June 2007 Newspaper Watch

June 07- Newspaper Watch
Newspaper Watch for the month of June 2007. Daily Critical Indian Newspaper Watch Archives on various topics, issues. Includes both Hindi and English newspapers For current newspaper watch with cartoon, view the homepage


30th June 2007
 
Stats

The first statistics day was celebrated on Friday, where the Prime Minister called on to evolve national standards for statistics (Hindu). According to him, the role of statistics will grow as the country progresses in the path of development towards becoming a knowledge economy and as we integrate with the international economic order. Very true. What do stats tell us today about the Indian economy? On the macro-level, forex reserves have risen to $192 billion (Times of India), External debt records $155 billion, rupee is headed for biggest quarterly gain in 35 years (Mint), private beats public sector in quarterly investments (Indian Express).What about stats for Human development? Half of the Rs. 130 billion allocated for National Guarantee Programme (provides employment to the poor) lapsed during 2005-06. Why? Asian Age has carried a special report on this statistical landmark. Remember what the former Prime Minister - Rajiv Gandhi had to say about the delivery system? Stats end here, over to accountability
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29th June 2007

Fake

The fake stamp paper kingpin- Telgi was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment of 13 years after he pleaded guilty. The Court took a lenient view since he voluntarily pleaded guilty and his health was not good (he is HIV positive). The Court also imposed a fine. But how much? Newspapers have reported different figures- Rs. 1.2 billion (Punjab Kesari), Rs. 1 billion (Dainik Bhaskar, MetroNow, Hindu), Rs. 1.02 billion (Hindustan Times, Asian Age, Hindustan, Pioneer), Rs. 2.51 billion (Indian Express), Rs. 2.02 billion (Times of India), more than Rs. 1 billion (Amar Ujala, Tribune).

How to put an end to fake stamp papers, currency, certificates? This has not come out in the judgment. Surely, when illegal money pours on such Telgis, its public display is far too obvious- expensive house, luxury cars, watches, cloths, the list is endless. And it's not difficult to identify them. What is needed is the involvement of the common man, who is observant of such displays – a special hotline number to report such Telgis, induction of honest citizens in the intelligence wings….?

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28th June 2007

Old Age Support

‘We are your of support in old age’- The Advertisement by Rural Development Ministry informs that since April last year, the old age pension has increased from Rs. 75 to Rs.200 (Amar Ujala, Hindustan). But it does not reveal how many people have benefited from old page pension. Anyways, can an old person survive on his/her own with this pension? Maybe in governmental old age home? Amar Ujala (Gurgaon) has revealed that in Gurgaon ten old age homes exists, but they are not home to the old instead home to commercial activities or are locked. What would be the state of old age homes in other cities/states, is anyone’s guess.
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27th June 2007

Fate

In recent years, agriculture has been given low priority in planning process as its share in total planned outlay of the States declined from 5.2 per cent to 4.7 per cent (Economic Times 10/5/2007). But now the government has promised to take up agriculture as a priority and National Development Council (NDC) has approved a Rs. 250 billion plan for funding development programmes in agriculture in Indian States over the next four years. As a follow up on the special meeting of the National Development Council (NDC) on Agriculture, the Prime Minister has decided to undertake a tour of six major States in July to assess on the steps taken to enhance farm productivity and production (Asian Age 25/6/2007). Hope that Rs. 250 billion plan for funding development programmes in agriculture in States does not meet the fate of the ‘Vidharba package’. Why? Even after one year from the announcement of the ‘Vidharba package’ by the Central Government, farmers have got no relief and suicides have continued unabated (Economic Times).
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26th June 2007
 
Choice
 
Non Performing assets (NPAs) are on the downswing, making the health of Banking sector look better. According to latest Economic Survey -“ improved industrial climate and new options available with the banks for dealing with bad loans helped in recovering a substantial amount of NPAs in 2005-26”. Take the case of private sector bank, where NPA as percentage of gross amount declined from 5.8 to 2.4 (2003-2004 to 2005-06). Similar is the trend for public sector banks. Among the new options used by the banks is the use of recovery agents (read goons), though the Supreme Court of India had ordered ICICI Bank (and other Banks) not to use strong arm tactic to recover loan. But is the order followed? Four recovery agents of ICICI Bank have been arrested after debtor was beaten to death (Times of India).. “ When a person fails to pay his loan, he resorts to every kind of trick. We are not fly-by-night operators. We follow the laid-down procedure to recover the loan amount”: Spokesperson of ICICI Bank explained (Hindustan Times). How about recovering NPAs from relatives of Presidential candidate- Pratibha Patil, who have defaulted on loans from the bank led by her? Imagine the kind of irregularities- loan was granted to her brother which was meant for women! Her relatives got a waiver of penal interest and charging interest (totalling Rs 4.1 million) and were allowed to close their accounts prior to the bank’s liquidation (Indian Express. 25/6/2007). The Reserve bank of India had cancelled license of the bank due to financial irregularities, so why talk of NPAs of that bank now? Now, it’s a question of ethics and moral values of a person who is aspiring to occupy the top most position in the largest democracy of the world. How about a Malcha president for a change? 
 
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25th June 2007

Cartoon Fan
 
Cartoon appeals more than a thousand words. The President of India’s advice to the Indian media was on similar lines- “Put cartoon back on the front page of newspapers and bring a smile to the face of the reader” (Asian Age). President Kalam recalled that as a young person, the first thing he would look at when he picked up a newspaper would be the cartoon on the front page. Even today, several newspapers still carry cartoons on their front page but many cartoons are not funny & appealing. Moreover are difficult to comprehend. But, many other leading newspapers are devoid of any cartoon, many share the same cartoon, many carry it insignificantly on their front page, many carry only on their editorial page and many are happy to carry old foreign comic strips.

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24th June 2007

Sunday Exclusive

Responding to an Right to Information filed by the Indian Express, the Ministry of Indian Railways revealed that the report on “turnaround’ of Indian Railways by prestigious Indian Institute of Management (IIM) was paid by Indian Railways. It included fees, research expenses and overheads. It would be important to mention that same IIM rolled out a red carpet for the Railway Minister when he visited the campus, catapulted to status of a management guru. What’s wrong in commissioning a critical appraisal and a red carpet welcome? Nothing, if the appraisal is actually ‘critical’. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) in its recent report had pulled up Indian Railways for permitting freight trains to run with higher axle loads, endangering the safety of the rolling stock, bridges and tracks. It had also pointed that this had led to increasing cases of spring failure, buffer coupler failures and wagon body damage. Will it not cause deterioration of wagons, and, more importantly, tracks and risk passenger safety? Surely this was overlooked by the ‘critical appraisal’ by IIM?

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23rd June 2007

Who is Fast

The Space Shuttle Atlantis carrying Indian American Sunita Williams managed to land at the Edward Air Force Base in California on Saturday 1.19 am (IST). This news made it big on the front page of Tribune- “Sunita Back” while the Indian Express carried a photograph of Atlantis landing on its front page. The Hindu too carried this news on its front page in a column –“ Atlantis lands safely” and reported that that the space shuttle Atlantis landed safely on Friday but without the landing time, which according to the 'News release' by NASA was 3:49 p.m (EDT). Would a common Indian reader know the relationship between IST and EDT? However other newspapers such as Pioneer, Times of India, Amar Ujala, Dainik Jagran, Punjab Kesari, Hindustan, Dainik Bhaskar, MetroNow, Asian Age, Mint, Economic Times, Hindustan Times did not carry this hot news.

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22nd June 2007

Free Riders

St. Stephens College, affiliated to Delhi University, is one of the most popular undergraduate colleges in India. However, recently the college has attracted criticism for its newly extended reservation quota for admissions that has exceeded fifty per cent. Today, Pioneer in its front page has raised a fundamental issue- the colleges affiliated to Delhi University are run by private educational trusts and receive 95 per cent of annual budget from the Government via University Grant Commission, but still educational trust imposes its rules on these colleges! Moreover, according to University official, 5 per cent contribution by these trusts is collected through fees from students. What kind of privatisation is this? Nowhere in the corporate world, one can imagine a company, which is controlled by someone who has not invested in it for years together! Why no reform in higher education? Such trusts run colleges should be liberated from these free rider trusts and such colleges be privatized in real sense by inviting bids from reputed private players. Moreover, the government should move out of higher education & instead concentrate on primary/secondary education & healthcare, sanitation for the poor. But what about poor students who will not be able to afford expensive higher education? State & private scholarships and interest free loans is a feasible solution coupled with strengthening vocational education.

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21st June 2007

Rats
 
The records of a State Corporation in Bihar are said to have reported once that fish had swallowed electrical transformers during a devastating flood, now the police in the state capital of Patna has claimed that rodents are getting drunk on liquor seized by them (Telegraph). According to officials, rats have been attacking people near the police building, nibbling at their toes in Patna. Perhaps the booze is to be blamed? The rats are gnawing at beer cans and making holes in caps of whisky bottles stored in the police station storehouse (seized from illegal sellers) and apparently getting drunk (MetroNow). According to Telegraph, it’s an alibis apparently meant to explain the missing numbers and depleting stock. Officials hint that pouches of country liquor were consumed by the policemen themselves in some police stations. There are two types of rats, quipped a DIG, and the bigger ones don the police uniform! (Telgraph). Where is the rat-trap?
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20th June 2007

Malcha President?

As the scene for Presidential polls is heating up, an unexpected twist has come up by the claim for the post from the people from Malcha village. The reason? They claim that almost all of Luyton’s Delhi including land on which Presidential House stands originally belonged to the Malcha village. “...After 1910, the British chased us away… with no means of living…after half a century of struggle, what we are left with is a pack of litigations for land compensation…we are the original owners of the land on which Presidential House stands…and it’s is time the government restored our honour by giving us an opportunity for the top post….our claim (to presidential post) is rather an attempt to draw attention to our plight: Sarpanch (Head) of the village explained” (Tribune).

Malcha is not an isolated case. Has land been returned or compensation been given to families of those people whose land was forcible taken by the colonial forces during revolt of 1857 and afterwards as a punishment? Remember, the 150th year of first war of independence was celebrated on 10th of May with dances & marches, but not even one second was spared on this issue! All this raises several other pertinent questions: Why after attaining independence, people were not compensated for the land that was forcibly taken by the colonial rulers? Why do cases drag on indefinitely in Indian Courts? Why redundant laws constituted way back in the nineteenth century by colonial rulers are still in force in an independent country? What has happened to the much talked legal reforms? The list seems endless….is a Malcha President a symbolic answer?

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19th June 2007

Reform
 
The Public Distribution system (PDS) in the State of Orrisa is in a complete mess. Out of 1.36 million metric tonnes of rice meant for distribution among the poor, 83 per cent returned to the Centre – undistributed, in the last three years. The reason? The recent review by the state government has revealed that lack of administrative competency and a lethargic bureaucracy has turned the entire PDS network into shambles (Asian Age). Remember Rupashree’s documentary -‘Harvest of hunger’ which captured the pathos of life in Orissa, and won the Best Investigative Film in the non-fiction category in National Film Festival. The film reiterated the fact that the country has enough foodgrains to feed its thousand million yet close to 400 million people battle hunger. Ironically, the very people who grow the food are those fighting hunger. No matter where they work, how hard they work, theirs is a harvest of hunger. (Sunday Herald. 31 July 2005). And Hindu reported that Orissa's Kashipur belt was still struggling to keep starvation at bay... but the tribals are beginning to question the meaning and justification for `development' (Hindu 24 March 2006). Gurudayal Singh has minced no words in a hard hitting article-“What is this development amidst hunger and corruption?” . According to him-“..Prime Minister calls corruption as cancer. But there is no change in the present system. The reality is that present growth is for 150-200 million people while majority of population is outside the so call growth…..the mentality of our society is such that even the lowest ranked employee wants to lead his life as his big boss does, if not better. This is not possible through his salary, so he takes the route of corruption…”(Amar Ujala).

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18th June 2007
 
‘New’ SEZs

The government is preparing plans for integrated townships for IT and BPOs with same tax soaps as enjoyed by SEZs (Indian Express). What about the land for these integrated townships? Take a clue from the land acquisition policy for SEZs which has seen unprecedented protests and violence. But according to the Rural Development Minister the displacement of people from land sought for SEZs will be purely voluntary and no forcible acquisitions will be made. The policy, now in draft stage, will seek to end forced acquisition of farmer’s land (Tribune). But till then it’s a free run ? The Government of Maharashtra has acquired 14 villages in Nagpur for a planned Rs 30 billion cargo hub spread but this has not gone well with the villagers who have not received any compensation. And to mark protest, women in Shipangaon village have tonsured their heads. " We want our village... men have been getting themselves tonsured, no one noticed, so ladies have got down to it now..we are facing a lot of problems, how do we farm, eat, feed our children": Maina Bai - a protester (Tribune). The State Government’s plan to acquire land for expansion of Indian Iron & Steel Company has run into rough weather in the Burdwan district of West Bengal. (Indian Express). And even now not all is well in Nandigram (Times of India, Pioneer). 

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 17th June 2007
 
Mega Obsession
 
The Sports Ministry of India has decided to downgrade hockey and volleyball from the priority list to general category, because of limited funds (Indian Express). What - limited funds for sports? That’s not true, remember, India in its bid for hosting Commonwealth Games 2010, had offered US $100,000 to Games Association of each member of Commonwealth (72 nations) to train their athletes, apart from offering everything free- air travel, boarding, lodging (Hindu, 15/11/2003). Since never before such freebies were offered, New Delhi is now preparing to host the Commonwealth Games 2010, with estimated cost of Rs. 70 billion, which will probably escalate further. Not surprisingly, unlike Commonwealth Games at Manchester, no profit will be made here. Yes, there is no constraint of money as far as mega sports events are concerned. After recent unsuccessful bid for Asian Games & Olympics, F 1 championship will be held in Delhi in 2009. According to the President of Indian Olympics Association (IOA)- “…our responsibility to raise the necessary finances through government and private funds”(Hindustan Times, 14 June 2007). Won’t money be a constraint here for the Ministry of Sports? “.. I have not received any proposal from the IOA …look it’s you (media) from whom I have learned about it. Officially nothing has been tabled: Minister of Sports” (Indian Express). Nevertheless, who suffers- Indian hockey and volleyball. And what about the condition of other sports? The miserable medal tally (as usual) in the forthcoming Olympics will reveal it all. But who cares in the obsession for organizing mega sports events?

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16th June 2007

View of the Day:
 
“…In reality our main occupation in life is making money, the more the better. Our national motto has become sab say badaa rupaiya- so let us sing in praise of the almighty rupee. Consequently, our newspapers and magazines are becoming less readable. They devote a sizable part of space to the doings of film stars, fashion designers, and their scantily clad models, cooking recipes, how to mix drinks at cocktail parties and that sort of trivia. The little readable material they publish is taken from foreign journals, American or English. It is not journalism: it is whoring in the name of journalism….making big money is not all there is to life” (Khushwant Singh, Tribune).
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15th June 2007

Evaluation Blues
 
The higher education in India seems to be in a mess with 90 percent of colleges and 68 per cent Universities imparting poor quality education. This is not all, 57 percent teachers have neither MPhil nor PhD -- these striking facts were revealed by the first ever official assessment conducted by University Grant Commission’s National Assessment & Accreditation Council-NAAC (Indian Express 10/6/2007). Earlier the National Knowledge Commission in its report had recommended a systematic overhaul of higher education in the country (Hindu 27/2/20067). But are colleges in Delhi serious about improving quality of education. The Delhi University Teacher association (DUTA) has demanded the withdrawal of letter from the Delhi government which says that second installment of funds to the Delhi government funded colleges will not be released unless they get themselves accredited by NAAC. Why? “ The University of Delhi after a long deliberation has chosen not to get assessed by NAAC…This is an attack on the autonomy of the versity ..” According to DUTA the objective behind NAAC is to reduce state funding by using perverse logic. (Asian Age). It’s not really hard to understand the reluctance of Delhi University to get assessed by NAAC - A fear of getting bad grades?

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14th June 2007

Media Pressure

The high level expert group constituted to tackle rural indebtedness, a major cause of farmer’s suicide, was supposed to submit its report by the end of May. But it has yet to submit and has asked for an extension of time. The Reserve Bank Governor, in his annual policy speech in April, had promised that details of a Credit Guarantee Scheme for distressed farmers will be placed in the public domain by May 31, 2007. But this too has yet to happen (Indian Express). Any feasible solution to tackle such delays? Take a clue from the Rural Development Minister who is seeking media pressure for projects’ speedy execution. He has directed his ministry to organize video-Press conferences between media persons in State capitals and the centre on issues (Pioneer). Hope, it makes the difference?

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13th June 2007
 
Credit Delivery

According to the recently submitted report by the technical committee appointed by Reserve Bank of India, credit alone cannot check rural indebtedness and improving access to education health and employment in rural India is as important as improving credit delivery (Indian Express). Nothing really new? But talking about 'credit delivery'- counterfeit currency is being pumped in the country and even seasoned officers are finding it difficult to detect. And worse- lately, counterfeits are being sent through unsuspecting ‘carriers’ like young women & couples (Hindustan Times). But still there is no official word from the Reserve Bank on how to tackle counterfeit currency, which can be extremely detrimental to the economy and efforts of honest citizens.

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12th June 2007

Cartoon Watch
 
Today is World Day Against Child Labour, quite evident from big governmental advertisements appearing in many papers. But despite laws & regulations, child labour is rampant in India. And yes, there are some valid reasons for that. However none of the cartoons have focused on child labour. Rather the ongoing race for presidential polls is the favourite topic of cartoons today (Dainik Bhaskar, Punjab Kesari, Pioneer, Times of India, Statesman). Others have focused on a variety - Global warming (Hindustan), Promises (Asian Age), Nuclear Deal (Indian Express), third political front (Hindu), Yoga (Times of India), threat by Manmohan (Viraat Vaibhav), BCCI & coach selection (Jansatta), Doctor-patient (Rashtiya Sahara). Cartoonists club has also made an appearance in Tribune & Statesman (both papers carried the same cartoon). Though in Statesman this cartoon has appeared in colour on the front page, in Tribune it's black & white, on page 11. Asian Age cartoon has featured a cartoonist wishing - Lalu, Union Railway Minister on his 60th birthday on behalf of all cartoonists. Not surprising, Lalu is quite a favourite of all cartoonists! However Mint, Business Standard, Hindu Business Line, Hindustan Times, MetroNow, Veer Arjun did not contain any Indian social or political cartoon.

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11th June 2007

Loss of talent

Cricket is a hot favourite for many youngsters who are applying under sports quota at Delhi University (Times of India). But how many of them will be able to escape the frustration & humiliation as faced by Subhas Dixit, who committed suicide recently by jumping off from the sixth floor of a building in front of Green Park (where he wished to play test match for india) in the Indian city of Kanpur. The reasons are not unknown- he was the captain of under-15 cricket team which won the Asia Cup in Malaysia in the year- 2000. Did he get a hero’s welcome from the country on his return home? Nope, while all his teammates got a place in Ranjit Team, he didn’t get a place (Dainik Jagran). Why? According to his friend, during cricket team selection, only strong recommendations matter and Dixit didn’t have a Godfather..Only rich have a say here (Amar Ujala). A talented cricketer, living in poverty with adversarial family circumstances, searched for a job after he secured first division in 12th standard, but in vain. Result- actual death of a talent who not longer could bear the humiliation. Why did this happen? “This is a era of coporatisation of cricket, hence we see on the field saudagar & not cricketers. Therefore crores is on stake while betting on outcome of matches. Therefore the rumours of match fixing is often in the air. Therefore the whole country was shocked over India’s loss to Bangladesh. Therefore crowd of fans did not welcome the cricket team on their return home after they won a series over Bangladesh. Therefore all seems ‘fix-fix’..” (Amar Ujala). Last yeat too another talented player-Manish Mishra had committed suicide in Lucknow. Suicides by young talents is very sad and tell a lot about the ‘sick’ state of Indian cricket but who will make the deaf listen? What to talk about reforms?


10th June 2007

Conspicuous Consumption
 
Climate change has reached our doorsteps but there is no unanimity on what to do. The recent G8 declaration was neither here nor there. (HindustanTimes). Concrete time bound efforts to change the ever ‘consuming’ consumption pattern are still absent. After all, conspicuous consumption is a big hit with the rich across political boundaries - bigger flashy cars, more & more air conditioners, expensive perfumes…and of course, obsession with high rate of economic growth. “Governments that live in glass houses should not throw terms like conspicuous consumption around….You can’t put more money in the hands of people, give them things to spend this money on, and the lecture them on conspicuous consumption…One man’s conspicuous consumption begins when other man’s luxury ends...Of course conspicuous consumption is vulgar (Vir Sanghvi. Hindustan Times). But the real question is not whether a particular consumption is vulgar or not but whether it is environment friendly. Climate change reforms at various levels are a must for sake of life on earth, before its too late. 

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 9th June 2007

Protests for water
 
In the Land of Mahatma Gandhi, who led the nation against British Rule through non-violent protests, if a Sarpanch, Punch or any member of Panchayat (Local village Body) is seen blocking road or highway to protest for rectification of any problem, he/she will be immediately suspended. The officials have been instructed to capture their involvement in road jams through photographs and videos (Dainik Jagran).However this has not stopped people- mainly villagers, from resorting to jams on roads in the Indian State of Haryana. “Harassed people cause jam on Pautaudi-Bilaspur road due to non availability of power-water. The problem of non-availability of water & Power has persisted since last three weeks, despite repeated complaints to authorities and local political leader” (Punjab Kesari, Dainik Jagran) “ Patience of people over short supply of water and power seems to be diminishing. Residents of Chaudhut village of Palwal district blocked traffic on Palwal Aligarh road. This is second such incident in this district in past three days (Amar Ujala,Tribune). “Irked over acute shortages of irrigation as well potable water and erratic power supply hundreds of villagers of Kheri Meham villge in Rohtak district blocked Meham-Lakhanmajra road. (Tribune). “There is no water in farm nor in home. In this situation where should we go and whom should we tell?" (Amar Ujala). “ Residents of Sundar Nagar situated on Narvana Road have been suffering from water shortages since two years due to non-operational tube well. They jammed Jind-Narvana road to protest. Despite complaints to authorities the problem has not been resolved. Moreover they have been made to pay the water bill without getting water. Whereas residents of Apollo Road jammed the road as they have been getting dirty water”(Amar Ujala). “ For last ten days Gogjaka village is facing water crisis. Despite complaints to authorities there is no improvement. Villages have threatened if water problem is not resolved soon, they will take to the streets”(Dainik Bhaskar). “21 villages of Nagina are not getting water for last three months despite complaining to authorities. Villagers have threaten that if problem of water is not solved soon, they will resort to blockading the administration” (Daink Bhaskar). When Delhi suffers from water shortages all newspapers carry reports that too prominently, but when villagers suffer the same, most English newspapers (apart from Tribune) generally don’t bother to report it. Is it true that City folks who read Newspapers in English, don't want to read about about problems of 'rustic' villagers, who grows for them foodgrain, vegetables but is not willing to part his land for SEZs? A research topic! Nevertheless, it’s not a secret why villagers are coming down on streets to protest for water that too in such mind-blowing heat. The focus should not be on curbing such water protests but instead to resolve the water problem. Water is life, and without it ….is anyone listening?

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8th June 2007

Two Qs
 

Indra Nooyi, CEO PepsiCo, looked back at pesticide-in-coke controversy - “.. If we get attention, it’s not because of the water we use. It is because of what we represent….Parents were scared that their children were consuming things they had never consumed. And now they had a reason to stop it- pesticides in coke. Nobody stopped them to say’ What pesticides?’ or ‘incidentally, your tea, and your coffee has many thousand times that” (Times ofIndia, Asian Age). Quite true, the quality of water has not attracted much attention in India.But the burning question today is- where is water? People are on the streets protesting about non-availability of water (Amar Ujala, Dainik Bhaskar), forget getting concerned about its quality. Even animals from Kalesar National Park have come down on National Highway searching for water. What about the much acclaimed capital city? It’s no different, as Delhi is reeling under water crisis though Delhi Jal Board (as usual) is unwilling to take the responsibility (MetroNow). Is it not a failure of the system that even after half a century of planned development, the provision of safe drinking water is not viewed as a mission and implemented with passion. But Indra Nooyi cannot get away by blaming the water quality. Remember last year, hundreds of villagers protested against the alleged unlimited exploitation of ground water by two cold drink giants, Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Addressing the gathering in front of the regional office of Coca-Cola India, social activist Ms Medha Patkar had alleged that the two companies had set up more than 90 plants throughout India and were drawing 15-25 lakh litres of water per day from each site. This over-exploitation of water has caused the depletion of the water table in the regions where these plants have been set up. (Tribune. 5th October 2006). And hence people continue to suffer both in relation to 2Qs- quality & quantity.

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7th June 2007

Media Management
 
Not all is well in Pakistan. Angry journalists shook up the National Assembly on the fist day of the budget session with intense protests from the Press gallery, shouting slogans against an ordinance aimed at curbing television channels (Hindu). The United States has cautioned against reversing the “advances” towards greater freedom, including that of the press (Indian Express). However unfazed by the mounting criticism over crackdown on electronic media, the Musharraf regime is planning to introduce another gag order that will restrict publication of objectionable editorial comments and cartoons in newspapers in Pakistan (Pioneer). But the Pakistan Government has said that media freedom is the “top priority of the government and no attempts is afoot to curb the media freedom” and the Prime Minister has ordered the withdrawal of a complaint initiated against 200 journalists (Asian Age). Pamela Philipose feels that “ The media gag show that Musharraf is finding it difficult to remain appearing both dictator and democrat” (Indian Express). Can media be managed in a democracy, that too amiably? Economic Times reports that a letter in its possession describes how a senior congress leader ‘managed’ the media (from being hostile to party candidates to a friendly one) during the Goa assembly elections when State Congress Committee realised that the media was going all out against the Congress party. Moreover Congressmen are starting TV channels in Tamil Nadu & Kerala which will also telecast party news and views (Economic Times). Any attempt to regulate TV channels? The Indian Information & Broadcasting Minister has conceded that there are several flaws in the proposed TV channel regulation code as it could affect independent functioning of news channels and will be reviewed (MetroNow).

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6th June 2007

Village woes
 
The Central Government has granted formal approval to 24 Special Economic Zones, including to controversial 440 hectare Reliance SEZ in the Indian State of Haryana (Hindu). However when the Reliance employees came down to take possession of land, hundreds of villagers- mainly women carrying sticks chased them off. The villagers had filed a case in high court challenging the decision of Haryana State Industrial & Infrastructure Corporation (HSIIDC) to hand over land to Reliance Industries, as this land was acquired for ‘public purpose’. The villagers say that they had asked the administration & Reliance Industries not to take possession of land until final decision of the court was pronounced, which they had agreed, but in vain. Now these villagers from five affected villages have appealed to other villagers that time has come that in order to save our land, we need to fight with the government. (Haryana Punjab Kesari). Is this aggression just a result of acquisition of land? A glance through Hindi newspapers reveal that the villagers are struggling to get even water and electricity (Dainik Jagran, Dainik Bhaskar, PunjabKesari, Hindustan) and are resorting to protests. In Farruk Nager (Gurgaon), people are not been able to cook due to power & water shortages (Amar Ujala).“Villagers break in power house, jam (Daink Bhaskar). What about ground water? In addition to depletion of water table, over eighty per cent of Punjab’s groundwater is unfit for human consumption, with arsenic toxicity touching an all time high. Even buffalo milk is contaminated with arsenic (Tribune). Moreover the rivers are already heavily polluted- many virtually a drain. And what’s the role of the Indian Government to improve their well being? Bharat Nirmal project to develop rural infrastructure at the initial cost of Rs. 1.76 trillion is running two years behind. The worse performance has been respect to irrigation and roads where only 20 per cent of targets have been achieved while for drinking water & electrification, only twenty five per cent targets have been achieved (Mint). And worst, there is no monitoring / accountability for the ‘rural’ delay though full attention is being given to upgrade Delhi before Commonwealth Games. 

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5th June 2007

Long way home- Enviromental Ad watch

Today is World Environmental Day- quite obvious from plethora of Governmental Advertisements. However the word ‘Sustainable Development’ is absent from all advertisements. The advertisement by Ministry of Environment & Forests. Government of India has focused on global warming in rather threatening manner- “ Collector’s Item: Picture postcard of Glacier. Don’t consume the world Act now” but does not suggest any way by which citizens can ‘Act’ but instead has listed its own achievements 2006-07 (Times of india). The best Governmental Ad has comes from the Environment Department Haryana & Haryana State Pollution Control Board-- “Don’t wait for Mother Earth to perish”. This ad goes on to list in bullet points what citizens / industrialists / lovers of clean environment can do for a healthy, clean environment (Tribune). The Indian Corporate sector has not shown much of an interest in celebrating World Environment Day through advertisements. The few ads that have appeared are mostly related to energy- Indraprastha Gas Limited, National Mineral Development Corporation Ltd, Suzlon, Power Grid Corporation of India. The only ad by a real estate developer has appeared in Hindu “ Let us all come together. We need hands to save our World “ The ad lists company’s planned initiatives- tree plantation, rainwater harvesting, waste water recycling, solar water heating comprehensive solid waste management, biogas plant, biogas plant, use of fly ash for construction.

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4th June 2007

Gear-up!

“Gearing up for Commonwealth Games-2010” - Majority of the newspapers have carried an colourful advertisement by Delhi Government on the occasion of inauguration of eight lane Express Highway between ITO Chungi & Gandhi Nagar (cost- Rs.220 million) and foundation stone laying ceremony of a flyovers at Shastri Nagar intersection (cost-Rs. 2 billion)and an underpass at ITO Chungi (cost-Rs. 737 million). But what about Indian sports-persons? Are they receiving the same generous governmental attention? Just 70 Kms from Delhi, hundreds of aspiring shooters are sharpening their skills with broken bricks, empty bottles, sugarcane stems in the makeshift shooting range in land donated by Village Panchayat. “Rifles and pistols are hard to come by and we can give them the bare minimum of five to ten pellets a day to shoot. The rest of the time- 3 to 5 hours- is spent pointing bricks and sticks at targets to ‘set the eye’-says the coach (Hindustan Times). What a way to Gear up for Commonwealth Games-2010!


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3rd June 2007

Letters to the Editor
 
On the measurement scale, literally speaking, Tribune ranks the first in terms of devoting space to Letters to the Editor, followed by Statesman & Asian Age. The tone of majority of letters is critically constructive regarding variety of problem/issue that they have raised- female foeticide, Dowry, Female education, Art & religion, Pollution in river Ganga, Recycle & plastics, Environmental balance, Cutting trees for governmental projects, Ban on street food, Presidential polls, Chinese claim over Arunachal Pradesh, Ragging, PM & nuclear deal. However, out of 35 odd letters scanned, only three have raised the ‘burning’ problem of reservation based on caste.
 
“..What is happening to this great land of ours?” - Brajendra Singh from New Delhi (Asian Age).

“…If reservation is to be there, let it be on the verification of economic condition, which should included agricultural income” – Ram Gopal from Delhi (Pioneer). “

"..Caste politics can kill the nation, because casteism has bigger presence than communalism”- Mukul Sengupta from West Bengal ( AsianAge).

Senguta is right, a glance through Sunday Matrimonial Supplements reveals it all - heavy classification based on caste of bride/groom - Brahmin, Vaish/Jain, Agrawal-Bisa, Gujar,Jaiswal, Khatri, Kumauni, Kshatriya, Kurmi, Kayastha, Chaurasia,Gurjjar, Pal, Pasi, Sahu-Teli, Swarnkar, Saini, Vishwakarma Panchal,Yadav,Maurya, Prajapati, Saini, Maheshwari. There is no doubt that the Indian Hindu society is divided on basis of caste, regardless of the so called claims of liberalization. And the ongoing reservation policy has created caste-winners and caste- losers which can have serious implications in the long run. Any takers for alternatives?

(Times of India, Hindustan, Indian Express, Amar Ujala, Punjab Kesari, Dainik Bhaskar, Navbharat Times and Jansatta did not carry any Letter to Editor. While Asian Age, Dainik Jagran, Pioneer, Hindu, Tribune, Statesman, Hindustan Times did carry them).

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2nd June 2007

Wildlife Watch

The never ending human greed has not spared even India’s star tortoise- which features in schedule IV, lowest rank of protection under the Wildlife Protection Act. A well organized network of smugglers is trafficking in India’s star tortoise, much sought after in the international market. Between 2001 to 2004, less than 7,000 star tortoise were confiscated across India, while 19,000 were recorded to have been trade internationally with fraudulent papers. In 2005, wildlife authorities claimed that smuggling had declined but in reality it was merely a breakdown in intelligence gathering (Hindu). But it really doesn’t matter whether the living-being is listed in schedule IV or I, human lust continues unabated. Dolphins feature in Schedule-I, making them as endangered as tigers have disappeared from seven Km stretch in the river Ganga near Garmukteshwar due to untreated industrial discharge in the river (Hindustan Times). The ‘Holy’ River Ganga is as polluted as before, even after pouring in billions of rupees. And similar is the state of other rivers. What about protected National parks? Tigers continue to disappear from protected Parks, while officials are busy arguing about their numbers. Today, it's been reported by Asian Age that local guides have complaint to the State Wildlife Department that the Railway Minister and his family were allowed in the Jim Corbett National park beyond the stipulated time and they moved in a canter vehicle which is banned inside the park.

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1st June 2007

Health

A trillion-dollar economy and a trillion-dollar stock market, yet another stats to cheer - 2006-07 witnessed fastest growth figures in two decades. Manufacturing and services were main growth drivers while agriculture growth was lower than last year. According to the Finance Minister, high growth generates its own momentum. With high growth comes high investment, which in turn, reinforces growth itself” (Economic Times). Great ! but is there a correlation between health of the economy & health of its people? Nope! Rapidly rising incomes seem to be encouraging unhealthy eating habits amongst Indians. And this has been revealed by National Sample Survey statistics for 2004-05, which shows that Indians are consuming fewer calories and proteins and more fat (Hindustan Times). And this unhealthy eating would naturally cause obesity amongst Indians. According to Dr. Dhorepatil- “ In effect fast foods, oversized portions or a diet high in fat, salt and sugar adds to the ailment. Lack of exercise is an important contributing factor”. Further, the fact that 50 percent of Indian women are obese compared to 32 pre cent Indian men should be a matter of concern. (DNA. Mumbai. 29/5/07).



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SOUTH ASIAN RESEARCH CENTRE FOR ADVERTISEMENT, JOURNALISM & CARTOONS

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