May 2008 Newspaper Watch

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


31 May 2008

Kid’s Bank

Poor kids, aged 5-13 years, saving money and depositing in ‘bank ’ managed by Tajim Ali, nine year old manager and Imran, a seven year old cashier! This is no dream tale but news from the city of Varanasi, reported by the correspondent of Daink Jagran. Here, the bank account can be opened from 50 paise with maximum money deposit limit being Rs. 10. The poor kids belong to families engaged in garbage collection and weaving. And in the evening the money collected is deposited in respective accounts in Punjab National Bank.

Point to ponder- what would child labour activist say about this?

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30 May 2008

The result

Yesterday, T.R Andhyarujina, former Solicitor-General of India, wrote in length about judicial salaries in Hindu. According to him, the salaries of judges of the Supreme Court and High Court have become so low that it would not be an exaggeration to say that they threaten to undermine the standing competency and independence of he higher judiciary. Further, that low salaries have a direct impact on the efficiency of the disposal of cases.

Ask any common man in the court, and they would probably narrate a long story of their sufferings & associated delays in courts. The recent finding of the parliamentary panel has not come as a surprise--that the judiciary was giving preference to the high profile corporate disputes over cases concerning common people leading to long delays of several decades in disposal of cases (Hindustan Times). But why single out only judiciary? Take a clue from the fact that after 23 years, the central government has agreed “in principle” to set up an empowered commission to rehabilitate the survivors and victims of Bhopal gas leak. The state government of Madhya Pradesh has now been asked to prepare a detailed plan of action for schemes for rehabilitation of the victims with estimates of the funds required (Hindu). Till date no legal action has been taken against the Union Carbide nor the Dow chemicals (both companies have merged) for environmental and health damage as the court case is pending before the High Court in Madhya Pradesh.

Point to Ponder- why not conduct hearing on day-to-day basis and conclude the long pending case and its associated sufferings?


Social Block

A large number of residents of Gatauli village blocked national Highway-71 to protest against failure of the administration to permanently remove a liquor shop, located near the village. Earlier too women residents of at least two villages had forced closure of liquor shop in their villages. It would be worth to note that number of liquor shops have gone up three times since last years in district of Jind (Tribune. Haryana Edition). Why this surge?

Nevertheless an liquor advertisement has again made an appearance in Delhi Times (front page. Times of India), despite all legal curbs. No block here?

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29 May 2008

No Famine here

Amartya Sen’s same write up has appeared in three newspapers with different headings- “The rich get hungrier” (Times of India), “The real food problem” (Indian Express), “The rich get hungrier” (Asian Age). Here, he also remembers the Bengal famine of 1943- “…The poor who lived in the cities experienced rapidly increasing incomes, especially in Calcutta, where huge expenditures for the war against Japan caused a boom that quadrupled food prices…. The British rulers were determined to prevent urban discontent during the war, so the government brought food in the villages and sold it, heavily subsidized, in the cities, a move that increased the rural food prices even further. Low earners in the villages starved…”. However, the comparison between today’s so call global food crisis and Bengal famine seems a bit distant, apart from the obvious fact that poor are most vulnerable & suffer the most in any form of crisis. And not to forget the price rise!
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28 May 2008

Ad Target

If one wishes to thank the Indian farmers though advertisement in newspapers, one would place the advertisement in Hindi and/or in the regional language of the region but definitely not in English! Surprisingly, advertisements thanking the farmers have been placed in English newspapers in English with the punch line- Food corporation of India thanks our farmers record wheat procurement 210 lakh MT…” by Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution. Checked out the leading newspapers in Hindi- Hindustan, Amar Ujala, Dainik Jagran, Daink Bhaskar- but found no farmer thanking ad here!
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27 May 2008

Eye Opener

Besides discussing preparation for exam, most students outside the Delhi University were seen today pondering over the ‘hot topic‘- Will the government hike the price of petrol & diesel? Already high inflation will go higher? How would we manage? Did they glance through the front page of Economic Times, according to which the government is working on a dual strategy of hike in the price of fuel as well as duty cut to shield consumers & cash strapped oil companies.

But is there really a serious need to tinker with the fuel prices/tax structure in the present circumstances? Bhagyashree Pande has indeed gone into depth regarding the demand by the Oil marketing companies to hike fuel prices. A must to read“ - “Are oil companies really in trouble? Take a clue- “….calculations show that companies are making a profit despite the fact that the government has controlled their retail selling price on four products. The gross profits of these three companies in the nine-month period between April-December 2007 is Rs 37,360 crore. If we add the oil bonds issued by the government worth Rs 20,332 crore to the above profit, then the total income of these companies stands at Rs 57,692 crore. With such largesse do the oil companies need more bonds and duty cuts? For a government company is this not enough profit? The purpose of oil companies is to serve the people and not just make huge profits, says a political observer” (Tribune).

Point to ponder- why not impose an annual environmental tax on all existing & new luxury & medium sized cars, as a percentage of their hefty price?
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26 May 2008

Election

The election results from the State of Karnataka have made it to the front page of all leading newspapers. But what about the undesirable externalities? Take a clue from a small write up by Devi Cherian in Tribune.- “….money & booze as usual were the buzz words during the Karnataka elections…acting on a tip off, over 4000 crates of Indian manufactured foreign liquor and Rs. 100 million were seized, in just one haul…locals in many places insist the money is flowing. They say Rs. 500 per vote was given….”. If Devi is correct, this state of affairs calls for deep introspection over the health of Indian democratic process.

Point to Ponder- have the leading Indian newspapers accepted that the flow of money & booze during elections in India is normal? No wonder why none of the leading newspapers investigated in detail these claims by voters and carried concrete evidence on their front page. Moreover, what was the take of Election Commission on this serious issue? Keep guessing!

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25 May 2008

Journalism

The special editorial by guest editor - Rajdeep Sardesai has appeared on the front page of Dainik Bhaskar (Faridabad Edition). Take a look- “….Page three news is taking up place on the front page, which is a worrying trend. It is believed that agriculture doesn’t interest the reader. Nor science, environment and medicine. The irony is that these are the issues that will affect the society of twenty first century….News is not entertainment…”.

Earlier too he aired similar views-” Print has become Page three. This election coverage has made me realise to stick to pure news. Some channels had election quawwali. There is the danger in this competitive world for everything to be breaking news. I try to avoid speculation." (Rajdeep Sardesai.Hindu.10/6/2004). But anyone listening?

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24 May 2008.

Cashing Gandhi.

The Union Bank of India has place full page advertisement with the eye-catching punch line- “One man changed the face of the nation One bank is set to do the same”. How- …we continue to follow his footsteps and have adopted 101 villages across the country…”. A tall claim indeed.

But what about rustic villagers from other villages, who would like to avail loan for agriculture? Take a look at the website of the Bank, which gives details of agriculture finance (along with other range of products) in English under section of ‘social banking’ but not in Hindi! In Hindi language, under social banking, only information about ‘national equity fund’ is provided! Now, how many rustic villagers would understand English, is not a secret. Is this Bank really following the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi?

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23 May 2008

Celebrations

The government has just celebrated four years in power. A suitable occasion for cartoonists! And the cartoon of the day has appeared in DNA (Mumbai) on this occasion, which features the top shots trying to celebrate. But where is the cake? Take clue from scholarly Economist- Prime Minister - “Cake, we can’t afford cake!” while the Finance Minister is trying his hands at the calculator!

Many Ministries of the Union Government have placed their ads on this occasion, highlighting their performance in the last four years. But how far are they objective? Take a look at the advertisement placed by Ministry of textile, which comes with the punch line- “Indian Textiles. The sunrise textile”. It goes on to elaborate- “During the last four years, the UPA government have taken steps to fulfill the promises made in the National Common Minimum Programme…”. Has the journey been so smooth? Nope! Here there is no reference to the adversarial effect of rupee escalation on textile industry. Take a look:

The total job loss for the textile industry for the year 2007 touched five lakh with a loss of 35,000 people in April alone due to an 18.25 per cent decline in exports because of the sharp appreciation of rupee, according to a Confederation of Indian Textile Industry release. More than 80 per cent of India’s textile exports are dollar denominated and with declining exports, the companies have released employees in a bid to contain costs…(Hindu Business Line.14/11/2007)

A pall of gloom hangs over the local textile mills even as their rivals in China, Bangladesh and Vietnam are betting on a 25% growth. The duty drawback balm has failed to soothe the industry, which is expected to shed 1.5 lakh jobs by next month. Sales are expected to fall to around $8 billion by the end of this fiscal, against $8.9 billion in the previous year…(Economic Times. 25/2/2008).


What Law ?

Despite restrictions on direct as well as surrogate liquor advertisements in India, a direct liquor ad has appeared in Times of India (Delhi Times. Delhi Edition. Front Page) & Metro Now (page 21) with the punch line- “ Carlsberg (Big font) It doesn’t get any better than this!”. Now, don’t say that Carlsberg is a tea Group!

Point to Ponder- will this advertisement pass off as unnoticed?

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22 May 2008

Whose Welfare?

Is the notion of sustainable Development present in the dictionary which is referred by drafters of new draft coastal Management Zone Regulation? Why? A correspondent of Hindustan Times reports that the new draft coastal Management Zone Regulation aims at regularizing existing unauthorized constructions and will also allow the construction actives (special economic zones, Greenfield airports, ports, harbors, tourism centres) on India’s 7,600 Km long coastline. This will go ahead despite the fact that experts feel that this will throw open hazardous development.

Point to Ponder- Why look for ‘present’ welfare of a few players vis-à-vis the welfare of ‘future’ generations?

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21 May 2008

Small is beautiful, and large?

The whole concept of public sector & public welfare has gone for a spin in the piece by A K Bhattacharya, which comments on the latest decision by the largest public sector bank (State Bank of India) in India - no loans for agricultural equipments due to NPAs amounting to 17 per cent. Take a look:

"The top management of State Bank of India (SBI) must be surprised with itself. In an act of bravery, unprecedented in the history of India's state-controlled companies, SBI has placed a temporary ban on fresh credit for purchase of a variety of farm equipment including tractors and combine harvestors….. But how one wishes that SBI's sudden outburst of courage turns infectious and the oil PSUs also start behaving the same way, so that they could take care of their legitimate commercial interests instead of sacrificing their finances at the altar of political compulsions! ….It is perhaps time that ordinary shareholders of these companies got more active and took necessary steps to protect their rights as minority shareholders. They may even consider approaching the market regulator, the ministry of corporate affairs or even the courts to seek redress of their grievances. At least till such time, oil PSUs should start doing what SBI has done” (Business Standard).

Point to ponder- Why didn’t this bank or any other bank ever freeze fresh loans to industries due to high NPAs? What is the meaning of Public sector anyway? Rights of minority shareholders vis-à-vis public sector welfare priorities- any takers for a fresh debate? Private Money lender’s delight! Scanned majority of leading newspapers (including financial) for a critical analysis, but surprisingly found none. Wonder why?
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20 May 2008

Cartoon of the Day

Indian cricket is unpredictable, while cartoon delight is definately the opposite. And, If two popular Cs (cricket & Cartoon) combine, it’s a treat! Take a look at the five cartoons on IPL cricket in Dainik Bhaskar, Hindi daily (Faridabad Edition). That’s not all, more interesting is the text accompanying the cartoon! For instance- “ He is a star player. He is asking the same amount of crores to leave the team as he took to join the team”, “ The hockey players were a disappointed lot , but looking at the poor performance of star cricketers, they danced as cheerleaders”.


Ad & politics

The top shot of the ruling Congress Party- Sonia Gandhi has been regularly appearing in governmental advertisements since long as Chairperson of UPA. Even today, the ad by Khadi & Villagge Industries Commission has carried her photograph her as “our guiding spirit” and that of the Prime Minister as “Our strength”. However, suddenly, the main opposition party has woken up and has raised objection over her photos in government ads. Wonder why!


Corruption - Solution?

Guess, what a professor of Finance from prestigious Indian Institute of Management - Bangalore has to offer to curb corruption by government employees-

“…..The critical question to ask is the justification of any pay to government employees who collect bribes from the public and outsource their activities to earn double income and have nearly half the year as holidays. In fact, such employees need not be paid a fixed salary at all and instead be asked to share a portion of their extra income with the government…” (DNA, Mumbai Edition).

And what happens to governance and the honest common man? No comments offered! Remember the professor specializes in finance!

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19 May 2008

No Future in Futures

Most leading newspapers (including the financial) in Delhi have been carrying views favoring future trading and exports of food grains, DNA (Mumbai) has carried Devinder Sharma‘s views, which point in a different direction. According to him, speculation in food grains needs to be curbed if the poor and farmers are to benefit. Take the look at his concluding remark -

“…..The basic objective behind promoting the futures market as the ultimate saviour of the farming community is the intention to dismantle the procurement system. Once the MSP is withdrawn and the procurement system is dismantled, trade will look forward to extracting its pound of flesh. This is what happened at the time of the Bengal famine in 1943 and, if the same system had prevailed, India would never have emerged from the state of ‘ship-to-mouth’ existence. The choice therefore is limited. As per the recommendations of the Standing Advisory Committee attached to the Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs, there is an urgent need to ban futures trading in 25 essential commodities. “ (DNA. Mumbai Edition).

“…trade restrictions (e.g. Banning of rice exports) as a short term palliative could make matters worse, not just for (net) rice importers but also exporters- especially by denying rice producers gain for trade. That the poor for whom rice is a staple food- especially in South Asia- would in general also benefit in the counterfactual of no such trade restrictions is of course unexceptional. So, if this analysis’s anything to go by, the price’ of export curbs may in fact be much higher than anticipated.” (Indian Express. Delhi Edition).

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18 May 2008

Exclusively yours

Mint money and quit? According to governmental report, pradhans (head of panchayat in rural areas ) have been getting rich for last ten years. Point to rejoice for gender equality - women are at par with their male counterparts on this account. But what about the source of income? Keep guessing! What about the response of the voters, at whose expense these people get rich? Not surprising, democratic forces work here. Proof- voters hit back as only 14 percent get re-elected in the next elections. But what about governance?

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17 May 2008

Best Advertisement of the Week

The best advertisement of the week has been carried by DNA (Mumbai Edition) on its front page. It’s less of a conventional self ad that one often comes across in newspapers. Why- it airs a lot about the state of journalism with a remarkably catchy punch line- “For Sale, Headlines, Editorials and your Trust”:

“Journalism isn’t that used to be. News is fabricated, not reported. Newspapers aren’t what they used to be. They aren’t realms of paper crammed with truth. Indeed they are crammed with advertisements. And what’s frightful is, not all these advertisements stand up and admit they are advertisements. They distinguish themselves as headlines. As news reports. At times even as editorials. Because each of them come with a price tag. A price that is, regrettably, set by some newspapers and, more regrettably on that has takers by the dozens. In fact, there are rate cards for buying space. And no, we are not talking about advertising space. There’s a fees for interviews. Another for news articles…” (DNA. Front page. Mumbai Edition).

Watch out: Reaction of other newspapers on this? That is, if any!

Editorial of the Day - Where are the jobs?

“…Reports have suggested that for some 3,000 posts of educated youth, there were more than 50,000 contenders. This indeed is an alarming situation and cannot be dealt with casually. The magnanimity of the issue and the spiraling number of jobless youth including the educated ones needs a multi-pronged strategy. …Much of the problem does not simply stem from the delay in interviews and selections for various posts. It also stems from totally lop-sided and ill-conceived economic policies that do not take into account the human resource index and the ability factor while framing an employment policy in Jammu and Kashmir. There is no evaluation and assessment process preceding the economic policy. In fact, it wouldn't be quite off the mark to conclude that there is virtually no policy on employment.….Unless there is an attempt to link the issue of unemployment to a vibrant economic policy, the issue cannot be tackled with piece-meal measures. Unemployment reflects the staggering economy of the state. There can be no economic revival or reconstruction, how much ever money the state may manage to get from the Centre as doles or packages, if the unemployment issue is not addressed“. (Kashmir Times. Jammu)

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16 May 2008

Good news

There are about nine million rickshaw pullers in the country, of which only five per cent own a rickshaw. These rickshaw puller are the people who come searching for work in the cities from remote rural areas. After doling out about fifty per cent of earnings as rent for the rickshaw, they are left with only Rs 50-70. Some time back Punjab National Bank (PNB) came forward to lend them money for buying a rickshaw. And the scheme has been a success -win-win for both. Guess what, who is more credit worthy- industrialists or rickshaw pullers? If Punjab National Bank is to be believed, it’s the latter! So who should get more credit?

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15 May 2008

News & TV

What is the advantage of a Twenty four hour TV channel networks? Does one need to elaborate on the obvious? But what about the fallouts? Take a clue from the editorial of Indian Express- “…Twenty four hour TV channel networks are greedy for material, they devour every development and spin incidents for maximum public attention. They are also free to ‘correct’ their own hasty facts as the story evolves, but there’s no rescue for the hapless souls who put their foot in it, caught in the glare of lights. …TV converts news and politics into a spectator -sport…”.

Inflation & Follow-up

Few days ago, the newspapers were sincerely carrying news items, articles, editorials on the ever rising inflation. However, today, scanned leading newspapers for a follow-up. But there were hardly any. One could turn around & say - well, terror attack in Jaipur has taken most of space. True, but then why still carry reports about three events & personalities? Does this signify an acceptance of high food prices, despite abundant food production in the country?
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14 May 2008

Ideal Follower

The crux of Srinivasan’s Amsterdam diary is - don’t worry be happy! Worry about what? Problems of bureaucracy and red tapism in India. Why take a look- “…But are Western countries all that they are touted to be? Have they managed to overcome the problems of bureaucracy and red tapism? Not really…Not just in India, but in Amsterdam too building works takes forever to complete…There are bound to be more such examples elsewhere and on other days. Really no need to rush to put the Indian bureaucracy to pasture, for it may not be doing too badly considering the size of the county and the number of people, and so long”. (Hindu Business Line). Hang on, why not take clues from better off countries, for a change!

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13 May 2008

Why me?

Who benefits from inflation? According to Arun Kumar- .. it is the businessmen and the corrupt who benefit from the inflation. Their income rise at the expense of all the rest. Their collective profits and incomes have shot up in the last six years. They splurge even more than earlier. A middle class family whose child has not been able to join the corporate sector or is not in a position to generate illegal income, feels something is desperately wrong- others are marching ahead while they are struggling to retain their position in the pecking order…(Tribune).

Yes, Arun has correctly pointed out to the prevailing corruption and doling out of corporate jobs through so called networking. And if one is not a part of this ‘network‘, the job market is indeed grim. And needless to point out the obvious fact that majority are out of the ongoing party. These youngsters raised with middle class values - 3 Hs- higher studies, hard work, and honesty, are left wondering- ‘why me’? Even in the academic arena, they have no chance of finding a teaching job- thanks to re-employment of retired teachers upto the age of 70 years. And finally, if they wish to start off on there own, who will finance their adventure? What is the way out?

Solution- India’s high rank in corruption is a known fact. Therefore, don’t look at others who have reached the top via ladder of contacts (read corruption)? Try exposing this transparent ladder.

Public Opinion

The Union Health Minister has not received overwhelming support from the media for his efforts to curb liquor & tobacco consumption in the country. But why? Reflection of market driven urban bias manifestation? However, what about the response of the common man? Take a clue from letter to Editors in Hindu- the common man has welcomed his efforts:

…It is unfortunate that Dr. Ramadoss has been criticised by film stars and business lobbies for his crusade against tobacco and alcohol….(Padmanabhan. Srirangam).

….Dr. Ramadoss’ tireless campaign against smoking and drinking is highly laudable….(Milton. Maruthancode).

…Our media and NGOs should stand behind him (Ramadoss) to help him build a disaster free India…(Vedamurthy. Detroit)

…Most of the mainstream media have sided with film actors on the issue of nonsmoking and drinking in an attempt to gain publicity….His (Ramadoss) arguments are quite appropriate considering that he is responsible for improving the nation’s health. (Balaji. Chennai).

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12 May 2008

Media Round-Up

…Today’s media, especially the mainstream media, are preoccupied with urban issues and the lifestyles of the rich and the affluent. This urban bias manifests itself in varied ways, whether it is in the print or in the electronic media, depending on their owners and managers. For such market driven media, the problems of the rural poor are not a matter of concern. It is said that the marketing managers, and not the editors, decide the policy of many newspapers. This is a matter of concern…(Sonmath Chatterjee. Lok Sabha Speaker. Hindu).

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11 May 2008

One Up

It’s interesting to witness a debate in the public domain, true sign of a vibrant democracy. However, if the issue is debated on a piecemeal basis, ignoring the larger context- the whole point of a healthy debate gets lost. The latest is the health Minister Vs. veteran Actor. Today, from the contents and the tone, the Union Health Minister is definitely one up. Take a look:

“…Minister Ramadoss has had a bad day today. Dr. Venugopal…..is back after winning in the honorable SC (supreme court)…The Times (Times of India) carried a bold review of some of our statements on the desirability of banning drinking scenes in films, But it carried an even more bolder review of the massive increase in production of wine in the country, accompanied by glorified figures of past and present statistics… Mr. Ramadoss, the government is taking pride in the increased production of alcohol and you are wanting to stop actors to stop drinking scenes because they encourage alcoholism. Tell me, how are you expecting the consumption of this enhanced wine production to land? …(Amitabh Bachchan. Actor. Times of India. Delhi Edition Page 16)

“…My campaigns against tobacco, alcohol, and junk food have drawn flak within the country, although globally the efforts of the Health and Family Welfare ministry have been appreciated…..In the past 15 years, alcohol production has increased from 900 millions litres to 2.3 billion litres., making India the largest consumer of alcohol in South east Asian region. India alone consumers 65 percent of the region’s total production. The average age of drinking has come down from 28 years to 19 years….India’s strength lies in its 600 million people below the age of 30... They are also at risk of getting addicted to tobacco, alcohol, drugs and junk food that is extremely unhealthy. I categorically state that all four are potential killers. Two- thirds of India’s deaths are linked to tobacco, alcohol and junk food. Do these figures not give my critics enough food for thought? …alcohol not only destroys individuals but also families. ..Creatively as an art should be used for improving lives instead of taking them… Still, surrogate advertisements have increased with the latest platform being the Indian Premium League cricket matches, which have a massive viewership…I refuse to be cowed down by industry sponsored campaigns and articles….If the health Minister should not address these issues, then who should?” (Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss. Hindu, Delhi Edition. Page 12).

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10 May 2008

Remembering: revolt of 1857

Scanned leading newspapers from all parts of the country, baring a few, there is a complete silence on the significance of today’s date. Also there is no advertisement from any ministry of the Union Government at the end of one year of 150th Anniversary of the Great revolt of 1857, viewed as India’s first war of Independence. Nor is there any information about any function by the Union Government in the power capital of India.

The Mumbai edition of DNA stands out tall from the rest of the crowd. The paper has minced no words in exposing the governmental apathy in this regard. The Front page carries a critical report by the Team DNA, entitled -” Whose war was it anyway? 1857”. The report dwells on lack of celebrations in the State of Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal- leading centres of revolt, despite funds allocated by the Union Government for the same. Also, page two, carries opinions of the common man (in Mumbai & Pune) and the historians about the revolt of 1857. Moreover paper has also devoted page 13 for 1857. The must to read is the editorial- “ It is a mystery as to why when India is really surging ahead as a nation in the international arena, the 150th anniversary of the 1857 rebellion has been passed in such a unceremonious fashion. …Yet, what any mature government should have done was to place before the people all the facts and point out the need to understand history without nursing grudges. The rebellion of a few soldiers which because a conflagration against a foreign rule has a place in our collective memory. It needs to be examined, studied and celebrated….”.

SARCAJC will be soon bring to you- more on revolt of 1857.

Corruption concern

In the era of high food prices, there is no scarcity of food grains in India but the real problem is massive corruption (called leakages). Latest leakage update- Central Bureau of Investigation has unearthed massive racket what smuggled rice meant for food for work programme in the state of Tamil Nadu & Andhra Pradesh to Bangalesh & Sri Lanka (Free Press Journal. Mumbai). What about the other States?

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9 May 2008

The Regulator

The surrogate ads of liquor are making a regular appearance in the media, despite all rules and regulations. Why doesn’t the Union government take strict measures to curb these surrogate ads? Take a clue from Alok Sharma in Financial Chronicle (Hyderabad). According to Alok, that the Union Government is all set to unleash a surrogate campaign for the next general elections worth astonishing - Rs. 10 billion. “… Of cause, the booze ads that don’t talk about ehe booze, the government won’t talk about elections, the intended purpose is to promote awareness of its achievements….and it won’t cost the government a paisa…feat achieved by the simple but time tested and CAG proof expedient of passing the buck to companies owned by it ..”

Followers

True, Mahatma Gandhi is faithfully remembered on a few selected days in a year as a ritual but what about his principles and philosophy? Take a clue from the Editorial of Kashmir Times (Jammu) - “… Gandhiji set an example by leading a simple and austere life. But our politicians who claim to follow Gandhiji, follow this axiom only in the beach. They never practice what they preach to others….Simplicity and austerity have not been the virtues of these disciples of Gandhi. Particularly do when the cost of their luxurious living has to be bore by the poor state exchequer.” Is anyone listening?

Corruption concern

“….At administrative level the officials do not make honest efforts and have a bad eye on the government money. It should not come as a surprise that the grain meant for Annapurna yojna is being sold in the market. All this is because transparent working system is not being adopted. Either the monitoring system for effective implementation of these programmes is weak or it is no in existence at all….Government policies, schemes and programmes should not be left to their fate after introduction” (Editorial. Central Chronicle. Bhopal).
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8 May 2008

Liquor flows

The page three of Delhi Times, supplement of Times of India is carrying an advertisement with a punch line- This summer shake, swing and shiver’ More to come- ‘Bacardi’ in large letters along the logo, followed by ‘summer freeze’! Now what does Bacardi indicate, definitely not an ice cream! But hang on, direct as well as surrogate liquor advertisements are not allowed in India? Big deal, the surrogate part of the ad is carried in extremely small font, not readable even with a normal magnifying glass!

It seems liquor companies are having a nice time in India. More news about liquor propagation- micro beer brewery/Beer garden is all set to come up in a Mall in the cyber city of Gurgaon in area of more than 30,000 sq feet. (Hindustan Times). The liquor consumption in India is already on all time high, now a beer garden in the mall, which is visited by people from all age groups! How can the State allow such a promotion tactic only for a gain of Rs.250,000 as extra annual license fees! What would Mahatma Gandhi say on this? However, the newspaper did not offer any critical comment in the news report.

Recruitment Bias

According to latest statistics presented by the government, 51,079 students were awarded doctoral degree in India, while 33,262 qualified UGC-NET- government’s test, mandatory for a teaching job during 2004-2006. However despite this massive pool of qualified candidates, till date, 20 percent of the sanctioned teaching posts or 1,707 posts in Central Universities are lying vacant. Why? Reason- qualified teachers are not available, therefore the decision to reappoint retired teachers upto age of 70 years has been taken. In many cases posts were re-advertised after the authorities claimed to find suitable candidates (Tribune).

However, in reality, is this the case? Nope! The above mentioned statistics say the opposite. Is this a conspiracy to reappoint old, retired teachers instead of deserving fresh blood? It’s rather sad to views these intelligent, qualified but unemployed students often self-questioning - ‘why did I study so much?’ The government appointed committee - Chadha Committee has noted- “ considering the large number of NET qualified candidates, it is quite surprising that suitable candidates were not available for teaching jobs If this is so, it indicates serious malaise of sub-standard quality of education where we have a numbers, but not the quality”. SARCAJC Investigation revealed that the process of recruitment of University teachers is often characterized by pressures of various kinds. Therefore what ails is the recruitment process and not the candidates. And for that matter, reappointment of retired teachers till age of 70 years should be scrapped immediately. Why should these teachers be given a chance of second innings when their students are on the streets -unemployed? A topic for a sting operation! Is the problem of unemployment in every State? Take a clue from extracts of the report by Athar Parvaiz regading state of unemployment that is prevailing in Kashmir valley:

The employment department in Kashmir valley has received 39,000 applications against 3574 job vacancies in 12 days from the qualified candidates for different posts in various departments even as the department is expecting thousands of more applications before the last date for submission of application forms expires on May 15. In a recent order, issued by the government, the employment department was asked to collect applications from the qualified candidates against the posts advertised through the notifications since the Services Selection Board did not have enough manual power in the districts of Kashmir valley for collecting the application forms…But since limited employment avenues are available in the government sector, the number of unemployed youth is swelling with each passing year. There are no accurate figures of unemployment available with the government, but rough
estimates put the number at more than “five lakh” qualified youth (Kashmir Times).

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7 May 2008

Advertisement Watch

It’s bonanza time for liquor manufacturers. Despite a ban on direct and indirect advertisements of liquor, they are advertising via ongoing IPL cricket matches, courtesy the teams! Likewise, an advertisement has appeared in Times of India (Delhi Edition. Page 29), which reads- “ Seagram’s Royal Stag proudly supports Mumbai Indians…”. And in extremely small prints - 'cricket gear'. Come off, is Seagram’s Royal Stag a cricket gear! Now this is apart from the cricket team - Royal Challenge, promoted by UB Group. Now don’t ask what's Royal Challenge- a cricket gear or liquor!


Road Cess

A day after reporting on its front page, an extremely critical editorial has appeared in Pioneer on alleged missing road cess worth Rs. 204 billion. Take a dip in extremely critical waters- "The road cess swindle is not just about motorist being taken for a ride. It is an extraordinary breach of faith….Liberalisation has barely made a dent. The state uses much of its revenue …to pay for itself. What this has meant is that the government has run out of money for development….As the road cess disaster establishes, however, the government cannot be trusted, In India it remains an untamed, extortionate animal, continually looking for ways to harass the citizen”..(Editorial. Pioneer). But why not use Right to Information Act to strengthen democratic values?


It’s not the first time that road cess has invited concern from a newspaper. Take a clue from the take of Bharat Sanskarak in the year 1876-

…The income derived from it (road cess) is large; it remains to be seen how this sum will be disbursed. Local wants should be met by local funds. Some means should be speedily adopted for this purpose; then will the people be satisfied and thank the government for removing their wants with money derived from themselves. It is now clear that imposition of road cess has not produced dissatisfaction. Yet it behoves government to enquire whether oppressions are practiced on the ignorant tenants by the Zamidars in connection with this tax.

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6 May 2008

Pulse & President Bush

The editorial in Pioneer - ‘Bush fire: India’s self created food crisis’ concludes with a small Pulse analysis:

“…India has seen a decrease in pulse production from 14.26 million tonnes in 1990-91 to 13.38 million tonnes in 2004-05. This despite the fact that, among all countries, it has the biggest mass of land devoted to pulse production. In refusing to anticipate increased consumption- as people ate more or, simply, as there were more people to eat in the first place- India is paying for its short-sightedness. Is the American President responsible for this?

Just to get some facts right about pulses- Latest stats of Pulse production reveal an upward trend. Take a look at latest Economic Survey, according to which the over all increase in production of food grains for 2006-07 was largely due to higher production of wheat by 6.5 million tonnes (9.3 per cent) and of pulses by 0.8 million tonnes (6 percent). It is true, compared to other food grain like wheat, rice & rest, the yield per hectare is lower for pulses, but can pulse production be compared with the rest ? Nope! Hey, why not? Simply because the main crucial denominator is missing from pulse production- and that is irrigation. Only 15 percent of the land under pulse production is irrigated, rest is at the mercy of rain god. Now compare this with irrigate area under wheat (90%), rice (56%), sugarcane (93%), (source- statistical abstract of India) - and the picture is obvious Still, the pulse production has shown an upward trend of six percent! Now that’s good news, given no intensive drive to extend irrigation to pulse growing land. Why bring President Bush here at all!

Mere Play?

India is sought after health tourism destination in the world, but what is the state of public health hospital? Take a clue from two reports appearing in Hindustan Times (Delhi Edition) according to which untrained, unauthorized people are playing doctor -doctor at the expenses of the poor patients. A must to read: “Sweepers play paramedics at AIIMS” and “ Baby dies as nurse’s daughter plays doc” .

Duel Pricing- Shameless ?

“ …The government sells Taj Mahal tickets to foreigners for 10 times the price we pay. Same at every other monument that visitors from abroad would be interested in. This is a shameless practice going on for years”. (MetroNow. Page 4). Hang on. What’s shameful about this? Even in many museums abroad, duel pricing policy exists.

Moreover, this same ‘shameless’ dual pricing policy exists in many leading foreign Universities also. They charge massive tuition fees for overseas student vis-à-vis home students. All this is a money spinner for their economy and is going on for years. For instance, take a clue from the prestigious London School of Economics & Political Science. If they are they not ashamed to bill a poor student from developing world this massive tuition fees, why should we? Infact, hike on the entrance tickets for better maintenance of monuments. Time to get off that colonial hangover!

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5 May 2008

Saga continues

A heading of a news report on the front page of Hindu Business Line, reads- “Liquor cos put ad campaigns on hold”. Now according to this reports- ‘a ban on surrogate advertisements on television has put liquor companies in a bind.’. It talks about everything but the fate of the biggest case of surrogate ad of liquor which is doing rounds not only on television but also in newspapers, magazines, radio. Just a quick recap: Place- the ongoing IPL cricket matches. A Cricket team - named after a liquor brand. Sponsored/promoter- liquor company. Wait & watch. Till the result of IPL finals? Wonder why this news was not reported by other leading newspapers!

Corruption Watch

The SBI fourth quarter net rose by 26 percent. Now this is good news for the biggest public sector bank in India- State Bank of India. Good enough reason for its beaming Chairman, Managing Director and Deputy Director to pose for a photograph (Hindu BusinessLine. 3 May 08).

But is all well on the ground level? Nope, Manoj Chaurasia reports that according to the office bears of SBI Staff Association, the General Secretary of SBI Staff Association has acquired nine luxury cars, 25 bank accounts, properties in various parts of the country and has built huge assets by misappropriating funds of SBI employees. These office bearers have demanded a CBI probe (Statesman).

Point to ponder- what were other office bearers doing when this General Secretary was displaying this wealth? How is it possible that none of his nine luxury cars caught their attention? And such misappropriation of funds didn’t catch their eye, and what about the annual audit? Why whistle-blowers are not encouraged and fully protected by the State?

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4 May 2008

Easy choice?

Yes, there is shortage of food globally. This has seen many big shots across nations accusing each other, which needs no repetition here. What’s the way out from this blame game? The editorial in Business Standard entitled- ‘turning to GM’ has focused on this crucial issue. And the first line says it all- “ What the global food security has done is make is make clear the inevitability of genetically modifies (GM) crops, however controversial they may be”.

But is this the ‘solution’ one expects from a financial newspapers? What would the environmentalists, health experts and agriculture scientists say!

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3 May 2008

Job Done?

Despite claims of a flourishing trillion dollar economy and strong financial sector, efficient financial services is still beyond most common man. Take a clue from the news report by Atiq Khan in Hindu - Around eight years ago, a daily wage earner look a loan of Rs. 3000 for getting his daughter married in the state of Uttar Pradesh. And due to mounting interest of Rs. 20,000 and threats from the moneylender, he committed suicide by setting himself ablaze. Unfortunately, this is not the first time when such a news item has appeared. Atiq reports that money lending is flourishing business in Uttar Pradesh and even the police chief of Bulandshahr has admitted that most cases of harassment by moneylenders gets unreported. It appears that the existing Money lending Act is not serving its purpose. Then why have banks not replaced the these moneylenders? What is the take of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI)? It seems it has no time for these ‘small problems’. Take a clue from the interview of the Governor of Reserve Bank of India, published in the same paper. There is not one word about this problem.

Even the RBI Ombudsman lets off public sector banks, against whom grave charge of deficiency of service gets proved. SARCAJC News Desk came across one such glaring example - recently RBI Ombudsman directed a highly profitable public sector bank to pay the complainant whose cheque was wrongfully dishonoured by this bank, a petty amount of Rs. 1500 as harassment charges! Even the actual loss by the complainant was not compensated! Was this bank a loss making one, likely to close down? Nope! The bank in question was a highly profitable public sector bank that has just witnessed 73.5 per cent increase in net profit for the fourth quarter of this financial year, amounting to whopping 2.06 billion. Is this mere Rs. 1500 adequate compensation for harassing a customer? Nope! Why shouldn’t a percent of its profit be ripped off as penalty by RBI? Surely this would ensure efficient banking service in the future. But why such leniency for the accused, at the cost of the common man, who is fighting against injustice? True, one could approach the courts for further relief. But then what’s the need for RBI Ombudsman anyway?

Advertisement Watch

The largest Bank in India- State Bank of India has published a large advertisement in Indian Express. This ad carries audited financial result for the year ended 31st Match 08 and segment-wise revenue ,results and capital employed. But the catch is the punch line- “ Progress through Parivartan State Bank- the Banker to every Indian”. Hang on, is State Bank of India, the banker to every Indian? Nope! Further, the ad fails to carry the number of branch expansion in rural & urban areas, like-wise split up of number of individual accounts and loan disbursement in rural areas & urban areas vis-à-vis the last five years. Has social responsibility overtaken by profitability concerns- let the figures do the talking!

Corruption concern

“…investments are bring made in the name of public interest, but the common man feels so insecure in the country that the government is not simply bothered about him. There is no accountability…” (Paramjeet Singh from Mohali. Letter to Editor. Tribune).

“Paradoxically, we are living in an age in which those in power take pride in being corrupt. The corrupt use the rules to deny the needy their legitimate dues. ..” (Harjap Singh Aujla from New Jersey. Letter to Editor. Tribune).

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2 May 2008

Knocking the wrong door

The Bar Council of India is asking the lawyers- Are the courts corrupt? (Hindustan Times). But are lawyers not a part of the judicial system? For instance, how many of them encourage corruption by bribing the court master for giving them favourable dates? There is no doubt that there is corruption in judiciary and lawyers are no saints. It is said that findings of the nine page confidential survey by Bar Council of India will be used to improve the standard of legal profession. But how! Instead, the common man would have answered better, the obvious question- 'Are the courts corrupt'!

Advertisement watch: Animals

The Animal Welfare Board of India has accused a telecom service provider of indulging in cruelty to animal for an advertisement that shows a pug running after a school bus. According to the notice sent -” the pet dog was made to run, gallop and chase the school bus for a long time on a public road, Thereby the dog was made to undergo severe pain and suffering due to the exhaustion caused by chasing (the bus).” (Tribune).

Point to ponder- Why should animals be used in any advertisements? Remember, an animal made to act in any advertisement is subjected to unnatural conditions and in this manner subjected to anxiety, which amounts to cruelty. Why no such concern was shown by animal welfare board of India for other ads, specially the one which featured monkeys promoting undergarments?

Market Failure

Alcohol consumption in India is rising at a phenomenon rate and age at which people are having their first drink is also coming down. This is not all, according to research finding by National Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience, more than half of those who consume alcohol are drinking hazardous amounts. Unlike the West, where people talk for hours over cocktails and snacks, people in India drink to get drunk. And the amount they spend to get drunk is enormous- 32 per cent & 24 percent of family income in urban & rural area is spent on alcohol (Mail Today. 30 April 08). Guess, in the age of inflation, what happens to other essential family expenditures? Further, is it just a coincidence that the crime graph is also going up?

What is the response of the higher ups? It appears that only Ramadoss, the Union Health has expressed concern over this rising trend of alcoholism. However, many don’t agree to his apprehensions. Latest- the chairperson of the Central Board for Film Certification has advised the Union Minister of Health that he should do something about the growing menace of fake medicine in the country instead of showing concern over film actors consuming alcohol in films (Indian Express). According to the editorial of the same paper, the Union Minister of Health should just stay away from the movies but also acknowledges that the Minister is undeterred in his crusade against evil agents of the media-industrial complex.

The editorial raises a questions on a larger frame - “How far can a government encroach upon individual choice?” True, individual should be free to make a choice, however, most individuals here will not have full knowledge and information of the choices available to him. One cannot assume that all individuals are rational and have perfect information, and will choose the best products. And for liquor & tobacco, there is definite case of market failure. And not to forget the existence of external cost to third parties. Hence, arises the need for intervention by the State.

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1 May 2008

Advantage

Working for a newspapers for quite a while, and then eventually retiring has an advantages, which no other organization/corporate sector can offer. Guess what, your retirement news gets publishes as a news report along with your photograph! Tribune has carried a similar news item regarding its retiring executive from advertising department. However, from the accompanying photograph, the gentlemen appears to be far away from the retiring age!

Point to Ponder- This is not the case for editors/journalists who are unceremoniously removed- latest is the famous Editor of Asian Age- M.J Akbar. Wonder why! 

SARCAJC

SOUTH ASIAN RESEARCH CENTRE FOR ADVERTISEMENT, JOURNALISM & CARTOONS

Sarcajc Research in Journalism Advertisement & Cartoon 

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