1. Inside track

Inside track

Starting from the days of Arjun Singh’s time as chief minister, successive Madhya Pradesh governments have doled out favours to journalists. Government bungalows at nominal rents are routinely allotted to scribes. CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been liberal even in disbursing advertisements to news websites. But despite the favours, there has been no let-up in reporting on the Vyapam scam

By: | Published: January 17, 2016 12:17 AM

Unsporting spirit

Justice RM Lodha in his report suggesting reforms for the BCCI recommended that ministers and government servants be kept out of the administration of the sports body. Former minister Veerappa Moily had earlier made the same suggestion. Both their suggestions, not surprisingly, have been received with some scepticism by politicians. Politicians point out that judges and sportsmen are the only two categories of people who insist on being paid hefty remuneration for working for sports bodies, while politicians and others offer their time and services for free. Justice Lodha, for instance, received R2 lakh per sitting from the BCCI, as did the other two former judges on his panel. In the BCCI, the late Nawab Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar, and Ravi Shastri charged R1 crore annually for their services, while other board members worked for free. When Sunil Gavaskar was appointed acting chairperson of the IPL for 15 days, he billed the body R3 crore, claiming compensatory payments for professional undertakings he had to drop in order to work for the association.

Taped conversation

NSA Ajit Doval may not have categorically told a journalist that talks with Pakistan were off because of the Pathankot attack, but he did remark that until Pakistan took action on the perpetrators of Pathankot to India’s satisfaction, there would be no peace talks. There were other indiscreet references in the interview with a Dainik Bhaskar online reporter. Doval compared Pathankot with the Paris attack, which he claimed was a far greater intelligence failure. Hardly diplomatic, since France was Doval’s next port of call. He felt that if the French agencies had not taken so long to act against suspected extremists, many more lives could have been saved. Doval now denies he gave the interview. He presumably was briefing a reporter, whom he considered a sympathiser, off the record. He was not aware that the publication had taped his telephonic conversation.

Single-handed show

The Pathankot attack follow-up was dealt with almost single-handedly by NSA Ajit Doval who flew to the airbase with PM Modi. Modi was informed throughout of developments, but all other committees, which were specifically formed to handle such crises were kept out of the loop. The National Security Council, which includes the home minister and various officials from top security agencies, did not meet till after the crisis was resolved.

Sops for journos

Starting from the days of Arjun Singh’s time as CM, successive Madhya Pradesh governments have doled out favours to journalists. Government bungalows at nominal rents are routinely allotted to scribes. CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been liberal even in disbursing advertisements to news websites. A recent survey found that a majority of the registered websites are non-functional and 80% are not updated. Sixty-eight journalists have been awarded generous cash prizes and, at the suggestion of journalists, Chouhan even doubled the prize money. Despite the favours, there has been no let-up in reporting on the Vyapam scam. The MP government recently decided to set up a committee to have a relook at the policy of generous funding of media persons.

New charcha

In the run-up to the 2016 budget, the chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian has organised a North Block policy charcha. Some three to four meetings have been held so far to discuss what is called quantum jumps in new ideas in budget formation. Apart from officials, senior economists have also been invited for the discussions. Finance minister Arun Jaitley is a special invitee.

Appropriating icons

Last year, the Badal government in Punjab observed the 150th birth anniversary of freedom fighter Lala Lajpat Rai. The celebrations began from Lala Lajpat Rai’s village Dhudike in Moga district and involved schools and colleges throughout the state. A stamp was released in his honour. With the 150th anniversary year coming to a close on January 28, this year the central government is keen to enter the picture and commemorate the occasion in a big way. The HRD ministry will organise programmes throughout the country. The Congress feels that this is one more attempt by the BJP to appropriate one of its party icons. Last year, Modi had tweeted on “Punjab Kesari Lala Lajpat Rai’s unique personality which was ahead of his time’. This year, too, the PM is expected to pay rich tributes to Rai on January 28.

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