Posts Tagged ‘Magsaysay Award’

Sacrilege! Mihir Sharma takes on P.Sainath

9 June 2012

As he exited the Indian Express last year as its most acerbic pen, the Harvard-educated economist Mihir S. Sharma launched into “adman” Suhel Seth in a long review of the latter’s book in The Caravan.

Now, at the Business Standard as the editor of its opinion pages, Sharma trains his guns at the Magsaysay award winning rural affairs editor of The Hindu, P. Sainath, mocking his selective use of internet search engines.

The provocation: Sainath’s recent piece attacking the profligacy of the deputy chairman of the planning commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia while expecting India’s poor to subsist on subhuman amounts of money:

“The government will get away with it, because of our perennial confusion between public and personal austerity, and our jaw-dropping incompetence with simple mathematics. Consider, for example, the recent attack on Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia by one Palagummi Sainath, famously the favourite journalist of Press Council Chairman Markandey Katju.

“For a widely-read column in The Hindu, Sainath Googled previous newspaper reports that Ahluwalia had spent Rs 2 lakh a day on some of his foreign trips, and that he had spent 274 days outside the country in his seven-year tenure. (He did not mention that Mr Ahluwalia was the point-man in India’s interaction with the G-20 in the aftermath of the financial crisis. Odd, I’m sure that’s Googleable.)

“Let’s assume that that’s excessive; and that Mr Ahluwalia and his delegation should have spent half that. That comes to an excess spending of Rs 40 lakh a year. This year’s fiscal deficit is more than a million times that sum. The folly of such ‘analysis’ is matched only by the cynicism of the UPA, which thinks that responding to laughable smears with its unpersuasive attempts at ‘austerity’ will answer genuine complaints about its profligacy with public funds.”

Read the full article: Austerity abuse

Also read: Suhel Seth shows why he is such a cute tweetiya

Montek Singh Ahluwalia gets a Padma for what?

Why Khushwant Singh fell out with Arun Shourie

7 August 2011

Khushwant Singh, former editor of Hindustan Times and the now-defunct Illustrated Weekly of India, on why he is no longer friends with Arun Shourie, the Magsaysay Award-winning former editor of Indian Express, in the Hindustan Times:

“There was a time when I was a frequent diner in the Shouries’ household in Delhi…. At one of the Shouries’ dinner parties, among other guests was [editor, columnist, activist] Kuldip Nayar. The conversation was largely about L.K. Advani‘s Rath Yatra in 1990 from the temple of Somnath to Ayodhya.

“I had no doubt that the exercise was undertaken with evil intent to destroy Babri Masjid.

“Passing by, Arun remarked: “Who says it is a mosque?”

“I was taken aback.

“Kuldip Nayar said, ‘Professor Sahib, did you hear what he [Arun] said?’ (Both he and [former Delhi high court judge] Rajinder Sachar call me professor sahib since they were students of the law College, Lahore and I was a lecturer.)

“I could not hold back and said to Shourie, ‘Arun, have you ever seen any building with three domes and a wall facing Makka which is not a mosque?’ He did not reply. Since then we have been on opposite sides; he on the mosque breakers’. I wanted them to be arrested and punished for the criminal act of vandalism.

“I stopped associating with Arun Shourie. I read of his rise to eminence as a cabinet minister and a member of the BJP’s think-tank. His book on Dr B.R. Ambedkar offended Dalits. He was roughed up by them while presiding over a meeting in Mumbai. Being hurt himself he wanted to hurt other people.

“He has taken every opportunity to display his disadvantaged son in his wheel chair. I feel very sorry for him but no longer admire him.”

Read the full article: When telling the truth becomes a crime

Illustration: courtesy Rajneesh K. Singh

Also read: The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie: ‘Intolerant, abusive, dictatorial’

How Arun Shourie became Express editor

Arun Shourie: The three lessons of failure

‘Outlook’ journo bags prize for using RTI for story

21 December 2010

Saikat Datta, an assistant editor at the newsweekly magazine Outlook*, has bagged the National RTI Award 2010 for his expose of the Rs 2,500 crore rice scam using the Right to Information (RTI).

Four others were also named for the award by a jury which included the former chief justice of India J.S. Verma, former chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh, and Infosys chief mentor N.R. Narayana Murthy.

According to the New Indian Express:

“Journalist Saikat Datta was praised for taking on influential people in exposing the rice export scam.  The jury felt that he took a great risk in pursuing the story as the people involved were capable of harming him.”

The award, instituted by the Public Cause Research Foundation, was set up by Magsaysay Award winning activist Arvind Kejriwal, and carries a citation, a plaque and Rs 2 lakh.

The award-winning story revealed how vested interests in business and government colluded to circumvent a ban on export of rice. The expose resulted in future deals being cancelled. Last week, the case was referred to CBI for further investigation.

Datta had previously bagged the IPI India award for 2007.

* Disclosures apply

‘Middle-class media doesn’t speak for poor’

1 July 2010

P. Sainath, the Magsaysay Award-winning rural affairs editor of The Hindu, says the media did a poor job of explaining the impact of the recent fuel price hike on the poor while it expended time and space on the suicide of supermodel Viveka Babajee.

Delivering the silver jubilee lecture on “Mass Media: But where are the Masses?” at the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Sainath says:

“In the last 15 years, everything that has become a convenience to the upper middle-class has become cheaper. You take air tickets, computers, cars etc…they are all affordable for us. But in this same period rice, wheat, electricity, water, etc. has become 300-500 per cent more expensive for the poor. Why is this not reflected in the media?

“Today newspapers have no labour correspondent, housing or primary education correspondent. We are explicitly telling 70 per cent of this country that they don’t matter to us”

Read the full story: ‘Media has lost its sense of priorties’

Also read: ‘Is media in denial on Indian recession?’

‘80% of Indian journalism is stenography’

‘Indian media doesn’t cover 70% of population’

Has R.K. Laxman drawn his last cartoon?

21 June 2010

SHARANYA KANVILKAR writes from Bombay: A question mark hangs over India’s most famous exclamation mark after a further slip in health of Rasipuram Krishnaswami Laxman, the iconic cartoonist of The Times of India.

The 86-year-old Laxman, who has drawn cartoons for ToI for 63 years, has been airlifted to Bombay, reportedly after suffering a “mild stroke”, and is receiving treatment at the Breach Candy hospital, family sources say.

(A report in The Times of India says he suffered three mini-strokes between Thursday and Saturday.)

Already a shadow of his former self after a first stroke seven years ago which affected his left hand, R.K. Laxman, as he is known to newspaper readers, was first admitted to the Sahyadri hospital in Poona, where he currently lives, but was airlifted to Bombay on Sunday evening.

(A PTI report in The Hindu says the three mild strokes have affected the right side of his body as also his speech.)

Mysore-born Laxman was last spotted at the engagement ceremony of his grand-niece in Bombay earlier this year.

Despite his first stroke, Laxman returned to draw the “You Said It!” pocket cartoon for The Times of India every morning, although the state of his health showed in the scraggly lines and often times in the cartoon being desultorily buried in the inside pages.

On days he doesn’t come up with a cartoon, ToI dips into its archives.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

Also read: Making all of us smile can make one of us cry

Look who inspired R.K. Laxman‘s common man!

External reading: The Ramon Magsaysay foundation citation

How Arun Shourie became the Express editor

13 March 2010

Magsaysay Award-winning former Indian Express editor turned BJP ideologue, Arun Shourie, in conversation with Mahesh Sarma:

How did you get the Indian Express editor’s job?

Emergency had passed [in 1977]. I had got to know [Express proprietor] Ramnath Goenka through many episodes. And the Janta Party had come to power. We were staying in Mr Goenka’s house in Bangalore.

He asked what I was doing and I said, “What do you mean what am I doing? I can’t find a job, I am writing a book.

He said, ‘Stupid, who is going to read your book? No one is going to read it. You are not finding a job, I can’t find any young man, you come. I’ll tell the editor to give you some big title.’

That is my letter of appointment.

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu Business Line

Also read: For the BJP, is the pen mightier than the trishul?

Who are the journalists running, ruining BJP?

Don’t laugh: do journalists make good politicians?

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

A columnist more powerful than all media barons

Arun Shourie: ‘Intolerant, abusive, dictatorial

Arun Shourie: ‘Intolerant. Abusive. Dictatorial.’

7 September 2009

Shoma Chaudhury, the executive editor of Tehelka, does a much-required re-examination of Arun Shourie, the former editor of the Indian Express, who occupies an “adumbral position between liberal knight, self-righteous crusader and unselfconscious fascist”, in the context of a recent interview with his protege, Shekhar Gupta.

“Shourie joined the Indian Express as executive editor in January 1979 and over four blistering years of journalism, passed into media legend. Shourie rarely did the groundwork himself; his gift lay in creating moral frameworks and meticulous backgrounds–building stories into campaigns.

“The infamous Bhagalpur blinding case; the advocacy for the rights of undertrials; the buying of Kamala; the Antulay cement scam; the infamous Gundu Rao interview; the defeat of the Defamation Bill; and finally, the Kuo Oil scam. The Congress had come to symbolise corruption and anti-democratic practices: The Indian Express—and its most public face, the Goenka- Shourie duo—became the epitome of the fight against these mutilations.

“In 1982, with hundreds of cases against the paper, and allegedly under severe pressure from Indira Gandhi, Ramnath Goenka suddenly sacked Shourie. In 1987, with all his old warhorses gone or fading, he suddenly wanted him back and used Suman Dubey, Shourie’s brother-in-law, then editor of the paper and a friend of Rajiv Gandhi, to woo him back. A few months later, the Bofors scandal broke.

“More actinic years of journalism followed: the Bofors campaign and the campaign against Dhirubhai Ambani’s corruptions being the most high-profile. In 1990, Shourie was sacked again – unceremoniously, via teleprinter. There were cascading reasons: disagreements on reservations, the Mandal Commission, V.P. Singh’s handling of the Ayodhya movement and Goenka’s sense that Shourie was no longer in his control.

“At any rate, Shourie’s years as an editor shone with inspiration: he was a lighthouse in a dark time. As his Magasaysay Award citation says, “He used his pen as an effective adversary of corruption, inequality and injustice.” He fought for civil liberties and the rule of law; he had an appetite for the big battles.

“Yet, even at the height of his defence of liberal values in public life, disappointingly, Shourie’s professional peers and juniors say that in person, he was an intolerant, abusive and dictatorial man, incapable of democratic dialogue. The archetypal god with clay feet. Stories—unfortunately all of them off-the-record—abound: how he fought and slighted co-editors, S. Mulgaonkar, B.G. Verghese, Nihal Singh, Kuldip Nayar; how he ousted Suman Dubey; how he ravaged juniors.

“The ill-will is disconcerting. Yet, urged to come on record, all his detractors refuse: “He’s dynamite”; “He’s vicious”; “He’s paranoid.” These allegations can perhaps be discounted – temperamental shortcomings that pale before the staggering body of work. Personal animosities that cannot be substantiated.”

Photograph: courtesy Outlook

Read the full article: Acid dreams on dharma nights

Also read: The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Arun Shourie: autocratic, time-server, climber’

Who are the journalists running and ruining the BJP?

Who are the journos ‘running & ruining’ the BJP?

25 August 2009

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Former Indian Express editor Arun Shourie‘s explosive interview with the paper’s current editor, Shekhar Gupta, while revealing the deep schisms within India’s principal oppostion party, the BJP, has also once again thrown light on the less-than-professional role political journalists have been playing.

For the second time in two months, Shourie targetted “The Gang of Six”—a pack of half-of-dozen journalists who, says the Magsaysay Award winning investigative journalist, have been used (abused? misused?) by various different sections of the BJP.

On Gupta’s Walk the Talk interview for NDTV on Monday, Shourie said his letter to the BJP president Rajnath Singh demanding accountability in running the party had been dubbed as an act of indiscipline even though that letter had remained confidential.

There were leaders, he says:

“…who had been planting stories against L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and others through six journalists (and yet it’s not called indiscipline)”.

At the BJP’s national executive meeting in mid-June, shortly after the party suffered a “nasty jolt” in the general elections, Shourie had gone so far as to say that “the BJP was being run by six journalists” who were “damaging the party interest“.

On both occasions, Shourie hasn’t named “The Gang of Six”, but by repeatedly talking about them has set tongues wagging.

However, the questions remain: is the BJP so feeble a party to be felled by  mere pen-pushers? If BJP leaders are using them to “plant” stories against one another, are the journalists exceeding their brief by allowing themselves to be used?

Is ex-editor Shourie sanctimoniously crying wolf or is this par for the course in other parties too? Are editors and publishers of the publications where the “Gang of Six” work aware of their journalists being so used?

And if so, is it OK?

Photograph: courtesy IBN Live

Also read: Don’t laugh: do journalists make good politicians?

The sad and pathetic decline of Arun Shourie

Shekhar Gupta: No better time to enter journalism than now

Anybody here with an open mind & reads English?

4 May 2008

Palagummi Sainath has been the stalwart correspondent of our times. In an era of “feel-good” journalism, the Hindu‘s rural affairs editor has an been unapologetic harbinger of drought, disease, despair and death from parts of Bharat that the Indian mass media can’t reach, won’t reach, and no longer wants to reach.

At the same time, Sainath has also been sharply critical of the mass media’s methods, priorities, skillsets and doublespeak—its disconnect from mass reality, its loss of compassion and outrage, its chase of the trivial and the frivolous that will fetch advertising lucre.

But, quod erat demonstrandum, few in the English hack-pack, have had the intellectual stamina (or editorial freeedom) to attempt a counterpoint to Sainath’s blistering barbs. Is the agrarian crisis the only story the media must follow all the time? Is it so wrong to be interested in the stock markets? Is the media doing nothing right? Are reforms a bad thing merely because Sainath says so?

London-based journalist Salil Tripathi wrote a much-required piece for Mint, the business daily of the Hindustan Times last week, in which he raised precisely those questions. (Reproduced here with the author’s permission)

***

By SALIL TRIPATHI

The foreign correspondent Edward Behr had titled one of his books Anyone Here Been Raped and Speaks English? It pithily shows journalistic callousness, where reporters hardened by tragedy cannot respond in a humane way to a crisis. But it is one thing to be moved, quite another to be moved by the idea of being moved. And honest reporters try to avoid falling into that trap by reporting facts, letting them speak for themselves.

A journalist is supposed to be good at observing facts, reporting them accurately and objectively, and telling stories. A journalist is not a post-trauma counsellor, therapist, medical assistant, or someone who can compensate victims financially or represent them legally.

Accepting this circumscribed role requires humility: Journalists are neither qualified nor elected to play roles requiring different skills. And yet, in a scathing indictment, distinguished journalist P. Sainath has criticized his colleagues for their lack of outrage and compassion over India’s rural crisis, and for paying attention to frivolous stories, such as fashion shows.

In a recent address before the Editors’ Guild of India, the Magsaysay Award-winning journalist said the media is charmed by frivolity because of a fundamental disconnect between mass media and mass reality. The poor, he argued, are structurally shut out from the media. Corporate agendas dictate the media, and the institution has become more elitist than the other estates of democracy—the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.

To be sure, the Indian media is not infallible. But if newspapers fail to serve readers, the market will fix the problem, and more serious alternatives will emerge (as indeed they have).

By juxtaposing a fashion event with the Vidarbha farmers’ suicides, Sainath is pitting the so-called India against Bharat, or “shining” India ­versus “declining” India.

Far from solving any problem, it accentuates an unnecessary divide.

The tragedy of farmers’ deaths cannot be denied. But on a scale of outrage and compassion, is it the most important story of the day?

What about the victims of the Bhopal gas disaster, or the oustees of the dams on the Narmada river? Or the Sikh survivors of post-Indira Gandhi assassination massacres in 1984? Or the victims of the Gujarat pogrom, a group I feel compassion for, after the failure of Narendra Modi’s administration to protect civilians?

Who, if not the Indian media, kept those stories alive?

In any case, how sound was Sainath’s analysis of rural India and the solutions he offered? Was the narrative, in each case, one of debt-ridden farmers, driven by hunger and poverty, taking their lives? But then, in The Times of India, earlier in April, Mohammed Wajihuddin wrote of alleged murders passed off as suicides to get compensation from the state, making real the morbid fears of perverse incentives the government’s compensation package created. Economists had already pointed out potential moral hazard by loan waivers; few had predicted that the word “moral” would be in its original, and not economic, sense.

Sainath also lamented that eight million people have given up farming in the past decade, and many are looking for urban jobs “that are not there”. Really? As the informal sector of unorganized workers is far larger—and undocumented—on what basis can one conclude that there are no jobs for migrant labour in towns and cities? And what’s wrong with a few million farmers giving up farming?

Many economists have shown that Indian farm productivity is low because the land-holdings are too small, making efficient farming unviable. There are too many Indians trying to work as farmers and many would prefer to do something else. The land is not productive; agriculture’s share of India’s wealth is declining, and the sector is not growing rapidly. A transition to services or industry is a good thing.

Finally, Sainath returned to his perennial theme, rural hunger. He said that per capita availability of certain foodgrains had declined, implying that farmers committing suicide was a tragic consequence. He said, “The availability of foodgrain has fallen from 510g a day in 1991 to 422g in 2005—a fall of 88g for one billion people for 365 days a year! That means your average family is consuming 100kg less of foodgrain than it consumed a decade ago. Where is your outrage?”

My outrage is over questionable statistics. As economist Surjit Bhalla showed in response to an earlier Sainath assertion, food consumption per capita has risen. As Indians have prospered, they are eating different types of food—not coarse cereals, but fish, meat, eggs and milk. In a 2007 study in the Economic and Political Weekly, Praduman Kumar, Mruthyunjaya and Madan M. Dey concluded that food consumption in India was moving towards higher-value commodities.

Maybe those reforms are working. Anyone here with an open mind and reads English?

Also read: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

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