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

30 September 2009

Gandhi Watch

With the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi just two days ahead, the core principle of Bapu has gone with the wind. He has been forced to become a brand ambassador of luxury, high valued pen! The Swiss penmaker Montblanc has unveiled a gold-and-silver fountain pen, limited-edition Mahatma Gandhi pen, priced at whopping Rs1.1m ($23,000). It has an 18-carat solid gold, rhodium-plated nib, engraved with Gandhi’s image, and “a saffron-coloured mandarin garnet” on the clip. DNA is spot on to point that it is unlikely that Mahatma Gandhi, who always advocated a frugal lifestyle, would have bought a Mont Blanc pen for himself. The editorial of Economic Times points out -“… But Montblanc will have to spin a pretty good yarn of its own, so as not to fall foul of the 'Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950'…Unless Montblanc has had the foresight to obtain a waiver, it violates the Act that bans the use of "any name or emblem specified in the Schedule or any colourable imitation thereof without the previous permission of the central government" for the "purpose of any trade, business, calling or profession, or in the title of any patent, or in any trade mark or design"…With the furore over the auction of Gandhi items still fresh in many minds, India's most 'aam aadmi' as a luxury pen label — even at the 'janta' edition price of a mere Rs 1.5 lakh or a little more than a Nano — may be a bit much for the government”. Would Mahatma Gandhi allowed use of his name for selling this luxury pen? Probably not. Then why is Tushar Gandhi, the great grandson of Bapu promoting this pen? Yes, nothing is free, the sweet marketing by Tushar Gandhi has came with a price tag of $146,000, it is claimed that this is for building a shelter for rescued child labourers! (Financial Times). How many child labourers will he rescue (without tackling the core- poverty, education)? Have to write an clarification about all this with many Montblanc pens! However, this is not the first time that Tushar Gandhi has been associated with commercialization of Mahatma Gandhi’s name. Seven years ago, in Frontline, under section of controversy, Dionne Bunsha’s report started off- “ 'MARKET forces' will not leave even the Mahatma in peace”. It was no other than Tushar Gandhi who negotiated the deal with CMG Worldwide for Mahatma Gandhi’s commercialization! Take a clue- “CMG Worldwide, announced recently that it had a new big ticket client - Mahatma Gandhi. Its website listed Gandhiji among its six new clients…CMG Worldwide is in the business of "representing the families and estates of deceased celebrities" and "acts as a business and marketing agent for its clients". The move to commercialise an icon of austerity stirred up a hornet's nest as soon as the Indian media got wind of it….While people in general were relieved that the Mahatma's name was spared from being commercialised by a foreign company, many still question Tushar Gandhi's moral and legal right in the first place to enter into such a contract…” (Frontline. 2-15 March 2002). Point to ponder- why should relatives of Mahatma Gandhi be allowed to hurt the memory of the Father of the Nation ? During his lifetime, Bapu disowned his own son, and now has the time come to disown great grandson & others like him? Saroj Nagi had summed it up in a news report about Bapu’s descendents- “Gandhian Nirmala Deshpande recalls the late Vinoba Bhave once telling her- “jis ped par sarvottam phal aa gaya ho voh ya to sookh jata hai ya achchha phal nahi deta”( once a tree has borne its best fruit it either withers or fails to give a good yield). Many believe this has perhaps happened to Mahatma Gandhi’s clan…”. (Hindustan Times. 9/3/04).

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29 September 2009

Inflation Watch

High inflation is pinching pockets of main street but inflation is off from front page of most leading newspapers. However, Gaurav Chaudhary informs on front page of Hindustan, Hindi daily-”Extent of inflation: rupees goes in bag and vegetable comes in pocket”. According to Gaurav- “Despite claim of the government that inflation out from zero, there is no evidence of inflation getting less…” He also gives statistics - “price of vegetables goes up by 85%, sugar 30% expensive, potato goes berserk…” He quotes two people (read experts), who blame poor monsoon for high prices of vegetables (including potato) etc. During the month of August 170.7 million quintal tonnes of potato reached wholesale market, 20% less than last year. But who is benefiting from this shortage? Chandrapal Singh Sengar reports in the same newspaper that farmers are not benefiting from hiked price, instead it is the cold storage owners. These people brought potatoes from farmers at low price of Rs. 1.50-4.00 per Kg, which is now selling at Rs. 15-25 per Kg in the market. Now, even the farmer is forced to buy potato at such a high price for seed. Speculators, hoarders are getting rich at whose cost? The cartoon in DNA says it all. Here, two poor men are shown in rural drought area, one telling another- “Of course, I’m worried. Food prices are out of reach and Rahulji can appear anytime unannounced for dinner”.

Media Watch

Jayati Ghosh does not hold back her views on state of Indian media today. Take a look- “…The media scene is undergoing a revolution in terms of the proliferation of new forms of media and new providers, both Indian and foreign. This may seem to be an indication of much greater freedom and reduced ability of the state or other few entities to control or monopolise information. Nevertheless, there are clear limits to the apparent "freedom" of the media, and sometimes these limits can be even more restrictive than the earlier more explicit curbs placed by government….Further, the tone and content of media dissemination is increasingly not innocently determined, because of the dependence of media on advertising revenues…..As the role of advertisers in influencing media content grows, so too the traditional notions of the separation of editorial and commercial interests tend to weaken. Advertisers want affluent audiences who are likely to be influenced in the choice of their consumption, so media content tends to cater to the more affluent groups in society. Paradoxically, this still does not ensure consumer sovereignty. The content of most media dissemination is determined by owners, managers and editors, often in conjunction with advertisers…”(Asian Age). The full page advertisement of a Toothpaste has appeared both in Tribune, which gives a look of normal page of newspaper containing various new items! Remember Tribune newspaper is not run by any corporate interests!

Corruption Watch

The editorial of Free Press Journal has a strong take- “…If you were to trust the Central Vigilance Commission, corruption has more or less vanished from the great Indian babudom. For, there are but only 123 government officials whom the CVC has found to be corrupt. Considering that the strength of the central bureaucracy alone, including those on the payrolls of the Indian Railways, exceeds five million, a mere 123 babus with questionable integrity is the greatest piece of news for the ` aam admi' this festival season. It is a pity the CVC hasn't deemed fit to celebrate the great 'eureka moment' by taking out full-page ads in the media to announce its earth-shaking discovery…..we might ask the babudom's moral keeper to step out from his air-conditioned chambers into the real world to know the extent to which the culture of corruption has seeped into the very entrails of the government, nay, the entire system by which we organize our affairs as a nation. Whether it is to get a sanction for a telephone connection, a new electric meter, a household water supply connection or a sanction for a plan to construct a house, without paying huge sums as bribes nothing ever gets accomplished….The truth is that the CVC has neither the will, nor the determination to go after the big fish. Poor clerks and peons or junior assistants can be shamed with their names put out on the internet without them being able to offer an effective counter in ways far too familiar to everyone, including the CVC, to require elaboration here. (Free Press Journal). Yes, public grievance redressal system has miserably failed, why blame only CVC? Moreover, why educated elite as well as the media standup against corruption, in a big way? If you don’t pay bribe, they can’t receive it right? Sure, the way is long but is right! Take a clue from cartoon that appeared in Asian Age. It showed a politician telling corporate man (holding a suitcase)- “Bribe? How dare you offer it to me? If it is Dasara bakshis then it is ok!”. While cartoon in Nai Duniya featured politician, corporate man and thug (all wearing black goggles) returning from Ravana burning site. The politician is telling the obvious- “Thank God! These people get satisfied by ending the mere symbol of evil”.

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28 September 2009

Financial Watch

…The Indian delegation has let it be known that it is happy with Pittsburgh's outcome. There's reason to be happy. But there's also reason to be self-aware. India's place at the global high table, or India's relative ranking there, is dependant on the economy producing about a decade of high growth… It must act upon the recognition that its manufacturing base needs to be hugely broadened, that its basic education system needs a huge revamp, that its banks are too hemmed in by regulation (there's a space between the way Lehman functioned and the way SBI has to function)… India's politics will need to be consistently motivated by its economic ambition. Can we bet on that? (Editorial. Indian Express)

…the G-20 is less than a year old but has managed to dispel the initial scepticism about what it might achieve, and notched up some important successes, including some at last week’s Pittsburgh summit. Since every crisis is an opportunity that should not be wasted, it is entirely to the good that the Great Recession has been used to push aside the increasingly inadequate G-8, and to replace it with the G-20….This does not mean of course that the G-20 is the ultimate arbiter on all global issues; among other things, it plays no role at all in security matters. India would have been reminded somewhat rudely of this even before the Pittsburgh meeting got under way, when the UN Security Council unanimously called on all countries last week to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (Editorial. Business Standard)

In the end, contrary to what the cynics believed, the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh actually achieved quite a lot, a lot more than international clubs of this kind end up achieving usually…A word of caution to the Indian leadership: we are still marginal players compared to China, the US, and EU--we need to grow at 9% for another decade before we have as much influence as they do (Editorial. Financial Express).

The big alliance just got bigger, G20 has replaced G8.…The G20 must not become a rich nation club. The already-haves and aspiring-haves can’t afford to be indifferent to the have-nots who will still make up a third of world’s population, but produce so little that they live on the brink of starvation…Gandhiji said poverty is the worst form of violence. India has an ally in Obama who claims Babu as his inspiration to end this violence worldwide (Editorial. Financial Chronicle).

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27 September 2009

Advertisement Watch

Two days also, a full page and two-thirds of another page in the local version of the Indian edition of Wall Street Journal Asia (WSJA) appeared without any content, due to alcohol advertising and Indian laws that bar them from being published in a newspaper. A notice on those pages said certain advertisements had been deleted under advice of the information and broadcasting ministry. However, a full page of Delhi Times, supplement of Times of India contains an advertisement of Carlsberg with punch line- “Carlsberg probably the best in the world”. To get around the legal tangle, small prints shout- “For opportunities visit www.carlsberggroup.com”.

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26 September 2009

Media Watch

The new edition of Times of India- Crest Edition is out on the stands. Unlike traditional Times of India, it is being published only from New Delhi & Mumbai. The introductory price is on a higher side- Rs. 6 but pages are 40, filled with substantial reading material. Reshmi R Dasgupta goes overboard “Crest: A totem of good taste” (Times of India). Reason- “It (this new paper) draws inspiration from the iconic crest above the paper’s crest above the paper’s 171-year old masterhead…”. Leaving aside logo, design & all that, what was the need of this only Saturday Edition? Jaideep Bose, the editor explains- “..Crest isn’t really a new paper or magazine. It is The Times of India unbound with rich narrative pieces that sparkle with rich reporting, great perspective and Ah! Moments…Crest is for curious mind...Crest will seek to surprise…The one constant you will find in the Crest is its coverage of India Changing, of Dreams Unlimited…”. However, the first issue holds no substantial surprises for the curious mind! Dainik Jagran also takes out its National Edition, but it is advertisement free. Unlike Crest edition, national edition of this Hindi newspapers comes out everyday, and has more to offer. However, Crest is not ad free, it carries four full page ads, in addition to that luxury brands like Audi, Mont Blanc. Full one page ad offering exclusive apartment comes with punch line- “The Forbes list has a hundred names. Ours has 15”. Other full pages ads are that of Honda City car, holiday package abroad, electronic brand. For qualitative review of this new newspaper, one needs to view more of Crest!

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25 September 2009

Austerity watch

The Indian Express had reported on September 8 that S M Krishna, Union External Affairs Minister was staying at the ITC Maurya and his deputy Shashi Tharoor was at the Taj Mahal Hotel while their party preached austerity. Krisnha’s defence- “I have made private arrangements." Amitav Ranjan from Indian Express reveals that what Krishna didn't tell was that his Ministry repeatedly tried to get the government to pick up his tab. Officials in MEA continuously tried the government to pay Krishna’s five star bills, though it was not permissible under present law. In New York, Krishna was unavailable for comment. Point to ponder- can Krishna be trusted to handle high profile MEA?

Concern of Day

Correspondent of Deccan Chronicle reports that chairmen of the major PSUs in the country want an amendment in the Article 12 of the Indian Constitution so that they are no longer a part of the State. Reason- so that they are in a better position to compete with their counterparts in the private sector. According to a Chairman- “…Why nobody in the media writes that while private sector is free to generate maximum profits on the cash, the public sector is not allowed and when it comes to seeing the performance, then you will see the bottom line”. When asked, why they do not take a public stand, the chairman said that they have seen the fate of those who dared to cross the government line. Point to ponder- what is the aim of public sector anyway? On what parameters is performance of a public sector measured? It seems these Chairmen have to go back to basics and main street need to know why are they heading a public sector? If they are so obsessed with only profits and private sector, why are they working in a PSU anyway? Is giving anonymous statements to the press justified?.. So many questions, will someone clarify?

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24 September 2009

Statistics of Day

According to Bhaskar Hazarika, today, every 2nd Indian owns phone- landline or mobile. (front page. Financial Chronicle). Really! Going, by his assertion, every second Indian is well off, paying the rent of a phone! What’s Bhaskar’s source- “According to telecom regulatory database, the number of subscribers topped 494 million at the end of August.” Does this mean that every second Indian owns a phone? Nope, a definite gross attribution error, here. What stops one individual to have multiple phone connections? The incidents of fake identification for mobile connections are not uncommon, right?

 

 

Corruption Watch

Transparency International’s Global Corruption Report 2009 is out. The Bribe Payers Index 2008 (BPI 2008) ranks twenty-two of the world’s most economically influential countries according to the likelihood of their firms to bribe abroad. However, news for India is not encouraging- India ranks 19th. More - “Firms from India, China and Brazil are regarded by their peers as among the most corrupt when doing business abroad”. Poverty is no excuse for this greed. The report points out that poverty does not necessarily need to entrap a country in a downward spiral of bad governance and economic deprivation, Countries such as Bhutan, Botswana, Cape Verde, Chile, Jordan, Uruguay and some Caribbean islands continue to exhibit relatively low levels of perceived corruption despite being relatively low-income”. Leaving aside Hindi daily, Dainik Jagran, this news has not made to the front page of all other newspapers scanned today- Hindustan Times, Free Press Journal, DNA, Hindustan, Nai Duniya, Aaj Samaj,Dainik Bhaskar, Asian Age, Tribune, Times of India, Economic Times, Financial Chronicle, Rashtriya Sahara, Jansatta. In its preface, N. R. Narayana Murthy has warmly welcomed the report- “…it delivers the timely and compelling message that business can, and must, stand up to corruption…”. Yes, it seems to be a never ending race of greed- more and more! Not surprisingly, the Rich Indians expect to be richer next year. Sneha Shah informs according to survey conducted by Standard Chartered Bank, Indians who have $2.23 million today inspire for around $9 million to fulfill their aspirations against $7.32 million aspired by other Asian counterparts (Financial Chronicle) Hopefully, N.R Narayana Murthy will become next full-time anti-corruption crusader.

Media watch

T.P Sreenivasan, former ambassador an member of National Security Advisory Board is all praise for the Indian media - doing a fabulous job in term of reporting and analyzing events”. The next line reads- “.. They make mistakes frequently and even mislead the public. But they are legitimate instruments of opinion making and they should not be restricted in any way. The state should learn to keep its secrets and also step in if there is misinformation…”. He also points out that reports of Chinese incursions are not manufactured in press rooms, but officially given out by the defence authorities.

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23 September 2009

Corruption Watch

We had recently used some strong words to describe the prevalence of corruption in south India, referring to various news reports from the states over a certain 24-hour period. Taken together, they made horrifying reading on the depth and spread of the practice. We had noted that the practices cited clearly showed there was no fear of propriety or punishment, and that the culture undoubtedly began at the very top and went all the way down and sideways…One, that corruption exists in all societies at all levels, especially developing ones. The point is how serious we are about tolerating it. For, and second, remember that both Taiwan and South Korea are much younger, much more raw, democracies than we are. Anytime someone tells you that India will take time to develop these things, classify it as an excuse with no basis in fact. Citizens always have the power; they need to combine and exercise it. And laws and practices will follow…(Editorial. New Indian Express). R.K Raghavan expresses his views under heading- “Fighting corruption with hands tied”. Take a clue- “..Chief Justice Balakrishnan, at a national seminar a few days ago, said that he would like to see anti-corruption agencies moving swiftly to seize the properties of corrupt civil servants so that the latter do not continue enjoying the fruits of their tainted acquisitions while facing court proceedings…Law Minister Veerappa Moily, speaking at the same forum as the Chief Justice a day later, categorically stated that a corrupt public servant should not be protected by archaic procedures relating to government sanction for prosecution. These procedures are so tortuous that they serve only to shield those caught with their pants down while receiving a bribe. I have personally fought many a battle to persuade ministries to accord the required sanction against senior officials whose reputation was known even beyond the Himalayas. The situation has worsened since then with the CBI requiring permission even to register a case against a Joint Secretary level officer, to say nothing of sanctions for prosecution at the end of an investigation….”. (DNA). However, P.C Alexander stresses- “Book corrupt babus, but after due process” (Asian Age).

Statistics of Day

A study by International Institute for Population Sciences reveals that 51% young men and 56% young women in Tamil Nadu justify wife-beating. Among unmarried youth, about 31 per cent men believe they will be right in assaulting their wives if they go out without informing them or disagree with their opinion. Beating men in the opinion stakes, 38 per cent women believe they deserve to be beaten if they do not agree with their husbands. Among married women, 43 per cent justify being beaten if they fail to inform their husbands while going out. (New Indian Express)

Austerity Watch

Going by various newspapers, Shashi Tharoor seems to have been let loose by virtue of his so-called apology, over his so called ‘joke’! Nevertheless, his photograph suggest that the lesson has been learned - Shashi is wearing a traditional loose kurta along with traditional jacket! While on the other hand, the Union Human Resource Minister is seen wearing a well stitched Western Suit (along with a tie) at a function at Rashtrapati Bhawan. Did the function desired this kind of attire? Decide- here in the function, the Hon. President of India met with neo literate women and voluntary teachers from across the country. She also reiterated that illiteracy among women be eliminated. With Assembly elections ahead, it seems austerity is all forgotten. DNA informs that on average each candidate will spend Rs. 10 million in campaign, way over the official limit of Rs, 10 million. More to come- four main political parties in Maharashtra are likely to spend over Rs10 billion in their quest for power in the state. Wonder, what the election commission is doing? Any clues from Twitter?

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22 September 2009

Corruption Watch

A cartoon in Rajasthan Patrika shows a worried old man telling a small boy (probably his grandson)- “In our times, giving bribe was considered corruption”. Guess, what the smiling kid replies back- “But now it’s etiquette!!”. This toon is accompanying an article, which comes with heading- “Confiscate property”. The article by Shivkumar Sharma, former judge of High Court of Rajasthan, starts off with colours- “ Past many years three colours have occupied prominent place over our country’s sky. These three colours are- black, red and blue. Black money, red-tapism, and blue poisonous corruption…The thinking of people in society is cannot be unaffected by these colours. Whoever has a big house, expensive cars, the society views them with respect..Nobody sees the means thought which they have become rich….People have no patience and the officials take advantage of such impatience. By getting any work done quickly, they give bribe to corrupt officers….Newspapers should publish list and photograph of corrupt people. The need of hour is social boycott of such people”. The editorial of Dainik Jagran too has focused on corruption- “..Today there is a unholy nexus is been built among leaders, bureaucrats, judges, religious gurus, media and NGOs. According to constitutional expert, Subhas Kashyap, barring exceptions, all these are part of system. None is really interesting in changing the system. Even masses get involved in fulfilling their interest. Today people, with ease, call honest man that he is useless, doesn’t do good for himself, doesn’t do good for us. Only makes rules & regulations….”. Point to ponder- why no media lead anti-corruption campaign, instead of all this pessimism? Why not strengthen hands of common man who is still resisting becoming part of corrupt system & encourage the rest to join his/her efforts? Pledge in-waiting for long?

Media Watch

It is one thing for the Indian government to be embarrassed about the media's loud and tactless China chant in recent days, which has ratcheted up unnecessary tension in neighbourly relations. It is another thing altogether to take a cue from the Chinese playbook and threaten punitive action against journalists for inconvenient reports. Certainly, some sections of the media have exploited our simmering and unspoken China paranoia, pointing attention to repeated military incursions into Indian territory. …Now, the government is contemplating more serious action, threatening to file FIRs against those who reported on Chinese firing across the border. After a complaint by the Indo-Tibetan Border Police, debunking a report that two Indian soldiers were injured in firing by the Chinese in northern Sikkim, there is an attempt to address such "wrong" reporting with punishing consequences. But why allow things to come to this pass? Inaccurate reporting must be fixed with facts -- why did the government's information establishment simply sit by as the stories swirled, instead of providing the correct context and data?…(Editorial. Indian Express).

Editorial of Day

The other day, our Kochi office reported a Union government sanction to a detailed project report on e-governance from the city’s municipal corporation. Prepared after hiring Wipro, the information technology major, it sought (and has got) sanction for inclusion under the JNNURM, the national project to improve city infrastructure. The aim is to fully computerise and link all offices of the Kochi Corporation in a year….But, we’d also like to point out that nothing stopped the corporation in all these years from promptly registering complaints, suggestions and grievances, giving a prompt acknowledgement and then monitoring the progress each day. In fact, these are all part of the existing rule. What stopped any office or sub-section from doing so or any office-in-charge from reviewing the registers in question?…This underlines a point that needs to be made; technology is an aid, often a big one, but is no substitute for the exercise of accountability. Even without computer sanction, project reports or JNNURM money, any office in the country, public or private, can insist on its staff registering any complaint or query, whether by letter, telephone or in person, issuing a docket number and intimating progress in a week. In fact, all this is supposed to happen anyway. It rarely does, and non-state offices are not particularly great about this either….(New Indian Express).

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21 September 2009

Corruption Watch

Adtiya Kaul informs that government is biggest hurdle in war on corruption. He elaborates his striking assertion- “figures available with CVC for past 5 years shows ministers and departments have not only been turning a blind eye to cases of graft, but also giving the “accused” a clean chit without explanation or sufficient reason…The data with CVC indicates that government since 2004 has ignores its recommendation in 979 cases. In several instances, the depts/minister’s displeasure with the government, as it is evident from remarks in its annual report…”(lead report on the front page. DNA). The editorial of Dainik Bhaskar reveals the deep agony of the main street, which faces corruption everyday- “After passing of more than 60 years, it seems that today there is no fear of law. People can fearless do anything, there is no one to stop them. Otherwise what is the reason that fake notes to fake dollars, fake medicines to fake Oil-Ghee & milk- are easily available in the market and their gangs are not touched. This is the result of our system.…As result of fast deteriorating system and resultant increasing corruption, now all kinds of fake things are present in the country…On one hand India want to become world power and wishes to sit along with countries like America, Britain and France etc, while one another, this disturbing picture is present. Greed of money, easy opportunities of breaking law and fast deteriorating character - all are responsible for this…”. More, Seema Mustafa’s take on corruption- “…Corruption is not really an issue in India. It has crept into the very vitals of our being. We live corrupt. We ask for bribes, we pay bribes for everything from a traffic violation to admissions in schools to train tickets to political election tickets to appointments, transfers, postings, just every thing. We even fleece the poor. In fact, it is really the poor we fleece to make our riches…. We have learnt the art of milking the system, and if we are in government in any capacity we make sure that not just our pennies but our pounds are in good supply. Our every need is taken care of, and we live a hallowed life. Values have become subservient to money and we are acquisitive, greedy and corrupt by nature…This sounds sad, but it is the sad truth” (Free Press Journal). K. Subrahmanyam feels that the need of hour is not austerity but identification and avoidance of wasteful expenditure and leakage and diversion of government funds (Tribune). This acute agony points to the breakdown of public grievance system. Yes, small fishes are biting the common man. But still the main street is trying to fighting a lone battle against rampant corruption - look around. But where to complaint and what is the guarantee that whistleblower will not be harassed instead? Where is the notion of accountability?

Advertisement of Day

The advertisement by Times of India wishes indeed warm Edi Mubarak. The ad features henna decorated hands of a woman, praying. The hands are decorated with appealing illustrations which includes a mosque. The ad has words of wisdom to offer- “Lets open our hearts to the power that gives us all our power. And wish one and all a warm Eid Mubarak”.

Statistics of Day

There is no recent unemployment figures in India. Take a clue from the fact that 25,000 applications were received for only 160 posts of excise & taxation inspector in the State of Punjab, for which minimum qualification was just graduation. Chitleen Sethi informs that several MBAs. Engineers, chartered accountants and others who had cleared civil services got selected (Tribune).

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20 September 2009

Reporting: Anything Goes?

Dwaipayan Ghose reports that railway minister’s dream express train- Duranto (new fastest non-stop train in India) completed its maiden journey in New Delhi by arriving 50 minutes late (Times of India). However, Rashtriya Sahara reports that Duranto arrived early in New Delhi, that too by one hour and fifteen minutes. Here the source is a news agency. Dainik Jagran reports that Duranto arrived one hour early in New Delhi. Here the source is reporter of the same newspaper. Point to ponder- have to ask Duranto, whether it came late or early?

Financial Watch

“How do you draw the line between a healthy, economic boom and a wonton, speculative stock market driven by the less savory aspects of human nature?” - this, according to Alan Greenspan, was ‘a fascinated puzzle for the Fed’. (The Age of Turbulence). After global financial meltdown, puzzle stands solved? Nantoo Banerjee points out that Indian stock and commodity markets are shooting up again defying all logic, they have jumped by over 60 per cent since their levels last year. More - “…The commodity market is entirely in the hands of traders in futures…Surprisingly, these fundamental economic indicators don't seem to concern speculators in the stock and commodity markets…...The panel report under the direction of Sen, an eminent economist, said last year that there is no empirical evidence to suggest a link between the rising prices and futures trading in India. However, such a suggestion was trashed by the latest report (September 8, 2009) of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. The UNCTAD report blamed large financial investors for influencing commodity prices in major markets through futures trading without regard to the factual demand-supply situation…Even if one leaves out the bullion market, where the price of 24K gold had recently peaked at the level of Rs. 16,000-plus for 10 grams, the prices of other commodities such as chemicals, ferrous and non-ferrous metal scraps, utensils scraps, cement, foodgrains, edible oil and other agri-commodities are farming up on a regular basis”. (Free Press Journal). The net effect of this speculation on the main street in India, is not a secret. But this has not made the Reserve Bank of India make serious efforts to re-look at the puzzle! Times of India informs on its front page that according to the Finance Minister, the stimulus package will not be rolled back till signs of recovery are visible across recession. The cartoon in the same newspaper shows Manmohan & Pranab standing at the grave of world economy along with Obama & other leaders. Here, Obama while looking at 6 small saplings emerging on the grave, says- “The problem is that w can’t tell if those are green shoots or just weeds”. On the second day of 9 day long Navratri festival, the front page of Rashtriya Sahara comes up with- “Hey, Mother Goddess, reduce this inflation” !

Austerity Watch

The Union Finance Minister has conceded that government’s austerity measure to restrict air travel to economy class is a mere ‘drop in the ocean’ (Mail-Today). Manoj Verma’s lead report on the front page of Nai Duniya shouts- “officers spent Rs. 600 million in foreign travel ”. Just below, Pratibha Jyoti informs that RTI has revealed that 920 million of taxpayers money was spend on renovation of houses of ministers and member of parliament. In addition, the newspaper has devoted full two pages to efforts of austerity and extravagant expenditure. Page 10 of Times of India shouts -”Hypocrisy, Club Class” with a great cartoon of railway station! It goes on -“Just look at the way they are wasting our money”. While full page 16 of Hindustan Times, page 15 of Rajasthan Patrika is devoted to austerity & extravagance. Arun Nehru point out Austerity exposes expensive chinks (Asian Age). However, Austerity has almost made a disappearing act from prominence in Indian Express, the newspaper that first brought the need for austerity in limelight.

Media Watch

The lead new report on the front page of Hindu comes with self explanatory heading- “Media asked not to ‘overplay’ China border incidents”. This comes a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told journalists that media reports were painting an inaccurate picture of the conditions along India-China border. In addition, the Home Ministry has decided to file FIR against two reporters of Times of India who reported that Indian soldiers were injured in firing by Chinese. The two reporters- Nirmalya Banerjee & Prabin Kalita, reported on front page of Times of India, front page - “ITBP jawans injured in China border firing” (15/9/09) and that “The firing in an area identified as Kerang in northern Sikkim took place a fortnight ago but has been kept under wraps..”. They also claimed -“It was the first incident where bullets have been fired since the landmark 1996 Sino-India agreement in which both sides pledged not to open fire, no matter what the provocation, as a part of confidence-building measures”.And what was their source- “It was confirmed on Monday by a highly placed intelligence source, who is not authorized to give information to the media. ITBP officials at its headquarters in New Delhi declined to confirm the incident.” (Times of India. 15/09/09). It seems Home ministry will quiz two journalists on their source. Hindu quotes a top source in Home ministry- “..Let them appear before the court and tell who is this source who gave them information”. The editorial of Mail-Today points out -“.. And our conclusion has been that someone pretty high up in the security establishment has been feeding this very media. As we had occasion to point out earlier, the media has no presence in the remote area of the Line of Actual Control. Yet, salacious details of Chinese airdropping food cans with expired “ use- by” dates or pictures of graffiti on a rock written in Chinese surfaced in the Indian media… He (Mr Narayanan) would do everyone a favour if he could figure out who it was that was feeding such disinformation to the media in such extraordinary detail.”. Not, surprisingly, the cartoon on the front page of Rajasthan Patrika shows wife giving tea to her husband with advice- “ You should worry about Chini (sugar), get it when you go to market”. On the background is the news-”Don’t worry from Chin (China): Army Chief”. However, the same newspaper has also carried a colored photograph where school children of Sriji Kids are taking oath in front of statue of Rani Lakshmi Bai, for boycotting Chinese products. The accompanying caption does not reveal, where in India. Point to ponder- will reporters of Times of India reveal their source?

Update: Women Insecurity

The lead news report on front page of Amar Ujala reports that the Union Home Ministry has taken note of insecurity faced by women in India and has asked State government to protect women by enforcement of laws related to security of women. The paper also points out that every hour, 18 women are victims of harassment, in the country. Dainik Jagran has also carried -”For crime against women Centre gets tough”, but on page 3. While, Rajasthan Patrika has carried this news in brief on page 2. Surprisingly this news has not been carried by leading newspapers in English. Though in Times of India (front page), Subhro Maitra informs that after losing everything in game, a gambler staked his 18 year old daughter in state of Maharashtra. (Draupadi’s Curse: Man gambles his daughter away).

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19 September 2009

View of Day

The weekly column of Khushwant Singh, the noted vetern journalist (90+years), takes on a new issue to ponder upon. He doesn't spare anyone! Last time, he shared his secrets regarding Road to Happiness, thereafter the French President announced his interest in happiness. Yes, pleasant coincidence indeed! SARCAJC presented a series of cartoons on this occasion. Today, Khushwant's column in Tribune has screaming heading- “Freeloaders, all”. Why? Take a clue:

“…Journalists are the biggest freeloaders in our society today. Have you ever seen the editor of a national daily pay for his meal in a five-star hotel? Not even the self-righteous editor of The Indian Express, which carried the "news" of Krishna staying at Maurya Sheraton and Tharoor at Taj Man Singh, as if the two had been caught red-handed committing a crime. Baby-faced Tharoor looked suitably guilty as if his mom had nabbed him stealing a carton of icecream from the family fridge”.
“I get six papers every morning…dump their supplements into the wastepaper basket without opening them. Nothing in papers riles me more than the number of government ads…We know that these claims are vastly exaggerated.…Who pays for this extravagant waste of money? The tax payer — you and I — because all governmental public relations departments are integral parts of our bureaucracy maintained by taxpayers’ money. Newspapers are not in any position to object to this practice as their sustenance comes from advertising, and the government is the single-largest advertiser in the country. But surely, something has to be done by somebody to rectify this sorry state of affairs….A body like the ISI could be instituted with similar powers regarding government advertisements.” (Tribune).

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18 September 2009

Austerity Watch

Of the leading newspaper in the capital, only Hindu reports on its front page that Shashi Tharoor has rendered an apology in Twitter. Reason- ..…i now realize i shldnt assume people will appreciate humour. &u shouldn't give those who wld wilfully distort yr words an opportnty to do so..”. Indians don’t appreciate humour? And he didn’t forget to educate- “…holy cows are NOT individuals but sacrosanct issues or principles that no one dares challenge. Wish critics wld look it up..” (Twitter). What is the principle involved here that no one dared challenged, but our Minister had challenged? Calling ‘cattle’ a ‘cattle’ and ‘holy cow’ a ‘holy cow’! Hang on, is this a case of plain and simple humour & not of sense & sensitivities of a Minister of a country, where majority are poor & vulnerable? Few days ago, actress tuned politician - Jaya Prada’s experience of touring her flood affected constituency was nothing but horrifying experience for the elite. The brush with reality on a bullock cart, tractor and boat to get the experience of the devastation left her shrieking at one point of time. The bumpy ride on pot-holed roads had her in tears.(Deccan Herald. 14/9/09). Mr. Minister, the former UN employee, has still not traveled in such ‘cattle class’ in India! Nevertheless, efforts to defend Tharoor’s remarks continues. Indian Express reports that Jacob Joseph, Officer on Special Duty to the Minister of State for External Affairs, has posted a picture of Tharoor asleep in an aircraft seat, with the caption "Shashi Tharoor in cattle class a month ago"…Jacob made public, or `retweeted' (referred to as `RT' on Twitter), comments made by other Twitter users that referred to Union ministers as "humorless twits", and Congress spokesperson Natarajan as an example of the "outdated Indian political spokesman". And not a word about his stay in a luxurious Five Star Hotel as a Minister. Alas, TaxPayers Alliance doesn’t exist in India. The cartoons in many newspapers haven’t stopped taking on Tharoor & austerity measures. The cartoon in Asian Age shows Manmohan Singh dressed as Mahatma Gandhi! Point to ponder- Shashi Tharoor in Liberia, has somehow defended his tweeting remarks? Unconditional apology is a lost word!

Corruption Watch

The big picture on the front page of Aaj Samaj shows many rural women in Delhi, all wearing plain pink saris. Why- they are the pink gang, standing up against corruption in Bundelkhand region. Yes, main street is resisting corruption. The good news is - “In furtherance of the transparency initiatives and the spirit of the RTI Act,2005, the Central Vigilance Commission has decided to regularly post information/details of cases pending for sanction for prosecution over four months with organisations/Departments, Cases where Commission has advised issuance of sanction for Prosecution during the month and Cases where Commission had advised imposition of suitable major penalty during the month has posted names of corrupt officials”. Monthly lists- names of those against who Major Penalties advised, Prosecution Sanctions advised, Penalties imposed by Competent Authorities, Complaints Disposed, Disagreement/Deviation from the advice of the Commission, Pending sanction for Prosecution, Delays in filling up of post of the CVOs. (http://www.cvc.nic.in).

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17 September 2009

Austerity Watch

After unceremonious departure from luxury of Five Star Hotel, a remark by Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor has landed him in trouble. On Twitter, he was asked- “Tell us minister, next time you travel to Kerala, will it be in cattle class?” And he replied- “Absolutely, in cattle class out of solidarity will all our holy cows”. This news has been carried on front page of most newspapers scanned today- Tribune, Indian Express, Hindustan Times. Asian Age, Navbharat Times, Dainik Bhaskar, Rashtriya Sahara, Hindu, Hindustan, Nai Duniya, Times of India, Dainik Tribune. This news has not received front page coverage in Aaj Samaj (Pg 2), Dainik Jagran (pg 16), Economic Times (Pg 3). As per the affidavit submitted along with the nomination of Shashi, he is definitely very rich and has assets worth Rs 214.5 million, comprising land, deposit, shares and buildings spread over India and in several foreign countries. The deposit in financial institutions in various nations would come to Rs 150 million (Indian Express. 30/3/2009). Looking at his remark, it appears that he has no direct connection with the Indian main street. Yes, majority of Indians are poor can’t afford to travel in so called ‘cattle class’. Shashi may be stinking rich, accustomed to luxuries, but he is the representative of the same cattle class! These remarks have come under fire by Congress, the ruling party as well his own party, and rightly so. Point to ponder- what next, Mr. Maharaja Minister?

Cartoon Watch

Austerity still remains the favourite. The cartoon of the day has been carried by Times of India where the common man is complaining- “That’s the ultimate in austerity measures. He not only travels by train, he travels ticket less as well…”. Guess what are they talking about- a politician is seen teasing the ticket collector! The same newspaper feels that VIP’s austerity creates pain for aam admi (common man). The cartoon in Amar Ujala features a minister sitting on ground in rustic surroundings and having his meal. He is being told- “Minister chew slowly, your campaign for austerity is getting live telecast”. Yes, long convoy of his cars, security guards with guns- all are present too! Financial Chronicle, Asian Age, Punjab Kesari, Dainik Jagran, Nai Duniya have carries toons on austerity too. Others have focused on variety of other topics- Truth & lie (Economic Times). Police reform (Financial Chronicle), austerity & elections (Financial Chronicle), Kaveri water dispute (Mail Today), Swine flu (Times of India, Asian Age), litter (Times of India), Commonwealth Games (Hindustan Times, Hindustan), Indian reaction on alleged Chinese incursion (Indian Express), Elections( Hindu, Dainik Tribune), treatment of policemen by chief minister of Uttar Pradesh (Aaj Samaj), Tirupati Laddu patented (Mail-Today).

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16 September 2009

Cartoon Watch

Austerity drive is the favourite of cartoonists today. A politician is telling his aide- “Book tickets for national & international media to covering my travelling in economy class!” (Asian Age).While another cartoon shows a politician (surrounded by security guards with guns) at airport reservation counter, ordering his aide- “What? Full? In want an economy class ticket at all cost!”. Times of India has cartoon in which a minister is shown boarding the aircraft. An on-looker tells Luxman’s common man -“The minister travels by economy class but takes along four sepoys and three secretaries. He says he works all along the journey!“. Cartoon of Day is being carried by Hindustan, where a fat politician is telling a poor man - “ Very good.. You too are practicing austerity”. Loksatta, Indian Express, Punjab Kesari, Mid-Day too have carried cartoons on austerity. The toon in Asian Age features Pranab Mukerjee and Monmohan Singh, both happy after counting money, why? Take clue from Pranab- “Fantastic! Just one week of economy travel- we’ve saved Rs. 22,321 and 84 paisa!”. Other newspapers have carried a variety- bonanza in Bundelkhand & high pressure area (Mail-Today), Police (Aaj Samaj, Nai Duniya, Mail Today), infiltration (Financial Chronicle), management of flood & drought in Bihar (Punjab Kesari, Pioneer), ranking in cricket (Dainik Bhaskar), corruption. Today cats too have featured in a cartoon- while talking on phone, Chidambaram is surrounded by many cats saying “Mao”. What is he reading- “Home, Maoist problem” (Hindustan Times). No cartoon has appeared in Tribune, Dainik Jagran, Navbharat Times, Statesman.

Austerity watch

Ritu Sarin has exposed the austerity drive, she reveals that Union Ministers want ‘nothing but the finest- and expensive fittings in their new offices: from Spanish wall tiles in their chamber to Italian porcelain in toilets’ all at the cost of taxpayers money. Cost for renovation of office for Union Minister of Heavy Industries & Public Enterprises- Rs. 1.75 million, Union minister for Commerce & Industry- Rs. 1.45 million. Guess, what this is part one of the series, wait for tomorrow! Namrata Biji Ahuja informs that the premier National Investigation Agency (NIA) set up after aftermath of 26/11 has still not found permanent accommodation and is functioning from hotel. Earlier in the same hotel, National Disaster Management Authority functioned for atleast three years. (Asian Age). The editorial of Jansatta has gone further- “..campaign for austerity does not become a mere eyewash, for this, its coverage should be extended. Minister, MP & M.L.A at places give example of extravaganza. Austerity measures are linked with drought. But in country like India, where basic needs of large population are not met, policy of austerity should be given permanent place”. Yes, extravagant sixth pay commission hike? The Sixth Pay Commission recommendations were accepted by the Union Cabinet, before the General Elections. The recommendations lead to an average increase of 21 per cent in salaries of 5 million government central government employees. The central exchequer’s annual cost went up by Rs 177.98 billion because of the new wage structure. Moreover, the recommendations also cost the government Rs 293.73 billion on account of arrears from January 2006 and August 2008. (Business Standard. 12/6/09). The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had sounded a word of caution that pay panel award will put pressure on Government finances but in vain. Moreover, was this pay hike linked to performance? In this context, it will be worthwhile to ponder on Rahul Gandhi’s observation that while 10 paise of every rupee spent for the poor had reached its target during his father’s time, today the same amount reaches the intended beneficiary only when the government spends Rs 10. The performance audits carried out by the Comptroller Auditor General of India (CAG) reveal major lacunae in the management of many of the development schemes and their abject failure to achieve goals. But CAG is toothless to take any action and its findings seem to have become a ritual. Pramod Dev M. point out that the harsh reality is that India does not possess appropriate systems of governance or practices in public service delivery that can efficiently reach out to the poor and ensure distributive justice.(Hindu Business Line. 15/7/09). The editorial of today’s Navbharat Times has focused on corruption- “There was a time, after hearing news of corruption & bribery, blood of people used to boil. But today, corruption is not seen as a defect in the system, but a system in itself. Common people somehow view that government officers have given freedom to dacoits to loot & are extracting Hafta & Mahina like Mavali. And often they have backing of ruling politicians…”. The editorial of Punjab Kesari fears - “roots of corruption are so deep that foundation of the nation is getting in danger. From birth to death, people are facing corruption. Very few people are honest or those who have not got chance for corruption..”. Hang on, no doubt corruption is on upswing, but it is totally incorrect to state that very few people are honest in this entire country. Yes, even without any whistleblower protection, the main street is still putting up resistance against corruption (read small fishes that hurt him/her directly everyday). But it seems a long way home, as the public grievance redressal system has failed. Given, low penalty rate by Central Information Commission (CIC), even RTI Act has lost its sharp teeth. Now, it’s easy to get away with not providing desired information (document on record) under RTI, by just mentioning- information not available (read requested document is not traceable) on record/file! Yes, main street is suffering and is suffering hard, with no one nearer to rectify the obvious huge leakages. However, it’s not correct to name all bureaucrats as corrupt, therefore fair performance appraisal was the need of the hour before doling out sixth pay commission goodies. Point to ponder- right time now?

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15 September 2009

Crisis Watch

A year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Alok Puranik gives credit to Reserve Bank of India for saving India from the full impact of the financial crisis because of the policies (Amar Ujala). Vaidyanathan Iyer asks Former Reserve Bank of India governor YV Reddy for an insight. Take a look at one Q &A:

Q: Coming to the collapse of Lehman Brothers on September 15 last year... did you see it happening?

A It was an incident, but essentially a reflection of some other serious problem. Market, regulatory, policy, moral failure or all put together. If Lehman didn't occur, some other thing would have happened. Lehman was a symptom of a disease. The problem is public policies globally did not prepare the world for a soft landing…What I am saying is the collapse of Lehman Brothers is not a simple institutional or regulatory problem. It is far more fundamental.(Indian Express).

The Indian government has expressed confidence in the speed of the Indian economy's recovery, saying it would stabilise by the year end. Is India protected from direct effects of such acute global crisis? Jayanth R Varma says“ India must also abandon any belief we might have in our exceptionalism and learn from the experiences of other countries so that we do not have to learn the same lessons at first hand.“ (Financial Express). The editorial of same newspaper feels that major part of the problem lay in the fact that the most profitable banks were in the public sector and they have little freedom to take their own commercial decisions. “SBI, for example, could have potentially moved a level up in this year of crisis. Instead, SBI and Indian banking stand where they were a year ago while western finance has gone all the way down and is rising past our conservative bankers”.

Austerity Watch

The editorial of Rajasthan Patrika is all praise for Sonia Gandhi for implementing & following austerity measures. While the editorial of Business Standard has complimented Pranab Mukherjee for emphasising the need for restraint while ministers spend public money, and indeed even their own money. Further, it asks- “..But he has to take this to its logical conclusion. For instance, why does a cabinet minister need 13 personal staff? …Why indeed do ministers (including many who claim to be socialist) and senior officials need to live in government houses built on two- and five-acre lots (when the urban land ceiling law that they passed permitted only 500 sq m)? The time has come to look at the broader set of issues connected with spending public money, and to bring some rationality to the discussion…This is not to ask that people follow the standards set by Mahatma Gandhi. Nor is it an argument for the bogus simplicity that makes politicians wear expensive khadi, merely because that is “Gandhian”… (Editorial. Business Standard). Neerja Chawdhary feels there is a larger issue around `austerity'. What issues? “Should it also not go beyond the government to the non-government, corporate sector? Even before the economic downturn, the question remained: where should one draw the line on what is a vulgar display of wealth and what is legitimate expenditure in a country where every second child under five is malnourished and eight million children severely so, at the risk of death, and where money can be put to more productive use? This has nothing to do with the paying capacity of an individual, but more about his/her sensibilities, as a member of a society where large scale want and deprivation still exist” (New Indian Express).

Happiness Watch

France plans to include happiness and well-being in its measurements of economic progress. The French President Nicholas Sarkozy has called the world leaders to join a ''revolution'' in the measurement of economic progress by dropping their obsession with GDP to account for factors such as health-care availability and leisure time. ''A great revolution is waiting for us…For years, people said that finance was a formidable creator of wealth, only to discover one day that it accumulated so many risks that the world almost plunged into chaos…The crisis doesn't only make us free to imagine other models, another future, another world. It obliges us to do so,'' he said. (New York Times). But why only during crisis, the well-being of main street comes up? High economic growth doesn’t tickle down, and is no secret. SARCAJC has been pointing this, even when the media went overboard in celebration of India becoming Trillion Dollar Economy. Point to ponder- happiness is illusive, nevertheless an honest opportunity for pursuit of happiness by all is the key, right?

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14 September 2009

Climate Change Watch

Minister of environment and forests Jairam Ramesh’s announcement on Friday that there could be a legislation to control green house gas emissions (GHG) suggests that India is keen on tackling the climate control challenge head on and that it is doing so on its own terms….If the proposed legislation is part of the strategy to deal with the posturing of developed countries led by European Union (EU), then it seems a flawed one….The thinking in policy corridors and in the country in general is that the climate crisis has been brought on by the reckless industrialisation in the developed countries of Europe and North America in the last 200 years and that they should pay for the damage they have caused….It is not enough to say that India’s per capital carbon footprint is much below that of the developed world. After all, the problems caused by climate change and global warming will affect the entire planet, regardless of who contributed to or caused it the most. What is needed is a clear vision with regard to climate policy in India and that is not yet apparent.(Editorial. DNA).Ramesh has been refreshingly candid in publicly stating, too, that the country's record, Centre and states, in environmental protection has been pathetic. These are all indications of a man in power who is open to feedback and to act…However, it is for groups concerned and citizens at large to take this forward; it is idiotic to just keep waiting for someone in power to arrive by chance and do your job. If there is something called ecologically sustainable growth, a public constituency needs to be built for it, which offers realistic and appealing alternatives to the development issues of the day..You need open minds and the will for a meaningful dialogue all round, besides much homework(Editorial. New Indian Express).

Editorial Watch

..More than sixty years after observing politicians at work, Indians are not to be fooled by their skipping a meal, or forgoing a foreign jaunt. No, the real change will come when politicians treat public money as sacred, ensuring it is spent wisely and gainfully to ameliorate the lot of the people. Living in the lap of luxury in five-acre estates at tax-payers' expense in the heart of Lutyens' Delhi and then to preach austerity to two relatively well-off ministers staying in five-star hotels is the height of hypocrisy. Nothing else. Even the `aam aadmi' can see through this charade. (Free Press Journal).

Corruption Watch

Taking cue from Chief Justice of India, the Union Minister for Law and Justice, M.Veerappa Moily has suggested changes in the law, so that bureaucrats cannot hide behind Article 311 of the Constitution. Article 311 grants certain rights to government employees, which enforcement agencies feel, often act as an impediment to prosecution. Moily said he feels the need to "revisit" the article. The editorial of Dainik Bhaskar agrees that stern law should be made against corruption, however it also points out- “…There is much talk about corruption , new-new suggestions are made, new laws and institutions are made, but corruption is continuing unabated. The suggestion by chief Justice seems a practical step…maybe officials will get scared..“ Point to ponder-Without reforming the lackadaisical public grievance redressal system, any big hope on the ground level?

Newsmaker of Day

The quest for education has no limit for S Gnanasekaran, the conductor of route 91 bus plying between Saibaba Colony and Kovaipudur. He joined as bus conductor after finishing school and later completed two masters and an MPhil through distance education. Now he is planning to pursue doctorate in Gandhian studies. He has persuaded many drivers and conductors to pursue education and also helps poor students complete their education (New Indian Express).

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13 September 2009

Cartoon Watch

Austerity drive seems to be a favourite of cartoonist today. Aaj Samaj has devoted one full page to six cartoons with heading- “A curtain of simplicity”. Take a clue of one cartoon which shows a politician telling a kid (seems to be his grandchild) holding a puppy-“No beta, this time only 10 people will go on foreign tour, not your doggie…After all through austerity have to reduce unproductive expenditure”. The cartoon in Jansatta features tired looking Home Minister coming out of the airport after traveling economy class. He is surrounded by happy reports asking him- “How did it feel?”. While Asian Age shows a fat politician sitting in business class in aircraft. He is sweating & also wearing an eye mask. Why? Take a clue from fellow passengers- “That must be a cabinet minister!”. Another toon shows a fat politician riding on an ice roller (Hindustan Times). Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi? Take a clue from cartoon in Mail-Today. Here Shashi Tharoor, State Minister for External Affairs is telling Mahatma Gandhi- “I don’t fully agree with your austerity measures but I adore your 8-packs-ab!”. How well is the issue of economizing on airfare taken on? Take a clue from editorial of Asian Age- “ It is a trite argument that much may be expected by way of savings to the exchequer if ministers few economy and not business, and that insisting on a simple life is only a bit of hypocrisy…The large issue is not of pennies saved but of giving the poor the feeling that those in the business of helping them and shaping the society are not wholly cut off from their reality.”. Many editorial in newspapers in Hindi have also echoed similar views. While Pradeep Thakur feels that austerity drive is more than political correctness and informs official travel amounts to 75% of minister’s expenses (Times of India). What about rest of topics? The cartoon in Indian Express features a tourist in the State of Uttar Pradesh with a travel advisory in hand - “In U.P, don’t ask for a room with a view. All rooms over look statues- finished, semi-finished, court stayed….”. Many cartoons in Loksatta have taken on Swine flu, that too by Dr. Sujata Patodakar. Here, a clever small bird is making her nest with a mask, while a man is decorating his door with many masks! Others- Punjab Kesari (large holes in roads), Dainik Jagran (poor common man & financial problem stretching).

Media Watch

Pranav Kulkarni informs of a few rural newspapers. Gavkari (Marathi for villager), 12-page daily, is published across villages in Nasik, Jalgaon, Aurangabad and Henagar (in State of Maharashtra). Is it any different from the frontline newspapers? Yes, it focuses on farmers' issues and other political stories. Their page three is about farmer workshops, gossips are about promises made by local politicians and the editorials address a variety of issues, from how to increase the productivity of buffaloes to the need to gather funds to construct a bund to solve the water problem of the village. Another newspaper is Pushkaraj in Daund. This paper exposed corruption in the local administration, which lead to corrupt officer’s resignation & makeover in entire administration. The readership of Ananta Asha, a four-page weekly in Baramati, shot up when it highlighted the cause of workers in a local factory, whose faulty machines ended up cutting workers' fingers but the management shrugged off its responsibility. Yes, Lalsoo, a freelance reporter, is spot on- “the most important news is the one happening in the backyard”.

Corruption Watch

Aman Sharma reports on the front page of Mail Today that the chief justice of India has opened a can of worms by accusing the government of shielding corrupt public servants by not granting prosecution sanctions even when there was enough evidence against them. How important is this news for the newspapers? Of the 18 newspapers scanned today, only 12 carried on their front page. Hindustan Times,Hindustan, Asian Age, Dainik Jagran, New Indian Express, Jansatta did not carry it on their front page. While this news was most prominently placed in Nai Duniya, Navbharat Times, Aaj Samaj, Amar Ujala and Mail Today, Tribune.

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12 September 2009

Child Watch

The front page of New Indian Express reveals that 11-day-old son was sold by his father for Rs 7,000. The culprit father has landed in police custody as he returned home drunk after blowing up a good chunk of the money. After selling his son, he bought clothes for the elder children repaid borrowed Rs 1,500 and had Rs 2,500 on him when he came back home drunk with the two children, said police sources. Police have rescued the child and handed him over to his mother. (New Indian Express. Front page).

Media Watch

After IBN7 television news channel aired a report on a poor women being sold on stamp paper, an FIR was lodged in Jhansi against the reporter and four unnamed persons. The Uttar Pradesh Accredited Press Correspondents Committed has lodged a strong protest against a booking Lucknow based reporter of this news channel under the Scheduled Caste/Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Reason- they allege this action was taken with mala fide intentions. According to them, the FIR was fake as it was lodged by a woman who (and even husband) was not covered in the telecast report (Hindu). Point to ponder- if this is not harassment of an investigative journalist, what is?

Drought watch

The cartoon in Dainik Jagran features two Hindu Gods, Narad telling Indradev, the Hindu raingod- “Hey Indradev! Now-a-days on earth people are praising you but leaders are getting cursed…Narayan..!”. Reason- new item at bottom of the toon- “Delhi: water logging, broken roads, jam & jam”. The front page of Hindustan Times reports that as a result of only 6 hours of downpour 13 roads have caved in. While front page of Times of India carries a photograph of crater on road. Yes, ’that sinking feeling’. Summing up- “Rain wipes out deficits, and roads’. The newspaper further points out that in just two days of rain the roads in Delhi have crumbles but civic agencies are not accepting responsibility. Yes, the blame game is on. (Times of India).The road transport and highways ministry has sought a loan of $2.96 bn from the World Bank to develop 5,937 kms of highways, cutting across 14 states in the country. (Economic Times. 4/9/2009). Guess, the quality and extent of drain of funds! Not just Delhi, Hindu informs that heavy rain lashed most part of the Northern India. The belated monsoon is pouring, however the cry of for drought relief has remained intact. 11 States have demanded whooping Rs. 723 billion from the Central government. The cartoon on the front page of Hindustan features an officer looking around with binoculars, while clinging to the truck of a tree, surrounded by water everywhere. Guess what he is upto- “Survey of Drought Relief”!

Secret of Day

The veteran noted Journalist, Khushwant Singh, who is over 90 years, has revealed secret of his long & happy life- good health, healthy bank balance, own home, no envying those who have done better than you in life, not allowing people to come for gossip mongering, hobbies, meditation every morning & evening for 15 minutes for introspection. Point to ponder- given his first three secrets, will the main street ever achieve happiness? Yes, life is long journey in Pursuit of Happiness and indeed, it’s a long way home! Are you coming?

Discrimination of Day

There is lot of talk about women empowerment but the law which violates the fundamental right of non-discrimination on the basis of sex, is valid in India. The Delhi High Court expressed its inability to quash it as the law has been put beyond judicial scrutiny under ninth schedule of the Constitution. A Bench of Justices B D Ahmed and Veena Birbal found the provision of Delhi Land Reforms Act of 1954, which says the property would be first devolved to male lineal descendants and the female would be given property only when there is no male descendants, as discriminatory but refused to set it aside saying its hands are tied (Free Press Journal).

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11 September 2009

Concern of Day

Harsha Mardan’s heart breaking write-up in Dainik Bhaskar focuses on “Unhappy daughters of the nation”. He has brought into light the exploitation of poor girls on roads in Delhi. The positive point, he observed- “ Of all girls, I met on roads, all wanted to go to school to study”. However a cartoon on the front page of Hindustan shows a school girls looking at a board which show direction to ‘Right to Education’ along with sign of Danger in red colour. Reason? Take a clue from lead report in the same newspaper which points out that initially it was reported that the stampede in a government school occurred due to electric current, however many girls have alleged that the reason was eve-teasing by male students. Page two of the same paper shouts- “Shame”. The lead story in Nai Duniya screams- “Death descends after eve teasing in school”. This is not an isolated case of eve-teasing with school girls. Rasbhihari informs that such eve teasing is common on the gates of most government schools (in posh as well as rural areas) in Delhi. And the surprising fact is that policemen are not visible there. However, the editorial of Hindustan Times still believes that reason for the stampede in which girls died was the rumours that their waterlogged school was electrified by a loose connection- “What makes it worst is that they lost their lives trying to run to safety following rumours that their waterlogged school was electrified by a loose connection…”. What was the real reason? According chief correspondent of Hindustan-”…the truth is that there was no electricity since night” and has raised pertinent questions. One of them is - “Why do such disaster take place only in girls school?” The editorial of Dainik Jagran has blamed the mentality of teachers who get government jobs, as these teachers believe that they will anyway get salary despite underperformance or absenteeism. But this incident has more lessons to offer. Yes, ask young girls in Delhi, majority will narrate incidences that point that Delhi is not a safe city for women. What has deeply suffered here is trust of parents as this incidence has exposed vulnerability of their daughters in government school in the capital of India.

Media Watch

The Indian media has been carrying reports of Chinese military intrusions into Indian territory. However, China Daily, the leading state-run Chinese newspaper, has accused the Indian media of trying to present a "bleak picture" of the Sino-India relations by raising "war rhetoric" and sowing "seeds of enmity" between the two countries. The editorial pointed out- "If you are a regular reader of reports in the Indian media, you can be excused for thinking a war is imminent between India and China. For the past few months, the Indian media have been trying to fan passions on both sides..Instead of informing, inspiring and trying to find the truth, it is trying to throttle professional ethics to raise the war rhetoric and sow seeds of enmity between the two peoples" (Free Press Journal).

Austerity Watch

Sobhana points out ‘Krishna, Shashi take note: How nine of your colleagues live’. Why- “while External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his deputy Shashi Tharoor turned 5star hotel suites into temporary homes, their nine colleagues, still waiting for official accommodation, settled for single rooms in state Bhawans and PSU guest houses in New Delhi” (Indian Express). But it seems the attempts to tone down luxury has not gone down well with some Union ministers. D. K Singh reports in the same newspaper that at least half a dozen ministers have questioned the need for austerity measures (in view of the drought in the country) which are in force only for one year. However, Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran raised objections to some ministers availing of their entitlement to fly special aircraft as it was fine for the Prime Minister to fly by special aircraft but other ministers entitled to it - Home, Finance, Defence and External Affairs - should travel in commercial airlines. Any solution, take a clue from editorial of Dainik Bhaskar which points out that the government has to free itself from star culture. And this will not take place unless there is fundamental change in mentality in running of the government. Thereby the misuse of government funds will be considered a crime.

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10 September 2009

Newsmaker of Day

Mahatma Gandhi has found a fan in the US President Barack Obama and most newspapers have carried this news. While answering to a question by a student, Obama revealed that Mahatma Gandhi was his real hero and given a chance he would like to dine with him. Reason- “he (Mahatma Gandhi) is somebody whom I find a lot of inspiration in. He inspired Dr King (Martin Luther), so if it hadn't been for the non-violent movement in India, you might not have seen the same non-violent movement for civil rights here in the United States…What was interesting was that he ended up doing so much and changing the world just by the power of his ethics, by his ability to change how people saw each other and saw themselves--and help people who thought they had no power realise that they had power, and then help people who had a lot of power realise that if all they're doing is oppressing people, then that's not a really good exercise of power" Obama said. Further he pointed that he had hung portrait of Gandhi in his Senate office to remind him that real results will not just come from Washington, they will come from the people. Point to ponder- Will now External Affairs ministers- Tharoor & Krishna, follow President Obama’s example? Are 77% Indians, really are poor & vulnerable….Life is a party?

Concern of Day

Two senior citizens have earned the wrath of Delhi High Court for filing a public interest litigation (PIL) that sought permission for restaurants and bars in the city to serve liquor 24x7. The petition had mentioned that that globalisation and increasing influence of western culture are promoting the culture of night life and Indians are now not averse to going to pubs and bars for socializing and unwinding themselves (Times of India).The advocate appearing for the petitioners failed to justify the reason for filing the PIL. The chief Justice of Delhi High Court told the petitioner’s lawyers- “See the demand: allow us to have more liquor’. You want to drink throughout the night. You want a better nightlife. Sorry, we refuse to entertain such PIL”. The court imposed a cost of Rs 20,000 on them for "misusing" PIL (Hindustan Times, Asian Age). Point to ponder- how many senior citizens, retired from job (salaried), come to nightclubs for a drink in Delhi? That too in time of high inflation? Not many, so what prompted them to file such PIL?

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9 September 2009

Newspaper Effect of Day:

Indian Express

After front page reporting by Shubhajit Roy in Indian Express, the External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and his junior Minister Shashi Tharoor have moved out of luxury hotels where they have been staying for over three months. Reason- the Finance Minister had requested both the ministers to vacate their hotel rooms. Free Press Journal informs - “incidentally, the government had on Monday appealed to all the ministries to adhere to certain austerity measures in view of the pressure on its finances. For instance, there is now a complete ban on holding of meetings and conferences in five star hotels, and a 10 per cent cut in expenses on holding of seminars, conferences, workshops and staging them abroad, except in case of exhibitions for trade promotions”. However Shubhajit Roy reports that a Iftaar party is on at the Deluxe five star hotel (Tharoor’s abode for months), and that too at the expense of exchequer’s money!And that there have been many Iftaar parties in the past by political leaders but no one recalls one a a five-star deluxe hotel! The Editorial of Nai Duniya Asks- “What kind of public servants are these?” It goes on -

“…Perhaps it happens only in this country. Our country is plagued with poverty, while our ministers and big officers don’t not feel guilty or feel the sin when they stay at five star and seven star hotels. After it is revealed, they boost that I am staying at my own expense…Don’t know if these great servants are aware of the fact that income of 77% of country’s population is mere Rs. 20...”. The editorial of Economic Times has also focused on this episode- “..both Krishna & Tharoor have literally established themselves as five-star types after living for most of the first 100 days of second UPA government in suites of ITC Maurya and Taj Mahal…” Yes, this is being displayed in the cartoon carried by Asian Age. Point to ponder- However since the Minister of External Affairs was staying in the Five Star Hotels for the last three months, why did it take so long for the media to make this public?

But why bother single out these rich ministers? For more than 100 days, even 70 members of parliament are staying at government owned five star hotel, wtih government taking care of the expenses. Why- they are waiting to move in their official houses. Their bill-- Rs. 37.8 million! (Mid-Day). Yes, its raining money for a select few, while the majority is no where in the ‘Big Picture’. According to Himanshu Bhagat, executive director, Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management India- India was the world's second fastest growing economy and the number of billionaires would go up with the kind of wealth creation that was happening in the country. And this is the reason why his organization will launch most exclusive club for super rich in India, with membership restricted to those with a minimum investible surplus of $1 billion. (Business Standard). Yes, Nandan Nilekani is spot on that the poor have no identity in India- “The UID project is really for the huge number of people who are outside the system. For the poor, this is a huge benefit because they have no identity, no birth certificates, degree certificates, driver’s license, passport, no address. There are 75 million homeless people in this country, 75 million tribals. So if we are able to help them get the number then we can actually empower them” (Business Standard).

Initiative of Day

New Indian Express reports that while launching Rs 65-billion and literacy mission `Saakshar Bharat', the Prime Minister observed- "In fact, many observers have seen infrastructure development in the economic sector and female literacy in the social sector as two very critical factors that impede India's steady climb to a higher sustainable level of growth”.

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8 September 2009

Report of Day

Shubhajit Roy reports that despite the fact that all talk of austerity and sacrifice in the time of drought, two high-profile Union Ministers are staying in five-star hotels in Delhi. -“For over three months now, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna is at ITC's Maurya on Sardar Patel Marg and his junior Shashi Tharoor at Hotel Taj Mahal on Man Singh Road. Both pay their own bills but neither of them -- nor the hotels -- say how much they have paid so far. It's learnt that Krishna is checked in at the Maurya's Presidential suite on the 16th floor… Industry insiders say the room tariff is in the range of Rs 1 lakh plus per night although "it can be negotiated."…Tharoor has been staying in a Taj suite since he moved to Delhi as the minister, staff said, and the lowest tariff for suites in the Taj Man Singh is Rs 40,000 per night (executive balcony suite. This is not it to unproductive expenditure! Surendrer Sharma reports that Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD)is spending whooping Rs. 580 million on decorating its offices to get a sleek look (Mid-Day). But what about services? You know it all, right?

Editorial of Day

A Congolese accountant is trying to get one instalment of the Tintin series -- Tintin in Congo -- withdrawn. He filed a suit against the publishers in Belgium seeking symbolic damages and the withdrawal of the comic book…The litigant is not the first person to detect undertones of racism or colonial condescension in literary works.Negative stereotyping -- racism in other words -- pervades the world of literature, especially of the populist variety, which seeks readership by playing on prejudice…. That having been said, suits for reparation or proscription are way over the top. Proscription of literature would have the unfortunate effect of withdrawing from the public sphere a huge slice of world literature…Worse, the proscription of literature, or art on a more general scale, will hardly lead to the disappearance of the mindsets the Congolese protagonist so deplores. If it were the case that a successful prosecution of his suit would result in the disappearance of racism or colonial attitudes there might have been a point. The better way of going about the business of combating prejudice would surely be stepping up the ideological war on it. (New Indian Express)

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7 September 2009

Media Watch

The demise of the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh in a helicopter crash has revealed ‘shocking case of gullible hero-worshippers”. The editorial of Tribune has not spared TV channels - “…That the toll was as high as 67 until Friday (over 100 as per official reports) of which 20 were suicides shows how emotionally-charged these people much have been and how they were guided by blind faith in their leaders. Several of them died of sudden heart attacks after watching the news of their beloved leader’s death on television channels which have made it their business to go overboard whenever there is a chance to exploit public sentiment. Indeed, there is a conscious effort to arouse mass hysteria to raise the channel’s TRP ratings on such occasions”. Was this one of the reasons due to which the media was kept away from swearing-in ceremony chief minister of the state of Andhra Pradesh? The reason cited by officials- space constraint in the Durbar Hall of Raj Bhawan (Hindu)

Concern of Day

The cartoon in Mail Today shows Nandan Nilkani, chief of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) with a calculator in his hand, ordering the poor common man (whose symbolic representative is Mahatma Gandhi)- “Stand up and be numbered”. In an interview to Asha Rai in Times of India, he says- “ you enrol once and get an identity for life. That’s the big USP”.(Times of India). Will it serve any purpose, apart from doling out contract to Indian IT? What purpose, take a clue from Seema Mustafa- “ …Foreign newspapers have finally started recognizing that India's growth is confined to a small class of the privileged, and does not extend to cover the people who continue to live in dismal conditions….Why is it not visible on the ground? Why is it that the contrast between the rich and the poor has become so vulgar, with designer stores selling clothes and bags for lakhs of rupees while the poor starve with not even Rs 20 a day to spend on their food and livelihood?…It is time for the government to put the money where its mouth is, and work for the masses instead of for the select few…”(Indian Express). CNN IBN & IBN had reported how debt ridden farmers are selling their wives (often on stamp paper) to survive in Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh. Meanwhile, while the chief minister of state has ordered an enquiry, according to the Commission of Jhansi- “…The region is reeling under drought and farmers have been hit hard. But they are fighting the situation with self-respect”. I can’t believe this. If I hear of any such case, action will be taken“. Meanwhile, instead of punishing the culprits, the police are reportedly trying to silence those who had dared to speak in front of camera (Mid-Day). Point to ponder- Will unique identification number help Indian women to live with dignity?

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6 September 2009

Media Watch

The National Commission for Women (NCW) has decided to serve notice to a TV Show- Sach ka Saamna”. Why? It has received complaints from women regarding the way social values are being depicted in the serial. "There were several complaints against the serial from women, so we have decided to serve notice on the production house 'Big Synergy' to seek explanation," Chairperson of the Commission Girija Vyas told reporters in New Delhi on Saturday. (Hindustan Times). Point to ponder- what about bollywood masala movies like Kambakht Ishq.

Report of Day

Vinay Kumar reports that to ensure time bound implementation of government’s flagship programme, new initiatives, a Delivery Monitoring Unit has been set up in the PMO. Now that’s a positive initiative. But will the high profile monitoring unit also listen to the corruption tales directly from the main street? The present public grievance redressal system has failed to curb rampant corruption. Mahim Pratap Singh reports in Hindu that in Bundelkhand much publicized NREGA is a failure as it has created neither jobs nor assets. IN the last three years the state government has spent Over Rs. 80 billion but the result remains unsatisfactory. This is quite different from the claim by government and social auditors. What is the source- people of Bundelkhand. Mahim informs that corruption and delayed payment of wages has plagued the NREGA apparatus in Chhattarpur and Tikamgarh, like other districts. People reveal it all- bribes , intimidation, wages never paid on time, job card held by Sarpanch, money released only on paper…”. Mahim sums it up- “The cycle of corruption, involving the sarpanch (head of village), the panchayat secretary and the block CEO ( at the initial stage) and the sub engineer (at later stage of evaluation stage)is quiet vicious…”. Sadguru Sharan reports in Dainik Jagran (national edition) that every third family in Uttar Pradesh is below poverty line, but poverty eradication programmes are ineffective due to non delivery. Anyone listening?

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5 September 2009

Advertisement Watch

The half page colored advertisement by Food & Nutrition Board of Ministry of Women & Child Development contains a smiling photograph of a happy mother with a baby on her back in rural area.. However it does not reveal if the baby too is happy and healthy. Nevertheless, the ad comes with the punch line- “JOIN US IN OUR CAMPAIGN AGAINST HUNGER AND MALNUTRITION”. How? “National Exhibition on Nutrition” in Delhi’s Rajiv Gandhi Stadium on 5-6 September 2009. Is this effort sufficient? Take a clue from Kuldip Nayar, a veteran journalist- “…The country is now the epicentre of the malnutrition of the poor who do not get enough….”(Tribune). But still India is doling out whopping $10 billion to IMF to supplement its resources (Asian Age).

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4 September 2009

Drought Watch

The cartoon in Financial Chronicle features a farmer & son, who have read newspaper which informs of growth rates- GDP@6.1%, agriculture@ 2.4%. The son asks father- “Will we be punished for underperformance?”. Not much! Sarbjit Dhaliwal reports that recent spell of rain will prove good for paddy and other kharif crop in Punjab. Paddy was sown late due to insufficient rain.(Tribune) Three weeks of near normal rainfall since mid-August has helped reduce the overall rain deficiency in the country from 29 per cent below normal on August 12 to 23 per cent below normal on September 3. According to statistics with the Met department, the above normal rainfall in Central (+24 per cent) and Southern peninsula (+49 per cent) during the week ending September 2 has helped the overall weekly monsoon rainfall in the country get marginally past normal (+4 per cent) even as the Northwestern (-21 per cent) and Northeastern (-33 per cent) received deficient rainfall (Indian Express). Climate Watch

Nitin Sethi informs that G-20 has cornered India on emissions, ignored Indian submission & demanded that Indian imposes carbon taxation and reduce greenhouse emissions by ‘deviating significantly from business as usual’ scenario. An obvious attempt to tag down negotiating power of India due to its deviation from previous non-negotiable position on climate change negotiation?

Media Watch

Economic Times has carried views of S. Swami, politician and G. Navlakha, consulting editor of Economic Political Weekly, on -”Is the press under attack un Lanka?” Take a look at extracts-

“When a state fights a secessionist terrorist outfit, then press freedom suffers as a consequence. Therefore to say that Sri Lanka does not have press freedom is an occupational hazard, not a condemnation….”- (S. Swami)

…While the international media has drawn attention to this, Indian media guilds/unions remain virtually mute. Perhaps news management for national security reasons is acceptable to them and , therefore they condemn through their silence censorship of news in Kashmir or other hotspots. Why should they care or their colleagues in Sri Lanka”. (G. Navlakha)
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3 September 2009

Follow-up of Day

Do most newspapers forget to follow up? Nope, take a clue from Times of India which is still tracking open manholes in Delhi with obvious heading- “Look, how they ditch city”, “Civic officials in a tizzy over TOI’s campaign”. The newspaper also informs that despite highlighting the hazardous open manholes by the paper, manholes in Delhi still remain open. Rahul Tripathi points out that TOI’s sustained campaign against open ditches in the city has brought to light another case of an elderly citizen dying on 16 July after falling in an uncovered pit.. The pit was allegedly dug by MCD (municipal corporation of Delhi) for drainage work and a portion of it was left uncovered. Why bring this up so late? “Thanks to a series of reports in the last few days in this paper (TOI)…the police has initiated action against the contractor”. Yes, the contractor was arrested by later released on bail. Further, Rahul quotes the Director (Press & Information) of MCD- “We haven’t received any information from Delhi police regarding this and are not aware of the incident”. Point to ponder- Is the public grievance redressal system working fine?

RTI of Day

Most newspapers have highlighted that Delhi High Court has held that the office of the Chief Justice of India (CJI) is a public authority which comes within the ambit of the Right to Information Act (RTI) and the Chief Justice of India holds the information pertaining to asset declarations by judges of the higher judiciary in his capacity as Chief Justice and the same can be made public.

Appointment of Day

The new Vice Chancellor of Jamia Millia has been appointed. He has big plans- "I view my appointment as a huge challenge. I dream of making Jamia an international university. It has the potential and a lot has been done in the past five years." (New Indian Express). But Jung is still doing his PhD on energy economics from Oxford University (Times of India)! Without PhD, its difficult to get even lecture’s post in an University, wonder, how he got the post of VC? Take a clue from Aditi Tandon- “Reliance Services man top choice for Jamia V-C’s post, Murshirul Hassan likely to lose the plot due to lobbyism”(Tribune. 24 Aug 09).

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2 September 2009

Concern of Day

Not long ago the US President Barack Obama mentioned- "We can't afford our kids to be mediocre at a time when they're competing against kids in China and kids in India," (Economic Times. 20/3/09). Yes, India is well know for its skilled manpower and educational system. But still much is desired. According to Gen SF Rodrigues, Governor and Chancellor of Punjabi University in Patiala, our education system was tailored by the British suiting to their own needs. It did not encourage our students to think for themselves and apply their own mind for tackling various societal and national issues (Tribune). How to tackle this? Swaha Sahoo reports that as part of Brain Gain policy, the human resource Ministry will soon clear shores for persons of Indian origin, who are not citizens of the country to join Indian universities and technical institutions as faculty (Hindustan Times). Will this resolve the problem? And what about local educated youths, who have been praised by President Obama? Are they no good? Will this move not increase unemployment for them? And if yes, how much? Can’t really tell, as this statistics does not seem to be on priority list of government’s statistics. Take a clue from Neha Pal - “..The latest Government of India job data is four years old. The NSS 62nd round, published in January 2008 for the year 2005-06, deals with data as old as July 2005 to June 2006. Moreover, in place of clearly mentioning the exact status of employed and unemployed population, it hides behind jargons like “usually status” (regular employment), “current weekly status” (weekly employment) and “current daily status” (daily labour). The figures are confusing too...Besides the NSSO survey, other source of data are employment exchanges, which fail to represent the actual number of job seekers..”(Financial Express. 26/11/08). Sobhana K had brought into light that at 32, Nirmala is a past master at counting the heads ahead of her in the line to the counter and the cobwebs on the ceiling of the Delhi employment exchange. She has been doing it for the past 17 years. (Indian Express. 19/8/09). What is the latest reform- The finance Minister in his speech had announced the modernisation of employment exchanges in Public Private Partnership (PPP) so that job seekers can register online and approach any employment exchange across India. But where are the jobs anyway, specially for educated women? According to the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) report on ‘Employment and Unemployment Situation in India 2004-05’, unemployment rate was highest among the educated and the lowest among the illiterate across all categories. However, for every educational level, the rates are higher among the youth (15-29 years) than the general population. Among educated youth, the unemployment rate for females was higher than males. Vikas Dhoot informs that unemployment levels are the highest for young educated women in India. Even considering the most conservative yardstick used by the government to measure unemployment, young women with secondary or higher secondary education in urban India have an unemployment rate of 77.3% compared to 54.4% for young males with similar education levels (Financial Express. 27/6/08). How about considering ‘Brain Gain’ for Indian educated women? Persons Indian origin, who are not citizens of the India are better off than Indian educated women?

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1 September 2009

Visibility of Day

Three days after a man fell to death in a open pit in Delhi, Times of India has prominently carried 4 photographs of open manholes in different places in Delhi on its front page. Yes, indeed, these photographs “document the total disregard of our civic authorities for human lives”. The newspaper asks- “Does anyone care..No official was held accountable for any of its deaths. Is this how a world-class city is built?”.

Media Watch

A writ plea has been made in the Madras High Court for a direction to the Ministry of Infor mation and Broadcasting, New Delhi, to regulate or prohibit transmission or retransmission of cable TV networks of certain private TV channels, which are telecasting indecent, vulgar and obscene programmes of inducing, glorifying violence and crimes, obscenity in particular on women and children. (New Indian Express).

Report of Day

The much acclaimed The Energy & Resource Institute (TERI), whose chief is no less than Dr. Rajendra Pachuari (IPCC fame, Nobel Laureate), has come under fire for doling out an environmental award to National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC). Dinesh Sharma reports activists claim that NHPC has been awarded despite its shoddy work on environment front. Further, environmentalist say that other issue could also be involved- TERI & NHPC signed MoU for academic collaboration for a Master’s degree programme , for which NHPC paid TERI a whooping amount of Rs. 5.7 million. “How can TERI give an award to a company and do business with it at the same time”? Nevertheless, NHOC has reaped benefits of the award which includes getting it from President of India & cashing it through media campaign to sell its IPO (Mail Today).

Financial Watch

33% per cent of the people in India are yet to be benefited by the formal banking system, said Ananda, Regional Director of Reserve Bank of India, Chennai (New Indian Express). But how many people are benefiting from fake currency at the cost of the economy & honest citizens? There are no single firm estimates of fake currency. The extent of fake currency in the country can be guessed by the fact that the Reserve bank of India too is suffering from this menace. Last week, apex bank had complained to the police that fake currency amounting to Rs. 84,000 were found in its currency chest (Hindustan Times). Is this the reason why the finance ministry is examining a Reserve Bank of India recommendation to stop harassment of any person possessing fake currency notes. He will now face music only if he has more than five such fake notes. (Free Press Journal). Point to ponder- why no special drive to catch human carriers who spread the fake currency net in the country?

September 2009 Newspaper Watch

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