November 2007 Newspaper Watch

Sarcajc Research in Journalism Advertisement & Cartoon 

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SARCAJC

SOUTH ASIAN RESEARCH CENTRE FOR ADVERTISEMENT, JOURNALISM & CARTOONS

Newspaper Watch (India) for the month of November 2007. For latest  newspaper watch view the homepage

30 November 2007

The Obsession?

The ‘India shining’ story continues. Take a look at extract from the editorial of Times of India.

“The India story is being feted across the world. …Foreign Money is pouring as never before. ..Yet at the same time, some sections of the international media have shone the spotlight on India’s unflattering economic indices. They point to the number of people below the poverty line, the illiteracy…In truth there are many Indias. If islands of excellence can be nurtured and grown, that’s not a bad outcome……Economics, on the other hand can be a dismal science. One of the drawbacks is that it doesn’t have the capacity to disaggregate. It picks on averages, grey and abstract entities that don’t tell the whole story..”.

Hang on, is it true that only international media points to the not so bright indices? What about the Indian media, are they not interested in improving the conditions of the common man? “..In early 1997, the Wall Street Journal gave more space to the farmers' suicides in A.P. than any major newspaper did here. No Indian magazine placed those events on its cover..”(P. Sainath. Hindu. 2/9/2001)

Dedicated journalists like P. Sainath are very much here and are taking up the cause of the common man. But does it hold good for all? “..For years now, the media have stopped talking to ordinary people. How on earth can they tell their readers and viewers what is going on? There are 400-plus journalists to cover Lakme India Fashion Week. Almost none to cover the agricultural crisis in any informed way. The labour and agriculture beats in newspapers are almost extinct. The media have decided that 70 per cent of the population does not make news. The electorate has decided otherwise”. (P. Sainath. Hindu. 14 May 2004).

Are islands of prosperity desirable in the vast ocean of deprivation, without any efforts to report or improve the not so shining indices? That’s not all. Is Economics a dismal science, which has no capacity to disaggregate? That’s quite a strong assertion! Lessons in Economics? Take a clue from the lead economist & scholarly Prime Minister of India - Dr. Manmohan Singh:

“..large segments of our population are untouched by the rapid changes taking place in many parts of our economy. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that they become stakeholders in the growth processes underway. This is essential not only from an equity perspective but also for maintaining social and political harmony. We cannot expect harmony if large sections of our population see themselves as marginalized..

..Increasing disparities between different regions of the country are also a source of worry. Disparities seem to have widened perceptibly in the last few years, with improved economic performance concentrated in some regions only. This has serious implications.…We need to work to arrest this trend and achieve convergence between regions rather than the other way around….” (PM's address at the meeting of Planning Commission. 18/10/2006)

“Two years ago the people of our country gave a clear mandate in favour of change….They voted out the economics of inequity. They voted out a government that had lost touch with our people…” (PM released ‘Report to the People' - Second anniversary of UPA Government. 22/5/2006).

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29 November 2007

Cartoon Watch

The Assembly Election in the State of Gujarat is approaching, which is duly reflected in cartoons today- Elections in Gujarat (National Herald, Jansatta, Hindustan Time). So, who will win the elections? Can’t say! Even the opinion polls in India are not noteworthy in predicting the winners & losers of elections! The two Ps - Pioneer & Punjab Kesari have shared the same cartoon. Here, in a party HQ, one person (presumably a party worker) tells a person - “ We’ll give you the results. You have to create opinion polls according to it!”. No wonder! Another interesting cartoon has appeared in Virat Vaibhav, where a man wearing white kurta, pajama and classical neta cap (seems a politician) tells a rustic man (seems a villager) -“for better development of village, I have registered all the land in this area in my name”.

The events in the neighboring Pakistan & Musharraf (Asian Age, Times of India, Dainik Jagran, Hindu) have kept the Indian cartoonists occupied. Others have focused on a variety - cricket coach (Hindustan), helicopter in Haryana (Dainik Tribune), warning to militants (Asian Age), Modi & Taslima (Aaj Samaj), nuclear deal (Indian Express), tour (Economic Times), movie star & ad endorsements (Times of India), high rate of land (Dainik Bhaskar).

Do cartoons get due importance? Take a look- cartoons have appeared on the front page of only nine newspapers, the rest have carried it elsewhere. Moreover, No Indian cartoon appeared in Statesman, Rashtriya Sahara, Amar Ujala, Tribune, MetroNow and Mint.
 
Advertisement of the Day

An ad by a Bengali Newspaper in English in Statesman (newspaper in English) on front page- “ 180% growth in just six months…So has our dedication to upholding the highest standards of journalism, as we move from strength to strength”. Now, that’s an impressive growth!

The catch - The Bengali Newspaper forgot to mention its name in English for the general knowledge of non-Bengali readers of Statesman!

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28 November 2007

Tale of Two Cs:

‘One of the most important functions of good journalism is to keep watch on the abuse of public office and public money. And this is one of things that journalists most enjoy doing’. (Larry Kilman. World Association of Newspapers.8/6/05). Indian newspapers are also taking part in the fight against corruption. For a sample, let's view extracts of two Editorial of Tribune on corruption:

"....Where can the common man, particularly the poor who suffers the most because of corruption, should go when the administration is distant and indifferent …The remedy for corruption has to come from honest citizens who have to shut the door against the corrupt and the criminal and the political parties who harbour them. This will require considerable courage and may be some sacrifice in personal terms. The effort will be worth it - for the survival of democracy in the country and good".(Editor-in-chief of Tribune-H.K. Dua. 16/10/04. Tribune)

"...These days one cannot get any work done without greasing the palms of the officials concerned. However, will it be fair to punish a person on the ground that he had given some money to the staff to get his PF, pension or traveling allowance arrears cleared without which he would have gone from pillar to post? What about those giving tips to the postman for having delivered a money order, to the railway ticket collector for a sleeper berth at the last minute or even for securing the expeditious release of a friend’s body from a hospital mortuary? The law should be such that punishment should be given only to those who are really guilty of the crime of offering bribes for seeking undue favours and not otherwise…"(Today’s editorial in Tribune).

Notice the change? A Newspaper legitimising a type of corruption? Has corruption become an accepted part of life by the common man in India? Nope! The common man is still fighting against corruption and is not taking the ‘easy’ route.

Point to ponder- How far are newspapers playing a proactive role in supporting the common man in his fight against this menace and discouraging those who feed any kind of corruption? How many news reports do they carry on efforts by whistle blowers vis-à-vis news reports on ‘page three’ celebrities?

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27 November 2007

Cartoon Watch

The Events in Pakistan & Musharraf is the favourite topic of cartoonists today-Hindustan, Economic Times, Mail Today, Indian Express and Pioneer. While others have focused on Taslima (Dainik Bhaskar, Mail Today), Big B (Dainik Jagran), Modi & Uma Bharti (Hindu), driving & mobile phone (Times of India), Bipasha Basu & Arshad-victims of racism (Punjab Kesari), celebration of Sonia Gandhi’s birthday as Gaurav Day (Dainik Tribune).

However Veer Arjun, Rashtriya Sahara, Nav Aakash, Hindustan Times, MetroNow, Tribune and Mint did not contain any Indian cartoon.

 
Advertisement of the Day

An Ad by MetroNow (in English) in Hindustan (newspaper in Hindi). “3 months of news views and fun for less than the price of a cup of coffee…..this special invitation offer is for a limited period only”. But earlier too MetroNow had placed somewhat similar ads in other newspapers (see newspaper watch for 16th November). Now, what’s the difference? Instead of a foreign looking male model with pint of beer now this ad carries an Indian looking female model with a cup of coffee!

Point to ponder-Women don’t drink beer or men don‘t drink coffee? Hey, what about those who don’t drink either of the two!

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26 November 2007

Concern of the Day

The Editor-in-chief of Hindu, did some straight talking on the state of Indian media. He strongly criticised the ‘propaganda and campaign journalism’, particularly in the electronic media and called upon the management experts to find a solution to balance the economic needs of the print media with journalist interests to protect the core value of journalism. He regretted the attitude of some media managements in treating news as just an another ‘commodity’ and means to raise profits. This is not all, he went on- increasing dependency of newspapers on advertisements was threatening on core journalism…Some newspapers did not appoint editors…the role of business journalists was particularly appalling as they were becoming increasingly corrupt and were ‘brought over’ by corporate player to get media coverage (Hindu. Propaganda and campaign journalism decried. Pg 13).


Undervalued

The value of the Himalayan forest of Uttarakhand has been estimated to be Rs. 107 billion per year. This valuation is based on the services provided by these forests to the state as timber, tourism, water supply, nutrients rich soil and employment to people. The study blamed the authorities for not evaluating the impact of these forests on the state’s economy. It is said that the valuation is an approach to conserve ecosystems and rather than spending time and resources on selecting biodiversity rich areas, available forests should be conserved properly (Asian Age. Pg 5). But the study itself forgot to add on the estimated monetary value of other services of forests like preventing soil erosion, providing oxygen and habitat to the wildlife?


Advertisement of the Day

Ad by the largest bank in India- State Bank of India (SBI) in many leading newspapers in English & Hindi on the front page- “ You can’t predict the future but at least you can plan for it. Educational Campaign : A special initiative of SBI. Financial planning can help you a great deal…..”.

The 'smart' Bank did not forget to mention in very small print at the end of the ad-” SBI is not responsible and disclaims any liability for actions, decisions based on the above”!
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25 November 2007

Sunday Alarm

The basic quality of food is a deserted baby in the trillion dollar economy. . ‘Adulteration many not have the scary status….but its epidemical presence on the urban platter is just as frightening. …According to recent study, 90 per cent of out daily intake is adulterated with no succour in sight. From excreta in our spices and toxic shampoo in our milk to cow fat in our desi ghee, banned chemicals injects in our fruits and colour substances in our vegetables…’ A must to read in Pioneer -‘ Killers on your platter’ but what to eat now!

Advertisement of the Day

Ad by Hindu Business Line in the Hindu- ‘Read by those who know. And by those who want to know….Business Line is sure to give you an edge over others.’

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24 November 2007

Anything goes

Yesterday, most leading newspapers (including Times of India , pg 6) carried an obituary advertisement about a prayer meeting being held the same day for Aruna Sitesh, Principal of I. P College in Delhi with her large coloured photograph. But today, take a look at today's Delhi Times (supplement of Times of India)- ‘DU argues it out’ regarding a debate held in Jesus & Mary College. Accompanying the report are three photographs, one of which is of a woman with the caption- Aruna Sitesh. Hang on, she is NOT Aruna Sitesh. If only the reporters had bothered to check…..

Advertisement of the Day

Indian Express self Ad - “ every Sunday, life waits at your doorstep for you to discover….Get your copy of the Sunday Express.”

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23 November 2007

Cricketing Gag

The Indian cricket chief selector-Vengsarkar who had ignored two oral warning from Cricket Board and two reminders on the code of conduct that bars selectors from writing columns in newspapers has eventually conceded that he won’t be writing columns anymore. He also informed the Cricket board president that he will lose Rs. 4 million for not writing columns (Indian Express). However during the last few days, newspapers have suggested that he won’t bow down to cricket board‘s diktat:

“ …three selectors have threatened to quit their posts if BCCI persisted with the gag order…(MetroNow. 20/11/2007)

“…The selectors, no doubt ,upset as it not just a question of being gagged, some feel that it is a witch hunt , if not humiliation. The chairman was first debarred from taking to the media after selecting the team….”(Times of India. 20/11/2007)

Point to ponder- Why did Vengsarkar bow down? Is it the money or power?Gagging of press & freedom of expression is the legacy of the British Raj. Why can’t the cricket Board get over with it?

Advertisement of the Day

Dainik Bhaskar & Divya Bhaskar Ad in Mint - “ Slow & Steady loses the race: In a short span of 10 years we've grown...impossible is our challenge” .

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22 November 2007

Raising a Toast

Legally speaking, Indian newspapers can’t carry liquor advertisements. Nevertheless, liquor propagation is being done through features, news, photographs and captions in most newspapers - anyway!

Today, Tribune has carried a photograph of Jennifer Woods, managing director of export oriented firm raising a toast (not the bread toast!) in Mumbai. The caption also informs readers- ..” Vijay Mallya’s UB group, the world’s third largest maker of alcoholic spirits, said it will import seven premium wines from New Zealand…”. In the land of Mahatma Gandhi, liquor is on a high and the police is getting tough with drunk drivers! (Asian Age)

Anything Goes

The labour Minister has explicitly stated there is no plan to appoint a regulator for overseeing working conditions in the BPO sector, “ Since labour laws are already in applicable to BPOs and are regulated accordingly…” . But are the working conditions of the BPO sector not different from the rest?

Check one- are basic rules for safely of women employees followed here? Nope-check out a MetroNow investigation-’Drop Dead’ by Bhupen Patel who managed to get a fake driving license without ever driving a car, got a job as BPO driver after bribing the transport supervisor ….& much more. But why does it appear on page 16-a low priority to investigation?
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21 November 2007

Justice?

Ten years ago, 59 people died & over 100 were injured when a fire broke out in a theatre- ‘Uphaar’ during the screening of a patriotic Bollywood movie in New Delhi. The Sessions Court has finally delivered the verdict. However the owners of cinema theatre- Ansal brothers have been charged under a section which attracts maximum punishment of only two years in jail. The relatives of victims are unhappy about this & have called it ‘travesty of justice’. “ …Five years for killing a chinkara (Indian gazelle) and two years for killing 59 people. Is this justice”- asked Neelam, who lost two kids in this tragedy.

Take a look at the headlines of this news item which appeared on the front page of leading newspapers. How far do they reflect the whole episode?

12 guilty in Uphaar case (Times of India)

12 including Ansal brothers held guilty (Dainik Jagran)

12 guilty in Uphaar case (Dainik Bhaskar)

Justice received after 10 years (Amar Ujala)

Uphaar fire tragedy : 12 including Ansal brothers guilty (Punjab Kesari)

Ansal brothers, 10others convicted (Tribune)

Ten years after Uphaar tragedy, Ansal brothers guilty (Hindu)

Judgement comes on Uphaar, Ansal brothers guilty (Hindustan)

Uphaar: Ansals, 10 others guilty (Asian Age)

All accused found guilty in Uphaar tragedy (Pioneer)

Guilty (Indian Express)

Justice not so mighty (Mail Today)

Not enough (MetroNow)

Are the headlines of 2Ms- MetroNow and Mail Today, more explicit in getting to the crux?

Agri Doom?

Rick Wiess has warned that India could experience a 40 per cent decline in agricultural productivity by 2080 due to climate change (Tribune). But why wait till 2080, the open secret is that Indian farmers are in a fix today and are committing suicides. Any solution? The Chairman for Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) has advised the farmers to stage protests and fight for their rights.

Like the ones suggested by Mahatma Gandhi? Nope- feel the implications of his provocative advice to the farmers- “ don’t commit suicide. No one will bother. Bandool uthao (pick up a gun) or use whatever means of protest you know of ..no one appears to be listening to your voice… ” . Did he have any solution to the problem? Nope! He went on to tell the media that he had no ready made solutions to the problems of the Indian farmers. “ This is for the government and experts ..(Asian Age)

Point to ponder- what is the role of the Chairman for Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP)? CACP has been set up by the Ministry of Agriculture and the minimum support prices (MSP) for major agricultural products are fixed by the government, each year, after taking into account the recommendations of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP). And the Chairman of this powerful Commission advocating use of 'Guns'! This is NO solution to the agrarian crisis or as a matter of fact to any problem..

Instead, how about giving a serious look at the suggestion by Nobel Laureate Mohammad Yunus, who heads Grameen Bank in Bangladesh? He has called for changing banking norms in order to stop suicides by indigent farmers. “ people are more important than the banking system” (Tribune 20/11/2007). Is someone listening?
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20 November 2007

Growth

Infatuation with ‘high’ growth continues unabated! Take a look at the Advertisement in Hindi by a television channel in Dainik Jagran with punch line- ‘10% is the rate of growth of the country- are you also a stakeholder’. This ad features the big shots- Sunil Mittal, Narayan Murti, Rahul Bajaj and Montek Singh Ahluwalia, all explaining the meaning of 10% growth rate.

Particularly, both Narayana Murthy & Montek Singh Ahluwalia talk about employment. Hang on what about quality of employment? Is it important to mention anyway? Take a look- At the age of 65, a senior citizen- Khushi Ram is fortunate that he is employed in Delhi. Good, but this is only half the growth story. He works for 10 hours for mere Rs. 1200 per month. Must read- Reality Bites: Rs. 1200 a month for 10-hr night duty in Asian Age. Any solution here, apart from a 10% growth rate?

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19 November 2007

New Index

Noble Laureate Muhammad Yunus has called for establishment of a ‘Social stock market’ in which companies doing good for the society will be listed. (Hindustan Times). Why stop here? How about formulating ‘Social welfare Monitoring Index’, which will systematically monitor the performance of the state governments every month. And who will do this analysis? Of course - the media with help of the common man. This is nothing new, but this index will make the results more comprehensive & comparable. Time out from ‘Page three’ reporting?


Down the Road


The higher education of the trillion dollar economy is nowhere on the top. According to the Times Higher Education Supplement, none of the Indian universities have made it the list of top 200 Universities of the world (Asian Age). Not surprising, this sector has remained a holy cow, untouched by reforms when the country is witnessing reforms elsewhere. And what to talk about privatisation & entry of reputed foreign universities in the country? Instead, the government plans to invest Rs. 310 billion on skill development over the next five years in the 11th Five year Plan. This figure is way higher from Rs. 3.5 billion, allocated for the 10th Five year Plan (Mint).

Point to ponder- What is the need for a separate skill development fund? Why are the Indian universities not developing skills of students anyway? And a billion rupee question- why is the Indian higher education kept out of transformational reforms? And it is not a matter of surprise that like many others, a Graduate is struggling in the power capital of India. Why? “many educated people like me hope for a job but all efforts for in vain because everywhere you need a reference and money for bribe”… (Asian Age). A topic for the next ‘Big story’?
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18 November 2007

Big Story & picture

Sunday special - as usual some Page three personality, rich & famous? Nope, no celebrity reporting this time! Instead, two disturbing first hand reports.

‘The Big Story’ has appeared on page 12 of Hindustan Times . Here, Stavan Desai travelled in a white Indica to the ‘areas of darkness - a seceding nation in the heart of the country’ and found little evidence of the rules that India lives by. Here armed men (Naxalites) wage a war against the government : School, post offices and hospitals have been taken over. Why? Must to read -‘Inside the Liberated Zone’ .

Take two- ‘The Big Picture’ in Indian Express on page 10-11. Here,a Correspondent & photographer spent a night patrolling Nandigram in a ‘Express car' and found that ‘darkness lingers on even after sunrise.. There is fear and suspicion lucking at every corner in Nandigram…’. Definitely, a must to read - ‘Night without End’.

Point to ponder- how about spending a day on foot (sans a car) for a comprehensive ‘Big Ground Picture/Story’?

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17 November 2007

State of Media

The Lok Sabha Speaker did some straight taking about the state of Indian media -” We have the spectacle of newspapers and new channels spending considerable time space and their time telling us about the latest developments in the social lives of those who are in the entertainment industry or some favourite sportspersons or giving unsolicited astrological advice or covering extramarital affairs …the press is censored internally as managements not editors are calling the shots” (Asian Age, Hindu).

But what’s wrong in concentrating on the rich & powerful-many would ask? “we have to wake up to the grim reality that disparities between the well-to-do minorities and the poor masses is far too wide, to be acceptable in any democratic society. They exist in monarchies and dictatorships because the people are too scared of the powers-that-to be question the inequitable state of affairs” (Veteran Journalist & Editor- Khushwant Singh. Hindustan Times). Point to ponder- why are the editors so weak anyway?

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16 November 2007

Propagating

Lord Maculay’s famous Epigram -“ The only true history of a country is to be found in its newspapers” is indeed true. Implying that even advertisements of ‘newspapers’ too have a historic value. Take a look at two such ads:

The Ad by Amar Ujala is second in the series (first appeared yesterday) highlighting the paper’s social commitment on the grass root level:

“ Let us strengthen hands of those in which art resides: for resolving problems of working women, a meaningful effort by Amar Ujala & iCONGO (confederation of NGOs) ”.For more information come to IIFT (an ongoing popular trade fair in New Delhi). Stall no…The accompanying photograph in sepia is that of an old rural woman working on potter’s wheel.

While the ad by MetroNow in Times of India has rolled out a special invitation for a Trial offer for MetroNow for 3 months at Rs. 30:

“ 3 months of news views and fun for less than the price of a pint of beer!”

The ad features a a foreign looking man with a bottle of beer in his hand! But hang on, liquor ads were not allowed in India? Many would say- cool! this is not a surrogate ad and anyways beer is not a hard drink. Wonder, what would Mahatma Gandhi say on this logic? And what about those Delhites who don’t drink beer? Are they not a readership target for MetroNow? Keep Guessing!
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15 November 2007

Shut the paper?

Nandigram is a hot topic and the Indian newspapers have minced no words in expressing their concern at the extraordinary events that have taken place there. Take a look at one of the comprehensive take:

“Buddha’s mujahideen have done it in Nandigram what Musharraf’s jihadis could not do in Kashmir- capture territory by pushing mercenaries with army regulars (read police) providing logistical support….” (Partha Maitra. MetroNow. 15/11/2007)

Not surprising, the flood of criticism has not gone well with the authorities. But surprisingly, the Chief Minister of West Bengal (where Nandigram is situated) has criticised the press. Addressing a journalist from local newspaper in Bengali that has been shapely criticising the government’s action he said-“Your paper would have been shut by now if it was in any other state. But I don’t want to dirty my hand by doing such an act” (Indian Express).

Freedom of Press has been an area of contention ever since the commencement of press in India during the British Raj. Several editors were deported to Europe without trial or on short notice, several forced to apologise during 1791-99. And at the commencement of the rule of Wellesley, government promulgated stringent rules for the public press… And 150 years ago, Canning passed the Gagging Act …But hang on, at present India is not under the British Raj! Then, why such a statement on Freedom of Press?

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14 November 2007

A Tale

When cartoons and advertisement combine together, the result is obvious! Yes, the advertisement of the day tells ‘A Tale of Two Countries’- India & China through interesting cartoons. The story line- “ Why does the Chinese textile industry receive full government support while the Indian textile manufactures are left to fend for themselves despite the fact that the Indian Textile & Clothing industry is The best employment guarantee scheme? ” The ad goes on- “ Supporting the textile & Clothing also supports the farmer…And cotton farming is much more profitable than farming other crops in places where irrigation projects have been implemented. No wonder cotton GDP is growing at 15% against agri-growth of less than 4%..” (Economic Times). But does the Indian textile manufactures really care about the plight of cotton growing farmers?

Why does the ad only talk about the irrigated regions under cotton farming despite the fact that the largest cotton producing state of Maharashtra has only 5 per cent cotton producing region under irrigation (Statistical Abstract of India). Surely,the plight of cotton growing millions of farmers in Vidharbha is no secret. Their main cause of misery- debt and crop losses or crop failure.

A must to read- ‘Maharashtra: graveyard of farmers’ by P.Sainath in Hindu. Read to find out how the government manipulates the statistics to keep the suicides down. “30,000 farm suicides in a decade: Vidharbha worst place in nation to be a farmer…”. It seems that the Indian textile manufactures are basically worried about their exports in the light of rising rupee rather than the ad-talk about ‘inclusive growth, employment, self-respect…”. But that goes for all exporters?

Point to ponder- During the last decade, how far has the Indian Textile & Clothing industry helped these farmers? A tale waiting to be told in another Ad!

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13 November 2007

Corruption

Is corruption a problem in India that needs to be tackled? Yes, that’s what an advertisement by Directorate of Vigilance. Government of NCT of Delhi is stressing on the occasion of the Vigilance Awareness week-” Help Us Fight Corruption: Dear Citizens, are you being harassed by any corrupt public servant of any Govt. office situated in Delhi? Lodge your complaint round the clock….” (Times of India).

But hang on, who is a corrupt public servant anyway? According to today’s editorial in Tribune the very definition of corruption is changing.- “The government servant who takes money for doing his work is not considered corrupt. The corrupt one is the one who takes the bribe and still does nothing. ..”. The editorial did not call on the people to detest from coming into the easy trap of doling out bribe & getting their work and instead talked about everything else but this. Meaning- is corruption an accepted part of life here? Nope, trust the common man like Dube who still resists this menace in his own small way. Conclusion? Protect the whistle-blowers and encourage them to fight corruption.

Cartoon Watch

Out of 25 newspapers scanned today, 11 papers have not carry any Indian cartoon. These dry papers were the following- Statesman, Shah Times, Jansatta, Rashtriya Sahara, Veer Arjun, Haribhoomi, Mint, MetroNow, Hindustan Times, Pioneer and Tribune. That’s not all, out of 14 the newspaper that have carried Indian cartoons, only 6 have carried cartoon on their front page (Indian Express, Virat Vaibhav, Rajasthan Partika, Dainik Tribune, Dainik Jagran and Times of India). We all love cartoons, don’t we! Wonder why such an apathy towards Indian cartoons?

Anyways, what is the popular topic of Indian cartoons today? No surprises here - Musharraf and Nandigram! Musharraf (Virat Vaibhav, Rajasthan Patrika, Dainik Jagran). Nandigram (Hindu, Times of India, Asian Age). In fact, Manjul, the cartoonist of Dainik Bhaskar has brought Musharraf and Nandigram in the same frame with Musharraf calling Karat- “ Hello Karat Sahib, I wanted to know that how did you manage Nandigram?’ While others focused on various other topics like nuclear deal, forthcoming elections, rubber stamp, CM Karnakata, No mobile phone in school, helicopter purchase, grant, moustache museum, Manmohan & Russian visit.

Higher Education

After the Human Resource Development Minister called - higher education a 'sick child' an interest in education seems to be visible in the newspapers. But in which direction?

“ Autonomy is at stake: Indian universities are bound by ties of patronage” (Times of India. Article by Andre Beteille on Editorial Page).

“Academic Freedom and higher education: Academic freedom is central to the future of India’s higher education system in its efforts to develop a knowledge economy and institutions of excellence comparable to the best in the world” (Hindu. Article by C.Raj Kumar on Editorial Page).

“From sickness to health: A report published in a section of the press that HRD minister and …..are on the faculty list of the Pune based Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT-SOG), not recognised by any government authority, stunning the academic community. If true, the present breed of politicians has forfeited their moral right to have any say in matters relating to education..” (Statesman. Article by Ardhendu Chatterjee. Page 10)

Point to ponder- higher education in India is vastly a State controlled affair. What is this ’autonomy’ talk? In the era of globalisation, why ‘no’ to privatisation of higher education? Why should the  government be funding Higher education anyway. Why not focus on expansion of basic school education and health facilities? Why reputed foreign universities not allowed to set up their shops to give competition to Indian higher educational institutions? Leave higher education to the market forces!

In a nutshell- Why no transformational reform in this sector?

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12 November 2007

Advertisement Watch

The craze for ‘brand India’ continues. Express Travel World & The Express Group has brought out a supplement which was distributed with Indian Express, focusing on Brand India.

Before anything else, take a look at the advertisement at the back side - an elephant with a ball. Now what does this signify? India is a ball or Elephant is India, which is having a Ball ? It seems there is no consensus on what really India is- an elephant, a ball, a tiger, a brand or a country?

Point to ponder- can the Indian national flag be shown as a ball?

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11 November 2007

The Great Indian Middle Class

India is often propagated as a large ‘free’ market in the Global Market. After all the great middle class of around 350 million is too enticing for any brand!

And the hot news is that in line with the expectation, the urban middle class is spending 70 per cent of their earning - a great demand curve! Infact they are even taking loans to meet the expenses! On the other hand, the rural middle class is comparatively a bit sober as they are spending only 56 per cent of their earnings. But this too is not less! This was revealed by survey (sample size- 63,000) by the leading Research Body in Delhi- National Council of Applied Economic Research (Dainik Jagran. Sunday Special. Front page).

Point to ponder- Is this desirable consumerism or a vulgar display of money which will be unsustainable in the long run?

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10 November 2007

Holiday

Yesterday, on the occasion of Diwali, most newspapers remained closed and hence most paper remained absent today!

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9 November 2007

The Concern of the Week

The Prime Minister of India has called for urgent need to address the problem of subsidies in food, fertilisers and petroleum and asked his cabinet colleagues to reflect the implication of the subsidy bill of over Rs 1000 billion being spent this year alone. He is dot on- “ It is important that we restructure subsidies so that only the really needy and poor benefit from them and all leakages are plugged….” (Hindustan Times).

However no such concern was reflected in the Economic Survey 2006-07:

“…Subsidies are an important fiscal tool for correcting market failures, particularly under-consumption of basic essentials as food. With direct provision by the Centre, major subsidies, mainly on food and petroleum grew at the rate from Rs. 407 billion to Rs. 442 billion in 2005-06 (prov) and were budgeted at Rs. 448 billion in 2006-07. As a proportion of GDP, subsidies fell from 1.7 percent in 2002-03 to 1.2 per cent in 2005-06 (prov) and 1.1 per cent of GDP in 2006-07 (BE)..”

Point to ponder- With price of petroleum reaching an all time high, an indication of an increase in price of POL products? With the rate of Inflation under control, right time!

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8 November 2007

Rural Development

The sixth Pravasi Bhartiya Diwas will be held during 7-9 January for non resident Indians and persons of Indian origin in New Delhi. What’s the agenda of the meet?

“…it will seek to encourage non resident Indians and persons of Indian origin investments in schemes to empower rural women….”(Hindustan Times. Pg 15).

“…will focus on rural development…” (Indian Express. Pg 8).

This Diwas made it to the front page of Times of India with striking heading-” Socialist India dons new tag: Free market". According this report, a new punch line or tag- “ fastest growing free market democracy” will be embraced by the Indian government during this Diwas. This move is seem as a major shift away from socialism.

But hang on, no-where in the world (including India) one can find a ‘free market’, imperfections & distortions are there to stay everywhere. So can India proclaim herself as ‘free market’? Moreover, there is no need to create a brand for India through this punch line as high economic growth speaks for itself. Let the free market forces decide where to invest! But would a profit oriented investor be interested in investing in rural development (focus of this meet) anyway? Nope! Then who apart from government can focus on rural development characterised with long gestation period & low or no returns? The Navratnas - what are highly profitable public sector units doing with hung amount of reserves anyway? Come & open the kitty for the rural folk & become socially responsible!

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7 November 2007

Reporting ‘Report’

United Nations Conference on Trade & Development (Unctad) has published Trade & Development Index for 2006 and naturally Indian newspapers would be interested in reporting India’s rank. Take a look how the emphasis of reports (headline) varies in two newspapers belonging to the same Media Group:

“ India moves up on TDI List” (Economic Times)

“ India ranks lowest in trade Index” (Times of India)

While on the other hand Indian Express has carried a report on the World Bank study entitled-’ Connecting to Compete: Trade Logistics in the Global Economy with the heading-

“India ranks 39 on World goods transportation list”. This report starts off-' India’s emerging economy many be catapulting it to new highs in international trade, but the country has miles to go before coming into the reckoning as an efficient and competitive logistics performer..' (Indian Express).

Hang on which ‘new highs in international trade’? The Unctad report, like many others has also rated India as among least open to trade & also poor rating in terms of foreign market access too!

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6 November 2007

To Governor with love?

When a newspaper becomes a medium of communication between two distinguished people, a must to read follows. Yes, the latest are the letters between the former Supreme Court Judge & Governor of West Bengal in Hindu.

The Governor of West Bengal has conceded-"..It may not be ‘standard’ for a Governor to respond to an ‘open letter’ through a reply in the same mode. But how can I not do so, when the letter has come from one as eminent and respected as you and has been read by thousands of seriously concerned readers...” (Hindu. 4/11/2007).

Today, Mr. V.R Krishna Iyer, the former Supreme court judge has replied “…You have stated in your press statement that I wrote an open letter to you through The Hindu and so you were replying to me through The Hindu. I was embarrassed to read this egregious solecism of addressing the honourable Governor, not directly but through a newspaper. I wondered what you would have thought of me making an odd communication to a great dignitary through the media…”(Hindu. 6/11/2007).

Hang on, what was the original topic of these letters anyway - Nandigram?

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5 November 2007

Welcome Stats?

Infrastructure is really very strong in Switzerland, a country not very large. Take a look at some of the statistics carried by Economic Times about Switzerland -

rail network in Switzerland- 63,230 Kms.

total number of airports in Switzerland-333.

ports and harbours of Switzerland are - Chennai, Cochin, Jawaharlal Nehru, Kandla, Kolkota, Mumbai and Vishakhapatnam.

Hey, what kind of stats are these? The above are some of the statistics that have been published in the leading Financial Newspaper in India- ‘Economic Times’ in a special supplement- “ Gruezi Switzerland” on the occasion of visit of the President of Switzerland to India And what’s the source of these stats -“World Fact Book & IMF”!! (Economic Times). The supplement was conceptualised by International Media Marketing, Response! Probably it was their ‘way’ of welcoming the President of Switzerland to ‘Incredible’ India?

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4 November 2007

Big News

The big news is that the President of Pakistan has imposed the State of Emergency in Pakistan. This hot news has been covered by most newspapers of the largest democracy of the world on their front page in a prominent manner. Take a look:

Musharaff’s second coup (Hindustan Times)
Pak under Musharraf Law (Asian Age)
General used hunter of emergency (Navbharat Times)
Emergency in Pakistan is on (Veer Arjun)
General’s last gamble (Times of India)
Last Move (Amar Ujala)
Musharraf clamps emergency (Hindu)
Emergency in Pak (Pioneer)
Emergency in Pakistan (Tribune, Virat Vaibhav, Jansatta, Punjab Kesari, Dainik Jagran, Dainik Jagran)
Emergency Pakistan (Indian Express)

And what was the take of editorials on this hot news? Well, majority have not carried any editorial today and those which have carried, have not focused on the happenings in Pakistan. Next time- a Quick Edit ?

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3 November 2007

Water & land

The Lone classified advertisement in a popular Hindi newspaper from the Indian State of Rajasthan under ‘property for sale’ goes:

“For sale-purchase of plot and land in Barmer contact-..” (Rajasthan Patrika).

Is Barmer a hot real estate destination? The answer lies in a report carried by Virat Vaibav on its last page. “For the consecutive fourth year, there is drought in the district of Barmer and this year crop on 1.3 million hectare land has been damaged”. The lack of irrigation and sheer dependency on monsoons has played cruel joke with the farmers in 85 per cent villages. The situation is worse in Bundelkhand region which includes part of northern Madhya Pradesh and southern Uttar Pradesh. Here absence of monsoons have resulted in actuate shortage of drinking water as water bodies have dried up. The Result- villagers have left their villages, leaving behind their cattle (Jansatta).

Why after so many years since independence, irrigation & clean drinking water in rural areas are a neglected baby? And instead, more & more funds are pumped into urban ones.- ‘Rajasthan has taken a loan from Asian Development Bank worth Rs. 273 million to improve standard of living for urbanites’ (Shah Times). Not surprising, desperate farmers from Barmer & Bundelkhand would be willing to sell their land at low prices and migrate to a urban areas & work as labouresr. Good news for SEZs and land bankers? But what about these farmers? Can urban areas absorb all of them? How about Corporate farming in urban areas!!

Point to ponder-Why such news/reports are not carried by the leading English newspapers? Lost cause-Development Economics?

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2 November 2007

Advertisement War

The medium of advertisement has been effectively utilised during wars & elections apart from normal propagation of commodities, services and more. But can a war be fought though advertisements during peaceful times in India? Yes! An ad war is on between the Central Minister- Ms. Selja (elected from Ambala in Haryana) and the supporters of Chief Minister of Haryana. But both leaders are from Haryana and belong to the same ruling party, so why this war ?

The culprit is the Bijali (electricity) rally that was held on seventh of last month in Haryana with a lot of fanfare. Here a freebie was announced that the poor people of Haryana will get free plots. And this started the race for taking the credit for this freebie and got conveyed to the people of Haryana! One advertisement thanked Selja for this initiative and also carried her photo along with the photo of Party High Command, but minus the Chief Minister of the State. Thereafter the supporters of Chief Minister of Haryana published an advertisement which thanked the chief minister of Haryana for this initiative. No prize for guessing whether there was any reference to Selja! (Dainik Bhaskar)

Nevertheless, let’s hope that these plots meant for poor would eventually reach the poor and not follow the footsteps of recently unearthed land scam (Chholegate scam) in neighbouring Delhi. A recap- all slum-dwellers were supposed to be given a plot each in Delhi. However, the accused officials allotted a number of these plots in the name of fictitious persons, using forged identity documents, allegedly at the behest of a person called Malhotra, who subsequently sold these plots at exorbitant rates It was alleged that Malhotra entered into a criminal conspiracy with five officials and filed applications for allotment of plots under the scheme using fictitious names, claiming to be erstwhile residents of Hudson Lines (Times of India. 3/08/2007)

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1 November 2007

Elephant should dance?

It seems Shashi Tharoor is celebrating the 150th anniversary of revolt of 1857 in his own way by bringing memories of the Indian Tiger alive. A quick recap- India was then seen as a tiger in the eyes of cartoonists but after seemingly unsuccessful revolt of 1857, the metaphor of tiger was abandoned for India and the Indian elephant emerged. Tenniel's famous cartoon in the London Punch said it all-' The British Lion's Vengeance on the Bengal Tiger'.

Now according to Shashi Tharoor- “The elephant is the big slumbering economic giant that India is and the tiger is what it can turn into..” (Pioneer). But which big slumbering economic giant elephant is he referring to? Has India joined or likely to join the club of prosperous developed world in the near future? Nope, according to National Sample Survey, rather 77 percent of population (840 million Indians) live on merely half a dollar a day. Not surprisingly, India is placed at bottom fourth on the Global Hunger Index. Surely the theory of ‘tickle down’ has not worked here for the majority.

Nevertheless, after record 150 years, can the Indian elephant (in which ever state!) become a tiger again? Assuming it can, what about the future of this 1857-tiger in 2007? Not quite sure, as the all-mighty British Lion is still around! But definitely sure- A cartoonist’s delight!