Thursday, December 29, 2011

Media Loses Vote In LS, Battle On Streets

On the evening of December 27 one should have watched the faces of Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt. The vote to amend the Constitution for Lokpal’s status was just complete and the channels had more or less reported it ‘through’ but frantically seeking a confirmation because there was some ruckus on in parliament. Opposition leader, Sushma Swaraj, then pointed out to the Speaker that the numbers weren’t enough to amend the constitution. Even the speaker looked at the numbers in disbelief. Rahul Gandhi was up from his seat in disbelief. His ‘game-changer’ constitutional status for the Lokpal had just been ground to dust. Both Barkha and Rajdeep looked stunned before finally announcing the inevitable fact that the ruling Congress had lost the vote. As did news anchors on the other channels. One would have thought it’s the media that had lost the vote and not the Congress.

The Game that didnt change
The game hadn’t changed and someone had to pay the price. Someone had to face the wrath of the media. Well, who else could be more handy than Anna Hazare, the man who has tormented the Congress party for nearly nine months now. Anna had already started his protest fast at the MMRDA grounds in Mumbai but crowds were low compared to his earlier venture in August at Ramlila. With nothing else to lean on, the media had already declared the protest at MMRDA a fail! On December 28, the Queen was angry and the clown prince had disappeared to the potato fields again. The Lokpal bill was still hanging for approval from the Rajya Sabha. And the media was left debating the low attendance at MMRDA.

Talk about low attendance! A man who read out a written speech in zero hour and heralded his own meaningless idea of ‘constitutional status’ for Lokpal as a ‘game-changer’ was mostly missing from parliament. Except for second hand news Rahul Gandhi had no way of knowing what was going on there. His second appearance in parliament was for the amendment vote. That failed! And he probably didn’t even know why it had failed till someone had pointed out to him the reasons. Bhupendra Chaube of CNN-IBN wailed the best for RG when he asked Jagdambika Pal (Cong): “How could this happen, how can the Congress defeat Rahul Gandhi’s own amendment?” It almost sounded like Chaube and CNN-IBN had faced defeat themselves. Sonia Gandhi, of course, blamed the BJP and later even stated “Cannot trust the BJP”! I couldn’t help laughing at her joke. Since when did she ‘trust’ the opposition to pass silly amendments desired by the ruling party or specifically Rahul Gandhi? 

And to her credit she did ‘debate’ the bill very hard. She breathed fire and ice in the parliament over the Lokpal bill. No? Don’t believe me, believe this pic from The Hindu and the caption below. That’s how the media paints and portrays the queen. The Hindu's caption read: "A TV grab of Congress president Sonia Gandhi participating in a debate on the Lokpal Bill in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday". If you saw the same pic and caption three years later you’d think she gave the greatest speech in the parliament.

Something had to be done. So the media turned their attention to Anna and MMRDA and by the evening on December 28 they had declared his protest a complete failure. The biggest rant against Anna Hazare came from Shiv Aroor of Headlines Today. Yes, the same journalist who is keen to know Anna’s views on pornography. The others weren’t far behind. A female journalist in her screeching voice asked Anna if “he was against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi or against the Congress”. Such was the curiosity! NDTV played that question over and over again on their channel. Even the best minds at NDTV cannot fathom that people identify the Gandhis and Congress as being the same and therefore Anna’s attack against them on corruption is not entirely misdirected. Another vociferous journalist asked Anna if “BJP was his biggest enemy today”. Unfortunately, Anna’s answer couldn’t have gone down too well with the brokeress when he said “the biggest enemy today is the Congress”.

Since August, the media despite covering Anna’s protests would not have wanted him to succeed. Channels like NDTV and CNN-IBN even showered him and his team with sham awards. Those awards were like knives through hot butter except TeamAnna will realise that only in hindsight. TeamAnna had taken over the turf which the media had considered all of its own and these civil idiots had no business to campaign for any cause. Justice for this, justice for that has to be media monopoly, theatre has to be media monopoly, policy directions are media monopoly, national debates are media monopoly. So, when a daring old village idiot with a few assistants steals their cheese naturally they would be terribly distraught. And the failure of the amendment vote in LS and the lower crowds at MMRDA were perfect for the media to lash out at the failing anti-corruption movement of Anna. For months though the likes of Shekhar Gupta and Tavleen Singh have done their very best to tarnish the movement calling TeamAnna fascists and anarchists. TeamAnna has made many mistakes and they will be learning. But the biggest mistake they made was letting the govt get away when they had them by the scruff of their necks in August. They should have finished the task then and not left it to later. They did not reckon with the cunning ways of the Congress and the govt.

Right now, the Congress and the media are trying very hard to pin the blame on the opposition parties should the Lokpal bill fail in Rajya Sabha. No one, no one has been even sure that the Congress was sincere in passing the Lokpal bill. Ram Jethmalani even went on to say that the Lokpal did not need a constitutional status to be effective or successful. I have to agree that it doesn’t. This nonsensical ploy brought about by the private wet dreams of Rahul Gandhi was a diversion right from the start.

The single biggest bone of contention in Lokpal was the status of CBI on whether it should be under Lokpal or not. Ordinary people believe, as do many leaders, that corruption cases are used, misused and buried at the convenience of the party in power with the manipulation of CBI. If the CBI were truly independent or out of govt control even many media broking houses may have seen a fair bit of trouble. Media has to even thank the opposition leader Sushma Swaraj for keeping them out of the Lokpal. What happens in Rajya Sabha today will unravel in due course of the day. But the media, more than the Congress, behaves as if it has been defeated in Loksabha on the constitution amendment bill. That would be terrible then, Congress being beaten in LS and being beaten on the streets by Anna & Co. As a last resort Congress could call on Rajdeep and Barkha to broker a deal with the BJP.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Most Frivolous Media Campaign Of 2011

Even the most badly made documentary film is acceptable if it helps reveal some facts and realities that surround us. News channels should be doing that, but instead it has become a trend to launch meaningless campaigns. Some of these campaigns are simply senseless, totally bankrupt of logic and the channels will keep patting themselves on their backs for having created a miracle. There are campaigns such as ‘India Positive’ by CNN-IBN, and ‘Amazing Indians’ by TimesNow which at least showcase the good work of fellow citizens and are welcome. I am not one who supports sugared sponsors of  any campaign concerning kids but can even accept Coca-Cola sponsoring some school campaign if it leads to better classrooms, toilets and other facilities at schools that do not get much attention otherwise. But ‘Marks For Sports’ (MFS)? What exactly is that? Well, that is the brilliant tomfoolery of NDTV, the channel that specialises in frivolous ‘sponsored’ campaigns

"The country needs to take sports more seriously and not just as a hobby. As part of Marks For Sports, I hope to strive to do just that" - Ranbir Kapoor. Hmmm! That’s the brand ambassador for MFS speaking. Nothing wrong in that statement except that it would have sounded better coming from some accomplished sportsperson, say like Kapil Dev or Abhinav Bindra or Saina Nehwal. Ranbir Kapoor would have been preferable for a ‘Marks for drama’ campaign. I’m not kidding, many schools in the world do have ‘Drama’ as an optional subject. Harrison Ford, the biggest box office star of all time, got through high school because of his ‘drama’ grades since he wasn’t so good at regular subjects. So what is this MFS all about? If you were to go by NDTV’s own explanation it is essentially a “Fit India Movement”! So why call it ‘marks’ for sports? Marks in a school represent scores in an exam in any subject like Math or History or Chemistry. So the campaign title itself is meant to mislead.

Of course, it helps that there are many who will join the bandwagon simply because it sounds so good and noble. And the list gets impressive. Sample this from the Business Standard (March 16): “To launch the initiative, Development & Campaign Ambassador, Ranbir Kapoor joined Dr. Prannoy Roy, Chairman, NDTV and Mr. Dharmesh Jain, Chairman & MD of Nirmal Lifestyle in New Delhi. Also present at the launch were legendary cricketer MAK Pataudi, Olympic boxer Vijender Singh, India’s Football Captain Baichung Bhutia, Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist Gagan Narang and seven times World Billiards and Snooker Champion Pankaj Advani”. Nirmal Lifestyle? Well, that’s not a wellness company in any sense. It’s a real estate company that probably builds ‘green and healthy’ malls and luxury residences.

Add to the campaign visits to various schools across the country, interview students, principals, teachers and you have a concoction that wants you to believe MFS is a great idea. Further, add some silly pledging exercise which gets over a million signatures to a petition seeking MFS. On the same page as the million signatures, scroll down, you will find votes for reasons why kids don’t get enough time to play – in all 11 votes!(at the time of writing). While MFS may sound like a GREAT idea or innovation it is fundamentally flawed and disingenuous. Schools exist for a system of formal ‘academic education’ and other activities are ‘extra-curricular’. The curriculum adopted by schools adheres to a Board or body that certifies scholastic achievements through exams by giving marks. The exams are common to all students in a class and in a subject. How in the world did NDTV come up with the silly idea that students should be given marks for sports? Is ‘sports’ a singular subject? A variety of physical activities and games are collectively called ‘sports’. How in the world did so many intelligent people in sports and education and govt come to support this stupid idea? Other than a feel-good exercise and a commercial transaction this campaign is nothing but frivolous at best.

As a School-education professional who has interacted with over 2000 schools across India I can vouch for the fact that even some of the best schools do not have adequate grounds for sporting activities. If ‘sports’ were indeed to be a subject how do you score marks for different students who are talented and skilled in different sports such as Hockey, Cricket or Football? To all this, NDTV even reported somewhere that Maharashtra had re-implemented ‘Sports & Physical Fitness’ as a regular subject from 2012-13 perhaps implying a consequence of its campaign. Fact is, CBSE has been already offering the course for quite a few years for all their schools. The course is not about actual sports on the field but a subject that teaches theories and rules for various sports. It is tested as an academic subject and not as performance on the sports ground.

If the campaign was merely intended as a ‘physical fitness’ campaign then it wasn’t even necessary. Genuine schools in India do provide adequate time for physical exercise and activities, including sporting competitions. There are schools that even teach Yoga. CBSE goes beyond that, it even has guidance courses for students to deal with ‘Adolescence and related problems’. There is a difference between physical fitness and sporting excellence. Unfortunately, NDTV confuses the two. Channels like NDTV and CNN-IBN do not tire in ridiculing someone like Baba Ramdev who conducts mass Yoga campaigns for a healthy nation. If sporting excellence has to come from students the most urgent need is that of specialist coaches. India needs specialised schools that coach the coaches. Furthermore, schools typically try to specialise in a variety of sports instead of focussing on a few in which their students possess talent and can excel. This site somewhat explains the process of schools specialising in certain sports

Well, here’s the best part. Go to any school in India you will usually find a Basketball court. Wait, if the school doesn’t have a ground they will at least have half a court, or just one Basketball board in some corner. To the thousands of teachers I have met I have often asked the question – why Basketball? This is a game usually dominated by very tall people and does not offer a great career for Indians. You’re gonna laugh at the explanation I have mostly received – “It helps increase the height of children”! If that were true then NDTV’s frivolous campaign does help in “increasing the stupidity” by Marks for Sports! That's a good reason why news channels should first attempt excellence in news reporting and analysis rather than mindless social campaigns.

Friday, December 23, 2011

India's Worst TV Panellists

If you haven’t watched this particular episode of the CNN show ‘Crossfire’ I recommend that you do. It was the American version of Left and Right which made the unfortunate mistake of inviting film actor and satirist Jon Stewart as guest. Stewart not only exposed the hacks but accused the hosts of dividing the country with their mindless ‘theatre’ and ridiculed them so badly that the show had to be pulled off the air. That is the unfortunate truth. There is a great difference between good debates and ‘theatre’. And it is always easier to imitate evil than it is to replicate the good. The Indian TV channels and their daily debates are mostly nothing more than absurd theatre. Usually, the panellists on the show are picked not for their independence but for their political persuasions. Kicking and screaming, talking over each other, hurling insults is the kind of theatre that our media dishes out as ‘shows’ rather than sensible debates that can unravel facts. There are panellists like Soli Sorabjee or Harish Salve who hold strong views but express these with decency and respect for others. Not so the usual suspects who are handpicked for the divisive agenda of the media.

The Lokpal bill is obviously the flavour of the week. Far from discussing the contents of the draft bill or its clauses our media crooks were busy helping the govt divert attention by focussing excessively on the quotas and the comedy of Laloo Yadav. It is only Arvind Kejriwal from TeamAnna who talked about specific clauses in a presser. So, on December 22 I asked fellow tweeple who they thought were the worst TV panellists and the response was near unanimous when it came to naming those. 

Thanks to the responses of:

Mark Tully, the renowned British journalist, who is as Indian as you can get stated it best: Primetime debates an excuse for doing cheap TV:  “Well, as someone who is sometimes on these panels, frankly I am amazed that there are so many of them. There is a stage army of people really who come on to these panels….And I think this is largely an excuse for doing television on the cheap. I personally believe that we should have other ways of presenting the news, discussing the news than endless panel discussions…”. So here are India’s worst panellists. (They are listed randomly and not in any ranking)

Vinod Sharma – He’s the political editor of Hindustan Times. Yes, the one with that permanent smirk on his face which is eerily similar to the smirk that child molester S.P.Rathore sports. His boss is a Congress MP in Rajya Sabha and his newspaper itself is seen as a Congress mouthpiece. If he is on a panel you need not have a spokesperson from the Congress at all. At best, he will grudgingly concede the gaffes of the govt but will quickly come around to defend them by any and all spurious arguments.

Mani Shankar Aiyar -  Foul-mouthed, intemperate and vicious he probably considers it a goal scored if he manages to infuriate viewers. From his comment about Ajay Maken’s command of the English language to the most recent diatribe against Anna Hazare he is the best example of ‘theatre of the absurd’. As substitute for genuine argument he lately asks Anna to go back to Ralegan Siddhi and flog drunkards. And in intended pun he thought it was funny to state that we have heard the “Annas and paises” enough. Personal attacks and insults are his favourite form of healthy debate.

Teesta Setalvad – Think Gujarat and she will crawl out from anywhere and on every channel you can think of with that permanent scowl of hers. She is the favourite of our TV channels when it comes to bashing Narendra Modi and when required also trash the BJP. Not surprising, considering that she was funded by the likes of the Congress and CPM to campaign against them. The SIT that investigated Gujarat riots is on record stating the affidavits she engineered were mostly fake and her own associates have now turned against her. And because she is so tainted it makes her all the more endearing for channels like NDTV and CNN-IBN. The agendas match! Has sought anticipatory bail and none less than the Supreme Court has rapped her on the knuckles for frivolously attempting to internationalise what are matters for Indian courts. Of course, for all her services the Congress govt honoured her with a Padma Shri award

Renuka Chaudhury – Whosoever coined the phrase “insult to intelligence” must have pictured and heard this woman light years ago. If sheer cacophony were to win awards in a debate she would have a roomful. And, of course, the nation owes it to her for enlightening everyone that Rahul Gandhi isn’t a “parrot”! I still maintain that if the Congress wants to lose a battle or a debate or cut a sorry comic figure Renuka Chaudhury is any day a reliable bet. To her goes the credit of reducing of any debate to bickering and throwing her ‘weight’ around. I doubt if you would want her as a neighbour, one as shrill and senseless as her. 

Shoma Choudhury – She sure gets paid for ‘telling the truth’ as her rag called ‘Tehelka’ proudly claims as their tagline. Mind you, she is not your kicking and screaming types but an intelligent smooth-talker who will find great malleability with facts. Recently crossed swords with Subramanian Swamy on a channel discussing his controversial article in DNA for which his courses were cancelled at Harvard. She suggested the article was hate-speech but did not directly confirm if she had read it thoroughly when Swamy asked her. A rare one who can form opinions on people without reading what they have written. Her magazine is another one that resurrected itself after the UPA came to power in 2004. Her greatest moment must have been ‘THINK’, but I wish she would do that before speaking. 

Sanjay Nirupam – Last heard he is STILL a member of the Congress. Imagine a thousand empty vessels tumbling down a rocky mountain cliff and the sounds they would make. There, you have Nirupam! Loud-mouth who considers TV debates as election campaigns. What more can one say about him than cite Ashutosh of IBN7 who recently asked him to leave a debate if he could not tolerate the views of others. Maybe he should attend SriSri’s AOL courses or Dr.Phil’s art of being subtle. But knowing Nirupam he is not likely to learn new tricks in a hurry.

 Tushar Gandhi – He is not a frequent traveller on TV debates but springs up every time there is a discussion of Mahatma Gandhi. You would not be wrong in thinking he is Gandhi’s gift to God. At other times, he is the sole authority on what is “Gandhian” and what is not. Didn’t think too much when he considered selling out rare images of Gandhi to a corporate entity for commercial campaigns. To his credit, he is soft-spoken, mild mannered and not as belligerent as some of the other panellists that are frequently on display. But the world would be better off if he weren’t dishing out too many sermons in the name of Gandhi. Lately, this nation is getting a bit tired and restless with all the other Gandhis.

Nandita Rao – It is one thing to be kicking and screaming. But it gets worse when you have a bad voice too. The shrill lawyer is a favourite of CNN-IBN when it comes to Anna bashing. How she came to be a panellist on TV shows is a mystery that only CNN-IBN can answer but I’m sure quite a few strings, nay ‘ropes’, must have been pulled to get her there. Thankfully, her appearances have reduced and one hopes it stays that way. It is fair to oppose Anna and team on issues but to take a war-like, belligerent approach to debates is what makes up Nandita Rao. But she provides the kind of theatre that our TV channels desperately seek. Logic or sense be damned!

 Manish Tiwari – He is one of my all-time favourite panellists. If he is on a show he is bound to leave you spell-bound with some quote or the other. And he’s a lawyer too. His comment “Corrupt from head to toe” about Anna Hazare was made as a spokesman of the Congress and not as a panellist. Irritating, belligerent he could easily be the saint of lost causes. Since that comment on Anna he was gracious enough to apologise only to goof up again in parliament. Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition, had to caution him with advice on being a first-time parliamentarian and to learn decency. Will he learn? Time will tell!

There were other names suggested like Suhel Seth, Mahesh Bhatt, Chandan Mitra and more and all of them deserve a place in this post but the list could go on and on and on.

Here is something that is disturbing about these panellists. Umesh Aggarwal, a documentary film maker, who has been exposing the underbelly of the media had this to say: “Every aspect of news be it political, business, sports or entertainment had a price tag. Even panel discussions on an important national issue were ‘fixed”. Guests were invited to give the discussion a particular slant. Selection of guests wasn’t dictated by the editorial policy of the group but there were other considerations”. That says everything about India’s worst panellists.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Infamous Five & The Freedom Of Screech

From: The Sunday Guardian
It is over a year since the post “India’s worst journalists” was made here but it continues to remain a popular one. Some of the names from that post have dropped off the journalistic depths they once occupied and aren’t as active lately – Vir Sanghvi, Suzy Roy, Prannoy Roy. However, where TV is concerned, there are five who have made sure nobody uproots them from their thrones in the dungeons of journalism. ‘Hello Arnab, you know me, now meet my lawyer please’! Isn’t that nice? Now what else would Arnab want for his Kangaroo court? That’s from my post in August 2011 titled “Sanjiv Bhatt In Arnab's Kangaroo Court”. Yes, on August 9, 2011 one had the rare spectacle of an accused coming to Arnab’s show with his lawyer. That’s when I nicknamed him ‘Justice Arnab’ on Twitter. He seems to wear that title well which has also found wide acceptance as can be seen from the image in this post. Although not much has changed in the list of India’s worst journalists,  it is for the first time that a regular web magazine The Sunday Guardian (Dec 18) has taken a humorous look at the comic five and their screeching contests. (I will quote Nandini Krishnan’s article “Give me a break from screeching anchors” in SG generously in this post). Krishnan has also coined an interesting term; FASS (Fellow Armchair Solution Specialist) which quite describes the TV lot. Of course, I don’t consider the worst five journalists anymore, they are celebs and collectively they are India’s worst media celebs. Hard to place them in any particular order so we’ll just go alphabetically.

1.   Arnab Goswami – He is undoubtedly the only one who has broken all barriers of sound. His penchant for throwing an unending number of questions, most of which don’t have any answer could have made him a better quiz master. At other times I picture him as a referee at a Baseball game who keeps screaming “strike one, strike two…” and the poor panellist is mostly ‘Out’. He remains the only one who still demands answers from everyone – from politicians, ordinary citizens and even from the nation collectively. His favourite game with panellists is one called “butt and rebut”! That’s a shift from the earlier version which he fondly called “Versus”. I have never quite understood what versus was supposed to mean unless it is ‘Arnab versus everyone else’. It is probable that Arnab is in a permanent contest with his former poor cousins from NDTV and has to out-do them in every which way. To his credit he is not as biased and predictable and with some refresher courses could still make it to a TV journalist from the celebrity he’s become.

2.   Barkha Dutt – The man of the moment or even man of the year, Dr. Subramanian Swamy, once described her.. “As for Barkha Dutt, she's been indiscreet and doing foolish things”. Well, she hasn’t exactly stopped doing those things. She is Phil Donahue, Larry King and Christiane Amanpour all rolled into one. And that’s a bad concoction! Two of those are now retired from their regular shows. It is unlikely the taint of Radiagate will escape her. And true to her arrogance she has neither apologised nor expressed any form of regret. From self-righteous anger to calling dissenters as ‘trolls’ if there is one celeb who prefers monopoly on the freedom of screech she has to be it. Lately she has added another aspect to her persona – she frequently smiles and guffaws on her shows. This is probably on the advice of some image improvement professional. And believe it or not, she is the only news celeb that has credit titles that has a “Barkha’s wardrobe by….”. That’s a unique first for an Indian news celeb. I have to wonder who the Sunday Guardian was referring to with this statement: “She sabotages all effort at surprise attacks by landing up in strategic locations during sensitive operations, and making sure everyone knows she has….Don't forget The Great Defence of Lobbying With a Lobbyist. I was doing a Mata Hari, people, come on! Anyway, Bollywood loves her enough to give all its reporters short hair."

3.   Karan Thapar – In an update to my post India’s worst journalists I had mentioned that maybe he has sobered a bit and conducts interviews with more professionalism.  His two recent interviews with Kapil Sibal and Arun Jaitley are ample evidences of his own motives. To Sibal he asks if the NYT, which exposed Sibal’s censorship plans, had any motives. With Arun Jaitley he directly accuses his party of obstructing parliament rather than asking a question. Gritting his teeth and growling like a wolf is back as his signature style of interviewing.  Well, he still remains the rich man’s Tim Sebastian. The Sunday Guardian is spot on with this comment: "But all of them together still wouldn't be half as annoying as our own Tim Sebastian. His show ought to be called 'Are You Sayin?', with the nasal twang. I think he uses some technique involving high-frequency vocal emanations to make his guests' hair stand on end when he interrupts. He's comfy as long as they cower and cry, but give him someone articulate like Jayalalithaa or Benazir... and he writes a long defence of the interview in the next day's paper."

4.   Rajdeep Sardesai – Along with NDTV,  Rajdeep’s channel can be credited with creating the most spurious awards by news channels. The Indian of the year award is his greatest journalistic achievement as Managing Editor of CNN-IBN. Two things make him famous – one is Old Monk and the other is his regular ‘good-night’ 'kiss' on Twitter. The only problem is he doesn’t stop at good night. And when he finds time for journalistic pursuits he spends most of it talking cricket or finding people who can trash Narendra Modi. Like Barkha’s Radiagate, Rajdeep will never escape the taint of Cash4Votes during his lifetime as a media celeb. He is also known for protecting India’s first family from any question or attacks and his greatest journalistic achievement for the year has to be going to Ramlila and having a picture taken with Anna Hazare. Rajdeep also has to be the most philosophic media celebs around. When he’s not busy talking to cricketers he dishes out sermons through his blog or through twitter. His journalistic epitaph has already been written with his own favourite phrase “Hammam mein sab nange hain”. And his happiness is complete when he finds someone like Sanjiv Bhatt to call Narendra Modi a “common criminal” on his channel which will be played over and over again. As the SG article states: “One pities his co-anchor. She's so soft-spoken and mellow, you can see her flinch every time he yells. You can also see her dabbing her cheek after a particularly emotional outburst. Beware the rain of spittle."

5.   Sagarika Ghose – I cannot confirm but can ask if the SG article was referring to her by this hilarious statement: “FASS shudders! Freedom of speech reminds him of a print journalist we've loathed ever since she wrote an article about Indian men and orgasms. After she moved to TV, her hair's got shorter and her diatribes longer," he mutters. See, she wants to be Oprah, I explain, Sadly, there aren't enough fat people who feel bad about themselves, enough closet gay people in the entertainment industry, or enough couples who want to discuss their crumbling marriages on TV in this country. So, all she can do is wear sleeveless society blouses and pastel saris and milk bereaved parents for tears”. The title I blessed Sagarika with – ‘Cacofonix’ still stands unchallenged. To that she has added an extra-ordinary accomplishment. Her debate on whether spiritual gurus should engage in politics is the most horrendous fraud perpetrated on viewers this year. On being exposed she then went on to claim that the Twitterati and others shouldn’t harass her because she was a woman. The post ‘Sack Sagarika’ explains why she should not have been on TV at all in the first place. She can still go back go to writing soft porn stuff while opportunities still abound.

The PCI chairman, Justice Katju, has been extremely critical of journalists for their lack of intellect and wide knowledge of topics. Subramanian Swamy describes them even better: “ I know from personal experience that journalists do a lot of hack jobs. If wanted, they character assassinate you at the behest of the ruling party. In my case, the media cannot say anything except that I'm a troublemaker, which doesn't sell very well. They don't publish anything I say unless it becomes impossible like now…They've been doing it systematically. When elections take place, many journalists come and ask for money, saying they'll give favourable coverage in return”. Well, some state elections are around the corner. The infamous five will come out with all kinds of opinion polls and needless to mention, it will be bonanza in terms of the moolah for the channels of the comic five and, of course, their freedom of screech will cross new levels for sure.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Rahul Gandhi's Truth-O-Meter

Politifact is US based web-magazine that fact-checks the utterances of key politicians and public figures. It also has a ‘Truth-O-Meter’ that measures the truthfulness or falsehood of the statements made by such public figures. If you haven’t given it a look earlier I encourage you to do so. The Truth-O-Meter is a registered trademark but this once I will use their meter for my favourite politician – Rahul Gandhi. It is safe to say Rahul Gandhi came into his own at Bhatta-Parsaul with his ‘mounds of ashes and dead bodies’. Since then he has been going from strength to strength; with his game-changer (as he himself humbly called it) speech in August in the parliament and since November 14 has been on a roll. Some image-specialist must have advised RG to turn his voice into a growl and behave like the angry young man. And the Indian media loves that. The slavish media also reports and telecasts his every speech and utterance but doesn’t find the time to fact-check all that RG says. So let’s look at a few of the prince’s profound statements as well as by the media.

Indian Express (Dec 17) “Four days into his mass contact programme, Rahul Gandhi’s speeches may be becoming repetitive, but his public meetings are drawing huge crowds in this Mulayam Singh Yadav stronghold.” Hmm! Considering that the live telecasts hardly showed these ‘huge’ crowds this is hard to believe and in the absence of any image as evidence has to go down as not exactly accurate.

Indian Express (Dec 17) RG Quote: “How many of you go to Mumbai and Delhi to work? Do you find development there? How many of you have mobile phones? Do you know who brought mobile technology to India?” People go to work to a lot of places but what is this about mobile phones? RG asks the question but leaves the answer to the imagination of his audience. Well, the mobile phone technology first came into India around 1995 during Narasimha Rao’s govt. Of course, crediting Rao for anything is a Congress crime. Still, mobiles got fully introduced only in 1996 during the subsequent govt of Deve Gowda.

Computers: RG: “In 1980 Rajiv Gandhi talked about computers and people are benefited today. Until and unless leaders think long-term UP cannot progress..” This one has to be an extra-ordinary nonsense that passed without a question. Congress returned to power in 1980 after the Janata Party and Rajiv Gandhi wasn’t even very active at that time. He became active only after the death of Sanjay Gandhi in June 1980. Also, computers as we know it became popular only after IBM introduced the PC in August 1981 although personal home computers existed since mid-70s.

Expressbuzz: On the fourth day of his five-day mass contact programme here, Rahul said "farmers are facing problems as 60 per cent of vegetables go waste.. we brought FDI in retail so that they could sell their produce directly". 60% ? It is true that vegetable-produce goes to waste for many reason but there is no authentic document to prove the 60% claim. There are some reports that quote 30-40% wastage but this 60% waste claim is clearly a figment of imagination. But I doubt any villager is going to ask RG!

"A packet of chips is made from just half a potato," he added, virtually turning the opposition to FDI into a conspiracy against farmers." Hahaha! Obviously, Rahul Gandhi has never been in the kitchen trying to make chips. Oh and potatoes come in different sizes so even if one takes the average Indian potato this is simply a ‘chip from the old block’ of Congress jokes.

Rahul dubbed the anti-FDI position of Congess's rivals - ranging from SP, BSP to BJP - as a betrayal of farmers, while pitching FDI in retail as a panacea to farmers of this region, known as the 'potato belt' of UP. Well, if the FDI in retail policy had to be shelved for the present it is more because of Congress’ allies and not because of the opposition but one can pass this off as election rhetoric.

Potatoes: And finally, RG says the market price of potatoes is Rs.2/- per kilogram but a packet of chips sells at Rs.10/- His inference is that FDI in retail would have got the farmers a much better deal. Well, he doesn’t tell us the weight of the potato chip packet but never mind. What the brilliant RG misses is that there is already 100% FDI in the potato chips business. Pepsi, being the largest seller is something that the villagers or the media is not going to question RG about.

So there you go, if the media were to carefully analyse the utterances of Rahul Gandhi, as also other politicians, they will realise much of these are mere nonsensical statements with no real substance in them. The “elephant in Lucknow eats your money” maybe somewhat true and entertaining but that’s just about it. And that elephant in comparison is much smaller than the dinosaur at the centre.

Note: The ‘Truth-O-Meter’ from Politifact is used only for demonstrative and educational purposes.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Excessive Secularism As Dangerous As Religious Fundamentalism

The title of this post actually appeared in a news report. The statement is an important one but it will be buried in those corners where reality is usually buried. It is borrowed from Mark Tully, the British journalist who is as much Indian in spirit as any other. It is a statement he made at a launch function for his book ‘Non-stop India’ at Chennai on December 14. Here’s the full quote from The Hindu’s report: “Excessive secularism, which feeds the fire of people who like to present India as a country that does not respect its majority, is just as dangerous as religious fundamentalism, Mr. Tully said”. Why does it take a British journalist to state the obvious? The Indian mainstream media does not even want to touch or discuss this issue at all. More of this later.

Let me first pick on Ms.Cacofonix herself. In her latest article, “Our time starts now”, in the Hindustan Times (December 14), Sagarika Ghose laments the inability of the ruling class to adapt to a fast-changing world. She then asks if Indians are still afraid of change. The ruling class did change, didn’t it? They introduced the concept of secularism, twisted it, misused it, abused it, banked on it – all in the name of change and equality!

In an article concerning the recent FDI drama, Sagarika refers to Kancha Iliah as a Dalitbahujan scholar and quotes him. “Kancha Ilaiah once said that to radically change Indian society and attitudes, the Rig Vedic hymn, the Purusa-sukta, should be publicly re-written. This is the verse that says different castes were born from different body parts of Brahma. According to Ilaiah, only a complete excising of such a hymn would rid India of the evils of birth-based hierarchy”. She quotes him to argue that citizens should junk the past. Well, what exactly does the Rigveda have to do with any of this? Kancha Iliah is free to junk the Vedas and so is Sagarika Ghose. I wonder if Sagarika would endorse the deletion of many so-called hateful verses from the Koran and if that would be acceptable to muslims. This is how our so called secular media discusses modern day Indian society with spurious arguments trashing Hindu scriptures. Iliah’s argument may have been relevant to a discussion of caste system or discrimination but has little relevance to Sagarika’s core issue at hand. This is what Tully refers to as excessive secularism. This is nothing but mindless, unrelated and pointless trashing of scriptures of the Hindu culture even when it does not influence any public policy decisions.

In another post of mine about Shashi Tharoor’s idea of secularism I had mentioned that in India secularism means don’t offend muslims. There is another side to it too. The one that goes all out to please muslims, break or bend all laws and rules applicable to other citizens for the muslims, dole out excessive concessions to muslims for votes. This is what secularism has come to mean: Appease muslims at any and all costs to the nation’s fabric.

Yesterday, December 13, was the 10th anniversary of the attack on the Indian Parliament. The politicians and media are still debating why Afzal Guru, the master-mind of the attack hasn’t been executed in accordance with the SC order. Is the answer so hard to find? Quite simply, the Congress party is unwilling to administer justice to a muslim perpetrator of mass murder. This will not happen anytime soon considering elections to Uttar Pradesh and a few more states are around the corner. Hmmm, that brings elections into focus. That also means another round of excessive secularism. Salman Khurshid has announced plans for a further reservation in Central govt jobs for muslims. This is followed by Rahul Gandhi’s assurance to muslim clerics that Madrasas will be kept out of RTE Act. This is being offered despite the fact that many madrasas are funded by the govt. And the media? They are busy just announcing this as grand election strategies instead of condemning such actions as politics of appeasement, vote-bank and a blot on secularism.

Rahul Gandhi - The Secularist
The consistent propaganda by the Congress, the leftists and the media has reached such levels that unless you are willing to dress up in muslim garb, wear a skull cap or join prayers in their dargahs you are not a confirmed secularist. Celebrity journalists are even past writing about this horrendous crime being committed by politicians by damaging the concept of equality of citizens under a democracy. Reservations as a policy is now half a century old and has produced very little progress among those whom it was intended for. And then media celebs like Sagarika Ghose talk about change and modernisation. People like Kancha Iliah talk about excising the Vedas. Take one look at Rahul Gandhi, a man-child who has nothing intelligent to say or no real programme to offer, but the media hangs on to his every word as if it were gospel. Has the culture of slavery to the dynasty in the media changed? No, not at all. They still crawl when asked to bend. Barkha Dutt frequently asks why muslims are being stereotyped. Haha! Take that for intelligence of a journalist! You sport a beard, sometimes without a moustache, a long flowing Kurta, wear a skull cap – sure, I could mistake you for a Christian priest. Then all the black or white burqas and veils, I could mistake them for Jain women, wouldn’t I? And when such media celebs find time they are busy brokering cabinet berths so when will they find time to talk about appeasement or secularism? That’s where a journalist from outside sees facts for what they are; the dangers of excessive secularism.

It took a Britisher, Richard Attenborough, to make a full length feature film about Gandhi. It took yet another Britisher, this time journalist Mark Tully, to point out the folly of excessive secularism. In the same report by The Hindu I quoted earlier, there is another observation that Tully makes that will be remain buried in a corner where truths are usually buried: “Noting that even at the bitter height of Partition, India did not slip into becoming a Hindu nation, Mr. Tully said Hinduism in fact had a lot to do with India's pluralism”.

Monday, December 12, 2011

To Kapil Sibal, With Love - Deep Throat

In a couple of days from now (on December 15) Kapil Sibal is scheduled to hold a round-table conference with Internet giants Google, Facebook, Microsoft and maybe some more. Let’s just call these companies ISPs. Sibal’s stated purpose is have these companies develop new guidelines that will keep obscene and abusive content off the internet. He also has problems with such content being posted by anonymous people. CNN-IBN and NDTV through their interviews with the minister have helped defend his actions and deny that he had called for “pre-screening” of content, although the whole world is now quite clear that what he attempted was a grand scheme of ‘political censorship’ mainly to protect Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi from being criticised or made fun of on the net.

KaranThapar’s ‘massage’ can be read here at the CNN-IBN site. Like I mentioned in my previous post the Indian media had blacked out news of various meetings Sibal had with the ISPs and it took the NYT to ‘leak’ the news. Karan Thapar even went to the extent of asking Sibal if NYT was “getting at him”! Getting at him? Getting at him for what? Here, a journalist is implying that there might be motives for the NYT article even when Sibal himself hadn’t suggested it. That’s Indian media for you. Here’s the answer for Karan Thapar: Reporting news of devious plans of the govt. is called “news reporting” and reporting it is the only motive. There need not be other motives to report news as may be the case for some Indian media outlets and journalists. Heather Timmons who broke the news in NYT seems to have jokingly told Sibal's office they were just keeping them on their toes.Well, that's what media is supposed to do, unlike CNN-IBN which searches for "motives". Thapar further asks if NYT confirmed the story with Sibal before publishing. That is truly the height of stupidity by Thapar. Are newspapers supposed to confirm stories with wrong doers when they might have “reliable sources”? Haven’t the greatest stories come from “reliable sources”? Importantly, nowhere in the whole interview with Thapar does Sibal deny or refute the story of NYT. To top it all Kapil Sibal responded stating he doesn’t want to attribute motives but the “circumstantial evidence” is clear. Aha! Circumstantial evidence that Sibal was about to commit a major offence was pretty much exposed.
Here’s another exchange:
Karan Thapar: Let's then come back to what you say was your central focus, blasphemous and offensive content on these Internet platforms. When did you first raise this issue with the Internet platform?

Kapil Sibal: Way back on the September 5 we raised this issue and we circulated some of the content that was blasphemous, that you mentioned, and demeaning. They agreed with it and we said let’s start a dialogue and come back to us within four weeks.
Needless to mention, Sibal had started out this venture by showing off dirty pictures of Sonia Gandhi to the ISP heads and had then turned it around to dangers of “communal violence” owing to content on the net. Laughable! There is an important term Sibal uses for which it would be even fair to hang him. He says he circulated content that was “blasphemous”! Blasphemous? Against whom or against what religion? India does not have a blasphemy law so how in the world does Sibal make such statements. Is this some Islamic country? People may be killed in Pakistan and other Islamic countries but India definitely does not have blasphemy laws. This is what the honourable minister would like to bring into India?

Then again, Sibal has a problem with ‘Anonymity’ on the internet for the objectionable content that he cites. Okay! On the night of June 4 thousands of innocent protesters were assaulted by the police at the Ramlila grounds in Delhi. These were not anonymous rodents. These were humans in flesh and blood. The protesters were neither violent nor threatened violence. Will Sibal answer why these dissenting voices were dealt with so violently? Karan Thapar did not ask him that question. This Congress govt simply wants to shut out any kind of dissent. The attack on Ramlila crowd resulted in the death of an innocent woman. Did any head roll for it? What happened at Ramlila is symbolic of a govt that wants to shut out dissent everywhere. It is not pornography or obscenity that really bothers Kapil Sibal. The fact that people are angry and trashing this govt and their secretive Gandhis on the net does bother him.

Following the exposure of Sibal’s grand scheme to shut off dissent Outlook magazine published many of the pics that have floated on the net for quite a while. There might be more. If you look closely, these pics are humorous and funny rather than offensive. Sure, one might say some are in ‘bad taste’ but surely, bad taste is neither illegal nor punishable. The one pic that Outlook missed was “BhrashtAchar” (Referring to Corruption by politicians with Sonia Gandhi’s image) and that humorously conveys the corruption that has so become synonymous with the Congress. And usually such pics and content generally fade away after a few laughs but Sibal has made sure these will be saved and circulated a lot more than before. Such is the stupidity of his action. As far as anonymity goes there is a brilliant post by RealityCheck India, titled “Thank you Google” which completely destroys the premise on which Sibal partly makes his arguments.

Sibal then talks about child pornography being a serious problem on the net. I dare him to name even one ISP he met which allows child pornography. Every ISP has strict rules and guidelines against child pornography and does not allow such content. If they come across such content the user is permanently banned. Even regular adult content comes with a warning of the content being so. So Sibal doesn’t really fool anyone. Even so, in the US pedophilia is not a free speech issue. In fact, was selling a book titled "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure: a Child-lover's Code of Conduct". This was withdrawn due to consumer protest and not because it broke any law. So Sibal must rest assured people have a better sense of the limits and what to reject.

Finally, on the issue of porn and anonymity let me assure Sibal that even porn stars mostly carry screen names and not their real names. Believe it or not, the title of the first commercially successful feature porn film in the USA was also involved in a way in bringing down Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal. The deep source from the FBI that fed important leaks to Bob Woodward was nicknamed “Deep Throat” by one of his group editors as he was a deep source and at the time the porn movie of the same name was commercially doing well. For over three decades that anonymous source was the greatest secret in the world. It’s only the late W. Mark Felt, former Deputy Director of FBI himself revealed that he was deep throat. Have a laugh Mr. Sibal, there might be deep throats in the Congress who are leaking information to the NYT and other journals. As for the Congress, trying to silence the Internet won’t help. Honest governance might help!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

How Indian MSM Blacked-out Sibal's Grand Scheme

It is hard to imagine that almost a whole generation of kids in Kashmir may have grown up without watching a movie in a cinema theatre. That is what religious extremism brings about. The Kashmiri Hurriyat separatist leader, Syed Geelani, even considers it “immoral” to watch movies. No wonder kids in the valley find stone-pelting such a thrilling and rewarding experience. Geelani is not the only one who believes censorship and bans make for a healthy society. The latest one to join the moral brigade is union minister Kapil Sibal. Much has been already said and written about Sibal’s move to censor social networks so I won’t add to it. It was enough for the hashtag #IdiotKapilSibal trend for nearly two days on Twitter. Not surprisingly, Sibal’s stupidity was exposed on the same day that an Islamic cleric residing in Europe said that women should not be close to bananas or cucumbers, in order to avoid any “sexual thoughts.”

Sibal’s anger is understandable, if you were Sonia Gandhi's protector. The mainstream media (MSM) in India have for long resisted any form of regulation but they have successfully managed ‘self-censorship’. The social networks refuse to self-censor themselves. And at the centre of this all is Sonia Gandhi. The MSM won’t publish anything remotely critical about SoniaG or question any of her actions. The secrecy of SG’s illness and surgery or whatever it was can only be protected by a servantile MSM as that in India.

Two previous posts on this blog detail the manner in which our MSM suppresses any mention of Sonia Gandhi: “Why Is Indian Media Scared Of Sonia Gandhi?” and “Rajdeep Sardesai : "No Wild Allegations Against Gandhis, Please...." Far from talking about or questioning Sonia Gandhi, our MSM actually protects her against such acts. To speak about SG is a sin! To question her, to ridicule her, to paint funny ugly pictures of her is blasphemy for Kapil Sibal.

What most of us totally missed in the whole episode was that Sibal was meeting the heads of Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft etc. over the last six weeks or so. Yet there was no mention of these meetings anywhere in the Indian media or the transactions. Most of these internet giants are huge advertisers and would have thought our media would have spoken up for them. None! Even the last meeting by Sibal with these networks was not reported by the Indian media. Yes indeed, they blacked out the news! It took the New York Times to report the meeting and demands of Kapil Sibal.

Once the NYT broke the news the Indian MSM had no option but to relay the story and then all the editors and anchors of our spineless news media start moralising and sermonising about freedom of speech. This is once the Twitterati collectively put Sibal on their lap and spanked him. This is a senior minister we are talking about. One can rest assured that many journalists hang around his office for bits and pieces of sound-bites and yet none reported the meeting with the network heads. One prominent Congress friendly channel even had an exclusive interview with the Indian head of Google during the same period and yet remained silent about Sibal’s grand plan.

NYT reports about the first meeting six weeks ago: “At the meeting, Mr. Sibal showed attendees a Facebook page that maligned the Congress Party’s president, Sonia Gandhi.  “This is unacceptable,” he told attendees, the executive said, and he asked them to find a way to monitor what is posted on their sites”. But once this news got out both Kapil Sibal and the Indian media weren’t talking about the SG factor. It was all about SG and objectionable content that create communal tensions. Trust Sibal and the Congress to give it all a communal twist and colour.

I doubt Sibal can ever stop freedom on the internet. He might well take a warning from the kids in Kashmir. If the youth and all the people who vent their anger in various forms on the net are stopped they might be out on the streets and pelting stones too. Far from creating tensions the net allows people to let off steam and keep violence off the streets. As for dirty pictures or obscene content there are enough laws in the country to prosecute offenders.

At the time of writing, Google has already received an IT notice. More might follow. Ironically, and I say this with deep sympathy and not out of sarcasm, Kapil Sibal was hit on his eye in the parliament on the next day the news about his censorship plans broke. His eye was injured accidentally by the sharp edge of a folder flipped by a colleague. So at least for a while Sibal will not see evil comfortably on the net. But the manner in which Indian MSM suppresses any news concerning the deceptive and nefarious plans of the Congress does stand exposed again. Maybe 100% FDI in media should also be considered along with other reforms.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sponsored Fear

By now there is hardly any politician or editor who has not written or spoken about FDI in retail. There is nothing much anyone can really add and I am no economics expert and don’t have a stand on it. I simply believe that retail FDI is neither good nor bad and will not make a significant difference. But it sure might help the real estate business which is in the doldrums for a while. “In my local market, shopkeepers say that even the smallest shops are worth a crore” So writes economist Swaminathan Aiyar in TOI. He must be kidding or out of touch with reality. If you go to a kirana store in the suburbs of Mumbai any shopkeeper will tell you that the ‘tile’ on which you’re standing is worth a crore. So Aiyar calls it a battle between the ‘Aam bania’ and the ‘Aam Aadmi’.

Aiyar adds: “Dominated by banias, small shopkeepers are notorious for cheating customers through adulteration and fiddled weighing scales. They are also notorious for evading sales tax and income tax. That's why the bania is widely despised (although it is wrong to tarnish all with the same brush)”. Really? If this man is an economist then I count myself as a rocket scientist. The biggest crimes against state and aam aadmi haven’t exactly come from small traders but from the biggest corporations. The biggest frauds haven’t come from banias and corner-shops and I need not go into a list of such looters. To the credit of the wiseguys in the Congress they have managed to make almost everyone get into the debate of FDI. Let’s take an example – the one of Big Bazaar (BB). Any supplier dealing with BB would tell you that they have to accept an extraordinary terms of credit, sometimes even up to six months and still remain unpaid. And when BB does badly the first ones to disappear are the poor check-out clerks and bagging attendants. So much for the huge employment that large retailers will generate. Another one, Subhiksha, after grand pronouncements quickly disappeared. These debates in the media were not all spontaneous. Some of them appear to be ‘sponsored’ (as they usually are), especially on TV channels.

When faced with a bad season in parliament on 2G scam, inflation, black money, terrorism, Lokpal bill, it was important for the ruling Congress to come up with bold action. So just around the third day of the winter session of parliament they drop the FDI bomb. This was neither an economic event nor a political event. It’s called “Wag the dog” and a media event. The law of distraction by phenomenon. It’s a strategy by which the public can be distracted, for a good length of time, from important issues, by one which occupies more news time. This strategy works usually when you suddenly have a war which puts everything on the backburner. But in absence of war a media-event will help. This is precisely what Retail FDI was – a media event forced by the ruling party. And what better trick than to instil a good deal of FEAR among citizens about some monster called FDI. It’s always a great strategy. So you had the NDTVs, the CNN-IBNs, TimesNows and all the major and minor newspapers out on the topic.

Sometimes help comes from unknown quarters. The Mullaperiyar dam came into focus with its own fears and politics. Politicians and people of Kerala drummed up the fear of the dam cracking up. They might have had some genuine concerns and in response politicians and people from TN rubbished the claims of the dam being a threat. Any PM would have intervened to quickly reassure both parties of action and fairness.  Should MMS have intervened and brought about a truce between the two states? Are you serious? This was a God-send that should be welcomed at a time when fear is the key. And on cue our media goes into another frenzy. FDI and Mullaperiyar, that’s a combination that is tailor-made for the orgy that happens nightly on TV. I cannot but be reminded of these famous lines from Martin Scorsese’s ‘Taxi Driver’: “All the animals come out at night - whores, skunk pussies, buggers, queens, fairies, dopers, junkies, sick, venal. Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the street…” That much pretty much describes the banal nonsense on night time TV.

Fear helps. Commerce Minister Anand Sharma probably never had so much exclusive time on TV as he did on the FDI issue. Articulate as he is, Sharma did something the Congress would have considered a crime in any other situation – he even cited Narendra Modi being in favour of FDI. And guess what.. NDTV played up that interview over and over again, more often than they normally do, to push the FDI agenda. Clips from that interview where Sharma mentioned Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh being in support of FDI were played out a zillion times. Manmohan Singh, in between, found time to suddenly visit Imphal and inaugurate a new Assembly building. The success of fear-mongering finally culminated in an all-India bandh by over 50 million traders on December 1. Mission accomplished for the Congress!

Is that all? No, not yet. From the time parliament session commenced in November the clown prince, Rahul Gandhi, had only one thing on his mind – change Uttar Pradesh in 10 years. He did not attend parliament even for a single day and was wisely busy with the UP campaign and the youth congress rally. What’s his game? More fear of the Mayawati govt, of more UPites turning into beggars if Congress wasn’t brought back to power in the state and how the Elephant in Lucknow was eating up all the money meant for the aam aadmi. In hind sight Rahul Gandhi’s campaign was the only comic relief in this season of fear. Does RG have any views on FDI in retail? You will know in 10 years! Not enough!

Manmohan Singh mentioned it is “difficult to roll-back FDI”. I had jokingly tweeted asking why and if the kickbacks were taken in advance. Well, here’s the answer: It is reported that Walmart spent over 60 crores in lobbying for retail FDI in India. Where exactly does lobbying money go in India? Ummm, maybe some PR firms like the one Nira Radia operated? Maybe a small percentage but a good chunk has to go elsewhere where real decisions happen. So with parliament being stalled with all this FDI thing and other issues our media comes up with another gem. Both NDTV and CNN-IBN start a campaign, “No work, no pay” for MPs.

“No work, no pay” for MPs if parliament doesn’t work. It must take an extra-ordinary helping of stupidity for the morons in the media to further mislead and deflect the discussion on issues to such silly campaigns. If the Kirana banias are so anti-consumer as Swaminathan Aiyar suggests there is no real reason to believe that foreign businessmen coming into India are going to be exceptionally friendly. They aren’t going to be here for charity either. Such perverted arguments fuel the fears that a failing govt thrives on. Aiyar believes every shopkeeper is worth a crore, so much are our MPs worth? You’ll need a flashlight even on a sunny day to find an MP who isn’t worth crores and yet our stupid media peddles the “no work, no pay” argument. Nothing but mindless populist dialogue that you will find in a cheap Bollywood movie. The govt creates the fear and the media plays the sponsor.

But even organised and sponsored fear has to take a breather. The death of Bollywood legend Dev Anand shocked everyone and news channels covered it with flashbacks and obits. For once, even if it was repetitive,  it was nice to hear just good old Dev Anand songs through the day on Sunday, December 4. The nation, including political leaders, came together to pay homage to this great artist. But make no mistake, fear will be back. Corrupt governments throughout history have used fear to survive. In 21 century India they have a sponsor – our news media. Sponsored fear will be back.