January 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 January 2010. For latest newspaper watch, view homepage


31 January 2010

Advertisement Fiasco

The controversy involving a photograph of a former Pakistan air force appearing in government of India advertisement that made the Prime Minister's office (PMO) apologise last Sunday, is not going to go away. Under last word- the Free Press Journal, reports that a Union minister of state holding independent charge of women and child welfare ministry, is most likely to get the boot whenever the ministry is reshuffled. Inquiries revealed that a close relation of the minister was head of an advertising agency which prepared the controversial advertisement and four half-page advertisements costing Rs 8 million were released to a particular English daily recommended by that relation. An inquiry ordered by PMO showed that the said advertisements were released to only one daily and they were conceptualised in tandem with that daily by a private advertising agency. The CEO (chief executive officer) of the agency happens to be a close relative of Minister Tirath. According to Coomi Kapoor, the ad's content and design were prepared by the very newspaper in which it finally appeared. The newspaper had an exclusive tie-up with the ministry to run the ad, which is against DAVP guidelines (Indian Express).
Organic Food

Mausam Sharma reports that fruits and vegetables that is free of pesticides or insecticides will be served to athletes & officials and all others dignitaries, who will take part in the Commonwealth Games. The Indian Agriculture Research Institute ( IARI) on Pusa Road is spearheading the initiative to produce ‘Safe Food’ grown using a specialised technique. Under the new system, the land for cultivation will be chosen carefully. It will be enriched with manure, not fertilisers. Care will be taken to provide the right moisture and temperature. However, if need for pesticides arises, only organic substances such as neem seeds, neem leaves or neem oil will be used (Mail Today). The river Yamuna is heavily polluted- is no secret but main street still buy vegetables grown here. How about safe food here too!
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30 January 2010

Gandhi Watch

Large governmental Advertisements have made appearance in Newspapers on Mahatma Gandhi’s 63rd Martyrdom Day. Point to ponder- have we made Bapu a legend…? Take a clue from the First Prime Minister of India- Jawaharlal Nehru-….Mahatma Gandhi has already become a legend not only in India but in the world. That perhaps was inevitable. And yet this has its drawbacks, for in thinking of him as a legendary figure, he becomes someone whom we can distinctly admire and pay homage to, but who need not influence our lives very much. To feel that way is to be untrue to him. He was a man who had perhaps directly influenced more human beings than anyone else, His achievements are tremendous. But the biggest achievement of all was the way he influenced these people and made them better than they were. Therefore, we have to think of him not in a legendary way but as a man, the greatest amongst us, gentle and wise, a man of faith, at the same time, a man of action. Above all, we have to think of the principles for which he stood & which he impressed upon India. This we shall, in a small measure, be true to him and his teachings…(22 May 1953)
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29 January 2010

Unemployment

Front page of most newspapers reports that US President Barack Obama is worried about unemployment in his country and will cut tax breaks for outsourcing firms. Take a look:

Obama targets outsourcing, wants US jobs (Indian Express)

Obama to cut tax breaks for outsourcing U.S firms (Hindu)

As rates plunge, Obam gets tough on outsourcing (Times of India)

Obama’s attack on outsourcing (Business Bhaskar)

New age of India, uncleji becomes Sam (Economic Times)

Obama’s pale frown (Hindu Business Line)

US to end tax breaks for outsourcing firms (Statesman)

Obama in hurry to against outsourcing (Navbharat Times)

New trick of Obama (Haribhoomi)

However back at home, unemployment seems no worry for the top policy makers. The official statistics on unemployment is not worrying at all. But are these outdated statistics updated & reliable? Craig Jeffrey points outs that the quantum of unemployment among the educated in India is increasing and this is becoming source of social tension. Students reveal that nepotism and bribery are ruling government jobs. Many possessing Masters & PhD and have taken on farming (Business Bhaskar). Networking is the new word for nepotism. Take a clue from contents of email sent by a friend of SARCAJC- “ This is with reference to the profile you had filed with primedirectors website. This website has been available to the listed companies, but most of them have not used it as they have chosen to hire their friends/relatives instead as independent directors! The website, however, continues to see new enrollments from professionals, the number presently nearing 20,000.…”. Is anyone listening?

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28 January 2010

On the Roll

In his opening address at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has said that it will not be possible to emerge from the global economic crisis and protect against future crises if the economic imbalances that are at the root of the problem are not addressed. In his address, Sarkozy also called for an examination of the nature of globalization and capitalism. “This is not a crisis in globalization; this is a crisis of globalization,” he said. “Finance, free trade and competition are only means and not ends in themselves.” Sarkozy added that banks should stick to analysing credit risk, assessing the capacity of borrowers to repay loans and finance economic growth. “The role of the bank is not to speculate.” He also questioned the rewarding of high compensation and bonuses for CEOs whose companies lose money. Capitalism should not be replaced but it has to be changed, the French president declared. “We will only save capitalism by reforming it, by making it more moral”. President of United States, Barack Obama has also declared his intent to take on Wall Street by announcing plans for stringent rules on the banking sector that prompted comparisons with the draconian regulations introduced after the Great Depression. In the boldest move taken by any government around the world to respond to financial crisis, Obama has told banks they would no longer be able to take risky bets with their own capital to make money on the financial markets. He has again pointed out- “Irresponsibility of banks & financial institutions on Wall street. They took huge Reckless risk in pursuit of short-term profits & soaring bonuses. They gambled with borrowed money. Without much over-sight or regard for the consequences. When the lost, they lost big…”. However Banks in India, flushed with excess liquidity, continues to invest in the stock market. In the second quarter review of the monetary policy in October 2009, the apex bank, RBI had asked banks to put internal limits on their exposure to mutual funds. It was reported that Reserve Bank of India was concerned with the indirect flow of liquidity that is taking place from banking to the corporate sector. Although the banks are flush with liquidity, high interest rates are keeping borrowers at bay. As a result, banks have been investing heavily in various debt schemes of mutual fund houses to earn better interest on their resources. The mutual funds, in turn, are understood to lend this money to the commercial or corporate sector (Indian Express. 28/10/2009). Manojit Saha had reported according to executives at public sector banks while large banks were capping their MF exposure at 20 per cent of total investment, smaller banks were limiting such investments to Rs 1,000 crore (19/11/2009. Business Standard). Still, last month, investment by Commercial banks in mutual funds stood at Rs 1692 billion. While on the other hand, banks are giving negative returns to term deposits of main street, which is simply helpless against the high food inflation in the country. According to Michael Schuman, India has managed to achieve its substantial growth without putting its banking sector at risk. A January report by economic research outfit Centennial Asia Advisors had noted that, based on available data, "there was no sign that domestic banks' nonperforming assets were deteriorating materially" (Time). However, the largest public sector bank, State Bank of India (possessing excess liquidity of Rs. 7500 billion) is showing signs of ill-health. The gross Non Performing assets has gone up by 48% at Rs. 188 billion. Any alarms being pressed now or is ‘return to business as usual’? Take a clue from the SBI chairman who does not see the NPAs come to come down and will like to see them at current levels!

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27 January 2010

Jai Ho?

Many newspapers report that India plans to lodge a complaint against a BBC documentary on Mumbai slums, describing it as "poverty porn" as it portrays a distorted image of India's commercial capital and will affect its tourism. According to Indian Express, Indian High Commission in the UK will lodge a complaint with the British media watchdog about the content of BBC Channel 4's two-part documentary, the Grand Designs on Dharavi Slums in Mumbai showing children living among open sewers, dead rats and toxic waste. Reason- "We thought it would be about the architecture of Mumbai but it was only about slums. He was showing dirty sewage and dead rats, children playing among rubbish and people living in these small rooms. He never talked about architecture at all". This is not all. Prashant Singh reports that Lindsay Lohan’s much- derided recent India trip to film a BBC documentary on human trafficking has found fresh criticism from filmmaker Shekhar Kapur. LiLo has been constantly under attack for the BBC documentary on the trafficking of women and kids in India, with the project being variously labelled as a “ comic relief skit” and “ ridiculous” by the western media and bloggers alike soon after its trailer was released a fortnight ago (Mail Today). But hang on, the Oscar Award winner movie - Slum Dog didn’t attract any such criticism. Infact people at high places were celebrating! So, now why hypersensitivity to hard realities of life?

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26 January 2010

Republic Celebrations

The front page of Financial Chronicle shows one well dressed man holding news report - “Republic of India @ 60”. He is telling another- “It’s time India merged with Bharat”. The cartoon of the day has been carried by DNA, which features Prime Minister of India along with a Indian politician in dense fog. They are looking back at the flag (building & flag is seen as white due to fog). Guess, what the PM is clarifying- “I assume I have unfurled the Indian Flag”. Why? The daily news box on the right hand reveals- “Fog & Pak officer in Govt Ad”. Pakistan is directly featured in a cartoon in Hindustan Times. Here, Pakistan has been shown a fly, taking rounds of a Indian politician (wearing Gandhi cap, kurta & jacket) while this politician is trying to hit it! The common man is how telling him-”relax, its just the fly past!”. On the top left hand corner, three planes are seen in air with colours of the Indian flag. Will this cartoon create ripples in the diplomatic circle? The cartoon on the front page of Nai Duniya shows a tableaux looking like a missile going up! (in republic day parade). A man among audience telling other-“No, it’s not a new missile!….this is tableaux of ministry of Sharad Pawar”. Take a closer look - it is inflation, going up & up! The cartoon in Asian Age shows common man under heavy sacks of food price but flying the Indian flag. Read the bottom end of this cartoon-”A float for the republic day- 2010!”. For more float, watch the toon in Hindu. More on inflation in Jansatta- cartoon shows Sharad Pawar taking away sugar and is challenging the chief minister of Delhi- “See if you can sell sugar”. Naturally, the chief minister is not looking pleased. The news on the top reads- “Delhi govt will sell rice, grain and oil on cheap rate”. Yes, the price of sugar in Kendriya Bhandar is still Rs. 47 per Kg! Nevertheless, the editorial of Rahtriya Sahara looks at “Promise of Republic”, editorial of Asian Age stresses- “A youthful republic, at 30, looks ahead”. While the editorial in Indian Express argues - “ why this republic needs more time zones”. On the other hand the editorial of Punjab Kesari comes with heading- “Ailing & smiling republic”. The plethora of advertisements have appeared in newspapers wishing “Happy Republic Day”. Advertisement of a bank has cashed this occasion well-“…to give avenues to THE PEOPLE, with innovations FOR THE PROPLE & constantly strive for positive acceptance by THE PEOPLE (Syndicate Bank). Advertisement by National Steel features Appu (baby elephant of National Games that were held decades back), holding national flag. Now look at the accompanying punch line- “Bharat hum ko jaan se pyaara hai, sabse pyaara National Hamara Hai” (bharat is more dear to us than our lives! Most dear is our National!). Now keep guessing what does the advertiser mean by ‘National‘!

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25 January 2010

Advertisement Goof-Up

It is not often that Prime Minister’s Office renders a regret over an advertisement. Big occasion? Charu Sudan Kasturi starts off--”Picture this: the Pakistan air force is allowed to land a bombshell on lakhs of Indian breakfast tables despite the Republic Day alert. No wonder the country’s high and mighty are having one bad-picture day in office after day…(Telegraph). The advertisement Goof-up has made it to the front page of almost all leading newspapers. Take a clue from their headlines-

PMO red faced as govt ad projects Pak ex-air chief (Hindustan Times).

Egg on govt face; ad features ex-PAF chief (Statesman)

PMO apologises for ad fiasco (Hindu)

Prime Minister & nation ashamed due to advertisement (Punjab Kesari)

Pakistan Soldier seen in Government Advertisement (Dainik Jagran)

PMO has apologized (Dainik Tribune)

Government shamed due to lapse (Amar Ujala)

Photo of Pak officer in Advertisement (Hari Bhoomi)

Published photo of former Air Chief of Pak in Government Advertisement (Punjab Kesari)

PMO ashamed (Desh Bandhu)

PMO gives instructions for inquiry (Awam-i-Hind)

Apology after ad showing ‘enemy’ (Telegraph)

From photo of Pak Army Chief exposes government (Nai Duniya)

PMO apologized for advertisement (Hindustan)

Government shamed on advertisement (Aaj Samaj)

Irked PMO orders probe in goof-up (Pioneer)

PMO sorry for 2-nation ad blunder (Asian Age)

Living PM says sorry for Tirath’s mess (Mail Today)

UPA’s new icon is Pak ex-chief (Free Press Journal)

Former Pak air chief flies into govt of India ad, PMO apologized, orders probe (Indian Express).

Pak official in government advertisement (Business Standard. Hindi Edition).

Pak officer in govt advts leaves centre red-faced (DNA)

This controversial ad was published in Times of India, but unlike others, this newspapers has not carried the goof-up news on its front page, rather insignificantly on page 11. Among the financial newspapers, Economic Times has carried this news on page two- “PMO sorry for ad goof-up, orders probe”. “Former Pak air chief flies into govt ad, PMO apologizes, orders probe” (Financial Express. Page 6). “Govt ad carries ex-PAF chief’s photo, PMO orders probe” (Business Standard. English Edition. Page 16). Financial Chronicle chose to ignore it. The editorial of Indian Express points- “…so much blame and recrimination, over one little misplaced picture. Bloopers happen. In such pro-forma government messaging, they probably happen more often. But hey get magnified beyond control when no one steps in on time to acknowledge them”.

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24 January 2010

Advertisement Watch

The large governmental advertisements in leading newspapers on the occasion of Girl Child Day are far from appealing. Why? Punch line of one half a page ad by Ministry of Women and Child Development shouts- “Can you imagine India without women”. Negative campaign, does it work? Another ad by the same ministry shouts- “The President of India acknowledged the value of girls CAN YOU?”. A full page ad by the same ministry carries large sized photograph of a female dancer dancing with a gild child - both are well-dressed up for this pose. The emphasis is - “Hamari Amrita”. Now what’s that- a dance ballet that is being held today at 6 in the evening! Hang on, this ad does not inform whether the main street can view this performance (as it is being attended by high profile persons). And if yes, if the entry is free. It seems this has been issued only to inform main street of this dance performance. The ad sage does not end here. Another ad issued by the same ministry comes with very negative punch line- “Where would you be if your mother was not allowed to be born?“. It goes on- “Suppose your mother was killed before she ever lived…“. This ad has carried photographs of prominent men in sports, music & guess what - also a photograph of former Air Chief Marshal of Pakistan - Tanvir Ahmed. This ad has forced the Prime Minister‘s office to wake up. The media adviser to the prime minister has said in a statement today that it has noted with regret the inclusion of a foreign national's photograph in a Government of India advertisement. Who is responsible for this goof-up which has dragged PMO into expressing regret? Point to ponder- Is it sufficient to remember the girl child only on selected occasions like this one? These large non-appealing ads seem a waste of tax payers money. Take a look at a small video clip taken today. Talented Salma does not go to school as it is very far…But why is school so far….?

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23 January 2010

Mystery still remains?

Today is birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, whose role in freedom movement of India needs no description. Usually large advertisements (read governmental ads) mark the birth anniversary of leaders who had taken part in Indian Free Movement. However of the 22 newspapers scanned today, none contained any such advertisement. Nevertheless, write-up/features/articles/cartoon in newspapers make for this ad absence. Jagat Kranti (Jind Edition) informs that his birthday will be celebrated in villages of Riwari district in the state of Haryana and debate competition will be held in stadium in Narnaul district. Kuwar Surendra Singh Aahuja argues that freedom of his motherland and prosperity were the aim of Bose. Surendra Singh highlights his role as a thinker. Rajasthan Patrika feels that till this nation exists, Netaji will be remembered. The paper raises pertinent questions that include mystery surrounding his last moments. Two view points have been put forward but in the end the questions remains unanswered. Take a clue from Devvrata Vishwaas- “Mukerjee Commission has not put forward that he died in plane crash. Instead of debate, the government closed it. There is something fishy, government does not want to uncover the mystery…the fact that files related to Bose will be declassified in 2020 raises suspicion”. Himashu Shekhar also asks “when will secret behind Netaji’s death open up”. (Dainik Jagran. Natianal Edition). The same question has been raised by Punjab Kesari. Amlan Ghose blames the ‘system’ for the mystery behind Netaji (Hindustan). Gurkirpal Singh Sidhu argues that the mystery around Netaji’s disappearance needs to be cleared. He points out the recent efforts to use Right to Information (RTI) Act to uncover the mystery which were blocked by authorities as “this would prejudicially affect relations with foreign counties”. The latest decision of CIC has directed the authorities to make public the relevant documents. Gurkirpal concludes -“How is the disclosure going to affect our relations with a foreign state? Are our foreign relations more important than a life and death of our national hero? It is time for truth to prevail. That will be a tribute to our unsung heros Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose” (Tribune). Dainik Bhaskar has published contents of Netaji’s famous speech to soldiers of Azad Hind Army- “You give me blood and I promise to give you freedom”. The cartoon in Dainik Jagran features a Politician (wearing goggles) shouting- “Give me vote, I give you assurance- to live with corruption, inflation, caste discrimination, communalism and insecurity”. Below three men are seem surprised “to hear this- “on occasion of Netaji Subhas Chnadra Bose’s Bithday…”. Madhusudan Phatak remembers Subhas’s role in freedom movement in Loksatta. Mahim Pratap Singh informs that a currency note (denomination of Rs. 100000) issued by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Bank has been made public by Ram Kishore Dubey, retired contractor. According to him, his grandfather was given this note by Bose when he gave up his land for the cause of the army. Richa Sharma informs on the front page of Asian Age that Trilok Singh Chawala, 89 year old aide of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose (secretary of Bose in Thailand) has a last wish - to return two pistols (worships them everyday) belonging to Bose. He has sent his son from Thailand to meet prime minister. This son has been camping in Delhi for last two weeks. Why? According to Trilok Singh Chawla - “he (Bose) wanted me to return the pistols to him at Red Fort after independence. However, eight days later he was announced dead in a plane crash in Taiwan. I still don’t believe he died then & I am still waiting for him. But with increasing age I think it is his legacy and should be with the country he fought for”. However, according to his son, the Indian government looks reluctant to accept the pistols for reasons not known to him..Anil Tiwari reports from Motihari that land of Bapu remembers Netaji. The same paper has carried extracts of his speech on “value of freedom”. Indian Express, DNA, Free Press Journal, New Indian Express, Jansatta, Hindustan Times, Times of India, Nai Duniya, Mail Today have not remembered Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Subhas Chandra Bose is still alive, in oral history- art & folk songs, take a look at video section of SARCAJC.

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22 January 2010

Join in

An advertisement in Tribune invites people to participate in National discussions on introduction of BT Brinjal. The chairperson will be the Environment & Forest minister. It tells place & time but hang on, it does not reveal the date on which this is being held! A governmental advertisement inform that National Girl Child Week will be celebrated from 24-30 January. The highlight is a panel discussion being held today, which will be presided by Minister of State for women & Child Development on “valuing the Girl Child …”. Hang on, the ad does not inform at what time! Point to ponder- how to attend them?

Media Watch

Suman Jha informs that Election Commission has issued a notice to Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan in the "paid news case’and has asked him to reply by first of next month. The chief minister Chavan has been accused by the opposition party of "placing advertisements in newspapers that were passed off as news items". Recently, while Delivering a talk on the coming diamond jubilee celebrations of the Election Commission, Election Commissioner S Y Quraishi had said- "Paid news was despicable, elections or no elections... The gatekeeper must not allow himself to be bought by the thief." The Election Commission has also constituted a dedicated cell to track the expenditure of candidates contesting elections (Indian Express).

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21 January 2010

Only an Error?

The front page of Free Press Journal informs that the Nobel Prize winning Dr Pachauri of Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has finally apologized on Wednesday for its monumental blunder in claiming that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. However, even while apologising for the mistake, saying it was an error to include that claim in its 2007 assessment, the panel insisted that one mistake does not damage its credibility. Is that so simple? Renuka Bisht asks if the organisation accepted speculations about the Himalayas as science, did it mess up on other measures too? Take a clue- “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Not all powerful people or institutions are crooked. Not all the accusations planted against them are creditable. But what remains cross-contextually proper is that powerful people and institutions must be subjected to constant, close scrutiny…What has now emerged is that the IPCC warning was based on a news story in the New Scientist…Even worse, the news story was based on a short telephone interview with a scientist who has admitted that his claims were speculative rather than based on any formal research… Every respectable PhD student-even in the humanities!--is taught to trace his or her material back to its source.The peer review process has been created to weed out guesswork. Hearsay is expected to be buried rather than built over,especially by internationally recognised institutions… The glacier claim broke through all such checks and balances..” (Financial Express)

Food Prices: Over the Roof

The food price in India have reached the sky, perhaps the highest the country has seen in these (non-extreme) conditions. All this time, most leading Indian economists blamed supply constraints. What exactly is happening? In an interview to Mint, Pronab Sen has expressed big surprises of present inflation. Take a look- “The big surprises are the following two: There is far less popular protest against inflation. Particularly food inflation of this magnitude leads to a lot of pressure. The real question: is it because nominal income has risen so much that it is not pinching as bad as it would have otherwise. I do not think we are getting any indications of that. The second issue is that we need to come to grips with the nature of inflation this time around… What has happened this time around is inflation was first reflected in retail prices and showed up in wholesale prices with a lag, and with a much lower level of intensity. So, there is something happening (that) we do not understand. The third thing is that we need to be careful…”. The Chief Statistician of India is surprised, are you too? But Chief Economic Advisor, Kaushik Basu seem clear on causes of inflation- “I believe this is not an inflation caused by our monetary or fiscal policies, since there is little evidence of bloated aggregate demand. That has happened in the past, that has happened in many countries. But right now in India it is a very sector-specific inflation that is taking place…What’s the cause? Once it is so sector-specific, one suspects there are microeconomic factors at work. It is in part caused by the success of government in reaching out to the poor. For the poor, food constitutes the dominant item of expenditure. So if you are handing out money to the poor, food is the sector in which the demand is going to revise most sharply….Along with this, since we have just seen a very bad year in terms of droughts, this is leading to the anticipation of a decline in food production. This in turn is giving rise to a certain amount of speculative behaviour, whereby food is being stocked and this is pushing up prices further….”(Mint. 21/12/09). Does this mean there is no role of Central Bank (Reserve Bank of India)? Why not look at possible factors like excess liquidity, commodity trading, future trading, agrarian policies, fake currency? But according to RBI Deputy Governor K C Chakrabarty- “If you suck out liquidity, other sectors get affected, roads get affected...So it is a complex issue” (New Indian Express. 18/1/10). Is curbing inflation is not a concern?

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20 January 2010

Advertisement Watch

An advertisement by Information & Public Relations of government of Himachal Pradesh comes with punch line- “Himachal Pradesh- Awards for Development Journalism”. The ad invites entries for four awards- National level award (one)- Rs. 50,000, State level awards(three)- Rs. 20,000, district level awards(three)- 10,000, awards for electronic media (three) 20,00. However, this award will be given to only journalists affiliated with newspapers, news magazines, news agencies and news channel only. In other words, freelance journalists have been kept out. But why? The ad specifically mentions that government employees are not eligible for the awards. But who will decide which journalist gets an award? Not a word about the independent jury? Nevertheless, the last date for entries to reach Director, Information & Public Relations is just in 10 days ahead. For queries- dprhimachal@gmail.com, www.himachalpr.gov.in.

Road to Happiness

In continuation to quest for happiness that has been raised by SARCAJC, Geoff Mulgan argues that happiness should be on poll agenda. “People don’t normally associated politicians with happiness….That could be changing. This year’s elections could be the first when party policies are interrogated not just for their effects on economic growth or the NHS but also for their effects on happiness…it’s a very odd political culture that sees spending on alcopops and cars, flat screen TVs and channel perfumes, as somehow more real than human fulfilment”.

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19 January 2010

Bitter Sugar

A large advertisement placed by a sugar manufacturing company in Economic Times comes with punch line-”All the commodities by nature are cyclical…Sugar Industry is not an exception”. Not surprising, the accompanying ad carry its financial unaudited result for quarter ending 31 December 09 shows net profit of Rs. 30.04 crores, in contrast to quarter of last year that has showed losses of Rs. 37.97! EPS too has gone up from negative 6.91 to positive 2.14! Point to ponder- why does now, sugar taste so bitter to the main street?

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18 January 2010

Unfair trade practice & Ad

An advertising campaign by Hindustan Unilever had claimed that 9,000 gold coins were inserted in packets of 14,000 tonnes of soap produced between October 5, 2009 and January 20, 2010. This ad has been pulled off the air after Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) alleged that the firm indulged in unfair trade practices. According to the complaint registered with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, the advertisement misled consumers. In a two- page reply to the complaint, HUL has apologised and has already replaced the advertisements with regular ones without any special offers (Indian Express).

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17 January 2010

View of the Day

…India was fairly successful in weathering the economic storm. The Government of India announced stimulus packages while the Reserve Bank took steps to regulate the liquidity in the system. Fiscal policy took care to arrest the domestic demand slowdown and revive it, while the monetary policy was used for providing stimulant to growth impulses....If there is one lesson that can be drawn from this crisis is that there cannot be unbridled extension of credit. The Reserve Bank must continuously ensure that banks have proper guidelines for risk management. While indiscriminate grant of credit must be avoided, credit policies should definitely not deny finance for productive enterprises. There is a need to speed up development and infrastructure projects in the country and to ensure that bank credit is available to all sectors, sections and units across the scale....In India, one of the major objectives is financial inclusion. The priority of the banking system should be to strengthen itself significantly to support a modern, vibrant and inclusive economy. The banking system in the country has grown considerably but yet even today the challenge is to reach the unbanked areas, particularly in the rural areas…. (President of India. Pratibha Devisingh Patil)

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16 January 2010

Dowry Woes

The front page of DNA informs that ministry of women and child development (MWCD) is planning to make it mandatory for the families of the bride and the groom to maintain a list of gifts and other exchanges made at the time of marriage. The Dowry Prohibition Act (DPA), 1961, will be amended to provide it with more teeth while plugging loopholes that allow women to misuse the act. The list, in the form of a sworn affidavit, has to be notarised and signed by a protection officer or a dowry prohibition officer. Both the parties will have a copy of the list. But will this list of gifts (read mainly dowry) curb the malpractice of dowry? Nope, but will certainly help in the settlement of divorce! Big fat wedding can contribute to GDP growth but what about the health of (bride’s) family finances? Not every bride’s dad is as rich as Lakshmi Mittal, right? Instead, why not put a cap on maximum value of gifts as a proportion of income tax paid by the father of the bride? “Parents are often compelled to pay dowry to ensure the security and happiness of their daughter in her matrimonial home. Hence, the giver and the taker of dowry cannot be placed on the same footing under the law,” the National Commission for Women clarified. The how will dowry end? The state and central government male employees would need to furnish declarations after marriage stating that they have not accepted any dowry. The declaration has to be signed by their spouses, fathers and fathers-in-law. Incidentally, this practice is already mandatory for Kerala state government employees. Point to ponder- certainly a step in the right direction & should be implemented by the private sector as well. But who will cross check if the declaration is correct or not? Next on the agenda- A reward based assignment for vigilant neighbours to alert the tax authorities? A definite Win-Win step, both for revenue and social well-being.

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15 January 2010

Greedy Banks

Neelasri Barman points the obvious- “ If you had left a 100-rupee note under your bed around this time last year, look again. A voracious bug called inflation has chewed up one end of it. Your Rs. 100 of January 2009, is now worth less than Rs93. And if you wait a bit longer, the bug would decimate it to Rs90” (DNA). It seems, today, nowhere in the world inflation is so steep. The Deputy Governor of apex Bank, Subir Gokaran did point out last year -“Food inflation racing ahead” as a risk. He also compared inflation rates across countries and not surprisingly none of the countries matched India's inflation stats. But still, now, the Indian bankers are demanding that the Reserve Bank of India lowers the interest rates being paid to customers on the savings deposits. Moreover, despite inflation cutting pockets of main street, banks are also not in favor of a hike in CRR, the or in policy rates in the immediate future as they feel that the current surplus liquidity is slowly drying up from the system in line with a pick up in credit offtake. Last year too, public sector banks had similar demand. Further, global rating agency Fitch has warned that NPAs of banks were likely to go up by 1%. The report has made specific reference to restructured loans, saying that credit worth Rs 300 billion in this category alone could turn bad by next year when two-thirds of them are expected to mature. Who is responsible for these bad loans, and why business plans were not assessed properly? Greed is not good. Should not the CEO be held accountable as he is the person getting the fattest pay at the cost of the small depositor! Point to ponder- why net profits is the main yard stick to assess performance of public sector, that too at the cost of main street (small depositor) who is already hanging of the cliff due to ever high food prices. What is the difference between private sector bank and a public sector one? With the real value of saving of main street (savings account as well as term deposits) already in the red, public sector banks want to hit them even more. The worst affected are senior citizens/pensioners, who are totally dependent on money parked in the pubic sector banks. All pensioner/senior citizens, who interacted with SARCAJC wanted new Banking Term Deposit on line of Inflation Relief Bond (tax free) to be re-launched for them. Surely, the government has the largest stake in public sector banks and can take into consideration larger public interest than greed of earning more and more profits. But fact is, this vulnerable main street has no lobby which can meet the finance minister - pre-budget and spell out their concern. Is anyone listening?

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14 January 2010

Media Watch

The Times of India carries a smiling photograph of former Haryana DGP SPS Rathore (who was recently convicted of molesting Ruchika, 14-year-old girl, who later committed suicide) on its front page. Rathore has came under heavy criticism and scrutiny from the Indian media. Look how he has dragged the first prime minister of India into his defense tactics- “I learnt from the greatest son of India (Jawaharlal Nehru) to smile when you are in adversity. If you succeed in harming me more, I’ll still smile more. If you come to my drawing room, you’ll find a photograph of my wife, who was then nine years old, gifting a flower to Pandit Nehru. As a young boy, I used to run along with other boys in university just to get a glimpse of this greatest son of India. And it is from him I learnt to smile in adversity. I will smile more’’. Point to ponder- how would have Ruchika reacted to his smile and explanation? And how would the family of the first prime minister of India react here?

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13 January 2010

Sustainable Development Watch

Gokul Chandrasekar reports on front page of New Indian Express that second generation victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy are in Chennai to urge Anna University to return the Rs. 500,000 sponsorship obtained from Dow Chemicals for its annual international conference and technical festival. Yes, Dow is the same company which presently owns the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal that caused the gas disaster in 1984 but wants to wash its hand from any liability (read damage) of the gas leak. The sponsorship has been obtained for the annual international conference and technical festival, `Kurukshetra'. Ironically, the Bhopal gas tragedy forms part of the syllabus of the `Professional Ethics' paper for mechanical engineering students at the University. Subhas Narayan reports on the front page of Economic Times that government is considering a proposal to restrict mining by private sector in tribal areas to safeguard the tribal population. But don’t forests as ecosystem have right to live? Perhaps not, take a clue from Ranjit Bhushan who reports on page 8 in Financial Chronicle that after being stuck for nearly five years, South Korean Posco’s steel project has received final approval to acquire forest land (2,953 acres) for its $12 billion project in Orissa. The possession of land is expected to be handed over this month and the President of South Korea would be laying the foundation stone of factory.
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12 January 2010

Cartoon Watch

The cartoon of the Day has been carried by Hindustan Times on its editorial page. The toon features a kangaroo (not good looking!). This is not a normal kangaroo, look what’s inscribed - “Racism”. In his pot - a angry policeman is seen pointing figure & yelling on a student who is standing next to body of stabbed student- “Why is it a pet obsession with you Indians?”. At the background, two Indians (one seem a villager & another a politician) are seen, one telling- “coming soon…buzzard of oz…”. Will this cartoon also attract adversarial comments from Oz, like the ones for cartoons by Mail Today? The cartoon in Haribhoomi too is focused on happenings in Australia. Here one young man is telling another- “my father has threatened that if don’t study properly, he will send me to Australia” (Hari Bhoomi).

Other newspapers have carried cartoons on variety of topics. The cartoon in Mail Today has taken on Prime Minister on “India lost ‘substantial’ amount of land to China along LOC- Report.” The PM is featured in three poses. First he tells- “We have our own perception of about the LAC..”. Turn to second pose- “…they have their own perception about the LOC…”. And at the end (in caps)- “…may their perception prevail!’. Other Teacher Manmohan (with stick in his hand) scolding Shashi Tharoor (school boy)- “you must have seen ‘three idiots’, but if you go beyond course book, I’ll not forgive”. Schoolboy Tharoor apologizes! (Dainik Jagran. National Edition). The plight of Indian Hockey players is seen in Hindu, Dainik Jagran. The toon on the front page of Hindustan shows Tharoor as a bird saying- “media has done wrong reporting”. Another bird on a different branch of tree has this to comment- “thank god, he is learning to talk like minister”. The toon in Times of India carries PM & Tharoor. Tharoor is telling- “I never said that Nehru‘s foreign policy was a ‘moralistic running commentary’! I‘ve been misquoted by the media! Here the PM angrily tells him- “Shushee, Tharoor…”.. One well dressed person is telling a politician- “Sir, if you want coverage in media then only social work will not do?”(Virat Vaibhav). Now keep guessing who is this advisor! Punjab Kesari focuses on the state of Indian hockey. Carton in Deshbhandhu shows a anxious follower telling astrologer- “Swamiji, after ministry had said that astrologer can tell when the sugar prices will reduce, there is crowd of information seekers”. The toon in Rajasthan Patrika is focused on corruption & common man. A doctor is seen congratulating a wealthy looking patient, who too is happy hearing what the doc has to tell him- “your reports has come…congrats you have diabetes”. At the background is new report- “sugar expensive”. The front page of New Indian Express carries three caricatures featuring leading politicians of the State of Tamil Nadu with common headline- “Jaya, MK’s Que Sera duet on MGR”. The cartoon in DNA features a book store in which statesman is showing two books to a puzzles young girl by Gowda, former prime minister of India. Guess one- abuses and another to ZZZ! Hindustan Times, Asian Age too has taken on Gowda in a cartoon. While the cartoon in Dainik Tribune is focused on regional politics while the one in Mid-Day, Aaj Samaj is on Amar Singh’s resignation from his party. The cartoon in Hindustan shows man at the railway enquiry scolding passengers- “why are you bothering me…I just told you find out from weather department which train will open when”. The reason, see bottom left of the toon- “train caught in fog”. No Indian cartoon has appeared in Awame Hind, Statesman, Rashtriya Sahara, Navbharat Times, Amar Ujala.

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11 January 2010

Media Watch

It seems that Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor’s recent rendezvous with Indian media was not very pleasant. According to front page report by special correspondent of Hindu- “He waved copies of the newspapers, questioned their professionalism or “lack thereof” and sought an apology from the media for writing or speaking about the events without actually seen the tape or heard his remarks, This practice was unprofessional and dishonest…irresponsible reporting may briefly gratify a few sensation-seekers in the media but they do not credit to the need for informed discussion of foreign policy issues in our democracy…”. The newspapers he has accused - Times of India, Asian Age and Mail Today have not offered any apology. Mail Today has quoted Shashi Tharoor’s exact remarks and reports on front page -‘’touchy Congress corners Tharoor’. And the cartoon shows Tharoor dressed up as Winston Churchill (typical hat, cigar and suit). Guess, what he has to say in this avtaar- “To summarize what others have said, he is a “HALF NAKED FAKIR”! And look at the bottom left of the cartoon- “Shashi Tharoor rubbishes Nehru-Gandhi foreign policy”. The front page of Times of India reports that .Tune on to page 16 and Times New Network tells- “Another ‘accident’ could prove costly for Tharoor”. Read on- “Asked if he had become an embarrassment for the Congress, Tharoor said- “I am not going to take this nonsense anymore. If you are continuing to misreport everything I say….clearly, people are going to judge me not by what I have actually said but by what you all are reporting what I have said”. The Asian Age correspondent reports that when asked why he had not issued a rejoinder on Saturday itself, Mr Tharoor said he had not taken the matter seriously as only one newspaper had reported it. Tharoor regretted the fact that there were people in the audience who clearly did not have the background, the reading, the depth, the knowledge and the judgment to know what was being said. "That is a great shame. The problem is that journalists must learn but they must not learn at the expense of the country's and the Ministry's credibility," Tharoor said.(Pioneer). The editorial of Indian Express sums it up-“...He retreats, later broadcasting some Twitter braggadocio…Tharoor now appears to have picked on the biggest "holy cows" possible -Gandhi and Nehru, and the contentious afterlife of Nehru's ideas…An outraged Congress party shot back saying "his responsibility is to carry forward the legacy of Pandit Nehru and not be critical of it"…Tharoor could have a point -plucking his words out of context and placing quotation marks around words he did not utter would manifestly be terrible journalism -though his manner was unbecoming. However, the larger point remains that the mainstream media (MSM) Tharoor loves to hate did not create this constant tension between him and his party….Talking down to the media in pompous outrage will, however, get him nowhere”. The Lead story in Dainik Jagran informs- ‘Tharoor saves his chair by clarification’. More to come, Pioneer reports on front page that Tharoor's son Ishaan, a writer with Time magazine, has tweeted about his father's "latest controversy" calling it "farcically engineered" and “Indian media should be ashamed”.

Concern of Day

Noted Economist, SL Rao feels that India is poised to be a major player in the new decade (Telegraph). The front page of Economic Times carries details about the happenings at the recently held ET Award for Corporate Excellence in a Five Star hotel in Mumbai. Here 400 CEOs and top ministers raised a toast to excellence. The handshake between Ambanis has been highlighted well. Good signs of good PR! Apart from all that the Indian finance minister admitted- “growth in statistical terms is meaningless unless it benefits everyone…tickle down is no longer relevant….Change the parameters, (the) ingredients of inclusive growth. Inclusive growth is to produce enough, manufacture enough and provide entitlement. If we can implement the programmes we have adopted, with resources and technology, it will be possible to achieve grow which is inclusive..”(Economic Times). Yes, tickle down has failed but has inclusive growth been really aimed for the benefit of the main street? The stimulus to industry continues unabated at the cost of sky rocking inflation for the main street. There is no visible crackdown on hoarders and speculators of food items. Take a clue from editorial in Free Press Journal- “..Admittedly, it may be polemical to say that the seven percent-plus growth is irrelevant when the ~aam aadmi (common man)~ cannot buy himself his daily ~dal-roti~. Growth eventually will benefit the ~aam aadmi~ as well. But that time is in the future. In the short term, the Government must step in to save him from going hungry for want of basic food at affordable prices. The claim about record number of automobiles being sold every month is akin to rubbing salt on the wounds of the `aam adami.' The point is growth without equity is meaningless for a vast number of the poor in this country. Growth without equity is another name for crony capitalism, incidentally…. In one word, do not be obsessive about the growth numbers. Think about the aam aadmi too.”. Mint, asks and also answers- “What do middle-class consumers do when daily necessities such as rice, pulses and sugar become too expensive to afford? They start cutting down on luxuries such as chocolates, biscuits and cheese to balance their household budgets and survive. Unable to bear the brunt of rising food inflation, Indians are cutting back their spending on these so-called discretionary items, according to a survey by market research company AC Nielsen.”. But what about 77 per cent of Indians who survive under Rs. 20 or below? 77%- They are age old statistics, now it might be more! The editorial of Telegraph starts off- Life would have been so much easier if only money could buy happiness and harmony. Sadly, the real world is far too complex; even the noblest intentions may not succeed here…”. It all comes down to revamping the non-responsive public grievance redressal system to improve delivery mechanism of best intended programmes. More punitive powers to Directorate of Public Grievance System, CAG... Anyone listening?

Cartoon Watch

The cartoon of the day has been carried by Hindu which shows blackboard on fire while a smiling Kangaroo is playing violin! Guess what’s written on burning blackboard- Education in Australia ! The toon in Asian Age reflects the space that can be speared in Indian higher education sector for the Australia returnees. Any effect of government’s advisory to show restrain on the cartoon?

Democracy Watch

Democracy was on sale- The village of 1,400 voters auctioned the post of Sarpanch (head of village) for Rs 0.655 million in the presence of nearly 400 villagers. Indian Express reports of this unusual auction that was held last week in Rangwasa village, about 35 km from Indore in State of Madhaya Pradesh. This is not all, 15 posts of panches (members) were also auctioned. "Everybody is happy because there was a consensus for the whole process. Had elections taken place a lot of money would have been wasted and enmities created," winning candidate told Indian Express, stressing that he saw nothing wrong in the idea. Money has ruled over democracy here, what will happen to democratic principles, if this malpractice is not curbed?

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10 January 2010

Concern of Day

Most leading newspapers reported yesterday the ministry of external affairs had asked the media to exercise "utmost restraint" while reporting on such "sensitive" matters as it could have bearing on bilateral relations”. Australia said it was pleased by Indian government's "constructive and responsible advice" to the media to exercise restraint while reporting attacks on the community members here, insisting that there was no evidence to suggest that the recent two assaults in Melbourne were racially-motivated. (DNA). However, all newspapers scanned today have carried news from Australia - prominently. Aaj Samaj is still on racial track in headlines while Hindustan is taking on Australian police. Take a look-

Now burned Indian Alive (Dainik Bhaskar)

Another Indian set on fire (Pioneer)

Another victim of racists violence (Aaj Samaj)

Indian set on fire, now Australian police is threatening (Hindustan)

Indian set on fire (Punjab Kesari)

Again one Indian set on fire (Hamara Mahanagar)

Indian set on fire in Oz, again cops rule out race (Times of India)

Indian set on fire in Melbourne (Hindu)

Broken all restrain, now effort to burn alive (Amar Ujala)

 

 

Man given to fire (Navbharat Times)

Indian burned in Melbourne, in hospital (Rashtriya Sahara)

Indian burned in Australia (Nai Duniya, brief)

Indian set ablaze in Melbourne (Tribune)

Effort to burn Indian alive (Dainik Bhaskar)

Indian set ablaze in Melbourne (Hindustan Times)

Effort to kill Indian man by burning in Melbourne (Dainik Tribune)

Incident of burning Indian in Australia is disturbing: Ravi (Jansatta)

Indian student burned in Melbourne (Loksatta)

Indian set ablaze in Melbourne (brief.DNA)

 

 

Indian set ablaze in Oz: Govt seeks action (New Indian Express).

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9 January 2010

Cartoon Watch

The front page of Mail Today shouts- “Australians Bristle at racist tag”. Why- “Mail Today cartoon on hate attacks touches a raw nerve”. An Indian Cartoon that appeared in Mail Today, four days back (5 January), has stirred up a row in Australia. This cartoon portrayed a person in a white Ku Klux Klan hood with a Victoria state police badge and the words: "We are yet to ascertain the nature of the crime.". The caption of this cartoon reads- "Indian killed in Australia," It follows the murder of Indian Nitin Garg, 21, in Melbourne and a string of other attacks on South Asian. According to cartoonist R. Prasad (creator of this cartoon), there was a sense of injustice in India and the attitude of Australian authorities amounted to acceptance of racism or authorising similar future crimes as mere opportunistic violence. “The cloak of the Ku Klux Klan is a globally known and recognised cultural signifier that represents racism. It also symbolises violence in the name of race or colour,” Prasad said. The editorial of the same newspaper on 7 January was clear and loud- The sharp reactions to the racist tag also troubled regular Australians. The paper has carried Reactions from ‘Down Under’ over R. Prasad’s ‘racist’ cartoon. Rory Medcalf informs in the same newspaper that media raising a scare will do more harm than good. Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said she had not seen the cartoon but she said: "Any suggestion of the kind is deeply offensive and I would condemn the making of such comment." The secretary of Victoria's Police Association, Greg Davies, told reporters- “Cartoons in Australia are normally done by people who are either clever or witty and this one's neither". The Mail Today editor Bharat Bhushan defended the cartoon and said it was intended to provoke "introspection" among Australians about the nature of their society. "People in India perceive these attacks as racist, because their children are being attacked and killed. So it's good if Australia is getting agitated. The more agitated they get, the harder they will work to improve the situation," he told the BBC. (BBC News). "A cartoonist uses humor to draw a caricature of a real life situation to hammer home a point of view. ... The cartoon has to be seen in that spirit," he told The Associated Press. "If the cartoon forces Australians, including the Melbourne police, to introspect, then the cartoon's purpose will have been served." (Jakarta Post). However, this cartoon news has not been carried prominently by all leading newspapers in India. Editorials on cartoon episode are rare. Two days later after publication of this cartoon, the editorial of same newspaper (Mail Today) was again critical- “…Threatening to derecognise Australian degrees prospectively may sound like a harsh step, but should a country whose citizens are being brutally murdered tolerate even a single crime against its citizens? The external affairs ministry has been found wanting when Indians needed it the most to stand up for them. Unfortunately, as things stand, one of the department’s ministers spends time tweeting while the other is busy reprimanding him for it”.

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8 January 2010

Inflation Watch

All newspapers inform that food inflation slips to 18.22%. According to the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission- “But the I think this fear of negative impact of drought bring reduced, there will be a softening in food price inflation in the next month” (Tribune). But is there something that statistics is not telling. Take a clue from Naik- “….the prevailing shortages in the marketplace are far in excess of the production shortfalls….there have been reports of large-scale hoarding of foodgrains, pulses, sugar and other essential commodities by the middlemen and wholesale traders in anticipation of further escalation of prices. With regard to fruits and vegetables also, malpractices of the middlemen are rampant. The unfortunate part is that the high price paid by the consumer is not reaching the farmer and the vegetable grower; they get only a fraction of this for their produce….the variation between the wholesale and retail prices is 100-150 per cent, in the case of certain commodities, it is as high as 300-400 per cent. What is even more shocking, the politicians, local bureaucrats and police are said to be in league with the middlemen and black-marketers. (S. D. Naik. Hindu Business Line). Surely this extravagant food price hike cannot be attributed to the fear of negative impact of drought. Yes, Badarinath reports that now the Prime Minister has give ultimatum to the Agriculture & Food Minister to make the crackdown on hoarders effective in 15 days or else he will take charge. (Financial Chronicle). The cartoon in the same newspapers shows Prime Minister in front of blackboard scaling up GDP growth rate from 7 to 9% & up. He is seen telling- “Applying the math of optimism, that my country men fail to follow”. The common man is seen in dazed, confused state with inflation & food bill. More needs to be done- A day after it stayed the disbursal of subsidies to distilleries manufacturing liquor/ wine from foodgrains, the Bombay High Court has lambasted the State government for its largesse to co-operative sugar factories, allegedly promoted by powerful politicians, asking if public money was for charity. (Free Press Journal. Front page). Despite all gloom on the food price front, Neilson Global Consumer Confidence survey has ranked Indian consumers second from top (Tribune). Wonder, who were the respondents of this survey and on what account they were representative of the Indian consumers?

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7 January 2010

Concern of Day

The cartoon in Hindu shows the common man going around with an empty plate on vicious circle of stairs. Mahesh Agrawal & Veer Sain report on page 8 of Times of India that a 45 year old man ‘starves’ to death in the State of Rajasthan. According to wife of this dead man- “he would tell me to give whatever little food we had to the children and would eat only of anything remained”. Yes, food has become very costly and this will show on health and existence of the main street. Any guesses on its effect on already high level of malnutrition on children? Not much is being published in leading newspapers in this regard. The staff reporter of Pioneer points out- “with no relief in sight regarding burgeoning prices of food commodities and vegetables, citizens continue to endure the brunt of higher prices with onset of yet another year…”. Yes price of sugar has risen by Rs. 6 per Kg in last three days in Kendriya Bandar (Government owned retail shop in Delhi). Sugar is no longer sweet for the main street but is indeed sweet for the Dalal Street. Suresh Iyengar points that stock prices of sugar companies are going up in the stock exchange. Take a look- “…prospects of the sugar company stocks listed on BSE brightened up on back expectations that retail prices of the sweetener would soon soar to a new high of Rs. 50 a Kg fom Rs. 40-45 a Kg…The possibility of imports making up for fall in domestic production also looks bleak as the sugar prices in the international markets have shown a steady increase since November 2008...”. (Hindu Business Line). But remember, government had allowed exports of the Indian sugar in 2008-09. And then came the need to import and the ever soaring price! While on the other hand pepper farmers from state of Kerala have sent a memorandum to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention to arrest the fall in pepper prices, which they allege, is steered by market manipulations in future trading. Food prices have reached the court room too. A Judges asked during the hearing in Mumbai High Court- “What is essential commodity for you? Liquor or food grains?”. In response to PIL filed by Chetan Kamble of Bhimshakti Pratishthan contending that use of food grains for wine production will lead to inflation and shortages, the Bombay High Court on Wednesday has granted a stay to disbursal of subsidy to the manufacturers who will produce liquor/wine from food grains.(Indian Express). The front page of Free Press Journal informed that most of the beneficiaries of the scheme were top-notch politicians belonging to different political parties.. The judges accordingly granted a stay on disbursal of subsidy up to 200 percent of capital investment by the manufacturer. “. The vegetable sellers are keeping in best of spirits. Take a look at the video clip captured by SARCAJC.

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6 January 2010

Concern of Day

DNA has devoted 4 pages to carry ‘Currency Concerns Clarified’. The newspapers calls it- “A DNA Promotion Feature for public awareness on counterfeit currency”. It also carries information about history of bank notes, recommendation from currency experts, updated compilation of instructions. The paper urges- “There's a new item being exported to India from certain neighbouring countries. It doesn't figure on any 'approved' list nor does it feature on any official list of imported material. However, the quality and quantity of this item being surreptitiously sent across the border is rapidly rising and it has reached enough critical mass to make it cause for concern. Okay, full marks to all those who guessed the name of this unique 'import item;' fake currency. The problem has assumed such serious proportions, that fake currency seizure cases are increasingly being referred to the recently set up National Investigation Agency (NIA), the new federal agency approved by the Indian Government to combat terror in India.…”. The newspaper carries photographs of Indian currency notes and asks- “Can you identify the security features?”. But the newspaper does tell how common man can identify these security features in these photographs. This is crucial as the DNA has acknowledged-“…The degree of accuracy in copying the security feature of Indian bank notes has baffled authorities and thrown up new challenges for them…”. .

Women insecure in Delhi

Another Indian cricketer appearing in an advertisement of consumer product and minting money? Virendra Sehwag’s T shirt carries large logo of GMR & daredevil & is pointing fingers at you in an advertisement in Indian Express. He is asking (punch line)- “I’m a daredevil because I respect women, what about you?”. This ad goes on - “A city is known by its people…Delhi has earned a reputation of being unsafe for women…And it happens…we are mute spectators to this injustice. So stand up. Speak out. And above all, treat women with respect…”. The space for this ad has been contributed by Indian Express. Will this ad make Delhi less unsafe for women? Will only fans of daredevil team listen to Virendra? It seems Sachin Tendulkar would have been more effective brand ambassador for this campaign. On 10th September 2008 SARCAJC had pointed out- “Sachin Tendulkar is not just a hero in the field of cricket but in real life too. He is the only celebrity who has shown concern about insecurity faced by women. Take a clue from what he had to say- ...If you don't respect women then you are not a man. A woman is always somebody's daughter, mother or wife. I am a father so I know. It feels terrible. It has got nothing to do with the city. Rather it has to do with the mindset of people...". (Sachin bats for women. After Hours. DNA).”. And in contrast ,Virendra Sehwag, a leading cricketer himself had conceded that he did not speak up against eve teasing when he was young!

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5 January 2010

Editorial Watch

The scholarly Prime Minister of India had raised the need to remove bureaucracy and red-tape in science institutes so that creativity can be unleashed and the country can benefit from the breakthroughs in science and technology. Today, many editorials have focused on this concern:

Prime minister Manmohan Singh’s inaugural address to the 97th Indian Science Congress in Thriuvananthapuram on Sunday was unusually candid. He talked about the need to remove bureaucracy and red-tape in science institutes so that creativity can be unleashed and the country can benefit from the breakthroughs in science and technology….The fact that Indian science has been bogged down in bureaucracy and red tape is a well-known one, but it needed a Nobel winner to say it as it is and it needed a sensitive prime minister to acknowledge the problem….(Editorial. DNA)

…Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged scientists to engage with the government for a new Decade of Innovation, and underscored the need to "liberate Indian science from the shackles and deadweight of bureaucratism and in-house favouritism." ..while loosening bureaucratic fetters is an obvious good, scientific research in India needs to be fixed at an earlier stage …In India, the focus remains narrowly careerist. The stress is on global competitiveness rather than research for itself…(Editorial. Indian Express)

…Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did some plain speaking: the organisation of Indian science is fossilised and bureaucratic, it smothers innovation, lacks relevance to India’s development needs, has poor links to industry and the blame for all this lies with those at the helm of affairs in our university departments and research institutions…But the point is: how will things change, and change for the better? Mere exhortation will not do…. Curiosity is discouraged in the name of respect for authority. This kills innovation and new thinking. Schools imbibed the philosophy of Macaulay’s minute on education and continues with the mission of producing clerks. Universities are training grounds, rather than incubators of intellectual curiosity. Research is supposed to take place in specialised, mostly state-funded, research outfits, but these are run on bureaucratic lines that stifle dissent, intellectual or otherwise…The powerlessness of Ruchika Girhotra and her family against those who wield state power replicates itself in most settings, including the organisation of science in India… (Editorial. Economic Times)

However none of the editorials have gone beyond and looked whether this is true only for science or other subjects as well. Yes, creatively is blocked and interdisciplinary research is discouraged by the official red-tapism. No wonder, why Indians who leave for abroad, undertake research & flourish. Back home, performance evaluation does not take into account quality interdisciplinary books, research papers, so many feel where is the incentive? But is research and advancement done only for monetary incentives? But even if one does interdisciplinary research by taking without pay leave and gets appreciation from abroad on the end result - book, the system back home (read red-tapism) makes sure that his/her academic leave (without pay) is converted for personal affairs (without pay) ! Don’t be surprised if the same person is forced to abandon his/her quest for interdisciplinary research or quit the ‘system’. Come what may, his/her appeals to authorities will fall on deaf ears. Yes, the public grievance redressal system fails here too. Who will be the icebreaker here? Is anyone listening?

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4 January 2010

Concern of Day

The stock markets are on a high but will this dream run continue in the new year? According to the correspondent of Asian Age-“…Indian stock markets have run almost 100 per cent from the low levels of March 2009, and are now at a significant premium to most of the emerging markets. This premium is likely to sustain given the strong visibility in growth and political stability…”.Wonder, if this trend will continue after withdrawal of PN Notes? Did the dream run get massive gain for the retail investors? The new item from Press Trust of India informs that retail investors got only a small pie -less than one percent of total investor wealth creation during the last year. In comparison, promoters cornered more than half of the total gain of Rs. 31000 billion. Yes, it appears to be big players market. The news items/views in other leading newspapers are upbeat about prospects of Stock market in the new year. Take a look:

Stay invested, mkts posed for good run (Times of India)

Commodity prices may climb in 2010 (Times of India)

Sensex likely to scale 25,000-peak in 2010 (Asian Age)

Sensex may zoom past 21,000 in ‘10: Experts (Financial Chronicle).

Point to ponder- Is the direction of the stock market so predicable? Should care not be taken to caution to the retail investor to wait and watch for the next RBI move on liquidity and the forthcoming budget? Nevertheless, the main street has nothing to cheer as last year too as majority of Indians have not participated in the stock market and are somehow surviving on ever increasing food prices. The Front page of Indian Express informs that Indians spend 25% of income on food. Though one might have some reservation about the methodology of the survey, but the fact remains that expenditure on food is the largest component of expenditure of Indians. Why no visibly concrete steps have been taken to curb rising food prices? Inclusive Growth, anyone?

Environment Watch

The Indian newspapers did show interest in the Copenhagen climate summit. But how far do they promote sustainable development on the ground level? Take a clue from Sarita C Singh’s report on the front page of Financial Chronicle. It comes with self explanatory heading- “Forests hold up projects worth Rs. 30,000 cr”. Is the report congratulating the government for taking up the issue of protecting the green cover (500,000 trees) seriously? Take a clue - “Power, cement, sponge iron and steel projects worth about Rs. 30,000 crore (300 billion) are at stake as the environment ministry has withheld clearances to associated coal block….Stricter environmental norms have come at a time when the country is facing severe shortage of fuel…”. Is there no need to conduct a cost-benefit analysis in the long run. Is this not the time to move over to cleaner sources of energy such as solar and wind and preserve the eco-system for future generations? There is only one earth, right?

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3 January 2009

Satire of Day

Amar Chandel has penned down- “2009 honours list” and does not spare the not so good ones. But the selection was certainly not an easy one! “The year 2009 has once to an end and there is cut throat competition among various association and organizations to give away special awards to prominent personalities….The All-India Builders and Sculptors Association has unanimously chosen Mayawati for the Tallest Leader Award…Madhu Koda who has walked way with the Politician of the Year instituted by the Mineowners Association…Both the Auctioneers Club and the Brokers Conglomerate have chosen Shibu Soran as their Man of the Year…National Carrier Indian (Airlines) has not given its 2009 award for the Best Passenger to any individual but to all Mps as a group. They will be permitted to bring as many wives and children to the function as they want…The Class Cattle Breeders and Exporters Union has named Shashi Tharoor as its brand ambassador…(Tribune)

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2 January 2009

Environment Watch

Greeshma Gopal Giri informs on the front page of New Indian Express that out from nowhere, crude oil is polluting the coastline of Chennai and turning the silvery sea jet black, leaving ugly black blotches on the sand and beaching scores of dead fish. A foul smell similar to that of crude oil came in from the sea. The smell was what alerted people living along the shore to take notice. What was the official resp? Commander Coast Guard Region (East) Inspector General told Express the agency had no information of an oil spill but said that air sorties would be made to assess the situation. While police appeared unaware of the oil spill.

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1 January 2010

First Watch

The switch from 2009 to 2010 is not a change of decade — that will happen next year — but it does signify that the first decade of the 21st century is coming to an end.

And what a year it has been. We started it in the depths of gloom, as global economic recession led to many discussions about the end of capitalism and the horror of the November 26 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai still lingered...We have ended 2009 with the shocking revelations of the Ruchika-Rathore case, which reminds us of the systemic changes we need to make in our society. May 2010 give us wisdom, maturity, good health and wealth. A very Happy New Year to everyone! (editorial DNA)

India will have to take a call soon. Hidden somewhere in the decade to come is a moment, one that we will not recognise when we are there, but one which future histories will try to identify …around a quarter of a billion. 250 million people will be very poor in 2020, unable to access the benefits of the modern economy, struggling towards basic citizenship rights. For 250 million of our future fellow-citizens, business-as-usual, even if business is booming, is not good enough. To them India has a responsibility: that when historians decades from now search for that moment -- in 2015? 2013? -- when India took a call, they know at least that India took the right one…So let these numbers not engender in us a sense of content…There is no alternative, therefore, to further reform, to audacious reform. But will our politics permit it?.. (Editorial. Indian Express)

…We shall, of course, be sending much more money down individual leaky pipes before the holes can be plugged. The recurrent theme over the next decade will be on the accountability of government expenditure. Here, however, much work needs to be done to create a security net that renders discretion—political and bureaucratic—redundant. Information technology offers an easy learning curve and the unique identification number a good starting point to get a fix of how big the issues of poverty and illiteracy actually are….Yet, the next stage of reforms the country needs has more to do with the delivery of governance than any specific section of the economy. This can be the decade when we switch from the politics of poverty to the politics of wealth. (Editorial. Hindustan Times)

...The overall concern of our citizens is now almost wholly focused on issues of development. That is indeed the leitmotif of public discourse today. Thanks to an ever vigilant news media and civil society, there is a nationwide yearning for growth that helps reduce disparities between social classes, communities and regions; for governance that is responsible, transparent and accountable; for the protection of life, limb and property; for the security of our borders; for access to quality education and health services, energy, food and potable water at affordable prices; for the creation of jobs and equality of opportunities, especially for the most deprived sections of the population; for innovation and enterprise in all fields of endeavour; and for a pollution-free environment... Indeed, never before have our citizens become so conscious of the rights of freedom, equality and respect for pluralism that they enjoy under our Constitution. All this augurs well for India as it completes 60 years of its existence as a republic a few weeks from now (Editorial. Times of India).