Indian scribes are compelled to pay ritual obeisance to PM’s “personal honesty and integrity”

Madhu Purnima Kishwar writes Honestly Speaking in Outlook: 

Dr Manmohan Singh cannot escape responsibility for appointing people with dubious credentials to occupy key positions of power—starting with the appointment of Pratibha Patil as the President of India.

Today, the Indian media—both print and television—is focusing on the recent corruption scandals involving the UPA Government with unusual zeal. However, I fail to understand why almost every commentator, every TV anchor, every editorial writer feels compelled to pay ritual obeisance to the “personal honesty and integrity” of Dr Manmohan Singh while dealing with the scandals emanating from his cabinet colleagues. They do so even when there is clear evidence that the Prime Minister was well aware of various shady deals, as in the case of Telecom scam, and that he did nothing to stop the brazen economic crimes indulged in by his ministerial colleagues over the last 6 years. 
…In recent weeks, some of our most respected columnists have been warning us that we should look at institutional reform rather than target individuals because it can lead to loss of faith in democratic institutions. But how do you retain faith in democratic institutions if powerful individuals use their office to systematically subvert the autonomy and credibility of institutions meant as watchdogs of democracy? The best of institutions take no time in becoming slavish instruments of partisan agendas if you plant subservient and heavily compromised individuals at their helm.

……..A PM who compromises national interest, as in Kashmir, just to indulge the personal fancy of the PM in waiting, a PM who looks the other way while his Cabinet colleagues brazenly loot public funds and get away with extorting thousands of crores by way of kickbacks, a PM who is widely perceived and lampooned as a “rubber stamp” does not merit being called “an honest man” or a “man of integrity” because integrity in his job demands putting national interest above partisan politics and personal loyalties. Integrity also involves taking full responsibility for all his acts of commission and omission which have earned UPA II the dubious distinction of being publicly named as the most corrupt and rudderless government in post independence India


Madhu Purnima Kishwar is Founding Editor, Manushi Journal, Founder, Manushi Sangathan–Citizens First Forum and Senior Fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.

 Read the full piece Honestly Speaking in Outlook

At 6 Narayani is the 1st tribal leader of India

The first time sixty-year-old community leader Narayani Nanu Kolpara walked into a government office, her hands shook.

The first time sixty-year-old community leader Narayani Nanu Kolpara walked into a government office, her hands shook.

Traditionally marginalized tribal communities in Southern India continue to fight discrimination – and wide-spread alcoholism. Despite this, Kerala’s first female tribal leader, Narayani Nanu Kolpara, remains hopeful.

The first time sixty-year-old community leader Narayani Nanu Kolpara walked into a government office, her hands shook.

“I was terrified,” Narayani smiles. “There were so many rooms and so many people.”

…Narayani recalls that she was hardly able to sign the document a government official handed her. The color of her neat white sari and its red trim mark her out as a member of the Katunayaka, one of the many tribes of Southern India.

….Narayani, who grew up in a remote tribal community in the forest in Kerala’s mountainous Wayanad district, has also enjoyed a degree of political success. Her parents were day laborers, occasionally working for the local landowner. They would often venture into the forest to find roots, honey and wild fruits. “We were very poor,” she recalls. There was no school and no health facilities. There was not even a road to the next town.

….Instead, she attended another training course and learnt to read and write. She was put in charge of distributing government-subsidized rice and in 1989 was elected leader of the small community of some 30 families, followed as a stint in the panchayat, the smallest administrative unit in India. It made Narayani the first tribal leader in both her community and the region.

….Narayani spent her first months as tribal leader knocking on people’s doors, drinking their tea and persuading the community that they needed a school. With their consent, she went back to the government office to ask for the permission to build a kindergarten.

….The school, a tiny one-room hut, is surrounded by lush-banana leaves, built and maintained by the community with the support of a local NGO. Only the teacher’s salary is provided by the government. Children sit on colorful plastic chairs under bright posters of the Malayalam alphabet, eating their midday meal of rice and daal.

….and Narayani needs to take some documents to the government office there. She waves a last goodbye with her umbrella, then marches off, purposefully, towards the next village and her bus stop.

Author: Naomi Conrad, Kerala, Editor: Richard Connor

Read the full article in DWSouthern India’s ‘tribals’ take future into their own hands

Oommen Chandy is Congress’s 007 in Kerala, just following PM

K.P. Sasi, a film maker, cartoonist and a writer writes in his article titled When Spies Rule The World in Countercurrents.org:

…..Instead of an open apology for the communal witch hunt through e-mail spying, The Oommen Chandy Government is trying to get new victims from the minorities connecting them with the e-mail issue. The provocation against Advocate Shahnawas as being admitted by the authorities is that he played a role in bringing out the e-mail issue with Viju V. Nair in an attempt to communalise the issue. Anybody with the right frame of mind can understand who is playing the communal card. If Oommen Chandy wishes to maintain a secular image, immediate action has to be taken on those who are responsible for violating the privacy rights of his electorate and not action on those who are responsible for bringing out the story to the public.

….But the real debate should be on the next two responses of the Chief Minister: 1. That the surveillance was a `routine exercise’ and therefore, there is no need to make a hue and cry on this, 2. Madhyamam weekly is trying to communalise the issue. These are the real issues that must be debated in Kerala.

….The real shame for Kerala brought out by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is the statement that surveillance is a `routine exercise’. Here is a Chief Minister who has the guts to tell the civil society of Kerala that his Government along with his police machinery has a right to invade into the privacy of anybody on the pretext of national security.

….Out of 268 people whose e-mails have been surveiled, 258 people are Muslims. The question here is that in a state where only 26 per cent of the population are Muslims, why 95 percent of the surveilled are Muslims? Who is playing the communal card here? Is it Madhyamam weekly, Advocate Shahnawas or Oommen Chandi? The answer is obvious to any thinking citizen.

…..Nobody in the list of 268 people had any criminal records. It had many important people like teachers, professionals, businessmen, politician and more important: it included Muslim journalists in the mainstream media of Kerala, like Mathrubhumi, Madhyamam, Chandrika, Thejas, etc. For the full list of people under surveillance, click here.

…..The Chief Minister can express a sigh of relief due to one fact: That he is not the only spy. Even Manmohan Singh is trying to master this art of spying. 

Read the full article: When Spies Rule The World

TRP race in Media: No to Assam Tragedy, Yes to Arushi Murder!

“Empires begin to decay when the Palace Admin finds it difficult to govern far flung regions,” 

Abraham Kuruvilla tweeted on Tuesday.

We hope that Twitter user Abraham Kuruvilla’s worst fears don’t come true.

Anurag Kotoky writes in Reuters: 

On Monday, India’s remote northeastern state of Assam saw probably its biggest tragedy in recent memory, when an overloaded ferry carrying about 300 people sank in the Brahmaputra river, killing at least 103 people.

However, the bigger tragedy perhaps was the minimal coverage it got in the national media. Apart from The Hindu, which had the accident as its top story, none of the leading dailies in the country gave it much coverage beyond a mention on the front page.

Considering that the news first surfaced at around 6 p.m. on Monday, newspapers had ample time to give it more space if they so wished before they went to print, again putting the spotlight on the much-discussed question of whether the northeast is ignored by the national media.

“Has #Assam ferry tragedy been ignored on Twitter/ television? We’ll be RTing all responses,” the New York Times tweeted on Tuesday to a massive response.

What was even more interesting was to see prominent journalists posting tweets even as news channels kept speculating on a bail plea for a dentist accused of killing her daughter in New Delhi, and even more far-fetched speculations on India’s next president.

“Assam n northeast doesn’t mean anything to us! We r a nation obsessed with big cities n their celebs!” Twitter user Ambreen Zaidi wrote.

The recent tragedy is not an isolated instance. The same debate creeps up every time a major event happens in the remote northeast region, and the Indian media is accused of not giving it enough coverage.

Having said that, media organisations also base their coverage on the potential interest of their viewers and readers, and change their content according to what is expected to garner the most attention.

That says something about the majority viewers and readers in the country as well.

Indian Army’s modernisation ‘ON’:Defense Ministry says ‘YES’, Army & CAG say ‘NO’ !?!

Is the Indian Army’s modernisation on track? The army itself and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) do not think so, but the defence ministry is upbeat about the transformation process.

The ministry’s annual report, a document of yearly achievements, waxes eloquence on the armoured corps’ rapid modernisation, the mechanised infantry’s ambitious march towards upgradation, schemes for buying new artillery and the air defence arm’s major strides in upgrading its gun and missile systems.

This is in sharp contrast to observations made by army chief Gen. V.K. Singh in his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and remarks made by the CAG in December last year.

Gen. Singh’s letter, leaked to the press, claimed the state of major fighting arms like the mechanised forces, artillery, air defence, infantry and the Special Forces as well as the engineers and signals was alarming. It talked about large-scale voids in critical surveillance and night-fighting capabilities. The army chief termed the hollowness in the system as a ‘manifestation of the procedures and processing time for procurements as well as legal impediments posed by vendors’.

The alarm raised by Gen. Singh was earlier sounded by the CAG in December. The report had particularly focused on the induction of artillery guns.

‘Failure of the ministry of defence and the army in defining the requirement of specific gun systems had deprived its artillery, for over a decade, of guns of latest technology, which are in service world over,’ the CAG noted, adding that existing guns of 1970 vintage had not only impacted the army’s operational preparedness but also resulted in substantial cost overruns.

This huge gap in perception is at the centre of an acrimonious debate between the army and the defence ministry over the army’s battle-preparedness. While the ministry seems to be in denial mode, the army wants to correct the perspective.

The ministry’s annual report says a contract for armoured recovery vehicles has been concluded and schemes to acquire digital control harness and state-of-the-art fire control systems for T-72 tanks are on fast track.

Modernisation plans for the T-90 and Arjun tanks are also proceeding as per plan, the report claims. It outlines a number of procurement schemes that are in an advanced stage.

For the armoured regiments, this includes establishment of repair facilities for T-90 tanks, procurement of AMK 339 shells and 3UBK 20 Invar missiles. In artillery, one of the biggest areas of concern, the ministry claims the focus has been on enhancing surveillance and firepower capabilities.

For surveillance, acquisition plans for battlefield surveillance system and mobile telescopic mast for longrange reconnaissance and observation system (LORROS) were concluded last year and procurement of Heron UAVs and weapon-locating radars is in an advanced stage, the report says.

For firepower, procurement of the multiple-rocket launcher Pinaka is in an advanced stage and plans for buying 155mm self-propelled gun (wheeled) and 155mm ultra-light howitzers are progressing well.

But the truth is unlike the air force and the navy, whose modernisation plans have largely been on track, the army has not been able to keep pace.

The issue has been discussed at various forums but it caught national attention only when the army chief’s letter to the prime minister was leaked. Within days, defence minister A.K. Antony called a meeting of senior officers to speed up procurement, indicating that he had finally stepped on the accelerator.