Newspaper Watch (India) for the month of February 2009. For latest newspaper watch, view homepage

28 February 2009

Statistics Watch

The front page of most newspapers carry the news of slowdown of the Indian economy. The statistics for agriculture is not very encouraging, as it has shown negative growth of 2.2 percent for the quarter ending December 2008 against 6.9 percent in December 2007.

Hang on, given the complexity of the agriculture sector, should one judge the health of this sector in quarters, anyway? Is this not a result of a high base effect? Recently, the Union Minister of Agriculture had stated that Indian agriculture will not be affected by global meltdown and will continue to grow above the rate of 4 percent or above during coming year. He further added, that this year saw record production of wheat and there were indications of good rabi crop (wheat is the principle rabi crop). In the light of above, the Minister was considering giving green signal to wheat exports. (Rajasthan Patrika. 21/1/09). Now, who is spot on- Union Minister of Agriculture or these quarterly statistics? Keep guessing!

Auction Watch

The Indian government said that it would ensure Mahatma Gandhi’s personal belongings that (bowl, pocket watch, glasses etc) will not go under hammer in the upcoming auction in the United States and would bring them back to the country. The government has devised a three-pronged strategy- approach owners and request them to offer them to government on the basis of honour and due acknowledgement, approach auctioneers to buy at reserve price, request NRI or local Indian American Association to buy in the auction and donate to Indian govern (Times of India). Surely, Mahatma Gandhi won’t have approved of spending exchequer’s money for buying this stuff. Why not follow his core principles, instead? Hang on, who are the owners of these personal belongings anyway? Most of them are owned by a relative of Mahatma Gandhi, who should be forced to withdraw these personal belongings from auction and present it to any museum in the world. Exchange of any money will be disgrace to Gandhian philosophy!

Advertisement Watch

The newspapers are flooded with full page colored advertisements by government boosting their achievements. Yes, election is just around the corner. Further, the Directorate of Audio Visual publicity has hiked its advertisement rates by ten per cent. In addition, 15 percent waiver on agency duty was also announced. Reason, “economic slowdown has impacted the Indian media industry...”. Point to ponder- close to overdose, how many people actually bother to read these ‘boring governmental’ ads?
27 February 2009

Hunger Watch

Kounteya Sinha reports that United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has pointed out that India ranks 94th in the Global Hunger Index of 119 countries. India is failing its rural poor with 230 million people being undernourished — the highest for any country in the world. Malnutrition accounts for nearly 50% of child deaths in India as every third adult (aged 15-49 years) is reported to be thin (BMI less than 18.5). More than 27% of the world’s undernourished population lives in India while 43% of children (under 5 years) in the country are underweight. Has the targeted public Distribution system (TPDS) failed here? Yeap. Take a clue from the report-“ targeting errors arise due to imperfect information, inexact measurement of household characteristics, corruption and inefficiency….Another problem …was the issue of quantity of grain that a household would be entitled to. The TPDS initially restricted the allotments to BPL households to 10 kg per month. For a family of five, this amounts to 2 kg per capita. Using the ICMR recommended norm of 330 grams per day, the requirement per person per month would be 11 kg and that for a family of five would be 55 kg.’’ (Times of India). Why can’t this quantity be increased, especially when there is surplus stock in the country? The editorial of Financial Express deals with surplus cereals- “Wheat stocks on April 1, 2009 is expected to be around 10.31 million tonnes, far above the year-ending buffer requirement of 4.0 million tonnes, while rice stocks on October 1, 2009 are projected to be 5.91 million tonnes, more than the norm of 5.2 million tonnes. High inventories have already created a storage problem for Food Corporation of India (FCI). Storage will be a bigger problem when the new rabi procurement starts from April 1. The cost of creating additional sarkari storage is high…”Remedy? To allocate greater quantities to the poor? Nope, commerce come first! “..The government should, therefore, first ease the two-year-long ban on wheat and wheat product exports and, second, relax the stock limit and disclosure norms for private traders. Increasing allocation for the above poverty line (APL) category under the targeted public distribution system—this has started in small measure—is another possible response. But this will further increase the food subsidy bill….Extensively using surplus wheat for NREG may be an idea. But the surplus problem can’t be tackled unless exports are allowed and private storage is encouraged. (Financial Express). Why should Commerce gain priority over hunger eradication of millions?

Free Press Under Attack

A day after reporter of Times of India was threatened by a lawyer, an editorial has appeared in the same paper- "A reporter of this newspaper was threatened by a lawyer in the Punjab and Haryana high court for a series of reports we published on indiscriminate mining in the Aravalis. This lawyer, who is sworn by oath to protect the rule of law, apparently chose to attack the media when he should have been concerned about the charges that mining firms were flouting directives of the Supreme Court.….The primary reason for attacks on the media in the subcontinent is that it is an institution that has consistently upheld democratic values in these trying times…. Clearly, those concerned about the quality of democracy in the subcontinent have reason to worry "(Editorial. Times of India). However, the editorial has not revealed if the newspaper has taken any action against the named lawyer, wonder why?


The headlines of lead news report in Hindustan Times screams- “Campus placement go bust” and reports cut in offers and salaries in placement offers. However headline of another front page news report in Times of India stresses- “ Hard times? IIM-C grads get Rs. 1cr jobs” and mentions- “summers that students spend in some top firms have resulted in a couple of them bagging mouthwatering offers”. Incidentally three of four of these mouthwatering offers came Barclays capital to work in London. But hang on, last month it was reported that Financial services major Barclays to reduce its headcount by about 2,100 in investment banking and money management, as part of its cost cutting measures. (Indian Express). What made Barclays capital to hire these three Indian students? Point to ponder- family profile for bail-out (read-contacts/networking)?

26 February 2009

Cartoon of Day

 A man is sitting on a sofa with puzzled looks as he watches the breaking news- “Sukhram gets 3 years ’jail, after 13 years long trial” and the smiling news reader adding -”…and the verdict has been hailed by politicians, bureaucrats, former Satyam directors…”. The cartoon reflects the essence of the editorial of Times of India -“…That it took 13 years for the trial court to reach a verdict in such a high-profile case is a shocking comment on the state of the judicial process in India. And now that the 82-year-old Sukh Ram plans to contest the decision in a higher court, there is every likelihood that the case might not be decided in his lifetime…When the courts and investigating agencies cannot ensure that corruption cases are disposed of as quickly as possible, lack of accountability and transparency the two pillars of governance weaken the whole structure of democracy…” (Too Little too Late. 23/2/2009).

Health Watch

Financial health of the government is a matter of serious concern. Editorials of many leading newspapers have focused on this. Take a clue- Given that the finances of the Centre were already in a mess, the latest tranche of `laddoos' for voters is set to spread the red ink further on the national balance-sheet. The Rs. 29,000-crore hole in the budget is bound to worsen the fiscal situation. It is remarkable that the global rating agency on had lowered India's credit outlook on the basis of prior data. The latest set of electoral sops came after that research and analysis. The Standard and Poor's estimates the combined fiscal deficit of the Center and the States at 11.4 percent of GDP. This, of course, is way above the estimates of the central government…Meanwhile, isn't it ironical that the outgoing government should be playing foul with the national finances in order to win back power in the coming poll….(Free Press Journal)”

The latest giveaways mean a Rs 30,000 crore shortfall in public finances, adding to the 2008-09 revenue loss estimate of Rs 60,000 crore. This will make budget management and debt financing that much harder for the next government…The economy needs another boost, no doubt. Given that it has ample leeway in monetary policy, the RBI should now step in to help with long overdue interest rate cuts. (Times of India)

…Standard & Poor’s, the global rating agency, downgraded India’s credit rating to near-junk status. The rationale for S&P’s downgrade was the alarming increase in the government’s fiscal deficit brought about by tax cuts and additional government spending; the latest stimulus package is estimated to cost around Rs 30,000 crore and add about 0.5 per cent to the already very high fiscal deficit for the year, taking it to a consolidated level over 11 per cent of the gross domestic product…The package has not stopped companies from clamouring for more, especially in the form of further interest rate cuts by the Reserve Bank of India. An interest rate cut by the central bank is widely anticipated, and the RBI governor, D. Subbarao, has indicated that he is not averse to one should the circumstances warrant it…But the chances of an economic revival in the next three months look fairly small. What is more likely, sadly, is the real possibility of another ratings downgrade when the new government takes office after the elections(Telegraph)

Journalist Threatened: The front page of Times of India highlighted that State of Haryana was set to start more mining even as the Chief Minister vows to fill up lakes (21 February 2009). Take a look- “Disregarding the fact that the Punjab and Haryana High Court is yet to determine whether the mining lease of Sirohi and Khori Jamalpur in Faridabad district should be extended or not, the Haryana government is going ahead with their auction for two more years” . Further the ’s report on dried up lakes in Delhi’s periphery also created a furore in Parliament. But is all good work appreciated? Nope. Take a look- “ It’s a measure of the brazenness with which the mining lobby is seeking to grab its right to flog the over-exploited mines of Faridabad that its lawyer on Wednesday threatened the TOI reporter in the courtroom because the newspaper has been highlighting the ecological degradation in the Aravalis that has been caused by reckless mining. Counsel for petitioner Faridabad Gurgaon Minerals, Akshay Bhan, accosted the TOI reporter in the court of Justice S D Anand where the petitioner’s plea for extending his mining lease had come up for hearing…”. Lawyers abusing their position, yet again? Point to ponder- why protect Indian lawyers from much needed competition from across the shores?


25 February 2009 

Survey of Day

Twice as many people blame the lawyers than the police for the violence at the Madras High Court last week. It is not surprising then that public opinion about lawyers is so low that half the people polled in a survey commissioned by The New Indian Express did not want their children to become lawyers, while only one-fifth did…makes it clear that the public sees the lawyers as the culprits of the current standoff between the executive and the judiciary…The public antipathy towards the lawyers can be gauged by the fact that exactly twice as many respondents to The New Indian Express poll favoured police action at the courts, as those who approved of the police inaction during the caste-based rampage by law students in November (New Indian Express).

Oscar Watch

According to the Union Home Minister- "'Slumdog Millionaire' may not be an Indian film. But a nation of billion people adopted it as an Indian film”. Yes, there is nothing new in the movie as 77 percent of Indians are poor and vulnerable and their life is anything than comfortable. What is new is the millionaire's part, which seems far true from reality for the majority. The condition be judged from a news about young poverty-stricken single mother who sold her newborn male baby for Rs 6,500 to pay her medical bill in a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh. “My financial position is really bad,” said Rajitha, who could not afford the Rs 2,000 in hospital fee. Incidentally, the incident occurred in the parliamentary constituency of Union minister of state for women and child development Renuka Chowdhury. “At least, she is safe and at least the child is not dead. I think they are the most important things that we need to look at,” Chowdhury said. (Free Press Journal. Front page). Next script for an oscar winning movie? And what happens to the poor actors who act in it? Take a clue from Syed Shafiq, who played the lead role in Salaam Bombay when he was 12. “Even after winning the national award for the best child actor, I was begging in Mumbai for a living…I did not like it (Slumdog). It is a good, commercial film but does not show reality....We have been watching quiz shows for so many years, has any slum boy won money” Today, Syed Shafiq, aged 32, is an autodriver.(Mid-Day. Exclusive). Syed Shafiq is not alone. “ on the real-life story of children of Kolkata’s sex workers got an Oscar four years ago; an enterprising journalist recently discovered that one of the eight kids who acted in it is now a full-time prostitute, like her mother…(Editorial. New Indian Express). Take of cartoons? The cartoon in Mid-Day, features an unhappy dog in Dharavi slums of Mumbai, complaining- “Nobody dedicated me an Oscar!” While toon in Vaartha (Hyderabad) shows a dog with Oscar medal hanging on his neck, carrying a basketful of Oscars. DNA shows a poor young boy returning to the slums, carrying heavy Oscar medals. While the cartoon in Asian Age shows a poor boy holding an Oscar trophy, tagged SlumDog Millionaire to Manmohan Singh & Sonia Gandhi - “You deserve it! You made this film possible by turning India into a great slum in the past 60 years!”. The toons in Sakshi & Mumbai Mirror feature happy Rahman playing guitar.

Health Watch

India's credit standing internationally is now just a notch above junk. Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's (S&P's) on Tuesday lowered the outlook on India's sovereign rating from 'stable' to 'negative', citing a deteriorating fiscal situation and a challenging economic environment, made worse by profligate spending by the government (DNA).

Auction Watch

Does Mahatma Gandhi belong only to India, not the whole world? Why ask, to the whole world. Would Mahatma Gandhi approve spending money on buying his used goods in any auction? Guess not. Why not adopt his principles instead of all this tamasha? Which tamasha? Take a clue from editorial in Pioneer- “But being the dutiful great grandson that he is, Mr Tushar Gandhi has said that the selling of Bapu’s belongings was ‘immoral’ because “they belong to India and the people of India”. He has also reportedly decided to launch a fund-raising campaign to raise the money to buy out the items at the auction in New York. .…Also, for a nation that believes that the leader and his teachings are among its greatest gifts to the world, it is amusing how some people are so touchy about foreigners owing his wire-rim glasses….The victim in all of this has to be the real essence of Gandhi and what he stood for. Given that the man professed a life of simplicity, were he alive today it would be hard to imagine that he would approve of such possessiveness over a pair of his old chappals…. (Editorial. Pioneer).

24 February 2009

Biggest story: Slumdog Millionaire winning the Oscar- is the biggest story in most of the newspapers. The Quick Edit in Mint points out- “India is justifiably jubilant after Slumdog Millionaire picked up eight oscars…When it (India) emerged from decades of weak growth, the country was the global slumdog. It is now on the path to becoming a millionaire, so as to say….”. Hey, India on the path of becoming a millionaire, now that’s wishful thinking, bollywood style! The state of gini coefficient is no secret! Poverty, dirt commercially sells well? It’s not surprising that the movie has been, in Aniruddha Guha’s words- “Hit in the West, flop In the East” (DNA. Front page 22/2/09). The write-up ends- “…Slumdog’s appeal was restricted to the elite…So even it Slumdog walks away with a bunch of Oscars tonight , not everyone’s going to be proud of the fact.” Even Rahman’s fans are not upbeat over his song and music of Slumdog which got him the Oscar, though happy about him getting the award. Moreover, Slumdog is a British success. Even the British Prime Minister pointed out- “I think we should be very proud of what are great British successes”. While on the other hand the Americans said that the film has got where it had because of crucial backing of Hollywood. This is not all. The European Commission pointed out that Slumdog was co-funded under a finance programme to support movie making in Europe. The film received a total of 730,000 pounds from EU fund towards distribution costs (Telegraph). Cut it short, Slumdog Millionaire is a global commercial movie based on Indian poverty & its constituents, those profits are not going into Indian hands! (read -to the Indian poor!)

23 February 2009

Editorial of Day

It is not uncommon for a long-suffering parent to lose his patience with a wayward child and threaten to expel the latter from home. No doubt, neither the parent nor the minor delinquent seriously believes that any such calamity is about to befall them….But unlike the exasperated father, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha is not even expected to lose his cool or blow his fuse- whatever the provocation…..Sorry to say, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee has been blowing his fuse every other day, and, instead of coping with the situation in the House unemotionally, he tends to throw a tantrum of his own, thus making a spectacle of himself….. The danger is that Chatterjee's fulminations from the chair can provide succour to those who have already lost faith in the democratic system and pine for a China-like system…. The truth is if the MPs are not paragons of exemplary behaviour, Chatterjee too falls far short of the model Speaker…. He should curb his habit of giving a running commentary, even if there remain but a few more days before the House ends its turbulent innings. (Free Press Journal)
Justice Watch

…..Courts in the state have functioned for a handful of days over the past two months as lawyers have gone on strike under one pretext or the other, the most persistent being the judicial community’s support for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause…The judiciary, quite naturally, has taken serious note of the Madras High Court violence. But the legal fraternity itself seems to have escaped most of the censure.…..But it is the judiciary’s sympathetic view of the overt disregard of this ruling that has encouraged irresponsible behaviour among members of the community. Dismissing the behaviour of Tamil Nadu’s lawyers as an expression of their greater “political” sensitivity may be misinterpreted and end up damaging the judiciary’s exalted standing. An impartial inquiry into the violence should try to pin responsibility on lawbreakers among members of both the executive and the judiciary equally.(Editorial. Telegraph)

22 February 2009

Advertisement Watch

The front page of Dainik Tribune carries an advertisement by UK Border Agency & British High Commission with self explanatory punchline- “Importance notice for customers for British Visa”. The ad educates ‘customers’ regarding a telephone number to get more information on British visa, fact- application form for visa is not priced…and also cautions regarding immigration, employment - “ If you have been duped, then please inform the police…Save from employment fraud. Many people of India are getting deceived on account of employment in Britain….” But the ad did not offer any insight- how to detect the fraud?

Cartoon Watch

The speaker of the Lok Sabha is sitting on the Indian parliament with a heavy stick and is cursing- “You are dirty, you all should be defeat”. Sounds familiar? Yes, this is the first cartoon on page eight of Aaj Samaj, which is carrying several cartoons and caricature of the thoughtful speaker with the punchline- “All get defeated…”. The paper has also published a coloured cartoon on its front page with prominence. The toon reflects India & Pakistan’s probe on the Mumbai Bomb blast.

Justice Watch

…the Madras High Court on Saturday ordered closure of all courts in Tamil Nadu till Tuesday, even as no fresh incident of violence was reported in the state after the government issued shoot-at sight orders….Acting Chief Justice S K Mukhopadyaya directing the police to lock all gates of the High Court and banned entry of lawyers into court premises, the day passed off without any untoward incident. The High Court, where a police station was burnt, was virtually turned into a fortress with scores of police personnel guarding it…Police continued to register cases against advocates in connection with the violence in Chennai and Madurai. In addition to cases of attempt to murder registered against 150 advocates yesterday, the Chennai Police registered FIRs against 100 others today for various offences including arsoning, rioting and assaulting public servants, police said. Cases were also registered based on complaints by six journalists that they were roughed up by some lawyers. (Free Press Journal).

Kid Watch

For a poor kid’s there is no right to happy childhood. Four children were studying under the candle light in Chatka village, Madhya Pradesh. During course of time, they felt asleep and the inevitable occurred. Their quilt caught fire and two of them died right there, while other two died in the hospital. (Jansatta. Front page). Why were these kids studying under the dim light of candle? Do poor kids have not right to excel? The same paper reports on page eight that 10 year old Sushma has cleared the high school examination and her achievement has found its way to the much acclaimed Limca Book of Records. Poverty was not able to cut her flight. And not to forget that her brother competed Bachelor of Science from University of Lucknow at the age of only 14 years! But how many kids are as lucky as Sushma & her brother? Why so pessimistic? The dismal condition of public health facilities is no secret. Take a clue from the child actors of the much talked movie- Slumdog (which has already made $138m and is waiting for the Oscars), Rubina Ali earned only Rs. 35,000 ($700), while Azharuddin Ismail earned mere Rs.125000 ($2500). And all this money went into the medical treatment of their father- fractured leg, tuberculosis. Soon, Slumdog will be history and the plight of poor kids & their families will be forgotten. Point to ponder- Why not allocate certain percent of profit of Slumdog for improving the public heath facilities in Dharavi (largest slum in the world)? But hang on, what about safety of poor kids? Not so long ago, the editorial in DNA spoke up- “….According to a United Nations estimate, Mumbai alone has about 2.5 lakh street children. But worse, as reported in this newspaper yesterday, 4,000 children have gone missing in the city in the last five years and have still not been traced…..Without safety nets for the poor that would enable them to access basic health and education facilities for their children, it would be well nigh impossible to save our children from the malaise of trafficking, abuse and child labour. Indeed, as our economy takes huge strides forward, we cannot forget the vulnerable need special attention.”( 9/1/2009). Is this true only for Mumbai? Nope. Take a clue from the capital of India where 2,503 children have gone missing in the Capital over the past 12 months or so. According to Amod Kanth, chairperson of Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights, maximum number of children were reported missing from areas where people from economically weaker sections reside. Stating that evidence and perception about missing children being used in trafficking, flesh trade, begging rackets and even organ trade need further probing…(Hindu. 21/2/2009). Anyone listening?

21 February 2009

Abuse of Monopoly?

There was a time when the Indian Independence movement was led by lawyers but today the behaviour of lawyers is far from that ideal. Take a clue -“…..lawyers pelting eggs at politician Subramanian Swamy, assaulting the police, locking the doors and raising slogans — and all this in the presence of judges while a court proceeding was supposed to be on. There was no spontaneous condemnation by lawyer bodies either in the state or elsewhere, though a three judge bench of the Supreme Court on Thursday referred with anguish to the episode, speaking of “rogue elements” in the profession…. if lawyers can be allowed to get away with what they did on Wednesday, if not later, the malaise will spread. …What business do lawyers have to raise slogans and attack a man in the High Court? … this intolerance should worry us all. Nor are Chennai lawyers alone. The other day, lawyers in the High Court at Lucknow pounced on an undertrial in the Varanasi bomb blast case of 2006; he had earlier been attacked by lawyers in Varanasi and Ghaziabad, too. And the SC bench on Thursday mentioned similar incidents at Patna. Lawyers perform a key function but enjoy little affection from the citizenry for a variety of reasons; what took place in the Madras HC can hardly correct this. What will help is swift action to establish the facts and punish the guilty, in such a manner as to send a needed reminder to anyone tempted into a repetition…”(Editorial. New Indian Express).

“…. a group of lawyers took to violence after the arrest of some of their colleagues inside the court complex for suspected involvement in the assault on Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy in the presence of two judges a few days ago. The police could not raid the buildings housing lawyers’ chambers from where they were targetted because there was no way of distinguishing the mischief-makers from the innocent….For the past few months, the court complex had become the hotbed of politics with lawyers resorting to strikes and violence and holding meetings in support of LTTE and calling in politicians to address them. During one such court boycott, a senior lawyer was assaulted in court for refusing to join the strike. All that the judges could do was to ask him to prefer a police complaint. …It is strange, therefore, that acting chief Justice S K Mukopadhyaya should have asked the police not to arrest any lawyers in connection with Thursday’s violence while ordering, with the state government’s consent, a CBI enquiry”(Editorial. Deccan Herald). Imagine the plight of other clients, not to forget the respondent parties. Not so long ago, special CBI court had remanded two Supreme Court employees and one advocate to one day police custody for allegedly taking a bribe of Rs 25,000 from an NRI for listing his plea for an early hearing (Times of India. 11/2/2009). Should one blame the TINA factor? Does the above reflects blatant abuse of monopoly? Why should the legal profession remain devoid of any competition from across the shores, though almost all the sectors of the Indian economy have witnesses reforms? Point to ponder- when will foreign lawyers be allowed to practice in Indian counts?

Satyam Watch

Much has already been written about the Satyam episode …However, one aspect that has not received adequate attention is the role of whistleblowers…Not many are willing to incur the wrath of their superiors when things tend to go wrong and speak up for the right cause. True, there is always the risk of harassment and victimisation. This is so be it in government or private organisations. There are, however, individuals who do stick their necks out in the interests of the public or the organisation they serve….It is time we think of enacting a law in India (with due safeguards) which will enable persons of integrity to act fearlessly. In the absence of legal protection, they would prefer to choose the path of least resistance and ‘swallow’ rather than ‘blow’ the whistle when required. (A Ravindra, former chief secretary, Karnataka. Deccan Herald). Any takers?

20 February 2009

Cartoon Watch

Is the assertion by New York Post that “Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon - even as the opportunists seek to make it something else” makes sense to all? Nope, cartoons are not just light hearted lines for just a good laugh but possession tremendous power to lampoon anyone, regardless of their stature. In the Indian context, quite a many cartoons lost no opportunity to target the colonial rulers, bypassing the maze of strict censorship. The New York Post has offered an apology- “But it has been taken as something else - as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism. This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize..”. This toon controversy has been carried by most leading newspapers in India, devoid of their own comment. Wonder why? Mocking Obama sparks race row monkey business (DNA)

Crying Baby

The cartoon in Mid-Day features a baby crying in mother’s arms. Now why is the baby crying, hungry? According to the mother- “Not hungry! He just realised what it means to be born in India!” Now, what does she mean by that? Take a clue what the father, who is reading, a newspaper with headlines- “Every Indian will have Rs. 30,000 debt burden!”. S Gangadharan has not minced words about debt accumulation in India in write up entitled- “Govt to borrow Rs 746 crore a day” in DNA. Take a look-“.... in a short span of six years, public debt would have risen by as much as 103%.......The per capita public debt is reckoned at Rs 18,510 now and the per capita liabilities at Rs 27,173 compared with the per capita income of Rs 38,084. Hypothetically speaking, if the government were required to retire all its borrowings, as much as 49% of the annual income of the average man will have to be earmarked to this end in the case of public debt and 71% in respect of all the liabilities.... However, the real cause for worry is the misuse of debt funds increasingly for current consumption rather than for capital formation....This is reflected in the widening chasm between assets and liabilities of the Central government. The excess of liabilities over assets which was already high at 48% in 2003-04 has risen to 49.6% this fiscal.... The share of the revenue deficit in the fiscal deficit is more than 70%, and the upshot of this is a glaring asset-liability mismatch the backing of assets is expected to cross the 50% mark to stand at 51.9%....”. Must to read.

Fraud Watch

The Satyam fraud saga seems endless. P S M Rao has summed it up in DNA- “The concerns of the vested interests, ever so keen to turn a threat into opportunity, are different. They are extending varied explanations to suit their interests. The intention seems to be to divert people's attention from the real issue and ease the pressure on the government to go to the bottom of the Satyam issue, perhaps to preclude the possibility of similar frauds elsewhere being unearthed. ...The reformists blame the slow pace of reforms as a plausible cause, while their opponents heap blame on liberal economic policies. (It's wishful to think we'll get to the truth in the Satyam case. DNA).

Meltdown Watch

Alan Greenspan was bang on target when he stated that “Economists cannot avoid being students of human nature, particularly of exuberance and fear. Exuberance is a celebration of life. We have to perceive life as enjoyable to seek to sustain it. Regrettably, a surge of exuberance sometimes also causes people to reach beyond the possible; when reality strikes home, exuberance turns to fear”. Take a clue from Percy Mistry “Is the crisis now being ‘managed’ by people who presume to be even cleverer, but may be clueless?... Will taking the medicine now being prescribed in elephantine doses (i.e. even more incontinence and overindulgence in fiscal and monetary madness) cure the patient or kill him/her altogether or cripple him/her for decades to come?...What governments are now doing defies understanding on the part of a global public which seems concerned by a simple question: “If egregious public and private borrowing and spending, supported by loose monetary policies in the US, UK and EU between 1999-2005 got us into this mess, how is even more (Financial Express). Sumita Kale, who is chief economist at Indicus Analytics, concedes -“Given how most economists failed to predict the crisis, getting the view of non-economists is probably a good idea....The ‘Global Crisis Debate’ will continue for another month, so we can look forward to reading many more insights. But given the ‘dramatic failure of the economics profession’ to ‘predict the emergence and the gravity of the financial crisis’, as Biagio Bossone, an international financial consultant, puts it, ideally the debate should have been open to non-economists as well”(Business Standard). Point to ponder- what about the role of leading Indian economists, who went overboard rejoicing every rise in the stock market, while ignoring the main street who indeed are non economists! Did Percy and Sumita also failed to predict the crisis? Is “Global Crisis Debate’’ a rejoicing event since one would read many more insights? And no prizes for getting this one right!

Democracy watch

With the General elections round the corner, the remarks of Somnath Chatterjee, the speaker of the Lok Sahba, gain significance regarding the state of democracy in India. He has cursed the members of parliament- “I hope that all of you are defeated in the elections”. More to come- “…this House of people should be adjourned sine die…People’s money will be saved. Useless allowances should not be given to all of you….You don’t deserve one paisa of public money…You are insulting the people of this country” (Mail Today).

19 February 2009

Women Insecure

Women are not safe in the National capital region, especially in Ghaziabad. SARCAJC has been raising this issue time and again. Today Akash Vashishtha reports that “Unnerved by runaway crime in Ghaziabad, large numbers of anxious mothers and housewives are quietly arming themselves with guns to protect themselves from criminals. Left with no option but to fight anti- social elements for their own safety, because the police have been unable to give them security, these women are training with guns on the back of a worsening crime situation in a city that is a hot real estate destination in the NCR. “ Eve-teasing and chain snatching incidents have become common..(Front Page. Mail Today). Does the solution lie in arming women & girls? Can all women & girls afford a licensed gun? Do they possess adequate training to combat criminals? Law and order is the primary duty of any government, right?

18 February 2009

Editorial of Day

One does not often come across an editorial that touches the infinite "Space". Today, the editorial in DNA is an exception, Take a look- "The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs has called for all member countries and international organisations to "fully implement" measures to control space debris….Apart from the dangers of collision, there is the additional problem of space debris, which is locked in orbit and will not easily -- or naturally -- be destroyed. This means that as we have done on earth, we are now polluting space as well. Space exploration and travel is no longer fiction and fantasy for humankind -- it is a frontier that we have already reached. We need to start our journey intelligently and with foresight rather than with the callousness we have approached so many other exploratory ventures here on earth. Space belongs to all of us, not to any one or two powers. The rules change in space and we have to be responsive and responsible about this precious asset, before we boldly go where no one has gone before. Point to ponder- No editorial in any of the leading Hindi newspapers on this serious issue. Wonder why?

View of Day

Government officials should have the initiative to be innovative and have the vision to see what would make Kashmir more progressive in areas that their departments are concerned with. Instead of waiting for the CM to spoon feed them and pull them by their fingers. It is easy to follow orders but if they really want to earn their wages and excel in their jobs, then they have to start thinking out of the box and start thinking of ways of bringing in new technology from other parts of India and overseas and adapting it to be more suitable to Kashmir. That was the whole reason why such departments were introduced to begin with, to modernize our agriculture. They have failed to deliver because I do not see Kashmir on the map of the world leaders in the production of fruits, or cut- flowers, or bulbs, or even sheep. Therefore it is time that we re- assign these departments other tasks that require critical attention at this time. (Tanvir Sadiq. Greater Kashmir). Point to ponder- Is this true only for Kashmir?

Global Meltdown Watch

As Barack Obama completes a month in office, later this week, he will have to look back on a less smooth start than his enthusiastic support base would have hoped. Some key appointments have come unstuck, for one reason or other, showing up deficiencies in the presidential team’s screening process…Without doubt, the big ticket issue has been the $800 billion bailout package that Mr Obama has been able to get Congress to approve. That he has done so in less than four weeks is of course a matter of credit.What is not is the fact that it has left virtually everyone displeased in one way or the other…The best that can be said is that President Obama and his team must be on a rapid learning curve (Editorial. Business Standard). Point to ponder- how about commenting on the constant bailouts in India, despite the fact that the government has gone on record - there is no recession.

17 February 2009

Budget Watch

The interim budget was presented in the Indian parliament yesterday. Was it good or bad ? Take a look what the editorials had to say:

Nobody expects politicians to be honest before the elections, and Mukherjee’s long address did not break the mould. His statement contained its share of half truths and red herrings …(DNA)

The perplexing question that must puzzle many is why, in the face of a huge fiscal stimulus (the highest in more than a decade), no one thinks that the government has done enough….the size of the total stimulus is 7.8 per cent of GDP—not far behind the 8.5 per cent that the US is expected to do this year. The problem is that businesses have not seen most of this money. The subsidy on petroleum products and fertiliser has gone mostly to suppliers overseas….The question is whether more of a fiscal stimulus is the answer, since that will translate into more deficits, more government borrowing and therefore more pressure on interest rates, or whether fiscal restraint will facilitate lower interest rates which then help revive demand and business activity (Business Standard)

Expectations having been created, disappointment followed. Pranab Mukherjee wasn’t presenting a Budget for financial year 2009-10... Legally, morally and practically, this was always going to be a vote-on-account. The Budget speech can indeed be faulted on diagnosis: appropriating credit to the UPA for the shining story (across indicators) till 2007-08. It can also be faulted on diagnosis of reasons for inflation…Dilution of the FRBM Act is, therefore, certain with relaxation at the Centre followed by inevitable dilution at the state-level. (Financial Express)

Despite the expectations in many quarters about bailout packages for this or that sector, the government correctly restricted itself to outlining its achievements over the last four years and offering no tax proposals…(Indian Express)

It is not a little regrettable that it took a pre-poll interim budget for the managers of the Indian economy to focus on poverty alleviation, on Sarvodaya. Thus the government’s latest beneficiaries include forest dwellers and rickshaw pullers; widows and the disabled; rural and urban dispossessed ~ as the makeshift finance minister Mr Pranab Mukherjee, sought to please all. Unfortunately for Mr Mukherjee, coming back to perform a task that he performed many a time a quarter of a century ago…(Statesman)

The Interim Budget, presented against the backdrop of the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections, was heavily tilted in favour of rural India, infrastructure and agriculture…But the rest of India, which has benefited from the stimulus packages and the Rs 80,000-crore largesse from the Reserve Bank of India since September last year, also stands to benefit though they don’t seem to realise it….Mr Mukherjee has also assured the country and, incidentally, the global community, that though fiscal responsibility and budget management targets (FRBM) have been relaxed in these "extraordinary circumstances", fiscal consolidation must be achieved at the earliest (Asian Age).

…But so high was the expectation that there is all-round disappointment over the interim budget and the markets have reacted with deep disappointment. What Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee did do, however, was to use this as an opportunity to hype the achievements of this government over the last five years…The implication was that he was seeking to influence the voter more than anything else by bragging about the government's overall performance….there is no conscious effort to cut down wasteful spending…How much of the money being allocated for these schemes is actually going to the intended beneficiaries is however anybody's guess considering the terrible record of governments in this aspect…(Free Press Journal)

…Given the pressure of expectations, the UPA did well to resist the temptation of playing to the gallery. India's slowing growth has affected lives and livelihoods. But the government can still firefight there's talk already of further fiscal stimuli without having to defy parliamentary custom….The good news is that, despite being global crisis-hit, India is still the world's second fastest growing major economy. The RBI must play a leading role now to keep it that way (Times of India)

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has stuck to what is a good convention that an outgoing government does not make major tax changes or policy announcements ahead of elections……The UPA has obviously tried to ensure that on the eve of the Lok Sabha elections it does not commit the blunder the NDA committed five years ago by projecting a “Shining India” when benefits of economic reforms had hardly touched a large majority living in rural India.(Tribune)

The interim budget presented to Parliament by the acting finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, met most conservative expectations but belied the more optimistic ones..But will the new government have any room for fiscal manoeuvre? New measures are likely to put additional pressure on the finances of the states and the Central government (Telegraph).

…As for the social sector, the UPA’s bluff and bluster is exposed by two facts. It had declared that it would spend six per cent of the GDP on education; to top it, the Government imposed a two per cent education cess on all taxes. Real expenditure is nowhere near that figure, and we don’t quite know what happened to the money collected through the education cess. Second, the expenditure on health remains abysmally low although the UPA was supposed to spend three per cent of the GDP on this sector…It is, therefore, not surprising that our economy should be in such a mess that putting it back on the rails will require Herculean effort by any future Government. Till that happens, the ‘aam admi’ can look forward to neither respite nor relief (Pioneer).

Acting finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has, after all, managed to meet expectations with his interim Budget for 2009- 10...While propriety may have been observed, issues of urgent concern have not been addressed. The foremost is stemming the tidal wave of job losses…(Mail Today)

The UPA government’s last budget for the year 2009-10 presented to parliament on Monday by senior minister Pranab Mukherjee, being an interim one with the general elections only a few weeks away, was on predictable lines…Since a new parliament will be in place in another three months or so, Mukherjee, in his speech concentrated more on the achievement of the UPA government in the last five years and the present challenges….The incoming government after the elections will have a tough job on hand (Deccan Herald).

16 February 2009

Justice Watch

A special correspondent of Asian Age reports that a father flung a file full of documents related to a court case at the Chief Justice of India during a function in Chandigarh and was consequently arrested. Why? He was stopped by security personnel from personally handing over a petition to the chief justice. This was no ordinary petition. “I have been running literally from pillar to post for the past 17 years but the courts have given a clean shit to the very doctors whose negligence cost me the life of my 18-year-old son. Balbir Singh Makol has very nearly exhausted all his savings but has found no relief from courts. The anguished Makol was released after some hours but the special correspondent has not mentioned whether the chief Justice of India met this anguished father. Have heart, anyone listening?

15 February 2009

Story of Day

Nidhi Mittal’s ‘moving story’ in Pioneer leaves the readers with a wish that somehow Ravi Shankar & his wife are able to locate their only daughter- Apurva, who got lost when Tsunami stuck CarNicobar in 2004. “Had the tsunami killed his daughter, Ravi would have been better off. But that was not so. His eight year old daughter was spotted at a relief camp but vanished from there just a few days before he located her. His son died in his arms but his wife survived. It has been four years since then, but not a day goes by when the couple does not pray & cry….”. Hope someone is listening.

Distress of Day

A youth from the state of Jharkhand set himself ablaze near the prime minister’s office, a high security area. But this leaves many questions unanswered- why did he tried to commit suicide and why wasn’t he stopped from taking this extreme step? Take a clue from various papers-

…it is not immediately clear that why he tried to commit suicide but police said preliminary enquiries suggested Abhishek lost his job with Kuwait-based petroleum company…(Times of India)  …the security personnel and some passers-by rushed to save him but it took quite sometime before the fire could be doused….the police said that the exact reason behind Abhishek taking extreme action was not clear…(Asian Age)...he was apparently upset over a failed love affair. He came to the South block and wanted to meet the Prime Minister. But after he was denied permission, he set himself ablaze after pouring petrol on himself…(Pioneer) security officer tried to stop the victim…cameraperson of a news channel continued to shoot the screaming victim…Kumar reportedly work at a pipe factory in Kuwait. The police said it was not known why he wanted why he wanted to meet the Prime Minister…(Mail Today)  ..Bystanders and security personnel tried to put out the fire….the police are trying to ascertain what made him take the extreme step… (Hindu)
Further, Asian Age has carried a small news report, courtesy PTI, that Ratan Santu Thete, a 36 year old farmer has committed suicide in Nasik as he was not able to repay his agricultural loan taken from a nationalized bank due to bad weather and disease on grapes. But why wasn’t his loan payment rescheduled? What is the role of nationalized bank here? Moreover, there is no credit crunch. Take clue from Montek Singh Ahluwalia, the second in command of the planning Commission- “ In the last few weeks or so, there has been a change and the availability of credit from banks has improved”. Right, since mid September, the Reserve Bank of India had infused over Rs 4000 billion to overcome the liquidity shortage (Tribune. 14/2/09). The question arises, why doesn’t the much acclaimed bail-out package reach people like Ratan Santu Thete? Hang on, was it ever meant for the common man like Thete? For corporates only? Have you heard of Thete like distress to the top shots of the corporate sector? Nope! Raju of Satyam is very much alive & kicking, despite all that fraud he had committed in Saytam. Yesterday, Kishwar Desai referred to the telecast of the examination of top bankers by parliamentarians where -’ the naming and “shaming” of bankers who are actually being bailed out by the government has been an eye-opening exercise. When confronted with aggressive questioning by MPs, most bankers came across….like contrite schoolboys caught with their hands in the cookie jar..” (Asian Age). But nothing of any sort here! Wonder why?

14 February 2009

Truth of Day

P. Sainath is one of very few Indian journalists who looked at the human angle, even in during the boom, far from the luring star studded parties, lives of glamorous celebrities, film premiers, product launches, inauguration of art exhibitions with overflowing liquor, seminars/conferences in five star hotels on energy conservation, sustainable development…- the list is not very long! Anyway, coming back to Sainath, his independent stand was yet again reflected when he recently declined the much sought governmental award. Today, he asks a pertinent question- “The meltdown: whose crisis is it, anyway“. Take a clue -“…Oddly, 400 million human beings going to bed hungry every night was never thought of as a crisis…rural despair and breakdown meant little. Crisis is when the Sensex tanks….our elite believe that CEOs lead or should lead a charmed life. Remember their outrage when Prime Minister Manhoman Singh …made a few bleats of protests about CEOs salary getting ,er ,a wee bit too large? “Pay peanuts, get monkeys” spat one contemptuous editorial…Now there is coverage, without much comment, of the bumbling efforts at curbing CEO pay in the US…Meanwhile tens of millions of human being across the world stand to lose their jobs…The already hungry will have it much worse. Whose crisis is it, anyway? (Hindu. P. Sainath. “The meltdown: whose crisis is it, anyway?). Nevertheless, any clue on how many people have lost jobs in India? Nope! Pioneer reports that government has admitted that it does not have the figures on the total job losses in the country in the wake of the global meltdown. Point to Ponder- who is the target beneficiary of the already announced bail-out packages?

13 February 2009

Crisis Watch

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn has warned of worsening global economic conditions, saying that the impact of the global financial crisis had not yet fully reached the real economy….You may have protectionism coming through the back door, especially in the financial sector,” Strauss-Kahn said (Mint). But this is not true for India, where the growth has slowed down but the country is still one of the hottest growth economies in the world (Hindustan Times). However, the government is planning to borrow Rs. 460 billion in one month to meet the extra expenditure in providing a stimulus to the slowing economy (Asian Age.11/2/09). But still there seems no case for protectionist tendencies as the norms for FDI have been further relaxed. What has been the response of the newspapers? Take a look-

…There is no doubt that this is the most far-reaching opening up that has been done by this government. It is curious therefore that this should be done at the end of its term, barely a fortnight before the announcement of fresh elections puts a bar on such policy pronouncements.”… But the manner and timing of the decision are side issues, and not of great consequence in the final analysis.….(Business Standard).

Advertisement of Day

With the general elections round the corner, the long-awaited four-minute ad film on the "overall development of Uttar Pradesh" in the State of Uttar Pradesh was telecast on various TV channels on Wednesday. Financial Express has quoted sources that the cast was good enough for a feature film. The singer, Kailash Kher, who lent his voice to spread Mayawati's (chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh) message says- "Kyunki mere pas aawaz hai, mere pas unka saath hai (I've got the voice and her company)". Last, not the least, total cost of ad film- Rs. 50 million. No recession or any financial meltdown here!

Editorial of Day

India, unfortunately, continues to be among the toppers on the international list of corrupt nations in the world. It is poor satisfaction that a few countries in our immediate neighbourhood and in sub-Saharan Africa are ahead of us on that list of shame.... It is the greatest single obstacle in our struggle for the elimination of poverty and growing economic disparity. Everything said and done, all our calculations and projections regarding investment and development founder on the rock of corruption.… When asked most corrupt people seek to justify their evil practice either by referring to their other compelling calls of duty or by referring to the corrupt practices of the high and the mighty, who are evidently above all material need. So, it is essential that those at the top of the social ladder should be seen as above the temptations of corruption. Only then they will be in a position to rein in their corrupt subordinates, and to set a certain standard which will be difficult for the rest of the society to ignore for long….(Kashmir Times).

International Watch

The actions of President Barack Obama are keenly watched in India. Take a clue from below:
...Obama's main agenda is to pull the American economy out of recession.. The former President was an ardent supporter of free trade.….This policy was good for India because Bush allowed entry of our goods into America…This policy failed to provide relief to American workers, however. The problem was inherent in globalization. Obama wants to protect jobs of the American people. Let us ask, protect jobs from whom? Answer is from India and China…. This policy will be clearly harmful for us. (Free Press Journal. Bharat Jhunjhunwala)

…The Obama administration seems unwilling to make a clean break with the policies of Bush. It cannot chart out a new approach by making cosmetic changes alone. A new relationship is possible only if the Obama administration is willing to admit the errors that previous administrations made…. (Second Edit. Deccan Herald)

Meltdown Watch

It is a critical year, says the corporate world.. It is more for their own misdeeds than the failure of anyone else. …However, most corporate are not suffering losses either. The owners have amassed wealth that should have gone to their company, shareholders and employees….The companies are not in losses. A myth has been created. At the aggregate level, 562 companies listed at Bombay Stock Exchange in January-end, have increased their revenues by 15.6 per cent. Companies, however, say their profits are contracting but they are not in losses...Worse, the Government agencies succumb to their blackmail.…The question is: why is this being allowed in an election year? Is the Government pro-people or corporate? Importantly, a bigger question is: when corporates are not serving the cause of the nation why should the national government stand by them? (Central Chronicle. Shivaji Sarkar).

12 February 2009

Media Watch

The Central government has cleared publication of facsimile editions of foreign newspapers in India and the Wall Street Journal has become the first newspaper to get the green signal.

News of Day

The special correspondent of Hindu reports that Garasia tribals in Rajasthan have pledged to shun liquor. Why is this pledge so significant? Most men of Garasia tribal are addicted to liquor and it is not surprising that more than 60 percent of the income earned by men and women from the job scheme had gone for the purchase of liquor. Voluntary “Nashabandi”- seems a positive first step to get 70 percent of community above poverty line. More true followers of Mahatma Gandhi to follow Garasia tribals?

11 February 2009

Advertisement Watch

The season of election is here and so is the ad bonanza for the media! But why should an opposition leader publish his advertisement with slogan -“Advani for PM” in foreign websites of Washington Post, New York Times, Guardian, Dawn? Who is the target audience? How many Indians view these websites anyway? Nandita Sengupta reports that about 2000 websites frequented by India’s net-users have been identified by the party’s crack IT team.

News of Day

Aman Sharma reports on the front page of Mail Today- “You can get a case listed for hearing in the Supreme Court by paying a bribe of Rs. 75,000.…”. Must to read.

10 February 2009

News of Day

Hetal Vyas reports of case of Food Adulteration that has been kept on hold for 42 years. “It is a matter which is a sad reflection on certain aspects of the judicial system of this country… We must admit that we were not aware as to what abuse judicial prosecution can be put to and to what extent the system would fail in checking the abuse of the process of law..”noted the division bench of justice Bilal Nazki & J.H Bhatia of the High Court. Hang on, Justice delayed is justice denied. “Police can now proceed with the trial, but it will be difficult to trace all the 140 accused and prosecute them”- commented Geeta Mulekar, additional government pleader.(Mumbai Mirror). A must to read and ponder.

9 February 2009

No recession here

There is no recession nor any slowdown in India. Take a clue from spending plan of two major political parties in India. The ruling Party- Congress is set to spend Rs. 2 billion during upcoming general election, while the major opposition party- BJP, is all set to spend Rs 2.5 billion. More to come- “BJP’s briefing to ad agencies….was to project prime ministerial candidate Lal Krishna Advani as a messaih of change just the way Senator Barack Obama was made to be in American media during his election campaign….” (Economic Times). Point to Ponder- Is an expensive advertisement campaign enough to make a Barack Obama out of you?

Anything Goes

Numerous news items under the heading Response Business Associate Information in Economic Times revolve around banks. But what exactly is the meaning of Response Business Associate Information? Well, keep guessing! Nevertheless, a news item carries a photograph of the President of India receiving flowers from one well dressed man, while other guy stands. All three are posing for the camera. What’s this about? “ George Joseph, Chairman & Managing Director of Syndicate Bank called on Her Excellency, Pratibha Patil, Hon’ able President of India. Srihari Bhat, General Manager of Delhi region of the Bank was also present during the occasion…”. But hang on, the heading of the this news item shouts - “ Hon’able President of India visits Syndicate Bank”.

Editorial of Day

India’s information technology sector should not be surprised at President Barack Obama pushing for a new bill in the US Congress to restrict American Companies who receive bailout money for hiring H-1B visa IT professionals….By restricting H-1B professionals, the Obama administration, ironically is stifling growth at a time when the US needs to kick start a depressed economy…Instead of restricting a few thousand technology professionals from doing work that saves, well, American money, the Obama administration ought to spend time regaining the country its lost premier business outpost status (Editorial. Mail Today). Guess the heading of this editorial- “Have a vision, Obama”! Point to ponder- do we rationally understand the logic behind Obama’s decision before flowing with the preaching?

8 February 2009

Stimulus of Day

The government will soon announce a stimulus package for the media industry. But why? Take clue from the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting -“ Representatives of the media industry had written to the government and met me about the adverse impact of the financial crisis on media industry.…”(Asian Age). This package will cover mostly print media but some aspect of it would apply to the electronic media too. Financial crisis in print media due to global meltdown, where are the details? Keep guessing.

7 February 2009

Headlines of Day

Considering the recent auction of players for IPL cricket matches, there is no recession/slow down in India. The headline of Hindustan Times reflected it all, in just two words.
What slowdown? (Hindustan Times)

Cricket Hits slump for a six (Times of India)

Bull run at IPL Auction ( Business Standard)

Flintoff, Pietersen top IPL auction (Hindu)

Sizzlers: Freddie & Kevin (Tribune)

Even during recession, boom for cricketers (Rastriya Sahara)

In the cricket bazaar: Big bucks for players (Pioneer)

KP, Freedie strike gold (Indian Express)

IPL: No recession in this mandi (Navbharat Times)

No recession in cricketer’s mandi (Hindustan)

6 February 2009

Satyam: Cover-up

Most leading newspapers in the capital have carried the news of the appointment of A.S Murthy as CEO of fraud ridden Satyam with prominence. However, only Hindustan Times has questioned his appointment on its front page. Why? Murthy is an insider and sold 40,000 shares of Satyam between Dec 12 to Dec 16 2008- before Ramalinga Raju announced plans to acquire Maytas and shares of Satyam fell. The downward drive continued further when Raju admitted the fraud. Can A.S Murthy, who is believed to be close to Raju, be trusted as CEO of Satyam? Remember, investigators of capital market regulator SEBI and Serious Fraud Investigation Office will be looking at the sale of over 360,000 shares of Satyam by serious executive of Satyam & sale of 43 million shares by financial institutions, ahead of Raju’s confession of fraud on 7 January. Is A.S Murthy any different from them? Wonder why he was appointed as CEO? Any guess anyone?

Public Health Watch

“…Five babies have got charred to death in incubators and the chief minister seems to imply that no minister is to be held responsible. The government then suspended only the Principal of Rajindra hospital and Medical College….The traumatic death of children is not an isolated incident that shows how mismanaged government hospitals and medical colleges are…The state spending on health and medical education is so low that it has been difficult to maintain the existing creaky infrastructure leave alone built on it…” (Editorial. Tribune). Hang on, the lead news on the front page of Tribune shouts - “Punjab government today chose to reinstate the Principal as well as the suspended staff of the Rajindra hospital and Government Medical College. Patiala….” Is there anything else to state?

5 February 2009

Double Vision

Yes no one like job losses. But why should a newspaper take fancy to job loss report so much that it carries it twice? Take a look at a news report on page 5 in Pioneer, which comes with heading -“Five lakh jobs lost to recession in three months: Govt study”. Now jump to page 10 and guess what - “Recession eats up five lakh jobs in 3-months: Govt”. Now is the job loss report on page 10 any different from on page 5? Nope, in fact word to word the same, though on page 10 has more details. And mind you, they both are separate entities, with not a word of any connection mentioned.

Public Health Watch

The Union Minister of Health wants claims by fairness creams should be authenticated though scientific evidence. The minister is of the opinion that the claims made by manufactures of these creams are actually duping people. “ This needs to stop. They cannot say within one week you will be white and all this” - he said. (Asian Age). If only the Minister had taken special interest in providing Universal Health services to all Indians and improving the existing one. The same page in Asian Age reports that the planning Commission deputy Chairman recently told the “Social Editors Conference” that the demand is growing for quality social services, which need to be taken as a “positive sign” for sustainable development. Hang on, is quality social service a demand driven commodity? The public health services continues to remain a neglected orphan with dismal allocation of expenditure by the State. Who will lobby for universal public health service? Hang on, why the need to lobby for a basic essential service, it should be provided anyway.

4 February 2009

The headlines of the bottom last report on the front page of Economic Times comes with headlines- “ Ageing stars out of ad sweepstakes”. It reports that Amitabh Bachchan, Sachin Tendulkar, Aishwarya Rai, Preity Zinda and Kajol have exited from the list of top ten celebrities endorsing products on television in 2008. But Shah Rukh Khan continues to top the list. Hang on, is Shah Rukh Khan not an ageing star?

3 February 2009

Editorial of Day

India’s growth story continues. Consider the Central Statistical Organisation’s data for 2007-08 on per capita income, which is shown to have nearly doubled since 2000-01...But jubilation on this score should perhaps be tempered. Poverty, affecting between 220 and 280 million people, persists despite an impressive decline as a proportion of the population since 1990. It is important, however that poverty and inequality not be conflated in public discourse and policy…Inequalities can and does exist in free economies- which allow for free play of competitive forces- even with poverty reduction or eradication….India needs to create wider social security nets for the poor and vulnerable by delivering primary health and education as well as creating jobs….Agriculture ,accounting for less than a quarter of GDP, still employs the majority of the working population, As China shows, mass industrial employment means better incomes…There’s is no better anti-poverty measure than growth (Editorial. Times of India).

2 February 2009

Advertisement Watch

If the latest Advertising Outlook is to be believed, there is no slow-down in advertising, forget recession. The Rs. 207 billion industry has witnessed an increase of 17 percent in 2008. The print has managed to grab the largest share of this pie- 47% , followed by advertising on the box. Though internet advertising was not very significant in terms of absolute figures but what’s encouraging is its growth. It has grown at the rate of 45 percent and has reached Rs. 4 billion (Times of India).

Banking Woes: Toothless Ombudsman

The consumer affairs specialist, Puspa Girimaji quotes that 7,950 complaints filed before the Banking Ombudsman were rejected during 2007-2008, as they did not meet the stipulation that complainant should try to seek redressal with the bank before approaching Banking Ombudsman. According to her many customers are not aware of the procedure and argues that bank customers need better mechanism for complaints. “ RBI should insist on banks providing in every passbook/statement of accounts issued to the consumer, the details of grievance redressal mechanism available to the bank” (Hindustan Times). But she does not explored this issue further. What happens to those cases where the grievance redressal mechanism of banks have failed to respond to customer’s complaints and Banking Ombudsman has taken their cases on board? What action has been taken against these ‘do-not-care’ banks, particularly the public sector banks? Not much as the Banking Ombudsman is toothless and cannot take any action against banks. Moreover it cannot compensate the harassed consumer, apart from the actual loss incurred by him. So, if the bank is found guilty of incorrectly bouncing a cheque- a criminal offence, the Banking Ombudsman will not take any action against the bank nor will order any compensation to the customer who has lost his reputation due to dishonouring of his cheque. Result- guilty bank will happily walk free from criminal offence of bouncing a cheque, free of cost! And will not hesitate in bouncing another cheque! No wonder why there is huge backlog of cases of bounced cheques in the Indian courts. Unless the Banking Ombudsman starts imposing a symbolic penalty out of the profits of the banks, especially on the public sector banks, there is no light in the dark tunnel. Urgent need to amend Banking Ombudsman 2006, anyone listening?

1 February 2009

Special of Day

When a common man takes active interest in eradication of corruption and strengthens democratic values, he is rarely given credit for his effort. An exception- Pioneer has bothered to give one full page to Pratab Singh, a sixty three year old man who has “devoted himself to the cause of the society, in a way that he gave nightmares to all the top officials who even issued an order to ignore his complaints….But nothing could deter Singh, who has taken it upon himself to eradicate what he calls the evils of society - or at least bring to light - and that includes exploitation of the poor. For those whom he has saved from land sharks and powerful ministers, he is no less than a messiah…Call him the complaint man or a man of conviction, this astrologer by hobby knows how to make best of his autumn days”. He is the best answer to those who argue that the common man has accepted the rampant corruption in society. “ Not even in one of the complaints has there been any personal gain for this 63-year old”. Yes, the common man fights on but their efforts are not usually publicized by the mainstream media. There are no acclaimed awards for them, but they carry on the torch of accountability. If only we encourage and support more of Pratab Singhs- the unsung doctors of vibrant democracy rather than tagging them as “Complaint Man”. Must read- The complaint man. Pioneer. Page 9. Another Sunday special is the lead report in the Hindu Supplement by Sujata Madhok. She has raised the state of weavers of Benaras who have borne the blunt of globalisation as cheap imports have played havoc with Indian silk- “ Hands that wove magic with zari are pulling rickshaws to survive. A combination of mechanisation and duty-free import of silk yarn and fabric have ensured the ruin of the Benarasi weavers. The government needs to act now so that this vital heritage is not lost forever…”. A must to read- As the looms go silent in Benaras. Hindu Magazine. Hindu. Front page.

Question of Day

Paranjoy Guha Thakura’s write-up comes with heading -” Govt must build, repair to ease recession impact” (Asian Age). His write up ends- “ What is the Indian government waiting for? For the election Commission to announce the dates of general elections so that the model code of conduct becomes operational. Time is indeed running for the incumbent regime”. But hand on, first on the big question - Is there a recession in India? If only a slowdown, what’s this talk about easing recession impact?

RTI of Day

Chitrangada Chaudary has not minced words in describing the state of Right to Information -“Judges want politicians to declare their wealth, but the men and women guarding the soul of India’s honesty- judges, information and election commissioners- have become the toughest opponents of transparency”. (Hindustan Times). The text box comes with heading - “No time for rules”. Do we need to know more? A farmer with average annual income of Rs. 60,000 in Bihar was ordered to pay Rs. 10 million as RTI fees to know how public distribution system dealers distributed kerosene oil and food articles over the past few years. This is not all, when the farmer appealed against this exorbitant fees to the State Information Commission (SIC), the SIC too ordered the farmer to pay this amount (Hindustan Times).

Advertisement of Day

Apollo Hospitals has published advertisement with punch line- “Our Prime Minister is making remarkable progress. So is Indian healthcare”. The ad goes on to boost- “ …healthcare in India has come a long way indeed…”. Yes, Prime Minister is making remarkable progress and is a good news for the country. But the public health care in India is not making a remarkable progress. One cannot hear the demand for universal health care for all in India, like the one in United States. Even the prime Minister’s lead surgical team was outsourced from a leading private hospital in Mumbai. Apart from dismal expenditure on public health care, take a look around in public hospitals in Delhi & around. And there are no surprises waiting here. What would Apollo hospital say on this glaring fact?

February 2009-Newspaper Watch



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