Charade of Democracy

I am not too sure if everyone has been following the charade going on in India after the recently held state elections. Same old drama, same old script and same old actors and no one even pretends anymore that they are doing it for the sake of country. It is pure power grab just for the sake of grabbing power.

Shibu Soren, Chautala, Lalu, Rabri – same characters play the role of kingmaker, king and martyrs and take turns doing that. In Jharkhand, there is BJP parading its MLAs against Shibu Soren but the very same Shibu Soren used to be part of BJP’s coalition. So what difference will it make to the people of Jharkhand if someone replaces Soren? Will the tribals see their lives improve? Will there be less exploitation of the poor in the state? No one knows because these issues are not even on the table. Advani is shouting that democracy is being subverted in the state while Rahul Gandhi is on a “dharna” outside the Parliament claiming that democracy is in danger.

While India has ambitions to be a global player, it is sad to see that we do not have a single leader of stature who has the vision to lead India to where it needs to be. We’ve been sold short by the leaders of our society.

Times of India editorial content for sale?

While I was trying to google some details about Times of India one story caught my mind. It was published last year in May and it basically contends that the Times of India editorials are up for sale. Nicely written article.

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/FE18Df05.html

It will also be instructive to recap what happened in the internet search market. Major players like Yahoo and MSN tried to mix search results with sponsor links and people did not like it too much. And when an honest search engine like Google came along with clearly demarcated search and sponsor links people jumped on it leaving Yahoo and MSN search in dust.

Let us now see if something similar happens to the Times of India or not.

Page 3

So finally I got around to seeing “Page 3” the movie by Madhur Bhandarkar and loved every second of it. While a lot of people are talking about Page 3 as mainly a movie that talks about the banality and vain lives of the people who populate that page- I saw it as a movie that hits hard at The Times of India and the culture that the Jain brothers have spawned at Bennett, Coleman and Company. To some extent this was expected as this movie is produced by Sahara One which I presume is associated with the Sahara Group a competitor of the Times of India. But to its credit, the movie keeps its integrity and is not a vehicle for the Sahara Group to air its vendetta against Times of India.

That said, the movie is a brilliant expose of the editorial practices prevalent in Indian media. It depicts how the editorial staff is routinely overruled by the publishers for commercial interests and how the newspaper gives more importance to Page 3 as compared to other issues. Of course, the movie never names any newspapers but for anyone who is vaguely familiar with the Indian media scene it should be apparent that the movie is as much about Times of India as it is about the Page 3 characters.

Outlook

Our good old Outlook magazine is at it again. During the days when Vinod Mehta was the editor at Pioneer I used to admire him so much. Never did I think at that time that he will end up in yellow journalism. Exhibit 1 is an article in this week’s Outlook

http://outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20050228&fname=Budget+%28F%29&sid=1

Now, when you read this article you realize during the first paragraph itself that it is not an honest appraisal of what is to come in the budget. Rather, it is pretty clear that Outlook is privy to some insider information about the budget and has been asked to create a favorable public opinion by the government. So, Chidambram is a “dream-weaver” who “makes magic”. On the other hand – if you were to read any articles on the people who belonged to the BJP government, most of them will have the opposite adjectives (Vinod Mehta routinely describes Vajpayee’s son in law as the most rude person etc. etc. that he has ever met – only much later did he disclose that he had this personal vendetta against them because they were investigating an Income Tax fraud case against the magazine).

Exception proves the rule

There is a good article in today’s Times of India by Chidananda Rajaghatta (“Indian ‘whizkid’ bowls media with NASA googly “). Read between the lines of this article and you will find many things that are wrong with Indian media (and probably by extension Indian society today).

1. We always look for approval from the West. We appreciate our own talent, culture only when the West reviews it favorably. Yoga, Pt Ravi Shankar, Zakir Hussein, Buddhism, Ayurveda all became respectable only when the west started to accept them. Same goes for talent. There are thousands of engineers who have graduated from good engineering colleges as well as from IITs who decided to stay back in India but we worship only the IITians working in the silicon valley.
2. Our media is no longer in the profession of journalism. Everything is only a headline and the quest to break a story leads to errors like the one described in this article.

If Indian media cannot report correctly and truthfully on such a basic and simple story how can we trust them on stories related to Bombay blasts, Babri Masjid, Shankacharya or Best Bakery?