side, the executive and/ or the judiciary may well begin to demand such accountability from the business and editorial heads of media organizations, and from prominent TV anchors and columnists, not to mention the regular reporters.

What is worrying, however, is that in response to such public anger and cynicism the media may be turning populist – a standard response of a politician – in an attempt to ingratiate itself to its critics. This too is a dangerous trend. Media populism is in part a response to public anger and, paradoxically, a response to public disdain and indifference.

To an extent this is the logical culmination of the phenomenon of qualitative development not keeping pace with quantitative growth. The ‘dumbing down’ of the media brings in its train disregard for it, disrespect for it, disenchantment with it. This makes the media ripe for greater regulation.

If Indian media wish to avert this threat, then it must look within, introspect and rediscover professional values. This is easier said than done. It is not because of a lack of will that this has not happened. There is often no incentive for such introspection and no reward for mending ways.

The good thing, however, is that we live in a society and a nation in which we have the freedom to debate these issues. In paying tribute to the memory of Sharada Prasad, my generation must pay tribute to his for the freedom they secured for us and for posterity.

Shouri was a freedom fighter, like Kamalamma [Sharada Prasad's wife], like my father and my grandfather and grandmother. Their generation was the architect of a unique experiment in human history – building a vibrant and liberal democracy in a diverse and stratified society, a backward and poor economy. Shouri epitomized by the best instincts of that generation, symbolizing the liberalism and pluralism of a generation that was inspired by Gandhiji to value High Thinking and Simple Living.

These values are under threat and the media is not doing enough to protect them. By encouraging those with contending view points to argue with each other, we are not doing enough to create greater consensus between conflicting views.

The greatness of the Indian people is not that we are argumentative, as Amartya Sen has celebrated with an eye to a global audience. The real greatness of the Indian people is that we are in fact consensual.  Merely because we invented the ‘Zero’ and made possible the binary 1:0 system, the foundation of the current information era, does not mean that the Indian mind sees the world in black and white. Thinkers like Sharada Prasad have always reminded us of the range of gray possibilities in comprehending the reality around us.

The day the Indian media moves away from its binary world view, its argumentative ‘me and you’ divides, and moves closer to the consensual frameworks of reference of a people who have always valued the idea of Sarva Dharma Sambhava – of Unity in Diversity – it will have created a new paradigm, a very Indian paradigm, in the world of communication.

That would be the best tribute we can pay to a great Indian, a truly renaissance man, a liberal scholar, a non-argumentative Indian like Sharada Prasad!

Also read: When editor makes way for editor, gracefully

‘Go to bed knowing you haven’t succumbed’

On this day, 70 years ago, a magazine was born

4 April 2011

R.K. Laxman may have made his name after a lifetime at The Times of India, but it was for a small Kannada humour monthly called Koravanji that the Mysore-born cartoonist drew his first works.

The magazine had been inspired by the British satirical magazine Punch. The first issue of Koravanji saw the light of day on Ugadi, 70 years ago, and shut down 25 years later, in 1967.

A CD containing 300 past issues of Koravanji (which refers to fortune-telling tribal women) was released in Mysore last week, and a website has been launched to keep the jokes going.

***

Prof A.V. Narasimha Murthy, former head of the department of ancient history and archaeology of the University of Mysore, recounts the origin of Koravanji in Star of Mysore.

“The editor of Korvanji was Dr R. Shivaram, popularly known as RaShi. He was a medical doctor but his stethoscope could detect humour. It seems that he was a regular reader of  Punch, the internationally known humour magazine.

“The college in which RaShi was studying auctioned all the old magazines including Punch. Shivaram managed to collect Rs 3 to buy them. But the Principal of the college himself purchased the lot at Rs 4.

“The boy was highly disappointed. But the understanding Principal presented all the volumes to Shivaram as a gift. This precious gift from the Principal was a turning point in the career of young Shivaram and years later he started the monthly magazine Koravanji.

“The first issue appeared on Ugadi day of Chitrabanu Samvatsara (1942). Each issue was sold at 4 annas of 25 paise. Newspaper agents purchased the copies but did not pay the Editor/MD. The doctor who had made a good name had no cure for these agents.”

Koravanji‘s editorial menu comprised humourous skits, light hearted poems, parodies, gossip, limericks, cartoons, etc. The absence of obscene lines and double entendre was a stand-out feature, according to the professor.

Links via E.R. Ramachandran

***

Also read: Laxman & Narayan: How one family produced two geniuses

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

Making all of us smile can make one of us cry

EXCLUSIVE: The unpublished doodles of R.K. Laxman

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

‘Bisexual’ Gandhi, bachelor Modi & ‘author’ Moily

31 March 2011

VINUTHA MALLYA writes from Ahmedabad: The ban masters are back in business. And as usual, vibrant Gujarat leads the way, but this time the Centre is not too far behind.

Narendra Damodardas Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat and renowned terminator of artistic freedom, has just announced the State’s “ban” on the book, Great Soul: Mahatma Gandhi and his Struggle with India by Pulitzer-winner and former New York Times journalist, Joseph Lelyveld.

The book’s sin: to have elicited reviews that hinted at the Mahatma’s bisexuality, despite the author’s denial of it.

Modi won the dash to the ban on Wednesday after Union law minister (and alleged author), M. Veerappa Moily, had announced in Poona earlier in the day that the Centre too was considering proscribing the book.

As the man in charge Gandhi’s homestate, “hands-on” Modi obviously couldn’t let somebody else be seen to be protecting its asmita before him. (For the record, the Congress government in Shiv Sena land, Maharashtra, too has announced a ban.)

None of the crusaders of Gandhi’s reputation have thought it worthy to read the book before publicly denouncing its content and conclusions:

“We have to think how to prevent such writings. They denigrate not only a national leader but also the nation,” said Moily.

Anyone remember Article 19? Anyone remember that Moily is both a lawyer and an author.

Modi, an old hand at ban baaja, has used this strategy in the past to his advantage: Jaswant Singh’s book on Mohammed Ali Jinnah, and his support in the unofficial banning of the films, Parzania and Fanaa, to name just two. While in the three instances, the issue was of inconvenient truths, in this case, he is angered that:

“The apostle of truth, peace and non-violence has been represented in a perverted manner”.

Look who’s talking about the apostle of truth, peace and non-violence, when Gandhi’s own great grandsons—Gopalakrishna Gandhi and Rajmohan Gandhi—and great grandson Tushar Gandhi have no problem!

Appropriating Gandhi is as fashionable as “denigrating” him, it seems.

***

More than the politicians pavlovian response to a book they haven’t seen, read or understood, it is the Indian media’s faithful participation in the process leading upto the ban that is the most disturbing. It is action replay of the ban on Salman Rushdie‘s Satanic Verses in 1989 based on a review of the book in India Today.

The question the Indian media need to ask themselves today is: Are reviews in Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph or The Wall Street Journal the last word on books or on Gandhi? Should we not read and make up our own mind as a mature democracy? At the very least, should we not expect the proscribers to know what they are talking about?

Gujarat’s (and Maharashtra’s) ban on the Gandhi book comes despite Lelyveld ‘s clarification that he had not said anything about Gandhi’s bi-sexuality, and that had he not claimed in his book that Gandhi was a racist.

So, what gives?

In Pratibha Nandakumar’s story of reactions from Bangaloreans in the Bangalore Mirror titled ‘Fashionable to slander Gandhi’, she states without provocation: “If this was a strategic publicity campaign, his agent gets full credit. Everybody wants to get a copy.”

At this rate, we just might not.

Lelyveld is no lightweight, fly-by-night author trying to rack up some sales by creating some buzz. He is a two-time executive editor of the New York Times whose previous tome was on apartheid in South Africa.

Yet, he finds his book banned despite his clarification to the Times of India in a story it ran on 29 March 2011.

In the ToI report, Ahmedabad-based Gandhian scholar Tridip Suhrud was reported not only to have interacted with Lelyveld when he was researching the book but also as having read it:

“He (Suhrud)  is aghast with the reviews and swears by Lelyveld…. Suhrud goes on to give full marks to Lelyveld and the book. He says it is the first political biography of Gandhi by an expert on apartheid,” says the ToI report.

This did not stop the world’s most-selling English daily’s city supplement, Ahmedabad Times, from posting two pages of “reactions” from “celebrities” on 30 March. Not one of them had read the book, and of the 19 celebrities interviewed only three were aware that the author had denied having made any of the claims that were doing the rounds in the UK and US media.

The others reacted variously to what they had read in the media, that it was wrong (of the author) to talk of Gandhi in this way. A sketchy paragraph that did not clarify the issue introduced this photo feature. The paper did not make it clear to the reader that the author had denied having called Gandhi a bisexual or racist.

Nor did it differentiate between the book and the reviews, making them both sound synonymous.

One wonders if the Daily News and Analysis (DNA) had access to the book when it quoted passages in the story it ran on 28 March, or if it simply borrowed the passages from what was floating around online.

On 30 March, in a comment appearing on Hindustan Times online, the writer reproduces a quote by Suhrud that appears in the book (“They were like a couple”) by dropping a key word (“They were a couple”), completely misrepresenting Suhrud in the process. Such is the rush of the press.

In an interview to The Indian Express on 29 March, Lelyveld told journalist Mandakini Gahlot:

“The reason Western media reports are highlighting the ‘bisexual and racist’ aspect is ‘because of the atmosphere we live in where anything is plucked off and reported everywhere as news. The news aggregators are full of it this morning. There is no real reporting, people have not even read the book.”

The God is in the details though.

Whether or not the author questioned Gandhi’s sexuality, Indians have always been uncomfortable with Gandhi’s own honesty.

At a seminar on Gandhi, which was organised by the women’s studies department of NMKRV College in Bangalore in the late 1990s, two young students were at the receiving end of Gandhians’ ire. Their offence was to publicly discuss, from a feminist perspective, his nocturnal experiments with the teenaged nieces.

When they wondered aloud, just as any young woman would (should?), if he had considered the impact of his experiment on the young 17-year-old’s mind, many members in the audience stormed out of the auditorium.

No debate, no discussion.

The latest ban is proof that nothing has changed, only the players have.

Photograph: Mahatma Gandhi (left) with the jewish bodybuilder Hermann Kallenbach (right), with whom he is alleged to have shared a relationship even while being happily married.

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?

The Immortal Picture Story of namma ‘Uncle Pai’

26 February 2011

The effusive tributes that have followed the passing away of Anant Pai, the Karkala-born creator of Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) and Tinkle, shows the hold that the comics and the magazine have had over four decades despite the media explosion after the advent of satellite television in the 1990s.

The life of amgal “Uncle Pai”—as generations of children addressed the former Times of India executive who was also behind the Indrajal series that brought Phantom and Mandrake into our consciousness—was not without life’s cruel irony: both his parents were dead before he was two.

And the man who gave life to such immortal characters as Suppandi, Shikhari Shambhu, Kalia the Crow and Tantri the Mantri, remained childless.

He was trained to be a chemical engineer but spent only three months working as one: “One month, plus two months’ notice.” Yet, he was the “parental scholar” to millions of children, young and old. In 50 years of married life, Uncle Pai and his wife Lalitha Pai stayed apart from each other on just one single day.

***

Editorial in The Pioneer:

“For those of us who remember a time when the blackberry was just a fruit and Shaktimaan the ultimate superhero, the death of our beloved Uncle Pai has led to melancholy mixed with nostalgia. A traditionalist to the core, he believed that strong cultural roots and solid understanding of one’s heritage was the key to success.”

Jerry Pinto in the Hindustan Times:

“One day, in February 1967, I was in Delhi,” he told me when we met several years ago. “There, at the junction of Gurudwara Road and Azma Khan Road was a shop called Maharaja Lal & Sons. It was selling televisions sets. At that time, Delhi had television but Mumbai didn’t. A quiz show was in progress. None of the contestants could answer a simple question like, “Who is the mother of Lord Rama?” I felt bad about that but I tried to explain it to myself. They were not interested in mythology, not interested in the past. They were looking to the future. But then the next question was about a god from Mount Olympus and all of them knew the answer. I realised that these young people had been alienated from their own culture. And I realised that comics might be a way of bringing them back.”

His nephew Prakash Pai in Mid-Day:

“When we met him on one Sunday morning, he simply asked us a few questions about Indian mythology. We simply had no answers to his questions, though we knew everything about Archie comics. That was when he told us that he would start a movement to enable us to know about our own heritage.”

Pradyuman Maheshwari in Exchange4Media:

“With apologies to my teachers, I must say that whatever bit of Indian history I know, it’s thanks essentially to the Amar Chitra Katha series of comic books.

“I first met him as a rookie journalist in the late 1980s. Pai was looking for writers for Partha, a magazine he had started, and I was happy to moonlight. He didn’t pay big monies, but the Rs 200-300 a piece was enough for a few good meals.

“Meeting Pai for me meant keeping aside a few hours. Or perhaps more. He would regale me with stories about governments – from Prime Ministers like Atal Behari Vajpayee recognising his work or some State government according Tinkle special status in schools. Those were days when Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana had the nation glued to the telly, and I would often ask him why he didn’t do Amar Chitra Katha for TV. He was very keen, but preferred the animated form to costume drama. When I once suggested that I would love to be associated with the TV avatar of ACK, he asked me to take the lead and present a proposal which I did and he took me to Padmini Mirchandani at India Book House.”

Murali Gopalan in The Hindu Business Line:

“It was always my ardent desire to meet him and, one afternoon nearly five years ago, I called Pai to break the ice. The first thing I remember was his enthusiasm and warmth while greeting another aficionado of comics…. I confessed to him that The Phantom was still my top favourite to which Pai reminded me gently that he was actually part of the think-tank that brought Indrajal Comics to India. Apparently, surveys showed that The Phantom would click with the masses since it was being featured in the comic strips of The Illustrated Weekly of India and there would be a readymade connection. It did not, therefore, make sense to think of Batman or Superman as the first local offering. The first issue was The Phantom’s Belt way back in 1964,” Pai told me with authority. I gasped at his memory and told him that I had been trying to get a copy of this comic for years.”

Reena I. Pur in the Associated Press:

“He believed the best way to communicate an idea or value to a child is through stories. He taught me everything I know. He wanted comics to become a medium accepted in schools.”

Report in The Times of India:

“Most publishers were sceptical [of Amar Chitra Katha] but Pai persisted and the series finally began with the launch of the first title, Krishna. He lent it the auspicious Indian touch by titling it number 11 instead of one.”

Saloni Meghani in the Mumbai Mirror:

“In the 1980s, Anant Pai, universal uncle for an entire generation or two, caused a scramble among siblings on afternoons when an Amar Chitra Katha or Tinkle was slipped under the door by the magazinewalla.

“He helped mothers bribe children into finishing their homework with ‘bumper issues’ on the 10 avatars of Vishnu or Birbal‘s tales. He shaped the stereotypes of Rakshasas and Rajput princesses in the minds of many. And if it weren’t for him, we would have known precious little about the Panchatantra or the Jataka Tales.”

Pooja Pillai in The Indian Express:

“As for Tinkle, it was a magazine not only for the children, but also by them. It was launched by a 12-year-old girl, Elaine D’Lime, who had won a nationwide contest organised by Pai, and to this day, it continues to be influenced by its young readers. In fact, many of its readers eventually grew up to join the staff of the magazine, such as senior illustrator Savio Mascarenhas, who has been with the magazine for 16 years.”

Sharon Fernandes in The Indian Express:

“Way back in 1986, I wrote a question in neat cursive, using a pencil: “What causes hiccups?” I wrote my age, address and the name of my school, and made sure I stuck enough glue to the Re 1 stamp on the envelope. I remember walking with my mother to the post box to mail my letter to Uncle Pai, to get my question printed in Tinkle, copies of which were my most prized possessions. The question would be printed in the “Tinkle tells you why” section. I was nervous, and I am sure I prayed every night for Uncle Pai to read my letter…. My question never got printed, but I got an envelope, saying thank you for sending it across. I didn’t mind. I had a letter from Uncle Pai and it meant the world to me. It always will.”

Abhay Vaidya in DNA:

“I noticed the seriousness with which Pai treated letters pouring in from children — on postcards, inland letters and envelops. He was famous as ‘Uncle Pai’ and we got letters from all corners of the country; the smallest of towns and talukas. Since he could not reply to all individually, there were printed letters in handwriting font with his signature. I was quite impressed when I first saw those letters and helped in the chore of mailing them.”

Actor Siddharth tweeted:

“A tear and a prayer for the demise of the legendary Anant Pai. He is as much a part of my childhood as my education at school. RIP, Uncle Pai.”

Jammu & Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah:

“Sad to hear about Uncle Pai. Grew up on a steady diet of Amar Chitra Katha comics from Kashmir Bookshop & my yearly subscription of Tinkle.”

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: A letter to Uncle Pai

ACK Title No. 11

Guess what I bought my girlfriend on Feb 14?

24 February 2011

Ordinary mortals buy roses for their beau on Valentine’s Day. Sons of the soil buy TV news channels.

Well, that’s what Bangalore Mirror, the tabloid from The Times of India stable is reporting.

Former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy, son of the former prime minister and “humble farmer” H.D. Deve Gowda, already runs a general entertainment channel called Kasturi through his legislator-wife Anitha Kumaraswamy.

HDK is now reported to have bought the struggling 24×7 Kannada news channel, Samaya, for Rs 60 crore, as a “gift” for chhoti memsaab, the former movie actress Radhika.

Kumaraswamy told Bangalore Mirror, “Samaya channel is up for sale, and I am in talks with its owner. We still have not completed the deal.”

When we asked the ex-CM whether he was buying the channel for Radhika, he guffawed and hung up.

Kumaraswamy, a former film producer, no longer makes the pretence of keeping his relationship with the actress secret. The two have appeared as a “couple” in religious ceremonies.

Kasturi channel has already begun running “Coming Soon” promos of its news channel—tentatively titled Newz24. The rumour is that a former print journalist reported to be close to Kumaraswamy and currently heading a news channel is likely to take charge of the news channel operations.

Samaya, launched by Congress MLA Satish Jharkiholi, has been struggling since launch. Former Suvarna News editor Shashidhar Bhat recently joined the channel but what happens to him under the new owner will be breaking news.

The change of ownership of Samaya is only the latest evidence of a massive shakeup in Kannada media in which big money, with the tint of politics and business, is beginning to shape the public discourse in Karnataka like never before, no questions asked.

The shakeup has already seen Vijaya Karnataka editor Vishweshwar Bhat join Kannada Prabha and Suvarna News editor Ravi Hegde join Udaya Vani. (Both Kannada Prabha and Suvarna News will soon come under a common owner, the “independent” member of Parliament, Rajeev Chandrasekhar who has an affinity for the BJP.)

Last week, tourism minister N. Janardhana Reddy—one of the infamous Reddy brothers—recently launched a news channel called JanaSri.

Link via H.B. Kumar

Read the full article: HDK is buying a news channel for his party—and for Radhika

Image: courtesy Bangalore Mirror

Also read: Everyone is naked in the chief minister’s hamaam

One question I’m dying to ask H.D. Kumaraswamy—I

One question I’m dying to ask H.D. Kumaraswamy—II

Vishweshwar Bhat, new editor of Kannada Prabha

7 February 2011

Vishweshwar Bhat, the former editor of the mass-circulation Vijaya Karnataka belonging to The Times of India group, has joined the State’s fourth largest paper, Kannada Prabha, as editor-in-chief, in a move that is likely to shake up the Kannada newspaper market in more ways than one.

Bhat was introduced to the editorial staff and management team of Kannada Prabha by Manoj Kumar Sonthalia, chairman and managing director of The New Indian Express group which owns Kannada Prabha, in Bangalore this evening.

On his newly launched blog, Bhat called the shift to Kannada Prabha a “homecoming“, having served it for four years as sub-editor in the initial stages of his career and then having done another four years at the Asian Schoool of Journalism launched by the Express group.

Bhat confirmed the shift to churumuri.com.

The popular yet controversial Bhat quit Vijaya Karnataka on 8 December 2010, and the market had since been abuzz about his next port of call. Bhat himself wrote on his blog that he briefly considered launching a new newspaper but had to abandon the idea of a startup because of the constraints of printing presses.

There were also rumours that Bhat was headed towards Udayavani, the Kannada newspaper published by the Pais of Manipal, but clearly Kannada Prabha‘s reach and reputation—not to mention the deep pockets (and ambitions) of its owner in waiting, phone baron-turned-parliamentarian, Rajeev Chandrasekhar—tilted the balance.

Both Bhat and Chandrasekhar appear to be similarly politically aligned.

Bhat served as an officer on special duty to the former Union minister Ananth Kumar of the BJP, and Chandrasekhar, an independent MP elected with BJP support, has been seen with both Ananth Kumar and the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, on a “Friends of BJP” platform.

***

Bhat’s decision to join Kannada Prabha, however, shows that an official Times VPL internal circular, issued in the name of CEO Sunil Rajshekhar that said he was leaving Vijaya Karnataka to pursue “higher studies“, was merely for public consumption.

Kannada Prabha, which currently belongs to The New Indian Express group of Sonthalia, is set to come into the control of Rajeev Chandrasekhar by June this year.

Chandrasekhar had entered into a “strategic partnership alliance” with Express publications in March 2009, and picked up a minority stake. His stake in Kannada Prabha Publications (valued at Rs 250 crore) currently stands at 48%. The grapevine has it that he will obtain a majority controlling stake of 76% by June.

So far, the fight for the Kannada advertising pie has been between Vijaya Karnataka (average issue readership 34.25 lakh readers, IRS round 3) and No.2 Praja Vani (29.10 lakh readers) belonging to the Deccan Herald group. But the Bhat-Chandrasekhar combination at Kannada Prabha (11.15 lakh readers) is likely to muddy the scene.

Vijaya Karnataka is said to be mulling the launch of a Bangalore Mirror-style Kannada tabloid to be issued free with Vijaya Karnataka to blunt the Bhat effect at Kannada Prabha, and also to overcome recent circulation and readership losses to Praja Vani.

***

Bhat’s entry into Kannada Prabha is also poised create a ripple in Rajeev Chandrasekhar’s media stable.

Chandrasekhar already has a sizeable media presence in Karnataka through his Suvarna and Suvarna News channels. He had successfully wooed Kannada Prabha editor H.R. Ranganath to the Suvarna News camp at the expense of incumbent Shashidhar Bhat two years ago.

Ranganath came to Suvarna News with his band of print journalists under the belief that Rajeev Chandrasekhar would start his own newspaper. That plan first came unstuck with his purchase of a minority stake in KP.

Now, with the arrival of Vishweshwar Bhat and his own band of print journalists from VK, the former Kannada Prabha journalists in the Suvarna stable are in a dilemma about their future course of action. One of them, Ravi Hegde, is reported to have left Suvarna News and joined Udayavani as editor.

K. Shiva Subramanya, who took over from Ranganath as editor of Kannada Prabha, is reported to have indiciated his decision to leave Kannada Prabha, with the entry of Vishweshwar Bhat, even as Vijaya Karnataka looks around for a full-time Kannada editor.

Whether Bhat will also have a say in Suvarna News or not will be clear in June when both the channel and the newspaper come under a common owner, but it is more likely than not that Bhat will be projected as a face on Suvarna News, both to push Kannada Prabha as a paper and to lend the channel more journalistic gravitas.

The editorial-musical chairs in Bangalore had set the Kannada tabloids and blogs on fire over the last couple of months, with allegations, counter-allegations, innuendos and insinuations, all showing Kannada journalistic egos in very poor light.

Bhat’s resignation also resulted in an ugly war of words with his longtime friend, Ravi Belagere, editor of the popular Hi! Bangalore tabloid. Till recently fought from the shoulders of the former Vijaya Karnataka columnist Pratap Simha, the squabble has increasingly become personal, with Bhat reportedly even sending off a legal notice.

Pratap Simha welcomed Bhat’s decision on his blog thus:

“Our dear editor VISHWESHWAR BHAT has joined “KANNADA PRABHA” just now!! He is the man who gave different dimension to Kannada Journalism, he is the man who captured the imagination of us through his journalistic skills, he is the man who changed the way v all used to think, he is the man who made stars out of writers, he is the man who gave forum to nationalistic views which were unheard until his arrival. I have reason to believe that, his new innings will set new standards and new parameters in Kannada Journalism. Just WATCH OUT…”

Also read: ToI group editor in a flap over honorary doctorate

A blank editorial, a black editorial & a footnote

Is the management responsible for content too?

Is Vijaya Karnataka ready for a Dalit editor?

The timidity of the Ultimate Playsafe Alliance

20 January 2011

In November 2007, the US embassy in Delhi sent a cable to Washington, which was revealed later by Wikileaks. It said, among other things, “Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Proof in the new year comes in the form of the reshuffle of the Manmohan Singh team.

***

# Manini Chatterjee in The Telegraph:  “The much-awaited cabinet shuffle turned out to be an uninspired and uninspiring exercise that has only served to reinforce — rather than end — the sense of confusion and drift gripping the Manmohan Singh-Sonia Gandhi-led UPA in their second term in power.”

# Editorial in The Indian Express: “Reshuffling a pack fools nobody…. The UPA might think that good optics are enough. They are not. And the truth is that a mere reshuft fle is not even good enough optics. The crisis the UPA faces requires not just reshuffling, but discards.”

# Editorial in The Times of India:  “UPA-II has been buffeted by corruption scandals and spiralling food inflation. And it’s been under sustained attack from an opposition that’s smelt blood. A cabinet rejig was just what it needed to signal changed course and renewed combativeness. Manmohan Singh required it especially, not just as a reminder of his authority as prime minister but because the buck for governance shortfall stops at his door. As things turned out, the reshuffle was a damp squib, signifying no real change to the status quo. Barring some exceptions, it focussed neither on projecting result-oriented ministers nor the youth factor.”

# Editorial in The Economic Times: “The lack of ambition in the reshuffle is borne out by the failure to drop anyone from the Council of ministers. All that we see is some wagging of the prime ministerial finger here, a mild rap on the knuckle there and a more liberal use of that mortification called making someone stand in a corner.”

# Editorial in DNA: “It can be argued that cabinet reshuffle is not meant to send out political signals about which way the ideological wind is blowing and that it is just a reassigning of work. That is not convincing enough.”

# Vinod Sharma in the Hindustan Times: “One had expected Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to renovate his ministerial council with fresh talent and out-of-the-box thinking. To that extent, he comes across as having rearranged furniture without completely discarding rickety chairs and faded upholstery. The makeover is partial, even half-hearted with ministers shifted from one portfolio to another.”

Cartoons: courtesy R. Prasad/ Mail Today; E.P. Unny/ The Indian Express

Chetan Bhagat has some advice for Lingayats

16 January 2011

Chetan Bhagat, the author of numerically titled bestsellers as One Night @ The Call Center, The 3 Mistakes of Life, and 2 States, pronounced by Time magazine as the one of the “100 most influential people in the world“, and installed in the nation’s consciousness as a columnist, has a piece in today’s Sunday Times of India, in which the IIT-IIM grad says Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yediyurappa has to go.

Yep, he’s got to go. Someone needs to give Yeddy a teddy and kiss him goodbye,” in the memorable words of the author.

In the piece, Bhagat, also has a word of advice for Lingayats in the State, the people as well as the godmen backing Yediyurappa despite all that has happened.

“A word to the Lingayat community. It is wonderful to be loyal to your own. But loyalty does not mean supporting wrongdoers . A corrupt Lingayat leader is first and foremost, just a corrupt leader. Keeping him in power merely gives the community a bad name. The Lingayats are known for their code of honour. I’m sure there are other honest leaders you can support, and help build a better nation in the process.”

Read the full article: A goodbye teddy for Yeddy

Illustration: Sorit Gupto, courtesy Outlook*

* Dislcosures apply


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