Sunday, May 3, 2009

Cynical of Democracy - Whom to blame ?

Recent reports and discussions on our Main Stream Media post phase 3 of polling has been at most hilarious and Hypocritical, the appalling 44% odd polling in Mumbai has sent the Media on a fact finding mission or to be more precise, another fault finding mission ??

After 26/11 and all the Media "activism" with Jaago re , Aamir khan and all the Glamor, what we all get is a couple of percentage drop in polling over last elections :) . The fault finding mission has implicated and convicted everything that could have been possibly done The list starts from the political class , talks about the summers blames politicians again for the schedule and ends again with the political class. Every one is to blame but for the Media, and they can be really quick to in fact take credit for the 44% who exercised their right (duty ?).

I feel this is the first major success our media has had in their attempt at destroying our institutions. I feel the Media should take full blame for creating unfounded cynicism in the political class and the system, instead of trying to get people take interest in the political process the media has actually forced people to only take interest in ridiculing politics and politicians .

In the entire political process in the current general elections the media was successful in making the elections issue less when every politician in the opposition was trying to raise genuine issues of national interest the Media could only find Varun Gandhi as a worthwhile issue to hog prime time space, they could only pick up the "My daddy Strongest" rhetoric of all poll issues, they could only find the nose of a certain Priyanka Gandhi of prime time interest (is she even a primary member of a political party ? ) , of 48 pages of a manifesto , an IT vision , an Infrastructure Vision, all the media could find is a paragraph on Cultural Humanism worthwhile of debate, of Hour long political speeches what only enthused the media was a drunken man flinging projectiles aimlessly.

Where were the issues which actually people could relate to, where was the debate on which political formation had a better vision / plan to get India out of the terrible economic crisis we are going through , where was the debate on food price inflation, where was the debate on unemployment, Infrastructure, development, Internal security, external threats. Why wasn't the sadak, bijli Pani given the importance it deserved ?

When Varun Gandhi spoke of nationalism and forgetting about caste identities (after release on parole) where was the same media which hounded him for a fortnight when he allegedly made communal remarks ??

Kudos to the Media for its success in demonising Politics and politicians as a class and giving democracy a body blow.

Monday, April 6, 2009

NSA on the Media ?

Indian politics has always been interesting, but the media coverage of specific aspects of our polity has made it ever more fascinating, and if i look at my blog most of my recent posts seem to have centered around the media which, believe me, is purely unintentional, somehow the media has been able to evoke the strongest emotions in me lately.

Now this post is about the alleged "Hate Speech" by Mr Varun Gandhi and the events leading to his arrest and subsequent imposition of the "National Security Act", as his actions were considered to have endangered national Security.

Recollecting the sequence of events, this is what has happened -

1) Varun Gandhi makes the alleged hate speech at a Pilibhit rally attended by a few 100 people, apparently the speech is recorded by someone. (we have no idea about the identity of this "someone")
2) For the next 12 odd days things are as normal as they always have been in Pilibhit and the rest of the country, no signs of communal disturbance reported or attributed to Mr Gandhi
3) Suddenly a CD appears which is directly sent to the main stream media by "someone" (Now this "someone" can be the same "someone" referred to in point 1 above or can also be "someone" else, the identity of any of the "someones's" not yet known.
4) Now every one in the country can see the alleged speech 24X7 , and it is played and replayed over and over again by our active Media.
5) Now instead of one of the "someones's" mentioned above the EC asks the media for the CDs.
6) In a couple of days the EC assumes the role of the judiciary and pronounces Varun Gandhi Guilty.
7) Varun Gandhi courts arrest in Pilibhit and by now thanks to the media everyone in the world has heard the speech, and there is a show of support for Varun Gandhi , also there are reports of rioting.
8) The UP govt declares Varun Gandhi a threat to the Nation and charges him Under NSA.

In view of the above there are 2 distinct possibilities -
a) The CD was doctored as proclaimed by Varun Gandhi

This clearly makes the Media guilty of playing a fabricated Video over and over again leading to communal tensions and a possible threat to national security.

b) The CD was not doctored and Varun Gandhi actually made the speech.

In this case Varun Gandhi is guilty of delivering this speech to a few hundred people, with apparently no effect as there is no word of anything happening in the 12 days since the alleged speech was made.

Logically speaking even here the Media is guilty of showing a hate speech over and over again on national TV in an attempt to raise communal passions directly responsible for the kind of rioting seen in pilibhit and endangering National Security.

So, in my unbiased view,either way, based only on the facts listed above the real threat to national Security and maybe to our nation has been our Main Stream Media, Shouldn't it be charged under NSA ?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Fifth Estate

Media as an industry, post liberalization has grown enormously over the last couple of decades and so has its influence on the other "Pillars" of democracy over the years. It has had its success in making the judiciary , the legislature and the executive a lot more accountable and even forced them into action in quite a few instances , the apparent influence on the Jessica Lal case or the Nitish Katara case in recent years has been largely attributed to Media activism, for which the media has received due credit.

Any kind of mindless, uninhibited, exponential and unregulated growth has historically always led to disaster , the current state of our global economy is testament to this universal truth, even our "Free" Media is proving to be no exception, the fall in standards of reporting especially of the 24X7 electronic media, driven by the obvious constraints of profitability has led to an increased need of sensationalism, a need to create news where there isn't any and the ever increasing tendency of leading journalists to report news more as their own personal/their masters views which they hope all will subscribe to.

The developments post 26/11 and the rhetoric created by our Media was somewhat reminiscent of the Bond flick "Tomorrow Never Dies", our Media was "almost" successful in engineering a War, and had it happened, it would have been just the boost our Media houses would have needed to beat the recession ! Its simple logic if a 3 day gunfight can create the kind of hysteria we witnessed , 3 month war is just what the doctor ordered ?.. and then our brave journalists would take reality TV to its zenith standing in the line of fire and laying their claim to martyrdom bringing the war (created by them) as it happens when it happens straight to you ... "Whatever it Takes" ,and who knows maybe another couple of these "Brave" men and women decorated with padmashrees.

Isn't this a Dream come true for a Media house listed on our stock exchanges which have to show numbers at the end of every 3 months ?

And even talking about the recent cases like Arushi Talwar or the unabashedly biased political reporting we are subject to, with every media entity serving their bosses and personal agendas, is a bit too trivial in view of the above.

Now when the Pillar of our democracy which is supposed to check and question the other pillars, itself starts behaving in the way it is today, maybe its time for a fifth estate which undoubtedly in the next generation will be the internet and more specifically online blogging / social networks. This will potentially be the most democratic "pillar" where each one us has their say, and when all say the same in one voice it will be more and more difficult to ignore such opinions.

Even though it is still in what i can say a nascent stage of development, already there are signs of it establishing itself ever so slowly, the classic case of Barkha Dutt/NDTV vs C Kunte (apparently a lone helpless blogger who chose to say what he felt) and was subsequently bullied and forced to retract, what followed over the next month on the Blogosphere is testimony to the growing strength of this 5th Pillar of our democracy.

For those who haven't heard of this case which has been largely ignored by our mainstream media ( apparently in a bid to protect themselves and their clan from the inevitable), a simple google search on "Barkha Dutt" will show you loads of stuff on this case. I am linking to a couple of the articles here for your convenience.

The Hoot - The actual post by C Kunte and subsequent apology
Rakesh Jhunjunwala - My favouritehe re take on this :)

Now i wont get into the merits of the case as its already been dissected to the core all over
the blogosphere, I just have 2 points to put here -

1) When the head of state of the most powerful country of the world can be the single most abused person on the blogosphere who *** **** is Barkha Dutt !
2) This has been a PR disaster , and the irony is they are the same people who are adept at creating larger than life heroes from no where and maligning people with whom they or their masters have a "difference in opinion"

With politicians already taking cognizance of the potential influence on the 5th estate with some serious online campaigning been done by the BJP ( , including providing participative platforms for creating agendas for governance ( the ball is already rolling.

The Influence as of now hasn't yet been threatening to the 4th estate , but i am confident with time and growth of the "5th estate" we are in for interesting times.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

2 years Since .. another time another day ...another Blast

A couple of years ago, i was pretty much in a similar setup as I am today, away from home, alone, with nothing much to do. Then something had happened which made me write this -
Survival ... The Basic Instinct , that was an expression of angst i felt following the orchestrated blasts on the Mumbai locals, within a span of 11 minutes a series of explosions led to the death of 200 innocent fellow Indians along with 700 odd injured many of them probably disabled for life. I had talked about a kind of Inertia that i felt had set in, in our response to such acts of mindless terror and hoped our basic survival instincts will make us rise from that slumber and bring about a change.

More than 2 years and numerous similar incidents later i only find my angst being replaced by helplessness, it is amazing to look back and see myself react over every such incident whether be it Jaipur, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi .... its almost become a routine, you hear about the incident, call up family and friends in that city, check if alls well, express your angst on this , talk, debate , discuss over and over again forget the incident in a weeks time ... maybe a fortnight and repeat the same when the next time terror strikes. This time it was Delhi ... my city but thankfully "My" people were all safe and sound who cares about the 22 others who lost their lives to another dastardly act of senseless violence.

The problem i see today is that we in India don't value human life as much as people across the world do, big deal if a few hundreds get killed out of a billion plus ... thats the attitude i see across the socio political spectrum in India , be it the common man , the politician or the government.

Today Human rights are more important than Human life. Teesta Setalvad is more important than Inspector M C Sharma, the home minister of our country says "action will be taken against the culprits as per the law" and tries to ensure there arent any laws in the first place. The prime minister of the country doesnt say anything and soniaji visits the hospitals and "condemns" the blast. Mr Rajdeep Sardesai (among the top journalists in India) says "laws are not detterents" and "laws not required, as crminals will still go ahead and commit crime" and conveniently forgets that inspite of convictions under the laws of the land the convicted is still being saved the gallows by our political and 'activist' class .. Our security agencies with 302 rifles and a khakhi half sleeve shirt are expected to ambush militants with AK47s and bullet proof jackets, And obviously arent given the luxury of being pro active in nabbing doubtful elements in the society as it might upset a few Human(Terrorists) Rights Activists

Is there hope ? i really dont have an answer , we are where we were 2 years ago, maybe in an even worse condition today .... that external force, probably hasn't been strong yet to get us out of our inertia ... but till when can things be the way they are ... when will we start valuing human life ... only time will tell ... as of now .. today ... i feel just a sense of helplessness !!

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Hindu Rate of growth

I remember the times as a small kid living in an upmarket 'Bombay' locality, where I shared my apartment block with the likes of Indrani mukherjee, Harmesh Malhotra (Nagina fame), Asha Parekh and my neighbourhood with Sunil Dutt/Nargis Dutt , Dilip Kumar and Saira Banu, had friends who were kids of the rich and famous, went to the school which had Aaamir Khan as its alumni and paid 5 /- a month as fees. Till the time my height became a bit too obstructive for my dad to ride comfortably and we could afford a second hand maruti ( for a whopping 50000/-), The mode of tranport for my family of 4 was an original Vespa (1958 Model) which ferried us for years from Pali Hill in Bandra to Vashi in New Bombay

This was the last decade of what I call the Nehruvian legacy, After 40 years of socialism , there still were the haves and the havenots, and then there were us, "something in the middle & something in between" , the lucky few whose dad's had jobs with those prestigious public sectors financial institutions which had assets in the most posh localities, but operationally were just in line with the Hindu rate of growth, and so were the salaries and growth opportunities.

I was surely among the lucky ones,for me, I have always believed, the standard of life then, when my dad supported his family on a meager salary of less than 10K as a manager was better than what most people can ever have today. In spite of the big bucks just out of college grads make , most will never afford living in the same apartment, I was brought up in.

Probably Nehru had dreamed of an India where most would have been as lucky as i was, but unfortunately that did not or maybe could not have happened, those public sectors even after a good 40 years could be counted on your fingertips and therefore provide employment for maybe not even a % of the Indian populace, and that is where Nehru and later his successors failed to estimate growth rates which would have been required to provide equal opportunities to most. Our economy was growing at around 2 - 3 % whereas other Asian capatalist economies were booming led by japan and then followed by the south east asian economies , Korea and China.

And this, instead of bringing in equality and even distribution of wealth, in fact led to a widening of the Gap between the haves and the have nots, with the rich, who could "manage" the license raj getting richer, the priviledged educated elite who could land jobs in the public sector , Govt , administration or the bureaucracy a respectable lifestlye (though not much money to show) and the rest, the majority with almost nothing. Maybe the Green revolution of the late 60's / 70's was the only saviour for the large agricultural economy on which India survived those decades.

The key was to create millions of jobs, which never happened in the controlled License raj era and left a generation of unemployed undereducated Indians who form todays caste and class ridden Indian middle class who feel let down by the nation in not been given an equal opportunity to grow along with their few lucky countrymen.

I have been lucky and fortunate have been born in the era which witnessed the transition of India from the stifled growth decades of the 80's and early 90's to the era of the open markets today, its true, for me, i might never get to stay in apartment block on Nargis Dutt road in Pali Hill, but am happy for the millions of my countrymen who atleast have a job today and an opprtunity to change their and our country's fortune.

Only if we had started the process in the 50's along with the Japans of the world ...