Showing posts from December, 2010

A Resolve against Resolutions

Happy New Year!! It is that time of the year when we spend hours deciding the factual lies we are going to say to ourselves, family members, friends and basically to anyone who cares to listen to the ineffectual lies we generally end up saying at the start of a new year. It's that time when we resolve to make promises, we haven't a hope in hell of being able to keep. Statements such as "I'll lose weight", "I'll put on weight", "I'll not make people wait", "I'll join Alcoholics Anonymous", "I'll stop feeling sorry for myself" etc!

I'm sure you must have realized that I'm talking about the infamous "New Year Resolutions!" All of us make them, break them a few days into the new year. Well, I say, if we have to break them more like an obligation, then why make them in the first place? I can proudly proclaim that I have achieved that very few individuals to have survived on this planet, since tim…

Silence as sedition

A true measure of being democratic is not the cycles of elections--it is the dignity given to disagreement, to dissent. Why must we dignify dissent? There are the arguments that we hear everyday: so that the views of the majority cannot silence the voices of a few; so that no one can view or institution may become so dominant as to become authoritarian; and the value of freedom of speech and expression in and of themselves. Any memory of the Indian Emergency in 1975-77 is testimony to why any of these are important. Yet there is a more fundamental reason why dissent is the cornerstone of a democracy: it is the action of a free citizen.

Speech is an action. An action within a democratic framework--an action that simultaneously shows a continuous faith in the polity, the State and the people even as one (often virulently) disagrees with it. An action that keeps a democratic system alive. You dissent as a citizen, in the name of the Constitution. You dissent because you have the freedom t…

The Scamsters Dictionary

Between A. Raja and Niira Radia, the tapes and the taps, the Tata and the Chandrashekhar, it's become terribly confusing trying to figure out who has done what and when and to whom. It's almost like one of those kids' birthday party games where you try and pin the tail on the donkey while blindfolded. Competitive politics has made it tougher to figure out head from tail.

The reason everyone is totally confused is because the totals are so mind-boggling: Rs. 1.39 trillion is the figure being bandied about and anybody who had that kind of financial spectrum would be giggling hysterically all the way to the nearest bank in Liechtenstein, Switzerland.

It may have been a steep learning curve for someone but it has also been a steep learning curve for the rest of us, trying to figure all those arcane acronyms being bandied about. Try asking the Congress members what the 2G spectrum controversy is all about, most of them will draw a blank expression. They have been conditioned to b…

The Santa Cause

"You better watch, you better not cry, better not pout, I'm telling you why, Santa Claus is coming to town!"

The lyrics of a popular Christmas carol act as a time machine transporting many of us to the days when we were young, innocent, lucky and naive enough to believe in the existence of a jolly plump fellow dressed up in a red and white suit, a snowy flowing beard, who went "ho ho ho" and called himself Santa Claus!! As children, most of us have believed in the legend of Santa Claus who lives in the North Pole toils away all year long to fly on his reindeer hauled by the red-nosed Rudolph, who climbs down our chimneys and brings us our Christmas presents!

As we grow older, cynical, too over smart for our own good and lose the innocence we once possessed, we ask the eternal and perennial question which ends up marking the demise of childhood! "Is there really a Santa Claus"? We end up googling his origins like I just did and find out that the basis fo…

Santa Clauses

Santa's bag is again full of baddies. The so-called festive season kicks off with the news of more kickbacks and the hopeless wait for the promise of "tidings of great joy, peace on earth and goodwill towards all men". Women, as ironic as it may sound, never entered the beatific picture. This, despite the fact that it's the women force who now reign over us and the Christmas imagery. Sonia Gandhi and Sushma Swaraj, like the Biblical shepherds, are watching over their respective flocks by blight and the bright star in the east is undoubtedly Mamata Banerjee.

There is also the Radia-nt star who has been raining fire on all television news channels over these past few weeks, sucking her entire phone book into a black hole. So, let's begin with Niira Radia in our 2010 edition of updated Christmas carols:

Niira, the red-faced Radia,
Had a very itchy phone,
And if it ever scratched you,
You would never think you'd moan.
All the other lobbyists
Used to turn a shade of gre…

Lessons from Mediagate

Many people have asked me in the recent on what are the lessons we need to learn from the recent 2G Spectrum telecom scam and the recent Mediagate. Here is my quick take. An ordinary take? Perhaps...

Firstly, there are no good guys left in politics. Most rob, loot, extort and steal. A few stand by and watch, doing nothing to stop them. If you unfortunately have some favourite politicians which most of us don't, you can check out which category they fall in. The chances of them falling into either of these two aforementioned categories are 100 percent. If you want to know the truth about any scam, keep digging. There is no limit to venality here. No man is a thief alone. All thieves have family, friends, friend, associates, girlfriends and of course, bosses. Everyone of them makes money as they go along. That's what politics is all about: Joint Ventures.

There is nothing you cannot get done here. Anything is possible at the right price, if you have hired the right broker. It does…

The New Guerillas of News

Everything was going fine, just fine. And then suddenly, in the midst of a warm season of 9% GDP growth and a sizzling sensex, when India was the toast of the world, came the shocking Niira Radia tapes and all hell broke loose. No, it's not that one knew about the telecom scam or how vast sums of money had been looted. But till the first stone was cast, no one in the media wanted to pick it up. No one wanted to risk the wrath of the Government and the corporate sector, both prominent players in this ugly scam as well as important stakeholders in the media.

WikiLeaks is the same story. Much of what has emerged till now was known to everyone, including the fact that the US foreign policy has many faces, not all of them very pleasant, as they present it to be, till Julian Assange took the daring step of putting millions of classified cables on the Internet for everyone to see the sheer impact of lies and chicanery that go into it was never that obvious. The next lot of posts, one hear…

Decoding the Radia tapes and other leaks

Are you confused with the hullaballoo surrounding the recent Niira Radia affair? To help you meet this challenge of our times, my activity partners prepared a few questions. Pick your answers from the multiple choices on offer and SMS them to Wikipedia. (Yes, it's bound to leak to the most important people you want to reach).

1): Who is a lobbyist?
a: She/he is a PR person
b: What's a PR person?
c: Ask Niira Radia.

2): Why does Niira spell her name with two "I"s?
a: She is superstitious
b: She is obsessed with I
c: She cannot spell

3): Why did Niira come to India?
a: To star in a film made by A. Raja titled "Radia--The Fearless"
b: To see the Taj by torchlight
c: To learn making phone calls in Tamil

4): What are Niira's hobbies?
a: Embroidery--of facts and things
b: Collecting stamps--and VIPs
c: Golf--thinking her phones can't be tapped outdoor

5): What do we know about A. Raja?
a: He is not a Raja
b: He doesn't want to be a Raja
c: He wants to be a Maharaja

6): W…

Not a wicked leak

The Outlook magazine has decided to put the mp3 audio files of phone conversations of Niira Radia on its website. For more than a week, any one has been free to download these files and listen to hundreds of conversations between Niira Radia and prominent journalists, politicians and top bureaucrats.

The conversations reveal how a British--Kenyan corporate lobbyist surviving on an Person of Indian Origin tag was trying to influence the nation's Union Cabinet formation. They reveal the amazing reach and power of this new class of "public relations" managers. They also reveal a close relationship between journalists and the subjects they cover. Such proximity is bound to affect objective news coverage. Are the tapes only an aberration, or is this the tip of an iceberg? So far nobody has completely denied the authenticity of the tapes.

Till the time of writing this, there is no court injunction to shut down the website. Simultaneously, there is a global community of voluntee…

Dangerous Liaisons

Journalism, a former editor-in-chief of the Time magazine once said, can never be silent. That is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. "It must speak and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air".

At a time when the Indian media are a shining a light on some of the darkened crevices of our society, the journalism fraternity are accussed of having fallen unconsciously silent, as the fraternity suddenly finds their own dealings forced out of the shadows, as they become the story, as their faults are revealed and virtues reduced. The chances are you have either read the transcripts or heard the audio of the phone taps involving thirty journalists, including NDTV's group editor Barkha Dutt; Vir Sanghvi and the editor (languages) of the India Today group Prabhu Chawla; former managing editor Shankkar Aiyar; managing editor of The Financial Express MK Venu and The Economic Times assistant editor Gan…