Monday, January 13, 2014

EDITOR'S COLUMN

Friends

We are into 2014. Old order changeth yielding place to the new. So, its WISHING ALL OUR READERS, PATRONS & WELL WISHERS A GREAT NEW YEAR. Hope there is peace and contentment all over the living world. Year 2013,  that went by, had all the making of a commercial potboiler from the tinsel world. From sense to nonsense, bizarre to macabre, greatness to downright meanness.
From the ever present Kaavery river water dispute to the emergence of Aam Aadmi Party in the evolving electoral politics of the country, from imprisonment of Sanjay Dutt & those misplaced appeals for his pardon, from CBI being castigated as Caged Bird of India by the Supreme Court to deadly naxal attacks in Chhattisgarh, from the larger than life appearance of Narendra Modi in the national politics to the controversial Bharath Ratna to cricketer Tendulkar, there has been development of all kinds, significant and insignificant. And the country completed 12 months of governance that was riddled with corruption of gargantuan kind which ended with the most uncharitable barb on Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. The observation in media space that ‘Manmohan Singh has proved that India does not need a Prime Minister’, was the ‘unkindest cut of all’. But that probably was the reflection of public sentiment on the ground.
Looking over the month that went by, we have tried to cover the happenings to the extent possible within the space constraint of Month-in-Perspective.
However, one of the most horrific incident that happened in Hyatt Regency, an up market hotel complex in Goa took the media savvy Indian public completely by shock and disbelief. That it could happen between two non-consenting adults from the fourth estate made it all the more bizarre. We have tried to cover the alleged sexapade in Focus. Hope readers would find it interesting. Do revert with your considered opinion. We do value it.

                                                                                                            


Month-In-Perspective

MAHARASHTRA: There was this advertisement appearing in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, marketing, ‘NULIFE Resort Residence for seniors’, being ‘India’s First World Class Resort Residence for Seniors’ and many other exclusive adjectives hyped appropriately to appeal to rich section of our society. Facilities on offer appeared high end. Of course, all elders deserve a peaceful life, but there are those who have lived life on exclusive surroundings with all comforts of life.  It is probably true that they worked hard to live comfortably, but in the afternoon of life walking towards the evening and then of course the eventual sunset, can all of us ask few questions to ourselves, especially those who lived their 60 years in comfort, if we can give our time, if not resources, to those who are not as lucky as ourselves, by sharing knowledge, skill and whatever else that is possible, besides the time. May be these resort marketing companies can even offer some option to those who could be interested in such altruistic activities, some kind of a group transport some twice/thrice  a week, to places like orphanage, a tribal hamlet etc. Such approach could make life little more meaningful to all, both buyers and sellers, so that even so late in the day, life can become purposeful, of having given back little to society that gave us so much. Didn’t Vivekananda say that, ‘those who lived only for themselves have not lived at all’. 
There may be hundreds of reasons of the past for which CBI should have been outside the government influence or control. But the latest denial of permission by Governor K Sankaranarayana to prosecute former Chief Minister Ashok Chavan is the latest in the innumerable hurdles CBI had faced all thru’ its existence.
The Adarsh scandal that rocked Maharashtra government, was investigated by CBI, despite resistance from the political class of the state. Ashok Chavan, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra had to quit under public pressure due to the flagrant misuse of power in the allotment of flats in Adarsh Housing Society in the up market Colaba area of South Mumbai.
CBI had sought former CMs prosecution for criminal conspiracy and cheating in his actions of commission and omission as Revenue Minister at that time. Surely CBI had prima facie evidence to prosecute Ashok Chavan, but the intervention by Governor, prompted obviously by the advice of Maharashtra cabinet, has put paid to the uncommon courage of CBI to take on a political heavy weight. It is indeed ironical that Maharashtra government & Governor acted even as Loksabha passed the Lokpal Bill. So much for fighting corruption. This is Yeh Mera India.
Former CIC Shailesh Gandhi is at it again. He is one of those who has not taken up any assignment, post retirement. May be because political bosses do not like honest and straight foreward bureaucrats, or because genuinely he was not interested and may be therefore became an RTI activist. To that job obviously he fits like a shot. As former CIC, he knows, it inside out. 
Thus, when state CIC Ratnakar Gaikwad had issued an order refusing RTI applicants details about building plans under RTI and citizens started complaining that not only the order curbed their rights, it made the job of unscrupulous builders’ easy, Shailesh Gandhi came calling on Gaikwad to convince him that the order is bad in law. No wonder Mr Gaikwad became wiser. He immediately withdrew the disputed order to the relief of all activists including Shailesh Gandhi. Wish there are more like him, who can hold the candle to the fighting aam aadmi.  
Sugar, as we all know, is a sweetner. But in politics it can even become bitter.
The recent package, supposedly intended to bail the sugar industry in the country, out of its-politician/industry combine created mess. If not elsewhere, at least in Maharashtra, sugar is a political commodity since both Congress parties – INC & NCP – get their sustenance from sugar co-operatives of the state.
These co-operatives were started by politicians in Maharashtra, and all of them enjoy political patronage. Started by the senior politician of the yore, Y B Chavan, continued by Vasant Dada Patil and other political heavy weights to the present NCP supremo Sharad Pawar, these sugar factories funded the politics and election of both Congress & NCP. Of course, being a political machinist NCP Supremo holds near absolute hold over these co-opearatives. No wonder, the GOM headed by Pawar gave a package of Rs: 7500 crores, with favourable terms like, restructuring the existing loans, incentive for producing raw sugar for exports, so also incentive for producing - ethanol blending in petrol – from the present 5% to 10%.
Of course, the industry is in crisis due to its own bad management. This is despite the Rangarajan committee recommendations to regulate its working. These recommendation were never implemented. Basic problem was the implicit rejection by sugar mills the profit sharing formula of 70/30 with the sugarcane farmers. Sugar co-ops were reluctant to share the profit with the farmers, who naturally demanded more for their produce and caused the impasse. But then being perishable, they too have less holding power and hence end-up succumbing. Hence a package, more as a vote bank exercise, had to be resorted, now that April 2014 is only months away.

UTTAR PRADESH: “Fatwa says homosexual should be burned, stoned”, was the report in a Bangalore based English daily. The Deoband based Darul Uloom Islamic Seminary has the practice of issuing Fatwas on just about anything, it thinks to react. It was reacting on the Apex Court decision to set aside Delhi High Court’s judgement allowing gay sex as not illegal.
On 11th Dec., it was, as if hell broke loose on the media space, in Delhi & Mumbai, ostensibly the centres of so-called emancipated men and women, when Supreme Court said ‘NO’ to gays. It only showed that there are any number of deviant men and women. But that is not the issue at all. In privacy of your solitude what you do is entirely your business.  Section 377 of IPC has not forbidden, per se, the union of same sex. So what’s the big deal, especially when Delhi High Court had held this so-called ‘pervert act’ as not illegal.
In July 2009, when Delhi High Court expressed its considered opinion on the issue, it was hailed as a victory of individual freedom. In less than 5 years time, it was back to as usual. Understandably there were reactions across the socio/political spectrum. While there is no doubt that being gay is indeed a bit wonkey, it is best left to two consenting adults as to how they want to live their life without the baggage of the so-called moral standard of society. Of course, it need not be, because west is allowing gay marriages. We need not learn from west or white man. Let’s go by what is fair and unfair, especially when they cause no harm to another third individual. The union government should take the call to address the issue and make law more explicit. It should rest there.

MADHYA PRADESH: 29 years ago, on Dec 2, 1984, the toxic gas that leaked from the Bhopal pesticide plant of Union Carbide led to the greatest industrial disaster anywhere in the world. Some 20000 died and some half a million were maimed. After almost 3 decades of this manmade disaster, victims are still going in circles fighting for justice.
As usual it has always been the apathetic ways of the people in power, either federal or state or both, in giving better compensation, better treatment facilities for the living and the partially dead.
Then, of course you have this removal of hazardous waste from the plant site, besides rehabilitation with jobs, for affected people.  Reportedly only 350 tons of this toxic waste has been removed after all these years, leaving some 25000 tons still inside the abandoned factory. Ground water has been contaminated but government is doing precious little to improve things. And the incumbent government was again voted back. Yes, this is not a vote bank issue. According to people fighting the cause of suffering victims, hospitals do not provide appropriate medicines for the treatment of affected people. Hundreds of newborns continue to be deformed at birth. Of course, denial of adequate compensation from the Union Carbide has been the most important reason for the problems to escalate. 
Apparently American company has washed off its hands, Indian government has failed to pursue the claim. It is left to some committed groups of activists to keep the battle alive, since on 2nd Dec. none in the electronic media felt that the issue deserved to be highlighted. Indeed there is no sensation in development issues and hence it rarely makes to the electronic channels or headlines of the newspapers. Yes, like sugar industry, there is no committee of GoM to recommend sops, since it is not an election sensitive issue. This is Yeh Mera India.

WEST BENGAL: There appears to be a season for some people in the public domain, to appear in the news, for all wrong reasons.
Some months ago, it was Aasaaram and his son, and another high profile journo, the investigative snooping journalist Tarun Tejpal, followed, to occupy the media space for days on end. Then comes former Supreme Court Judge and the present WBHRC chairman Ashok Ganguli. All three are from different back grounds but they made news and were all in the media space for same wrong reason, for exceeding their limit with their female associates.
If Aasaaram, the septuagenarian forced himself on a teenaged girl, who was apparently a devotee of his ashram, Tejpal did it with his colleague half his age. And comes the Human Rights Commission Chairman Justice Ganguli, being accused by an intern, who worked with him, of sexual misconduct. So, suddenly men are told, that they are bad.
Two of the three above are already in the process of accountability with the law enforcing authority, the police. However, the last one is valiantly holding on to his fast crumbling defence, despite the demand by the ruling Trinamool Congress, that Justice Ganguli resign as WBHRC. However inspite of ruckus in Kolkatta, police did not file an FIR, and as usual, there are always defendants for such persons as well, in public space. As it appears, prima facie, there is a strong case against Justice Ganguli and Union Government appears to have made up its mind for a presidential reference, since it is only president who can remove him from current position as WBHRC. It is very sad that there is a growing cult of people in authority misusing the trust of their juniors. Can India ever become a better place for women in workplace?

JAMMU & KASHMIR: Despite controversy of every conceivable kind, - NAMO -, Narendra Modi, remains a force that no-body in politics or in social space can ignore. Since quite some time he has been all over the place, primarily launching himself as a national icon. Of course, it is not for nothing that the principal opposition party BJP, has worked out its strategy arithmetics by plumping for NAMO to lead the party in the 2014 elections. There is nobody, I mean nobody, comparable to him in his party. He is bachelor and hence no vested interest. He visits his mother only at times and none else in his family. He grew from rank and can identify himself with masses. He is an extempore mercurial speaker with an absolute gift of gab. Who can be compared to him among the three aspirants for higher political office – L K Advani, Arun Jaitley or Sushma Swaraj. None, in any of his strength. Mother organisation, RSS, recognizes this. So all three have come to terms with the ground reality and have accepted NAMO as the PM candidate.
But as only expected, Congress and other parties have problem with the growing popularity of this man called Narendra Modi. They accuse him of lying, of ignorance of history or being wrong with statistics of some socio/economic indicators. Being controversial he surely shall have many disagreeable and unacceptable qualities, but they should not lead to distortion.
Just the other day, while in Jammu he has reportedly stated that there should be a debate on the status of article 370. And all pounced on him with variety of criticism from Congress, National Conferences, CPI. All that he asked was whether this special provision for Kashmir helped the purpose for which it was extended. The purpose of article 370 apparently was to help J & K integrate with the rest of the country. But for all 60 years, we have witnessed that this has not happened. Instead, it has served as a double edged sword against the country and was exploited by vested interests to fuel their separatist campaign. Hence questioning the very legitimacy of a democratic debate of the article 370 is to fall into the well in broad day light, which is clearly visible in the night. After all what is asked is a debate and not a demand to abrogate the contentious article 370! Hope all see the point in the larger context. 

TAMIL NADU: We always knew public sector units have been public money guzzlers. Although all of them were created with the lofty objective of empowering the local population within the ambit of national growth. Basic industries, infrastructures, like roads, railways, seaports, airports, industries involving huge funding have always be in the government owned PSUs in India. This was the main thrust of Nehruvian socialism of mixed economy. However over the years, these PSUs became a parking place for politicians as chairmen, and members of board of directors, for favouring with contracts etc. Hence many of these PSUs have become white elephants. Since all these PSUs are manned by workforce controlled by organized trade unions they couldn’t be closed, hence it continued its money guzzling activities. But not all of them were bad and some of them did exceedingly well in the later years of liberalization and globalization, with professional managers running the units. One of the signs of success of any enterprise is the cash surplus available at all times. As we all recognise that strength of any person is measured by the availability of cash at short notice for any activity that he decides. Same is the case with corporate entities. It is a very pleasant news to know that our public sector companies have a cash surplus of close to 2 lakh crores and they are lying in banks. This information was always available if one looked for it. But our mandarins in the Finance Ministry, who got overtly worked up for current account deficit (CAD) did not think about the ploughing back this bank stuck cash of these PSUs. Surely they have options. A CRISIL research report, recently released in Chennai, recommends a special dividend from these companies to help bridge the gap to cut the fiscal deficit. It is a view that always existed. But we act, as usual, only when cornered. Hope Finance Minister takes the call to make use of the positive option so freely available within the system.

NEW DELHI: The newest entrant into the political space of the nation’s capital, whom upstart Robert Vadra had the temerity to call Mango people in banana republic, Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP (Aam Aadmi Party) has arrived with a deafening bang. It was, by any stretch of imagination, a dream debut. Winning 28 seats in an Assembly of 70 was indeed a staple of fairy tales. Quite rightly, truth can be, at times, stranger than fiction. None in the political class gave any serious attention to this fledgling party, started only an year ago. They could have walked away with majority, and there were all indications, but the last minute entrapment techniques, probably by BJPs dirty tricks department, used on some of the AAP candidates, did cause some reverse. Or else, those who lost by few hundreds, could have romped home, to take AAP into an incredible cusp of glory.
It was an unbelievable development in the democratic evolution of our country. No political party has used the methods of selection of candidates and campaigning to reach out to the electorate as AAP. Political class as well as so-called political pundits including media made fun of the ways of this unsuspecting giant killer. It almost wiped out Congress party, who ruled for 15 long years, and made it difficult to BJP to form its government. AAP has indeed arrived in the national capital, and it is only a matter of time that they will go pan-Indian. Of course it was to the credit of Rahul Gandhi, who not only congratulated AAP for their fine showing, but also expressed the desire that Congress should learn from AAP, their ways of politics. This was despite the drubbing Congress suffered at the hands of AAP. But the same grace was missing from Arun Jeitley of BJP, who branded ‘if AAP is merely a freak phenomenon’. Hope and earnestly wish, Arvind Kejriwal and his AAP with little experience of political governance but with only dream in their heart, do measure up to the challenge, and that its not a freak phenomenon after all. So its wishing all the very best for this political debutant, in the next year. 
“Government worried about NPAs” was a headline in the print media over a month ago, attributed to Finance Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram. While expressing concern about non-performing assets of Public sector banks, PC was making a policy statement that authorities in government level will start monitoring big defaulters.
Right enough Bombay High Court intervened recently asking banks to publish loan defaulters’ photograph in newspapers.
For far too long, RBI, government and even bank management were only worried about the confidentiality of defaulting loanees and not of banks and the country. Therefore, the problem of increasing NPAs went unabated, into over a lakh of crore of rupees.
It is not just in public interest, as the court observed, but in the national interest, that details of all defaulters should be in public domain. It is the nation’s money and should be available for the nation building. Surely there should be an atmosphere of help and co-operation to the private sector to do well. But in most cases it is the company, which in the public eye, is suffering and not its promoters, or owner managers. Even the losses suffered by these private sector companies are not necessarily for economic or commercial reasons. There are any number of instances, where those who are managing or controlling promote their private interest at the cost of the company, enjoying bank loan and share holders' stake. It is an open secret that there are Political/Bureaucratic & Corporate (PBC) arrangements working against public and national interest. We are all privy to information in public domain about the national loot, in spectrum allocation, coal block allocation, land deals in Maharashtra, Haryana and many other places by this triangular PBC combination. Thus the expression of worry by the country’s Finance Minister has not come a day too early. Already great damage has been inflicted on the public by private plundering. Indeed, these defaulters should be publicly shamed in the larger national interest. Only then there shall be some financial discipline and better management of national resources.
Yes, Aam Aadmi Party made a grand entry into Delhi politics. It may make even national debut. That is a clear possibility. However what surprised just everybody, including Arvind Kejriwal, was the margin of loss Sheila Dikshit suffered. To lose by over 25000 votes, was very humiliating for any outgoing Chief Minister, more so, for somebody who ruled the state for 3 terms. The shock was little too much. She was truly humbled. But why? Was there so much pent-up feelings against Congress in general and Dikshit in particular? In fact before the start of the election campaign and even on the day of voting, she was a formidable candidate by any measure of comparison. Could there be more to it than what eyes could see?! Grapewine has it that, there were people within her party who left Sheila Dikshit alone to fend for herself. While she dreamt of 4th term, party insiders felt reportedly threatened, that any victory by Sheila would bring her within the striking distance of PMs office, should Rahul Gandhi declines to take up the gauntlet. Some senior Congressmen didn’t want her to be the Prime Minister in case Congress makes it to the parliament. They even accused her of running her own show by relying on her chosen bureaucrats and some MLAs close to her. So if you lose, you lose any way. But if you keep winning, then too, life is difficult. May be politicians should become less ambitious with advanced age. She is already 75, she could have said ‘its enough’, as Laltaanwala of Mizoram and Siddaramayya of Karnataka have reportedly expressed their desire not to contest after their current term is over.
Tehelka in Tehelka may cause its eventual demise, with the kind of knots its founder owner has tied himself in. So some others may have to take its place, isn’t it? And comes Cobrapost. And the modus operandi is exactly the same as that of Tehelka website started in 2001, some 12 years ago. Like Tehelka, it too is a website, and who is the editor of this latest entrapment website. Believe it or not, guy is an ex-associate of Tarun Tejpal, and an ex-staff of Tehelka, Aniruddha Bahal. Tricks are same too. Same fictitious firms, making its round with enticements & baits, ranging from Rs. 50000/- to Rs Rs. 50 lakhs. Target is Members of Parliament. The only difference is, in 2001, it was BJP/NDA. Now its, reportedly 11 MPs of 5 political parties, including Congress. Mind you this time round it was not defence ministry and defence deals. Being Tehelka in the news, MPs are aware, not to touch defence deals. Hence, new money spinner in Hydro Carbon, oil exploration for the Union Ministry of Petroleum. Fortunately for minister Moili, he is not the target, unlike George Fernandese in 2003. As usual, ever hungry for money, some of these politicians just lapped up the offer of issuing recommendation letter for a fictitious foreign oil company seeking exploration rights in the north east. Reportedly some have already issued the letter for an undisclosed fee. Some were willing for 50 K and greedy ones asked for 50 lakhs. But, all were available to be bought for the highest bidder. What a fall! Poor Mother India. Shouldn’t they be disqualified immediately?

WORLD: Drug, the world over, is looked down upon as bad for humans and governments have made legislations that could go even up to death sentences for its illegal possession or trade. Every country, in all the so-called civilized world, have laws to enforce some or the other kind of ban. And comes Uruguay, the Latin American nation, to become the first country in the world, to legalise, production and sale of marijuana. That indeed was a quantum leap for free trade. This singular move, shall effectively kill the illegal trade in this drug.
All over the world, there is a whole administrative set up, involving inter- departmental personnel including police, to keep check on the trade and consumption of drug. There are huge monetary transactions involving billions the world over, among the underground mafias and drug lords. We are all privy to the truth that there is a significant % of youth in educational campuses, all over the world, consuming exotic substances secretly. Law enforcing authorities have a big headache in containing the trade and consumption of these substances. But the fact remains, there is huge money to be made by producers and traders, but it also remains a fact that its consumption for longer period can debilitate the consumer forever. Hence to protect the health of its citizens there are whole lot of measures by the authorities. Yet, the trade is near rampant in these substances. Because, it is not just the money, but the kick and pleasure, although transient, that it can give to its users, has kept alive the production and trade in these drugs, all over the world. 
If there are effective measure to control its production and consumption, state can effectively kill illegal trade and can make legal revenue for state, from both producers/traders and consumers. Legitimacy granted by law can only help the stabilization process. There are socio-economic lessons in the Uruguay move.
Visit of Japanese emperor Akihito and his empress, to India is a major development, which should work for the benefit of both countries especially India. After a long time, it is on the upswing. If in the past, the relationship between these two big players has not been as good, as was possible, it is partly due to the inability of MEA’s mandarins to see opportunities. Japan is a country with Buddhism as their official religion. India is a country where Buddhism had started, with many holy places of religious significance. All these holy places could have been jointly developed with Japanese participation as a tourist destination for Buddhists all over the world. India has a large presence of Buddhism followers, besides China, Thailand, Srilanka, Burma & others. This association, if properly road mapped, could have led to a permanent friendship between both India and Japan and strengthened the bond to a more meaningful level.
In the current geo political scenario, where China is asserting itself, it is important that India develop an ally and Japan can be an answer. In recent times, Japan too is feeling the heat of Chinese assertiveness in South China Sea and other disputed areas, and hence surely, must have thought, why not upgrade the relationship with another friendly country in the neighbourhood, and India is the best bet, for varieties of reasons. So, truly speaking, it helps both of us to go all out, to bolster our socio/economic association. If only we sensitively handle the entire gamut of relationship with Japan, it can pay very rich dividend to India in the long run, in economic terms. Hope people at the helm at PMO/MEA realise the lost opportunity and try to measure upto the latest overtures by Japan, even leading up to a possible friendship treaty, especially the help Japan may need in sorting out issues with China.
J.SHRIYAN

TARUN TEJPAL & TEHELKA AND THE  LOADED  TRUTH
For the nth time,  Tarun Tejpal & Tehelka (TT &T) have proved themselves to be synonymous, both metaphorically and literally. Tehelka in Hindi/Urdu means turbulence. TT had started his mouth piece Tehelka and caused intentional tehelka to the political beite noire of some political vested interest. Thus, in the name of freedom of press he did everything unprincipled and mean, including employing female baits to corrupt his targets. The chicken, at last came home to roost, and he got entangled in the trap that he laid himself, although unwittingly.
Yes, it started with muck and it looks headed for the muck. Bangaru Laxman was stupid and was simply bought. Money bags of Delhi, funded TT to trap George Fernandese, the NDA defence minister, on the wrong foot. He succeeded in making it to Fernandese’ party president. But somehow didn’t succeed in making it a fool proof case. Fernandese resigned to make way for investigation. Of course Fernandese was a bad boy, for whatever reason, with the Congress and its president. So, could it be that, those who are opposed to George could have organised this entrapment by an upstart called Tarun Tejpal and his website Tehelka? And nobody in the media questioned the motive and the truth behind the operation, while condemning both Bangaru and George.
Of course, sooner or later truth has its own way of coming into open, through the autonomous dynamics of nature, to come calling to tell, that truth after all cannot be killed.
Post Goa sex scandal, involving TT, the skeletons of favouratism, financial participation, political patronage and connections in corridors of power are falling off the Tehelka cupboard. Media informs about the induction of TT as non-executive director of Prasar Bharathi, by the blue eyed boy of Congress President, the bombastic Manish Tiwari and of course the contract with Door Darshan for  a 52 episode series on ‘100 Years of Indian Cinema’, to a firm owned by TT, with an advance payment of Rs: 2 crores. It is another matter, that no sooner the Goa episode became a public knowledge, Vice President Hamid Ansari, who chaired TTs election to the Prasar Bharathi Board, reportedly cancelled his appointment.
Thus there is, enough and more, muck coming the public way to inform and educate that those who do not respect the fair and just ways will eventually pay for it, with compound interest. So beware of overconfidence of short term success.
Among the oft repeated quotes about the ‘greatness’ of Tehelka, is the one by cine actor Amir Khan, “Throughout its existence, Tehelka has kept its promise of doing brave and hard journalism. It is one of the few entities refusing to compromise on its core value systems”. It also claimed that “In a short span of 9 years Tehelka has won more than 40 awards for its path breaking journalism”.
Indeed Tehelka has been ‘brave and hard’. What else can you describe a situation, where the Editor-In-Chief has dared to ‘penetrate’ his daughter like young female colleague despite resistance, in a public space – an elevator – and has been rather hard by describing his dirty and despicable act as a ‘drunken banter’. “Come on TT, you have gone bonkers and trying to run away in crutches with no legs”. And the core value which Amir Khan is talking about, where is it? As for awards, it simply cannot be the last word, except as a marketing gimmick.
Yes, it has indeed been a ‘great fall’, after years of so-called ‘hard hitting and investigative reporting’. At this defining moment, in the life of Tehelka, it is only right for us to go to the evolution of this ‘infant terrible’ member of the fourth estate.
Tehelka, hit the bulls eye only around March 2001. That too through ‘entrapment journalism’, trapping unsuspecting Bangaru Laxman, the then president of BJP, which was the main political party in the then ruling NDA combine. However the target appeared to be, the then Defence Minister, George Fernandese, whose Samata Party President Jaya Jeitley, too was clumsily got involved by the Tehelka men, also by way of entrapment technique of enticement. Globally, it is reliably understood, that any victim of entrapment goes legally free under the rubric ‘situational defence’. However, our media forced both Bangaru Laxman and George Fernandese to resign, although Fernandese came back to the cabinet, duly cleared of any wrong doing. But the damage, although not huge, was done, and the non-entity called  TT& T  came into existence with the help of all those who did not conceal their glee at the avoidable foolishness, the presidents of both, BJP and Samata party, had rushed into. Reportedly, both Tehelka and Tarun Tejpal, who fathered it, then had no money. According to a well known senior journalist, “A company that reportedly did not have enough cash to pay its minimal staff regularly could have Rs: 27 lakh spent on its ‘sting operation’, understandably raises doubts about Mr Tejpal’s credibility”. This observation completely exposes the machinations of this ‘brave and hard’ journalist. Thus it confirms the stark ethical bankruptcy of the man and his institution, besides all those who supported him and funded his sting operation. Thus it was an illegitimate child of ‘behind-the-scene’ operators.
Hence, it is very clear that Tehelka was created to fish in the political muck of the day. It was a website then, but the larger pan Indian image it acquired was only through print and electronic media. Thus, the graduation was to get into the print media, probably since, electronic media creation needed larger funding.
With the media space it created, Tehelka reached out to corporate world, with political help, probably, the Congress Party. It managed huge financial participation and as the cliché goes, rest is history. In confirmation, only the other day, post Goa TT sexapade, Kapil Sibal, has ‘gone public’, saying ‘I have no shares in Tehelka’, while arguing that ‘the issue (sexual abuse), in any case was not germane to the controversy surrounding the magazine’s editor Tarun Tejpal’. Obviously concealing the financial involvement. But the rejoinder included “Even if I did own shares in a company, can I have anything to do with a crime committed by an individual running the firm? I helped Tehelka with a donation, because at the time they had lost everything due to vindictive BJP government”. He expressed his ‘surprise’, by posing “Instead of being lauded for supporting freedom of press, I am being quizzed”.
Thus, clearly it is an open admission of financial participation. First, he says ‘no shares’, then he says ‘what if I have shares I am not responsible for Tejpal’s boorish act’. Then he confesses the ‘financing being donation’, mixing his loaded action with ‘supporting freedom of press’. Kapil Sibal is a bright & intelligent lawyer, but also a politician. This is a deadly combination which generally works more for the man, in this case Kapil Sibal, and less for larger society. Nobody accused Kapil Sibal of being responsible for the bad behaviour of this ‘exalted’ journo Tejpal. What media said was ‘there is financial stakes by likes of Sibal’, through whom many corporate houses were coaxed to ‘donate generously’. Thus was born Tehelka. A grateful TT & T have been after BJP and its state governments ever since.  So, if BJP accuses that Congress was the party that helped Tehelka in its labour pains, delivery and then looked after its infancy, can they be faulted? That, it has shown its colour in less than 10 years, it has proved it is an ‘infant terrible’. Isn’t this the worst form of ‘Paid News’?
Now coming to the scene of the crime, from the corridors of power in Delhi.
‘Editor or Pervert?’ asked a national English daily from Mumbai, more sedate ones reported ‘Police probe rape charge against Tehelka editor’. They were generally commenting on the alleged sexual assault that took place inside an elevator, at an upmarket hotel complex in Goa. The incident involved Tarun Tejpal, the editor-in-chief, the defacto owner, and his young female colleague. It was reported that the young female is a friend of this TT’s daughter and is of her age. Obviously, Tejpal is very young in spirit, reminding what Jeevan, a Hindi film veteran of yore had said long ago, “Bandar kithna bhi bhooda ho, Gulati maarna nahee bhooltha”, meaning “Monkey, however old, never forgets to roll upside down”. This might sound outrageous. But then we are in an India, where father using his daughter for his animal instincts and carnal desires, does not make a big news. We are all privy to the news of these kinds, appearing in the media, at regular intervals. Because they are involving marginalized or unknown social stock, it does not become a media event, as this particular incident has ignited.
Obviously this TT was overconfident that nothing serious would happen to him, or his reputation or his media venture. After all, he was ‘exposing’ other’s wrongs and apparently can do wrong’. But, bad luck for him, it blew out in open, as if on his face, and at the moment he is a guest of police in Goa, undergoing interrogation and possible criminal proceedings for his wanton act.
But, why was he so confident that he tried to dismiss it as a “drunken banter”, “a bad lapse in judgement”, “an appalling misreading of the situation”? And there were so-called senior journalists, including Rahul Singh, son of Kushwant Singh and even some female journos too, taking up cudgels on behalf of this fallen ‘hero’ of investigative journalism. It does point to the decaying standards of females being reduced to only a merchandise, and we see it, day in and day out, in advertisements appearing across the media spectrum. It is reliably learnt that some media houses even collate personal details of the persona of female candidates being interviewed for jobs, even as private an information as size of bra they wear. Now this is atrocious, if true. But surely, it clearly indicates where the wind is blowing. Only exception in the TT angle is, the speed with which he took on his victim without any speed breaker. After hitting the speed breaker at 100+ speed, the car flew off, only to land on the hard ground with a thud that probably could destroy the car (Tehelka) and of course the driver (TT). With the resignation of Shoma Chaudhary, the managing editor of Tehelka, the future of the weekly is extremely uncertain. Here it is pertinent to reproduce what The Hindu wrote in its editorial of 25th Nov. Quote “Then there is the fate of Tehelka as multi-media organisation, a spirited and irreverent venture with an investigative and muckraking focus”. Unquote.
From the information available in the print media, it was very clear, that Tejpal was forcing himself, not once but twice, on an unsuspecting, vulnerable colleague under the mistaken notion that she will succumb to his advances to keep her, probably, well paid job. According to the victim’s email to the lady managing editor Shoma Chaudhary, the editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal had uttered “Well this is the easiest way for you to keep your job”. Thus, if proved, the culpability of this man is beyond any doubt.
And come to think of it, a female herself, this Shoma Chaudhary appears to give an unmistakable impression that she is a party to the cover up attempt. Initially, she didn’t take the whole episode seriously, which does mean, she thinks such things are passé. In her press briefing she had insisted it being an ‘internal matter’. “I am addressing aggrieved journalist’s (victims) concerns. An apology has been given and the editor (TT) has resigned (meaning six month sabbatical). Are these not actions? What more do you want?” Ms. Chaudhary has been reported to have told the media. Obviously, this Shoma Chaudhary, the managing editor of Tehelka, a female herself, has taken the whole incident, with a fistful of salt, as one of those professional hazards, and not as a criminal act, under sexual harassment act. She tried to conceal the gravity of Tejpal’s crime and white-wash it by accepting the self imposed atonement by the alleged criminal himself. That brings us to the inevitable question, why is Shoma taking this issue so lightly as a procedural internal matter and not a crime? Could it be that ‘She too was a victim of circumstances, but compromised to live another day with TT and his Tehelka?’ According to media sources, at Tehelka, there have been cases of similar nature in the past.
Besides, the reported pressure on the family of the victim by the perpetrator’s daughter Tiya has made the issue murkier. In a statement to the media, victim had alleged that her mother was asked, who was the lawyer helping her in the matter of her complaint against Tejpal, so also what she “wanted” as a result of her complaint. This is intimidation and therefore outright condemnable.
Of course, Shoma Chaudhary’s whole ‘management’ of the incident snowballed into a huge controversy accusing her of attempted cover-up and was forced to resign. So also those who were made part of a committee to look into complaints of ‘sexual harassment’ just didn’t take the call, realizing the ‘open and shut’ nature of the incident. From the contents of the complaint of the victim, to the management of Tehelka, it was clearly an ‘open and shut’ case. Law, perforce, had to take its course to see the perpetrator well and truly behind bars. Here it is interesting to note that this TT has accused the BJP for implicating him in the alleged rape case. While claiming himself to be secular, thereby implying BJP as communal, he has written that, “The bias of BJP to the applicant is well known, since the expose of corruption in defence deals in 2001” and therefore has requested the transfer of the case from Goa, a BJP ruled state to Delhi. This was like Mohd. Azaruddin complaining that ‘he is being targeted because he is Muslim’ when caught for match fixing.
But, in perspective, it is clear that the image of media houses has taken a severe beating. There is apparently sexploitation. We all know, that, in work place there is certain degree of exploitation of one and all, more so of forced exploitation of females. Some succumb to force, and some don’t. There is also consensual relationship in many work places, which is an open secret. But exploitation should be an absolute ‘NO’. But the fact, largely remains, that most people succumb to the, attractive terms of engagement, and begin to enjoy the atmosphere in the name of freedom. What happened to Tehelka female journalist may only be a tip of the iceberg. Surely incident of this nature must be happening in most places, whether it is media houses, advertising agencies, travel agencies, airlines offices, outfits involved in film making, and swanky, well looked after corporate houses, etc. It is true that there are interlocutors in the media who do partially blame females for the state of affairs involving such exploitation. They feel, ‘unless women shrug off their affiliations and begin to think as only women, crimes like sexual harassment will continue to take place’.  Tarun Tejpal’s victim has reportedly stated in her complaint “Unlike Mr Tejpal, who is fighting to protect his wealth, his influence and his privilege, I am fighting, to assert that my body is my own and not the play thing of my employer”. Its just that, this young lady, whatever her name is, has decided to hit back. Period. Would things look up from now on !?
J.SHRIYAN