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We Have Created A New Segment That Has Resonated Well With Readers: Short Post Editor

Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come, said Victor Hugo a long time ago. I felt likewise. So instead of waiting endlessly for the Covid-19 tide to ebb, I decided to take the plunge and launch on January 28, 2021. This website, the first of its kind in the country, focuses only on short ‘Authentic Gossip’. Clearly, content is king more so if it is short & crisp (225 words), as a large section of our society is steadily shifting to digital and mobile space. To achieve this, I was fortunate to muster editorial support of some of the most senior and respected journalists in the country to bring out credible content that involves, stimulates and entertains our highly discerning readers — from across continents. We have so far uploaded close to 1,000 posts covering areas like Business, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment. Yes, today we have crossed an important milestone in our journey – #ShortPostFirstAnniversary —  and we are confident many more will follow in keeping with our stated vision – to become a one stop site for authentic gossip. So, what next?  With the third wave showing signs of slowing down things can only look better. So as the year rolls by we promise to pack in more punches. Before I sign off I would like to thank our advertiser IDFC FIRST Bank, angel investors Anuradha Verma, Ashish Kakkar and you readers for making this journey possible.
election comission

Elections Cost Candidates Far Higher Than Raised Prescribed Limits, Though Political Parties Face No Spending Caps

Prior to crucial assembly polls in five states, the Election Commission of India raised the ceiling on poll-related expenditure by candidates from the existing Rs 20 lakh to Rs 28 lakh and, from Rs 28 lakh to Rs 40 lakh in states and Union territories. “These hikes in expense limits by the EC are a farce…they spend far beyond the (prescribed) statutory limit. Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself said this,” points out Prof Jagdeep Chokkar of Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR). Quoting a study of election expenditure affidavits of 5,743 candidates of the 2009 Lok Sabha elections that ADR did, Chokkar recalls that only 4 candidates had declared expenditure above the then permitted limit of Rs 25 lakh; 30 candidates had spent between 95%-100 % of their limit. The remaining (5,743-4-30= 5,719) or 99.58% said they had spent between 45%-55% of the limit. Four years later a senior (late) Maharashtra BJP leader publicly stated that between Rs 8-10 crore was the actual cost of fighting each Lok Sabha seat in 2009 when the prescribed limit was Rs 25 lakhs. The same leader had declared in his sworn affidavit that his actual expenditure was Rs 19.63 lakh. Limiting individual expenditure of candidates by itself, serves little purpose. “The elephant in the room is — there is no cap on expenditure that political parties can incur”.

Spotlight On PM Modi’s Sikh Outreach & Surprise Farm Laws’ Repeal

It is on the occasion of Gurpurab – the birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev – that Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to break the impasse by repealing three farm laws. Modi’s surprising climbdown on farm reforms acknowledges that the farm protests were not only hurting BJP’s prospects in poll-bound states but were also causing unintentional, deep divide in the society. During his earlier outreach to Sikhs (February 2021), Modi offered the nation’s gratitude: “What have they not done for this country? Whatever respect we give them will always be less.” At Rajya Sabha came his call to stand with the Sikhs: “We must not forget what happened with Punjab. It suffered the most during the Partition 1947. It cried the most during the 1984 riots.” The new farm laws – despite being transformative – had stirred passions with the most vocal resistance coming from Punjab and adjoining geographies that gave Green Revolution. The PM’s fresh outreach must be welcomed: The Sikh families not only contribute disproportionately to the farming sector but also send the bravest of warriors to the defence forces. It may be recalled that it was the failure of the then government to manage the Punjab agrarian alienation which eventually led to a violent separatist movement, followed by a series of tragic consequences: Operation Bluestar, assassination of PM Indira Gandhi, and anti-Sikh riots in 1984.

Rising Shareholder Activism Keeping Promoters On The Hook

Shareholder activism has been gaining currency and managements have to think twice before proposing resolutions to be approved and voted by shareholders. SEBI is also ensuring that it becomes difficult for promoters to push anything just because of their majority stake. For every negative vote, you now need three positive votes to approve the resolution. In some cases, the promoter is not allowed to vote and the minority shareholders decide the outcome. Readers would recall that Eicher Motor shareholders rejected a pay hike to Sidharth Lal, its MD & CEO. Similarly, IDFC shareholders rejected the reappointment of Vinod Rai as independent director. In the case of Zee Entertainment, two directors stepped down on the eve of the AGM as proxy advisors had asked the shareholders to vote them out. Meanwhile, the company which announced a non-binding agreement sale to Sony Entertainment has been directed by NCLT Mumbai bench to consider shareholder Invesco’s request for EGM to oust MD Punit Goenka. Jindal Steel & Power wants its shareholders to approve payment of one-time remuneration to its four independent directors. Proxy holders are advising shareholders to oppose the same as it violates terms of an independent director. Further an investor has rejected the reappointment of Shallu Jindal, wife of Naveen Jindal and a director on the board of the company for nine years. Indeed, it is a tough time for promoters.

Anti-Maharashtrian Brahmin Genocide 1948: Need For Recognition, Healing

It has taken a magnum opus on Veer Savarkar to put in print a memory that still lives and torments millions: The memory of the 1948 anti-Maharashtrian Brahmin genocide, a “wilfully erased chapter of history.” While writing for his concluding volume on the freedom fighter – Savarkar (Part 2): A Contested Legacy, 1924-1966 – author Vikram Sampath’s crowdsourcing efforts through social media drew an outpouring of tragic personal tales from survivors and descendants of the 1948 pogrom. The book captures how the carnage started from Bombay and Pune before spreading to Nagpur, Satara, Sangli, Miraj, the Patwardhan States, Belgaum, Kolhapur, where thousands of Brahmins were either massacred or their properties destroyed; and most villages in the state were ethnically cleansed of Brahmins. Thanks to laws like the Press Act, the media was silent on it – as it was on the coverage of the Partition Holocaust against Hindus and Sikhs in the newly created Pakistan, and its Kashmir horrors. Washington Post reported on wave of looting, arson and killings; New York Times said how “the communal riots quickly swept Bombay when news of Mr Gandhi’s death was received (January 30, 1948).” The accounts of DP Mishra, home minister of Central Provinces, point to a systematic pogrom against Brahmins and how no FIRs were lodged. Says Sampath: “The tragedy apart, denying its very occurrence makes it a doubly chilling crime.”

Aug 16: 75th Anniversary of Great Calcutta Killings Vs TMC’s Khela Hobe Divas

August 16, 1946 is mourned by millions as a day of catastrophe: Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s call for Direct Action Day in Kolkata – with the threat of ‘We shall have India divided or India destroyed’ – led to mind-numbing slaughters as bazars and homes were torched, thousands massacred. The carnage also broke the resolve of the secular leaders, who decided to buy peace by conceding to Jinnah’s demand. According to Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins: “Mountbatten was haunted by the spectre of Direct Action Day staged in Calcutta in 1946 by the Moslem League in which 26,000 Hindus were killed in 72 hours.” The consequence of the Great Calcutta Killings should have been the arrest and trial of the perpetrators, but it ended up rewarding them: talks accelerated for the creation of West and East Pakistan, which became a nightmarish reality a year later August 14, 1947. Against this traumatic background, West Bengal’s ruling party Trinamool Congress’ idea to celebrate Khela Hobe Divas on Aug 16 is being decried as not only insensitive but also an insult to the memory of those butchered in the savage killings. For BJP Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, “Khela Hobe’ was never a poll bugle: it was always a veiled call to the cadres for unleashing stone age barbarism.” TMC has dismissed the public opprobrium as an attempt to spread hatred.

50th Anniversary Of The Bengali Hindu Genocide: Cry, The Beloved Country

I rise in sad remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the Bengali Hindu Genocide,” Sheila Jackson Lee, U.S. Democratic Congresswoman, offered her prayers in the House of Representatives, putting spotlight on Pakistani Army’s 10-month reign of terror known as Operation Searchlight (started on March 25, 1971) when “2 to 3 million people were killed, over 200,000 women raped in organized rape camps, and over 10 million people displaced, most finding refuge in India.” In remembrance of the Bengali Hindu Genocide victims, Tulsi Gabbard, former U.S Congresswoman and 2020 Presidential candidate, quoted U.S Senator Ted Kennedy: “Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops. Systematically slaughtered.” She added: “The Islamist persecution of Hindus and other religious minorities in Bangladesh didn’t end with Bangladesh’s Independence. That campaign continues to this day with horrific targeted attacks, murders, homes being burned down and families who continue to be forced to flee.” For many, this campaign has now reached West Bengal. The extent of the bloodlust unleashed after TMC’s spectacular poll victory over BJP has left pro-Hindu voices seething in despair. The NHRC is appalled to discover “a pernicious politico-bureaucratic-criminal nexus” behind 29 murder, 12 rape, and 940 cases of loot and arson during May 2 to June 20. The Calcutta High Court will hear the matter on August 2.

Modi Once Again Proves That The Buck Stops With Him

At the boardroom or playground, the captain’s writ runs large. So, it is no different in the political arena. Nobody respects or admires an indecisive leader. A case in point is the former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is different. He seems to have taken a leaf out of the U.S. President Harry S Truman’s frequently used phrase “the buck stops here.” To ensure that he is always on the top of the situation, everything is routed through the Prime Minister’s Office. So what’s wrong? But, this prime ministerial centric government seems to be getting everybody’s goat. Why?  During UPA I and II everything was routed via Sonia Gandhi’s office. Then everything was centralised with one family; the so called ‘concerned citizens’ did not have any objections. In the corporate world, the shareholders hold Mark Zuckerberg, Mukesh Ambani or Warren Buffett accountable. The buck stops with the CEO. Accountability and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. Are opposition or some of the BJP leaders unhappy with the centralisation of power because they are not able to game the system? Modi seems unperturbed with this surround sound and his latest cabinet reshuffle clearly points out that he means business. The report cards of the ministries and ministers were the deciding factor. Twelve ministers who did not score passing marks were dropped while seven who came out with flying colours were promoted. Besides, 36 new faces or future leaders were inducted. For now, this powerful well-oiled coterie, basically Modi haters, comprising journalists, politicians, bureaucrats, academicians, historians, actors and authors have to twiddle their thumbs because their social media efforts to denigrate him has come to nought. But, they are no quitters. To keep the ember burning they are now heavily tweeting and retweeting about grammatically incorrect language of the new health minister.  Still living the Raj days!

Who Benefits From Keeping Sushant Singh Rajput Legacy Alive?

For nearly a year, Sushant Singh Rajput’s name has been trending on Twitter. But, on May 31, 2021 the hashtag #SUSHANT YOU WILL WIN was trending at #1 spot with over 93,400 Tweets. It is understandable. His first death anniversary is just a fortnight away on June 14. The successful Bollywood star died young and that too under mysterious circumstances. His death has indeed devastated millions of his fans and that perhaps explains why he keeps trending for a year now. He is a rare phenomenon. It appears that no death — be it that of Mahatma Gandhi, John F Kennedy, John Lennon or Lady Diana — has been in the news for nearly a year now. And like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose whose disappearance has intrigued a whole generation, so is the case with Sushant Singh’s death. The investigating agencies must answer one simple question: was Sushant Singh Rajput murdered or forced to commit suicide? Till a satisfactory answer emerges, rumour mills will keep doing overtime. Yes, there was a glimmer of hope in December 2020 when the CBI, in response to a letter written by the BJP’s Rajya Sabha member Dr Subramanian Swamy to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “The CBI is conducting investigation in a thorough and professional manner using latest scientific techniques. During investigation, all aspects are being looked at and no aspect has been ruled out as on date.” Since then, there has been a deafening silence. Come to think of it, some of the most complex cases have been solved in double quick time. Take for instance, the case of the rogue cop Sachin Vaze, who was dismissed from the service for his alleged involvement in planting bomb near Antilia, home to the industrialist Mukesh Ambani. The investigating agency within a fortnight said, Vaze was involved in the murder of businessman Mansukh Hiren – this murder was earlier communicated as a case of suicide! So, the question everybody is asking, why is this case dragging endlessly? Who benefits from keeping Sushant Singh...

The Guessing Game Continues In Maharashtra…

The guessing game ‘will it or won’t it survive’ continues in Maharashtra.  The twitterati is on overdrive, “Wait for June”, their tweets say. But, everybody from political analysts to man on the street, are saying that the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) cart is being pulled in different directions by the three parties – Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress. Everyday there is some proof of that. A case in point being Maharashtra’s Cabinet Minister Nawab Malik hogging publicity by saying that the State will provide free vaccines for people in the 18-45-year age bracket. Congress party was peeved. Its leader and state Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat said the decision on a free vaccine should be announced by the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Likewise, Aaditya Thackeray had tweeted: “The Govt of Maharashtra has decided to vaccinate its citizens free of cost….” Realising he had jumped the gun, he deleted his tweet quickly. On the other front, Sharad Pawar, who has been vocal and active since the formation of the MVA government, has been maintaining studied silence for the last one month on various events that has engulfed the state – Vazegate, Lockdown and CBI raids on former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh. One reason could be his health problem. He was flitting in and out of Breach Candy hospital. Be that as it may but political observers are reading too much into his so-called meeting with Amit Shah in Ahmedabad in March. Political observers say that the Congress and the NCP are quietly going about building their party’s image. On the other side, former Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis is in full flow; doing everything to ensure he is back in the CM’s saddle. Hope it is not the case of Waiting for Godot!

Why Sachin Vaze, Indrani Mukherjee Got Caught?

The short answer is: they were over confident that they would be able to manage the environment (read politicians, police). That in essence is the story of all the three law breakers — Big Bull Harshad Mehta, INX Media promoter Indrani Mukherjea and rogue cop Sachin Vaze. Indrani Mukerjea, the main accused in the alleged murder of her daughter Sheena Bora made the cardinal mistake of coming back from London. She was perhaps cocky that no harm would come to her as she had friends in high places. Remember music composer duo Nadeem-Shravan? Well, Nadeem Akhtar Saifi fled the country in 1997 when his name was linked to the murder of T Series founder Gulshan Kumar. He continues to stay in London. Similarly, encounter specialist Vaze seems to have blessings at all the levels. For somebody who was seven notches below, in terms of ranking, he could walk in and out of the Police Commissioner’s Office at will. No questions asked! When BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis was seeking a probe into La Affaire Vaze, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray defended him on the floor of the House saying Vaze was No Osama Bin Laden. It is this kind of support that saw Vaze cooking up charges and exploiting people in Mumbai. Republic TV, hounded by Vaze at the behest of his political masters, is bringing to light the nexus between politicians-police that would put any thriller in the shade. In the case of Big Bull, he was a publicity hound and did not lose any opportunity to flaunt his wealth. He came under everybody’s radar for not only his crazy valuations of scrips like ACC, Karnataka Ball Bearing but also driving around in a Lexus. The entire staff of the State Bank of India at Nariman Point came down to see his car when Mehta, at the height of the scam, went to meet the chairman. Finally, he was caught and died in a jail.

Politicians And Their Covid Talks

Politicians know what they don’t want – a lockdown. But the second wave of Covid-19 has put them in a dilemma. If they go in for lockdown, they will have to weigh in on its socio-economic implications vis-a-vis political fallout. The other option is to ensure everybody gets vaccinated and plug the deficit in healthcare infrastructure while simultaneously enforcing stricter Covid protocol. It is evident that the five states – Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry (UT), which are in the throes of election fever,  have thrown Covid protocol to the wind. The Election Commission had mandated during the Bihar elections that Covid-appropriate steps should be taken. But that was forgotten after the elections. Come to think of it, everybody needs to share that blame equally. In Mumbai, the BMC officials are on an overdrive, collecting Rs 200 fine from Mumbaikars for not wearing masks. And in Aurangabad, we have a Member Of Parliament, Imtiyaz Jaleel being cheered by his ‘maskless’ partymen. They carried him on their shoulders as they were thrilled that the government may not go in for a complete lockdown. If politicians break law with such impunity, then what do you expect from the ordinary citizen? In reality, all politicians merely pay lip service when they say, Do gaj ki doori, mask hai zaruri. –Mahesh Vijapurkar

Operation Debutants And The Inaugural World Test Championship Final

Not many would have bet on the Men in Blue after the humiliating rout they suffered in the first Test at Adelaide (Dec 17-19, 2020), scoring 36, their lowest total ever. Even on the final day of the last Test at the Gabba (Jan 15-19, 2021), they were given 1% chance. India ended Australia’s 33-year dominance at the Gabbatoir with Shubhman Gill hitting a mesmerising 91 and Rishabh Pant an audacious 89 to chase down the target of 328 with 18 balls left in the match. Wisden Cricket’s Editor-In-Chief Phil Walker notes: “Seasoned and sober judges are saying it’s perhaps the finest series win away from home by any side ever.” Cricket analyst Robert Craddock wrote in the Daily Telegraph: “Australia got their best squad to throw their best punch – and they got knocked cold.” The incredible turnaround story for the team (that lost all four tosses, their power-hitting captain, and several frontline players through injury) was scripted by the fiery energy of the debutants and the steely spine of the young guns batting at lower order. The same debutant spirit was unleashed after the thrashing England inflicted in the first Test at Chennai. India managed to defend its fortress, securing 13th consecutive Test Series win. The 3-1 series victory over England seals India’s berth in the inaugural World Test Championship (WTC) final, where they will face New Zealand, the team of “scrappers that scraps for win.” Hopefully, India will soon find answers – as Saurav Ganguly (president of the BCCI) and Rahul Dravid (in charge of the National Cricket Academy, Bengaluru) sharpen focus on training young talents like Mohammed Siraj, Washington Sundar, and Shubman Gill, among others.

Who Is Setting The Social Media Agenda?

That’s the billion-rupee question. The late actor Sushant Singh Rajput continues to trend for nine months now. On March 17, the Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, who is in the eye of the storm, was trending on Twitter via #IamwithAnilDeshmukh. A few months ago, it was the Mumbai Police Commissioner who was subsequently transferred.  The question everybody is asking: Does Deshmukh have the charisma or mass following like his boss Sharad Pawar, the NCP Supremo? Earlier, when the Founder-Editor of Republic TV was arrested by the Mumbai Police he was trending at #1. It was a natural public sympathy; even the Supreme Court made scathing remarks on the illegal arrest. Sure, he had a strong platform to tell his story. Similarly, starlet Rhea Chakraborty was trending both ways; for one group she was a villain whereas for the other group she was a victim. Suddenly you see #CBI Expose Jiah Khan Killers trending. Jiah died in 2013. The last time the whole country, sans social media, came together was during The Emergency in the mid-70s. Likewise, the Anna Hazare movement over corruption became a national movement.  So, this trending business raises lots of questions. Who decides the trending patterns and ranking? In whose interest it is to keep issues alive? Is it a perception game? Does judiciary take cognizance of social media numbers?

Electoral Win: Is It Public Sympathy Or Performances?

In 1984, the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi saw the Congress party win 411 seats out of 542 with her son Rajiv Gandhi becoming the Prime Minister. It was a sympathy wave. A similar situation arose when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated while campaigning during the 1991 elections. In areas where polls were held before the assassination, the Congress fared badly. It was a vote against non-performance. Post Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, the Congress did well due to the sympathy wave but could not muster enough seats and had to form a minority government led by PV Narasimha Rao. So this brings to the fore whether West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who met with an accident in Nandigram constituency will romp home on a sympathy wave? Will her campaigning on a wheel-chair optics make the various scams, misrule a non-issue and catapult her party TMC into the winning zone. It may be recalled Chirag Paswan did not gain much from his father Ram Vilas Paswan’s demise but YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, current Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, more than benefited when his father and Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhara Reddy died in a helicopter crash. Likewise, one must see what happens in Tamil Nadu with the demise of two icons — M Karunanidhi of DMK and J Jayalalithaa of AIADMK. Will it be sympathy or performance that will tilt the scale?  It is worth mentioning that the BJP led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi got two terms on sheer performance indices and so did AAP in Delhi, led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Looks like the electorates have wizened up and optics do not matter.

Javadekar Gets SC Licence To Give Teeth To The OTT Laws

The OTT Entertainment industry doesn’t know what hit them. First came the Allahabad High Court’s massive observations on the streaming of Tandav – seen by many as an indictment of the rapidly growing, unregulated platform. Next followed the remarks of the venerable Supreme Court’s bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and R Subhash Reddy that concluded that the new guidelines governing social media (SM) and OTT (over the top) platforms have ‘no teeth’. Swiftly pouncing at the SC-sent opportunity, Information & Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar promised that the government would soon issue guidelines for the regulation of OTT platforms. Replying at the floor of the Rajya Sabha, the soft-spoken minister said that the new guidelines would address the issues of sensitive content, adding that a lot of suggestions on the regulation of OTTs have been received. The new development comes as a sharp contrast to the Minister’s earlier espousal of Self-Regulation for the industry. While meeting the OTT honchos, he tried dispelling misrepresentations around the digital media guidelines, assuring that the self-regulatory bodies would not have any member appointed by the government. Well, the fiery tussle between the key protagonists – including the FoE advocates – is far from over. What’s urgently needed is clarity in guidelines to draw more investments in the sector with about 40 OTT platforms.

Govt Communication Report: Monologue Vs Dialogue

One of the weakest points of the current NDA government at the Centre has been the lack of leaders who could communicate the economic policies and decisions of the government in the right perspective and that too effectively. The untimely demise of two BJP stalwarts Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj depleted this capability further. While the other side of the story may be that you don’t need anybody else to do this when you have such a strong orator in Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  Nevertheless, the need was felt to find ways to improve government communication, and the report of the Group of Ministers (GoM) on government communication, which is the talk of the town currently, has captured the wide gamut of issues. Several journalists, industry leaders and ideologues participated in the GoM’s deliberations. The Opposition parties have labelled the exercise as another effort to control media while the government obviously is portraying this as an exercise to help find the ways to deal with intentional negative narrative and make the policy messages reach people in the right way. An interesting point to ponder here is whether the industry leaders and journalists would do better by being critical of the government policies or by becoming a tool in the hands of the government in promoting the policies — a job that should primarily rest with the government spokespersons.

A Shot In The Arm For Achhe Din?

With Prime Minister Narendra Modi receiving his first dose of vaccine, not only the inoculation drive against Covid-19 — but also the nation’s recovery prospects got a fresh shot in the arm. The investors now foresee acceleration in the drive to subdue the virus – which should free up all critical sectors. Moody’s has revised India’s GDP projections for FY22 upwards to 13.7% (from 10.8% estimated earlier) while the IMF has projected 11.5% (up from 8.8%). Despite Covid-19 stress, the GST collections for past five consecutive months have exceeded over Rs 1 lakh crore – including Rs 1.13 lakh crore in Feb 2021, up 7% versus Feb 2020. The state-wise GST growth is led by big states – Gujarat (up 14%), Tamil Nadu 9%, Maharashtra 2%, and Karnataka 2%. The recovery is attributed to a resilient farm economy as well as an impressive manufacturing performance with the Purchasing Managers’ Index hitting 57.5% in Feb. With vaccination drive in full swing, the services sector and the MSMEs should also bounce back. Meanwhile, the Central and the state governments should focus on reforms and relief on four fronts: 1) Employment generation; 2) an empowered antitrust watchdog to track corporate dominance in key businesses, including farming; 3) better industrial relations amid Kolar violence (at Apple iPhone plant); and 4) better outcomes from the Bad Bank (with the creditors identifying corporate loans of over Rs 1.45 lakh crore).

Of Delayed Infra Projects, Non-Performing Babus & An Exasperated Minister

Road Transport & Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari does not hide his frustration with obstructionist bureaucrats. He is vocal and open about it.  From time to time, he has been using various fora to drive home his point. He is furious at the slow pace with which the files move from the desk of a director-level officer to a joint secretary, additional secretary and secretary.  He has warned the bureaucrats that “dead assets in government, who neither take decisions nor allow others to work, would be shown the door.” But, bureaucrats on their part seem indifferent to his threat and insult. Result, Gadkari seems to have given up on them.  At a web-based event, he threw his hands up and said: “After my six years’ experience I have found that in this system people won’t change. I am coming to the conclusion that it is very difficult to change them. I have given up on these people.”  And now, a few months back while speaking at the inauguration of the eight-floor NHAI building, Gadkari said: “The project was decided in 2008. Twelve years, two governments and eight NHAI chairmen came and went before this building could be completed. I am ashamed.” So how do we bring accountability and responsibility among bureaucrats? If a minister cannot fix this problem who can? Can the judiciary (saddled with lakhs of pending cases) play a role here? There are more questions than answers.

Do Politicians Make For Good Sports Administrators?

It was a hotly contested election between a corporate chieftain and a politician. In the end, SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh won. Singh was re-elected President of the Boxing Federation of India defeating senior BJP leader and former Maharashtra Sports Minister Ashish Shelar. The defeat of a prominent Maharashtra politician refreshed memories of the tussle between Jagmohan Dalmiya and Sharad Pawar for the BCCI President’s post in 2015. Dalmiya was unanimously elected BCCI President as Pawar failed to secure a nomination for the post. This begs the question: Why do politicians make beeline to join various sports bodies? Do they make for good sports administrators? As per a report, 47% of India’s sports federations are headed by politicians. Jay Kowli, Secretary-General of the Boxing Federation of India, believes having politicians as administrators have proved to be beneficial – with leaders like Sharad Pawar making a big difference to the world of cricket. Well, such encomiums must be music to the ears of politicians as the general feeling is that the politicians should keep out of the sports bodies.

Has Covid Vaccination Drive Slowed Down?

With the rise in Covid cases, especially in two States — Kerala and Maharashtra, the question everybody is asking: Has the vaccination drive slowed down? Is it because of a glitch in CoWin App? The cynics were asking whether the vaccination drive was kept on hold to deliver it in the poll-bound States. Till date, 1,14,24,094 vaccine doses have been administered to 75,40,602 healthcare workers and 38,83,492 frontline workers through 2,44,071 sessions. The government which was silently working on the issue gave its answer saying that that vaccines for senior citizens above 60 years and those above 45 years with co-morbidities will be vaccinated across 30,000 centres across the country from 1st March. Effectively government is targeting to touch nearly 1 million people per day.  It is working on the supply side too. Currently, the Serum Institute Of India’s Covishield, and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin are being administered. Dr Reddy’s Laboratories have sought emergency use authorization of Sputnik V developed by Russia. And the fourth vaccine, which everybody is eagerly awaiting is ZyCov-D developed by the Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited this plant sometimes back. According to newspaper reports, Zydus is currently conducting phase 3 clinical trials and will make public its finding.

BJP Adding Heft & Gravitas

Eagles don’t flock you have to find them one at a time, said Ross Perot, the American billionaire who also ran for the Presidency. And BJP, it seems, is following Perot’s strategy to T. From time to time they have been wooing heavyweight politicians, bureaucrats, film stars and sports personalities into the party fold. The latest news from the BJP HQ: Metro Man E-Sreedharan is likely to join the party and contest elections in the poll-bound Kerala. The BJP has often boasted about its pantheon of crowd pullers and super achievers with clean image. In Tamil Nadu, they had almost succeeded with Superstar Rajnikant but at the eleventh hour he backed out on health grounds. In West Bengal, they are trying to woo yesteryear Superstar Mithun Chakraborty who was nominated to the Rajya Sabha on Trinamool Congress ticket in 2014. But, two years later he stepped down. With elections round the corner, the BJP is not only looking for winning candidates to form the government but also a local hero who will take over as the chief minister. That’s the promise Amit Shah has made to the Bengalis. The guessing game is on as to who will wear the crown.

To The Harvey Weinsteins of India: #MeToo Is Back

A very public outrage against misdemeanours by powerful men has received the much-needed judicial support. #MeToo is not some time-barred phenomenon. “The woman has the right to put her grievances at any platform and even after decades,” said Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ravindra Pandey who acquitted journalist Priya Ramani in the criminal defamation case initiated by the former Union Minister MJ Akbar. The right of reputation cannot be protected at the cost of right to dignity, the Delhi court observed. It will be interesting to see if Akbar’s battery of lawyers – led by Sandeep Kapur of Karanjawala & Co – will challenge the order. But the public opinion is hardening. “Akbar must be made to pay for this,” tweeted civil rights lawyer Prashant Bhushan. #MeToo has still miles to go in India. Experts note how the Supreme Court had upheld Delhi High Court’s acquittal of Peepli Live director Mahmood Farooqui of rape charges on the grounds that a ‘feeble no’ from a friend may have been construed as consent (from a Columbia University researcher, who had come to India on a Fulbright exchange fellowship). The trial court had convicted Farooqui but the decision was overturned by the Delhi High Court. Earlier, #MeToo flagbearer Tanushree Dutta’s allegations against actor Nana Patekar collapsed too with the Mumbai police filing closure for want of evidence.


Technology Cannot Disrupt Original Content Provider: Short Post Editor

They say time flies. How true!  Today is our #SecondAnniversary. Two years back at the height of Covid-19 Pandemic when lockdown was the way of life we took a leap of faith and launched Short Post (Jan 28, 2021), the first-of-its-kind website in the country that focuses on Authentic Gossip. The Oxymoron is deliberate. Well, the response has been quite encouraging. That’s what has kept us going. Till date we have posted close to 2000 stories in the areas of Politics, Business, Entertainment and Sports. Each insightful story of around 225 words has been contributed by Senior Editors. There is a sense of satisfaction of creating a new segment in the market – authentic gossip — and in the process creating a brand (in a limited sense), creating demand (readers) and creating supply (writers). Well known advertisers — IDFC FIRST Bank, ICICI Lombard – supported us.  And that really boosted our confidence. Thank you!

So here we are raring to go.  But, when I look at the media landscape the disruption is indeed fast and furious. Technology is playing a very big role in how content will be consumed. In the past, we have seen how social media has disrupted the media world. Now, everybody is saying the same thing about ChatGPT. It has reached 1 million users in five days. Its scorching pace of growth is indeed frightening and will disrupt the media industry big time. My limited argument is can it do investigative stories, write gossip items using the digital world ecosystem. Unlikely. Clearly, the original content has to be created first — only then can ChatGPT do the magic. That’s what we promise to do – focus on original content.

Before I sign off, I am reminded of an old advertisement of the early sixties: “Avis is only No.2 in rent a cars. So we try harder”. Likewise I can say, we are two years old and we are trying even harder to be relevant to you readers.