‘tarikh pe tarikh’..Is it that difficult to disagree with the Supreme Court or its judgement?

Karnataka steelmakers as SC adjourns case, again for the 13th time !!

And this is what I want to ask today. Is it wrong to disagree with the Supreme Court in India? Why is it that disagreeing with a SC order or the way its proceedings are held, in a specific case or in general, are taken as a contempt of the judiciary in India? Also, the demons of ‘contempt of court’ if we say anything against the court or its order, has to be taken out. Else, we are not free.

March 30 was a regular day in the Supreme Court of India with many cases heard and many deferred. One of the cases was of the steel-makers in Karnataka crying for iron ore supply in order to sustain steel production. On that day, the Supreme Court of India adjourned the hearing of the iron ore mining case for the 13th time.

Out of the 27 times that the case was listed in the Supreme Court, the hearing has been deferred 13 times. Means nearly every second hearing was deferred/adjourned or whatever legal jargon you want to give. (PS: Dear Supreme Court, I am in complete knowledge of your guidelines for court reporters and let me assure you that I am not a court reporter).

Out of these 13 adjournments, five have happened consecutively since February 24, the latest one being the one on March 30. On March 16, the hearing was adjourned as one of the judges wasn’t available and March 23 hearing was adjourned because the CEC panel failed to submit its report to the SC bench.  The Supreme Court, in a notice on its website on March 14, said,

“Due to non-availability of Honourable Mr Justice Aftab Alam for hearing forest bench matters, special bench comprising of Honourable The Chief Justice, Honourable Mr Justice Aftab Alam and Honourable Mr Justice Swatanter Kumar for hearing the matter will not sit on Friday, the 16 March 2012.”

This case is a matter of national importance and the stakes are high. And even though nearly half of the scheduled hearings getting cancelled due to one reason or the other, companies/stakeholders/everyone who is affected by this, are keeping their mouth shut fearing a showdown by the SC. The companies are silent. They are scared that whatever they may say will be taken against them by the SC.

So, is it that even the SC, the guardian of citizens’ rights in this country doesn’t tolerate freedom of expression/speech even when its done keeping in mind all the clauses of the constitution? Is it that difficult to disagree with the Supreme Court or its judgement?

The steel industry in Karnataka is again staring at a near shut down situation because of these delays. Steel-makers say that the CEC, in its report to the SC, recommended category ‘A’ mines to function as no illegalities were found there. ” All we are asking the SC to consider this recommendation as soon as possible so that the steel production can carry on,” they say.

So, I ask the question again. Till when are we going to stick our heads in the sand and ignore the stark realities that face us? The argument that Indian courts are over-worked with millions of cases pending, is valid. But, such cases where the future of our economic development depends, can’t be left to such frequent adjournments.

Currently, with no solution in sight, only a “few” months iron ore supplies are left in the state. Over half of the sponge iron makers in Karnataka have already drawn shutters and rest are bleeding money profusely in the hope of a judgement. The mega steel plants in the state, too, are slowly cutting production. The total steel capacity in Karnataka is 16 million tonne, of that 3 million tonne is sponge iron. Most of this sponge iron production has been shut down and steel plants are running at low capacities.

(courtesy: BlogAdda & A Day In My Life)

“Sparshdnyan” changing the lives of blind students

Parimala Bhat reads Sparshdnyan, one of the world’s few newspapers to cater to the visually impaired.

Parimala Bhat reads Sparshdnyan, one of the world’s few newspapers to cater to the visually impaired.

From delicious billion-dollar scandals to uplifting tales of the human condition and narratives about the country’s economic progress, India boasts a bountiful supply of compelling stories.

Parimala Bhat wants to know about all of them. But the 52-year-old Mumbai resident is blind and for years she had to rely on TV news channels to satisfy her craving for news.

No more.

For the past several years, Bhat has subscribed to Sparshdnyan, a local newspaper that has carved itself an unusual niche in India’s surging media industry: the paper, whose name translates to “knowledge by touch” is written in Braille, making it one of the world’s few newspapers to cater to the visually impaired.

“You know how satisfying it is to sit and just read,” says Bhat, a healthcare worker with Air India. “It’s the same for the blind. The TV and radio are fine, but I love being able to save my paper for the night-time when I’m by myself and get involved in a story. It’s a different sense reading the paper instead of listening to news. It’s just incredibly satisfying.”

Published twice a month, Sparshdnyan is sent to about 400 subscribers in Maharashtra. While its circulation may be modest, readership is growing fast. Most issues are sent to institutes for the blind, where each copy is read by an estimated 60 people. The paper’s readership is estimated at about 24,000, says editor Swagat Thorat.

Four-year-old Sparshdnyan would seem to be a notable success story in India’s vibrant media sector. A team of local journalists volunteer their time to write for the paper, which averages about 48 pages per issue, and readers and government officials alike praise its coverage of local politics and social issues, Thorat says.

“We get about 600 to 700 letters to the editor every month,” says the 50-year-old. “We have readers from ten-years-old to 80 but I think more than half, probably 60%, are between 18 and 35.”

Thorat isn’t the first news editor who has recognised there’s a market for the visually impaired.

For Thorat, it all started in 1997 when he directed a play “Swatantryachi Yashogatha” (Glorious story of independence) which created a world record, with 88 blind artists from two blind schools in Pune, on the background of golden anniversary of Independence Day. This play was entered in ‘Guinness Book of World Records’ and ‘Limca Book of Records’.

Thorat reminisces, “While doing the show, I travelled with these kids and observed that their discussions revolved around things that they had read. Back in 1998, there were very few Braille books available. Now, the number has gone up. But I realized that these kids wanted to read more. There was a need…”

 Sparshdnyan’s news slant is eclectic. A recent issue featured the review of an autobiography by a local college professor who is blind, an editorial on corruption, an issue that has dominated headlines across newspapers this summer, and a feature story about doctors who overmedicate.

There was also a section giving advice about public speaking, a travel story on the Maharashtra district of Raigad, where tourists flock to hiking trails 1,000 metres above sea level, a recipe for keema pulao, and a general knowledge quiz. Sparshdnyan chooses to give a miss to a few key news areas that are an integral part of mainstream newspapers.

Why a unique newspaper ‘sparshdnyan’ isn’t covering the IPL !!!

Crime and cricket are left out! 

Thorats says:

“The paper we use is so expensive that I want to be judicious of what gets printed on it and quality has been our prime concern. Cricket is all over the broadcast media. As for crime stories, they affect even the sighted. So imagine the impact it will have on the blind, many of whom do battle depression,” .

“Sparshdnyan leaves no stone unturned in inspiring our readers to scale new heights. Most of the content in the paper revolves around social issues, international affairs, inspiring biographies and education and career options” . Our ideology is clear. We want to acquaint our readers to current issues around them. We don’t want to discuss or debate only issues that affect the visually handicapped. Sparshdnyan carries content that you and I like to read in our morning paper. We cover subjects such as health, politics, music, films, theatre, literature and food, including recipes, the 40-46 odd pages.”

For three years, the advertising company that has worked with Thorat has failed to sell a single ad in his paper. It begs the question, why hasn’t he sacked his partner and found someone else to broker deals with local advertisers.

“I still want a future with them and hope they can turn it around but I am starting to think about getting someone new,” says Thorat, who refuses to identify the company that’s said to be searching for ads for Sparshdnyan.

Sparshdnyan is distributed among 400 subscribers in India’s western Maharashtra state. Most of these issues are sent to institutes for the blind, where each copy is read by an estimated 60 people, putting the unofficial readership at around 24.000.

The project is costly and Thorat has little money to fund the endeavour. To raise support from his seeing peers, he develops documentary films about India’s wildlife.

“Our subscribers re-circulate the issues to others” mentions Swagat. “When people know you’re doing something good, they help, hence I approached all my acquaintances and well-wishers with a special scheme. He further adds “If they paid an annual fee of Rs 1200 (revised from Rs 960 due to increase in paper cost), a copy of the fortnightly magazine would be presented to a blind person.”

Thorat, who also produces documentary films about India’s wildlife, says he covers his Rs 30,000 administrative costs by selling wildlife photos and films. A group of supporters pay the monthly bill of Rs 30,000 for paper. Since the paper is written in Braille, postage is free.

“It’s important that this newspaper be published,” says Suchita Shaha, a Mumbai psychologist who has raised Rs 50,000 from friends and neighbours to help cover Thorat’s expenses. “It’s not like it is in the West. There are no facilities here in India for the blind, no seeing-eye dogs. We need to do more to help.”

Despite his difficulties attracting advertisers, Thorat says he believes that there’s a demand for more Braille newspaper coverage. An estimated 10 million Indians are visually impaired and within a year, Thorat plans to launch a daily title.

“It will require about Rs 400,000 and this time I’ll be running it as a proper business investment only,” he says.

One reason he’s optimistic about a daily is that government policy in Maharashtra prevents public-sector advertising in publications that don’t publish at least weekly. A daily Braille newspaper, Thorat says, would draw ads for various employment schemes and other government programs.

“I still think private companies will come around,” Thorat says. “Right now, the blind in India just aren’t being looked at as consumers. Companies don’t realise that they still buy hair oil and toothpaste and cellphones.”

Sitting next to a roadside tea stall where local men sipped on steaming masala tea, despite the oppressive Mumbai summer heat and humidity, Bhat, the Air India official, says she’s come to love her bi-weekly newspaper fix.

“It seems like I start saying ‘is it here yet’ on the first day of every month until it finally comes,” Bhat says with a gleeful laugh.

Thorat who is striving to make a difference feels that Government is not doing enough to cater to the needs of blind! “Social organizations are doing much more for the physically challenged than the government” says Thorat.

Sparshdnyan has come all this way without any grants from the government or donations. Swagat confides “I dream of a day when blind individuals will get their own daily. I hope some media house starts it, but if they don’t I will start the daily on my own in a few years”. He further adds “I am trying to get public libraries at the district level to start Braille sections”

“What typically happens is that due to lack of access to Braille books beyond their textbooks, blind students lose touch with reading once they graduate,” says Thorat. “True, they can have a few books read to them, but that’s not reading, it’s listening! Reading and listening are two different functions. When you read, it has a deeper impact on your personality. It enhances your language which listening can’t” specifies Thorat!

This is why till date there has been no alternative to Braille the world over!

For more donations and other details contact

Shilpa Redij : (Advertisement & Circulation Officer) Phone : 08097069805 / 022-24792287
Sparshdnyan, Yashogatha, Shop no. A – 11 & 25, Greenfields, Opp. Shahid Salaskar Garden,
Jogeshwari -Vikroli Link Road, Andheri (E), Mumbai – 400093. sparshdnyan@gmail.com

58-year-old ‘Vijaya Vani’ challenged by the ‘Old Lady Of Bori Bunder !!

BCCL sues VRL Chief Vijay Sankeshwar over use of newspaper title Vijaya

Bennett, Coleman & Co Ltd ( BCCL), publishers of India‘s largest selling English newspaper – The Times of India, is moving to stem competition in the Kannada newspaper market which commands advertising revenues of Rs 500 crore.

The media giant has moved court against businessman and former newspaper baron Vijay Sankeshwar, who is attempting to return to the business five years after he sold India’s second-largest Kannada daily to BCCL.

ACHIEVEMENT: Governor Rameshwar Thakur (right) presenting the Sir M. Visvesvaraya Award to Vijay Sankeshwar of VRL Group of Companies at the FKCCI founder’s day celebrations in Bangalore . Union Minister of State for Planning M.V. Rajasekharan is seen.

Sankeshwar on Sunday re-launched a 58-year-old title, Vijaya Vani. He owned Vijaya Karnataka before selling out to BCCL. It is now staging a comeback in to the Kannada newspaper space, after the five-year no-compete clause came to an end in March this year.

His newspaper, Vijaya Vani, has three editions in Bangalore, Mangalore and Hubli. It will be expanded to seven more locations in the next two months with an initial investment of Rs 125 crore.

“The title and the newspaper Vijaya Vani has been in existence since 1954 in Tumkur district of Karnataka as a district tabloid. We acquired the title during July 2011 and re-launched it as a broad-sheet with multi-editions across Karnataka on April 1, 2012. If the Times Group did not have objections to the title for the past so many years, it is surprising that they have objections now all of a sudden. The word Vijaya is a common name and no-one can own it. The case against us cannot sustain. “There are few other newspapers in Karnataka with the titles Praja Vani, Samyukta Karnataka and Udaya Vani which has some overlap with our and the BCCL title, but we co-exist,”

said Sankeshwar.

Vijay Sankeshwar also owns VRL Logistics, which has a topline of Rs 1,000 crore, is India’s largest operator of cargo trucks and among the top fleet owners of passenger buses plying between cities and towns. It is estimated that VRL Logistics owns a fleet of over 2,000 vehicles.

The Kannada newspaper market includes Praja Vani owned by ‘The Printers (Mysore) Ltd’ who also publish English daily Deccan Herald, the second largest English daily in Karnataka. The advertising revenues of the Kannada newspaper market is around Rs 500 crore and all the Kannada dailies put together sell around two million copies daily.

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.

After RIL, now ABG, M&M & RPS Goenka onto India Today

Big business is eyeing the media space once again. Just four months after Reliance Industries invested in the Network 18 group in a multi-layered deal, leading business houses, including the Aditya Birla Group, are looking at acquiring 26 per cent stake in the Aroon Purie-controlled Living Media India.The other names doing the rounds for picking a stake in Living Media are Mahindra & Mahindra and the Kolkata-based RP-Sanjiv Goenka group. However, Aditya Birla Group seems to be the front runner for the deal.

Purie’s publishing empire, which is controlled through Living Media, also includes Business Today and a clutch of licensed magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, Men’s Health, Harper’s Bazaar, Travel Plus and Harvard Business Review, among others. Living Media acts as a holding company and owns 57.1 per cent in TV Today Network, the listed company that owns the group’s broadcasting assets, besides publishing a host of magazines that include the flagship India Today. TV Today has four news channels — Headlines Today, Aaj Tak, Tez and Delhi Aaj Tak — and radio stations under the brand Oye FM. Living Media also has a joint venture with German media house, Axel Springer AG, for an auto magazine and an online shopping portal — Bag it today. It also has an alliance with the UK-based Daily Mail for the daily tabloid Mail Today. It straddles print media, television and the radio business apart from running the country’s most modern printing press, Thomson Press, in the outskirts of Delhi.

read full story: http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/big-business-houses-eye-stake-in-living-media-/470743/