One of the pleasures of reading The Hindu is that it has the best OP-Ed page of all English language dailies in India and offers insights into international affairs that other papers either are incapable of providing or indifferent to such matters.
Just take one issue of the paper in mid-February which published two articles, one from Saeed Naqvim, a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation on what general elections in Pakistan will bring. Naqvi has some interesting revelations to make. Unlike as in India, in Pakistan Exit Polls are not allowed and in the circumstances monitors from the International Republic Institute had to pack up and leave. Naqvi writes that ?even their departure is shrouded in mystery?. And he adds: ?They are said to have left because a fair poll (which is what it would have to be if they were around) might produce an outcome that neither the Army nor the US wants. In these circumstances, coaching classes to minimise rigging are Pakistan'soriginal contribution to electoral democracy.?
According to Naqvi ?the greatest danger Pakistan faces is not civil unrest on account of fudged elections but from the Pashtun revolt infecting the Army. Afghanistan was supposed to provide Pakistan with strategic depth. Instead, the Afghan conflict is about to devour a chunk of Pakistan.? Are our policy makers and think tanks aware of what is going on in Pakistan? And to think that the US is in support of rigged elections!
The second article is on Upswing in Russia?India military ties and is the contribution of a Russian expert, Viktor Komardin. It provides detailed information on the implementation of joint projects to develop and produce a whole list of defence needs from fifth generation fighter aircraft to multi-role cargo planes. Such information is hard to get, unless one goes to the Internet. But how many readers have time to do so? Or, for that matter, the inclination?
The point is that The Hindu takes its task seriously, whether one agrees with its editorial policy or not. Consider some of the other newspapers which are, for all one knows, run not by editors but by Advertisement Managers under whatever name. More space was recently given to the marriage of Sanjay Dutt to Manyata than to more important events. In what way is the average citizen educated by knowing about the personal affairs of a film star? The Times of India (February 18) went to the extent of giving a list of secret marriages undergone by film stars, some of whom were already married. Names are mentioned. What was the article supposed to be? A sociological study of star culture? It says: ?The reason why stars have covert weddings is not entirely clear. But there was a time when the predominant cause of secret marriages was commercial consideration. There was a fear that fans will reject married stars.?
There is the pathetic case of one well-known film director who married a second time even when he was waiting for an official divorce from his first wife. According to the report he embraced Islam, took a Muslim name, even as he second wife did. A juicy story no doubt, but makes for puerile journalism. Then there is the case of Raj Thackeray of Mumbai who organised riots against north Indians, specifically Uttar Pradeshis and Biharis on grounds that they were ?outsiders? who were depriving Maharastrians of jobs. Not a single paper made a study of the Maharashtrian ethos, giving facts and figures. How many Maharashtrians of the lower middle class are willing to work on road building, construction of houses and other back-breaking jobs? Not many. These jobs are executed by outsiders?, particularly Andhra labour. The tragedy is that the Congress government did not have the courage to arrest Raj and clamp him in jail. It was a case of cowardice. The Nagpur-based The Hitavada wondered whether ?the exercise (of the government) is to curb his activities or to promote him.?
Summing up the situation, the paper said; ?A more decisive action in the beginning would have nipped the trouble in the bud.?
The Panjim?based Gomantak Times (February 15) warned that ? the pre-and post-arrest disturbances and the exodus of the terrified people, especially from Pune and Nashik should not be taken as any indication of Thackeray junior'spopularity.?
The plain truth is that the Congress-NCP government is weak-kneed and dare not take on Raj Thackeray'sgoons.
The Times of India (February 18) made it clear that the ?Naxal attack in Orissa'sNayagarh district is the latest wake-up call for India'ssecurity mandarins?. But Delhi couldn'tcare less, it seems. The Maoist guerrillas have been tightening their grip on the country claiming some 500 lives every year. The Government has not even provided a White Paper on Maoism in India.
Isn'tit time that the matter is given some immediate attention?