Friday, October 6, 2017

This senior journalist from The Hindu hates facts, data, feedback, and Twitter


The following article was written for OpIndia. Pasting it here for reference:

Ever since Narendra Modi took oath as the Prime Minister of India, the journalism landscape has gone through a massive change in the country. Somehow, the fine line between journalists and propagandists seem to have disappeared.
News, became a thing of the past, and opinions became the prime business of five-star journalists. Feedback got redefined as trolling and fact checking became a cumbersome task that just stood in the way of a good narrative.
Let me share an experience of mine, which has helped me conclude the above.
Back in March 2015, I was having a discussion with the Deputy National Editor of The Hindu on how the false narrative of “church attacks” was being peddled. In the course of the discussion, he had this to tell me:
Mr. Srinivas Ramani saying he was involved in the ‘business of serious journalism’ inspired many giggles, and like his journalism, couldn’t be substantiated with facts.
It was a simple discussion where I  was pointing out to him an article by Ms. Rupa Subramanya that called out the fake noise about the church attacks. Failing to provide counter facts, Mr. Ramani, just as any other journalist caught on the wrong foot, defended his lies by saying I have blinkers on and accusing me of being a troll.
In his now deleted tweet from August 2015, Srinivasan Ramani claimed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised to bring back black money in 100 days. I asked him to provide proof for the same and he, just like any other journalist caught on the wrong foot, changed tracks completely –
His response to me was drastically different from his initial assertion of PM Modi promising to bring back black money in 100 days! With his narrative disproved, he went on to accuse me of nitpicking; asked me to be objective; called me a bhakt; told me he is a busy man – basically, tried every trick in the book to avoid answering the queries I was posing!
He has since blocked me on twitter thus depriving me of the opportunity to read his many pearls of wisdom. However, on the evening of October 4th, he revealed his abusive self yet again, snapshots of which appeared on my Twitter timeline. In response to Prime Minister Modi’s comment that the RBI has projected a GDP growth on 7.7% in the coming quarters, he had this to say:
“They lowered projections to 6.7% in FY18, Mr PM. Follow the right people instead of buffoons & bigots on your TL & you will get right info.”
The flavor of the season is to raise fingers at the followers of PM Modi and the ones he follows, irrespective of the context. Nothing else can explain the abusive tweet above. But that is not the only thing that we need to talk about in that tweet.
Upon a cursory reading of his tweet, one would be shocked that the Prime Minister could get such basic details wrong. I mean, how can the PM be off by a whopping 1%? Thanks to Social Media ‘trolls’, we come to know that the RBI had released this dataon the same day:
Upon closer inspection, one realizes that by Q4, RBI projected the growth to be 7.7%. The Prime Minister in his speech had clearly mentioned that RBI projected a 7.7% growth in the “coming quarters”. When this anomaly was pointed out, Srinivasan Ramani had an awesome response, as below:
  • Q4 is 3 Qs away and not coming quarter.
  • RBI overall projection for coming quarter is 6.7%.

The PM mentioned coming quarters (plural). Srinivasan Ramani heard it in singular form – as coming quarter, and therefore thought he could call those commoners whom PM Modi follows, as abusive. He reiterates that the PM spoke about “coming quarter” while the PM clearly mentioned “coming quarters”.
He then proceeded to tell us that RBI overall projection for “coming quarter” is 6.7%. Let’s look back at the table. Coming quarter is “Q2”. The projection for that is 6.4%. One would wonder why Mr. Srinivasan Ramani was having such difficulty in understanding basic numbers.
Users were continuing to point out his error, but he didn’t want to give up. So he came up with another gem:
Sorry. I disagree. Downward revision is the key for next FY..And you can’t cherry pick q4. EOD
“You can’t cherry pick” – I think Mr. Ramani wants The Prime Minister has to take permission from ‘intellectuals’ like Srinivasan Ramani before talking about data, which he failed to comprehend.
There is another key point in Srinivasan Ramani’s arguments. He keeps saying there is a downward revision for “FY18”, & “Next FY”.
Let’s take a look at RBI’s table again:
All projections are for the financial year 2017-2018.  That is “this FY” and not the “next FY” that Srinivasan is talking about. He also says there is a “downward revision” for “next FY”.  “Next FY” would mean 2018-2019! Clearly, for someone who is obsessed with data, this is not some minor confusion! The GDP in 2016-2017 says 6.6%. The projected growth for the entire 2017-2018 is 6.7%.  How exactly is this a “downward revision”?
Or is it because RBI projected another number at the beginning of the current Financial Year, and has revised it downwards? RBI has projected a 7.3% growth at the beginning of this year, and has now revised it to 6.7% . The downward revision is because of the poor growth in Q1, that has already passed us! So why the new concern about “downward revision” now?
Also, Srinivasan Ramani tells us that we should not be concerned with Quarterly growth, and only about the yearly growth. If so, as Deputy National Editor of his newspaper, can he ensure that not too much of space is given to quarterly growth figures? Can he ensure they don’t write any more editorials regarding the Quarterly growth?
The next pearl of wisdom is as follows:
Guess what? The Prime Minister has acknowledged the situation and said they are working towards reversing this trend, in the very same speech. He also mentioned his request to the GST council to solve all issues people have faced while filing GST. But looks like Mr. Srinivasan Ramani is not interested facts at all.
It is indeed astounding that a person with such scant regard for facts is the Deputy National Editor of The Hindu. A journalist who resorts to name calling at the slightest hint of a debate is a highly placed employee of a newspaper that has nearly 10 lakh circulation.

Don’t the readers who pay up for The Hindu deserve to be told the full truth, rather than these half baked ones? One wonders what the readers outside of the social media space are being fed.

Hit Job on Ajit Doval – More Hype than Fact


The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

The following tweet by Hartosh Singh Bal landed up on my timeline a couple of days back.
I had to read it twice to believe he thinks Ajit Doval is more hype than fact. But then I also realized this is Hartosh Singh Bal and wasn’t surprised anymore. I went on to click on the Caravan article he had plugged, and have been tempted to write this article.
Caravan is known for its long form journalism. Ajit Doval was their cover story in their latest edition and they have published a whopping 18,241 word article on him. Eighteen Thousand words! Don’t worry, this article is not going to be that long;). After about 1000 words, the first conclusion has been arrived at.
The NSA’s record so far has been lacklustre.” The first 1000 words also did not tell us anything about why the folks at Caravan think Ajit Doval’s record as NSA has been “lacklustre”. But the premise has been set for the next 17,000 words.
The situation in Kashmir is now more volatile than it has been in decades, with militancy once again on the rise.”. That’s an awesome way of summarizing the situation in Kashmir! Nearly 150 militants have been killed, including some high-profile ones. Only our media can see this issue as a “rise in militancy”. And talking about this being “more volatile than decades”, I would simply like to draw Caravan’s attention to the situation in 2010 when there were large scale “Anti-India” protests in the valley, and every day we read headlines of ordinary people getting killed. Don’t believe me, here’s a blog from 2010, and a media image from 2010 asking India to “Go back”.  2010 to 2017 is not even a decade, leave alone “decades”! 
Doval’s political connections have contributed heavily to his career. During his IB years, he had close links to the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.” Now you see, Ajit Doval doesn’t seem to have any talent but for his exceptional political connections in the BJP and the RSS. That is why he won the Kirti Chakra in 1988 when BJP was nowhere close to power, and was appointed the head of the IB in 2005 when UPA was in power!  Anyways we digress from the main agenda by stating facts, so let’s move on. After establishing that Doval is a product of the political system, we are now taken into the main article (a full 1200 words later!).
Studying how Doval sees the Indian state lays bare how the country’s present rulers and their supporters do too.” I am shocked beyond belief that the author did not include the names of people who are followed by Prime Minister Modi on twitter! I mean, that’s the flavor of the season, so how come Caravan missed mentioning them?!
“LITTLE IS KNOWN about Doval’s early years. He was born in 1945, into a Brahmin family in a village called Ghiri, in the hills of what is now Uttarakhand.” Even though “little is known about Doval’s early years, it is very important for us to know that he was born into a Brahmin family. Because this then establishes his closeness to the BJP and the RSS, and voila – we know why Ajit Doval is famous! Later in the article, one of Doval’s speech is reproduced where he says that though he is from a Brahmin family, his food habits have varied according to the postings he has had!
We are very quickly told that his father was in the army, and Doval joined the IPS in 1968, controlled the “infamous riots” in the town of Thalassery in 1971 and joined the IB in 1972. Controlling riots, of course, wouldn’t count as a significant achievement in any police officer’s career.
Doval’s career in the IB coincided with several of independent India’s major internal security crises. He left his impress on many of them, even if not as deeply as popular accounts might suggest.”
We must learn the art of praising and condescending at the same time, from folks at the Caravan. “Not as deeply as popular accounts” sounds more like the author is jealous than analytical. The article then goes on to discuss about Ajit Doval’s key roles in “several of independent India’s major internal security crises”. Beginning from his role in countering insurgency in Mizoram to his role in Punjab, Kashmir to his role in negotiating with Taliban during the 1999 hijack till his rise as the Director of I&B. Nearly 6000 words have been spent on this – timelines of various events with quotes of various officers he has worked with, journalists and even L.K.Advani have been used to explain to us the depth of the exemplary work that Doval has done for this country, from 1972 to 2005. And yet we have been told at the beginning of the article that “Doval’s political connections have contributed heavily to his career” !
DOVAL WAS ANYTHING but quiet in retirement.” We are told that according to a “source”, the then NSA, M.K.Narayanan was not keen on having Doval as Deputy NSA and Doval never “forgived” MKN for that. The Caravan tells us – “For instance, after a series of blasts on Mumbai commuter trains in July 2006, the weekend edition of a leading English-language daily carried a story blaming Narayanan. It quoted an unnamed “retired intelligence chief.” So there were a spate of terror attacks in the country. A newspaper carried out a report criticizing the National Security Adviser, and Caravan sees a motive behind it?
Frozen out by the Congress, Doval turned again to his old patrons in the BJP. Doval chose to position himself behind the rising star, Narendra Modi.” This is because Narendra Modi had invited him to setup a Raksha Shakti university in Gujarat. That’s it. And then we are treated to a 2500 word section on his days while leading the Vivekananda International Foundation. Excerpts of his views on many issues, ranging from reservations to Pakistan; repeal of POTA to “invasion of illegal immigrants” – have been pasted to tell us that “Many of Doval’s public statements echo the draconian majoritarianism of the BJP and the RSS”. Wow – “draconian majoritarianism“ eh? Use fancy words so that that the rhetoric gains more value. After this ~2500 word treatise, the Caravan thankfully moves to his current role as India’s NSA
A senior journalist covering the prime minister’s office told me, “When Doval is with the PM, nobody can enter. Not even the principal secretary, Nripendra Misra. Not even a call can be transferred.” Ah, we have the journalists at play now! I find this statement “duh” at so many levels! By the way, we also had a news report that said when the PM is meeting MPs in the Parliament house, no phone calls are transferred. Does that make them both equals? We are also told that Ajit Doval got a secret intelligence report saying Rohith Vemula was not a dalit. There was a court case going on regarding Rohith Vemula’s caste, so there is nothing secret about it. Anyways, too much has been said and written about Rohith Vemula, so let’s move on. We are then treated to more views and actions of Ajit Doval as the NSA – that include his contributions towards easing the Doklam crisis; his “failure” at Pathankot operations; his meeting with Mamta Banerjee; his speech to the budding IPS officers at their academy etc. At places, the tone and tenor of these paragraphs sound as if we are talking about an enemy and not our NSA!
Doval, Rammohan said, “is a brilliant officer but he is behaving like a sycophant to the BJP.” This might be his legacy.” The Rammohan who is being quote here is a former head of BSF. Based on his quote, the Caravan has ended their 18000+ word article telling us that Ajit Doval’s legacy might be that he was a sycophant to the BJP!
Many such drastic conclusions that the article has arrived at, simply astounds me. Mr. Doval’s outstanding contributions to his country (as detailed in the very same article) have been agnostic to whoever was in power – and neither are his views so extreme that it warrants such strong and misleading choice of words. Ajit Doval seems to have massively frustrated the liberal gang, and therefore this hit job against him. If as Hartosh said, Ajit Doval is more hype than fact - then I am at a loss of words to describe what Hartosh does day in and day out!

Sushma Swaraj’s address at the UN impressed everyone except a few journalists and Pakistan


The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s speech at the UN General Assembly in September 2017 has received widespread appreciation – for the clarity of thought and message. She has called upon the world leaders to not distinguish between evil and wondered if the world cannot fight against the common enemy of terrorism in one voice, then what exactly is the purpose of war on terror? She had also given a stinging reality check to Pakistan – whilst India progressed by producing engineers and doctors, Pakistan produced terrorists; whilst India established IITs, IIMs, AIIMS etc, Pakistan established LeT, JuD etc; whilst India is fighting poverty, Pakistan is busy fighting India!
Even before Pakistan could react to this stinging rebuttal, sections of the English media in India started to react. First of the block was Rajdeep Sardesai with this:
Without mentioning Pakistan? Needless to say, the biggest problem facing the world today is terrorism. Needless to say, Pakistan is a hotbed of terrorism. How does a senior journalist not want India to bring the world’s attention to Pakistan’s breeding of terrorists? How can a “G20 strong nation” not wage a fight on all fronts, against the menace of terrorism?
Next, why the rejoinder about what China will do? Is that the only measure of success in our fight against the terrorism that Pakistan perpetrates in our country?
Feeling left behind, Shekhar Gupta tweeted this:
Quite obviously, Sushma Swaraj was not referring to the current state of the IITs and IIMs. Using such an important speech that gave out such a strong message, to replug an article on his site, speaks volumes about how eager they are to rush to the rescue of the Pakistan media! The lightning speed with which these folks have reacted will put even the Pakistan journalists to shame!
However, in my opinion, the icing on the cake is how The Hindu covered the speeches of Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan’s reply to her. Below is the picture of The Hindu’s front page on Sunday, September 24th.

It is perhaps understandable that The Hindu thought the “longest sari” story will grab more eyeballs that Sushma Swaraj’s tweet. Now, let’s check their front page on the morning of Monday, September 25th
In summary, the graphic below captures all points:
The reply from Pakistan gets front page banner headline, while the keynote speech by our External Affairs minister somehow isn’t that important for them! This open espousing of the Pakistani cause is getting murkier by the day.
The next image is courtesy fellow tweeter, “coolfunnytshirt”.
Sanjiv Bhatt needs no introduction. Prerna Bakshi, in her twitter bio, tells us that she is a columnist with a bunch of publications like The Hindu and The Wire. Little wonder then that these lowly views of India vis-à-vis Pakistan exist in their minds!
Pakistan’s representative at the UN also used some of the news from Indian outlets to make a case on “terrorism” in India. The Indian media has also made it look like the stone pelters got a raw deal because of the use of pellet guns on them! Pakistan easily latched onto this, and even tried to make a case at the UN. Quite obviously, they have failed miserably.

Why is the media so desperate to impose Rahul Gandhi’s incoherent thoughts on us?


The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:

On August 25, 2017, the office of Rahul Gandhi lets us know that Rahul Gandhi is going to Oslo, at the invitation of the Norwegian foreign ministry:
On the invitation of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, will be travelling to Oslo for a few days. Looking forward to meeting and exchanging ideas with political and business leaders & research institutions.
The next tweet about the Norway trip came only on August 30th. And in the intervening 5 days, only 4 tweets came, 2 of which were on August 25th itself. The original message did not tell us when will he be leaving, but given the near zero activity on the twitter account, it will be fair to assume he left on August 25th itself. So we have no idea if he was merely holidaying somewhere in Norway itself!
On August 30th, we get the following message:
And very strangely on August 31st,  we get the following message:
Why is it strange? Many twitter users instantly pointed out that it is impossible for anyone to grow such a beard in one day! The pictures tweeted out on September 1st were again with a clean shaven face! Very clearly, they were not tweeted out in the same sequence as the actual events! We are not even sure about the actual dates on which the visit took place and these have yet again exposed the callous nature of Rahul Gandhi’s politics.
However, the Norway trip has also given rise to a new trend – to mask a holiday into an official trip! Rahul Gandhi has drawn flak for taking too many vacations. And to circumvent that argument, he seems to have come up with this ingenious plan! What else explains a mere 4 meetings in Norway, for a full 10 day trip? (He was next seen in public on the 4th of September).
The bravado of Rahul Gandhi is that he hasn’t limited this ingenious plan to Norway. Almost immediately, this same logic was extended to a tour of the United States! First, there were these news leaks that he is going to the US to talk about Artificial Intelligence. After a few days, we are told by Sam Pitroda that this news is false. And in these few days, this news became the hot topic for multiple memes.
On September 12, he spoke at the University of Berkeley. And then the next tweet about a program in the US was on September 19th. So was the intervening period between 12th and 19th, an extended vacation? A “discussion” with students of Princeton on 20th, and a speech somewhere near the Times Square on 21st completed the program. So for 10 full days, we are treated to just 4-5 public appearances, most of them towards the end of the tour! Is this disguising of a vacation as an official trip, going to be the norm going forward?
Let us also discuss the content of his speeches, for which the English media is going gaga (yet again!). Don’t believe me? Here is NDTV (yet again!) with a dedicated program:
And then we had Sadanand Dhume tell us that Rahul Gandhi came about as “intelligent and well informed”. Well informed? Because Rahul Gandhi said Abhishek Bachchan is a dynast, thereby exhibiting his knowledge that he is Amitabh Bachchan’s son? Or because Rahul Gandhi spoke about “Original Congress” being a NRI movement? Or because he told us that “30,000 youngsters enter job market everyday”?
Intelligent? Because Rahul Gandhi analyzed that “We aren’t spending enough on healthcare and education”? Or because he enlightens us with “If India has to produce millions of jobs it has to be done by empowering small & medium businesses and entrepreneurs”? Or because he talked about centralization of power – “The problem everywhere in India is concentration of power. Good governance is about resisting centralization of power”. Or because he claimed that Congress could not provide jobs and given an opportunity again he doesn’t know how to solve that problem?
But then this is not the first time he is talking about these topics! He spoke about these in 20132014 etc. He has been constantly speaking about the “closed systems” his party had created and about the “corruption” that his party has ensured engulfs the entire country! This is also not the first timethe English media went gaga over him. Why is the media so desperate to impose Rahul Gandhi’s incoherent thoughts on us? What explains this obsession to search for meaningful thoughts in his speeches?

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Nandyal Bye-election...


The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference:
Ms. Roja was a popular telugu actress in the 90s. She later joined the Telugu Desam Party (contested and lost the 2004 and 2009 elections), and then moved on to the Congress and she is currently with YSR Congress (won 2014 elections). Ms. Roja also is a judge on a couple of TV shows. Ms. Roja is also very abusive. She has little control on her tongue while addressing press conferences, and has attacked almost everyone in the Chief Minister’s  family. On December 18, 2015, she abused another MLA in the Assembly for which she has been suspended from attending the house for a year!
Her latest tirade is against the youngest minister in Chandrababu Naidu’s cabinet, Ms. Bhuma Akhila Priya. Ms. Roja has enlightened us that Ms. Akhila Priya is not a traditional lady because she wears chudidars in the public. Upon questioning further, Ms. Roja has further enlightened us that she doesn’t care if Akhila Priya wears a nightie or pyjama or chudidar, but we have a tradition that says women should wear sarees and Akhila Priya doesn’t adhere to that!
To understand what prompted this attack, we will need to get into the current political scene in Andhra Pradesh, that is heating up by the day!
Bhuma Akhila Priya’s parents – Bhuma Nagi Reddy (2-time MLA and 3 time MP) and Shobha Nagi Reddy (4 time MLA)– were powerful political leaders in the Nandyal region of Andhra Pradesh. The mother Shobha Nagi Reddy died in an unfortunate car accident in April 2014. She was contesting as an MLA on behalf of YSRCP, and the election was postponed owing to the death. Akhila Priya was nominated by YSRCP to contest the election in November 2014. A tradition in AP has been in vogue – if a sitting MLA dies and a family member is given ticket, all other political parties will not contest the election. Akhila Priya won unanimously as the MLA.
The father Bhuma Nagi Reddy, was getting vexed with YSRCP – and along with daughter and other followers, re-joined TDP in Feb 2016. Of course, the incentive was that either he or his daughter will be made a minister. Bhuma Nagi Reddy suffered a massive heart attack in March 2017 and passed away. About a month later, Akhila Priya was inducted into the cabinet of Chandrababu Naidu as tourism minister.
At the time of his death, Bhuma Nagi Reddy was representing the Nandyal Assembly constituency. The death mandated a by-poll. Tradition demanded that TDP will decide the candidate, and all other parties will not put up a contest. And here’s where all hell broke loose. Akhila Priya wanted the ticket to be given to one family member. Other powerful members also wanted the ticket. So, the guy who didn’t get ticket from TDP, re-joined YSRCP, and the YSRCP upped ante by announcing a fight in this election.
The upping of the ante didn’t stop at merely announcing a fight. The famed Prashant Kishor is now advising YSRCP. The advise given to Jagan Mohan Reddy, who leads the YSRCP, was to camp in the Nandyal constituency for 10 days, and do road shows every single day. Advise or no advise, Jagan Mohan Reddy has resorted to the lowest level of campaign speeches. First, he said there is nothing wrong if Chandrababu Naidu is shot in the middle of the road!
Needless to say, there was an uproar, and EC sent him a notice. Jagan wrote to the EC apologizing, and then came back on the campaign trail and then tells us that there is nothing wrong if Chandrababu Naidu is hanged to death.
Dear reader – are you trying to recover from the shock? Now, do the barrage of attacks by Ms. Roja on Ms. Akhila Priya make sense? Do those attacks seem miniature compared to what Jagan is doing? Are you wondering why do they have to plumb to such depths? Don’t – because we are now used to this! What should worry us is this - the crowd cheered both the times Jagan wished the death of Chandrababu Naidu. This is being touted as a very close election – which means the possibility of Jagan’s candidate winning is quite high. This would also mean that people gave credence to the abusive campaign mounted by the YSRCP.
Chandrababu Naidu too lost his cool on a campaign trail. A citizen was shouting when he was addressing a rally - the citizen was complaining that there is no power in Nandyal. Chandrababu accused him of being a YSRCP agent, a drunkard, and warned him of spreading falsehoods. The viral video has dented the credibility of the CM. Surely, it doesn’t behove the status of a Chief Minister to warn a private citizen in this manner, even though he was disrupting the speech!
The Nandyal by-election is the most prestigious by-elections in recent times. The YSRCP is fighting to stay alive; and the TDP cannot afford to lose this election because of the ripple effect it might create. And nothing is off the table, to win this election. If encouraging the death of sitting CM fetches attention and some votes, so be it. If accusing the sitting minister of not being traditional because she doesn’t wear sarees, so be it. The election is on August 23rd. Wondering what else we will have to hear!

Hamid Ansari disappoints with his parting note, resorts to rhetoric and falsehoods


The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference.
If you were to interview the outgoing Vice President of India who also doubles up as the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, who held the post for 10 years, would you want to talk about his experiences and learnings, or would you want to talk about the current government? Would you want to focus more about his experiences and his decisions as Chairman of Rajya Sabha, or would you want to focus more on events that have dominated the media space in recent times?
Karan Thapar got this opportunity and he asked/intervened (Well, it’s not a Karan Thapar interview if there are no interventions ;)) a total of 122 questions. Out of which only 32 were related to Rajya Sabha, out of which only 15 were related to *his* actions/decisions as Rajya Sabha Chairman. So barely 10% of the time was spent on his primary role. What about the rest of the 90% then?
In conversation with Karan Thapar on his last day as vice president, Hamid Ansari talked about growing intolerance, aggressive nationalism, the government’s political inaction on Kashmir and more.
This very much concurs with the agenda of the Lutyens cabal. And the Vice President obliged the cabal with equally rhetoric answers that have created quite a stir. Before we get into the details of these responses, I would like to highlight the mucky nature of this interview, by highlighting a few questions. Sample the first one below:
KT: You mentioned that on your first birthday as vice president, Dr Manmohan Singh and his wife came over to wish you. I imagine you’ve had three birthdays after Mr Modi took over. Has Mr Modi been to wish you regularly?
HA: Eh, regularly yes. I think the last occasion he was away he sent a message. But first two occasions, yes.
KT: He was there.
HA: Yes, he did, yes.
From where does Karan Thapar and his ilk get such ideas? If he was pursuing such an irrelevant line of questioning, then why didn’t he ask if Dr. Manmohan Singh and wife came to visit him on every birthday? Better yet, he could have counted the first three years of each PM and made a pie-chart out of it and furthered his research! The cheap line of questioning doesn’t end here – here’s another sample: 
KT: Just 48 hours ago or so, the Chinese newspaper the Global Times quoted a Chinese expert who said that a small-scale military operation is possible may be even likely in two weeks. Speaking of the apprehension in India are you apprehensive about this situation?
So now we have to answer based on a “quote” made by an “expert” we don’t know, published in a newspaper we don’t read? Why is KT assuming that the Vice President of the country will feel “apprehensive” about a random quote?!
Let’s anyway get back to the crux of the interview – Shri Hamid Ansari’s views on intolerance, fear, triple talaq etc. The all-knowing Karan Thapar framed the first question like this:
KT: I want to use this moment, Mr Vice President to talk about the general situation in the country today because I know it is one that concerns the large sections of the country. 
The classic cabal game – “Many people think(like me)”, “large sections feel (what I feel)”, “I know (everything!)” – where they generalize few occurences to create an atmosphere of fear. However, what is worrisome are the responses of Mr. Hamid Ansari.
He goes on to give credence to these baseless theories, and uses strong language to further perpetuate this fear. He says that a “certain ambience of acceptance” is now “under threat”; that he shares the feeling that “there is growing intolerance in India”, and spoke about it in an event in Bengaluru a few days back. He says that he has based all these conclusions based on “meeting fellow citizens” and reading papers etc.
Author and tweeter, Anand Ranganathan, has busted many of the myths surrounding the branding by the Lutyens media here. Likewise, there are many social media users who have busted many such propaganda machines. As Vice President, was Mr. Hamid Ansari not aware of these statistics? Is it not his responsibility to reassure the people of the nation, that statistics point out to the fact that we are as tolerant or intolerant as we ever were? Is it not his responsibility to chide the likes of Karan Thapar for trying to spread malice and fear, through their writings? Instead, very disappointgly, he obliges the provocative questions of Karan Thapar with his own rhetoric.
When pressed whether he bought this up with the PM and other ministers, and if he was satisfied with the answers – he gave the following answer:
HA: Well, there is always an explanation and there is always a reason. Now it is a matter of judgment, whether you accept the explanation, you accept the reasoning and its rationale.
Does this mean you don’t accept the explanation, Mr. Ansari? Should you not be telling the people of this country why you don’t accept the explanation?
When asked why he chose this moment to do so, Mr. Ansari responded that he has spoken at various times in the last 10 years whenever – “I have in the last ten years spoken out again and again on matters that I think needed to be aired in public.”.
Given how much corruption and inefficiency was the key point of public discourse in the years 2011 to 2014, I did a keyword search of “corruption” on his website where his speeches are uploaded. About 6-7 speeches came up with only cursory references to the word corruption and not on the mood prevalent in the country then!
When asked about Kashmir, he gave an elaborate answer blaming the ruling political parties for the scenario today. However, we do not find any view when Kashmir was equally burning back in the year 2010 (when he was our Vice President too)
Why then, does Vice President Hamid Ansari, find the need to give credence to the lies that the Lutyens cabal spreads? It is unfortunate that he was sounding more like a spokesperson of the cabal and hasn’t voiced a more independent opinion. It is equally unfortunate that he has chosen not to harp on any of experiences in improving the functioning of the Rajya Sabha (especially in the last 3 years), and instead laments on how he was helpless in controlling unruly members.
Karan Thapar’s conversation is easily one of the most easiest interview once could imagine to have. Rhetorical questions on “reforms in Rajya Sabha” as proposed by Arun Jaitley; money bills etc have all elicited rhetorical answers that don’t give us any clarity.
Further to this, the vile nature of Karan Thapar’s questions will put any neutral journalist to shame. Sample this one:
KT: Let me come to Rajya Sabha TV. To everyone surprise and delight, it’s a channel that established itself with credibility, with independence, with a certain neutrality and that happened under your charge. Important colleagues of mine, who are senior journalists like Siddharth Varadarajan, M.K. Venu, Govind Ethiraj, Bharat Bhushan, have all been anchors. Now that you’re stepping aside, there is a concern in the media world, that perhaps the quality and character Rajya Sabha TV will change.
Blood boils with anger when one reads such ridiculous assertions. It is independent when rabid anti-Modi journalists are given space to vent their frustration? The elongated question sounds more like an exasperation that another fortress has been breached despite all attempts to stop the breach.  
On the whole, it was disappointing to see Vice President Hamid Ansari choosing to step down in this manner. He could have done better.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Hindu creates a "furore" where there is none.


The following article was written for MyInd Makers. Pasting it here for reference: 

On July 1st, the Prime Minister of India made a significant announcement, while addressing the Chartered Accountant (CA) community. 48 hours before GST was launched, a whopping 1 lakh companies have been de-registered. Data mining from demonetization has helped achieve the elimination of these many bogus companies with “one stroke of a pen, in just one minute”.
On July 3rd, the usual suspects were at it again. Here is a big report in The Hindu today (pasting the image to show you the importance they have given to this report)
So, what is the furore about? Please allow me to present another image, from the same report, that summarizes the “furore”, and highlight the first point.
The newspaper report says – “This seems more like a veiled threat to all the companies to comply with the law,” said an expert, requesting anonymity given the sensitivity of the issue as the Prime Minister himself had made the statement.
Veiled threat to comply with the law”? Goodness Gracious!
Modi government’s intolerance is reaching heights taller than the Mount Everest. How can the Prime Minister tell companies to comply with the law? Is this the Idea of India? Is this the freedom companies have in today’s India? This warrants a full-fledged debate – how can the head of the Government make “veiled threats” to “comply with the law”?
The report also states this:
Sources pointed out that there is nothing unusual about striking off names of companies from the ‘register of companies’.
Of course, there is nothing unusual about striking off names of companies. One doesn’t need “sources” to tell you this! The “unusual” event here is the striking off a One Lakh companies at a time – also something that we didn’t need “sources” to tell us, because the Prime Minister himself has announced this!
The sequencing of the report gets more bizzare.
The CAs and lawyers contacted by The Hindu said they were waiting for a list of companies and the reasons for de-registration,…”

Whether under the provisions of the Income Tax Act or Companies Act, the companies are always given an opportunity to respond before any action is taken against them, including striking off the names, the sources said,
They dedicated another full paragraph to just explain that the procedure demands that the companies typically get an opportunity to respond.
This gave me, the reader, the impression that the Modi government didn’t give them any opportunity to respond. It felt as if, Modi woke up one day and decided that today is the day 1 lakh companies get de-registered because he felt like it! The last line of the report told us a completely different story.
In April this year, the government (RoCs in several States and union territories) had issued show cause notices to over two lakh companies under the Companies Act for striking off their names. The country has over 15 lakh registered firms.
Whoa – in April this year, show cause notices were given to over 2 lakh firms! Then what is the “furore” about? Where were the “sources” of The Hindu who wanted to see the list of 2 lakh companies? The rules say that companies get 30 days to respond, and if not satisfied with the reply, government can de-register. April to June is definitely more than 30 days time!
Basically, here is the sequence- data mining happened; companies were sent notices; the “unusual” decision of de-registering one lakh companies was taken; and all along the “sources” were fast asleep!
The report simply put, is baffling. The report is also the standard template that the English language media follows – first, come up with some vague argument and attribute it to “sources”; then, weave an entire article around it; finally, come up with a jazzy headline that will confuse the reader further. Or create further “furore” in people’s mind. If “comply with the law” is creating a “furore”, then so be it!