May 2009 Newspaper Watch

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

31 May 2009

Election Watch

The alleged controversy about reliability Electronic Voting Machine has reached the Indian Courts. Arun Dikshit reports in Navbharat Times that two petitions have been filed in the Jabalpur and Chennai High Court. It has been alleged that till date election commission has not conducted any examination of the security of these machines, which are based on technology which dates back 20 years and the experience of the developed world has also been cited. Point to ponder- why was this aspect not seriously considered prior to General Elections by the so called independent election experts in India?

Advertisement Watch

World No Tobacco Day has been marked by large sized advertisements in all leading newspapers. One ad informs- “Today India joins the league of public health champion countries by introducing pictorial health warnings on all tobacco products packages”. It also cautions that non compliance by producers and manufactures will attract fine upto Rs. 5000 or imprisonment up to 2 years or both. However, given quantum of pending cases in various Courts, will this actually work? Another advertisement by State Tobacco Control Cell of Delhi features effective photograph along with “Show the truth. Picture warning save lives.” However, according to Sutapa Biswas, the executive director of Cancer Foundation of India, pictures originally suggested such as the “skull and bone” sign and “a dead foetus” would have been far more effective and the present pictorial warnings are too mild (Hindu).

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30 May 2009

Election Watch

Post elections the cabinet has been formed, the joy is being reflected in the large sized cartoon on the front page of Aaj Samaj. However, the Editor- in-Chief of New Indian Express, Aditya Sinha has shocking election news- "The 2009 Lok Sabha polls in Tamil Nadu were not rigged but purchased. No prizes for guessing by whom. Cost estimates run around Rs 1,000 crore; the talk is that approximately Rs 600 crore contributed by “A. King”, the rest by a man who even our mild-mannered prime minister wants to keep at arm’s length. Sources say the operation to purchase voters began on May 10, and continued till the last vote was cast on May 13.But let’s face it, no crime has been committed; if the voters don’t mind being bribed, then case closed (except for in one constituency where votes were counted, recounted and recounted before everyone was allowed to return Home. It stank of something stronger than just bribing voters). Yet it is something that rankles the losers, though no one is speaking about this publicly because one, they’re in a state of shock…. Some in the opposition have raised doubts about the reliability of electronic voting machines, but not to any effect….”. Hang on, this is no simple news and needs serious probe. Adiya’s assertion that “.if the voters don’t mind being bribed, then case closed..” has serious repercussions for the health of the largest democracy of the world.

News of Day

Three sister newspapers, Fairfield Weekly and Hartford Advocate and New Haven Advocate hit the stand this week in Connecticut, USA, with a common cover designed in screaming fonts: “Sorry we’ve been outsourced. This issue was made in India”. But why? Take a clue- “We hired Indian freelance journalists to write the paper this week. Here’s why we did it…Vanishing revenues have put the newspaper industry in a death spiral, and many papers long ago outsourced other functions (like IT support centers and telemarketing) to India. We devised this issue as an experiment on what outsourced news might look like….We believe in local news that’s produced locally…Call us old-school, but we think good, old-fashioned shoe-leather journalism is worth the price. Outsourcing could certainly fill pages, probably very cheaply, but what’s lost is the very essence of local newspapers: presence. At city hall, the local music club or out on the street talking up average folks, presence is what sets local newspapers (dinosaurs though they are sometimes) apart, and what outsourced news could never replace. But don’t take our word for it. Have a read and decide for yourself.” True, local news is best produced locally!

From the Court

The Supreme Court has ticked off doctors for increasing number of medical negligence cases being reported in the country. "Doctors can today do anything. They can leave behind a forcep or a scissor inside a patient's stomach and get away with it. "Six months down the line when the patient develops pain and comes back, then you would discover the scissor left behind in the stomach and then remove it," a vacation bench of Justices Markandeya Katju and Deepak Verma remarked. (Free Press Journal).

Statistics of Day

The monthly income of an average Indian for the first time in the country's history has crossed Rs 3,000, thanks to economic reforms and a high growth rate of above 9 per cent achieved for three years since 2005-06. The per capita income, a measure of average income of a citizen, went up 12.2 per cent to Rs 37,490 per annum during 2008-09, said the advance estimate for national income released by the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) on Friday (Indian Express). Is this a statistics to rejoice? Why not measure degree of skewness to measure growing income inequality instead?

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29 May 2009

Editorial of Day

 

Laws guaranteeing citizen access to state decisions and documents, such as the national Right to Information (RTI) Act are often seen, by supporters and opponents alike, as a reining in of the state’s powers. In a way, it certainly is, being a check on arbitrariness and a formal acknowledgment of responsibilities to the citizen. But the fact is that anyone concerned with using the power and resources of the state to further public good and effective delivery should see it as a weapon to this end. …Yet, laws like the RTI allow an answer to many real dilemmas of governance in a system such as ours…The better news is that in a few months, citizens in 450 districts will have access to NIC studios for such hearings. Just imagine the revolution waiting to happen, if state agencies and citizen bodies work together.… And not just on RTI or petitions to departments; imagine what it can mean for court hearings. ‘Can’ is the right word; none of this may happen, for the main hurdles are not technological. What is new is that technology is changing the boundaries of what is possible, in amazing ways. Only if citizens (and media) band and push for its use. (New Indian Express).Economics of Day

The Global rating agency Moody’s has warned that India’s financial strength has weakened due to its ‘poor debt affordability’ and the country’s fiscal policy predictability and credibility have also deteriorated. According to Moody the stable outlook has recently faced growing pressure, mainly due to substantial deterioration in the fiscal position amidst a rise in India’s dependence on foreign capital flows to drive its investment cycle. Even the bad debt is on the rise and non performing assets(NPAs) are set to double (Asian Age). But still the stock market is on the rise though domestic funds have staying away from. The rally is led by foreign institutional investors (FIIs). Point to ponder- how much is coming in through PN Notes/hedge funds? Gandhi Watch

Two young boys and a middle-aged man died and six others were critically injured when they fell victim to drunken driving in the capital. The victims were daily labourers and some sold household utensils to make a living. Culprit- liquor? Indian Express reports that anger is growing among denizens and problems have erupting because of new liquor shops opened recently in Indore. The residents of Gurgaon are protesting against liqour shops, but in vain. These shops have not speared even the green belt of the region but no action is being taken against them.

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28 May 2009

Concern of Day

Dhananjay Mahapatra reports on the front page of Times of India that in a blow to the concept of ‘speedy justice’, the Supreme Court has more than 50,000 cases pending This backlog has happened despite efforts by the Supreme Court to step up the rate of disposal of cases. An upward trend in number of cases being filed is also seen in High Court (3.9 million cases pending), Trial court (26 million cases).

It seems now, RTI Act (2005) is the most effective tool to fight injustice’. Dhanya Nair reports that Right to Information Act (RTI) is reaching rural areas and is bringing some positive change in their lives. “The RTI Act has often been used in urban areas frequently but in rural areas no one is aware about it. Hence, we took this initiative to empower each and every person in the villages above 14 years to use the Act to bring about a positive change in their lives,” said former police commissioner and a member of the trust Julio Ribeiro. Interestingly, most of the volunteers were young girls who have benefited from the Act (Indian Express). But it’s a long way home….

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27 May 2009

News of Day

Recently, front page of Times of India had reported that government is arming itself to censor news websites. The draft rules released this month empowers designated Central government officer to block any public access to any information on internet for wide ranging reasons of security and national interest.(22/5/09). Media Gag, a hangover of the British Raj, in a globalised world? Today, the editorial of New Indian Express has focused on this issue. Take a look- “…central or state governments are authorised to block and penalise any website for almost anything — the reasons cited are the country’s integrity, defence, security, friendly relations with foreign states, public order, anything likely to offend these things and the prevention of incitement of any offence related to these grounds. …To have the state intervene in the contents of any website or blog is not a good thought. The matter doesn’t end with blocking access; all telecom operators and Internet service providers face monetary damages, beside criminal prosecution, for disobedience. Though …..Top officials have dismissed all criticism of the draft, saying the due process of inviting objections was followed and is over…If the general public fail to react, this notification will be the first significant achievement of the re-elected government, now claiming to general media agreement, that it has earned a mandate from the people for its policies and actions. This point is raised to make two issues. One, that we need this sort of early reminder to realise that no party or politician should ever be trusted on fundamental liberties. Two, that no mandate authorises this sort of assault on basic rights of expression. If you agree, make your voice heard. (New Indian Express).This news has not seen any response from the leading Hindi Newspapers or from other leading mainstream English newspapers in the capital. Wonder why?

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26 May 2009

Corruption watch

Geeta Gupta reports that Delhi Jal Board (DJB) has finally set its eyes on completing the second phase of the Yamuna Action Plan (YAP II) in Delhi. The Yamuna Action Plan was initiated way back in 1993 to clean river Yamuna but “the project has been under fire for not cleaning even a cusec of water despite spending over Rs 12 billion..”.

Now the DJB says a major part of the project will be completed by March 2010, in time for the Commonwealth Games. (Indian Express). Have the people identified for wasting Rs. 12 billion of tax payer’s money and consequently making the main street drink contaminated water for more than a decade? Huge leakages continue. Nitin Jain reports that information under Right to Information has revealed that adjoining district of Chandigarh still has several elementary schools which lack basic facilities like drinking water, toilets, teachers and buildings, despite the fact that special grants amounting to over Rs 70 million have been spent on elementary education in the district over the last two years. Atleast 27 Government Elementary Schools are without potable water, 115 without toilets and 250 of the total 956 sanctioned posts of teachers are lying vacant across the district. Such is the state of affairs that a single teacher caters to as many as 162 students at one school and a dismal 2 students in another (Indian Express).

Last month, AICC General Secretary Rahul Gandhi, who is also seen by many as the next PM, had acknowledged the scale of rampant corruption prevailing in the country and stated that 'only 10 paise out of Rs. 100 reaches beneficiaries even now'. Any remedy, take a clue from the editorial of New India Express- “Guinness may not consider it a feat worth including in its records book. But an event like the one Kerala witnessed the other day, when the entire staff of a government office was caught red handed by the vigilance sleuths, doesn’t happen every day…..It is a fact that such exercises have done little to insulate the common man from the menace of graft. It also is a reality that the punishment given to culprits is not harsh enough to be a deterrent. Most often, the accused escape the wrath of the law through various loopholes…. There is little or no hesitation about offering a bribe either. No one worries about being punished for that act. To state that anyone who visits a government office is aware of the running rates to get things done is no exaggeration. …Perhaps the onus of making its offices bribe-free lies with the government. Many outdated laws of the raj could be rewritten or revamped to minimise the dependence on babus. But given the grip of employee organisations on the political parties this looks unlikely. And if any state government manages to effect this change, that might invite some real interest from the people at Guinness”. Rahul Gandhi has gone on record that country has no shortage of funds, but the same it has to be used judiciously so that genuine and needy people benefit from development and welfare projects. Hopefully, post elections, it’s agenda - corruption eradication.

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25 May 2009

Election Watch

The special editorial on front page of Tribune comes with self explanatory heading – “Dr Manmohan Singh can go in for bold reforms”. But hang on, again election? A report on front page of Financial Chronicle reveals that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will contest for Lok Sabha from Rohtak. The ‘safe’ seat will have to be vacated for the PM by newly elected son of the Chief Minister of Haryana who won it with a handsome margin of 4,45,000 votes. A cartoon in Dainik Bhaskar depicts that Manmohan Singh has grown up in 2009, compared to 2004 but is in same relay race! However cartoon in Financial Chronicle is a bit guarded, here the common man tells PM (holding a report of 100 day plan)-“We wish you have an extended honeymoon”. The main burning problem of Main Street is corruption. “Corruption, it has been pointed out time and again, is one of the major factors holding India back from realising its full potential. In order to fight it, citizens must be taken into confidence and all sections of society galvanised, otherwise government’s efforts cannot succeed. ...” (Editorial. Asian Age). But when justice takes a long time? The front Page of Times of India reports that response to query under RTI reveal that as many as 4400 corruption cases are pending against 3400 employees of Municipal Corporation of Delhi. The query was filed by consumer activists- “...All tainted officers listed in the RTI query have managed to avoid prosecution for years and continue to sit in comfortable positions and make more money”. Kumar Sameer Singh reports in Rashtriya Sahara that whether it is Municipal Corporation of Delhi or Delhi Development Authority, corruption is rampant. Point to ponder- if this is the situation in the power capital of India, what about smaller towns and villages? Hopefully, eradication of corruption will be priority area for the new government. Anniversary Watch

The front page of Rajasthan Patrika, carries a special editorial on completion of one year in the State of Madhya Pradesh with heading- “Praiseworthy partnership”. The high point is the embossed philosophy. Take a clue- ..The copy of Patrika in your hand is body of Patrika. What you understand by reading is knowledge of brain area. Which you associate with your life, is the soul of Patrika...Patrika has touched heart of every reader...”. A self advertisement of same newspaper, shouts on page 14, in English - “Cash the Tiger Quiz!”. A Hindi newspaper inviting readers to ‘cash the Tiger Quiz’ in English!

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24 May 2009

Election Watch

Manmohan Singh is indeed the star of the Indian Elections and this is being faithfully reflected in colorful cartoons in Aaj Samaj. The large sized cartoon on the front page of Aaj Samaj shows the train of UPA leaving the station, leaving behind the aspirant allies. And at the driver’s seat is Manmohan Singh, along with co-passenger- Sonia Gandhi. The same newspaper has also devoted a full page to three cartoonists who look at the result of general elections from the eyes of cricket- “The great IPL”. And yes, Manmohan Singh is the star batsman here. Advertisement Watch

Most newspaper have carried an advertisement issued by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India with a punch line- “Specific health warnings to be displayed on all tobacco product packs w.e.f. 31st May 2009”. Incidentally, today many advertisements of different Pan Masala have appeared in Hindi newspapers with eye catchy punch lines, such as:

“Like this!…NO one…”(Dainik Jagran)

“Junoon of victory…” (Dainik Jagran)

“Oh brother…dial phone…tell overyone”. (Rashtriya Sahara)

However the mandatory warning that tobacco is injurious for health comes such a small font that one can hardly read! Will the new specific pictorial health warning also meet similar fate? Another governmental advertisement in various newspapers reminds that today is Polio Sunday and “Take your child upto five years of age to the nearest Polio Booth for giving polio drops”. Hopefully, this time no child will be left out & Polio will be eradicated.

News of Day

There is acute water crisis on the main street, both rural & urban. Nai Duniya has devoted two full pages to this water crisis stretching across the country. A must to read. It is an eye opener for all those who rejoice soaring stock market and aim only for economic growth. Sustainable Development anyone?
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23 May 2009

Election Watch

The push & pulls for ‘favourite’ portfolios is leading the post election news. The cartoon in Dainik Jagran features a parrot asking the obvious- “Who wants –‘Rail’ Who wants –‘Home’ Who wants – ‘Foreign’...”. The common man holding the country responds by asking a pertinent question- “”...and Country’!?!” Hindustan is carrying several interesting cartoons and caricatures and satirical poems- a must to view. Take a look at the variety of headlines:

Coronation of Manmohan in Delhi Durbar (Business Standard, Hindi Edition)

Start, superb! (Aaj Samaj)

A false start? (Mint).

Cong shows DMK No Karuna (Times of India)

Again comes Singh’s convoy (Nai Duniya)

Manmohan Singh sworn in as PM (Tribune)

Man goes again with Gaddi (Economic Times. Hindi Edition)

Five New faces in Manmohan team-1 (Pioneer)

Leaving behind DMK on outer UPA express leaves (Punjab Kesari)

19 –member Cabinet sworn in, more to come next week (Business Standard)

They solemnly affirm – and wait (Indian Express)

PM uncorks vintage wine (Mail Today)

Indian Premier’s League-I (Asian Age)

‘Team A’ of Manmohan takes oath (Business Bhaskar)

Manmohan, 19 Cabinet Ministers sworn in (Hindu)

Bargaining for power spoils the fun (Dainik Jagran)

Team 20 of Manmohan (Loksatta).

Manmohan again holds power (Dainik Bhaskar)

Manmohan start second innings with strength (Rastriya Sahara).

Haryana’s bag remains Empty (Amar Ujala)

These are political moon...(Hindustan)

Most newspapers have carried a photograph accompanying the above headlines. However the best photograph has been carried by Aaj Samaj, daily Hindi newspaper, which focused on hands of Manmohan Singh, signing, along with few lines- “...now people will view history. More than face....Look at pen. Piece of paper. And one signature. This is the way history is formed. Not by shouting. ... So that it’s in the record”.

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22 May 2009

News of Day

The front page report on Times of India comes with headlines- “Govt arming itself to censor news websites”. Manoj Mitra reveals that the Indian Government is seeking to censure news portals and other websites. The draft rules released this month empowers designated Central government officer to block any public access to any information on internet for wide ranging reasons of security and national interest. And there is no provision of a prior hearing to the affected website. What’s the take of Times of India- “The desire to curb the media’s freedom seems to run deep in the government? How else do you explain that while the draft rules give sweeping powers to officials, no attention has been paid to basic thing like a hearing first?....The government should think this through before it finalises the draft rules.” Take a clue from Bill Gates, according to him, government attempts to censor websites or blogs would fail since the banned information could get out in defiance of official efforts. The spread of private e-mail means online users could distribute banned news despite government injunctions. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Andy Burnham had said he believes that new standards of decency need to be applied to the web. He was planning to negotiate with Barack Obama’s incoming American administration to draw up new international rules for English language websites. The Cabinet minister described the internet as “quite a dangerous place” and said that he wants internet-service providers (ISPs) to offer parents “child-safe” web services. However, the U.S. Congress has drafted a Global Online Freedom Act-“ To prevent United States businesses from cooperating with repressive governments in transforming the Internet into a tool of censorship and surveillance, to fulfill the responsibility of the United States Government to promote freedom of expression on the Internet, to restore public confidence in the integrity of United States businesses, and for other purposes”. Way out? Take a clue from the Press Complaints Commission director Tim Toulmin: "We're not in favour of regulating the internet. You can't regulate it...But unless there is a voluntary code there are no forms of redress. The flow of information should not be regulated by the government" (BBC News. 28 November 2006).Election Watch

Three cartoons sum up the current post election scenario. The cartoon in Hindustan Times features Manmohan Singh sitting amused, under the banner of National Employment Guarantee Scheme. Guess what, jokers from a circus are approaching him! Leading the line for an employment are former allies like Mayawati, Lalu, Amar Singh,Mulayam Singh as jokers.! The little donkey sitting at the end of cartoon does the taking- “Hire them,...If only for the sake of cartoonist!”. While on the other hand, the approved allies and the Congress leaders are playing a Game of Musical Chairs, while music is being provided by Manhoman Singh (drum) & Sonia Gandhi (keyboard). This cartoon has made a prominent appearance on the front page of Times of India. While the cartoon Asian Age shows Monmohan Singh taking oath –“...and I shall discharge my duties without fear of the Left, RJD, JMM...!”

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21 May 09

Election Watch

After the election results, it’s time for statistics. Uttar Pradesh has once again set a record of sending the maximum number of tainted MPs to the Lok Sabha - 31 of the state's 80 MPs have criminal cases pending against them (New Indian Express). The front page of Times of India carries editorial with explicit heading- “Say no to corrupt ministers”. Take a clue- “…Time has come to say no to corruption …Corruption has become endemic. Worse, and this is the really sad part, we have come to accept it as a way of life…”. Hang on, the common man has still not given up, but one hardly comes across much media initiative to expose the corrupt at the ground level and rescue the honest. After the election results, it’s also time to set priorities for the new government. Suresh Neotia, Chairman of Leading Cement Factory, feels that almost half the country’s population will remain unaffected by strong fiscal measures to pull the country out of recession. “For the unemployed, landless labourers and BPL (below poverty line) families, it hardly matters whether the country is experiencing a financial crisis or not. For them, it is just another day of struggle….the new government should set up a committee to examine how many schemes are still on paper, waiting to be implemented by either the district magistrates or local panchayats. We all know that most schemes exist only on paper…”. Nitin Desai too feels that the real challenge is to begin the process of reform and reconstruction of governance that provides the poor with the skills they require to benefit from new opportunities, that stops treating small producers of goods and services as illegal intruders, that liberates cities from public and private land sharks, that empowers city administrations and that starts doing this first in the poorest parts of the country (Mint).

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20 May 2009

Election Watch

Pratik Kanjilal is not hiding his relief in the desirability of the election results. Take a look- “Once more, the people of India have saved our democracy from being shamed. This general election was developing into one of the most meaningless, embarrassing polls in our history ….”. Mid Day informs that 176 doctorate degree holders were in poll fray but only 23 won. The paper asks- “Did we talk about a change in the system?”. On the other hand (PMK) founder S Ramadoss has alleged that 80 per cent of the irregularities was done in the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) by tampering with them. Stating that EVMs could be tampered with within a few minutes if an expert in the field attempted, Ramadoss said considering these facts countries like United States and Japan had reverted to ballot papers again. He demanded that in India also, hereafter the elections should be held with ballot papers only.(New India Express). Editorial of the same newspaper raises the issue that the widespread intimidation and harassment voters at polling booths for deciding on Rule 49(0). Take a clue- “… Reports also said that those voters who overcame their fears and opted for Rule 49(0) were left to the mercy of ill-informed polling officers who made them wait for hours, mocked them and chided voters for their preference…The thugs at polling booths, in spite of the presence of paramilitary forces, were not local boys flexing their muscles but, in all probability, mercenaries hired by political parties to turn the tide in their favour. The level of protocol awareness of the polling officers should also be a cause of unease for the EC….It is also unfair that the franchise is secret only if the voter chooses one of the names on the EVM, but not if he decides to opt for Rule 49(0)…An option on the lines of Rule 49(0) in the EVM might prevent people abstaining from participating in democracy. With an increase in voter percentages, it could also prompt political parties to introspect, field better candidates and even, perhaps, discuss people’s issues. This is a win-win situation”.

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19 May 2009

Election Watch

Most leading newspapers have carried the news of unprecedented rise in the stock market on the their front page. A way to celebrate the euphoria of election results? However, who is celebrating this great deal amidst slowdown? In a few blistering seconds of trading on Monday, investors in Indian equities blew away dark doubts built over several months and participated in an unprecedented buying spree. Is this a case of irrational exuberance? Going by recent information, we doubt the current valuations of companies can be justified(Mint). Take a clue from Indian Express- Retail investors who remained on the sidelines unsure about the election outcome seem to have largely missed the bus again. It’s foreign institutional investors (FIIs) who invested around Rs 13,600 crore in the last two months who are going to reap the benefits of the ongoing bull rally.On the other hand, domestic funds were sitting on surplus cash diverted this money to the debt market. In fact, domestic funds and FIIs were showing divergent trends. In January and February, when FIIs were big sellers, local funds were buying heavily. And in April and May, this trend reversed with local funds keeping away from the market. But how much is coming through Participatory Notes (PN notes), about which Reserve Bank of India had expressed its doubts? The notorious hedge funds operating through Participatory Notes (PN) accounted for nearly 50 per cent of the FII investments in Indian market. In such investments, the source of funds, or their beneficiaries, are not known. The RBI had been suspicious of the use of PNs, which is seen as a tool used for money laundering. (20 March 08. Hindu Businessline). Any takers for cheers for main street?

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18 May 2009

Election Watch

The cartoon in Mid Day features print channels and Print media, both happy with result of exit polls- “We were the most accurate While the voter is most convincing - “Nobody accepts that I’m the most accurate!” This strength of democracy was once again witnessed loud and clear when the voters in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh rejected once ubiquitous politician dons and their dummy candidates (wife/mother). Giridhar Jha & Piyush Srivastava bring this pleasant news on page 3 of Mail Today. However, it gives an incomplete picture of the entire landscape. The correspondence of Asian Age reports that compared to last Lok Sabha, this Lok Sabha has more member of parliament with criminal cases, as many as 150. Further on their profile, Times of India informs as much as 300 member of parliament are worth Rs 10 million or more, nearly double the number in the last parliament. So, the majority of this parliament (55%) belongs to the super rich. The heading of the editorial of Asian Age cautions the victory euphoria -”Move on reforms, but protect poor”. How far will 77% of Indian living on Rs. 20 per day be protected, is yet to be seen. But today, the stock market celebrated by zooming to unprecedented levels. Point to ponder- there was slowdown there, right?

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17 May 2009

Election Watch

The verdict is out, crystal clear and the cartoons are jubilant. The cartoon in Jagat Kranti features Manmohan happily playing drummer, party worker dancing and smiling Sonia! The cartoon in Economic times shows size of Manmohan Singh grown (compared to 14th Lok Sabha) to fit the size of chair. What about Advani? Take a clue from cartoon in Aaj Samaj where he is shown in garbage can, beaten, while superman Manmohan Singh looks on! The muscles of Manmohan Singh in caricature on front page of Punjab Kesari is must to see! According to Commi Kapoor Manmohan Singh is one Indian PM who did not consult an astrologer to find out whether he would remain PM. The editorial of DNA was spot on to point- “..Once again the voters have said it loud and clearly, even if the pundits failed to see a wave. There is a message in this for all parties…”(DNA).

Singh, still King (Hindustan Times)

Hands up (Statesman)

UPA strides into a 2nd innings (Hindu Business Line)

UPA’s second shot (Financial Express)

Jai Ho! Singh is king again (Navbharat Times)

Hand heavy on all (Amar Ujala)

Judgment of public Singh is King (Nav Akash)

Rahul’s moment (Mint)

Yes (Indian Express)

More Congress, less UPA (Business Standard)

Again got command (Desh Bandhu)

Finally, a free hand (Economic Times)

Cong gets free hand (Times of India)

Congress sweeps back to power (Pioneer)”

Victory of Congress (Punjab Kesari)

Manmagic! (Mail Today)

UPA returns to power (Tribune)

The party has begun (Free Press journal)

The editorial of Hindu Business Line summaries - “..India has voted decisively for stability & in the process provided Dr. Manmohan Singh with unprecedented opportunity to get on with stalled economic reforms.

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16 May 2009

Election Watch

NDTV will launch a English news entertainment channel in partnership with Hindu newspaper in Chennai. Why tie up with Hindu?- “We firmly believe that the future of news is in going local. The Hindu group, with its impeccable credentials, has been a household name for generations in Chennai…”.The cartoon in Hindu shows Manmohan Singh & Advani trying to count sheeps that are also crossing over other’s farm boundaries! Large sized cartoon on the front page of Aaj Samaj shows many political leaders pulling for votes from well of parliament, while the common man is saying-“Who will be punished, who will be pardoned, will be clear, in only one day…”. Rahul Tripathu reports in Times of India - “in Satta market, the UPA return near certain…punters who were earlier wagering on Congress to take Delhi 6-1, are now saying it is likely to sweep the polls…An amount of Rs. 12 billion is at stake..”. Wasn’t this betting illegal in India? Why give publicity to this illegal betting business? An ad by Economic Times, in the same newspaper comes with punch line- “Shifting parties, never imagined alliances, players with not one But many faces. The bewildering Landscape of Elections 2009”. This Bewildering Landscape of election 2009 will be seen in results too? The cartoon in Indian Express features a young man looking at a clock-“Hope by 1PM we have one PM”. And tomorrow? And advertisement comes in Business Standard - “catch 2 verdicts live on May 16. One from the counting centres. And one from Corporate India”. This news channel is bringing together the business chieftains at the “CEO Parliament”! While two politicians are sweating, while watching Results on TV. Here is this toon, their assistant asks-“Till yesterday, you were confident of absolute majority, sir”(Asian Age). However Jan Kranti feels that after induction of Electronic Voting Machines, though election process has become easier, it has wiped out mysteries and enthusiasm of counting of votes. Reason- now no tents, puri sabzi, tea, slogan shouting are visible in front of counting stations.

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15 May 2009

Election Watch

Before the result, can one really predict the future government? Major political parties have rejected the Exit polls which gave the Congress-led coalition a slender edge over NDA in the Lok Sabha elections. Nevertheless, a cartoon in Asian Age shows a politician being decorated with garlands and flowers by followers. Reason- “The cadre is felicitating him for his landslide win in exit polls!”. An NGO has put astrologers to test and promised a reward of Rs 25 lakh to anyone who predicts the result of Lok Sabha polls before counting begins (Free Press Journal). The front page of Ennadu reveals the secret between politician & astrologer. The self advertisement of Business Standard features party symbols of major political parties and asks- “Who’s in? Who’s out? Who’s got the clout..”. It does not forget to spill in answer- “It’s all in out Election Result Special”. Dainik Bhaskar features caricatures of leaders of major political parties running the race of power! The cartoon in New Indian Express features Manmohan Singh & L.K Advani, literally fishing for smaller parties, in front of the Indian Parliament! The cartoon in Dainik Tribune shows a man accompanying another man, who appears to look like a politician, telling a doctor in local dialect- “Doctor Sahib, give him some medicine to strengthen his heart, he is extremely tensed about the result”. The editorial of Asian Age points that the independent’s role is not insignificant. A cartoon in DNA has a politician standing by a door and is being told by a fat women wearing lot of jewels- “your friend is not at home. Pollsters have invited him to form the next government”. Cartoons have really taken on elections! Take a clue from Obama- “It’s in chasing titles and status –in worrying about the next election rather than the national interest and the interest of those who you are supposed to represent that politicians so often lose their way in Washington...”(Hindustan Times, Business page). What about power corridors in Delhi?
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14 May 2009

Election Watch

Most exit polls have given an edge to the Congress led UPA over BJP led NDA, and this news has been carried on the front page of most newspapers. The cartoon on front page of Asian Age features a political leader reading exit poll result in newspapers & calculating strength of his political party- “Look. This paper predicts 80 seats, this channel gives us 100, the survey forecasts 92. We will get absolute majority if we add them up!”. Self Advertisement in Indian Express starts off by asking a number of questions - “Will political agenda succeed? Will they make ambitions concrete? Where will every party go, after vote? Who’ll get more numbers? …Who’ll side with whom?…Get ready to get in the know. Only with the Indian Express….”. While self advertisement of Amar Ujala features small machine printing Indian currency notes. Its Punch line reads- “Some people print note, we print truth”. Hang on, printing fake currency was illegal, right? The Editorial of Dainik Bhakhar feels after counting of votes, new age of political activities may begin, where play of manipulation will reach its peak. The editorial of Dainik Jagran has not minced words-“..Agreed this is an age of alliance politics, but does it mean that this has given special facility to political parties to disown all democratic values, standards an even public opinion?…political parties through their actions are giving message to public that they should forget everything after vote..”. The cartoon in Nai Duniya shows two political leaders hugging each other- “We are parties with same thinking. Both believe features small machine printing Indian currency notes. Its Punch line reads- “Some people print note, we print truth”. Hang on, printing fake currency was illegal, right? The Editorial of feels after counting of votes, new age of political activities may begin, where play of manipulation will reach its peak. The editorial of has not minced words-“..Agreed this is an age of alliance politics, but does it mean that this has given special facility to political parties to disown all democratic values, standards an even public opinion?…political parties through their actions are giving message to public that they should forget everything after vote..”. The cartoon in shows two political leaders hugging each other- “We are parties with same thinking. Both believe ‘form government’…Let ideology go to hell”. Indeed, conducting elections on such a large scale is no joke. The editorial of Asian Age, Tribune feels Election Commission did a great job. What does the Election Commission feel, any area of worry? Take a clue from S.Y Quaraishi, Election Commissioner of India- “… Now there are over 300 TV channels vying for advertisements, and elections time is surely their harvest season. The present law does not prescribe a ceiling on expenditure by political parties. The worry is that the role of cash in elections seems to be growing is, however, valid. Black money, always played a role in elections and with booming economy, his rile has grown bigger. We are aware of our limitation in eliminating the role of black money in elections….suggestion about State funding in my opinion is not workable in view of the ground realities. It will be very naïve to think that after State funding is provided, the use of black money may go down the drain…” (Hindustan Times).

Women Insecure: Woman Journalist attacked

At broad sunlight, around 7:30 am, two bikers attacked a women journalist in East Delhi, punched her face & took away her valuables. Most newspapers have carried this news. Navbharat Times has acted responsibly and on her request has covered her identify. Another newspaper in Hindi- Hindustan has not revealed her identify. However, Times of India, sister newspaper of Navbhart Times, has revealed her name & designation. Hindustan’s sister newspaper- Hindustan Times too has reveled her name, place of work. Asian Age too has revealed her name and place of work. Pioneer has revealed her name, place of work & even designation. Navbharat Times reports that this woman journalist is scared after this incident. Now, with her identity spilled out in public, how many women will come out and report such crimes? Bone of contention is that despite presence of many onlookers, none of them came to the rescue of this lone woman journalist who was been assaulted by two bikers in broad daylight. General public’s care not attitude towards women’s suffering is highly deplorable. It needs to be tackled immediately by an educative advertising campaign- “It could happen with your sister, next. Be a man, save her” & better policing
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13 May 2009

Election Watch

The last round of General Election of the largest democracy is being held today. But many seem to overlook the importance of election being conducted on such a large scale. Take a look- “three weeks into the show, the Indian premier league seems to be miles ahead of the Indian political league- also known as general elections..” (Anita Sharma. Front page. Hindustan Times). The editorial of Times of India advocates for quicker election process, “..perhaps in 2 weeks instead of a month...”. Is this feasible taking into account security concerns? Take a clue from a veteran journalist - “...on one should blame the Election Commission for this. It’s the political class which has let things degenerate to the extent that without most elaborate deployment of security forces, elections cannot be held peacefully..”(Inder Malhotra. Asian Age). The editorial of the same newspaper ends –“..Normally, from start to finish, political parties run a straight line in an election. This time round has been clearly different”. Even before the results are out, the cartoon Asian Age points to the possibility hung parliament, while the cartoon in Times of India hints to an early general elections. So do most letters to the editor in Hindu. The cartoon in Nai Duniya features an under dressed political standing next two dress outfits entitled NDA & UPA. He explains to the press –“I knew it. Your attention will go to my cloths. ...In reality, not cloths, I have kept all my options open”. What about the voters? Rashtriya Sahara carries a photograph of face of man, decorated with painted party symbols of both Congress & BJP, while his forehead reads – “Awake Voters awake”. Nai Duniya reports on the front page that popular songs in weddings in hills of Uttarakhand are related to elections! “Congress gave us Whiskey, BJP rum, small parties and independent desi liquor, in such elections there is fun & fun, money & liquor is raining.” But Election Commission did not publish any advertisement during one month to restrain voters from taking money & liquor for vote, rather continued to ridicule people who didn’t vote as Pappu & spent whooping Rs. 9.5 million in this advertising campaign. What about journalists, have they exposed this nexus? The front page of Dainik Tribune reports that team of journalists from same paper were beaten & their cameras snatched when they took photographs of some political supporters drinking liquor on a road despite a curb in Ludhiana. However none of the onlookers came to rescue of these journalists. Such is the apathy or people are scared? Not so long ago, Mohanraj, a former CBI officer, was seen as the country's richest candidate in fray in the current Lok Sabha elections when he declared total assets worth Rs 19.77 billion in his affidavit, filed before the Election Commission. However, now he has declared that he had filed a false affidavit just to mock at the helplessness of the Election Commission! He has now announced that his net worth is only Rs 3.5 million. (Free Press Journal). Who is not helpless- the voter. An advertisement by Chief Electoral Officer of Tamil Nadu has appeared which address voters- “Electors! Voting is a sacred duty. We owe this to our nation.”(New Indian Express). But recently the Supreme Court had clarified that voting is a right, not a duty! Nevertheless, after spending huge amount of money on advertising & PR, the two main political parties of India- Congress & BJP are both unhappy with the results. Take a clue from an unhappy politician- “....They (PR agencies) believe their own myth that selling a prime ministerial candidate is the same as selling cornflakes or cell phones”. (Front Page. Hindu Business Line). What next in the cart!Editorial of Day

That US President Barack Obama had the confidence to make self-deprecating remarks at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner did more than just establish that he can make as well as take a joke...Obama poked fun at everyone — from family and Cabinet members to political friends and opponents, and the press..A comic sketch by the President as the centrepiece of a star-studded, $200-a-plate charity dinner, reiterated the importance of humour in high places (a quality rarely seen there) and an institutionalised demolition of hubris....Humour, sadly, is neither a preferred mode of self-effacement nor self-assessment here. How many Indian politicians have shown even a touch of amusing self-deprecation in public?....And it is doubtful if an Indian politician will ever venture anything even close to the US President’s pot-shot at his tough-talking White House chief of staff. “It’s a tough holiday for him,” said Obama with a straight face about Rahm Emmanuel’s predicament on Mother’s Day. “He’s not used to saying the word ‘day’ after ‘mother’. (Humour in High Places. Editorial. Economic Times).

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12 May 2009

Election Watch

The campaign for the last round of General Elections has ended. Coomi Kapoor feels that in this elections, there was no central personality around whom a campaign could have been woven, either for or against. (Indian Express). “UPA & NDA busy in working on post poll theory” (Business Bhaska. Page 10). Wonder what theory means here? Post poll alliances. Take a clue from cartoon in Dainik Bhaskar where a parrot explains- “...masses like cheating and ‘they know’ it...therefore they are being cheated!”. The background news read-“Post poll alliance is cheating masses”. Is this new? Nope, take clue from Sampath- “cynical arithmetic of post-poll alliances can confound a voter's assumptions in voting for a particular party, as ideologies and policies are thrown overboard in a bid for power. In such a scenario, can a voter ever know who or what she is voting for?.... In the meantime, voters have to go out and cast their ballots, knowing they can be taken for a ride by the very candidate they vote for. It would appear they have little option but to get set for a stomach-churning ride on the electoral rollercoaster....” (DNA. 15/3/09). And when the verdict will be out- “there will be a merry-go-round of politicians by turn appearing on all channels, each time saying the same thing: ”This is a vindication/indictment of the government’s performance in the last five years”, “Our party/alliances will form the next government”. (Shailaja Bajpai. Indian Express). Nevertheless, will men & women, gain alike? Vijay Sanghvi feels that women are missing from the agenda of all political parties and they continue to be victims of neglect. According to him, though political parties have promise 30% reservation for women in the parliament, but there is no promise of essential infrastructure like toilets for them in villages and slum areas. Hang on, leaving aside few posh areas, such basic facilities are not available for women in most cities too! But Vijay has failed to mention the crucial issue of safety & security of women. If women are feel insecure even in National Capital Region, what emancipation in other parts of the country? Nearly a year has passed, but media messed up Aarushi murder case is still unsolved. Her anguished father’s pain is far too obvious- “...There is no fresh life- we are dying every day. Even when I work, I keep thinking of my child...what can I do to bring Arushi’s murderers to book so that her soul rests in peace?”(Indian Express). While on other hand, Jayaprada’s nude photograph is being distributed in the constituency (Rampur in State of Uttar Pradesh), from where she is contesting elections (Mid Day).
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11 May 2009

Election Watch
Campaigning for the final phase of Lok Sabha elections ends today, even as political groupings strove to make friends out of foes ahead of the May 13 polls. Anil Azad Pande reports that candidates are not scared of the Election Commission, nor are bothered following the directions of the Supreme Court. Majority of the candidates (60%, 4120) have not revealed their PAN number in their affidavit to the EC. “Surprising thing is that EC cannot take any action..” Who will possibly win? Take a clue from editorial of Free Press Journal- “This is probably the first election no one is really sure of winning. The oft-heard question in bazaars and gullies of Bharat as also in the well-appointed salons of urban India is: who will get to form the government, if, at all, it is formable? The uncertainty outcome has spawned a cottage industry of soothsayers, self-appointed political analysts and media `intellectuals', especially on the television news channels..”. What could be the reason for uncertainly-“...India’s political terrain seems to have changed for good. Voters are moving beyond the assumption that they can be taken for granted. My enemy’s enemy is my friend logic, might work in the minds of a power-hungry polity, but voters seem to want at least a semblance of ideological coherence...(Editorial. Indian Express). How is this uncertainly being tackled? Post poll alliances? Take a clue from cartoon in Nai Duniya, where a common man, looking at his vote marked finger tells another reading a newspaper- “Oh! I was in misunderstanding that we elect the government!”. Guess, headline of the newspaper in hand- is “For government parties start efforts for alliances”. Another toon in Dainik Bhaskar features two politicians, hand in hand, one telling a female press reporter- “I would like to tell you that we are dedicated allies & will remain till 17 May”.
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10 May 2009

Election Watch

The front page of Navbharat Times reports it is estimated that election expenditure could reach 120 billion. The expense on Election Commission & associated governmental agencies could reach 20 billion, up from 3 billion in last election. So much inflation! Not all, the newspaper reports that though the cap on expenditure for individual candidates in Rs 2.5 million, the actual expenditure incurred comes around 20 million for ‘serious’ candidate. And there is no cap on expenditures incurred by the political party nor are they required to submit details of expenses to election commission. So, where is the recession or slow down? The former Election Commissioner feels- “…election expenditure has become a big joke. It should be borne by the government sp that money power can be prevented..” (Tribune). The supplement of Dainik Tribune asks- “Why is the voter angry!”. Take a clue- “…voter is forced to choose from bad, a good candidate…”. A man was ostracized & fined Rs. 15,000 for voting. Reason? His village & two other villages in Nalanda district in State of Bihar had boycotted election to protest against lack of development. (Tribune). Elections are no child’s play. But elections have been blamed for dismal performance of children in exams! Nai Duniya reports that 65 percent of students have failed in class X examinations in the State of Madhya Pradesh. The authorities have blamed elections and change in syllabus!Insecure women

The crime against women in National capital region (NCR) continues. Navbharat Times reports that a young girl was eve teased by two men belonging to affluent families and when she protested she was beaten for ten minutes by these two men. The catch is that none of the onlookers came to protect her in Ghaziabad and police has not registered a case. The governmental advertisement on the occasion of Mother’s Day has appeared in many leading newspapers. Its punch line reads- “Paying tribute to Mothers today” Why- “…Mothers bring love care and warmth to families”. How about respecting women, all year around? She is someone else’s sister, daughter too. Given the insecurity among women, the main message has been missed.

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9 May 2009

Election Watch

Cartoon of Day is carried by Hindu which shows two scenes clubbed in one frame, here politicians and voters are trying to know their fate! Similarly, in Asian Age, cartoon shows an astrologer telling a politician- “Predict your winning chances? It’s not easy, Sir. Get your rival’s horoscope too!“.

The Staff reporter of Pioneer feels that public outcry against corruption in politics and mistrust of electoral candidates proved weak as far as Delhi citizens are concerns as only 851 people filled form 49-O (claim right not to vote). After a few lines, the reporter acknowledges that this option was not well known among general populace, especially in rural voters. And also -“ironically the provision of the option of ‘not to vote’ was also not known to many of the presiding officials in many booths. Some booths did not even have the form slips.” According to the Conduct of Elections Rules, 1961, if the voter decides to not to vote, a remark should be made by the presiding officer in form 17A and the signature or thumb impression should be obtained against the same remark. Point to ponder- If Why no privacy of this voter? Yesterday, Times of India reported that poll officials were clueless about no-vote option in Delhi. Dipak Kumar Dash points out in the same paper, today, -“a dismal voter turnout in rural areas on election day seems to have changed the tone of political discussion in capital…rural votes are feeling sidelined….apathy of government and local leadership”. Take a clue from Solanki- “What can they provide us when they can’t get us drinking water? We are depending on the underground saline water. We don’t need Games (Commonwealth Games) but water to survive..”. The editorial of Tribune does not mince words- “It is rather strange that there is virtual euphoria over the 52 per cent polling in the seven Lok Sabha seats from Delhi…In 1999 the turnout in Delhi was a mere 43 per cent and in last elections in 2004 it crawled up to 47 per cent….Why don’t they compare with West Bengal which recorded 75 per cent polling…It is indeed a shame that the country’s Capital and its commercial hub Mumbai have both been guilty of lack of participation in the democratic process…”. But what about reforms in the elections process & selection of candidates? The surprise of day was reported by Ashutosh Bhardwaj in Indian Express- “At a time when many candidates from cosmopolitan constituencies plead ignorance about foreign policies, the Indo-US deal is making a buzz In the backward area of Rohilkhand…”. Thousands of voters in Shipra Sun City in Ghaziabad found their names missing in the voters list, though they voted in the recent assembly elections, last year. (Hindu). Even Chief Election Commission, Navin Chawla became a victim of clerical error when he went to cast his vote! Pioneer reports that the unanimous resolution by leaders of all religion to ban liquor (during elections) for free & fair elections has not received proper response from election commissioner. Silence is bliss? More news on EC. According to Times of India, the Election Commission has rejected the demand for repolls in 65 booths of Arunachal Pradesh on the found that more than 100% voting took place there. Here, the deputy election Commissioner explained that in small state like Arunachal Pradesh, instead of percentage, absolute number should be considered. Whatever this means!
Advertisement Watch

The front page of Dainik Jagran, which claims to be the most read newspaper of the world, reports that Dainik Jagran continues to retain its number one position in India for the twelfth time. it’s readership number has reached over 55 million. The front page of Times of India reports that Times of India stays at no. 1 in Delhi and Navbharat Times, sister publication in Hindi, is placed on number two slot, beating Hindustan Times. While Hindustan Times reports on the front page -“HT is No.1 in Delhi”. All papers have based their claim on the recently out Indian Readership survey.
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8 May 2009

Election Watch

The cartoon in Asian Age shows a woman telling a man (probably her husband), while watching Television -”Even 50% was a huge turnout in 50 degree C! The screen of TV shows -“50% polling”! The front page of Times of India seem pleased with voter turnout in Delhi- “Delhi passed the Pappu test (EC had published series of advertisement ridiculing people to don’t vote as Pappu) with flying colours. The city came out in big numbers on Thursday to notch a voter turnout of 53%…It appears that several voter awareness campaigns, including TOI’s Lead India, have raised the motivation to vote..”. But turn to page 6, which informs that the voter turnout in Delhi was less 6 % less than voter turnout in the Assembly elections held in November 2008. Further- “…frequent complain from all constituencies that almost made the Pappu campaign blow up in the EC’s face….”. But chief Electoral officer of Delhi, also seem satisfied- “…Although we would have liked more people to vote, seeing the pattern in other metro cities, we are satisfied.” (Hindustan Times). The front page of Pioneer informs- “When it came to exercising their voting rights, Delhites were more enthusiastic then Mumbaikar…thanks to Pappu campaign…”. But turnover the page, and staff reporter informs-”Intense Pappu campaigns, which appealed to the electorate to vote and were launched in the assembly elections, failed to enthuse rural voters…”. The obsession to compare Delhi with Mumbai continued. Heading of page 14-15 shout- “Capital’s voters shame Mumbai”. (Mail Today). The front page of Amar Ujala shouts- “Again Delhi leaves Mumbai behind”. Similarly, the front page of New Indian Express shouts- “After Mumbai fizzle, Delhi posts its best”. Why only Mumbai, why not compare Delhi to West Bengal (high voter turnout of 75 percent)? Yoginder Gupta reports from Chandigarh on front page of Tribune-“A large number of voters across the state complained that they could not vote despite possessing vote identity cards…”. Page three of the same paper reports that 3 villages in Jind district boycotted elections over non availability of water for drinking & irrigation & non performance of local MLA. In addition, villagers from Khanpur boycotted the elections & to lodge their protest, they locked the polling booths. In contrast, Geetanjali Gayatri reports that every villager of Jallopur village voted. Take clue from a young villager- “Our vote is our remote control. If we press the button now, we will have the option of pressurizing our leaders when the need arises…”. But most newspapers of the capital did not give prominence to the poll violence in the State of West Bengal. The Statesman from Kolkota cried- “Blood strains Bengal as 75% vote”. No statement from Chief Election Commissioner yet? Statistics of Day

Acceptance of leakages is indeed rare. But bless the elections, not long ago, Rahul Gandhi (who is buzzed to be prime minister in future) made a statement that out of Rs. 10 sent by Centre to the State, only 10 percent reaches the target. Now Jitendra Kumar has pointed on the front page of Nai Duniya, that if this is true, then leakages of rural development scheme & farm loans waiver has led 2394 billion ($48 billion) going in drain. Who will check these leakages? The cartoon in Hindu shows a politician talking on phone, while watching TV where voters are standing in line to cast their vote. What does he say- Staying in the alliance? It depends. I am not power hungry. But I need to fulfill the promises made to these poor people”. Deccan Herald reports - “End game begins: parties look for new post-poll allies”. While the cartoon in Dainik Bhaskar shows a politician lining up suitcases, one on top of the other. What is he doing? He tells a reporter-”Nothing! I am trying to make way to become P.M”.

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7 May 2009

Election Watch

Today is the fourth round of the General Elections for 85 seats in 8 States. The front page of Indian Express forecasts which party will gain/lose in State of Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal. But what was the methodology of this forecast? No mention so keep guessing! Just to remind, exit polls and opinion polls have been banned by Election Commission till final round (13 May 09).Hindustan, Hindi daily reminds that there are 164 tainted candidates during this round.

The front Page of Times of India & Nai Duniya have carried a full page advertisement, reminding readers to vote. The ad of Nai Duniya comes with the punch line- “Don’t get surprised”. The ad features a sketch of Indian parliament with “Today, more important than giving you news is to remind you that today is public holiday is for fulfilling responsibility in national interest…An opportunity such as this comes to us once in five years. Do you really want to waste it? Democracy, in its purest form, is about the power of one. Be the one”. The front page ad of Times of India comes with a long note from the Editor- “Before they count the votes, make your vote count…“Hindustan, Hindi daily has also published a full page ad on page 11 which features a face of young girl with punch line- “ Cast Vote Today”. Accompanying is a long poem in Hindi- “For a perfect tomorrow today take a decision…Not only for electricity, water or roads, but decide for happy life….With you country will progress you just cast your vote today. TODAY”. Page three of Aaj Samaj has carried an advertisement in public interest, in which rural elderly folk is telling a urban young lad- “Dear! Don’t become Pappu…do cast vote”. An advertisement in Daink Bhaskar on page three features a finger with voting mark, punch line - “put tilak (sectarian mark, chiefly made on forehead) on your finger..”. The ad ends by telling- “…Do vote, put a tilak of democracy on your finger”. But hang on, is voter’s name on the voter list? The last page of Rastriya Sahara has carried a cartoon in which father is watching television, while his small son reminds him- “Papa, you too are not responsible, instead of casting vote you are watching TV!”. Turn to the front page of the same newspaper where Famous former cricketer- Bishan Singh Bedi asks - “What reform, you tell, where is my vote?”. Despite the fact he has been living in Delhi for last twenty years, his name is not on the voters list. “No agency or election commission has listened to me…no one is serious to see that people’s name should be present in voter’s list..”. His wife even called the toll free helpline number, much advertised by the election commission, but in vain. The helpline operator felt very happy to talk to wife of former cricketer and promised to get back within half an hour to find out where their vote was but till date has not called back. This was not an isolated case. Hindustan Times has carried a photograph of residents of Windsor court holding voter ID cards but their name is not present in voters list. Seva Nagar residents have blamed election commission for deleting their name from voters list, despite their valid voter ID cards. The cartoon in Asian age shows a truck full of people going to the polling booth. A politician on the truck tells an EC official- “No code violation. Sir, I am doing my bit to increase poll percentage an strengthen democracy”. The front page of Hindi edition of Economic Times has carried an article by Piyush Babele with heading- “Delhi become Daredevil, politicians will dance at your finger”. The front page of Navbharat Times preaches- “Today is a special day in India’s Life, it is in your name. Make it memorable….No excuse Give Vote.”. Vishwanath Sachdev’s write-up on the editorial page comes with heading -“if you don’t cast vote, how would circumstances change?”. But he fails to look deeper in the reasons for low voter turnout and required electoral reforms. Hindustan has reported on its front page that Election Commission has apologized for ridiculing voters who don’t vote as “Pappu”. However, take a look on page 2 in Pioneer, there an advertisement by Office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Delhi continues to ridicule people who don’t vote as “Pappu” . Take a look- “..This time don’t become a ‘pappu’. Do vote”. On the last page of Navbharat Times, an advertisement by Shikhar Pan Masala comes with a picture of a politician & punch line- “Don’t become a pappu …do cast your vote”. Social Message, right? Nope, look further - Vote for Shikhar, Vote for Shikhar, Vote for Shikhar..”. Shikhar is not peak but Pan masala. It also carries a picture of Rs. 1.50 & Rs1 pack of Shikhar Pan Masala. Take a look at the very fine print on extreme right- “chewing of Pan Masala may be injurious to health, not for minors no tobacco contents”. Why vote for Shikhar when it is injurious to health?
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6 May 2009

Election Watch

The front page of Times of India has carried poll projections- “TOI projections for LS polls” with State wise seats. Now, is this an opinion poll or exit poll which have been curbed by the Election Commission. Take a clue- “TOI’s political bureaus in 14 different cities and its network of correspondents have been tracking the poll’s progress to bring you their best estimates of the likely results..”. Whatever methodology this means! The advertisement in Punjab Kesari comes with punch line- “For the happy future of children”. The ad lists 3 points, the first is- “Do cast your vote to select good government”. While the other two points talks about products of Mugli Gutti 555! Another ad in the same paper appeals to all Punjabis to make Dr. Monmohan Singh to become again Prime Minister. Rastriya Sahara has published a feature on one particular candidate’s plus points and popularity in Chandini Chawk, Delhi. The tone gives the feeling of an advertisement. The cartoon in Hindu shows candidates running with hands full of freebies (silk, notes, gift packed packet) towards poor voters standing next to their hut. But they seem to least bothered about the fact they have crossed the model code of conduct despite a sign board- “DO not cross”. Nai Duniya informs that a huge amount of money, more than Rs. 1 billion is at stake in the betting market in Gurgaon alone. Point to ponder- wasn’t betting illegal?

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5 May 2009

Election Watch

Not so long in March this year, Election Commission had issued notice to the officials of organising Committee for Commonwealth Games for an Advertisement which appeared in leading newspapers. Economic Times reports that the Election Commission has taken the view that there has been a violation of the poll code but it has decided not to take any action against them. Power of apology! The advertisement of Tata Tea has not been able to stay election aloof. The punch line states- “If you continue sleeping, so will our politicians”. It shouts- “Wake and Vote!” (Hindustan Times, Dainik Jagran, Times of India). While full page advertisement by Fortis (private hospital chain) features map of India & punch line –“Vote for a healthy Democracy”. Will these slogans work with unemployed in State of Himachal Pradesh? Tribune reports that the unemployed in Himachal has gone over 800,000 and have decided to form a pressure group. And unless government comes out with concrete policy for the unemployed, the jobless will boycott elections. They are also demanding unemployment allowance and reduction of retirement age from 58 to 54 years. On the other hand, poor villagers living on the foothills of Shivalik ranges in Haryana has decided to not vote for any party as none of the political parties have assured to fulfil their demands. Take a clue from Kiran Deep- “..while politicians are making tall claims during their campaigns, the residents of these areas do not have basic amenities including regular power and water supply, educational institutions and health facilities...”(Tribune). What seems one of the best profession to become rich? Take a clue from Times of India page 11. Here a report comes with self explanatory heading-“Way to big money? An LS stint. From ’04 to ’09, MPs register assets growth between 100% and 9,100%”. The cartoon of day has been carried by Hindu Business Line which features Polls ’09 as heavily pregnant women, surrounded by four small children, two of them crying. Guess what she is saying- “...And people call ME issueless!”.
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4 May 2009

Election Watch

The summer heat is catching with the election laps. The cartoon in Punjab Kesari features two politicians, one reading a newspaper & telling other- “...weather department has estimated that this heat is due to political heat”. The advertisement by BBC World News features a currency note – half of which is Rupee & the other half is dollar (Mid Day). What has this new currency note to do with BBC World News? Keep guessing as the punch line of the ad asks – “Kya India ka vote chalayega duniya ka note?” (Will India’s vote run world’s note?). Strange combination- the denomination of rupee is Rs. 1000 while of Dollar is $100! Does it anyway reflect the role of notes in getting votes? Vyas Mohan points out in Financial Chronicle that pre-polls gains on the stock market have been wiped out post elections on six out of eight counts since 1980. He asks- “Will it be the same story this time?”. The Indian stock market is going up, but how long? Keep guessing, as the election results are still days ahead. Nevertheless, prices of food items are witnessing an upward trend, even during election time. Sugar is no longer sweet, due to unprecedented high prices. The front page of Business Bhaskar informs- “ At present there is no slowdown in price of sugar”. Alok Sharma points out the sugar output are low but prices are likely to be stable. And he also informs that with centre yet to extend zero-duty imports beyond July 15, mills are forces to import raw sugar at higher prices on acute shortfall in domestic sugarcane output (Financial Chronicle). But he fails to look in the role of speculation, which Harish Damodaran reports in Hindu Business Line. According to him, speculative buying is pushing sugar prices to three year high and funds are betting on supply shortfall in India and Pakistan. But what was the reason for low output of sugarcane? The editorial of Business Bhaskar is focused on this issue and a point out that high price of sugar is a result of wrong policies. This includes not increasing MSP of sugarcane and export of sugar in 2008. Will wheat also see less output next year, thanks to low government procurement due to lack of storage space? One good shower and the wheat waiting for buyers will turn into waste. The edition of Hindu Business Line throws light– “..higher food grain output (especially wheat and rice) should be accompanies by a proportionate expansion in storage capacity across the country. Yet, at about 13 million tonnes, FCI’s own storage capacity has remained unchanged since 2003, hardly enough to cover even a tenth of rice and wheat output....”. Sanjeev Kumar Chaudhary reports that in Haryana government agencies are not ready to buy any more wheat, while wheat is piling unsold in wholesale gain markets. Advertisement of Day

Half a page advertisement in Financial Express comes with the punch line- “The countdown begins...From 31st May, 2009 India will join the league of public health champion countries. All Indians will know the truth about tobacco.” What’s the truth- “pictorial health warnings will be displayed on all tobacco packs: 40% front and 40% back”. Now that’s good news, but fingers cross- “Unless the Government of India succumbs to pressure from the tobacco industry”. This ad was issued by Health Related Information Dissemination Amongst Youth (HRIDAY)
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3 May 2009
 
Election Watch

As per the guidelines issued by Election Commission of India, results of opinion/exit polls carried out at any time, cannot be published, publicized or disseminated in any manner, during the period starting from 48 hours before conclusion of poll in the first phase of election and till the conclusion of poll in the last phase of election (Mint. 14/4/09). But take a look on the front page of Asian Age which comes with heading- “Cong and BJP see surprise UP gains”. Amita Verma reports- “With a visible drift in Brahmin and Muslim votes in UP, the Congress and BJP could be heading for a pleasant resurgence in the state…”. According to Anand Rawani, the fear factor of a political turmoil has creased to haunt the equity market. “…political optimism has helped the sensex register a whopping 32 % rise during the last two months…” (Economic Times). Is this an attribution error? The front page of Aaj Samaj features a large sized colored cartoon which show the uncertainty in the political sphere- Reluctance of Kahars (possible coalitions partners) to pick up the Doli of Congress (with Manmohan peaking)! The cartoon in Hindu features a woman with a coin in her hand, asking a sad looking politician, sitting on a sofa- “Head, tail or the Third Front, dear”? While, the advertisement by Office of Chief Electorate Officer, Delhi continues to ridicule people who don’t caste their vote as ‘pappu’. In this ad a young westernized girls preaches - “..Aaja Yara Let’s celebrate. Vo banda hi kya jo vote na dale”. It ends - “Don’t be “pappu” this time. Do caste vote”. (Times of India, Ratriya Sahara). But no advertisement has appeared, courtesy Election Commission, which tells votes not to accept any free goodies (read notes, liquor) for casting their vote in favour of any candidate, which comes with heading- “Cong and BJP see surprise UP gains”. Amita Verma reports- “With a visible drift in Brahmin and Muslim votes in UP, the Congress and BJP could be heading for a pleasant resurgence in the state…”. According to Anand Rawani, the fear factor of a political turmoil has creased to haunt the equity market. “…political optimism has helped the sensex register a whopping 32 % rise during the last two months…” . Is this an attribution error? The front page of features a large sized colored cartoon which show the uncertainty in the political sphere- Reluctance of Kahars (possible coalitions partners) to pick up the Doli of Congress (with Manmohan peaking)! The cartoon in features a woman with a coin in her hand, asking a sad looking politician, sitting on a sofa- “Head, tail or the Third Front, dear”? While, the advertisement by Office of Chief Electorate Officer, Delhi continues to ridicule people who don’t caste their vote as ‘pappu’. In this ad a young westernized girls preaches - “..Aaja Yara Let’s celebrate. Vo banda hi kya jo vote na dale”. It ends - “Don’t be “pappu” this time. Do caste vote”. (). But no advertisement has appeared, courtesy Election Commission, which tells votes not to accept any free goodies (read notes, liquor) for casting their vote in favour of any candidate.
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2 May 2009

Financial Watch

Yesterday, most leading newspapers carried full page governmental advertisement with the punch line- “Introducing New Pension System for all citizens”. One political party has petitioned to the Election Commission against this governmental advertisement, which it alleges is a violation of model code of conduct. What are the views of leading newspapers on New Pension Scheme?

“…As a pilot project- less than one in 10 of country’s 422 million workers pays into provident fund- the voluntary pension scheme can be enlarged into a wider social security net to cover medial and unemployment benefits. Our pension is secure, we owe it to our children that theirs is as well”. (Editorial. Hindustan Times).

“…National Pension Scheme at first glance looks like balanced mutual fund…there is no tax benefit…before age of 58, money cannot be withdrawn, no loan can be availed…”(Editorial. Navbharat Times).

…Of more immediate concern will be the NPS’s ability to attract small investors into the scheme…But if Indians with relatively low income - the threshold investment is Rs, 500 a month- are to get into this system, information dissemination and application processing has to be citizen friendly. Advertisements in metropolitan newspapers only won’t do the trick…”(Editorial. Financial Express).

“…account opening charge of Rs, 50, yearly charge of Rs. 350 and expense of Rs. 10 on transaction appears expensive, specially keeping in mind that this pension system is for those people who are deprived of this….”(Editorial Nai Duniya).

“This May Day has brought happiness courtesy the new pension scheme for people working in private & informal sector…The government has not clarified that what will be the contribution of employer? If there will be no contribution from employer, then will this be called pension scheme or saving scheme?..” (Jansatta)

“..New pension System is a good option but there is scope for improvement…” (Editorial. Hindustan).

Point to ponder- The punch line of the Advertisement claimed that this New pension system was meant for all citizens. But will 77 per cent of Indians who are poor & vulnerable (with per capita consumption upto Rs 20) be able to subscribe to this New Pension Scheme for which they have to invest at least Rs. 500 per month? According to latest official figure, the number of Indians, in this group was 836 million in 2004-05 and given the high cost of food products & shrinking employment opportunities, this figure must have possibly gone up. Take a closer look at fine conditions of NPS, printed in Business Standard, in form of Q & As- at the age of 60, one will be required to use at least 40 percent of accumulates savings to buy life annuity from an insurance company. And for those looking to exit before turning 60, there is an option to withdraw 20 percent of the accumulated savings but have to buy an annuity with remaining 80 percent. The ad has claimed- “..it’s a system designated to protect your future”. What about present! And yes, it will not be easy for poor man to subscribe to the New Pension Scheme, take a clue from the reality check by Surabhi on page three of Financial Express. Election Watch

The low voter turnover in the third phase of elections has attracted attention of many newspapers. According to one Election Commissioner- “we have nothing to do with the voter turnout/ Our job is to conduct free and fair elections in the State. It is the people’s prerogative to vote or not” (Hindu). But what about advertisement campaign by Delhi Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) which ridiculed people who don’t caste their vote as ‘Pappu’!

The advertisement in Navbharat Times comes with the punch line- “Why should I vote ji?”. Another advertisement in Dainik Bhaskar comes with punch line- “leave excused make suitable candidate member of parliament”. What is the definition of a suitable candidate? The shoegate is still a fancy of cartoonists. A cartoon in Nai Duniya shows a common man telling an urbanite- “how could I have gone barefoot in 45 degrees temperature? …I had thrown shoes on Nataji (political leader)””. The cartoon in Dainik Bhaskar shows a man (with a large smile) returning from polling booth, after casting his vote, telling another- “I too have decided to join in democratic system & recently I have brought new shoes”. The cartoon in Navbharat Times features two politicians sitting on the podium, but there is no audience apart from one resting dog & one man! One politician tells the other- “when crowd does not come to meeting… there is only one solution- where there is crowd….should go there and hold a meeting”. Yes, the heat effect is showing on politicians in series of toons in the same paper. What about other comments in leading newspapers?

“ …masses feel there is no relationship between election process and governance of nation & development. Political leaders are playing this game to win at any cost. Therefore less interest in casting vote….” (Poonam Pande. Navbharat Times).

“..Mumbai has reacted in exactly the same way that it responds to every elections. We wasted out time believing socialites admen, midgets on the fringes of journalism…who made grandiose political statements each time they got onto TV or wrote guest columns in newspapers. As journalists, we are partly to blame. We took people who belong to page 3 and put their views on page 1...But now the truth is before us. Not only do these people not represent Mumbai, they don’t even know the city…It is a mistake that we in the media should be wary of repeating again (Vir Sanghvi. Hindustan Times).

But despite this, the lure of Bollywood actors remain hot for the political parties. Shikha Shalini reports in Business Standard (Hindi Edition) that they are being offered money ranging from Rs. 100,000 to Rs. 10 million. Will these page 3 actors be able to convince voters?

“…The South Mumbai elite’s fulminations against the political class, post Mumbai terror attacks, appear to have done little to later the general apathy of the middle class to issues of democracy and governance…”(Editorial. Economic Times). Is a this chicken or egg story? Take a clue from cartoon in Hindustan Times on page 10. Is it so simplistic to decode?

“It is said that due to heat voter did not come out of his house. But the reason is different. In reality, the interest of the common man in political leadership, representative of democratic framework, is reducing….Politicians don’t show their face in their constituency for five years but one morning they suddenly reach to seek votes. ..It is clear the angry people have no other legal way to show their resentment, other than by non-participation in polling….(Editorial Business Bhaskar).

“Low voter turnout at polling booths is indeed worrying….This election is showcasing neglect by one class of voters…salaried & middle class took advantage of holiday but instead of standing in line at polling booth in heat, they prefer to stay back home….As citizens and voters they have neglected great duty and this negligence is punishable act. But the constitution has not spelled out any punishment…”(Editorial. Rastriya Sahara).

“The abysmally low voter turnout of average of 43.5 in 6 constituency of Mumbai…confirms the lurking impression that the elite is glaringly apathetic to the call of democracy…while the fickle & apathetic middle class may be faulted for lack of actual involvements, it’s claim that thousands of them could not vote because the voter’s list did not have their names cannot be dismissed as inconsequential…It is time that the authorities make up to this reality and take remedial action for the future (Editorial. Tribune).

“…people have the freedom not to exercise their right to vote. The prerogative is that of the citizen.. To force a person to vote is anti democratic as it is to prevent him from going to the polling booth. It is also fallacious to argue that those who have failed to vote don’t have the right to seek accountability from the state…”(Times View. Times of India).
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1 May 2009

Election Watch

Should a vibrant democracy be satisfied by a low voter turnout? Is this just the heat effect? According to Deputy Election Commissioner ..the low turnout due to extreme summers in these months is something beyond our control..”. Economic Times suggests- “Time for EC to think of night poll”. But what about security of common man (specially women) during night? Hang on, temperature was not very high in Mumbai and despite appeals by bollywood stars, the city witnessed voter turnout of only 45 percent. Urmi Goswami reports that rising food prices is number one issue for rural voter. “Here may be a consensus in TV studios that the on-going elections are not being fought on real issues, but campaigning in rural heartland has shown bread and butter issues are on the top drawer of the voter…”(Economic Times). The editorial of Times of India feels that this time around, India’s election carnival has no big themes. While Balbir Punj has accused media of evading real issues (Pioneer). The Election debate between two candidates from West Delhi hosted by a TV channel turned awry when supporters of BJ P & Congress exchanges blows and one worker was attacked by a knife (Asian Age). A public interest litigation has been filed in the Supreme Court of India which seeks to ensure that political parties keep poll promises. It seeks that all political parties must file an undertaking affidavit and Comptroller & Auditor General should certify the promised made by the parties.