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November 2009 Newspaper Watch

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


30 November 2009

Media Watch

The Indian Express has carried a four page supplement - “Pride of India”. What is it about- Indian public sector. But hang on, this is not a normal supplement, small print informs “A space marketing feature”. An advertisement or space marketed, keep guessing! Look -“Dun & Bradstreem the world’s leading source of global business information, knowledge and insight, published a report on India’s top PSUs 2009’, in an effort to recognise the strategic importance of this sector”. This supplement also contains ads of ONGC, UCO Bank and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd & also a write-up each about them! Point to ponder- what was that?
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29 November 2009

Concern of Day

The Indian Express has highlighted extract from Nandan Nilekani in bold- “The idea is to be inclusive, The upper and middle classes have many forms of identity but the poor has none”. Under Nandan Nilekani’s supervistion, will the national identify number make it easier to identify the poor which is seen in the cartoon in DNA? The cartoon in DNA shows common man being crushed under the bulldozer of prices. Manmohan Singh is seen telling this crushed man- “We promise to protect you from terrorism”. Three ministers- Home Minister, Agriculture and finance are seen amused.

Advertisement Watch

If you have it, flaunt it! A full page advertisement in DNA (Mumbai Edition) informs - “ DNA is not the 2nd largest English daily in Mumbai, Pune, Ahmedabad and Jaipur. The ad does not forget to mention-”Thank you for your support”.
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28 November 2009

Concern of Day

The cartoon in DNA shows candle burning bright in the memory of 26/11 in Nov 08. While now in Nov 19, the height of the candle has reduced. Why- take a clue from the newspaper lying near this candle. The paper shows curve of prices going up. Yes Inflation is still on the rise and is hurting the common man. The cartoon of Day has appeared in Hamara Mahanagar (Mumbai Edition). It features a politician addressing a public gathering -”We believe in equality. We will eliminate difference between rich-poor. By speed of inflation you people have understood that in coming days rich will be seen only in museums!!!”. Another toon shows a poor man holding paper being told by security personnel of minister- “Nowadays, he is busy helping high profile terror victims. Unfortunately, you lost everything in riots”(DNA).
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27 November 2009

Exclusive : Life after 26/11 at Gateway of India. See photo album below.
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26 November 2009

Advertisement Watch

A full page of advertisement by Oberai Group reads- “26/11 A year later, we stand tall Your support & encouragement has been our strength”. Another advertisement remembers the terror attack of 26/11 in Mumbai. This ad by Taj Mahal Place & Towers starts off- “There are no handbooks for facing tragedy..” and ends- “…To the city of Mumbai, we offer our heartfelt gratitude. Today we take a step forward. Tomorrow we’ll take many more”. The space for above two ads in Indian Express (Mumbai Edition) has been contributed by Indian Express. There is no recession for the ultra rich in Mumbai. An advertisement has appeared in Mumbai Edition of Times of India- “World famous Christmas Cake…baked in Texas-shipped to the world…Easy to order…But hurry!!…”. In fact, prices and international delivery charges are mentioned in dollars!

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24 November 2009

Media Watch

Indian Readership Survey (IRS 2009, Round 2) is out and take a look how three newspapers in English are reading it:DNA has consolidated its position among readers in Mumbai, the latest readership figures show. In a year in which the Indian economy suffered from the roll-on effects of a global meltdown, DNA's average issue readership (AIR) grew 1.5% year-on-year compared to corresponding figures in 2008. This is largely because of DNA's loyal and growing reader base in the city of its birth….IRS 2009 R2 also suggests that DNA is growing faster than the competition in the upmarket segments -- the key segments courted by advertisers. Among readers with monthly household incomes (MHI) of over Rs 20,000, DNA has grown 5.4%, while TOI and Hindustan Times have dropped 23.8% and 37.5% respectively. In the category of businessmen, industrialists, self-employed professionals, officers and executives, DNA has grown 18% while TOI and HT have dropped 10.5% and 23.1%….DNA thanks its readers and advertisers for being a part of our growth story. (DNA)

More Delhiites reach out for the Hindustan Times as their only paper of choice every morning than for any other paper. Latest figures published on Monday by the Indian Readership Survey (IRS R2 ‘09) for the one-year period until June 2009 show that the Hindustan Times continues to be the paper of choice for nearly 14 lakh readers. …With the relaunch of the overall Hindustan Times paper in July, and the extremely positive response to it, this growth is expected to greatly accelerate. (front page.Hindustan Times)

The readers have spoken, and the verdict is clear. The Times of India is the undisputed leader in Delhi, recording a rise in readership even as other English-language general interest dailies suffered a decline. According to results of the second round of the Indian Readership Survey for 2009, unveiled on Monday, TOI’s average issue readership (AIR) in Delhi increased 4%, to 20.25 lakh from 19.54 lakh in the previous round. Hindustan Times declined 3%, from 19.91 lakh to 19.34 lakh, The Hindu shrank from 85,000 to 80,000 and Indian Express from 34,000 to 33,000.…The Times Group also continued its dominance of Mumbai, with TOI the overwhelming No 1 among English dailies, with an AIR of 14.61 lakh….The nearest competitor from outside the Times Group, DNA, has an AIR of 6.83 lakh, less than half of TOI’s….(Times of India)

Concern of Day

According to latest Unicef survey, India has about 48 per cent of undernourished children below five years, the largest in the world. The survey says India has an estimated 61 million stunted children, accounting for every three out of 10 stunted children in the developing world. "Poverty, inequity, low maternal education and women's social status are among the underlying factors that need to be taken into consideration and addressed in order to reduce under-nutrition in a sustained manner," the report said (New Indian Express). Yesterday, the editorial of Tribune had called to do more to prevent infant deaths. It concluded- “…the government must address the problem at the grassroots level and fulfil its responsibility towards children”. The editorial of Mail Today has called -”A shame for all of us”. But what about the rampant corruption which breaches best intended developmental programmes? Two days back, the Vice President of India had voiced his concern over corruption. His speech at the Valedictory Function of the International Conference of Jurists on International Terrorism and Rule of Law specifically mentioned - “…In India we remain committed to democratic governance, transparency, inclusive development and the implementation of Rule of Law. Our practice, however, has been marred by lapses resulting in a failure to deliver it in sufficient measure. The supremacy of Rule of Law has been challenged by corruption and the malicious influence of money power; both are made possible by departure from norms of good governance. Corruption is an ailment that is pervasive, cancerous and multi-dimensional. In moral terms it corrodes the social and political fabric of society and increases injustice; in its legal implications, it results in disregard for the rule of law; in its developmental aspect, it tends to distort the decision-making processes and is wasteful of resources. It shakes the legitimacy of the state, erodes sovereignty of the state and its capacity to exercise sovereign functions including ensuring law and order for the citizens. It has emerged as a significant threat to national security..”. Point to ponder- time ripe to overhaul the public grievance redressal system?

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23 November 2009

Concern of Day

Pradeep Thakur informs that nearly half of the Rs 70,000 crore (Rs. 700 billion) in offshore investment that’s come into Indian bourses this fiscal, till October, is from alleged tax havens such as Mauritius, Hong Kong and Luxembourg — the three together contributing almost Rs 25,000 crore of the net inflow from foreign institutional investors. And the reaction of government - there is no cause for concern on the strong FII inflow into stock markets, with finance minister Pranab Mukherjee stating that regulators are keeping a close watch and will act if it’s found alarming. What could be the reason behind- The Government and the Reserve Bank have different takes on participatory notes (PNs), through which unregistered foreign entities enter Indian stock market. While the Government believes that final beneficiary of PNs could be known, RBI is of the opinion that it is difficult to identify the ultimate holders of these instruments (Economic Times. 5/4/09).
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22 November 2009

Editorial of Day

The Union government has issued guidelines to the media, especially electronic media, against replaying disturbing visuals of the 26/11 Mumbai attack. The basic point of the guidance is well taken...But the idea of the government issuing directives to the media is not acceptable. Before you know what is happening we will have babus telling us what to write and how to edit a news item…The democratic right of free expression is a hard- won right, and its biggest enemy is the bureaucracy…The I& B ministry should get off its high horse and engage the media, rather than try to manage it top to down. (Mail Today)

The real reason for Shiv Sena’s goons to attack the IBN- Lokmat office in Mumbai is not that their chief Bal Thackeray was “ insulted” by the television news channel, but the fact that they knew no state government will act against them with any seriousness….IBN- Lokmat is an incidental victim to this brazen display of muscle power by a party that has been left in the lurch by the electorate for having neither any ideology, nor any agenda for development. The real victim, unfortunately, is India’s vibrant free media and the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. It would be a travesty if those responsible for the attack on the media are not punished severely….(Mail Today).

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21 November 2009

Media Watch

The front page of Indian Express reports that a mob of Shiv Sainiks attacked and vandalised the offices of Hindi and Marathi TV news channels IBN7 and IBN-Lokmat in Mumbai and Pune on Friday for what they said was criticism of the party and its chief Bal Thackeray after his recent comments against cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, returning to its traditional brand of violent politics in the aftermath of its poor show in the Assembly elections. Why- “Witnesses in Mumbai said the attackers shouted that they would not accept any criticism or reports criticising the Shiv Sena. They also called out for IBN Lokmat's Editor-in-Chief Nikhil Wagle and manhandled him before the channel's employees clashed with the attackers and detained three of them in the melee…”. The reaction of police - "Any such attack in a democratic society is unpardonable and since media is an arm of a democratic society, such actions will be dealt with seriously. We will do everything we can to ensure that the culprits are booked. We will ensure that this time we also go behind the scene and take action against everyone involved in this attack," - Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Himanshu Roy.

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20 November 2009

Inflation Watch

The advertisement issued in ‘public interest’ by Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee. Delhi in Times of India shows wholesale rates of few fruits and vegetables in Azadpur Mandi on 19/11/09. But main street buys from retail which has no relation with wholesale prices displayed here. Yes, food inflation rose to 14.55 percent in the first week of this month due to higher prices of potatoes, onions and pulses. According to Hindustan Times correspondent (name not mentioned)- “…But the poor continue to pay the inflation tax”. Yes, why not, the prices of vegetables have increased by nearly 55 percent since March this year. The political bureau of Economic Times point that rising food prices tar into government claims. “sharp divergence between government policies and crucial concerns of the common man, who spends about 45% of his income on food compared to only 15% spent by Americans..”. The cartoon in Aaj Samaj reflects it all. The vegetable seller has placed a board- “finance available”. Looking at this development, one man (carrying a shopping bag) tells another- “He is asking how much down payment can you make?”. Naturally, these men are not happy! But who is happy? According to Forbes- “happier days are here again for India’s super rich, thanks to a rebounding stock market…”. Most newspapers inform that according to the latest Forbes India Rich List, the number of billionaires have doubled in 2009! The combined net worth of 100 richest Indians doubles to $276 billion, which is approximately a quarter of the country’s GDP. Asian Age correspondent (name not mentioned) inform that billionaires growth faster then economy, Point to ponder- is rising income inequalities, lowered purchasing power faced by the main street no concern to leading official economists?

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19 November 2009

Editorial Watch

The mention of India and Pakistan in the US-China joint statement issued during US president Barack Obama’s trip to China has sent alarm bells ringing in New Delh. India has been mentioned for the first time in a US-China joint statement… No Need to panic. Too much shouldn’t be read into the US-China joint declaration. (Times of India).

By underlying role of China in Indo-Pak, American President Barack Obama may not done anything but has created unwarranted controversy…By putting pressure on India, America may get momentary benefit from China by making it happy, but ahead, the physical distance between America and China will continue to be maintained in relations. (Aaj Samaj)

…Next week Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has to tell clearly that any external interference in South Asia, though it be presented as sugar coated with good-will , is not acceptable (Nai Duniya)

In Indian eyes, China‘s foreign policy is bent towards Pakistan..Despite valid hope, India has to understand current necessity of American policy. America needs cooperation from China for not only in Afghanistan, Iran ,North Korea, also in Pakistan. Therefore, instead of sharp reaction, India should make way for strong foreign policy. (Hindustan).

The east wind is prevailing over the west wind- at least as long as the global economy remains trapped in a depression. ….US allies around the world are confused : is Obama bowing from the waist in foreign affairs part of the tactical gesture or a strategic mindset? ..the US’s global leadership role is anchored by speaking softly as well as carrying a big stick. Wielding only one of each sends wrong signals to partners and rivals alike. (Hindustan Times)

US President Barack Obama’s solicitousness of his Chinese hosts should cause no surprise. Equally, no Indian outrage is called for account pf condescending references in the US-China joint statement to the situation in South Asia…We need to understand that Americans are being extra nice to the Chinese because they need China at this juncture…(Asian Age)

Concern of Day

Most newspaper inform that Indian government may import rice. Hang on, India is second largest rice producer, is there no rice in stock? Times of India informs that according to the government estimated, kharif rice production output is likely to fall nearly 18% tp 69.45 million due to poor monsoons, leading to shortfall of about 15 million tonnes in 200-10. A small news item in Hindu reports that government agencies have procured paddy equivalent to 11.3 million so far in the kharif season (Sept-Oct), which is 10 percent more than last year. S.P.S elaborates in Mail Today- “govt mulls rice import while FCI stocks spill”. The facts are self explanatory- “The amount of rice in the Central pool on October 1 this year was still a whopping 15.34 million tonnes, which is nearly three times the amount of 5.2 million tonnes that is required under the buffer stock norms at this point”. If the godowns of Food Corporation of India (FCI) are full and the harvest has started to pour in, what is the logic behind considering rice import? High price of rice in the retail market? But domestic supply (inclusive of present stock) alone is sufficient to cool prices. However, domestic supply is being tampered. Two days Jangveer Singh reported in Tribune that 14 million bags of paddy are lying unsold in mandis (market), mostly in open in the state of Punjab. And that tonnes have been damaged by rain during past week. Why were they not sold? Reason- “…large number of millers were declared defaulters…millers were reluctant to pick up paddy …because FCI is still to concede to their demand to increase the damage percentage…”. The same newspaper also carried the news that despite scanty rainfall and adverse weather conditions, the paddy production in the State of Haryana is expected to exceed production figures of last year. At start of arrival of harvest in the market, over 3.9 million tonnes of rice has arrived in mandis, the figure is higher than last year. Point to ponder- will this paddy meet the fate of the paddy that Jangveer Singh reported? There is no accountability of supply management?

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18 November 09

Corruption Watch

The front page of Free Press Journal informs that India has been ranked as low as 84 among 180 countries on the integrity score by global corruption watchdog Transparency International in its latest survey. “This means India continues to be perceived as a highly corrupt nation in the world. It also means that 83 other countries are less corrupt than India”. Not surprised? Every year this report comes out and informs that corruption is rampant, but what next? Does it make us - Sleepless in Delhi? The normal public grievance redressal system is not functioning to its optimal level. Even the Right to Information Act seem to have lost its sheen, thanks to lame excuse by PIO “information is not traceable/available”. Of course, this amounts to obstruction of information but still Information Commissioner at CIC lets the PIO to get away, that too without any penalty or even adverse remarks! Who will bell the cat! The already overburdened Courts? Unfortunately, the media has not launched any serious anti-corruption campaign. Turn over to the next page, while the honest main street still fights a lone battle against corruption. High Time to Join in?

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17 November 2009

Media Watch

It seems not all is well with Indian media. Govind Thukral, the consulting editor of Tribune has asked the media to be more responsible while covering events related to national security. “The primary role of the media was to highlight the plight of the poor an expose scandals in public interest. However due to pressure of the market -driven journals, many newspapers and electronic media has shifted their focus from real issues”. Suresh Dharur reports in the same newspaper that taking note of recent trend of publishing “paid news” in the media, the Press Council of India (PCI) has set up a committee to study and make recommendations. According to Chairman of Press Council of India, media like other institution has succumbed to the vice of malpractices and corruption. “Yellow journalism and blackmailing were know forms of corruption in journalism but today the subtle and implicit form of corruption is creating greater mischief. The distortion, disinformation and paid-news syndrome aimed to serve certain interests and suppression of news and concerns of other interests have become a usual feature in the media”. Point to ponder- is this the reason why unlike the newspapers in United States, none of the leading Indian newspapers have closed down, infact their profits have soured?

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16 November 2009

Concern of Day

Ashwin Aghor informs that recent directive from the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) to shift all the elephants from zoos and circus to national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and Project Tiger, has sparked a heated debate among forest department officials across the state. Reason- "First of all we do not need any elephants. There is nothing that we can do with them. If sent to us, it would be a huge financial burden on the department"(DNA). But why are only elephants getting relocated from Zoos? Are rest of animals in zoo are happy? Atreya had informed way back last year that zoos have become death house for animals. During last decade maximum deaths have occurred of Leopards, Bengal Tigers, Indian Lion White Tiger, Indian Rhinos (Dainik Bhaskar. 8/4/08). Then, why are Leopards, Bengal Tigers, Indian Lion, White Tiger and Indian Rhinos not getting reallocated to forests? Keep guessing! But there is no doubt that balance of natural ecosystem has been spoilt by encroaching humans. Special correspondent of Asian age had reported that a proactive group had established that Chandigarh administration has been inflating statistics to show a much greener cover in State of Haryana and Punjab that it existed on ground. They even claimed that it was the highest urban green cover in Asia! And even in protected forests, animals are not safe from poachers. Poachers in famous Kaziranga National Park (in Assam) carry sophisticated weapons as AK-74 and AK 56 to slaughter rhinos. Can the forest guards with unsophisticated arms meet their firepower?(Asian Age. 1/5/08). Further, the Indian laws are lax, according to Priti Bajaj, legal system lacks bite to bring wildlife criminals to book. “How many poachers have been brought to book is a million-dollar question which remains unanswered. The government may be shouting from the rooftop that poaching must be stopped but not a single poacher has been punished till date…” Anjana Gosain, secretary of Tiger Trust had pointed out (Pioneer. 27/5/08). Meenal Dubey had informed that 35 Olive Ridleys turtles, (endangered turtles) with transmitters fitted on their back had disappeared ! (Mail Today. 11/3/08). Jayatri Nag had informed that West Bengal government had failed to stop illegal trade of fresh water turtles (endangered turtles) from Orissa. And that every week around 400 Kg of turtle meat is transported from Orissa to markets all over Bengal. (Mail-Today. 27/2/08). ‘Shrinking diversity: many species gone, others disappearing’ was the heading of the editorial of Pioneer. The Editorial had started off with the WWF report which was critical of Indian report card on biodiversity front. Point to ponder- need for biodiversity summit at Copenhagen?

Education Watch

The editorial of Financial Chronicle comes with the heading- “Taxing education”. Is there any proposal to tax education in India? Nope, it argues that laptops should not be taxed by the government! Reason- laptop per child (OLPC) project advocated by Nicholas Negroponte. The editorial further states- “…with so much focus on education, it would not be too much to ask for removal of levies on a devise aimed at teaching rural children…“. Through this laptop, knowledge will be disseminated to the rural child! Yes, though there is unsafe drinking water, inadequate diet, erratic power supply, no healthcare, actuate poverty in house, no teachers, no blackboard, but yes kid - here’s the laptop, kid! Point to ponder- A window to knowledge or outright bailout out for IT hardware!

Media Watch

It is said that whenever newspapers run out of good ideas to sell weekend editions of their publication, their editors or proprietors fall back on one of two hoary alternatives….they start drawing up lists- “ten best”, “ten worst”, “five most beautiful”, “six worst-dressed” and so on…From the survey, we now come to the list , this one prepared by Forbes magazine that loves calculating the wealth of the world’s richest individuals…for the first time, the magazine has complied a list of the most powerful individuals on the planet. …The list of Indians on the list would raise a few eyebrows..Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is at number 36.…Sonia Gandhi is no where to be seen in the list! The editors of Forbes need to get their head checked. Or is list journalism just lazy journalism? (Paranjoy Guha Thakurata. Asian Age)

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15 November 2009

Advertisement Watch

The high price of gold is being reflected even in advertisements of consumer durables like soap. Bottom front page of Hindustan carries two sentences in bold golden colour - “Gold Prices fall get 3 grams on cost of one soap. Take a closer look at the right hand side, fine print- ‘Advt’. Turn to page three you find two leading film stars along with large soap, gold coins are around. It informs -”buy lux, maybe, inside, you might find a gold coin.” While on the front page of Hindustan Times, the boundary between ad and news reports have been deleted for advertisement of Mr Cleaning Liquids! Here the punch line is- “Buy Mr. Muscle and fly to Europe”.

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14 November 2009

Concern of Day

Large governmental advertisements in almost all newspapers remind of the fact that today is Children’s Day. It is being celebrated on the birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. Yes, there is no austerity here, good news for the ad-revenue of newspapers. But is any ad offering any goodies to kids? Yes, Spicejet is offering free tickets for children (conditions apply!). The cartoon in Asian Age shows kid sister busy playing games on computer, while her younger brother is telling patents- “You both go to the children’s film festival. We are busy playing online games, dad!”. Ravindra Srivastava asks - ‘why have children turned cruel? ’ Ravindra blames the family -”The family which was seen as the first school of human being, they are now becoming grave of our children’s dreams…” (Amar Ujala). All kids Cruel, really? Take a clue from cartoon in Rajasthan Patrika, which features a small kid sitting along with his poor father in cold. Father says-’say with pride…”. The kid interrupts -‘ Shakahari (vegetarian, is changed) to phakahari (on fast)”. Yes, the effect of high food prices is showing. So, what, take a clue from an advertisement in Hindu, which comes with punch line-“HungerFREE children!”. Are they giving free meals to kids today? Nope, go and watch photograph exhibition by Actionaid at the British Council in Delhi! The cartoon in Hindustan shows a smiling politician (who travels in beg beacon car) holding a poor small boy. The boy is crying and is asking her kid sister(who is also crying)- “suddenly such a big drama…is today children’s day Munni?”. The editorial of Dainik Bhaskar has expressed its concern over the fact that half of Indian kids are malnourished. Reasons include leakages, corruption. The editorial concludes- “Government and rich section of society have to come forward to curtail malnutrition and will have to see that how this problem will get reduced, along with growing economic progress, so that our head does not get lowered by statistics in the next report by UNICEF”. However, this does seem to bother Sandeep Singh & Falaknaaz Syed as they inform that mutual funds are best way to invest for the financial needs of your kids (Hindustan Times).

Women Insecure-Update

Yes, Delhi is extremely unsafe for women. This has been proved by a survey conducted by CEQUIN, an NGO, whose co-founder is Sara Pilot, daughter of Union Cabinet Minister and also wife of leading young member of parliament. Take a look at some statistics-“88% women respondents feel that public turnd a blind eye when harassment takes place, 97% of women respondents admitted they have been sexually harassed in a public place, 82% of women respondents feel that buses were most unsafe mode of travel in Delhi. Why is this happening? Hang on, women respondents were not asked a crucial issue- spread of liquor in Delhi and its effects of their safety. CEQUIN has roped in Virendra Sehwag, a leading cricketer as Goodwill ambassador. But he himself has conceded that he did not speak up against eve teasing when he was young! Kavita Chawdhury reports that every second Delhi policemen thinks domestic violence is necessary to run a family”. Good Luck to CEQUIN for trying to make Delhi safe for women before the Commonwealth Games, next year! But till then what will happen to level of insecurity among females in Delhi (read National Capital region, including Noida, Ghaziabad and Gurgaon), is not hard to guess!

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13 November 2009

Concern of Day

Financial Express informs that an article by Standard & Poor point that scorching growth in China and India have so far not translated into higher-ranking per capital wealth among Asia Pacific nations. And that these two countries remain at the bottom half of the league in this measurement. Point to ponder- what about income/wealth disparities? Not surprising, not a whisper about index of happiness too!

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12 November 2009

Concern of Day

Influx of food import has not cooled domestic food prices. Financial Express informs that foreign farm products like dairy items, pulses, fruits, vegetables and tea has led to a 34.5 percent expansion in imports of sensitive goods during April-August this year. This is in contrast to net figure of total imports (-) 23.3 percent. What is the need of Indian agriculture today? The editorial of Hindu Business Line has taken on agriculture-..Indian agriculture needs non price and non trade initiatives. Krishi Bhawan must strengthened the input delivery system (seeds, fertilizers, agro-chemicals, credit), expand irrigation facilities, improve agronomic practices, build rural infrastructure and delivery price and market information to growers through effective use of information and communication technologies…We need policies that help built capacity among small and marginal farmers to face the pressures of free market and we need to step up public investment in the farm sector…(Hindu). Yes, but today in the short run, the farmers need adequate storage space to store their produce, that is lying under the cloudy-wet sky…tightened belt for even more higher prices?

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11 November 2009

Advertisement Watch

An advertisement has appeared in majority of leading newspapers with a punch line- ‘elementary education of equitable quality is now the right of every child”. The ad features photograph of two young girls (probably from rural area) looking at the screen of a laptop. It has been published by Ministry of Human Resource Development. Is doling out laptop to students, a solution for implantation of right to quality elementary education for girls? During 2004, an NGO had conducted a simple test on a sample of 300 children (7-14 years) in Delhi. Kids of 7-10 years had barely acquired necessary verbal and number skills. And about 30 percent of government school children in class 6 were not able to read fluently, about 15 percent kids in private school were not able to recognise numbers and do simple operations. Point to ponder- If this was true of kids in the capital, what would be the state in rural areas? Need for a another survey!

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10 November 2009

Concern of Day

With Copenhagen Summit just around the corner, it seems the negotiating power of India has been lost even before the start date of the summit. Why? According to the Central Environment & Forest Minister Jairam Ramesh, most glaciers in the Indian Himalayas are retreating, but there is "no conclusive scientific evidence" to link this to global warming. Most leading newspapers have carried this news. Hang on, IPCC had attributed the receding and thinning of Himalayan glaciers primarily to global warming. But, it seems, this is not acceptable to Jairam Ramesh! In the light of above, Shyam Saran’s (Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of India on Climate Change) observation made in Indian Economy summit, today, gains importance. He feels that efforts to achieve a global agreement to address climate change at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December are at a deadlock. Read carefully- “There is now a very deliberate attempt to downgrade international expectations and that is unfortunate,” Saran said.

Editorial of Day

…A year after being voted into power Obama's honeymoon with the people and the media was looking distinctly frazzled at the edges, with popularity ratings plummeting and his party losing two out of three gubernatorial races -- in Virginia and New Jersey . But last week Obama gained ground as the House of Representatives passed his health insurance bill by a slender majority .…Obama will have to exercise all his powers of persuasion to first get his party colleagues in line and then go looking for bipartisan support. The other fly in the ointment is a compromise that Obama had to accept….Even if this bill is finally enacted, 18 million people will remain beyond the purview of health insurance….Closer home the prime minister, an ardent admirer of the US and its works, will now have to ponder ways of universalising healthcare in our country to cover all citizens. The situation is appalling as it stands, one suspects not because the resources are lacking but because there is an absence of political will to contain corruption, plug leakages and improve delivery systems. (New Indian Express).

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9 November 2009

Concern of Day

Saubhik Chakrabarti reports that at the India Economic Summit which opened today, government, industry and policy makers will debate a report -- the World Economic Forum's assessment of global competitiveness-that makes many interesting observations and one utterly predictable one: China is ahead. However, India is ranked far ahead of China in the 2009 Prosperity Index. What changed in 2009? The basic reason seems to be that as the index covers more and more variables and fine tunes the concept of `well-being' -- how citizens in a country feel about themselves -- the importance of personal freedom, institutional maturity and mutual trust is increasing (Indian Express). But hang on, can a normal citizen of India attend this Economic summit held in the capital of India? Nope, the normal citizen (including students, teachers, scholars, other stakeholders from unorganized sector of the economy) cannot afford highly priced participation fees running in lakhs of rupees. Not surprising, majority of the seats were seen empty in many sessions. Yes, the elite are running the show biz and there is no sign of any austerity! One big-shot blamed the local government for leakages but did not throw any light - why both Indian & Chinese companies are leaders in paying bribes to get contracts aboard!

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8 November 2009

Concern of Day

Skilled manpower was India’s strength, but if National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) is to be believed, it is not fully true - 75% Indian engineers are unemployable. According to Nasscom, Indian IT firms reject 90 % of college graduates and 75% of engineers who apply for jobs because they are not good enough to be trained. A Scottish university professor remarked- "The possible reason is that students here, although brilliant, don't have an edge when it comes to putting theories to practice” (Free Press Journal). Is lack of practical experience true only for engineers? Given high unemployment rate among educated across the board, is this just an excuse? Point to ponder- why wide-ranging steps have not been taken by all big IT companies to impart practical training to students? What is the take of Human Resource Development Ministry, which now seems to be obsessed with setting up of new world class universities. Any reforms for the existing one?

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7 November 2009

Media Watch

Home Minister P Chidambaram has denied that the Centre was launching an `Operation Green Hunt' to smoke out Maoists, and dismissed it as a media creation. "The Operation Green Hunt or whatever is a pure invention of the media. State governments are carrying on counter-insurgency measures against the Naxalites wherever necessary. The Centre is providing assistance by way of central paramilitary forces, intelligence sharing and technical help," he said (Indian Express).

“…Anyone who has ever made it to Page 3 (even paid big bucks to get there) is deemed an official celebrity. Once that tag is attached to an individual, a free market situation does the rest. There is a business opportunity in every celeb sneeze and squeeze. Media-made celebs have realized the potential and swiftly moved to monetise what they see as their ‘worth’….”(Shobhaa De. Asian Age).

Concern of Day

Inflation of food items have shot up by 13.39 per cent during the week ended October 24, driven mainly by vegetables that were once within the reach of the main street- onions and potatoes. During last year, the prices of potato has doubled, price of onion has increased by 50 percent in past one year. A full page advertisement of a retail chain has appeared in Delhi Times. Take a look at its punch line- “Mehenga saare bazaar, vishal mein bachat baar baar” (expensive all market, savings in Vishal again & again)..“Mehengai se ladai” (fight with Inflation). The editorial in Tribune has taken up the cause of this mehengai- “…Despite comfortable stocks, the wheat prices have soared in the past one month. Media reports indicate wheat shortage with traders in the region forced to buy the grains from Delhi and U.P. The customers have been unnecessarily made to pay a steep price for wheat flour too….Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar’s unwarranted statement that high food prices will continue until the arrival of fresh produce may encourage speculators and traders to keep up the price. Why more wheat is not released in the market to soften the prices remain a mystery….

Despite Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh not accepting it, the ground reality is the middlemen are taking advantage of the situation…”. Yesterday, while delivering L.M Singhvi Memorial lecture in New Delhi, Justice Altamas Kabir of Supreme Court of India had expressed his anguish over the condition of the common man and the rising income inequalities. He asked the elite audience (sitting in posh air-conditioned auditorium), how often do we care to think about people get only one meal a day. He cautioned- “A person who goes hungry will do anything to see his children are fed properly”. The high of the lecture was when he equated statistics to lies. But hats off to Montek Singh, who was also sitting on dais, but did not take any offence!

Report of Day

Why does corruption flourish in India, ask any common man. And he would point out to unresponsive public grievance redressal system. Customer service is a lost word here. Today. Pradip Sagar reports on the front page of MetroNow that government owned electricity company in state of Haryana is issuing inflated electricity bill to residents. It seems after elections a new team (including managing director) has taken over and they are testing consumers! In one instance, after exhausting unresponsive local officials, when new Managing Director was approached, he was not available on phone for days altogether, while the letter addressed to him was ineffective. And since the cut off date (before which the bill has to be paid or electricity can be disconnected, without any notice) had approached, powerless consumer was forced to pay bill worth Rs. 16000+. Yes, normal system of fixing accountability has totally failed here. What is the remedy left for customers like him- to approach overburdened courts and wait for years altogether for the electricity department to rectify its intentional mistake? Point to ponder - if this is not harassment to encourage corruption, what is?

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6 November 2009

Cartoon Watch

Diario Hoy, an Ecuadorian newspaper, two days ago published a caricature of Lord Shiva in penance. The caricature contained Lord Shiva sitting in a yogic posture on a carpet adorned with a trident, damaru (drums), rudrakshara and kamandalu (pot). A chopper was placed on Lord Shiva's head with a serpent entangled to the undercarriage of the chopper and Lord Shiva's body. The chopper was a replica of ALH Dhruv with the rotors and the tail intact. This caricature appeared along with a detailed analysis of the crash and the ongoing probe, hitting out at the purchase of the choppers from India. Ecuadorian media, has been questioning India's defence capabilities since the crash of the Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv (New Indian Express). However, this news has not been carried by the leading newspapers in capital.

Media Watch

Kay Benedict informs that government has vetoed Lok Sabha speaker’s proposal for greater transparency & accountability by proposal to open the proceedings of parliamentary committee before the media. Why- according to parliamentary affairs minister- “making the committee’s proceedings public may hit the quality of the discussions, which are held in camera now…” (Mail Today). But these discussion are indeed in public domain, file application under Right to Information (RTI) to view in-camera proceedings? Delhi-based correspondents of foreign news organisations have accused the Central government of preventing them from covering the Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh by cancelling permits issued by the state government. The President of Foreign Correspondents' Club of South Asia, Heather Timmons, journalist with The New York Times, has issued a terse statement on behalf of the executive board. "Despite numerous requests over the past few weeks, India's Central government has not granted a single foreign journalist a permit to travel to the state of Arunachal Pradesh during the Dalai Lama's visit..Today we were surprised and disappointed to learn that permits issued by the state government to travel to Arunachal Pradesh during the visit were cancelled by the Central government". Mail Today bureau informs that union government is evaluating the request of the media houses to increase the FDI limit from 26 to 49 per cent.

Environment Watch

The Union Minister of Forest and Environment did not mince words on the occasion of release of “climate change for Delhi till 2012” in capital. Take a look- “It is really very unacceptable that in the capital city of India, only 60 per cent of sewage is being treated and that too on paper as the capacity utilisation of the effluent plants is dismally low…”. He added that there was no shortage of money as almost Rs.12 billion has been made available thought Yamuna Action Plan to the city government. Point to ponder- When would main street get to (definitely) see clean, unpolluted Yamuna?

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5 November 2009

Media watch

It seems that not all is well with India media. In a recently held seminar, Vice President of India expressed concern over commercialization of Indian media. He referred to the P Sainth’s exposure of extensive malpractice of ‘paid news’ and ‘coverage packages’ in the recent elections in some States (Hindu). Vice President had said that today’s challenge was to bring back the decisive role of the editor and dampen the interference of marketing departments in news content and coverage (Hindustan Times). Tribune presented report of this seminar with self explanatory heading- “Vice-Prez bemoans dip in quality of journalism”. While Free Press Journal is straight blunt- “Ansari talks of filth in Fourth Estate”. Take a clue- “.. within the limits of decency, Ansari virtually launched a frontal assault on the rampant malpractices in the so-called Fourth Estate. He cared two hoots that he was addressing a gathering of senior journalists in the hallowed precincts of Parliament House Annexe…. Ansari threw diplomacy to the winds and seized the bull of corruption in media by its horns”. Point to ponder- is anyone listening?

Women Insecure

Yes, it is officially recognized that Delhi is unsafe for women. Asian Age & Hindu report that United Nations Development fund for Women (UNIFEM) is working with Delhi government to make capital safe for women. But how? Asian Age correspondent informs (5/11/09)- safe transportation for women, improving street light. Is list open ended?

Concern of Day

The deputy Chairman of Planning commission has pointed that the issue of food inflation has been hyped too much in the country, which hampers the interest of urban middle class’ while ignoring the positive impact of it on farming community (Asian Age). Hang on, take a clue from editorial of Tribune - “..If food grain prices have climbed up despite comfortable stocks, it is because ministers and government officials dither on market intervention. They would rather let food grains rot in the open than release them in the market and cool prices. This mismanagement of food supplies has resulted in a situation where the growers get low prices for their produce, while consumer are forced to pay heavily. It is the middleman - traders and hoarders - who stand the grain…” (Editorial. Tribune). The same paper also informs that that farmers are protesting on the issue of low procurement and low rates of paddy (much less than announced by the government). Point to ponder- who is to be blamed for such high food prices?

Child Watch

Sangeetha Neeraja reports that in a hitherto uncovered area in child labour, the Bt Cotton sector has now been found to be exploiting tribal children, as young as eight years, just because they come cheap. That companies like Rasi, Monsanto, Bayer and Nuziveedu are employing tribal children in their contract farms has come to light through a study on supply chain in Hybrid Cotton Seed Production in Salem and Dharmapuri.For a daily wage of Rs 80 the children toil from 5 am to 7 pm. The reason cited for employing these children is cheap labour (New Indian Express). Point to ponder- Is anyone listening?

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4 November 2009

Health Watch

Yesterday, Hindu had published views of a Professor of psychiatry at Christian Medical College in Vellore with heading- “Alcohol politics, politics and public health”. He argued - “…India should review policies and support legislation that promote health, prevent harm and address the many social problems associates with the use of alcohol. He pointed out revenue from alcohol helps in social and economic development in the short run. But it clearly results in huge costs in medium and long run. “government’s failure to include the true costs, its shifting of responsibility for problems on to individuals and its sole focus on revenue generated allows it to continue with permissive policies without the necessary enforcement of regulation…”. Today, four letter to editors have appeared in the same newspaper, and all are endorsing Prof. Jacob’s view. Take a look:

..number of those consuming alcohol has increased, thanks to the slackness of law enforcing agencies. What we need is not a change in policy but a strict enforcement…(R. Srinarayan. Chennai).

…though sale of alcohol may seem to bring in revenue, the amount spent on combating its effects is almost double the profit earned…(C. Vinodini. Chennai)

The author has correctly observed that drinking aggravates the poverty levels of the poor….(S.V. Venugopalan. Chennai)

…they cause problem to the general public, especially women…(M. Anil Kumar Reddy. Hyderabad)

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3 November 2009

RTI Watch

Yesterday, Abhinav Garg & Anil Singh informed that many renowned personalities like film star Aamir Khan, social activist Anna Hazare, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal etc are mounting a vigorous campaign for nomination of Kiran Bedi (first woman IPS officer, now retired) as Indian chief information commissioner. In a letter addressed to the Prime Minister they state- “If you are appointing another person, please let us know how that person is more suitable than Kiran Bedi” (Times of India). Today, the editorial in the same newspaper points-“.. by asking that decorated police officer Kiran Bedi be appointed to the top post and demanding that the merits of a different choice be explained to them, information rights activists have polarised the debate to the point of blackmail….In entering into a confrontation with the government over the post of CIC, the activists have failed to take into account that it is not only they who have a stake in RTI and its functioning. The state is also a stakeholder, and as with all disagreements where many actors are involved, all views must be taken on board and a consensus evolved”. Point to ponder- Why should appointment of Information Commissioners not be transparent? Why should the government not place advertisements in newspapers and invite applications for the same. After all, every potential candidate should be given a fair chance and let not lobbies rule recruitment to a post which holds key to the effective implementation of Right to Information Act.

Advertisement Watch

Advertisements inform that 3rd to 7th November is the Vigilance Awareness Week . The punch line of a half a page by Central Vigilance Commission reads- “Let’s fight corruption together. Let’s contribute to nation building”. The punch line of Northern Railway points out- “Mere cursing cannot eradicate corruption”. While the punch line of Directorate of Vigilance, Govt of NCT asks- “Are you being harassed by any corrupt public servant of any government office situated in Delhi?”. Point to ponder- given rampant prevalence of corruption in the country, why not Vigilance Awareness Year and speedy redressal & accountability of the same?
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2 November 2009

Report of Day

Part two of Chitleen Sethi’s report on private hospitals in Tribune reveals how patients are exploited, and yes, after reading Chitleen’s report, it does seem - “anything’s possible here”. Take a look- “…How many drips you think a patient can be administered in a day? Well, if you are admitted to any of the corporate hospitals, the count could range between 30 and 40! Not humanly possible, but this is what a bill given to a patient at a renewed hospital in Mohali showed…a patient in the emergency or in the intensive care unit is sitting duck for such hospitals..one hospital in Mohali bills patients on the basic of paying capacity…The fleecing starts at the point where a patient is asked if his health is insured and for how much. Patients who come to the hospital for cashless treatment thought insurance companies liable to be charged almost three times more for the same treatment that a self-paying patient has to pay…”. Point to ponder- why didn’t Chitleen specify which private hospitals were indulging in dubious practices?

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1 November 2009

Concern of Day

Huge fire is burning in the Indian Oil Corporation fuel depot in the outskirts of Jaipur. Yesterday, Times of India had reported that Rs. 5 billion worth of fuel had burned on the second day of Jaipur inferno. It went on to ask - “there were two questions no one had answered satisfactorily. How did it happen? And how many had died in the blaze that started with a blast on Thursday evening?”. According to Mohammad Iqbal Hindu that the fire was suspected to have caused by a leak in the valves of fuel storage and distribution terminal and about 200 persons including six in serious condition have been admitted to the hospital (Hindu. 31/10/09). However according to Hindustan Times, preliminary reports suggest that fire was caused by leakage in one of the pipelines in the depot but officials failed to inform the police in time. Why? Today, Rashtriya Sahara has pointed that it could be possible that fire was intentional to destroy documents related to fuel thrift. Some such documents have been found in farms situated far off from the site. Kapil Bhatt reveals on the front page of Nai Duniya that evidence suggests that fuel was being sold off illegally from this depot. Point to ponder- any swift action against the Indian Oil Corporation coming soon?

Advertisement Watch

Not often one comes across advertisement of Pan Masala (tobacco product) on front page of newspaper. Today, on the front page of Hindustan, it has appeared with punch line- “Dum macha de…rang jama de”. It carries photograph of two plastic sachets/pouch of Pan Masala of particular brand, including the price. The sachets/pouch of Pan Masala claims - “The choice of Young India”! The statutory warning -“Chewing of Pan Masala may be injurious to health…”- comes in extremely small print! But this ad could be history as the page of Nai Duniya informs that the Central government has proposed to prohibit plastic pouches of Pan Masala, shampoo etc.