Friday, June 17, 2011

Pakistani Establishment and its Ideology!

Often, we find ourselves so pre-occupied with "our view" that we fall in the trap of imagining that the whole world thinks like us, acts like us and reacts like us.

If one were living in isolation, one may get away with this mindset. However, in an interconnected society, this can lead to tragic state. Without a fair understanding of how the other side is wired to think, "prayer" might seem like the strategy.

Extending that to the nation states, India has interacted with Pakistan for 64 years and fought 4 wars (all of them initiated by Pakistan), but most of Indians still lack a good understanding of what dynamics are at work in Pakistan. While the Pakistani society may to some extent think like Indians, those who set the foreign policy (the Army & ISI) have a different view.

A conscious choice of Islam as a basis for nation building led to the Army and its institutes adopting the motto : Iman, Taqwah, Jihad fi Sabilillah (Faith, Fear of Allah, Jihad in the way of Allah). They have over a period of last 30 years worked hard to erase Pakistan's history (as part of formerly India) and rewrite a new history that starts with Arab Islam and ends with Arab Islam. In that light, this write up is an excellent piece correlating current state of Pakistani apparatus to 7th Century Arabia, that the extremist side of the society aspires for.

A Comparison of Today's Pakistan and certain events in 7th Century Islam

Initial Succession
Snippets from above commentary on the origins dating back to 7th century.
  • When Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) died on June 8, 632 A.D., there was no clear succession plan, a bane that has afflicted the Islamic community ever since. Since he had no male child, a rivalry ensued between his favourite and youngest wife Ayesha's father, Abu Bakr, and Prophet Mohammed's (PBUH) son-in-law Ali (who was also his cousin) married to his daughter Fatima.
  • Eventually, Abu Bakr assumed the role of a Caliph. Upon his death, his nominee, Omar ibn Khattab assumed that role still denying Ali any role.
  • Upon Omar's assassination, Ali was conditionally offered the Caliphate which he rejected because one of the conditions namely that he should rule not only based on the Koran and the Sunnah, but also on the practices set by Abu Bakr and Omar was unacceptable to him. He was unwilling to the latter condition because he had been critical of some of the actions of the later two Caliphs. The Caliphate went therefore to Uthman, another member of the Quraish tribe like Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) or Abu Bakr or Omar. Uthman was eventually assassinated too.
  • The assassins claimed that since he did not rule according to the Koran and the Sunnah, he was a legitimate target for killing, a concept known as wajib-ul-qitl. Like the confusion with choosing a qualified successor to a Caliph, this idea of killing somebody after branding that person as not Islamic enough and hence wajib-ul-qitl has also become the bane of Islamist societies.
In less than 25 years after the death of the prophet (632-656 AD), three Caliphs (Head of an Islamic state ruled under the Sharia law)  have been appointed, two of whom have been murdered or assassinated. It is worth noting that the assassins, who are lower in the order, claimed they were enforcing the Koran and were compelled to kill even the Caliph for being less Islamic.

Who gets to decide who is less or more Islamic? Appears like that would be whoever has the capability to inflict damage. This singularly makes the "true" muslim moderates an endangered species in Islamic states like Pakistan. Anybody can become an enforcer and anybody shall be considered a fair target to these self-appointed enforcers. If even the Caliphs have to look over the shoulder, what is the state of common people?

One might wonder, if political leaders and army leaders who are surrounded by tight security couldn't escape them, what chance do the minorities (Hindus, Sikhs and Christians) have. They have been reduced from around 10% in 1947 to less than 1% currently. Once the non-followers have been nearly exterminated, the apparatus has turned to those Muslims who can be branded as "less Islamic", like the Ahmadiyyas. Incidentally, Ahmadiaya movement was founded in India as an Islamic sect in late 1800's and its followers were instrumental in formation of Pakistan. However, few decades after formation of Pakistan, they found themselves branded "wajib-ul-qitl", after Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. This trend has worsened more recently, as evident in recent wave of violence.

Enforcers (Kharajis)
  • Anyway, this time, Ali was chosen as the Caliph by community elders, unlike the previous two occassions. However, Uthman's murder resulted in a severe split within the ummah (community), those who welcomed it and those who opposed it. Muwaiya, the Governor of Iraq under the Ummayads was the chief opposition leader. Ali's and Muwaiya's forces perforce clashed but eventually a ceasefire resulted.
  • This is when more problems started and the ummah soon split vertically into Sunnis and Shi'a. All the sectarian ills that so violently wrack the Islamic world, most especially Pakistan, stem from the fateful decision of Ali and Muwaiya to go for arbitration of their dispute settlement following the ceasefire. Several seemingly irreconcilable problems that have dogged the Islamic world, again, especially Pakistan, flowed from this.
  • Firstly, some of the aggressive followers of Ali opposed the arbitration process itself claiming that was not an option at allThey were known as Kharajis (Seccessionists). They characterized Ali's arbitration decision as shirq (associating partners with Allah) which called for death and a Kharaji promptly carried that out. The idea of Kharajis would come to haunt the ummah several times later. Thus, his very ardent supporters turned suddenly the bitterest enemy of Ali. We will see how similar situations developed in Pakistan as well.
In 661 AD, 5 years after assassination of Uthman for wajib-ul-qitl, Ali's formerly aggressive followers conspire to kill him for a similar reason as Uthman. This assassination of Ali establishes a precedent for anybody killing anybody (no matter what their position is), if they are deemed less Islamic.

Since independence, Pakistan witnessed a spate of assassinations of the leaders by the very elements that they helped create. Most prominent are Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who handpicked Zia-ul-Haq by promoting him over 7 senior generals. However,
  1. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was hanged by Zia-ul-Haq's regime, in what some might call Karma. 
  2. Benazir Bhutto has contributed to creating the Taliban and the J&K terrorism and was assassinated by some of the very same elements.
The story is same with the Army. The Army has created and armed a host of terrorist groups starting from the 1947 invasion of Kashmir by arming Afghan tribals. This process of using proxies or "non-state actors" has grown out of proportion in 1980's with arming the Mujahiddin (Afghanistan), Khalistan movement (Punjab, India), Taliban and Al Qaeda (Afganistan) and LeT/HuJI and others (J&K, India). But they did not escape the eventuality of reactionaries turning back on masters.
  1. Zia-ul-Haq died in a plane crash caused by sabotage (motive unknown).
  2. Several attempts were made to assassinate Musharraf during his reign. 
  3. Countless attacks on the personnel and family of the Armed forces
  4. Attack in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of Pakistani Army
  5. Navy's own personnel seem to have conspired with the terrorists to help in the Mehran airbase attack
The problem for India and the rest of the world is that after 30 years of Zia-ul-Haq thoroughly islamising the Army, these reactionary elements have reached the higher layers or the Army. So, while new low-level reactionaries are being created, these 40year-50year old reactionaries are beginning to take reigns in 5 to 10 years and seem adamant on "nurturing and managing" the terrorists rather than giving them up as tools. So Military trains terrorists, terrorists turn into Enforcers at some point.

Dealing with Unrest

  • Secondly, the sectarian divide that split the ummah into 'Partisans of Ali' (Shi'at Ali) and 'Others' (Sunnis) and that bedevilled the ummah ever since has also had great repercussions within Pakistan.
While most of the Arab countries and Pakistan are Sunni, Iraq and Iran are primarily Shia. And of all the countries, Pakistan continues to witness one of the most brutal and long-lasting Sunni-Shia sectarian violence.
  • Thirdly, the unrest. It was not as though there was no unrest during the time of these early Caliphs. One way they dealt with the unrest was to go on a territorial expansionist mode promising lucrative booty to the jihadi fighters of Islam. The fighting jihadis were entitled to four-fifths of the booty with the remaining one-fifth going to the Caliphate. Thus, religion was thought of as a uniting factor as well as a diversion from other contentious issues. Pakistan has done exactly the same thing since its inception. Let's see these one by one.
That is eerily similar to the propaganda used by Pakistani Army to motivate the soldiers (in previous wars of 1965 and 1971) and terrorists (J&K and Mumbai attacks), except the enticement also includes gifts in afterlife. But, at a fundamental level, the precedent is set for using "external aggression" as a distraction for "domestic unrest", which is faithfully followed by the Army.

But India has successfully closed the tap of the stream of terrorists coming into India by erecting a border fence and enhancing surveillance systems. This forced the terrorists to stay in Pakistan and resulted in more domestic unrest. And there is little sign that the Army wants to abandon the policy of creating terrorists. So is India prepared for the possibility of this dam of unrest bursting sometime?

For example, after strangling the terrorists routes in Kashmir for almost 5 years, it burst open in the form of Mumbai attacks.

Pakistani Army and India

Now onto the Army which clearly sees itself as an Islamic army...Snippets:
  • Later, when it (Pakistan) acquired missiles from China and North Korea, it named them after some of the most savage Islamist raiders of India from Central Asia and Afghanistan. The names reflect not only India-specificity but also the aggressiveness of Pakistani mindset in Islamist terms.
The Pakistani missiles were named after invaders, whose only claim to fame was that they inflicted damage to India once upon a time. Strange enough, invaders did not belong to any areas that currently form Pakistan, but do share the ideology of the Pakistani Military. In contrast, the first five indigenously built Indian missiles were called Agni, Prithvi, Akash, Trishul and Nag.
  • For example, during the 1965 war, Pakistan Navy decided to bombard the decrepit and non-strategic town of Dwarka on the Gujarat coast since it was associated with the Hindu mythology of Mahabharat and the operation was therefore aptly code-named “Operation Somnath” symbolizing the dozens of times the marauder Mahmud of Ghazni pillaged the nearby and the famous Somnath temple.
  • It was this same hatred that drove Daoud Gilani alias David Coleman Headley to include Somnath temple as one of his four terror targets apart from Mumbai
  • There are plenty of other examples where Pakistan displays its deep attachment to jihadi Muslim war heroes, some of them even quite savage. It is no wonder therefore that the Pakistani Chief of Army, Gen. Kayani, openly described the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud and Fazlullah as 'patriots'.
One of the significant events in these campaigns of the invaders was the sacking of Somnath temple (Wiki Link). While Somnath remains one among several popular temples in contemporary India, it is not the most visited temple in India. However, in history of islamic invasions, its sacking is considered a symbolic event, hence become the obsession of Pakistani Army and their Islamic jihadis.

What is the point?

It is essential that India work towards peaceful resolution and use its soft power to reach the common people of Pakistan. At the same time, deluding itself about role of Army and its ideology and then praying for favorable outcome may not serve India well for long.

A oft-used quote in this context is.. "Countries have armies, Pakistani Army has a country"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

2G Scam : Heroes and Neros

This is a followup of the previous post : Is Rome really burning? The objective is to highlight the key individuals and organizations in this saga.


Here are a few names which have appeared in open-source information so far. Note that this list is by no means complete.

Bureaucrats who strived to prevent Raja from committing the irregularities (Link)
  • DS Mathur 
  • Manju Madhvan 
Organizations that have tried to bring public attention to irregularities
  • TRAI, Came out 4 days after the process was rigged (Jan 14, 2008)
  • Civil Vigilance Commission (Nov 2008)
Public Interest Litigation (PIL) were filed by following individuals. This led to Supreme Court severely criticizing the GoI for the delaying tactics and forcing their hand.
  • Centre for Public Interest Litigation, through Prashant Bhushan (2010)
  • Telecom Watchdog, through Anil Kumar (2010)
  • Journalist, Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Independant (2010) 
  • Janata Party President, Dr. Subramanian Swamy joined later on (2010)
Investigative Journalists instrumental in connecting the dots and bringing it to light
  • Journalist J GopiKrishnan, Daily Pioneer (Connected all the dots of the 2G scam) - April 2010
Last, but not the least, is the so far unnamed whistleblower that was instrumental in bringing down the beast. Lets call him "Satya" in honor of Satyendra Kumar Dubey, the valiant officer murdered in 2003 for exposing the irregularities in construction of Golden Quadrilateral. "Satya" in the words of his contact, is
  • This young Government officer told me about the parking of funds in front companies by the Minister and his associates in the name of relatives. He told me who the actual beneficiaries of the scam were, including corporates, politicians and lobbyists.

In popular Roman legend, Nero, the Emperor of Rome in the year 64AD, was said to be "playing fiddle while Rome was burning". It seems like we have quite a few contenders for that title.

Kapil Sibal

The minister who replaced Raja as the Minister of Telecommunications and Information Technology has said the following in Jan 2011, almost 3 years after TRAI publicly brought attention to irregularities and after CVC/CAG documented the enormous loss.
  • "The loss is zero, nil"
Prime Minister (in press conference  of Feb16, 2011)
[Courtesy : Alfred Navato for Bharat-2020]
A spirited campaign launched by the opposition in 2009 grew more and more intense as time progressed. However, a determined stonewalling effort by GoI and Congress High Command (in consideration of coalition support), has led to all governance coming to a grinding halt. Forced into a corner, the PM and Congress finally showed A. Raja the door. With the opposition still unrelenting on accountability, the PM was forced to schedule a press meet 3 months later (Feb 16, 2011).

As part of this press meet, the PM spoke to select journalists. While this, and bad quality of the recording made available are disturbing indicators, they are least of the absurdness that followed.

Prime Minister's press conference  (video1 at min 3:47).
  • Ladies and gentlemen, in the last couple of months, the media have drawn the country's attention to some aberrations, whether in the form of allocation of 2G spectrum, the commonwealth games, and more recently some developments in the space organization, Adarsh society affairs. I think media have played a very important role in country's attention to these issues, which require [inaudible] 
If it were a matter of few lakhs or possibly crores (since even GoI cannot escape inflation), one could get away with trivializing them, after all, scams are nothing new to us. But calling the scale and pattern of the scams of 2010 aberrations makes one wonder if the PM is living in the same world as rest of us. This would be the first disconnect!

Prime Minister's press conference  (video2 )
  • I wish to assure you and I wish to assure country as a whole that our govt is dead serious in bringing to book all the wrongdoers regardless of their position they may occupy. However, I would like to say that in rejecting these evils, an impression has gone around that we are a scam-driven country and that nothing good is happening in our country. In the process, believingly, I think we are weakening the self-confidence of the people of the country. I don't think that is in the interest of anybody in our country. We have a functioning govt and Whatever some people might say, that we are a lame duck govt, that I am a lame duck prime minister. We take our job very seriously. We are here to govern and to govern effectively. Tackle the problems as they arise and kept this country moving forward on the pace of development which would do justice to the demands being made on the processes of governance.
What has the PM got to show for the trust that was placed in him and his cabinet so far? Is the PM suggesting that instead of rejecting these evils, Indians should embrace them? What alternative is he offering, besides placing blind trust in him again? Is there any accountability, even if delayed?

When referring to "I don't think that is in the interest of anybody", I wish the PM was talking about the scams and theft. Too bad, he is just referring to the "impression in the media", not the actual scams.

The simple question is, are we scam-driven country or not? If we are, then lets not worry about what impression is going around, and get to work on fixing it like we are dealing with cancer, before it becomes terminal.

Prime Minister's press conference (video3 @ 2:30)
  • Whatever our own domestic weaknesses, I think we shouldn't create an atmosphere whereby the nation looses its sense of self-confidence. I think media has an obligation, government has an obligation, opposition has an obligation that we work together in a spirit that India as a whole has to march forward. Parliament has not been allowed to function, for reasons which I am not able to understand.
  •  So, I wish to mention to you that in reporting the affairs of our nation, we mustn't focus excessively on negative features, important though it is, that the Government should deal with them, to take effective actions, and you have my assurance that where such corrective action is required, our Government will take that action and bring wrongdoers to book
If there is a weakening in the self-confidence, it is because one of the most respectable technocrats of present day India (the PM) uses words like "aberrations" and "false impression" to gloss over the massive corruption at the highest level of governance, that happened right under his nose.

Even after consistently been brought to his attention, it took 3 years for the PM's office to even acknowledge the the theft. In absence of accountability, transparency and sincere steps, are we to accept that, checks and balances will be lacking within the cabinet; that, the cabinet will go out of its way to defend their kin, no matter how corrupt?

Is that the democracy we keep bragging about?

Prime Minister's Press Conference (video5 @ 2:05)
  • Now, the other you mentioned about Mr. Raja being inducted into the cabinet. Well, I cannot divulge what went on in the process, processes of cabinet formation, but I would like to mention that, we are a coalition government. In a coalition govt, you can suggest your prefernces, but you have to go by what the leader of that particular coalition party [inaudible] ultimately insists and Mr. Raja along with Mr. Maran was the choice of the DMK party. And as of that moment, I had no reason frankly speaking, to feel that anything seriously wrong had been done. And therefore i did not feel that I had the authority to object to Mr. Raja's entry because I quite honestly in may 2009, although complaints were coming in, but complaints were coming from all sides. And some were from those companies which have not benefited, some were from those who have benefited, but not benefited adequately, and therefore i was not in a position to make up my mind that anything seriously was wrong with Mr. Raja's [inaudible]
Mainstream Broadcast Media

The so-called "english mainstream media" dominating the TV broadcast space stands starkly exposed in this saga. The supposed key-pillar of the society, was absconding for almost 3 years. Though there are a range of accusations hurled at the media currently, for the sake of this post, lets just focus on the "Nero" aspect.
A brief overview of the state of affairs between 2007-2010.
  • TRAI and CVC see the need to contradict the Deaprtment of Telecom publicly (2008)
  • High Courts ruled against Ministry's policy of spectrum allocation; Supreme Court censures the GoI and investigative agencies for dragging their feet. (2009-2010)
  • Opposition and public interest groups campaign hard to prosecute Raja (2008-2010);
  • Raja is reinstated for a second term (2009)
  • Tapes were published by Pioneer, in what should have been a scandal of epic proportions (April 2010)
  • A voluntary news blackout by the media after second set of tapes were published (Nov 2010).
In spite of above, there was no disclosure nor discussion taking part in good part of the mainstream media between 2007-2010, with few exceptions. This could be termed at best as, a gigantic error of judgement or at worst as, a deliberate cover up.

Which one do you think it is? Comments welcome!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Don't Forget, Don't Forgive! (Dandi March2)

It seems there is hope. After a series of scandals and scams, it seems at least some in India have had enough.

A series of events have begun to be organized against the rampant corruption prevalent in each and every phase of our lives.

Rally Against Corruption (Ramlika Maidan, Delhi) Feb 27, 2011

Here are snippets.
  • The memorandum was submitted at the end of a day-long protest held at the Ramlila Grounds. The protesters then marched in a procession to Parliament Street.
  • Among the speakers at the protest-march were social activist Swami Agnivesh, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi, eminent advocate Ram Jethmalani, RTI activist Arvind Kejriwal and Yoga guru Baba Ramdev. They demanded that the Government take effective steps to bring back money stashed by Indian nationals in banks abroad.
  • The memorandum, under the aegis of Baba Ramdev's Bharat Swabhiman Trust, was signed among others by activist Anna Hazare, Mr. Jethmalani and former BJP leader Govindacharya. According to a Trust representative, it was signed by 30 lakh people.
  • Swami Agnivesh questioned why the Government was allowing a particular international bank in which alleged black money had been deposited to open its branches in the country.
  • Baba Ramdev alleged that Indian nationals had around Rs.400 lakh crore in black money, out of which Rs.300 lakh crore was put away in banks abroad.
  • Mr. Hazare said a strong Lokpal Act would act as a deterrent to corruption. He had earlier threatened to go on an indefinite fast from April 5 if the Prime Minister does not initiate action by March-end for coming out with a Bill to give Lokpal more teeth.
Dandi March2 (March 12th - March 26th) : Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi's Dandi March, Dandi March2 is significant event that is brewing.

To quote the motivation for the two gentlemen who have vowed to walk all the 240 miles:

Atluri SriHari :
  • I do not want my daughter to grow up and bribe some creep just to get her driver's license or passport etc. I do not want this for any others' children. Let us end the corruption now, so our children can fight for the next cause.
Jawahar Kambhampati
  • "One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by
    your inferiors” – Plato.
Indians as a whole have embraced the mantra "Forget and Forgive" in order to keep their sanity in a well-entrenched feudal establishment. In trying to "live with it", we have gradually become absorbed by the sponge.

Its time to get out of this cycle and deal with the malaise of corruption;  "Don't Forget, Don't Forgive". 

To be a part of this movement, join the walk or contact team of Dandi March2 to volunteer.

Monday, February 28, 2011

2G Scam : Life Cycle

Just as a butterfly, our Scams has a life cycle too. The lifecycle of a butterfly comprises of the following stages
egg -> larva-> pupa -> butterfly
Similarly, scams go through four stages as identified below;
Irregularities -> Revelations -> Cover up -> Damage Control

Lifecycle of the 2G scam lasted 3.5 years and one price the citizens paid is 39 months of hunger. The point of this post is to walk through the lifecycle, because, as you read this right now, there are several other scams in various stages of the lifecycle. How does one cut the lifecycle of them?

For the impatient : skip the referred content (italicised bullets)!
References :
  1. Violations, Timeline in 2G spectrum scam : J Gopikrishnan (Pioneer) 
  3. The 2G Tapes (Outlook) 
Irregularities - Sowing the Seeds (May 2007 - Jan 2008)
  • # A Raja becomes Union Minister for Environment and Forests in May 2004 and shifts to Ministry of Communications and IT on May 16, 2007. Raja’s friendly real estate companies want to become telecom operators and he informs his decision to Telecom Secretary DS Mathur for granting new licenses and spectrum to new players. But Mathur objects and argues for transparent auction and competitive pricing (as recommended by TRAI from 2003 onwards). Raja wants to grant licenses as per First-Come-First-Serve method (in a peculiar way – who first pays license fee and not who first applied) and old pricing fixed in 2001. In 2001, there were only four million mobile subscribers and it crossed 350 million in mid 2007. So Manju Madhvan, Member (Finance) of DoT, Finance Ministry also pointed out new competitive prices. But all ignored by Raja and he sent the file to Law Ministry for opinion and started procedures.
May 2007 : Raja gets appointed as Minister of Communications in PM's cabinet after a hectic brokering by some journalists and power brokers (Youtube Link1 @ 8:20 onwards) &  (Barkha in Youtube Link2)
  • # On September 24, 2007 DoT issues a press release (released in the late evening and appeared in next day newspapers), citing the last date of application (cut-off date) fixing to October 1, 2007.
  • #Without Cabinet approval Raja allots Dual Policy or Cross Technology to Reliance Communications, Tata Teleservices and Shyam Telecom in October 2007 at a rate fixed in 2001. This technology allows CDMA operators to change to much wanted GSM Technology. CDMA operators were in bad shape and Raja’s decision became a boon to them. Here the corruption part is on allowing the much wanted GSM license at a six year old price. This move is Raja’s first major corruption in Telecom, which gave him courage to go ahead with 2G Spectrum allocation to new companies.
Sept 24, 2007 : 2G application cutoff set to Oct 1, 2007.

Oct 2007 : Raja tests the water with first major irregularity in DoT (Dual Policy or Cross Technology) and cleanly gets away with it. A template is now established.

Oct 2007 : Raja started moving the pieces for the 2G scam.
  • # On Nov 1, 2007, the Law Minister HR Bhardwaj rejects Raja’s plan and directs to constitute an Empowered Group of Ministers (eGoM) to form transparent procedures for 2G Spectrum allocation and new licenses.
  • # Next day on Nov 2, 2007, by 8pm Raja wrote a letter to Prime Minister, objecting on Bhardwaj’s direction. “Law Ministry is out of context,” wrote Raja. This letter was delivered to PM’s residence
  • # Within an hour (9pm), same day (Nov 2, 2007) – might be alerted by Bhardwaj- PM wrote to Raja to stop all procedures and directs him to get his concurrence in all future actions. This letter was delivered to Raja’s residence. Citing several wrong practices in the past, PM directs Raja to adopt transparent method by auction and new pricing.
It is obvious that the Prime Minister did not agree with the way DoT was handling the 2G spectrum allocation initially. While PM is not part of the irregularity, inaction and pussyfooting for 2 years implies he has contributed to the sorry state of affairs. While PM is the convenient face of the apathy of INC, who forced A. Raja into PM's cabinet?
  • # Strong resistance by Telecom Secretary DS Mathur and Manju Madhavan prevents Raja from moving ahead. For suggesting series of steps for auction, Raja snubs Manju Madhvan, in an internal note dated Dec 4, 2007 who took VRS soon.(she applied well earlier).  
  • # On Dec 31, 2007, DS Mathur retires. Raja brings his trusted man Siddarth Behura as new Telecom Secretary, who worked as an Addl. Secretary with him Ministry of Environment and Forests.
Dec 31, 2007 : Any semblance of resistance with the the DoT bureaucracy is now out of the way for Mr. Raja.
  • Within 10 days (Jan 10, 2008) at 2:45pm DoT uploads a press release saying that cut-off date was reversed from October 1, 2007 to September 25, 2007. The press release asked the new players to remit fee (huge money ranging from Rs.1500 cr- Rs.1600 cr) between 3:30pm -4:30pm on same day. It is a mystery that how Nine new companies made and remitted huge fee by demand draft within 45 minutes.
Jan 10, 2008 : DoT's press release comes out at 2:45PM. It mysteriously prepones the cutoff date to September 25th. And after the press release came out, interested parties had just 45minutes to 75 minutes to remit fee of Rs. 1,500Cr -Rs 1,600cr.
  • #Here is the conspiracy angle. All the nine company owners/brokers were had a meeting with Raja on Jan 9, 2008 at his residence. All were informed by Minister 24 hours before the issue of press release. The cut-off date was reversed to September 25, 2007, because of Raja’s favorite company Unitech applied on Sept 24. Another favourite company Shyam Telelink also applied on Sept 24.
It seems to be that the reason for preponing the cutoff date, was to narrow the number of beneficiaries. The choice of September 25th doesn't appear to be a mystery any more.
  • #On Jan 10, 2008, the CEOs Swan and Unitech (most favoured companies of Raja) sit at Private Secretary RK Chandolia’s cabin in Sanchar Bhavan. DDG Access Service (AK Srivastava) directs officials to go Chandolia’s cabin at 3pm. Chandolia asks official to collect application and demand draft from CEOs and directs to give No : 1 status to Swan and No : 2 status to Unitech. Then only counter was opened at eighth floor of Sanachar Bhavan to receive application/ fee from other seven companies. There was a mad rush to become first in the queue and physical fight taken place between rivals. Bouncers were brought. CEOs were quarreled each other some telecom officers were manhandled.. Though police arrived, no case was registered by instruction of Chandolia.
Jan 10, 2008 :Barely 15 minutes after the press release comes out, hand-picked companies are gifted the No.1 and No.2 status.

New Revelations and More Irregularities (Jan 2008 - Nov 2008)

While A. Raja manages to evade and sideline opposition in the DoT, other organizations and courts start taking notice. The Congress high command is still hiding behind coalition politics.
  • #TRAI Chairman Mr. Nripendra Misra’s letter to Telecom Secretary Siddharth Behura on January 14, 2008 – objecting the policy, reversal of cut-off date and manipulating his recommendations. Later in the media Misra described DoT had “cherry picked” his recommendations.
Jan 2008 : Within 4 days after the dramatic rigging of the process, TRAI comes against the blatant flouting of regulations.
  • #DoT allots spectrum/licenses (including additional spectrum to existing players to settle anger) on March/April 2008. All files were signed by Raja. Unitech applied licenses in different names - Unitech Infrastructure, Unitech Builders and Estates, Aska Projects, Nahan Properties, Hudson Properties, Volga Properties, Adonis Projects and Azare Properties.
March 2008 : Raja continues to treat national 2G spectrum like its his family inheritance.
  • # On Sept 13, 2008, Raja forces BSNL CMD Kuldip Goyal to enter into a un-precedented MoU with Swan, known as Intra-Circle Roaming Agreement. This MoU will help Swan to use all infrastructure (Towers, optical network etc) of BSNL. This MoU was executed just a week before, Swan’s Rs.4500 Cr deal (sale of 45 per cent shares) with Etisalat. Swan gives unsolicited application to BSNL. The BSNL management committee demands 52 paise/call from Swan. But this clause was absent in the MoU. Raja also transfers senior officials in WPC (Joint Wireless Adviser RJS Kushwaha and Deputy Wireless Adviser D Jha) for objecting Swan’s proposals to BSNL and DoT. 
Sept 2008 : The flood of irregularities continue under the coalition; Arm twisting organizations as big as BSNL and bulldozing any resistance in his path becomes a norm.

Oct-Nov 2008 : Stake in Swan and Unitech, largest benefactors of Mr. Raja's actions, are sold to other companies for 6 times the price paid to DoT. This resulted in total evaluation of 2G spectrum at Rs. 70,022 crore, while it was sold to the 9 pre-selected companies to Rs. 10,772 crore. An instant profit of around 60,000 for the 9 companies, most of which have little prior presence in Telecom.
  • # On Nov 4 2008, Swan informs DoT that - it allotted Rs.380Cr worth shares (9.9%) to a Chennai based newly floated company Genex Exim. This is believed to the kick back from Swan to Raja. Genex was incorporated on September 17, 2008,
Nov 2008 : The kickbacks seem to be making their way!

Cover ups (Nov 2008 - Nov 2010)

For two years subsequently, there have been consistent reports from various departments and courts. Any of these instances would have been a good time for the leader of coalition take stock and assess damage. But energy was invested in brushing aside the ample evidence and covering up the deeds.
  • Nov 2008 : Chief Vigilence Commission sends showcause notice to Raja and after further investigation, sends report to PM demanding Raja's prosecution
  • Nov 2008 : In a span of 1.5 years starting in Nov 2008, Dr. Subramanyam Swamy wrote to PM four times demanding sanction to prosecute Raja.
  • #On May 29, 2009 (48 hours after Raja sworn in again as Telecom Minister), Delhi High Court (Justice Mukul Mudgal and Justice Valmiki Mehta) on hearing the PIL against First-Come-First-Serve (FCFS) policy observed: “It is like selling cinema tickets. We find it very strange that public exchequer and valuable resources have been involved and misused in this way. We are completely astounded.”. The Delhi High Court in 1994 termed the FCFS policy as a barbarian and said not a suitable one to a democratic government
Even though there were consistent reports of irregularities from various sources, Raja is forced into PM's cabinet for a second term as Minister in charge of DoT. As the saying goes "Wolf is assigned to guard the henhouse", Again!

May 2009 : Delhi High Court provides the first setback to Raja, in what is seen as first slap in the face to the GoI
  • # July 1, 2009 – Justice GS Sistani of Delhi High Court quashed the DoT’s decision to reverse the cut-off date.
  • Oct 22, 2009 : CBI registers FIR against DoT and private companies for criminal conspiracy and loss to exchequer
  • (March 2010) # DoT approaches Supreme Court through SLP to quash the HC verdicts. Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy impleads into the case. Sensing danger, Raja wanted the STel to withdraw from the case. On March 5, 2010, Friday evening after office hours, DoT issues an order asking STel to close its operation in three states, citing security reasons. There was no show cause was issued to STel and later Home Ministry revealed that they never raised any sort of security concern. Arm twisted STel surrendered before Raja on March 8, 2010 on Monday and declared that they have no troubles with DoT policy. Vahanvati produced STel’s surrender letter to Supreme Court, which was rejected and directed the company to file an affidavit. Due to Subramanian Swamy’s presence, Raja’s design failed and court said that thy will not interfere into the HC order declaring the change of cut off date as illegal.
March 2010 : DoT (under Raja) moves to Supreme Court and start softening the litigants, so as to avoid the repeat of the setback witnessed in High Court. DoT punishes the litigant, "STel" for its role in court proceedings. STel incidentally was a beneficiary of the Raja's rigging process. However, STel was unhappy with change of cut-off-date, as it meant they only got spectrum in 3 circles. In the end, forced to surrender, STel withdraws its objections.

March 2010 : Janata Dal's Sumbramanyam Swamy impleads into the case. And it is too late for Raja as Supreme court takes active interest in the case by now.
  • March 19, 2010 : Department of Personnel of the GoI, wrote to Subramanyam Swami the following "would be premature to consider sanction for prosecution at this stage".
April 12, 2010 : After his repeated requests to prosecute Raja were rebuffed by the Department of Personnel, Subramanyam Swami files a writ petition in Delhi High Court.

April 28 2010 : Pioneer publishes a report about tapped conversations and becomes the first to connect these conversations to A. Raja and 2G telecom scandal

April 28, 2010 : Details of tapes establishing roles of Nira Radia and Raja in the 2G scam are published by J Gopikrishnana of Pioneer. Even after a potentially explosive expose, there was still an eerie calm in the in the media reporting and it ends out being just a ripple.

May 1 2010 : In Pioneer's editorial (All lines on this route are blocked), Chandan Mitra comments on intransigent Government in light of overwhelming evidence against A. Raja.

Apirl 9, 2010 - May 19, 2010 : 3G auctions yield around Rs 67,719 crore. CAG launches probe in 2G spectrum allocation.

September 2010 : Not much progress is made by CBI and ED until the Supreme Court intervenes in September 2010 on the PIL filed by Prashant Bhushan.

Nov 9 2010 : Parliament comes to a grinding halt with the opposition demanding action on all involved in the 2G scam.

Nov 14, 2010 : Raja is forced to resign in face of unrelenting opposition

Nov 15, 2010 : Kapil Sibal replaces A. Raja as Minister for communications and information technology.

Nov 16, 2010 : CAG estimates loss to exchequer from undervalued sale at Rs 1.76 Lakh crore.

Damage Control (Nov 2010-current)

Throughout these stages of the Scam's life cycle, conspicuous by their absence for the most part are, the so called "major national media outlets". Only exceptions are Pioneer and Outlook among the few. While the "major national media outlets" downplayed the magnitude of the incident, the expose gathers momentum of its own, thanks to Internet.

Nov 20 2010 : OPEN magazine publishes other tapes of Nira Radia conversations with politicians (A. Raja), journalists (Barkha Dutt & Vir Sanghvi) and corporate houses, laying bare the brokering that has been going on under the table, part of which was to give A. Raja the cabinet berth.

Nov 29, 2010 : Outlook published report "All lines are busy" putting the spotlight again on the tapped conversations.

In spite of ample evidence and parliament reaching a standstill for 3 months, GoI and Congress High Command drag their feet on launching a wide-ranged investigative committee until Feb 2011.

Dec 8, 2010 : CBI raids homes of A. Raja and other officials

Jan 7, 2011 : Kapil Sibal, the new minister replacing A. Raja, criticizes CAG for its report. Calls the report "utterly erroneous" and claims "The loss is Zero, nil,". Come to think of it, this needs to go into the "delusions" section, not "damage control" section

Jan 21, 2011 : Supreme Court terms the Kapil Sibal's remark as "unfortunate"

Feb 2, 2011 : Raja and other officials are arrested

Feb 16, 2010 : PM addresses a press conference as part of damage control exercise, but ends up further undermining the feeble stature of GoI in eyes of the public (more in later post)

Over and out!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is Rome really burning?

Scams (Theft of resources : 2008-2010)  
(1) 2G Spectrum scam (2010) -
wiki link
  • The 2G spectrum scam involved officials and ministers in the Government of India illegally undercharging mobile telephony companies for frequency allocation licenses. According to a report submitted by the Comptroller and Auditor General based son money collected from 3G licenses, the loss to the exchequer was 1,76,379 crore (US$38.27 billion).
(2) Adarsh Housing Society Scam (2010) -
 wiki link
  • In 2010, the Indian media brought to public the violations of rules at various phases of construction in the Adarsh Society. Questions were raised on the manner in which apartments in the building were allocated to bureaucrats, politicians and army personnel who had nothing to do with Kargil War and the way in which clearances were obtained for the construction of the building of the Adarsh Society. It had led to resignation of the then Chief Minister,Shri Asokh Chavan.
Times of India news
  • Each of the 103 members, some of them private individuals like the relatives of politicians and bureaucrats, will have to pay just Rs 60 lakh to Rs 85 lakh for their apartments in the sea-facing skyscraper. That's barely 10% of the going rate in the area.
  • An average two- to three-bedroom-hall-kitchen (BKH) apartment could cost between Rs 6 crore and Rs 8.5 crore in this area," said a leading real estate consultant.
While the exact extent of the robbery is unknown, it could be as high as Rs. 800 crore for 103 allotments.
(3) Commonwealth Games scam (2010)
Snippets from a Express India article
  • The Central Vigilance Commission, involved in probing the alleged corruption in various Commonwealth Games-related projects, has found discrepancies in tenders and alleged misappropriation amounting to about Rs 8,000 crore.
Snippets from wiki link are highlighted below
  • Among the alleged corruption and defrauding of the games budget, toilet paper rolls valued at $2 were costed at $80, $2 soap dispensers at $60, $98 mirrors at $220, $11,830 altitude training simulators at $250,190.
(4) ISRO Spectrum scam (2011)

Snippet from Tehelka news report.
  • According to preliminary CAG estimates, the spectrum largesse to a private customer could have caused the exchequer a loss in excess of Rs 2 lakh crore. According to the contract with Devas, Antrix would have earned Rs 50 crore a year per satellite for 12 years. By comparison, the presumptive loss incurred in the allocation of 2G spectrum by the DoT, as estimated by the CAG, is Rs 1.76 lakh crore

What does it really mean?
  • Total expected loss of income to Government (excluding ISRO scam) : 1,85 Lakh
  • Total expected loss of income to Government (including ISRO scam)  : 3,85 Lakh crore
Admittedly, the ISRO scam was brought up by media at correct time to stop it. But no credit to the GoI for the process, so it is included in the metrics as well.

To provide a picture of the magnitude of (projected) loss, here are various ways to look at this loss of 3,85 Lakh crore with respect to the budget of 2010-2011 (Link to Union budget 2010-2011 sumary).
  • Would have fed every family below poverty line for 88 months ( more than 7 years)
  • The budget deficit  : 3,81,408 crore. (Could have been wiped clean)
  • Defense allocation  :  1,47,344 crore. (Could have been doubled to make India a power house of defense research)
  • Social service allocation : 1,27,570 crore
  • Rural development allocation : 55,190 crore
  • Science and Technology Allocation : 13,677 crore. (Increasing this could do wonders for the future of Indian scientific research, hence laying groundwork for a technological powerhouse.)
  • Youth affairs and sports : 2,844 crore (Could have been increased to invest more on training the youth towards manufacturing and other high-yielding professions)
So, is the above identified theft of resources really a big deal? Is it akin to "Rome is burning"?

What do you think?

Friday, February 11, 2011

2G Scam : The Sponge Factor - 97.3

Sponge Factor

For those unfamiliar with the term "The Sponge Factor", click the link for my previous post. While the previous post discusses corruption in Government spending, the same could be applied to Government income.

Government Income
Summary of Government income in 2G auction (from Wiki ) :
  • Swan Telecom, a new company with few assets, bought a license for 1,537 crore and sold 45% of the company to Etisalat for 4,200 crore (Total valuation of Rs 9,333 crore).
  • A company formerly invested in real estate and not telecom, the Unitech Group, purchased a license for 1,661 crore and 60% of the stake was sold for 6,200 crore (Total valuation of 10,333 crore)
  • All nine companies paid DoT a total of Rs. 10,772 crore for 2G licences
  • Projected loss of income to DoT is Rs. 1.75 Lakh crore for 2G licences
Prospective income to GoI from the 2G auction      : 1.85 Lakh crore
Actual income to GoI from the 2G auction              : 0.10 Lakh crore
Income absorbed by Corruption (Sponge Effect)    : 1.75 Lakh crore

Sponge Factor (income ) = Income stolen / Total prospective Income
                                      = 1.75 Lakh crore / 1.85 Lakh crore
                                      = 94.6

In other words, out of Rs 100 that should have gone to GoI's purse, Rs. 94.6 made its way to A. Raja and his group's purse. In the end, only Rs. 5.4 made it to GoI's purse.

But that is only one half of the story.

Overall Sponge Factor

The second half of the story is about how much of the money in GoI's purse is reaching the downtrodden.

Lets consider just the income from 2G :

Actual income to available at GoI's disposal             :    10,772 crore
Misused funds from expenditure (Sponge factor 50) :      5,386 crore
Income lost Corruption (from earlier section)            : 1.75 Lakh crore
Total income absorbed by Corruption                     : 1.80 Lakh crore

Sponge Factor (overall) = Income stolen / Total prospective Income
                                      = 1.8 Lakh crore / 1.85 Lakh crore
                                      = 97.3

In other words, out of prospective income of Rs. 100, Rs. 97.3 is eated by the rodent-infested system, and only Rs. 2.7 is likely to be actually spent on the downtrodden.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2G Scam : 39 months of hunger

How do you know we are in 21st century? How about when your fingers are not enough to count the digits of swindled Rupees!

Lets take a look at the recent champion : 2G scam. The reports in media nonchalantly talk about "Lakhs of crores" and "Millions of Millions". Does the common man, or for that matter anybody, really understand what those figures exactly means to each of us?

Here is one breakdown.

  • The official tally of the money swindled from what could otherwise have been Government income, is 1,70,000 Crores. Or to put it in full, Rs 1,70,000,00,00,000.
  • Thats correct, it has thirteen digits.
  • Population of India is 115 Crores and there are two estimates for poverty numbers in India.
  • Going with Government of India's (GoI) estimates : 27.5% of the population lives below poverty line, meaning 32 crores of Indians are considered poor on paper. (Wiki Link)
  • Assuming a family of 4, 8 crore families are officially categorized as poor by the GoI.
  • If the 2G scam never happened, and if we had an ideal distribution system (Refer to Sponge Factor for views on distribution system), and lets say GoI decided to spend all the money on distribution of rice.
  • It would mean that each "poor family" can have an allocation of Rs. 21,502.
  • Estimates indicate that it costs Govt. approximately Rs. 18.5 to buy 1Kg of BPL/ration rice from the farmers. (Link)
  • At this rate, Government could have procured 1,162Kg of rice for each family below poverty line.
  • If Government decided to distribute the rice completely free of charge, then at consumption of 1K/day, each poor family could have survived for 1162 days or 39 months or more than 3 years.

So, what is the price of 2G scam to the nation?

Not going into technicalities of what is the best way to relieve poverty, I am just using the oft-used simplistic notion to shed light on the magnitude of theft at highest levels.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bright side of Media : Gopikrishnan (Pioneer)

Note : More often than not, I try to stay away from airing my views and instead stick to providing a perspective. But media is a long time grouse of mine and will make an exception.

The contrast between the disgraceful and inspiring sides of media has never been as stark as now. With the so called "prominent" media personalities overwhelming the airwaves with their theatrics and showmanship, it turns out there are still a few who silently do the real work.

While several media persons have played the role of watchdog in the 2G Spectrum allocation, one person that stands out is J. Gopikrishnan at the Daily Pioneer. Kudos to a certain unnamed whistleblower, jounalist Gopikrishnan and the management of Pioneer for staying true to the mission.

Here are excerpts from a chat with Gopirksihnan in The Man who felled the King (Nov 16, 2010)
  • We sensed a scam when Swan and Unitech started offloading shares at whopping prices of `4,500 crore and `6,200 crore in September 2008. Bureau chief Navin Upadhyay asked me to dig for information and luckily we got a great whistleblower, who knew the ins and outs of the Telecom Ministry. He once told me the PM was totally unhappy with Raja and had summoned him to ask what was going on.
  • Slowly, the whistleblower narrated the entire range of corruption in the Ministry. Those days, Minister Raja was making false claims that he had followed his predecessors. This young Government officer told me about the parking of funds in front companies by the Minister and his associates in the name of relatives. He told me who the actual beneficiaries of the scam were, including corporates, politicians and lobbyists.
  • This officer asked me to talk to my Editor and get his consent and only then would he reveal further. The Editor told me to go ahead and the whistleblower became a goldmine of hidden information for The Pioneer. Days and nights of discussion and checking the authenticity of facts happened in his office and at many crowded places in the city, once it became important to avoid detection.
  • After finding out the gamut of front companies dealing in real estate, we decided to expose Raja’s ill-gotten wealth. Chandan Mitra and Navin Upadhyay saw all documents and decided to go ahead with the series. The first story appeared on December 11, 2008, on Raja’s main real estate front company, Green House Promoters. The details of other companies and hidden irregularities in the spectrum scam were published over the following days.
  • I met Raja (A Raja, the now disgraced minister of Communications and IT) after the first report, as directed by the Editor. He alleged that I was being funded by his rivals in the party and even told me some names. He was visibly shaken asking me how I got the details of his personal assets. He requested me to avoid writing. My reply was that I had been deputed by the Editor only to take his version, nothing else. Raja agreed to speak, but repeatedly requested me to stop writing further on this.  
Interestingly, unlike the news media like NDTV and IBN which are backed by well-endowed entities, foreign or domestic, Daily Pioneer had to sweat it all the way. Pioneer came close to a collapse owing to financial hardships in 1998. It was revived by the dogged efforts of Chandan Mitra and his team, and has grown to set a fine example of journalistic traditions.

Readers may recall my sentiments in the post "Rann : Brutal and Taunting". It in some sense reminds me of the battle Pioneer waged for survival. Here is the story of Pioneer's revival in the words of Chandan Mitra himself : "Mission Impossible : The Pioneer Story". Excerpts below.

  • The story began on January 17, 1998 when I was called to Mr LM Thapar's Amrita Shergill Marg house for an "important discussion." LMT and Gautam grimly informed me that given the group's financial position and spiralling losses of the paper, it had been decided to close it down.
  • We began hunting for buyers in real earnest with Sanjeev helping me with elaborate project reports, revenue projections and other forms of financial wizardry, none of which I comprehended those days. We met all kinds of prospective buyers ranging from NRI barons to Okhla printing press owners, real estate dealers and self-styled confidants of corporate bigwigs. We were too naïve to realise that all the effort at documentation and presentation of our case was a complete waste of time and energy.
  • In 1999, we failed to pay salaries for five months in a row. The staff still hung on, believing in The Pioneer's destiny. The spirit refused to evaporate. Whenever it threatened to, we replenished it by pooling in for office parties that continued into the wee hours. Friendly MPs and MLAs obliged by allowing us to use their lawns, often joining us in the merriment amid prognostications of doom.
  • What amazed me was some top-notch journalists actually came and joined The Pioneer in full knowledge of the situation. Hiranmay Karlekar and A Surya Prakash were among the notable ones. In 2000, Amit Goel, former corporate bureau chief of The Economic Times, also enrolled in our adventurers' club.
  • At least on 10 occasions, I was advised to cut losses, sell out and set myself up as a columnist, TV personality or seek employment with another established group. Several times, I seriously pondered the option, especially when at the end of the first year of our operations we notched up a loss of Rs 2.78 crore without the remotest idea how we would ever cover the deficit. But the loans came just then. Another time, I had virtually made up my mind to sell out only if somebody agreed to just pick up the losses. I even negotiated. But somewhere, it hurt. I felt humiliated at the thought of giving up.
  • When I still go out myself seeking ads for The Pioneer I never feel any sense of shame or dishonour because we are still waging a war to save an institution. Purists may disagree, but I must honestly admit that at times old-fashioned ideas of the strict line between editorial virginity and commercial promiscuity need to be crossed for the greater good. But quitting after an admission of failure? Going back to taking dictations from the management? Letting this historic publication die or fall into avaricious hands? Pleading for somebody to be sacked or employed? The old adage of a hungry, free bird as opposed to its well-fed counterpart in a golden cage keeps us going.
  • Our readers have been The Pioneer's greatest source of strength. We did not reduce our cover price of Rs 2 when both the market leaders cut theirs to Re 1. And we offered just 16 pages against their 32. Still, we did not lose even one subscriber. For a significant number in Delhi and Lucknow, The Pioneer remains the paper of choice for its quality, not raddi value. Arguably, we cannot afford the latest technology; nor can we hire enough journalists or marketing staff at prevailing industry salaries. Each time there is a shake-out in the media with the launch of new TV channels or publications, we lose good people. But we haven't lost the will to rebuild. And I know that as long as we don't give up the battle, nothing can stop The Pioneer from pulling through in yet another miracle.

Ugly Side of Media : Barkha

This post is triggered by recent disclosure, that has mostly been kept out of main pages by the Indian media. But, here is the first of several of the tapes, thanks to Open Magazine.

One of the previous posts, "Rann : Brutal and Taunting", ends with the following commentary on media, which is vindicated by recent expose.
  • Here is the List of Padma Shrees : Lookup the achievements of the Padma Shree awardees for Journalism to see the decline in matter of couple of years.
  • 2006 : Sucheta Dalal, Mrinal Pandey
  • 2008 : Vinod Dua, Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt  
About the awardees
Sucheta Dalal is a financial journalist who has to her credit co-authorship of book "The Scam: Who Won, who Lost, who Got Away".  Mrinal Pandey is a writer and prominent journalist, who spent several years looking into the conditions of rag-pickers, domestic help etc, among her other accomplishments.
In contrast, Barkha Dutt, the Group Editor of NDTV, has a list of controversies that is longer than her achievements. It started with her coverage of the Kargill war, where her actions purportedly lead to death of 3 soldiers and resulted in dismissal of a colonel, while Ms. Dutt kept climbing ladders on her so called "coverage of Kargil". Thanks to NDTV's Prannoy Roy, she continued to muzzle opposing views with law suits and supposedly contributed to several deaths due to irresponsible and sometimes factually incorrect reporting. And yet she was awarded the Padma Shree somewhere in her sensational career.

If one is still wondering how she became the chosen one, the answer lies in the series of tapes now available on Youtube. Here are the transcripts from Open Magazine "Tell me what should I tell them.". 

While on the topic, also exposed is Vir Sanghvi, selling his column space to Radia. Open magazine transcripts of the conversations are here: "What kind of story do you want?".

Barkha Dutt seems to have weathered the storm with NDTV (Prannoy Roy) and IBN (Padma Shri Rajdeep Sardesai) trying hard to defend the indefensible.

But there is hope. Vir Sanghvi is now removed from the position of "Advisory Editorial Director" at HT Media and his weekly column "Counterpoint" is, in the words of Vir, "taking a break"!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

26/11 : Two Years On

Two years ago on Nov 26th, India woke to a monstrosity in Mumbai : a monstrosity that was staring in its face for most of it's independent journey.

Drunk with a misguided sense of victory against the British, the country managed to delude itself into thinking all opponents are innocent bunnies in disguise. While some leaders have been more honest, society and media in general bought into a hysteria of non-violence and blind faith in humanity.

What most fail to realize is, history (including that of India's own) is replete with instances where blind hatred and sense of superiority have managed to annihilate civilizations and states.

However, one also needs to watch from making a sweeping generalization about people of Pakistan. Indians are at least in a position to act against the leadership. The Pakistani citizens are victims and pawns to those in power (Pakistani Army, Mullahs and ISI), willingly or unwillingly.

Here is a Channel4's documentary on the Mumbai attack that is a must watch. In this context, let me share a quote from "Lord of the Rings : The two towers" towards the end of "Battle of Helm's Deep".
  • "What can men do against such reckless hate" - Théoden, King of Rohan
Whatever his options, he certainly knew and acknowledged what he was up against. Are WE there yet?