Tuesday, September 16, 2008

In this season of serial blasts, it's time for some serial dressing

Read more on the serial dresser that our home minister Shivraj Patil is. Apparently, the day of the blasts in Delhi, he changed his suits not once, not twice but thrice!

Meet Mr Shivraj Clueless Patil

Image from Daylife.com

I am tired of seeing a rather nattily dressed home minister tour blast sites. Saturday was no different, as Shivraj Patil turned out in his best sherwani obviously after the NSG commandos had sanitised the sites. It was as if he had turned out for a geriatric fashion parade and not for a damage control operation.

But what really got my goat was his declaration that he had prior information that blasts were planned in Delhi. And, in his own words, he had this information even before Narendra Modi let the centre know about it. Patil's defence is that the intelligence was not "actionable". That he had no clue about the timing, the place or the method of the blasts planned. I gawked as I heard him say this on national television.

In other words, our internal intelligence and security chief and service need to be told when, where and how are blasts planned to prevent them. The next time the Indian Mujahideen may as well leave a bomb outside Patil's residence with simple how-to-defuse instructions for him to follow. He may finally take credit for having averted a major blast!

I am tired of feeling helpless as each time the IM thumbs its nose at us and the state.

Watch the video here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Should the media be held guilty of abetting suicide?

While scientists readied themselves to fire up a never-before experiment to understand the origin of the universe, news channels in India (and presumably elsewhere too) hit a never-before low as they went on an overdrive "reporting" that the end of the world was near. Consequence: a 16-year-old girl near Bhopal killed herself anticipating doomsday.

Biharilal, the girl's father, insisted that Chayya (from Asharita near Indore) had consumed sulphos, an insecticide, after spending hours watching TV programmes on the proton-collision experiment. She was terrfied of reports that the experiment was set to cause mahapralay. The girl had persistently asked him if the end of the world was indeed imminent because of the experiment at CERN on the border of France and Switzerland. His dismissal was not comforting enough. This apocalyptic fear was first expressed by sceptics who predicted that the experiment would create an artificial "black hole" that would suck in the earth.

For whatever it's worth, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has served notices to Aaj Tak and India TV for their reporting on the CERN experiment.

Chayya's death obviously reasserts the immense power channels and newspapers today command. However, more importantly it also poses several questions about how that power needs to be used. The channels, where it is always a struggle to find content and sustain oneself 24/7, gleefully jumped at the first thought of reporting on mahapralay. It was easy fodder for starved, lazy, unimaginative and irresponsible journalists.

Did the channels deliberately play up the fear of doomsday to grab a larger audience? A fear, which, at best, was a freak possiblity. And even if it deserved being talked about, did the channels bother to show scientists who were rebutting that lunatic claim? My fear is no. It's not just television channels. Even papers and websites played up the doomsday element with relish. Sample, for instance, this from Rediff: A Wednesday. Will the world survive it?

Thye girl's death must not go in vain. It has to lead us to establish a functional and effective media regulatory body. If journalists smart at the thought of being controlled by the government, they must offer an alternative that checks the plummeting standards of journalism in India; Arushi and the CERN incident being just two shining and recent examples.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Here's why I despise Mahatma Gandhi...

For all the non-violence and compassion he embodied, it's disgustingly shocking to find that Mahatma Gandhi actually had called for "legislation making every stray dog liable to be shot". Yes, that's right! This information comes from a review of Bibek Debroy's book "Sarama and her children: The dog in the Indian myth" in India Today

That the man, revered unfailingly as our father of the nation and so central to the country's identity, has been uncovered as someone so cruel is disconcerting. Which brings me to this question: Are there many other failings of Mohandas Gandhi that have been deliberately brushed under the carpet? It's akin to discovering that Mother Teresa had for all homosexuals to be burnt at the stake! (This bit is made up.)

And what would Munna Bhai make of this? All I can say, to hell with Gandhigiri.