Why Press and media freedom is misunderstood?
Many things on the loose when it comes to public awareness?
Why then  the Supreme Court asks the government whether the Election Commission can deny tickets to criminals?
Parliament is doing its work?

SC in a dilemma? EC so weak? Press must report, explain and educate the public! The Indian  media scene is  neither optimistic nor confident! A great pity. It looks as if not many know that corruption and criminality in our politics and public life are the  two great hindrances to an open society politics.

Anna HazareAfter four years of Modi regime there are many great issues that are defying solution. We haven’t been able to nominate a Lok Pal while everyone knows this was a promise made many years ago. Anna Hazare after his famous hunger strike, now seems to be tired of the demand and he had become quieter. Poor soul! What more an individual however much one is committed to ideals can do in the present political culture which is vitiated by such high hypocrisy and so much cynicism for values.

One wonders whether the public too inks reconciled to live with the a degenerated political culture and not enthused for an optimistic alternative clean politics. The government for all its great many strides in so many areas of public life, its energy and initiative to launch a range of new schemes seems to have lost the larger vision for a great democracy. India should be  feeling pride in its democratic values, great Constitution that had withstood the many challenges, one should really speak much about how great men, great minds (Ernest Barker, the distinguished British political scientist) have spoken highly of India’s Constitution but we seem to be an unconcerned people. Or, the
ruling regime or regimes didn’t care for all the high optimism that must be informing the public.

Anyway, the latest debates in the Supreme Court about banning the criminals in the legislatures show that we are becoming more and more insensitive to  these issues. Supreme Court has been told by the Government that not to make too many adverse observations of the government policies in the PILs. In fact, the issues are becoming too unbearable by more violence, series of communal clashes, pubic lynching’s etc.

Violence is bad. Who says so? None! What a shame! The high and mighty must be saying: adhere to law and order. The courts are also held to ransom, it seems. Why the large pendency of cases in all the courts?

Why doesn’t the PM and his colleagues, all well-merited no doubt can’t take speedy steps to fill up the large vacancies in the courts? There are very many other issues of high importance like the functioning  of agencies like CHI,ED and others where a very distinct impression has gained ground they are used to take revenge upon Opposition leaders? There is widespread fear in the media and also in the judiciary itself.

So, press freedom, media freedom, independent function of the organs of public opinion   all seem suppressed, there are various events that prove this impression. No one man can rule the country, even in the USA as  the vast disappointment  upon the US President Doland Trump. Mr.A.G.Sulzberger, the publisher of the New York Times met the President and after the President complained of the Fake News doing damage etc, the New York Times owner within two hours came out with his tweet: I told the President directly that I thought his language was not just divisive but increasingly  dangerous”.

How many in India ,in the media, in the press and in the TV media can dare to say this to our Prime Minister? So, democracy just means something else. The Courts must be free to say that the criminals in the legislatures is a shame and they must be barred from entering the Houses. In fact, the issues are becoming much more grim.

Parliament must function  with full force and must adhere to norms, the House Chairmen powers must be enhanced and also the conduct of our legislators must be monitored more seriously. The many scames, like the 2G,can be avoided only if we deliberate more serious on  a range of reforms from  the political parties, political funding and the quality of the peoples’ representatives!

For all this to be possible there must be unfettered press freedom and also other freedoms! Only great minds can contribute and for this you have to  have a vast tolerance of dissent. Opposition also must conduct its jobs with great responsibility. Parties must desist from building family dynasties.

The meaning and significance of freedoms in a democracy must be debated widely in universities to public platforms. Fearless independent intellectuals must speak out. Civil Society, NGOs must be allowed, why encouraged and the PM and Opposition leaders must participate, must give more press interviews and a healthy and mature political environment must be created.

Or, carrying favour with the high and mighty?

We once asked a Corporate heavy-weight, and a lady at that, who sat at the high table of Sonia  Gandhi for an ad for this media publication!

CSRThe lady was not only negative, she seemed to have dismissed our request in a nonchalant manner! This has been our almost routine experience and we have learnt a lot of lessons in corporate  social responsibility(CSR) tag given to  the corporate to spend 2 per centage of their net profits on their CSR activities.CSR is a political lobbying spends of the corporate? Yes, it looks like that. Sometime, you read some ridiculous and even plain exercise of some nonsense or other in the name of charity! Including  tending for their stray dogs as one big corporate advertises for these starry animals!

So, CSR is  community engagement, like say the PM’s swatch bharath or even  other such socially responsible production or socially responsible  employees’ relations.

But one thing is clear that we, as a nation, have not grown out of coshing with powers that be, be it the Congress leaders or by now the BJP leaders. We are a nation of cringing citizens, right?

One can speak only with one’s experiences, our experience is not beyond sceptical outlook.  Let us be clear about one thing. In spite of so many years of corporate wealth creation, from the pre-Independence days, we haven’t grown into a mature social conscious society.

Still, the rich-poor divide is so  wide, in spite of so many positive developments, the growth of corporate wealth and the sharing of the same with the employees. We remain a socially insensitive nation and society. The PSUs are supposed to make a 0.5 % to 5 % of net profit for CSR spends.

In our media ventures we have written at length about these non-profit, on selfish natures of creating and distributing wealth. There are some areas like education, culture and other intangible areas of life that sometimes a society, a country and a culture is rated high for the simple reasons they, the many institutions have survived and money had been  found and spent for some unprofit-seeking reasons.

There is college like ALL Souls at Oxford. If you see its history, it is there with no students, but only some Fellows who haven’t produced any tangible profits or incomes, but they had done the world proud by their unselfish seeking for greater ideals, ideas and truth at its best expression.

That is one reason why some of these institutions have brought glory to the countries and also to mankind. Why you give away your CSR?
To show in the audit?

So, silly! Why education today has become irrelevant to society? All such institutions have been turned into money making. Not one capitalist of the country, may be with exceptions to the pre-independent days under Mahatma Gandhi, we can recall like say the great Robert Owen in England?

One Birla, one Bajaj are the only exceptions we can recall now! Self-sacrifice, self-interest sacrifice,giving to causes greater than tangible funds for political parties. Why so much mystery surrounds the donations to political parties?

Any notable VIP has come out of controversy or  from the list of current donors?
Of course we live a new age of materialism and so much of aggrandisement is inside us to exploit to the maximum, the poor and the weak?

So, at the end of the day, what matters in CSR spends is the non-tangible ideas and ideals and thought-processes, why even including such ideal of democracy like citizens freedoms, citizens rights, human rights, human values like truth, ethics and such other higher ideals.

Even areas like agriculture, rural development calls for media exposure and media coverage where there is not much money or reward. Such non-tangible ideals are worth the CSR spends and attention. Amen!

A distinct possibility is the very same distinct character of the Bengali renaissance political and cultural history.

West Bengal is no more the  strong hold of any party other than Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool  Congress. And Mamata, remember, is a stormy petral of the Indian National Congress itself.

The 35 year old dogmatic ideology of the Marxist Party is now gone. Not many can  recollect the leaders of the old CPI(M),leader like Jyoti Basu and many other veterans who were both formidable theoreticians as well practical achievers. Nor the current crop of Trinamool grass root workers any way lacking in the muscle and other grassroots skills including indulging in violence.

mamathaNow, the BJP is struggling to build up its cadre in a state where the cadre -based politics is also the strength of the Trinamool.

The RSS is strong but not at the very heart of Bengali politics. They are somewhere near the borders of Bangladesh and where Muslim vote is concerned it is very strongly in favour of the Trinamool only.

The BJP hasn’t been able to build its base for ,as observed by many observers, Mamata herself is a devotee of the Hindu gods and the Hindu icon like  Bankim, Tagore, Vivekananda, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Bose! So, however hard the BJP may try to appropriate these Bengal icons they are already appropriated  by a wider section of the Hindu society not just inside Bengal but also outside.

And it may not be irrelevant to point out that again however hard  you try to appropriate  the icon of Swami Vivekananda he Swamiji is already a secular Hindu icon as well. To put the Swamiji’s  robust secularism into the rather un and even anti-intellectualism and such serious  rationalism of the Swamiji’s exposition of Hinduism itself doesn’t make sense and that is the only genuine explanation, in our view why the RSS or the BJP leaders like Amith Shah and Narendra Modi doesn’t cut ice with the well-evolved  Bengal middle class elite as well as the mass of the Bengalis society and polity.

That was one significant reason why Amit Shah couldn’t muster  enough credibility when he called to see the intelligentsia and that section roundly refused to take the bite!

So, it is very likely that after the much debated and much controversial panchayat elections in which 34 per cent of the seats went uncontested and that explains the hold the Trinamool has over the imagination of the Bengali mass.
Yes, Bengali mass is still in a sort of Dark Age ,when seen from the other extreme of a similar  state like  Tamil Nadu where too the hold of the Dravidians eths of similar ethnic identity holds the BJP at bay.

In neither of these states the BJP can hope to make any advance for the people in these states have gone  further and further away from the so-called mainstream like advance the BJP made in one swoop in the year 2014.

Bengal had adopted an eclectic sort of  Hinduism in  the likes of lives and service of the saints like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. So, any number of slogans like Jai Ram and the processions of Ramanavami and Hanuman Jayanti won’t cut ice with the voters.

So, what chance for the BJP in Bengal?

May be one or two marginal rise in vote share or seat share. Given Mamata’s penchant for energy and  a daring thrust at the enemy camp, be it the CPI(M) or the Congress where the leaders are very weak and  also from the BJP ranks where too leaders like Mukul Roy and Ritabrta  Benerjee are no match to Mamata’s current crop of energised new leaders, there are too many to narrate here their individual  contributions to the collective strength.

What is the chances for Mamata’s claim for New Delhi crown?
Her sheer numbers. She could hopefully bring to the table the entire 42 MP seats.

Once she demonstrates her pull, may be the other alliance partners who are also otherwise allergic to the dynastic claims of the Congress, the party might have no other choice but to fall in line.

The Eastern Indian segment might also opt for Mamata.

Why, even other states might coalesce  with the others in the very jockeying for a share in power.

After the Amartya Sen-Rajiv Kumar TV Debate on the economy
Now, the great game of the 2019 election!

amartyaYes, there are some dramatic  moments in  the political and  economic debates in recent times. One was of course the much-talked about No-confidence debate in the Lok Sabha. In a significant sense, this debate gave Mr.Rahul Gandhi the much needed boost to prove his credentials as a leader of the great national party, the Indian  National Congress. It looks as if the ruling party, namely, the BJP  seemed to have imagined itself as a powerful party that wanted to replace the INC, the slogan was the Congress-mukth  India! This won’t cut much ice, everyone knows and yet the very boost the party gave itself showed that they really believed in creating such a scenario.

Now, after the no-confidence debate and the outcome, though everyone knows, were as expected. The  BJP gave in to the way Mr.Gandhi came out with a well-prepared and  well-rehearsed  speech that took everyone by surprise and even with some shock. Rahul Gandhi with this s;pee3ch seem to have arrived on the national stage, we have to admit, however grudgingly. Yes, he produced an impact and the ruling party itself was take a back with Gandhi’s    flow of speech which had itself and flow and ended with a shocking hug he gave to Mr.Modi. The PM himself was unprepared and we have seen how he was caught unawares and yet managed to respond in a way that also gave him some credit. The real bonhomie brought the much need civility and some dignity also to the very  august house and that is how it should be at the end of the day.

So, of all the old times, starting from the 1963 Acharya Kripalanai’s  no-confidence speech against Pandit Nehru to the other such events, in all some 26 no-confidence motions in the Lok Sabha, this one too was a landmark event. After all, Mr.Modi managed to avoid any such move in the last four yats and also it is a fact that the very massive setback to the Congress made the party unnerved to move a motion on its own. So,  the current move gave rise to a new development.

A new confidence to take on Mr.Modi on the coming Lok Sabha elections in 2019. Also came in before the debate in Parliament another well-timed debate, this time between the government economists, Rajiv Kumar who heads the Niti Aayog, the planning body of the m Modi government. The debate on the NDTV, well-timed and also well-titled, “Prove it!”And the “Challenges accepted.

We saw after a long break, Prof.Sen  taking on Modi government for its lacklustre performance on the economic front, as Sen Saw it. After all Sen is an expert on the Indian economy, why even on the global economic scene and so we had for the first time saw Sen quoting enough evidence, statistics from a range of issues, from education to health  to the very economic growth scenario, from Bangladesh to Indonesia to Sri Lanka to show ,to prove that on sheer general data, these countries were performing much better than the great Indian economy.

Yes, Rajiv Kumar quoted enough date to show how under the Modi regime  many sectors of the Indian economy were performing very creditably. And yet, as Sen proved ,yes with a touch of sarcasm and with, that we have to prove by credible data. Yes, on this basis, we have to concede why we need a much more better account to prove that we are doing really well. We have to take our economic experts, advisers and independent experts with a pinch of salt, as we saw from Sen’s type of analysis that we need a much more critical insights.

As Sen said that we need more critical economists, very credible economists, unfortunately, the official economists are a bit unreliable, see how many were sent out or they themselves migrated as soon as their official tasks are over here!

This sort of “patriotism” nor the lack of it somehow dents the credibility of the USA-based Indian economists. Fortunately, Sen said that he spend more time these days in India. That is welcome and does him much good, we  feel! If one Sen had based himself more on the Indian soil his wisdom and credibility would have much more good for the larger good of  the country.

Now, the latest buzz is that the coming great challenge for Mr.Modi is the 2019 general election. Now, after the no-confidence debate we see the Congress is having a rethink, that is not to project Rahul Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate that is how it should be.

Instead they should project a candidate who has really credibility. Not necessarily, a female candidate, Mayawati or Mamata Banerjee. But others too are also in the race. H.D.Kumaraswamy or a Chandrababu Naidu. We need a much more broad based debate, an objective debate. Not the media-inspire prejudiced  media-led talk.

Surely, we feel that Mr.Naidu has the ideal qualifications. His proven administrative abilities make him an ideal candidate for the Prime Minister’s job in place of Modi, if the Opposition parties seriously give up their own narrow agendas and seek a nationally-credible fight.

Also, it is important to point out that the Congress must shed its obsession with dynasty. Mrs.Sonia Gandhi seems to be still playing an active role, not even from behind the scene and so too the dummy candidate of Dr.Manmohan Singh. Who knows the desires of people? Dr./Singh might still be projected as the dummy face of the dynasty. Such narrow dreams must be exposed and a real-well-debated candidate
or candidates who might emergence from a genuine democratic debate.

Indian democracy faces multiple challenges!
We can’t take for granted the current realities alone!
There can be unanticipated developments!

opposition-unity-2Politics is now all the passion and superficial concern of the dominant sections of society. Every one, I mean the citizen, who has made some progress in life, earned wealth and an ambition to further his or her prospects in life takes interest in politics. That seems to be the only way to gain further foothold in life, so to say.

So, we seem all sorts of people, Tom ,Dick and Harry, are eager to ‘enter’ politics. Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi Chief Minister, is a outspoken man  and he had called the Prime Minister as ‘a not educated person’. Of course, this is a rude and uncourteous remark for  whom we can call an educated person and others ‘uneducated’. The late Kamaraj was an ‘uneducated’ person or for that matter there are so many not so-well-educated but they had left great legacies. We can name many.

He had cited Dr.Manmohan Singh as a well-educated person. Yes, he is but that alone didn’t give him any glory. The series of scams in his tenure brought the Congress party to such a disgrace. Politics is not a simple subject. It is a serious subject. It had given the world much of its civilisation. The story is told many times. We ourselves had covered the topic many times in these columns. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are only few names. There are others from ancient Greece to Rome, to Italian Renaissance to the French and the European Enlightenment.

The point here is that in India we live at a time when there are very many issues that cry for debate and discussion and that is our concern here.
You see that Indian democracy is our prized legacy and that is facing challenges.

2019 Lok Sabha elections is becoming a priority with every other political party and the new-found unity of the Opposition parties in Bangalore the other day unlined the new temper of Indian politics.

What will be the debating point in 2019.Re-election of Mr.Narendra Modi for another term? Yes, it is! Displacing Mr.Modi by the Opposition parties? Yes, that is also the high priority for the Opposition parties?
The BJP has an ideology. But what about the Opposition parties?

There is no clear agenda that could bind the Opposition parties. The Congress has all the weaknesses of an exhausted party.
The old hands hang on in Delhi, most of them are high networth individuals, so to say, they are also professionls, lawyers and others, feudal and ne nouveau riche!

The party in many states is in shambles.
What is the vision or a core agenda?

For other parties, for Mamata Banerjee, K.Chandra Shekhar Rao, or even Chandrababu Naidu, Sharad Pawar or other regional parties? As far as we see we don’t hear then speaking out!

Here are some concerns and priorities.  Indian democracy is great with 1.25 billion people. It has worked unbroken since 1947, though in the Commonwealth countries it was not so.

Yet, today there is a sense of unease widely in the country. Why is this so, no one asks. It is because there are some tensions and pressures built in the system. Parliament is not functioning and we haven’t found out ways to deal with this situation.

Parties are becoming more casteists, communal, as even in Karnataka we have found lately. This process of castes and communalism consolidating is likely in the coming days.

Media is under stress, why even judiciary, why even the many other independent or autonomous bodies like the anti-corruption bodies, CBI, ED and even  the existing Lokayukthas are not functioning. Political opponents are targeted. Our leaders talk but not many or convinced. The many claims are not seem validated.
Now, it looks more sinister games, yes we can only call then games, not policies are on.

One such anxiety arises from the latest news item that the government is set to engage a private agency monitor online activities of individuals and social groups, why even organisations, newspapers, news channels, collect “digital media charter”. The aim is to give a ‘positive’ slant and “inculcate nationalistic feelings in the masses”. Brain washing?

This step seems to be very disturbing. What we like to highlight here is that we need a new charter of electoral reforms, reform of the Election Commission, punishing criminal elements in elections (this category of persons are growing faster!) funding of the political parties, undoing the electoral bonds schemes, why even the reforms and structure of the political parties is over-due, so that political corruption and the tendency for the parties to become more unaccountable to the public and thereby, the parties perpetuate themselves, as dynasties, why even as business empires(see the scale of corruption in TN, for instance, as  receivers of black money from the capitalists, from the capitalist class which is becoming more and more monopolistic and cause for exploitation of the poor and the vulnerable sections.

Today’s democracy is not transparent for various reasons but we have to restore and purify democracy in all its glories!

A robust social agenda that would take   the excesses of monopoly capitalism and at the same time combine the private capitalism as the engine of economic growth.

This seems to be the most critical agenda for the present generation.
It is a long story. From  the time of the previous generation of intellectuals, from Lord Keynes to Joseph Schumpeter to Fredrick von Hayek to other intellectuals like Karl Marx to Karl Popper to Isaiah Berlin.

You want do without capitalism but it has to be tamed to function under a robust democracy, that too a parliamentary democracy and an independent judiciary and an independent media and other NGO watchdogs! Do any political party cares for such concerns?

There is no other alternative, please take note! This is our agenda for the 2019!