Going through my clippings I came across a fascinating story that calls for explanation from the Indian National Congress. This story appeared in The Hindu (November 13, 2012) and it said that the Congress has decided to revive a news – paper run by Associated Journal Ltd. The name of the paper? National Herald. Of course, the paper was originally started by Jawaharlal Nehru in 1938. It was edited by M Chalapati Rao, then one of the most distinguished journalists in India. Jawaharlal Nehru, needless to say, contributed a great deal to it and it used to be said that there were times when Nehru himself wrote some editorials.
It did not, however, last long and people forgot all about it. The Hindu quoted Congress Party General Secretary Janardhan Dwivedi as saying that his party “has done its duty in supporting the Associated Journals Ltd to help initiate a process to bring the newspaper back to health in compliance with the laws of the land.”He also acknowledged that this support is extended by the Congress “in the form of interest-free loans from which no commercial profit has accrued to the Indian National Congress”. The loan, apparently, was to the tune of Rs 90 crore, in compliance both with the IT Act as well as the Representation of People Act.” Dwivedi was quoted as saying: “There are strict accounting rules about inflows but there is nothing on how to spend it.” According to the story, a journal entitled Young Indian had been formed “through the purchase of Associated Journals on November 23 , 2010 and registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act. I must admit that in the last three years I have not seen a single copy of the journal, not even at shops selling newspapers. It would appear that Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi hold 76 per cent stake in the new venture and Congress Treasurer Motilal Vohra is Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Associated Journals. The name Young Indian sounds attractive, but what is it: a daily, a weekly, monthly a tabloid or just an idea?
If I remember aright, I learnt about the closing down of many Indian papers in the columns of a leading Indian paper a few years ago. Yes, it was Sainath, writing in The Hindu who reported that an “estimated 3,000 journalists had lost their jobs post-2008.” Commenting on that, Sandeep Bhushan writing also in The Hindu (January 21, 2013) had said that “the dismembering of the reporter has strengthened the hands of the editor, and, by implication, the promoter.” Now I learn from The Sentinel (August 25) of Guwahati that the print media in India is bucking the trend and is set to grow. The comment is attributed to Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, addressing the inauguration of the National Media Centre in New Delhi.
Acc-ording to Tewari “the regional and vernacular print sector has seen growth in tandem with increasing literacy levels and advertisers are keen to leverage these markets.” Tewari is further quoted as saying that the print industry would be “able to weather the shifting sands of technology at least in the Indian context”. I presume that Tewari knows what he is talking about and it is heartening to know that those 3,000 out of jobs are slowly being rehabilitated.
Meanwhile I see that the government has set up a National Media Centre in New Delhi, “expected to act as an interface between the government and the people”. The Centre was inaugurated by none less than the Prime Minister himself who has been quoted as saying that “it would act as a communication hub and a single-window facility to fulfil the needs and requirements of the media fraternity”. The Media Centre is supposedly on par with similar institutions in Washington, Tokyo and elsewhere. The speeches made by the celebrities reveal the kind of mind-set our Congress leaders have. Thus Dr Manmohan Singh asked the media to exercise caution to ensure that a “spirit of inquiry” does not “morph into a campaign of calumnity”. Incidentally he should have made that remark to his fellow Congressmen, Manish Tewari and Digvijay Singh, whose remarks on Narendra Modi do not bear repetition. Sonia Gandhi in her address said she welcomed “the watchdog role of media and well-founded and well-intentioned criticism” and hoped that the new media centre “would act as a bridge between the government, the media and the people” considering that the people “have a right to know their legal and other entitlements”.
One understands that the Media Centre had been conceptualised as long ago as 21 years but now that it is ready and one hopes that it would serve everybody associated with the media and the spread of news.
At least now we know how to get information of all sorts from one single window. Congrats, Mr Prime Minister. At least there is something now that we can praise you for.