New skills for new challenges

In this era, when data journalism is seen as a way forward to deal with difficult issues in a balanced, unbiased manner, it is important to understand the rules that govern statistical data collection.

A.S. Paneerselvam


THE HINDU MAY 18 2015 

Last week, Special Public Prosecutor B.V. Acharya said that a glaring arithmetical error by the Karnataka High Court in computing the loans taken from banks by All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary Jayalalithaa, her aides and their firms resulted in their acquittal. While it is for the highest judiciary to decide on the exactness of computation of loans and the legitimate income in Ms. Jayalalithaa’s case, it raises an interesting question about the skills journalists need to possess to evaluate facts.

One of the early lessons I learnt about being a journalist was the importance of constant skill enhancement and the need for comprehensive revision of domain expertise. Every policy change brings in its wake new terminologies and…continue reading

One year of Modi Government: Us versus them


MAY 25 2015

Bruce Riedel


English: Composite map showing the borders of India, Pakistan & China as per official sources overlaid on areas of actual administrative control. Areas where official borders intersect are disputed areas administered by one country and claimed by another country. Each disputed region is indicated by a circle representative of its area with the color of the administering country and outlined by the color of the claimant country. /

Then Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pakistan this April with $46 billion in investment to build an economic corridor from western China to the Persian Gulf. Thus, Xinjiang and Tibet will be linked to Balochistan. The corridor will end at Gwadar, where Pakistan hopes a new city to rival Dubai will emerge as the trade entrepôt of Asia. It promises to transform Pakistan and incorporate it into a Sino sphere of influence…continue reading

Misplaced plea

may 25 2015 : :



The Tamil Nadu government’s move to approach the Supreme Court seeking a review of its recent judgment barring the use of pictures of political leaders in government advertisements is retrograde and unnecessary. The court’s verdict restricting the list of dignitaries whose photographs are permissible on government advertisement material to the President, the Prime Minister and the Chief Justice of India, is a significant step in eliminating the partisan use of government resources to gain political mileage. Indeed, if there is a flaw in the judgment, it is in the exception made in favour of the holders of these three offices. Even though it says the President, Prime Minister or CJI could themselves decide on the inclusion of their pictures in…continue reading

Across the aisle: How long can hot air keep balloon afloat?

MAY 24 2015 : :


P Chidambaram

P Chidambaram / Picture from INDIAN EXPRESS

In the elections held in 2014, the Congress lost and Mr Narendra Modi won, and I say that advisedly. No one remembers the promises made in the BJP’s manifesto or what the party’s then tall leaders said. No one remembers what Mr Rajnath Singh, as president of the BJP, said or did or promised — the only memorable episode in which Mr Rajnath Singh featured was when he suggested a billboard with the slogan ‘Abki baar, BJP sarkar’. Within minutes the billboard was taken down from the website and the slogan was replaced by ‘Abki baar, Modi sarkar’.

The enduring image of that election was Mr Modi, his hologram, his speeches and promises, and his declared position on various issues ranging from Chinese incursions to terrorism to bringing back black money to the value of the rupee. Mr Modi won the…continue reading

Telescope: Here, there, everywhere


Shailaja Bajpai

Shailaja Bajpai / Picture from INDIAN EXPRESS

The previous prime minister had many sterling qualities, but addressing the public was not one of them. We barely heard him speak. He too travelled the world and the seven seas, but his media managers seldom exposed him to “live” broadcasts. We witnessed few hugs, warm handshakes with foreign leaders or heard their compliments. With Modi, it is quite the opposite. He is here, there and everywhere — on TV. A calculated strategy excludes the private-owned media from his entourage, but ensures All India Radio and Doordarshan capture and broadcast his best moments. Which is why, even when he addresses foreign audiences, he is addressing “the nation”, too.

Wearing that hat and standing by the horse gifted to him in Mongolia, Modi was like…continue reading


Snap judgment

may 19 2015

upendra baxi

indian express

Supreme court, SC, Indian express

The court explicitly says: ‘Photographs… have the potential of developing the personality cult and the image of a one or a few individuals which is a direct antithesis of democratic functioning’. / Picture from INDIAN EXPRESS

Moreover, the court implicitly regards pictorial depiction of governors, chief ministers, ministers and others as examples of surrogate advertising. The government regulates this: its latest pronouncement is an order that the expenditure on advertising for the product should not be disproportionate to the actual sales turnover of the product. Are government advertisements “products” to be regulated the same way as alcohol, tobacco and other addictive substances? Is the “personality cult” to be treated on par with substance abuse? Where is the evidence that such a cult is, potentially or actually, being fostered by the present practice of government advertising? If it is, perhaps all photos should be banned and advertisements should only contain narrative prose. This bias against visual culture is altogether misplaced and should be abandoned. Besides, if…continue reading

What the Rohingya crisis says about racism and politics in Asia

may 19 2015: :

Washington Post

It takes a lot to forsake your home, clamber on to a crammed, rickety boat, and venture out into the uncertainty and danger of the high seas. But this is precisely what tens of thousands of people from Burma’s Rohingya ethnic minority have done in recent years, leaving before the monsoon season settles in and their fates become even darker.

Some drown in the Andaman Sea; others, abandoned by the human traffickers they are forced to trust, drift without water and food aboard what activists describe as “floating coffins.” And unlike many migrants rescued by European governments in the Mediterranean, the Rohingya can’t even trust in the goodwill of Southeast Asia’s navies.

[How the Rohingya face the threat of “genocide”]

In the past week, thousands of Rohingya have become subjects of an unseemly game of regional “ping-pong,” their boats pushed back by governments not keen on accommodating any more asylum seekers. On Friday, in a notable exception, one vessel with 800 passengers was allowed to make landfall in Indonesia.

“If I had known the boat journey would be so horrendous,” said a 19-year-old…continue reading

Up in the air


MAY 18 2015


In sharp contrast, Prasar Bharati runs totally on government funding. Only 15 per cent of the budget is spent on content; the rest goes to pay salaries to its over 31,621 employees. The Sam Pitroda Committee, as other committees before it, wanted the Corporation to become financially independent and to be allowed to monetise its under-utilised assets such as real estate, archival material and the scores of transmitters that have in any case outlived their purpose. All this is easier said than done: the Corporation does not have the authority to give the nod even to open an ATM on its premises. The prospect of autonomy…continue reading

Why India’s government is targeting Greenpeace

Narendra Modi is probably celebrating the first anniversary of his landslide victory with a Chinese meal.


Greenpeace activist in India

Greenpeace says the government restrictions are an “attempt to silence criticism” / PICTURE FROM BBC

 MAY 16 2015


It is the last day of the Indian prime minister’s tour of China and he is meeting some of the heads of Chinese industry. He will be hoping that they will be able to drive forward his signature policy, ‘Make in India’.

But one year into his term as prime minister and many say Mr Modi is showing some distinctly undemocratic tendencies as he tries to foster a manufacturing boom in India.

At the end of April, India cancelled the registration of nearly 9,000 foreign-funded non-governmental organisations (NGOs), saying they didn’t comply with the country’s tax codes.

And the Indian government has singled out the environmental pressure group, Greenpeace, for special attention.

The reason why says a lot, both about Mr Modi’s ambitions for India and his attitude to dissent.

This week Greenpeace won a small victory.

On Wednesday the government lifted its ban on activist Priya Pillai travelling…continue reading

Fifth Column: A bad idea

If jobs do not start raining down, Modi will soon see signs of enormous despair.


MAY 17 2015


Tavleen Singh speaks to Madhu Trehan on Durbar, why Rajiv Gandhi was bound to make mistakes, Hindi journalism not being in good shape, Indira Gandhi’s illiterate electorate, “Lady Bountiful” a.k.a. Sonia Gandhi, the fallout from writing this book and more… / Picture from

The Prime Minister should not hesitate to say openly that a new economic direction is needed because the old one kept too many Indians mired in poverty for too long. He should go back to talking about bringing prosperity to India instead of merely ‘alleviating’ poverty. That is the kind of ‘parivartan’ and ‘vikas’ this country’s voters wanted when they booted out the most powerful Dynasty since the Moghuls.

A year ago today was the day after the election results gave India its first prime minister in 30 years to have a full majority. In the year gone by, Mr Modi has shown that he is a real leader in matters of foreign policy and in restoring the dignity of the Prime Minister’s Office.

He has also shown that he is ready to talk about India’s flaws from the ramparts of the Red Fort. But he has hesitated to improve governance by curbing the powers of the petty official. So the ordinary Indian still sees the ugly face of the Indian State…continue reading