Friday, September 7, 2007


On more sting operation looking like a stink operation: facts distorted, lies peddled, reputation decimated, all to settle personal scores.

The ‘Live India’ channel ‘expose’ about a Delhi school teacher running a prostitution racket of girls of her school has itself got exposed in turn. The girl posing as the victimized schoolgirl has turned out to be an aspiring journalist! Apparently, the accused lady teacher has been made to pay a very heavy price for owing some money to someone who found this unpardonable way of taking personal revenge.

A few months back, there was an expose on NDTV, of prominent lawyers, in the famous BMW hit and run case. Everyone was shocked at what was shown, ordinary citizens genuinely because they simply have no idea of the extent of the rot. Shock was expressed by ‘insiders’ too, though they have known for decades what has been going on, perhaps have been involved themselves similarly without getting caught. When the likes of Kapil Sibal, Manu Singhvi etc, displayed their ‘outrage’ and called for strict action and reforms, one was amazed. These guys have flourishing legal practice, are senior members and spokesmen of a leading political party, and yet can say with a straight face that the whole system badly needs to be overhauled, only when quizzed on TV. What have they done on their own so far, despite having reasonable political power, to initiate any steps to clean up the mess? Can they do anything? Why not?

NDTV’s three major exposes have been the Jessica Lall, Nitish Katara and the BMW cases. Notice the similarities? All three are conveniently from Delhi, put middle level politicians in the dock and involve studio-friendly English speaking people. While the first two concern murder and may have been justifiably exposed, the BMW case certainly does not fall in that category meriting a sting operation suo moto by a news channel, followed by hours and hours of airtime on it, even when Rajasthan was burning due to the agitation by Gujjars wanting to become STs. NDTV also did a sting operation on a selected few, yes, Delhi schools which were demanding capitation fees. On what basis were the schools chosen, when everyone knows how widely prevalent this practice is almost everywhere? Was it also done to settle some personal scores, as in the latest case mentioned above? In any case, had it been a fair operation, the first schools on the list should have the Junior and Senior Modern schools, about whom Barkha Dutt knows first hand!

Then there was an expose on Aaj Tak involving the DG Police of Maharashtra in a land scam. A former Cabinet Secretary, no less, openly admitted on the channel that no action would probably be taken, as the whole system had, over the years, come to accept corruption at the highest bureaucratic and political levels as an integral part of public life, almost as if it was a right. When the senior most civil servant of the country so candidly expresses his helplessness at stemming the rot in the system, it should jolt all concerned citizens. When the rot is so pervasive at the very top, what do you expect to find elsewhere? But what happens? There is just no reaction from the media, in the know of this sad state of affairs more than all of us. And, as expected, there is no follow up of the case by the media and the DGP will get away quietly.

Muck will surface in any sting operation conducted in 99.9% matters involving politicians, government officials, defence officers, businessmen, you name them. Is it a mere coincidence that such operations never ever focus on the fountainheads? Has any channel tried exposing top guns like the Gandhis, Mulayam, Advani, Mayawati, Paswan, Badal, Chautala, Ambani etc? Why go for political minnows and petty officials alone? Is it because the channels need to protect and further their business interests and ensure the personal safety of their stars that they cannot simply afford to annoy the real bigwigs?

Who decides the subject to be chosen for an expose by the media? Are their any objective guidelines to ensure, as far as possible, that there is no unnecessary violation of privacy and defamation of individuals whose reputations get decimated instantly? And that the matter merits exposure on national media in such manner for the larger good of the society/probity in public life etc? Is there any mechanism to check the unbridled race to get higher TRPs/sales?

So far, it appears that, exceptions apart, the media has far exceeded its brief and gone overboard in trying to be become a super judiciary beyond scrutiny of any authority in the country. Some media luminaries also are clearly on a huge power trip to hound craftily selected middle-level politicians and place themselves on pedestals beyond their reach, but safely below those who can retaliate with greater force, to whom they obsequiously bow. The hidden agenda of some sections of the media seems to be to virtually terrorize others into accepting the fourth pillar as the real master, the final arbiter of modern India. The mature media of the West, so often misquoted at convenience, does not appear to have inspired our media to follow their high moral, ethical and apolitical standards.

I wish our media shows greater maturity, sincerity and sensitivity in attempting to cleanse the country of the myriad putrid veins that are hurting its body and soul. Sensational and subjective sting operations and exposes may get eyeballs and destroy a few individuals, but little will happen to effect real change. Those not caught will simply continue as before, as any honest and thorough follow-up of previous operations will easily reveal. But then, as the cliché goes, it’s not just the politicians, we have also got the media we deserve.