Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Nira Raadia and the Tapes

France in May 1968 witnessed such tumult that the rulers were almost on their way out. Charles de Gaulle’s regime appeared to be brought down. And the leadership of the student movement of that time came from the professional classes. There were a number of journalists who played an important role in that movement in which the factory workers, fairly organised in trade unions, simply joined the tail.

I am provoked into recalling this in the aftermath of the revelations made by the Nira Raadia tapes. Well. I am not unaware of the wheeling-dealing culture among journalists. Nor am I among those who insist that the journalist must behave a stenographer. I do hold such journalists as Kuldip Nayar with lots of regard for the simple reason that he was a man of strong opinion and did not hide them.

The late Ram Nath Goenka was also an activist among the media barons. He is known to have teamed up with political leaders and orchestrated battles. Goenka’s guest house in New Delhi and his pent-house at the Express Towers in Mumbai were also hubs of political confabulations. The fact is that draft copies of the then President Zail Singh’s missive to the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi (sometimes in 1986-87) were found in Goenka’s guest house in New Delhi and it led to a series of arrests, cases and finally the fall of Rajiv Gandhi!

I should also recall that Swaminathan Sadanand. His Free Press Journal was indeed the greatest of newspapers at a time between India’s independence and the first general elections. Sadanand was quite unabashed about his political agenda on a given day. Sadanand, indeed, took journalism to be a means to intervene in the political discourse and even set the agenda at that time. It is said that Sadanand, at the same time, would throw reporters out of their jobs when he found them playing games for politicians.

And we are now in times when senior editors of newspapers and TV channels have been caught in the act that is not even political conspiracy by any stretch of imagination. Barkha Dutt, in fact, was actually talking with Raadia and promising her of moving mountains to ensure that the telecom portfolio remained with the DMK’s A.Raja. She was, at times, advising Raadia and later taking instructions from Raadia towards this. Well. To be fair, Nira Raadia, now facing interrogation, did her job. She was engaged by two powerful corporates – one who sold opium some 150 years ago and is now dressed as a gentleman and another who sold opium two decades ago – to do their job.

That the corporates who paint the politician black with tar whenever they can do spend crores of money to make the politician rich is one end of the story that political India knew so well. It is also a known story that the corporates organise education tours where journalists covering the beat are wined and dined and also handed with goodies to write only good things about them. It is also known that the political leaders take care of the various needs of reporters and others in newspapers so that they get a good press. Such goodies range between direct cash transfers or in kind by way of material gifts on festive occasions and extend to subsidized housing sites for them. But the Raadia tapes have revealed an entirely new dimension and that is the dubious role that some journalists play in the nexus between the corporates and the politicians in order to loot the nation of its resources.

In less than a week between the days when Barkha Dutt was seen interrogating Jayanthi Natarajan on TV and with so much concern for the wealth of the nation, we are now told that she too played her own small role in ensuring that A.Raja remained Minister for Communications during the time when all the dirty deals in selling 2G Spectrum at prices far lower than the market value. And I shall not believe that Barkha Dutt was so naïve or committed so much to the cause of the DMK-Congress alliance that she did all of what she did and at Raadia’s behest as part of a political agenda. And if she is that naïve that she did not know why Raadia was asking her to do those things, she is not to be a journalist in the first place.

The point is Burkha Dutt knew what she was doing and in plain and simple language it was wheeling-dealing. And that is what Vir Sanghvi, another journalist, was caught doing. I am not too sure if the Raadia tapes that we know is all that we have. I will not be surprised if more such men and women are paraded in the days to come with their voices on the phone, striking deals and promising help have been taped. And there is no way these can be called as invasion into their privacy. They were not discussing wine and dishes; nor were they discussing costumes to be worn when ministers were sworn in. They were meddling with things in the democratic edifice and hence all that they did come under the public domain.

Well. I do not think that Section 124A of the Indian Penal Code should exist. But then, it does exist in our statutes and is invoked to hound someone like Arundati Roy. And since the provision exists in our penal code, I will demand that it is invoked against Raadia, Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi for now. And if more names tumble out in the days to come, those others too be hauled and sent up to trial under Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code.


Blogger Adi said...

Sir, maybe i am wrong but i would like to state my views and hear your counter arguments.

Barkha did what any journalist would do. She had a source in the name of Radiaa and during her coverage of the portfolio allocation, she clearly mentions the horse trading going on between the Congress and the DMK. This archival footage was played during the huge debate with editors of other magazines and Barkha.

Most politcal commentators' and Manu's only animus against Barkha was, she did not do a story on Radiaa herself lobbying for a public position. This supposed sinister act of Barkha's was cleverly juxtaposed with scams and 2G corruptions by OPEN and ther magazines.

The point is, why would Barkha kill a source and do a story on the source from whom she has extracted information? After all, Radiaa can be a crucial source even during future elections and other times. A journalist has every right to protect her source no matter who she/he is. On the other hand, if Barkha did not speak about the power-brokering during her election covering in NDTV, we all have a right to question her actions.

On my view, we're a nation jumping on a successful woman who has done a fairly good job at times and who has been downright bad during times like Kargil. But that does not give one the right to blatantly accuse a well built reputation she has managed to accumulate over the year.

Vir Sanghvi and the others deserved to be punished but as far as Barkha goes, I still don't understand what all the brouhaha is about.

Would like to know your views. My id:

4:09 AM  

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