THE newsroom is a place where a sentence acquires momentum and finds its way to become a headline. Idea Exchange is an attempt at the possibility of a detailed freewheeling conversation that generates ideas and debates and in it are compiled ideas of high-profile policy makers, opinion leaders and journalists.
The book begins with an article by RK Pachauri, head of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, when in January last year he admitted to an erroneous claim in IPCC’s report of 2007 saying that global warming could melt the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 and answers questions by Amitabh Sinha. Pachauri admits that though no action was being planned against the scientists concerned, the IPCC reports will be thoroughly verified before making scientific assessments and reaching conclusions.
Sir David Frost, best known for his incisive interviews with politicians, talks of how he got Richard Nixon to admit to the Watergate scandal.
Rajdeep Sardesai and Barkha Dutt, editor with CNN-IBN and NDTV respectively were questioned on their over-the-top and insensitive comments during their coverage of the 26/11 hostage crisis in Mumbai in 2008 when the government was prompted to issue a set of guidelines under the Broadcast Bill. Both defend their coverage of the crisis. Sardesai replies to Anubhuti Vishnoi thus: “We’re supposed to solve the nation’s problems, ensue that coastal security is plugged, even that blasts do not happen. We are expected to take on terror, to hold politicians and police officers accountable and offer solutions,” but when they tend to speak out, the TV channel is seen as a sinner.
Dr Naresh Trehan replies to questions on affordable healthcare, medical ethics and the maximum number of surgeries he has performed in a day.
Jeffrey Sachs, American economist and climate expert, speaks of aid to underdeveloped countries, especially as “poorest of the poor can’t be put out of their way of poverty on their own.”
Mohammed Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, explains the concept of micro financing and speaks of the politics of loan waivers.
Dr Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State, speaks of his India connection, Indira Gandhi and Indo-US ties and Pakistan. He says about Mrs Indira Gandhi, “For Indira Gandhi, the problem with Bangladesh was to see that what emerged then did not become part of the Cold War. The problem was not that she thought we were unsympathetic to independence but that she thought we would bring about independence here sooner or later and she did not want it under American auspices.”
APJ Abdul Kalam, former President of India, who played a key role in the Pokhran tests of 1998 and earned the epithet ‘Missile Man’, speaks about his journey from Rameshwaram to DRDO to President of India and his Vision 2020 for the country.
In politics, Omar Abdullah, Kapil Sibal, Kamal Nath, P Chidambaram, Pranab Mukherjee, Shashi Tharoor, Digvijay Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Narendra Modi and Nitin Gadkari have been questioned and asked to express their views.
Sushma Swaraj, as Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, defends her statement that she would shave her head if Sonia became the Prime Minister and fields questions on politics and religion. She argues that Muslims are educationally backward and need to be imparted education to become self-dependent but is opposed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh saying that Muslims have the first claim on resources when “the oppressed, the weaker and the exploited have the first right.”
Narendra Modi, the most powerful BJP Chief Minister of Gujarat, speaks of his role in the Gujarat riots, while revealing the blueprint of his good governance…..
Nitin Gadkari, the BJP president, clarifies RSS’s role in the BJP and adds, “RSS ideology is a part of my life’s conviction but never has the RSS dictated terms related to ticket distribution or the formation of the ministry.”
The interviews are precise and succinct.
(Penguin Books, India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi – 110 017)