Thursday, December 9, 2010

Radia tapes are but a glimpse of today’s journalism

Radia tapes are but a glimpse of today’s journalism

Copy: When we were taught journalism two decades back by Prakash Kardaley, it was the quest
for truth, objectivity and uprightness. We were trained to be the eyes and ears of the society;
humble representatives to deliver the truth; wield the power of the pen to amplify the trial and
tribulations of the common, faceless man who is often strangulated by self-styled fiefdoms of
the executive and legislature. We were taught to use the might of the pen to question without
fear any wrong-doing by the mighty and by the powers-that-be. The editorial and marketing
departments of a newspaper office were water-tight compartments, wherein intellectual wealth
overpowered material wealth.

The recent Radia tapes exposing top brand journalists of the country has brought to the fore the
unholy nexus between mediapersons (holding important positions in newspapers/television) and
PR agencies, corporates and powerful politicians. Suddenly, the dark truth of journalism has
come out in the open. That, it is tainted, tarnished and filled with vested interest; that, journalism
is more for the interests and profits of the uncommon man than for the common good. While the
spirit of true journalism is still alive, has it generally been subverted by market forces?

The scant regard for good and hard-hitting journalism begins from educational institutes that
teach journalism. Amidst the sophisticated and exorbitant infrastructure, the foundation of true
journalism is overpowered by the glamour of acquiring skills for Public Relations (PR) and
audio-visual journalism (electronic media). Public and civic journalism is a by-the-way part of
the curriculum. The Right To Information Act (RTI) which is the most powerful tool/weapon
for a journalist today is hardly taught as a serious subject. It passes off as a couple of lecture
sessions by a guest faculty in the one or two year curriculum. There’s more accent on inviting
celebrity journalists, corporate heads, advertising gurus and organizing seminars than field work
that would teach on how information should be gathered for a story and how a journalist needs to
have his/her ears to the ground.

The `Page 3’ culture has given an impression to young journalists and young readers that the
real value in society is money, brands, lavish lifestyle, sexy clothes and partying. That, your
status in society depends on the parties you are invited too. With such loyal editorial support
what with parties being blown in full colour in newspaper pages, editors unwittingly become
of the rich and famous and find it difficult to be objective when it comes to controversies
involving them. My argument against Page 3 is this: If I am a mathematics teacher, it is my duty
to enhance the knowledge of the subject. However, if one fine day, I decide to play tambola (the
game of numbers), my students are going to be thrilled at this entertainment and tell their parents
what an entertaining class it was. But am I supposed to do that? Similarly, the very priorities of
journalism are to inform and to educate and in these times of corruption and scams, to take up
sustained campaigns for the public good. Should we be playing an entertaining role and that too
in such a colourful way? Fashion in journalism has killed its passion.

The chair of the editor has in several cases become that seat of power which loves to rock with
the influential forces of the society instead of creaking with anger at any injustice to the `Aam
aadmi.’ Partiality towards those in power in the government and in corporate to the extent of

not hesitating to publish `selective’ truth or hiding falsity or any vital information has shorn the
sheen of incisive journalism. Several times requests from the powers-that-be to go slow on any
expose overrides the publishing of hard truth procured by the journalist. Sometimes you find
abrupt end to a cause that has been taken up by a newspaper. Corporates arm twist marketing
departments of newspapers, threatening to stop giving advertisements which run into lakhs of
rupees if anything adverse is written about them. Marketing departments in turn put pressure on
editors and often the former is triumphant.

Good looking newspapers have become more important than good content newspapers. The
layout designer often dictates the rules of the game. Journalists are asked not to file more than
350-400 words so that it goes well with the look of the page, never mind if the reader yearns
to know more about a particular news item. Editors and General Managers give sermons on
how newspapers should lure opinion makers of the city to read it so that it enhances value of
the newspaper. A common man reading a newspaper is looked as `down market.’ Newspaper
surveys boast of categories who read their newspapers – accordingly advertisers decide on
releasing advertisements – if the moneyed read your newspaper, you get more advertisements
as the moneyed can buy goods. So, it’s again pressure on editors – interviewing the rich, writing
about glamour and so on. Though in reality, the rich do not want to be away from reality. Like
Sumatai Kirloskar once said to me once, ``I am not interested or impressed by knowing who
goes for which party. I would like to know real issues of my city from newspapers – why these
potholes and so on.’’ When journalism narrows down to appeasement to a certain section of the
society at any cost, its sanctity is destroyed. So, what’s left of this fourth pillar? Has it lost its
true essence?

At the core of it, the reader is the ultimate judge. He or she is intelligent and smart enough to
read between the lines. Newspapers need to understand that readers are today clamouring for the
truth which is relevant, one which will upgrade the moral and living standards of the society. It’s
time we in the media live up to that before readers completely reject us.

Vinita Deshmukh

Intelligent Pune


Monday, October 18, 2010

Awesomeness of being a mother

My editorial in Intelligent Pune weekly tabloid of Oct 1-7 link:

Awesomeness of being a mother

Otherwise I took my mother for granted – it’s only when I lost her last week that I realised the awesomeness of having a mother and being one. When her frail body lost the strength of her otherwise formidable voice, I knew she would soon become a distant dream, a thought quite acceptable to me then as a natural course of life. It’s only when her mortal remains were mechanically and rudely shunted into the glowing fire of the electric crematorium to be perished instantly, that the immortality of motherhood hit me hard.

If the first speck of your life is nurtured in a mother’s womb, the first lessons of life and living too are encompassed in her hands and heart. One of my first reminisces is of her coming during break time to St Joseph’s School, Belgaum, when I was in the primary section. Everyday, it was the same tiffin – `shikran poli’ (banana kheer with chapati) which became breaksfast until the last days of my school life. Simple, nutritious meals were her forte and ingredients in the perfect proportion, her passion. ```Eating out’’ was abhorrent in her dictionary and indulgence in the wrong kind of food and at wrong times was simply unacceptable. Cooking excess food was humiliating waste of money and she had amazing measurements like `one potato person,’ ``one fist of rice (uncooked) per person’’ and so on if you were cooking for parties. She was intolerant to worms infesting foodgrains and her annual stock was appropriately sun-bathed and proudly packed into air-tight tins. Her milk never ran over; never did her rice ever over or under-cook. Such relentless vigilance in the kitchen could make you feel she was unnecessarily obsessed but for her any laxity in this department was misappropriation of the domestic budget

She was a perfect example of a mother ``not being a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.’’ This she showed by her practical nature – emotional decisions meant weakness so a sensible approach in any situation was her catchphrase for us. She hated conflicts at home and preferred ``keeping quiet’’ in times of any familial outbursts. She believed in `live and let live’ policy. Her voice was loud but she wasn’t – an amazing parody really. Once in Belgaum – I must have been about four years old, I saw the servant’s daughter stealing ``our’’ mango so I ran into the outhouse and got it back, feeling triumphant. Instead, my motherreprimanded me for having ``illegally’’ entered her house and said I should have taken the matter to her first and she would have decided what to do.

Her obsession with fitness was remarkable. She followed an exercise regimen and never tolerated over-weight just because we have become mothers. The moment she saw a slight paunch, she would remind me it is time to go to the gym and control my diet (meaning not eating out). Health programmes on the television and radio were her hot favourites – she never missed them. She constantly lectured on the gravity of having blood pressure and diabetes, which all came along with a bad lifestyle she would tell us over and over again. She was very particular about her annual medical check-ups which were ``normal’’ and that would be her sense of victory against lifestyle diseases. Her hemoglobin never dropped below 14 which she was very proud of.

According to her, love should never be blind, it should be open-eyed. Marital bliss can never be the natural consequence of falling in love or adorning the mangalsutra – it always took a lifetime to keep it intact. I remember she had advised me ``when your mother-in-law says something you do not like, put me in her place and see if you still feel as bad.’’ That really worked like magic many times – I realised it was the `in-law’ tag that often led to prejudice. She was so un-womanlike when it came to gossip. Once, as a teenager I was gossiping with a friend in the verandah of our bungalow in Berhampur. After my friend left, she scolded me for talking about others – what good is it going to do to you and it will always boomerang. I still might have gossiped but that constant fear of not to do so would always lurk.

Two years back, I took her for granted when I shifted to her house for 40 days along with mydaughter who was expecting a baby. I decided in a moment that it was a great idea to be under her guidance, after delivery. Her extraordinary meals proved to be such a health boon that when her gynecologist saw my daughter for a post-natal checkup, she said she must thank her grandmother for her increased hemoglobin level. She will be sorely missed next month when her second baby will come to life.

It was six months back that my mother showed the first signs of having to compromise with her fiery independence. She shifted to my brother’s house, where she was extremely happy. Last month though she was diagnosed of having liver cirrhosis. She was unable to digest the simplest of food, not even a crocin tablet. She told us she was on her last journey and she did not want any doctors or medicines now and that she should be left alone. Then on she merely existed for the sake of existing. God took her away quite promptly I should say, leaving behind a trail of conscientious living through four of her offsprings. Whether they live up to it or not is another story – but her role of a gardener was of prime quality.

Vinita Deshmukh


Friday, August 20, 2010

Will Metro go the Common Wealth Games Way?

Will Metro go the Common Wealth Games Way?
Editorial by Vinita Deshmukh (Intelligent Pune August 13-19.
t the nucleus of the uproar over the Common Wealth Games (CWG) preparations is unaccountability, lack of transparency, high-handedness, brazen financial irregularities, cost overruns due to lack of planning and sub-standard infrastructural development works due to racing against time and damning Comptroller of Accounts General (CAG) Report that has been ignored. Does this ring a familiar bell? Yes it does - for another such magnum opus is theDelhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC’s) ambitious metro rail projects across the country.

If Suresh Kalmadi is the unquestionable and authoritarian one-man figure for the CWG, then E Sreedharan is his equally high-handed counterpart as the head of the DMRC who is lorded over by parliamentarians, in almost unison.

Any serious flaws in the construction of the Delhi Metro, in fact any negative news about it is slyly pushed under the carpet. Its attempt to replicate its model in plus million cities, without any homework on the impact on them due to their different nature in terms or geography, demography, the existing transport and so on, is full of holes, yet is trumpeted as infallible. Pune Metro is a shameful example of how, DMRC has made a haphazard DPR (Detailed Project Report) and the bureaucracy and politicians at the highest level in the city, state and atthe centre, have accepted it blindly, refusing to listen to the horrendous flaws pointed out by experts and citizens.

The CWG disaster-in-the-making sprouted because the British government sought explanation to allegations made that a substantial sum of 4.50 lakh pounds was transferred to a little known U K company, A M Films, from the Games Organising Committee (OC). This one-man show company is also receiving 25,000 pounds a month. Otherwise, all wrong-doings of disastrous scale, as have now been exposed would have been kept a guarded secret, never mind if later a stadium was to collapse and kill people.

Kalmadi is clearly not as lucky as E Sreedharan.

In the case of the Rs.450 billion Delhi Metro project, the CAG report has pointed to thequestionable standards of construction. Tragic accidents have taken place during Delhi Metroconstruction due to cutting costs and caring two hoots for safety regulations, but no fingers have been pointed at the culprits responsible for this unpardonable tragedies. Last July five workers and a site engineer were killed and a dozen injured during the work of the elevated Central Secretariat-Badlapur line near Lady Shriram College in South Delhi as the girder above crashed down bringing down with it the viaduct. Despite this tragedy, the CAG Report was not discussed in parliament. Reason? DMRC has been given such uncalled for monopoly that it does not come under any ministry, so no ministry was ready to take it up. It’s a way to hush up things and let the scoundrels scot-free to repeat even more monumental errors.

E Sreedharan is free to work the way he wants and not be accountable to expenditure of any amount of public money. Like the CWG which shockingly rents computers and other accessories at exorbitant amounts, DMRC too had flown the imported Delhi Metro coaches by air – one can only imagine how costly air-lifting of these coaches must have been which has been paid through our money, but Sreedharan is praised for completing the task in a record time.

What’s shocking is that DMRC has been allocated huge public funds, unprecedented in thehistory of our nation for infrastructural projects and yet it is not answerable to the government or to the public. Can you imagine the implication of such freedom which is being undertaken with gross irresponsibility? Lets take the case of the railway tunnel built on the Kalka-Shimla Railway line during the British Raj sometime in early 1900s. A British railway engineer Barog who was in charge of the tunnel made the mistake of digging the tunnel from both ends simultaneously but the twain did not meet at the ends due to wrong alignment. The British government penalised him for a handsome sum of Re.1 for wasting public money. Humiliated, Barog committed suicide by shooting himself. The name of this tunnel is Barog Tunnel and is made one kilometre away by another British engineer, H. S. Harington with the help of a local sadhu, Bhalku.

After six decades of attaining freedom, the government does not have the guts and the moral responsibility of punishing high placed politicians and bureaucrats even if they have been directly or indirectly involved in wastage of thousands of crores of public money. In the same vein, politicians and bureaucrats too have become so morally corrupt that they would probably poke at the Barog tunnel story, if told to them.

The CAG report on the DMRC point to shocking revelations but no action taken.Some of them are: no records of minutes and justification for decisios;no regulations for safety standards followed; no documentation/manuals for systems; no policy directive of management controls by the urban development ministry; high fares resulting in lesser riderships; noise levels above permissible standards; premature wear and cracking of wheels and metro track affecting safety and reducing life of this rolling stock to below 30 years; more than 50 per cent of bids exceeding project estimates and that too without finance concurrence; audits show major irregularities in evaluation and acceptance of contracts; audits point out major irregularities in payment to contactors giving non-contractual benefits to hem; abysmal testing standards; land acquisition in excess of requirements; property development contracts accepted in uncompetitive bidding at abnormally high prices.

Sounds so much like a CWG controversy-in-making? Well, Kalmadi and Sreedharan represent thetarnished face of our government which has stooped low in principles, ethics and governance. Can there be a change? Only peoples’ revolution can help - most of who are callously watching the murder of our Nation, within their cosy drawing rooms.
Vinita Deshmukh
Intelligent Pune

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I have penned my first book titled `To The Last Bullet' by Vinita Kamte with Vinita Deshmukh. I have written it in first person account of Vinita Kamte. She is the wife of Ashok Kamte, one of the most outstanding police officers of India, who died in the Mumbai Terror attack of 26/11 last year. The book is a gripping story of his chequered and inspiring life and provides shocking details of circumstances that led to his death. She has invoked the Right To Information Act to procure vital Call Log records which reveal shocking details of the final hours of her husband Ashok Kamte in which the other two equally brilliant officers, Hemant Karkare and Vijay Salaskar were killed. The book is available online:

Thursday, June 4, 2009

the website is operational

Dear Friends

sorry for being absent for so long but finally finally all of you can read Intelligent Pune on the web though it will be one issue old (otherwise my print circulation will drop).

So pl visit and would love to have your feedback.
at the moment it is a basic site but will soon add blogs etc. Vimal, pl makes suggestions

cheers and warm rgds

Thursday, February 26, 2009

editorial in Intelligent Pune Feb 27 on Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire is for every insensitive Indian
by Vinita Deshmukh
Intelligent Pune weekly tabloid, Feb 27
Amitabh Bachchan thrashed Slumdog Millionaire saying it has “projected India as a third-world, dirty underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots. Let it be known that a murky underbelly exists and thrives even in the most developed nations. It’s just that the Slumdog Millionaire idea, authored by an Indian and conceived and cinematically put together by a westerner, gets creative global recognition.’’

That’s no excuse to looking straight into the movie, introspecting even long after you have seen it and admitting that all of us `haves’ feel rich and prosperous in this country, by looking through the plight of `have-nots’ who are in equally large number in this country. In Mumbai itself, nearly 50 per cent of citizens live in slums but occupy barely 8 per cent of the living space. In Pune too, 40 per cent of the population are slum dwellers. However, due to our wrong interpretation of Karmic philosophy that the sinners are born `poor’, we can drive without apparent guilt in our high end cars through slums - at best sneer at this pathetic neighbourhood for the stench they emanate, feel disgusted for the congestion they create and paradoxically feel triumphant and lucky in our minds about our affluence and the comfortable/luxurious surroundings we live in.

`Slumdog Millionaire’ has awakened the truth of the real Urban India candidly, without any exaggeration. While Bollywood mostly portrays a dazzling picture of life in the name of entertainment and page 3 epitomises this pompous lifestyle, `Slumdog’ hits the very conscience of every educated and prosperous Indian – I, mean, it should. That, it is evoking disdain not only from Big B, whose millions of fans who consider him as God live in that squalour but also many better off citizens of this country, proves that, an insensitive and arrogant frame of mind is second nature to most educated and well-to-do Indians.

We think, living in affluent housing socieites and bungalows means rubbing shoulders with status and class. However, `Slumdog’ hits the bull’s eye and tells you who you are actually rubbing shoulders with. A few examples (some unrelated to the movie) could be – you see a blind or maimed child beggar – through your car window – ever thought how inhumanly he could have been de-capacitated? Your wallet is pick-pocketed at the railway station or your shoes disappear from a public place. Ever thought who these thieves could be? You see mounds of garbage and streets full of litter? Ever thought it comes from our better-off neighbourhoods which can afford to buy all that is wrapped in plastic? We only hold ivory tower discussions of religious intolerance – ever thought how vulnerable slum dwellers are to this and the emotional and traumatic scars those children undergo?

So much like in the movie, we do not want to admit that a slum dweller can have an intellect and would instead like to frame him as a `cheater’ (like in the movie). We love to sabotage the poor becoming rich – like Kapoor attempted in the movie, as the host of `Who wants to be a milliionaire.’ We want the poor to be poor so that we can feel and live rich. The most stark example I came across is this – many affluent neighbourhoods in Pune do not want rag pickers – they spoil the look of the areas through their collection of non-biodegrable garbage in sacks on roadsides, they say. Worse, some said that `with domestic scrap selling business to the tune of Rs.12 crore per year (in Pune), why should the rag picker get it all free?’’

The wall of separation begins from childhood. Rich schools do not want poor children – they are protesting against the new education bill which makes it mandatory to have 25 per cent poor children in every class. Rich children are told that only parents who cannot afford it, send their children to schools on cycles. Rich children are told that parents who cannot afford education abroad, have to toil for scholarship, thus demeaning merit. Servants in rich houses are asked to call even a toddler of the rich family as `didi’ `dada.’ Rich kids can be seen abusing their servants in public gardens. Rich and influential people get `VIP’ darshan in public temples, at the expense of enormous inconvenience to a common devotee, who too comes with all devotion and obeisance. Rich kids grow up with the right of feeling superior – drivers, newspaperwallas, maids, plumbers, electricians, dhoba, chowkidar, kachrewali – all of who are indispensable to portray their prosperity, are treated as non-entities. Rich kids are not given lessons in social equality – they are busy being pampered with materialistic values and pleasures. How can they grow up with sensitivity to every strata of society?

Thus, Big B’s argument that such squalour exists in western countries and is hidden from public eye, holds no water at all. Because the fact is, it exists here just next to you. Unless we (individuals and government authorities) look at every slumdog as a human being who needs a life of dignity just as we, do, we will continue to brush off movies like `Slumdog Millionaire’ as a mode of sadistic pleasure of the rich nations.

Thank you Danny Boyle (director) and Vikas Sapru (bureacrat and original author) for opening our eyes though many would prefer to further close them. Sadism alone cannot get you Oscars – surely the message of human survival and the triumph in inhuman surroundings has pierced every heart!

Vinita Deshmukh
Intelligent Pune

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dear Friends

check out the news item on St Valentine's Day written in the January 19, 1926 newspaper of The Times.

Happy Valentine's Day