Is India Largely Bereft of Social Capital and Closer to Being A Banana Republic?

The thought or musing rather, expressed in the title of this post was occasioned by several loosely related events and triggers. While it may appear to be a rather staccato style of compiling them, here, without a lot of additional verbiage, are the triggers, issues and musings.

The Prime Minister Won’t Give In; Snap Polls Being Talked of As An Option

As briefly mentioned in the news report that the link above refers to, this was the response of the ruling party’s minions to the Supreme Court’s censure and query about why the PM has been silent & inactive about what is arguably the biggest heist ever pulled off by a Minister of the Union Cabinet. Andimuthu Raja, the Telecom Minister, had just handed in his resignation a couple of days earlier, after the Opposition had raised an uproar about a scam which, according to the CAG report, approximately led to a loss of USD 40 billion for the exchequer. [ Summary of the CAG report on the 2G Spectrum allocation by the Ministry of Telecom ]

If you are wondering why A. Raja is so important and how he could perpetrate a scam of such proportions, here’s a nice little piece about him.

Raja, the Spectrum Scamster and why he is important

The news item (link right at the beginning of this piece) and the associated chain of events, raised a host of issues and queries in my mind. Here they are, in no particular order:

Is it for his chosen minions or for Rahul Gandhi to judge whether Blue Turban is in an ‘embarrassing

Manmohan Singh, current prime minister of India.

Image via Wikipedia

position’ or not or is it up to the people of India to judge that? How can this wimp of a man, who has been ‘appointed’ by the Royal Family of India and who serves as a ‘rubber-stamp’ at their pleasure, be expected to hold his own in any discussion or negotiation, internally or externally, when it is widely perceived that he doesn’t have either the spine or the needed authority to act on any important issue independently? As the PM under whose watch humongous corruption, on a scale unheard of before, has been taking place, time & time again, is he not answerable for it all? Why does the media allow him to maintain a Sphinx like silence on such issues and how can he and his minders decide that filing a response, ‘in camera’, to the Supreme Court’s query about his continued silence & inaction is good enough? Why is he not forced to answer that and several other related queries in Parliament? If Manmohan Singh is the best that a country of 1.2 billion people can put up as its leader, is India really the largest democracy, as its leaders are fond of stating at every possible opportunity, or the biggest third-world banana republic?

Some of the reasons why the media doesn’t quite function like it ought to, if it was truly a vibrant media operating in a well-defined democratic set-up are possibly the following:

As part of a seminar which I attended recently, there was an informed panel discussion on the state of India’s media, backed up by an array of facts & statistics (the only convincing way points can be made and conclusions drawn). A few excerpts and selective sound bytes should serve to give you a good enough idea of the details that were laid bare and the conclusions that emerged. To a large extent, they also vindicated my feelings about the Indian media based on my exposure to two major Indian publication groups during the eighties and nineties, in a professional capacity. I had blogged about my observations based on those experiences in a piece sometime back ( link below ). Following that link are a series of sound bytes from the seminar and the ‘attached’ link which is ‘revealing’ of the way Indian media frequently functions.A 'Telecom' Raja
Why The Free Indian Media is a Myth – A Blog Piece by Me

  1. ‘Other countries have think-tanks to analyze major issues. India makes do with prime-time chat shows.’
  2. ‘In most developed TV markets, roughly 70% of TV earnings come from subscriptions & 30% from advertising. In India it is quite the opposite, possibly as a result of the ‘illegal’ origins of satellite broadcasting in India which meant that channels lost out on large chunks of subscription revenues.’
  3. ‘Given the utter dependence on ad revenues, news as such is a commercial product packaged to suit commercial targets and the lowest common denominators, cutting across all socio-economic & regional classifications that have emerged as boosters of viewership, are Bollywood & Cricket.’
  4. ‘By 2008, numerous regional channels started were openly owned by or aligned with political parties while Doordarshan continued to be a lumbering, state-controlled enterprise.’
  5. ‘Three 24-hr. news networks operate in Bengali out of Kolkata and the heads of all three agree that their biggest viewership is in Bangladesh. Their predominant concern continues to be how to find a way to tap effectively into Bangladeshi advertising.’
  6. ‘Indian television has continued to operate in a somewhat murky legal framework that is more akin to that utterly untranslatable N. Indian word – ‘jugaad’ ‘

Barkha Dutt
[The attached clip documents conversations between Niira Radia, a paid lobbyist in Delhi for Karunanidhi, his daughter Kanimozhi & A.Raja, the erstwhile Telecom Minister on the one hand & Barkha Dutt, NDTV News Editor on the other. Listen to the audio or read the transcripts]

‘Oh God! So Now What? What Should I Tell Them’ – Barkha Dutt, NDTV News Editor


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