Sunday, January 29, 2012

That's all, your honour! : Jan 22-28

1. An earlier blog here details the full sequence of the Antrix-Devas deal. Basically, Antrix Corporation (which is the commercial wing of ISRO) entered into a deal with a company called Devas Multimedia (which had many former ISRO scientists as its officers) and sold 70MHz of S-band spectrum at just Rs.1000 crores in 2005. The Hindu broke this story. At that time, the CAG even estimated the worst case loss because of this deal to be ~ Rs. 2 lakh crores too. As always, at that time, the Prime Minister said he did not know details of the deal. It didn't matter that this deal was cleared by the Cabinet and the then minister in PMO, Mr. Prithivraj Chauhan was directly incharge of the Space department. More details in the old blog here

The government declared then that the deal with Devas will be annulled. There was confusion about that too, but that's ok because with the UPA, we are all used to such confusion. And then there was a lull period. Everyone forgot about this deal and the massive loss. Out of the blue, the government announces that the former ISRO chief, Mr. Madhavan Nair and three other top scientists of ISRO are banned from holding any more government positions! Another bizzare addition to the already long list of such decisions by UPA. 

This is not to say that those 4 are absolutely not guitly. The point is we don't even know how this decision was arrived at. Dr. Madhavan Nair even told us that he was not even given a chance to respond to charges against him. This decision was as arbitrary as it can get. This deal was cleared by the Prime Ministers Office too. Were officials and the minister in-charge Prithvi Raj Chauhan sleeping then? This deal was further cleared by the Cabinet too. Was the Prime Minister and the other ministers sleeping? Many former scientists have already pointed out that this unprecendented bizzare action is an insult to the organisation as a whole. Scientists have also pointed out that this is the same Madhavan Nair to whom the government awarded Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan. With this unilateral action, the UPA government will again be dragged to the court on matters that could have been handled outside it. 

If the chairman of ISRO is guilty, then why not the minister in PMO? Because the then minister, Prithvi Raj Chauhan is now the Chief Minister of Maharashtra. Therefore he has to be kept out of this! If the top 4 scientists are guilty in this scam, then so is the current Chief Minister of Maharashtra. If the top 4 scientists are ineligible for holding any position in the government, then so is the CM of Maharashtra. By this logic, even this Prime Minister is not eligible to hold that post, given that the cabinet cleared the deal that was forwarded by the PMO itself! 

A bigger shame is that Dr. Madhavan Nair had to file an RTI application to get details of the enquiry commission report! (Adding this link on Jan 30 - Dr. Nair says the government knew about the deal at every single step. Another of the PM's lies has been nailed.)

2. Mumbai police announce this week that they cracked the 13/7 case! I am sure most of us would be confused with this date, given the multiple attacks that happened in Mumbai. This case was about the bombings on July 13, 2011 in Mumbai which killed 26 people and injured 130. So Mumbai police come and announce that they cracked this case. Delhi police however are baffled by one of the arrests made in the case. They say that the Mumbai police have arrested one of their informers, who was leading them to a location to nab "some people". This open war between the Delhi Police and the Mumbai ATS (Anti Terrorism Squad) is yet another embarassment to the security investigations in the country. This riveting account by Toral Varia in rediff, gives a blow by blow account of how this unwanted rivalry cost us the mastermind of this 13/7 terrorist act. Please read that to understand how we screw up seemingly simple stuff :(. 

3. The previous week, the Congress government in Rajashtan invented a plot to stop Salman Rushdie from coming to the Jaipur Literature fest. And since he was not able to come at all, organisers thought of having a video conference with him. Who would imagine someone would have a problem with that? But Muslim groups did not want any of that too. The Congress government was more than willing to oblige them - so guess what - even his video conference was not allowed!! However, Barkha Dutt of NDTV interviewed him and this interview was aired on NDTV. The same Muslim groups had absolutely no issue with the interview airing! One of the most prominent leaders who was opposed to Mr. Rushdie coming was Owaisi. Mr. Owaisi is a regular in NDTV studios - will he now stop going to that studio? This whole episode smacks so much of hypocrisy by many sections - the "liberals" for not calling the bluff of the Deoband and other Muslim groups; the "national media" for not calling the bluff of Congress party; the "writers" who wax eloquent on the need to fight for freedom of expression; and finally the Congress party itself. 

4. Finally, there is this ad war between The Hindu and Times of India that has captured the attention of netizens and print readers alike. At first, after seeing the ads, many were pretty impressed with The Hindu's ads and were promptly decrying the TOI for its content quality. But then some folks made another interesting argument. This was about the op-ed page of both the newspapers. The Times of India gives space to ALL kinds of views in its op-ed page. The current editor of The Hindu has once worked in the Times too! The Hindu seldom gives space to views that anti-left, pro-right etc. Leave op-ed space for articles, The Hindu does not publish enough letters to the editor that are against its views! So while The Hindu wins on the basis of its overall content, it loses out on space to views. That's all, your honour! 


Bhaskar Chatterji said...

This piece in the Indian Express proves that MM Singh is not in control of the Prime Minister's Office, rather its being manipulated by Pulok Chatterji.

This Anandabazar piece (in Bengali) is on the issue of Dr Madhavan Nair ( .The link will be available at after its archived on Jan 30th). A loose translation of Anandabazar piece will read like this:

" PM's scientific advisor supports Madhavan Nair:

Huge controversy started brewing after unprecedented action against ex ISO Chairman Madhavan Nair and 3 other top scientists. Government and the PMO are firm in their position. But scientific community and a section of bureaucrats came out in support of Madhavan Nair. Even the scientific advisor to the prime minister CNR Rao exploded today stating "Government has thrown out Madhavan Nair as garbage. Nobody will work for these (government) organizations if this is the way they are treated."

Yesterday ex chief of knowledge commission PM Bhargava also wrote letter to Prime Minister expressing his dismay.

Government sources saying there is larger context to the whole issue. Whether appointment of Madhavan as ISRO chief or CNR Rao as PM's scientific advisor, these decisions were taken by PM's ex Principal Secretary TKA Nair. He also supported Antrix-Devas deal. But in last few months, wings of TKA Nair is being clipped after appointment of Pulok Chatterji who is close to Sonia Gandhi. The purge of TKA Nair and those close to him are now going on."

CodeNameV said...

Madhavan Nair was an enthusiast in bringing fresh and young minds from all top class institutions in India to ISRO. He also is the mind behind increasing brand value of ISRO. Call it ironic, if you will, the same man is today facing lets call it retribution? How dare he work for betterment of the organization, when the unwritten rule in all governement organizations is "save your ass"?

I am told that Madhavan Nair once spoke in IITM and urged students to join ISRO. A student asked why should he join ISRO when equally challenging jobs exist in MNCs. He returned the question asking why it is so difficult to motivate young men to join ISRO to serve the nation. Students shot back that they are paid well there. This could well be fictitious story. I definitely cannot ratify if this really happened but come to think of, where is a young talented and well educated graduate better off? ISRO or Intel? *Not a tough question at all*

And on The Hindu - ToI war, FM Bangalore is brimming with some "sarca(u)stic" ads. An example from this morning:

Who is the defense minister of India?
-Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh or both

Who is Shilpa Shetty's husband?
-Raj Kunda....Raj Kundra....Raj Kundra

Tired of the paper that doesnt give you news?
Stay ahead of the Times. Read The Hindu.

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