Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dasyu Samrat Malkhan

Thick curled moustache, sporting a Ray ban aviator sun-glasses and a red vermilion mark on his forehead, Daku Malkhan Singh, 74, a bandit of the Chambal region is now busy in seeking votes for BJP state president Narendra Singh Tomar, who is contesting from the Gwalior seat.

According to locals, after kidnapping the victim, Malkhan used to send the demand for the “Firauti” (ransom) on a letter head that had his name printed on the top and the ransom amount written below. He is one of the few dacoits on whom a book- “Malkhan- the story of a bandit King”, has been written.

Malkhan though says that he was never a dacoit, but a “Baagi” (Rebel). “We never harassed anyone who was weak or poor, we targeted those who used to steal from the poor”, recalls Malkhan, who spent close to 10 years in the prison.

He claims that the times might have changed but still the system of stealing from the poor is going on. “That is why I am campaigning in support for the BJP. Even after so many years of the country’s Independence, nothing has changed and things will not change until the BJP comes to power at the Centre”, he says.

Malkhan, who had surrendered before the then Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Arjun Singh, said that all the promises that were made to him by Singh were never fulfilled.  “Before we surrendered with our arms, the state government made a commitment that our case will be leniently dealt with. However as soon as the surrender took place, all the promises were forgotten. The Congress did not keep its promise”, alleged Malkhan, who had crowned himself as “Dasyu Samrat” (dacoit king), when he was at his prime in the 70s and the late 80s.

When he surrendered on 17 June 1982 in Bhind at the age of 42, he was facing arrest in atleast 105 cases of murder, kidnapping and dacoity.

One of the conditions that Malkhan had put for his surrender was that he and his gang members should not be handcuffed while being taken to the court but after the initial days of surrendering, the Police reneged on its promise. Another condition was that all the cases against the dacoits would be transferred from Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan to Gwalior.

However, Malkhan forgets to mention that soon after his surrender took place, Arjun Singh was sent to Punjab and he was replaced with the present Congress party treasurer Moti Lal Vora, who had other pressing issues to cater to rather than think about the commitment made to the dacoits.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The life and times of a Bachelor

Recently, numerous media debates and several articles have been penned on the issue of racial profiling of the African citizens who are staying in India. But the media, like it has done in the past, forgot to raise the issue of another important allied subject, which in this case is the profiling of a ‘Bachelor’.

People generally tend to focus on the thrills and enjoyment in the life of a young earning bachelor, conveniently forgetting the perils that come attached with it.

A quiet, normal guy, leaving his house early morning and being seen by his suspecting neighbors only during the time when he is standing in the gallery to lock his door, soon becomes an object of curiosity. Questions regarding the antecedent of the lone mortal are soon raised. What does he do? Why does he stay alone? Where does he go early morning? Why is he quiet?

Soon the questions are put to the house maid who has been fortunate enough to land a job in the kitchen of this mysterious one.  And playing to the gallery, the maids too tend to use their own creativity to make the whole matter even more mysterious.  

Last week, the woman who cooks for me, told me that one of my neighbors, who is a lady police inspector, was asking her questions like what do I do? Who comes to meet me?. “Mainu unsey bol deeya ki bhaiya toh jyaada sirf phone pe hee kaam karta hai. TV aur computer ke sammne beth ke”. Soon enough the picture of a Bookie and a towel and Sreesanth flashed across my mind.

Interestingly this maid of mine was initially reluctant to work at my place. She was referred by the society security guard. When she first came to my house besides discussing her ‘pagar’(wage) she said that she was not very comfortable in working in a house of a bachelor, “Sharab peete hain, ladki aati hai, ghar ganda rakhte hain. Shuru mai ek hafta kaam kar ke dekhti hum, jamega to sochungi”

It has been 5 months, and despite my threats of terminating her services for taking too many leaves, she continues to cling to my house like a faithful cow that ritually stands at the door of a Hindu priest every morning.

It is not just the maids who assume things of disproportionate proportion. The next door ‘aunties’, as cliché it may sound, too have their own ‘narrow’ thinking about the guy living next door.

For them the guy is someone who is obliged to help them in times of ‘kitchen needs’, more specifically in the times when their Gas cylinder goes empty at the stroke of mid night when the whole world is sleeping. 

Twice I have been awakened by a smiling neighbor who is standing on my door because her LPG cylinder failed her. “Book kar deeya hai, 2-3 din mai aa jayega, tab tak aap apna cylinder de dijiye.”

I am sure the thoughts that I am also a mortal who survives on food, rather than plain air, might have crossed her mind. Also must have crossed, only to be forgotten, would have been the question that how would my cook prepare if you take away the only PLG cylinder I had.

However, the cruelties of life come and go and rather than pondering over it, a rational man moves ahead.

The biggest problem that a bachelor faces is when he searches for a house to rent, to stay and to sleep just like an ordinary law abiding Indian or foreign citizen. However, most of the house owner sees him as an outlaw, a danger to the ‘bahu-beti’ of the family, the harbinger of alcoholism in the society, a honeycomb which will attracts similar ‘outlaws’, the young ruffians, in dozens.

When I came to Bhopal, it was only after two months of hard labor that I could get a decent place to run my ‘den’. During these two months I learnt that there are multiple hurdles for a bachelor when it comes to looking for a house.

First the fact that he is unmarried is the biggest hurdle, secondly he will be staying alone without the company of his mother and father is a big letdown for many ‘makaan maalik’. If one crosses these two queries, the final frontier is his job profile.

In many cases I was able to clear the initial two stages, but when I told the owners that I was working for a newspaper, they would just give me a polite smile and say no.

A retired army colonel, staying in Pune was looking for a tenant for his house in Bhopal. I called him up, pleasantries were exchanged and quite surprisingly he stated that he had no problem with my bachelor status. The next question was about my job. Feeling confident, I enthusiastically stated, “I am a journalist”. There was a silence of 2-3 seconds and then the call got disconnected.  When I called him again, the monotonous reply that came from his side, san any past like pleasantries was, “I don’t give my house to journalists”. End of conversation. At that time, the only thought that crossed across my mind was a dialogue that I heard in Hindi dubbed Tamil movie which I had heard in the recent past- ‘Koi goonda pet se bahar nahee aata, yeh society usey goonda banati hai”.

couldn't agree more.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Rahul Gandhi needs to go

The Congress rout in the states of Rajasthan, Delhi ,Madhya Pradesh and its inability to win in Chhattisgarh, despite having everything in its favour, can be dealt in two ways by the party. The easier and the most likely to be followed method is to blame it on the regional leaders, regional issues and the regional voters.  
The second way of looking at things, which is unlikely to happen, is to admit that the fault lies at the top, within the boundaries of Delhi Darbar from where the party functions and directs the state leaders.
Leaders like Charan Das Mahant, Ajit Jogi in Chhattisgarh and Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijay Singh in Madhya Pradesh, as was accepted from the loyal soldiers, have accepted that the party lost because of them.  Any insinuation to party vice president Rahul Gandhi being anyway involved in the defeat was nipped at the bud.
But is this the case? Shouldn't the accountability be fixed on Rahul, for the decimation that the Congress suffered in these states? If not him,  then who?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Tehelka incident- Why the hue and cry?

The molestation of a young woman journalist by her boss, who, as one of the English news channel anchor puts it, ‘one of India’s best journalist’, has created ripples which have touched and 'shocked' the upper echelon of the society.

However, this is nothing new, Molestation in media, that is. I entered the ‘reverend’ Fourth estate in 2006. It has been 7 years now and I have seen and witnessed many such incidents, which have taken place not in elevators but inside the meeting hall where the bureau head or the editor in chief is taking the bureau meeting on how to cover stories, ironically, one such incident took place when the bureau was discussing how to 'cover' rising rape incidents in the national capital.

The assault happens in front of everyone, from the junior most reporters to the special correspondent. All sit and just wriggle in their chairs as their editor undress a woman reporter through his eyes. What choice do one have?

With time, any conscience in the mind of the editor that this ‘undressing’ will be witnessed by the other reporters who are present in the editor room, also fades. And with time, this ‘visual-rape’ is imbibed in the values of those who are working for that newspaper. This becomes a part of 'ethos'.  Soon enough ,the undressing of the female reporter by the editor is discussed over tea and fag, and forgotten with the last puff. This ‘talent’, one of the many that the editor possesses, becomes a part of his rich repertoire.

A close colleague of mine recently went to interview one of the most well known investigative reporter in India (He is synonymous with the concept of sting in India). The meeting lasted for 20 minutes and as she told me later, he was too informal with her. But, she took it as a sign that he was trying to make her comfortable so that his ‘awe’ does not affect the young reporter.

Later that night she received a message from his number- “You are beautiful. Your sultry and dusky color…”.The sentence ended with three dots.

This was a message that came from a 40 plus ‘senior’ journo to a girl who was in early 20s.  Was this molestation?  I leave it on your better judgment to decide this.

I understand the concern over the Tehelka incident that is being expressed by those who are outside the media fraternity, but it is a bit difficult for me to fathom that why the journalists are raising such an outcry over it. It is not that  the Tehelka incident has happened for the first time.  This clamorous conduct on their part amounts to something more than hypocrisy.

It is not the Nirbahaya moment for media as someone called it and it is not definitely the ‘chickens have come home to roost’ moment. It is just that the veil that covered the black albeit colorful conduct of the who’s who’s of the media has been blow, temporarily of course. People should just stop perceiving the media as a ‘holy cow’. It never was.

Sexual banter and assault emanates from the top. No reporter would have the courage to do anything bordering sexual assault if he knows that his editor is watching him and not her. It is they who have to take up the responsibility. Till that happens, we can continue with our protest on Twitter and the shows on news channels.   

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

The Modi chasm

One of the most visible dynamic thing that the emergence of Narendra Modi has done is that it has made the 'fence-sitters' take a side.And this assertions hold true both at the micro and at the macro level.
Individuals who criticize the Congress are automatically, without giving any chance to explain, termed as Modi supporters and hence communal. And those who condemn Modi are tagged agents of Congress or secular; lock, stock and barrel. No questions asked, no response sought.There are only two sides that one can be on. And if he is not on one side, then automatically it is presumed that he is on the other side. 
The answer to whether being 'communal' is correct or it's better to be a 'secular' in present times depends on which side of the debate you are.As far as I am concerned, frankly put,both these terms are one of the most misused words that have been molested repeatedly by its connoisseurs for their benefit. 
And it's not just the individuals who have been set in motion.
The diversification among the journalists have been blurred and the press too seems to have lost their uniqueness, their 'impartial stand', so to say. The parameter to judge the political identity has narrowed down.
And one cannot blame Modi for this 'great-divide'. Rather, one can appreciate that at-least because of an individual, the classification has moved from saffron, green, grey to a more simpler black and white.
Now, for every secular 'force' there is an equally strong 'communal' voice. For every pseudo-secular there is a fundamentalist. That’s how the sides to a debate has emerged.
A newspaper that wrote that Ishrat Jahan was allegedly a Lashkar-E-Taiba was automatically painted as a ‘Communally-Right’ publication by another newspaper that is perceived as a ‘Secular-Left’.
This visible political difference in opinion and the efforts of the individuals and the institutions to make a stronger point to support their case should be seen as a positive development. 
It is unique in the sense that rather than letting people enjoy the 'privilege' of sitting on the fence, it has forced them to take a principled stand, depending on their faith, belief and assertions.
One can always question their stand and their political belief or their secular and communal bias but then it also needs to be appreciated, that in our country, taking a stand has never been our stronger points.
The battle of intellects between those who have been abundantly rewarded with it, has been going on ever since Modi transformed from an individual to an election issue.  Those who think that he is the answer to the ocean of problem the country is facing, win sometimes. Many times it is those who consider him as anathema, who emerge as the winner. However, one thing is sure that the debate it slowly but surely moving from the simple shades branding someone a communal or identifying someone as a secular to the more complex world of merits,acumen and the ability of the individual to govern the Country.
The challenging of one’s political assertions and belief was never such a big issue, until now. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The life goes on for Chanchal

Abhinandan Mishra

Shailesh Paswan, 43, is a distraught man. His morning starts with the cries of her daughter and it ends after he and his wife Sunaina Devi,  have cleaned the wounds of her daughter and put her in the bed.

A daily labourer from Chitnava village in Maner near Patna, last year on 21 October, he woke up  to frantic cries of her daughters, Chanchal,19 and her 15 year old minor sister, who were attacked by 4 person who threw acid on them while they were sleeping on the terrace of  their house.

“The caste culture in our area is very strong and the fact that my daughter, a lower caste girl and that too a girl, was attending school and stepping out of the house was not acceptable to them. Initially, she would come and tell me that they pass objectionable comments whenever she goes to school, so I told her to ignore them. I had never realized that I would have to pay such a heavy price for this. My daughter was a bright student and was doing computer course. We had thought of so many things for her. After she was born, I underwent vasectomy so that we could build their future. ”, Shailesh said.

His trouble did not end there. When he brought her daughters to Patna to the prestigious Patna Medical College Hospital, there also he was subjected to ‘torture’. “Bohat pareshan kiya humlogo ko, kaafi torture kiya. Nurse dawai ka bottle tod deti tee, doctor batameeji se baat karta tha. Baad mai hum woh aspatal chod deeye. Ab usko hum Safdarjung mai dikhwa rahe hain.”(They tortured us very much, the nurse would break the medicine bottle and the doctor would shout at us for no reasons. Later, we left that hospital. Now she is getting treatment at Safdarjung hospital, Delhi)

“None of the leaders came to meet me. We have given representation to everyone including Nitishji but nothing is happening. How will I afford her treatment? The accused are also pressurizing me to arrive at a compromise.” Shailesh asks.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Of Katju and his tales

According to an ancient tale, many centuries ago, there was a knight who would till the farms, count the cattle, predict the weather and would do all sorts of thing without doing what he was required to do; protect the damsel.  

Today , we are not sure about whether such Knight did exist or not. However, Markandey Katju is there.

Katju or Justice Katju as he is more commonly referred to, became the chairman of the Press Council of India in October 2011 and ever since his tales of valour have reached everyone. His benevolent deeds have affected all, except journalists.

His heroics are too big for someone like me to describe but I will give it a try. Katju declared that 90 per cent of India is fool. But, he left it to the enlightened mind of the rest 10 per cent to decide whether they are a part of the 90 per cent or not. He sought clemency for Sanjay Dutt as he could not get bank loan. He once famously announced that agitations like that of Anna Hazare lack ‘scientific Idea’. One of his less reported heroics can be read here.

Last but not the least he stated that a journalist should have a minimum qualification to become a journalist and as I write, there is a panel that is working to decide the contours of such qualification.

Journalism is good old days was driven by common sense which gave the ability to decide what is news, why it is news and how it is news. And however deep the regret, even now there is no degree that can evaluate common sense.

According to Katju , the level of excellence in journalism has fallen because of ‘bright’ people staying away from the profession leading to the  ‘ mediocre’ having a field day.

Katju however ignores the reasons behind why is journalism seen as the last abode of the fallen warriors? Why not the battle field of Athena and Hermes?

A popular adage say that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys. Now, I am told that even monkeys have graduated to bananas.   

Katju, if he was aware of the ground realities, would realize that the ‘bright’ people stay away from journalism because the salary in this profession is not at par with what they might receive in other profession. A law graduate who is interested in journalism won’t think twice while deciding whether he should join Amarchand Mangaldas where his initial salary would be close to Rs.90,000 per month or join any news agency or a newspaper where he will not even get Rs.20,000.

The answer to this paying of peanuts was Majithia wage board or at-least this was what many journalists hoped. 

The implementation of the recommendation of the  Majithia wage board for journalist is pending since ages. However, since the ‘Maaliks’ are not in favour of increasing the wages of the journalists, the recommendation have become a dead horse, which is not even being flogged now.

The government too has chosen its side by agreeing with the rich ‘Maaliks’ rather than the poor employee.

Has Katju ever spoken on this? What has stopped him from writing a letter, which is one of his many strong points, to one and sundry seeking the implementation of the Majithia wage board? Maybe the fact that it doesn't have the glamour quotient that would attract headlines discouraged him from meddling in this affair between the 'Maaliks', the government and the journalist.  

Someone should tell him that the panel that has been setup should also dwell on what ails journalism more? Lack of intellect or lack of enough money to attract and sustain an intellect mind.

Journalists in this country seldom forget and rarely forgive. ( Just saying)

Friday, February 22, 2013

Bombing of German bakery was a part of Karachi project

Syed Zabiuddin alias Abu Hamza aka Abu Jundal who has been arrested for his role in the Mumbai 26/11 attack was in close contact with Himayat Baig, the accused in the German bakery case. This has been revealed in his interrogations by security officials.

According to officials, Jundal, who was acting as the handler for the 11 terrorists who had attacked Mumbai, along-with one Fayyaz Kagzi, had trained Baig in Colombo.

“It was after being trained by Jundal that he carried out the attack”, a senior police official stated.

Baig, who was arrested by ATS Maharashtra is presently in judicial custody. According to officials, the two used to exchange mails and avoid telephonic conversations. “Jundal had created 25 email ids to converse with each other. All these were in different names to avoid detection.”

Baig had traveled to Colombo in 2008 on the instructions of Jundal's accomplice in Aurangabad arms haul case, Fayyaz Kagzi, to receive training in bomb-making for the German Bakery attack.

“The close contact between Jundal and Baig establishes that the Pune Mumbai was a part of a larger conspiracy, aided by ISI,” an official stated.

The 2010 Pune bombing occurred on 13 February 2010 in which seventeen people were killed and 60 injured.

Officials said that the bombing of German bakery was a part of Karachi project. The “Karachi Project” has been described by security analyst as part of an overall strategy adopted by the Pakistani Army to use terror outfits as a crucial part of a strategic arsenal to hurt India's military and economic might.

This startling disclosure was made by David C. Headley ,who stated that ISI is running, since 2003, a residential protected compound in Karachi where a conglomerate of anti-Indian individuals and groups were working together.

In-fact, LeT operative David Coleman Headley, had conducted a surveillance of the German Bakery. Later, Mirza Himayat Baig, too, carried out a reconnaissance tour of the German Bakery on 31 January 2010.

The interrogation of Jundal has also revealed that Baig was responsible for the merger of Laskar E Toiba (LeT) modules with those of IM. "He was the LeT chief of Maharashtra and he was the one who selected the targets, got in touch with the sleeper modules, planned and execute the attack," said an official.
Mirza Himayat Baig was arrested from Pune in September.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

RIL had started drilling operations in KGD6 without environmental clearance

Reliance Industries Limited  (RIL) had begun drilling operations in the five blocks of the coast off Andhra Pradesh without obtaining the mandated environment clearance in 2002. This was revealed when an official communication was made by a director rank officer in the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to RIL in the same year.

The letter dated October 28, 2002 has been addressed to A.N. Sethuraman, then vice-president at RIL Delhi and has been written by Dr.G.V .Subramanyam, Director of Impact assessment, ministry of environment and forests (MoEF).

The letter talks about exploratory drilling operations undertaken by RIL in KG-D6 basin off the coast of Andhra Pradesh and the application and documents that was forwarded by RIL to the MoEF for the same.

Dr.Subramanyam’s letter says that RILs application for environmental clearance was not accompanied by details of public hearing which is mandatory under the environmental impact assessment (EIA), 1994.

More importantly, the letter mentions that RIL had started drilling operations without obtaining prior environmental clearance. The content of the letter reads- “It has come to the notice of the ministry that M/S RIL have started drilling operations without obtaining prior environmental clearance. The ministry of petroleum vide their letter no- G-22012/5/2002-)NG.DV dated September 12,2002 informed the ministry that M/S RIL (operator) vide their letter dated 22 August 2002 had indicated to the directorate of hydrocarbons that two wells have been drilled and a third well under drilling in KG-DWN-98/3(KGD6).

According to the communication, the public hearing reports for all the 5 blocks were received by the ministry in September 2002. Whereas the drilling process has already begun in August.

The letter has also been marked to the Secretary,department of environment, Andhra Pradesh, Chairman, Central pollution control board, Chairman, Andhra Pradesh state pollution control board,Chief Conservation of forest, Bangalore, Senior advisor, MoEF and to the monitoring cell of MoEF.

The letter, while restraining RIL from commercially exploiting of hydrocarbon at that stage added that the state pollution control board of Andhra Pradesh had issued the no-objection certificate for this project only on 6 November 2002. This is more than three months after the actual drilling was started by RIL.

When contacted, the spokesperson of RIL had told journalist of a leading magazine, that the company had followed all the required rules. According to the spokesperson “As per the contract it was assumed that environment clearance was given if there was no response for 120 days from the concerned authorities. We waited for close to 200 days before beginning the drilling operation. Also, as per a draft circular, since these wells were beyond 30 kms of the territorial boundary of India, there was no need for a public hearing.”

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Journalists occupy government bungalows,refuse to pay rent

Senior journalists, including editors ,representatives of several Delhi, Chennai and Chandigarh based newspapersmagazines and news agencies are among the  defaulter media persons who have not paid rent for the government accommodations given to them by Madhya Pradesh government in Bhopal. The 214 journalists, who have been staying in these bungalows for years and in some cases for over three decades, owe Rs 14 crores to the MP government.

In some cases multiple bungalows have been given to a media organization.
According to the list prepared by Ajay Sharma, Director of estates, the government had to evict  some journalists from their government quarters as they did not pay the outstanding rent despite repeated reminders. As per the list , many journalists who have left the profession or staying outside Madhya Pradesh,  are still staying in government quarters. These facts came to light after the the Jabalpur High Court accepted a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking action against the journalists for unauthorized possession of government bungalows.

The PIL was filed by SP Dikshit, who retired as joint director of  directorate of public relations and information department, Madhya pradeshDikshit, who accessed government documents relating to the allocation of the bungalows through RTI,  found that the journalists were given bungalows in the posh and VIP areas of Bhopal including Char Imli, Shivaji Nagar and 45 Bungalows.  The bungalows in these areas are generally given to ministers and senior bureaucrats.

Dikshit said that even the Comptroller and auditor general (CAG) had termed  these possession as illegal and had asked the state to recover the rent due. “The Supreme court in 2006 had asked the state governments including that of Madhya Pradesh to get the Bungalows evicted of these journalists. However the government is doing nothing as it does not want to antagonize the journalist fraternity. Many of the organizations like UNI,Dainik Bhaskar,Jagran,Times of India, Hindusan Times and PTI have more than three houses in their name”.

According to officials of directorate of estates, which is  the department  responsible for the allocation, it has managed to take back the possession of 23  houses. “As per the rules a house to a journalist can be allotted only for the period of three years. The government is taking the required action in cases where the time period for which the houses were allocated have expired. 176 bungalows are in illegal possession while 11 journalists moved to the high court and  took a stay”, an official stated.

Dikshit said the list of defaulters as submitted by the director of estates will expand further if the dues of 2010-11,2011-12 periods are also included.

He added that Shivraj Singh Chauhan government has given plots of land  to the journalists on concessional rates at Airport Road and on Hoshangabad Road but they still continue to occupy government houses .”The Previous governments too gave them land for construction of houses at Chunna Bhatti Road .The journalists have rented out their houses to commercial establishments and staying in government accommodation,” he claimed. 

A perusal of the list ( as on 30-11-2010) reveals that many of the journalists were given the bungalows as they were working for  national newspaper, but they are still living in these bungalows despite the fact that have now shifted to operating websites.

“Many of the journalists  are now staying in Delhi or other parts of the country but they are still occupying the bungalows in Bhopal. Some of them have left the profession and are working as public relation officers for companies yet they continue to occupy these bungalows. They have also farm houses in the capital which have been given to them at nominal rate by successive government. Many political workers have been allotted these bungalows under the journalist quota”, Dikshit said.


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