Posts Tagged ‘P.V. Narasimha Rao’

Why NaMo shouldn’t take media on foreign trips

14 August 2014

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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses the media on the way back home from the United States in October 2013. There were 34 journalists on that junket.

As Indian journalists come to terms with a Narendra Modi dispensation that doesn’t want to court them or take them on foreign junkets, K.P. Nayar, the former Washington correspondent of The Telegraph, Calcutta, writes that the US administration is no better.

Each correspondent who accompanied US president Barack Obama on his trip to India had to shell out $8,400 (approximately Rs 500,000) in air fare, plus an additional $2,500 (Rs 150,000) for a hop-across to Amritsar, plus $1,000 (Rs 60,000) for renting the hotel hall where administration officials briefed the media, plus “filing charges”, plus coffee, plus tea, etc.

All in stark contrast to the pampering and molly-coddling of India media bigwigs by Indian administrations, who not only misuse taxpayer’s money on foreign trips but also throw their weights around in ways that embarrass the tricolour.

To illustrate the point, Nayar, quotes three incidents:

# The most appalling incident of media highhandedness that I was witness to was at Cairo airport, some 20 years ago, when a very senior journalist flung his boarding pass in the face of an Air India ground hostess because his seat had been changed for the next leg of the prime minister’s flight. He then walked off and had to be pacified by having his chosen seat restored before the Egyptian police physically restrained him for breach of security because he was on the tarmac.

The fault-lines go beyond the fourth estate and intersect the government’s media management because this gentleman is a former media adviser to a prime minister: for the record, not one of any recent appointees.

# Accompanying P.V. Narasimha Rao to the UN general assembly one year, we were alighting at the media hotel, the Lexington, once owned by the Tatas.

Two senior colleagues urged me to follow them if I wanted to watch some fun. An owner-editor, who was the first to reach the media centre, was already on the phone to his news desk.

Mein pahoonch gaya hoon [I have reached],” he blared into the phone, “Pradhan mantri bhi pahoonch gaya hai. Baaki sab agency lena. [The prime minister has also reached. All the rest you take from the agencies].”

He put down the phone, then called his office again as an afterthought, “Oh, mera byline dal dena [Oh, put my byline in).” That was his professional contribution for the day. He was soon out in jeans and walking shoes enjoying the Big Apple.

# Visiting Bhutan, Indira Gandhi once strolled into the quarters of the accompanying media. An agency correspondent then, the late A.N. Prabhu’s door was open and she peeped in to find a carton prominently labelled “Bhutan Rum” on the floor.

“What is it, Prabhu?” she asked. “Apples,” Prabhu replied, unfazed.

“I would like some of those apples too,” she smiled. 

Read the full article: Big egos and bylines

Also read: A mile-high experience for the hack pack

How Pakistan helped The Hindu save $800

I couldn’t go to the US, my name’s Zia Haq

How Shekhar Gupta busted the ISRO spy ‘scam’

29 September 2012

The ISRO spy scandal of the early 1990s has come to an end with the exoneration of S. Nambi Narayanan, the scientist (wrongly) accused by the Malayalam and later national media of selling secrets of the satellite organisation to a couple of Maldivian women.

The son of the then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao‘s son too was merrily reported during the media mayhem.

Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta writes of how he came to report the story in India Today, which was one of the few mainstream media organisations at the time which did not fall for the artlessly woven fiction.

It was towards the end of 1994, when Rao’s minority government was tottering in its third year that the story broke. It was then hailed as the biggest spy story, the most damaging security breach ever in India’s history and it looked as if the entire Indian space and missile programme had been exposed, and destroyed from within, for just a little bit of free sex and quite a bit of money.

I wasn’t directly covering or handling the story yet, but was as outraged as any fellow Indian would have been.

It was in that period that on one of my frequent visits to Chennai (then Madras) I found myself sitting next to a prominent scientist of ISRO pedigree (let’s not name him just now). In-flight conversation veered inevitably to the ISRO spy case.

He did not engage, and was careful not to say yes or no to anything.

His reserve broke only once, when I said, how could such senior scientists be keeping thousands of such classified documents (the police case said 75 kg) in their homes and be selling them to India’s enemies?

He looked into my eyes, and said, deadpan: “ISRO is an open organisation, my friend. At ISRO, we do not classify anything.”

Then what is this case all about, I asked.

“You go and find out,” he said, “You used to be an investigative reporter, I believe,” he said….

The result of that long journalistic investigation, ultimately, was a six-page investigation published in the January 31, 1995 issue of India Today, headlined, ‘The Great Espionage Mess’. Three brilliant colleagues worked with me on that investigation, Jacob George in Cochin, M.G. Radhakrishnan in Trivandrum and Saritha Rai in Bangalore).

Our conclusion was that what was hailed as a great espionage story was in fact a shocking frame-up. It was full of fabrications and inconsistencies….

A couple of years after the story was published… the same distinguished scientist walked up to me. I folded my hands in polite namaste, but he surprised me by poking my chest to the left with his forefinger.

And then he said: “What you did on the ISRO story was like applying balm to our wounded hearts. We had built that organisation and that rocket project with our blood and sweat. You people helped save it from being destroyed.”

That scientist, if you haven’t guessed already, was A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.

Read the full story: ISRO spy case test

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