February 2010 Newspaper Watch

SARCAJC

SOUTH ASIAN RESEARCH CENTRE FOR ADVERTISEMENT, JOURNALISM & CARTOONS

Sarcajc Research in Journalism Advertisement & Cartoon 

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Newspaper Watch (India) for the month of February 2010. For latest newspaper watch, view homepage

28 February 2010

Seriously funny

The festive spirit of Holi is evident on the font page of Rajasthan Patika as well as Dainik Bhaskar. In fact the large sized cartoon on the front of Dainik Bhaskar stands out. Take a look to know why! After the presentation of annual budget, view of day is being carried by Indian Express. Take a clue-“Not only do our politicians not get it, we in the media seem not to understand either that governance has become the single most important political issue in India. At Budget time, the cacophony of our 24-hour news channels reaches levels of hysteria so high that even God might be able to hear them but mostly they talk about little budgetary technicalities that matter only to those who pay taxes or those who are very rich…. In a day or two the excitement fades and India goes back to trundling along towards the 22nd century without being able to provide its citizens with their most basic needs..If we carry on this way then we can be sure that all we will achieve by the middle of this century is that we will become the largest pool of cheap, un- skilled labour in the world. We will be a new kind of East India Company exporting people instead of resources. It does not have to be this way. Nor can we blame our shabby standards on being `a poor country' as we did in the past..”. (Tavleen Singh. Indian Express)

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27 February 2010

Budget headlines

Most of front page of newspapers are carrying saline features of the Union Budget. However, the financial newspapers are far behind the Hindi newspapers in visual presentation. The cartoon of the day has been carried by Dainik Bhaskar. A must to view! Meanwhile take a clue about the Annual Budget from headlines in newspapers that were scanned today:

Budget for Growth (Asian Age)

Pranab bets on you (Hindustan Times)

 Time to shine (Times of India)

Get set grow! (Mail Today)

Stimulus, by Pranab (Indian Express)

Illusionary Relief (Free Press Journal)

Inflationary, with sops (New Indian Express)

happiness, but not real (Dainik Bhaskar)

Equal Happiness & sadness (Rajasthan Patrika)

Pocket loosen on Holi (Hindustan)

And inflation will affect (Dainik Jagran)

Bullying along with relief (Nai Duniya)

On a wing and a prayer (Financial Express)

Growth Hope in Pranab’s Give & Take (Financial Chronicle)

Pranab scores for a goal for fiscal prudence (Business Standard)

What A middle class act! (Economic Times)

Up in the air (Mint)

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26 February 2010

The Big Leak

A day before presentation of the Union Budget, Anita Saran asks- “Is the Union Budget a media carnival?” She points to the statistics- TAM (television audience measurement) which indicates that viewership shoots up on that day (Hindustan Times). What will be in store for the main street, this time around? Take a clue from Priya Ranjan Dash, who looks at key indication from the Economic Survey- “Indian on course to emerge as world beater in grow”. The big font explains it all- “The Economy on a Song” (Financial Chronicle). But is this growth really inclusive? Take a clue from Swaha Sahoo who points out - “human development way behind growth”. Yes, expenditure on social serviced and rural development went up from 10.46 percent to 19.46 percent during 2003-04 to 2009-10, however India’s rank in Human Development Indian is dismal. Not surprised, right! Way back on 28/8/06, Financial Express had published the contents of a letter written by finance minister P Chidambaram to Ahluwalia, objecting to the Planning Commission’s proposal to hike social sector expenditure. Chidambaram had written, “You do not repair a leaking water supply pipe by stepping up the water pressure.”. Interacting with Express Group Ahluwalia had said, “The analogy is cute but incorrect. If the leak can be plugged in a day, we can maintain the same water pressure. But if it’s going to take years, and we also want more water to reach the other side of the pipe, we need to increase pressure. Both have to be done simultaneously.” Is anyone listening?

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25 February 2010

Advertisement Watch

Sachin Tendulkar has indeed made history via his double hundred against South Africa. All newspapers have rejoiced his feat on their front page. His happiness is reflected on the front page of Nai Duniya, which has given him status of God- “Sachin becomes God of cricket”, while Asian Age asks-”Why God created Sachin”. The front page of Nai Duniya also carries a advertisement which features a young happy boy with cricket bat in his hand. The Punch line reads- “Vah (wonderful) Vah (wonderful) Sachin! “. The ad has capitalized on Sachin Tendulkar’s double hundred against South Africa -“Om master Blaster’s double hundred again the whole country will do Vah Vah Vah!”. What is the catch about Vah Vah appearing so many times in this ad? The advertiser’s (sells spices) motto is -”who ever eats will do Vah Vah! The advertisement by Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India has appeared in leading newspapers. It stresses- “avoid prolonged ‘tu tu mein mein’ (verbal abuse) with your insurance company!’. How- ‘…File a complaint with the Insurance Ombudsman…”. Point to ponder- ‘tu tu mein mein’ was a poplar TV serial which revolved around tu tu mein mein’ between daughter-in-law & mother-in-law. Can the harassed common man indulge in ‘tu tu mein mein’ with insurance companies? If this Insurance Ombudsman work on the lines of banking Ombudsman (soft on banks), then its better to approach the Courts? This is probably the first time that an advertisement has been placed by Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs with punch line- “Marrying a person abroad?” The ad rightly cautions- “Be vigilant. Check the background & all legal details before saying ‘yes’ (Tribune).

Media Watch

The Government of India has issued fresh advisory cautioning television channel about providing unnecessary publicity to terrorists. More- “..Some TV channels (in the past) arranged and telecast interviews with terrorist groups…the interview with terrorists have also provided a platform to them to justify their nefarious activities and obtain coverage on prominent channels which is seen as a major achievement and enabling them to put forward their views to a wide audience…”. (Hindustan Times).

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24 February 2010

Sense & Sensitivity

The editorial of Economic Times shouts- “Hypocrisy on food prices”. To take a clue, it claims- “:..cooperatives like Amul and Safal are efficient supply chain managers for niche segments. They must be replicated across the board for all farm produce or private organized retail must be allowed to function freely…”. However the newspaper has missed the glaring fact that SARCAJC had brought into light on 17th of this month- price of vegetables at the leading retail supermarket was much lower than at much acclaimed Safal!

Secondly, this editorial goes on to point- “Consumption patterns are changing, with the poor consuming more, thanks to employment guarantee scheme, and everyone is shifting towards superior foods- milk, eggs, meat, fruits and vegetables…”. Hang on, is everyone in India eating eggs & meat? Is vegetable and milk superior food for vegetarians? Does statistical figures for expenditure on employment guarantee scheme imply that money is actually reaching the poor and consequently their malnutrition has disappeared from the arena? It appears that this editorial lacks the depth of the ground level. Take a clue from Priya Ranjan Sahu, who informs on the front page of Hindustan Times- “Chronic hunger kills 50 in Orissa district”. However, local administration , minister claim that victims dies of other causes. More- “In the last two years, 50 people in the 30-40 age group died of chronic hunger and prolonged malnourishment….”. A photograph of extremely old thin Minchi, lying on a cot & her husband outside their home, accompanied text. The caption informs that the photograph was taken before Minchi died of starvation in Dec 2009. Her son and two grandchildren died a few months before her. Not surprisingly NREGA had failed to deliver, in addition to the loopholes in the Public Distribution System. SARCAJC has been raising the crucial issue of malnutrition. Take a look-

Despite averaging over 8.5% growth since 2000, India has achieved less than half of the United Nation Millennium Development goal target in hunger and is 94th on the Global Hunger Index of 118 countries….(Newspaper watch. 13/10/07)

The UNICEF report on State of Children Report 2008 was released in the capital on Tuesday with extremely worrying & disturbing facts about the state of Children in India.…Incidentally, the dismal statistics of infant mortality and malnutrition and all that worrying news did not make it to the front page of most newspapers which were faithfully carrying the state of the Indian stock market…(Newspaper Watch. 23/1/08)

….Mahim Pratap Singh reports that State government of Madhya Pradesh is clueless as children die of malnutrition. Malnutrition has caused death of over 450 children. According to National Family Health Survey-III, malnutrition in the state has increased from 54% to 60%.However in response to information sought under Right to information Act, the Women and Child Development Department stated that it did not maintain any such data. While on the other hand food rots at ports. Big deal? (Newspaper Watch. 1/8/09)

The World bank has stated that robust economic growth and food security will not remove the tag of being ‘one of the most malnourished’. “Whilst Indian celebrates its booming economy and GDP growth, the country remains one of the most malnourished in the world today”. Stating that the level of malnutrition in India is nearly double that reported in Sub Saharan Africa, the Bank said that it is unlikely that the United Nation’s MDG (millennium development goal) targets of halving the incidence of underweight by 2015 will be met. (Financial Express). It is no secret that with ever rising food prices, malnutrition will go up..what about the honest main street and effect on the health of Indian economy? More & more malnourished?(Newspaper Watch 6/8/09)

…is it not better to launch ''mission eradication of malnutrition'' instead of ''mission moon''? (Newspaper Watch. 8/8/09)

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23 February 2010

Fancy Focus

Neha Lalchandani reports on the front page of Times of India-“Retail loot: Mandi prices a fraction of what you pay”. She compares vegetable prices in wholesale market vis-à-vis

retail and the result - “its profiteering of the worst king and you are at the receiving end..”. Response of the government- “…it is very difficult to since the retailers number in thousands. I have asked the weight and measures department to get active and cracking on the whip, but simultaneously we have to educated the consumer…”. Hang on, why not tackle the high prices of vegetables in Safal outlets (Fruit and Vegetable Unit was set up in the year 1988 by National Dairy Development Board, an institute of national importance, a body corporate created by Government of India, with an objective to provide a direct link between fruit and vegetable growers and consumers.. Presently it is an unit of Mother Dairy Foods Processing Ltd, a wholly owned company of Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable Ltd. In April 2000, Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable Ltd was created as a subsidiary of NDDB. The processed products of the unit are marketed with the brand name 'SAFAL'..- View its website). Our Newspaper watch had pointed on 17th of this month that the price of vegetables at the leading retail supermarket was much lower than at Safal! Amitav Ranjan reports on front page of Indian Express that Minister for Agriculture wrote to the Prime Minister on 15th of this month. Was it white paper on how to control price rise of food commodities? Nope! Its Bt all the way! Guess, what, he has strongly argued that the success (of Bt Cotton) "needs to be replicated in food, fruit and vegetable crops to ensure long lasting food security." He added that while India was still taking "hesitant steps," the world is moving ahead. "The global area under these crops has increased by more than 60-fold with 25 countries planting 125 million hectares of GM crops in 2008. Nineteen crops have so far been approved for planting in various countries out of which four namely corn, soyabean, cotton and canola are extensively grown,". Point to ponder- safety aspect that has direct affect on main street (read- one billion humans)? More-biodiversity and hence the eco-system? Sustainable Development, a lost word? The Cartoon on the front page of Financial Chronicle shows a poor common man holding ‘Food Security Act”. A poor old woman is holding paper telling GDP ­ . He asks her- “How did they hear our cries of hunger amid the roar of tiger?” Take a clue from the large sized cartoon on the editorial page in Hindustan Times! And not to forget cartoon in Asian Age which shows heavy security checks on the poor common man who wants to attend budget session in the Indian parliament. Result, security personnel conclude- “Quite explosive - Can’t let him in!”. While toon in Hindu shows Finance minister finalizing the budget on his laptop, and place of the poor common man!

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22 February 2010

Cartoon Watch: Waiting for Budget-1

The cartoon in Aaj Samaj shows an official pointing to a ditch & is telling a politician - “Development is continuing sir, last year this hole measures one feet, and how it is of five feet…!!Not surprising the cartoon on the front page of Asian Age features a politician (seems Finance minister) telling his officers- “Not economists. Now I need poets and humourists to infuse poetry and jokes in the Budget Speech !”. The cartoon on the front page features a well-off man holding a place card- Budget Wish List ‘SOS’. The same newspaper carries a progress report card- “Miles to go, promises to keep”.

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21 February 2010

Family Affair

An advertisement on the front page of Hindu invites for Surabhi Theatre Festival (7 plays) to be held from tomorrow till end of this month at IGNCA. Delhi. It is accompanied by an exhibition. This festival is being organized to celebrate 125 years of a family based theatre from Andhra Pradesh. A must to view. Other incentives- free entry & parking is free, not to forget delicious food from Andhra Pradesh Bhavan that too at reasonable rates.

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20 February 2010

Advertisement Watch

The government has placed half a page advertisement in leading newspapers-”Committee for consultations on the situation in Andhra Pradesh Government of India Public Notice”. It has called views and suggestions within 30 days of the publication of this notice. Hopefully, recent turn of events for demand of separate state of Telangana can be resolved through formation of a five member Committee, which is expected to give its report by end of this year. Point to ponder- how are members of such committees decided? Why no youth ( \read even in the age sphere of 40 years!) here? Why no ad is placed to invite applications from the main street- are they not representative of the nation?

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19 February 2010

Official Censorship

The country has recently seen hot debates over the proposed introduction of GM brijal. But not in future! Take a clue from Dinesh Sharma who informs on the front page of Mail Today- “Govt moots jail for GM food critics”. Is this a joke? Nope, read on- “If the ministry of Science & Technology has its way, cruising genetically-modified (GM) products could land you in jail. An Indian citizen who questions the safety of any GM food or medicine could be put behind bars for a minimum of six months under a new law proposed by the ministry”. Criticism & debate is a integral part of any vibrant democracy, then whys such a sick proposal to curb expression of freedom? The editorial of the same newspaper-“…Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar & since minister Prithviraj Chavan have been batting for introduction of GM crops …This only shows the persuasive and invasive power of the biotech industry and how it is employs high profile lobbyists to push its case in developing countries…None other than country‘s since and technology is parroting their stand…..”. Hang on, yesterday Vinod Agnihotri informed on the front page of Nai Duniya - ‘Sonia -Rahul also with desi brinjal”. Then why such proposal from ministry of Science & Technology? Is anyone listening?

I have a Dream

The Haryana Supplement of Tribune has published a photograph of a small girl, cleaning a broom. The caption reads- “When children of her age play and study, this girl is found working hard to make both ends meet near the mini-secretariat in Karnal”. The photographer is Ravi Kumar. Look around, one can view such children working, but none of the well off people around object to their working. And even if by any chance they are rescued by some prominent NGO, what happens to their life afterwards (read rehabilitation)? How often does leading newspapers follow up? Not surprisingly, very often parents (poor) prefer their kids to work with them. Point to ponder- why laws regarding prohibition of child labour are best viewed only in books, heard only in seminars and overheard in posh ‘page three’ parties? Is right to happy childhood only a dream for working small children from main street?

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18 February 2010

Media Health

A must to read- “Advertising, Bollywood, Corporate power” by no other than P. Sainath. Take a clue- “…Many corporate-owned media houses have sacked hundreds of journalists and non-journalist staff since late 2008. Hundreds of other journalists have suffered wage cuts. …And how can you tell them the truth about that while everyday crowing about the once-again booming economy? It might lead audiences to ask that dull, boring question: “If things are so good, why are you axing so many people?” Answering that means revealing the interests the corporate media have in the fate of the stock market…. The hundreds of sacked and ruined staff have little freedom to speak of. Even the professional communicators within them cannot tell their own audiences their story. Cannot tell them they were laid off, let alone tell them why…The ABC of Indian media roughly translates as Advertising, Bollywood and Corporate power. ..And, of course, everything but everything, has to be bollywoodised. To now earn attention, issues have to be dressed up only in ways certified by the corporate media….The more entrenched that ABC gets, the greater the danger to the language of democracy the media so proudly claim to champion.

Opps

Viraat Vaibhav is a newspaper in Hindi, published from New Delhi. The number of pages is 16 & is reasonably priced at Rs. 2. Its motto is - opens door of Vaibhav (prosperity). However, today, two pages (5 & 12) are not readable due to extremely poor printing.

 

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17 February 2010

Anything Goes

The front page of Economic Times, leading financial daily informs that “a Wipro staff guilty of fraud worth crores”. It starts off- “A Wipro employee embezzled crores of rupees over the past three years..the employee is believed to have embezzled about $4 million of Wipro’s money and used it on himself…”. According to the CGFO of the company, the incident did not involve more than one Wipro staff. Point to ponder- is this possible for a single employee to embezzle such a big amount all by himself for last three years? What to talk about the role of professionally competent auditors? Nevertheless, what will be the quantum of punishment to him? Take a clue from verdict of the special court today on Abdul Karim Telgi, the prime accused of multi-crore fake stamp paper scam. The court sentenced him to 10 years imprisonment & fine of only Rs 50,000 (Hindu).

Opps

A text block on left bottom of Page three in Greater Kashmir comes with heading- “Regrets”. Go on- “JK Bank’s advertisement which appeared on the front page in yesterday’s issue has been published inadvertently. The error and inconvenience caused is highly regretted”. Swatantra Bharat is a newspaper in Hindi, published from Lucknow & Kanpur. The number of pages is 16 & is reasonably priced at Rs. 2. However, today, we were not Swatantra (free) to view page 4 of its Lucknow edition. Reason- printed black!

Power Ambition

The persistent shortages of electricity both for peak power and energy is not new for main street, in urban as well as rural areas. The very high load factor of 76.8% for the system indicates that the system is operating under strain or has limited reserve. Most leading newspapers carry advertisements by Rural Electrification Corporation Limited regarding its public issue of 171,732,000 equity shares of face value of Rs. 10 each. The motto Rural Electrification Corporation Limited reads- “Endless energy, Infinite possibilities”. Small New Item in Hindu reports- “Power to all Indian villages by 2012: Shinde”. According to the Union Power Minister, Sunil Kumar Shinde, all 115,000 villages in the county will be provided electricity by 2012. How- target for electricity generation for the 11th Five Year Plan is 78,000 MW. Is this possible? The Planning Commission has itself conceded- “The proposed capacity addition is three and a half times of that achieved in the Tenth Plan and in that sense is very ambitious….”.Take a clue from dismal achievement rate as percentage of last five year plans targets- 54%, 48% and 52% (Source: All India Electricity Statistics. General Review 2008)

Competition in Retail

Early this month, addressing the Chief Ministers' conference on food prices the Prime Minister had made a strong case for opening of retail trade for greater competition pointing out that there was a huge difference between the wholesale and retail prices. Today, team of SARCAJC went vegetable shopping at one of leading retail supermarket & Safal (Fruit and Vegetable Unit was set up in the year 1988 by National Dairy Development Board, an institute of national importance, a body corporate created by Government of India, with an objective to provide a direct link between fruit and vegetable growers and consumers.. Presently it is an unit of Mother Dairy Foods Processing Ltd, a wholly owned company of Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable Ltd. In April 2000, Mother Dairy Fruit & Vegetable Ltd was created as a subsidiary of NDDB. The processed products of the unit are marketed with the brand name 'SAFAL'..- View its website). Result is extremely surprising- the price of vegetables at the leading retail supermarket was much lower than at Safal! Not to forget, quality was also better. Point to ponder- more competition via private retail players (read FDI in retail) will curb food price rise or this reduced price by leading retail supermarket is just an image building exercise?

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16 February 2010

Mystery Unresolved

Nearly sixty Five years have passed but the mystery regarding disappearance of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose remains unveiled but refuses to go away from newspapers. Chandrachur Ghose has raised the need for active role of the Indian government and thorough investigation by a multi-disciplinary panel to unveil the mystery behind disappearance of Indian revolutionary Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in Statesman. Chandrachur starts off with ‘off the record’ admission of Justice Manoj Kumar Mukherjee (who investigated Netaji’s mysterious disappearance) in a recent documentary. According to Justice, Gumnani Baba (known also as Bhagwanji, Dasnami Sanyasi) was no other than Netaji. Chandrachur looks into evidence on public knowledge like ‘Handwriting & DNA’ and ‘Sanyasi’s identity’ & concludes- “The sheer magnitude of the implication of Justice Mukerjee’s statement has dumbfounded many people. This is perhaps the right time to come out of the stupor and raise certain inconvenient questions”. Two days back two letter to editor appeared in Tribune.

“…Some ex soldiers of the INA (Netaji’s Indian National Army), including my cousin brother…told me that Netaji did board the plane but came out of it as he suspected that some secret agent were shadowing him. This was confirmed in 2006 even by Nizamuddin…driver-cum-bodyguard of Netaji. Netaji is considered a symbol of India’s pride, but our political leaders even fear to remember him…” (Multan Singh Parihar.Jalari- Hamirpur)

“…It is indeed unfortunate that even 60 years after Indian Independence…Indian governments have not bothered to clear the mystery around the Disappearance of Netaji…” (Gaurav Julka. Ferozepore).

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15 February 2010

Common -Wealth

Last month, Delhi High Court had dismissed the contention of the Organising Committee for Commonwealth 2010 and Indian Olympic Association (IOA) that they were not public authority liable to reveal information under the RTI Act. The Committee had challenged the Centre's decision to declare it as a public authority under the transparency law. Why block transparency to the main street on the first place to the main street? Recently a courier of the Dubai jeweler was arrested by Indian Customs while carrying the Rs 14-lakh ring for an official in the Commonwealth Games Secretariat. He has confessed that not only was the ring meant to be delivered to Darbari, while in Dubai he had purchased jewellery worth over Rs.1.5 million (10/2/2010. Indian Express). Virendra kapoor asks-“If Darbari, a mere official in the Commonwealth Games Secretariat, can buy himself jewelery worth over Rs. 3 million on a single trip to Dubai, what could his bosses would be making in the name of the tamasha where the country might be left with a huge bill without it actually winning very many medals” (Free Press Journal). Yeap, and not to forget the online lottery business for raising money for the games, that too in the land of Mahatma Gandhi! More to come, Swaraj Thapa informs that the government has pulled up Suresh Kalmadi, chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee, for including, without permission, the names of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, several central ministers and top officials in the panel. Kalmadi has been directed to pull these names out of the Organising Committee. Kalmadi had named Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi as Chief Patrons of the Organising Committee. Remember, last month, in the controversial advertisement issued by Women and Child Development Ministry had carried PM's picture alongside that of a Pakistani Air Chief.. Not surprisingly the advertisement that has appeared today by the same ministry does not carry PM’s picture rather a lone picture of minister of Women and Child Development, that too in black & white!

Fake Advertisement

Sudhanshu Mishra reports from Jaipur that that Indian Army is in fix over a fake advertisement that has appeared in a multi-edition leading daily regarding recruitment in the army’s south-western command. A fake letter head of the Jaipur based commander was used to book the ad. The army has sought help from the police to crack this puzzle (Mail Today). However, Sudhanshu Mishra has not disclosed the name of this multi-edition leading daily. According to Jodhpur based army PRO, modus opera in the present case was different from the one adopted by the recruitment racket. Last year too a fake army recruitment racket was busted and two persons were arrested for allegedly duping hundreds of people. It was reported last year that touts, acting as recruiting officers, used to lure candidates willing to join the Indian Army. They used to conduct written tests, medical examinations and issue fake joining letters and charge the candidates for these. (Times of India. 20/7/2009). The same newspaper had reported that army intelligence corp and the Special Task Force of the state police had busted a racket involved in recruitment of jawans in the army through fake documents in connivance with some army servicemen in Zonal Recruitment Office at the Central Command (4/1/04). Point to ponder- as the main street is unable to detect fake currency, how to detect fake advertisements? High time to set up press advertisement bureau to cross check governmental ads before publishing in newspapers?

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14 February 2010

Media Should Know

Tribune has published excerpts from Karan Thapar’s interview with Chief of Army Staff for CNN-IBN’s Devil’s Advocate. Take a clue from General Kapoor’s remarks on media- “…In our country the media has been super active on this issue (Sukna land scam) and if they had been better informed and if they knew how the military system of law works, they would have handled it in a more positive fashion than in a purely negative perspective…Keeping in mind the sensationalisation, TRP ratings etc., they may have been overactive to sensationalise the issue..The media has talked a lot about the so-called pressure on the Army Chief but, like I stated in the beginning, the media has not been fair on the Army Chief. Without trying to criticize the media let me say that if the media had armed themselves with better knowledge of the legal system within the Army and better knowledge of facts , perhaps, they would have treated the subject a little differently than what they did..”. Is anyone listening?

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13 February 2010

By Invitation only

The front page of Free Press Journal reports that according to the Governor of apex bank of India growing fiscal deficit as a result of governments' efforts to prop up their respective economies has the potential to undermine the autonomy of central banks, whose credibility has already been dented due to the financial meltdown. The Reserve Bank had organised the first international research conference on Challenges to Central Banking in the Context of Financial Crisis in a posh five star hotel in Mumbai, which concluded today. For reasons best known, participation to this conference was highly restricted (Attendance/ Participation is by invitation only). We requested for an invite, but there was no response! The Press Release by RBI ended- “Governor, Reserve Bank of India was categorical in his remarks that the International Monetary System was inadequate to prevent a major structural problem, that is, global imbalances, which had to manifest in the form of some crisis or the other at some stage. He noted that even though India did not contribute to global imbalances, it has to face the consequences”. Most newspapers report latest health check of economy- Industrial output posted its best growth in 15 years this December, jumping 16.8 per cent over December 2008 & the ever rising food inflation has gone over the roof. Take a clue from Gaurav Chaudhary- “In the strange world of market economics, good news, can sometimes lead to bad news, because traders and policy makers follow their own logic…” (Hindustan Times). Point to ponder- what is the logic for the main street? Take a clue from Cartoon that appeared yesterday in Deshbandhu (National Edition). It features a notice in front of a provision store- “To view food items ticket only Rs. 20. Discount for family 50%. Hurry this exhibition will travel to other city on 20th”. Not surprising, the common man reading the notice is not amused!

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12 February 2010

Talks

The cartoon in Hindu shows President Zardari standing & thinking (puzzled) before walking on the carpet (inscribed -India’s invitation for talks) to table laid out for talks (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is seen standing near this table). The front page of Rajasthan Patrika carries a cartoon in which a smiling man is saying- “We don’t even stop Pakistani, Bangaleshi…!!!”. In the background is the new item carrying the statement of Union Home Minister- “Any Indian can return from Pok: Chidambaram”. . News related to upcoming dialogue between India & Pakistan has kept date with front page of most newspapers. Nirupama Subramanium reports from Islamabad- “Decision on Indian offer soon: Pakistan”. (front page. Hindu). The front page of Asian Age highlights statement by Indian Defence minister- “Pak inaction won’t affect talks”. All three letter to editor in Tribune welcome the bilateral talks between Indian & Pakistan. Home Minister Chidambaram’s offer has been highlighted on front page of most newspapers scanned today:

Offer to ‘kashmirs’ gone to POK to return to India (Punjab Kesari)

PC: Kashmiris can return (Asian Age)

POK is integral part of India “Chidambaram (Veer Arjun)

Welcome to people returning from occupied Kashmir:Chidambaram (Dainik Tribune)

Welcome to people who return to Indian side of POK (Rajasthan Patrika)

Welcome to people who return from POK (Hari Bhoomi)

Give up militancy and return home, Chidambaram tells Kashmiris in PoK (Hindu)

Welcome to people who return from POK: Chidambaram (United Bharat)

Leaving pistol welcome to returning from POK (Navbharat Times)

Chidambaram in favour of pardon to terrorists (Dainik Jagran. National Edition)

India will welcome people who return from POK (In Dino)

Centre ready for amnesty to Kashmir ultras in PoK (Tribune)

POK belongs to India: Chidambaram (Deshbandhu)

People returning from POK welcome (Hindustan)

POK part of India (Rashtriya Sahara)

Pok part of India: Chidambaram (Viraat Vaibhav)

Media Management

Vineeta Pandey reports that three weeks after a controversial ad featuring former Pakistani air chief Tanvir Ahmed’s photo appeared in a campaign by her ministry, women and child development (WCD) minister Krishna Tirath has fired her media officer NC Joshi. Tirath said Joshi failed “to prevent negative reporting and media bashing against her.”…Joshi was removed by the minister shortly after the goof-up. His mistake was that he could not adhere to the minister’s wishes and prevent media from writing anything against her on the issue…Incidentally, the inquiry committee report is still awaited…Tirath’s action has caused angst among other PIB officers who feel it was unjustified to crucify an officer for the mistake by a minister. Sources said given Tirath’s temperament, none of the officers were willing to work with her. As a result, the ministry was yet to get a replacement for Joshi (DNA). Point to ponder- Can Indian media be managed & prevented from negative reporting against a Minister for an Ad-goof up (not his fault)!
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11 February 2010

River Clean-up Mess

Surely, access to safe drinking water is not too much to ask for after 60+ years of independence. Neha Sinhna reports that a day after sale of BT brinjal was turned down -- with public hearings setting the tone for the ‘no'- brickbats, more than bouquets, were in store for Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh during the first-ever public hearing for cleaning the Ganga and Yamuna. The biggest outcry was against the mixing of treated sewage water with river water. (Indian express). Neha is referring to All India Ganga Yamuna Panchayat that was recently held in New Delhi, however no advertisement appeared in leading newspapers inviting the main street to participate in it. The Minister of Environment mentioned here -"..We have to find a Sreedharan to clean the Ganga and Yamuna…”. If so, why not advertise the post? The basic point is - Why should raw sewage & industrial discharge be allowed to flow in any river? Take the case of the capital- up to 18 drains in Delhi discharge effluents into the Yamuna, adding to the municipal sewage and industrial effluents, which are mainly responsible for water-borne diseases as well degradation of water quality. One doesn’t have to be a genius to figure it out. The lackadaisical approach to clean these rivers has already cost a lot to the exchequer but the river is as polluted as it was, if not more. Forthcoming Commonwealth Games in New Delhi was the right time to get river Yamnua clean, alas, instead of cleaning the river, foreigners might not be allowed to go near Yamuna (read polluted river)! Take a clue from Sports Minister M S Gill - “Having turned into a drain, Yamuna is a horror today…With such a high level of pollution we might have to prevent our foreign visitors from going near the river..”(Mumbai Mirror. 23/1/2010).

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10 February 2010

Undisputed King

Brinjal is the king, courtesy the controversy over introduction of Bt brinjal in India. Take a clue from cartoon in Aaj Samaj which shows a politician beating a common man with a slipper. The helpless man says- “..you have felt bad,,I had made your comparison with brinjal due to your popularity…!!!” .The news item on newspaper reads- “Bt brinjal” while in the background- “No vegetable has ever got such opportunity to feature in media…brinjal is not king of vegetables like that…” Yes, brinjal is appearing on the front page newspapers:

Govt overrules own experts, puts Bt brinjal in deep freeze (Indian Express)

Bt brinjal in cold storage (Rastriya Patrika)

Govt Decision on bt brinjal postphoned (Dainik Jagran)

No to Bt Brinjal, for now (Tribune)

It’s moratorium on Bt brinjal: Jairam (Hindu)

Jairam puts Bt brinjal on back burner (Economic Times)

Bt brinjal under safety check, launch on hold (Financial Chronicle)

Jairam says no to Bt brinjal (Mail Today)

Centre says no to Bt brinjal, for now (Times of India)

No Bt brinja; for now (Hindustan Times)

Jairam defers decision on Bt brinjal (Asian Age)

Jairamji to Bt brinjal (Aaj Samaj)

Victory of Desi Bt brinjal lose (Nai Duniya)

GM FOOD - Govt puts Bt brinjal in limbo ( Financial Express)

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9 February 2010

Media Norms

Citing the Aarushi murder case, the Supreme Court is in favour of evolving certain norms for coverage of criminal cases by the media in order to protect the right of privacy and reputation of affected persons. The court was hearing a PIL filed by advocate Surat Singh seeking a restraint on the media from reporting pending criminal cases in the wake of the sensational murder of teenaged girl Aarushi Talwar and her domestic servant Hemraj in neighbouring Noida. The PIL had claimed the extensive media coverage of the killings had badly damaged the reputation of Aarushi's parents Rajesh and Nupur Talwar and sought restrictions on the media from reporting such cases (Free Press Journal). Point to ponder- why Aarushi’s murderer/s have not been brought to book till date?

Betting & Commonwealth Games

Dheeraj Tiwari & Rajeev Jayaswal report that Delhi Commonwealth Secretariat has quietly launched a special online lottery series hoping to raise over Rs 5 billion to fund the Games. Since there is a ban on lottery in some states, Commonwealth Games (CWG) panel has written to these states requesting them to make a one-time exception, said another official. “It’s for a good cause,” he said, asking not to be named (Economic Times). Point to ponder- Is introduction of lottery (for any cause) justified? Take a clue from Mahatma Gandhi.

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8 February 2010

Sugar Boycott

What is the solution to high price of sugar? Take a clue from editorial in magazine of NCP (political party of Union Agriculture Mininster - Sharad Pawar)- Don’t eat! The lead story in Asian Age shouts- “Sugar is rich. NCP says you wont die if you don’t eat it”. Is this really the solution? Has something being missed? Editorial of the same paper has pondered- “The eight hour meeting of the chief ministers convened by the Prime Minister on Saturday ended, predictably, with the formation of a committee to tackle the problem (price rise)….The seriousness of the deliberations can be gauged from the fact that the meeting did not even mention how unsold or un-dispatched stocks of 72,684.3 metric tonnes of sugar meant for the public distribution system was sold in the open market in September 2009 at a profit of Rs. 123 crore (Rs 1.23 billion) by the sugar barons of Maharashtra. The news appeared in this newspaper on the day of the PM’s meeting (Ministry let sugar barons profit on sugar, meant for poor. February 6). No one has denied the veracity of our report. Why did the Prime Minister, or the finance minister, or anyone else in authority not take the Maharashtra chief minister to task for this? Why was agriculture minister Sharad Pawar not questioned about it considering his closeness to the sugar barons? …How can such schemes counter wrong policies - like Pawar miscalculating sugar production and allowing sugar exports with abandon? (Editorial. Asian Age). The ruling Congress party too is not pleased with Pawar’s ‘talking up’ of prices. What next?

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7 February 2010

Nothing At All

Rahul Gandhi has displayed maturity in handling his recent successful trip to Mumbai, however, in contrast, the Union Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh lost his cool in a public hearing on Bt Brinjal issue in Bangalore. He even asked a protestor who accused him of being an agent of a leading biotech (Monsanto firm to seek mental help! But has the decision to introduce Bt Brinjal taken already? Take a clue- “..You need mental help. You need psychiatric treatment…if you interrupt, I am going to throw you out…Scientists should make scientific contributions, not political contributions…You (NGOs) have created unnecessary scares..the decision will disappoint 50% of India, and the rest will be happy…” (front page. Free Press Journal). Zia Haq & Snehal Rebello asks- “Who gives a brinjal”? They informs- “ The Bt brinjal is about to reach your plates…”. Sharath S. Srivatsa reports on page in Hindu that disclosure of a Gazette notification has kept out 190 plant species (including brinjal) out of the purview of the biological diversity act. But wait, can you be sure of what you’re buying. Jaideep Hardikar informs that in the midst of the German fashion week, ‘Label Scandal’ report of Financial Times (German edition.22/1/2010) has triggered what has snowballed into a major controversy. Here, the FT Deutschland (FTD) has named some of the major global clothing brands, including H&M, C&A and Tchibo, alleging that they were selling GMO-contaminated organic cotton, sourced from India, inferring that it was a fraud by design. GMOs (or Genetically Modified Organisms) are prohibited in organic standards. The report also quoted Sanjay Dave, director of the Agriculture Processing and Exports Development Agency (APEDA), as saying that the alleged fraud was occurring on a “gigantic scale.” (DNA). Has so called Label Scandal spared Indian consumers?

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6 February 2010

Just Lucky

Getting their children admitted to prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) is a dream of most parents belonging the Indian middle class. The kids slog it out in coaching classes but very few are lucky. Lucky? Many brilliant students believe their performance in the entrance exam was too good but they somehow failed to make any IIT. Luck? With a heavy heart, they move on with their lives but the pain remains as there was no way they could cross check their performance. Aditi Tandon reports - “For four decades until 2006, IITs were not in the practice of making question papers or model answer papers IIT-JEE public. Admissions were naturally not subjected to scrutiny..in IIT-JEE 2006, about 994 meritorious students were disqualifies from admissions because of incomplete application of the cut-off formula…“. Aditi asks- “How wards of IIT faculty score amazing high in 2006” (Tribune). Point to ponder- is this true only for IIT, what about IIM, AIIMS etc and not to forget your own college? No wonder why so many students prefer to go aboard for higher studies. But remember scholarships are negligible and fees too high. Can the main street afford? No prize for getting this one right!

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5 February 2010

Up, Up & Higher

Most newspapers report that potatoes, pulses lift food inflation at 17.56 per cent. Geetanjali Gayatri informs that price of bread & butter will also go up as VAT from 4 to 5 percent (Tribune). It does not require an expert to figure out that if recommendation of the Kirit Parikh Committee (on increasing fuel, cooking gas prices) is accepted, then inflation will fly higher! The editorial of Nai Duniya expresses great concern over high inflation - “burden on poor”. This editorial takes a shot- “Whenever government wants to increase prices, it takes shield of bureaucrats and economists…The recommendations of Kirit Parikh Committee have been made public so that when they are partially implemented, the media will make noise that that see our government is so kind...It is being said that diesel prices will go up by Rs. 1…but if the price of diesel goes up by one rupee per litre then prices of commodities go up several times…That government which gives out bail out package worth thousands of crores to the rich, is burdened on spending one rupee on the poor”. What does the main street feel. Last month, in Open Forum, Central Chronicle (Bhopal), Babu George Athirumkal had informed - “…But even now, price of petrol is very high in India while comparing to USA and other countries. We, consumers in India, pay Rs.48/- (approx.) for petrol per liter while consumers in USA get the same for RS. 17/- (approx.) in their domestic market”. While Jyoti Rai pointed out “…The moment prices of petroleum products are increased the state governments (ruled by other than the party in power at the Centre) would start blaming the Central Government for the price hike. In reply the Central Government would ask the states to reduce their sales tax to give relief to consumers…. Einstein's theory of gravity say that anything that goes up is bound to come down. That theory is not applicable to price rise. It will keep rising and never come down.(20/1/2010). Today, Jug Suraiya takes on inflation, advertisement, mobile phone and politics in a small write-up in Times of India. He starts off- “Inflation? Forget it. Never mind that prices- particularly food prices- have gone not just through all future roof rights on that benighted roof. Never mind that onions have become the new pearls, tomatoes the new rubies, and potatoes the new diamonds….A couple of weeks ago I spotted an advertising hoarding announcing this products. Which was on sale for one paisa. …An entire generation of Indians has grown up for whom a paisa is not even a race memory…The hoardings were advertising talk time on cellphone service…Talk is in great supply and short demand, so the price of talk is low. And where did we learn to talk so much? From our Netas of course: We shall eradicate poverty, we shall control inflation…….”. Point to ponder- instead of price hike of fuel that will hurt the main street, why not heavily tax the existing and new passenger cars run on diesel and petrol hungry luxury cars? No free riders allowed on the back of the main street!

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4 February 2010

Taken for a Ride: The sports page in Tribune informs - “Media kept out of National Stadium”. What’s there to hide? It reveals that according to a director of Sports Authority of India the “decision had been taken to keep the media out of bounds of the stadium as a television cameraman had allegedly tried to climb over the boundary wall. But it’s learnt that the turf war between the sports ministry and hockey Indian was the real reason for keeping the media out as SAI and the ministry do not want to give any credit to Hi for preparation of the hockey team at the National Stadium….”. The front page of Asian Age informs that Asian Age photojournalist Biplab Banerjee was harassed by security personnel and was handed over to the police who made him wait for five hours before he was allowed to leave. Why? He had gone to cover the Indian hockey camp held to prepare for the World Cup in National Stadium in New Delhi. Point to ponder- Indian hockey player had been taken for a ride by authorities, now even journalists too?

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3 February 2010

Inflation watch

George Mathew & Madhusudab Sahoo inform that sugar might have turned bitter for consumers across the country, but sugar companies are raking in bumper profits for their promoters and shareholders. With prices almost doubling in a year, 33 sugar companies listed on the stock exchanges have seen their profits zooming by 2,900 per cent to Rs 901 crore for the quarter ended December 2009 from Rs 30 crore in the same period of last year. (Indian Express). The editorial of Indian Express points out the remedy- “…Economists of all hues now agree that public investments in agriculture have declined steeply and that food grain production has hit a plateau and not able to go any further….For nearly 20 years now, agriculture has literally disappeared from the policy radar. Singh will have to take the blame with the rest of the policy -and decision-makers. Instead of blaming and chiding the states, it would be more useful if Singh unveiled a national agricultural plan“. (Editorial. DNA). Hang on, it only production the only issue? What about management of food supply ? Today export, then import, then export and import, export……And not to forget the role of commodity trading! Hang on, can’t be very sure, we’re still studying!

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2 February 2010

Cartoon Watch

The cartoon of the Day has been carried by Financial Chronicle on its front page which shows a man reading a newspaper - “IPCC’s claim based on student essay” while other telling him-”I doubt if Mr Pachauri got the noble for one of his nightmares….”.

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1 February 2010

Environment Watch

Rajendra Pachauri has penned down long article in Hindu on “Challenges of climate change, post -Copenhagen”. He starts off- “The science of climate change is now well established..” and ends- “The challenge and opportunity facing human society is, therefore, to launch urgent grassroots action by civil society, business and local governments towards a pattern of sustainable development. National governments and multilateral initiatives would follow inevitably”. Does this reflect in his lifestyle? The front page of Free Press Journal reports that he has been slammed by a British newspaper for using a car to travel just one mile (1.6 km) to work. "Controversial climate change boss uses car and driver to travel one mile to office...(but he says YOU should use public transport)," the Mail on Sunday newspaper told its readers. Simon Parry had pointed out that Dr Pachauri showed no apparent inclination to cut global warming in his own back yard. Contrary to what he preaches, Dr Pachauri rode in a 1.8-litre Toyota Corolla driven by his personal chauffeur from his £4.5million luxury home to his Delhi office (total distance of mere 1 mile). Simon argues he could have walked, or cycled, or used the eco-friendly electric car provided for him. “…The Golf Links area in Central Delhi where Dr Pachauri lives is named after the nearby Delhi Golf Course and is one of the most expensive residential areas in India….The five-star lifestyle and considerable wealth of Dr Pachauri – who is said to wear suits costing £1,000 each – has come under growing scrutiny since he was forced to acknowledge the error of the claims in an explosive 2007 IPCC report that the Himalayan glaciers might melt within 25 years” (Sunday Mail). Point to ponder- The general perception here is to flaunt if you have. None of the well known big shots living posh colonies are ever seen using public transport, walking to work or even using fuel efficient small cars. Here, the value of a person is judged by the breath & width of his/her new car! Not surprising, Amrit Raj Jha reports in Financial Chronicle that luxury car makers pick up speed in India. Yes, here, big luxury cars are mark of status symbol. So are other luxury items….list seems endless. Concepts like sustainable development sound good only in venues like Copenhagen!