Posts Tagged ‘Lalu Prasad’

Biggest Corporate Fraud is now Biggest Coverup

13 February 2009

From a media perspective, the fraud at India’s “fourth largest Information Technology company” has been remarkable for two things.

One, the failure of the business media in catching a whiff of what was cooking in the accounting kitchens of the disgraced Hyderabad company not just one year, but for seven years.

If that failure is understandable because none of the overseeing institutions did so either, it is remarkable how easily an even larger media circus has allowed “India’s Biggest Corporate Fraud” to slip into “India’s Biggest Coverup” in one month flat.

After the initial flurry when B. Ramalinga Raju fessed up to the fraud on January 7, there has been a stunning reluctance to ask the big, hard-hitting, politically incorrect questions. Instead, the media have happily allowed themselves to be diverted and distracted with safety-first stenography that even Satyam’s public relations men (and women) would have envied.

As if protecting the reputation of a city or its leading IT brand is the duty of the media, not serving the interests of readers.

R. Jagannathan, the managing editor of DNA, has been one of the few business journalists who has managed to retain his eye on the ball and stick his neck out. In an edit page column, he writes of the curious convergence of political, regional and business interests that is conspiring to derail the probe.

He writes of the Bihar connection that has found little or no mention in the rest of the media:

“The prime minister does not want Satyam to sink as it might dent India’s global IT image. The UPA’s political leadership cannot let a corruption scandal damage Andhra chief minister Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy (YSR) in an election year. With him goes the Congress party’s hope of returning to power as head of the next coalition.

“Turfed out of Bihar by the NDA, the political interests of the Lalu Prasad Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) mesh well with those of the Congress. It partly explains the Andhra-Bihar nexus in the Satyam probe.

“The man at the centre of it all, company affairs minister Prem Chand Gupta, is from the RJD. The Andhra Pradesh DGP is a Yadav from Bihar, S.S.P. Yadav. The policeman handling the Andhra CID probe is inspector-general of police V.S.K. Kaumudi. When he was with the CBI some years back, Kaumudi probed Lalu’s fodder scam. He obviously knows a thing or two about Lalu’s secrets. Lalu and the Andhra CM, thus, have an interest in helping each other out….

“It is obvious who is really being protected: the Andhra chief minister. The Satyam scandal was essentially about the misuse of corporate funds for private purposes, including the purchase of benami land and wangling lucrative contracts from the Andhra government. It is impossible for land deals to be done in the state without the chief minister’s nod.”

Read the full article: The Bihar Connection

Also read: How come media didn’t spot Satyam fraud

Why Andhra is epicentre of biggest scam

India’s greatest poet since the Bhakti movement?

8 September 2008

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: As Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw showed, if you have to die, you must die somewhere in the vicinity of Delhi, so that the movers, shakers and brokers of the capital can easily assemble to “bid a tearful farewell”.

If you write a book, you must write do so somewhere between south and central Delhi, as Presidents (Abdul Kalam), former Union ministers (Lal Krishna Advani or Jaswant Singh), South Block mandarins (Pavan K. Varma, Vikas Swarup, Navtej Sarna and Nirupama Rao) have shown.

For, if you do, Jnanpith Award winning authors, Bollywood actors and lyricists will crawl out of the woodwork to read and recite your magnum opus. And the media, otherwise snapping like mad dogs at your feet, will gratefully roll over and allow itself to be given a nice little rub on its bloated underbelly.

Take the case of Kapil Sibal‘s ‘I Witness: Partial Observations‘ published by IndiaInk (Roli Books).

It’s a collection of 84 “poems”, mostly composed by the Union science and technology minister’s own admission “on the cellphone during long flights”. What you and I call SMS.

But looking at the red-carpet treatment the putative poet’s book has received from our supposedly “cynical media”, it would seem the greatest poems since the Bhakti movement have been penned on a Blackberry in the business class of British Airways before the babes brought in the booze.

# On NDTV 24×7, Sonia Singh assembles a half-hour show on the politician as poet.

# On CNBC-TV18, Karan Thapar, who otherwise eats politicians for dinner, actually looks lovingly into the eyes of the new prodigy on the block.

# In Outlook, there is a two-page profile of the “nano poet”, with the breathtaking line, “Bio-tech: scientific surgeon’s knife/ genetic investigator’s dream”.

# On NDTV 24×7, Shekhar Gupta does a full Walk the Talk with the “peripatetic poet”, and follows it up with a full-page of excerpts in The Indian Express.

On top of the specials, there is the routine too.

In Bangalore, The Times of India gleefully records the presence of actor Waheeda Rehman and Biocon’s Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw at the release.

In Delhi, The Hindustan Times grimly documents Sibal’s self-proclaimed “natural affinity for rhymes”.

Sure, the media’s duty is to shine the light on fresh new talent. Sure, as Sibal said in Bangalore: “We (politicians) too are sensitive. We too have feelings like any other ordinary mortals.” And sure, there is an element of surprise, if not an undercurrent of fun.

But where is the balance?

Do gems such as these qualify as poetry:

# A constitutional/guarantee?/No panacea/for inequality

# I never have understood/why so many of us/have to die

# TRPs of channels,/soap operas,/get hits for you./News that matters/serious content,/of limited value

# The Left has suffered for a lifetime now, of an ailment they can’t diagnose The symptom however that troubles them most is that they can’t see beyond their nose

Is this a book of poems, or the first book of SMSes?

Vijay Nambisan, a published poet, writes in The Hindu:

“Kapil Sibal is entirely justified in referring to these pieces as ‘partial observations’. But neither he, nor Shashi Tharoor on the back cover, nor even the more fulsome front inside-flap copy-writer, is justified in calling them poems.”

Maybe, if the media went about being so serious, it would be a very boring media. Maybe, there is a some laughs to be had out of all this just as we laugh at Lalu Prasad‘s chalisa. Maybe, this is just desserts for charming Mr Sibal, a fine lawyer with a fine sense of humour.

Maybe, it’s a publicity coup for his publishers. Maybe, it’s a small price to pay for editors and publishers who want to be on the right of Sibal. Just good PR, nothing lost in humouring a Union minister.

But…

But would a fresh young poet in Delhi, especially one aged 60, get such play in our media? Would a fresh young poet in some other part of the country, get such play? Would an out-of-power politician get such play? Would an out-of-power, non-Delhi, non-English poet get it?

Above all, is this stuff even halfway good?

Or just page 3 pap?

As Indrajit Hazra wrote in a piece accompanying a “review” in the Hindustan Times:

From the shores of a droll ministry
comes outpourings from a head.
Now, if it wasn’t Kapil Sibal
we would have left them unread….

Sudha Murthy, the wife of the Infosys chief mentor, N.R. Narayana Murthy, recently complained to a wellknown short story writer that the media wasn’t taking enough note of her literary output.

“I have been writing short stories for 50 years and nobody is taking note of me. And here is a rich but bored housewife who is writing short stories as a hobby demanding it as a matter of right,” the short story writer told her son out of exasperation.

India’s celebrities, it now appears, are secretly hoping that their every fetish and fancy be recorded for posterity. Funnily, it seems, a celebrity-driven media is unquestioningly falling for it.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News (digitally altered)

Also read: How many poems can fetch a poet Rs 8.5 crore?

A box of poems is mightier than a sten-gun

Da Ra Bendre on why nitrogen is nonsense

‘Did we fight Emergency for this kind of media?’

16 February 2008

The media coverage of the verbal and physical violence in Bombay over the influx of outsiders continues to draw attention. Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reports that at the Union cabinet meeting on February 14, senior ministers “expressed their outrage” at the reporting which some of them felt sparked panic and led to a mass exodus from the metropolis to Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Cabinet sources told IANS that once Railway Minister Lalu Prasad raised the issue, some ministers described as “irresponsible” and “provocative” the media coverage of the MNS protests that began Feb 3.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil pointed out that television news channels had been beaming pictures of sporadic trouble frequently giving a “false impression about the violence and thereby creating panic”.

A cabinet minister told IANS: “For once, every minister was furious and everyone agreed that the media coverage caused more trouble.”

One minister felt that it was the media that made Raj Thackeray, “a person who tried to strengthen his party by dividing the country,” into a hero.

“The media should not forget its social responsibilities when it reports such events. It is high time that there should be some control over such reporting,” a minister told reporters on condition of anonymity.

In The Indian Express, Peter Ronald DeSouza, director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla, writes that the media coverage raises doubts about “the role of the press as a sentinel of freedom, of news not massaged, of media as the mirror of reality”, and goes so far as to ask if fighting for media freedom has proved to be futile.

“Is this then the same free media for which we fought the Emergency? Thinking about this question I have the sinking feeling that the ground has shifted, that the moral reasons on which we fought for a free press are no longer so clear and firm. The story of the frog and the hot water keeps coming to mind. Throw a frog into a pot of boiling water and it will jump out. Immerse it in a pot of lukewarm water, and put the pot to boil, and the frog will remain there quite unaware that it is being boiled. Which frog is the media today? Which frog is the reader-viewer today?”

Read the full story: Who’s that in the mirror?

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