Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2G Scandal: Swamy Accuses Sonia Gandhi Family Of Getting Loot...

Here is the text of a letter purportedly written by Subramanian Swamy to the Prime Minister on November 24. This letter is available at some sites on the net and is also available as a press release on the Janata Party website here.

November 24, 2010.

Dr. Manmohan Singh,
Prime Minister of India,
South Block,
New Delhi.

Dear Prime Minister:

You may by now have realized that the 2G Spectrum scandal is not only bad for the country in the dimension of corruption, but now it emerges that there is a national security dimension too. The RAW, IB, CBI, ED all have enough material which they may have placed before you regarding the dubious aspects of the principal player in this scam.

According to my information two sisters, Anushka and Nadia, of Ms Sonia Gandhi had received sixty percent of the kickbacks in this deal i.e. Rs.18,000 crores each. The frequent travel of Sonia Gandhi and her immediate family to Malaysia, Hongkong, Dubai and parts of Europe including London requires to be probed under the law. What requires your special attention is the mode of the travel, not by commercial airliners, but by jets provided by the corporate sector which itself is illegal under the DGCA Rules. I find that often Ms.Sonia Gandhi and family have traveled to Dubai and then traveled onwards on private jets provided by dubious Arab business interests to Europe. It is not clear on what passport they have traveled. In Dubai they were felicitated by agencies of countries which are hostile to India including that of Pakistan.

You can no more not take a stand when evil is permeating in the country in the form of terrorism, religious conversion and demographic infiltration. The ill-gotten money in billions of dollars equivalent, the money laundering and Participatory Notes have all undermined our national integrity. The time is come for you to take a stand.

I am familiar with the information and data with our intelligent agencies. I also know that you can seek cooperation of other countries especially the United States in pooling information especially from inter Intelligence interaction that take place regularly. I hope therefore you will rise to the need of the hour and take effective steps to set right the sorry state of affairs in the country caused by overtly and covertly resident foreigners. In this connection I would like to meet you at the earliest. My Secretary will be in touch with your Secretariat to fix a time.

Yours sincerely,
(SUBRAMANIAN SWAMY)

The contents of the letter are enough to make any ordinary man jump from his seat. And though the letter is freely available on the Janata Party website and has also been posted many times over in various other sites there is neither any response from the PMO or any mention of this letter from the mainstream media. The contents are damaging enough for any reasonable man to even consider defamatory action. But Sonia Gandhi remains silent, as she has done over the many articles written by Subramanian Swamy. 

It is now increasingly appearing to be a case where Manmohan Singh simply does not know what to do. It is mostly Pranab Mukherjee (the real PM?) who has been fighting fire in the parliament and outside. And knowing this letter and its content are now open and out in the public domain should Sonia Gandhi maintain silence over it then one has to conclude that it may have unflattering truths in it. If that should turn out to be correct then all the inquires of the spectrum scam, the Radia tapes etc. will be one more big eye wash. 

In a previous post here, I have held that both Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi should be he held criminally culpable for the 2G scam. My belief keeps getting stronger by the day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nira Radia – A Real Hero : Who’s Behind The Tapes Conspiracy?

Nira Radia has to be considered a real unwitting hero of sorts. The public has long suspected a politicians–corporate houses–media nexus in the ongoing season of scams. In one single stroke, with a partial release of her tapes, she has inadvertently exposed the powerful and the corrupt in the nation. The list of participants in her conversations (directly or indirectly) reads like a who’s who. Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani, A. Raja, Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi, Prabhu Chawla, M.K. Venu, Kanimozhi, and many other names that have received casual mention in the conversations. I can’t help imagining Ram Gopal Verma rubbing his hands in delight. He would have liked some blood, of course. And who knows, that might even follow.

According to reports Radia’s phone was being tapped between  August 2008 and November 2008 and again between May 2009 and July 2009. But why this woman was picked up for surveillance has to make for some juicy stuff. What is it that the IT or the government agencies really wanted to know? Money laundering? Tax evasion? P.Chidarambam is on record stating that potential IT offenders can be subjected to surveillance. With plenty of bigger crooks to target why was Nira Radia a good choice for surveillance?  The tapping of phones started with just over six months to go for general elections (2009).

There can be many conspiracy theories, I repeat 'theories', but I will start with a four letter word – “NANO” !

1.      Around the time the phone tapping was authorised the Nano plant at Singur had run into trouble and there were plans to shift it elsewhere. The Tata’s new location would have scored some political points for any  party. As it transpired, it was shifted to Gujarat. The talk of Gujarat was doing the rounds for some time and so to eaves drop on Ratan Tata’s PR agent and try to hook up to any juicy political inputs would have been handy. And where was the Nano headed? Narendra Modi’s Gujarat! All the more reason for a Congress headed UPA to pick up any dirt they could have on the exchanges. Anything that could nail Narendra Modi to something.
2.      According to reports the phone-tapping was approved by the Home Secretary or the Home Ministry. Given this tapping was requested by the IT department,  was it routed through the F M?  Did P. Chidambaram, then FM, approve of it?
3.      Around March-April 2009 rifts started appearing in the Samajwadi Party with Amar Singh involved in quite a few confrontations. If he were to quit SP, which way would he jump? Given his proximity to Anil Ambani would there be interesting titbits to be picked up from the Radia conversations and her sources? She being the PR agent for Mukesh Ambani. Amar Singh also complained about his phone being tapped (a few years ago), was his proximity to Anil Ambani the reason? Who authorised tapping of Amar Singh’s phone?
4.      In the Vibrant Gujarat event in January 2009 quite a few industrialists endorsed Modi as PM.  Participants at the event included Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani,  Anil Ambani and Sunil Mittal apart from many others. Did such pronouncements scare the UPA on which way the funds would flow during the general elections in May? Did this also influence the phone tapping approval?
5.      On the CNN-IBN pages Arun Shourie mentions he was replaced as the first opposition speaker in the LS on the budget (2009) with N. Venkiah. This was supposedly to soften any opposition to budget proposals that favoured the Mukesh Ambani group. It is reported this was as a consequence of conversations on the Radia tapes. So was the budget framed to favour Mukesh Ambani? And if so, why? Will Pranab Mukherjee explain? Arun Shourie also clearly mentions that the voice suggesting the change was that of  N.K. Singh. What was N.K. Singh’s interest?
6.      The second round of phone tapping was authorised in May 2009 according to press reports. Was this again for IT purposes? It hardly seems likely.  And this time the home minister was P. Chidambaram. As Finance Minister in August 2008 did he approve the phone tapping? And in 2009 if it was for IT purposes was the tapping approved by Pranab Mukherjee?
7.      Is it possible that there might be some minister in the government who may have initiated the phone tapping for not having gotten a decent share of the 2G scam pie?
8.      P. Chidambaram mentioned surveillance is justified for investigating IT and economic offences. Is he suggesting that any such offence can be prosecuted based on secret phone-taps? Are no documentary evidences of violations required for IT and economic offences?  Has the government conducted any raids or procured any documents as a follow up to the phone conversations? This doesn’t seem to be so. So the entire motive behind the phone tapping is seriously suspect.

I can keep adding to these questions but it’s time the media started asking really serious questions over the whole issue. It is unfortunate that the media itself is on the defensive owing to the leaks of some tapes. That, however, may be the very purpose with which some select tapes were leaked. To put the media on the defensive to avoid the real questions about the conspiracies hatched by those in the government (and maybe even in the opposition)
My own assessment is that based on reports so far there seems to be no serious evidence of any wrong doing against Nira Radia. And she will probably not even be prosecuted. She does what lobbyists do. It is our government and our media that isn’t doing what it is supposed to do. The phone tapping appears to be nothing more than political eavesdropping and some senior minister in the government has to be involved. It wouldn’t be too hard to guess who.

Hopefully, the media will now wake up and start asking harsh questions and not run comedy shows like  Cuckoo on the couch, Foodie, Secret Kitchen and so on. Real news media must ask real questions. If readers of this blog have any more such theories I welcome those authors and will be happy to carry their articles.

Vir-Gati – Vir Sanghvi Suspends HT Counterpoint, Takes a Break...

Vir Sanghvi bites the dust.

“...I have no desire to subject Counterpoint to this filth. It deserves better. So, Counterpoint will be taking a break. When life returns to normal, so will Counterpoint.” Thus wrote Vir Sanghvi in his column.  I doubt life will ever return to normal for this journalist.  Fortunately, he does have an alternate career in the foodie category.

A few days back Vir Sanghvi defended himself, unconvincingly in a post on Counterpoint :  “My response to the  Radia transcripts”. He claimed the tapes were selectively leaked and some parts doctored. Hindustan Times had distanced itself from his comments and his connection to the Radia tapes.

This is the man who has consistently proclaimed a prominent politician “mass murderer” for many years. One can understand dislike for Narendra Modi, but characterising him as “mass murderer” reeks of malice, prejudice and lack of discretion for a wimp who passed off as a journalist.  He is fortunate he wasn't dragged to court for such defamatory charges. He had figured in my list of India’s worst journalists in a post on August 31. (Read Here)

On Counterpoint post Gujarat elections of 2007 Sanghvi refers to the ".. north Indian slur that Gujaratis are effete" and then goes on to add  "So as a Gujarati, I am proud that we finally have our pride and confidence back. But it is a sad commentary on our state that it took a mass murderer to achieve this".  Ironically, it is a Gujarati woman (Nira Radia) who screwed Sanghvi.

One hopes that during his break Sanghvi will reflect and introspect on the consequences of being a biased and influenced journalist. The first martyr of the Radia tapes has truly achieved ‘Virgati

We might now get to hear the line "what kind of food do you want?" Now who can complain about that.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Radia Tapes - Barkha's Response - An open letter to Barkha Dutt...

Dear Barkha,

I read your response (here) to the Radia tapes and allegations against you. Trust me, I can understand the deep anguish and hurt that you are going through. No one would want to be in your situation. Honestly responding, as you have done, is the right thing to do. And I sincerely hope you will come through this.

On the evening of November 18th, I was among the first to re-post the Radia tapes on this blog when the Open Magazine site had crashed. I had posted the tapes (in one single file) along with the transcript without passing any judgement on them. It is nice of you to come out with your current response and to hear that there are lessons you have learned. I have been (in various articles on this blog) seeking nothing more than an expression of regret over your bad judgement in who you were dealing with. That said, let me also respond to some of the statements in your latest response. (Your statements are in Red Ital):

... I am astonished, angered and hurt to see the baseless allegations against me in sections of the media this week... The edited conversations .......have been headlined to suggest that I misused my role as a journalist to "lobby" for A. Raja, a man I have never met.
I don’t think anywhere in the media or in my own blog there was a suggestion that you lobbied for Raja. The inference was whether you were acting as a “power broker” for the Congress or participating in the alliance formation between the Congress and the DMK. If you were not, fine.

I can understand the anger and anguish that such a misrepresentation can create........Despite this, much of the commentary has been strangely selective in its focus. And quite often, vindictively personal. Consider, for example, that online it is being dubbed "BarkhaGate."
This is the age of Twitter and Facebook. Therefore a word like “barkhagate” is easier to twitter the essence of what is being communicated. After all, you yourself chose to respond to the tapes first on Twitter. Didn’t you? And yes, I do agree calling it Barkhagate is excessive and personal when there were other journalists involved too. (I would have personally liked to have called it ‘Veer-Gati’) BTW 'Barkhagate' was used way back in January 2009 during the Chaitanya Kunte episode here, so its not really a new term.

Ironically, the one sentence being used to damn me, "Oh God, What should I tell them", is in fact two separate sentences, neither of which are related to A Raja or the telecom portfolio at all......The excerpt, "What should I tell them," was in response to her repeatedly saying to me over several different phone calls, that if I happened to talk to anyone in the Congress, I should ask them to talk the DMK chief directly.
Well, it is natural for a magazine or a TV show to pick out the most sensational line from any conversation, speech or event. This should hardly come as a surprise to a seasoned journalist like you. Are you suggesting you and NDTV have never used this ploy? So picking on that particular line and calling it misrepresentation doesn’t really sell. I also don’t think people like me are going by such sensationalist headlines. We watch them all year round. Don’t we?

As a matter of record, I never passed on any message to any Congress leader....
The tapes sound as if you were willing to act upon what you said. Still, since you have clarified this I will accept it and believe that you did no favours or pass on any message to the Congress. That rests.

Anyone who has bothered to read the entire transcript of these conversations instead of just the headline, would notice that the conversation is essentially a journalist soliciting information from one of the many people plugged in - something all journalists do as part of newsgathering.
I have indeed bothered to listen to those tapes over and over again before I posted the files on this blog. And I have to disagree...and I have stated elsewhere too, that on these tapes it is the journalists who appear to be a source for the lobbyist than the other way around. Still, this is hardly incriminating or anything serious and shouldn’t bother you in the least. Journalists talk to even scumbags so no problems with that. Even Arundhati Roy is a journalist with her real and ‘imaginary’ sources so there is no problem with that either.

The only "benefit" I ever got from talking to Nira Radia was information; information I used to feed the news. ....It is important to remember that at this point, in May 2009, none of us were aware of the present investigation against Nira Radia. Like most other journalists in India, I knew Nira Radia professionally as the main PR person for the Tata Group.  
And not Mukesh Ambani group? That sounds a bit like a ‘babe in the woods’ explanation but I will still accept it. Though its hard to imagine a journalist (of your stature, influence and access) wouldn’t be aware of what all a PR person like Nira Radia would be up to.

Strangely, when I complained to the editor of Open magazine about the smear campaign against me, he sent me a text saying , there was "not much remarkable" in my conversations and went on to even say that, "there is one bit in the strap where the word go-between is used that I don't like myself." I have to wonder then, with anger, why he did not pause before using such a defamatory description.
Now, this is where I have to wonder if you really realise the strength of what you have stated above, if it is truly intended. Let me state some points and ask you some questions too:

1.      These tapes are only the climax of a long held belief by many that you and NDTV are not impartial or unbiased, which is why the strong and widespread reaction against you. That NDTV is a Congress puppet. Much of this started with your reporting on the Gujarat riots. I need not go into details. If NDTV does have leanings toward any political party it would be honourable to be open about it. There is nothing wrong in a media house having its own political leanings.
2.      Do you have any idea how a person like Narendra Modi must have lived when you, Rajdeep and all the media threw wild, baseless allegations at him with no evidence whatsoever? Do you realise that you allowed liars like Teesta Setalvad to freely propagate their lies on your channels and shows? There are even accusations that you and Rajdeep were funded to present  biased stories. Are you aware of that?
3.      You and the media have labelled Modi as a perpetrator of genocide, holocaust and what not. Your friend and frequent guest on your channel and then editor of the newspaper (HT) you write for – Veer Sanghvi called and continues to call Narendra Modi a “mass murderer”. Do you agree with Sanghvi? Did you ever  chastise Sanghvi for this atrocious character assassination? Wait, haven’t you yourself indulged in extraordinary character-assassination of Modi?
4.      Did you not threaten a small time blogger called Chaitanya Kunte for his blog criticising you? Now that you are faced with a mainstream magazine why isn’t NDTV going ahead with any legal action?
5.      Do you still hold bloggers in contempt or are you willing to rethink your opinions?
6.      I am sure you are aware that you are possibly the only celebrity journalist to have hate pages on Facebook. Why do you think there are pages like “Take Barkha off the air” and “Barkha for worst senior journalist on the planet”? Why? Are these people (more than 10000 of them) simply vindictive towards you? Did you not see the writing on the ‘walls’ of Facebook?
7.      There are many pages on the net that describe you as “anti-Hindu”. You will, of course, strongly deny that. But is that impression gathered by people who are idiots? Is there only saffron terror and no Islamic Terror? Swapan Das Gupta states he jokingly calls you "voice of Hurriyat"! Is that true? Is that why NDTV never has a program on Kashmiri Pandits and their plight? Were the tapes of Varun Gandhi 100% verified before being put on air?
8.      Do you realise that being in the centre of this avoidable controversy affects the morale of your co-workers and journalists at NDTV? That you singularly possess the potential to bring that company down by actions attributed to you. Should journalists possess such power? And this doesn’t apply to you alone, it also applies to Rajdeep and Arnab. If you people talk about “politics of identity” being undesirable then why is it so desirable for TV news channels?
9.      Finally, do you realise that the very people who released these tapes to a journal might be a political party itself? The ones who are likely to be in possession of such tapes are the ones who run the government. I don’t think Open Magazine is really your enemy here. Those guys just did what NDTV or any other journal/channel would have done too.

Are there learnings in this for me? Yes, of course there are.....The takeaway from this debate for me pertains to the everyday practice of journalism..... This controversy has made me look at the need to re-draw the lines much more carefully.... There is also another learning. I have always operated by a code of ethics that holds me as accountable to the public.......The selective and malicious nature of some of the commentary against me has reinforced my awareness of how responsible we ought to be before we level an allegation against another.
If what you have stated above is true then I for one would congratulate you. I have criticised you frequently and will continue to do so. That is because I also happen to watch your programs just as frequently. We do not see you as corrupt and do not doubt your integrity, at least I do not. It is up to senior journalists like you to bring back credibility to our media. I hope you will work towards that. For a public figure like you, you can just see this as a temporary setback and move on. People do not hold grudges and are not vindictive, they simply want trustworthy reporting and journalism.


Best Wishes
Ravinar

An Open Letter To Rajdeep Sardesai....

Dear Rajdeep,

In this blog I had written about the media silence with your favourite line “Hammam mein sab nangen hein”. Since then CNN-IBN has twice talked about the Radia tapes and its repercussions. My compliments to you for breaking the silence and showing the courage to air the news report and the discussions. First on ‘Face the Nation’ (November 22) and then on ‘The last word’ (November 26).

I have an uncanny feeling you may have read the posts on this blog on your line “HMSNH” and your ‘Quid Pro Quo’ article. I’m sure you’re aware there is a site called Rajdeep Sardesai on the blogosphere which lists all posts concerning you. However, in case you haven’t yet read what I have written, I invite you to do so. You will find your panellists have echoed sentiments similar to mine and many other bloggers.

That both, Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi, could have redeemed themselves by expressing regret over ‘bad judgement’ and we could have moved on. I don’t think any one is really accusing these journalists of being outright corrupt. But their arrogant stands point to that possibility being open. I have also written that being openly in favour or support of a political party is no crime and is much more honourable than pretending to be impartial or independent of political leanings for a media house. This is what generates the heartburn among viewers and readers.

N. Ram on the panel yesterday stated that if these two journalists had been working for the BBC or the NYT they would have been immediately sacked. I tend to agree with him. However, I am not calling for any sacking but I am sure an expression of regret over an error of judgement can definitely do no harm to the tainted reputation of these journalists. You, as their industry colleague, can enlighten them on this wisdom. Sanjay Baru also talked about the insidious connection between politicians, corporate houses and the media.

Andrew Gilligan, the BBC reporter of the famous “sexed-up” intelligence reports of the Tony Blair government was fired by the BBC. Gilligan’s source Dr. David Kelly was found dead, apparently a suicide. Fortunately, nothing of that sort has happened here, but such tapes could well hold the potential for such disasters in India too. That’s why the media needs to clean up its house.

Once again, my compliments to you and CNN-IBN for showing the courage to carry the news and the discussions openly. I have no problems with anyone defending the tainted journalists, but a ‘black-out’ of such explosive news raises more suspicions than clearing doubts.

Best Wishes,
Ravinar.

TIMES NOW - 'Terror Jayanti'

Yesterday, 26/11, TIMES Now carried reports and discussions on the 2nd anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks.  The headlines through the program were “India’s Open Wound” and “India Won’t Forget”. In addition they kept flashing “4 Reasons why Indians are outraged” .  These are sharp lessons on how to fool the Indian people, the victims, the martyrs by a media group that has really not reflected the people’s feelings appropriately.  I may sound unkind, but for some in our media 26/11 is as good as ‘Terror Jayanti’. The Times’ economy on journalistic ethics is by now well known so I won’t go into that.

For all the outpourings on their channel yesterday, the TIMES group is the very media house that ran the obnoxious “Aman Ki Asha” campaign. This was just after the first anniversary of 26/11. When the attacks happened in 2008 Times Now covered the entire situation under a byline “We will never forget”. Yet in just over a year they were preaching “Aman Ki Asha” with the terrorist state of Pakistan. And mind you, they even wanted children to participate in the campaign. Young, innocent kids who aren’t old enough to understand the underlying issues. I called it TOI’s ‘child abuse’! How to soak up business on your emotions.

My blogs on this ‘Aman Ki Asha’ crap can be read HERE and HERE.

It is this atrocious hypocrisy and double-speak of not only the Times group but also many of the Sec-Soc media channels that insults the memory of the victims and the soldiers who were martyred. When the AKA campaign was started a favourite blog of mine, PrudentIndian, raised all the right questions. 

I reproduce a piece from that blog (which quotes The Pioneer with its own inputs):

There are three groups in India which are obsessed with friendship with Pakistan. The first group comprises elderly people born in that part before partition (Kuldeep Nayyar, Khushwant Singh Inder Kumar Gujaral just to name some yes, Manmohan Singh too) and who are nostalgic about Lahore havelis, halwa and mujra. The second group comprises Bollywood actors, directors and assorted outfits who look at Pakistan as a big market (Shahrukh Khan, Mahesh Bhatt, Javed, Shabana and their ilk). Dawood Ibrahim’s gang has financed many of these useful idiots. ....The third group comprises bleeding heart liberals who hold candle light vigils and who cannot imagine India doing well without its ‘younger brother’ taken care of (almost all Sec-Soc MSM and their telesecularists). All three have been proved wrong a hundred times but they unfortunately play an important role in moulding opinion.
If we want the world to treat Pakistan for what it is, then we should start practicing it. We must always recognise it as the ‘Terrorist State of Pakistan’ and never have any illusion that it is going to be any different. 

We should completely and comprehensively cut off all relations with Pakistan — economic, cultural, sports and all other aspects. Dawood Ibrahim-funded Bollywood may weep....Unless we start completely boycotting the ‘Terrorist State of Pakistan’ we cannot ask others to do it..... If corporate India — including electronic and print media — starts practicing it, then we can see results in a few years. One hopes that India’s elite is listening and will not get carried away by asha for the demons.

Read the full Prudent Indian article HERE.

TOI ad column on the left states "Love OVER Country....As opposed to supposed public and societal interests"... Well said indeed!
Now that ‘terror jayanti’ is over for some media groups, they will happily go back to doing business with Pakistan. The Times group’s thinning Matrimonial pages on Sunday can now get fatter again with Shaadi ads from Pakistan. Times sponsored Bollywood bashes and mujras can start all over again. Shah Rukh Khan is scheduled to do a special program for Pakistan (The friendly neighbour) Prime TV on November 28 in London.

Those who have never been to Bombay may like to ponder this one: The Times group’s head office in Mumbai is bang in front of the CST Railway station where the terror attacks first started. What if the terrorists had chosen to attack the TOI office instead of the CST station and if some of their dedicated employees had suffered? Would they still preach some crap called ‘Aman Ki Asha’? You try and  figure that one. “We won’t forget” indeed !

Friday, November 26, 2010

Nira Radia Tapes - Even Hitler Upset At Media Black Out...

As a kid, Adolf always wanted to be a journalist and become an Arnab Goswami. That didn't happen but he was on the Nira Radia tapes wanting his "melodious" voice to be heard. The media black out of the tapes (even in the village of Shekhar Gupta) has destroyed his hopes of even becoming a minister. He would have even settled for the dark Ministry of Black-outs, but....

video

This humorous piece of satire comes from the The Daily Tamasha ( http://thedailytamasha.wordpress.com ). Thanks to their humorous blog.

Media Corruption: Indian Media Urgently Needs A Watchdog...

If there is one domain that seriously and urgently needs a watchdog like the CAG or the CVC it is the Indian media. It is easy to point fingers at politicians as the most corrupt but that is just half the truth. Politicians can be voted out, can be dismissed, can be prosecuted. What about the media though? Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi and others from newspapers like Economic Times happily continue at their jobs and happily continue to peddle influenced opinions.

Any effort to seek accountability and responsibility from the media has faced the most vehement protests from them. All this under the guise of protecting “freedom of speech and freedom of the press”. The Press Council Of India and the Editors Guild are nothing more than coffee shop organisations with no binding guidelines whatsoever. In effect, the media has an extraordinary free run to mis-report, spread lies, and indulge in corruption without any liability. For an industry wielding such extraordinary powers, ability to influence policies and the course of a nation who exactly is the media responsible and accountable to? Nobody!

There is hardly a single newspaper or TV channel which has not claimed credit for exposing all the recent scams. This in itself is a blatant untruth. And they don’t stop at that. They even claim “exclusive” reportage of scams. The media IS the scam. It is agencies like the CAG or the CVC which still have some honest workers who have really exposed the corruption and not the media. The last pieces of investigative journalism in my memory have to be pieces like “Indira as Commerce”  by Arun Shourie or the “Bhagalpur Blindings” by the Indian Express. For comic relief, I can even offer a long list of plagiarised pieces passed off as editorials or reports. Laughable among them has to be the Times of India’s report on Aishwarya Rai on the Jerry Springer show or more recently Arun Poorie of India Today who blamed a plagiarised piece to “jet-lag”! The very integrity of mainstream media is “dubious”, to use kind words.

If there is a need for a JPC for the 2G spectrum scandal there is also an urgent need for a JPC to investigate the media, its funding and its collusion in the massive frauds perpetrated on the country. Here are excerpts from a report by the Global Financial Integrity (Read the full report here. Thanks to Vaidya who sent this in):
  • From 1948 through 2008, India lost a total of US $213 billion in illicit financial flows (or illegal capital flight).  These illicit financial flows were generally the product of: tax evasion, corruption, bribery and kickbacks, and criminal activities.
  • Adjusted Estimates: The present value of India’s total illicit financial flows (IFFs) is at least US $462 billion.
  • Based on the last five years of the study, 2004-2008, India lost assets at a rate of US $19 billion per year.
  • Total capital flight out of India represents approximately 16.6 percent of India’s GDP as of year-end 2008. In present value terms, India lost an equivalent of about 36 percent of its 2008 GDP which represents a staggering loss of capital.
  • Some 68 percent of India’s aggregate illicit capital loss occurred after India’s economic reforms in 1991, indicating that deregulation and trade liberalization actually contributed to/accelerated the transfer of illicit money abroad.
  • IFF Drivers: High Net-Worth Individuals (HNWIs) and private companies were found to be the primary drivers of illicit flows out of India’s private sector. 
  • IFF Trends:  From 1948 through 2008 the Indian private sector shifted away from deposits into developed country banks and moved more of its money into offshore financial centers (OFCs).  The share of OFC deposits increased from 36.4 percent in 1995 to 54.2 percent in 2009.

There are high net-individuals in the media too. Much of the country’s corruption receives major support from such media crooks.

To borrow Rajdeep Sardesai’s words the Indian media has turned from “watchdogs to lapdogs”. Protestations of “freedom of press” cannot wash anymore. In a survey in TIME magazine in 2009 it was found most Americans turned to Jon Stewart of The Daily Show for credible news. What’s the surprise? The Jon Stewart show is actually a comedy show on a comedy channel. So much for mainstream media’s credibility in democracies.

Deep Throat of the infamous Watergate scandal advises Bob Woodward to “Follow the money”. It is probably time a body like the CAG or the CVC also followed the money and funding of the media houses. It is not just politicians, the Indian media urgently and desperately needs a watchdog. The media cannot be anymore given the luxury of having its own watchdog. Coffee shops like the PCI or the Editors’ Guild cannot be watchdogs.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Bihar (H)itch - Sonia Gandhi: "We'll Scratch & Win"

The severe Bihar (h)itch has finally hit the lady. But wait a minute! “Scratch” is the last thing you want madam. It’s really all the “back scratching” by your cronies, sycophants and the media that has been doing your party in so frequently.  And didn’t you really start from “scratch” this time around too in Bihar? With about 9 seats in the outgoing assembly and the decision to go without alliances, was that not “scratch” enough? The brilliance of the “Cowards of the Congress”  who won’t stop blaming everybody but Sonia and Rahul  has now halved its strength in the Bihar assembly. They are now below the “others” column. (In cricketing terms even the "extras" are bigger)

This blogger has been stating over and over again that both Sonia and Rahul are unique politicians who command exceptional power but have absolutely no “responsibility or accountability”. For the media, to question them is not only indecent but outright blasphemy.  Sonia and Rahul have never heard the line “I accept responsibility for this failure”!! One is the super-PM and the other is supposedly the PM-in-waiting.  And India is the emerging super power. No wait, according to Obama India is already an “emerged power”. And our media simply can’t wait to see Rahul as the PM. And we can’t wait for the silly season to begin.

But here are some gems about Rahul Gandhi:

"His (Rahul Gandhi's) meetings attracted people. He is a leader of national stature," Congress general secretary B.K. Hariprasad said referring to reports on allegations that Gandhi's meetings had failed to make an impact. Allegations?  

Another Congress coward under anonymity states: "We have to admit that Rahul Gandhi failed to attract voters in Bihar". I wonder what is wrong with this guy.  He’s not supposed to say such things. Even the media doesn’t dare say such things. This is blasphemy! (Read Here)

The Congress was not willing to admit that AICC general secretary Rahul Gandhi's hectic campaigning had not translated into votes. Party's Bihar in-charge Mukul Wasnik said people, particularly youth, attended Mr. Gandhi's rallies in huge numbers, but they did not necessarily vote for the Congress. “I take responsibility for the party's defeat,” he told journalists on Wednesday, adding that the party would look into the reasons for the debacle. Now that is the correct stand for a true Congressman to take.

TV channels like CNN-IBN and NDTV find it hard to digest that the BJP has won the elections. Their effective contention is that the BJP “piggy-backed” on the Nitish-wave.  Their entire discussion was an indication that the BJP/NDA  did well because Narendra Modi wasn’t allowed to campaign. It is of course a matter of some negligible statistical interest that the BJP actually did better than the JD(U).  BJP won 91 seats of 102 (90%), up from 55 seats in 2005 and JD (U) won 115 of 141 (82%), up from 88 in 2005.

Here’s an intellectual piece on the BJP victory though: Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president, Centre for Policy Research. “The verdict shows that BJP is not one single national party but that credibility has to be built state-by-state. The party is doing well wherever the state level cadre is well attuned with local conditions and circumstances.” The media passes on such muddled crap as intelligent insight, as if local flavour never mattered before in Indian elections. I feel educated now. (Read Here)

But one has to hand it to spin doctor Rajdeep Sardesai. In discussion with Arun Jaitley on CNN-IBN (Nov24) Rajdeep suggested to Jaitley that “regional satraps” are holding sway in BJP. Well, after that bit Rajdeep turns to another participant and states that the new mantra in BJP is “regional satraps”. How clever! Coining his own phrases and mantras and then attributing it to the BJP. When will this mediacrook learn that there are people watching his spin?  In contrast all these channels don’t forget to mention that the Congress keeps failing because they do not posses regional leaders and “parachute” campaigns by Rahul and Sonia isn’t working. It’s the Congress’ own rule : If they win its because of Sonia and Rahul and if they lose its because the state units failed. Wonder where NDTV and CNN-IBN stand between these two realities.

It can safely be said that Sonia is not the only one who’s going to do some scratching. Our TV channels are just as busy scratching their heads over why the NDA, especially the BJP, won. They can join Sonia’s “scratch party” of course.

Radia Tapes - Now Prabhu Chawla Offers Defence..

Following Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi, the latest to offer a defence of his conversation with Nira Radia is Prabhu Chawla. Here is what he wrote on November 23:

"Much has been made about a conversation that Nira Radia had with me. This is just to put the record straight. The 13 minute conversation had nothing to do with the controversial 2G of A Raja. Nira called me as she said “to seek my expertise” on the Battle for Gas” between the two Ambani brothers. I merely told her that the earlier the brothers put an end to their private battle, the better it will be for the public good. I did not take sides........It is proof, if indeed proof were needed, that I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of. " Read his full blogpost Here.

Here's my response to Mr. Prabhu Chawla:

Firstly, I have not yet come across any media, electronic, print or online, accusing you of any "guilt" in these conversations. Then why this defence? Why this attempt to show you are "innocent" of any wrong doing?

You were at least one person to admit that these tapes are genuine in your "Ask Prabhu" feature on your group site (Read Here) And then you went on to state these were obtained "illegally"! Really? I would request you to substantiate your charge that these were obtained illegally. In other terms, are you suggesting that the magazine that exposed the tapes had "sources" that were illegal, unlike the "legal" journalistic sources that Barkha, Sanghvi and you maybe indulging?

You are a very senior and respected journalist. But if someone completely unaware of the background of the whole story were to be shown the transcript of your conversation with Radia, who do you think would be perceived to be the journalist? You or Nira Radia? In all honesty, in response to her clever line of probing you appear to be the one singing like a canary with delicate juice on the Ambani brothers. Is that how journalists do business? Who's doing the "Seedhi Baat" here? And were you completely unaware that this person is a corporate and political lobbyist that would make anyone cautious about what they say to her? Especially a senior journalist of some standing.Were you completely unaware of the overall nature of Radia's portfolio of work and assignments?

No one accused you of any guilt, Mr. Chawla. However, since you have offered a defence, the above are the real questions you need to answer. Will you? It doesn't cross the minds of the journalists involved in this story that it's not Radia who appears to be the "journalistic source" in all the transcripts. It is, unfortunately, the journalists who appear to be a "source" for a lobbyist's designs. Is that so hard to see?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rajdeep Sardesai on ' Quid Pro Quo '...

Following the exposure of the Radia tapes involving journalists Rajdeep Sardesai was among the first to defend Barkha Dutt. He tweeted "Conversation between source and journo is legitimate. if quid pro quo is shown, expose it. else, dont destroy hard earned reputations”. When I looked up I found no better article/speech than one by Rajdeep himself on the matter of quid pro quo (sometime in 2001). Here are excerpts from one such speech/article by him. I repeat these are 'excerpts' and a link to the entire article is provided at the end of this post.

Quote:


... In each instance, the system operates on a clear quid pro quo.... In particular, when it comes to celebrity journalism in the country today, the lines between reportage and public relations are slowly getting blurred.
....Take also the so-called ad supplements .....For example, journalists are taken on a full, all-expenses paid holiday for the Dubai shopping festival. The newspaper gets ad revenues, the festival gets publicity, and the journalist gets a perfect junket.

....As indeed can the political journalist who enjoys the privilege of travelling with the prime minister or the president on an official tour.... How is the Black Label whisky and box of chocolates that are left in the hotel room of any journalist any less of an inducement than the gifts offered to army officials on the tehelka tapes?
And yet few, if any, of us journalists even bother to consider that this may be a corrupting factor, an attempt by the government to break the dividing line between journalist and establishment and ensure that the press writes positively on the ‘achievements’ of those in power.....

....It’s no different with corporate houses who have select journalists on their payroll.

....In Delhi, a senior political reporter can ensure an appointment for a businessman with an important civil servant for a fee..... And at the very top of the journalistic pyramid, an editor may be able to ensure that a television channel gets the benefit of a major satellite project in return for a prime time news programme. Indeed, as the stakes get higher, the ‘journalist as fixer’ concept has become more and more prevalent

Another reason for the problem is the changing self-image of the journalist, and his role in a democratic system. For a long time the journalist’s role was seen to be that of an independent observer of events. But observation alone can be rather tedious, and not very financially productive either. So, over the years, the journalist has chosen to move from the margins of the fourth estate to being firmly on the centre-stage, closer to the first estate. Ideological corruption is as much a part in this process as anything else. A journalist can get close to a political party, business house or an individual in a manner that compromises his independence. Having acquired that proximity, the journalist can then use his clout on a larger scale, playing kingmaker in cementing political alliances at the centre, or in providing the link between a minister in the Union cabinet and a business house in need of a favour.

In the process of becoming power centres in their own right, the journalist has acquired a new profile and status within civil society. Ironically, in the process of acquiring this new image the journalist has become less of a watchdog and more of a lapdog of the system. For once a journalist is corrupted – either ideologically or financially – his space for challenging the system and playing an adversarial role keeps shrinking.
Unfortunately, few media persons have chosen to even look at the extent of the problem. Perhaps, it suits us not to look inwards since the reflection in the mirror won’t look very attractive. Perhaps, it suits the newspaper owners and channel bosses to keep the status quo since they have been prime beneficiaries of a corrupted system. Certainly, none of the so-called media watchdog bodies, be it the Press Council or the Editors Guild, have chosen to focus on media corruption – political, ideological or financial.

There are no rules or regulations that govern media ethics, or tell us whether it is acceptable for a journalist to receive a gift from a corporate house, or a junket from a ministry. With no clear-cut guidelines, it has become almost open season for those who wish to manipulate the system to their advantage.

Unquote

Rajdeep wants the "quip pro quo" to be established, knowing well that will be impossible. Else many corrupt politicians and journalists would be in prison by now. It doesn't strike him that even where there is strong evidence and proof the criminals walk around free in this country. His own words explain the media silence on the Radia tapes and to use his own words "the system operates on a clear quid pro quo"...

Read the full article Here.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Muck Stops Here...

CNN-IBN finally broke its silence on the Radia-Barkha-Sanghvi tapes on Monday, November 22 on their program “Face the nation”. While the discussion was sober, one must compliment CNN-IBN for finally taking the initiative to do the right thing.  Only yesterday, I had posted the article “Hammam mein sab nange hain” referring to Rajdeep Sardesai’s favourite line.  So it was pleasant to see them talk about the Radia tapes on their evening show.

One can be “neutral” about news but one cannot, or at least need not be “neutral” with his opinions. This is what the news media needs to differentiate.  I am quite comfortable if both CNN-IBN and NDTV openly admit their loyalties to the Congress (I) party. That would be an honourable thing to do as against frequently touting oneself as “independent”, “unbiased” and “non-partisan”. It is common in many countries for media houses to endorse candidates in elections.

To ensure the muck stops here with this current scam, here is what media houses need to do:

1.   Stop giving out awards like “Indian of the year” etc., especially to politicians. It is unbecoming of a mainstream media organisation to be rewarding the very people whose actions and inactions it is supposed to watch over. It becomes all the more intriguing when the same government rewards media persons like Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai with government awards. A peer-group or industry award is worth far more.
2.   Stop excessive activism. “Lighting candles”, “Petitioning the President” and such actions for victims like Jessica Lall and many more are not what the media should be doing.  Yes, reporting on miscarriage of justice and focussing on it is an absolute must. On the other hand also stop conducting media trials. Sagarika Ghose questioning Ram Jethmalani defending Manu Sharma is absurd and uneducated to say the least. Every criminal has a right to defence, its a lawyer’s sacred duty. This is a democracy and that’s the law.
3.   Stop trying to influence major foreign policy decisions and actions by running spurious campaigns such as “Aman Ki Asha” by the Times of India. Of course, the TOI has many other dubious innovations to its credit – Private Treaties, Medianet and what not.(Read the Aman Ki Asha crap here and here)
4.   Stop the practice of “paid news”. There cannot be any bigger malpractice by the media than this. The PCI’s final report on paid news (even the watered-down version) was totally ignored by the media and hardly received any coverage.
5.   Stop jumping the gun for sensationalism. The humiliation handed out by the media to the parents of Arushi (the teenager’s murder case) and the victim herself is a lesson by itself. No one has forgotten the indiscriminate conduct of the media during the 26/11 attacks.
6.   Stop being “communal” and “politically correct”. These are domains for politicians and not for the media. The mainstream media’s unwillingness to accept the Ayodhya verdict and painting it as a victory for “religion over law” or “panchayati justice” are not stands that the public will gloss over.
7.   Stop hounding politicians like Narendra Modi. The more you hound him the more popular he becomes with his electorate. You have unwittingly conferred upon him “victimhood” ! Ever heard of Mark Antony’s speech?  The public tends to react in the opposite when you excessively bash or boost someone.
8.   Stop sympathising with separatists and anti-nationals.  Sure, give their voice and opinions adequate space on your channels but do not appear to become one of them.  Stop campaigning for them.

Of course, you, the media, have the complete freedom to carry on in your merry ways.

NDTV and CNN-IBN might well ask themselves why they are considered Congress puppets. The Cash-for-votes scam of 2008 is not too old for CNN-IBN to have forgotten. But here’s another test. When was the last time either channel or any newspaper ran a critical piece on Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi.  Is questioning them blasphemy? My own opinion on Sonia Gandhi runs like the one Jack Nicholson uses to describe how “he writes women so well” (in the movie “As good as it gets”)  and he says “I think of a man and take away reason and accountability” (I intend no offence to women at all) But here is a woman who is supposed to be the most powerful in India and one of the most powerful in the world. Yet the media simply doesn’t get it that she neither has any “responsibility” nor any “accountability”.  She dictates the course of this nation and the media doesn’t find her responsible or accountable for anything.  In the last few days the media didn’t spare even the Prime Minister, which the SC has strongly condemned.  Yet the real power behind it all, Sonia Gandhi, seems untouchable for the media.

It is an irony of sorts that the very media channels that appear to be puppets of the Congress were trapped on phone conversations monitored by a government agency under the Congress government.  Instead of phoo-phooing the tapes or threatening “appropriate action” both Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi would have redeemed themselves by stating “it was an error of judgment” and that would have been honourable. That is exactly what it is, an error of judgment, they are no criminals.

On being asked  “Where do you see the biggest gaps in news gathering and reporting in India and what recommendations would you make to fix these?”  noted media person Sevanthi Ninnan responded by stating  “.....Basically each news organization has to make sure it has a seasoned, sharp, and ethically oriented news editor or resident editor as a gatekeeper. And it’s time everybody had a readers’ editor who has the independence to do his or her job well”. (Read the full interview here.) That’s when the Muck might really stop.