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

 31 March 2009

Auction Watch
After apologizing to the Indian people with folded hands- “I am sorry if I angered anyone in India. It was never my intention to gain profit. The intention was to promote his principles," Otis, is set to again seriously offend Mahatma Gandhi and his principles. Free Press Journal reports that Otis has declared that he would constitute a Mahatma Gandhi foundation with offices in Indian sub-continent, Europe and America. The two offices of the foundation in the Indian sub-continent would be under Liquor Baron- Vijay Mallya while he himself would look after offices in Europe and America. Few days ago Otis had stated - "It is none of my business what Vijay Mallya does with his business. He has spent a lot of money to buy from me these items (personal items of M. Gandhi)..."(Mail Today. 28/3/2009). Now, Vijay Mallya, liquor baron to head Mahatma Gandhi foundation in Indian subcontinent to promote Gandhian core values!

Editorial of Day
One of the biggest problems that the state is confronted with is unemployment of educated, skilled and semiskilled youth.….The figures available with the government are far less than the actual. The figures available with this department show the number of unemployed in Jammu province far greater than in Kashmir. On the face of it, these figures do not seem realistic as this problem is more alarming in Kashmir valley than in Jammu. In early nineties most of the think tanks in New Delhi had seen unemployment of youth in Kashmir as one of the important contributing factors for youth taking to arms…. Seen in the right perspective the central government did almost nothing in implementing the recommendations made by these think tanks…..There have been reports that there are about fifty thou sand vacancies in the state. The question arises why government has not been filling up these vacancies. It is lack of will on part of the government in power and hegemonic attitude of the state bureaucracy that has been denying jobs at least to fifty thousand youth. While one may suggest the new government to start crash of recruitment of the youth it also should do away with the policy of extension in the services of employees after their superannuation….The government needs to take a policy decision of no- extension in the service of any officers. (Greater Kashmir).
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30 March 2009

Advertisement Watch
The front page advertisement by MTNL in Free Press Journal comes with punch line- “Big Dhamaka Landline & broadband combos”. But wait look closer, the ad depicts a mouse browsing internet and another mouse (smaller in size) talking on phone! The ad in Greater Kashmir is extremely inviting- “Asia’s largest tulip garden welcomes you to bask in the glory of 1.2 million tulips”. Yes, “Mini Holland” in Kashmir was opened to public on 25 March. The advertisement by DNA in DNA comes with punch line - “Don’t let the venom spread Don’t vote for criminals”. However, the positive message- Vote for Good Leaders” comes in much smaller font. A more positive advertisement is being carried by Indian Express- “I choose the people who’ll make a difference to my life….I demand facts over hype. New over noise. Action over procrastinations….I want the truth. I choose to know ‘why’ before I elect.

”Editorial of Day
….The University of Kashmir out of forty thousand students who applied for admissions in various courses can only admit three thousands. This is true about most of the colleges in Kashmir valley. True, many new colleges were established in the state during past few years but majority of them have no infrastructure and operating from hutments….Denying thirty seven thousand students higher education every year cannot be brushed aside as problem of repair of a road or a lane it has serious connotations better understood than said. …While advocating that the state government should put the education in the state as priority number one and plead for special package for the development of Kashmir from the UGC and the Human Resources Development, Education and other ministries’ the Kashmir civil society also needs to wake up to the new realities. It is true that Kashmir has no big industrial houses but it has an affluent trading class that has the capacity of investing in the education sector. This class of people should come forward and invest in the education sector (Greater Kashmir).
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29 March 2009

Report of Day
Noida is not a women friendly place, even for women police! Akash Vashishtha reports that though the State government has set up all- women police in Noida to provide women with basic safety. But in reality, this ostentatious station serve no purpose. Guess what, this so called police station has no telephone, no drinking water and no arms to even defend themselves! The police station operates from a single room ,houses 15 policewomen. But these women can only register cases on dowry harassment or domestic physical abuse said a woman officer requesting anonymity. This is just the tip of the iceberg. No wonder women are not approaching this so called police station (Mail Today).
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28 March 2009

Uncontrollable Internet
Internet is not in control of Election Commission, but what about Indian political parties? According to Election Commission, it is yet to find a way to check violation of its model code of conduct by political parties or candidates using the relatively new medium of the Internet, particularly to work around rules that ban campaigning 48 hours before the close of the poll. This becomes significant given that political parties are ramping up their presence on the Internet to target the estimated 50 million users, located largely in urban pockets in the country.…“We are keeping an eye on the Internet...but we feel that, as of now, it is technically not feasible to control this medium. We do not have any solution to regulate this medium just yet,” said S.Y. Quraishi, election commissioner, according to whom, given these limitations, the Internet can be used for campaigning even during the 48 hours before the close of the poll. (Mint)

View of day
Core sector records fastest growth in four months, Industrial performance in the fourth quarter ending March 31 this year is likely to outperform the previous three months because of better performance of sectors like cement, automobile and capital goods and this better than expected performance will result in overall tax receipts exceeding last year’s collections- reports Business Standard. Further, according to Reserve Bank of India, bank loans rose 18.1 % on year-on-year basis as on March 13,whilw deposits went up 21.2% from a year earlier. Are these not a positive signs due to injection of about Rs4.3 trillion into the economy since September last year? However, according to Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the nation’s Planning Commission, this is not enough and India will need to introduce further measures to stimulate growth and that the new government must spend as much as 1% of GDP as extra stimulus (Mint). Hang on, Business Standard points out that this view comes a day after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor said there was a cost involved for any further deficit-financed spending by the government as it would adversely affect the credit markets. Point to ponder- the conclusion?

Meltdown Watch
The implications of global meltdown are showing in various ways. Unfortunately, the crucial issue of climate change is being dragged into the story. Is it just an issue of tug of war between the developed and the developing world? Take a clue from expert opinion of Latha Jishnu who starts off with bonuses paid to top executives of AIG and ends up calling hypocrisy of free markets and free trade. “There is something ludicrous about the rage and horror that has gripped Americans in recent days, all over the $165 million in bonuses paid to top executives of AIG, the failed insurance giant. Ordinary folk, every newspaper and TV channel in the country, Congressmen (including the ones who were screaming for bank bailouts during 2008) and even people on the Wall Street (what an irony!) are furious that AIG should be paying some of its executives handsome bonuses while on the dole….The most egregious of the trade barriers that are coming out of the West’s bag of trade tricks is the proposal for an environment tax on countries such as China and India, ostensibly to force them to fall in line on cutting greenhouse emissions. However, the levels have been set by the developed nations, which have shown little willingness or ability to reduce their emissions except through carbon credits gained by exporting the problem to the Third World…The US and EU are putting up more protectionist barriers. So why do we go along with the hypocrisy of free markets and free trade?”. Point to ponder- net loser- earth, the only planet we live in.
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27 March 2009

Cartoon of Day
Who can draft the best manifesto of a political party? Take a clue from cartoon in DNA which shows leader of political party instructing a party worker- “Our manifesto should be the best. Hire a top-notch fiction writer.” The cartoon of day on the front page of Free Press Journal shows Prime ministerial candidate of two major political parties - Manmohan Singh & L.K Advani ready for a round in the boxing ring, but look that both (senior citizens) are acknowledging- “GRRR! If only these gloves weren’t too heavy to lift!”.

Views of Day
Is a cricket tournament more important than security of people during polls? After this becoming a political debate, now even international cricketers are passing a value judgment. Spin legend Shane Warne - “It’ll be nothing like if it was in India, and it’s a shame it can’t be in India. It won’t be the same as it being in India…”. Electronic media’s obsession with the IPL tournament seems to have gone overboard. Veteran journalist, Inder Malhotra has done some straight talking. Take a look- “… It was shortly after the noon hour that the story about the IPL migrating to England or South Africa broke on Sunday. Almost instantly, all hell broke loose, especially for the TV channels that dropped whatever they were telecasting and started their endless dirge over IPL's fate. Tear shedding never stopped. Every hour on the hour and throughout every news bulletin, there was nothing but high-pitched wail for IPL. …Not only breathless anchors and reporters gave vent to their frustration but also Lalit Modi became their icon. Every channel boasted about having secured an `exclusive' interview from him, in each of which he said much the same thing, regretting what had come to pass. His declaration that to shift the event overseas was the `toughest decision of my life' was the most quoted quote of the day…Though thoroughly deplorable, even this is better than the likes of IPL sponsors have done to the once glorious sport. For them cricket is nothing more than entertainment - complete with nubile cheer leaders, sometimes scantily dressed and dancing around and an unfailing instrument to make tons and tons of money. Greed is the creed, to hell with the game….(Free Press Journal). Greed, sounds familiar!
 
Editorial of Day
The fruits of the country’s Public Distribution System (PDS) are not reaching the intended beneficiaries, thanks to rampant corruption and inefficiencies in its implementation. The Justice P Wadhwa committee, which has gone into the working of the PDS, has pointed to the nexus between officials of the department of food and civil supplies, transporters and fair price shop owners that has resulted in grains meant for the poor being siphoned off to the black market…In their bid to win votes, politicians and political parties are promising voters sale of food grains at heavily subsidised rates. They would do well to provide details on how they will ensure that the PDS actually works. If the PDS works efficiently, millions in this country will not have to go to bed hungry. Starvation deaths would be history. Malnutrition and related problems would become a thing of the past…..(Deccan Herald).
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26 March 2009

Election Watch
Pradeep Kumar Maitra reports that six more farmers have ended their lives in last four days. Is this a big issue in the ongoing elections campaign? Take a clue from Kishor Tiwari, who is associated with an NGO- despite such a situation, not a single political party was making farmer suicide the main issue in the elections. When the farmers are facing hardship, the entire state machinery is busy with the elections.(Hindustan Times). Political parties have promised cheap foodgrain & increased quantity to the poor. Now, that's a positive commitment. Times of India questions - “do promises of hugely subsidized rice for the poor prove a game changer in elections?”. The real issue is whether this rice will actually reach the poor through the public distribution system? Take clue from panel formed by Supreme Court of India- “PDS system is inefficient and corrupt. There is an unholy nexus between the transporters, fair price shop owners and officials of department of food and supply.” A satirical advertisement has appeared in same paper, in which a politician is happily ridiculing people who don’t vote- “If you stop voting then I will stay here: Ruling you. And the everything will stop here- law & Order, government…”.
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 25 March 2009

SOS: Bail Out
Governments across nations have gone overboard in trying to bail out economies (read banks, corporations, industries) from global meltdown which was result of greed of a few. However, look closer at home. Across the state of Maharashtra, the region of Vidharba has witnessed unprecedented suicides by debt ridden farmers. Not many journalists, apart from P. Sainath have covered their plight. Today, Dharmendra Jore reports their deplorable conditions. According to him, an average of two farmers has committed suicides every day for the last five years. The government did announce a relief package worth Rs. 140 billion for the farmers. So, why this relief package has not worked? Take clue from Dharmendra- “the riders have seen the good intentions evaporate in a tangle of red tape and meaningless statistics…Agriculturist say that relief package will not stop their deaths. What the region needs, they insist, are better irrigation facilities- only 11 per cent of cultivated land is covered by irrigation….they (politicians) come here and make promises, then disappear again…”’. Has the apathy of the system towards their plight led the villagers of Shivangaon in Vidarbha to boycott the polls? Rahi Gaikwad reports that these villagers have been stripped of land, ignored by authorities, are not happy with unkept promises (Hindu). It is extremely alarming as lack of effective bail-out package is shaking their faith in government and political parties- constituents of a vibrant democracy. Point to ponder- why delay an effective Bail-Out?

Advertisement Watch
An attractive advertisement features a raindrop on a leaf with a thoughtful punch line- “How can we squeeze more food from a raindrop?”. The accompanying text argues for advanced hybrid and biotech seeds which take in less water. Guess who the advertiser- Monsanto! Point to ponder- why did the ad not carry a word about safety concerns of such seeds! Keep guessing!

Women Insecure
The front page of majority of newspapers reports of the Delhi police cracking murder of two young women - Jigesha Ghose and Soumya Viswanathan- both returning home after work. The police said that robbery was the motive in both cases. But why are they targeting only women? Sanjeev Ahuja reports the obvious- “As a 24/7 work culture clashes with the precarious law and order situation in Delhi and NCR, the general careless approach to women’s safety makes matter worse for women traveling at night”. (Hindustan Times). Two letters in Mail Today also echoes the same- …Delhi has become unsafe place for women, Every now and then, there is news of women being attacked …” (Sanhati Banerjee). “ ..these two crimes against young women shows the state of security in Delhi…(Abdul Hanan). But crime against women continues, Mail Today reports - 15 year old girl was set on fire by four men for being allegedly involved in a love affair while another was burned to death for dowry. SARCAJC has been raising the issue of insecurity prevailing among women in National Capital region and had put forward Mahatma Gandhi’s concern over liquor. Was liquor a factor in the cracked case? Yes, the murders were drunk when they decided to chase Soumya Viswanathan’s car and killed her. Nevertheless, Mail Today reports - “not enough proof to nail their killers”. Till then, finger crossed for women safety? It appears that none of the major political parties have made the issue of women safety their main issue.

Auction Watch

After Mahatma Gandhi’s personal belongs, it’s auction time for Tiger head of Tipu Sultan’s throne. Most leading newspapers have carried this news. The throne of Tipu Sultan was broken up by East Indian Company after his defeat. It is reported that Tiger head of Tipu Sultan’s throne was found lying in the vaults of an English Bank. Is the case so simple? It is also reported that this Tiger head was then a part of the collection of Lord Thomas, who was the President of the Board of Control which was responsible for overseeing the notorious East India Company. The loot (including his rich library) and plunder which followed the fall of Seringapatam is not a secret. But the question that remain still unanswered is - Why was the loot not returned to independent India? After all, this was not a gift from Tipu Sultan to the East Indian Company or bank or any individual. Not very long ago, Times of India reported- “sixty-four artefacts belonging Tipu Sultan fetched £ 1.23 million after some hectic bidding at a controversial Sotheby's auction…The sale came amid strong protests by many people in India, as well as non-resident Indians. They said the treasures were looted by the British at the Battle of Seringapatanam in 1799 - a defining moment in Britain's colonial sweep of India - and ought to have been handed back to either the government of India or Tipu's descendants who live in Kolkota…The artefacts included swords, porcelain tiger toys, bows and arrows, armbands, guns, tents and even a tiger paw taken from the legs of Tipu's throne. The sale was preceded by strong protests by NRIs, who registered their outrage by email and on NRI websites”. (Times of India. 26 May 2005). Point to ponder- given the similarities between the Gandhi auction and this forthcoming auction, is this not the time for the government to stop this auction and demand return of the loot?
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24 March 2009

Na-NO
Which mode of transportation is desirable- public or car? The UITP study in 50 cities worldwide had proved that cities with a high density of population/jobs and with a high share of public transport and other alternative modes are most energy efficient. Energy savings of around 400 to 500 kg of fuel per inhabitant annually can be made in cities with a high modal share of public transport, compared with cities relying mainly on the private car. The study also proved that energy consumption was reduced in cities like Geneva, Vienna or Madrid where the share of trips by public transport increased during the observation…From a study in 13 European cities a multiplier effect of public transport investments of 2 to 2.5 on local and regional economies could be seen. In Switzerland, the economy as a whole benefits from added value of EUR 4.6 for every EUR 1 spent on public transport. (European Union. March 2006. The role of public transport to reduce Green House Gas emissions and improve energy efficiency)

On June 30, 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh released India’s first National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) outlining existing and future policies and programs addressing climate mitigation and adaptation. Emphasizing the overriding priority of maintaining high economic growth rates to raise living standards, the plan “identifies measures that promote our development objectives while also yielding co-benefits for addressing climate change effectively.” It says these national measures would be more successful with assistance from developed countries, and pledges that India’s per capita greenhouse gas emissions “will at no point exceed that of developed countries even as we pursue our development objectives.”

Imagine all Indians traveling by a car instead of public transport! Yes, the advertisement by largest public sector bank in India- State Bank of India (SBI) features well dressed couples from various Indian states, visually thinking about the newly launched low cost car- Nano. “A nano for every Indian with finance for the State Bank of India” is the punch line of this ad, which is self explanatory. Hang on, what happens to aim of energy saving by public transport? Imagine the congestion and subsequent pollution on Indian roads if every India travels by Nano! Yesterday, the cartoon on the front page of Times of India showed the common man happily going for a ride in new Nano. The catch -countless Nanos behind his Nano. Point to ponder- Imposition of high cess for public transport on Nano and all the rest. Anyone listening? The newspapers have gone overboard over Nano. Take a look at few extracts-

Much euphoria will, and indeed should, greet the rollout of Tata’s Rs 1 lakh Nano. It will, after all, enable tens of millions of Indians to drive around on four wheels, thus fulfilling a major inspirational goal — that of owning a car — for many more people in India than ever before. But the significance of the Nano is not restricted to just consumer aspiration — because to put it simply a car is not just a car. And this particularly applies to cars which are manufactured on a very large scale. ….It is also, because of its low price tag, a car for the difficult economic times we live in. (Indian Express. Editorial)

There is high enthusiasm for the Nano, the “people’s car” that Tata Motors says has already elicited 30 million enquiries. And this enthusiasm couldn’t have come at a better time….Like the Beetle in Germany, the Tata Nano may end up energizing this consumer base and being remembered as part of India’s drive-up from its slowdown. (Mint. Quick Edit).

So, it’s not surprising that cheap products have a mass appeal. What has changed over the last two decades is that while consumers want cheap products, they are also sensitive to quality, particularly in functional terms (and not necessarily in style, design or fashion)…. . Today’s columnist lucidly explains this and other features of very successful low-cost products that have made a big dent in the Indian market. The mobile phone, in a different consumer segment, is the obvious predecessor to Tata’s audaciously cheap Nano. (Financial Express. Editorial)
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23 March 2008

Election Watch
The first two pages of Dainik Jagran, a Hindi daily are devoted to its campaign- “Jan Jagran (public awareness) : Our choice will bring about change”. The aim of this campaign seems to educate  voters regarding the right choice of their vote during forthcoming general elections in the country. The first page of Dainik Jagran asks - “If not now, then when”. It raises numerous issues that might be important to voters including -”there are many big- big leaders, but are their work also big?”. Yes if we don’t then who will?” Not surprising, Dainik Jagran is the world’s most read newspaper. But is image of a political leader a important factor, rather than issues/promises, to win more votes? Take a clue from Avinash Nai, who reports that image consultants feel that politicians need to work on their image to win more voters (Economic Times). May be this is the reason sale of traditional while dhoti has seen a considerable demand from male politicians. S. Sujatha reports about craze of some leading politicians for white dhotis. Even the much acclaimed westernized former United Nations man- Shashi Thoroor has changed his image, since he contested this elections. He is seen wearing white dhoti! Though the Indian textile sector is not in best of health, the dhoti manufactures are happy. Surely a good news, but for how long?
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22 March 2009

Press News
The special MCOCA court has passed an order prohibiting the media from publishing anything pertaining to investigations in the serial train blasts which took place here in July 2007. The order was passed after the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) approached the court seeking a ban on publishing any article relating to investigations in the case. (front page. Free Press Journal).

Follow-Up:Child's Play
On 1st March SARCAJC has äsked- "Does RBI considers fake currency as a serious problem anyway?". Today, an advertisement has appeared in leading newspapers by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution with a punch line- "Know your bank notes". The ad features a Rs. 100 bank note and informs about the salient features like perfect registration, watermark, security thread. However, these features are difficult to clearly view in Tribune, due to quality of printing. Will this help the public to distinguish genuine currency from fake one? Remember even the police has conceded-“ We received many complaints from leading banks last year. When notes were screened, it was very hard to distinguish them from original ones. Even paper quality and necessary imprints on the original notes are inscribed on the counterfeit ones” (Asian Age.28/2/2009).Next- More concrete steps to stop the menace of fake currency in the country?

CarT oon Watch
It’s election time and majority of the cartoons in newspapers have focused on manifestation of election. Aaj Samaj, is leading in terms of carrying maximum number of election cartoons. The front page carries a large colourful cartoon showing a confused voter with the ongoing “Big Business of Democracy- Elections. For votes..”. The interesting write-up accompanying the cartoon says it all. This is not all. The paper has devoted one full page to carry 6 elections cartoons on moral code of conduct. In addition, there are two toons centered on the implication of brother-in-law of present Union minister for Railways, joining the Congress party. The cartoon in Asian Age features two beggars, the male beggar complaining to the female beggar- “Why should the EC (Election Commission) play spoilsport!? Our leaders give these gifts only once in 5 years!”. The catch - both beggars are holding a katora in which the Rs. 100 note is clearly visible! Pratibha Jyoti reports that total expenditure on elections is expected to reach Rs. 120 billion though officially will be shown as only as 2.32 billion (Nai Duniya). Election toons have also appeared in Hindustan, along with satirical poems. The cartoon in Economic Times is focused on prevailing desire for employment. While the cartoon in Hindustan Times tackles poll dates and IPL matches. The toon in Indian Express has Sonia & Mayawati, as what? “Queen Bee”, while Jayalalitha is being asked- “ And you. Maám , the queen to be or not to be”. Keep guessing the answer! The front page cartoon of Asian Age reflects far-reaching optimism. Here, one politician tells the other- “Out party will get bumper majority, Sir. We conducted the survey during our public meeting !” An advertisement in Loksatta, marathi daily, also features a cartoon on election rally with a woman addressing the meeting- “come Rs. 5”. What comes for Rs. 5? Biscuits of a particular brand! Therefore one sees a old man dancing with biscuits in both hands! The catch- the woman on the stage seems to have some resemblance to Sonia Gandhi and the old man looks somewhat like L.K Advani! A women, while bringing tea/coffee for 3 politicians in a cartoon cautions them- "Look, go straight in elections. God might not look from above, but election commission is closely looking,,," (Navbharat Times)
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21 March 2009

Meltdown Watch
In its latest research report, Moody has warned that “the positive sentiment is expected to be short-lived, as India has essentially only started to feel the pinch of the global downturn in the December quarter and the worst is yet to come” (Hindu). Surjit Bhalla feels that all the evidence suggests that India's policy response to the financial crisis is some considerable distance towards ugly. Further- “there is a rumour going around (actually several related rumours), about the Indian economy. The most important rumour pertains to GDP growth in India: in particular…(Business Standard). Rumour? Bhalla devotes full article about growth not a word about development! So what, editorial of Financial Express is devoted to response of economics of advanced economies to crisis but not a word about developed countries like India. On the other hand, Subhomoy Bhattacharjee feels that in crisis, now is the time for India to develop a consciously thought out set of policies that will give a big fillip to entrepreneurship to develop environmentally sustainable products at the mass level. The expanding production of carry bags or the fillip to solar energy are just two of many. The global justification and the timing are both there. (Financial Express). But the editorial of Business Standard has a different view-“…Whatever carbon trading may have achieved till now, recent trends have shown that it is not going to be effective in times of recession.. What puts the developing countries at a disadvantage is also their lower capacity to withstand shocks….Poor countries will continue to give primacy to their development needs, even though they know that this entails an increase in net emissions, not a reduction.” . Point to ponder- Now, which way to go?
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20 March 2009
Election watch
Highlighting the prevailing poor infrastructure and haphazard environmental condition in urban areas across the country, a top government of India official mentioned that estimated 40 million people are living in slums in India. A statistics to celebrate, the Jeb Brugmann way? Nope, take a clue- "Our cities are characterised by widespread poverty, poor urban infrastructure and environmental degradation with less than 60 per cent of the households having sanitation facilities," urban development secretary M Ramachandran said. NCR Planning Board member mentioned that managing rapid urbanisation in the country will be a major challenge for at least a few decades to come with far reaching ramifications on sustaining high economic growth rates. And high level of urban inequality dampens economic growth and contributes to a less favourable environment for investment (DNA). Surely trickle down mechanism is working here. What has been the response of the slum dwellers? Ask the poor slum dwellers from Coimbatore, who have been fighting a battle for the past two decades to get house site pattas from the district administration. M Rafi Ahmed reports that now they have submitted a petition threatening to boycott the elections if their grievance were not redressed (New Indian Express). Is this a good sign for a vibrant democracy?
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19 March 2009

 

Meltdown Watch

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha has asked a pertinent question- Do financial journalists help inflate bubbles and then exacerbate downturns? Doesn’t this question come a bit late down the line? Never mind, he also gives a break though- “There is little doubt in my mind that financial journalists have to introspect about the role they played in inflating the bubble that has now popped. This process should include attempts to ask why they rarely questioned companies about their growing debt, quoted stock market experts who often do not give truly dispassionate advice, and sharply criticized every move by regulators at the Reserve Bank of India and the Securities and Exchange Board of India to cool down an overheated economy…The way out is two stages of skepticism. First, journalists have to be skeptical about what they are told by companies and analysts. Two, readers and viewers have to treat what they read and hear from journalists with their own filter of skepticism”(Mint). Point to ponder- why only target the financial journalists, what about the rest of the responsible big-shot, who were riding high on the bubble -economists, regulators, policy makers? Just a recap- Kamal Nath, minister of industry and commerce referred to India as the “fastest growing free market democracy” at the US India Business Council meet in Washington in June 2005. And indeed India’s official tagline-“India fastest growing free market democracy” was plank that the government and corporate had chosen to sell India abroad”. The much acclaimed brand was developed by the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF). India Brand Equity Foundation was set up in 2002 by commerce ministry and was run by corpus worth Rs. 2 billion (Financial Express. 28/10/2005). President Pratibha Patil had also endorsed this official tagline (Times of India. 10/1/2008). And since when did Indian take the Free Economy path, has it been a smooth ride? Edwarda Gargan’s article in New York Times, came with headling -India Stumbles in Rush to a Free Market Economy (15/08/1992). And now take a clue from Prof. Meghnad Desai- …Faced with a horrendous financial crisis which we all failed to foresee, political leaders and economists are eager to jettison what they think were wrong doctrines. They renounce their own past beliefs or claim to have never held them. If we had wrong ideas, why did we not see the mistakes until the breakdown? Were we blinded or bullied into believing false doctrines? Or were we just swimming with the tide and now that the tide has turned, we change our minds?..” (Financial Express). Any intelligent guess, anyone?

Publicity of Day

Promotion of ones book is normal, but at the cost of cashing the miserable lives of people living in deplorable conditions in Slums? Jeb Brugmann, has stressed that Dharavi (largest slum in the world, exists in Mumbai) should be designated a United Nations World Heritage Site to protect it from expedient development schemes that would deny India the exemplar of one of its native forms of urbanism. He believes that the recent subprime crisis, like the Asian financial crisis before it (1997-1998), is about more than a failure of the banking industry. Is he talking about greed ? Nope, take a look- “Both the Asian Tigers and the US turned away from tested, resilient forms of native urbanism…But Dharavi reminds us that effective urbanism provides far more than an expedient fix: it creates places that can be affordably adapted and improved upon to renew competitive advantages in the face of constant change, even for the poorest of households in the hardest of times”(Economic Times). Yes, Slumdog did win Oscar but it seems that Jeb is taking the myopic hype too far. A strategic marketing of his new book on Urban Revolution?

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18 March 2009

Election Watch

Pollution: What is the relation between pollution and elections? Take a clue from Telegraph- The government of West Bengal has told the high court that police “can’t run after” polluting auto-rickshaws because the force was needed for the smooth conduct of the election process. Just a recap- July last year, the court had directed the government to phase out the old vehicles from April 1, 2009, and to ban two-stroke autos from January 1. The court has virtually expressed its lack of confidence in the administration’s ability to stick to orders- observations that would have made a law-abiding government squirm in shame. Point to ponder- Why is pollution not an issue in the elections?

Objectionable Speech: The editorials have given a clear verdict on the hate speech by Varun Gandhi, though Varun has alleged that CD containing his speech has been tampered. Take a look- And you thought Varun Gandhi was an educated young man who had had the benefit of a decent upbringing and modern education!…..From what has been revealed by a television channel, Sanjay and Maneka Gandhi's son indulged in rabble-rousing of the unacceptable kind. The Election Commission must discipline him…..Rahul Gandhi's first cousin might not need a script to hold forth from the pulpit but he certainly got carried away working the voters in his maiden bid to enter parliament. He must pay for his gross lapse (Editorial. Free Press Journal). “….Varun Gandhi denies the charges, claiming that since there was no consequent violence, there is no crime. Our laws, though, don’t wait for the actual blood-and-gore before kicking in. Gandhi also alleges that the tapes are doctored. But with the camera a ubiquitous presence, he should have known that there’s no hiding under the radar. …..But it’s not just the law that Gandhi has violated. Even in the murkiest of political swamplands, some lines are clear; even in a legal system that is often found to be floundering, some rules you do not break. On Monday, Varun Feroze Gandhi crossed those lines, broke those rules. Pay he must (Editorial. Indian Express).


Meltdown Watch

Protectionist tendencies are emerging in India, regardless of the fact there is no recession here. Take a look at the editorial of Indian Express- “this newspaper is proud to have pushed for the India US civilian nuclear agreement, a landmark deal that we believe will change the entire paradigm of Indian foreign policy…competitiveness of our companies and the movement of our people is also a core issue for India… Nobody wants a trade war, and nobody should. But if the US government thinks that “its own money” mustn’t suffer “leakage” to other economies in the course of the stimulus package and so will close off H1-B employment and put in “Buy American” clauses, it shouldn’t also think that it is the only government with the power to do so…Here’s the rub: India’s government has levers to apply. India’s administrators better start applying them. The nuclear deal was in this country’s interest, which is why it was a good thing. Just because it was in the US’s interest as well wasn’t a reason to oppose it. But everything in the US’s interest isn’t in ours — something our establishment needs to keep continually in mind.” Restrain, anyone?

Economic Watch

Is Economic growth the target or a medium to achieve sustainable development? The ‘State of the Economy’ (Indian economy) was clear about the direct relationship between growth and public welfare- “Growth is of interest not for its own sake but for the improvement in public welfare that it brings about…” (Economic Survey 2007-08). Is correlation so direct? Nope. This simplistic relationship has not materialized on the ground level. The quest for higher and higher growth has not trickled down. Even the British Prime Minister has conceded that the free market regime has run its course. However, this is not a sudden discovery! Still, one does not come across many articles by leading Indian economists (read- advocates of free market) on this crucial issue in leading newspapers. Today, P. Sainath has echoed his concern. Take a look- “The Human Development Index HDI figures since 2002 signal a steady decline in the nation’s conversion of wealth into human development — even as the numbers of its billionaires and millionaires doubled and trebled. Now the billionaires have shrunk in number, but not the slumdogs. There are at least 836 million Indians living on less than Rs. 20 a day, as the government’s own report told us in 2007. Over 200 million of those get by on less than Rs.12 daily. And those are pre-downturn numbers, too. Maybe, we need a new Forbes 500 list — naming the world’s 500 poorest citizens. Who could beat us on that one?”(Hindu).

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17 March 09

Election Watch

Confusion:The scene of the third front seems rather unclear & confusing. The obsession of political leaders for the chair of Prime Minister is far from a well guarded secret. Leaving aside Congress, most leading parties are seemingly banking on their potential prime ministerial candidates, even before serious run-up to the general elections. The leading newspapers are giving prominent coverage of the third front activities. But the third front is still searching for a new tag (Times of India). What is in the name after all? DNA feels that whatever may be the other shortcomings, the smaller political parties and their leaders are clear headed. Mayawati is the clearest thinker of them all as she knows that she is sitting pretty and doesn't need anyone's support; if anything, they need her (Editorial DNA). However the editorial of Times of India feels that Mayawati’s dinner meet reveals inchoate nature of the third front. Who is where! The cartoon of the day features the common man confused looking at the poll posters of different political fronts - “which party is in which front?”(New Indian Express).The leading opposition party is also not in best of unity as spat between its president Rajnath Singh and senior leader Arun Jaitley, showed no signs of blowing over on Monday night and the party’s Central Election Committee could be the first casualty amid speculation that it may be wound up. (Front page. Free Press Journal). This news is accompanied by cartoon which features three mascots of BJP- Advani, Rajnath Singh, Arjun Jaitley sweating - “Vote for Whining India”.


Complaint: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has complained to the state chief election officer that Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar has violated the model code of conduct at one of his rallies in the Madha Lok Sabha constituency on March 13...union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar promised to waive the financial liabilities of the agricultural labourers and backward classes at his rally at Natepute in Solapur district (DNA). Varun Gandhi, a BJP candidate, was in the eye of a storm for making inflammatory remarks with communal overtones, which saw the Election Commission slap a notice against the young scion of the estranged Gandhi family. Even his party, the BJP, was taken aback by his remarks and lost no time in ticking him off (Free Press Journal. Front page)

Funding: The Lok Sabha elections are just a month away, but state funding of polls, regarded by many as the perfect pill to cleanse the country's electoral system of the influence of black money, remains a far cry. As many as six committees had discussed the issue for over 25 years before the Congress led United Progressive Alliance government introduced the State Funding Of Elections… The bill could not be converted into law for want of a consensus among political parties since the funding was meant only for national or state parties recognised by the Election Commission…..(Free Press Journal)


Justice Watch

Courts across Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, including the Madras high court, resumed hearing cases on Monday after nearly a month, albeit in the absence of protesting lawyers who are seeking action against senior police officers for the February 19 incident…The lawyers retaliated by withdrawing their vakalaths. According to sources, more than 2,000 lawyers had withdrawn their vakalaths even as they continued their agitation outside the Madras high court (DNA). The front page of Times of India report comes with headline- “Hundreds fight own case in Chennai”. Point to ponder- Internal mobility has failed here and the common man is suffering without legal experts. Why not allow external mobility and allow foreign lawyer to practice in India? Why delay the desired reform?


Slum Watch

Prasenjit Chowdhury questions - Why do slums exist in India? And he also answers- ''disproportionate growth of economic opportunities leading to wholesale migration into cities and urban centres. Poverty, slums and urban squat are here to stay. Mumbai heading to be the most heavily populated‘ urban agglomeration’ in the world, apart from Tokyo and its surroundings, currently buckling with a population load of 19million — the UN forecasts, would be home to more than 26 million people by 2025..There are stark pictures of poverty from many major and minor cities of India including from the old capital of India, Kolkata, and the new capital, New Delhi". (Deccan Chronicle, Bangalore Edition. page 11). But hang on, the World Bank has criticised the much acclaimed National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) scheme as it has become a barrier to internal mobility. And internal mobility is necessary as lifting people out of poverty requires shifting population from villages to cities (Economic Times). More slums in making for the benefit of a few? Are slums devoid of poverty? Take a clue from Jaspal Bhatti, famous satirist who has recently launched - Recession Party to fight elections. But the catch- this party has no ideology and no principles! Bhatti, who is fighting elections from Chandigarh has promised to expand and multiply Chandigarh’s slum settlements as “ ..this will mean more foolish and ignorant voters who will elect me over and over again, even if I do nothing to help their lives…I have no time for intelligent and educated citizens because their kind never votes..”(Asian Age). Just a recollection- 20 slum kids who acted in Slumdog, have been expelled from their school for non-attendance due to the shooting of the movie. (Free Press Journal).

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16 March 2009

Election Watch

Zubeda Hamid reports that for the last few months, some Netziens have been busy spreading rumours about the poll process in India, which has left the youth confused…Another rumour doing the rounds is that one needs to submit a letter to the presiding officer stating the reason behind the decision to cast a negative vote. This again, is untrue…What have you heard?(New Indian Express).


Health Watch

The public health system is in doldrums for the common man. V Krithiga reports that Ayyappan, a roadside idly seller from Palayamkottai in Tirunelveli district has been burning the candle at both ends for the past one year to collect Rs. 400,000 for his wife’s kidney transplant operation. “What all I have saved so far has been spent on my wife’s monthly visit to the hospital and medicines. I earn Rs 125 a day and this is not enough for medicines” (New Indian Express). He pleads- “I appeal to philanthropists to help me to save my wife and brighten the future of my two children,” Anyone listening? While on the other hand, why the state health department of West Bengal has failed to recruit medical officers, technicians, house staff and professors, despite the fact that several posts in some state-run medical colleges have remained vacant for several years? Statesman reports that shortage has come to light after a 2007-08 survey of four government-aided hospitals in the city by the state assembly Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare. Greater Kashmir reports established with an aim of providing healthcare in the far- flung areas of Kashmir region, the Government Medical College Srinagar associated Chittaranjan Mobile Hospital has failed to organize medical camps for the past four years. The hospital was meant to provide primary, secondary and tertiary care facilities to the underprivileged masses in far- off areas. But it has failed to do so despite being fully equipped. The funds are being paid regularly, yet it’s not performing well.


Meltdown Watch

THE Sensex has fallen 31.91 per cent and foreign institutional investors have pulled out over $8.35 billion from Indian markets since September 2008. However, these negative factors have not prevented more foreign investors from coming to India. .. As per records available with Sebi, as many as 108 new FIIs have registered with the market regulator, taking their total number to 1,625 by March 13 this year from 1,517 in September 2008. The number of FII sub-accounts has also shot up from 4,620 to 4,991.…(Indian Express). Point to ponder- recession/ meltdown in India?


Gandhi Watch

The Lucknow-based Indian Conservation Institute (ICI), which restored the Mahatma’s kurtas and other dresses to their past glory, will now showcase its expertise in preserving items of heritage value by working on Gandhiji’s personal belongings, including letters written by him. Under the project ‘Saving Gandhi’s Legacy’, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) wing had restored the dress material and sent them back three years ago to Sabarmati Ashram where it is currently on display. Among the fabric handled by the ICI under the project included yarns used by Gandhiji to stitch his dress, shirts and kurtas. (New Indian Express). Hang on, what about Gandhian core values?

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15 March 2009
Auction Watch
A week after Mahatma Gandhi’s personal belongings went under the hammer here, the US based owner of the items today said he wanted the articles back from the auction house as he was unhappy over the “dispute” between liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who bought it for USD 1.8 million, and the Indian government over the memorabilia. However he was non-committal when asked whether he would donate the items to India if he got them back.(Free Press Journal).


Justice Watch

Lawyer in Tamil Nadu have intensified their ongoing agitation on Saturday hours after the Madras High Court issued a notification saying that from Monday all judges will take up cases listed before them and decide them on merit. Many angry lawyers reacted to the notification by withdrawing their 'vakalats' (civil side) and memos (criminal side) filed on behalf of their clients for appearance in cases…(Free Press Journal). New Indian Express reports that agitating lawyers on Saturday said they were ready to lose their clientele and their daily bread. Another resolution said the lawyers would not attend any Lok Adalat and legal aid programmes and not to address judges with the prefixes ‘your honour,’ and ‘my lord.’. Strange as it may seem, a sandalwood tree in the High Court premises near Cubbon Park enjoys round-the-clock security that costs Rs 10 lakh an year in terms of salaries to the CAR police who are guarding this 'precious' sandalwood tree worth Rs, 1 lakh. (Aravinda Shetty New Indian Express). On the other hand, take a look how secure are women even in their homes. According to Kiran Bedi, ex IPS and now a social worker, a woman is beaten up in every three minutes, and with 45 percent of Indian women suffering from domestic violence. She argues that it has become necessary to create awareness among the public through telecasting domestic violence related programmes and the various laws and Acts that can be enacted to this effect. Anyone listening?

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14 March 2009

Election Watch

Who will be the next Prime Minister of India? The Editor-in-chief of New Indian Express has clarity in games! Take a look- “ Everybody’s favourite parlour game these days is ‘Who will be the next Prime Minister?’, but if you’re smart you won’t risk betting your deflation-hit money on any of the names currently in vogue. The only prediction this columnist is willing to make is this: the most shameless self-promoting candidate today, former PM H D Deve Gowda, will probably end up becoming 2009’s Devi Lal”. The cartoon of the day has appeared on the front page of Free Press Journal which shows the three leaders of the recently formed third front, Karat, Gowda and Naidu hoping for the same chair - “seat of PM”. But what about Mayawati? New Indian Express reports that national general secretary of Bahujan Samaj Party has indicated to Third Front leaders at Thursday’s Karnataka rally the prime ministerial ambition of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati. But the editorial of Times of India has warned that the third front could collapse under its own contradictions. But hang on, what about the common man? Take a clue from the cartoon in Times of India on page 13.


Auction Watch

…scenes at the Antiquorum auction in New York on March 6 gave a new dimension to Gandhigiri. Eyeglasses, pocket watch, sandals and a bowl and plate that Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi used went under the hammer and were bought by billionaire industrialist Vijay Mallya…. Mallya’s right to purchase Gandhi memorabilia is unquestioned, but the attitude of the government and the media hysteria need serious contemplation…The furore fanned by the auction has become an occasion for public figures to indulge in a sickening display of competitive sycophancy…It is another matter that our track record of safeguarding national treasures is not encouraging. For example, Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel medallion. Perhaps it would be better if Mallya kept the items, as he did Tipu Sultan’s sword (Editorial. New Indian Express).


Justice Watch

From March 16, cases will be decided on merit, a notification from the Madras High Court has said. The New Indian Express feels that this is an indirect warning to agitating advocates that their cases would be dismissed if they did not represent them in the courts. But is the problem over? Take a clue from the same newspaper that utter chaos prevailed at the fag end of the hearing on the petitions of the agitating advocates, when some advocates hurled invectives and used unparliamentary language against government pleader Raja Kalifulla and harassed and ridiculed Chief Justice HL Gokhale. Even the reporters covering the court proceedings were not spared. The lawyers humiliated them by pulling their shirts and hands and ordered them to get out of the court hall…The CJ’s request to maintain the decorum of the court fell on deaf ears. Mercifully, the CJ does not understand Tamil, the language in which the invectives were hurled.

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13 March 2009

Meltdown Watch

The leading newspapers seem obsessed with world’s richest people, while Free Press Journal has focused on a comparison between India & American. has focused on a comparison between India & American.Take a look-

The richest Indians lost more on a slippery ground in the Forbes list released this month…Only two Indians Mukest Ambani and LN Mittal could make it to the elite club of top ten but not before losing two and four positions respectively in the list…While there were 10 Indians in the top 100 previous year, only six could make it to the list..(Hindustan Times).

The financial meltdown has taken its toll on the world’s billionaires, with Indian tycoon Anil Ambani becoming the biggest loser of them all, down by a whopping $32 billion over the past year..(Pioneer)

The economic downturn has caused havoc in the world’s billionaire’s club…however 44 billionaires added to their fortune despite the credit crunch and recession.. (Asian Age).

India can write off its current fiscal deficit with less than two-third wealth of its billionaires, but the US would need more than the fortunes of its billion-dollar citizens for the same. Besides, India would meet over half of its proposed expenditure for the next fiscal with its billionaires' wealth, while the American billionaires' total wealth would meet only one-third of their country's proposed USD 3 trillion expenditure in the next financial year….While the idea of getting rid of a country's fiscal deficit or meeting federal expenses with billionaires' wealth is hypothetical...(Free Press Journal)

The networth of world’s billionaires is related to the stock market, so should this list be taken seriously anyway? While on the ground level, people from main street are actually losing jobs and in fact the average income of the workers in the labour intensive sector has come down by 3.45 percent. Hang on, is ‘average income’ the right indictor to measure the magnitude of loss? But things are not depressing, really! Now the good news- Rajat Guha reports that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) grew at amazing 90 percent in the first eight months of the current fiscal year, indicating that India continues to be an attractive destination for investors. However the largest source of FDI is still from Mauritius, the tax haven favourite.


Election Watch

Vijay Gaurav feels that spin off effect of election spending and post election revelry could help businesses like liquor, auto and FMCG (Economic Times). Yeap, take a clue from full two pages of colourful advertisement of Skoda & Mercedes-Benz, colourful ad by Carlsberg in the same paper.

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12 March 2009

Holi-Day

Due to yesterday’s Holi break, leading newspapers have not appeared on the news stand. No news is good news? Nope, take a look at the lead report in Mid-Day which reveal - “SOS village, which calls itself the world’s biggest orphan charity, has found at least two of its supervisors guilty of a “serious complaint of child abuse, which transpired over the last six months in two different centres”. It is shocking that the guilty men have been transferred to other SOS locations, while the internal enquiry has been pending since September last year. Point to ponder- Do orphans have no right to happy childhood? Why does justice come at a snail pace? Until then, its green signal for child abuse?

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11 March 2009

Cartoon Watch

The festival of colours, Holi is being celebrated on the front page of Hindustan with numerous caricatures and accompanying satire (in poetry) with the punchline- “Holi colours with leaders”. No one is being spared here- Manmohan Singh, Mayawati, Rahul Gandhi, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Advani, Karat, Pawar etc. The pleasant surprise of the day are colourful caricatures of Indian politicians appearing on the front page of Economic Times as all other financial newspapers have shown marked restrain in celebrating holi (as usual). However the accompanying text is not as sharp as that appearing in Hindustan. Nevertheless, Economic Times has asked a pertinent question- “Will Indian politicians Inc break all conventions on Holi?“ But with elections on the door, who will answer? No prizes for getting this one! The Holi Cartoons in Aaj Samaj are thoughtful. Not to forgot those interesting holi cartoons on its masthead! Aaj Samaj seems to have soaked itself in Holi colour as all the news on its front page are in true spirit of Holi- none of them are true! Took at the fine prints at the bottom of the front page- “don’t mind its holi, don’t mind its holi…”! Nai Duniya too has devoted one full page (Metro Rang) to wishful news item (that are not true) with accompanying hope - “don’t mind, its holi…”!


Auction Watch

Mahatma Gandhi did not treasure worldly possessions, in fact, he abhorred and sneered at them….He did not want people to repeat what he had said or written, but exhorted them to learn from his life and from the examples he set. …The movement launched by his great- grandson to yank Gandhi’s spectacles, watch and slippers off the auctioneer’s block is utterly un- Gandhian…Such attempts make Gandhi into a thing, thus ignoring what he really stood for…In fact, if Gandhi is looking down at this whole business from up there, he must be grimacing in righteous anger. Or, on the other hand, he may be so accustomed to the consistent abuse of his legacy that he may just turn away and say that this is not what he meant at all….While the Indian public and the government is so exercised about bringing Gandhi home, they are not in the least worried about how at every level we are encouraging violence, corruption, elitism and favouritism….And who do we get to get our Gandhism right? Is that a bird? Is that a plane? No that is Vijay Mallaya, the Indian Superman…A liquor baron to the rescue! (Dipankar Gupta. Mail Today)

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10 March 2009

Auction Watch

It is not that all Indians had devalued Gandhian values. There are still people who do work as suggested by the Mahatma. Why not focus on such people and encourage them rather than making a hue and cry over the Mahatma's relics?…Remember Gandhiji? That could be India's biggest joke. One of the popular strategies for politicians to get publicity was to start some kind of a `movement', like looking `pious' and starting self -centred political movements like relay fasts at Rajghat. And if they were asked to come out with 'do shabd' ( two words) at a seminar on Gandhiji, that would be an added bonus. Then they could relax till the next death anniversary of the great leader. ..But it is tragic that India had forgotten everything that Gandhiji stood for and if that was not enough indulging in actions which would have hurt him deeply.(V Gangadhar. Free Press Journal)


News of Day

Yes, it’s good news for well wishers of Right to Information (RTI). As before getting adjourned sine die, the State Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir passed Jammu & Kashmir Right to Information Bill, 2009, which replaced the parent act of 2004 and the Amendment Act of 2008 and restored parity with the Central Law. According to the Minister for Finance Abdul Rahim- “It shall strengthen the law as also curb the menace of non-information, dis-information, mis-information and lack of information by the public bodies to citizens as dissemination of information to citizens is bound to ensure transparency, accountability and good governance in public administration, to which the state government is committed".

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9 March 2009

Justice Watch

The heading of the Editorial of Free Press Journal says it all -“Black coats, black deeds”. Take a clue- “Lawyers are officers of court, expected to help it dispense justice. But if you see their conduct, especially when they are in a collective protest mode, it would appear that they are in urgent need of a primer on how not to violate the law….Increasingly, lawyers have acquired the reputation as a lawless class of professionals…Shouldn't the apex court frame some firm guidelines for various courts, higher and lower, to deal with protesting lawyers, especially within the court premises. Even higher judiciary needs to be clear-headed in dealing with rowdy elements in black coats.”


Auction Watch

…It has now claimed credit for Mallya’a action, with the Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni saying that the government was in touch with Mallya over the auction. But Mallya has said that he had acted on his own and denied any government role in his bid. The temptation to claim credit for everything good is irresistible when elections are at the door…We have deified Gandhiji and attach sanctity to the objects connected with him and remember him ritually in October and January. But he no longer guides the nation and is not a living presence in our lives. By installing him in the pantheon and institutionalising his memory, we have distanced ourselves from him. In fact the sight of Gandhiji’s image and things associated with him should evoke a sense of guilt in many…(Deccan Herald).

Wish the rulers of India that is Bharat had some higher concerns to move them, say, the plight of the wretched and the poor the Father of Nation was so keen to heal in his life-time….The liquor baron who bought Mahatma's knick-knacks denied that he had paid nearly $two million dollars…. Having forsaken Mahatma in his life-time, his spurious heirs pay lip service to him while routinely defying his precepts. Sheer hypocrisy of rewarding a faux Gandhian collector, one James Otis, with such a load of cash was , er... non-Gandhian. (Free Press Journal)


Election Watch

The headline of the lead report on the front page of Economic Times declares-”At the Great Indian Carnival every vote counts“. Virendra Kapoor has summed up the stages (read - other side) of elections quite neatly. Take a look- “Black money still drives the electoral engine, notwithstanding the official limits on expenditure by candidates in parliamentary and assembly polls. Candidates of most parties, especially of the one leader, family-owned outfits, have to virtually buy their tickets….After buying the party ticket, a candidate gets down to the business of buying votes…”(Free Press Journal). Is vote so cheap and easy? An advertisement in Times of India claims -“…But this time things will be different…Out vote will not be for but against. Against criminal backgrounds ..”The ad ends by warning politicians - “..think carefully before you pick your candidates this time….For our ballot will be unforgiving…”

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8 March 2009

Election Watch

The Election Commission has ordered recovery of the total cost from the officials who released full-page advertisement on the Commonwealth Games in all major dailies of Delhi on Friday as it was in violation of the model code of conduct in force for the Lok Sabha elections. It said the advertisement “a clear violation of the Model code of conduct which prohibits publication of the achievements of the governments at the cost of the public exchequer.” The advertisement inter alia enumerates achievements of the Central Government and the Delhi Government regarding the development works carried out in the capital like, 24 flyovers, 75 aerobridge airport, 1285 km of better roads, 5000 low floor buses etc. (Free Press Journal).


Editorial of Day

Reality does not match the ritual. The international women's day, at least in this part of the world, is no exception. Everybody would like to spin yarns of dreams where women have carved a niche of their own in every sphere of life, where women are raised to lofty pedestals - eulogising the typical role of women in motherhood and showcasing her great strength to bear misery…Majority of the women in India are deprived and steeped into poverty, illiteracy and backwardness. The same may go for men too, but women, in their traditional roles, are at greater disadvantage… The women always get a poorer share of things and have little say in decision making unless some of them dare to challenge the stereotypes. There can be no joy about celebrating a day, if we are unwilling to accept with compassion the plight of so many women around the globe reeling under injustice, or even women right under our very own nose…. Violence against women is on the rise and the girl child has not been given her due in this country….the policies for girl child's education and nutrition, announced with a bang, have turned into a whimper. The government's cradle scheme to check female infanticide, encouraging those who didn't want a girl child to send her in government charge and not eliminate her, failed to take into account two major facts…. With a corrupted polity and a biased mindset, either the architects have been inspired by some level of a disinterest while drafting policies regarding gender or else the corrupt system has disabled laws and schemes from being implemented. Jammu and Kashmir is no exception, where women are further pushed into prolonged misery due to the ongoing conflict.. Yet, for over six long years, the government hasn't even been able to find a single woman to head the State's only (though replete with its flaws) Women's Commission. …Women's Day instead of becoming an occasion to rejoice and celebrate womanhood should be an occasion to begin some introspection and reflect on how the necessary change can be brought about.(Kashmir Times).


Auction Watch

There may be some irony in a liquor baron known for his lavish lifestyle buying at an auction the memorabilia of a simple man who dressed in nothing more than a loincloth. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would probably have gasped upon hearing the amount that was paid to procure a few items he had used. But more than the irony, what is worth noting is the hypocrisy embedded in the brouhaha over the auction of the memorabilia of Gandhi in New York…The government and the society get into a tizzy only when individuals who possess these valuable things, for reasons of their own, decide to sell them and get a market price for them. It is only then that Indians become very pious, righteous and patriotic. Till then amnesia reigns….Indian museums and archives are among the worst in the world — in terms of preservation and procurement. This has led to the very valid argument that objects relating to India’s heritage are best left in museums abroad where they are well looked after… If Gandhi can be forgotten, what better prospect can his meagre possessions have? (Editorial Telegraph). The Editorial of Mail Today ends- “… With curtains coming down on the drama, the Indian people will feel the lingering bad taste of crass commercialisation of the articles of a man who had rejected materialism”. Aaj Samaj, Hindi newspaper, has devoted full one page to seven cartoons on this episode and sums it up. The last toon features an old man saying- “This was his last nishani.. His values, morals had been auctioned long ago..”. Hearing the old man, the khadi cap of the politician wearing Khadi kurta & red jacket, goes up.


Women Watch

Indian women cricket team won their first world cup match in Australia on Saturday in a grand style-10 wicket victory. Now that’s quite a feat. However, sporting Indian eves have not received prominent coverage in almost all leading newspapers.

Spectacular start by India (Hindu. Pg 18)

India begin in style, thrash Pak (Times of India. Pg 26)

Indian women begin with 10-wicket win (Indian Express)

World Cup: India eves thrash Pak by 10 wkts (Tribune. Pg22)

India thrash Pak in opener (Pioneer. Pg 12)

India defeat Pak by 10 wkts (Dainik Bhaskar. Pg 8)

India thrash Pak in opener (Asian Age. Pg 12)

Amar Ujala & Mail Today have given prominence to the victory of women’s team on its sports page. The joy of Jholan Goswami captain of Indian women cricket team and Rumeli Dhar, women of the match is clearly evident. However none of the leading newspapers have sent their key sports correspondence to cover the Women cricket world cup. A Repeat of ‘Chak De India’ stereotype? If Indian men’s team would have won this World cup match with 10 wickets and that too against Pakistan- this news would have made to the front page. But women cricket team’s victory, why bother so much? Of course note that most newspapers have not forgotten women, views/reports on international women’s day are present as a ritual. While on the other hand the Indian men cricket team continues to hog the limelight, though they are not playing any World Cup.

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7 March 2009

Auction Watch

The irony of the day is that liquor baron, Vijay Mallya has made it to the front page of leading newspapers, riding high on Mahatma Gandhi’s popularity.

Liquor baron wins over Gandhi(Tribune)

Liquor baron saves Gandhi’s items (Times of India)

Vijay Mallya wins bid (Hindu)

Recently Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss had contending that use of alcohol constitutes one of the major causes for chronic diseases and pressed for a National Alcohol Policy to curb consumption of liquor. Replying to questions in the Lok Sabha, he mentioned that more youngsters were taking to alcohol as is reflected by a survey which showed that the average age of liquor consumption has come down to 13.5 years from 28 years a few years ago (Business Standard. 26/2/09). Mahatma Gandhi was totally against liquor, so has Vijay Mallya closed his liquor empire and turned into a true disciple of Bapu? Nope! He has used his money power ( $1.8 million) to buy Mahatma’s personal belongings in an auction. But why did he buy Mahatma’s stuff when he doesn’t follow the anti liquor principles of Bapu? He has denied that he bought it on behalf of the government. So the possible reasons- Publicity and craze for up-market possessions? Last month, it was reported that he had bought a island in Europe. His other fancy possessions included fast cars, castles, horses, jets, yachts, island in Europe (Times of India. 23/1/2009). But according to will of Mahatma Gandhi, no one has the right to sell or auction any object belonging to or related to Mahatma Gandhi. Hiral Dave has raised pertinent questions on the front page of Indian Express- Who allowed the Mahatma’s personal possessions to get out of India — with or without money changing hands? Did a German scholar sneak these out on the pretext of exhibiting them abroad, and palm it off to an American collector? Or were they sold to a foreigner by members of the Mahatma’s own family? A must to read to find some of the answers. Amitabh Sinha reports in the same paper that the government plans to move courts abroad to ensure no similar item is put on sale or under the hammer in future. But what about this auction? What about Gandhi’s core values? The cartoon in Hindustan, a newspaper in Hindi, sums it up. The statue of Gandhi (wearing glasses) wonders -”was spectacles taken to view this day?” And in the background is seen a newspaper with the news- “Auction of Gandhi’s belongings: Vijay Mallaya biggest bid..” Take a look what editorial of three leading English newspapers have to say:

…In India, Gandhi has become a remembered name with little corresponding respect for his values or what he stood for. Apart from naming roads and institutions after him, Indians have hardly been conscious of Gandhi and the meaning of his idealistic politics…(DNA)

..Gandhi's legacy is actually a double one. Being the Father of the Nation, if we are to take that metaphor seriously, pitches him squarely in the realm of politics…Some Gandhian policies clearly can't work. He was against industry, for example, yet a billion Indians cannot be fed and clothed on agriculture alone. Mysticism is entirely misplaced in economic and political matters. Let us not put Gandhi on a pedestal. He himself would have been uncomfortable there (Times of India)

…If anyone thinks that the spectacle of a liquor baron bidding for the used crockery of a man who was not the world’s biggest alcohol fan was blasphemous, they’re clearly moralistic killjoys that don’t understand Gandhism. What more agreeable spectacle than Vijay Mallya, the buyer of Tipu’s sword, now buying slightly less violent relics? (And wasn’t he complaining the other day Kingfisher had no money?)…(Indian Express)

Unemployment Watch

The Legislative Assembly of Jammu & Kashmir has rejected a bill envisaging a monthly stipend to unemployed though during the election campaign, the ruling coalition partners had promised stipends to the educated youth till they get jobs. But in U turn, the government has opposed the bill as it would have huge financial implications on the state exchequer….The entire opposition on Friday had staged a walk out from the Legislative Assembly after the government denied having made any promise to provide a job to at least one member of the family…Amidst slogans “Provide jobs to unemployed youth, government is lying” the entire opposition walked out from the house. (Greater Kashmir). Point to ponder- why no effective social security net for all unemployed youths in the country?

Election Watch

The front page of Tribune carries a text box with heading - “Your vote matters”. Yes, it does in vibrant democracy. What next- golden words of wisdom- “So not vote for the candidates who are known to be corrupt. They have harmed the political system”. What about those who seek votes in name of castes, religion? And those who have criminal cases pending against them? Keep guessing! Nevertheless, the editorial of Financial Express is not very pleased with party manifestos. Take a look- “India’s poll campaign vignettes are so exhilarating and party manifestos are so dead boring that only the very odd will take any notice of the latter…Manifestos are not out yet and there will be the standard fluff in all of them…Manifestos are not, as we have observed, read widely. Intelligent economic policy intentions, suitably worded, can act as signal to a smaller but important audience. This is exactly how party manifestos are judged in the US, where industry and pressure groups study them and voters ignore them.…”. But why so pessimistic even before the party manifestos are out? Take a clue from the residents of a village in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh who have threatened to boycott the coming Lok Sabha polls if electricity is not provided in their area…"We will boycott the polls if electricity is not provided to us. No candidate will be allowed to enter the village," Guljari Singh, an elderly villager said. (Indian Express). Point to ponder- hope atleast party manifestos can reach them!

Justice Watch

The former Supreme Court judge Justice B N Srikrishna has also blamed the acting Chief Justice and other High Court judges for being “soft” on lawyer misconduct. “It is most unfortunate that the soft policy adopted by the Acting Chief Justice of Madras High Court and its administration sent out clearly a wrong message that encouraged and abandoned the lawyers into becoming law-breakers…The lawyers appear to have been encouraged by the wrong signals send out and seemed to think they could do and get away within the Court premises. Regretfully, far from being the upholders of the rule of law, the lawyers seem to have behaved as hooligans and miscreants…The bar councils have not been acting as an effective regulatory body of their professional conduct…. (Indian Express). Point to ponder- how about allowing competition in legal profession (read foreign lawyers)?
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6 March 2009

Auction Watch

Rajeev Sharma reports on front page of Free Press Journal that Mahatma Gandhi’s memorabilia – metal-rimmed glasses, pocket watch, sandals and a plate and bowl – will not come under the hammer as the US-based owner of Gandhi’s five personal items has decided to withdraw from the controversial auction under relentless pressure from the Indians.

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5 March 2009

Advertisement of Day

The punch line of the ad questions- “Are you suffering from multiple identity syndrome? Further, the ad warns- “In case you are in possession of multiple EPICs or having multiple registrations in Electoral Roll, you could be in deep trouble.” Look down, the ad also mentions Action for voters - “get your name deleted from the place(s) you are not residing….also surrender your multiple EPICs”. This ad comes from office of the Chief Electoral Officer at Delhi.


Cartoon of Day

A labourer with heavy load on his head telling his young daughter (also with heavy load on her head) - “ Renuka Chaudhary couldn’t blame us for child labour if Danny Boyle had picked you too!” (Statesman).


Economic Watch

The headline of the lead news report in Mint shouts- “RBI gives growth one last push”. While the quick edit gives a thumbs up and ends- “…There is less space for dramatic rate cuts, in case the economy worsens in the months ahead.” What is the game plan? Take clue from Economic Times- “push banks to lend. Banks will now find that the return on money parked with RBI will not even cover the cost of saving deposits…”. But there was no liquidity problem with banks as banks were flushed with funds. Take a clue from Sarabajeet Sen- “Cash rich public sector undertakings (PSUs) are finding it difficult to park thousands of crore (1 crore=10 million) in idle cash with government-owned banks…Bankers say there is a problem of plenty and very little appetite for surplus PSU money” (Financial Chronicle. Hyderabad 4/3/09). But many are still complaining- “The much waited cut fell short of the widely expected 100 basis points reduction…”(Indian Express). “…are not just insufficient, they are tokenism. This was the time for a bold cut… banks have to be shaken out of the let’s-be-ultra-safe mindset. That can only happen if there is a big dramatic signal from RBI…It is more mystifying what RBI thinks can be the dangers of a deep rate cut….” (Financial Express).

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4 March 2009

Editorial Watch

The controversy and confusion over H1B visas has exercised both India and the United States for much of last year. …The return of brainpower to Asia therefore ought to be a reason for celebration for both India which, like China, can be proud of their contribution to the world. The study presents the reverse migration as a loss for the US, but it could as well be seen as a gain for Asia. And in a globalised world, it is possible that this is not a loss at all. It is just a redistribution of assets (DNA). Point to ponder- jobs in India are not forthcoming, job insecurity is rampant, plus without networking (another name- nepotism), its brain in drain? Reason for celebration in India?


Poverty Watch

Yeah, according to Arjun Sengupta Report, 70 percent of India’s population is poor and vulnerable. But this statistics will go up and reach the Everest! Take a clue- Higher Education Department has issued an order that Rs 200,000 will be an income limit for candidates to qualify under the newly introduced ‘poor and meritorious’ quota for engineering colleges. “.The Higher Education Department’s definition of a ‘poor’ candidate has been borrowed from the Social Welfare Department’s definition for a creamy layer…For instance, the Planning Commission, defines a person as poor if his/her income is less than Rs 356.30 a month in the villages and Rs 538.60 a month in the cities. For a family of five, that works to Rs 21,378 and Rs 32,316 per year for people living in villages and cities respectively.. (New Indian Express).

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3 March 2009

Auction Watch

Free Press Journal reports that Antiquorum Auctioneers said on Monday that an auction of Mahatma Gandhi's iconic round glasses, pocket watch and some of his personal belongings will go ahead. But sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told that Antiquorum would not agree to a negotiated price and would like the government or anyone else to bid at the auction if they are interested in taking the items. (Free Press Journal). Not surprisingly, today, Delhi High Court has put an interim stay on auction of five prized articles of Gandhi. Additional Solicitor General, appeared on behalf of the Navjivan Trust, submitted that these articles could not be sold as they belonged to India and were illegally taken away from here. Point to ponder- if only we followed Mahatma Gandhi's principles in same zeal!


Election Watch

The announcement of poll dates for the general elections have made it to the front page of all newspapers. Swapan Dasgupta has not minced words- “The most heartening feature of the imminent imposition of the Model Code of Conduct for the general election is that it will put a temporary halt to the completely wasteful expenditure of the Centre and states on the lavish advertisements that have filling newspapers for the past two months….What is galling is the impression of unconcern about the state of the Indian economy that these advertisements are conveying…. Most of the dreary and unimaginative advertisements are not going to get the Congress and its coalition partners a single extra vote. …The question, therefore, naturally arises: why is the government so utterly hell-bent on advising the newspaper-reading and TV watching classes to eat cake? …Occasionally, years after the money has been recklessly disbursed, the Comptroller and Auditor General asks question and points to the wanton violation of the norms governing trusteeship. It makes news for a day or, if the opposition is alert, for a fortnight or so. However, there are hardly any instances of a minister being compelled to return misspent public funds. (Swapan Dasgupta. Free Press Journal).


Meltdown Watch

The editorial of Business Standard is not pleased with the recent decision by President Obama. Take a clue-“The US president, Barack Obama, has repeated his campaign pledge to save jobs at home, and proposed that US firms which outsource jobs lose their tax benefits. This is dangerous logic, and deserves to be roundly criticised, for it shows a fundamental lack of understanding of modern business…Everyone knows that bad ideas get an airing in difficult times.…But if Mr Obama wants to get protectionist, countries like India should test the effectiveness of the World Trade Organisation, the soundness of its rules and the effectiveness of its dispute settling mechanisms….”. Hang on, there is more than mere understanding of modern business and growth numbers! What is the way out? Take a clue from editorial of DNA- “…when Buffett says that the economy is in a shambles, with no sign of recovery for at least a year, then the rest of the world must worry. The "oracle of Omaha" has spoken, as it were….Since Buffett and his good friend Bill Gates belong to a different breed of entrepreneur-businessman who still live the simple life maybe the others should take heed and follow his example. That should save their companies a few million”(DNA). It seems in India recession is absent. Take a clue from country’s largest car manufacturer, Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, which has recorded its highest-ever sales in the month of February. While, country’s largest two-wheeler manufacturer, Honda Motors Ltd, has seen a 24 per cent jump in sales. This is not all, country’s second largest car manufacturer, Hyundai Motor India Ltd, has witnessed a 45.31 per cent jump in domestic passenger car sales (Tribune).

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2 March 2009

Recession Watch

Ruchika Khanna reports on the front page in Tribune from Chandigarh- “Recession be damned. The deep pocket of the Pubjabis have only grown deeper. From Buying luxury cars to hiring private jets…”. It is not surprising that “ no wonder the luxury segment in the country is growing at astounding 75 per cent….Audi India, says they have recorded a 201 per cent growth in year 2008”. While Mercedes Benz India has seen growth of 45 percent during the same period. Further India made Foreign liquor production saw a rise of 13 percent, while county liquor has gone up by 34 percent (Times of India). But don’t forget to fact in the high rates of credit card defaults which have increased by 50-70 percent over last year (Times of India). Not surprisingly, Mail Today warns- “Next time you leave your cheque in your bank’s ATM dropbox, don’t be too surprised if the money if the money never reaches your account. The cheque could have simply stolen, forged and encashed by someone else….banks not doing much to prevent such crimes..”.

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1 March 2009

Child’s Play

The front page of Times of India reports that Reserve Bank has launched a unique initiative- school kids will help to fight the menace of fake currency in the country. How? School campaign and posters to familiarize students with various currency denominations. Moreover children will be taught to distinguish between real and fake currency. Hang on, how will kids be able to distinguish fake currency from real, when even experts are finding it extremely difficult? Take a clue from senior police officer of special cell- “ We received many complaints from leading banks last year. When notes were screened, it was very hard to distinguish the from original ones. Even paper quality and necessary imprints on the original notes are inscribed on the counterfeit ones” (Asian Age.28/2/2009). Not so long ago, fake currency was found in currency chest of State Bank of India. The scam came to light when the Special Task Force (STF) of the state police arrested four people with fake currency notes in the town. However, officials of the RBI team refused to talk to the media in Domariyaganj and said their report will be submitted to the RBI headquarters in Mumbai (Economic Times. 25/8/2008). Further, according to House Panel Committee on counterfeit currency notes in circulation in the country, what has been detected so far is only the tip of the iceberg as organised criminal activity of Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICNs) had spread its tentacles in several parts of the country “with damaging consequences for the Indian economy and polity”. (Hindu BusinessLine. 23/12/2008). No white paper has appeared by RBI on this serious problem, nor any concrete steps taken by the Central Bank to flush out & stop the menace fake currency. Point to ponder- Does RBI considers fake currency as a serious problem anyway?

March 2009 Newspaper Watch
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SARCAJC

SOUTH ASIAN RESEARCH CENTRE FOR ADVERTISEMENT, JOURNALISM & CARTOONS