Now, in a latest move the government has drawn from the supposed  autonomous institutions like DD and AIR and posed them,15 and 16 respectively, and posted them to work as publicity officers for various ministries. The government’s publicity wing, Press Information Bureau, PIB, is going to see, say reports, a conflict of interest and confusion.

prasar_bharti_logoThey will be now  publicity officers as well as DD and AIR staff.
What sort of objective publicity you can get from government propaganda?

What information citizens get from this wing, which the people can’t get from private print media or from TV news channels?
The government has a broadcasting arm, named Prasar Bharati!
There is a huge budget of  Rs.28 billion!

India is a democracy, supposed to enlarge the freedoms of the citizens. The government also has an advertising department.
It is supposed to propagate the government’s public interest programmes.

But once you peep into the working of the bureaucrats-run departments in the area of public broadcasting and advertising the government’s various public programmes, you would soon find yourself into some darker corners of the public life!

There is a tug of war between the Prasar Bhaarti Board and the union ministry of  and broadcasting. Nothing to be surprised given the Indian bureaucratic system and the mindset of the current political dispensation which has had no tradition of internal democratic functioning. The appointment of a serving IAS officer is another step backward.

The Prasar Bharati is supposed to be free and creative enough to command credibility by the viewing public. There are enough indications why the whole goal of turning Prasar Bharati into one likes the British Broadcasting Organisation(BBC),of course a  tall order. There are any number of innovative and daring and credibility-winning private sector enterprises in TV news channels.

The Doha-based Al Zazeera is a latest example. A Gulf country could become a trailblazer, the staffs of the AI Zazeer is recruited  from the BBC primarily and you are surprised by the high quality and credibility of their broadcast. #Even within India itself you gave now any number of private TV news channels, NDTV, Times Now and India Today and many others, the latest Republic TV are all prime examples of what a freedom loving TV new channels have to be.

We all expected that Mr.Narendra Modi would bring in new wind, really the breeze, to the media environment.
Alas. There is just the opposite.

Freedom of media is a strong point of any free society.
Let us how there will be change in the right direction.
Also, we should all realise that we all live in a free society.
So, how can the Prasar Bharati can think of blacking out the broadcast of a state Chief Minister, that of Tripura Mamnik Sarkar’s Independence Day broadcast simply because it carried a contrary view.

This is childish to say the least. Also, there is another department of  the government. The Directorate of Advertising.
We who run almost a similar public interest journalism, media publications dedicated to such topics like agriculture and rural development and education.

Not a single ad we are able to procure from the ministry.
Everywhere in the country, in the states there is least concern for public good, we are sorry to say. Take even the Library Movement. Do you know there are state where there is still not a library act enacted?

TN was the first one in India after independence, after 1948 to act a Public Library Act which ,we are pleased to tell the best run state level library act and the TN public library system is a first rate one and there is one more reason why the TN is a leading education state.

It is time the Union HRD ministry ,please take note of it.
Education, library movement, free public broadcasting service and a great deal of freedom and creativity to the TV news channels would go a long way to enhance the quality of our public life.

It is time we take serious steps to revamp the government publicity and also try hard to evolv e a credible independent media, both in the public and the private sector. It is not an easy job that can be done by any minister or a bureaucrat. Please consult the experts and known professionals with high standing.This month, the Central government seems to be caught in multiple conflict of interest issues.

Nirav Modi

Nirav Modi

On the other hand the government’s move to transfer a large number of staff from the DD and AIR  to serve as publicity managers to various ministries.

Who is the minister in charge of the Information and Broadcasting ministry? None other than the already high visible Smriti Irani who was entrusted with this sensitive ministry last July.
We should all know how a government propaganda wing can do things wrong? Last October the DD missed reporting the upgrade of India in the ease of doing business, a highly top priority news item on the World Bank ranking of India.

Yes, it was  a serious lapse.   We have to cultivate a more committed public opinion!
The credibility of government publicity and propaganda apart!
There  are the  public perceptions and public opinion issues!

We seem to be living through an unusual phase in India’s  public life. There are more scams and  scandals  everyday these days. The people are not able to access more information and  reliable news.

Our media is not forthcoming to investigate and report news in an objective and bold manner. Fear of authority is restricting media freedoms. There must be more  institutional reforms, Prasar Bharati and  the other government agencies must be easily accessible to the public.

With the coming of the BJP government and the  entry of Prime Minister Nr.Narendra Modi in 2014,even those of us who belonged to the Indian National Congress and yet disenchanted with the way the Congress party under Sonia Gandhi deteriorated in some of the traditional  roles as a democratic party, a secular party and also as a traditionally equal and anti-exploitative economy, be it old style landlordism or even as a feudalistic and capitalistic economy, we welcomed the coming of Mr.Modi for the basic reason there was after a long period of dynastic rule by one family and that too  thrust the leadership role on an outsider, a bureaucrat and not a politician of some credibility. So too many other features of a collective political leadership, the Congress party fell into a coterie rule.

So, the coming of Mr.Modi with an absolute majority in Parliament  was a refreshing change, we all felt.Apart from what the BJP promised, Mr.Modi seemed to have to have proved that in India a fairly open election and transparent election process can work.

So, there was a great sense of resurgence in the country and in the expectations of the people.Now, after nearly  the term of the BJP government is nearly becoming complete, what is the public perception? What is the public opinion?

At this critical juncture comes the many disturbing developments. The latest scam is the Nirav Modi’s diamond business and the astounding revelation of Rs.11,000 crore swindling of PSU bank funds, from the Punjab National Bank.

Of course, this was a great shock to many, we are sure, to the great many friends of the government, not just from the political spectrum but also from the business class, the very many new entrepreneurs   who are all keen to see India emerges as a  successful third largest economy and why, even, India as a super power! Why not?

Mr.Narendra Modi also emerged as a sort of world-known Indian Prime Minister after a long time. This is the first time we see a confident Indian Prime Minister striding along international capitals  with a sure touch of a nation in search of its legitimate place in the comity of nations. As one China expert states, India can  score over China not by its cash pile or economic or military muscle, but by its cherished values of a democracy, secularism and a sense of equality of opportunities for its citizens, that is by deploying private capitalism, yes, and yet with a wider sense of capitalism with a compassionate face, right?

Mr.Modi(from now onwards we have to keep a distinction between Modi, the PM and the other Modi, Nirav Modi)as the PM was all that was shine and from now onwards whatever we may think individually, collectively the public mind would always tag the other Modi.

The financial scandal is such a high scale that the confident PM must be seen acting expeditiously.

After so many days of the scandal news circling and recircling around so many guess-work and no authentic  responses from the government, the predominant impression in the in the public mind is utter confusion and dismay of unprecedented  magnitude.
Why the top guns of the party and the government so utterly speechless.

Why no swift action on the part of the government?
Why not dissolved the Board of Management of the PNB? Why not   sacking of the MD? Or the resignation of the  same person?
What are the Independent Directors still doing, without any action. No resignation in shame or  remorse   for allowing this scandal happening?

All that we had  was a very weak and insensible  response from the defence  minister?

There is no point in being  so polite to the conduct of the government  which once made so many claims of maximum governance and minimum government etc.

So, we are becoming  conditioned for a sort of governance in the country, very much similar to what we were already accustomed, namely, following the UPA’s scam style. Once a scam detected you rush to find alibis?

Modi’s glory days are over? Or, falling from its early shine?
This is where public perceptions  come in. By the way, what is perceptions?  You see as a government you can spend a fortune on publicity and events management and Mr.Modi  is lucky on these fronts. He had had a run almost, so to say, in reaching out to the moon. He travelled tirelessly, both inside and out the country.

He had a full share to  convince people that he is a real alternative to the Congress regime. Why, even, he proclaimed that he  is  almost the new avatar, may be except, Mahatma Gandhi, to save India. Fine, fine, People simply accepted and believed Modi. But now, after this  Nirav Modi acts, there is really genuine anxiety, even within the government, we detect. That is the  public perception. Public perception goes beyond reason and even genuine truth and true situations. You can say and explain anything by publicity and reasoning. But the public is a wild beast. It has its own ways.

It is what the ordinary man or woman or any group at any level of the social ladder believe and talk about.
Luckily, we are already in the era of Social Media. The Indian media scene is already changed. With all efforts to control and regulate the media, with the powers of the Prasad Bharati and the government’s many other powers of control and regulation, also in the context of the private capitalism taking over vast chunks of TV broadcast medium, there are still shrill voices of dissent and rebellion and freedom of expression and rights to agitate and protest and carry out procession in the Indian democratic space.

India’s rank in the  corruption index is 81st,very poor indication of what a great democracy should be achieving.
Of course, the BJP is still unmoved and the government is in a dilemma as we can there is silence on the part of senior ministers and the wise men at the RSS or the Magadarshis are also speechless for they all feared Modi so long for all his oratorical skills and his various claims to user in a new dawn.
Already, there is disillusionment across the swathe of the country. In the South already there is disappointment that Modi government promised a lot but the PM is not turning to do something very decisive, be it the farmers distress or the improvement in the governance system, the various institutions of governance, be it the fighting of corruption, the PM didn’t care a bit for establishing Lok Pal or Lokayukta. Or, even ensuring the independence of the CBI or other anti-corruption agencies or individuals. Now, is it a casual coincidence or an irony of sorts or the very spirit of the moment the Government had informed the apex court that it would convene the Lok Pal committee to nominate the highest anti-corruption body?

Anyway, it is good news and let us looks forward for some credible action.  The way the judicial system is being bound by unnecessary delays in approving the names of judges is also a sign that the government has an agenda that is not fully explained  and the public is educated and enlightened.
Can we muzzle public option?

The corruption perception index is damning for Indian’s many claims, the world’s largest democracy, largest economy etc but we are ranked with Maldives and Philippines  with not only corruption but, alas, in press freedoms!

Why? Why no one TV news channel or even the mighty print media houses conduct some  conclave or  huddle?

There is a widespread perception that Indian media industry is very restricted. No media house is confident enough to debate such issues like corruption, press freedom and even such international reports like the Oxfam report on the rising inequality in India   are not debated in the media.

How can we shape public opinion and engage  the public in creating a positive outlook on the major issues of the day?
The public policy making space is shrinking. This has to be reversed.

Otherwise, there is a danger of policy paralysis  as we were confronted with on the eve of the 2014 general elections.
History can repeat itself and it can do so in this instance very soon.

There is palpable fear and anxiety on the part of the Indian media houses among which are some monopolies! Big business tie-ups with the media channels are a danger to media independence. This is an area where much research and analysis is needed and public opinion needs to be cultivated on enlightened lines.
It is  at least small mercy that as it is the media houses like Indian Today and lately, the Chennai-based The Hindu Group are conducting more open-ended conclaves.

Also, we have to commend that in India media freedom, however weak, is better as there are not extremist acts and also the core constituency of the middle level professional classes, executives, academics and even small businessmen all come to constitute a more committed public opinion on the basic issues of the day. We have to get a more wider section of people, better educated and better placed in society that take an active interest in the future of our democratic system.

Public opinion is again a sensitive issue.
You can’t ignore public opinion, can you?
Public opinion is built over various layers of the society and the classes.

Why, even the upper classes, why even the most powerful billionaire classes, the very top few whom are all known faces and also wield so much arbitrary power and are  around the PM. This is a class in themselves! Read the latest Oxfam report on the Indian billionaire class  is wielding enormous power, arbitrary at that.

Of course this should worry only the more thinking sections to understand further on what constitutes the “lopsided polices”, as the Oxfam puts it, that has led to the crony capitalism’s many distortions. This  type of Capitalism needs more in-depth study and analysis. In fact, the role of the new type of arbitrary power wielding economist system that goes by many names in other countries, as oligarchies or authoritarianism etc need more critical study by more competent thinkers.

This government can’t claim to be a friend of the poor and the vulnerable, the vulnerable castes and communities. Their combinations have their own perceptions and judgements.
The public opinion of the vulnerable weaker sections is surely might work against this government. Only a  serious analysis of the castes and their various combinations, the vote-banks of  other social groups, in some of the larger states like UP, Bihar and Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are going to be an untamed beast as we see it now.

So, there can be many surprises in the 2019 general elections with more youth voters lend to new dynamics as we had already seen in Gujarat and very likely in the other states.
So, in one word, Indian democracy is becoming more open and more  transparent to give any repetition we have been seeking for.

Second, Indians are an agitated lot!
What is happening to countries as different as the USA and India?

They are all unhappy, disturbed and  so it goes! Americans are worried about their health, economy, trust in government, Hate crimes, Crimes, Wars and Conflicts, Terrorist attacks. High taxes, unemployment and low wages climate change and environment.
Now, what about ourselves, Indians?

Crowd with people on the street in Warsaw rush hoursIn India, agitations, the government statistics say, were as low as 3,106 in 2011. Now in 2016, it has shot up to 6,587! Student agitations? From 6005 in 2011 to 10,205 in 2016.

Govt. employees’ agitations? The ones who got the fat 7th Pay Commission wages? They agitated 14,218 times in 20111.Now,in 2016 their agitations  seemed to have doubled to 23,708. As an aside we can say it pays to be a government servant and agitate periodically!

What about political parties?

How can they lag behind other category of agitators? Political parties resorted to agitations some astounding 22,708 times in 2011.Luckily for the common man, the government servants beat the politicians only agitating, this time ,some 29,400 times in 2016!

Of course the unreported, almost ignored lots, the farmers, the labourers and students, farmers resort to agitations and also commit suicides, perhaps the media is so tired of the farmers, those farmers, and suicides are not reported either in the print or on the TV channels.

But then it is a democracy, every citizen is a free citizen.
So, please feel free to come to the streets and agitate!

Popular agitations are much preferred to no agitations. Otherwise you would see the Chinese style army tanks to come on the streets to crush the students, as it happened in Peking in 1989.

Americans have reasons to be  worried. They are a violent nation or a violent society, where every citizen carries guns, not one but a big number in their shelves.

Our fellow Indian returnees narrate how the gun-buying and gun totting culture has led to such brutal killings, the latest is one of the very many shooting sprees in the American cities!
May be the worries of fellow Americans are bound to rise with each day this violence -prone society also draws more of foreigners, as their citizens.

May be the biggest number of foreigners now on the American soil would be only Indians and Indians have cause to worry along with their fellow American counter-parts!

God forbid that Indians don’t import the American culture in violent culture. Let the worries to remain within the American borders. Let Indians learn more of the good American culture, openness, a sense of freedom and doing things in big ventures.

Yes, they are expelling thousands out of jobs
IT biggies gone underground! Why IT leaders remain tongue-tied?

chairmanThere are reports almost daily that hundreds and thousands of mid-career IT professionals with families and school-going children, loans on housing to repay etc. are asked on a daily basis, as soon as they enter their offices in the morning, they are called in and asked to sign a resignation letter and quit the job at once!

What sort of compassionate capitalism men like Narayana Murthy who had cultivated an iconic public face cultivated for him are talking about? What are the opinion-makers, columnists and others in the policy making business doing?

No one, we don’t want to utter names and create controversy for controversy sake, is coming out and create public confidence in such a basic industry like the IT. What are the sorts of public opinion we help to build and enlighten the people? So, IT is another illusion or what future likes ahead?

They made fat profits, built large structures and let us hope common sense says that many of this dream structures don’t become ghost structures sooner than later! Certainly, responsible people, be they political leaders or IT biggies soon collect themselves at the high table and come out with some public statement reassuring others at least in the jobs right now and let us create a confidence in our own society and turn things around so that  we have a sort of public policy in place. Surely, the public anxiety and why even anger, as we talk too many in the jobs, don’t lead to some untoward explosions.

The IT companies, the big among them have a great moral duty and moral commitment to create a contingency fund, call it by any name you like, like the Corporate Social Responsibility, and work out a policy of rehabilitating those who are very much affected by rude expulsions!
This duty is cast on firms like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and other larger entities. It was moved when Mr.Anand Mahindra, the head of the Mahindra Tech, publicly came along and expressed an open apology on the TV screens where the first news of such great distress was flashed across the country. He is truly a great gentleman who had the moral gusts to appear before the people. We salute him.

Now, the curse of the new techs, yes, we have to call it like that only, the new techs like AI and automation and others are surely upon us and no one cries over them. But we need to re-skill the talents available and why not the government and the industry leaders take the initiative to revamp the curriculum in the IITs and engineering colleges to the level of the new requirements?

Please do this at once and let us not wait for the government in a sort of slumber, see how the HRD is coping with the many current issues in education, both the higher and the lower ends.

Who says education is a soft option. Not anymore now, please understand. As our motto we once again repeat: education is a public cause, not a private profit! Unfortunately, it is right now. It can’t remain so for long!

Finding solutions to the world’s water crisis!

Water resources is a critical factor these days. So too the critical leadership that is sensitive and committed to augmenting water resources for agriculture and drinking water and for the general health of the economy and society.

What do we see on the ground?

riverVery narrow political and sectarian considerations. Take the daily newspapers. One regional party in the South, “the DMK slams Kerala’s plant to build check dams across the Bhavani River” runs a headline! Supreme Court says that the Sutlej-Yamuna link canal decree cannot be flouted. And on and on.

There are any number of smaller rivers and canals need to be attended to take waters further and further. Only when you live in a village you would realise how serious the water crisis is nowadays. Who is the implanting agency for water resources?

The water resources minister and the agri minister or their deputies must be travelling all the time. But they are nowhere to be seen nor we hear them about what they are doing!
That is the dilemma of a democratic government. There is so much to do, so much freedom for people’s representatives to do many useful things. But governance in a democracy always takes a beating!

With the widespread drought hurting the economy and the lives of vast mass of farmers, it is time to read anything that pertains to augmenting water resources and tapping all sources of waters. Just now we read a review of a new book on Meltdown in Tibet: China’s reckless destruction of the ecosystem from the highlands of Tibet to the deltas of Asia. By Michaeal Buckley (Palgrave Macmillan).

The Chinese has committed ecocide in the vast Himalayan land it had invaded in 1950, says the author who has also managed to get a foreward from the Tibetan monk, Dalai Lama.

Anyway, here is this book that details how Tibet is a quarter of China’s land mass. But here is some critical information on China’s water potential. Tibet’s 37,000 glaciers, its ecological status as the third pole, the largest store of ice after Antarctic and Arctic-and the great Asian rivers feeding five mega deltas-the Indus in Pak, the Ganges-Brahmaputra in India and Bangladesh, the Irrawaddy in Myanmar, the Mekong in South East Asia and the Yangtse in China-all have their origin in Tibet!
The Chinese have mastered the giant skills to divert large rivers.

So, let us pause here and think how much the world can benefit by equitably distributing these mighty rivers for the larger benefit of those countries in need of big water resources?

Let us all know how much remains to be done as the great tasks of peace and finding solutions to the world’s water crisis?