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June 2008 Newspaper Watch

Sarcajc Research in Journalism Advertisement & Cartoon 

SARCAJC

SOUTH ASIAN RESEARCH CENTRE FOR ADVERTISEMENT, JOURNALISM & CARTOONS


Newspaper Watch (India) for the month of  June  2008.  For latest newspaper watch, view the homepage

30 June 2008

Superficial

In the run away, climbing inflation, is there any need to ask -is the common man is getting adversely effected? Just go through the media reports and the open secret is out! But Rama Bijapurkar still asks in Economic Times - “ …...Why aren’t we talking about aam janta in concrete term? And talking to the amm janta about what is happening to their lives, and how they should deal with it, instead of mostly doing sophisticated economic analysis for those that already ‘ get” what is doing on?…” . Hang on, give the common man’s sufferings a break and instead suggest concret measure to curb ever increasing inflation!!

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29 June 2008

Corruption Update

Yes, the common man encounters every day- corruption. Many fight it out, while many become the part of the ‘system’. The survey findings reveal that every third poor Indian has paid bribe to avail any of the 11 public services in 2007, which amounted to Rs. 8.33 billion. The Vice President of India has called it -“ horrifying and legal and moral terms” (Hindustan Times). Yet most government employees crib about their ‘low salaries’ but don‘t crib that much about rampant corruption! Hang on, are their salaries low, when official perks & job security is factored in? And not to forget corruption which features in many surveys, but no concert steps appear to have been taken to root it out.

But how to fight it out? Improve governance, responsive system to public complaints, prompt action against culprits and encourage whistleblowers? Nope! Take clue from Central Vigilance Commissioner, according to whom, the only way to reduce petty corruption was to minimize contact between average citizen and a government official by using technology! (Hindustan Times).

But who uses the technology (read computers) in rural areas? Can a country with low level of literacy and high level of poor and vulnerable be expected to become computer-savvy? Of course, it’s the same corrupt man & the same old accompanying system! Surprising, not a word about encouraging whistleblowers - the only true manner to root out corruption on a permanent basis in any part of the country.

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28 June 2008

Gandhi Forgotten

The core value of Mahatma Gandhi has been forgotten, though the nation faithfully pays (ritual) homage on specific occasions, which is carried faithfully by the media. But which core value are you referring to- did you ask? ‘Anti-liquor’. Now, India is one of the largest producers of alcohol in the world and there has been a steady increase in its production over the last 15 years. More than two-thirds of the total beverage alcohol consumption in the region is in India, according to figures in the newly-compiled Alcohol Atlas of India (Hindu. 3/5/08).

Today, a report by Chetan Chauhan has appeared on the front page of Hindustan Times (Delhi Edition) with the headline- “ Booze-sale money to fund model schools in Punjab”. Take a clue-” Patiala peg, the extra-large serving of whisky that gives Punjab its high, is helping built schools that can match with the best in India in quality infrastructure but not charge poor students a penny…”. Mind you these schools will be a public-private venture for which government will give 10-15 acres of rural land and one time grant of Rs. 200 million to build infrastructure including a gym! Even Mungekar, member of planning commission has welcomed this model!

But Chetan Chauhan failed to ask - What’s happened to the education cess of two per cent on income tax, corporation tax, excise and customs duties and service tax, which has being imposed to give a boost to primary education ? And the 1% secondary and higher education cess ? Why should the government dole out freebies to private sector for schools that will match the “ best in India in quality infrastructure” for the creamy layer? Why not instead strengthen & upgrade the existing schools in the country?

According to figures released by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), the magnitude of indebtedness in rural households of Punjab is the highest in the country with per capita debt of Rs 41,576 and so is the per capita consumption of liquor. What would have been Mahatma Gandhi’s take on this one?

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27 June 2008

Direct

Despite the fact liquor ads, direct as well as surrogate are not permitted in India, one such ad has made an appearance in Delhi Times, the supplement of Times of India with the name of corporate group in its trademark style. Mind you, it is one of the leading brewing groups in the world. So what does the punch line mean- “ It doesn’t get any better than this! In your city now ”? And no prizes for guessing it right!

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26 June 2008

Pricing

The hike in fuel price is being felt in almost all sectors of the economy including aviation. Hindustan Times reports that India is the most expensive place to tank up. More to come- a recent report revealed that domestic operators pay 51 per cent higher price than what is paid by international carriers in India. So, what is the solution to this hiked inflation- transport mode substitution? Take a clue from an advertisement of a car that has appeared in Amar Ujala with the punch line- “ No petrol price hike for 6 months”. The ad claims that the car manufacturer will take the “burden off your pocket by paying the increase in the petrol price on your behalf…”. So buying that ad car and bidding good bye to air-travel? But do check out the hidden conditions in fine prints, if any!

Ad of the Day

One full page Advertisement in Indian Express by a Political Party comes with an eye-catchy punch line- “Should Karnataka’s poor farmers get Rs. 70 lakh per acre or a meager Rs. 3-5 lakh per acre compensation for sacrificing their precious land?” and claims “ clear evidence of fraud”. While the self ad of DNA in Mumbai edition of the newspaper also comes with a catchy punch line- “ Our news has an element of sensationalism. It’s called truth…”. Now, which one is more luring?

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25 June 2008

Right to protest

The police has arrested K Srinivas, the editor of Andhra Jyothi, a Telegu daily. The arrest was based on a complaint by MRPS leader who alleged that the action of staff of Andhra Jyothi in beating up an effigy with footwear, which symbolized him attracted the provisions of SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. This alleged incident took place near Jubilee Hills check post during a rally taken out by the newspaper employees in protest against the attack on their office by MRPS activist on May 26. But can their action be termed as Atrocity? What would Mahatma Gandhi say on this one?

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24 June 2008

Mind Readers

Has the Reserve Bank of India done enough to curb inflation? Going by the recent double digit figure, one can‘t overlook suffering of the common man. Then, what next? Wait & watch for inflation go off the front pages of newspapers? Nope, going by the mood of the common man & approaching elections, RBI’s next step is expected to come soon, but which one? Take a clue from two leading newspapers in English. However, which one is correctly reading the mind of the Governor of Reserve Bank of India? Take a look: Hindustan Times (Delhi Edition)- Interest rates would do up further and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) would definitely move towards further monetary tightening to control inflation is the indication financial experts got from the governor Y. V. Reddy’s speech in Pune on Monday. The government has taken measures to control prices by managing the supply of products and RBI will play its part in moderating and managing demand so that pressures on prices so no intensify, said Reddy. Times of India (Kolkota Edition)- In a respite to investors and consumers reeling under skyrocketing inflation, the Reserve Bank of India on Monday ruled out increasing interest rates….On Monday, RBI governor Y V Reddy said no fresh steps were needed as measures taken since April, including the rise in stipulated rates like the cash reserve ratio and the repo rate, were enough. “We may have to build on the actions already taken,” he said.

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23 June 2008

Statistics

When the common man is going ‘head over heels’ over high inflation, the headlines of MetroNow reads- “ Inflation? Delhi doesn’t give two hoots about it. The hoot right now is Chic Hic Hurray!”. It asserts that -”we are drinking better, costlier booze as cheaper brands see a slide in sales”. It would be the case of change of preference by the stinking rich Delhites, who really don’t care about inflation. But hang on, will this ‘care not inflation attitude’ hold true for all Delhites? No prizes for getting this one right!

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22 June 2008

Report of the Day

Days after the Union Ministry of Chemical & Fertilizer published an attractive ad in the leading newspapers, DNA reports about the fertilizer crisis on its front page. Take a look- “The acronym PDS has acquired a whole new meaning here in Washim — the police distribution system. For a week now, the Washim police have been distributing fertilisers to farmers at the behest of retailers amidst severe shortages, to avert a law-and-order situation. “I’ve never seen or done this before,” admits Devidas Chaudhary, officer-in-charge of the Washim police station. “My men are doing nothing else but distributing fertilisers throughout the day and trying to manage a tense situation.”….Farmers are angry that they’ve to line up for fertilizers when they should be in the fields tending to their farms. Also, it has fuelled the production cost at a time when inflation is hitting them hard on all fronts. Police in other districts too are starting to pitch in for distribution of inputs, even as farmers’ protests grow in intensity and volume..” A must to read.

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21 June 2008

Nuclear Countdown

Most newspapers have faithfully carried a report on their front page regarding the stalemate on the India-US Nuclear deal. Remember, this Deal has dragging for a long time. An interesting episode of political pulls & pushes:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is quite edgy due to the impasse of the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal and may even submit his resignation to Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Saturday when they meet here on his request for an urgent meeting. A lobby in the AICC headquarters became quite active on Friday after the word about an anguished Prime Minister wanting to resign…(Kashmir Times).

The game of brinkmanship between the UPA and the Left on the nuclear deal has brought the architect of the deal -– Dr Manmohan Singh – tottering on an edge. With both sides hardening their stand on Friday, there were indications that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may even submit his resignation to Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Saturday, when they meet on his request for an urgent meeting…(Free Press Journal)

The ground-level situation is compelling the UPA and the Left to delay parting ways on the Indo-US nuclear deal. This is clear after the series of meetings they held on Friday despite reiterating their stated positions on this issue. A senior UPA leader said a UPA-Left meeting, expected on June 25, may be deferred because they have yet to arrive at a decision..(Deccan Chronicle).

The political uncertainty gripping the Manmohan Singh government deepened on Friday with CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat point blank refusing to soften his opposition to the nuclear deal….(DNA)

The UPA government is hoping to be bailed out by the SP and the BSP if the Left carries out its threat of support withdrawal on the Indo-US deal, and the opposition BJP moves a no-confidence motion… (Tribune).

The economy is diagnosed with a double-digit affliction and the chief executive is laid low by a viral infection, the maladies striking together in the middle of a political crisis….Prime Minister Manmohan Singh neither ventured out of his home nor did he meet anyone today, fuelling feverish speculation…Such was the swirl of rumours in the capital that the Congress formally dismissed as “baseless speculation” suggestions that the Prime Minister had resigned….(Telegraph)

The nuclear imbroglio turned near farcical today with the Prime Minister reportedly indicating to Congress president Mrs Sonia Gandhi that he’d contemplate resigning if there is no nuclear deal and an adamant Left saying, unofficially that the Prime Minister can resign if he wants to!…(Statesman).

UPA crisis managers on Friday scrambled for fresh measures to resolve the government-threatening standoff with the Left after CPM declared that it would not flinch from voting against the ruling coalition alongside BJP…(Times of India).

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20 June 2008

Advertisement of the Day

The Indian freedom struggle’s values are sometimes used indirectly/directly for promotion of products and many times they are taken off the shelf. Take a clue from two ads that have appeared today. The effect of hike in fuel prices is not visible on car ads but on a scooty ad that effectively exploits the historical ‘Quit India Movement’ of 1942. It’s punch line reads- ‘Quit Petro Movement from today”. On the other hand, a liquor ad has made an appearance in Splurge, supplement of Hindustan Times with claim-“ Taste Balance Taste that speaks for itself”. Unlike past, this ad has not mentioned in small prints- ‘CD & cassettes’! Is this not direct advertising of liquor, not allowed by existing law? Anyone listening ?

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19 June 2008

Careful Observation

Should judges of Supreme Court of India be careful in their observations? Take a clue from Jagannathan- “If newspapers have quoted the honourable justices of the Supreme Court right, there’s a strong case for asking the latter to choose their observations carefully. News reports on Wednesday quoted Justices Arijit Pasayat and GS Singhvi, among the best and question. It’s a judgment couched as a question. brightest on the bench, as saying that the Hindu Marriage Act has “broken more homes than it has united”. .…By this yardstick, we shouldn’t have laws to protect human rights, since criminals take advantage of it. We should also abandon anti-dowry legislation, since a few women must be taking advantage of it to level unwarranted charges against estranged husbands. Ditto for laws which allow Dalits to complain against caste abuse…”(DNA. Mumbai Edition).

Point to Ponder- what about editors and fellow journalists!

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18 June 2008

Advertisement Watch

The advertisement by Department of Fertilizers Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers has appeared in many newspapers in English and Hindi with the punch line- “ Gift of he UPA Government to the farmers Prices of Complex Fertilizers reduced”. Fair enough. But take a look at the fine prints at the bottom- “Central government is closely monitoring availability of fertilizers in consultation with the State government. Farmers are requested not to panic, and resort to unnecessary buying. Panic buying will only help black marketers.”

Point to ponder- how many rustic Indian farmers will read this ad in an English newspapers !

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17 June 2008

Advertisement of the Day

A day after a news report appeared in New Indian Express (Chennai Edition) regarding warning by Vice Chancellor of Anna University to parents & their wards against unapproved colleges which allegedly placed advertisements for admission, an advertisement in form of an appeal from the Union of Human Resource Minister has appeared in many newspapers (Delhi Edition). Take a clue from the appeal- “…you should not merely go by the advertisements issued in the media by higher educational institutions, but satisfy yourself on all counts in respect of quality and statutory recognition because it is not necessary that all that is projected in advertisements would be based on facts….All statutory authorities coming under the purview of the Ministry of Human Resource Development have been directed to ensure that they effectively campaign against institutions which are unrecognized, unauthorized or of dubious quality; and also to widely publicize information I respect of such institutions in the public interest. These agencies have also being asked that they keep an alert eye on misleading advertisements in the news media so that to ensure that the veracity of any tall claims which are not based on reality could be enquired into….I also request the news media that it should refuse to carry bogus and baseless advertisements intended to defraud unsuspecting parents and students, even if it means loss of advertisement revenues so that the media does not become a party to attempts by the unscrupulous to trifle with the future of our young generation….”. Will this appeal work?

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16 June 2008

Cartoon Watch

The showers of monsoon is visible on Indian cartoons today- Flood (Virat Vaibhav), monsoon & elections (Jansatta), monsoon & Gujars (DNA), Umbrella & floods (Times of India). It is followed by inflation- Inflation (Hindustan), fuel hike possibility (Hindustan). The cartoon of the day has been carried by New Indian Express on inflation. The cartoon shows PM pushing FM behind a tree with the text -“hide here Chidu! Let the Aam Aadm pass…We can’t face him. You know”. Why are they both hiding from the common man? Take a clue from the Aam Adami in the cartoon, who is shown walking in front of the tree, in a bad state under the burden of high prices.

The cartoons on nuclear deal have not really left the scene, though the deal itself is not visible- Nuclear deal’s state (Mail Today), Dr. Singh’s plea for saving Nuclear Deal (DNA), Other Indian cartoons focused in a variety- Farmer suicide & Karnataka (Statesman, Tribune, Free Press Journal), separate state (Times of India, Mumbai Mirror), Dinner a la cart (Economic Times), Ambani vs. Ambani (Hindustan Times), Mask (Amar Ujala), boss recruitment (DNA), austerity drive (Mail Today), Musharaff & seat (Indian Express), talent search (Rajasthan Patrika).

However no Indian cartoon appeared in Navbharat Times, Rashtriya Sahara, Telegraph, Veer Arjun , MetroNoe, Dainik Bhaskar, Dainik Jagran.

Double Vision

“ Banks plan lounges to attract younger lot” has appeared on Page two of In Dino (These Days). This newspaper is relatively lesser known in New Delhi, but publishing the same news report twice on the same page

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15 June 2008

Report of the Day

The Bhopal Gas Tragedy refuses to leave the front page of newspapers. Take a clue- “386 tonnes were collected and stored in 2005 but no response to tenders; no estimate of total waste so far.. Months before the 25th anniversary of what is known as the world’s worst industrial disaster, the clean-up at the 67-acre factory site has become a buck passed from one state to another, one agency to another. No one has even put an exact number to the amount of waste, its chemical composition and what effect it has had on the ground..” (Indian Express). A must to read.

Point to ponder: How effectively will India handle hazardous nuclear waste, if the country opts for nuclear power in a big way?

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14 June 2008

Caricature Intolerance

A independent nation with a history of numerous Indian Punch (under colonial rule) critical to the colonial masters, has moved away from appreciating political caricature? A caricature showed Rane, rebel-turned-Congress leader as a coy newly confused bride, wearing a sari apparently stepping into the threshold of the Congress party. But does this caricature call for assault on the newspaper that carried it? “ …The Shiv Sena, which has a history of damaging newspapers offices and assaulting journalists, got a dose of its own medicine when supporters of rebel-turned-Congress leader attacked the offices of its mouthpiece Saamna in many parts of Maharashtra”(Tribune). Point to ponder- Where has our sense of enjoying political humour gone?

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13 June 2008

Child concern

According to the government, about 1.2 million children, between 5 to 14 are employed as child labour or marginal workers in India. Now, nine more entries have been added in the hazardous list under Child Labour Act. What about ‘elite’ working children in TV serials? Never thought about them! Now, minister of Women & Child Development has directed the National Commission for protection of Children Rights to frame guidelines in this regard.

More concern about children from the minister- “We have seen the ads which are telecast during the children’s programmes at times do not match kid’s frame of mind. It should be taken care of ”. She also added that if she had her way, she would have announced capital punishment for those employing child labour -” It’s shameful our part to recruit children as domestic help…” (Indian Express).

Yes, the minister is correct but it’s more shameful than majority of children are malnourished . Blame their parents and punish them? Is this an effective remedy? Nope, remember the context, 77 percent or 836 million people have an income of roughly below $2 in PPP terms and come under the category of poor and vulnerable. Given the ever rising inflation, the actual poor & vulnerable would now be more than the official figure.

Is there any package for these poor families for Right to Decent Living (Read - Right to two meals a Day) for all 365 days? Any takers for a viable solution rather than a blanket ban?

Competition

Competition is good for most sectors- that's mostly taught in Economics. And what about media? With government monopoly gone with the wind, the Indian television is in its early phase with lot & lots of channels and the newspapers are ‘rich’ with funds looking for expansion. But has this this improved the quality of journalism? Take a clue from the Union Minister of Information & Broadcasting -“ The growing competition among media companies, if I may say, unhealthy competition, is threatening all journalistic norms and values. …There are numerous instances of media excesses and media trials, fake sting operations, criminals & mafia dons, promotion of hatred among communities and inflaming of raw motions…This is a dangerous trend not only for the media, but for democracy and all humanity” (Asian Age). Take a clue from media coverage on teenage girl (Aarushi) murder case from Chetan Chauhan -” Aarushi’s story bigger hit than cricket on TV”. (Hindustan Times. Front page). The survey revealed that 75 per cent people felt that media has already pronounced Talwar guilty, 63 percent feel that coverage will bias the court and investigations. What more to follow…? Yeap, one could turn around and take on the survey on weak design and insignificantly small sample size but is the result very far from the truth? Watch and read the media yourself & decide!

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12 June 2008

Trust

Is poor common man‘s voice heard by the higher up? Take a clue from poor Sarita, who ended her life at the state police headquarters in Panchkula two days ago as the senior police officers did not pay any heed to her complaint against two policemen who raped her. She didn’t get solace after death too as her family refused to cremate her body unless the two accused policemen were arrested. Now the Sarita’s family has been offered compensation amount, job etc & family has cremated her after persuasion. However, the two accused policemen are still on the run. This episode raises many critical questions about condition of Indian women, police, corruption & crime, grievance redressal and media. Can any quantum of monetary benefit bring Sarita back to her two small daughters? How many women would go alone to the police station after Sarita‘s ordeal? Why was poor Sarita’s voice not heard by the higher ups, that forced her to commit suicide? Is this apathy found only in the police force? Unlike Aarushi, why Sarita did not make it to the front page of many leading newspapers in English? Does it anyway indicate an affluent urban bias? Too busy carrying page three events, personalities, corporate takeovers..? Dainik Bhaskar, Hindi daily has given best coverage on its front page including a special comment-” Compensation for breaking faith”. Take a clue - “The faith of the people of Haryana has broken once again…People are not able to understand whom to trust?..”.

The positive impact of Sarita’s suicide is showing on Delhi Police. The Delhi police has placed advertisements in many newspapers with the punch line- “Redressal of Grievances” with email number & telephone number of police officers including the Commissioner of Police. While the director-general of police, Punjab has directed the senior police officials for more sensitive approach towards complaints of women, children and underprivileged sections of society (Tribune). Hopefully the message was understood across the board?

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11 June 2008

Editorial of the Day:

“…Soon after independence our leaders ignored Gandhiji's advice for setting up an example in austere and simple living and instead went for ostentatious lifestyle. This was particularly so in the post-Nehru era when the successive regimes went on raising the salaries and perks of ministers, bureaucrats, legislators and other high ups and ensured luxurious life style for them by wasting huge amounts year after year on purchasing fleet of luxurious cars, aircraft and helicopters for their travel, frequent foreign jaunts and raising palatial buildings with costly furnishing for their official and residential purposes. This emboldened the rulers in the states to spend recklessly on unproductive and non-developmental items.

If the Prime Minister is genuinely concerned about the growing inflation and huge waste of government funds on non-developmental items then his government must evolve a code of conduct for the ministers and other VIPs and fix norms to ensure their austere and simple living.…..In Jammu and Kashmir, which is totally depending on the Centre even for meeting its expenditure on the top-heavy administration, the successive regimes have failed to resist the temptation to bring down the level of non-developmental expenditure to the minimum level. Such expenditure, mostly to ensure luxurious living of the chief ministers, ministers, senior bureaucrats and others is galloping year after year…....Why can't these VIPs live in simply furnished smaller houses and why should there not be a ban on new construction for providing luxurious accommodation to them?…The austerity and simplicity should not remain a slogan but should become a way of life for the ruling elite to be followed by the people at large. (Kashmir Times)

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10 June 2008

Cartoon of the Day

Yes, it’s the good old R.K Laxman’s toon in Times of India, where wife of the minister tells him - “ They are economising on travels aboard, tours within the country, staying in luxury hotels. You better resign! What’s the point in being a minister?” A sign of a vibrant democracy!


Sense & Sensitivity

A school going girl was found murdered at home and also the domestic servant. Her father was arrested and investigations are on. Almost all newspapers & television channels are faithfully reporting on the young girl’s murder. Now, what does a filmmaker see in all this? Cash on this publicity wave in a ongoing serial?

The mother of the murdered girl has written to the Union Minister of Women and Child Rights to restrain filmmakers from producing serials on her daughter’s killing as “it would influence the investigations and the final outcome of the case”. She also added that “most television news channels perpetrated the character assassination of Aarushi by graphically showing time and again emails, SMS, MMS and other things in which they created events that were a figment of their imagination”. Surely not too much to ask- Give the TRP rat-race a ‘Tiffin break’ for Sense & Sensitivity?

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9 June 2008

Just Concluding

Headline of a news beyond its contents? Take a clue- news item in Mail Today, page 6, reports that 25 year old married, airhostess (resident of Delhi) was found dead in Mumbai Hotel with her body hanging to the ceiling fan. The heading read - “Airhostess based in capital kills herself in Mumbai”. But the catch is- no suicide note was found, so how did the paper conclude that she killed herself with police investigations still on!

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8 June 2008

Superleaders

Two full pages of Indian politicians in comic state under the heading ‘superleaders in Comic State” is interesting, which goes to prove that “the tragicomic state of Indian politicians has not escaped Mail Today’s chief cartoonist R. Prasad”.

Point to ponder: Indian politicians = superleaders!


Ad of the Day

A consumer durable multinational has placed an advertisement in Times of India, with a punch line- “There is space between a developing India and a developed India. An ideal place for a school”. Cool, now the catch - “all you have to do is purchase a big pack of any …product and a part of it will go towards educating a child…”. However, there is not a word in the ad regarding the percentage that will to towards educating a child! Keep guessing!

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7 June 2008

Editorials of the Day

The attack by Shiv Sangram, an evidently energetic group, on Loksatta editor Kumar Ketkar’s home proved once again that parts of our public space, including in cities, are distinguished by a despairing absence of minimum understanding of debating norms…Needless to say we at the Express Group always maintain and try to observe the distinction between hatchet/muckraking journalism and strong critique. We also believe passionately that freedom of expression is best upheld when the widely varying opinions have the same right to exist…All chief ministers, all political leaders, need to signal that under their watch no one, not just journalists, should have to wonder about the consequences of holding an opinion that doesn’t please everyone. (Indian Express).

…The press is, essentially, the watchdog which keeps democracy on its toes. The nature of the job is therefore unpleasant. No one wants to be told that they are doing wrong, and nor do they want that wrongdoing exposed to the rest of the world. Society, however, is not always pleased with what the mirror shows. And there are ways to show this displeasure but of late, an extreme form of criticism has emerged….The media and individual members of it could do their job badly or well: that is not germane to this issue. If the media is not allowed to do its job through intimidation or by misusing the law, then the future of democracy is at stake. (DNA)

Competitive identity politics in Mumbai has taken yet another ugly turn. In the process, it has chipped away, again, at India’s liberal, democratic foundations. When activists claiming allegiance to the Shivsangram Sangathana — which has links with the NCP — vandalised the house of Loksatta editor, Kumar Ketkar, on Thursday, it was our constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression that was under assault, along with the life and property of Ketkar and his wife….Anyone who has read the editorial will see that it simply did not denigrate the great Maratha warrior. What it did was ask whether such a project was necessary when the state had so many pressing problems — including farmer suicides and malnutrition — facing it. It’s a valid question….Increasingly, in one way or another, we seem to be fighting a losing battle against those who have little regard or respect for the liberal values on which this nation was founded (Times of India).

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6 June 2008

Attack on Editor

An attack on the residence of an editor of a newspaper in free democratic India? Seems unbelievable but is true. Almost all newspapers have carried this news on their front page that-many activists of the Shiv Sangram Sanghathana today attacked the residence of Kumar Ketkar, the editor of Loksatta newspaper, allegedly in reaction to an editorial penned by him in the newspaper on the Maharashtra government’s decision to build a memorial to Shivaji Maharaj. Thankfully the editor and his wife escaped unhurt. Ketkar later defended his editorial saying he had questioned the government’s decision to spend money on the statue in the Arabian Sea. He added that the editorial argued that the money be spent on public welfare (Tribune).

Now critical views are not too much to ask in the largest democracy of the world, where freedom of expression does exist. Otherwise, what’s the use of a 'free', 'independent', 'vibrant' press? Back to the black gagging colonial days…

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5 June 2008

AC Red

Today is World Environment Day- several advertisements in various newspapers remind us. Half-a- page advertisement by Ministry of Environment & forests and UNEP says it with the punch line- “ Choices can make a difference. CO2 Pick Right! Towards sustainability and growth”. The ad also states some facts- “ Earth’s climate system is warming…, Global warming is attributable to increase of greenhouse gases…,Sustainability and growth, Picking right choices. Further, the ad also lists the ‘right’ choices- CFLs, cloth bags, conserve water, plant trees, recycle, reuse, local food, switch off electrical appliances and so on. However, not a comprehensive list, as there is no mention of other simple choices that people can make- fuel efficient cars, car pool, use of public transport, voluntary bye-bye to air-conditioners & perfumes- at home, at office & in cars.

Hang on, should World Environment Day be utilized to introduced air-conditioned buses (red +coloured)? Take a clue from the advertisement by Transport Department of Delhi government which comes with the punch line-” From today, when you will see red you will think cool”. The ad informs that brand new air-conditioned buses have been introduced on World Environment Day! And also tells - “On the world environment day ride the red while Delhi goes greener & cooler by the day”. Is there some hangover of the advertisement of Eveready battery that came up with the punch line- “ Give me Red”? But what about global warming man! Say Red air-conditioners bye!

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4 June 2008

Helpless

In anticipation of the hike in fuel price, two interesting cartoons have appeared that feature the scholarly Prime Minister of India. The one in Mail Today shows the prime minister with his ‘hands up’ and a board on his body- “can’t fully protect the consumer”. While the cartoon in Dainik Jagran shows a poor common man with a parrot on top of his head, and parrot saying - “…helpless! Who is this helpless creature? Take a clue from the news in the background of the cartoon - “ Petro products: There is no choice other than to increase their price: PM”!

What will be its impact on already suffering common man? Don’t even ask! Hang on, is a hike in fuel price the only solution in the era of already high inflation? Nope, take a clue form Vikram Mehta, chairman of Shell Group in India, who argues in Financial Express (3/6/08), that government policy is distorting consumption patterns and fiscal stability and the logical solution is a package that combines a price hike with reduction in Central & State tax rates. “ After all, central & state taxes account for 32% (diesel) and 50% (petrol) of the price build up”. Moreover, not to forget the imposition of new environmental tax to encourage fuel efficiency & protection of environment, which SARCAJC has been advocating. Needless to mention that this fiscal instrument will not be liked by too-fuel-hungry, air-conditioned, big fancy cars! Hopefully, you have none!

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3 June 2008

Cartoon Watch

Today, Indian cartoons have appeared on a variety of topics. Take a look- Burney deported from India (Statesman, Free Press Journal), Advani as PM (Jansatta), welcome (Pioneer), Food crisis (Times of India, Mumbai Mirror), loss in elections (Viraat Vaibhav), Gujjar problem (Rajasathn Partika), Gujjar quota (MetroNow), conditions & BJP (Aaj Samaj), reservation for merit (Punjab Kesai), dinner & digestion (Deccan Chronicle, Asian Age), drive against food hoarding (Deccan Chronicle, Asian Age), prize money in IPL (DNA), tradition accounting (DNA), changes screen saver (Economic Times), more than CBI (Times of India), inflation (Times of India), aptitude test (Hindustan Times), pseudo-constitution (Mail Today)

However no Indian cartoon appeared in Mint, Rashtriya Sahara, Excelsior, Business Standard and Telegraph.

Just passing

The top-left of the strategist, supplement of Business Standard, under an brief fact-” Did you know..” carries a photograph of some people carrying bundles of reports packed in white cloth and that finance ministry has its own printing press to print entire set of Budget papers. And this press located in the basement of building. Talking about Ministry of Finance & printing of reports, the newspaper did not inform why the latest Economic Survey 2007-08 was not printed in the Government of India Press (as always) but in De-Unique and moreover was published by Oxford University Press. Further the price of the latest survey is on the higher side at Rs. 350 compared to last year’s price of Rs. 225. Is expensive one any better? Heard many economists preferring the former one anyway!

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2 June 2008

Booked

The front page of Times of India (Ahmedabad & Delhi edition) reports that the police have registered a complaint by newly appointed police commissioner against the resident editor, photographer & correspondent of Times of India in Ahmedabad (Gujarat), charging them with sedition and criminal conspiracy for a series of articles (28th to 31st May) in the newspaper against police commission’s link with the local mafia don (Asian Age, Times of India- Delhi Edition). According to Times of India (Delhi edition)- “ The reports essentially were a scrutiny of the track record of the top cop in view of the challenge posed by terrorists. Mathur (Police commissioner), however, alleged that they were meant “to undermine the lawful authority of police force of Ahmedabad city, a part of state government established by law”.

Take a look at conclusion of the last article carried by Times of India in series :

“…Points well made, considering that fighting terror has always been very high on Modi’s agenda. But his credentials as a leader determined to fight terror and make Gujarat a safe and secure place do get dented with a cop of Mathur’s rather dubious credentials occupying such a critical position in the security apparatus. (Latif an ISI man and Mathur a Latif man? Times of India Ahmedabad Edition. Front page. 31/5/08)

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1 June 2008

Lesson of the Day

For seven years, photographer Subhankar Banerjee roamed the ‘wilderness’ of the Artic, capturing its profusion of life. Irena Akhar reports in Indian Express story of his journey from Kolkota to Alaska, from electrical engineer to green icon. Subhankar Banerjee’ take on India- “I have become a bit of an outsider for my country. But I am afraid that the tremendous progress India is making may destroy her ecological fabric. If we pollute the rivers the way China has done, it would be a serious issue”. Is anyone listening?

Point to ponder- South Asia has a lot to offer to Subhankar Banerjee, how about returning back home?