Monday, November 29, 2010

The Buck Indeed Stopped Here!

It’s almost 10 days since the Niira Radia tapes have been in the public domain, and one is surprised to see the stoic silence on the part of Indian Media as a whole, except for Open and Outlook which brought the story to the limelight as also two newspapers viz. The Mid-Day and The Hindu. The Tapes were basically conversations that the Lobbyist Niira Radia indulged in with many people, power-brokers etc over a period of time and these were recorded by the Income Tax Department and other agencies. The tapes are mostly about the intense power struggle that happened between the Congress and the DMK prior to the Cabinet formation in UPA-II. It involved among others, the conversations of Niira Radia had with respected journalists, Vir Sanghvi, Sr Editor of The Hindustan Times, as also Barkha Dutt, Editor of the NDTV News Channel. In The conversations also involve Senior Journalists like Prabhu Chawla, Ex-Editor or Language Publications, India Today, Senthil Chelgalvarayan, Editor, CNBC TV-18, Navika Kumar of Times Now as also MK Venu of Financial Express.

The tapes, as published in the transcript showed Niira Radia, a leading PR Consultant for big-wigs like Mukesh Ambani and Ratan Tata having conversations with Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi, A Raja, Kanimozhi etc, discussing issues like cabinet formations and giving her thoughts on who would be the head of the Telecommunications Ministry. The conversations bordered on mere discussions to lobblying for thes posts as also suggesting Vir Sanghvi, the view point of her client Mukesh Ambani. Ironically, Vir Sanghvi’s Counterpoint Column which appeared in Hindustan Times, echoed the same sentiments that Niira was talking about. Barkha Dutt in the conversations even boasts about having talks with Ahmed (Ahmed Patel, Sonia’s Political Secretary) and RCR (Race Course Road, which houses Prime Minister’s Residence). Hearing and reading about these, people like me are wondering how much we need to believe on these columns that appear on newspapers as also the discussions that happen on the Prime Time TV. Are they too paid and sponsored to suit the corporate interests?

[ it may be recalled that the tapes are now in the public domain as investigations into the allocation of 2G Spectrum scam is underway, and the minister in question A Raja has been replaced by Kapil Sibal after much pressure on the PM.  One may refer to the article I Wrote on 2G Spectrum  Scam way back in 2008 , a time when the Scam was just not there for everyone to see, but we all ignored it because India was Shining through the Telecommunication Revolution]
Even after Open and Outlook went ahead with publishing the transcript of the tapes, and chose such a story was never reported. Even when a channel like Times Now chooses a moral high ground by circulating an internal memo to all its staff to desist themselves from having such collusions, they hardly reported this story in their ‘War-Room debates’. Thus, most of the media houses, closed their ranks, probably to protect people of their own, or they didn’t want to embarrass senior editors like Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt. Or is it a case that almost every media house has something or other to hide and don’t wish to comment upon this? This has indeed humbled Indian Media as a whole and damaged its reputation of being free and independent.
For people like yours truly, who watch and read discussions on prime time tv, take these media houses to be fairly free and independent, seeing the veracity with which the anchors and columnists take on the Government and its spokespersons. One is tempted to ask now, whether the media could take on the Government only because of the nexus and the clout, the corporate India wields so as to influence lobbying as also their policy decisions. The Government has indeed become a mere pawn in the whole game and it is the Corporate Houses that play the big brother even deciding to the extent as to how the country is run.
Every time when a scam surfaces, we tend to mouth our anger at our politicians for being greedy. Now, with this unholy nexus between Journalists and Lobbyists as also politicians surfaced, I would be tempted to say that the politicians were far better, for they never claimed to be the custodians of Righteousness and Morality, which on the contrary journalists like Barkha Dutt and her clan make themselves to be.
As a last word, we may for a change accept the defense thrown in by Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt that they were just playing along to gather information from a ‘source’, but we tend to think, how solid is their defense? Even then, the tapes as a whole, has its suspicious origins, in the sense that IT Department had submitted these tapes to the CBI way back in Apr 2010, and they had about 5000 conversations that have been tapped. The transcripts that we got to read in Open and Outlook is only about 10-15 conversations that too broken and probably edited out. The question remains is who edited these conversations out and above all, who leaked it in the first place? Or is it a case of common people being taken for a ride once again by another round of corporate battle games?
I am reminded of what Arundathi Roy told the Supreme Court in one of her affidavits : “The Maoists have only advocating about throwing the Indian State by 2050, but I would rather say, the Indian State has already been overthrown by a group of ‘Vested Interests’ read Corporates”.

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