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PERSPECTIVE

A Tribune Special
Making TV a scapegoat
State cannot keep the media away from Mumbai-like operations in the name of national interest, 
says N.K. Singh
T
he worst fears have come true. The Union Government is all set to amend the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Rules to rein in media in the name of coverage of “anti-terror operations”, sex, crimes and narco-analysis footage.




EARLIER STORIES

Miliband’s ballistics
January 17, 2009
Terror under arrest
January 16, 2009
Friends or foes?
January 15, 2009
Losing sheen
January 14, 2009
A dangerous trend
January 13, 2009
Don’t bank on others
January 12, 2009
Policing the people
January 11, 2009
Prosecute Raju
January 10, 2009
Asatyam
January 9, 2009
Right to ask
January 8, 2009

OPED

Oh, for a leader and some governance
by Prem Prakash
T
he recent volcanic eruption of protests and voices against the political class of India has highlighted one aspect, if nothing else — this was the cry of the people of India looking for a leader. As Bombay, nay India, got brutalised by a 60-hour commando terror attack, the people of India felt orphaned. There was not a towering leader around whom they could rally and take solace.

On Record
Business wants working capital: Bagrodia
by Bhagyashree Pande
M
r Santosh Bagrodia took over as the President of the PHD Chambers of Commerce, Chairman of Winsome Textile Industries Ltd., IDS Infotech Limited and Winsome Yarns Ltd.

Profile
Mozart of Madras
by Harihar Swarup
B
ollywood’s Music prodigy, A.R. Rahman, has truly justified the Time magazine’s comment about him: “Mozart of Madras”. He won a Golden Globe for his score in Denny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire”, becoming the first Indian composer to strike a gold at the annual Hollywood awards.


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PERSPECTIVE

A Tribune Special
Making TV a scapegoat
State cannot keep the media away from Mumbai-like operations in the name of national interest, says N.K. Singh

The worst fears have come true. The Union Government is all set to amend the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Rules to rein in media in the name of coverage of “anti-terror operations”, sex, crimes and narco-analysis footage.

Our self-regulation attempts did not dissuade an adamant government itching to shackle the TV media into submission on an obtrusively invented pretext. We all know the reason — public abhorrence to the meta-stasized political class shown by us in post-Mumbai reaction stories.

The proposed amendment lays down some dos and don’ts. Once the notification to this effect is through — although it has to be cleared by Parliament under Section 22(1) of the Cable Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 (as amended in 2003), the District Magistrates and Subdivisional Magistrates besides Commissioners of Police, will have the power to block live transmission by any channel and confiscate transmission equipment.

What can be termed as the severest assault on democracy is the proposal to provide feed to the media by a nodal agency in such “exigency” situation meaning thereby that the media will not be allowed to cover any eventlike communal riots, Gujjar Andolan and police firing at unarmed demonstrators. It is the government that will tell us what to cover. Not to say that by implication no channel will now be able to cover Gujarat riots if Modi so decides (in the national interest?).

The State’s power will match that of any dictator in the matters of so-called “national interest”. Perhaps in independent India this is the first time such a draconian law is being proposed, albeit in “national interest.”

Under the amendment these officers will have the power to decide whether repeat telecast of a footage is necessary (and thereby in the national interest ) or not; whether any information is unauthenticated and, therefore, to be blocked.

These authorities will also decide whether any phone-in of a reporter or a victim or their interview disturb public order or is against national interest.

Students of a democratic system know that educating masses on issues so that public order and national interest remain intact is the intrinsic duty of the political class. As this class has failed in this primary duty, it is trying to seek solutions through gagging the media.

One can easily realise how anti-democracy these amendments are going to be, particularly in the upcountry areas where a vindictive political class and bureaucracy can shackle an ordinary reporter into submission on the pain of this draconian law.

Now look at the genesis of this amendment and faulty government argument:

In the Mumbai operation (or in other similar situations), the terrorists were at their fiercest and the state might was at its aggressive best. No mature democracy can afford to keep media away from the scene for more than one reason. Ironically, it is general nature of state to restrict media on such occasions seeking justification on the grounds of national interest.

Two reasons why media has a role:

When Gandhi was assassinated, the first announcement from none other than Prime Minister Nehru through AIR was: the killer was a Hindu named Nathu Ram Godse. Had this announcement not been made, the ensuing riots would have taken unimaginable toll.

Imagine the cases of police excesses in Pilibhit pilgrims encounter and Maliana massacre in the absence of media. The then DGP of UP in case of the Pilibhit encounter (a case of mistaken identity by overenthusiastic police) sought to hush up the matter saying although some children (they were also part of pilgrims) were killed in “cross-fire”, the others killed were hardened terrorists. One newspaper exposed the case by giving minutest details of the pilgrims, many of whom were 80-year-old.

I would not say the same in war situations where two entities — our forces and that of enemy — are clearly identified and their roles well carved out. Media can stay away from war front, and present to the public what is dished out by our forces. But not when state power is in its aggressive form and when there are three entities — state agencies, suspected terrorists and common men. Our concern is for the last entity.

Take situation 1 in Mumbai.

Remember the Indian Navy attack on Thia fishing trawler recently? It was a clear case of mistaken identity. Suppose the same happens in Taj hotel on 27/11. Over-enthusiasm, casual approach to identify the enemy, ineptitude, pre-conceived notions about the terrorist and his religion — any or all of them together carry the potential to create the greatest havoc in human history. And to top it all, the State apparatus can make criminal attempt to camouflage the misdeed by branding a hapless bearded man as terrorist by placing an AK-47 by the side of his body.

So we should have been there at the scene of occurrence.

Situation 2: Terrorists having seen the news on TV sets or were informed by their handlers from Karachi (that is what the allegation against the electronic media is) that they have been hemmed in and are being attacked both vertically and horizontally with weapons which have more killing range then their assault rifles, may surrender finding their escape difficult. Many wars in the world history were won just on propaganda.

So we should have been there to support state machinery if it chooses to make strategic use of media in national interest.

The problem lies not with media airing situations live but with lack of rational thinking on the part of the state machinery.

The I & B Advisory dated December 3 had sought to project the electronic media as working against “national interest” four times, directly or indirectly, in its five-point note. Now we have newspaper stories “quoting sources” that say the NSG too has claimed the media got in its way causing “operational hazard leading to the death of a Havildar”. The government advisory does not carry “desired” credibility but the NSG complaint does — even if it may be a bureaucratic “plant”. Very subtly the powers-that-be have sought to divert the post-Mumbai public anger against the political class, mainly the ruling coalition, to media-bashing through its advisories and now through amendments to the Cable Act.

Riding the crest of an engineered anti-media wave the government is all set to “discipline channels” in “national interest”. Media have to fight in the larger interest of “operational” democracy. The government has succeeded in creating a palpable murmuring in the public with respect to the media coverage.

We will have to effectively say that what we had done was in the best national interest. We will also have to demolish the basic premise that coverage led to death of a Havildar.

The allegation that the Pakistan-based handlers got to know the strength of security forces deployed at Taj through Indian media’s live coverage is an extremely puerile effort to pass the buck. Does it require a TV coverage to know that hundreds (if required thousands and lakhs) of NSG/Army jawans would be deployed? Does it require TV coverage to know that the operation of security forces would be both vertical and horizontal? Does it require TV coverage to know that choppers would be pressed into service as a form of vertical operation? In any case the sound of rotor can be heard from a distance of more than half a kilometre — vertically too. But the government alleges that it was the live coverage that gave the terrorists a cue about the operation. Ironically, some editors who had scant experience of field reporting too buy this and take a defensive “on-the-one-hand” kind of position.

Were we privy to any operational details other than what was there in the public view? The handlers from Pakistan could have or might have easily deployed one or two persons to report the minute-to-minute details as was being done by the media. Was it not the responsibility of the security forces to jam the mobiles immediately before the operation? They do it when a VIP with Z plus security status moves around but not when the Mumbai operation takes place. And finally they choose to blame it on the media.

The writer is Political Editor, ETV.

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OPED

Oh, for a leader and some governance
by Prem Prakash

The recent volcanic eruption of protests and voices against the political class of India has highlighted one aspect, if nothing else — this was the cry of the people of India looking for a leader. As Bombay, nay India, got brutalised by a 60-hour commando terror attack, the people of India felt orphaned. There was not a towering leader around whom they could rally and take solace.

It brings to mind the 1962 debacle that the army of India faced at the hands of the Chinese. This author was one of the only two Indian journalists (the other being B.G. Verghese) who decided to stay back in Tezpur even as the army vacated the North Bank of the Brahmaputra in Assam. Earlier, we had both been atop Se La and seen the pathetic conditions in which the army was pitched against an advancing enemy.

There was shock and dismay all over India. People of Tezpur wept and cried as they locked their homes and shops to leave the city. The jail had been thrown open; the treasury burnt the currency notes and a telegram from me to my editor was the last piece of communication to leave the Tezpur postoffice as they shut shop.

The flight of people from Tezpur, evacuation of the administration, officials, journalists and others was such that even a VIP aircraft from New Delhi had been put into service. It was a time when all of India was numbed. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was on the radio reassuring the nation. Here was a leader, even as his policy towards China lay in tatters, the people rallied around him to seek reassurance. He canalised India’s resolve and in just 20 months that he lived after the October 1962 debacle he had transformed India’s defence forces.

India’s people — a solid one billion — are looking to rally around a leader, not just to be reassured but to thwart the enemies of this country. Where is such a person? Each day bringing in more disclosures that 26/11 could well have been pre-empted has only highlighted the mess in which India’s governance is today.

The simple and glaring fact that the private security business which is worth about Rs 22,000 crore a year at the moment is slated to grow into a Rs 50,000 crore a year industry in another three to four years speaks volumes for the state of law and order and people’s confidence in the state. Why should there be need for private security if policing of India was efficient and her security agencies worked? It only reflects very poor governance.

The steel frame of India, its bureaucracy, has rusted over the years by the high-handedness of the politicians. The ruthless manner in which some of the corrupt politicos have used the pliable bureaucracy has resulted in the people having little faith in the fairness of the administration.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is honest and God’s good man. Are we to believe that he does not know what some of his ministers have been up to? The politics of coalition does not mean that you allow your partners to rob the country!

With several of the ministers at the Centre running their ministries as their personal fiefdoms has only led to further deterioration of quality of governance. Many of them seem to believe in the TINA factor — there is no alternative. It can only lead to greater crisis in the confidence of the people in its political class.

The opposition, led by the BJP, seems to be under the impression that it has just got to wait in the wings, before it is offered the broom to clear the mess once voted to power and firmly take over the driver’s seat. Can it? The BJP, which would lead the NDA, also suffers from the same malaise of politics of coalition. There were enough scandals during the NDA rule as well; people can watch with their eyes wide open the great change in the quality and style of living of most of the opposition leaders. Millions were stolen the other day from the BJP office. Was that clean money, duly audited?

The country today desperately needs towering leaders with a vision and commitment to respond to the agony of the one billion people. The tragedy is that the country’s political parties have virtually subverted the parliamentary democracy to which the founding fathers committed this nation. Each political party, whether national or regional, has become either the exclusive preserve of a family or a group. This is one singular factor that thwarts the emergence of strong leaders.

One wonders as to why the Election Commission cannot get into action to restore inner-party democracy and accountability among the recognised national parties of India. By strictly enforcing audit of their accounts, the Elections Commission can ensure that these parties show the lists of their members.

The criteria for recognising national parties perhaps needs revision to ensure that they have nationwide membership maintaining proper membership records and issuing membership cards to the members in the manner it is done in the U.K. Thereafter the commission can work out the manner in which the parties show how their party elections are held at each level, including national. This is something that the Election Commission can do, to help restore faith in parliamentary democracy. (ANI)

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On Record
Business wants working capital: Bagrodia
by Bhagyashree Pande

Mr Santosh Bagrodia
Mr Santosh Bagrodia

Mr Santosh Bagrodia took over as the President of the PHD Chambers of Commerce, Chairman of Winsome Textile Industries Ltd., IDS Infotech Limited and Winsome Yarns Ltd.

Mr Bagrodia says that as President he will continue with the good work to achieve inclusive growth and stop further migration to urban areas especially in Punjab. “We will focus on providing selfemployment in rural areas, improve connectivity, provide infrastructure for education and skill development for youth as well as focusing on E-governance and rationalise industrial and tax policies. As our main strength is drawn from the MSME we will continue to act as the bridge between the industry and the Government.

Q: What are the measures your association will take to counter economic slowdown?

A: We formed a small committee, and met Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister TKA Nair. The measures we asked for include those pertaining to exports, taxation, housing etc. Major recommendations include that the government should make an effort whole hog and not go piecemeal the way it is doing right now. It will create a positive impression. CRR , Repo rate is done in many phases. It should be done all together. Industry feels that the bankers have liquidity but are not willing to give money. Trade wants working capital available to them. Because of global recession customers are looking for greater credit.

For exports the measures taken by the government include interest subvention of pre and post shipment credit .Housing sector had nearly 25 per cent buyers only and 75 per cent were speculators. Now when credit crunch came investors were out and the actual buyers cannot service loans and the realty sector is in bad shape. Bankers are asking for more collateral now before advancing new loans many companies selling property to meet obligations. Now despite policy, this amount announced by the government is very small.

Q: Since you are in the textile sector any specific measure you think is needed?

A: The industry has faced a problem due to an increase in MSP of cotton in September when the prices were raised by 40 per cent as compared to 50 per cent. On the other hand there is a reduction in world cotton prices.

For the past 7-8 years a lot of investment is coming in this sector. Nearly Rs 45-50 crore has come to the technology upgradation fund (TUF). This was due to expire in 2008, but is extended to 2010 now. Because of credit crisis completion of projects has been deferred. Even the sanctioned term loans are not released by the government, only Rs 1700 crore was released for payment against interest subsidy of TUF. But this was due to the industry up to October 2008.

Q: What are your plans for promoting industrial growth in Punjab?

A: We had a detailed discussion with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and have created an infrastructure council and a large industry board. Our suggestions include ways to get more investment in the existing industry. We have also, in consultation with the state government, looked at any faulty policies like power tariff, taxation-specific issues like levies on cotton etc, power and electricity shortage.

We have suggested open access for meeting the electricity shortages. The state had levied heavy wheeling charges and there were heavy charges on captive power plant which were not economical.

Punjab was pioneer in allowing 13-hour shift to labour, especially in IT sector. We have recommended that there should be a 24-hour shift for women as well. This will solve the problem of scarce industrial labour in the state.

We have also discussed the issue of VAT with the state government. Exporters were to get a refund for the VAT but there has been a delay. The new industrial policy is likely to be announced by January.

Q: Any discussion on agriculture issues ?

A: In Punjab over the years agriculture holding has been shrinking. So conventional cropping is not economical any longer. We have suggested that the state should give importance to dairy sector instead and allow farmers with 20 cattle to carry out dairy production. This will fetch good income. Besides they can be provided extension services in this through the expertise available from University of Ludhiana. We have also suggested that there should be good design of cattle sheds which is available from Israel. These can be procured and sold at subsidised rates.

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Profile
Mozart of Madras
by Harihar Swarup

Bollywood’s Music prodigy, A.R. Rahman, has truly justified the Time magazine’s comment about him: “Mozart of Madras”. He won a Golden Globe for his score in Denny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire”, becoming the first Indian composer to strike a gold at the annual Hollywood awards.

Running 43, Rahman has also been named best composer at the Critics’ Choice Awards in Los Angeles. Known for his music versatility — from romantic compositions to foot-tapping numbers, Rahman has innovated with different instruments and sounds to create some of India’s best-known musical hits for nearly two decades.

Tells the story of Jamal, an 18-year-old orphan from the slums of Mumbai’s Dharavi, Juhu and Versova areas, who gets on to Kaun Banega Crorepati”. Despite earlier international credits, it is Rahman’s work in British Director Boyle’s “Slumdog” that endeared him to Western critics.

The life story of Rahman and his struggle to reach the dizzy height of fame at a young age may not be exactly of the young man in “Slumdog” but it does read like a thriller. Rahman’s original name is A.S. Dileep Kumar. He is the only son of R.K. Sekhar, a composer, arranger and conductor for Malayalam films. Sekhar died when Dileep Kumar was barely nine years old and the family ran into bad times. How Dileep became Rahman? It was the year 1988 when one of his three sisters fell seriously ill. In spite of the family’s best effort to cure her, her health deteriorated day after day. In desperation, the family met a Muslim saint, Pir Sheikh Abdul Qadir. It is believed that prayers and blessings of the Pir did wonders for the sister who made a “miraculous” recovery. Since Dileep Kumar’s mother, Kareema Begum, hailed from a respected Muslim family, there was no difficulty in conversion to Islam. Dileep Kumar was given a new name — Allah Rakha Rahman.

The responsibility of supporting the family fell on the young shoulders of Rahman. On the threshold of entering teens, he joined Illaiyaraja’s troupe as a keyboard player and a session musician on soundtracks. All this disrupted his education. He fell short of attendance in classes and was lagging behind in studies. Circumstances forced Rahman to shift from the prestigious Padma Seshadri Bal Bhavan to the Madras Christian College. He finally dropped out of school at the age of 16.

His tryst with music began as he got an opportunity to roam the world with various orchestras, including that of renowned Zakir Hussain. Rahman’s exposure helped him earn a scholarship and obtain a degree in Western Classical Music from Trinity College of Music, Oxford University.

It was in the year 1987 that Rahman began composing jingles for television commercials. He composed more than 300 jingles in a span of five years, in addition to his first album of Muslim devotional songs titled “Deen Isai Malai” and the English Album, “Set Me Free”. The ads that he did included Parry’s, Leo Coffee, Boost showcasing Sachin Tendulkar and Kapil Dev, Premier Pressure Cooker, Hero Puch and Asian Paints. The small studio — “Panchathan Record Inn” — where he undertook his ventures is now one of India’s most well equipped and advanced recording studios. Also, he began a collection of sound samples which turned out to be the most comprehensive sonic libraries in Asia.

It was in the year 1991 that the turning point came in Rahman’s life and it came by a sheer stroke of luck. Mani Ratnam, one of India’s best-known directors, was in search of a new music composer for his films. At an award function for excellence in the field of advertising, he met Rahman who had won the prize for the best ad jingle in Sharada Trilok’s advertisement for Leo Coffee. Sharada introduced the young composer to Mani Ratnam. And, the ace director, already impressed by Rahman, signed him for K. Balachander’s film “Roja” (Rose) which was subsequently dubbed in many languages. Rahman was paid a paltry amount of Rs 25,000 for his compositions. “Roja” turned out to be a super hit and Rahman became a household name in Tamil Nadu. The song — “Tamizha, Tamizha” (Tamilians, Tamilians) —became a rage. Rahman followed “Roja” with a number of other extremely popular films, including “Bombay”, “Rangeela”, “Dil Se” and “Taal”.

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