Tag Archives: M.J. Akbar

Whiff of a land scam at ‘National Media Centre’

Acquisition of land from farmers, tribals, shopkeepers and residents and others for industry and infrastructure projects has become a hot-button issue all over the country.

Mediapersons, it seems, are not immune.

The high-profile National Media Cooperative (NMC) housing society in Gurgaon—home to 190 of the capital’s boldfaced names in imprintlines—has landed bang in the centre of a storm.

M.J. Akbar‘s weekly Sunday Guardian newspaper reports that the management of the residents’ welfare association (RWA) of the NMC media co-op society has surrendered two acres of land, reportedly worth around Rs 200 crore, to the Haryana urban development authority (HUDA) without following proper procedure.

HUDA has, in turn, transferred the land to a consortium led by the controversial developer DLF, which is behind the Rapid Metro Rail Gurgaon (RMG) that will run through the satellite city’s major touchpoints.

The president of the RWA, Raj Chengappa, currently editor-in-chief of The Tribune, Chandigarh, has declined comment to the paper. But another former president of the RWA, Inderjit Badhwar, has confirmed that construction of pillars for the metro line is going on in the controversial bit of land.

“At present rate, the land is worth Rs 200 crore. If the HUDA wanted the land for public purpose, it should have been acquired under the Land Acquisition Act (LAC). We should have been paid the compensation. What we don’t understand is on what ground the RWA management surrendered the piece of land, without taking all the residents into confidence,” Badhwar is quoted as saying.

Both Chengappa and Badhwar are former employees of India Today* magazine.

Badhwar says a four-member committee headed by former Tribune editor Hari Jaisingh has been formed to investigate how and why the land was transferred to HUDA.

However, an unnamed general secretary of the RWA is quoted by The Sunday Guardian as saying that the land was not surrendered but taken over by HUDA under the terms of the license given to the NMC housing society in 1993.

* Disclosures apply


107 headlines from ToI on Commonwealth Games

Pride of the nation? No, shame of the nation.

The following is a list of the 107 “negative” headlines on the Commonwealth Games that have greeted readers of The Times of India (Delhi market) from August 1 to September 2, 2010:

•    Now, two top cyclists fall victim to dengue
•    Dengue threat right at Games Village doorstep
•    Missed deadlines hits security, lock down of sites not possible
•    Only one week for full security drill at venues
•    The lyrics are ridiculous; 6 months and 5 crore in making, A.R.Rahman’s track for games not exactly Waka Waka or Maa Tujhe Salaam, people say
•    TOI poll – Delhiites say life disrupted, India’s image hit
•    City govt. erred in diverting SC fund for Games : PC
•    Tourists show little interest in Delhi Games
•    Dengue will peak around Games : MCD
•    CWG venues won’t be ready even if PM mops the floor : Modi
•    Whose boycott? It won’t make any difference if you skip the CWG : Jug Suraiya
•    Miffed Rathore pulls out of CWG trials
•    Vijender unhappy, Akhil OK with boxing selection trials
•    Shooters brace for the worst
•    Shivaji Stadium may not make it to games
•    Work finished in haste, rubble on roads and faulty bikes irk cyclists
•    Cutting it fine : Sheila now sets Sept 15 as deadline
•    Balloon show under cloud
•    Rain Gods unhappy, jokes CM
•    Leaky stadia : Architects say roof designs were altered
•    Venue thrown off track as earth sinks in after rain
•    City gripped by digging frenzy
•    Green cost of infrastructure projects : 40,000 trees
•    OC won’t pay docs for Games duty, says they are serving nation
•    Pvt. sponsors will make up for PSU pullout : Kalmadi
•    CWG misses yet another deadline : ticket sales
•    Rs.28,000 cr Games expense sounds like wrong priority (Azim Premji)
•    Big guns may miss CWG bus
•    Top athletes skip drug test, may make it to games
•    Drivers for ambulances till missing
•    Payment row delay work at Games
•    Now DDA under scanner over CWG pools
•    Swimming pool may not get certification from top body
•    Cops : Only 14 days for security rehearsals
•    Hospitals told to buy ‘costly’ Games medical equipment
•    UK firm charged over six times for CWG over lays
•    Catering delay : OC passes buck to IRCTC
•    Archery venue wide off the mark
•    Fennell & Hooper pushed through dodgy SMAM deal.
•    Games ambulances in need of emergency care
•    Oz legend Dawn Fracer calls for boycott at Delhi
•    Deshmukh puts Rs 300 cr. funding on hold over corruption charge
•    Nimbus pulls out of sponsor liaison bid
•    Delayed DDA projects may again miss deadlines
•    London splurge & sleaze exposed by OC official
•    Venue delays hit volunteer training program
•    No open tenders floated for big balloon
•    Latest goof-up costs Rs.1.3 cr
•    Dengue danger at games venues & hospitals
•    Patriot games (Edit) : Jug Suraiya
•    05 CWG panel never came into being
•    Eye on Games business, city sees spurt in trafficking of minor girls
•    AM films did not have director when OC accepted its bid
•    After merchandise, catering may be the next casualty
•    City roads still dug up, MCD gets the jitters
•    50 days to go : Can this mess be cleared in time for the games?
•    Roped in for games duty doctors get ill treatment
•    Merchandise – selling firm pulls out
•    Dug up & delayed, CP down in dumps
•    CWG projects : panel asks govt. to explain cost overruns
•    Cong core group grapples to find way out of mess
•    BJP seeks PM reply, no one else will do
•    Kalmadi, Fennell under ED scanner
•    No time to waste; Govt. must take charge at the games (Edit)
•    Key investors in top CWG supplier have fictitious village address
•    Games flats home to mosquitoes
•     Desperate measures : Delhi hotel may slash their rates
•    Deadline passes, no sign of CWG caterer
•    Power shortage grounds T3s domestic operations
•    Kalmadi cleared payment for AM deal which he had ‘never heard of’
•    Queen ‘not aware’ of CWG controversy
•    Now, Games tickets miss deadline, buyers angry
•    Getting to the bottom of CWG scandal, Shobha De.
•    Kalmadi’s OC had hand in all big Games buys
•    CWG controversy brings LS to a halt
•    OC omitted brands used for Olympics in recommendation
•    Pots bought for crores banned from stadia
•    Despite denials, heads star to roll – OC treasurer quits; 2 officials removed, SMAM deal scrapped
•    OC tweaked tender to keep small player out
•    OC’s free ad time demand spooking sponsors?
•    Kalmadi’s Darbari flaunted Rajiv link
•    All in the family? OC treasure’s son heads firm laying games tennis turf
•    NTPC too threatens to pull out funding
•    Early birds will find trailing venues
•    After railways, NTPC says no donation if any agency gets cut
•    OC says no hiring, will buy treadmills
•    Foul play (Edit)
•    Common stealth Games (Edit)
•    We shouldn’t have hosted CWG 2010, says Baichung
•    Rlys threatens to pull out as sponsor.
•    Suppliers hire treadmills for Rs.1.00 lakh, lease them to games for Rs.10.00 lakh
•    Delhi ignored repeated advice : Ex CVC chief
•    Catering deadline extended again
•    SC funds diversion causes uproar in RS
•    60 days …. 30 headaches
•    ED smells a rat, probes 2 more foreign payouts.
•    Out of sync agencies slowed games work
•    Officials prove CM wrong, take a dig at deadline
•    Row is political says Australia’s CWG chief.
•    Engineers say they can’t finish VK games flats
•    Delay in printing manuals affects training of volunteers
•    Net ball venue has flaws : Oz manager returned home with ‘Major Concerns’
•    Weightlifting venue opens with dripping roof, seepage in walls
•    The heavens opened up, still in denial on games
•    Forewarned govt. still in denial on games
•    The ultimate games of also-rans (M.J. Akbar)
•    Work at swimming stadium is shoddy, says FINA vice president.

Image: courtesy The Times of India

‘News is the subtlest form of advertising’

M.J. Akbar in Deccan Herald:

“News is the subtlest form of advertising. Perhaps we should be generous to journalism and qualify that: news can become the most subtle form of advertising, particularly when it comes dressed in quotation marks….

“We customers of democracy buy words without enquiry about their value. This encourages those in power to embroider words with whatever we will be fooled by: sometimes pepper to enhance the taste, sometimes frippery to brighten the look, sometimes nothing more substantial than packaging.

“When you reach home, tear up the glittering paper, and open the box you find lots of straw under which is hidden a shrivelled raw mango instead of the array of Alfonsos you were promised in the marketplace of politics. Since there is no one else to blame for the transaction, you make pickle out of that mango and console yourself with the illusion that it is sustenance.”

Read the full columnWagon of words

Also read: Will M.J. Akbar recreate The Telegraph magic?

‘In fractured media, the word is the common fact’

M.J. Akbar charges Manmohan Singh of sabotage

‘Never let your head stoop as a journalist’

‘Hindu and HT were worst offenders in 1975’

With  nearly 60% of India reputedly being under 25 years of age—in other words, with three out of five Indians having been born after 1985—it stands to reason that the 35th anniversary of the declaration of Emergency by the Indira Gandhi government should have come and gone without creating a ripple.

That, and the fact that the news channels and newspapers were too busy celebrating panchamda R.D. Burman‘s birthday and the World Cup to be bothered of the more serious things affecting life and democracy.

Nevertheless, the press censorship during the Emergency is one of the darkest periods in contemporary Indian media history, when promoters, proprietors, editors and journalists quietly acquiesced to the firman of the government to not publish anything that was considered antithetical to the national interest.

Censors sat over editors in newspaper offices and crossed out material (including cartoons and pictures) that didn’t conform to the official policy; criticism of the government was a strict no-no; over 250 journalists were arrested; 51 foreign correspondents were dis-accreditated, 29 were denied entry, seven were expelled.

In The Sunday Guardian, the weekly newspaper launched by M.J. Akbar, the veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar recounts life under censorship, names the pussies and lions, and says the media today is “too niminy-piminy, too nice, too refined” if such a disaster were to strike again.



L.K. Advani was right when he told journalists, “You were asked to bend, but you crawled.” Even then, the courageous part was that nearly 100 journalists assembled at Delhi’s press club on 28 June 1975 and passed a resolution to condemn press censorship. But subsequently, fear took over and they caved in.

They were afraid to speak even in private.

The press council of India (PCI), the highest body to protect press freedom, became a part of the establishment. The then chairman, Justice Iyengar, stalled a resolution to criticise press censorship by local members of the PCI. Justice Iyengar informed the information minister V.C. Shukla about his achievement in not letting the resolution of condemnation passed.

Except for the Indian Express, the leading light during the Emergency, practically all papers preferred to side with the government.

The two of the worst were The Hindu and the Hindustan Times.

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.

The Hindustan Times, owned by the Birlas, was always with the Congress. K.K. Birla, then its chairman, took over as chairman of the Indian Express and changed its editor by replacing incumbent S. Mulgaonkar with V.K. Narasimhan, who proved to be a tough nut to crack. Birla was the complete opposite of Ramnath Goenka, the owner of the Indian Express. Goenka fought the government tooth and nail and staked all that he had built in his life….

The Times of India was edited by Sham Lal, who had impeccable credentials. Girilal Jain, the resident editor in Delhi, too stood by the principle of free press. Both were pro-Indira Gandhi but against press censorhip. However they felt handicapped because the management wanted to play it safe. Not that Shantilal Jain, who owned the paper, was in any way pro-Emergency, but he had burnt his fingers when the paper was taken over by the government at the instance of T.T. Krishnamachari, then the finance minister, who doubted the paper on certain matters.

Leading regional papers were against the Emergency but did not want to face government wrath. Eenadu, under Ramoji Rao, refused to toe the government line but stayed within the contours of the Emergency to avoid trouble.

Ananda Bazaar Patrika owner Ashoke Sarkar was a man of courage and gave his blessings to his principal correspondent Barun Sengupta’s fight against the emergency. The paper, however, managed to escape the wrath of the then West Bengal chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray, who was the author of the Emergency.

My friend K.M. Mathew, the owner of the vast empire of Malayala Manorama, stood his ground and despite the pressures on him showed where his sympathies lay when he invited to open a photo exhibition at Kottayam after my release from jail. The country was still in the middle of the Emergency. Yet, Mathew showed his annoyance in his own way.”

Text: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

‘N. Ram is stalling Malini Parthasarathy’s ascent’

The veteran journalist, author, civil rights activist, and former Indian high commissioner to London, Kuldip Nayar, weighs in on the tussle within the boardroom of The Hindu, in the latest issue of M.J. Akbar‘s weekly newspaper, The Sunday Guardian:

“I wonder why N. Ram, 65, is so reluctant to retire. People may have differed with his views and the manner in which he projected them, but they cannot deny that he is a successful journalist. Yet, he too, has to give a chance to his successor, N. Ravi, still waiting in the wings for his turn to give shape to his ideas about running the newspaper.

“Next in line is Malini Parthasarathy, who will possibly be the first woman editor of The Hindu. Strangely, although Ram is all for women’s reservation and other progressive causes, he seems to be stalling her chance to become the editor of the family newspaper.

“As a self-proclaimed leftist, N. Ram swears, ideologically, with the working journalists’ Act. According to this legislation, the journalist’s age of retirement is legally restricted to 60. If working journalists are compulsorily retired at 60, then why should not the editors?

“True, no retirement age is stipulated in the memorandum and articles of association of the company, relating to the directors of the The Hindu. What rules do exist apply only to the journalists working for the newspaper, who retire at 60.

“What happens to an editor who is also a director? Logically, he should also retire from the position at the age of 60, because that is the rule for the journalistic staff of The Hindu. Departing from this practice is neither fair nor proper.

“As it is a concession has been made to Ram, allowing him to continue till the age of 65 (which, in his case, will come in May 2010). Ram accepted the concession, despite it being a violation of the working journalists’ Act.

“For him to now say that he will not step down is to defy the norms of both journalistic tradition and democratic practice. He reminds me of The Statesman‘s late managing director C.R. Irani, with whom I worked. Irani’s obsession was to retain full control at all cost.”

Photograph: courtesy The Hindu

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

Not just about the brothers, it’s the children too

Now, it’s Malini Parthasarathy vs The Stalinists

Express declares ceasefire, brothers declare war

Wall Street Journal editor ‘denies’ minister’s SMS

M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday Guardian dishes out the garam masala of the day, outing the mischievous minister who allegedly sent allegedly inappropriate text messages to an editor of the Wall Street Journal after her recent interview with him.

Last week, the Delhi tabloid Mail Today had mentioned the gossip in its columns, two days in a row.

The minister, at the centre of a row over India’s alleged change of stance on climate change, has been at the receiving end of sections of the media over his u-turn on allowing genetically modified foods.

Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Sunday Guardian

allegedly Italics: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: Why Ram Jethmalani started The Sunday Guardian

Will M.J. Akbar recreate The Telegraph magic?

External reading: Editor the Great

Why Jethmalani started ‘The Sunday Guardian’

The well known criminal lawyer Ram Jethmalani on his increasingly testy relationship with the media, at an interaction with journalists of the Indian Express:

Pragya Kaushika: You have criticised the media but you have invested in a new paper, The Sunday Guardian. Why this sudden interest in the media?

Ram Jethmalani: It was due to my disenchantment with the press. I am a habitual writer but nobody has been publishing my articles. So I started this paper with a sense of total frustration with the press….

Vinay Sitapati: You criticised the media, but a large part of Ram Jethmalani is a media creation. You are constantly invited to TV news channels.

Jethmalani: Media does invite me but they invite me for opinions which they like and they also invite me because they think that more people will view their channel.

Sitapati: Many of the views that you give are picked up by millions of people and surely some of it is designed to be that way?

Jethmalani: I am not finding fault with the press. Yes, it is a two-way relationship.

Illustration: courtesy Outlook

Read the full exchange: ‘The greatest milestones of law…’

Also read: Will M.J. Akbar recreate The Telegraph magic?

A bigger masthead than the previous week