news2--621x414As long as people seek for articulations and clarifications there will be need for print media industry!

There is the latest news about the Kolkata-based business magazine, Business world is closed down. Also, some other magazines from other groups also closed down.

The print media industry faces new problems, apart from growth. The very credibility of the  print media industry, with the new unethical practices like paid news has hit the very role of the press, press freedom and also other pressures like circulation dip etc.

The great threat and competition is from the large number of TV channels, news and entertainment channels, also, the decline in reading habits owing to the very many new tech devices, from computers, kindle iPods and other devices. The social media is a great competitive medium for the readers of magazines and newspapers.
We have to live with the times.

At Vadamalai Media, we are of course a niche player. And that too in a field where there is very little scope for any meaningful impact to make.

We are basically an agriculture publisher and as such we have many challenges. In the very English segment, we have of course no visible competitor. It doesn’t mean there is no coverage of agriculture.
In our a quarter century of existence, we have found that there is the Indian mindset.

We have inherited from the British colonialism that rural India is a dark spot! This is reflected from the current policy paradigm too. Even under the latest regime, UPA-II we can see that agriculture is invoked only when there is a drought or a failure of monsoons or some delay in the onset of rains!

Once rains come in time and when the reservoirs are full, the ruling establishment conveniently forgets the agriculture sector and also by implication the rural population.

Or, only at the time of elections the rural voters are called back to voting strategies! Even then, increasingly, the vote bank politics is so practised that seen from Delhi, it pays to give attention and priority that whichever party, mostly nowdays, the regional parties are sought after for their vote-bank politics.

So, even then, the farmers, as a hugely important population is forgotten. It pays to mislead them, rather than enlighten them.
See the recently passed land acquisition legislation. It is all about helping the industrialists to get land cheaply. Not to give the farmers the rightful compensation.

It is very like that of the tribal communities are now asked to give their vote on bauxite mining in the Odisha mining  through the village panchayats, as if the tribal people can decide the future course of their life and fate!

There is a duty to enlighten these people who are now seen as coming under the grip of the Maoist for the various reasons everybody now knows.

The ruling parties or the political parties are now, not driven by any enlightened politics but by the tricky politics. If only there is honesty and truth at the highest levels there can be any meaningful development from the grassroots onwards.

We have in the last 25 years of our publishing experience can say with confidence, not once we had received any response, be it from the agriculture ministry, the ministers, or the bureaucrats or from the very agri universities that are supposed to impart information and an enlightened meaningful  response from the various, changing Vice Chancellors.

The important point here is that for various reasons, be it political or sociological reasons, there is a great gap, even a widening gap between the agriculture policy making and the agricultural people, defined by various ways.

There is gap between the rural people and the urban people.
Even now when the migrating urban population retains much land and links with their rural roots, there is no abiding hope or optimism about the future of Indian agriculture.

The rural countryside is very much linked in the Western societies.
Not in India. Where the links are cut off, mainly, in our opinion, by the way we see agriculture not as provider of food but as a machine that is given the task by the rulers in Delhi, mostly, urban drawn officials, either retired or serving and the politicians class that the rural India is a machine that can be driven to produce food for the Delhi politicians for either producing a Food Security Bill or some other bill that can fetch votes in the next elections!

With this mindset, how can you expect the agriculture media, be it in the English language or in the regional languages to thrive?
So, there is no official link whatever. No departmental links nor any public or private sector interest in rural information and communications sector.

In spite of these negative challenges, we have succeeded (yes we have to admit that!); we have forged ahead with our own wits, so to say.
On a more serious level, we like to say that in India, with al talks about agriculture and all that, our agriculture policy making is still very bureaucratic, why even our politicians, even at the top, is bureaucratic-minded (some of them former bureaucrats themselves!), or those who came to politics by various unnatural routes, why even our party leaders came this way, so the persisting agriculture policy-making is done from outside. Not from inside, from the grass roots realities, farmers voices or their points of views are not sought or reflected in the Indian agriculture policy making

The very world policy is now a bad word, after the much talked about policy paralysis phrase made it further odious.

Also, there are too many selfish elements in the Indian agriculture establishment. Retired officials still holding forth. Why even   some bad political operators making agriculture, word like farmers, small farmers etc an on-going joke.

See the debate on Haryana land allocations to VIPs and making them to escape from the laws of the land. So, the point here is that so long there is this sort of ignorance, illegalities, plain criminal  acts in land grabbing and exploiting the landless, the poor and the vulnerable, there is always a demand for  honest and  ethical articulations of opinion and law-making. Agriculture & Industry Survey succeeded in upholding the sanctity and dignity of the agriculture sector and the rural peoples’ aspirations and their due place in the scheme of things.

To that extent, there will be need for media, print media in particular and agriculture media will have priority claims in the national life.

Our articulations have of course won laurels from far and wide and our online venture, www.agricultureinformation.com, is drawing lakhs of visitors, now it is the biggest agri website in the world!
This proves our articulations and claims!

In all our travels in South East Asian countries, from Sri Lanka to Malaysia to other countries like Philippines, of course China is an exception, where there is not much press freedom, the media is not as good as in India, and we have to admit.

In India, we are still imitating the British mindset.
Once we get education and get a government job, then we forget our natural life style.

Now, there is another reverse trend. Politics is so degenerate that even officials, from IAS to other categories, they all enjoy the government security and even after retirement they go political assignments, be it MLAs, MPs or even as Governors, not to speak of Ministerial jobs!

So, in this adverse environment, dear readers, you must all wonder how we have survived for so long. It is the faith in India, India’s future, its destiny as a nation of great many traditions and heritage, agriculture, rural India and the mass of people would always stand by their traditions and heritage.

Indian agriculture is India’s great heritage. May it thrive in the new environment opportunities? Jai Hind!

Only for the urban sector, urban elite?
Why there is no agri/rural media of any significance in India?
In a country that always takes pride in the Green Revolution!
See the new challenges!

The vast tracts of agricultural, forest lands are being taken away for mining, power plants etc.
Agri/rural sector is being squeezed into more and more defenseless shrinking spaces!

The London-based Financial Times(FT) recently carried a long article on India’s booming media scene. There is something like a  10 crore English speaking, English-reading public for the Indian English-language newspapers. The Times of India, FT concedes, is the world’s No.1 newspaper! Also, when it comes to the Indian language newspapers, they are also booming, and they overtake TOI, and TOI comes only as the sixth largest sold newspaper in India.
But then what about the credibility of the Indian media, both the print and the TV news channels?

Oh,they are the most prone to corruption of all  sorts!
Indian media has not much credibility!
Which country has much media credibility?

Though the FT didn’t pose that question, we like to pose it here?
Certainly, the UK press-both print and the TV, has some degree of high credibility. May be next we might put the USA, may be the French and even the German media.

The Western liberal traditions have much to do with their media credibility too.

In India, there is now so much condemnable fall in standards!

The paid-news is now a menance and menacing proportions of the Indian media fall is now widely  seen and spotted out.

The Press Council(with a much admired no-nonsense chairman) seems not capable of doing anything about this media corruption.

Now, as for the agri, rural media scene, it is as good as dead or plainly unequal to the challenges of the times. Now, with the new economic reforms, announced, the agri/rural sector is very likely to lose much with the latest round of talks and discussions within and outside the various  ministerial groups.

There is certain new legislation like the land acquisition bill that is at the stage of final clearance for tabling in Parliament. Then, there are certain other bills like the new SEZ policy etc.
The point is that the current phase of accelerated development, the speedy urbanisation there is the threat to much of the agri/rural sector.

More and more of the agriculture lands are to be taken over for industrial and housing projects.
The tragedy is that the agricultural land acquisition issue is getting more and more politicised.
Sonia Gandhi, along with her son, Rahul Gandhi, seems to have emerged or projected as the champions of the agriculture lands and rural households!

Anyone cynical about the agricultural lands issue might be in sympathy with the agri/rural sector spokespersons.

This magazine, in its 25th year of publication may be one of the few survivors of this squeeze!
What chance for the agri/rural future in this country.

When the audacious scene is that those who are simply cut off from the rural people, the very people whom are variously described by the power-hungry urban elites who in their bid for arbitrary power could muscle into the rural vote-banks promising the moon and may try to take over huge quantities of land with no room for any chance for the genuine rural survivors.

We, the publishers of this magazine, are directly engaged in  agricultural cultivation! This is not for publicity sake. But to send it the message that full-time politicians, the political class now have also become the country’s new generation or new class of new capitalists! The new oligarchs, the new wealth creators, if not the genuine entrepreneurs. Those who grab agricultural lands, those who are in power or who have just lost power and yet they had engaged while in power in grabbing agricultural lands cheaply and had resold or holding back those very lands for future high prices.
The examples are now abounding in many instances.

Some are high profile cases, why high celebrity cases!

So, we need not elaborate when we ask: what chance for the future of genuine farmers?
Genuine, traditional farmers, farming communities a new charter of rights to protect and also prosper as farmers in this new emerging and  threatening environment where there is so much competition to accumulate wealth, usually, more agriculture properties are being grabbed (acquired legally is a very  improbable current scenario).

Now, we need some definite legislation to protect individual farmers, traditional farmers, also the so-called big farmers!

There is a conspiracy of silence when it comes to defend the traditional farmers.
All the current agricultural policies are staked against the farmers who are full-time into farming.
There are no incentives to invest in any significant way in farming activities that might form onwards might go into next stage of modernised farming enterprises.

New investments, new technologies, why new business models in farming. Say farming for exports, tieups with foreign markets….

Such new opportunities are coming up.

We at Vadamalai Media are getting so many new enquiries as to what government policies are there.

Our experience in promoting new entrepreneurs in agriculture, in biotechnology(in tissue culture in various crops)are all disappointing and very discouraging. What we are writing here might be very evident for our own current agriculture minister, namely Mr.Sharad Pawar himself!

Knowing his present pre-occupations with the current goings on in his own backyard, he would only  realise that make money, big money, create wealth through legal means must be simply next to impossible in traditional farming. At least he must be  talking out about the difficulties in what we are talking about here.

Mr.Nitin Gadkari and many others, everyone who is talking about the current corruption scams and scandals would realise that it is the agricultural land owners who face the threat of  “acquisition” of agricultural lands that are now cheap. This illegalities must be stopped.

A new thinking must be introduced in our land acquisition policy, specially for the private investors, the corporates into new agribusiness activities. There must be reservations for farmers for holding shares in whatever lands they hand over for capitalist ventures.

Farmers share holdings in the companies in their  traditional lands would only give a sense of justice and fairness of feeling, an emotional bonds with the soil that is a sort of sacred trust!

Traditional farming families wont part with the lands so easily and that is why whenever you talk of agricultural lands, you should realise the land is more than just a piece of property. Agricultural land holdings impinge upon a range of emotions, ways of life and belief systems and a sense of values, honour, truth and sense of shame etc come into play.

So you see the series of farmers suicides, farmers who can’t tolerate any sense of shame to his bearing prefer to end his life rather than to compromise and live!

This is just the opposite of what we see in the India of today where so much corruption is growing and there is no sense of  threat of punishment!

Let us learn to approach the agri/rural  sector issues in a more special  delicate manner!

But who will be in charge?
The current Prime Minister and his team lost their mandate!
It is the next government that will decide the FDI in many sectors!

This decision claimed and hailed as breaking into the last great China Wall.
But the public scepticism, in the context of the series of corruption scandals needs to be overcome!

Is not yet over. There are many hurdles. Timing is one. It was a bad timing. Raising the fuel prices and then immediately this FDI bombshell. But what a poor set of ministers we have now!

The very day the Cabinet decided on these reforms, the TV screens flashed the ministers announce this decision in a press conference.

What a pathetic sight!

Ambika Soni, the I&B minister was seen or shown as adjusted her glasses for quite some time. She was not even aware the whole country was watching her image and performance. She made such a pathetic sight.

She is after all the communications minister. If this is what the government has its communications talent, then, one can be sure this government might not survive the next elections. It is as good as a lifeless instrument.

And, God, forbid Ms.Sonia was digressing on her portfolio. No viewer might have caught her message that day.

Was she talking about FDI in retail, the big fuss others were making and threatening to pull down the government or was she content to take credit for her own ministry.
The next man was Anand Sharma, the Commence Minister. He was better but not as good as expected.

Anyway, these two leading lights of the UPA government were not obviously masters of the subject they were talking about.

FDI is no more a big news, not in the outside world. Every country knows what it takes to grow its economy these days of economic recession and global downturn.

And for a big economy and market like India we need to expand the market reach, Indian economy’s market potential and we have to open up the market for large scale FDI in various sectors.

If only the UPA ministers had visited China  and seen what is happening there, they would have realised  that the Indian economy must compete with Chinese economy in various spheres, infrastructure first and then other sectors. Every development project in China, be its airports or civil aviation or ports and national highways, why even the dams, the Three Gorges dam projects our ministers might have visited(do any of our minister did that?),everything in China is on a very big scale.

Their airports are planned in such huge manner that they, the airports might serve sufficiently well even after a century! Such is the scale.

After a visit to Shanghai we came back to Bangalore to see how pathetic our own Bangalore International airport is in size and various services! Still the concrete patches are unfinished in the very entrance and exits of Bangalore airport!

So too our national highways. We have almost, it seems, forgotten our highways minister. Who is he? When did you last hear of him, his pronouncements? The same for ports minister, for civil aviation, we have been hearing Mr.Ajit Singh because of the mess in which we find our national carrier. Air Asia, Malaysian airline, low cost, Air China  are all doing so well and patronised the world over. They are part of the Star Alliance. Is Air India a member of the Star Alliance?
The point here is that FDI, in every conceivable sector must be sought just to make our economy grow in size and rewatch and resilience.

We have dithered for so long.

But then, just to say we have made enabling provisions for the FDI in several sectors and it is for the states to choose or not, is again a sign of the weakness, weak-mindedness of the Central government.

The Prime Minister must come on the TV screen and aggressively push for the economic agenda.
The great pity is that in the process of his subservient continuance in the high office, Dr.Singh had lost all his reserve energies as an efficient performer.

The Indian media is also subservient when it comes to aggressively to put forward its views on the many aspects of our failures. Be it corruption or economic policy confusion, there is such deficiencies in many areas; it looks as if we have become a nation conditioned to crony capitalism.
Yes, it is crony capitalism that had led this government, step by step and one mistake by another mistake, from 2-G scam to the present, almost insurmountable coalgate scam.

It is here we have to stand still and take note of what is possible in the present compete mix-up of issues and policies.

Simply because we have announced the new economic reforms policy for inviting FDI in retail, we can’t sit back and relax.

We need some new talents, efficient implementers.

This talent can’t be got from the political leftovers in the party and among its allies.
Any cabinet reshuffle, that seems inevitable in the present situation with Rahul Gandhi made to hover above everyone’s mind is that the allies quota would produce only some more worse likely offenders, itching to make some quick bucks before the next elections!

This danger is very there and so the PM might not really succeed in Unleashing the “animal spirits”.
It is quite laughable to borrow from Lord Keynes at this time of history.

In India, the animal spirits are sufficiently in action. It is the accumulated corruption deals.
If at all, we need to control the unleashed animal spirits, in various forms, in the accumulation of unaccounted cash deals in various portfolios, in the party coffers, in the sports bodies, in the foreign banks and elsewhere.

Also, we have to seriously lay down some strict ground rules so that our corporate leaders (and raiders) behave at least this time in a some dignified and restrained manner.

Government must become accountable at the last resort.

One person-rule, one-person decision making is a sure way to disaster. It is the arbitrary exercise of power that had done the party its Armageddon!

In a democracy, there is one sure way out. It is the elections. May be, sooner, rather than later, the next general elections might clear up the political confusions and contradictions.

Image Source : thehindu.com

He is simply exhausted!
He had flown around 50 hours in one week!

His eight-day tour took him across 50,000 km in four continents!
Is such hard work worth? Why international diplomacy at this time of the crisis-ridden domestic situation?

What about the economic slow-down and when governance is almost at a standstill?

Prime Minister’s style of functioning!

Too ineffective and proving too unaffordable?

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had just now concluded an eight-day hard work schedule overseas by travelling grueling long flights and using so much time and energy in international diplomacy.

Of course, only on these overseas trips, that too in very remote and very long-distance geography we get to hear the PM’s voice a bit louder. Louder than what we used to hear him inside the country, be it in Parliament where he is usually a picture of silent listener and watcher and otherwise, we hardly even see him either in the media or on the TV screens.

He is by his very nature a very solitary man and keeps to himself and hardly seen in a crowd, he doesn’t seem to conduct any janata durbars in his Race Course Road or we ever hear him as a public person. He never seemed to have received any visitor or visitors, who are otherwise interesting people, poets or artists or even intellectuals, as Nehru used to do, even Indira Gandhi used to practice it as a contrived art and show piece!

So, we read this time that the PM’s present eight-day tour spanned across 50,000 km in four continents. The shortest leg of the journey was an eight-hour flying from Rio to Pretoria in South Africa. This is for what? What was achieved? Nobody knows. No media reports are available.

Then, he also undertook still more long hours of flying. This longest leg of flying took 11 hours and this is from Frankfurt to Los Cabos! Where is this place? What is its importance for India? Now we learn that Los Cabos is in Mexico. The Prime Minister has flown for around 50 hours in just one week!

By any standards this is a record for a Prime Minister of a country and that too to a man of Singh’s age and health history.

This is a grueling schedule for any person of even lesser age but for Singh who underwent a second bypass surgery not long ago; this is a realty torture of sorts.

Why this arduous foreign journey?

Obviously, the Prime Minister believes that India has a lot to contribute to the Rio-20 conferences. Ms.Sunita Narain, CSE, calls the Rio declaration, “weak and meaningless”. Singh had a number of bilateral conferences with all sorts of heads of states. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason, so to say to travel so long and conduct bilateral conferences. So many scarce resources, the Air India felt, now grounded owing to the pilots on-going strike must have come in handy for the PM and the party to use more than one aircraft. It looked like that from the fact that AI India cancelled some of the international flights citing the deployment of the aircraft for the PM’s overseas trips.

Anyone in his place would have simply stayed back and sent many of his younger colleagues to attend these summits. Though they called for high profile presence of top leaders, what Dr.Singh had done seems quite inexplicable.

He met and conversed in bilateral talks with almost as many as 11 heads of states, most of them Indian’s close neighbours, from Sri Lanka and Maldives and even from Bhutan and Nepal even!
Why travel all the long distance to meet these gentlemen?

At home he had left behind him insurmountable problems.

With Mukerjee busy with his presidential ambitions and much canvassing work, the PM is the only economist even to make sense of the economic mess left behind Mr.Mukerjee.

Now only we see slowly criticism coming out from other more senior and competent men like former finance minister Yashwant Sinha and others.

Sonia Gandhi also seems to be in a fix. She has to undergo her medical tests in the USA and her trip is now held up owing to many factors.

Who has to re=start the engine of economic recovery, now with Mr.Mukerjee out of the scenario?

The message from the private sector is also very ominous.
Most big corporates like Reliance, Infosys, wipro and others are sitting on plies of investible cash and there must be some momentum created.

The corporate heads, not long ago wrote to the PM about governance. Why not call them for a face to face chit chat?
What about FDI?

PM’s remarks on his return journey are very imprecise and very general.

How the Prime Minister hopes to stay in his job and yet do his day to day functioning.

Unless some new face or faces are brought into the government, preferably some fresh faces from the corporate sector, some faces like K.V.Kamath or a Deepak Parekh and bold and radical steps are taken to attract FDI, there doesn’t seem to be any hope.

Who knows the rest of the term, upto 2014, might prove to be a lameduck session for the UPA-II.

There is exhaustion everywhere, there is a sense of helplessness and at the same time, there is the crises in the Opposition ranks, BJP is undergoing a rumoil and that may be the only saving grace for the Congress to do what it seems to be doing.

As for the Prime Minister the only consolation is that he has got a two year grace period to stay on.

Who knows the real debate from now onwards might be who would be the next two Prime Ministerial candidates, one from the BJP and another from the Congress!

Image Source : thescape.in

Elections in the states
Does development gets any attention?

Or it is all votebank politics, big money and violation of election code of conduct? Everyone, even the media, is talking about UP elections outcome. It is the make and break moment for Rahul Gandhi, they say.

Is it all then about one person, one party and one state?

UP is, of course, the battle ground. There are four parties and the four are nationally important. The parties invariably invite comparison  with other similar parties and personalities. Punjab is an example of dynastic politics totally engulfing the entire state, the Badal family dominates and so too the Amarendra Singh’ royal tag encompasses the whole  clans across many families. Punjab is known to the outside states as a very prosperous state with high agri production and also much enterprise.

But the sort of dynastic politics practised by the Badal family, it is now seen as desperately  caught in high unemployment, 37 per cent rise in unemployment and also the flight of nearly  900 hundred industrial factories to nearby Madhya Pradesh or Gujarat. This is shocking news for a distant state like TN where too you see the rise in unemployment and also the similar unemployment allowance for unemployed youth.

Unemployed youth in Punjab? Unemployment allowance of Rs.1,000 per month in Punjab?

Yes, this is unbelievable and shocking indeed.

There is also allegations of corruption and bad governance.
Corrupt politics in Punjab? Bad governance? Again it looks other states to fall into the same pattern. Again, we can see the same pattern in TN, if not in other states too.

The point is that development, good governance and also safeguards against corrupt politics are also missing if not totally neglected?
The same sort of neglect of good governance, resort to caste and communal politics and  also taking extreme  positions of some sensitive issues, be it the anti-Sikh riots of 1984,as in Punjab or anti- or pro-LTTe or chauvinistic issues  have come to the surface.

Lately, as in UP, it is  blatant resort of violation of Election Code of conduct or use of big money, why even terror tactics, why event  threat of  President’s rule, if the Congress is not voted back to power are all signs of the times.

In this atmosphere of highly charged environment where is the scope for long-term thinking or some sober approach to realities.
The realities of politics   are about to rub in very soon after the dust dies down.

UP also raises the question whether the Congress can come back to power on the sort of propaganda and tactics adopted by the Congress.

A cool-headed analysis of the past history shows that after 1967  the Congress never came back to power in the UP.

In the 1990s it was always the non-Congress and BSP and SP were the contenders for power in the state.

Given the sort of divide in UP, it would continue to be a caste based divide and it would continue to be a corruption-driven politics that can survive in the absence of any other radical change.

As between now and before, it is the duo, Akilesh Yadav and Rahul Gandhi.

After March 6th,the results might show whether Rahul Gandhi would get the legitimacy and credibility to walk into 7,Race Course Road as the official occupant .

Otherwise, as M.J.Akbar, the veteran journalist notes that instead of the duopoly of Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi it might be a triumvirate. Rahul Gandhi might still continue to play a role. Age is on his side.

Then, in politics, it is not all about development and progress?
Yes, it looks like that also increasingly.

Who knows the coming Presidential elections the Congress could mismanage the elections and might be lost for the Congress. Then what happens?

The government might fall and new general elections might engage out attention.

Yes, the way the Congress is in desperation to anoint Rahul Gandhi(it is another question whether he willingly enters the Prime Ministerial race or opts out. The latter possibility is also possible given his visage and his pronouncements, he is less articulate than Akilesh Yadav, and we have to say).

Of course all this speculation might go wrong if Mayawati comes back once again.

This too is a possible scenario. Then, the very same game might start. Megalomania and the same wasteful expenditure that is becoming more and more the norm in some of the states.

So, there is no definite clue to the future of the question: development vs. caste and populist politics.

Of course, the bad examples are too many to talk of the good examples. West Bengal is also another example.

While there are some good examples like Bihar, Odisha, MP and even Chhattisgarh. Even a state like Kerala with its own positive  features is a well-governed state with its good press, education and grown political awareness.

Image Source : ibnlive.in.com