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August 2007-Newspaper Watch

Newspaper Watch for the month of August  2007. Daily Critical Indian Newspaper Watch Archives on various topics, issues. Includes both Hindi and English newspapers For current newspaper watch, view the homepage

31st August 2007

Real State

Many leading newspapers had carried report on slight decrease in the number of farmer suicides in Vidharba, but none tried to get into the depth of this 'decline'. Today, Sainath,  Magsaysay Award winner, in “Vidharba: packing an anniversary” (Hindu) has looked into the vital question-“ Is there a decline in the number of farm suicide? To which he says-“ What has “declined” is the number of such death that the government accepts as eligible for compensation.. The levels of distress are appalling and we how see multiple suicides in the same households. ..You would think that this any State would move in emergency mode. All the government of Maharashtra has told its officials that the “numbers” must come down (Election year not too far). And so they do….so how did the suicides “decline”? By taking the figure of 2,832 and breaking it up into absurd subgroups…”. And he elaborates in detail. A must to read.

Archival Flash:

 " India is an agricultural country where 90 per cent of the population depends of agriculture. As a class the Indian agriculturists live a hand-to-mouth existence. With this present world-wide trade depression the prices of agricultural products have gone down abnormally and therefore the lot of the agriculturists have become more pitiable. The agriculturists are the backbone of the IndianState and with these people kept half fed and half clothed the IndianStatecannot ever prosper. It is the first and foremost consideration for every government of the land to try to better the condition of the lot of these people. Sir, it is high time that government, instead of shedding crocodile tears for the masses should do something by which they can get better education, better living and can be more prosperous…: Honorable Mr. Jagadish Chandra Banerjee ” (Council of State. 4/09/1933)

30th August 2007

Sensational Headline

The news of Violence in Agra (Uttar Pradesh) and Gohana (Haryana) has taken space on the front pages of many newspapers

The sensational front page headline of the day has been carried by Dainik Bhaskar –“Flames of violence in whole country.” However its front page reporting is focussed totally on violence in some cities of Haryana. But there is not a word regarding violence in any other parts of the country. On page 4, under the heading-“remaining from page one”, subheading –“in whole country..” the report talks about violence in different cities of Haryana. However another report on the same page is focused on violence in the city of Agra, Bhagalpur, and Assam (but doesn’t mention the name of the city). Scanned many  other newspapers for violence in Bhagalpur and Assam, but found no news/report!

Point to ponder- when there are no flames of violence in whole country, why such a claim?  Sensational headlines sells, right? But is this kind of journalism justified?

Archival Flash- Have a look at the Question & Answer that took place years ago.

Honorable Raja Moti Chand: (a) Has the attention of the government has been drawn to the leading article in the Leadernewspaper of the 22nd January 1925, headed "The Problem of Swaraj” in which it is stated that “ an influential section of the British Press represent to the British public that India is on the brink of anarchy”, that they “create an altogether misleading impression as to the actual state of affairs” and that “they are of a propagandist nature intended to frighten the British public”?

(b) Do the government propose to taka any action in the matter?

 The Honorable Mr. J. Crerar: Government have seen the articles but do not consider it necessary to take any action in respect of it”
                                                                            (Council of State. 16/3/1925)

29th August 2007

Motto Scan

It is often believed that the motto of the newspaper, printed at the top of the front page, is supposed to set the tone for everything that it represents. From today’s scan of 22 Indian newspapers, it appears that Hindi newspapers are more enthusiastic in putting up their motto at the top of the front page vis-à-vis the English newspapers. Prominent newspapers in English like Hindustan Times, Times of India, Economic Times, DNA, Telegaph, Deccan Herald, Asian Age, and Pioneer did not carry any motto on top of their front page. Have a taste of mottos of the ‘enlighten’ newspapers:

"Most popular in the Hindi world” Aaj (Hindi) 
"69 years of service to the nation"- Assam Tribune (English)
"India’s fastest growing newspaper”. Dainik Bhaskar(Hindi)
"World’s most read newspaper”. Dainik Jagran (Hindi)
"Complete Newspaper of North India” Dainik Tribune (Hindi)
"The largest circulated daily in Andhra Pradesh”. Ennadu (Telegu)
“Read to lead”.Financial Express (English)
"Delhi’s only complete Hindi daily”. Haribhoomi (Hindi)
"India’s  national newspaper since 1878”. Hindu (English)
"Journalism of courage”.Indian Express (English)
"India’s most spread Hindi newspaper”. Punjab Kesari (Hindi)
“means full truth”.Rashtriya Sahara(Hindi)
"of this land, for its people”.Sentiel (English)
"Voice of the people”. Tribune (English)
National Newspaper- opens door of wealth”. Viraat Vaibhav (Hindi)

 Point to ponder- Does motto of a newspaper really make a difference? Or it’s just another advertising gimmick? 

28 August 2007

Ad Special-
For those who cannot read it!

An advertisement by the largest bank in India -State Bank of India- has appeared on the front page of Times of India and Hindu which claims-“ We provide farmers with more than agricultural loans. We also give them dreams and aspirations”. However this ad also mentions- “Pure Banking Nothing Else”. Are dreams and aspirations a part of pure banking? 

If the bank was really serious about the welfare of the farmers, it should have increased its spread in rural areas; so how many new rural branches has it opened? There is no mention here! Further, this ad has not appeared in any of the Hindi newspapers that were scanned today- Hindustan, Punjab Kesari, Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar,  How many farmers will be able to read this ad in English that too in the Delhi Edition of English newspapers is anyone’s guess! 

Moreover, the crucial issue- are dreams and aspirations sufficient to ensure that farmers will be able to repay agricultural loans? How to ensure farmers will not follow the Vidharba way? What has the largest bank in India done to reduce the crisis faced the Vidharba farmers? Is there no ‘social responsibility’ for this largest public sector bank in India? 

A ‘distressing’ update - 12 more farmers in Vidharba region have committed suicide. Most of them failed to repay bank loans (Hindustan Times. Pg. 11).

27 August 2007

Ad cheers

20 Liquor companies such as United Breweries, Diageo India, United Spirits and Seagram were made to withdraw their ‘surrogate’ ads for the period between April and June this year by Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). Why? “ the absence of specific information, the ad appears to be a surrogate as for a liquor brand” as the visual and headline did not bear any relevance to the product advertised. (Hindu BusinessLine. 21/8/2007). 

Now, Seagram is showing keen interest in a musical concert, as reflected in today’s advertisement- “Seagram’s 100 Pipers Pure Music presents…..concert..”  (Hindustan Times). “Entry by invitation only” in fine prints is the key to this ad! Why? The ad fails to mention how to get hold of this invitation! Hence, the general public is out, so who is in? No prizes for guessing it right! 

That’s not all. Have a look at the liquor hoarding- 'Chivas Regal CHIVAS' on ‘DLF Mega Mall’, a prominent Mall in DLFCity-in Gurgaon, a cyber city near New Delhi.  Now, don’t say Chivas Regal is not a whisky but a swiss chocolate! What next? The liquor shops in the same city are displaying big ads featuring liquor bottles without any restrain! The list seems endless, that too in the land of Mahatma Gandhi?


26 August 2007

Mahatma Gandhi’s disciples?

While speaking on “Relevance of Gandhian philosophy in the 21st century” in South Africa,  the  Congress President, Sonia Gandhi said-“ The simple truth is that instead of diminishing in relevance, Mahatma Gandhi has actually become all the more pertinent in the 21st century…We would be doing great injustice if we didn’t interpret, in contemporary terms, what he spelled out in the context of his times. He would have wanted  us to experiment and find in our own way without compromising our fundamental beliefs” (Hindu). 

Yes, she is right; teachings of Mahatma Gandhi are indeed relevant today. But how much of his fundamental beliefs are followed in India? Does experimentation mean totally disowning his fundamental beliefs?

 Take for instance- Gandhi was strongly against liquor, considered it a ‘curse’.  According to him, if he was made a dictator for only few hours, then his first act would be to close down all liquor shops without paying them any compensation. (Young India. 1/9/1921). But now instead of even remotely following his teachings, Delhi government has proposed to lower the liquor drinking age from 25 to 21. Times of India reports-“ they (Delhites) see it as a halfway measure. The refrain heard across the city is, why not make it 18..”. Really! But this newspaper has not carried any survey to substantiate, so how reliable is its claim of carrying the opinion of Delhites?  Further The Times of India feels “ It’s good the Delhi government plans to lower the drinking age to 21. But it should be 18..”. Next to this report is the news that 85 year old retired governmental official has been murdered by his alcoholic son in East Delhi as he refused to give money for liquor. 

What would have been the take of Mahatma Gandhi on this :

“ ..There will who will continue to drink even through Swaraj is established. Those must be tackled after Swaraj..” (15/10/1924)

“..Drink makes a man forget himself. He creases to be a man for the time being. He becomes less than a beast and he is unable in his drunken state to distinguish between his wife and sister. He loses control over his tongue and other limbs. It never does the slightest good. I hope, therefore, that you will combat the curse with all your strength..” (23/3/1925)

“..But there is no moral justification for saying that if one man commits a vice, others also should do like wise, or may do likewise. Why should I tell a lie because tens of thousands of my neighbours may be telling lies? If thousands commit suicide, why should I commit suicide? And I want to say that taking intoxicating liquors is almost like committing suicide, because a man or a women who takes intoxicating drinks and gets mad, kills his or her soul, for the time being. Surely death of the soul is worse than death of the body…(18/2/1934) 

“Intoxicating drinks are in no way necessary for retaining ourselves. ..Drunken men and drunken women also have been known all over the world over to do things, of which they would be ashamed if they were sober. Only yesterday, I heard as I was driving that two drunken men were quarrelling amongst themselves, with the result that one died on the spot, and the other is now lying in the hospital. At this movement of self-purification, I would like every one of those who are given to this vicious habit to come with a firm resolution never more to touch fiery liquors. It will be a matter of very great joy if my fellow workers are able to report to me that many of you have given up the drink altogether”(Hindu. 4/2/1934)

Surely the liqour proposal of the Delhi Government is not in lines with the philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi. Does it mean that all Indians have disowned his fundamental belief on liquor? Nope! Women in rural areas are protesting against liquor shops and are indeed Gandhi’s true disciples. 

Recently, women of Jhambut village in Shirur taluka in Pune district managed to close down a liquor shop operating in their village. How?  A special voting procedure sealed the fate of the permit room selling beer and Indian Made Foreign Liquor. The women took support from the rules of June 30, 2003 gazette of the excise department, wherein if 25 per cent of womenfolk in the village voted against the sale of liquor, it becomes mandatory for the excise department to close the shop immediately. Of the 978 women who turned up for voting, 836 voted against the shop. While 55 votes were disqualified only 87 voted for the liquor shop (Financial Express. 24/8/2007). Today, 5,371 women from the Rameshwari ward in south Nagpur will exercise their franchise for the closure of a liquor shop-cum-lottery shop-cum entertainment club (read gambling den) in the congested area. “Apart from being a nuisance in the area, the shop is threat to our girls,” declared Umatai Pimpalkar, a 65-year-old social worker, fondly called Jhansi Ki Rani for her activism. “We will shut down the shop democratically,” insisted Umatai. “Girls can’t move out of their homes after evening, as it has become a den for criminals,” says Usha Pande, an activist of the daru-bandi movement. As the police get their cut from the owner, there is no vigil near the shop, she alleges. (DNA,24/8/2007). 

Who cares if a minority of rich, elite voice  their support for liquor- Mahatma Gandhi is alive here. But even after 60 years of independence, a struggle for his fundamental belief continues? 


25 August 2007

Result to rejoice?

India has managed to barely come out of the world’s truly corrupt group. This has been revealed by Forbes survey which involved specialists, opinion leaders, business officials and human rights monitors who live, work, travel extensively in each of the countries ranked (Asian Age). But is this fair to focus only on the ‘elite’ and leave aside the real suffers of corruption – the common man? Why not ask them the state of corruption instead of these 'sophisticated elites' who are a class apart.

Times of India has carried the details of panel discussion on ‘India & Leadership’ as part of Lead India initiative. Here social activist & classical dancer– Mallika Sarabhai claimed- “There’s is hardly anyone untouched by corruption. Indiamust be the only democracy where neta after neta and babu after babu has been publicly exposed as corrupt but not one has been stripped of his ill-gotten crores”. 

Right, but she has forgotten to mention other sections of the society, who too have a share in the corruption bounty. The wish to get rich-quick by any means is showing & spreading. But can’t this corruption be curbed? This brings up the crucial issue of the quality of governance and accountability. Yes, it’s a hot topic that gets numerous suggestions, opinions in seminars, books, discussions but nothing concrete is actually achieved. Why? Ask farmers of Vidarbha region ofMaharashtra for details and also watch some Bollywood movies!?


24 August 2007

 Stocking Absence

The stock market has climbed to unprecedented levels, but can an average Hindi speaking common man can track its movement? The only medium easily available to him is the Hindi newspaper. How far are the Hindi newspapers keeping him informed of the individual stock movements? 

Dainik Bharkar carried information of BSE top five gainers & losers but names of companies are in English; Punjab Kesarihas carried quite a few names of BSE companies, alphabetically, again in English. Interestingly all the names of commodities are listed are in Hindi! Further a numerical figure is printed in front of each company, which appears to be stock price but doesn’t mention whether it’s LTP, high, low or average price. While Amar Ujala has given in detail the stock prices, stock futures, mutual funds and top five NSE & BSE gainers and losers. And all this is again in English. But the newspaper is not carrying details of commodity prices. Of the total 12 Hindi papers scanned, Hindustan has given maximum space for stock markets, mutual funds- but all in English. Though next to stock details are the details of commodities, names of which are in Hindi! Why names of companies listed in the stock market are not in Hindi? Some would point out when in NSE & BSE, there is no Hindi, why point us! 

However majority of Hindi newspapers- Veer Arjun, Navbharat Times, Shah Times, Dainik Tribune, Jansatta, Virat Vaibhav, Haribhoomi, Dainik Jagran have not carried company-wise details of the stock market, even in English!

23 August 2007

Survey Blues

The Indo-US Nuclear Deal is a hot topic everywhere, so how about conducting a survey on this! The two leading English Newspapers did the same. Hindustan Times declared the  survey results yesterday while Times of India has carried the results today. 

Without getting into the poll results, a word about their basic methodology. The Times-TNS survey has been conducted in 8 cities- Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkota, Chennai, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Lucknow and Kochi. While the survey by C fore for Hindustan Times was carried out in five cities- Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkota, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram. However, neither HT nor TOI have justified the reasons for selection of these cities. Anyway, what about choice & number of respondents? The Poll for Hindustan Times was conducted on “statistically selected sample of 586 respondents”. It did not elaborate on the kind of statistical selection. Moreover, is it fair to present the result of this survey as the voice of India- ‘INDIA SPEAKS’…India Confused. EVERY FIFTH person thinks Indo-US civil nuclear deal is unfair to us..BUT EVERY SECOND person doesn’t even know what the deal is about”(Hindustan Times. Front page. 22/8/2007). Remember around 70 per cent of Indians live in rural areas but in both polls their voice is totally absent. The Times-TNS survey is a “manually-conducted, sampled survey”. But the paper did not elaborate on the meaning of ‘sampled survey’. More to come- no word about the number of respondents! The break up of results of this poll is displayed colorfully at length on page 9 under four categories- SEC A1, SEC A2, SEC B1, and SEC B2. Unfortunately, there is not a word about the meaning of above technical ‘SEC’ slang! The poor reader is at loss! 

Point to ponder- should one take the results of these polls seriously? Remember, not long ago, how badly the exit polls had fared!

22 August 2007

Quest for Happiness?

Are youths in big Indian cities caught up a vicious consumer trap? With cushion of joint family non-existent in the buzzing metros; the nuclear set up has both parents working with little time for their kids. To get off the guilt, they give in for kid’s demands for money which is spent in nightclubs, discos, alcohol, cigarettes, designer consumer durables, cars..(Times ofIndia. New Delhi Edition Pg 17). Yes, it’s show-off all the way. But what about happiness? Don’t know!

Take a clue from American youths, and check out what makes them happy? Contrary to the prevailing stereotypical perception of a rebel, majority are happy spending time with their family. Nearly three quarters said that their relationship with their parents make them happy. And surprisingly, none of respondents named ‘money’ when asked what makes them happy. The survey was conducted by MTV and Associated Press. (Times of India. New Delhi Edition. pg 39). Are Indian parents listening?

21 August 2007

Caption: Anything goes?

Yesterday was the Birth Anniversary of Late Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi and the nation fondly remembered the ‘visionary leader’.“A century of endeavour beckons us. Out of the past must arise, a glorious future. Let us build India- A new civilization, with strength of our heritage, the creativity of the spring time of youth and the unconquerable spirit of out people”. (Rajiv Gandhi, Quotation in Asian Age. 20/8/07).

Punjab Kesari, a Hindi daily, has carried a photograph of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, along her grandson at Veer Bhoomi. But according to caption  accompanying this photograph, they were going to pay homage to late Rajiv Gandhi on his 63rd Death Anniversary. Death Anniversary? It’s his birth anniversary not Death Anniversary. Is  this type of 'anything - goes' journalism justified?


20 August 2007 

In & Out

Reporting on high society has reached abysmal levels at the time when India reels under the worst floods in my living memory. I don’t think our media has come to terms with the damage it has caused: Darryl De Monte, journalist”(DNA.Mumbai). He is correct.

 Have a look at today’s papers and you will know why.  None of them have taken floods as the lead story. Floods have only appeared as brief news, PTI brief report on front page of Hindu, New Indian Express (Chennai) and Asian age. Hindu has expanded on the brief news on page seven, but again it’s the PTI report. Rashtriya Sahara has published a photograph that reflects the  flood situation in West Bengal on page 13 and separate brief news about floods in Assam on the same page. Of the 20 newspapers scanned, only Statesman is the sole exception, whose editorial has focused on floods-“ Bullets & lathis: To meet hunger in the time of floods”.

 It seems that the leading newspapers, have forgotten to regularly report in detail the sufferings, damage, rehabilitation related to the worst ever floods in recent times involving 30 million Indians. Remember floods don't come & go but leave behind large scale devastation.

But the leading newspapers have not forgotten carry reports/news on page three events, glamorous personalities, day after day. Is this fair? To this, many would still say - reporting on glamour is in while reporting on floods, suicides, and all those depressing things is out; after all India is a trillion dollar economy! So, why get surprised!

19 August 2007

Call of foreign land

India is a trillion dollar economy but the lure of ‘foreign-going & staying’ still remains. A ride in morning through the diplomatic area in New Delhi is sufficient to feel it! Many people even risk their lives and money in trying to get to foreign shores- illegally, while many try the legal way.

An ISO 9001:2000 certified Immigration Company has placed an ad- “ Don’t pay in lacs (Rs one lac= Rs. 100,000) UK Working Visa Stamped recently” along with photographs of 25 men & women (Tribune). And the cost? “Compete package cost initially Rs. 35,000 & Rs. 10,000 after getting visa”. What is the guarantee that this immigration consultancy company will not run away after taking Rs. 35,000? Further, can people without any education get work visa for two years as claimed by same ad, that too legally in UK? Remember not long ago, Indian doctors working in UK were having visa problems!

Another way is to “Settle in Australia through Study”, educates another ad (Times of India). So “Study & work Australia… Assured admission in World Class Universities better than DU” claims another ad (Times of India). How can one give surety of admission in World Class Universities?  Another ad informs that Australian Education Fair will be held on 21stAug 07 in Jalandhar and states –“ Apply now. Save upto Rs. 15,000 on application fees”. However another ‘Study inAustralia’ ad states-“ No application fees”(Tribune). Now, which is true? 

Similarly another ad claims-"Study & work in UK. Guaranteed admission in all major Colleges and Universities”(Times of India). Really! What would be the take of Oxford, LSE, Cambridge on this, are they so desperate for overseas students who pays them mind-blowing overseas fees that they have tied up with these companies? How can a common man judge whether these are genuine ads or disguised modes of ‘Human Trafficking’?
18 August 2007

The Big Story

Asian Age has carried ‘the big story’ which focuses on Commonwealth games in New Delhi in 2010-in three parts, by Rashme Sehgal, with the last part appearing today. The first part-“Will Commonwealth Games destroy Delhi?”, the Second part-“Five–star death threatens Delhi” and today’s concluding part is entitled– “Four bodies in race to grab money”. A must to read to understand the economics & interest groups associated with the Commonwealth Games. 

It concludes-“Large swathes of the city (Delhi) remain struggling and the third world. And yet the state does not think twice about creating the mirage of the ‘world class city’ so that a handful of contractors, realtors, bureaucrats and politicians can benefit” (Asian Age).

But some would still say- Why worry about the third world, remember India is a trillion dollar economy so we can afford mirage of the ‘world class city, why worry about adversarial environmental impact on Yamuna, when Yamuna is already a polluted river, why worry about some excess benefits to some…. don’t worry be happy! Now, how to convince them?


17 August 2007

Holy cow

The teachers of higher education seem fit to be a subject of a case study for the management students. Remember higher education is still a holy cow, which is opposing any substantial reforms including privatization and there is no concept of performance lined pay, promotion, perks here.

Central Government had proposed to raise the retirement age of central university teachers to 65 years with an option of extension up to 70 years (The Hindu, 23 September 2006). Raising  retirement age for teachers in Centrally funded educational institutions of higher learning across the country from 62 years to 65 was welcomed by educators (18 March 2007. Hindu). However   Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD Committee expressed its serious concern about increasing the retirement age of the teachers of the Central Educational Institutions from 62 to 65 years mainly because such a move is bound to deprive a large number of our qualified unemployed youth waiting for suitable employment. It would also discourage our bright young people to come to higher education. (Parliamentary Standing Committee on HRD. 193rd report. April 2007). 

What about the quality of teaching? 90 per cent of colleges and 68 per cent of universities across the country are of middling or poor quality, 57 per cent teachers in colleges don't have either an M.Phil or Ph.D (University Grants Commission’s National Assessment and Accreditation Council). What is the justification of increasing retirement of these teachers? How are they ‘distinguished’? Why not penalize them for poor quality?

 Now, the latest demand of the teachers of Delhi university- their salaries should to be at par with the corporate sector, while in terms of responsibility, wish to do less work than Government babus! Further they are demanding that they should be provided with better service conditions. They should be given computers and laptops, travel allowance should be increased and more staff quarters should be made available: President- DUTA (DelhiUniversityteacher’s Association). (Pioneer)


16  August 2007

Honesty Vs Efficiency?

India’s high rank in corruption is an open secret. Not surprisingly, Times of India leadership poll has revealed that biggest complaint against leaders is that they are not honest. However only 54 per cent of respondents spread across 12 big cities voted for honesty over efficiency. Variations were seen across cities. The Southern cities – Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderbad as well as Mumbai, Bhopal preferred efficiency over honesty while Delhi, Kolkota, Ahmedabad, Patna Lucknow,Chandigarh went the other way round (Times of India). 

Why should there be any trade-off between efficiency and honesty, anyway? Before going deeper into the trade-off, what is the meaning of ‘efficiency’ here? Does it means ‘effective governance’ or just to get work done by hook or crook? If former, then all is well but if latter is the definition, 'bunty-bubli' will  fit in the job well. But what will the net effect on the masses? No prizes for getting it right! How about conducting this poll on rural folks? Remember, 70 per cent of Indians live in rural areas.

ot very long ago, the chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir realized that most corrupt bureaucrats were also the most efficient one and the most honest are the most inefficient bureaucrats (Kashmir Times. 1/11/2006).


15 August 2007

60 years hence

Yes, India became independent on 15th August 1947 and we are celebrating its 60th Anniversary today. The newspapers of all languages are full of advertisements greeting the nation on this occasion. In fact  Nav Aakash, a 62 day old newspaper in Hindi, has devoted only one & half pages to news/reports/editorial out of total twenty pages, the rest is carrying only advertisements. Why? "..we wanted to cover a lot but time and resource constraints came in our way.." (Editor. Nav Aakash)

But have we really attained ‘Swaraj”? What is ‘Swaraj’ anyway? Mahatma Gandhi defined the Swaraj of his dreams in which the necessities of life would be enjoyed by the poor-“ in common with those enjoyed by the Princes and moneyed people (Young India. 26/3/1931). This did not mean, he explained that they should have the palaces like the princes. “They are not necessary for happiness. You or I would be lost in them. But you ought to get all the ordinary amenities of life that a rich man enjoys”. He wanted the constitution of India and for that matter for the whole world to be such that “no-one under it suffer from want of food and clothing. In other words everybody should be able to get sufficient work to enable him to make the two ends meet. (Young India. 15/11/1928).

The cartoon strip carried by Eenadu showing the state in 1947 & 2007 on its front page is must to view in this regard.


14 August 2007

Historical Blunder

According to a report carried by Amar Ujala, Jacqueline, the first Lady of United States came to India in 1962 and she was received by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru & his wife Kamla Nehru at the airport. “though according to any protocol, Nehru and his wife were not supposed to meet Jacqueline but due to Hindustani culture, they still went to the airport to receive her. But extremely beautiful Jacqueline took lot of time to apply make up due to which the Nehru couple had to wait for quiet a while : Lalit Mansingh, Former Foreign Secretary” (Amar Ujala. Page 2).

But Kamla Nehru had passed away on 28th February 1936, so how can she accompany Jawaharlal Nehru to meet Jackie in 1962? It’s terrible that a former foreign secretary is trying to change history.

“My wife’s death in Switzerland ended a chapter of my existence and took away much from my life that had been part of my being. It was difficult for me to realize that she was no more and I could not adjust myself easily. I threw myself in my work, seeking some satisfaction in it, and rushing about from end to end in India”. (Jawaharlal Nehru. An Autobiography, pg 599).


13 August 2007

 Educational Nightmare

 Why do we wait for an international report to tell a tale of our dismal state? “ A damming UNESCO report, which states that the Indian education system is mired in corruption & teachers are the biggest players in it, has left the HRD Ministry with a red face. The ministry is expected to reply to the charges levelled in the report in Parliament on Monday” (HindustanTimes). The report by UNESCO’s International Institute of Educational Planning points out that teacher absenteeism in India is among second highest in the world & cheating is now well established in Indian Universities. But this is not the first time that the dismal state of education has been exposed by recent survey reports: 

 Over 32,000 schools or almost 3 per cent schools do not have a single student as there was no teacher and many are set up in inaccessible areas. Forty-eight per cent of these schools, mostly at the primary level, are in rural areas (National University of Educational Planning and Administration)
Over half of the students who pass Class XII don’t even enter the higher-education sector; 90 per cent of colleges and 68 per cent of universities across the country are of middling or poor quality (University Grants Commission’s National Assessment and Accreditation Council)

The “quality gap” in both universities and colleges is alarming: 25 per cent faculty positions in universities remain vacant; 57 per cent teachers in colleges do not have either an M Phil or PhD; there is only one computer for 229 students, on an average, in college.(University Grants Commission’s National Assessment and Accreditation Council)

It seems HRD Ministry is too obsessed with two things- opening new Central Universities and advocating reservation, without paying adequate attention to the grieving state of existing educational institutions. 

Economic reforms are more than a decade old, but higher education has remained a holy cow. Why shouldn’t the State disinvest its stake in higher educational institutions and instead invest it in primary & secondary education? Let the private sector handle higher education. At present a very strange kind of privatization is found in University affiliated colleges. The Governing Body of these colleges is dominated by members selected by private trusts thought they contribute only 5% of the funds for running the college, rest coming from University Grants Commission. 

A lot is said about problems in selection of teachers, promotion, remuneration, but why is there no human resource management department in any University/College? Mostly found is an old administrative officer with obsolete diploma, who has not heard of HRM but has come up to the post thought the convenient ladder of promotion or/and lobbying. After effective HRM department, comes the necessity of performance linked pay for the teachers. Unless accountability is ensured, no effort, however sincere, can yield desirable results. But what if a higher official, say a Principal, is herself indulging in corrupt practices, how will accountability be assured here? Here it’s upto the teachers, students, staff and the media to expose the culprit and keep education a mission and not a ‘bunty-babli’ assignment. The list of suggestions is endless….


12 August 2007

International Recognition: Hindi style?

Hindi is the second most spoken language in the world following the Chinese. World Hindi Conference was recently held in New York with an appeal to India to make a concerted effort to mobilize other nations towards giving recognition to Hindi as the seventh official language of the United Nations. But what is the state of Hindi in India? 16 Hindi speaking people were gunned down in the State of Assam by a militant group. This is the second attack on the Hindi-speaking population within last three days (Tribune). Remember most of these Hindi speaking people are from Bihar who are engaged in contract farming in Assam, as employment opportunities are bleak in their own state. As the latest news has come in, killing of innocent Hindi speaking people has continued unabated in Assam. If Hindi speaking people not safe in India, how realistic is the demand to give recognition to Hindi as the seventh official language of the United Nations? 

And what about the state of Hindi in India, otherwise? “Be it Hindi newspapers, magazines, news channels, FM radio, or even Hindi films, nobody converses or writes in Hindi anymore: Hindi newspapers use English liberally in their write ups, in their editorials, in their headings, in the names of their column...Most advice readers on “how to learn English. Targeted at the upward mobile middle class, the newspapers seem to have given the go-buy to the ethics of the language…In truth there are fewer better ways of killing a language than; liberally using the words of another..” (Ziya Us Salam in Hindu). 

Learn English, Hindi style- doesn’t make much sense! Remember the upward mobile middle class has already acquired the working knowledge of English and if they wish to improve on it, surely reading a newspaper in English is a better option! But if Hindi newspapers really want their readers to learn a new language, why not teach – Tamil or any other regional language of India to Hindi readers. Surely, apart from expanding communication skills, this would strengthen national integration. But the question still remains- why only English words are being used in Hindi, why not words of other regional languages of India or other languages of the world? A hangover of English speaking colonial rule even after 60 years of independence!


11 August 2007

Gentle Giants

When a speeding truck killed four kanwarias (Pilgrims) on Allahabad Varanasi highway; the angry kanwarias set the truck on fire and damaged three dozen other vehicles. Likewise when a herd of wild elephants was crossing the railway track in Assam, a speeding goods train mowed down two calves. Result- angry tuskers, 40 in numbers, blocked the route. Forestofficials were called who persuaded the herd to move towards the forest. Big deal, what were the elephants doing on that railway track anyway, it’s their fault- some would say. But experts point out that it’s the railways that has encroached on elephant’s corridor (Asian Age). 

Both humans & elephants protest against injustice. But unlike humans, elephants don’t set vehicals on fire. If only they could ask us to pay the price for encroaching on their forest land. Then perhaps, we would have termed them - selfish giant?

10 August 2007

Living on the Edge

A nation of one billion people, a $1 trillion economy, and a $1,000.00 per capita income is definitely great stats for a few, but not a matter of celebration for 77 per cent of  India's population- 836 million Indians, who are dismally poor, living on Rs 20 per day (nearly half a dollar). And this disturning stats has been revealed by the first authoritative study on the state of informal or unorganized sector, which has been complied by National Commission for Enterprises in the unorganised Sector, a government affiliated body (Hindustan Times).

Technically speaking these people are above the poverty-line, so how can they be dismally poor? But remember, the poverty line is based on consumption data, which is not a correct indicator of overall well-being. Not surprisingly, the recent report has found that 84 per cent of small and marginal farmers are spending more than what they earn and often were caught in debt trap. So, what is the meaning of this so called poverty-line which ‘technically’ shows poor people above the self made poverty-line? 

Editorial Flash-back 

The Editorial in Tribune entitled –“India Grows” had pointed out “whenever a milestone is crossed in this country, there appears on the street hordes of spoilsports who point out to all that is wrong and come out with poverty figures as a proof of backwardness. They see only problems instead of challenges and achievements”. (28/4/07)

Point to ponder- whether economic growth is means to achieve sustainable development or an end by itself. Who are its beneficiaries & losers? And can a win-win situation be created for all? 

9 August 2007


The Indo-US nuclear civil deal- ‘123 agreement’ is back with a big bang, with the Left, supporter of the Indian government, rejecting the agreement while the Prime Minister has made it clear that –“123 will not be renegotiated” (Asian Age). The cartoon in Hindu displays the present state of the Prime Minister, courtesy the nuclear agreement.  What is the take of the Editorials in some of the  leading newspapers?

 “The text of the agreement-which operationalises the deal–reveals that the principal Indian concerns have been met…Most Indian scientists who had initially opposed the deal now think it’s a good one. But despite Indian reservations having been met, the Marxists and BJP have still not been assuaged. BJP’s response may be one of plain jealousy…It is a ritual with the Left to oppose the government while continuing to support it from outside..”(Times of India).

“ The Left parties have done well to reject the 123 agreement, and to link it with the Hyde Act and the larger strategic alliance between New Delhi and Washington. The government’s effort to delink the bilateral agreement on civil nuclear energy deal from the Hyde Act, thus stands exposed…Parliament will be stormy, but it is imperative for the political parties concerned about India’s future as an independent and sovereign democracy to ensure that the government is not able to go ahead with the nuclear deal under present terms and circumstances” (Asian Age).

 “…Now that the Indo-US deal is in the bag, guess who is most upset? Not the opposition BJP but government’s own allies, the Left parties...surely these reservations should have been earlier….By all accounts, New Delhi has got a decent deal for itself…we can expect that once the atmospherics are played out, the Left will quietly go along with the government in operationalising the deal” (Hindustan Times).

"....Much like the BJP, the CPM has chosen to raise a number of technical issues related to 123 agreement. Most of its arguments, including those on fuel supply assurances, deliberately misread it and misinterpretation the Hyde Act…The congress leadership, however must have the courage of conviction to call the CPM’s political bluff. What is at stake is not merely nuclear cooperation with the US, but the very history and legitimacy of Congress’s claim to defending India’s national interests” (Indian Express).

 “ …opposition by BJP is not based on principle, but is of political nature, while opposition by the Left is based purely on their principles. After all how would they face their voters? They have been opposing America day & night, while the government run by their support is getting friendly with the same America. It is ironical that they can’t dislodge the government. Therefore it’s their destiny to be seen opposing the government. Perhaps, destiny of today’s politics is also the same”(Amar Ujala).

 "Fury of the Left on the Indo-US nuclear agreement is not surprising…I believe that if this agreement is implemented with full honesty, the energy problem faced by India can be resolved to some extent. But I also believe that in the quest for energy solution, Manmohan Singh government has not hesitated in compromising India’s extended national interests…”(Special Editorial Punjab Kesari)

 The Editorial in Hindu has not focused on the deal, but has carried six letters to editors on the same. Vijayakumar from Bangalore has raised an important issue regarding the need for a comparative cost analysis for electricity generation -

“Even though a lot is being said about the Indo-US nuclear civil nuclear deal, one is yet to see a discussion in the public domain on the economics of nuclear power generation.”


8 August 2007


Is sixty years of independence a long time for us to celebrate, especially, when around 30 percent or 30 million of our people are affected by floods? Remember, majority of rural folks have no cushion of social security net or even insurance. Searched the leading newspapers in the capital for an urban public campaign for flood relief but found none.   

Nevertheless, advertisements have already started cashing on commercial aspect of 60 years of Indian independence. “Celebrate the spirit of freedom and patriotism…On 60 years of independence, pay only 60% of the price on selected hotels at over 45 weekend gateway destinations across India….valid for the first 1000 customers only” – offer of a travel portal (Times of India). “..Find out what the next 60 years have in store for India…”- TV channel (Indian Express), “Sixty years of Independence. Sixty diamonds to be won. One radio channel that tells you how”- radio channel (Mint).


7 August 2007

Flood Relief

India is experiencing the worst floods ever in last 30 years with 30 million people displaced across 20 States, 1,258 dead (Hindustan Times). How well is the relief operation going on?

“ We have not seen even a single relief official in the past one week”- Muneshwar Singh,  resident of Akharaghat. Bihar. (Hindustan Times)

Relief will arrive after people start dying of hunger”- Subhas, a resident of Samastipur. Bihar. (Hindustan Times)

 “..villagers face starvation. The administration has not helped in any way..” – Abdur Rehman (reporter. Hindustan Times).

  The editorials of the two leading English papers have minced no words in critically analyzing the reasons behind above state.

 “ The State government’s lack of preparedness is criminal, despite having information about the rising water levels and years of experience, as is their incapability to find an outside-the-box solution to the annual scourge.."  (Hindustan Times).

“…A country that allows hundreds to perish every year from such occurrences must examine the basics of its development plan…disaster relief is a bigger money-spinner than flood control. It generates a gravy train of beneficiaries and patronage networks..The situation can be addressed not through infusion of funds and relief alone, but through institutions that can ensure accountability & efficiency..” (Times of India).

Very true. Why don’t newspapers groups take the lead in ensuring accountability and efficiency of the ongoing relief operations by actually joining in the relief operations. Net Gain- blessings of the starving, homeless rural-folks and image enhancement leading to more readerships.  Win-win for both parties. Any takers?


6 August 2007

Cartoon Watch

It seems that after presidential polls, there is no single ‘juicy’ topic for ‘made in India’ cartoons. However the 2Ps (PunjabKesari & Pioneer) continue their practice of sharing the same cartoon, today, the focus is on –‘floods & instructions’. The ongoing floods in many Indian States have also caught the eye of the cartoonist of Hindustan. Others have focused on varied topics- Time magazine & India (Veer Arjun), Rally date (Dainik Tribune), blame & boss (Economic Times), Sonia & steps (Tribune), class for MPs & MLAs (Virat Vaibhav), Sanjay Dutt case (Jansatta), justice & war on terrorism (Hindu). Though the Indo-US nuclear deal is still hot, only Indian Express has carried a cartoon on it. The best Indian cartoon of the day has appeared in Dainik Bhaskar which focuses on the nexus between criminals and politicians on Friendship Day. However no Indian cartoon has appeared in Asian Age, Mahamedha, Dainik Jagran, Mint, Amar Ujala, Hindustan Timesand MetroNow. 

5 August 2007

 B/B Wanted Ads

Who says  marriages is made in heaven, instead most arranged marriages are possible through ‘Bride Wanted/ Bridegroom wanted’ ads, carried in the matrimonial supplement with  newspapers on Sunday.  Majority seeking Bride, search for a ‘right’ girl using several adjectives - “aware, understanding, very fair, with family values, qualified, working, English spoken, elegant, sophisticated, sensible, dignified in presentation, pretty, smart, homely, beautiful, educated, loving, religious, pleasant, high caste, cultured, vegetarian.” But there is very little mention- ‘no dowry’ or ‘simple marriage’ or ‘exposed to western culture’. While on the other hand, the bridegroom should be –“educated, suitable, well-settled, status employed, non drinker, local, professional, high income”. But why fewer adjectives for the bridegroom vis-à-vis the bride? Further, caste segmentation can be best viewed in these ads.

The Brits went home 60 years ago but their language continues to be viewed as a status symbol in India.  The Hindi newspapers are seen carrying matrimonial ads in English,  but none of the English papers carry any matrimonial  ads in Hindi.  

So what appeals more- “Famous Tamil Film Director, Hero, doing business also with big jewellery shop….” (Hindu) or “Punjabi sundar larka 5.9.82, 4 PM own atta mill 2,00,000/- monthly income. ..Sethi Risheto wala” (Punjab Kesari).  And remember the choice is for life?

4 August 2007

Saturday Muses

Protest- Juhi Style

If you are Juhi or Anarkali you can dictate terms to your boss, that too forcefully! Two she elephants (named Juhi & Anarkali), employed at Betla National park, situated in the State of Jharkhand, give tourists joy ride into deep forest. They give two joy rides in the morning but don’t like to work in the afternoon.  And only when shadows lengthen they resume work, and when evening gives way to twilight- time to stop work for the day. But when the mahout  (human master) tried to compel Juhi to go on a third trip, she got really angry and threw him off which fractured his legs (Pioneer. Front page). Humans can’t protest this way- lucky boss!

Protest- Prof Style

Gandhigiri was supposed to be on at  Commonwealth Village site to protect Yamuna’s bank. (Newspaper watch-3/08/07) which included  24 hour vigil and hunger strike by a  retired Professor. However when  the staff of MetroNow newspaper visited the site, the professor was nowhere to be found! His supporters tried to offer an explanation but in vain. Take of MetroNow –“ It’s necessary to save rivers like Yamuna from death. It’s equally important for a country like ours to be hosting international events. But what’s avoidable is the little games people play. And no, we aren’t taking any names”.  


 August 2007


Delhi Development Authority has published an advertisement –“ Facts of Environmental Clearance of Games Village”, which ends with number 10, the last fact – “The organizing of the Commonwealth Games 2010 is a prestigious project of international importance”. Some error in sentence ‘construction’ ? It further goes-“ It will enhance the image of the country all over the world for which DDA will ensure that all the conditions prescribed by the Ministry of Environment & Forest, Government of India are followed in letter and spirit.” (Hindustan Times). But the image of India is already on roll as ‘transforming/emerging economic giant’!

However, a lot is desired to achieve sustainable development.  Take the case of lifeline river of  Delhi- Yamuna, whose alarmingly high pollution level is there to stay, and now its riverbed is in danger, thanks to upcoming Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Why?  ‘plans to make malls, hotels and a Games Village in the riverbed is a destructive programme as this is the water recharge zone for the whole city...If juggis are removed under environmental regulations, then how is it that more permanent structures of concrete are being planned on the riverbed by government agencies?’ pointed Bhushan, a lawyer (Hindustan Times). What is the response of Delhites & others? A 24 hour vigil is on at the bank of river Yamuna by Resident’s welfare associations of Delhi, NGOs, and activities, volunteers who are worried about the adversarial impact of proposed Common Games village & associated commercial buildings on river Yamnua (Hindu). Gandhigiri in progress?

2 August 2007

Power Advt

The provision of quality & efficient infrastructure services is essential to realize full potential of  growth impulses surging through the economy (Economic Survey. 2006-07).  A half a page advertisement has appeared by Dept of Power. Government of NCT of Delhi with heading- “ We glorify the capital… without burning a hole in your pocket” and ends with“ Reducing Load shedding is our commitment- Lowest Power Tariff is our Commitment” (Times of India).  Sure, in Delhi, consumers pays one of the lowest electricity tariff in the country but load shedding is not uncommon here. This is not all. The Transmission & Distribution losses are still very high - around 40 per cent. In contrast, Mumbai’s T & D losses were only 12 per cent and in tandem with global benchmarks (Tribune. 12/04/07). 

Why are T & D losses so high, despite efforts of  private distributors in Delhi? Power theft continuing unabated? The Supreme Court had asked the Delhi Government and the three private distributors to specify the steps taken by them to prevent the power theft, which was the main reason for high T&D losses (Tribune. 14/07/2004). But why not a word in the Power Ad  that could persuade Delhi consumers against stealing power? Simple- ‘Why steal power when it is already so cheap’? 


1 August 2007

Magsaysay for Sainath

P. Sainath, Rural Editor of the Hindu has rightly won Magsaysay Award in the category-“Journalism, Literature and Creative Communications” as a recognition for his ‘passionate commitment as a journalist to restore the rural poor to India’s consciousness’. The citation accompanying the award had more to say- “ Sainath’s authoritative reporting led Indian Authorities to address certain discrete abuses and to enhance relief efforts. .. Sainth discovered that the acute misery of India’s poorest districts was not caused by drought, as the government said. It was rooted in India’s enduring structural inequalities- in poverty, illiteracy and caste discrimination- and exacerbated by recent economic reforms..”(Hindu). Point to ponder- How many such dedicated Sainaths are around in Indian Journalistic arena? Any guesses?

Clue- Newpaper Watch (27/7/07) -"When most correspondents are obsessed with either ‘page 3’ glamour or politics, P. Sainath has been contributing a series of investigative socio-economic articles on the plight of farmers in the Hindu".