Sunday, October 31, 2010

Take Jammu, Ladakh into confidence in J&K peace process: BJP- Jammu, October 31, 2010

Jammu & Kashmir

Take Jammu, Ladakh into confidence in J&K peace process: BJP

Press Trust Of India

Jammu, October 31, 2010

First Published: 20:36 IST(31/10/2010)
Last Updated: 20:39 IST(31/10/2010)

BJP leaders on Sunday asked the centre to shun "Kashmir-centric" approach in the reconciliation process and said the UPA government should also take people of Jammu and Ladakh regions into confidence for lasting peace in the state. The centre needs to shun "Kashmir-centric" policy and
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take the people and the leadership of both Jammu and Ladakh regions into confidence for lasting peace in the state, senior BJP leader and In-charge of Jammu and Kashmir Om Prakash Kohli said during a party seminar on 'The policies of Union government are creating confusion on the issue of Accession of J&K state with India.'

Kohli, a former MP, said the Congress is still pursuing the Kashmir policies formulated by the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

"Instead of bringing peace and normalcy, these policies have aggravated the situation." Speaking at the seminar, Inder Mohan Sharma, Convener of the state BJP intellectual cell, demanded abrogation of Article 370, which give special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Pradesh BJP president Shamsher Singh Manhas said that the solution to the Kashmir issue is to strictly implement laws of the land against the separatists.

Centre committed towards equitable development of J&K: PC-Kargil, October 31, 2010

Jammu & Kashmir

Centre committed towards equitable development of J&K: PC

Press Trust Of India
Kargil, October 31, 2010
First Published: 18:27 IST(31/10/2010)
Last Updated: 20:41 IST(31/10/2010)

Union home minister P Chidambaram on Sunday said the Centre was committed towards equitable and balanced development of all the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir. "The Centre is committed to support Jammu and Kashmir for balanced development of its all the three regions -- Kashmir, Ladakh and
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Jammu," he said during a review meeting in Kargil.

A Task Force Committee nominated to take stock of construction of basic infrastructure in Ladakh, which was devastated by cloudburst and flash floods in the month of August, is scheduled to visit the region shortly, an official release quoted the home minister as saying.

The Committee would also interact with cross sections of society to gather information about the problem being faced by the people, Chidambaram said.

The home minister assured of all support by the Centre for speedy development of the Ladakh region.

During the meeting, chief executive councillor of Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Council Kachoo Ahmad Ali Khan demanded construction of a tunnel on Zojila Pass along the 434-km Srinagar-Leh National Highway to keep Ladakh region connected with rest of the state throughout the year, the release said.

He also demanded expansion of Kargil Airport, renovation of Kargil-Zanskar National Highway, joining Drass river with Suru river and several other facilities for the betterment of the district, it said.

Later, Chidambaram inspected Rs 40 crore Council Infrastructure project, Rs 3.72 crore tourist facilitation centre and Rs 2.40 crore Sports Stadium in Kargil, the release said.

Australia taking steps to check attacks on Indians: PM Manmohan Singh-Oct 30, 2010,

Australia taking steps to check attacks on Indians: PM Manmohan Singh

IANS, Oct 30, 2010, 09.48pm IST

ON BOARD AIR INDIA ONE: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday said he has been assured by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard that corrective steps were being taken in the backdrop of attacks on Indian students there.

During their meeting held on the sidelines of the India-ASEAN Summit in Hanoi, Gillard expressed the general revulsion in Australian society to what is happening (attacks on Indian students), the Prime Minister told journalists on his way home from Vietnam at the end of a three-nation Asian tour.

The Australian prime minister explained about what they were doing on the issue, including revising their immigration system, he said.

There had been a string of attacks on Indian students in Australia, causing outrage in India. The assaults took place in Melbourne as well in Sydney. One of the attacks proved fatal when a student, Nitin Garg, was knifed in January.

India, China for 'practical solution' to border row: PM- Oct 30, 2010,

India, China for 'practical solution' to border row: PM

AGENCIES, Oct 30, 2010, 09.09pm IST

ON BOARD PM'S SPECIAL AIRCRAFT: A day after meeting his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said they had resolved to find "pragmatic and mutually satisfactory" solution to the border problem and remove "misunderstandings" to strengthen ties.

Singh said he had discussed with Wen the totality of issues in a general way and he agreed with the Chinese premier that there was enough space in the world for both the countries to grow and that they should cooperate and collaborate.

"We reaffirmed the two countries' resolve to find a practical, pragmatic and mutually satisfactory solution to the border problem," he told reporters on his way back home after a seven-day tour that took him to Japan, Malaysia and Vietnam.

The Prime Minister was asked about the sense of his meeting with Wen, which came in the backdrop of irritants resulting from China impliedly questioning the status of Jammu and Kashmir as also by laying claim to Arunachal Pradesh.

Recognising the complexity of the border issue, the two sides had agreed that pending a solution to it "peace and tranquillity should be maintained along the border."

Singh and Wen had on Friday instructed their special representatives on the issue to "work our way to solutions to all the issues that are difficult in our relationship, including boundary question".

The special representatives -- India's national security adviser Shivshankar Menon and top Chinese official Dai Bingguo -- will meet in Beijing next month.

"Whatever Premier Wen said, I agree. India-China relations should be strengthened. Whatever misunderstandings are there should be removed," the Prime Minister said.

In this context, Singh said he had invited Wen to visit India and he had accepted to do so in the near future.

Wen is expected to visit India sometime in the middle of December.

During the meeting on Friday in Hanoi on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit, Singh took up with Wen "difficult questions" impacting on Sino-Indian ties and pressed for "sensitivity" to India's "core issues".

The two leaders, while going through the entire range of relationship taking the "larger strategic view," also discussed the economic aspect of the ties in the backdrop of concerns in India over the big trade imbalance in favour of China.

Just before Wen and Manmohan Singh met, China insisted publicly that it would continue to give stapled visas to Indians from Jammu and Kashmir -- a sign that Beijing disputed New Delhi's control over the state.

A commentary in a state-run Chinese daily also hinted that India's attempt to forget better relations with the Far East was probably aimed at encircling China.

Read more: India, China for 'practical solution' to border row: PM - The Times of


Adarsh turns into Cong nightmare

TNN, Nov 1, 2010, 01.25am IST

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: The Adarsh housing scam, which The Times of India exposed a week ago, is getting murkier by the day. The prospect of Ashok Chavan's ouster as Maharashtra CM has triggered a public blame game over responsibility for the scam.

On the day Chavan braced for a decision on his fate, with Pranab Mukherjee holding discussion with A K Antony on Sunday night, his predecessor Vilasrao Deshmukh washed his hands of the scam and blamed the chief minister for bringing civilians into a housing society meant for military personnel. ''The list had come for my approval only for my counter signature and you do it in good faith,'' he said.

The attack on Chavan followed disclosures that Deshmukh and three other former chief ministers — Sushil Kumar Shinde, Narayan Rane and Shivajirao Nilangekar Patil — had recommended flats in the controversial society for people close to them. (TOI in its Sunday edition had front-paged a report about how a dozen top Congress and NC politicians, including former CMs and powerful serving ministers, had played an active role in cornering flats in lieu of favours they had doled out to the society.)

By Sunday evening, the muck had spread wide, with the electronic media naming state power and irrigation minister Ajit Pawar, home minister R R Patil, rural development minister Jayant Patil, forest minister Patangarao Kadam, and food and civil supplies minister R R Patil as those whose 'associates' allegedly had flats in the society.

The revelations about Adarsh's linkage to all these political heavyweights were seen as designed to get the leadership to widen the scope of the probe into culpability for the real estate scam.

Deshmukh immediately rebutted the charge. ''There is nobody in the society who can claim to be my relative or near and dear one... This appears to be a conspiracy to defame me,'' he said.

Read more: Adarsh turns into Cong nightmare - The Times of India

बिहारी चमक रहे हैं लेकिन बिहार नहीं :- राहुल गाँधी-रविवार, ३१ अक्तूबर २०१०

रविवार, ३१ अक्तूबर २०१०

बिहारी चमक रहे हैं लेकिन बिहार नहीं :- राहुल गाँधी
Posted by Kusum Thakur Sunday, October 31, 2010


नीतीश सरकार के बिहार उदय अभियान को आड़े हाथ लेते हुए कांग्रेस महासचिव राहुल गांधी ने सवाल किया कि बिहार चमक रहा है, तो यहां के निवासी दिल्ली, मुंबई, पंजाब और हरियाणा की ओर क्यों जा रहे हैं? राहुल ने बेगूसराय जिले के बछवाड़ा विधानसभा क्षेत्र में एक चुनावी सभा में यह बात कही।

उन्होंने कहा कि बिहार में शिक्षा, रोजगार और स्वास्थ्य की सुविधाओं के विकास कार्य ठप है। हिंदुस्तान में बिहारी चमक रहे हैं लेकिन बिहार नहीं चमक रहा है। बिहार के पटना समेत 8 जिलों में 42 विधानसभा क्षेत्रों में चौथे चरण व बांका लोकसभा उपचुनाव के लिए चुनाव प्रचार का शोर शनिवार शाम 5 बजे थम गया। इस चरण में 1 करोड़ 47 हजार 974 मतदाता अपने मत का प्रयोग कर सकेंगे। कुल 568 प्रत्याशी चुनाव मैदान में हैं।

इस चरण में सर्वाधिक 24 प्रत्याशी भागलपुर जिले के सुल्तानगंज विधानसभा क्षेत्र में है। सुरक्षा कारणों से 10 विस क्षेत्रों में सुबह 7 बजे से शाम 3 बजे तक ही वोट डाले जाएंगे।

Why Haryana is India's mine for medals-Oct 31, 2010,

Why Haryana is India's mine for medals

Bhupendra Yadav, Oct 31, 2010, 04.31am IST

All of us play but we are not athletes. We are homo ludens (Latin for play) and our playfulness is unproductive. But athletes play for profit and contest for prizes. It is the transformation of our play and games into athletics that leads to medals. What makes Haryana such a fine place for athletics in India? With barely 2% of India's population, people from Haryana won around 40% of the gold medals in the recently concluded CWG 2010.

People in Haryana tend to count the gold medals of the Hyderabadi shuttler, Saina Nehwal and the Delhi wrestler, Sushil Kumar, in their tally. This is because both of them are Jats. People of this dominant caste form more than 20% of Haryana's population and, therefore, in popular perception, Haryana is Jat-land. All sports are oriented towards the Olympic slogan 'higher, faster, stronger'. But the ones in which Haryana got medals stand for plain force and aggression like wrestling, boxing and shooting. Anthropologists call them contact sports because the opponents have bodily contact in them. Shooting is a combative sport because opponents use a combat weapon. Such sports are a substitute of war or training for it.

Haryana is India's pride in contact and combative games. I can think of three reasons for it, viz. historical geography, peasant culture of perseverance and a feeble government policy. Firstly, the province has a volatile history of continuous aggression due to its geographical location on the frontier. Secondly, the people of Haryana have valued physical strength and perseverance due to its peasant culture. Thirdly, the sports policy since 2006 has honed the killer athletic spirit in Haryana. The half-hearted policy does not create achievers but supports the successful ones among them. Punjab was divided on religious lines in 1947. The non-Sikh majority parts of this truncated Punjab were constituted as Haryana in 1966. Like a horseshoe, Haryana encircles Delhi from three sides and the culture of both is similar. At the popular level, people are rough and tough - meaning 'rough by tongue and tough in body'. In the medieval times, Haryana flourished when weak rulers ruled Delhi.

Most of the area remained under Delhi's tutelage but small principalities also dotted the arid landscape of Haryana. Mostly, people of the region joined the Mughals and Marathas in repulsing invaders. But the same locals did not mind plundering Delhi or looting the retreating armies sometimes. The British colonialists expanded from the east. They conquered most of India with the help of soldiers from western UP and Bihar. But, in the late 19th century, the colonial strategists honoured ordinary peasant castes by calling them 'martial races' in united Punjab. This was a clever way of taming the aggression in this frontier region.

This smart move was also to recruit Punjabi ruralites in the colonial army so that they could be used to thwart the southward expansion of Tsarist Russia. There is a family resemblance between military/hunting activities and wrestling, shooting, races, riding or archery. For the military serving population of Haryana, therefore, such sports come easily. Secondly, before the advent of machinery, agriculture was a backbreaking occupation. The size of agricultural income had a direct relation with the quantity of sweat produced during one's toil.

Even after the wide use of machines, peasants have to rough it out in the open and do a lot of physical labour for long hours. Haryana stands in the midst of India's Green Revolution belt. Its peasant culture values strength and perseverance. Being less than four hectares, 83.5% of the landholdings in Haryana are uneconomical. Unable to hire agricultural labour, such small farms are cultivated by family labour.

Family members slog on and on till their field has been sown, weeded or harvested. The stamina of ordinary people is thus built in their everyday routine. A liking for sports among such people is natural. Consequently, the physical training instructor is the pivot of rural life in Haryana. S/he has the same place in the normal school in Haryana that the dance, drama or music teacher has in Bengal. Finally, this love of aggression and liking for physical culture had to be channelized to competitive championships. This is the task of sports federations.

Sports federations have to enforce the rules of every sport and also keep the performance records of member athletes. The sports federations monopolize government support at other places. The government of Haryana, since 2006, has chosen to directly help its athletes, instead. The athletes who excel get cash rewards and government jobs in the sports quota. This is not the best policy because it does not help create champions or a sports culture. The policy only celebrates the famous and supports the successful.

The writer is a fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi

Read more: Why Haryana is India's mine for medals - The Times of India

It's Nitish all the way in urban Patna-31/10/10

It's Nitish all the way in urban Patna


Patna, Oct 31 (IANS) When it comes to urban Patna, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar holds the sway. Some see him as 'vikas purush' or 'development man' of the state. Others feel he is committed to change the face of Bihar's poor, and for some he is no less than a miracle worker.

He is clearly more popular than any other state politician and people, mostly belonging to the middle classes in urban localities, are rooting for him.

Of course, they know he is not perfect as heaps of garbage are still seen on most roads and the state capital still faces a shortage of electricity and drinking water, but the people in Patna want Nitish Kumar to return to power.

As 42 constituencies, including four urban seats in Patna, go to polls Monday in the fourth round of the six-phase state assembly elections, Nitish Kumar's name seems to be on everyone's lips. If that is something to go by, the mood of the voters is firmly in favour of Nitish Kumar.

'Nitish Kumar deserves another five-year term...We will vote for him,' said Chandeshwar Prasad, a retired government official here.

Mukesh Kumar, an engineering student in his early 20s, says he backs Nitish Kumar for initiating development work, improving law and order and giving people the hope for a developed Bihar.

'I am used to filthy surroundings and regular power cuts that I hate...but I'm a fan of Nitish Kumar, who deserves to be in power,' Mukesh, who stays in the upscale Rajendra Nagar locality, told IANS.

Sharique Ali, a businessman, said the chief minister has done good work and had promised to turn Bihar into a power surplus state in the next five years.

'Electricity shortage is a problem even in Patna but our hope lies with Nitish Kumar that he will work towards this problem,' Ali said.

Nitish Kumar's larger-than-life image among the urban population is bound to benefit his Janata Dal-United's (JD-U) alliance partner Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has three candidates in the fray - Nand Kishor Yadav from Patna Saheb, Nitin Navin from Bankipur and Arun Sinha from Kumharar.

In the fourth seat of Digha, the JD-U's candidate Poonam Devi is sitting comfortably despite opposition by a section of BJP workers, who claim the seat was snatched from their party by Nitish Kumar in the seat-sharing arrangement.

A BJP leader admitted that the party candidates are depending heavily on the chief minister's development plank in urban Patna.

Unlike in the past, most people are no longer worried about lawlessnes that plagued their area earlier like incidents of kidnapping, extortion and murder by gangsters.

'We have been facing problems like waterlogging and overflowing drains but now the roads are good and law and order has improved like never before due to steps taken by Nitish Kumar. He deserves another chance to get rid of the garbage,' said Atul Sharma, a school teacher.

Nitish Kumar too has not failed to remind the electorate during his campaigning that the rule of law had been established and over 50,000 criminals have been convicted during his rule.

He also uses the fear factor to woo voters, warning of a re-run of crime if he was not voted to power.

'The chief minister's words impress the urban middle class as well as lower middle class,' Anish Ankur, a theatre activist, said.

And Nitish Kumar has got the thumbs up from the women too - from college students and professionals to housewives.

'We are keen to give Nitish Kumar another term,' said housewife Chanchal Singh.

So what is their take on Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad?

'For urban middle class voters, Lalu is rustic and a useless leader,' Ankur said, adding that the foremr chief minister is still popular in rural Patna where he commands a strong social support base.

Peaceful voting on in Bihar-1/11/10

Peaceful voting on in Bihar


Patna, Nov 1 (IANS) The fourth phase of the Bihar assembly elections that began Monday morning in 42 constituencies, which include Patna and some Maoist-affected areas, proceeded peacefully with people lining up to cast their votes early morning.

Ignoring the Maoists' call of poll boycott, voters, particularly women and youth, queued up outside the polling booths soon after balloting began at 7 a.m. despite the cold-weather.

In some places, queues started forming outside the polling booths minutes before the voting began.

Nearly 10 percent voting was recorded in the first two hours, official sources in the Bihar chief electoral officer's office said.

'It is a normal voting percentage (for this point of the day) as it will pick up later,' an official said.

In Patna, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and his wife and former chief minister Rabri Devi cast their votes at a polling booth in Digha constituency.

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar is likely to cast his vote at his native town of Bakhtiyarpur in Patna district.

About 10.4 million people, including 4.6 million women, are eligible to vote to determine the electoral fate of 568 candidates in eight districts.

The eight districts are Begusarai, Lakhisarai, Bhagalpur, Khagaria, Munger, Banka, Jamui and Patna.

Voting began at 7 a.m and will end 5 p.m. But balloting will take place in 14 constituencies in the Maoist-affected areas till 3 p.m.

Bihar police chief Neelmani told IANS that polls are so far peaceful under tight security measures, adding that borders with Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh have been sealed.

'Central paramilitary force personnel will man 85 percent of the booths and officials of Special Task Force would conduct air surveillance from helicopters to ensure free and fair pollS,' he said.

'Besides, foolproof security has been made in Maoist-affected pockets to thwart any violence,' he added.

Neelmani said that patrolling on the river Ganges and mounted police teams were also keeping a vigil.

There were, however, reports that voters in over a dozen villages boycotted the elections and shouted slogans saying they would not vote because of lack of development in their area.

The first three rounds of the elections Oct 21, Oct 24 and Oct 28 passed off peacefully. They were held for 47, 45 and 48 seats respectively.

Voting for the fourth phase is a challenging task for the Election Commission as well as the state government in view of the Maoist threat.

The heavyweights in this phase include Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwarts and ministers Ashwini Kumar Choubey (Bhagalpur), Nand Kishore Yadav (Patna Sahib), Ramnarayan Mandal (Banka) and Janata Dal-United (JD-U) minister Damodar Raut.

'Our freedom was born with hunger, we're still not free'

'Our freedom was born with hunger, we're still not free'
Saira Kurup, Aug 15, 2010, 03.31am IST
'Our freedom was born with hunger, we're still not free'

M S Swaminathan

On August 15, 1947, 22-year-old Monkombu Sambasivan Swaminathan famously headed for Auroville even as almost everyone else in Madras seemed to be bound for Marina Beach to celebrate the birth of a free India. Later, he would choose to study agriculture rather than medicine, rightly judging that plentiful food production had an important role to play in keeping a country independent. He went on to play a leading role in India's Green Revolution of the 1960s. In 1999, he was one of only three Indians to be on TIME magazine's list of the 20th century's 20 most influential Asians. The other two were Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi. Swaminathan, 85, was in the capital recently and spoke to Saira Kurup about India's many revolutions — those past and still to come.

It's 63 years since India became independent. But we are still fighting for freedom from hunger and poverty. Is this a battle we might never win?
Our freedom was born with hunger. It was born in the backdrop of the Bengal famine. If you read the newspapers dated August 15, 1947, one part was about freedom, the other was food shortage. This is why Jawaharlal Nehru said after Independence that everything else can wait but not agriculture.
The battle against hunger is a battle we have to win. It requires a fusion of political will, professional skill and people's participation. Our country is fortunate to have fairly good water resources, reasonably good rainfall, a hardworking farming population. We must bring about a marriage between brain and brawn in rural professions. We need a large number of educated young people to go into farming using science and new eco-technologies. We have all the necessary ingredients for progress. But the gap between scientific knowhow and field level do-how is large.

The green revolution was the product of four things: the first was technology. The genetic technology of the 1960s was transformational and changed people's understanding of wheat and rice yields. The second was services that took the technology to the field like extension services, credit and insurance; third was public policies of input-output pricing like the prices commission, and lastly, the farmers' enthusiasm. Today, unfortunately, the most important thing is missing — farmers' enthusiasm. A revolution cannot come from a government programme. A National Sample Survey study says 40% of the farmers want to leave farming. It's important to revive that enthusiasm.

There's no shortage of food in terms of production. Why are people going hungry then?
There are three parts to the problem. First, availability of food in the market, which is not bad; second, access to food or purchasing power. Under NREGA, a worker gets Rs 100 a day for 100 days i.e Rs 10,000 a year. If he has a family of five, it means Rs 2,000 a year per person. When dal is selling at Rs 80 to Rs 90 a kilo, how do they buy it? Third, is the absorption of food in the body, which means getting clean drinking water, sanitation. Otherwise, it means a leaky pot — a child would keep getting infections.

How do you view the green revolution now, when the widespread use of pesticides in Punjab is being linked to increase in cancer rates in some areas?
In 1966, I had said the green revolution should be an "evergreen revolution", which is enhancement of productivity in perpetuity without ecological harm. I had warned against overuse of pesticides and fertilizers and against converting the green revolution into a greed revolution.

What can be done to set things right?
There are two aspects of the green revolution — farm ecology and farm economy. But if farm ecology goes wrong, nothing else will go right. Soil quality must be taken care of, water quality must be ensured. We should also be ready for climate change. I call it a two-pronged strategy — get the best of a good monsoon or climate and second, minimize the adverse impact of unfavourable weather.

Why are you objecting to Bt brinjal?
I didn't oppose it. I supported Jairam Ramesh's moratorium. I chaired a committee in 2004 and recommended in a report the setting up of a regulatory authority, which would have its own testing facilities. The Genetic Engineering Approval Committee has no such facility. I advocate safe and responsible use of biotechnology particularly in the case of human nutrition. Some long-term residual toxicity tests should be done. If you introduce some good-yielding hybrids, farmers will grow only those. So I said, "Use the moratorium to collect all the genetic material or germ plasm." We also need a literacy programme for the public.

You have been influenced by the philosophy of the Mahatma and Sri Aurobindo. In an age when technology is the new god, do you think there can be a meeting point for science and spirituality?
There can be no science without spirituality. It gives purpose to science. Vivekananda said, 'This life is short, the vanities of the world are transient, but they alone live who live for others.' That's my personal philosophy. My father was a doctor. He died when I was 10. My mother wanted me to go into medicine. But the papers were full of Bengal famine and I asked myself how I could serve my country better. I got calls from a medical college and an agricultural college. After I joined, the principal of the agricultural college asked me why I took up agriculture because the subject was not considered as important as medicine!

Do you have any unfulfilled dreams?
My only dream is a hunger-free India. Every fourth child here is born underweight. We are denying our own children opportunities for a fulfilled life. I wanted to see a hunger-free India in 2007 when we celebrated our 50th year of Independence. But it has not happened. That's why I accepted nomination to the Rajya Sabha because in a democratic country much depends on the political system. Fortunately, when I was Farmers' Commission chairman, we recommended a food guarantee Act. Now I am in the National Advisory Council and am working on the Right to Food Act. It's the last chance to make food a legal right. Gandhiji said in Noakhali in 1946 that the first and foremost duty of independent India is to see that no child, woman or man should go to bed hungry, because to the hungry, bread is god.

Read more: 'Our freedom was born with hunger, we're still not free' - The Times of

Bihar election is all about hope, period-Oct 31, 2010,

Battle for Bihar
Bihar election is all about hope, period

Yogendra Yadav, Oct 31, 2010, 04.29am IST

A travel through Bihar has always been something of a pilgrimage for me. It cleanses my mind and soul of the complacency and cynicism that we all pick up in Delhi. And of course, there is the charm of dahi-choora and litti-chokha.

Pilgrimage apart, this time i had three questions as i travelled for six days through north and northeastern Bihar. Has something really changed in Bihar, outside Patna and other urban centres? If yes, do ordinary people, especially from the lower orders, register this change? And, if yes again, will this positive sentiment translate into votes for the JD(U)- BJP alliance in this election?

Years of Bihar-watching have taught me not to go by received images and wisdom. Statistics are dodgy; the national media is either gullible or hostile and the local media suffers from an uppercaste mindset. I was told that the Nitish Kumar government has used not-so-subtle tactics to ensure good press for itself. There was no substitute to checking things for oneself.

At least a part of the answer was clear by the end of the second day on the road, as the vehicle and its occupants survived the many forays beyond the highways. The little journey through Nepal served as a contrast and a reminder of what roads used to be. An earlier expedition from Muzaffarpur to Sitamarhi, a 57-km stretch, took seven hours. The roads in Bihar now may not compare with the best in the country, but they are way better than what they used to be five years ago. Does the quality of road make a difference to those who do not own motorable vehicles? I asked this question and was promptly silenced by some passengers waiting for a bus to Darbhanga. It used to take them a full day to transport a critically ill patient to the medical college there.

Now it takes three hours. The improvement in law and order is no less dramatic. Gone are the days of brazen rangadaari, of extortion, loot and kidnappings with open political patronage. These practices have not completely disappeared. Before the elections, Nitish bought peace with some of the political dons. Yet the contrast with the past is there for everyone to notice. And it matters even to the landless labourer who can now ply his rickshaw without the fear of being dragged for begaar (unpaid labour).

We chose the Musahar tola of Kanauli village, a stone's throw from the Nepal border, to check if 'development' had reached the last person. Most of the students in the two-room school get books, uniform and a mid-day meal, but perhaps not much education. Elsewhere, people had reported that government doctors have started attending the rural health centres, but there was no hospital around this locality. Yes, every family had a job card under MNREGA, but could not recall the last time anyone got work under that scheme. Migration to Delhi and Punjab remains the main source of livelihood. There is still no electricity here. Let Nitish come back to power, they said, and this time we will wrangle real electricity, not just the elusive solar lamp.

This is when it struck me— this election is not about vikas (development) or even about bipaas (bijali, paani, sadak). This is really about aas (hope). Bihar is still a long way from development that could change the life conditions of every person. We are not talking good governance, just governance. The five years of Nitish Kumar government — his government, neither NDA's, nor JD(U)'s --has delivered hope in Bihar, perhaps after three decades. This hope is shared across the caste and class divide.

Finally, the tough question: will this hope translate into votes? Or will caste trump development, as the media puts it? I have always been uneasy with this formulation. For one thing, Nitish Kumar has his own caste equations. He does face a little disenchantment of the upper castes, especially Rajputs, and the reconsolidation of the Yadavs behind the RJD, which he can more than make up for by the likely gains among the lowest OBCs (the EBC), dalits except Paswans (mahadalits) and Muslims. In any case, it is not caste versus development in this election.

Most voters, in Bihar or anywhere for that matter, view governance or development from their own social location. Caste appears to be the only factor when there is not much to choose from in terms of development or governance. Actually, caste provides a lens through which they view and assess the work of any government —it is not a blinder. If a government is seen to have done work, then a small slice from each of the caste-blocs shifts sides. This is enough to change electoral outcomes. It is not as if Bihar has taken off the lens of caste. It is just that the power of this lens has changed, allowing for a better visibility of development. That is a powerful change.

Yogendra Yadav is senior fellow at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies

Read more: Bihar election is all about hope, period - The Times of India

Divorce pleas cite gay relations more frequently than ever-Oct 25, 2010

Divorce pleas cite gay relations more frequently than ever

Sukanya Shetty
Posted: Oct 25, 2010 at 0551 hrs IST


Mumbai In the year since the Delhi High Court passed a landmark judgment overturning a 150-year-old law and legalising consensual homosexual relationships between adults, more and more women stuck in unhappy marriages have filed for divorce on the grounds that their husbands are “homosexual”.

Most women were once reluctant to speak out against their husbands for such a sexual orientation; many now seem to have overcome that.

“It isn’t that such cases have not been filed with the courts earlier. We have had many women who after a lot of prodding and investigations spoke up. A change, even though slight, has been seen in the court when women narrate their case. That is a major mind change,” said Advocate Shabnam Kazi, who practises in the family court in Bandra.

One such woman, a 32-year-old who married a man with a flourishing shipping business after an earlier broken marriage, says the first few months of her marriage were happy even though it was not consummated. When the wait continued, she began to probe what the problem might be. The possibility of impotency crossed her mind initially. “When she discovered her husband was involved sexually with a much younger boy, she confronted him and her parents-in-law. It was a shocking revelation for her when she discovered that his parents were aware of his preference. His marriage was just a counter to the social stigma,” said advocate Audrey D’Mello, who counselled the woman initially before she decided to have her community intervene. D’Mello, associated with NGO Majlis, says at least a dozen women have approached the centre with similar issues.

The legal battle may often swing based on whether the marriage is consummated. “Someone who has not had any sexual encounter with their spouse can file for annulment,” says senior lawyer Nilofar Akhtar, who has seen the trend too.

A few women have had a more complicated marriage. One, mother of a 4-year-old and a lecturer in a city college, was married a decade ago. “It is a very tricky case. She has had evidence collected where she can prove that her husband is involved in a gay relationship. She hacked into her husband’s email and found various interactions he had with a gay partner. But here she could not file for nullity on the grounds of non-consummation of marriage. We suggested the ground of cruelty and fraud,” says D’Mello.

J-K Interlocutors: Militants want to submit peace plan-Oct 31, 2010 at 1124 hrs IST

J-K Interlocutors: Militants want to submit peace plan-Oct 31, 2010 at 1124 hrs IST

Kashmir has never been integral part of Indi...Musharraf fit to be killed, says fatwaBrit Indian dentist guilty of offering patie...AI crash victims\' families decry \'demeanin...A blast and a conspiracyDivorce pleas cite gay relations more freque...

New Delhi Militants in Jammu and Kashmir have expressed their willingness to present a "peace plan" during their meeting with the group of interlocutors appointed by the Centre, a move seen as "something important" by Dilip Padgaonkar, who led the three-member team.

Giving details about their meetings with those from militant groups, Padgaonkar said, "The first time we met guys from terrorist organisations. They said would you mind coming again once. We need to talk to you. So we went a second time."

"And the second time, during an hour and a half, something quite surprising took place which was one of those guys who acted as spokesperson of one of these organisations said to us that they would like to submit to us also a peace plan," he said in a television interview.

The person asked the group whether they would be prepared to wait for few days because they too wanted their voice to be heard.

"They believed that they have a roadmap etc. So we said we have come to listen to you. We are quite prepared. As and when you prepare your point of view, let us know and we will examine that as well. I see this as something important because this is when the idea came that you need to talk also to our people that was the message given to us," he said.

Replying to objections raised about the meeting of Radha Kumar, one of the three interlocutors, with people accused of terror, she said, "They do represent, unfortunately, a rather ugly view point in Kashmir but that is important for us to meet them."

She said the purpose of her visit to prison was to meet young detainees "stonepelters" and political prisoners. It was during one such visit that she met people charged with terror which transpired into an "interesting meeting", she said.

She said the view of terrorists may be "unpalatable but that we must listen to them."

Kumar said, "As far as the dissident groups are concerned especially the Hurriyat groups we do understand their compulsions and we will always be willing to listen to them, their point of view. That is part of our mandate."

She said it was very rare to meet the Mirwaiz, Geelani or leaders of that opinion on a first visit. “It (peace process) needs to build up," she said adding that there was not commitment for such meeting in next visit.

On BJP's accusation against them of using the language of separatists, Padgaonkar said if the group was speaking their language, they would not not have been boycotted.

When asked about his statement on factoring in of Pakistan, Padgaonkar said the country has been involved in Jammu and Kashmir since 1947-48 through overt means and covert means of violence and diplomatic discussion.

Mao Zedong once said: " Women hold up half the heavens."-Bihar polls see high women voter turnout-Lakhisarai (Bihar), October 31, 2010

Ashish Sinha

Mao Zedong once said: " Women hold up half the heavens."-Bihar polls see high women voter turnout-Lakhisarai (Bihar), October 31, 2010

Lakhisarai (Bihar), October 31, 2010

Updated 09:40 IST

Mao Zedong once said: " Women hold up half the heavens." This famous statement appears to be exemplified in Lakhisarai - which hit the headlines when the Maoists killed policeman Lucas Tete and held three other personnel hostage for nine days - and beyond, this elections.

Women voters in Bihar

A different social revolution has triumphed in the fertile plains nestled between rivers Harohar and Kiul and other parts of Bihar and if the ' Red' guns are blazing, they aren't heard beyond the northern hills. This shift cocks a snook at the Maoists' demand for the boycott of elections, and woman power is behind it.

That the voter turnout in Bihar has crossed the 50 per cent mark has a lot to do with women - young as well as old - thronging the polling booths in seemingly endless queues.

With striking improvement in the law and order situation across the state and the effective deployment of security forces the winding village bylanes have turned into a riot of multicoloured saris and salwar- kamiz, the regulation attire in these parts.

" Most women, especially those from respected families, usually stayed home during the elections. Stepping out meant we would attract lewd comments from men, who backed candidates from their respective castes.

However, there is no fear now. The police will take good care of the troublemakers," said Urmila Prasad, a resident of Balgudar village near Lakhisarai.

For long in rural Bihar, men took political decisions even on behalf of the womenfolk.

Their participation in the electoral process, even when they came out in small numbers, was dictated by men, for whom the world did not exist beyond the realm of caste. But that is not the situation anymore.

" I have kept my voter card ready for the big day. We do not enter into any argument with men. We listen to them but we also know who to vote for. The candidate I will support is not from my caste. I am voting for him because he is the best of the lot," said Shivani Sharma, who also works as an Asha gram sewika in Suryagarha.

In these elections, women of Bihar have increasingly turned caste- neutral. One big reason is their active participation in panchayats with the Nitish Kumar government setting aside 50 per cent of the seats for women. Four years into operation, the new system has paid dividends with women pole- vaulting to decision- making roles.

Women are now shining bright as a caste- neutral social group across the state.

The government schemes to provide money for bicycles and uniforms to schoolgirls have also helped.

Pushpa, a 17- year- old from a village near Lakhisarai, said she felt confident cycling to school with friends. " All girls look the same in uniform. No one can show off expensive dresses. It is just not allowed," she said.

Pushpa would turn a voter next year. " The chief minister is smart. He knows that girls who got the bicycles will support him," said Pushpa's father.

" Pushpa and her mother do not listen to me beyond a point now. The story is the same in most families. I do not mind because mother- daughter relationships are always special," he added.

The confidence among these women appears to dwarf Mao's " half the heavens" assessment. What's more, men, too, are getting influenced by the women's logic that schools, hospitals and roads are more important than caste pride. In that sense, these are a make- orbreak elections for Bihar.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

CNN picks up Indian chef for its 'Hero of the Year' award-Oct 29, 2010,

CNN picks up Indian chef for its 'Hero of the Year' award

PTI, Oct 29, 2010, 12.44pm IST

BOSTON: Narayanan Krishnan, a 29-year-old chef from India who founded a non-profit body to feed the homeless and destitute, has been shortlisted by CNN for its annual 'Hero of the Year' honour that recognises "everyday individuals who are changing the world."

Krishnan is among this year's top 10 CNN Heroes, who were selected from out of 10,000 nominations by a CNN panel comprising activists and philanthropists such as Muhammad Ali and Sir Richard Branson.

The network will announce the 'CNN Hero of the Year,' selected from among the top 10 people, on November 25.

Among the top 10 CNN Heroes is Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, a Scotsman who provides free daily meals to 400,000 children; Aki Ra, a former child soldier clearing land mines in Cambodia and Anuradha Koirala, working to prevent trafficking and sexual exploitation of Nepal's girls.

Krishnan founded his nonprofit Akshaya Trust in 2003. He has served more than 1.2 million meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner - to India's homeless and destitute, mostly elderly people abandoned by their families and often abused.

"Krishnan brings hot meals and dignity to India's homeless and destitute - 365 days a year," CNN said.

The top 10 "remarkable individuals" were nominated by CNN viewers from across 100 countries for their sacrifices and accomplishments. In addition to receiving USD 25,000, each of this year's top 10 CNN Heroes will be honoured at 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute' in Los Angeles on November 25.

The global broadcast, hosted by CNN's Anderson Cooper, will culminate with the announcement of the CNN Hero of the Year, selected by the public in an online poll. The individual receiving the most votes will receive additional USD 100,000.

An award-winning chef with a five-star hotel group, Krishnan was short-listed for an elite job in Switzerland.

But a family visit home before heading to Europe changed everything, CNN said.

"I saw a very old man eating his own human waste for food," Krishnan told CNN. "It really hurt me so much."

Haunted by the image, Krishnan quit his job within a week. Helping the old man, Krishnan said he decided to "serve all the mentally ill destitutes and people who cannot take care of themselves."

Krishnan and his team cover nearly 125 miles in a donated van. He provides hot meals - simple vegetarian fare - that he personally prepares, packs and often hand-feeds to nearly 400 people each day.

The group's operations cost about USD 327 a day, but sponsored donations only cover 22 days a month.

Since investing his entire savings of USD 2,500 in 2002, he has taken no salary. Due to lack of funding, the group was also forced to stop construction on Akshaya Home, Krishnan's vision of a dormitory for the people he helps.

"Despite the demands and few comforts his lifestyle affords, Krishnan says he's enjoying his life," CNN added.

बिहार विधान सभा के चौथे चरण का मतदान एक नवम्बर को-October 30, 2010

शनिवार, ३० अक्तूबर २०१०

बिहार विधान सभा के चौथे चरण का मतदान एक नवम्बर को

Posted by Kusum Thakur Saturday, October 30, 2010


बिहार विधानसभा के चुनाव चौथे चरण में होने वाले मतदान में प्रमुख रानजीतिक दलों के कई दिग्गजों की राजनीतिक परीक्षा होगी ।

चौथे चरण में एक नवम्बर को राज्य के आठ जिलों में चुनाव होने है और इसमें पटना,भागलपुर और मुंगेर प्रमंडल की कई सीटों पर सभी दलों ने अपनी ताकत झोंक दी है । सत्तारुढ़ जनता दल यूनाइटेड ,जदयू ,उसकी सहयोगी भारतीय जनता पार्टी,भाजपा,मुख्य विपक्षी पार्टी राष्ट्रीय जनता दल ,राजद,और गठबंधन में शामिल लोक जनशक्ति पार्टी ,लोजपा,तथा कांग्रेस के स्टार प्रचारक नेता इन क्षेत्नों में धुंआधार चुनाव प्रचार के साथ ही रोड शो करने में जुटे हैं ।

भागलपुर विधानसभा क्षेत्र से भाजपा नेता और लोक स्वास्थ्य अभियन्त्रण मंत्री अश्विनी कुमार चौबे, कहलगांव से प्रदेश विधानसभा के पूर्व अध्यक्ष और कांग्रेस के वरिष्ठ नेता सदानंद सिंह अपनी किस्मत
आजमा रहे है। इसी तरह मुंगेर के जमालपुर से पूर्व सांसद धनराज सिंह , तारापुर से राजद के वरिष्ठ नेता और पूर्व मंत्री शकुनी चौधरी चुनाव मैदान में डटे है ।

Rahul's journey leaves clueless cops fuming- Oct 30, 2010,

Rahul's journey leaves clueless cops fuming

Pervez Iqbal Siddiqui, TNN, Oct 30, 2010, 12.15am IST

LUCKNOW: The Uttar Pradesh police (UPP) has sent a note to the chief of the Special Protection Group (SPG) on the undisclosed train travel of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi -- who is an SPG protectee -- from Gorakhpur to (Kurla) Mumbai on October 18.

The communique also included references to previous occasions when the Congress leader had made undisclosed journeys by road as well.

Home secretary Deepak Kumar on Friday confirmed that the additional director general of police (ADG), security, has dashed off a letter to the SPG chief to apprise the agency of the development.

When asked about the tone of the note, he said it was an official communique from one security agency to another.

Rahul Gandhi's train travel has come as a major embarrassment for the security agencies in UP who failed to get wind of the development till Rahul apparently disembarked in Mumbai. The police went full throttle hunting for Rahul's movements in Gorakhpur after it was revealed that he left his aircraft at Gorakhpur airport and took a taxi to the city.

What apparently prompted the state authorities to keep mum on the issue was probably that fact that more than the carelessness on the part of Rahul and his SPG cover regarding their decision to not inform the state agencies, the incident raised a question mark on the tall claims of regular surveillance and security blanket of the police at public places; that too when Rahul's movement in the city was not limited to him hopping into a car at the airport and getting out of it at the railway station.

The reports said that Rahul changed two sets of taxis before entering the railway station.

The group first hired two taxis from airport to the Ganga Devi police outpost in the city. There, they shifted to another set of taxis which dropped them outside the railway station. This was confirmed by Kamlesh Yadav, the driver of one of the taxis engaged by the group to move in the city.

"Honestly speaking, I didn't even look at all those who got in. I could have never guess that it was Rahul and his security, till someone passing from the site wondered aloud that one of them looked like Rahul Gandhi," Kamlesh said. The reports said that the reservation chart of coach number S-3 (sleeper class) had Rahul's only first name mentioned on it against the berth number 33 apparently to evade the identification.

The sources in the railways said that the reservations were confirmed through the quota of minister of state for railways. Apart from Rahul, a team of as many as 8 SPG commandos was accompanying him.

Tags:national commission for women|girls in hindi belt marry before 18-girija vyas/NCW- Oct 30, 2010,

70% girls in Hindi belt marry before 18: NCW

PTI, Oct 30, 2010, 06.39pm IST

PUDUCHERRY: The National Commission for Women on Saturday said it was "alarming" that around 70 per cent of girls are below 18 at the time of their marriage in Hindi-speaking states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Bihar.

Furnishing details, NCW chairperson Girija Vyas said 73 per cent girls under 18 marry in Madhya Pradesh followed by Rajasthan 68 per cent, Bihar 67 per cent and Uttar Pradesh 64 per cent.

She described the incidence as alarming and said that in Andhra Pradesh too 71 per cent girls tied the knot while still below 18.

She said it was found that even in two districts in Kerala there was child marriage despite education being "quite good" in the state.

Vyas was inaugurating a one day seminar organised by NCW in association with the Puducherry Women's Commission.

She stressed the need for uniformity in marriageable age for men and women.

Vyas told reporters later that there should not be any kind of harassment of women and no room for discrimination, and state governments should take steps in this regard.

Read more: 70% girls in Hindi belt marry before 18: NCW - The Times of India

Byline by M J Akbar:-Between scam India and slum India-

Between scam India and slum India

Byline by M J Akbar: Between scam India and slum India

It is entirely appropriate that a nation whose motto is Satyameye Vijayate should discover a metaphor for ravenous loot in a Mumbai building society called Adarsh. Greed is the new religion and all are welcome to feed at her trough. Nothing else is sacrosanct; not the highest offices in public service: Chief Minister, Army chief, Navy admiral, or top bureaucrat through whom the file must pass. If there is a flat to be stolen in a housing society sanctioned for the welfare of war widows, then every single one of these crooks is ready to cheat the blood of Kargil martyrs. Thomas Friedman did not know how many puns danced on the head of a simile when he called the world as flat and began his journey in India.

There is no shame left. It is tempting to ask whether there is an India left when most of its ruling class has abandoned every principle in its composite, vulgar commitment to theft, but hopefully India is larger than its ruling class.

Which came first, hypocrisy or greed? Tough question. I would give primacy of place to hypocrisy, since that is the cloak behind which greed flourishes. Hypocrisy is always a great temptation in a democracy, since compromise always begins in the name of either realism or service. The gap between true expenditure in an election and officially sanctioned levels is the principal propeller of corruption since it becomes the justification for taking illegitimate "donations", which of course is the polite word for bribes.

The stink of hypocrisy now permeates through all levels of authority, and institutions - like our defence forces - which cannot co-exist with corruption. They will be corrupt or a force; they cannot be both. The list of officials who stole from the Kargil dead is almost embarrassing: politicians, senior IAS officers, top defence officers. It was a rigged lottery handout.

It was robbery from the graveyard of Kargil martyrs. Those back-scratching cronies who distributed Adarsh flats between themselves should not be tried for corruption. They should be punished for treason.

But of course that is asking for too much from rulers who have become venal beyond belief. The system believes it can satiate any level of public anger with the meat of a scapegoat. Suresh Kalmadi was the officially nominated sacrifice for the putrid rape of public money during the Commonwealth Games. Ashok Chavan, chief minister of Maharashtra, will possibly have to resign because of Adarsh, unless he can, quietly, blackmail his superiors in Delhi by threatening to reveal how much cash he has been passing on to them.

We are being fooled by a clever set of manipulators in Delhi. Ashok Chavan did not become corrupt on the day media discovered that he had not only changed the terms of reference to cheat the "heroes of Kargil operation who bravely fought to protect our motherland" and then calmly stolen at least four of their flats for his family. He was corrupt the day he was made a minister in the Maharashtra government. He was promoted to Chief Minister not because he was competent but because he knew that the formula for upward mobility in the Congress, the happy combination of loyalty and corruption. When Delhi now puts on a mask of high outrage, it is only because it thinks this is the only way in which it can postpone retribution from the voter.

The voter does not live in Adarsh. 62% of Mumbai lives in slums. The distance between scam India and slum India is measured each day in the newspapers but discomfort prevents us from noticing. Even media seems reluctant to shorten this distance. While the front page of Saturday's newspapers in Delhi were full, justifiably, of the Ashok Chavan-led pillage, a small story on page 3 told of an unknown mother who left her two children, a boy, Pukar, and his sister Dakshina, outside a 'mazaar' [a saint's shrine] just outside the office of the Election Commission in Delhi, the home of the guardians of democracy. She gave her children all that was left with her, a bag with milk and some clothes, and told them she would return in an hour. She never returned. Her last trust was faith in the shrine. The children, said the temporary caretaker of the 'mazaar', Wazir Shah, cried the whole night. The children are now in a shelter.

They will learn to deal with the hungry, homeless, loveless reality that is the destiny of half of India while a thin skim ravages national wealth, and those in-between are trapped between dreams and insecurity. But will Pukar and Dakshina accept their "fate" and ignore Ashok Chavan and his fellow gangsters in the way that their helpless, nameless mother did? I hope not.
Posted by M J Akbar at 15:32

Friday, October 29, 2010

country can ill-afford to have its surplus foodgrains eaten by rats in government godowns or dumped in sea while the poor go hungry-SC Oct 30 2010,

SC, distribution of foodgrains, Below Poverty Line (BPL)

Posted: Sat Oct 30 2010, 01:47 hrs New Delhi:

Noting that even 10 years after it ordered that the country can ill-afford to have its surplus foodgrains eaten by rats in government godowns or dumped in sea while the poor go hungry, the Supreme Court on Friday asked the Attorney General to respond to the continued inadequate disbursement of foodgrains to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families.

“More than nine years ago, this court had passed the order that foodgrains overflowing in storage, especially in FCI godowns, should not be wasted by dumping in the sea or eaten by rats. There is no implementation of the order,” a Bench said.

As an example of how their order was disregarded by the government, the Bench cited from the latter’s affidavit to show 55,121 tonnes of wheat in Punjab and Haryana storage facilities were damaged and rendered unfit for consumption as of August 1, 2010.

Though it is aware that procurement of adequate foodgrains is essential to provide food security and the interest of farmers has to be safeguarded, the court said procurement ought to be in proportion to ability for storage.

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“Mere schemes without any implementation are of no use. What is important is that the food must reach the hungry,” the Bench said.

It wants the government to explain the reason for following the 1991 Census figures for food distribution in 2010.

Change perceptible in Bihar: Swaraj-Oct 30, 2010,

Change perceptible in Bihar: Swaraj

Rajiv Kumar, TNN, Oct 30, 2010, 02.13am IST

BEGUSARAI: Senior BJP leader and leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj on Friday dubbed the skyrocketing prices as a product of the UPA government and even recited the popular number from Aamir Khan's Bollywood film "Peepli Live" to the crowd at an election meeting at Bacchwara in Begusarai district.

She said the abject failure of the Congress-led government to counter the menace has even removed pulses from the menu of the poor people. She said the NDA government in the state last time got a popular mandate on the ground of 15-year RJD misrule. However, this time the NDA is seeking a positive mandate for its good work during the last five years.

"With groups of girls cycling along the roads of villages and towns of the state becoming a common sight, change is perceptible," she said and added the NDA government had distributed about 2.5 crore cycles in the state. The noble scheme, in fact, did wonders for the confidence of the girls preparing them better to face future challenges. Moreover, the NItish-Modi government provided 50 percent reservation to women in panchayats and local bodies, which not only proved a boon for women's empowerment but also a trendsetter for other states, she said.

While listing the development works of the NDA government, vis-a-vis the previous RJD government, Swaraj said while the NDA government spent Rs 7,000 crore during the last five years, the latter could manage a meagre Rs 25,000 crore during its entire period.

Swaraj held the Congress responsible for the sharp increase in the prices of essential commodities and prevailing inflation in the country.

She was on a two-day whirlwind tour of Bhagalpur, Kahalgaon, Pirpainty and Naugachhia in Bhagalpur and Barahat (Banka) to seek support for the NDA candidates.

Swaraj said that the Centre had been unfair to the poor and the underprivileged sections of the society. Rice is being sold at Rs 25 per kg, pulse at Rs 80 per kg and edible oil for Rs 100 per kg, she said.

Lashing out at the RJD-LJP combine, she said that the people have seen the 15-years' misrule of the Lalu-Rabri governments. Lauding the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government in the state, the BJP leader said that under the NDA government, a record 23,600 km of roads were constructed and repaired.

Urging the people to vote for the NDA candidates in the assembly constituencies of Bhagalpur and Banka districts, she urged them to ensure their win with a record margin.

'Silent revolution' in Bihar, says Ravishankar-Oct 30, 2010,

'Silent revolution' in Bihar, says Ravishankar

Law Kumar Mishra, TNN, Oct 30, 2010, 05.46am IST

PATNA: BJP national general secretary Ravishankar Prasad on Friday claimed a "silent revolution" in Bihar was reflected in the heavy polling in the first three phases of polling.

"Bihar will redefine democracy in the country as people would discard caste and communal politics and vote for development," he said.

Prasad, who has addressed over 100 public meetings in the last three weeks, said that now even RJD chief Lalu Prasad, who had strongly disfavoured development agenda for 15 years and promoted castesim, is talking of development. It is the positive face of changing Bihar politics, he said. "Bihar was notoriously recognized as a casteist state, but now it will be known as development-oriented state as the focus has shifted from caste to development," Ravishankar said.

According to him, even children are publicly acknowledging the development works of chief minister Nitish Kumar. At a public meeting at Pirpainty in Bhagalpur, school children who had come in their uniforms said that the uniforms were given to them by Nitish.

"Since 1990, Lalu Prasad promoted casteism in four Lok Sabha elections and four state assembly elections held between 1991 and 2005. Now he has declared he would give up caste politics and concentrate on development provided he was given a chance to rule Bihar again," Ravishankar said.

The BJP leader complimented the Election Commission of India for peaceful conduct of first three phases of the polls despite Maoists' threat. "Bihar has shed violence-based elections and showing democracy was gaining maturity here. The entire language of Bihar politics has changed in this election," he said.

He advised AICC president Sonia Gandhi to do some homework before speaking in Bihar. "At a public meeting at Begusarai on Thursday, she said that Bihar remained backward in the last 20 years. She must recollect that the Congress supported Lalu Prasad for 15 years and even was a part of its government for five years," he added.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ranchi will give India a tennis star: Sania-October 28, 2010

Ranchi will give India a tennis star: Sania

Category » Sports Posted On Thursday, October 28, 2010


RANCHI, Oct 28:
Tennis star Sania Mirza believes that the day is not far when Ranchi, hometown of India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, will produce a top-class tennis player.
"I will pray that a tennis player should emerge from Ranchi as MS Dhoni emerged for cricket," said Sania, who inaugurated a tennis academy on Thursday.
"I have heard a lot about Ranchi and I had a wish to see the town, and I grabbed the opportunity when I was invited for the inauguration of this tennis academy," she added.
Sania also hoped that the academy, which will start with 50 budding talents, would throw up good tennis players in the days to come.
"I am looking forward to come back to Ranchi to play (tennis tournaments)," Sania said.
Jharkhand Chief Minister Arjun Munda assured that the government would support budding talents to promote the game in the state.
"We will encourage all sports, including tennis," Munda said.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

तीन बार तलाक टाइप कर भेजना भी तलाक !(YEH KAISA KANOON HAI???)- २८ अक्तूबर २०१०

बृहस्पतिवार, २८ अक्तूबर २०१०
तीन बार तलाक टाइप कर भेजना भी तलाक !


Posted by Kusum Thakur Thursday, October 28, 2010
इस्लामी संस्थान दारुल उलूम देवबंद ने कहा है कि शौहर द्वारा बीवी के साथ इंटरनेट पर चैटिंग के दौरान मजाक में भी तीन बार तलाक टाइप कर भेजा जाना शरीयत के मुताबिक तलाक देना ही माना जाएगा।

दारुल उलूम ने कतर निवासी एक युवक के सवाल पर जवाब संख्या 26075 में यह बात कही है। युवक का सवाल था कि एक बार उसने अपनी बीवी के साथ इंटरनेट पर चैटिंग के दौरान मजाक में तीन बार तलाक टाइप करके भेज दिया था, तो क्या इसे तलाक माना जाएगा।

युवक ने सवाल में यह भी कहा था कि उसे इस्लाम के बारे में ज्यादा जानकारी नहीं है और न ही वह तलाक के तरीकों से अच्छी तरह वाकिफ है। उसका कहना था कि वह अपनी बीवी के साथ खुशी-खुशी रह रहा है और वह भविष्य में भी उसके साथ ही रहना चाहता है।

दारुल उलूम ने इस सवाल पर अपने फतवे में कहा जब आप तीन बार तलाक लिखते हैं तो उसे तलाक ही माना जाएगा। इससे कोई फर्क नहीं पड़ता कि आप इस्लाम के बारे में ज्यादा जानते हैं या नहीं लेकिन अब आपकी बीवी आपके लिये हराम हो गई है।

फतवे में कहा गया है कि तलाक के बाद हलाला किये बगैर परित्यक्त पत्नी से दोबारा निकाह नहीं हो सकता। हलाला के तहत तलाकशुदा औरत को इद्दत के तीन महीने पूरे होने के बाद पति के अलावा किसी अन्य व्यक्ति से निकाह करना होता है और उससे तलाक पाने के बाद चाहे तो वह पूर्व पति से दोबारा शादी कर सकती है।

Muslim choice in Bihar elections-Patna, October 26, 2010

Muslim choice in Bihar elections

Srinand Jha, Hindustan Times
Email Author
Patna, October 26, 2010
First Published: 23:21 IST(26/10/2010)
Last Updated: 09:32 IST(27/10/2010)


“Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s commitment to minority welfare is unquestioned. In this election the Muslim votes will go to the Janata Dal (United)”. The seemingly innocuous comment from Edra-e-Shariat general secretary Haji Sayeed Mohammed Sanaullah provoked a furious response.

“Nonsense. The minorities have been used and abused by leaders of all political parties. Nitish Kumar’s protestations against the BJP’s Narendra Modi (Gujarat CM) are a sham. The minorities will vote for a secular government,” barked Bihar Jamait-e-Ulma general secretary Husne Ahmed Quadri.

The discussion was talking place in the spacious air-conditioned chamber of Patna’s Haj House chairman, Anis-Ur-Rehman. Walking out of Haj House that day, this reporter was constantly reminded of Patna’s Gandhi Museum director Razi Ahmed’s words: “Muslim votes are utterly fractured and they might end up voting for the winning candidates.

Despite the development factor, including law and order, being Nitish Kumar’s strong point during the Bihar assembly elections of 2010, there is a question as to whether the Muslims will stand by him. The Babri Masjid verdict of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court, splitting the land on which the mosque stood, has not pleased many leading members of the community and hence they are likely to look for a political crutch. Nitish Kumar’s handicap here is his alliance with the BJP, the party committed to building the Ram temple in Ayodhya.

Where the Muslim vote matters

Bihar’s 14 million Muslim voters — constituting 16.5% of the state’s population — will determine the poll outcome in 60 assembly constituencies (out of the 243 in the assembly) where they have a presence of anything between 18 and 74%. The statistics gleaned from the 2001 Census of India show that Kochadhaman and Amour (Kishanganj and Purnea districts, respectively) have the highest concentration of Muslim voters (at 74 per cent).

Other constituencies with a dominant presence of Muslims are in the bordering districts of Kishanganj, Araria and Bhagalpur; north Bihar districts of Supoul, Madhepura, Saharsa and Darbangha; and central Bihar districts of Gopalganj, Siwan, Biharsharif, Gaya and Nalanda.

In about 50 other seats, the Muslim voters have a presence of 10-17 per cent of the electorate, adequate to substantially influence the poll outcome.

Given the Muslims’ population proportion in the state, the Bihar assembly ought to have 38-40 Muslims. But, in most elections since 1952, 24-25 Muslims, have been elected while the state has sent, on average, just four-five Muslims to the Lok Sabha.

This time, the Congress has fielded the highest number (46) Muslim candidates, followed by 36 of the RJD-LJP combine and 17 of the JD (U)-BJP alliance.

“In the Muslim mind, the level of earlier hostility towards the JD (U)-BJP combine may have diminished, but they are unlikely to vote ‘en bloc’ for the ruling NDA alliance — or for any other party or grouping”, said Shaibal Gupta of the Patna-based Asian Development Research Institute (ADRI).

Local Congress leader Najmul Hassan Najmi says: “Aazmaye Ko Azmana Jihalat Hai” (trying out one who has already been tried out is obnoxious). People are fed up with the ‘nautanki’ (drama) of state leaders. The Congress will emerge strong this time.”

The go-it-alone strategy of the Congress is likely to marginally improve the party strength in the assembly.

Uncertainty on the voting pattern

“The poll outcome will be spectacular. This will be a landmark election”.

Wherever one travelled — Purnea, Madhepura, Saharsa, Kishanganj and Patna — this was the common refrain. Nitish Kumar has taken measures for the benefit of the community.

He brought Kameshwar Yadav, the main accused in the Bhagalpur riots of 1989, to book, has provided lifelong pension to Muslim families affected by the riots, and hiked the salaries of madarsa (Islamic schools) teachers.

The RJD campaign hinges on the argument that former CM Lalu Prasad was the one to have powered the “social engineering” process — providing voice to the minorities. This time, he is promising free motorcycles to the Muslim youth!

Congress leaders including party president Sonia Gandhi say that egalitarian growth and true secularism can be brought to Bihar only when their party is brought to Bihar.

Whose bait will the Muslim voters bite?

This election, the minority voters are truly playing their cards close to their chest.

“Roads and infrastructure development is fine. But what about our villages? The schools have no teachers; government benefits do not reach us. ‘Afsarshahi’ (rule of bureaucrats) prevails and common people have to pay five times more as bribes to the ‘panchayat’, block and district-level officials”, says Rashid Khan at Sabutar, a Muslim-dominated hamlet in the bordering district of Purnea.

Another villager said: “All parties have failed us: From the Congress to RJD and the JD (U).”

So whom will they vote for? “Nobody, we cannot vote for anybody,” Khan says.

Then comes the afterthought: “We are the ones (Muslims) who hold the key to government formation this time. The results will astound you; wait for the outcome!”

The 16% factor

Battle for Bihar: Rabri, Sadhu’s fate to be sealed today-Oct 28, 2010,

Battle for Bihar: Rabri, Sadhu’s fate to be sealed today

Law Kumar Mishra, TNN, Oct 28, 2010, 01.33am IST


PATNA: More than 10 million voters of Bihar's 48 constituencies will vote amid heavy security bandobast to decide the fate of former CM Rabri Devi and her 'famous' brother Sadhu Yadav, among others, on Thursday.

Rabri, who is RJD MLA from Raghopur, is trying her luck from Sonepur as well. Her brother, who has since parted ways with her, is contesting from Gopalganj as a Congress nominee.

Others whose fate would be sealed in the third phase of six-phase polls in the state include ministers Brishan Patel, Renu Devi, Ram Pravesh Rai, Gautam Singh, Vyasdeo Prasad, BJP general secretary Janardan Segriwal and jailed JD-U MLA Munna Shukla's wife Annu Shukla.

Chief electoral officer Sudhir Kumar Rakesh on Wednesday said the administration is well prepared to hold the elections in these constituencies spread over West Champaran, East Champaran, Gopalganj, Siwan, Saran and Vaishali districts.

Though only some of the constituencies are "critical" owing to presence of Maoists there, armed forces will man all the 10,814 polling stations. Mounted police, river police and para military forces besides IAF choppers would patrol the areas going to the polls. Raids and searches have been on to prevent inflow of money and liquor in the constituencies, Rakesh said and added live webcast will be done from 293 polling stations.

The Congress and BSP have fielded candidates in all the 48 constituencies while Nationalist Congress Party has fielded 38 candidates, RJD 35, JD-U 24, BJP 24, LJP 13, CPI 10 and the CPM five nominees.

Of the 785 candidates, 65 are women with more than one women trying their luck from 18 constituencies. These include Patepur where four women are in the fray and Ramnagar, Bhore, Zeeradei, Marhaura, Vaishali, Maharajganj and Raghopur where three women each have thrown their hat in the ring.

Zeeradei and Marhaura have the highest number of 29 candidates each while the lowest number of seven candidates are in Raxaul.

The largest assembly constituency electorate-wise is Raghopur having 2.62 lakh electors and the smallest Kalyanpur with 1,77,368 voters.

Soaring brand Saina gets Rs 1cr per ad deal-Oct 28, 2010,

Soaring brand Saina gets Rs 1cr per ad deal

M Ratnakar, TNN, Oct 28, 2010, 12.30am IST


Saina Nehwal


HYDERABAD: On October 15, reporting Saina Nehwal's thrilling victory in the Commonwealth Games women's singles final, TOI said she was now probably India's best loved sportsperson after Sachin Tendulkar. Corporate India seems to agree. India's badminton sensation, riding high after three consecutive tournanment wins, apart from the CWG triumph, is now being signed up by major brands for an annual fee which is touching the Rs 1 crore mark.

To put that in perspective, Saina now commands a fee that was earlier the preserve of only cricket superstars like Virender Sehwag. Only MS Dhoni and Tendulkar get significantly more than her. Dhoni, apparently, is now offering advertisers the option of paying him by the day, rather than charging an annual fee.

Interestingly, Sania Mirza, who was once eagerly sought after by advertisers, is now said to get a fee of around Rs 25 lakh. Industry sources say her brand value has been hit by her indifferent form as well as her marriage to Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik.

Barely a couple of years ago, Saina's brand equity was valued at a mere 10-15 lakh per endorsement and she didn't have any top brands in her kitty.

From being a brand ambassador of Cancer Society of India and a herbal product, Saina has come a long way to now have on her list companies such as Airtel, Adani Wilmar, Yonex, Jaypee Cements and Star Plus. And the word is that the queue is getting longer by the day, at the head of which is a famous noodle company.

According to sources close to the shuttler, Saina inked two deals - Adani Wilmar and Airtel - in July, each worth Rs 1 crore. She had earlier signed similar deals with Yonex and a City-based daily. Incidentally, a change in her fortunes came about after she switched from Globosport Management Group to Deccan Chargers Sporting Ventures last year.

Sources close to the shuttler told TOI on Wednesday that the deal with Jaypee Cements is in the closing stages and that her management firm is in talks with Star Television Group, apparently for a foreword to 20-25 episodes of a serial titled 'Kali Ek Agnipariksha' which is all about a woman shuttler's travails. Saina is likely to be paid Rs 5 lakh per episode.

Apart from these major signings this year, Saina has received 20 gold coins weighing 10g each from Premium Brands, the official sponsor of Indian badminton team. At the bottom end of her endosements, however, is Aspire which fetches her Rs 2 lakh a year, a deal that runs through 2012.

Besides, Deccan Chargers Sporting Ventures - who give her a guarantee fee of Rs 1 crore per year and do not take any percentage from the deals they get for her - are likely to hike her guarantee fee.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Why I Quit The Media- Journalism outspaced, it was time to put my pen down.-Sumir Lal/outlook magazine-Special Issue: Media In Crisis


Why I Quit The Media

A mega sellout!

Journalism outspaced, it was time to put my pen down.

Sumir Lal

Special Issue: Media In Crisis

The Indian media formally abdicated from duty that morning in the early 1990s when the Times of India (TOI) threw aside any remaining pretences and put up for sale its own 150-year-old masthead. Readers were greeted with their trusted newspaper proclaiming “Let The Times of India Wait”—an advertiser had been lured to pay for the additional words, with a pointer to the page where the actual advertisement was placed. The Times of India had just done some straight talking: forget the news, the journalism, the matters of public interest; go directly to the ads because that’s the real purpose of your newspaper. More deliberately, it said, everything that the toi name embodies—credibility, integrity, impartiality—is available for a price.

Samir Jain knew his times if not his Times. He took over his father’s company in 1982, and spent the 1980s remaking Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCLl) into a ferociously aggressive and innovative marketing company. He had sensed the zeitgeist, and was perfectly poised when the liberalisation reform in 1991 unleashed a new Indian with money to spend and immediate desires to gratify. His business proposition was simple: he would connect sellers of goods to this vast market of consumers. To corral and expand this market, he did not need distractions like news journalism, but marketing strategies like undercutting and brand-building. BCCL and TOI have laughed all the way to the bank ever since. Awestruck and lemming-like, Samir’s generation of proprietors has aped his every move, so that today the Indian media industry has unapologetic clarity about the nature of its business: it sells the media platform to commercial clients, not news to readers.

With proprietors not interested in selling what good journalists produce, the crisis in India is not one of the media industry, but of the profession of journalism. This is the reverse of the West, where proprietor, journalist and recipients all agree on the relevance of the journalistic product, but the existential challenge before traditional media houses is how to take—in an economically viable manner—that product to the electronic spaces and mobile devices where today’s generations prefer to receive and interact with it.

India’s media barons are no longer in the news business, but news is unavoidable: after all, you do need something to fill the space between the ads, and must dupe enough consumers into picking up your ‘newspaper’ (or tuning in to your ‘news’ channel), else your real customers—advertisers—will not be interested. So ‘news’ today is sleight of hand: paid news by politicians, private treaties with advertisers, celebrity coverage for a fee, PR feeds masquerading as reportage, the business story slanted to serve the stockmarket, the deserving story not done. Alongside, since the Sensex must never fall, the tone is frothy, jingoistic and feelgood so as to keep the middle classes in permanent chest-thumping and optimistic mode. When—surprise, surprise—reality strikes and an inconvenient aspect of India shows up, then news coverage either reduces it to political sensation or morphs to orchestrate middle-class outrage. Investigation and expose, when it happens, is because someone had a score to settle. Instead of agenda-setters, journalists have become handymen, well-paid but increasingly adrift from the craft and ethics of their trade.

So where does that leave news as we knew it—you know, the story followed for its objective worth? The one based on verified fact and authentic source? That required legwork, questioning and research? That explored the human condition outside of the middle-class consumer bubble? That connected citizen with state?

Such a vision wasn’t so implausible in 1982. That year, while Samir was taking over TOI in Mumbai, the Telegraph was launching in Calcutta. I was 20 and all set to change the world. I had done some thinking, and had concluded that journalism was the most noble calling there could be. If you were intensely curious, concerned about what ailed your country, wanted to make a difference, were intrigued by why things happened and people behaved as they did, preferred to see things for yourself, and revelled in the elegance of connecting word with fact, passion and thought, then journalism alone was it. And in 1982 there were genuine heroes—Arun Shourie, M.J. Akbar, Aroon Purie, Vinod Mehta and S.P. Singh comprised a new generation of editors who had been blooded during the Emergency, and were now shaking the Indian press out of its stodginess with a new investigative, irreverent, attractively packaged journalism.

His Dancing Shoes: M.J. as editor of the Telegraph in his room at the ABP House in Calcutta, 1983. (Photograph by Anand Bazar Patrika)

Akbar launched the Telegraph with a handful of experienced colleagues and 40 wide-eyed kids. With breathtaking audacity, we took on the venerable Statesman, a newspaper generations of Calcuttans had grown up on and which was basking in the afterglow of its heroic stand during the Emergency. And what heady days those were. Akbar—choleric, foul-mouthed, intimidating, inspirational, genius—enabled those of us who could survive his high-stress style to live every ideal. Pursuing the story because it was a story and with no other interest, we investigated crime mafias, exposed government wrongdoing, travelled to fields and slums, and reported in a vivid, urgent manner the big events of the time: terrorism and separatism in Punjab, civil war in Sri Lanka, Indira Gandhi’s cynical politics, elections, riots, excesses by the state, assassination. The Telegraph was India’s first modern newspaper, speaking to its readers with a refreshing modular design, a strong emphasis on features, coverage of topics beyond politics, and a willingness to defy convention. Who can forget Akbar’s immortal headline: “Indira Gandhi Shot Dead, Nation Wounded”.

It was too good to last. Carried away by his own stardom and political ambition, Akbar subverted the paper to ingratiate himself with Rajiv Gandhi. Meanwhile, Samir was luring journalists to TOI (in Delhi) where he needed fresh blood to dislodge the editors he had inherited. I spent a desultory year there, observing from the middle ranks the big changes under way at BCCL.

The senior editorial team had an air of impotence, its discussions infused with second-guessing what management might want. Marketing managers clearly had more clout—each one’s worth could be measured in revenue numbers, but other than cartoonist R.K. Laxman, not even the most famous byline among the journalists could directly be linked to circulation figures. BCCL’s corporate interests tailored and constituted news. While company-sponsored cultural events got coverage, there were explicit instructions, for instance, to underplay the death of a famed classical musician. Nostalgia and a sense of community were out, you see, because there was no longer a reader with whom you had a psychological connection, only a statistic.

I reported from Ayodhya in 1990 on a storming of the Babri Masjid, the police firing, the many deaths, the mayhem. After filing my story, I called my wife to let her know I was safe. While BCCL was raking in record profits, the accounts department refused to reimburse me the few rupees for that call. The expense statement went all the way up to the general manager, who did not approve. On another occasion, a colleague covering an election in a sprawling constituency had his taxi bill turned down on the ground that he could have used a rickshaw. That epitomised the contempt for the newsgathering process of a paper that the BBC mysteriously certified as one of the world’s six greatest.

As a tribe we were still self-deluded. “How can you leave the best address in Indian journalism?” senior colleagues asked in surprise when I quit TOI for the uncertainties of the Pioneer. There, Vinod Mehta bravely created a space where we could still practise professional journalism. It was a welcome prolonging of innocence.

Gentleman-businessman: Aveek Sarkar, the proprietor of the Telegraph, had a reputation of being an editor first. (Photograph by Indiatoday Images)

Aveek Sarkar, proprietor of the Telegraph, persuaded me to return to Calcutta in late 1993 as his deputy editor. Aveek had the reputation of being the best proprietor to work for because of his endearing self-image, at least in those days; that he was an editor first and businessman second. The Telegraph was just over 10 years old, and was now nipping at the heels of the Statesman. It needed a final push. And there was a potential threat: Akbar was back in town, launching his own paper, the Asian Age. In a great example of how I think editorial and marketing teams can work together, Aveek, the ABP’s senior managers and I revamped the paper with a new set of daily feature sections focused on assessed reader needs, expanded pagination, a redesign, technology upgrade, and yes, investment in the training of our younger journalists. The Asian Age never took off, and in 1995, the Telegraph went past the Statesman.

It is safe to say that the Telegraph defeated the Statesman with its editorial package—unlike the fierce battle in Delhi, where TOI took on the Hindustan Times (HT) on the basis of a price war and marketing gimmicks. But Samir’s mouthwatering commercial success made his formula contagious. Aveek at ABP, Shobhana at HT, and a savvy new generation of regional media proprietors all adopted his model.

To Market, To Market: Faced with a ruthless onslaught from TOI, HT’ S Shobhana Bhartia replicated her adversary. (Photograph by Jitender Gupta)

Through the mid-’90s, I observed the ABP management’s snobbery about Samir’s methods turn to grudging admiration, then sheer awe. The Telegraph now went in for the kill. Pandering to the new dictum that news must only entertain, I colluded in trivialising the front page. My greatest day of regret was one of the Telegraph’s best days of sale: a front-page banner headline I wrote during the 1996 cricket World Cup that screamed, “India Forces Pak to Surrender”. The headline could not have been any different or any bigger had it been a story on an actual war. The internal equations quickly shifted. The marketing department, represented by an empowered executive, was now directly advising Aveek on editorial strategy, while he reduced the stature of the editorial side by slicing the paper into sections to be managed by departmental editors. Branding events replaced newsroom initiatives as the means to expand readership, and advertiser imperatives routinely trumped over editorial sensitivities.

Instead of looking at the many aspects of an unequal nation in transition, the media indulged in petty deceit.

Shobhana had offered me the executive editorship of HT in 1996, which I had turned down for no other reason than Calcutta hubris. Now, in 1998, she asked me to edit her Sunday edition. Shobhana faced a ruthless onslaught from TOI even while contending with an entrenched bureaucracy, active unions, and much else internally. Her response was to replicate whatever TOI did, editorially or marketing-wise, so that very quickly there was little to differentiate the two papers except that TOI moved first. Shobhana, however, was gentler on her journalists and lacked, at the time, a well-oiled marketing department; this meant that I could push the envelope with the Sunday paper as long as I kept clear of the family’s traditional holy cows.

Say Cheese: Vir Sanghvi, left, with Samir Jain of TOI at the 75th anniversary celebrations of HT in 1999. (Photograph by Gireesh G.V.)

Then she brought in Vir Sanghvi as chief. Not a newspaperman, his career had been built around his access to Delhi and Mumbai’s A-listers, his celebrity talk show, and his column that delectably celebrated wines, cheeses, fine food, glamour and power. This was possibly Shobhana’s counter to the BCCL’s marketing arsenal, and her hope presumably was that Vir would attract high-end readers for high-end advertisers.

By now I was marking time. The space to practise genuine journalism depended too much on quirk of circumstance—a momentarily benevolent proprietor, or refuge in a niche not yet in the sights of the marketers. The choices were to swim with the tide, go guerrilla like Tarun Tejpal of Tehelka, or opt out. When an opportunity came, I withdrew—from the Indian media, but not from the attributes that made me a journalist. I am now more deeply immersed than before in the intersection of development, public policy and current issues, but free of the tyranny of the 500-word limit and the shrill headline. I am still the journalist, using my skills to assess political risk and stakeholder concerns in order to help improve the quality of development projects.

The Indian media has expanded exponentially—newspapers have opened editions all over, TV and cable have taken off, the web and social media are in. In a booming sector of a blossoming economy, proprietors would have made their money anyway. All the more tragic then that they had the most exciting, saleable story on their hands, but have missed it entirely: this unique historical moment when India is at once a rising power and a poor, misgoverned country. Instead of examining, probing and deliberating on the many fascinating aspects of an unequal nation in bold transition, they indulged in petty deceit of their public. (‘Consumers’, I firmly believe, never ceased being citizens, and have craved credible explanation and context; just load those market surveys with the right questions!) Nifty marketing of quality journalism—what a winner that would have been.

Gogoi: technical team must study Subansiri dam safety made by NHPC-26/10/10

Gogoi: technical team must study Subansiri dam safety

Sushanta Talukdar

Guwahati: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that the Centre or the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation (NHPC) set up a technical team, consisting of internationally acclaimed seismologists, to examine the safety of the dam of the 2000 MW Subansiri Lower Hydroelectric project.

Such a technical team should also include members of the expert group set up by the NHPC and the government, Mr. Gogoi said in a letter to Dr. Singh.

Mr. Gogoi, while sharing a copy of the letter with journalists, said here on Friday that the State government was also of the view that a Steering Group should be set up by the NHPC to advise it on measures for flood and erosion control in the downstream areas.

The State government has also suggested that the Central Water Commission immediately start a comprehensive study of the Subansiri, Lohit, and Siang basins. This should be based on the norms given by the Ministry of Environment and Forests to determine the cumulative impact on bio-diversity and the eco-system of the region. Over 150 hydel projects are proposed to be set up in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra.

“These projects have given rise to widespread concern and anxiety in Assam. It is apprehended that once these projects are completed, there would be flash floods in the downstream areas when there is sudden and excessive discharge of waters after heavy rainfall. Besides, there are apprehensions that these projects would have adverse impact on erosion situation, bio-diversity and ecology of the region,” Mr. Gogoi said in the letter, while referring to the proposed mega dams in Arunachal Pradesh, including the Subansiri project.

Reiterating his stand on the mega river dams in general and Subansiri project in particular, Mr. Gogoi said he was not opposed to big dams but felt that the issues raised by the expert group must be addressed.

Referring to the expert group report, Assam Power Minister Pradyut Bordoloi said the group did not recommended scrapping of the Subansiri project and only made a set of recommendations, which the government, wanted the NHPC to address.

Mr. Gogoi accused the Opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and NGO Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) of raking up the mega dam issue only to divert the attention of the people from development ushered in during the Congress rule.

He also referred to a memorandum submitted by the former Chief Minister, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, during the first tenure of the AGP government to the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on September 14, 1988 demanding that the scheme prepared by the Brahmaputra Board for multipurpose hydel projects be implemented.

Bihar election: Advani for open debate between Nitish, Lalu-26 October, 2010

Bihar election: Advani for open debate between Nitish, Lalu

26 October, 2010

By NDChronicle.Com Correspondent,

Patna: The former deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani said that it would have been a much better idea had the Election Commission organized several open debates between Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and the Rashtriya Janata Dal president, Lalu Yadav and telecast it before the public.

Addressing public meetings in Hajipur and Begusarai he said that the media should be given an opportunity to put up questions in such debates.

Advani said that earlier roads were non-existent in Bihar as those who used to rule would say that there is no need for good roads for the poor. It is only those with cars, who need good roads.

He patted the Nitish Kumar government for the improvement in law and order condition and said that earlier the only industry in Bihar was the kidnapping industry.

He narrated how he too started his career as a journalist, when in the name of electronic media we used to just have radio. Then by the time he became the Information and Broadcasting minister in late 1970s some Black and White televisions started coming in. Now we are in the age of information technology revolution and political debates between the top leaders can take place on the televisions.

He said Pundit Deendayal Upadhyaya used to say that a good voters always reward the good government and punish the bad one. As Nitish Kumar has done good work he deserves to be rewarded.

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