Friday, March 28, 2008

Naxals turning Urban

Recent developments have suggested that the intellectuals supporting the Naxal revolution in India are working on devising a strategy to demand the status of ‘Political prisoners’ for the naxals that have been captured and arrested.

Recently villagers comprising of women and young girls from Bihar, orissa, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Jharkhand, staged a demonstration near Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda’s residence in Ranchi demanding that arrested Naxalites be treated as political prisoners. Earlier, they had organized a march at Jharkhand Raj Bhavan seeking political prisoner status for the detained Maoists.

The general definition of a political prisoner is someone who is imprisoned because of their political views.

The Maoist calls themselves the beacon of the landless and the poor, and pride themselves in waging a struggle for the uplift-ment of the common mass. The same naxalites raid and kill security personnel in cold blood. 

If the naxalites who are accused of killing innocent villagers, political activists and policemen are awarded the status of political prisoners then they would be in the distinguished company of Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Fidel Castro, former president of South Korea Kim Dae Jung , Myanmari poet and journalist U Win Tin , who at some point of time in their life were all termed as political prisoners and imprisoned.

These leaders waged a ‘war’ that was based on non-violence and drew its strength from protests that were displayed by way of speeches, writing and non-cooperation. Does the same thing hold true for a hardcore Maoist?

International organization like Amnesty International campaigns for the release of prisoners of conscience or POCs, which include both political prisoners as well as those imprisoned for their religious or philosophical beliefs. But as a matter of principle, the organization's policy is to work only for prisoners who have not committed or advocated violence.

Political prisoners have never been associated with violence against the un-armed. They are the exponent of democracy and civil rights. Can the same thing be said about the Maoist?

The red bastion that they have managed to establish in states like Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh stands testimony to the kind of violence they propagate.

Chhattisgarh is at present the worst hit by Maoist activities. The affected area is Bastar in southern Chhattisgarh, comprising five districts. Kanker (northern Bastar), Bastar (Jagdalpur), Dantewada (southern Bastar), Bijapur and Narayanpur combined together add to 39,000 sq km, a area that is little larger than Kerala and a little smaller than Haryana.

The pathetic and callous attitude of the successive state government in various states towards the development of backward areas has contributed in no small way in the spread of the naxal movement from 1967 when it was first started in Naxalbari in West Bengal.

Even now the answer to eradicating this menace does not lie in the brutal use of force but a strategy that is based on pushing the agenda of socio-economic development in the rural and remote areas. Generating employment opportunity, which is resented by the naxals, will go a long way in dissuading more young legs in joining the movement.

On the other hand excessive use of force will make wounds more deep. Salva Judum campaign in Chhattisgarh has forced the villagers to take side; either they are with the Judum supporters or they are naxalites supporters.

Earlier in 2007 the home ministry came under intense pressure to act against several serving and retired bureaucrats and academics after receiving reports that they were propagating naxalism at a seminar in Delhi.

The report, drawn up by home ministry officials, said the seminar which was held in campus of a university in Delhi had a “pro-Naxalite” theme. The participants engaged themselves in “anti-state” discussions that seemed to justify armed uprising. But a “top-level intervention” stopped the Home ministry from taking any action.

Recently an arms-making-cum-R&D unit of the Maoists was un-earthed in Bhopal. A similar arms-making unit was busted in Rourkela, Orissa. These new development should not be taken as stray incidents but they are a sign of a much larger plan. Now the naxalites are encouraging even the bourgeois and the affluent class to join them. Earlier the membership to their organization was strictly limited to the strata coming from low and poor economic background.

In Nandigram, a fact finding committee has established that the maoist were responsible for inciting the violence in Nandigram and singur.

A report submitted by the West Bengal CM, Buddhadeb Bhattacharya to the Manmohan Singh on the Nandirgam violence has blamed the left wing extremist for the flare up in violence. The report says “It may be noted that Left wing extremists (LWE) have stepped up their propaganda pertaining to the espousal of the causes of farmers by raising the issue of displacement of farmers from their own land for industrial and infrastructural projects. Frontal organizations of LWE activists named the Gana Pratirodh Manch carried out propaganda against the acquisition of land in Singur and have also generally opposed land acquisition for large projects throughout the state,"

The above developments coupled with Maoist shifting their focus on urban intrusion, striving for status of political prisoners, recruiting ‘elite’ class suggests that the naxal leaders have decided to adopt an approach that will bring them out of the rural-deep-forest to the urban areas. Like every thing this movement too is adapting and changing its working with time.

Earlier in December 2007 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh while addressing a conference on internal security attended by chief ministers of all states, cited Naxalism as the lone biggest threat to nation’s internal security and stressed the need of a special force for curbing the growing Naxalism and terrorism menace. The government in the current budget increased the allocated funding on internal security from Rs 17,674 crore to Rs 21,715 crore. Now it remains to be seen that how the government plans to deal with this ‘biggest threat’ to the nation. Merely increasing the funds will not make much difference if there is an absence of political will.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A chroncile of the the dying 'Bhai-culture' of Bhopal

I had recently gone to Bhopal to attend a wedding ceremony.  

And soon enough, the petals were showered, the seven steps were taken and the couple left for their honeymoon, leaving us, the revered guests behind. With nothing to do, we, me and two of my school mates, decided to go where every Bhopalis goes to as the last resort: Badi Jheel.

In midst of the rising steam from the Coffee Mocha, at the aptly named Lake view CCD, we started recalling the past and the discussion soon veered towards the ‘where-and-how-abouts’ of the various ‘Bhais’ of Bhopal who were an integral part of our college and school days.

I  was a bit disappointed when I was told that most of these ‘big brothers’ were now either into living a normal life or had left Bhopal for obvious reasons.

Those who have lived in Bhopal will agree that the city has a very close-knit culture and you can be assured that between every pair of strangers, walking in the streets of Bhopal, there is always a person who is known to both of them; a common acquaintance. Names and deeds travel quickly in Bhopal.

If you want to make your name in the ‘Bhai-circles’ of Bhopal you have two option by which you can gain recognition.

Either you confront a veteran, and by using your leverage, force him to ask for a compromise. The second one is to get beaten up by a veteran and his associates and stand up against a larger group of boys and refuse to budge. In the second option you need to have lots of luck so as to emerge with just minor injuries.

In my times, every area had a guy who was known to exercise influence of every kind in his area of domination. And every area had a meeting point, which by evening would turn into a ‘Panchayat’ of sort, with tea and fags being consumed at a pace that would always leave the cigarette selling hawker gasping for breath.
The bustling 6 no stop had the tea shop adjacent to the Ankur cricket ground. Shahpura area had Manisha market. The inhabitants of 2nd stop and 5no stop would gather at a tea stall which was situated in the 2nd stop market while BHEL area had two tea stalls, one in Indrapuri and the other at Piplani petrol pump that attracted boys in fifties if not hundred.

In the 90s and the early 2000 when Bhopal had still not witnessed the education boom which resulted in the mushrooming of  dozens of engineering and medical colleges, the 'Gang culture' was a rage among the school and college goers.

In our times we had Narendra Tripathy who represented the Barkatullah University and against him was Sanjeev Saxena also called Sanju boss who was the undisputed leader of MACT. They had a long standing rivalry which once resulted in a shout-out at a petrol pump in New-market. Tripathy, who enjoys patronage of Congress political bosses, is a now a successful civil contractor.

As for Sanjeev Saxena he passed out from MACT years ago but his presence still lingers in the vast campus of MACT. Till recently the Training and Placement Officer in MACT was Aruna Saxena who is the wife of Sanjeev Saxena. The Librarian is Archana saxena, sister of Sanjeev Saxena, Deputy Director, Dean Administration is Ashutosh Sharma, mentor of Sanjeev Saxena and the president of the Post graduate students union is brother of Sanjeev Saxena,.

Sanjeev Saxena has even managed to set up an engineering college which is functioning and flourishing

We also had people like Chugan@ Anurag Mishra, Mohit Tripathy@Lovely who frequented the area around the 6 no. stop.

But the charm of this Bhaigiri was definitely more visible in the old city of Bhopal . It was a short of power hub: a place where legendary tales were made to be passed on to the next generation.

Anyone who had connections that went through the narrow lanes of the old City was the undisputed leader of his area in New Bhopal. The city boasted of names like Mukhtar Malik,Muney painter, Danny Irani, etc, who later graduated to killings and extortion.

The BHEL area also boasted of its own foot soldiers that were frequently seen in the campus of BHEL and Career College . Names like Hubby, Munna-Baisakhi were the flag bearer of the BHEL area.

Another not so well known name was Farhan, the son of the former Congress MP Gufran-e-azam, who about 4-5 years ago launched a student outfit with lots of fanfare. Posters and advertisements were all posted all-over the town asking students to join Farhan. The media called this new organization as a potential threat to the other student bodies like the NSUI and ABVP. Sadly the younger Azam was not able to increase the base of his party outside his college BSSS and he along with his outfit faded into the by lanes of Bhopal . He now adds to the once famous but now diminishing “Gang culture’ of Bhopal .

Most of the ‘gangwars’ that happened during my time seldom had fatal outcome. Matters were mostly solved over a cup of tea and many a packets of “choti gold’’. The arbitrator and the party would part their way with a promise to meet over a bottle of beer again. In cases where talks proved futile, a show of strength coupled with a flurry of slaps and maybe a broken arm would seal the matter once and for all. But the use of force was the last resort and was generally exercised by the naive and young.

In almost all cases a well known Bhai would act as a big-brother that would pave for a brotherhood that would last a lifetime. I myself had the ‘privilege’ of being a part of all these fascinating times and personally knowing all the ‘dignified-noble guys’ mentioned above and even now when I meet a former adversary meet we laugh over the old feuds and remember the good old times.
However, with engineering colleges coming up everywhere in the city, it dealt a body blow on  the 'Bhais' who exercised area wise dominance. The challenge that these engineering students presented, drawing their strength from their sheer number, was too much for one bhai and faw of his 'charreys'  to handle.

The Bhaigiri culture might have faded into the oblivion now, but the colorful memories it created, will continue to linger on till the time the last Bhopali walks.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Rahul Gandhi- On path to reform Congress

The former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair has described Rahul Gandhi as the most talented politician. He is right as Rahul during his short tenure as the Congress general secretary and member of Lok Sabha has proved himself as the most talented leader that represents the new breed of politicians who want to make India a Leader in the world.

He has emerged as a Reformist in Indian Politics, particularly the Congress and has gone to the extent of suggesting injecting young blood in the party and the government and even recommending his mother to “take rest” (retire ).

Rahul wants to learn about India and its people. He mingled with the tribals in Orissa ignoring security restrictions and later declared security cover can not prevent him from meeting the people. “It is for me to decide where to go and whom to meet, not the SPG”.

While on his ‘Discover India’ tour , Rahul Gandhi announced that it was time that The Congress as a political party starts enforcing democracy in its own organization. Rahul denounced the High Command culture too. 

He got a responsive Media appreciating his words of wisdom and political analysts called this an exercise which has been long due in the party. Some termed it as a statement that showed the level of political maturity he has attained and for some it was just a political statement; nothing less, nothing more.

Rahul visited the Bundelkhand region to meet the families of the farmers who committed suicide and Vidarbha to sympathies with the farmers’ families,toured drought-hit Kalahandi (a favorite spot of his grand mother,Ms Indira Gandhi and father,Rajiv Gandhi too) in Orissa and went to console the Dalit families whose relatives were killed in Aminanbad (Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh).His intervention in the Sarabjit Singh case yielded result and Singh’s execution was extended by General Musharraf for a month. Rahul like his father means Business.

The Gandhi scion has always been seen as someone who was born with the silver spoon ion his mouth. It was known that sooner rather than later he would be following in the footsteps of his family members who have graced the India political system since time innumerable.

Most of the observations that have been offered to the readers have a connotation that suggest since he is ‘Gandhi’ hence everything will come easily to him. This observation grew stronger with time as he went on to become an MP, a party general Secretary and now he heads both the youth political entity that represents the congress party the NSUI and the Youth Congress.

Though not many have looked into the other side of the implications of being born with the proverbial silver spoon that has always been associated with Mr. Gandhi. Since he is a Gandhi he is expected to win every elections seat that he campaigns for. Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh were seen as a wind that separated the wheat from the chaff. Political observers were already out with a verdict that since he was campaigning is Uttar Pradesh, Congress tally will improve. Then in Gujarat pundits went on to say that it was a battle that will decide the weight Rahul Gandhi has. It’s true that people turned out in large numbers to hear and see him but equally real is the fact that these mass congregations did not turn into votes. Critics are already out in the open saying that Rahul Gandhi has the charisma to attract people but not votes.

To be frank these and many similar observations were not mouthed by Rahul Gandhi himself but by the media and the political observers. It would be injustice to expect someone to pull congress out of a debacle that has inhabited it for years in states like UP and Gujarat just because he is the child of Rajiv Gandhi.

The baying of blood that has been associated with Rahul Gandhi has always been on the lines of the fact that he is a Gandhi. His Political acumen has not been tasted or seen yet. Still he has been termed as someone who owes his political ambitions to his family rather than his understanding of Indian political structure. His biggest handicap in his own words is his inexperience.

He knows that if Congress has to perform well in the long run the NSUI and Youth Congress will have to be nurtured with care and attention. His take on a democratic setup in the party should be commended. In his AICC meeting speech Rahul Gandhi called for organizational setup of NSUI and Youth Congress in such a manner in which meritocracy and accountability will prevail.

In his budget speech Rahul Gandhi called for linking implementation of governments programs to objectives spelled out under RTI. Similarly he called for more encouragement and strengthening of Panchayati Raj Institutions which according to him are empowering the poor rural to be a part of the democratic structure. Similarly no can deny the success of NREGA which is his pet project, more-so considering the fact that although NREGA is the brainchild of the UPA government but it depends on state governments for its implementation.

Neither Rahul Gandhi nor Congress can refute the fact that right now it is a party of kith and kin. Madhya Pradesh has the father son duo of Arjun singh- Rahul Singh. Then there is Kamal Nath who recently launched his son Nakul. JyotirAditya Scindia had Madhav Rao Scinda to give political lessons. Rajasthan has Sachin Pilot, son of Rajesh Pilot. Recently Subhash Yadav, the former PCC chief of Madhya Pradesh managed to secure an assembly ticket for his son Arjun. Then we have Amitesh shukla son of SC Shukla. The list is long and the names are many.

Conversely no one can refuse the fact that if Sachin pilot and JyotirAditya Scindia didn’t had their family name still they would have earned the same respect that they command now because they have time and again proved they have the understanding that is required to be politically successful. Their parliamentary voters are happy with them for the work they have done in their constituency.

When Rajiv Gandhi came into power in 1984 he candidly expressed his dis-satisfaction with the internal structure and working of the Congress party. Rajiv rose not because he had any achievements that he could boast of at that time but it was her mother’s assassination that catapulted a reluctant youth to a reluctant leader of India’s largest political party. At that time Congress was known for having more than a fair number of power brokers. According to him this was one of the three problems that plagued Congress the other two being lack of Organizational elections and intra party discipline.

In the 1984 general elections one third of the sitting MPs were denied tickets. Most of them were known to be corrupt and unscrupulous. Younger people and college goers were encouraged to become a part of Sewa dal and the state level functionaries including Chief Ministers were dissuaded from flying to Delhi to pay their monthly respect which was a norm in the times of India Gandhi.

History will tell that after pursuing these new policy for a couple of years , Rajiv Gandhi had to abandon them as they were not quite appreciated by the senior strung leaders and that was evident in the way he lost a number of assembly elections. If these valuable policies were religiously followed for a longer period then they would have benefited the party in the long run but unfortunately were aborted for political considerations.

Now Rahul Gandhi is on the same path of reforming the Congress party. He has history to guide him through but then he also has the seniors who like in the past will also try to make his path easier the way they made his father’s journey enjoyable. His Father didn’t succeed and only time will tell whether Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the Gandhi family will emerge triumph or not.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Tibet's fight for freedom

It’s amazing that how easily we forget and ignore issues that are not affecting our daily life even if the concern is about oppression and annihilation of a country, its citizens and its culture.

For all these years we have chose to ignore Tibet and its demand for freedom from China. To be seen as a politically correct democracy our leaders have time and again said that they have done their bit by granting asylum to the Tibetan refugees. But does granting asylum absolves India of its responsibility that responsibility which comes when you are celebrating 60 years of democracy that responsibility which owes its existence to the freedom struggle that India itself witnessed and that responsibility which becomes due when you call yourself a south-Asian superpower ?

China has for long using its economic and political power to arm twist the international community in toeing its line that what is happening in Tibet is not a freedom struggle but a violent separatist movement. Sadly every country, including India has nodded its head in approval and they have arrived at an international consensus that Tibet is China’s internal matter and it should be left untouched to be dealt by China itself.

Feeble voice have been raised in various forums, voices that has words like ‘restraint’, ‘constraint’ but not even one of them has ‘condemned’ or ‘condoned’ the senseless killing of protestors.

In India the picture is no different. The Left which prides in calling itself the crusaders of human rights has remained shamefully mum in the parliament. These pseudo politicians, the so called intellectuals are the best example when it comes to the dirt that surrounds the Indian political system. The hypocrisy that they practice is too hard to swallow even in the Indian context. Yesterday when the Congress and the BJP MPs were raking up the issue of Tibet in parliament the Leftist were still crying over the nuclear deal.

When it comes to the third world countries there are ‘n’ numbers of laws and norms that govern their conduct. But when the greater countries are in question than the same laws are thrown out of the window. 

Earlier it was the US who shocked the world community by ignoring UNs call for not attacking Iraq and now it’s China. The world community too has done its bit by rewarding China with the opportunity to host the Olympics as to show gratitude to China for its effort in strengthening peace and restraint.

We have the Universal declaration of human rights (UDHR) and we have the International covenant on civil and political rights (ICCPR) but history has time and again proved that these for the weak and not for the powerful.

China, often called the role model for the developing country is a neighbor that one wishes was not there. Simply put when it comes to China, India lacks the political will to stand up and protest the human rights violation.

We may call ourselves and Independent country, a south Asian giant but in the midst of all this euphoria we tend to forget we are also on the fore-front when it comes the shrinking our responsibility whether its been Tibet or Iraq.

Freedom for Tibet - Standing Up To China
Published at:

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Political diary- Chhattisgarh ,Bihar and Madhya Pradesh


Chhattisgarh will be one of the most affected states due to delimitation of constituencies for Lok Sabha and Assembly seats. Jagdalpur in Bastar, Ambikapur, Surajpur, Premnagar and Paal would be changed into general seats from SC/ST at present. Kanker Lok Sabha seat will become a general seat from ST reserved at present and Janjgir-Korba, presently a general seat will now become a SCC reserved Lok Sabha seat. Ms Karuna Shukla, niece of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and president of All India women's wing of the BJP represents the constituency.

The heavy weights likely to be affected include former minister, Satyanarayan Sharma, whose traditional Mandir Harshoud seat will cease to exist and Ms Renuka Singh, another former minister, whose Prem Nagar seat is being converted into a general seat.

Ms Singh has challenged the recommendations of the Delimitation commission in Supreme Court and opposed the decision of the Cabinet to reduce ST reserved seats for Chhattisgarh Assembly from 34 to 29 and ST reserved seats in Lok Sabha from the state from four to three.

The former chief minister, Ajit Jogi, who represents a general seat-Mahasamund in the Lok Sabha has also pleaded like Jharkhand, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland, Chhattisgarh should also be exempted from delimitation of constituencies in the coming elections. The elections for the new assembly are due in November this year.

The Chief Minister Raman Singh is hoping that his ambitious 'Rs 3 per kg rice and Rs 10 per litre Kerosene for BPL families' scheme will help the BJP government in Chhattisgarh in wooing the rural voters where 42 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.

The state BJP leadership recently had reasons celebrate as the party grabbed victory in the recent assembly by-poll in the Naxal stronghold of Keshkal (Bastar).

The saffron party has now decided to put enhanced efforts on the impoverished regions of the state where corruption and delays stops people from getting food grains and kerosene from the Public Distribution System (PDS) as political pundits are of the view that that if the welfare schemes are sincerely implemented the BJP would be able to enjoys its success in the forthcoming assembly election.

Raman Singh has issued instructions to the government officials asking them to maintain strict surveillance to prevent any malfunctioning and corruption in the rice distribution scheme or face stern actions.


The delimitation of constituencies would affect adversely several leaders, including state RJD president, Abdul Bari Sidiuqqui, health minister, Chandra Mohan Rai (Ram Nagar) and sports minister, Janardan Singh Segriwal (Jalalpur), whose constituencies will cease to exist in the coming assembly elections.

Sadhu Yadav, brother-in-law of the Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad Yadav ,who was elected from Gopalganj (general) seat to the Lok Sabha will have to search new constituency as Gopalganj has now become a SC reserved seat ,Ramchandra Paswan, LJP MP and brother of Ram Vilas Paswan and Surajbhan, another MP of LJP will also have to look for new seats as their current seats , Rosera and Balia have been scrapped.

In the 243 state assembly, now, there would be 37 SC and two ST seats and six out of 40 Lok Sabha seats from Bihar would be reserved for SCs

Patna Saheb and Pataliputra will have two new Lok sabha constituencies with changes in the areas of Patna and Barh constituencies. In Patna, there will be one new assembly seat from Kumhrar, which would be carved out from the existing Patna South, Masaurhi and Phulwari constituencies.

Nitish Kumar’s JD (U) has decided to don the political cap with the party now working to make its presence felt between the OBCs and the Minorities. MJ Akbar, who once successfully contested for the MP seat from Kishanganj (Bihar) is all set for a comeback, though this time he will be going to the Upper house courtesy JD (U).

Madhya Pradesh:

If the Lok Sabha elections are held immediately in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress would be gainer .The past trends of the by-elections also indicate, the BJP would be loser, as in all the by-elections, the BJP lost the seats won by it in the last elections. The BJP lost the Khargone Lok Sabha seat to the Congress in November. In the summer, the party could not retain the seat it had won in 2004 elections in Shivpuri.

The recent 60000 crores debt relief relief given to the Kisans by the finance minister, P Chidambaram, will definitely help gain the support of the cotton growers of Khargone-Khanwda and soyabean growers of Malwa region and also in central Madhya Pradesh. Many farmers had committed suicide in these regions due to heavy loans.

The former chief minister, Ms Uma Bharti, who would be fielding her candidates against the BJP, would also help the Congress in a triangular contest.

Politically stating Congress is on a revival mode after Suresh Pachori was made the state PCC chief recently. The old PCC had virtually become defunct under Subhash Yadav and inspite of many opportunities presented by the BJP, the PCC was no abe to successfully utilize them. Now the workers are hoping for a change in fortune under Pachori as he is more taller than Yadav and commands more respect among the senior leaders like Digvijay Singh, Jyotiraditya Scinda and that would help him to silent the intra-party fighting that has been brewing for quite a while now.

The Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) was hoping on using the Ram Sethu issue for electoral gains in Madhya Pradesh but it got a rude shock as the Ramsetu issue backfired as was clear from its performance in the Karnataka local body elections where the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) emerged as the winner.

BJP and Congress both have shifted their spotlight to the sizeable number of tribal votebank in Madhya Pradesh. This was evident after LK Advani chose Jabalpur to launch his 'sankalp yatra' while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made a visit to the remote tribal belt of Jhabua.

Tribals dominate both Jhabua and Jabalpur regions. They play a decisive role in 91 of the state's 230 assembly constituencies. Of these, 41 are reserved for the community.

Tribals would play an even more significant role if the delimitation of constituencies takes place before the polls. Under the new system, the number of tribal seats would go up.

The significant of the tribal vote was demonstrated in the 2003 assembly polls at Nimar, Malwa, Mahakaushal and Vindhya regions. The BJP swung 15 percent of the tribal votes away from the Congress and won three-fourths of the tribal seats.

Though recent trends suggest that the Tribals appear to have distanced themselves from BJP as was evident in Khargone Lok Sabha and Sanver and Lanjhi assembly by-polls which the BJP lost.

Another important part in the whole picture is to be played by Gondwana Ganatantra Party (GGP), which has substantial strength in the tribal areas of the Mahakoshal region.

Both the BJP and the Congress are wary of GGP and if the Gonds in the Mahakoshal region, where 60 percent of the voters are tribals, decide to go with GGP, the electoral prospects of the two mainstream parties will surely suffer.

Similarly Mayawati’s BSP which recently organized a show of strength in Bhopal, will also give sleepless night to both BJP and Congress strategist as BSPs policy of wooing the Brahmin vote bank is sure to change the political equations in the state.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Indian media-Leader oriented, Reader neglected

'Freedom of media' is a relative term. It is just not limited to the freedom enjoyed by the media to report everything without being stopped forcefully but also obliging the members of media fraternity so as to stop them from giving out a true picture. The term "obligation'' assumes enormous proportions in the backdrop of media ethics. The modern media is like the now banned ‘Mumbai's Bar Clubs’ with Market guiding them in all respect. Editors have become Bar Girls? .

All major Indian newspapers with few exceptions have now turned into what is popularly known as "Response run" rather than "editorially run" papers. There was a time when management people were given independent responsibilities to generate revenue and the editorial wing was consider sacrosanct. Now the most of the editors of these papers have to cut a sorry figure in face of a Harvard, IIM or any management institute educated manager, and wisely they have now learnt to buckle under the demands and whims of the Response. These days an MBA has more say than an editor in deciding the contents or colour of a newspaper.

As a result of this approach content and quality wise these newspapers are heading southwards and there is nothing astonishing in it as when Ad and revenue generation becomes important the priority than the quality of newspaper goes down. This is a cardinal principle which is always true. The newspapers and magazines have now become any consumer product with perishable value.They have lost their retention capacity by the readers.

The Correspondents are now given the additional responsibility of procuring state sponsored advertisements for their respective newspapers. There are examples of the state and district level or even block level stringers being asked to collect advertisements for special supplements to be brought on Republic Day, Independence Day, State Foundation Day and even foundation Day of the newspaper itself. This is happening even in the villages of Bihar, UP and Jharkhand, where Hindi readership is very large.

This is true for almost all the publications, and in this context it would be foolish to expect that a newspaper will encourage the correspondent to report against the same government which is providing the publication with advertisements that runs into crores.

The 'old lot of journalists' who started their career in the 60s or 70 now find it increasingly difficult to function in this comparatively new Response oriented market environment which demands from them a lot more than just good writing skills.

Everyone knows that Vinod Dua, Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt recently accepted the state sponsored Padma Shri but not many are aware of the fact that Pranoy Roy declined the same when it was awarded to him just after the UPA came into power.

There was a time when even the fear of state sponsored prosecution was not able to stop media from speaking out against Indira Gandhi and emergency. Sadly the times have changed.

Readers who have been committed readers of the the self proclaimed Leader of newspapers ,particularly those preparing for the Civil Services now do not subscribe the paper as they are getting better contents in other newspapers .They are getting thought and views from non-leader newspapers as the Leader has lost its serious reader value contents. The Leader is growing in the Market, but not among the Minds as its has lost its "Retention Value". The Leader is more concerned about its TRP now giving good bye to quality reading materials and news. The Response oriented editorials are not liked by the serious and committed readers.

Readers loyalty has shifted from the Leader as the paper has now turned into a 'skin-friendly' paper of the establishment of the Day. The Leader's editorial page which perhaps was its best part too has deteriorated and as for the Sunday pull-out page the less said the better. It is neither interesting nor entertaining leave alone educative.

This nexus between media-politicians, media-industrialists has always been there but earlier it was healthy interface and the media always knew that being the fourth estate it is under the obligation to keep a check on the other institutions of democracy. And I don't deny that the checks and the controls are still there but now it is more of a "manipulated checks''.

The Freedom of Press is meant only for the Leader and its subsequent followers and not for Readers is now confirmed.

Budget 2008- a not so aam budget

Mr.Chidambaram take a bow. He has shown how to practice the art inclusive politics. The FM has somehow successfully managed to bring a feel good atmosphere both economically as well as politically.

Budget 2008 will be remembered as a master stroke which left both the opposition and the supporters in awe. The Harvard educated
Chidambaram was not only able to present a populist-election oriented budget but he was also successful in providing the impetus that the economy was searching for in view of the recent slow down that the market as a whole is witnessing.

The Rs. 60,000 crores waiver to the farmers that has been termed as the mother of all waiver is a bold step which can be termed as an action that owes its birth to compassion and to the impeding general elections.

Critics are already out with some of them suggesting that financial institutions will get a rude shock as they will have to write off the loan-waiver but then when you consider the plight of the crores of farmers that are in debts, debt that has already resulted in suicidal-deaths of so many farmers then it doesn’t look that bad decision.

Banks will surely and gradually recover, but if the waiver was not given then it would have resulted in more deaths in a country where 65% of the population is still engaged in agriculture as a source of livelihood.

The burgeoning Middle class has been given more than expected tax-relief and that will come as good news for crores of the common Indian. The Budget 2008 has been successful in attaining the fusion of growth, social justice and providing middle class more cash thereby increasing the purchasing power which will ultimately lead to growth in the economy.

Tiger conservation which doesn’t have enough power to influence the voting bank politics was also given its due attention as a one time grant of Rs 50 crores was made to National Tiger conservation authority. The fund will primarily be used to raise an armed tribal protection force to guard tigers. This is above the 600 crores plan which the cabinet had cleared earlier to help relocate displaced people from protected zones.

The protection force will have staff that will be made up of the local tribal population that inhabit the forest. This way the twin-objective of upliftment of the tribals and protection of wildlife both will be achieved.

Increase of allocation has also been announced in safe drinking water programs, national highway development program and minorities upliftment which saw a whooping allocation of 1000 crores.

34,440 crores has been kept aside for developing the all important Education sector.
The FM should also be applauded for increasing the allocated sum on internal security from 17674 crores to 21715 crores. This was necessary in view of the increased naxal activities in the country.

In my earlier articles I have suggested that Rahul Gandhi's pet program, the NREGA should have been more carefully handled and a policy of selective implementation should have been followed. Budget 2008 has proposed a hike of 4000 crores for NREGA and the program is now expected to be extended to all the districts of the country. This is a good step as now every district will be given its due share, though I still would have been more happy if preferential treatment was accorded to those part of the states that are more poor.

The medical and health sector also saw a boost with the excise duty being reduced to 8% on all drugs. This will result in prices of essential life saving drugs coming down. Tourism sector too had something to cheer about as 5 years tax-holidays was announced to upcoming future hotels in selected areas. Tourism and allied sectors are sure to witness a huge boom especially considering the Commonwealth game which is scheduled for 2010 .

Planned expenditure on sports was also increased to 781 crores. Although it will not be wrong to say that more allocation would have been welcomed considering the stagnation that sports in India is facing.

Small cars, hybrid vehicles, scooters became cheaper which will further augment well for the Aam-admi.

The Aam-admi which is regarded as UPAs punch-line will sure gain more acceptability among the common-man simply because now more people are aware of how will the budget 2008 affects them and the growing media in local languages sees to it that even a rural Indian knows how the government plans to use his money. And these things do play in the minds of voters when the time comes.

Also, while Chidambaram was announcing the sops, not very far from the parliament Congress was requesting Supreme courts permission to resume dredging of the Ram Setu. It seems even Ram was forgotten in the hullabaloo that the budget generated and now it remains to be seen when will the opposition smell the rat.

History suggests that populist budget have rarely proved a sure shot method of being reelected to power. It may happen that Congress will be routed out in the next general elections but still the budget 2008 will go down in history as a budget which was almost perfect if not fully perfect in the utopian sense.


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