Posts Tagged ‘Chitra Subramaniam’

When ‘Indian Express’ gave ‘The Hindu’ a story

18 June 2013

N. Ram (left) with Shekhar Gupta at a meeting in 2011 with Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan (right)

In October 1989, when The Hindu‘s then associate editor, N. Ram, was stopped in his tracks by his uncle and editor, G. Kasturi, from publishing the third part of an investigation into the Bofors gun deal, Ram found a novel method of getting the story out.

He called a press conference and handed out the story—done in collaboration with the paper’s Geneva correspondent Chitra Subramaniam—to any newspaper interested in carrying it.

In much the same manner, Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta has revealed how, in 2006, he found a way of getting out a story related to the elevation of a Delhi high court to the Punjab and Haryana high court, by giving the third part of the story to The Hindu.

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In a Walk the Talk interview with Gupta on NDTV 24×7 last week, the serial letter-writer Subhash Agarwal revealed how a family dispute led to his becoming a right to information (RTI) activist.

Agarwal’s uncle, Hari Ram, had filed a case against his father in 1991.

Hari Ram’s son-in-law was, at the time, a judge in the Delhi High Court (Justice Arun Kumar). The case was heard by Justice Vijendra Jain. The two judges knew each other well enough for Justice Jain to lend his official residence to be used by the petitioner Hari Ram, for his grand-daughter’s wedding.

This was in violation of one of the elements of the Code of Conduct or “Restatement of Judicial Values”, adopted by the Full court in 1997 which said no judge shall hear and decide a case of his relative or friend.

The wedding invitation card, with the judge’s residence printed on it, became the evidence for Subash Agarwal to approach both the Supreme Court and the President of India in 2005.  The chief information commissioner’s verdict showed the power of RTI.

Justice Vijendra Jain was later made chief justice of the Punjab and Haryana high court, but his elevation to the Supreme Court as a judge was stalled, despite the then chief justice Y.K. Sabharwal reportedly overruling the recommendation of the President of India, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Shekhar Gupta: So you discovered then the power of RTI which nobody had figured until then?

Subash Agarwal: Yes. The media made me strong. The media highlighted the CIC verdict and that shook the whole of the judiciary.

What happened to these judges then?

After the CIC verdict was published in the media, there was pressure on my uncle from his son-in-law and his associates in the higher judiciary, which also included the Chief Justice of India. And then he had to compromise though we had to pay a price much higher than the value of (the disputed) property at that time.

But the fact also is that one particular judge who later rose to be Chief Justice in a High Court could not ultimately come to the Supreme Court because of your activism.

Right. Mr Kalam held the file of promotion of that judge for elevation to the Supreme Court.

Even though the Chief Justice nearly overruled [the then President], Dr A.P.J. Kalam.

Yes.

You remember that The Indian Express was in the forefront of following that story from Rashtrapati Bhavan. It’s a story I cannot yet tell on camera but we paid gravely for that, but we were willing to pay.

Yes. Your paper has always been the pioneer in highlighting such malpractices.

I made this disclosure public that our third story on that issue, I had to then, with great respect and understanding, give to The Hindu, to Mr N Ram, who played a great editor and published it instead because circumstances were such that the Express could not have carried it…So, this was the first time that an RTI activist actually prevented a judge who had risen to the level of High Court Chief Justice from coming to the Supreme Court.

He had almost reached the Supreme Court.

Coincidentally, in November 2006, the Indian Express‘ new editorial headquarters in the Qutub institutional area was “sealed”  following a Supreme Court judgement.

Ironically, in 2011, The Indian Express and The Hindu were involved in a noisy battle, after N. Ram threatened “defamation proceedings” against the Express for reporting on the internecine war within the Hindu family.

Photograph: courtesy in.com

Read the full interview: Jan Andolan activism has failed’

Also read: Letter-writer secures win against top judge

Hindu’s longest serving editor G. Kasturi: RIP

21 September 2012

sans serif records the demise of Gopalan Kasturi aka G. Kasturi, the longest-serving editor of The Hindu in Madras, early today. He was 87.

Although he was the helmsman of a supposedly “orthodox, conservative” newspaper, Kasturi was renowned in the industry as a torchbearer, showing the way with his knowledge of fonts, photography and printing technology, and using aeroplanes and satellites to make copies available from multiple centres.

N. Ram, the former editor-in-chief of The Hindu, who noisily squabbled with his uncle before the two joined hands in the Hindu boardroom, paid a glowing tribute on the paper’s website:

“Earlier and more clearly and determinedly than most of his media contemporaries and fellow Editors, he saw the need for the newspaper industry and journalism to embrace new and state-of-the-art technology and adapt it to our conditions while preserving the core values of journalism.

“Many a leap in newspaper technology – offset printing, facsimile transmission of whole newspaper pages, photocomposition, full-page pagination, colour scanning – found its first Indian champion in my uncle, who was always hands-on, side by side with the technical experts.

“He was enthusiastic about internet journalism and digital technology and almost till the end was regularly on his iMac working on page design and photographs and savouring the best of international newspaper websites. He believed that Indian newspapers had to raise their game in terms of production values and must not take their readers for granted.”

***

A low-profile editor of the old school, Kasturi also, sadly, suffered from the perception of being seen as an “establishment” man through much of his tenure, especially during the darkest phase of the Indian media, the Emergency.

In a 2010 article, Kuldip Nayar, the veteran editor and author, wrote that The Hindu under Kasturi (alongside The Hindustan Times) was the worst offender under Indira Gandhi‘s censorious regime:

“Hindu’s editor G. Kasturi became a part of the establishment. He headed Samachar, the news agency that was formed after the merger of PTI, UNI and Hindustan Samachar. He obeyed the government diktat on how to purvey a particular story or suppress it. He could not withstand government pressure.”

***

In 1989, when the Bofors scandal was at its peak, Kasturi got into a public spat with his nephew and then associate editor, N. Ram, as the shadow of the scam lengthened.

In October that year, The Hindu published the first part of a three-page article (authored by Ram and Chitra Subramanian) with the promise “To be continued”. However, Kasturi blocked the second instalment and published a front-page note explaining the discontinuation.

It read:

“Enough has been written supported by extensive documentation in The Hindu to establish the face of the cover-up and the non-serious pursuit of the investigation by the official agenies and give the lie to the government’s latest assertions.”

Miffed, Ram went public and issued a statement against his uncle (G.Kasturi is Ram’s father, G. Narasimhan‘s brother) for acting “arbitrarily, capriciously and in a manner highly derogatory of the traditions, norms and values of independent, ethical journalism,” and calling the editor’s note “a conspicuous insult to the traditions of independent, intellectually and socially serious, and ethical journalism.”

***

In 2003, Kasturi backed Ram in overthrowing his brother N. Ravi and their cousin Malini Parthasarathy as editor and executive editor, respectively, of The Hindu.

And in 2010 and 2011, Kasturi again backed Ram in a messy board-room battle for “professionalising” the paper that resulted in the exit of his brothers N. Murali and N. Ravi from their positions in the family-owned newspaper—and stalled Malini Parthasarathy’s bid to become the paper’s first woman editor.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Graphic: courtesy Forbes India

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Also read: The four great wars of N. Ram on Hindu soil

Why N. Ravi quit The Hindu after 20 years as editor

Nirmala Lakshman: I didn’t step down; I resigned

Malini Parthasarathy quits as Hindu‘s executive editor

N. Murali: The Hindu is run like a banana republic

The four great wars of N. Ram on ‘Hindu’ soil

23 April 2011

G. Kasturi (left), with editor-in-chief N. Ram (centre) and his younger brother, managing director N. Murali, at the 125th anniversary celebrations of The Hindu, in September 2003

ARVIND SWAMINATHAN writes from Madras: As if to prove the old adage that blood is thicker than water, there have been four rounds of internecine strife in the last 22 years in the undivided Hindu family that owns and runs India’s “most respected” newspaper.

To no one’s surprise, Narasimhan Ram aka N. Ram, the card-carrying Marxist who drove CPI (M) strongman E.M.S. Namboodiripad around town, and was a college mate of current CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, has been the central figure in all four of them.

Equally unsurprisingly, the warring parties in the first round have found themselves on the same side of the war in the next three skirmishes.

***

The first great HINDU mahayudh of 1989

At war: Editor G. Kasturi and associate editor N. Ram

The issue: Discontinuation of Bofors investigation

The war: Uncharacteristically, The Hindu which prides itself as a “newspaper of record”, goes ballistic about the Bofors scandal, thanks to Chitra Subramaniam, who has hopped over to the paper from The Indian Express, carrying the Bofors legacy. Chitra and N. Ram, then no.2 in the editorial hierarchy, do a number of jointly bylined stories. In October 1989, The Hindu publishes the first part of a three-page article with the promise “To be continued”.

However, Kasturi blocks the second instalment and publishes a front-page note explaining the discontinuation. It reads, “Enough has been written supported by extensive documentation in The Hindu to establish the face of the cover-up and the non-serious pursuit of the investigation by the official agenies and give the lie to the government’s latest assertions.”

Miffed, Ram goes public and issues a statement against his uncle (G.Kasturi is Ram’s father, G. Narasimhan‘s brother) for acting “arbitrarily, capriciously and in a manner highly derogatory of the traditions, norms and values of independent, ethical journalism,” and calling the editor’s note “a conspicuous insult to the traditions of independent, intellectually and socially serious, and ethical journalism.”

At a press conference, Ram also freely distributes the unpublished second-part of the Bofors investigation, with all the relevant documents, and invites newspapers to carry it. Ram also approaches the Press Council of India with a 15-page complaint against G. Kasturi.

The fallout: Ram is divested of his responsibilities at The Hindu, and sinecured to take charge of the group’s fortnightly, Frontline, and the sports weekly, Sportstar. G. Kasturi makes way for N. Ram’s youngest brother N. Ravi, who takes over as editor in 1991. From the other side of the family tree, Ram’s cousin Nirmala Lakshman becomes joint editor, and her sister Malini Parthasarathy becomes executive editor under Ravi. Chitra Subramaniam exits The Hindu and has “many harsh things to say about Ram.”

***

The second great HINDU mahayudh of 2003

At war: Editor N. Ravi and executive editor Malini Parthasarathy, versus N. Ram (backed by G. Kasturi)

The issue: The editorial direction of The Hindu

The war: Against the backdrop of complaints that the paper was veering far too much to the left and alienating “loyal” readers with its anti-Jayalalitha and anti-Hindu stance, the board of directors of Kasturi & Sons passes a resolution appointing whole-time director N. Ram (till then editor of Frontline and Sportstar) as editor-in-chief of The Hindu, placing him over editor N. Ravi.

The change of guard comes just three months before the 125h anniversary celebrations of the “Mount Road Mahavishnu.

“It is true that our readers have been complaining that some of our reports are partial and lack objectivity. But it also depends on reader beliefs,” joint managing director N. Murali, the brother of N. Ram and N. Ravi, is quoted as saying. Ram takes charge, promising to keep news and opinion separate.

The fallout: Ram presides over the 125th anniversary, with neither Ravi nor Malini in the frame. In November 2003, the Tamil Nadu government turns The Hindu into a cause celebre by ordering the arrest of the publisher of The Hindu, S. Rangarajan, journalists V. Jayanth and Radha Venkatesan, and N. Ravi and Malini Parthasarathy for breach of privilege of the assembly for articles that had appeared in April of that year. Although they continued to be editor and executive editor respectively, neither Ravi nor Malini write for several years.

Tamil Nadu police enter the cubicle of editor-in-chief N. Ram at The Hindu offices, in November 2003

***

The third great HINDU mahayudh of 2010

At war: N. Ram (backed by G. Kasturi) versus N. Murali  and N. Ravi

The issues: Retirement norms for family member-directors; entry norms into the business for younger members of the family; overall corporate governance issues

The war: The two aggrieved brothers of N. Ram say he reneged on a September 2009 promise to retire by May 2010 upon turning 65, thus paving the way for N. Ravi to take over as editor-in-chief.

By a 9-3 vote, the Hindu board kicks N. Murali upstairs by making him senior managing director confining his powers to only the circulation department; simultaneously G. Kasturi’s son K. Balaji is made managing director with overarching powers. Ram tells Business Standard that Murali had been redesignated “with his consent at the board meeting” and that Balaji had been appointed MD “as part of succession planning, which has been actively advocated by Murali to his credit.”

But it is the appointment of family members—N. Ram’s daughter Vidya Ram, Nirmala Lakshman’s son Narayan Lakshman, and Nirmala’s (and Malini’s) sister Nalini Krishnan‘s son Ananth Krishnan—as foreign correspondents that has most tongues wagging.

Malini Parthasarathy, who is not married, is most aggrieved by this turn of events. The Indian Express reports that Ravi and Malini objected to the manner in which “Kasturi’s resources, financial as well as editorial, were used to further the interests of some board members.”

The fallout: Ram makes public the decisions taken by the board in a front-page announcement. The issue goes to the company law board (CLB), which in December 2010 orders the reinstatement of N. Murali as managing director but declines to interfere with new appointments made, including that of K. Balaji as managing director, or to implement a retirement age for family members on the company’s board.

Narayan Lakshman, Vidya Ram and Ananth Krishnan

***

The fourth great HINDU mahayudh of 2011

At war: Editor-in-chief N. Ram, versus N. Ravi, Nirmala Lakshman and Malini Parthasarathy

The issue: Separation of management from editorial

The war: Less than a month before he is to demit office upon turning 65, Ram breaks with tradition and announces that the board has decided to appoint a “professional editor” who will be responsible for selection of news under the PRB act. This, he adds, is to happen when N. Ram steps down as editor-in- chief and N. Ravi steps down as editor.

“The other directors working on the editorial side would also step down from their current editorial designations in such time as the board may decide and become part of a committee of the board of directors known as the editorial board,” the board decides in a 7-5 decision.

N. Ravi, who joined the company in 1972 and was waiting to take over as editor-in-chief from Ram, shoots off a mail to all employees against the “shocking display of bad faith” by his brother. “Ram seems bent on taking all the editorial directors — most are in their 50s — into retirement with him, with a scorched earth policy to ensure that no one in the family succeeds him…. In a sudden change of rules and under the specious plea of separating ownership from management, along with my removal as editor, Nirmala Lakshman is to be forced to “step down” as joint editor and Malini Parthasarathy as executive editor.”

Ravi also accuses Ram of going soft on 2G scam accused A. Raja, of hogging the limelight in an “unceasing self-glorification campaign”, and a pronounced pro-China tilt.  Ravi’s contention that there was quid pro quo amounting to paid news in an interview with A. Raja in exchange for an advertisment is shot down by Ram at a press conference in Delhi, where he calls the charge “egregariously defamatory“.

The fallout: The dispute is likely to go to court. Malini Parthasarathy tweets: “After me the deluge”! Real story at The Hindu is the removal of a sitting Editor and continuing backdoor control of editorial by proxies.” N. Murali, who is away in the United States, says that the attempt to alter the basic structure of the business should be passed with a three-fourths majority by the EGM on May 20.

Also read: Indian Express vs The Hindu; N. Ram vs N. Ravi

Now it’s Malini Parthasarathy vs ‘The Stalinists’

N. Ram is stalling Malini Parthasarathy‘s ascent’

Express declares ceasefire, brothers declare war

When it’s all in the family, it is all in the family

Under N. Ram, The Hindu becomes an apology of a paper

How a pioneering journalist became a horologist

27 March 2009

dsc03738

Today is Ugadi, the dawn of the new year for people in the South Indian states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

While eating a pinch of bevu-bella (neem and jaggery) is a symbolic way of kicking off the new year, to signify that bitterness and sweetness should be accepted with equanimity, an equally important tradition on Ugadi day is the reading of the Panchang, the Hindu almanac (in picture,above).

Step forward, Chitra Subramaniam.

As India’s best-known investigative journalist, Chitra Subramaniam (in picture, left) was the one-woman army behind the unravelling of the Bofors scandal for both The Indian Express and The Hindu.

As Chitra Subramaniam-Duella, she has morphed into a horologist who makes watches in the land of watches, Switzerland, in the cradle of watches, Neuchâtel.

With her partner Marc Aeschbacher, a former investment banker, Chitra has bought over a 170-year-old defunct Swiss watch brand and set up BorgeauD SA. Their signature product is the Panchang line, bringing “the best of Swiss watch-making to the service of one of the world’s oldest calendars”.

Id est, the panchang watches marry the modern western concept of time with its traditional eastern calculations based on the sun, moon and the various planets, thus giving time a new dimension. So, apart from telling the normal time, the Panchang watches also display the rahu kala, the 90-minute sequence which occurs at different times on different days of the week, and during which nothing happens except “reflection”.

Developed in consultation with S. Ramadorai, the chief of India’s largest software company, Tata Consultancy Services, Chitra is quoted as saying that she sees a market in Europe for the Panchang line:

“I think people like it because this is a completely new idea and we tell people that they can have an appointment with themselves every day for 90 minutes. They love that. This is the only watch that tells you ‘just wait’.”

Photographs: courtesy Vontikoppal Panchanga Mandira, Land of Lime, Outlook

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