Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Twenty Two Yards Of Dead Bodies

He who joyfully marches to music, rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would surely suffice.” - Albert Einstein

According to a TOI report some 4000 soldiers have died since 1999 for various reasons when there has been no “official war”. There is something strange about soldiers being recruited in the Army. Quite a lot of them are from villages, rural towns and mostly from poor families. There are villages in Rajasthan and Himachal that have at least one veteran or soldier in the army. There are villages in Rajasthan where at least one member of every family is in the Army or is a veteran. You know… young men and women around the age of 21-22 willing to die for their country if required. Many, if not all, fortunate ones in the same age-group are addicted to the latest mobiles, malls and movie stars. The slogan “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan” does seem to have a deep meaning and prudence. It’s either the farmer or the soldier who is dying lately. Very frequently!

Last night some TV channels were discussing Captain Saurabh Kalia the soldier who first noticed the Kargil infiltration in 1999. He and five others were captured, tortured and their dead bodies returned to India by Pakistan. There was Arnab Goswami on TimesNow talking about him. And yes, there was Barkha Dutt, the Kargil heroine, on NDTV. Both channels had to discuss Capt. Kalia with some Pakistani guests also. Barkha was looking to an open and honest discussion and the Pakistani, Gen. Qureshi, decided he had enough and it was pointless. I’m even amazed that it takes him to tell her that it’s pointless talking to a representative of your enemy of that war about a situation. Well, Barkha and Arnab show you how intelligent our media is and how concerned our govt is. Barkha even ended her program with the words that it takes something sensational to talk about our war heroes. So what was this sudden reason to talk about Saurabh Kalia? Well, after 13 years of waiting his father, Dr. NK Kalia, has petitioned the Supreme Court to direct the GOI to seek an apology from Pakistan for “war crimes” in returning the body of his son tortured.

Kargil martyr Saurabh Kalia's torture: Violations by Pakistan unacceptable, says government” says the NDTV report. If you read the headline you’d think our govt has suddenly woken up and it had nothing to do with the SC petition by Kalia’s father. Yeah, the UPA govt that doesn’t observe Kargil Diwas. The same UPA whose prince charming, Rahul Gandhi, claimed on November 4 that the Congress had generously supported the BJP during the Kargil war. We are just past another anniversary of 26/11. I remember during the 26/11 attacks TimesNow and Arnab had screamed “We will never forget”. And yet within a couple of months TOI was running a crap campaign called “Aman Ki Asha”. So much for never forgetting dead people and soldiers! And Barkha Dutt? Oh yes; the one who reported breathlessly from Mumbai during 26/11. In less than 48 hours, even before the blood on the streets and the targeted buildings had dried and were washed she was doing an episode of “We the people” right from Mumbai on November 30, 2008. This episode was angrily titled “Enough is enough”.

In a tweet on 26/11 this year Barkha called it an “act of war”. I suppose same as Kargil. She also states privilege offers no protection and terrorism is an awful leveller. If you decide to watch the video of that program you will find that except for one Shameem Khan, who lost 4 members of his family, all the rest could be categorized as the “privileged”. Of course, the panellists on the program were poor people who had experienced terror themselves – Ness Wadia, Simi Garewal, Bachi Karkaria, Ratna Pathak, Kunal Kohli, Luke Kenny etc. and one former police officer M.N. Singh. Barkha’s outrage over the act of war and her histrionics were on full display that night. After a heated exchange between Simi and a guy from the audience she even told everyone: “Will you all do what I ask? Can we have dignified silence please?”. Such was the outrage. Here are some quotes from her (in blue) at the beginning of the program:

Home Minister (Maharashtra) and many more heads are expected to roll. Oh yes. RR Patil, then HM did roll. He even said somewhere that such attacks happen in many cities. Well, what do you know; he’s back and is still the HM of Maharashtra. 
We are going to tell our politicians that we don’t necessarily trust them. And the politician she had on the program? Oh, that was Abhishek Singhvi. Yes, the same guy who was suspended for his physical escapades and is now back on all channels again as Congress spokesman. She also had Milind Deora, who is currently a minister.

Justice for this, justice for that! These are frequent campaigns run by our media. And in the run up to 26/11 what are some of the great deeds our politicians were busy with? 2G, Cash for votes, CWG scam, Hasan Ali and his black money which has ended nowhere, Adarsh scam, Aircel-Maxis. Within hours of 26/11 ending Vilasrao Deshmukh his son Riteish and Ramgopal Verma were on a terror tour inside the Taj hotel. At an all-party meeting the PM announced there would be four more hubs of NSG. That would mean more Saurabh Kalias and Unnikrishnans will be happy to serve. What happens once the war is over and all the patriotic screaming is over in the media? They get back to their games of hosting our enemies. Especially, the architect of Kargil – Parvez Musharraf.

Politicians and our media seem to have a strange love affair with those who plot the destruction of our nation. Even when Musharraf has ceased to hold any official position our media seems to believe he is the one with the wisdom on leadership and future of India. So you have the Kargil heroine running everywhere to interview him. You have the India Today Conclave hosting him, you have HT Summit hosting him. And he’s a frequent guest on both NDTV and CNN-IBN. These channels are often hyper-patriotic and even have special songs composed for some special occasions. A report from The Hindu in May 2012 describes certain incidents that the guys in the army seem to routinely experience. This was after a ‘Sahayak’, someone who’s like a valet, was beaten up. It talks about simmering class-tensions and feudal mindset in the army too. Musharraf comes to our land tells us he doesn’t regret Kargil, he tells us Muslims in India need a better deal and cracks jokes that make our media celebs laugh. During the India Today Conclave in 2009 Maulana Madani, an MP, gave a stinging response to Musharraf’s concerns about Indian Muslims and asked him politely not to worry. (See video) The host, Arun Poorie of India Today, was left dumb and speechless.

If not that Musharraf guy there’s always that other one. Yes, the other national pastime of our media folks, especially Barkha Dutt, is none other than Imran Khan. Our media seems to campaign for him as PM as much as they do for, say, Rahul Gandhi. He was here again this month and had reassuring words for India: If the Kashmir issue is not resolved there may be more 26/11s. And since we talk about “levellers” what levels everything better than Cricket, eh? Playing cricket with Pakistan with top politicians watching levels everything. In the 2011 world cup match at Chandigarh the Pakistan and Indian PM with their entourage were there cheering the players. After the match NDTV even put up banner with the jubilant Indian team and their lucky mascot Rahul Gandhi. And now the GOI has decided to honour Saurabh Kalia, Sandeep Unnikrishnan and many other fallen soldiers of Kargil and 26/11 by hosting another Indo-Pak series in December 2012. Idiots who scream patriotism every other day will, of course, turn out to watch the matches and the media will make another neat pile. It’s now called ‘Cricket Diplomacy’. Saurabh Kalia is dead while his father has been fighting a lot more battles. He’s taken the latest one to the Supreme Court.

If Saurabh Kalia had returned alive with his limbs broken or blinded he would have lived a miserable life running from pillar to post fighting for pensions and dues from the GOI. Fighting in Kargil was probably easier for our soldiers. If there’s anything left our politicians will make sure they will screw it up with an Adarsh scam over land supposedly allotted for Kargil heroes. Oh yes, how can we forget? There’s LK Advani, Dy. PM during Kargil, who went to Pakistan-Yatra to certify Jinnah was secular. Our Laloos and Bollywood celebs frequently go on a pilgrimage to that holy country. Lately, even the very secular Nitish Kumar was on a ‘Tirth yatra’ in Pakistan. A wag once commented Tamils in Sri Lanka don’t matter because they aren’t vote-banks but Pakistan matters because of Muslim vote-banks in India. I wouldn’t disagree. Pakistan is a vote-bank for our ‘secular’ forces.

What about our Cricketers? Aren’t they somewhat similar to soldiers? They wear India colours; often display patriotism covering themselves with the Indian flag. There’s a little guy who turns up at every match painted in the tri-colour just to support Tendulkar. Some of these cricketing celebs live under high security. The same security provided by the likes of those who die in Kargil or on the streets of Mumbai, like Tukaram Omble. People protesting is one thing, it is time these Cricketers stood up, showed some spine and said NO to playing Pakistan in a bilateral series. This is no world cup or international tournament where we don’t have a say. This is our own choice.

The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonourably, foolishly, viciously.”― Julian Barnes, Flaubert's Parrot.

Our policy towards Pakistan is not and never has been driven by a National Compass. It has always been driven by personal opinions, situations and stupidity. The cricketers now have a chance to stand up and do the right thing by the Kalias, Unnikrishnans, Ombles and many of our fallen men and women. They have the chance to show they not only have brains but also a spine independent of the BCCI and the GOI. They can imagine the plight and suffering of the families of those who died and imagine twenty two yards of dead bodies and not necessarily a cricket pitch.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

NDTV: Vikram's Anguish, Barkha's Ire

In a series of tweets on November 23 Vikram Chandra, the Executive Director and an anchor at NDTV, wondered about the reason for deterioration in TV news. VC who usually appears mild-mannered and soft-spoken on TV is probably genuinely wondering about a serious situation. My instant reply was that it was those from the NDTV stable who had contributed considerably to lowering the BAR. Er... That BAR is Barkha-Arnab-Rajdeep. There are two ways to look at news. You either look at it as public service or as a regular business. The choice defines who the target or customers are. The choice also defines the content, methods and coverage. Without a doubt, since all three channels which these celebs represent have chosen business over public service the model was destined to fail. There’s a golden rule which most successful businessmen in India know: ‘If you want mega success in India, learn to do business with the poor and the middle class’. 

When Reliance was about to embark into the mobile communication business Anil Ambani recalled how Dhirubhai had told him: “We must find a way that a villager in Chorwad (Dhirubhai’s hometown in Gujarat) can make an STD call in 40paise”. Do NDTV, TimesNow or CNN-IBN look like they want to deal with any guys like that? I have often joked that channels like NDTV and CNN-IBN are meant for those with a mini-bar at home. Calling these channels ‘News Channels’ is like calling Cosmopolitan or Vogue newspapers. The mindless debates, Bollywood, tamashas, slanted news items, nothing-to-fill for 24 hour news channels but repeats were bound to cause damage.

These channels were simply driven by agendas and money and nothing else. The concept of news as public service has escaped them completely. I can write a model for VC but that can wait. It won’t work unless NDTV comes out of its celebrity-cult management style. They refuse to the see the truth that Barkha Dutt has brought about a lot of negative views about NDTV. No amount of screaming and ranting can alter that. If VC really wants to introspect, that’s where he will need to start. All the three celebrities are not only at odds with the public but also with the social media. Instead of harnessing social media profitably to extend their reach they see it as an evil that threatens them. To the celeb that villager in Chorwad is an anonymous moron whose needs or opinions don’t matter. Rajdeep went all the way to Ramlila to take a picture with Anna Hazare but I doubt you would find a pic with him and some folks in the crowds that had gathered there. And then these folks want all the media platforms to rant: TV, Newspaper, Social Media, Conventions, Seminars; everywhere. So Barkha’s latest Divine rant is titled “To each his own”. Where did it appear? Of course, in Hindustan Times.

She writes about 66A and the arrest of the two girls over their Facebook comments on Bal Thackerays funeral and Mumbai shutting down. I do not recall a single comment anywhere which supported the arrest. But the media, while blowing up this case, overlooks the other similar cases. Ah, I guess there must a special reason for this. But 66A and the case is just a side-story. The main story returns to her defence of her action against Chaitanya Kunte, the blogger who nailed her “Shoddy Journalism” during the 26/11 attacks. I have watched the 26/11 attacks on TV from 10pm on 26/11 right till the end with just a few hours of sleep. Like many, I cannot help agreeing 100% with what Kunte wrote. Yet, Barkha lives in denial. Fine! But cleverly she chooses to pick a point from Kunte’s blog that doesn’t refer to her directly at all. Here’s what she writes:

Four years ago, I sent a legal notice to a blogger for, among other seriously slanderous comments, suggesting that my reportage on 26/11 was somehow linked to the death of police officer Hemant Karkare. Apart from the irresponsible, sweeping nature of the comments, it was low on facts. As a Delhi-based reporter, I wasn't even in Mumbai the night Karkare was killed”.

That’s truly clever. She wasn’t in Mumbai on the night of 26/11. Nobody said she was. She was there probably from 27/11 onward. And some of the content in Kunte’s blog is an exact reproduction of the transactions Barkha was involved in. Nowhere, I repeat nowhere, does Kunte even remotely link Hemant Karkare’s death with Barkha. Although Kunte has since pulled his blog you can read the particular post in question here or on many sites where it’s reproduced. Far from suppressing his views Barkha only managed to enlighten the whole world about that post with her silly legal action. In fact, Karkare’s name doesn’t even appear in the main post but in an update. Here’s what Kunte actually wrote:

Update: In fact, I am willing to believe that Hemant Karkare died because these channels showed him prepare (wear helmet, wear bullet-proof vest.) in excruciating detail live on television. And they in turn targeted him where he was unprotected. The brave officer succumbed to bullets in the neck”.

Now that will make it clear to anyone reading it that Kunte was referring to “all news channels” and not specifically to Barkha or her channel at all. So her mindless outburst is based on nothing but fake righteousness. She cleverly omits the main contents of the post which actually reproduces her reporting during the attack. She probably assumes no one will look back or remember the episode and she can get away with some spurious defence of her conduct. Vikram Chandra fails to estimate how much damage this particular episode has done to NDTV not just in India but across the world. Barkha’s contempt for bloggers is all too well known. Twitter and FB were still new to India in 2008 but have caught up strongly. Here’s what Barkha laments further:

The misogyny of some online discourse is now well established. Earlier this year, writer Meena Kandasamy tweeted about attending a beef-eating festival. The volley of abuse that followed included calling her a bitch, a whore and a terrorist”.

Barkha uses what may be a few abusive tweets to tar the entire Twitter group that is not so friendly to her and doesn’t present her with “accolades” all the time. Now remember, there are media celebs who have called Lord Ram a D***, who have called people “guttersnipes”, who have called “Indian males ugly”. Suhel Seth in DMs on Twitter is a specialist in showering abuses on mothers of Tweeple. He is a friend and regular guest of NDTV. Should we conclude all media celebs, including Barkha, are abusive idiots? Barkha uses such stray tweets, as do others, to smartly follow her agenda of tarring all her critics with the same brush. This is her way of spewing venom at the so called “right wingers” or those not falling within her definition of “secular”.

Is that all? Not at all! A former NDTV colleague of Barkha called me an “anonymous, unreachable terrorist” in a very public forum. I had never written about or even mentioned this guy anywhere. Umm.. I guess if one were Barkha he would have sued the guy. I demolished his nonsense in a couple of posts and he knows it too. But are we at war? Not at all! Today, that person and I follow each other with a lot of friendliness and without any bitterness. Barkha is yet to grow up. Such a huge ego and so much arrogance are hardly suited for public service. For all my stinging criticism Rajdeep calls me “paid-media”. Haha! I laugh but I don’t grudge Rajdeep and I understand his grief. Barkha’s cronies have called me “rabid” and she joined in too. Should I now call her and her followers abusive morons? One doesn’t make a mountain of mole hills and stray abuses. Vikram Chandra doesn’t realise how much damage his celebs are causing NDTV through their conduct on the social media.

Barkha and NDTV haven't come to terms with social media yet. But the one thing they can definitely learn is how to use social media productively. Even Modi uses Google+ hangout and now seeking ordinary folks as brand ambassadors for Gujarat through his FB page, These are surely innovative methods on the social media. In contrast Barkha continues her tirade against unknown people and critics and continues to lose fans for NDTV. If Vikram Chandra seeks to improve NDTV’s TRP or innovate in their business models, his celebs certainly aren’t helping his cause. All his well-intended anguish gets destroyed by irate behaviour of his celebs. Barkha’s latest article has nothing to do with 66A or those stupid arrests. It is another silly attempt at getting rid of the albatross around her neck. Neither Chaitanya Kunte nor Radiagate are going to disappear in a hurry. Anger and arrogance won’t do it, some genuine remorse will.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Warning: From 66A to 666

Our Opposition members in the parliament are fighting for you. It would seem your lives depend on them. Reservations, anti-FDI protests, Lokpal bills and any number of issues that are important to people get their attention. The only one that doesn’t get their attention is your freedom or democracy itself. They will agree blindly to any measure and law that will curtail or suppress your freedoms. Last year actor Om Puri and IAC activist Kiran Bedi were served with notices for mocking MPs. This year Arvind Kejriwal was served with a notice for calling MPs “rapists and murderers”. All three managed to get away being public figures. You’re not going to be so lucky.  

One man arrested for tweets against Union Minister P. Chidambaram’s son, Karthi Chidambaram, in Pudduchery. Two women arrested in Mumbai for negative comments on Bal Thackeray’s funeral shutting down Mumbai. Both made a lot of noise in the media. Two more arrests, which didn’t get much media attention, were of men for allegedly posting offensive comments against some Congress leaders on their Facebook group in May 2012. The last two are also accused of insulting the national flag but when the images were shown on Headlines Today the flags were of the Congress party and not of the country. The two were also employees of Air India who were sacked for their supposed online indiscretion. Not surprisingly, all these arrests have occurred in Congress ruled states. At the heart of all this is Kapil Sibal, the man who seems to want to throttle online freedoms. I recommend you read these two posts before you proceed further: “To Kapil Sibal, With Love -Deep Throat” and “How Indian MSM Blacked-out Sibal's Grand Scheme”.

In all this, we constantly get to hear of the IT Act of 2008 and particularly section 66A. Here’s a summary of what this section is:

Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,—
a) Any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
b) Any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
c) Any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages.
Punishment - Imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.

That doesn’t need much explanation. Anything you say online which is “offensive” to anyone is liable for a 3 year imprisonment. Well, that is just about anything because anything that is said may likely offend someone or the other. Therefore, to speak is a sin. How did we get here? I guess it all starts with religion. First, the ministry of “hurt sentiments” tells you can’t offend religious sentiments. Well, actually what they mean is you can offend Hinduism or Hindu culture but you can’t talk about Islam or Christianity. Of course, there isn’t a single moron who won’t say “we welcome fair criticism”. But that is the usual “having said that...” type of statement you will hear from our intellectuals. Then slowly it extends to others. You see, we bestow upon him the title of ‘father of the nation’ with a ‘Mahatma’ prefix and then he too is beyond criticism. So anything negative or any negative book you write about MKGandhi will be banned. Even Narendra Modi will ban it. Maybe in a few 100 years MKG will be declared God’s avatar and temples will be built for him. And when you talk of religion can Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi be far behind?  Oh yes, in our times Sonia Gandhi is where it all began with. Soon we may reach the third ‘6’. We have gotten to 66A and soon we might get to ‘666’ too.

In Christianity, the number 666 is the number of the Beast and represents the Devil. It’s the number of the Anti-Christ.  An interesting theory floating around is how the number 666 has infiltrated all the bar-codes. Sounds funny? Yes it is! But do read this fascinating theory “Warning: 666 is coming”. It’s about all the smart cards and other cards. Maybe we should check our ‘Aadhar’ cards too. But funny stuff apart, in India it did start with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. Given the performance of UPA it was natural that an abundance of jokes on the Gandhis, including parodies and often offensive material started floating on the internet. That, to the Congress party, is nothing short of blasphemy.

Outlook Magazine carried an article on all the funny stuff on Sonia Gandhi in December 2011. This was just after Kapil Sibal had started attempts to crackdown on internet users. Then came the August 2012 blockade of certain Twitter and FB accounts as also blockade of certain websites. A few months back this site was blocked by BSNL for nearly a month. No reason whatsoever was given and the blockade was lifted after a few complaints. The images in the Outlook magazine, some ridiculous and some funny, are not glowing tributes to SoniaG. Naturally, the Congress could hardly find humour in any of these. Kapil Sibal reacted similarly to Barkha Dutt over the Shoddy Journalism episode. Since then the GOI has been systematically trying to bring down online accounts that offend the Congress, its president or their allies in any manner. The Google statistics produced by Outlook also make interesting reading on how many attempts the GOI has made to silence free speech. Every disease has its own symptoms so too democracy. Corruption and scams are common to all forms of govts. But the sure sign that democracy is terminally ill is when free speech starts to vanish and more and more laws silencing people are made. This is especially so when public figures seem to get more protection from insults and ridicule. I need not even embark on a greater story of the indecency and frequent defamatory speeches by our public figures.

The IT Act of 2008, with this now infamous 66 number, was passed in December 2008. But go back a few months in 2008. Here’s what the Express report states: “Pune June 21 The Pune police on Saturday arrested one more person for posting derogatory content about Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi on an orkut community. Police have identified the accused as Nithin Chkravarthi Suresh Sahha (22), a resident of Sharan Apartment, Begum Peth in Hyderabad”. So even before this particular IT Act was passed in December 2008 there appears to have been enough laws under which people could be summarily arrested for insulting Sonia Gandhi. But yes, there was a need to widen the scope and make everything offensive you see. The two guys arrested in Mumbai in the India Today report are also accused of “insulting” NCP ministers Praful Patel and Sharad Pawar. We are clearly in the process of taming the beast.

Our media which enjoys complete freedom of speech also doesn’t like people to have the same freedom. They won’t stand up against foolish laws like 66A. Understandable! As of now there are two petitions in courts against the 66A clause. (Read Here) It is a surprise, though, that the petition isn’t to strike down the whole Act itself. There are enough laws to protect a person or entity against defamation in this country. Maybe the punishments need to be made more stringent under those laws. But a law, whose misuse enables the police to arrest anyone at any hour at the whims of stupid politicians, surely signals the death of democracy. It’s a warning!

The Opposition stands up for your rights against an evil law? Well, FDI or Lokpal are important issues no doubt. It may be interesting to learn that this IT Act 2008 was passed in the parliament without a single objection and without a single discussion. It threatens our democracy; the very basis of our society and existence. That’s how good our Opposition parties are. Next time you vote, maybe ask your candidate whether they will repeal this law itself and not amend it. The other option is to be prepared for the number 666 stamped on you

Thursday, November 22, 2012

If You Have The Inclination, We Have The Crime

Lots of Opportunities since the new regime came in. Let’s make lots of money. If you have the inclination, we have the crime.

In just the previous post we looked at how Hindustan Times with its HT Summit splurged on public money. Most of their major sponsors being big time PSUs and govt companies. Even the poor man’s work insurance corporation, ESIC, seems to have found compelling reasons to invest in HT Summit. Part of that unholy trinity of media I wrote about is CNN-IBN, HT’s media side-kick. It’s Managing Editor, Rajdeep Sardesai (RS), often likes to talk about “integrity”. Look at the samples. In the first tweet from February 2010 he yearns for “news with integrity” and in the second one, from July 2012, he complains about his integrity being questioned. “Those who abuse...” he says. Actually, anything that questions or ridicules our media celebs is nothing but ‘abuse’. The second tweet is because he had to apologise for an earlier stupid and tasteless tweet of his. When Deep Throat said “follow the money” he damn well knew what he meant. Pursuit of news and stories never resulted in loss of integrity but pursuit of extraordinary wealth has often led to loss of integrity. For almost a month my Twitter friend Suresh Nakhua has been asking questions of RS and CNN-IBN; tricky, troublesome questions which, of course, would amount to ‘abuse’ in the world of RS.

In this post I will just summarise the questions by Suresh Nakhua who has storified the financial joyride of CNN-IBN and certain group companies in his post “Few questions for@sardesairajdeep & some unknown facts abt CNNIBN”.  In other words Suresh has just tried to follow the money. Before you look at the maze of companies, here is a company that became part of Global Broadcast News Ltd (GBN). And it’s splendidly titled ‘SRH New Holding Private limited’.

Well, well, all the names from the CNN-IBN family are there. Sardesai, Bahl, Anubha, Chaubeji, Vidya Shankar and, of course, Cacofonix. Don’t read too much into that because there is nothing wrong there. This is just to share the ‘dramatis monetis’. All you need to do is follow Suresh’s tweets on that page sequentially and enlarge the images contained in each. You will find integrity in each. So here are the questions that remain unanswered:

1. SRH was a loss making company so how did it end up giving loans worth 19.71 crores? Hmm! One could say “we are a private company and it’s none of your business”. Yeah, so you can’t be in the public domain and keep screaming about integrity either.

2. The remuneration of Jt. MD, Sameer Manchanda, exceeds the limits prescribed under the Companies Act. The explanation is that GOI approval has been sought and if not received the moneys will be returned. Clever? First commit the offence and then claim the money is being held in “trust” and if the approval is not received, it will be returned. Integrity!

3. At March 2006 GBN had a loss of 46.53 crores. It’s a perfect qualification to receive an “unsecured loan” of 40 crores during the year, isn’t it? We shouldn’t complain about the loan itself. It should be of interest to all of us who or what entity gives such loans just in case we anticipate huge losses too. Needless to say, you need integrity.

4. To run your business you do need some pocket money at times. Who’s your daddy? Of course, Syndicate Bank. So you have this bank lending an unsecured loan of 5 crores to tide over festival periods. While the title shows the amount as ‘secured borrowings’ the statement says ‘NIL’ against security created. What was it secured with, integrity? Do read the article on Reliance and ‘Raghav’s Endgame’ squeezed in between.

5. Then Raghav Bahl, the Chairman of TV18 group, has some 7 Income tax cases pending against him. That’s normal if you’re running a large group of media companies, nothing to worry. Then in another page that Suresh produces, an IT penalty of over 1Cr has been reduced to a mere Rs.53461. Nice, isn’t it? Who’s your daddy? Integrity?

6. That’s all. Oh yes, there’s this small thing apart from the IT cases, there is an ROC case against Raghav Bahl that is pending. Oh, one more thing. There is this e-Eighteen.Com and Victor Fernandes who claim Bahl & Co. illegally diverted their businesses and are demanding over 3000 crores in compensation. If I read correctly, it claims there was an undertaking that TV18 would route business distribution through e-Eighteen which Bahl is accused of breaking. Integrity! Not the kind of program that will be debated on CNN-IBN or any of its group channels for sure.

There is hardly any doubt that since the arrival of the UPA govt in 2004 there has been a dramatic growth in the fortunes of certain media companies. People were complaining of the amount of tax-payer money on the recently executed terrorist Ajmal Kasab. He’s just one guy. The amount of tax-payer money certain media outlets may be guzzling without notice is like silent killers; like Cancer or Diabetes. I have stated earlier that our news media is the first line of defence for the corrupt. Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal have been spending a lot of effort on politicians. If they spent half that effort on media houses I have absolutely no doubts that corruption and financial misdeeds will start diminishing in every other sphere. And next time Rajdeep Sardesai talks about integrity I suggest you have a good laugh. At least laughing doesn’t cost anything.

*The title is from a Pet Shop Boys song.