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Saturday, March 01, 2014
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
India on December 17, 2013 stripped U.S. diplomats and their families of privileges including withdrawing all airport passes and stopping import clearances for U.S. missions in the country.
All airport passes for U.S. diplomats have been withdrawn; import clearances including that of liquor for the U.S. Embassy have been stopped
Strip searching and handcuffing in a public
place in front of her kids - these don't seem appropriate to the crime
she is accused of - ignoring any kind of diplomatic privilege for the
moment. India is right in responding strongly. But it can still be
measured and controlled.
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 18:04 IST
There is also the need to manage communication with the media from a single point.
This is a wonderful opportunity for the Indian Government to investigate its diplomats and their behaviour both inside and outside the country. The service in the Indian Embassies abroad leave much to be desired. A responsible news paper should take up the task of highlighting the deficiencies of the embassies because they are the face of India in foreign countries.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 18:02 IST
I have full faith in Preet Brahara than any Indian politicians in this
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 18:02 IST
case. He will do just right. End of the story.
Everyone arrested in the USA are treated just like that. No privileged
Nice they did some thing. Thanks for Rahulji for cancelling the meeting. US should understand that they should respect others.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 17:51 IST
I think we are over-reacting. A measured response would have been better. All said & done, USA is our friend, let us not forget we are surrounder by hostile nations all around us.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 17:16 IST
We provide even terrorists an opportunity and a dignified
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 17:15 IST
interpretation of law. But, in US even a diplomat will not be given an
opportunity and dignified interpretation of US Law or that of
International laws. India should raise its voice even more forcefully
Every country respects US for many reasons, but equally they hate them
for such silly acts.
While we are all agitated against the strip-searching and hand-cuffing of our diplomat Devyani, those who have lived in the US know that this, unfortunately, is a routine practice followed by the American police. In fact,strip-searching is done by the Indian police as well when a person is arrested, though it is argued that this is to verify whether the person has any injuries on his body or whether he/she carries any hidden weapon When Narendra Modi was denied the US visa, all our intellectuals were happy though Modi is a Constitutional head of a state and no charge is proved against him. Whether it is former president Dr Kalam or Shahrukh khan or Modi or Devyani, the rule is same and ruthless in the US and nobody can do anything about it. Unlike in India, handcuffing is done even in cases such as traffic violations in the US. I wish our govt should not act in a hurry and spoil the relationship with the US. The "crime" that Devyani is alleged to have committed is serious in US.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 17:10 IST
I think this is retrospective effect to US. Please refer news published
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 17:04 IST
by The Hindu with headline "Serve summons to Sonia through hospital or
security staff, says U.S. court"
In 1969 Indira Gandhi nationalised Banks and it was hailed as a great move by all leftist politicians. But what was the result of that action? Several 1000 bank staff refused to work in rural branches and sacrificed their chances of getting promoted as officers, since there were no basic facilities there for them. Those bank staff who worked in such rural branches went through the ordeal with grit, leaving their wives and young children back home, thus maintaining two establishments at great difficulty! Bank nationalisation was pure vote bank politics at that time, without any suitable arrangements for the welfare of the staff, who would have to work in rural branches. In the same way, lady diplomats posted to high visibility centers like the US, are left to fend for themselves and no help is given to them to manage their basic home needs. No wonder then that such unlawful incidents take place as in this and the other previously reported consular cases.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 17:04 IST
There was no outrage shown by this government when former president Dr Abdul kalam was frisked in US airport?Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 17:00 IST
I am happy to see the Indian Govt. reciprocating. I wonder whether all the privileges
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 17:00 IST
granted to the US diplomats -- like airport passes -- was done on a reciprocal basis.
If not, then why this special treatment to them? When Abdul Kalam was subjected to
a humiliating security check at a US airport, India should have reciprocated by strip-
searching a former US president at an Indian airport.
This type of behavior with our woman diplomat cannot be acceptable at any case and it may be destroy our warm relation with US. Even when we give them immunity and other privilege whether he or she is diplomat or consular.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:57 IST
This is a very emotional and immature response to the events that
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:55 IST
transpired in US. What Ms. Khobragade did was wrong. I can also yield
that strip-searching is too much. But instead of plotting petty revenge
on the American staff here, GoI should have taken this up with the the
American justice system. That's where it'll make a difference.
We also need to be mindful of the fact that, if we're giving into these
petty revenge cravings, the United States of America has many more
options at its disposal than us. Grow up guys!
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:54 IST
We do appreciate your concern regarding rights of Sangeetha Richards
however the issue is not regarding the arrest of the bureaucrat but the
way she was treated. Strip search? for domestic issue? Come on, Even
Taliban doesn't have such "Barbaric" procedure in place. Well, Stripping
might be a part of life and culture in America and among Americans but
it means lot to Indians who are brought up with culture.
As long as India positions itself as a subservient recipient of
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:53 IST
"deals" from the US at prohibitive cost to us, -- such as nuclear
power plants, even though need not be imported as we can build our
own -- and such kowtowing is not in our Nation's interest, we are
likely to be treated as dirt, since that is the impression of
ourselves we give them constantly.
India should never accept these sort of treatments to its diplomats.
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:52 IST
They started their usual tirade of propaganda by saying everyone is
equal in US and they implement laws in an equitable way blah blah .
This is very selective retaliation by congress Government.When our
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:51 IST
President was frisked at an airport earlier Did this Government open
its mouth.Why now such a hue and cry.Every action of the Government
has politics behind it.
It appears that most of the Khobragade kind of cases are happening in
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:51 IST
rich, developed countries of Europe and America, where an Ambassador
whose salary is about $ 3500 is expected to pay about $3000 to the
domestic help. Hence, Indian government can improve this situation by a
simple law. The law should make the following compulsory for all
diplomatic staff from aforementioned countries:
1. Any domestic/official worker hired by any diplomatic staff of these
countries, whether Indian or of any nationality, will have to be paid
the minimum hourly wage of the country of the embassy.
2. All these workers will be paid health insurance, additional
benefits, pensions and gratuities at par with the minimum rates of the
country of the embassy.
3. Violation of the law will revoke diplomatic immunity and warrant
criminal prosecution. If jailed, the sentence will have to be carried
out in Indian jails.
Believe me, these so called high-net worth diplomats cannot hire one
domestic help on their own.
This should have been done in the first place, nevertheless, we must
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:51 IST
show our values and strength by doing this. US canâ€™t draw two lines by
saying that India is our best friend/strategic partner and doing such
barbaric act by drawing another line. We must respond it with a same
level what US did it.
this shows that India too has a spine and gone are the days where U.S.
citizens could get away with any crime they committed in India. Carbide
accident for e.g..
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:47 IST
- If she did such a crime, Indians should be proud that she is
arrested for that crime whether its due to US laws or due to some other
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:41 IST
- Respect should be earned, if so called "Indian Diplomats" had
reacted to previous various incidents, you might have a different story!
- Thousands of innocent people are mistreated everyday, she is in such a good position to take care herself.
A lot of comments, and only few speaking on behalf of Sangeeta Richards' rights. Indians should pressure their government to demonstrate that it is treating its citizens equally. Instead it is using government machinery to defend the one who violated another of their citizen's rights in a foreign country as if Ms. Richards is less of an Indian than Dr. Khobragade.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:36 IST
The issue here is not whether the Indian diplomat is guilty of the crime she was charged with. The issue at hand and the one being argued by the Indian government is regarding the treatment accorded to the Indian diplomat and frankly, its refreshing to see the government display the presence of a spine. It should also be remembered that Indian diplomats abroad are at a slightly different footing than ordinary expats because they're in a foreign country as representatives of the Indian government. Regardless of whether Ms. Khobragade is guilty or not, the way she was treated is unacceptable. Period.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:35 IST
I am very glad that India took such stand against US.they have had
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:31 IST
taken advantage of our polite nature.i remember they made APJ ABDUL
KALAM to open his shoes and he went under security check there in
US.if we had opposed APJ incident then this barbaric behaviour
would not have taken place.
if she is treated like that and US justifies it then what's the
difference in the degree of crime .you cant hang someone for pick
degree of punishment should be in proportion to the degree of crime.
Handcuffing and strip searching an Indian diplomat is utterly shameful. Let us show the US in our own way that we too can deal with them. It is time that we too show some character...Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:14 IST
Govt. Of India should desist from taking any precipitative action against US diplomats as it will damage relations, instead should resolve issue through diplomacy. Had it been China, would the Govt.have taken such regressive steps?Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 16:03 IST
USA will also continue to do this because there is none in the power
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 15:50 IST
circle who hasn't committed an immoral activity or scam in India or
doesn't have connection to it. Since each and every detail of these
scam and the money stashed in foreign banks are available with USA
(thanks to the stupendous snooping capacity of Uncle Sam), Indian
politicians will be "arm twisted" in every possible manner. Indians
must brace themselves for these kind of incidents in the future, as
these are going to increase with India's economic growth and the
western nations would dig all the details of our politicians to get
things (defence contracts, FDI etc) done by bringing our leaders to
their knees. Now i understand why AAP is so adamant about bring
"clean" people into parliament.
As many readers feel that an injustice is done by the arresting officers, let the matter come
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 15:29 IST
to court. If the court found that an illegal or improper arrest was made, that is cause enough
to dismiss the case and the aggrieved person can then sue the people and the department for
defamation, illegal arrest, pain and grief . They will have to pay up huge and apologize for
their misdemeanours. Preemption and patriotic expressions are understandable but not valid in
this case. Let the law take its course.
The actions of U.S. law enforcement agencies have been excessive and totally uncalled for. Dr. Khobragade may or may not have been in violation of laws (as India is not agreeing to U.S. government's interpretation of diplomatic immunity) and the legal proceedings will clear that in due course of time. However, such barbaric treatment of an Indian diplomat is totally unjustified. The U.S. authorities may hide behind "following the procedures" line, but it is clear that there is more to this than meets the eye. I am happy that the India establishment has taken a strong stand.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 15:29 IST
If the lady had erred ',the US authorities ought to have told the Indian Government and our Government had to take departmental action .How can they arrest in the presence of her child?Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 15:23 IST
Thereâ€™s a clear confusion between the below two treaties which are inherently
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 15:11 IST
1) Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961
2) Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963
The protection provided under the Consular convention is similar to but not exactly
same as diplomatic immunity. The consular officers, unlike diplomats, do not have
total immunity so there is no way we can accuse the US of arresting her if the court
agrees that the offence is a felony, which of course could be debated in this case as
she got bail within hours. Remember, it is not the arrest but the â€œmanner of arrest"
that India is protesting against.
It's not like only Indians take bribe. How professionally
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 15:11 IST
was Alaska sold to US?
These are intimidation made for highest political motives. Having said
that our diplomat wasn't diplomatic at home.
Seems like a plot of hollywood movie.
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 15:08 IST
wIf the US law enforcement is so independent, What happened with DSK?
The comments of many Indians and those of Indian origin show a lack of
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 15:06 IST
pride as a people and are disgraceful. I am glad India has finally
decided to stand up. US needs India today as much as we need them, and it
is time that they acted with mutual respect.
All those commenting on the eliteness followed in Indian society should
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 15:06 IST
notice that Ms. Khobragade is from a simple middle class family and
those advocating the fairness of "rule of law " of US should check the
atrocities , snooping committed by US agencies. This Act simply states
the disregard that US has over International treaties , fellow countries
and so called supremacy it has over these countries. This Act must be
meted out with equal reciprocity and intensity and let the US consular
officers taste the "rule of law" in India.
I find many comments here very disturbing but i don't think its wrong
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 15:05 IST
after all its nothing but the collective anger of Indians who have
always seen themselves being punished for petty stuff or nothing but
have seen the "powerful" and "money crocodiles" walk away scot free
even after committing heinous crimes.
Even though, US treatment of bureaucrat seems ethically wrong, i am
feeling happy (sorry, bit sadistic) to finally see a person from the
power circle of India getting punished and humiliated as this never
happens to them in India. Its only ordinary citizens who face the
force of law and lead an insecure life. Politicians expect the citizens
to be "patriotic Indians" and support the bureaucrat after humiliating
citizens in every walk of life.
As an Indian, I feel very much insulted by the public arrest in US of
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 15:01 IST
our own representative. If our representatives are not treated in
accordance with international diplomatic conventions in the host
country, then no amount of intelligence and negotiation skills will
help to take care of our country's interest.
Yes I agree that exploitation of house maid is a problem and it is not
only with Indian diplomats. It is with every country. Aspiration for
settling abroad for the house maids to take advantage of the situation
and play victim for their own benefits is very common in some way
understandable. Our government should consider recruiting and
employing the house maids to give them protection and fairness. This
is our government's responsibility and not to be given to the host
Following " Standard Procedures " across the criminal acts can not be the same, is just a lame excuse. Let the matter be referred to Higher Judicial Authorities in the USA for a fair and just ruling on applying " Standard Procedures " across the classified criminal acts by a commoner and an habitual as well hardened criminal.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 15:00 IST
Before jumping in and passing judgement on Devyani, it shall be
enlightening to consider the events of January 27, 2011 - On that day
Raymond Davis, a US consular officer, killed two men in Lahore, Pakistan
and was arrested by the local police. The US govt then argued that he
had diplomatic immunity and successfully got him back to the US.
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:58 IST
This case is turning out to be a classic example of Aesop's fable on hypocrisy
The USA is the World Police man.There is one set of rules for the US
and one set for the rest of the world.They will invoke Diplomatic
Immunity as they please and when it suits them. They can snoop on the
Telephone calls of German Chancellor Angela Markel and still go scot
free.Remember the case of Raymond Davis,an American Citizen, who in
broad day light murdered by shooting two Pakistani nationals in Traffic
Signal and was found possessing guns and fire arms without any
license.The United States invoked diplomatic immunity for this American
despite the Pakistan Foreign Ministry clearly stating that his name did
not figure in the list of Diplomatic staff.
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:53 IST
United States of America only preaches MORAL and rules for others, not for itself.
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:52 IST
The Indian government seems more concerned about the humiliation
through a strip search than the fact that the domestic worker was
being paid a very low amount and the consular officer lied about the
wages. This is probably very common practice among consular officers
in the US and that's the reason the government is being so outspoken
It also reflects the simple truth that the government does not care
about the domestic worker, which probably reflects how most well-off
Indians think about their domestic help.
In any case, it is not surprising that government officials refuse to
believe how the US can say that it is just applying the law, when
their experience suggests that the law can always be bent to suit
them. If it's any comfort, Dominique Strauss-Kahn was similarly
I was very saddened to see the above comments of few people who have
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:51 IST
appreciated US decision.To all these people,we dont know whether
domestic help was being underpaid. It is being alleged and not proved.
It is not a matter of just one diplomat rather it is about nation's
pride.US has been doing it since a long time. It is payback time and to
give them a strong message that enough is enough and now we will not
The Curse of India and China will bring more recesssion in U.S.A -Bring the people on its knees and future generations suffer in poverty for a decade.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:51 IST
To hear such disgusting nonsense and garbage talk about the U.S. because weakminded fools tend to run with "popular opinion" observed in world media...is ignorant and baseless. To witness comments calling the U.S. the "world's enemy" is gutless and unfounded. The U.S. has its issues but is India going to step in and back up weaker nations when atrocities are committed? Is Russia? China? We have ONE world power that, although heavyhanded, is there when hurricanes hit in countries that they shouldn't care about, where tsunamis, earthquakes, terrorism, violence by dictators, human rights violations hit. Who helps the U.S. when they are hit with natural disaster? Noone. Yet, they allow themselves to be constantly pummelled with insults and bad press and still give when other countries are spoonfed and conditioned into believing popular opinion. Same people that wear baseball caps, Nikes, Adidas, listen to American music and watch American film and TV. Hypocrites.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:36 IST
I like the reaction of Indian govt. in this case. :)Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:32 IST
For a violation of the law within that country, US Govt has every right to take actions. Over-reacting on that is not the correct response. If we have not been taking actions here on similar violations so far, it is hardly surprising. It need not be made out as if we were being generous. Ignoring violations of law is the norm in our country and we do it so gloriously.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:31 IST
Let we see the case in very general way: 'a women is handcuffed
publically in front of her minor children, while getting them to school,
then strip searched and put into the cell with hardened criminals and
sex workers', for a non-henius crime . So some one must speak from her
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:31 IST
Now in perticular, she is an Indian diplomate to US, so India must
take serious steps in the wake of this case and hence Indian govt. is
only right in all its actions in response to this case.
I have always been supportive of the justice system in the US, where
however mighty the person be, if he gets caught, he pays for it.
However, in this case the issue is not about her offence (Indian
Government also has stated that she will be available for her court
appearances in the US) but about the way she was handled. That I think
is an issue.
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:31 IST
There are comments here talking about elite class etc
in India enjoying privileges. I agree with the people who commented but
they should be supportive when India Government starts taking action
against US officials here for offences punishable under Indian Law -
including law relating to Gays, Indian security payments etc as
mentioned by the Indian official in the article.
When our soldiers are beheaded near POK border our Govt. didn't react this way asking Pakistani diplomats to surrender their id cards. When it was found that USA openly violated all international treaties, sovereignity and privacy of the people in this world including Indians by NSA snooping, our Govt. didn't react this way. Instead of providing a solution to prevent this kind of incidents to happen, reacting for this kind of situation where the Indian diplomat clearly proved to have done mistake violating US laws is really disappointing and surprising.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:30 IST
While all the media and politicians criticizing the US government for
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:26 IST
action, why your millions of skilled youth going US and AUS leaving own
country, this tells youth of India believe in US rules and regulation
more than our own country. Taking such action at election time is
political gimmick only. If she has not committed any crime than leave
her to local land laws to take it own course why so much of noise, I did
not hear such noise when ordinary Indian faced such issue.
In any country law of the land prevails. In India any thing is
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:24 IST
acceptable. Indian Diplomats abroad believe they are a privileged class.
If the government has any guts they should work on both fronts. Promise and punish
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:23 IST
the diplomat for shaming the country and make sure the US gets the right message.
The government is making only one type of noises. And that's why
they don't have credibility. It sounds like the government just wants to
show they are a great government. But it's too late to for this
government to change their image.
All those who are supporting U.S ane beleive maid should have been given more that $4500 a month, should also apply their mind and think can couselor officer pay that much, I am not sure if her own salary is more than that. Any ways the maids in Newyork area who get aroud $4500 a month as wages do not get accomodation along with it. If accomodation benefits are added with the salary it can easily be shown to be around $5000. Also wasn't the maid told in India what she will be given in salary before leaving India? She just got greedy thats it and Preet Brahara from his success from Rajat Gupta and other cases thought he can pull this one through too...Even if some one is charged with such a crime isn't it important to first serve the notice to explain rather than issuing an arrest warrant? If a person has broken the law take the lawfull course rather than trying to make it spectacle for public or trying to show which country hold the cradle of justice to the world.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:20 IST
I strongly feel the Indian Community living in US to take up this matter of prestige in all possible forums.
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:19 IST
It seems they are more loyal to the country of resding than the
country of birth. Some comments from the readers show that clearly. It
is Indian mentality. Be united to keep our dignity high.
Government should take actions but not mere threats of actions. It is
appreciable that atleast few political leaders refused to meet the US
delegation to convey their protest.
No win situation for anyone
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:18 IST
I hope the USA tells all their Associates to pack up & just
leave the Country & not have to worry about whatever the Indian
Government is threatening down the road. When they pull out .....all
Visa's can be done by Fed Ex to Washington DC
Now that problem is
solved... all we have to do is wait for person who was arrested to sue
& pay her $5Million and then ask all India's Corps to leave USA
Then everyone will be happy as this could not be repeated, tell USA
visitors to go to another country to visit & the same with anyone
coming from the other country, go someplace else.
The threats can stop & ego's will be even bigger than ever before.
As I started this is a no-win situation with the USA making the first mistake
I am surprised to see the comments in this section.
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:12 IST
There are two aspects to be considered here:
1. Whether the diplomat did something wrong.
2. Even if the diplomat did something wrong, was the person treated in the manner she should have been (as a diplomat).
I do not think Indian Govt has commented about her treatment of helper.
The issue is about whether US can treat diplomat in this manner.
This is not about India and the non-heinous crime she committed.
This is about how diplomat of a country is treated.
I am also surprised about how we jump to conclusion that the salary paid by diplomat is not as per US law.
Will the people also criticize US for not treating Indians working in US embassy on par?
While I agree that US is the worst enemy of people of the world sans US
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:10 IST
citizens, in this particular case I do not see anything wrong with US
police action. In India we are used to lawlessness at every walk of life
and more so among politicians, babus, local goondas, film-personalities,
lawyers, police and so on. If you have money or political clout, one can
come out of jail at opportune time. India is hardly a place to live for
innocent. Anarchy flourishes in India like nothing else can.
Besides, given the recent 4-0 drubbing UPA govt. will try to make noise
with added gusto to divert people's attention.
when the entire riches of the western economies (read capital base) were built by siphoning off the capital of the colonies and now through outsourcing, they want pay parity and rights associated with it. so Walmart would not thrive on cheap bangladeshi labor, or Citi or HP or IBM or MS on low cost outsourcing. depicts a typical American mentality, everything has to be correct in the US no matter how despicable you create it in other countries through trade bodies and multilateral agencies to be GOOD at home. and all the green card aspirants and NRI would worship this superstructure for a few dollars more. in geopolitical strategy you simply dont allow opportunity for others to score. scold the child at home not in public!!Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:09 IST
Excellent decision taken by US govt. It tells the world that no
matter where you are from, what your stature is, YOU ARE THE SAME as any
common man\woman in the eyes if the LAW.
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:07 IST
Indian Govt. should be ashamed and instead of finding the facts they
went on a mission to defend that diplomat. Shame on you Indian
The highhanded action by US government with total disregard to norms is
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 14:05 IST
not something that is not expected. The insensitivity of US government
to other countries is well documented. Frisking of former Indian
president, Abdul Kalam, using their consular previlege to snoop on the
host countries, etc have shown that they do not go by the collectively
established norms. The two wars against Iraq by the allies also goes to
strengthen this "dont care" attitude of US when it comes to
No doubt the patriotic sentiment of people are shaken from the arrest
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:58 IST
of one of country's representative on a foreign soil. India should
solve the issue through diplomatic channels,taking the help of
International Community and the treaties signed for the protection of
foreign emissaries. This should only be against the public humiliation
met by the diplomat. Along with the effect,what we fail to address is
the cause(the maid's treatment). India should do well to investigate on
the charges put against the diplomat, before claiming her absolute
innocence. India's image in a foreign land is at stake.
What the US has done is correct ... whoever it may be they should be punished for the fraud or anything they have done... that doesn't mean that as they occupy some posts in consulate:embassy they cannot be punished... but in india the politiciens/rich people with their money they can do whatever they want...These peoplse should know that they cannot do that abroad....I want the INDIANS officials who do the fraud/corruption abroad should be punished on return to India ... as it is a shame to INDIA because of these people....Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:56 IST
Totally agree with Sathya. This has come as a cultural shock to all the
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:53 IST
Indian babus who are accustomed to respectful treatment even in the
I wonder, where is the wisdom of that lady gone holding that honorary
position or she didn't had it ever?
It was humiliating to hear about the barbaric treatment of our lady
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:53 IST
diplomat by the US. However,the takeaway is the need for self reliance
for our country in all walks of life.
Just imagine if they had done something like this to Venezuela,leave
alone China or Russia.
Couple of years ago, an Air India pilot after duty and during over night
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:47 IST
stay in Singapore, was caught shop-lifting and prosecuted - his photo
and story appearing in their Newspaper.
But it was told, since he was off-duty at the time of crime, the Air
India management could not take action. Any correlation now ?
Honor among thieves. The Indian government pushes very hard when one of its own corrupt officers commits such acts abroad. The lady has violated US law, and not in the context of her service. This was in relation to her maid at home, which is personal. Why should diplomatic immunity apply? Recall a similar case where an Indian diplomat in the UK was torturing his wife. This cannot be a cover to commit all sorts of crimes. Its funny how softly the same government reacts when soldiers are killed.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:46 IST
The baby sitter cum house keeper should have been paid wages as per US
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:42 IST
norms, no doubt. The lady Consular should not have been arrested at an
ill logical place and handcuffed as this not a terrorizingly serious
crime. The sad story is that both India and US (DEMOCRACIES)are showing
scant respect to human values and acting like robots. We all should
improve and make the world a pleasant place to live in.
We should not magnify it, after all US is a 'friendly' country.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:36 IST
In US all erring officials, irrespective of their stature in the
government, would be arrested and handcuffed for the mistakes done by
them. India is not accustomed to such actions and have always treated
the babus with velvet gloves. This action must have come as a cultural
shock for the Indian government.
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:36 IST
The Indian government should be more concerned about the other
Indian involved in the incident, Sangeeta Richards, the domestic help,
and try to help in rehabilitating her after the traumatic treatment that
was meted out to her by the diplomat.
The officer is a civil servant who has been posted in the US by the Government of India which has been elected by people. Hence it becomes a problem of Indian people versus the USA. For people who claim that the US is fair and transparent when dealing with crimes, I ask this: If a Chinese embassy staffer is presumed guilty would the US dare to apply the same yard stick? The age when Indians were respected and accorded a status in civil society in the US has long passed . As for the Indians occupying top posts in the Obama administration - they are what the Munshis were to the East India Company.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:34 IST
Cheating is cheating whether done by a Common man, Politician or a Diplomat. USA is not India where one with political clout, money or influence can evade the law of the country.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:33 IST
Guilty will be punished in any part of the world, but in India ,guilty will be treated as god and all the people's money will be wasted on these guilty corrupt and disobedient govt. officials, politicians, they think once they are in power all people are slaves, dont try to shake your tail in ánother country.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:30 IST
I think the diplomat is arrested as per US laws. There can't be immunity
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:25 IST
as in India [ one rule for politicians & another one for a common man ]
in US .Even Bush's daughter was fined when Bush was President . Several
poor fishermen are arrested by Sri Lanka saying that they strayed into
their waters. GOI says that Lanka is correct . When such is the case
,how can they expect from US.
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:23 IST
Please think before you comment. Be honest and think whether a
"western" Diplomat would have been treated this way for such a trivial
offense (if there is any substance in it). Terrorists, child molesters,
psycho-Killers and third-world diplomats to be treated similarly. Is
this your idea of justice?
India is wrong in this particular instance. While diplomatic immunity is available in the normal course of her duty, providing wrong and incorrect information for obtaining a domestic servant visa is unlawful in US, though it is perfectly okay in India. India should apologise to US, get the deputy consul released and recall her back to India.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:17 IST
The US government's notion of fair play is ridiculous as the show of double
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:17 IST
standards is clearly visible to the world. What is required by both governments
particularly US is to show common sense like their European counterparts. How can
a Diplomat pay $4500/month to a domestic when she herself only gets a monthly
salary of Â£4000. I wonder if they would have done the same to China?
First there was a case of disobedience of the US law by the Indian diplomat on the US soil followed by the highhandedness of the US law enforcement authorities. Both actions are highly deplorable but that should not have resulted in the Indian leaders in not meeting the US Congressional delegation, which is quite unfortunate and not in good diplomacy. While the Indian Government should pursue this matter aggressively with the US Government as per the Vienna convention framework, the others should get on to their business.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:17 IST
The diplomat is involved in serious crime of making contradictory
statement in the visa application of maid which is most deplorable
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:16 IST
Yes US law applied strictly for ALL irrespective of status etc; BUT
they could have taken her into custody, without handcuffing in public,
as she belongs to the consulate and cannot and will not run away; maybe a
little more cool way the case could have been handled; BUT one cannot
blame the US for this crime. Hope we all understand OUR responsibility
is MORE when we are abroad to ensure our nation does not get a bad name !
Pity this is not done !!!
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:10 IST
The treatment of US police officials towards the Indian diplomat is a
serious issue. It is not just the ill treatment and insult to an
Indian woman officer, it reflects the attitude of US government
towards Indians. Along with the government of India, every Indian and
Non resident Indians should seriously protest it and should make US
government to realize and regret. Let us all fight to protect our self
respect, otherwise the other nations may follow US.
202, Padmavathi Plaza
Tirupati - 517 503 (AP)
It is a very apt rejoinder by the Indian government for the really
Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:09 IST
barbaric way a senior official was treated. It looks like the US has not
an iota respect for others, otherwise why handcuff a lady that too when
she is dropping her children at school. US and other western countries
have thrived on their own premise of being the law abiding and fair
societies but in fact they are the most irrational and narrow minded.
Supporting their action as law enforcement is subjecting ourselves to
the lies peddled by their systems.
rules in India for the helpless people only. In US it is for every one.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:08 IST
If Ms Khobragade has commited privately it serves her right to mete out the treatment publicly. Govt. of India should first find out the truth, and give up the notion, "We are always right".Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 13:06 IST
In India, the elite is so used to violating human rights with impunity, that they get very surprised when other countries insist on rule of law. We need to make it clear that this is a battle between the Indian government and the US and not between the Indian people and the US. The Indian people hold the US in high esteem and applaud the US action, driving home the notion of rule of law.Posted on: Dec 17, 2013 at 12:50 IST
Posted by Gopal Krishna at 5:01 AM
Friday, December 06, 2013
Protesters hold signs against the 9th WTO Conference in front of US embassy in Jakarta
India has wilted under pressure from the US and agreed to accept conditionalities that were not part of the G-33 proposal. The text of the agreed draft can be accessed below (see section WT/ MIN 913)/ W /
10 - Public Stockholding for Food Security Purposes):
and the various parts to the declaration:
What India has traded away:
1. Anand Sharma had unambiguously stated that the "peace clause" should be in place till such time that a permanent solution is found. The word "interim" that he had used IS IN the text (a clear victory), but in what is being described by the WTO Secretariat as "constructive ambiguity" the US position that it should be only for four years also finds its place (Para 1) in the text by adding, "for adoption by the 11th Ministerial Conference" (there is a WTO Ministerial once every two years and Bali was the 9th Ministerial. (Some experts though are interpreting it as being in India's favour since "interim" can be interpreted as holding on till a permanent settlement is found irrespective of the reference to the 11th Ministerial).
2. While India (G-33 draft) had demanded that no member country can drag a member state to the dispute settlement mechanism, till a permanent settlement is found under the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) and the Agreement on Subsisdies and Countervailing Measure (ASCM), only the AoA is mentioned in Para 2. which means that member states can still drag India India to the dispute settlement process under ASCM. The language has also been whittled down and instead of "shall not" replaced with "shall refrain from", which means this guarantee is not secure even under the AoA.
3. Most disturbingly, this agreement is (Para 2) only, "in pursuance of public stockholding programmes for food security purposes existing as of date". This has the following implications
(a) Minimum Support Price Mechanism cannot be introduced for crops other than those already provided for.
(b) The quantity of foodgrains procured under the MSP cannot be increased beyond the procurement as of date which would threaten the NFSA in the near future.
(c) Pulses, cooking oil and other foods (other than rice, wheat or millets specified in the NFSA) CAN NO longer be introduced in the PDS either by the Government of India or the State Governments if they are not being provided now. Future
(d) Governments CANNOT increase the entitlements of food grains guaranteed under the NFSA which has been notified. For instance, Chhattisgarh, amongst other states, provides 35 kgs per households but no other state which is now providing 20 kgs or 25 kgs can increase the quantity to 35 kgs.
(e) This may also be interpreted to mean that Government of India or the State Governments cannot increase the price of the MSP from beyond what has been specified now for the next four years.
4. India will now be subject to ONEROUS DATA requirements that have been made mandatory in the agreed text. This was there in the US/ EU text but not in the G-33 proposal which means that India has accepted to provide details of all holdings in procurement by both States and Government of India.
5. India will also now have to notify that they have been exceeding the de minimis level (10% of agricultural production as the permissible subsidy for developing countries). Para 3 (a)
6. Para (4) is one of the most problematic proposition for India which has made its way from the US/ EU draft, "shall ensure that stocks procured under such programmes do not distort trade or adversely affect the food security of other members" This leaves open to interpretation that the entire MSP mechanism that is in place for decades and India can be dragged to the dispute settlement mechanism by the US alleging that the entire MSP mechanism distrorts trade. So can Pakistan alleging that India's rice exports is distorting trade.
7. This also means that even with the most generous interpretation of this agreeement, India will still have to continue negotiations for the next four years till a permanent settlement is done and we have to continue to agree to further concessions to the US/ EU while this is being negotiated.
8. In Bali, the African Group, many members of the G-33 and LAC are very upset with India for having bilaterally with the US a text, whereas till this morning, they were seeking the support of all the countries for the G-33 and Indian position. Anand Sharma had taken a strident note till last night, and raised the hopes of most developing countries that India would not buckle to pressure from the US/ EU. Today his credibility and that of India is severely eroded.
As is evident, what is contained in the agreed text is a big climbdown from what had been stated by Anand Sharma in his strongly worded statement. We have put at stake not just the interests of 650 million Indian farmers but also every single one of the 820 entitlement holder under the NFSA.
Anuradha Talwar & Biraj Patnaik (Right to Food Campaign)
(At the WTO Ministerial, Nusa Dua, Bali) Dec 6, 2013
Posted by Gopal Krishna at 8:30 PM
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
The Network Effect
Reliance and right-wing politics gain a foothold in Raghav Bahl's media empireBy RAHUL BHATIA | 1 December 2013
AS DISCUSSIONS ABOUT THE FOOD SECURITY BILL played on displays around the room, Rajdeep Sardesai took a seat at the centre of a simmering news pit in Mumbai, looking like he could use a break. Just ten days earlier, on 16 August, CNN-IBN and IBN7, the channels he oversees as editor-in-chief of the IBN Network, had witnessed the sudden layoffs of approximately 300 producers, cameramen, and reporters. Sardesai’s base of operations, at the channels’ headquarters in Noida, had been the worst affected by the forced departures; there, reporters and anchors on air had completed their broadcast and stepped off to find they no longer had a job. The layoffs were part of a large restructuring exercise recommended by Mercer and Ernst & Young for TV18, which was part of the gargantuan Network18 group. The group’s employees were told that management wanted to integrate the processes of its expansive media empire, which included CNBC-TV18, the IBN channels, Forbes India magazine, the website Firstpost, and a host of other channels and outlets across television, print and the internet.
The night before the layoffs, I met a senior CNN-IBN employee at a dimly lit coffee shop in Bandra, Mumbai. This person was washed out by the retrenchments to come. Between phone calls, over cups of coffee not quite large enough, the employee laid out the stark operational plan for the next 24 hours. “HR plans to finish by tomorrow evening. They want to finish it in a day.”
The employee was reconciled to the job cuts, but wished they had been handled in a better way; Network18’s HR personnel had met in conference rooms to discuss these cuts in full view of the staff outside. “Tomorrow the HR person is going to tell them that the company is restructuring, and there’s going to be an integration of newsrooms,” the senior employee told me. To minimise the chances of backlash, the layoffs would all be communicated at one go. Over the course of our conversation, the person’s phone rang twice. Both callers wanted the same thing: information that would help them understand what was about to happen the next day. The group had been uncommunicative with most of its workforce (and would continue to be so for months afterward). The senior employee told me that a list of employees to be fired had been shown to editors; it was an indicative draft, but the heads of various departments began to quietly inform the people listed on it on their own. There seemed to be no recognisable pattern to the names. The company had marked for dismissal inexperienced rookies and old hands alike. Well-regarded reporters who had been with the group for some years were going, as was at least one person from the camera department on a salary below Rs 10,000. “Reporters from IBN7 stopped coming to work because they were interviewing for other jobs,” the senior employee said.
Sardesai had last visited the Mumbai bureau in July, by which time the rumours were flying so thick they were impossible to ignore. “Rajdeep said that we had to be prepared for a restructuring,” a former producer recalled. But he also told them that good workers had no reason to worry. Elsewhere in the building, Ritu Kapur, the History TV18 programming head, who is married to Raghav Bahl, the founder and managing director of Network18, told the entertainment team that their concerns about impending layoffs were unwarranted. “Ritu said, ‘No, no! What are you saying?’” a person present recalled.
The deceptions grated on reporters, who felt they were owed the truth. Over the last eight years, Sardesai had fostered an atmosphere of openness; his employees had always been comfortable expressing strong opinions that differed from his. But in contrast with the company line—and her own —Kapur informed Rajeev Masand and Vanita Singh, two IBN editors, that over two-thirds of their reporters were going to be made redundant. “They were asked to say what each person brings to the table,” the senior employee said. Masand “spent hours on heated calls” to protect his team from being culled, the producer told me. Smitha Nair, the sharp, quick-talking Mumbai bureau chief, was “walking around red-eyed, in tears”, according to the producer. Among themselves, reporters began to call the coming day, 16 August, Black Friday.
A clamour grew within and outside the studios that Friday; staff leaked details of the resignations online, in real time. Across Network18, approximately 350 people were asked to resign in one day. Several programmes on CNBC were scrapped with immediate effect. In Mumbai, CNN-IBN’s bureau of five news reporters, already stretched thin, was reduced to three. At the end of the day, Sardesai wrote on his Twitter feed—otherwise a mix of programme previews and observations from his morning walks—“Hurt and pain can be lonely. You must grieve in solitude. Gnight.”
The layoffs at Network18 came at a time of enormous stress for Indian media. The exigencies of the market have caused advertisers to withdraw. Earlier this year, regulators proposed that each hour of television should contain only 12 minutes of advertising. There are prohibitive carriage fees made by television broadcasters to cable networks. Network18, for instance, paid Rs 584 crore for distribution and marketing in 2012–13. “The weakening rupee has made dollar payments more expensive; for a group like Network18, with 15 foreign subsidiaries and a number of licensing agreements, fluctuating exchange rates can prove worrisome. In July, the Outlook Group decided to close three magazines, and laid off over 100 staff. Years of large losses at NDTV’s general, business, and lifestyle channels—reversed only this year—have resulted in a steady stream of retrenchments over the past four years.
Network18’s unique approach to brand-building made it especially vulnerable. The group presently has a market value of approximately $1.1 billion (as of 24 November this year), making it India’s third-biggest publicly listed media conglomerate. Tens of millions watch the group’s 27 national and regional television channels in at least 11 languages. A joint movie studio venture makes tentpoles—films whose success hold up several other ventures—as well as more realistic fare. It owns a large online retail company, event and sports management concerns, specialty magazines, news websites and a newswire, and produces, exhibits, and distributes its own content. It has—to state it mildly—considerable reach. But its biggest news properties were built on tie-ups with global giants: CNN, CNBC, Viacom, A+E Networks, Forbes, and Entrepreneur, among others. It had built its stellar reputation on aggressive and expensive strategies, such as the lavish campaigns that had helped launch the television channel Colors in 2008. It was the most glamorous possible proposition for anyone who had the spare change to buy into a media company of its size and stature—and this was in spite of the fact that its stability was precarious.
In January 2012, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), India’s second-largest publicly listed company, had announced it would invest a substantial sum in Network18. At the time, they looked like saviours: over two days, Network18 stock jumped 27 percent. The movement indicated a kind of euphoria, given that Network18’s share price had, at the time, fallen almost 95 percent from its 2007 highs. It had incurred over Rs 800 crore in accumulated losses in 2011–2012—while the company said its losses were Rs 191 crore ($30.45 million), had it not used a convenient accounting standard, its losses would have been Rs 835 crore ($133.12 million). But Reliance’s investment was also disconcerting. A company with strong links to government and extraordinary interests in petrochemicals, refining, and telecommunications, had helped ease mounting debt at an influential news organisation that owned two business channels, a business website, and published the business magazine Forbes India. “I don’t think the group saw how it was going to be perceived,” a senior editor at Firstpost told me this October.
Thanks to Reliance’s investment, a rapidly expanding group deeply in debt and prone to frequent cost-cutting measures now had the one thing that had been in perennially short supply: security. For some employees down the chain, the investment seemed like a boon. “We felt a little good about a reliable company buying a stake,” a reporter who was later laid off told me. “We thought it would become more stable.” When I met Tushar Pania, a spokesperson for Reliance, at the company’s office in south Mumbai this September, he claimed that they had very little role in the retrenchments. “It’s not our intent to run the business,” he said. “We don’t know the media business. If we wanted to run Network18, we would have run it.”
Taking his place in the Mumbai newsroom that day in August, Sardesai bared his feelings to the people who remained. “I want to apologise,” he told them. “We feel bad about it. It’s heartbreaking.” Almost immediately, someone responded angrily. “A month ago we asked you about it. Why did you lie to us? Are you saying that you didn’t know a month ago?” Sardesai reasoned with her, saying, “Panic would have spread.” She disagreed: “No, instead people would have quit and looked for jobs.” Editors, reporters, and producers told me they were disturbed by the manner in which the sackings were conducted. In CNN-IBN’s camera department, “people were fired by the heads based on their friendship,” a producer said to me. “The camera heads told camera guys they were being fired based on reporter feedback. But forget reporters, they did not take any feedback even from the bureau chief.” Sardesai seemed to know of the mismanagement in this department, according to the producer, and was upset by it. Looking to his left, where the camera division staff were clustered, he pointed out, “If it was done unfairly, and there are slackers here, they will be pulled up for it.”
Even as Sardesai strove to mend fences, an observer said, he “looked defeated”. The decision to fire people had not been his to make, and yet, because the channel responded to his leadership, the episode had undermined him. Still, he did what he could, a senior editor told me. “Some people got six months’ salary.” The company eventually made severance payments amounting to Rs 10.27 crore.
Nearly every person I spoke with was sympathetic to Sardesai. “At some level he hasn’t taken it well,” one employee present that day said to me later. Sardesai wrote them apologetic text messages that a couple of employees I met said they ignored.
In the newsroom, perhaps under strain, or perhaps in a moment of weakness, he disarmed the bureau with a confession of his helplessness. He told them that he would leave if he “was to face this again”. Sardesai explained to everyone in the newsroom that he had resisted pressure from management to reduce the channels’ payroll four years ago, when rising costs had induced similar layoffs elsewhere in the group. “This time we couldn’t resist, Sardesai said to the newsroom. “The business model had become too cumbersome.” He was asked why the channel had continued to hire for four years if they had been under pressure. “I agree,” the producer recalled him conceding. “We thought things would stabilise. It was poor management.”
“There’s some kind of obfuscation,” the senior employee told me. “I don’t know why someone didn’t just say, ‘we’re not doing well.’ The perception is that the company is doing well. It’s acquiring properties left, right and centre, so why are you firing what you know is a lean team? This is going to affect news gathering. A compromise on quantity is a compromise on quality.”
The changes taking place across the group’s publications had other, less visible consequences. Over three meetings at a coffee shop in central Mumbai in January this year, R Jagannathan, the editor-in-chief for web and print at Network18, and Indrajit Gupta, then editor-in-chief of Forbes India, discussed a possible integration between Forbes India and Firstpost, the network’s opinion site. Jagannathan believed that the 40-strong Forbes India team, which produced a fortnightly magazine, a quarterly, and also handled ForbesIndia.com, should produce less local content and instead help build the Firstpost brand. Gupta thought this would change the character of Forbes India, whose circulation, company press releases claimed, had reached 75,000 copies. In less than five years, the magazine had attained Rs 25 crore in revenues on the back of in-depth Indian business reporting. At the end of each meeting, the two editors parted uneasily; multiple members of the Forbes India staff told me that it became clear that unpleasant changes were on the way.
The next month, Jagannathan began to attend Forbes India’s edit meetings. During one such meeting at the end of February, he dismissed several ideas from the staff, and told the Forbes India team that they were “screwing up”, according to a person present there. Glancing at a sheet of paper he had arrived with, he yelled at the room, “You’re doing it wrong. Forbes is about the wealthy. It’s about right-wing politics. You guys are writing about development and poverty. If you guys don’t get it, I’m going to make sure that you do.” His hands shook as he read the prepared note. The person present there told me, “He was under so much pressure. It was clear he had arrived with a brief from someone. I suspect it was from Raghav.” Jagannathan did not respond to messages for comment.
ON 3 JANUARY 2012, TV18, the television arm of Network18, announced that its board, led by Bahl, had approved a sum of up to Rs 2,100 crore to acquire the stake held by Reliance in Eenadu Television Network (ETV). ETV had regional muscle; the network was started in 1995 by Ramoji Rao, the influential Hyderabad tycoon whose media empire had expanded to include 12 popular entertainment and news channels in over seven states. If ETV’s regional reach was combined with the national reach of TV18, they would together command over 25 national and regional channels across news and general entertainment.
In a press release announcing the deal, Network18 was unrelenting in its optimism that the group had finally turned around. It insisted that authority would reside solely in the hands of Bahl and his management team. In addition, the board said that TV18 and Network18, which had a combined net worth of Rs 1,643crore, would together raise Rs 5,400 crore from the market, and use the gains to pay off all debt. If they weren’t able to raise enough, Bahl would buy up the shares that remained through his own private companies that controlled both Network18 and TV18, which are publicly listed firms. To do this, Bahl would receive funding from a body called Independent Media Trust. This trust had been set up for Reliance’s benefit.
Bahl brimmed with positivity in an earnings call with analysts later that day, telling everyone that he maintained “full undiluted control” over the Network18 group. The message was reasserted in stories that the group’s channels ran. CNN-IBN stated emphatically that, “Management and editorial control will continue to be held by TV18 promoters.” On the call, when analysts pressed him for details, Bahl turned them down. At the end, he dispatched them with a bright but vague message. The deal was “a landmark transaction” that gave the company a chance to begin afresh, and build on the limitless opportunities before it.
According to Reliance’s press statements, the partnership with Network18 would ensure a ready supply of content to the company when their ambitious plans for 4G network services finally took off. Bahl said Reliance saw it purely as an investment. He chose not to disclose that the investment had left his control over the business in a far more perilous state than at any time in its 18-year history. In exchange for its funding, Network18’s promoter companies would issue convertible debentures—put simply, financial instruments backed by company assets that could be exchanged for regular shares—to Reliance. Effectively, this would make the group Reliance’s to control. This was explained lucidly in a Competition Commission of India order that approved the deal in May 2012, which pointed out that the acquisition of debentures had “the ultimate intended effect of RIL acquiring control over Network18 group”.
Over the next month, Bahl met the group’s editors in individual meetings to discuss the group’s benefactor. Indrajit Gupta told me Bahl asked for his opinion on handling stories about Reliance and media in Forbes India. “My feedback was very simple. We should continue to do stories on Reliance and media. He asked, ‘Do we really need to?’”
Reliance’s name provokes a certain kind of reaction among the media in India. The reaction, more often than not, is to proceed with caution. This prudence applies to stories about the company and its interests, as well as to its controlling family, the Ambanis, regarding whom every word that makes it into print is treated with unparalleled care. In early November, when a writer at the Economic Times mistakenly captioned a photograph of Mukesh Ambani’s wife, Nita, with the name of his brother’s wife, Tina, the paper’s editors, in the words of a reporter present, “went crazy”.
In the early 1990s, long before Mukesh and Anil Ambani split their father’s legacy and went their separate ways in 2003, Dhirubhai Ambani’s Reliance had put out the Business and Political Observer, and its weekend companion, the Sunday Observer. The company’s relations with the press in the preceding years had not always been tranquil; in the 1980s, the Indian Express had doggedly pursued stories of the company’s irregularities and its mutually beneficial relationship with Indira Gandhi’s government. The Observer was “intended to put across their own point of view,” according to a former senior editor who worked there. “They would do slanted editorials, or slanted stories—part of it would be fact, and part of it would be puffed up.”
The Observer had a brief life, but Reliance’s shadow over the media grew long in the years to come. In a 2008 New York Times piece on Mukesh Ambani, the writer Anand Giridhardas wrote, “A prominent Indian editor, formerly of the Times of India, who requested anonymity because of concerns about upsetting Ambani, says Reliance maintains good relationships with newspaper owners; editors, in turn, fear investigating it too closely. ‘I don’t think anyone else comes close to it,’ the editor said of Reliance’s sway. ‘I don’t think anyone is able to work the system as they can’.”
In recent years, the company has begun to quietly acquire media outlets. As the Competition Commission order confirmed in plain terms, it had gained effective control of both Network18 and ETV without appearing to own the networks. In November, the journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta revealed on the media news and criticism website, The Hoot, that the Serious Fraud Investigation Office, an organisation under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, had accused Reliance of “having engineered a series of allegedly illegal transactions to control a company that controlled the NewsX television channel”. Big business has always been well-disposed to the idea of proactively controlling the message, but Reliance’s recent approach—that of controlling the medium—is a rather more elaborate precaution than Indian corporations have taken before. The spokesperson of a rival company, who spoke on condition of anonymity, claimed, “They now own the platforms where public opinion is.”
“You have to take a nuanced view,” Thakurta told me during an interview. “The vehicles of the Network18 group have reported news that has gone against Reliance. Will they break stories against them? I doubt it. Will they conduct investigations that work against the interests of Mukesh Ambani and the corporate conglomerate he heads? I doubt it. But then, that is to be expected.”
IN 2005, Bahl wrote a piece for an Outlook special issue titled ‘India Rising’. “The story of India’s television news,” he said, “is largely the story of three extraordinary companies, two super-skilled professional entrepreneurs, and an apprentice. The companies are NDTV, TV Today and TV18. The two super-men are Aroon Purie and Prannoy Roy. The apprentice is yours truly.”
Fifty-one year-old Raghav Bahl is a former management consultant who entered the media industry when he became a correspondent for Doordarshan in the 1980s, while he was still in his twenties. Soon, he was anchoring Newstrack, the monthly television newsmagazine made by Purie’s sister, Madhu Trehan. “He was a really dynamic young anchor then,” CB Arun Kumar, who met Bahl on the Newstrack sets in 1989, said. “He was full of good ideas. People were more into politics and general news, but he was into business.”
In 1991, Bahl joined Business India, a publishing house, to create a business version of Newstrack for television. The programme was called The Business India Show. They had produced exactly one edition when, on 21 May 1991, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. “You have to imagine how the whole country was in turmoil. It made a lot of business people very jittery. We put the programme on hold because we wanted to wait and see what would happen,” Arun Kumar said.
Sanjay Ray Chaudhuri, one of Network18’s founders, described the ensuing upheaval in an essay he wrote for Mint. “There followed a frustrating time when we were drawing salaries and doing no work. We were young, hungry, ambitious, impatient and at the prime of our working lives. The Gulf War had already shown us the future. The satellite revolution was at our doorstep.” In the meantime, Bahl, Chaudhuri, and Arun Kumar started a new production company, Television Eighteen, in Delhi. (Chaudhuri is now executive director in the Network18 group; Arun is the academic director of a film school in Mumbai.)
With nothing happening, Bahl pitched for work everywhere. “The mood was depressing at the time,” Arun Kumar said. He lucked out when the BBC saw the work Television Eighteen had done. They signed Bahl up to produce and anchor a show called India Business Report. To train the staff, the BBC sent down a retired veteran who went out on shoots with Television Eighteen’s young staff for a few months. His mandate was to bring them up to the BBC’s standards. This wasn’t difficult. Bahl’s video editors and cameramen were graduates of Jamia Millia Islamia, whose mass communications programme produced skilled technicians.
Their methods seeped through the organisation, as did the experience of Television Eighteen’s founders.
Between 1993 and the following year, Ashok Advani, the founder of Business India, decided to start a television channel called Business India TV (BITV). He told Bahl that the channel would be transmitted off a Russian satellite. Transmission fees cost $1.5 million, far below than the $5 million cost of using the satellite that broadcast the Star Network and Zee into Indian homes. Advani believed that the money they saved could be used to improve production values. Bahl disagreed on two vital counts. He told Advani it was premature to start a channel, Arun Kumar said. He also thought the Russian satellite was a mistake. For Bahl, “being seen was more important than transmission fees,” Arun Kumar told me. “If your programming is being seen, the quality isn’t important.” Around August 2004, he left BITV, taking a number of his colleagues with him.
Arun Kumar decided to stay back, but Bahl tried convincing him to leave. “He said, ‘Look, we’ll start our channel in due course. This one’s never going to work.’ He was right.” Cable operators decided very quickly that recalibrating their receivers regularly to pick up a beam from a Russian satellite was too much work. Eventually BITV switched to the Star satellite, but it was too late. “They ran out of money, and other channels had traction by then,” Arun Kumar said. “It was a classic business strategy mistake. It brought Advani’s empire tumbling down. They saved money on the satellite, but they lost the whole thing. Raghav knew it was a mistake. He knew all along.”
Meanwhile, Bahl found an opportunity to exploit. Indian television had little business journalism. This presented an allied problem—there were no television business journalists either. He decided to contact reporters and editors at the Economic Times and India Today, and won them over, if not with the promise of a brand new medium, then with offers to double their pay cheques. “After the economic reforms, journalists began to get better salaries across the board, but he was offering raises of 100 percent,” S Srinivasan, whom Bahl hired as an editor in the 1990s, and who now runs the Tamil channel Puthiya Thalaimurai, told me.
Previously, Bahl had produced India Business Report for the BBC and a lifestyle programme, the Amul India Show, for Star TV. The BBC’s methods seeped through the organisation, as did the experience of Television Eighteen’s founders. When Bahl hired journalists to make three programmes that would run on the channel Asia Business News (ABN)—a joint venture between Dow Jones, and the Hinduja family—the new hires were made to learn those ways.
His modus operandi with ABN carried all the hallmarks of his ambition. He hired more than 60 people for one programme alone. “His entire objective was to get the best editorial team,” Srinivasan said. “When he’s on a high, I don’t think he looks at money.” Between themselves, reporters jockeyed to have their stories chosen to fill limited slots. Many of Bahl’s former editors told me that his insistence on good production values set him apart from others in the field.
He shaped their own appreciation for well-produced stories, over long hours in editing rooms, and also by issuing frequent debriefs—voluminous documents critiquing particular programmes and stories, and containing, some former employees said, hidden criticisms of reporters. It was an expensive way to work, but the money from ABN was generous—the company paid Television Eighteen $2,000 (approximately R70,000 in 1996) for each two-minute story.
Bahl told his senior editors that he wanted to sustain quality, even as he was spending more and more time growing the business. Hardev Sanotra, whom Bahl had lured from India Today, was one of those editors. He watched the company’s editorial philosophy form as it produced (and Bahl anchored) India Business Report and the Amul India Show, as well as its daily 90 minutes of programming for ABN. Sanotra told me, “He said, ‘We’ll do ethical journalism, we must do quality journalism, and we’ll pay well.’” Bahl was true to his word. He resisted pressure to drop inconvenient stories. In one particular instance, an interview with the industrialist BK Modi took an unexpected turn when he “said lots of things against the Hindujas,” Sanotra said. “Somehow the Hindujas came to know the interview was running that evening.” He said he received calls from Bombay and London, where the Hindujas were based, but none from Bahl. The story ran untouched.
Soon there were unforeseen troubles, not helped along by the fact that a large chunk of the business’s funds came from overseas. “Whatever money came in had to come through the Reserve Bank of India. In 9–10 months the money began to be delayed,” Sanotra, now with the soon-to-be-launched television channel New Generation (Puthiya Thalaimurai’s English counterpart), recalled. Salaries and allowances were constantly deferred, and even though people were eventually paid their due, the delays “started having an impact on morale”. In 1997, Bahl shut down the programme for which he had hired so extravagantly, because it consumed large resources. “Almost 60–70 people were asked to leave,” Srinivasan said. “It was surprising, because even as he was laying them off, he said it was a temporary blip, and that he would start a channel. It was clear to him. But to me, it looked too far away.”
But Bahl saw no hurdles, only opportunities. He brought the international channel CNBC to India in 2000, producing eight hours of programming a day for the new channel CNBC-TV18. Govindraj Ethiraj, now the editor of Indiaspend.com, a popular data journalism website, joined the team for the new channel in 1999. “He was like, ‘define your own job’,” Ethiraj remembered. As managing editor of CNBC-TV18, Bahl advised his hires to think quickly. “He would say that you should do your planning, but not ad nauseum. ‘Get it off the ground and then correct it’.” I asked Ethiraj what he remembered most fondly about his time there. He didn’t take very long to respond. “He makes you feel like you’re in it together,” he said. “He was very inspired by Narayana Murthy [co-founder of Infosys].” In that spirit, Bahl’s was among the first Indian media companies to offer employee stock options.
Bahl teamed up with a new CEO, Haresh Chawla—a veteran of Amitabh Bachchan Corporation Ltd and Times Music—and took the company public in a 1999 IPO that was oversubscribed by over 50 times. “The company has collected close to Rs 2511 crore,” the Indian Express reported in December 1999. Chawla and Bahl began a website called Rupeecontrol.com in the wake of the success of the financial portal Moneycontrol.com. When Moneycontrol itself ran into trouble at the end of the dotcom boom, the pair were able to buy it out for a song. (For a brief while Chawla considered renaming his new acquisition Rupeecontrol, but then dropped the idea.) In 2000, Bahl told investors that the company was about to grow even more rapidly. He said he had plans to enter the online brokerage business, and bolster his teams of anchors at CNBC with experts to polish the coverage to a high sheen, because it had an “immediate impact on the stock market”.
Chawla, if anything, was even more keen to get a move on than Bahl. “Raghav didn’t think he could take on a Prannoy Roy,” a former editor there said. “He didn’t think he could take on NDTV. Haresh was more ambitious.” Within five years, Chawla convinced Sardesai to leave NDTV to start a general news channel and take ownership of it. Sardesai held 2.25 percent of the new endeavour. Within months of its launch in December 2005, thanks to its clever distribution strategies and, I was told, Sardesai’s star power, CNN-IBN’s ratings overtook NDTV’s. Within ten years, the group had licensing arrangements with Viacom and Forbes, Hindi and Marathi channels, a printing press, a healthy publishing business, a home shopping network, and a movie studio.
It burned through cash. Bahl described his approach to the business in an essay he wrote for the media website MxMIndia.com earlier this year about launching Colors, the network’s popular general entertainment channel. “Yes, it would cost hundreds of crores, but we were clear that we would rather burn hundreds of crores in a high voltage launch and win or flame out, as against die a slow and painful death with a hundred small cuts, struggling every day in the Number 4 or 5 position, draining away cash and energy, shoulders drooping, simply waiting for the inevitable closure. We were sure that we had to enter with the mind-set of a leader.”
It is a mindset that has served Bahl well over the course of a career whose post-liberalisation narrative—a first-generation businessman building a veritable media empire in under two decades—has a near-fabulous quality to it. Vivian Fernandes, who worked with Bahl for 18 years and is the co-writer of Superpower?, Bahl’s book about competition between China and India, said to me: “His story is a proxy for India’s economic reform.” In a CNBC interview with Anuradha Sengupta during the network’s publicity blitz for the book, Bahl twinkled when Sengupta opened the discussion by asking him why he had chosen not to write about his own story. “We’ve got a long way to go,” he said.
“He knew what he wanted,” Srinivasan said. “He knew very early. He could be ruthless. He didn’t flinch once a decision was taken.” I asked him how he would describe the company’s growth. “They grow, they shrink, they grow.” This was a description I heard often. “Indian entrepreneurs lack a strategic vision,” Srinivasan said, speaking in general. “Have you heard of a five-year plan? Or a ten-year plan? In media you don’t know what’s happening six months later.” Srinivasan, saying this in 2013, had the benefit of hindsight. For most of the past decade, the Network18 group had ridden on markets flush with money, and eager investors who bought the story Bahl sold. But while the group grew, it began to morph into something that bewildered its investors and staff.
IN 2007, Network18 floated the Indian Film Company (IFC) on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM), a small exchange with few regulatory hurdles. The IFC was a film fund created to finance the production and distribution of feature films, a new area of interest for a group that had, so far, been content to operate only on television and the internet. “I invested money on the face value of Raghav Bahl, that’s it,” Deepak Gupta, a large investor in the Indian Film Company, told me. “I had heard a lot of stories about him. I had great faith in the guy.”
Bahl sold his investors the proposition of a disciplined Indian film industry. He wasn’t alone in this. The middle of the previous decade saw the rise of marketing and finance professionals—“soap sellers”, the politician Amar Singh called them—in Indian films. They populated marketing and distribution departments, ran studios, and set up investment opportunities. Bahl was among the first of these to solicit foreign investment in an organised way, promising change in what was a sexy, if deeply feudal, business.
Gupta says he bought into the message, and the messenger, for reasons he couldn’t fully explain. Bahl wove visions of growth and dazzling returns in a promising industry—a mine waiting to be tapped by professionals. “It will enable high quality international investors to reap the benefits of the structural changes and growth opportunities being thrown up by the Indian film industry,” he proclaimed at the time. The IFC aimed to produce or acquire an improbable 40 to 50 films for release each year. And generating returns for his shareholders was among Bahl’s first priorities, he said. He would bring investors an annual return of 20 percent, “if you manage the capital efficiently.”
“My intention was not to stay there for very long,” Gupta said on a phone call from Dubai, where he lives. Gupta was a “fund manager kind of guy”, he told me—an early investor who typically sold high quickly, preferably for a five or ten percent gain. He invested £3.6 million in the IFC, he told me, and waited for the fund to list. He told other investors that he hoped to cash in within a couple of months. The fund opened on the morning of 18 June 2007 at 99 pence, and it traded only a percentage higher for the rest of that day. Not unreasonably, Gupta had expected the fund to rise dramatically, in keeping with volcanic IPOs everywhere before the crash of 2008. Instead, the fund soon began a rapid descent: within months, the stock lost almost 20 percent of its value.
As the stock crashed, IFC’s management, led by Bahl, declared it remained optimistic. It had turned a profit with the success of Jab We Met and Welcome in its first ten months, and claimed, in its annual report of 2008, that it would benefit from “the effect of a number of positive dynamics” within India’s various film industries. As the promoter and managing director of Network18, which held 18.18 percent of IFC, a stake worth Rs 80 crore, Bahl, backed by management, told shareholders in Network18’s own annual report that year that although the value of their investment was down, IFC was profitable and had a “positive net worth”. Therefore, “no provision for diminution in value … is considered necessary in the accounts”.
But Bahl reserved his optimism for his publicly listed companies. In private, he stated otherwise. On the 2008 balance sheet of an unlisted Mauritius company, BK Media Mauritius Private Limited, which held IFC stock, he said he expected the value of the investment in IFC to fall. “Considering the current economic scenario and a conservative accounting policy,” he wrote, “provision for impairment has been made against these investments as per management’s estimates…”
IFC’s independent shareholders grew restless with the growing chasm between the fund’s performance and the management’s continuing assertion that it was faring well. By 2008, they began to demand more detailed numbers, and asked questions about how the company’s chief asset, its movie portfolio, was valued.
“They refused to give us numbers,” an investor named Atul Setia said to me. “As investors we saw hit film after hit film, and nine months later we would expect the numbers to be pretty good, but they never were very good. It was a frustration investors had, and they couldn’t understand what was going on in the company.” Finally, in late 2008, Setia travelled to Mumbai with Deepak Gupta to persuade Bahl and the board to bring about change. Their meeting with the board was a disaster; Setia and Gupta left with the distinct feeling that no one was interested in their proposition. Soon after, in a highly publicised manoeuvre in January 2009, Gupta and others came together to form the Indian Film Company Requisition Group—a pressure tactic to acquire representation on the IFC’s five-member board of directors, which included Bahl, Shyam Benegal, and Lord Meghnad Desai. By now, IFC stock was trading at around 25 pence, down by 75 percent from its listed price. Reports depicted the episode as a campaign to have Bahl evicted from the company, but Gupta denied this emphatically to me. “We did not want a hostile takeover,” he said. “Who among us had the experience to run this business? Were we ready to kill our own money?”
As a result of the agitation, Gupta and Setia both won positions on the board, giving them the authority to look into the heart of the company’s financials. Gupta discovered that the fund’s CEO, Sandeep Bhargava, was not only responsible for buying movies, but also for valuing them—disparate responsibilities that together constituted a conflict of interest, Gupta believed. He urged management to get an independent evaluator, given that “60 to 70 percent” of the company’s valuation was based on its stockpile of movies.
In July 2009, out of the blue, Network18 Holdings, a Cayman Islands subsidiary of Network18, made an offer to buy back IFC’s shares. Shareholders were offered 40 pence a share. “But here’s the real catch,” Gupta said. “The stock was trading at 26 pence, but in its books, the company valued its assets at 113 pence a share. They wanted to buy back at 40p.”
For the two years during which the fund had lost value, Gupta had tried with increasing desperation to sell his stake, but couldn’t find a purchaser. By the time I called him, six years after his initial investment, distance had given him perspective. Gupta admitted he had not researched the market, and had instead been led by a tempting growth story. He hadn’t heard closely the fund manager’s utterances before the IFC listed (“… the perception of greater liquidity has made [the Alternative Investment Market] an attractive destination for a lot of companies”). The fund’s price hadn’t risen because, until the buyback offer, there had been simply no demand for its shares on the AIM. “It’s a sucker’s market,” Gupta said about the exchange. “There’s just no liquidity there.” This was true. Over one 30 trading-day span in 2009, the fund’s shares changed hands on only five days. For the other 25, there were no buyers.
Gupta, Setia, and the others decided to sell. By 7 September 2009, Network18 Holdings had purchased nearly 60 percent of IFC. In total, the Network18 group ended up possessing over 80 percent.
But there were more convolutions to come, and this time Network18’s shareholders would be affected. In October 2010, Gupta and Setia learnt that a Cyprus-based company named Roptonal had offered to purchase Network18’s IFC shares for 115.56 pence each. Roptonal was a subsidiary of Viacom18, in which TV18 held a 50 per cent stake. At the time, Chawla was the group CEO of Network18, as well as the CEO of Viacom18—which put him in charge of both buyer and seller. In effect, Network18’s Bahl and Chawla had undervalued IFC’s shares at first, and then, in doing a deal with Viacom18, which they held sway over, acquired a seemingly high value for themselves. IFC’s former shareholders weren’t entirely surprised. “We knew that one of the options [Bahl had] was to buy the company back at a very low price,” Setia said.
Roptonal’s offer to IFC’s shareholders valued the stock at 15 percent over its original listing price circa 2007. But Network18’s Rs 80.78 crore investment in the fund had grown less than a percent in more than three years, due to a drastically changed exchange rate. It was a reality far removed from Bahl’s glittering initial promise of 20 percent annual returns to IFC’s investors.
However, matters turned out somewhat differently for the Network18 subsidiary based in the Cayman Islands, Network18 Holdings. It had purchased shares from minority shareholders at the 2009 buyback offer of 40 pence, and sold these on to Roptonal in 2010 at 115.56 pence. For the Cayman subsidiary, that transaction represented a gain of 188 percent in one year.
But Network18’s shareholders only realised the real cost of their investment in IFC in 2013. It turned out that when Roptonal purchased IFC from Network18 Holdings in 2010, it was on the condition that any shortfall in expected income from its newly acquired film library would be covered by Network18 Holdings. But Roptonal also demanded, and received assurance, that Network18 would pay up if Network18 Holdings could not. Roptonal expected to earn Rs 322 crore over a four-year period that ends next year. Network18 has not explained why its Cayman subsidiary cannot make the payment, and has made a provision of Rs 237 crore to bridge the shortfall (a figure which would have constituted 80 percent of its revenues last year).
Setia told me that Bahl was the epitome of a certain sort of entrepreneur. “He’s a very intelligent, articulate Indian promoter,” Setia said about him. I asked him what he meant by “Indian promoter”. “They look after their own interests,” he said. “The Indian market is typified by illiquid companies with large promoter shareholdings where there’s a lot of manipulation for the financial benefit of the promoter.”
Analysts realised how difficult it was becoming to decipher the group’s numbers during its 2010 restructuring, a major operation that involved merging and demerging ten of the group’s companies. When one analyst, Nikhil Vora, asked Bahl for clarity on the earnings call following this restructuring in May 2010, he received an elaborate evasion for an answer. Vora, the head of research at the finance firm IDFC, asked Bahl, “I am not asking specifics but want to understand the broad objective of this entire restructuring. Is it to get all your news assets into a single entity? What is the broad thought process which is being deployed apart from making it shareholder friendly…?” In response, Bahl talked for two full minutes about investors who believed the company structure was too complicated. He said he hoped to sort out the confusion after putting “our best efforts and our best thoughts into the various possibilities … However, the minute we are absolutely ready with it, we will come back to our shareholders.” Decoded, this appeared to be an acknowledgment of the fact that shareholders had concerns, and the company would address them when it had a solution. But at no point did Bahl actually say why the restructuring had happened.
When I contacted Network18 with questions about some of its numbers, the company responded tersely that its “transactions have been made in accordance with the regulatory requirements”. Some of these transactions, analysts point out, are questionable. In 2010, Porinju Veliyath, the founder of Equity Intelligence, an investment firm, sent out an angry email with the subject line, “Raghav Bahl doing Daylight Robbery on TV-18 shareholders!” Veliyath’s investors owned a small stake in TV18, and he was aggrieved by what seemed like blatant stock price manipulation in the months before the crucial 2010 restructuring (which Vora had asked about on the earnings call). He also calculated that after the restructuring, assets transferred from TV18 to Network18 were undervalued by over Rs 900 crore. “Can this merger of TV18 be stopped by minority shareholders?” he asked in his email. He wrote that he would begin legal proceedings against TV18 in this matter, but it isn’t clear if he followed through on the threat. Veliyath declined to be interviewed for this piece.
“From a finance perspective, it’s a company built to pull wool over shareholders’ eyes,” Deepak Shenoy, who runs the financial website Capital Mind, told me on a phone call from Bangalore. Shenoy posts regular dissections of company finances on Capital Mind, and has kept a running tab on Network18’s numbers, which he says indicate that it’s a company that “keeps hiding stuff under the carpet”.
In 2011, he discovered a befuddling note in the company’s annual report. Network18’s management took a Rs 255-crore loan, but the money wasn’t for the company. It was for a confusingly named trust called ‘Network18 Group Senior Professional Welfare Trust’, over which Bahl, his wife, and his sister, Vandana Malik, exercised significant influence. The trust was provided this money even though Network18’s management knew it was unlikely that any “economic benefit will flow to the company from the trust,” according to the Network18 company’s 2011 annual report. The report also showed that the trust repaid Rs 202 crore to Network18 that year, but still owed it nearly Rs 150 crore. “Why the heck should a company give Rs 255 crore of its own investments, as security against a loan to a promoter entity?” Shenoy asked. He observed that the trust controlled by the Bahls had used loans to purchase shares directly from the market in September and October 2011. “Effectively, the company’s money was used to help the promoters buy more shares from someone else,” Shenoy wrote. “This is brazen. I don’t know if it’s illegal, but it sure as hell should be.”
Network18’s annual reports and balance sheets do not always make easy reading for its shareholders. Indeed, for a company its size, Network18’s complex financial dealings tend to attract very little scrutiny. “The group is a serious wealth destroyer. It’s not funny how much wealth has been decimated,” a former head of one of the group’s several companies told me. “The strange thing is the lack of action against them from regulators.” I asked him why analysts weren’t more vocal about their concerns, and he replied, “If they do that, they won’t be invited to CNBC again.”
Not all regulators were quiet. In February 2008, M Damodaran, who was coming to the end of his tenure as chief of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI), was interviewed by Shekhar Gupta for his television programme Walk the Talk. Damodaran spoke of having received a letter from an investor soon after the Reliance Power (an Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group business) IPO, which had taken place the previous month. The investor claimed that CNBC-TV18’s coverage of the IPO had been unusual. “The investor asked, ‘I saw you guys saying everything was good about a particular [IPO] till it listed below the issue price. And now I find you saying everything is wrong and talking it down. What happened to you guys?’ I think there’s considerable merit in it [the letter],” Damodaran said. “How is it that suddenly on listing, all the virtues that you thought resided in some particular issue disappeared? I think the media has a very large role to play and I am afraid that that role is not being played to the best of its ability.” (For all his dissatisfaction, Damodaran was in the audience two years later when Bahl launched his book Superpower? at the Taj Palace in Delhi, at an event compered by Shereen Bhan, a popular CNBC anchor.)
Over his career, Bahl has demonstrated a talent for smoothing over complex relationships, both human and financial. He is also gifted at making simple things complicated. His group valued the acquisition of Reliance’s stake in ETV at Rs 1,925crore. Network18’s public filings from 2012 later revealed that the acquisition price was founded on an Ernst & Young report that itself was based on findings from unaudited information, given to it by TV18 and ETV. To seal the matter, Network18’s management declared in the 2012 filings that their ETV acquisition, the biggest purchase in their history, was based on the conclusions of the report—but they could not guarantee if the numbers were correct.
By 2011, the company began to slip out of Bahl’s grasp. After years of optimistic projections, it had arrived at the edge of a financial abyss, and several of Bahl’s former employees were convinced he had simply overreached. “He’s very aggressive,” Sanotra told me, “but when you expand too quickly, markets don’t support you.”
As his once-buoyant enterprise began to falter, Bahl sought assistance from Reliance—reluctantly, according to a senior editor of a Network18 website. “He was in a bind about entering a pact with the devil.” Pania, the Reliance spokesperson, explained to me that “the promoters were looking for finance. They were looking to reduce debt.”
Chawla, Bahl’s CEO, wanted no part of it. In November 2011, two months before the Reliance deal was announced, he resigned from Network18. “From a small single-channel operation with revenues of just Rs 15 crore, we grew to become a Rs 3,000-crore conglomerate with a presence in almost every branch of media,” Chawla told Businessworld in April 2013. Dealing with Reliance was another matter. He told the magazine that quitting “was not a complex decision. It was one of those things you do when you wake up. I just felt I did not want to engage with [the Ambanis].” He declined to be interviewed for this story, and said he had been misquoted in the Businessworld story, but then unintentionally let slip during a brief but heated conversation weeks later—in which he once again declined—that his last days there “were an unpleasant situation. Now it’s over.”
Reporters are aware of how the arrangement might affect them. “They are using our credibility,” a top editor at one of the group’s channels told me. “I am worried about that. One day people will ask us questions.”
ONLY A DECADE AGO, Bahl had believed that competition would serve him well. He reasoned that competition deepened the market, and it could only be to his benefit. In time, as he grappled with the complexities of his sprawling organisation and a quickly changing marketplace, his solutions to commercial problems appeared to come in conflict with his journalistic ideals.
The effect of Bahl’s growing pragmatism began to be felt at CNN-IBN some years after its launch. He was troubled by the increasing popularity of Times Now, which began operations in 2006 and thrived on the allure of its combative editor-in-chief, Arnab Goswami. During primetime, Sardesai’s calm and reasoned demeanour proved no match for Goswami’s corybantic style. By 2008, Times Now’s ratings overtook those of CNN-IBN, which irritated Bahl. “Raghav was very unhappy when Arnab started winning,” a former senior CNN-IBN editor told me. “Rajdeep used to say that Raghav would tell him, ‘Arnab must be doing something right.’” The editor felt that, as a result, there was “tremendous tension between them.”
To counter Goswami, the channel began to funnel resources towards its primetime talk shows, privileging them over news and reportage. Reporters also noticed that Sardesai began to anchor whenever big stories were breaking, a practice usually associated with Goswami. “They’ve been cutting down on news. It’s about chasing the day’s big story,” a reporter said.
Current and former employees say that CNN-IBN began to change palpably in 2010. “The way we played news, the way we functioned. You could get a story right, but unless Times Now played it up, we wouldn’t either. That was frustrating,” a former reporter said. And if Times Now had footage, CNN-IBN’s editors wanted it too. When Times Now once ran a clip of Rajesh Khanna waving to fans on loop, editors at CNN-IBN assigned their threadbare staff to acquire the same footage. On his visits to Mumbai, Sardesai echoed Bahl’s feelings to his staff: “Times Now is doing something right.”
Once Reliance invested in the group, editors approached stories about their benefactor gingerly. In one instance in 2012, a possible story containing a reference about Reliance and TV18 bidding for Indian cricket rights was discussed by the channel’s core editors for two days. “People were saying, ‘Yeah, let’s play it up,’” a person involved in the story’s production told me. But the reference worried them, and they asked the reporter to confirm once more that Reliance had placed a bid. This was confirmed, but the story that ran contained only the names of other bidders. “There was an editorial call to keep Reliance out of stories,” the person said. Other editors suggested this too. The editor at Firstpost told me, “We don’t talk too much about Reliance. Neither pro, nor con. I’m uncomfortable with the compromises we’ve made.”
In a 2008 interview with Businessworld, Bahl had talked about the group’s existing commercial arrangements with companies they covered. “We do not compromise editorial. If you want to compromise content, you don’t need … a private treaty to do it. It need not show on your books either. We do have a policy of private treaties, but what is wrong with a business plan that monetises our media reach? What difference does it make if we pay for a stake in a company in cash or kind? It is true that the companies we invest in get access. It is also true they may try and influence us, but that is the occupational hazard every journalist faces.”
Over the years, as the balance Bahl was required to maintain between his twin roles as businessman and journalist shifted, the chances that his reporters would face the “occupational hazard” of outside influence began to increase. As a result, journalists found themselves in uncomfortable situations. Last year, Vivian Fernandes, who co-wrote Bahl’s book, was dispatched to Gujarat to interview the chief minister, Narendra Modi. A person involved with the production of the interview recalled that Fernandes asked Modi a difficult question about water conservation in Gujarat. Modi’s organisers had asked to see the questions before the interview, and demanded the water conservation question’s removal. When Fernandes sprung it on him anyway, Modi broke away from the camera and glared at a public relations executive in the room. “Why is he talking like this?” the person recalled Modi saying. “Are we not paying for this interview?” The production crew realised that the interview was part of a promotion for Modi. When Bahl heard about the curtailed interview, he reportedly told Fernandes, “We should have a clear line between marketing and editorial.”
The line, I discovered, was crossed cavalierly some weeks ago. In late October, a finished story on Micromax scheduled for a Forbes India issue was suddenly held back for the future—a decision that threw the editorial department. In the mean time, Gurmeet Singh, the CEO of Forbes India, called one of the co-founders of Micromax to talk while the story was on hold. Singh was an irrepressible salesman, several current and former Forbes India editorial staff told me. The call by the CEO to the subject of the profile concerned them. “You suspect the worst,” a reporter said. “It raises questions about conflict of interest. You have to put it in context.” The context, in this case, was that earlier that month, Sai Kumar, the group CEO of Network18, had met Forbes India employees in a town hall meeting, and told them that the group would no longer judge ad sales in the traditional way (that is, quarter to quarter). Instead, the company wanted “strategic partnerships” with advertisers, Kumar told the room. “In the long run, we want dealmakers,” an employee who was present recalled Kumar saying. The story finally ran in mid-November, but a disillusioned employee told me, “The job has changed, because the management has taken a different focus.” In May 2013, after the acrimonious departure of Indrajit Gupta and three editors, Jagannathan took over Forbes India. He told MxMIndia in May, “Forbes ... is not meant to be an NGO. It is not meant to be anti-capitalism.” With recent cover lines such as “Leaders for all seasons”, “Winners in the making”, “How to think uber rich”, Forbes India can hardly be accused of being critical of Indian business. “The very focus of the magazine makes me uncomfortable as a journalist,” the employee said. “It’s all some special issue or the other.” As a result of these changes, of five reporters in the magazine’s Bangalore bureau, two have quit, and two more are about to resign.
In the last months of 2010, the former economy and policy editor at Forbes India, Dinesh Narayanan, heard about a finance ministry file related to an extension of term for the then SEBI chairman, Chandrasekhar Bhave. Narayanan filed a right to information request to view the file, and was allowed to do so in January 2011. He discovered that a September 2009 ministry request to extend Bhave’s stint was filled with strong endorsements from, among others, the finance secretary Ashok Chawla, and the finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee. Bhave had, in only three years, markedly improved the quality of SEBI’s investigations, and cleared a backlog of cases through consent orders (documents through which SEBI settles administrative or civil proceedings). “The most famous consent order was against billionaire Anil Ambani and two companies of his group and their officials on charges of diverting funds raised abroad,” Narayanan wrote in a story he filed in the first week of February 2011. “Insider accounts say that Anil Ambani met Bhave and argued his group had done nothing wrong. But that did not help the businessman avoid the outcomes altogether. He had to agree to pay a penalty of Rs 50 crore and go on a self-imposed exile from the secondary market for a year.”
The file showed that Mukherjee had approved of an extension for Bhave. But one day in November 2009, two months after the file was opened, the finance minister’s adviser, Omita Paul, asked for the file. “[S]he added a comment in her own handwriting,” Narayanan wrote. “She asked the minister to take note of the composition of the SEBI board and the present tenures of the chairman and members.” A day later, Mukherjee “ordered that no further action be taken on the extension of Bhave and the whole-time members of SEBI.” The smooth progress of Bhave’s extension orders seemed to grind to a puzzling halt here—around the same time, the draft of Narayanan’s story suggested, that SEBI was investigating charges against Anil Ambani’s group. In addition, Narayanan wrote that “Mukesh Ambani, India’s wealthiest and arguably the most influential businessman, is facing the heat too. SEBI is doggedly pursuing insider trading charges against the group.”
The magazine staff knew they had an explosive story on their hands, a former staff writer said. The issue was due to appear at the end of February, around budget time, and only three days before Bhave left his post. Indrajit Gupta, the editor, told Narayanan to get the ministry’s side of the story. Gupta says he was passing on orders from Bahl, who told Gupta that Mukherjee had rang. “Raghav said it was the first time that Pranab Mukherjee had phoned. There was enormous pressure to pull the story,” Gupta said. “Raghav and Senthil [Chengalvarayan, then the managing editor at CNBC-TV18] were insistent that we shouldn’t carry it. He got Senthil to put a fair amount of pressure.” For a week after Mukherjee called, Narayanan made four attempts to talk and meet with ministry officials, but they didn’t respond. On the night the Forbes India staff signed off on the final draft, closed the issue and went out for a beer, the injunction came from the management to drop the story, and a story about Rajasthan cricket went on the cover instead.
Later, in a review meeting with the staff, Bahl took responsibility for the inadequate replacement cover, but did not explain why the Bhave story wasn’t carried. While he confided to Gupta that the finance minister had called, Bahl did not disclose that Network18 and Reliance—which had been mentioned in the story for its troubles with SEBI—were very likely in talks that February about a Network18 bailout. (According to company filings, Digital Content Private Limited, the trustee for Independent Media Trust—which invested in Network18—was formed on 5 April. Its constitution was written on 24 March, barely a month after the story was withdrawn.)
AS THE 2014 ELECTIONS COME INTO VIEW, Bahl’s network has begun to tilt noticeably rightward—a deliberate movement that has left his journalists uneasy about their ability to exercise editorial discretion. In the weeks leading up to the group’s first Think India conference in April, Bahl told his management that he wanted to start a foundation called Think Right (the conference would spring from the foundation). Sardesai and Sagarika Ghose, the deputy editor at CNN-IBN, objected to the name, believing that it was certain to be misinterpreted. “They believed that ‘right’ would come to mean Hindutva, you know?” a person involved in the discussions said. The foundation’s name, everyone agreed, should be Think India.
For the first lecture of the Think India Foundation, Bahl asked Sanjay Pugalia, the editor-in-chief of CNBC Awaaz, to invite Narenda Modi. Sardesai was aware of how the exercise would appear. “Rajdeep said that we were a media organisation and, even if we didn’t mean it, by providing a platform across all our channels for Modi, people would get the impression that we were leaning towards one party,” the person said. (As a result, the group attempted to persuade Rahul Gandhi, J Jayalalithaa, and Nitish Kumar to attend later editions of the conference, a former reporter there said.)
A small group was created to work on the conference and solicit coverage from Network18’s and TV18’s properties. “There was a concerted effort to drive a large visible campaign to prop up Modi in the run up to the Think India platform,” Gupta told me. Each channel, publication, and website had to carry promotional material of some kind. “They wanted a Modi cover story from Forbes India.” He says that Jagannathan broached the subject with him, and didn’t seem to mind that the magazine had carried Modi on the cover the previous year. “Jaggi said he wanted the cover to be a macroeconomic story on Modi, and said we should speak to [the economist] Bibek Debroy.” Gupta pushed back, and Jagannathan finally relented.
On 8 April, Modi arrived at the Taj Palace hotel in New Delhi for the first Think India conference. A healthy audience had filled the room to listen to Modi talk about the need for smaller government. But two-thirds of them were the group’s staff who had been rushed in to make up for guests who had refused to turn up, according to a former reporter. “The number of guests anticipated were not there.” An editor present there said, “Lots of BJP functionaries turned up, but no corporate guys turned up.” Bahl, who had angled for Modi to be the first guest, interviewed the chief minister himself.
The annual getaway for senior management took place this year in early 2013, in Macau. Its unofficial agenda was ‘profit’, an editor who went to the retreat said. “In Macau, Raghav said we need profits. No more losses. There would be no new channels,” the editor told me. From what he could make out, as slide after slide of the group’s 60-odd companies’ revenues were displayed, it was clear that the group was struggling. Network18, the parent company, had scraped through with a Rs 14-crore profit that quarter, but only because it had cashed in an investment.
They also touched upon politics in a way the editors present there were unlikely to forget. At a panel discussion featuring Sardesai and Jagdish Chandra, the CEO of ETV Rajasthan, Chandra talked about how all his shows ran on government money. “I remember him saying, ‘Our channel is profitable in Rajasthan. I keep Vasundhara Raje happy, and I also keep Ashok Gehlot happy. Both parties happy,’” the editor said. The other editors there, including Ashutosh of IBN7, and Nikhil Wagle of the Marathi channel IBN-Lokmat, protested vociferously. The editors’ mood sank further when Bahl let the large gathering know he favoured Modi as India’s next prime minister. Bahl’s political preference seemed to have dismayed the editor I spoke to. Between the Macau conference and September, when we met, the editor became convinced that Bahl’s preferences had influenced the network. “Until last year, Rajdeep was the most important person here. Now after Mr Ambani, Mr Modi is the most important person.”
I spoke to this editor again in the middle of November. “It’s serious. They have started supporting Modi directly. They have started putting indirect pressure on [editors] to not criticise Narendra Modi,” the editor said. “Every time big issues have to be decided, they’re done on mail, and everyone’s opinions are sought. But this Narendra Modi thing was never discussed. I think [Think India] was created to promote him.”
Network18 is not alone in its rightward swing, but as Modi’s value in the attention economy continues to rise, no one in English-language broadcasting has traded more on his appeal than CNN-IBN. For four days in October and November, the Centre for Media Studies, an independent think tank in Delhi, monitored the primetime political coverage of some major English news channels. Of the five they surveyed, CNN-IBN covered Modi for over 72 minutes, a greater duration than anyone else. At the same time, it covered Rahul Gandhi, seen as Modi’s rival in the upcoming elections, for approximately 18 minutes. All five channels had spent more time covering Modi, but no other channel’s coverage was as disproportionate.
Early on 9 November, a Saturday, Sardesai travelled to Nagpur to meet Mohan Bhagwat, the head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Two senior editors in touch with Sardesai independently confirmed that Bahl had pressed him to meet Bhagwat and other RSS leaders. “Raghav is keen on promoting right-of-centre policies. He believes [Indians] have enterprise in our blood,” the person involved in the decision over the Think India foundation’s naming said. This view raises the question of what Bahl, who has interfered with editorial decisions, is willing to overlook. Before he interviewed Modi, he told a Firstpost interviewer that he believed “that whatever be other attributes of his, or the commentary around him, when it comes to advocating small government, he’s perhaps the only leader of that stature [who is doing so], whether a chief minister, a cabinet minister, or a prime minister.”
In October, I asked a senior editor at CNN-IBN if the channel had been under any overt pressure to change its political stances. “There’s no pressure,” the editor assured me. “Raghav’s centre-right. He’s of that view, and makes no bones about it.”
But for all these years, this had not prevented CNN-IBN’s views from being shaped by the outlook of its editorial team—many of whom, including Sardesai and Ghose, are considered prime suspects in a liberal conspiracy against the BJP, Hindu nationalism, the Gujarat model and Narendra Modi by some of the supporters of these institutions.
Bahl himself displayed no particular animus for the UPA government in public. In a 2010 interview about Superpower? with CNBC’s Anuradha Sengupta, Bahl, in his clipped, management-guru tones, seemed optimistic about the “pro-incumbency” wave that had led voters to return the mandate to political representatives who were “even half-delivering”.
But things are different now. “The UPA government makes people angry,” the CNN-IBN editor I was speaking to told me. “For the first 50 years, the Left had a hegemony over public discourse. The Hindu view was seen as loony, fringe, way out there. But what was the voice of dissent has become dominant.” Sensing my scepticism about this reply, this editor added, “You can’t impose views, because you have to show people everything.”
“It’s no secret that the newsroom is the battleground for ideas,” the editor said. “What would be worrisome if there was one dominant view pushed on us. That has not been the case.”
Rahul Bhatia is a Staff Writer at The Caravan.
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READER'S COMMENTS 
03 December 2013
What a tosh of an article this is. If CNN IBN is leaning right, the writer should get his head examined. Firstly, the Indian media is so stinkingly left that even a centrist to them would look like a far right. Secondly, there is absolutely nothing wrong in being right as there are many healthy right wing parties in western democracies (Tories, Sarkozy etc). Indeed, most Indians are socially liberal (due to Hindu influence) and economically could be left or right. India's left socialist sickuar nonsense has degraded this country far too long. It needs to go towards center-right for any hope of a better future. The India media sucks.
03 December 2013
And why not?
03 December 2013
Every month, I wait for Caravan's cover story because they prove to be a treat. Not so this time. Although the facts and figures are abundant, the author lacks cohesiveness of prose and there are no bring-it-all-together paragraphs.
02 December 2013
I don't understand, what's wrong in being right? Right means being right of centre in economic policies and not hindutva as in your article interprets! You can be secular and be pro-liberalization and wanting india to grow at >10% for next 30 years in order to make india into $20 trillion dollar economy to raise the economic well being of the people and raise the 400 million indians out of extreme poverty. China has been able to bring out 400 million people out of poverty. We had 400 million people below poverty in 1990 of 850 million people and still have 400 million people of the 1.2 billion people. We need to do a better job! sops and govt interference will leads us to nowhere!
03 December 2013
Those first two lines need to be drilled into the heads of all those who are too thick to understand the clear distinction between leaning right and leaning towards Hindutva. That includes the majority of Indian mediapersons who pride themselves on being 'left-liberal'. What most of these media channels and publications don't get is that the left-liberal discourse in India has become such a given that any 'deviant' which [or who] veers even a little to the right is viewed as a Modi sympathiser. Because of this entrenchment, the end consumer is becoming increasingly fed up of the in your face leftist slant. In effect, people are gravitating towards the NDA even if they don't support Modi. I am one of those people. I follow U.S. politics very, very closely, and if I was to box myself in a category, I'd say I'm a libertarian. The GOP there is loony-right, the Dems are a sorry joke, and only candidates like Ron Paul, Gary Johnson, Rocky Anderson, etc. as true libertarians, IMO, could call themselves 'progressive'. The reason I'm saying all this is to add to what Preity has said- you don't have to lean left to be a liberal. And you don't have to be a Hindutva to lean right. So what if there's a media house in India that leans right? Surely there can be some space for an opposing point of view amidst the crowd of 'liberal' media networks? There's a Fox Network for every CBS, CNN, and NYT [don't forget to add a dozen more] in the U.S. I don't see why a reporter, editor, or publisher identifying with the right is such a grave cause for concern in the media establishment. Stop it already. Some of us 'right wingers' are pretty decent folks, y'know?
02 December 2013
I am former employee of Network18 everything written in this article is 100% write....
03 December 2013
That's write mister Indian journalist.
02 December 2013
The last paragraph is the most comprehensible of the very long and meandering article. CNN-IBN and leaning right wing? You need to credit the readers / viewers with more sense. There are lots of educated folks and not so educated folks watching the 24x7 news. And without an exception, all print and electronic media is left / left center leaning. The battering of Modi and BJP last 10 years (yes an entire decade!) is well entrenched in the mind of the public. To even suggest this new right leaning and trying to tie up Reliance into this is a feeble attempt. Besides, Caravan has emerged as the paragon of left and secular idealogy.
03 December 2013
Forget the 10 yrs. RIL is running the show across groups and it is pretty blatant. This journalist tries to explain and that doesnt make him paid media. Caravan doesnt even have that kinda presence to warrant paid media. Modi has got all corporate houses backing him and all media groups are owned partly by one or the other business group. If the readers choose to ignore wht is in front of them, god save India. Its all hype like the Guj story. I stay there so I know it...
02 December 2013
Quite a useless article. Single agenda seems to have been to take a swipe at Modi. NDTV is Congress owned -- why no mention of that?
02 December 2013
If CNN-IBN is righ of centre, then God help us poor Right Wingers. I am actually extremely perturbed after reading this piece. We have a pseudo intellectual, pseudo liberal, fully left leaning english ,media. NDTV, CNN-IBN have been dominated by such Left Sickulars and they have been berating BJP and Modi at every possible occasion. Now, we, the poor capitalists or proponents of free market and true equality i.e appeasement of none, had gotten used to such a heavy bias, when lo and behold, the leftists stand up again and call a blatantly leftist channel as 'turning right wing'. I believe, that some truly liberal journalists, with a penchant for serving the truth, who are not products of the left breeding fields of JNU or Kolkatta, would now start showing the story of the cheated and heavily marginalized Indian right. Arnab Goswami is one such Journo and although there is no decorum and lot of noise on his show, I watch it everyday just because he has the courage to speak the truth. As for this article, just speechless at the insecurity amongst the leftists as they think their last bastion namely the english media might be crumbling.
03 December 2013
Superb content you have there.
02 December 2013
The story should have also explored the question: Why did Udayan go? He was a star and a success. For any viewer of the channel (and any reader of Caravan), his exit was one the biggest and largely unexplained event.
03 December 2013
Excellent point. In an article of over 10,000 words, you'd think there'd be mention of the departures of Udayan and Mitali Mukherjee, who were the backbone of CNBC. Rahul Bhatia has done good work in the past, but the Caravan has to learn that length does not automatically equal substance/depth.
02 December 2013
The article is all over the place. Infact the writers own bias comes through instead of his objectivity . Better luck next time.
02 December 2013
The piece starts off really well, then meanders around the halfway mark, going all over the place before coming a full circles again and talking about Network 18's alleged right-wing slant. Like some people have already indirectly suggested in the comments, no mainstream media channel is 'unbiased'. To believe otherwise is, in all honesty, a laughing matter. NDTV, for instance, is blatantly pro-UPA and has been for a while. But nobody talks about Prannoy Roy being married to Brinda Karat's sister Radhika and the excessive coverage they give to the Congress as against the BJP. I'm mentioning this here, because Rahul has spoken about the excessive coverage CNN-IBN gave to Modi at some point as against Rahul Gandhi. As a reader, I'd be more interested in the murky financial underworld, if I can call it that, of all the Indian media conglomerates. In keeping with the revelations about Anant Media, and now, Network 18, I'd also like to know who are the majority 'shareholders' and owners of media houses like The Times Group (The Jains, I've heard, are 'pro-Government') and yes- Delhi Press, which is headed by the Naths. I think it's safe to say that readers and viewers are not stupid. We can gauge who's right, who's left, or anything in between. Give us credit. The fifth estate ceased to be impartial a long, long, long time ago. But yes, great reportage on Network 18's financials.
02 December 2013
Brilliant thought and agree. In today's world, it looks like almost impossible to survive without taking sides for the media though at least few of them would have started with noble intentions to promote independent journalism. No media house can be in the business if they had stood by the independent journalism and Tehelka is a case in point. The article is bit meandering but conveys the point. I always wondered about the ownership of the famous media houses. Sometime back, Rajdeep openly made a disclosure during India @ 9 that Reliance was an investor in N18. Hardly surprising because N18 has to look for sustained momentum to increase profits. We as readers have to apply our own judgement as to what to infer from that is reported!
02 December 2013
Excellent reading, a pleasure. The howls of bias from right show how deeply their heads are in the sand. They do not even notice or care to acknowledge the extreme tilt with full day live telecasts of NaMo chants and evening shouting matches between the BJ Party's Saas Bahu mandali on this channel which has made me reach out for the remote on so many occasions. It was only Rajdeep's past which was providing some cover for this shameless corporate sellout but now he seems increasingly like the Madhu mausi. Ambaniji money magic!
02 December 2013
An article that goes all over. Though I appreciate the behind the scenes information that is revealed, there is too much opinion and less facts.
02 December 2013
I shudder to think how far left of the center the team at Caravan is who seems to suggest that CNN-IBN is tilting right of the center. The mainstream discourse in India is hopelessly left of center; so much so that the media does not even realize it.
02 December 2013
About as strikingly "right-wing" as the right-winged conspiracy afoot to malign our former Tehelka chief.
02 December 2013
02 December 2013
But consider how the Congress and its governments across the country use and manipulate the media, whether through advertising or Padma awards to journalists. The truth is that all media is biased and it has been like that forever - even the British could accuse revolutionary papers during the Freedom Struggle of bias. There's no point in crying over the lack of objective journalism because, quite frankly, it is always about the money honey and if Indian audiences are not willing to pay for good journalism then they won't get it either. It really is that simple. It remains to be seen, of course, how influenced voters are by the media tilt towards the right. And that will determine whether discourse is really shifting or whether we are still a Left-leaning society, not what Network18's management wants to do.
02 December 2013
Good coverage of the financial chicanery. Unconvincing argument of a "rightward tilt".
01 December 2013
For most part of the story, Carvan talked about Raghav Behl's business dealings.Once he is censored, Carvan added one last page linking him to the right-wing tilt, which, as the title suggests seems to be the main motive. To the Carvan's credit they did link some claims to the actual names but, for most part Carvan made only anonymous claims. Whatever it was, can't be called in any way investigative journalism. Carvan's story begs the question: How is Raghav's "alleged" right-wing tilt different from Carvan's "alleged" left-wing tilt? If Raghav is at fault, so is Carvan. BOTTONLINE: "NICE TRY"
01 December 2013
title is apt, but the subtitle hardly fits the narrative description that follows. Theme is around hunt by promoter group on attempt to leverage the growth of media industry and ending up on the other side of very principles they initially espoused.
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Posted by Gopal Krishna at 5:09 AM