Tag Archives: Nira Radia

Vir Sanghvi, Modi, 1984 and Hindustan Times

In the latest issue of Open magazine, its political editor Hartosh Singh Bal writes on the re-appearance of former Hindustan Times editor Vir Sanghvi on the pages of the newspaper, to underline the the media’s janus-faced approach to the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 under Congress watch and the 2002 Gujarat riots under BJP rule:

Narendra Modi is not just unfit for the post of Prime Minister; he is unfit for any public office. But the shamelessness of such a man is best questioned by a media that is immune to questions about its own motives.

“Just this week, Delhi woke up to an article on the edit page of one of India’s leading newspapers, the Hindustan Times, by none other than Vir Sanghvi.

“Writing in the paper on politics for the first time since his misuse of the same space was rather dramatically highlighted in the Radia Tapes, he commented on the Modi campaign: ‘No matter which party wins, India is certain to lose.’

“It seems even shame has its limits.

“It is no surprise that almost a decade earlier Sanghvi had written about the 1984 massacres: ‘On the more substantive issue of whether the administration allowed Delhi to burn, all the commissions have been unanimous: yes, it did, but this was because of incompetence and negligence, not because of any sinister design. If there is a parallel, it is with the 1993 Bombay riots rather than with Gujarat.’

“Somehow, he always manages to say exactly what the Congress wants to hear. To me it seems that no matter who wins, with his piece being published, journalism in some measure has already lost.”

Read the full column: The end of shame

Also read: Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt: “We were targetted”

HT strips Vir Sanghvi of his editorial advisory role

Vir Sanghvi suspends Hindustan Times column

Vir Sanghvi says his HT column will resume soon

Why we didn’t hear Niira Radia tapes: 2 examples

86% feel let down by CD baat of journalists

After Athreya and Kautilya, enter Chanakya

Tata Steel & the suicide of Charudatta Deshpande

charu

The circumstances surrounding the alleged suicide of journalist-turned-corporate communications expert Charudatta Deshpande in Bombay last weekend, has exposed the dark underbelly of one of India’s biggest corporates, and the stress, pressure and threats that hacks face when silence is no longer a conscionable option.

Deshpande, 57, had resigned in April as chief of corporate affairs and communications at Tata Steel, having held that job for a little less than a year; he was due to join the PR firm Ad Factors on July 1. He had previously served as general manager, ICICI Bank, and prior to that as senior general manager of Mahindra & Mahindra.

As a journalist, Deshpande had worked at The Daily, The Indian Express, The Economic Times, Business India TV, and the Business and Political Observer.

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A group of nine friends and colleagues of Charudatta Deshpande (including the president of the Press Club of Bombay) has written to Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry and his predecessor Ratan Tata, urging them to institute a proper inquiry into the death.

In their letter, written in their individual capacities, Charu’s friends claim:

# Charu was being bullied into signing some documents/ bonds on June 29, a day before he took his life.

# Charu was being blamed for “facilitating” a story (in picture, above) in Forbes India and was under enormous pressure to “admit” to his complicity in “leaking” confidential company documents to the media.

# Charu was was under “house arrest” in Jamshedpur and that his cell phones were being tapped.

# Charu was being called and threatened by an unnamed mafia.

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In his individual capacity, ICICI executive director Ram Kumar, a well known figure in HR circles, has also written to the Tatas on the “disgraceful” manner in which Deshpande’s services had been terminated, and the “untold pressure and threat at Jamshedpur” in the weeks preceding his death.

The Economic Times reports:

“Ramkumar’s letter, referring to the claims of the people who met Deshpande in the four weeks preceding his death, alleges that he was “confined” for over two weeks at Jamshedpur.”

Amazingly, or perhaps not, nobody from the House of Tatas, who routinely clamber on to the high moral horse, called on Deshpande’s family for three days after the alleged suicide and Ramkumar has alleged in his letter that a PR firm tried to “sully” Deshpande’s name after the death.

On the other hand, ICICI Bank, where Deshpande had worked earlier, has facilitated a job for his son Gaurav, who graduates in two weeks’ time.

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Below is the full text of the letter sent by nine friends of Charudatta Deshpande to Tata Sons chairman emeritus Ratan Tata and Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry, on 30 June 2013:

Dear Mr Tata and Mr Mistry,

We write to you as the collective conscience of a group of friends and former colleagues of Charudatta Deshpande, a former Tata Steel employee, who committed suicide on Friday, June 28, 2013.

From whatever evidence we have gathered until now on the back of conversations with Charudatta in the weeks leading to his demise, and with those who knew him closely, Charu was placed under enormous stress and subjected to harassment by officials at Tata Steel.

Our understanding is it was this harassment that prompted him to commit suicide. This letter is an attempt to bring this episode to your attention and seek your intervention into instituting an urgent and independent inquiry into the matter.

Charu was head of corporate communications at Tata Steel. About a month ago, he resigned from the company. The events leading to his exit are relevant and we would like to place them before you for your consideration.

In April, a few months into his new assignment, Forbes India magazine ran a cover story “Remoulding Tata Steel”. The story is online here on http://forbesindia.com/article/boardroom/putting-the-shine-back-into-tata-steel/35049/0.

It attempted to chronicle the challenges facing Tata Steel at a time when a crucial CEO succession drama was unfolding.

The story was based on extensive and independent reporting that lasted more than five months. Soon after it appeared in print though, a distraught Charu got in touch with those of us at Forbes India and alleged officials at Tata Steel were placing the blame on him for “facilitating” a story they thought inimical to their interests.

He added he was subsequently grounded for more than two weeks; that for all practical purposes was “under house arrest” in Jamshedpur; that his phones were being tapped; and that he was being subjected to enormous pressure to “admit” to his complicity in “leaking” confidential company documents to the media.

Many of us have worked in the past at various newsrooms including at the Economic Times where he was a senior editor. We have also known him professionally in his stints as head of corporate communications at organisations such as ICICI Bank, Mahindra & Mahindra and Tata Steel.

We remember him as a thorough professional who placed a premium on the interests of the organizations he worked for. Each one of us can personally vouch that in his interactions with us, he has never behaved irresponsibly or tried to damage the reputation of the firms he represented.

Those of us who were at Forbes India when the story on Tata Steel was being researched are willing to testify on any forum that matters he conducted himself with integrity and responsibility.

What we also know of the events that preceded his death are outlined below.

1. He was in discussions with officials at Adfactors PR, with whom he was negotiating employment prospects. He told them he was being called and threatened repeatedly by a ‘mafia’ – a term he used constantly; and that his cell phone was being tapped.

2. He had informed a friend that he was being bullied into signing some documents/bonds on June 29, a day before he took his life.

3. Immediately after the story appeared, he was in constant touch over the phone with Indrajit Gupta, the founding editor of Forbes India. He confided in Indrajit Gupta and spoke of being confined for over two weeks at Jamshedpur, being harassed after the story appeared in the magazine, was not allowed to travel without permission, and articulated his concerns about his cell phone being tapped. Despite being advised to escalate the matter to higher authorities, including the Tata Headquarters at Bombay House, Charu insisted it would be futile and make things worse for him.

Whatever be the circumstances behind his exit, most of us assumed he would put the setback behind him and move on. However, he alleged the threatening phone calls he got even after exiting he company was causing him a lot of stress.

What transpired after Charu passed away was even more despicable. Even as the news of his demise trickled in on Friday evening, there were concerted attempts made by Tata Steel officials and the PR agency to pass off his death as a heart attack, and not a suicide.

A senior PR official even insisted that he had visited Charu’s residence and confirmed the news of the heart attack, which turned out to be untrue. Some regional papers even hinted he had embezzled funds.

We believe this is an attempt to tarnish the reputation of a senior professional and take the focus away from the root cause behind his untimely death.

Discussions with Charu’s family have revealed he had no personal problems or disputes there. His brother-in-law Mahesh said Charu was extremely disturbed and depressed in the month before he finally quit Tata Steel. Mahesh also spoke of Charu confiding in the family he made a serious mistake in joining Tata Steel.

These apart, he also spoke of having been let down by the company on various counts and not being provided manpower and resources he was promised when he joined.

The Tata group has nurtured a long tradition of practising and upholding the highest standards of ethics and probity in public life. Nothing that we now do can redeem what has happened. But for the sake of justice, we would urge you to institute an inquiry into this matter.

If nothing, it will help bring closure to a traumatic episode for Charu’s family and his circle of friends. Equally importantly, an inquiry of this kind will go a long way to ensure episodes of this kind don’t occur again.

The all of us who have signed on this note would be willing to aid any inquiry process you choose to institute by providing evidence and witnesses with whom Charu had spoken to before his demise.

We trust the both of you will do what is right.

In anticipation,

On behalf of

Indrajit Gupta, Gurbir Singh, Charles Assisi, Prince Mathews Thomas, Dinesh Krishnan, Cuckoo Paul, T. Surendar, Debojyoti Chatterjee, Dinesh Narayanan

***

Photograph: via Facebook

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Also read: Have the Tatas blacklisted Times of India again?

Why Ratan Tata hired Niira Radia‘s services

What Niira Radia told PAC on Barkha Dutt chat

Four lessons in journalism from the Tatas’ chief PRO

Tamil journalist’s house raided in 2G spectrum scam

Nakkheeran journo denies wife worked for Radia firm

2G scam bribe was diverted to Tamil TV channel

Has media credibility suffered a body blow in 2G scam?

The journalist who offered a Rs 2 crore bribe?

How to pass IAS: read newspapers & magazines

banik

It is not often these days that news consumers have something good to say about newspapers.

And magazines.

And TV stations.

And blogs.

And websites.

Individual and institutional transgressions—paid news, private treaties, medianet, Radia tapes, shrieking anchors, sensationalism, jingoism, corruption, etc—have all contributed enormously to the cynicism of the media among the consuming classes.

How heartening therefore to hear Debasweta Banik.

At 22, one of youngest to pass the civil services examinations this year, the NOIDA girl tells the Wall Street Journal‘s India Realtime, that she didn’t reach out for textbooks or attend coaching classes. Instead, she dipped into newspapers to keep abreast with current affairs and frame her essays better.

Yes, newspapers.

WSJ reporter Preetika Rana writes:

“A typical day, Banik says, would begin by studying three out of seven English-language news dailies her father – an engineer at a Noida-based state-run firm – subscribes to. Her staples were The Indian Express, Hindustan Times and The Hindu, but she would also dip into others.

“‘I made cuttings out of articles – commentaries and news stories – which interested me,’ said Ms. Banik, who ranked 14th in the exam. ‘These were my notes.’

“Opinion pieces written by political analyst Ramachandra Guha and economist Abhijit Banerjee helped her better frame long answers in the exam, she added….

“‘People underestimate the knowledge in newspapers,’ said Ms. Banik, who is from Noida. ‘I don’t know how I would have done this without them. They were my lifeline,’ she said.

Image: via Facebook

Link: courtesy Nikhil Kanekal

Read the full article: How I aced India’s toughest exam

Also read: Shekhar Gupta on Express and the Hindu

The Hindu: the most readable daily in the world?

Niira Radia, Mukesh Ambani, NDTV & Prannoy Roy

In conversation number #132 in the infamous Niira Radia tapes, the lobbyist whose name has become synonymous with the 2G scam, talks to M.K. Venu, then of The Economic Times, in July 2009:

Venu: Is Manoj (Modi) is here (in Delhi) today also, no?

Radia: Yeah, he is here, he is leaving in the afternoon, later part of the afternoon. We are meeting Prannoy (Roy of NDTV) today. We need to support Prannoy, you know… We feel it needs to be supported.

Now, the penny drops.

Money Life, the personal finance magazine run by the investigative journalist Sucheta Dalal, reports that the American investment firm D.E. Shaw has picked up a 14.2% stake in NDTV, providing an exit to another blue chip investor, Goldman Sachs, which held an equivalent stake.

Reports Money Life:

“Interestingly, the D.E. Shaw investment in NDTV has happened in less than two weeks since it joined hands with Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) to enter the Indian financial services sector. Now we know that Mukesh Ambani has a soft spot for NDTV’s promoters and anchors and that they had previously approached him for an investment.”

Manoj Modi is Mukesh Ambani’s Man Friday. Niira Radia represented Mukesh Ambani and counted NDTV Imagine among her many clients before the 2G scam broke.

M.J. Akbar‘s Sunday Guardian reported in March that Radia was behind the January 2010 launch of a book by bureaucrat-turned-politician N.K. Singh in London, for which Ambani, Venu and NDTV’s Barkha Dutt travelled together on the same plane.

Read the full article: NDTV continues to find buyers

Listen to the conversation: #132 M.K. Venu: July 09, 2009

When Prabhu Chawla called up Amar Singh…

The Supreme Court has lifted a five-year ban on the airing of the infamous Amar Singh CD which, along with the Niira Radia tapes, must be made required listening in journalism schools for the unvarnished view it offers of how politicians, industrialists, bureaucrats, film stars, celebrities, middlemen and journalists operate.

Among the two-dozen conversations  on the Amar Singh CD—fondly referred to in media circles as “Amar Singh ki amar kahaniyan“—is one involving Prabhu Chawla, the former editor of India Today and currently the editorial director of The New Indian Express.

The conversation is centred on a press conference Amar Singh is threatening to call to tell the world about how an Aaj Tak reporter (Prachi Jawadekar Wagh, now with NDTV) sneaked into a hospital ward in Bombay, where the film star Amitabh Bachchan was recuperating and allegedly invaded his privacy. Chawla’s call to the then Samajawadi Party leader is aimed at stalling the press meet.

For the record, Chawla also figures in the Niira Radia tapes, and Chawla himself has put up the transcript of his conversation with the lobbyist on his website to set the record straight.

Also read: ‘TV is dishing out cheap opinion’

Shekhar Gupta on journalists in Radia tapes

The May issue of the men’s fashion magazine, GQ (for Gentleman’s Quarterly), has a six-page interview with Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of The Indian Express and host of the NDTV 24×7 interview programme Walk the Talk.

In a cover-mention titled “Is the Indian Express running out of steam?”, Gupta takes questions from the adman-columnist Anil Thakraney over oranges fresh from his farm in Haryana.

Shekhar Gupta reveals that Sonia Gandhi is the most interesting interview guest he has had, and that he passed along a story on the President blocking a Supreme Court judge’s promotion to a rival newspaper because the judge had ordered the sealing of the building from where the Express operated.

He also says journalists caught on the Niira Radia tapes “definitely” crossed the line:

Anil Thakraney: Niira Radia didn’t call you?

Shekhar Gupta: I’m sure she must have.

You think the journos caught speaking to her were guilty of a breach of ethics?

SG: Of the 100-odd people she may have spoken to in that period in the media, about five or six have got caught in varying degreees of indiscretion. It’s OK to string along a source; journalists are SOBs (sons of bitches), so that’s fine. The worst indiscretion would be quid pro quo. That has not been established in anybody’s case.

Do you think these journalsits crossed the line or not?

SG: Oh, yes, they definitely did.

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Gupta also says:

#Am I happier compared to where we were three or even 10 years back? Yes. Am I happy, satisfied and in a lean-back state of mind? No. The potential of the Express is still unrealised….

# I don’t think any editor can say, “I have got it right”. The beauty of journalism is that it brings you surprises and challenges every day.

# Oh yes, we do (make money). Our balance sheet is in the public domain. All of us get our salaries paid, and we get paid very decent salaries.

# The Express is a top-of-the-mind paper…. It must go to every Indian who matters. While we want to improve our numbers, we don’t want to flood the market with cheap copies.

# There are a lot of young Indians who want their newspaper to be stimulating, intelligent and empowering. Only two papers in India fulfil that role: the Hindu and the Express.

# I always carried two visiting cards: one of “Editor-in-Chief” and the other of “Group CEO”. I said to myself, as long as I am using them in the ratio of 10:1, I am doing fine.

# I find the Times of India (Bombay edition) a comprehensive newspaper; it’s very good. I have great respect for that organisation because they change with the times.

# The qualities a good journalist must possess: Knowledge, language, enterprise, contacts… all that you can develop with time. The most important attribute has to be curiosity.

# Journalism means that when you get a piece of information, you verify it. Even if a reporter has seen someone steal something, she should still ask the person before publishing. The new definition of courageous journalism seems to be: You have the information, you publish it. You don’t check with the other guy. That’s the question I would raise about the Radia tapes as well. This is hit-and-run.

Also read: Is The Indian Express now a pro-establishment paper?

Indian Express, NDTV & the scoop that wasn’t

The Ratan Tata-Shekhar Gupta mutual admiration club

The curious case of Zakir Naik and Shekhar Gupta

‘Editors and senior journos must declare their assets’

The “journalist” who offered a Rs 2 crore bribe?

Journalists and media houses are turning out to be key go-betweens and beneficiaries in the 2G spectrum allocation scam that has already seen a Union minister and several corporate honchos go behind bars.

Several famous scribes have found themselves on the infamous Niira Radia tapes, at least one journalist’s house has been raided, and a TV channel has been named as the recipient of the bribe money.

Despite the strongarm tactics adopted by Ratan Tata‘s Tatasons against The Times of India group with obvious commercial implications, The Economic Times continues to lead the way in its coverage of the scam.

This time, Rohini Singh shines the light on the burgeoning breed of middlemen-journalists, for whom the press information bureacu (PIB) accreditation card is, well, the gift that continues to give.

Newspaper facsimile: courtesy The Economic Times

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Also read: What Niira Radia told PAC on Barkha Dutt chat

Have the Tatas blacklisted The Times of India again?

Four lessons in journalism from the Tatas’ chief PRO

Tamil journalist’s house raided in 2G spectrum scam

Nakkheeran journo denies wife worked for Radia firm

2G scam bribe was diverted to Tamil TV channel

Has media credibility suffered a body blow in 2G scam?