Friday, March 28, 2008

I'm off...

For my first vacation in about two years. I've been abroad in the interim on some work-related trips, but I'm rather glad to get out of here. Cheers and hopefully I'll come back to post bigger and better posts.
Take care everyone!

Monday, March 24, 2008

No comment...

Here, read this story that appeared in that paragon of journalism Delhi Times or something. And then read the riposte - with the comments. Entertaining!

EDIT : And it seems, due to a lack of programming knowledge I missed the most entertaining bit of TV created in last year!
Sadly, no YouTube vid available!

Happy Something or the other...

Hey, I hope everyone had a great Holi, got pissed and passed out and didn't drive on the roads, I'm thinking sobreity is a good idea for a while. Will do a quick round-up of news, it seems that M.J has headed back to ABP as Group Editorial Boss, meanwhile with him out of the way, Ram Reddy is investing heavily in new people and resources on Financial Chronicle (Arun Roy Chowdhury is going to the place, we are reliably informed) and is also beefing up Deccan Chronicle in Chennai and Hyderabad waiting for the Times Group assault. Meanwhile, at ABP itself things are a bit shaky, and we aren't just talking about the business magazine but the venerable Bengali paper which is under threat from a whole host of small start-ups across the state. The English paper on the other hand is fighting a losing battle with the Times across the eastern corridor.
Up north, of course as the unmitigated disaster continues in EchTee, some people wrote in asking what I have against the paper. Nothing, actually. HT is where I learnt my trade and I still love the place, which is why is possibly pains me to see the haphazard direction the place is taking editorially. The place needs a bootstrap editor, someone young-ish, from outside and someone who can break the cliques and cabals. What is scary is that the paper is displaying all the symptoms of 'Indian Express-itis'. Older folks might remember that paper in the eighties and early nineties, before the downward spiral began. The problem with any decline is just that, once it gathers momentum, it will nigh-high impossible to stop it.
And then there is The Hindu. Yes, we understand that you feel that the Tibet issue is as sensitive to China as the Arunachal issue is to Indians. Arunachal has always been a part of India, even though you guys find that difficult to fathom, saying anything to the contrary would be treasonous. But, most Indians, including your readers have a slight 'fear' of the Chinese. We have always supported the Tibetans, in a geopolitical sense, because we want to constantly prick the Chinese. Until a few days ago, all was good, but then you guys started quoting Xinhua like it was the gospel truth. It is like saying PTI is the gospel truth - in bad English. China has come down on the protestors with a hard hand, so the paper should say so and avoid taking an editorial line on it maybe, but still say so.
But, here is the strange thing, I doubt many Tibetan refugees, a majority of whom have been born and brought up in India would want to go 'home' now. This country has a strange way of assimilating people and while some of them would love to go home to an 'independent' Tibet, I'm rather certain that 'independence' is not going to happen, and New Delhi is wary of the chaos that would have in the North-East, which we finally quelled with the coup in Bangladesh. Autonomy on the other hand is a distinct possibility, but China is a fairly Federal nation already, so I would figure there needs to be some amount of devolution with ethnic Tibetans getting more powers, much like Russia has done in its trouble-spots. A lot of Chinese are very bugged at the West using this incident, or any incident to beat them down. And being an Indian, weirdly enough, I completely sympathise because illiterate white trash always looks for an opportunity to say how Chinese and Indians are stealing their jobs or something or the other.
However, as I mentioned in the previous post, it is rather remarkable at how information finds a way of leaking out, no matter how strict the government sieve. So, government's like ours shouldn't do stupid things like wanting to shut down Blackberry services, so that they could ostensibly monitor emails for 'security' reasons. Methinks that Madamji believes that by 'tapping' Blackberry devices she could get an idea of how Rajya Sabha seats will be decided. However, the funniest bit is that our Government admits it does not have the processing power to decrypt Blackberry messages and has asked for reduced encryption.
Anyway, back to the week and we have some interesting things from ToI coming up.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Fall

People have mailed me and a couple have called me to ask why I did not write about M.J Akbar's removal or sacking whatever you call it from The Asian Age. The reason I did not write anything is because I did not have much of an opinion on the matter - even though Khushwant Singh and Rahul Singh did have a very strong opinion on the issue. What I was not terribly surprised about was the sudden fall from grace of two of Aveek-Babu's 'blue eyed boys' - two erstwhile and extremely overhyped editors from the ABP group out.
However, none of these two men were India's most powerful editor - who strangely enough is another old ABP hand - in fact, the number of ex-ABP hands in the top echelons of Indian journalism today - whether you call it a Calcutta/Bengali cabal or you don't is surprising - Jojo is ex-Telegraph also which is the point I'm making. But you know one good thing about this sudden fall from grace is that the 'Cult of the Editor' is dying out - you only have Prabhu and Vinod who are members of the Old Guard is any position of power in print media organisations who have a 'Cult' so to speak around them. Don't get me wrong, I don't begrudge anybody their cult, but I would advise people to watch Apocalypse Now and the final set of scenes when Captain Willard finds Colonel Kurtz in the jungle.

Cults are dangerous things and the passing of the cult is good for Indian journalism, not bad for it. The anonymous editor, or the behind the scenes editor whose job is to improve the product rather than himself is a good thing for print. Yes, the editor should be well known, but the moment the editor becomes a celebrity, there is more than a faint degree of compromise - you lose objectivity when you make the news about you rather than do the job you are supposed to do - which is to put together a newspaper or a newsmagazine for your readers and make sure one hell of a lot of readers read it. I still think Jojo is the best editor of his generation, because his paper gets read and would not die if other media organisations and PR agencies stopped subscribing to it.
The problem is that with the passing of the cult in print journalism, you have the birth of the cult, or so people would like to believe in TV journalism. Most of those cults are over-hormoned young Indian men playing out their fantasies with various televsion anchorettes - look at this, it's scary - and it appears that Nidhi Razdan is the most popular female news anchor in India. No comments there, but some of these groups are disturbing! But, the new Headlines Today, which has very high rotation on AXN for some strange reason, brings out that fact pretty humourously.
I don't know, and I'm sure there will be comments accusing me of jealousy (I'm 29 goddamnit!) or wishing I had a cult myself. Cults lead to power and power corrupts. I have seen that first-hand, god knows I have seen that first-hand. I know it is easier saying something than doing it - like me saying that an upcoming holiday to Bangkok will not involve 'interesting' sideshows. You never know until you get there do you.
In other news - a quick roundup at EchTee, how could I do a post without mentioning them - there seems to be a lot of activity and several middle-level correspondents are being dispatched across the world on international assignments. Including one man who, despite being a very clever man has never written a word.And onme year after ToI decided to put a man in Beijing, EchTee is following suit, which is a good thing because I think Saibal has done a fairly decent job in China for the Times. There is also some activity at the top, which is rather ridiculous. If anyone in management reads this blog, guys, please get your act together.
Indian media coverage of the events in Tibet are surprisingly poor considering that the Dalai Lama sits in McLeodganj and China is the big neighbour - and the Hindu's coverage has been completely in line with the Chinese politbureau - check out The Chindu and this humourous post. I really am wishing that the Times trashes the Hindu in Chennai - the Times launches on April 14th, which is certain (Sunil Nair from ToI Mumbai has been appointed Editor), hopefully ToI has learnt from their disasterous Hyderabad launch where they got trashed by an Asian Age facsimilie. Weirdly enough, the Times' failure in Hyderabad is what gave ram reddy the muscle to buy off the rest of the Asian Age franchisees and finally kick out Akbar - see everything is interconnected. By the way, the name of DC's new business paper is 'The Financial Chronicle' - hopefully it will have a better readership than the other paper with Financial in its name.
Talking about another favourite topic of this blog - NewsX's launch which is scheduled for March 28 as a 'soft launch' - ask the anchors to pronounce lingerie to get an idea what you will see!
Our obsession with Pakistan among our neighbours is a bit much. We have whacked out states all around us - Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka are in various states of anarchy and total media meltdown - though nothing beats the makldives when it comes to media repression though Sri Lanka is coming close of late. But the Indian media is in almost total radio silence, more concerned about rakhi Sawant's new item number than global geopolitics. What happens in Tibet is crucial because thats where a lot of our water comes from, but other than long, boring edits, we don't really care.
What I personally find fascinating about the Tibet events is final proof of this being the Nokia revolution. China has more mobile users than any other country and makes probably half of the world's phones every year. Now that phones all have cameras that can take standard-def broadcast videos, you are seeing a lot more images than you ever did than from Tiananmen. What is going on is a media war and the mobile phone is playing such an important role in it, I'm amazed. I don't think people have thought long and hard about the way the mobile phone, not the PC will change media. Maybe we need to do that, soon.

Monday, March 17, 2008

In the meantime...

While I have been drinking more whiskey than I should and tempering that with way too much double expressos, I have been fairly busy over the past few days. Supposedly working, schmoozing on official business would be more like it and when I had to work I became so snappy, that it surprised me. Actually, I do believe I have been getting too snappy of late, with too many people. Not good, not me actually. C'mon I have a carefully cultivated image of a jovial, gregarious sort, I can't let the insane, close-to manic depression version of me on the loose. Because god knows what will happen then, because that side of me is a pretty scary side, because I know it exists. Maybe you will start noticing it in some posts, let me know if I start to lose the plot.
But, coming back to things, we did speculate on why EchTee did the puff job they did on Ponytail (ref: this post) and today I saw why. It was a full-frontal assault by the industry's worst copywriting team on the front-page. I have been described in one email as a ToI 'apologist', well I think the marketing team there owes Indian readers an apology for unleashing the full-frontal nudity advertsing that plagues big publications today. Anyway, we won't into the merits or demerits of that now, because I can be stuck here for a long time. But the point is that Ponytail does seem to be a nice human being, though so many other folks are also nice guys, doesn't make them saints though.
I have also been reading with fascination the coverage on the Scarlett case in Goa. Weirdly enough, I really don't think the girl was murdered, because if she was as high as the papers claimed she was - three hits of acid among other things in a 15-year old - she probably died of shock. Sex on LSD is not something anybody would really reccomend, especially considering the thing is a drug that makes your brain go all funny. Maybe some folks get their kicks thinking their screwing a gnome, or the clouds or whatever, but for god's sake... Anyway somewhere here while teh Brit's carry on about the mother and the Indian papers and channels struggle to find a point, drugs are still going to be extremely easy to find in Goa. And pwonder why Goa attracts white trash, well, all sorts of trash actually.
Anyway, I have much left to be done, working with utter and complete idiots who claimed to be editors of defunct publications. Sigh, I things I do for money short of bending over. Such idiots!

Thursday, March 13, 2008


Yes, they used to take out full-fledged adverts, and now they are obviously buying editorial space. I think after the 'ban The Budget' fiasco singed Ponytail, he needed a come-back. And the strange thing is that it isn't the usual suspect - The Times of India that is guilty, but rather EchTee, which used to shout from the rooftops that while the Times trashed it in readership and ciculation, they were better editorially. But this has a screaming puff-job on Page 9 (Delhi, Metro Edition) today morning. There are several small stories in all papers which are puff-jobs, but the timing of this could not have been weirder, it is placement season and the stories about super-high salaries going to IIM grads are all over (One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six) . I'm sure the Ponytail is desperate, but my god, this stinks! Pity, there are irritating bloggers like me who notice such things!
I know editorial respectability matters, but on the same day HT went to town on how they won a prize for good journalism. Seriously, I was more than a bit taken aback on the loo today! Taking a holier than thou attitude is not a safe thing to do. Admitting fallability is sensible, you win prizes but you also take money for editorial space. Everybody has to be a hooker in the media nowadays, because newsprint is getting expensive!

Another blog reader points me to this post on Poynter, which accuses LiveMint of stealing from the NYT! And to MetroNow, please for god's sake, we know you are the bastard child born out of a relationship between two high-class hookers, but that does not mean you can't have a searchable website! And everybody else who reads this blog, please do keep on sending in your comments, emails and text messages. Everything adds up! And sorry if this post looks all awkward I'm using Opera 9.26 for some strange reason and formatting is all over the place.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


It has been a rather busy few days for me and the coming days will be even busier, thanks to circumstances beyond by control. Well, actually not circumstances beyond my control but rather because of a constant need to make more money. Anyway, while I also try to figure out some more guest columns from elsewhere and also try and get a grip on how the future will look for media on the whole, considering everything is going to be free, just read Chris Anderson's fabulous cover story in the current issue of Wired. I'll post a short excerpt from this piece, which is an universal truth about the media, but put brilliantly well.

"The most common of the economies built around free is the three-party system. Here a third party pays to participate in a market created by a free exchange between the first two parties. Sound complicated? You're probably experiencing it right now. It's the basis of virtually all media.
In the traditional media model, a publisher provides a product free (or nearly free) to consumers, and advertisers pay to ride along. Radio is "free to air," and so is much of television. Likewise, newspaper and magazine publishers don't charge readers anything close to the actual cost of creating, printing, and distributing their products. They're not selling papers and magazines to readers, they're selling readers to advertisers. It's a three-way market."

Well, I'll do a proper post around this sometime soon, but as Richard Hammond would say on Top Gear, it is time for the news. And we begin with Sakal, a Pune-based Marathi paper owned by the Pawar family. It is writing for this paper that Dilip Vengsarkar got slapped on the wrist by the owner's brother. Anyway, they feel they now need an English language paper and are on the verge of launching a broadsheet daily in Delhi which will supposedly be edited by Badshah (Anikendra Nath) Sen who was last editing the Kathmandu-based The Himalayan Times, Nepal's largest selling English language paper. After running a news organisation in the badlands that are India's neighbours, where I think Indian journalists might do well to spend a few weeks to understand what 'repression' is all about, I guess he would be battle-hardened.

And then there is HT, about whom we wrote that a new editor is on the anvil. The news was confirmed by three sources, then other sources denied it and now no-one knows what is happening. One story even goes that The V is coming back with people in tow. But, what is really interesting is how Private Treaties will pan out in the coming months. What is really interesting is the number of article placements of Private Treaties that is happening across the group, but even more surprising are the ideas that the marketing chaps come up with for their clients. You might soon be bombarded by a bunch of rags to riches tales, or riches to riches tales on places like the Edit Page of both ET and ToI. But with tens of thousands of crores wiped off the market, particularly of some of the rather long-shot scrips with crazy valuations, it would be interesting to see how valuations have been affected for TPT.

Talking about Times, it seems that their television channel Times Now is shedding people like the trees in Delhi are shedding leaves, which they always do in Spring. Spring in Delhi being just under 40 degrees. This after Times Now shed an investor a few months ago. Now, the channel claims it is doing well, and as far as news goes, it isn't bad, because they don't have the innumerable talking head shows that the two leading channels run, and nor do they run crazy campaigns when the middle classes feel they've been wronged. But, things are not going too well, and it appears that some senior ToI people have been asked to help out, which they have refused to do until they get executive powers. Watch this space!

And, I got this picture on email today and I was wondering why none of the papers carried it. If one of them did, please let me know, because I certainly don't remember seeing it in the brouhaha of a Tri-Series win. Click through for the faces of the guys, priceless! Anyway, looking forward to the Delhi Daredevils!

Friday, March 07, 2008

The state of environmental reportage! (Guest Piece)

Hi, as I had previously mentioned, I would start asking friends and senior people from the world of journalism to start writing guest columns for this blog on wider issues. This piece is a by a close friend and a journalist (of sorts) who is well-known member of the Indian conservation movement. I agree with a lot of what the writer is saying here. Possibly the best writer of environmental issues in the Indian media of the last few years, I would believe is Prerna Singh Bindra who I believe knows what she is writing about (unlike many of her peers), but that is just my opinion. Read on for this unsigned view of things!
EDIT : For those of you coming from DP, this piece is not by Prerna, but by an environmentalist who works in the media but is not a 'regular' writer or reporter. As one commenter picked up, he is popularly known as 'Birdy'.

In a recent slide show presentation of ‘Birds of Delhi’ at the India Habitat Centre (IHC), the author and presenter who remains unnamed here stops on a slide showing painted storks and comments, ‘For all Indian journalists these are migratory birds and they only come from Siberia’
In one line he sums up the deplorable understanding and reportage of environment and natural history in the India media. To understand this phenomenon let us go through some recent coverage.
Migration of birds remains an annual subject and the degradation of Keoladeo National Park (Bharatpur). Where every one hopes that the Siberian cranes will suddenly turn up. The ICF (International Crane Foundation) has long declared the central flock which wintered in Keoladeo extinct.
However recently Telegraph (Calcutta) wastes valuable newsprint on a recent copy! What is even more surprising is that they declare Peter G Kaestner as the world’s third-ranked bird watcher. This is a first for the entire birding world. Birders professional and amateur never knew of the ranking system before this, and I can write about this with conviction as I have been involved with the international birding community for most of my adult life.
But it is the Hindustan Times surpasses all by putting this on Page 1 with a picture of a Manchurian crane on Feb 23. This was generated from a ‘Sibe Hoax’ by a zoology student traveling on a train through Palwal in mid January. (K’s Note : The web-story does not have the image and HT archives cost a bomb)
But, if you thought it ended there, move over, here comes another headline which reminds me of the Akbar – Birbal tale of the emperor questioning Birbal on the number of crows in his kingdom. Have a look here (though this is an agency copy)
How on earth someone can report on an exact figure?
Next, let us move to the reportage on Bird Flu/Avian Flu/H5N1 which has taken considerable airtime and newsprint in January. When the country most oldest and premier conservation outfit especially in avian sciences BNHS (Bombay Natural History Society) states that the migratory birds are not responsible for the disease.
And this is what Mail Today reported immediately on Jan 30.
And see what happens when someone goes to see birds and does a bird count which is below expectation in the peak of migratory season. Read on. Another annual favourite is the disappearance of sparrows. I personally have tracked from 2002 till time present that the India media cannot forget the house sparrow irrespective of its present status.
A few years back I still remember Outlook Traveller put up the enigmatic black necked cranes on the cover and captioned them as black storks. I read the TOI daily and I find species irrespective of its status whether it’s a stork, duck or a gull, everything is labelled as migratory. Off course they are local migratory is one has to put in the right sense and that they don’t sit out everyday for ones viewing pleasure.
Earlier in the week one reporter from a tabloid was quite desperate to do a story on a bird known as the pied harrier which I reckon is a seldom winter visitor to these parts but nothing to write on or worth a story. But after explaining her on detail about its frequency of sighting and status and that it doesn’t deserve newsprint attention she went ahead as she though it was the rarest sight to put it in newsprint and the photo supplied by an acquaintance.

The tiger remains the toast of the media and there sole concern is with the right statistical figure. How many? 2,500 or 3,500 or 1,411 tigers in India
Anything and everything to do with it is immediately reported while hundreds of other species are pushed everyday to extinction. I seriously contemplate if anyone actually seriously thinks of the word ‘Extinction’. Once gone you just cannot bring it back. Every species big or small has a definite roll in the ecological cycle. This is elementary school science not any higher than that.
After three years when Sariska was wiped off its tigers and the recent GoI’s disclosure of Tiger numbers (the field data is a good two years old). NDTV starts a campaign to save the tiger and reports last weekend how unprepared Sariska still remains. 1000+ villagers still inhabit the park and only one village has been relocated. The highway is still running through with a recent leopard road kill to boast. Thousands still visit the temple and forest guards with hardly any infrastructure to tackle poachers as well as highly understaffed.
Within 2 days of this television report TOI reported how 3 tigers will be released as the state government has given verbal assurance in the parliament
So here we are to sacrifice three more tigers? 3 more goes from 1,411. Though that said, the reportage of environmental issues in the Times, though patchy is usually decent, and better than other mainstream channels and papers.
Further leopards get the blame if they are spotted in cites and moreover if they attack humans then they are immediately ‘man eaters’. Not an explanation that why the poor creature has strayed.
Over the years the Asiatic Lion went ahead and got branded as the Gir Lion as a result of which the state of Gujarat declares them as their sole property and thwarted any possible relocation to a second home.
Issues are in abundance, and in the same scale they are ignored from fishing trawlers destroying our coasts, animal skins and body parts, medicinal plants to the illegal trade in butterflies which eventually come back to our living rooms as beautiful wall artifacts from the South-east Asian markets. Trade in wildlife in the third biggest after narcotics and firearms.
The plunder of our natural history goes on and on, the media just picks and chooses what will be a sensation a dead tiger skin or a dead otter skin.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Hi! I ran the Oregonian

Yes, Oregon, the home of the Portland Trailblazers and Nike. Wedged between the powerhouse states of California to the south and Washington to the north. But, why do you ask is this sometimes political, sometimes nonsensical, bitchy and stupid blog talking about American geography? Well, supposedly, there is a chap called Peter K Bhatia, another SAJA soul who is coming to India to take over the boss of EchTee. You heard it here first. Peter, and this blog supposedly does not like Indian folks called Peter, refer to the NewsX fiasco is the current Executive Editor of The Oregonian. I do not think the Indian newspaper industry is as hard up as the aviation sector for 'Commanders' that we need to fly in recruits from abroad. I also believe that a senior political journo from EchTee was fired because he took money from INX as well. The story gets murkier and murkier.
I believe PaperMint did a fairly good job until it shot itself in the foot with a childish centre-spread (unsurprisingly, the web-edition did not have that spread, the PDF is a 30 meg download by the way) Mint had far and away the most balanced media coverage but something as out of kilter as their budget spread was insane. Come on, one of their 'green dots' was for increased HRD spending! C'mon, a fifth-grader could have told you that, which government wants to shoot itself in the foot by keeping education spending steady?
Anyway, I will be posting the first of a series of 'By Invitation' posts on the blog shortly, where I will ask prominent editors or other folks in the know to write about various aspects of the media, from bad reportage to the future of the media in the internet age. The first series is being written by a close friend who is an environmentalist and he talks about the ridiculous and 'incorrect' coverage given to environmental issues by the media.
And in some completely unrelated news, Rahul Joshi, Executive Editor of The Economic Times has been asked to take over additional responsibility as Editorial Director of ETtv. Maybe, the Times Group wants some synergies between trhe business channel and the business paper since I believe it has gone badly wrong for synergies between Times Now and ToI. But that is another story for another post.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


This is from sources, this may not be correct, or fully correct, but when did that ever stop me. his is likely going to be a post that pisses off a lot of people because of its content. There is supposedly going to be a bloodbath in EchTee over the next few days, supposedly as many as 30 people are being shown the door and new people are being brought in to head the Political and Business bureaus. The business head will wear the fanciful title of "Executive Editor (Business)" which is a very fancy way of saying "Business Editor" and from my previous interactions with this man he is a pompous fart. Which means he will fit right into the place. There is also supposedly going to be some RE action and best of all, the new big boss. Yes, and this time round they're getting yet another dark chocolate with white filling, but this one has no experience in India whatsoever. Brilliant! If this is true, I presume Jojo will be buying the drinks for everyone. Or maybe it will be Mr. Jain doing the buying. Anyway, the conspiracy theory7, as mooted by a former EchTee hand has something to do with the head-hunting agency.
In other movement news, the editor of a business magazine who formerly operated as a China stringer, managed to piss off the Finance Minister so much, not like Raghav Behl by banging on (correctly) about the loan waiver but by his general lack of knowledge is going to be replaced because Chiddu's grumbling went back to Calcutta. Furthermore, Forbe's is launching in India in a collaborative project with TV18 and their Ed is supposedly the current Mumbai chief of ET. We know some reasons why this guy is moving on, but we won't speculate about them here lest I be accused of something.
Coming back to The Economic Times, remember how in my last post I mentioned Papermint's rather self-congratulatory piece saying how they got a lot of pieces right and ET got them wrong, a friend of mine at ET called up to say, "Mint is slow and inefficient, their exclusive on Reliance Retail we had reported about happening in November." Cursory web-check proves that to be true, fair enough, ET reported about the possibility of something happening and Papermint reported about the happening, it would lend credence to some people at ET thinking that Mint has no reportage skills.
To take issue with Mint, no media organisation can do an audit like this, had Mint 'outsourced' the audit, maybe to Cirrus or some organisation like that, it might have made sense. I don't believe that ET just did 20-something stories in 50 days about the budget, I used to read five-six daily and many of them had, often in the body-copy (bad desk jobs, but anyway) the word 'considering'. This sort of audit is ripe material for a blog, and Mint's job was a bit juvenile. But what did you expect with Americans! However, anyone from Papermint is welcome to email me explaining their decision.
And coming back to the freaking Bus Corridor and this loony commenter, I think ToI and Megha Suri are doing a fantastic job. Not only because I travel down that stretch, but because it is a bad idea, and the next supporter who says, "Bogota", well the reason the bus corridor works there is because I'm pretty sure Cocaine-central has wide roads, bus drivers on Coke and have you seen the size of Bogota? It is smaller than Defence Colony. I have used public transport, I still use public transport all I am saying that stupidly implemented projects should be flayed. I mean the cunt who thought of reducing the turn-off's at Chirag Delhi to a lane and a half should be shot! And incidentally, the Chief Secretary of Delhi LIED to the Times defending the project.
And lastly, this fantastic article about Vijay Mallya done by Bloomberg is a major reason why India's Beardy is not talking to anyone. That and the fact most F1 fans, well, all F1 fans in India are still supporting Lewis and Kimi.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Chiddu ko gussa kyon aata hai?

Is it just me, or are all of you who have read Chiddu's post-Budget interviews in the papers or watched him on TV feeling that Chid's has been in a bad mood of late. Not enough leggy failed models in his life maybe? But, his outburst at Raghav Behl beggars belief. I'm not a big fan of CNBC-TV18, but all that raghav did was ask a lot about the 'waiver' and how the government plans to pay for it. A few too many times, but since Chiddu has no clue about an answer, he could not give a straight answer and got pissed off. After he took his microphone off, we hear that the camera's kept rolling and interestingly, the Finance Minister suuposedly threatened the channel which created the 'Cult of Chiddu' with these words, "You see what I do to you." Even more surprisingly he did not blow up at Raghav but a poor cameraman doing his job.
The only reason I can figure out from Chid's is that he was pressurised into this budget by Madam and her coterie of ministers. Read this ToI story for an idea, of course the Prime Minister, who I can comfortably say has been India's most ineffectual Prime Minister ever, couldn't save him. You saw the adverts the next day!
Anyway, this is an election budget, the budget will get passed, and by the Monsoon session around August the Nuclear Deal will also go through. The Commies will withdraw support and elections will be called for September or October. Or so the thinking goes. I mean a winter election is so much better than a April-May election. Of course, it would be interesting to see if they still pull off an election if the monsoons are weak.
To answer a comment calling me a 'townie', no buddy, I have actually travelled more in the hinterland than most journalists, definately more than most journalists working under the cover of 'business journalism'. Hero Honda and Airtel between them have done more for the 'farmers' than decades of Congress governance. Why is there no public transport in backward parts of the country, because politicians and bureaucrats have siphoned off crores from State Transport Corporations and refused in some cases to allow private operators to run. Kerala is a good example (though it is the scariest state in the country to drive in, I once did a run through Kerala all the way to Aleppy and back in a Scorpio) where private operators operate a lot of buses at high-frequency and thus people use it. It might be a bad example since Kerala is also possibly one of the easiest states to organise transportation in. But when I was in Vidarbha a few years ago, our driver told me that farmers often blew up their funds on motorcycles and TV sets. Unbridled consumerism funded on debt isn't just a problem in urban areas. My Hindi is pathetic, not that it helped in Vidarbha anyway, but I ain't no townie!
There has been a failure of governance for far too long in this country, not just in the farms but also in the cities. And believe me, I also think that the BJP is as bad as the Congress. There is absolute failure of governance in Madhya Pradesh for example. And in cities, I think it should be mandatory for all city councillors, mayors and in Delhi's case the hare-brained Shiela Dikshit to master SimCity4, in fact, they should learn the Transportation Expansion pack of the game. I mean what next? A congestion charge in Delhi, a la London?
Did anyone see Papermint's fantastic hatchet-job/self-congratulatory pages today? Surpriosed at the Red-Dots that ET got?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Best newspaper Budget coverage...

Yes, and the award goes to... The Times of India. Or so I think. The Economic Times lost the plot, Papermint was a bit too understated, EchTee didn't get the plot. The other business dailies weren't bad, but nobody exactly reads them. The channels yesterday did go a bit overboard, but surprisingly I thought that Undie Profit did a fairly decent job everytime they did not cut away to the BOmbay studio audience, but CNBC was still very good. Didn't watch the other channels so I won't comment.
What I will comment about is the budget. In his interviews, where Chiddu has learnt from Dubya (and Star Wars) he has defended the Rs 60,000 crore waiver package to farmers. His best quote I heard was in my publications interview (though we edited this bit out), "You are either for the farmer or against the farmer!" when he was asked a question on this move of his encouraging delinquency (he did not give one straight answer and looked terribly pissed off). Absolutisms are very dangerous things, but anyway. While I do not think a lot of thought has been put into the waiver, and I'm sure Chiddu (Chodu) will think of the way to raise the funds to pay off the banks after he believes he will re-elected (hopefully not, because by all indicators, the AIADMK will sweep TN) and hopefully, the rest of the clowns will lose too.
But, while the waiver is a political stunt, is it a very bad thing? Is it as bad as promising electricity for two hours and then delivering sub-standard electricity. Well, the problem is that a large majority of Indian farmers are still unbanked (and lend money from dalals, who I don't think are as generous as Chids out here) and while this will undoubtedly help farmers, lifting them away from a cycle of debt I also think that banks might now be loathe to give out loans in rural areas. Anyway, the loan only covers 'agricultural loans', and many farmers, in places like Vidarbha are indebted because of their other loans, to buy things such as motorcycles. Though, I did think that the folks from Hero Honda were quite happy since farmers will now be able to afford more bikes and drive themselves to indebtedness on a new cycle altogether.
Of course, because the waiver is being done super-fast, presumably for an October election, there might not be time to teach the farmers the virtues of fiscal discipline, which has to be done. I also believe that this scheme will see a high-level of corruption down the line and actual implementation could be a challenge, which could blow on the UPA's face.
BREAKING : We knew Chiddu had a short fuse, but he reportedly walked out from Raghav Behl's interview with him today on CNBC (which will be edited out now) and Shereen was sent to scamper after Chids with her smile. Heard that did not work either. If you have a video of the walk-out please to mail across or send me the YouTube link.
But anyway, check out the trailer from Tarsem Singh's new movie called 'The Fall' which was shot extensively in Jodhpur and Ladakh. The plot might end up being horrible, but what amazing imagery!