Posts Tagged ‘Praful Patel’

The Times of India and Commonwealth Games

3 September 2010

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: The year of the lord 2010 has seen the The Times of India in uber-aggressive mode.

The nation’s largest English daily that rarely ever wants to “afflict the comfortable” despite its size, reach, reputation, resources and influence, has pulled out all stops in exposing the murky IPL dealings of Lalit Modi, Union minister Sharad Pawar and his MP-daughter Supriya Sule, and their NCP partyman Praful Patel.

In all those four IPL-related stories, Times provided blanket coverage and then let matters rest after a while. But if there is one story on which it has been relentless in the last couple of months, it is its attack on the Commonwealth Games (CWG)—and Pawar’s former factotum, Suresh Kalmadi.

Day after day, Times has employed reporters, editors, columnists, authors, even commissioned industrialists, to rip the games and the chairman of its organising committee apart, with the kind of first-rate journalism that ToI has condemned to play second fiddle over the last decade.

A cursory count shows that between 1 August and 2 September 2010, The Times of India (Delhi market) has published no less than 107 negative headlines on the Commonwealth Games (sample them here) with the author Chetan Bhagat just short of advocating a boycott of the CWG on the pages of The Sunday Times of India (in image, above).

Given how rarely ToI wants to rock the boat, the question that is naturally being asked in Delhi and Bombay is, why. What’s behind the Times‘ new-found aggro?

Legitimate journalism, is of course the easiest explanation for ToI‘s proactivism. The fact that the CWG is in a mess—inflated bills, corrupt deals, leaky stadiums, incomplete facilities, etc—is beyond doubt, and Suresh Kalmadi’s own culpability in this (and other) dubious deals is also beyond question.

After all, if politicians like Mani Shankar Aiyar can ask searching questions on the CWG, why shouldn’t a newspaper?

Yet, it is unnatural for a “feel-good” newspaper like The Times of India, whose advertised credo is to wake up the reader with a good feeling in his head, to rub in the bad news in the all-important Delhi market, day in and day out. Moreover, bigger scams involving more important people have been allowed to rest.

So, what gives?

There are no answers, just whispers.

But for over a fortnight now, journalists have been hissing about a four-page document that reportedly suggests that the Times‘ interest in the story may be more than just journalistic.

Now, it is up on Flickr (and Scribd).

The first page of it is a signed November 2009 letter from a director of Times of India group (C.R. Srinivasan) on a ToI letterhead to Suresh Kalmadi, outlining the “costumer connect initiatives” the group proposes to undertake.

“Kindly let us know of your decision to grant ‘official newspaper’ status to The Times of India at your earliest convenience,” concludes Srinivasan’s letter.

The second page is a signed note from Times Group general manager Gautam Sen to the additional director-general, communications, of the CWG organising committee, presenting a “comprehensive print proposal” (for Times of India, Navbharat Times, Maharashtra Times, Mirror and Sandhya Times) along with a rate-card.

For 2-page reports on five key milestone days (carrying a half-page ad of CWG at DAVP (department of audio visual publicity) rates and a half-page ad at commercial days); for six one-page reports (where in 65% of the page will have edit and 35% will be paid-for); and 12 full pages of advertorial at DAVP rates, Times proposes a Rs 12.19 crore package.

For a claimed combined nationwide circulation of 51.84 lakh copies for the five dailies, the breakdown is Rs 4.61 crore + Rs 3.31 crore + Rs 4.27 crore = Rs 12.19 crore.

The last-two pages doing the rounds—an unsigned note from a bureaucrat to a senior bureaucrat or to Kalmadi himself, explaining the fineprint of the proposed Times package—leave little to the imagination.

In summary, the ToI proposal has the following benefits:

# OC [organising committee] in totality pays for 16.6 pages and in return gets the leverage for 28 pages.

# It [ToI group] has the potential to form opinions of the public at large. It is also expected that with the influence that the ‘Response’ department has over editorial, the OC can get neutral and positive coverage from now to the Games.

# We can consider and extended and beneficial deals with ToI‘s other properties viz, TV, radio, internet, etc, including Economic Times (all editions) may be requested of ToI.

While on the face of it, the sum of Rs 12.19 crore may seem large, the benefits offered on a national basis are considerable and the proposal should be considered favourably.

Obviously, these notes and letters do not represent the full story and there is nothing—repeat, nothing—in them to suggest that the Times‘ coverage of CWG and Kalmadi has a connection with this and/or other correspondence.

But judging from the CWG coverage so far, it is fair to assume that ToI did not get the “official newspaper” status. (The buzz is that Hindustan Times has received that status with a lower than Rs 12.19 crore bid. At what terms HT secured the ‘My Delhi, My Games’ tag is not known, but Delhi’s two biggest English dailies do not come out smelling of roses.)

Judging from the hyper-ballistic coverage of CWG and Kalmadi on Times Now, it is also reasonably safe to assume that the plan to extend the deal to Times‘ other properties came to nought. (CNN-IBN swung the baton rights’ deal, unlike Times Now and the other aggrieved bidder, NDTV.)

Nevertheless, at a time when other Indian media specialities like “medianet, paid news” and “private treaties” have become the flavour of the season, the four-page ToI-CWG note lays bare the alarming interplay between editorial and advertising in Indian media houses like never before.

The two-page note appended to the Times‘ managers’ notes also shows how advertisers are confident of buying “neutral and positive coverage” if they can throw a few crores.

Conversely, the bottomline is clear: if an advertiser doesn’t play along, there is hell in store.

Also read: Why Delhi shouldn’t host Commonwealth Games

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Mani Shankar Aiyar ‘anti-national’?

Why Ram Pyari couldn’t take her daughter home

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

9 June 2010

Indian politicians and public servants are masters at making money off the living—and the dead.

George Fernandes played over the dead bodies of the martyrs of Kargil in the coffin scam. Money raised for the victims of the devastating tsunami were diverted in Tamil Nadu without batting an eyelid. Time magazine’s Asian Hero one month for flood relief, IAS officer Gautam Goswami was soon in the doghouse.

And so it is with Karnataka Congress president R.V. Deshpande who lists “service to mankind, especially poor” among his interests, and has just been exposed for misuse of funds collected for last year’s flood in Karnataka. The state Congress is alleged to to have used flood relief funds for buying air tickets, t-shirts and advertisemens.

What is the one question you are dying to ask Deshpande? Like, since the IPL-tained Praful Patel is his son’s father-in-law, does hera-pheri run in the family? Like, is this why he stalled the attempts to secure information about his assets and liabilities because they are “personal and confidential“?

Please contribute generously.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Must read: A 1,611 per cent jump in assets in five years. Hello!

By George, it’s pati, patni aur woh and some crores

CHURUMURI POLL: Plane trouble or human error?

22 May 2010

Aeroplane technology has unquestionably improved by leaps and bounds. “Fly by wire technology” is a phrase that trips off the tongues of airline executives and experts, hacks and flacks. But, globally, there is a sad pattern to air crash investigations: in the end, because there is nobody to defend themselves and because the aircraft companies have well-oiled PR companies with enormous lubrication powers, it is all pegged to “human error”.

So it was in Bangalore in 1991, when an Airbus A-320 fell short of the runaway at the old HAL airport in broad daylight and bumped off the golf course into a blazing ball of fire. And so it will be in Mangalore, where this morning, a Boeing 737-800 either fell short of the runway or overshot the runway, depending on your news source.

For a couple of days, the talking heads will froth at the mouth about safety standards, airport infrastructure, etc, before it is business as usual. Few will talk of the extraordinary role Praful Patel, the civil aviation minister, has played in singularly bringing Air-India, Indian, and Indian Airlines to the ground, as the competition soars.

So, what do you think caused the Mangalore air crash that turned the dreams and hopes and prayers of 160-odd people and their families into a pile of ash in minutes? And will things ever change in India?

Anjushathamanam janangal matrame Tharoorine…

18 April 2010

Rajiv Gandhi didn’t have to go for the Bofors scandal.

A. Raja wasn’t asked to go for the spectrum scam. Kamal Nath stays despite the rice export scam. P. Chidambaram stays after presiding over the biggest mass murder of his own men. Neither the relentless suicides in Vidarbha nor the rise in food prices or a multitude of scandals, said and unsaid, can dislodge Sharad Pawar. His crony Praful Patel stays despite running Air-India into the ground.

Shashi Tharoor?

The New Indian Express goes to 523 Thiruvananthapuramkarans to get a feel of what the people in his constituency think of the IPL hungamam.

The answer? “Verum anjushathamanam janangal matrame Tharoorine ozhivakkanamennu aagrahikkunnulloo.”

Image: courtesy The New Indian Express

Watch the video: Stephen Cobert with Shashi Tharoor

Also read: TWEET THIS: Shashi Tharoor and Globalisation 2.0

CHURUMURI POLL: Is there a scam in the IPL?

‘Business is now just an extension of politics’

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Jet right to sack employees?

16 October 2008

Jet Airways has let go of hundreds of employees, a day after tying up with Kingfisher Airlines, in the first, visible manifestation of the global economic crisis hitting home.

Union civil aviation minister Praful Patel says it is an internal company matter of human resources and the government has no role to play. The Jet management avers that these job losses are imperative to save the jobs of others and to see the company through this downturn.

Meanwhile, the politicians have jumped in. Petroleum minister and Bombay Congress strongman Murli Deora has slammed the job cuts, and Raj Thackeray of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has threatened to ground Jet in Bombay. The left parties, usually very vociferous, have remained silent.

Are such abrupt job cuts a sign of the times, or a shape of things to come? Or, are the airline owners using the “aviation crisis” to balance their books to enhance “shareholder value”? Is it right or wrong to drop the young employees like hot potatoes at the first sign of trouble?

1,611 per cent jump in assets in 5 years. Hello!

1 May 2008

The gentleman in the picture possesses the most famous set of silver strands in Karnataka politics.

When he got his son married off to Union civil aviation minister Praful Patel‘s daughter in November 2006, the who’s who of politics (P. Chidambaram, Dayanidhi Maran, Amar Singh, Ram Vilas Paswan, Jaipal Reddy) posed with the bride and groom.

When an educational trust named after his father was inaugurated in May 2005, “a galaxy of industry icons” (K.V. Kamath, Nandan Nilekani, T.V. Mohandas Pai, Sudha Murthy, Baba Kalyani, R. Gopalakrishnan, Vijay and Vikram Kirloskar) was there to lend glitter.

He is, of course, R.V. Deshpande.

For years now, Deshpande has stalled attempts to secure information of his assets and liabilities filed before the Karnataka Lok Ayukta for two years 1986-87 and 2004-05 using the Right to Information Act.

Deshpande has consistently said that the information given by legislators is “personal and confidential“, and should not be made available to the public as it had no relationship to any public activity or interest. Revealing the details would cause an unwarranted invasion of the privacy of the individual.

Personal? Confidential? Intrusion of privacy?

You bet.

Deshpande, 61, who is the Congress candidate from Haliyal constituency in the 2008 assembly elections, has filed the mandatory affidavit before the returning officer, and every line of it reveals why Deshpande has been so cagey about his assets and liabilities.

# Deshpande’s assets at the time of the May 2004 elections: Rs 9 crore.

# Deshpande’s assets at the time of the May 2008 elections: Rs 145 crore.

That Rs 136 crore jump is one part of the “Deshpande Shining” story. The other part is the pathbreaking empowerment of women in the Deshpande family (and indeed in most political families), as a result of which women of the house are all miraculously worth more than the men.

# Deshpande owns properties of Rs 47.83 crore; Radha Deshpande owns properties of Rs 97.74 crore.

# Deshpande has Rs 1.66 lakh in cash; Radha Deshpande has Rs 12.92 lakh in cash.

# Deshpande has Rs 26.78 lakh in deposits; Radha Deshpande has Rs 2.94 crore in deposits.

# Deshpande has investments worth Rs 21.87 crore in various companies, Radha Deshpande has investments of Rs 63.68 crore.

# The share of Mr and Mrs Deshpande in the undivided family is Rs 12.58 crore.

# Mr and Mrs Deshpande have national savings certificates and insurance policies of Rs 4 crore; gold, silver and diamond jewels of Rs 59 lakh; agricultural property and sites worth Rs 4 crore; residential and commercial buildings worth Rs 6 crore.

Deshpande has been a member of the 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th assemblies. Deshpande has held six different portfolios: minister for small scale Industries, agriculture, housing, major and medium industries, infrastructure development, and co-operation.

But can anybody explain how a man who lists “service to mankind, especially poor” among his “other interests” saw a 1,611 per cent appreciation in his assets in the last four years?

The Sensex ended 2004 at 6602; yesterday in 2008, it was 17,287. When the Sensex has seen a 261 per cent jump in a four-year period, how has the “Deshpande Story” been 6.17 times better than the “India Story”?

Oops, sorry, we missed something. Deshpande owes financial institutions Rs 2,032.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: A snapshot of a poor, debt-ridden farming family

And a snapshot of a simple devotee of Lord Rama