New Editor takes charge of The Herald, oldest English Catholic weekly in India

 C.M. Paul, KOLKATA

Fr Julian Das

The archbishop of Calcutta, Rev Thomas D’Souza has appointed the director of Chitrabani Jesuit Communication centre in Kolkata, Fr Julian Das as editor of The Herald from 1st July 2012. Besides continuing his present office, Fr Das will also edit the oldest English language Catholic weekly in India established in 1839.

“I am soon planning to send soft copies of The Herald in PDF file version soon, so that you do not need to wait so long for the post version. Besides I am starting this week The Herald Blog to post important articles and reports. The blog link is: http://calcuttaherald.wordpress.com. I am yet to populate the blog. Will do it tomorrow (3rd July) the solemnity of St Thomas the apostle, patron of India.

Fr Das succeeds Fr. B. L. Mathai, a priest of the archdiocese of Calcutta who proceeds for higher studies in media at the National Institute of Social Communication, Research and Training in the National Capital Region, Delhi. NISCORT is a national venture of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India.

The Herald is owned by the archdiocese of Calcutta and is a published under the banner of Catholic Publications West Bengal. (courtesy: NewsGrab & C M Paul)

Shekhar Gupta should be “more tolerant about what was written and drawn about them”

Aakar Patel, a director of Hill Road Media & a former newspaper editor, having worked with the Bhaskar Group and Mid Day Multimedia Ltd. writes in his column titled ‘Why Shekhar Gupta is right to be angry, but wrong to sue’ in Firstpost:

My friend Shekhar Gupta, editor-in-chief of Indian Express wants Rs 100 crore from another editor-in-chief, Outlook’s Vinod Mehta.

Gupta claims he was defamed by Mehta, who said in an interview to Open magazine that an Express report published earlier this year was “the mother of all mistakes” and specifically written to damage India’s army chief VK Singh. This is the background to Vinod Mehta’s comments.

The report carried Gupta’s own byline, which was unusual. It claimed the Indian government was “spooked” when it learnt on 16 January that certain army units were moving towards Delhi on the same night as the Supreme Court was hearing a petition by the army chief on his age.

….But this was brushed off and the Indian Express was attacked as being irresponsible. I don’t think that charge is true, and I rate the Express under Gupta as one of India’s three best newspapers.

….What puzzles me is why he is also suing the magazine which carried Vinod Mehta’s interview. There a reporter and editor did their job fairly and accurately. The reporter Hartosh Singh Bal doesn’t egg Mehta on, he is balanced and questions whether it’s fair to say what he does.

Also, quite funnily, Gupta sent his legal notice in the same week his newspaper lectured parliamentarians on being more tolerant about what was written and drawn about them.

I think Gupta was hurt by the collective accusation against him and his paper and reacted angrily to Mehta’s comments, which I accept were unfair and extreme.

I hope Gupta takes no further action on the notice and does what he excels at: editing India’s only reporter-run newspaper.

Read the full column: ‘Why Shekhar Gupta is right to be angry, but wrong to sue’ in Firstpost

Delhi men are flirts !!!

She is full of life, energy and most importantly always smiling. Remember the girl with red streaked hair in Jaane Tu…Ya Jaane Na? Meet Sugandha Garg, the next ‘it-girl’ on the block! The ‘spontaneous’ actor was recently in Delhi for her show It happens only in India, which showcases some of the most amazing and quirky stories from across the country. 

Last seen on a television show, What’s with Indian Men Sugandha says, “Indian men are really close to their moms, they are ‘momma’s boys’. But, they take real care of their women. On the other hand, they are really confused about the concept of the ‘modern’ woman.” Ask her about the men in Delhi, she laughs and says, “Men in Delhi are slightly aggressive, they are possessive and even flirt.”

Gul Panag, former Miss India and Bollywood Actress, complained about eve teasing in Delhi on Twitter, a social networking website. According to Gul Panang’s tweet : “Delhi men won’t let go of any opportunity to touch women.” After reading this tweet post many inhabitants of Delhi felt offensive. According to them just because of the misdeeds of one or two people, we can not blame the whole city.
However, Gul Panag was defensive and later said that she has full right to generalize the statement as it is not about a celebrity but about every women in Delhi. She strongly felt that women of Delhi would agree to her experience. Apart from Gul Panag, few other bollywood celebrities are of the same opinion. In an interview with Hindustan Times, Minnssha Lamba, actor and model said ” Men are same every where .. their behavior depends on their social conditioning” Sophie Choudry, a singer, also said “The average Delhi Guy still has a slightly regressive attitude towards women.”

India’s 70 year old “Guinness Rishi (monk)”

Guinness Rishi epitomizes India‘s obsession with breaking Guinness records. Officially, he has seven nods — and unofficially, many more, he says.

As a candidate in last month’s Delhi municipal elections, Guinness Rishi didn’t do any campaigning. In fact, he thinks the 30 votes he got were 30 too many. He suspects his wife voted for him out of spite.

Rishi’s real goal was to garner zero votes and become the world’s most-losing politician, complementing the seven Guinness World Records certificates on his wall. There should be 22, the self-described record maniac grumbles, but Guinness has it in for him.

Few epitomize the stretch for stardom in India more than the 70-year-old Rishi, who changed his name from Har Prakash to Guinness in case anyone had doubts about his obsession.

Up a steep flight of narrow, paint-splattered stairs, past a hairball of exposed wires and a groaning clothesline, his “election center” bedroom is jammed with old newspapers, dusty trophies and a flat-screen television blaring news in Hindi. A small bit of peach fuzz partially obscures the flag tattoos covering his skull.

Rishi caught the bug while traversing India as a salesman in the 1980s, he said, eventually clocking so many miles on his moped that local reporters picked up the story. Elevated above the humdrum by the attention, he became addicted to the bright lights — he offers up his own klieg light if you want to photograph him — and set out on his records quest.

“I’m not tall enough, I’m not the best dressed, I don’t wear the biggest turban to stand out in a crowd of millions,” he said. “To be different and get recognized, I have little choice but to keep trying to break records, or else I’ll be forgotten.”

His records include most continuous time riding a motor scooter (1,001 hours with two accomplices); producer of the world’s smallest Koran, even though he’s Hindu; fastest consumption of ketchup, though he said, “I hate ketchup”; and most flag tattoos on his body (officially 220, although he’s added 146 since then), including several across his forehead, cheeks, chin.

That last record has created a few issues at home.

“My son and wife are very angry, embarrassed walking with me on the road,” he said. “People call me a joker, a cartoon, mad.”

Those looking to break a record or create one can submit, without charge, a request and documentation on Guinness’ website, where processing can sometimes take several months. Alternatively, applicants can get a fast-track decision in a few days for $750, or for $6,500 have an official Guinness judge to witness the effort.

Rishi alleges that in several cases Guinness ended a category after he submitted information, or declined to issue a certificate while he held a record. “That’s incorrect information,” said Nikhil Shukla, the new Guinness representative in India. “Absolutely no.”

Having lost his candidacy, but not by enough, Rishi is considering running an even less effective campaign next time. One problem, he said, was that neighbors started threatening to vote for him if he didn’t give them whiskey. “I couldn’t afford all those bottles,” he said.

As he prepares to say goodbye, Rishi outlines his latest idea: to persuade Ripley’s Believe It or Not to embalm his body after his death, Chairman Mao-style, allowing people from around the world to see his tattoos, bringing great happiness to children.

“He’s crazy,” his wife, Bimla, says from the next room, near a pile of dusty magazines. “I would never vote for him; look at all this garbage in here. Why don’t you take some of this stuff with you?”

Although every country has its share of glory seekers, India has really taken to this particular form of chest thumping. Guinness says applications from India are up 178% over the last five years, making it the world’s third-most active nation of wannabes, after the U.S. and Britain, with actual records up almost fourfold. Guinness has just appointed a Mumbai-based representative to manage the crowds of record seekers, with plans to open a full office next year.

Among recent Indian records: most consecutive yoga positions on a motorcycle (23), most Mohandas Gandhi look-alikes photographed (485), most earthworms swallowed (200), longest ear hair (7 inches).

“Everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame,” said Tharaileth Koshy Oommen, a sociologist at New Delhi’s Schumacher Center for Development, a civic group. “People feel once they have world-level recognition, they’ll get more recognition back home. It’s a kind of anxiety.” (courtesy: Mark Magnier, Los Angeles Times & Tanvi Sharma in The Times’ New Delhi bureau.)

Mopa (Goa) airport is a scam to eliminate Goa – Late Tourism Minister Mathany Saldanha

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate from Cortalim (Goa) Alina Saldanha, wife of Former Tourism Minister of Goa Late Matanhy Saldanha,  has publicly categorically stated that her late husband
Matanhy was not for or against Mopa Airport.

Former Tourism Minister of Goa Late Matanhy Saldanha wrote in 2008 :

It is now very clear why many politicians and vested interest want the Mopa
airport. Many who are demanding for Mopa airport are ignorant or pretend to
be ignorant, that Goa is going to lose its identity since the builders are
going to build only for migrants from other states. Imagine how much land
is already sold to fly by night vested interest in Pernem alone. Similar is
the case throughout Goa. Read the below report: (Gomantak Times, 30th
August, 2008)

Hill cutting after purchasing land at cheap rates by non Goan builders is
rampant in Pernem taluka. Presently, hill locks in Mandrem, Chopdem and
Korgao are flattened and if this continues there is every possibility of
permanent damage to the forest covering in the taluka.
According to information available, builders brought large tracks of
thickly vegetated land in Pernem during the period from April 2006 and June
2008.
This includes 8.16 lakh sq mts of area by Mangala Realtors Pvt Ltd, Vasco
in Alorna, 4.61 lakh sq mts by J M Township, 4.38 sq mts by M/s Christian
Farm Land (India) Pvt Ltd from Bangalore, 3.05 lakh sq mts by M/s N E
Electronics Ltd, Guwahati- Assam, 2.5 lakh sq mts by Leading Hotels Pvt
Ltd, Delhi, 2.57 lakh sq mts by M/s Wide Properties, Panaji, 2.44 lakh sq
mts by Beside Realty Pvt Lmt, Mumbai and two plots of 2.27 lakh  and 2.13
lakh sq mts by Enterprises Value Investment (India) Pvt Ltd company,
Mumbai.
Similarly Amrapali Realtor, Delhi (25,587 sq mts), Padmashil Fine West Pvt.
Ltd, Parel (15,980 sq. mts), Messers Rajan Hatiskar, Thane, Maharastra
(108, 842 sq. mts), Pushpalata Samant, Dadar Mumbai (1.1 lakh sq. mts) and
M/s Prasanna Developers (1.16 lakh sq. mts) have also brought land during
this period. Residents fear, the forest areas may completely vanish, due to
the proposed Mopa airport, tourism business and other demand for land in
Pernem taluka.
Goa is already saturated. With further profit ridden development, by
builders, real estate agents and some unscrupulous elected representatives,
Goa soon will make all Goans not only a minority, but strangers in their
own land. Do we want this?
Demand for Special Status, to stop sale and transfer of land to
individuals, companies from other states.
Goans and all others who love Goa, irrespective of religion, caste, region
or political affiliations, UNITE to stop Goa from being eliminated.

S/d
Matanhy Saldanha
(Former Tourism Minister)

Bofors source revealed by The Hindu Editor N.Ram?

N. Ram, a former editor-in-chief of The Hindu, whose efforts in exposing high-level corruption in the Bofors deal in 1989 were recently recognized by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, seems to have indirectly revealed his source after 25 years. In an interview given to the livemint.com, he doesn’t deny or confirm whether Sten Lindstrom, was the man who he termed as ‘highly privileged & authoritative Swedish’ source, who released the Bofors Deal documents. N. Ram said:

I am not going to confirm or deny who the source was. For us, protecting the highly privileged, authoritative source was, and is, important, a matter of journalistic integrity and honour. Nobody other than the few who needed to know within the newspaper ever asked me who the source was— not Mohan Katre, the CBI director who flew in to meet me in Chennai, not defence minister K.C. Pant, who met me and spoke off the record, not Rajiv Gandhi, who discussed Bofors with me, at his request, in mid-1988.

But I’m sure the Indian government and some of the others involved in the affair had their suspicions, from the nature and irrefutable authenticity of the documents published by The Hindu. We always made it clear that the documents were given to us by a privileged, authoritative source in Sweden; and that formulation was in agreement with the source. I can’t answer to purported rumours that “did the rounds in Delhi’s political circles” a quarter of a century ago. I never heard them at the time but if the rumours indeed went around, they didn’t emanate from us.

To another question whether he and Lindstrom have a disagreement about when the stories would be published, he said (as if Lindstrom was his source): 

Not once during the period of the investigation did our source have or express any disagreement about the timing of publication of our document-backed Bofors stories. In fact, the boot is on the other foot. Our privileged source in Sweden was not willing to give the entire documentation in possession to us. So it was a process of negotiating over a period of about one and a half years with the source. The source was, for whatever reason, not willing to part with the document cache in one go, and would only give it in phased-out instalments over this long period. This certainly added to the drama and the feeling of high insecurity, if not paranoia, that had seized key functionaries in the government and the ruling party, the Congress.

There was no question of the newspaper publishing the documents and other information arbitrarily, as and when we pleased. We were not fools to hold back material without due cause and incur the risk of letting others run away with our story! In a story with such big stakes, involving a great newspaper’s credibility and people’s reputations, there was a need for due diligence, for devil’s advocacy, for making connections and drawing inferences, for being fair and just. We needed to translate—accurately—some of the material from Swedish. As for the Ardbo diary—which the police had seized and returned to him, preserving only photocopies—it presented a tough challenge.

Some of the handwritten diary entries made explosive suggestions but these were semi-coded, using initials and sometimes misspelling key names. What I can say about our source, for whom I have nothing but warm appreciation and goodwill, is that the motivation for leaking the highly confidential, privileged documents was moral outrage, that no financial transactions of any kind took place between leaker and recipient, and that the source took a big professional and legal risk. We were always aware of this risk and were consequently highly protective of the source’s identity. We left no fingerprints and our data security methods, I’m pleased to say, worked without a hitch. No one outside our newspaper and our trusted translators (from the Swedish) got their hands on any of the documents before they appeared in print in The Hindu.

One thing though is contrary to what N. Ram told the interviewer (“We were not fools to hold back material without due cause and incur the risk of letting others run away with our story! “) and a reader point out very rightly with a question too,  is :

When Kasturi, as editor held back one story on the ground there was nothing new in it, Ram gave it to all other newspapers. And as he himself admits, the Hindu stopped the expose in October 1989, that is after Rajiv lost power and V P Singh Government assumed office. Now it was up to the new government to carry on the investigation, he contended. Then, wasn’t the expose agenda driven? 

Read the full interview by Nikhil Kanekal : http://www.livemint.com/2012/04/25231225/N-Ram–Rumours-didn8217t.html

‘National’ govt & media sinks into obsolescence

This sentence has no meaning: “Tea to be declared Indian national drink.”

But that was the headline this week in several newspapers that reported on a proposal of the deputy chairman of the Planning Commission of India, a government body that plans things. What will happen after tea is declared the national drink? Nothing much, of course. But once word got out, an influential cooperative society of milk producers said that milk, and not tea, should be declared the Indian national drink.

Manu Joseph, Editor of  Open and author of the novel “Serious Men” writes in The New York Times: 

‘National’ Loses Power as an Idea in India

It is odd that this fuss has arrived at a time when the very idea of “national” is becoming irrelevant in India, especially in matters far more serious than tribute to tea. The political supremacy of New Delhi and the central government is being challenged by state governments and other regional forces.

..It is not just in politics that the power of the national has diminished. The news media are increasingly forced to become regional. Most of India’s English-language newspapers consider themselves national publications. But they are not so in spirit. They have multiple editions, and on most days local reports overshadow national news…

..Accustomed to decades of concentration of power, Delhi’s elite is a well-run confederation of cozy cartels containing politicians, bureaucrats, merchants, middlemen, journalists, novelists and people whose day jobs cannot be easily described. They take care of their own. That is how they guard their mediocrity…

..As the idea of “national” sinks into obsolescence, it will one day liberate the rest of India from the hold of Delhi. In a way, that has already begun to happen…

(Read full column : http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/26/world/asia/26iht-letter26.html?_r=1