The Indian blogosphere and the Indian media

Since they didn’t find Bush or bin Laden newsworthy enough to put on their year-end cover, Time magazine decided to name “You” the person of the year. “You” is anyone using Web 2.0 technologies – web platforms that allow for ordinary individuals to be both creators and consumers of media, thus empowering anyone and everyone. The Indian media jumped on this bandwagon, including “You” in a number of their own year-end lists. This could have been an opportunity to look into issues such as the digital divide, Jurassic-era e-governance in the time of Web 2.0, or even what Web 3.0 would entail. But the overarching concern in the mainstream papers and online was that “bloggers can write anything they want without fear of law”. Also ubiquitous were reminders of cases such as that of the social networking site Orkut, which has been getting in trouble for its ‘Dawood Ibrahim fan club’.

Some of this bitterness against new media, especially on news channels, perhaps came from the experience of being at the receiving end of unflattering if not sometimes slanderous comments on a blog called War for News. This blog is almost dead now, as the journalist who runs it is rumoured to have been found out and threatened into a retreat. War for News would pronounce regular judgements on the coverage of events on TV news and make comments about the capabilities of a reporter or the pronunciation of an anchor that were not taken kindly. What was worse, the blog would refuse to censor objectionable anonymous comments on its posts that often had to do with who was sleeping with whom. The blog claimed to be committed to free speech, but it left a bad taste in the mouths of those at the receiving end. Continue reading The Indian blogosphere and the Indian media

Spectre of sameness

I always find it slightly odd that those among us who read and write for newspapers, or for blogs, for that matter, there is such a great identity of lifestyles.

Most of us not only lead similar lives but also live in similar conditions and do similar sort of jobs. I had written some weeks ago about the diversity a hospital waiting room can present. I had found that diversity is so striking in part because of the sameness I encounter when I go to a party in Delhi or Bombay. It is not merely a question of my profession, as a semi-journalist and stage performer that I am likely to meet similar people everywhere.

But even if I go to a place where lawyers predominate or where there are lots of bankers, our interests and pastimes would not be vastly different. We would have read the same books, seen the same films, would holiday in the same places and have more or less the same aspirations.

I have wondered whether my discontent has to do with the confinements of a bourgeois life. Continue reading Spectre of sameness

Nagarik Mancha on West Bengal Land for Nuclear Plant

[In the current issue (28 January 2007) of the central weekly ‘organ’ of the CPM, People’s Democracy, party general secretary, Prakash Karat takes ‘the modern-day Narodniks who claim to champion the cause of the peasantry’ to task for opposing the historic task of industrialization. Inculded among these ‘modern day narodniks’ are ‘the likes of Medha Patkar’ and many other ‘Left intellectuals and progressive personalities’ apart from the hated naxalites, of course – all of whom have ‘ganged up’ with the Trinamool Congress, BJP and the Congress. Mr Karat is saddened by the this development but nonetheless ends up admonishing these Left intellectuals and asking them to ‘ponder on the question of why they have placed themselves in the company of the virulent anti-Communist gang in West Bengal and CPI(M)-baiters in the big business-run media’.We will reserve a more detailed comment on the series of points – alibis, to be more precise – made by the CPM leader for a later occasion. For the present pardon us for simply asking whether Karat thinks his company – that of the Tatas, the Salim group, and indeed the Ananda Bazar/Telegraph, is that of some ‘pro-communist’ philanthropists? Indeed, the tone and tenor or Mr Karat’s piece is at once pathetic and arrogant. Witness his attempts to argue that West Bengal is caught in a strange predicament and “will have the basic features of a liberalised capitalist economy” and so, “Those who believe that it can be otherwise are only deluding themselves” he admonishes. Well, Mr Karat, it is not everybody else’s problem that the CPM in West Bengal (and indeed in Kerala, if the ADB loan story is anything to go by) has painted itself into a corner.

Be that as it may, many of Karat’s points call for a longer discussion, if not for his sake, at least for that of those who are still hoping to find a way out – and such people are there in his own party – of this delightful corner. For the present, we present without comment, Karat’s definition of ‘Narodniks’ that appears in a note at the end of the article, that will provide enough food for thought, along with Buddhadeb’s letter to Sumit Sarkar and other misled Left intellectuals regarding the ‘end of history’ – without Tatas and the bourgeoisie, that is. He says:

Narodniks in late 19th century Russia believed that with the overthrow of Tsarism, a traditional village based communal system could go towards socialism. Considering capitalism and industrialisation regressive, they idealised the old peasant-village economy. Ultimately they resorted to individual terrorist actions against the Tsar and lost the sympathy of the peasants who were horrified by their actions (emphasis ours).

In the meantime, we present another story on the industrialization saga presented by Nagarik Mancha – AN]

Even as the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal was ‘under-consideration’, the Government of India decided to set up five coastal nuclear power projects in the country. A 12-member Site Selection Panel, under the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), visited a number of coastal districts in India during November 2006. The Site Selection Panel is said to have zeroed in on sites in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and West Bengal. Based on its final report to be submitted to the Atomic Energy Commission, the Government of India will finally decide on the sites. Only after that the Central Government-owned Public Sector Undertaking, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL), ‘spearheading’ India’s nuclear power programme, will undertake the job.

The NPCIL, the sole nuclear utility implementing authority, has a total of 16 operational plants with a capacity to generate around 3,900 MW, which is about 2.8% of the total electricity generated in the country. Seven more plants with a combined capacity of 3,000 MW are in advanced stages of construction, the first of which is expected to be operational by March 2007.
Continue reading Nagarik Mancha on West Bengal Land for Nuclear Plant

A cruel and unusual punishment

(Or how I came to love the Press)
As I stepped out of B.’s house last night, I pulled my jacket close to ward of the cold and veered vaguely to the right as I looked for my car. I felt in the pocket for the car’s central-locking remote, and on finding it, pressed the un-lock button on the device. I heard my sister’s trusty Wagon-R tick-tock in recognition out on the left. On the left course! I had parked the car on left. I usually parked on the right under the streetlight, but this time my space had been taken. So I had parked on the left. I corrected course and lurched decisively to the left – the source of the sound, and the site of the parked car.

My ear it seems, had picked up the sound – measured it in terms of intensity – and my brain had decoded it and accorded it a positional characteristic. So this car was approximately 20 degrees behind my left ear. I looked – there it was, I walked up to it and drove home.

Continue reading A cruel and unusual punishment

Patient India

Other than trains, hospitals are the most secular spaces in contemporary India. This applies as much to upper-end luxury hospi-resorts such as — Apollo and Escorts — as it does to the lowliest nursing home in any corner of the country. However, even as I assert this, a caveat comes to mind — the aftermath of the Gujarat riots, which had hospitals and even doctors sharply divided along communal lines.

In itself, it may or may not be a picture post card communal harmony moment, but if you keep the Gujarat experience in mind, then this little incident certainly substantiates my assertion. Continue reading Patient India

Humane slaughter?

By a coincidence that is entirely explainable, the Arabic word Baqar, meaning cow or ox, gets fudged into the word Bakra, originating from the Sanskrit varkar.

Thus in India, Baqr Id, the festival commemorating Abraham’s sacrifice, quite often becomes Bakr Id. As I noticed this time round, even as Bakri Id, it makes absolute sense of course, since it is goats that are the primary object of sacrificial affection, and mutton is the prized meat anyway.

Through another onomatopoeic twist, in the purabiya region Baqr Id is also known as Barki Id — the big Id. People would sometimes enquire whether this is the big Id or the small Id or whether it is the sewain Id or the meat Id. For youngsters, though the fixating charm of watching animal slaughter is leavened by the disappointing fact that as far as Idee (or tyohari) — the money gift that is customarily doled out to them by seniors — is concerned, they come off much the worse on Baqr Id. Continue reading Humane slaughter?

Touchable Crimes: Gohana Nay Kizzhevanamani

Investigations by the police or the intelligence officials in highly contested cases have an uncanny ability of looking weird in an unabashed manner.

The recent chargesheet filed by the CBI, which had been asked to look into the attack, and arson, at a Dalit (Valmiki) basti in Gohana, once again vindicates this thesis. According to a newspaper report the chargesheet into the 2005 Gohana riots in Haryana has ‘..revealed that some people in Balmiki Basti had set their houses on fire themselves, allegedly for compensation.” The chargesheet talks of CBI’s observations that ” extensive burning was observed in 19 out of 28 houses. Of these, nine houses were inspected thoroughly and it appeared that in these houses the “simulated arsoning” was carried out, which are yet “to get compensation”. Continue reading Touchable Crimes: Gohana Nay Kizzhevanamani