Q: Pratap Bhanu Mehta asks boldly in a new column called “Whats the big idea?”
A : The big idea is to take the simple mechanics of the 2G scam outside public scrutiny and in the process carry out the largest mass hypnosis known to mankind.
Note : We love PBM but this piece is a big disappointment. Anyone who does not focus on the mechanics of the scam has made peace with corruption. [Updated]
His latest column too is a blur of subcontinental prose that requires the patience of a spider to decipher. Let me help you here. Here is what this he is saying.
- Its about the BJP stupid
- Corruption is all over the place including judiciary
- BJP dare not try to make it a political issue because it is doomed to fail
- The CAG figures are grossly inflated
plus enough propellant to get about half of what he was trying to say out.
The key take away is he is joining the rest of the compromised media. They really do not think much of the 2G scam and want the country to do so too. Whether they are paid to take this line is for the public to decide. I dont know about these guys – I would demand to be compensated if someone were to ask me to disregard my commonsense.
A call to take it easy :
What this means is that while there is a desire to hold the prime minister accountable, there is little political clamour to see him humiliated. He has got away with so many sins of omission. This is not just because of the support of the Congress president, but also because there is still a residual sense of the alternatives not being too palatable. The BJP will have to play this game delicately; it has to force accountability without appearing to be obsessive in a way that comes across as unsympathetic.Finally, the one dramatic shift at the current moment is that large swathes of the ruling classes have lost their credibility: journalists, bureaucrats and even judges are coming into the line of fire.
Source : Whats the big idea ?
We are asked to first ignore the bizarre idea that the BJP should be the topic of a major op-ed column instead of the mechanics of the scam. Next, he tries to make the point that the BJP should control its actions while conceding that there is national outrage at the scam. In other words, it is wrong for the BJP to reflect the national outrage. Guess what, if they do that, PBM and friends will go for the kill and announce that the BJP is dead because they cant demand accountability for a national loss of at least 60,000 Cr (based purely on instant resale).
Again, the truth will not be at issue. What will emerge is a “plague on both your houses” kind of syndrome. Second, the CAG report’s overdramatic figure of a “loss” around Rs 1,70,000 crore has caught the public imagination. But strictly speaking, it is a figure based on contestable assumptions. But it also includes the cost incurred by policy decisions taken during the NDA’s tenure. There is also now a great confusion about the different levels of this issue. There is the issue of auction being the right policy choice; there is the issue of whether within the framework that government settled upon there were procedural anomalies; and finally there is the issue of corruption per se. Unfortunately, all three issues are now being treated on par as an undifferentiated whole.
Yes exactly – truth will not be an issue because it is not the issue. The mechanics of the 2G sale is the issue. You media guys are promoting the absurd plague on both your houses line.
The CAG had to cite the 1,70,000 Cr figure because otherwise their report would be incomplete. Going purely by the resold value which determines end-user pricing the loss is 65,000 Cr. Clearly this is indisputable. There, Are you feeling much better now ? If Pratap Bhanu Mehta and friends focused on the mechanics for one week and removed their BJP obsession, the absurdity of extending it to 2001 will be in plain sight.
So – there are two possibilities :
- The blindingly obvious “Quacks like a duck” (default) : A scarce national resource was sold dirt cheap by a dubious mechanism. No good faith measures were undertaken to maximize the value of the resource. The Congress-led UPA governments had the full ability to change or recalibrate any process including first-come-first-serve.
- The innocent policy follower (what we are being sold by PBM & media) : The NDA policy was blindly followed because – well, don’t you know it is like the Bible. What is more – the NDA policy only in Telecom is like the Bible – in all other departments they can nuke it. The so called “level playing field” argument advanced in favour of the 1,600 Cr price is laughable – because darlings Docomo paid 13,000 Cr – so the price to aam-admi will be based on that.
To make a long story short – either the Congress led UPA is
- Corrupt on a unprecedented historical scale. So much that leaving them in power can cause tens of billions of dollars loss & drive millions into starvation.
- Stupid & incompetent to such an extent that leaving them in power can cause tens of billions of dollars loss & drive millions to starvation
Choose your poison.
Reality Check and the rest of the internet bloggers – increasingly referred to as the ‘non-sold Indian media’ see through this scheme perfectly. We happen to know what the big idea is, thank you very much. We are on top of this. The only way to defeat us is by throttling information & data – so you all know what needs to be done. The socialist state has half a century experience in this area.
Nira Radia is not just another news source.
The 2G scam is not just another scam.
I was nodding in agreement with Manu Joseph of the Open Magazine when he stuck to his question to Barkha Dutt. His question is, “Where is the story ?” If you string along such a high profile lobbyist with such high stakes head-fakes like “I will talk to xyz” – then the expectation is something big would break. No story. A corporate lobbyist desperate to place a person already under severe corruption charges in the exact same ministry is not a story, she tells us. She plainly said, “I dont think this was a big deal”. Because, if she really felt the 2G scam had robbed an asset belonging to street children – the coverage of the scam would have been completely different. We do have to be careful to not make it just about Barkha Dutt – the entire media played a very suspicious role in the first 18 months since the scam broke. And it continues to do so today (next post)
I know so much about media silence on this scam because I despaired for a long time about the woeful lack of coverage of a scam that outraged me. Who am I ? Why should I care so much ? Am I allied to the rival political party ? How dare a tiny nameless ant take on the mighty ? These questions are irrelevant. Lets just say I will do whatever it takes to punch way above my weight category against the corrupt and purveyors of fake social justice. Just an ordinary outraged Indian citizen.
I have researched, scoured the internet, and recorded whatever I could about the 2G scam over a period of two years. My dominant feeling during this entire period was a sense of exasperation about the near total silence in the media. Most of my inputs in the early days of the scam were from some cowboy outfits (Pioneer being the most notable).
Here is a list of blog posts on the subject with specific excerpts of my frustration with media silence.
Dec 12 2008 : Spectrum Scam and bullet proof vests
Thats right ! The size of the scam is greater than the amount we are going to spend on all defence purchases this year. We can probably give each commando a bullet proof humvee and still have some money left over. How do you think this will make those who wear substandard bulletproof vests feel ?
Yet this story will hardly make a ripple in the media. Why ? Mr Raja has already passed the buck to Mr Singh and Mr Chidambaram, both media darlings. The matter has reached a dead end.
Dec 14 2008 : Scam robs poor street children
Maybe, the problem is that this scam has not been explained in the media in simple language. Lets try it.
Dec 15 2008 : CPM for JPC to probe 2G scam
BJP does not seem to be doing its job as the main opposition party. Unfortunately, neither the media, nor the ‘middle-class’ bloggers will take it up because this been linked to the Prime Minister and P.Chidambaram, both who are above criticism.
To hell with 55,000 Crores cash money !! (I am not kidding, this is CASH the government could have got today, but has gone to Aravind-Adiga-White-Tiger-style-entrepreneurs)
Dec 16 2008 : About Yechury’s letter to PM on 2G scam
Yesterday, the media ran non stop headlines on the cash-for-votes scam. Some bloggers including Offstumped covered it too. The only interesting thing about this toothpick of a scam is how the BJP hobnobbed with the CNN-IBN, literally begging them to do a sting.
The three stunning characteristics of the spectrum scam are :
The medias next assignment is this : Somehow run stories to divert attention from this scam. The minister A. Raja has clearly mentioned that he has full backing of the PM and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram.
The CPM is the only party making a noise about this. For that Kudos !
Dec 17 2008 : Satyam Daddy buys sons companies for $1.6B (2G ref)
First, an update on the grand daddy of all scams. The Congress Party led UPA government’s underselling of a national property by Rs 55,000 Cr is starting to attract eyeballs. Some “entrepreneurs” have become dollar billionaires in just a 6-9 months.
Nothing is going to expose Indias underbelly like this scam.
The media must strain every muscle to shield some people in the Congress. The Telecom minister has clearly said that both Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister and current Home Minister Mr P. Chidambaram were in the loop on all details. We have not heard a single word from these two gentlemen. As things stand – they are in on this !
Dec 18 2008 : Biggest scam in history of independent India
Request to bloggers (Mutiny, National Interest, etc)
Please write at least one post about this ! It is in the “National Interest” to protect the scarcest of national resources. Is it not ?
Dec 19 2008 : RS Debate on scam
I remember around this time there was a near complete blackout in the media. I had to find information from Rajya Sabha transcripts ! None of the channels even reported this truthfully later !
Dec 19 2008 : No simple scams please
We will continue to follow this story. Of course stupid, we are aware it will die soon. The PM and former FM continue to maintain a silence waiting for this outcome. Which they will be rewarded with in due time.
Around this time a couple of stray sources like Statesman / Telecom Tiger had some content.
Dec 19 2008 : Scam – CPM pushes for investigation
I switched TV channels today see if any one was running a story on this giant among scams. CNN-IBN, NDTV, TIMESNOW, none of them even mentioned it. My guess is because the PM and former FMs have been in the loop according to the minister.
This is a great chance for UTVI + Business Standard to shake up the other media houses.
Dec 20 2008 : Incredible India – Rs 1,00,000 Cr turns private
At this point everyone agrees the government and the poor people of India lost BIG. There are only alibis being offered. It is time the PM responded to this issue.
It is not too late now. The Telenor, the DOCOMO, and the Etisalat deals have to be scrapped. The cash returned to their respective owners. These companies should either roll out on their own or surrender their licenses so they can be sold for their actual value. If they are too small to offer services on their own, they should not even be allowed to play this game.
I called for license cancellation in 2008. By this time, quite a few blogs (Ecophilo) etc had picked up on the story. Still nothing on TV.
Dec 23 2008 : Antulay matter laid to rest (2G scam ref)
The Indian state lost big, dollar billionaires were created out of thin air. No one seems to dispute that. Yet, there is no word from the PM or FM. This is what the 100K Cr spectrum scam is was all about. Sukh Ram was hounded for causing a loss of Rs 2 Crore to the exchequer. Thats right ! We have come a long way, haven’t we ?
The corrupt state of India is like a giant flying octopus.. If you want to change its nature you have to grab on to something real, like a dangling tentacle. If you can hold on to the tentacle and patiently climb up, you can kill the monster. Antulay’s outburst does not mean much. It is not anything concrete, it is just words that can at best lead to ‘Gee it came out all wrong, sorry’. It is like a jet of ink that confuses and prevents us from holding on to a tentacle.
This is my last post about the scam. This was the best tentacle we had in a while. Sad to see it go.
Of course, this was not my last post about the scam. I was still outraged / dejected at how something so obvious did not get air time and Antulay’s nonsense antics (which I bet none of you remember now) topped air time.
Dec 27 2008 : We want clinching evidence (Prabhu Chawla)
Dollar billionaires created holding just a piece of paper. No one, including you Mr Prabhu can dispute it. National assets sold for their real value to foreign players via real estate companies acting as intermediaries. No one, including you disputes it. We do not know if there is a fire, but we sure can see the thick smoke billowing.
Yet, you want evidence to even ask these questions. You have not written enough.
Can you blame our enemies (the cross border variety) from adopting the same ‘give me evidence’ tactics ?
Of all, Mr Prabhu Chawla’s cavalier and dismissive response stands out. Of course , now we have a pen with which we can connect the dots.
Jan 1 2009 : Satyam past must be investigated (2G scam ref)
This past year alone various institutions (Supreme Court, TRAI, COAI, CVC, etc) have been asked to prove their mettle. All have fallen woefully short. The CVC is being exposed in the way it deals with the magnificent spectrum scam.
The complex interconnection of politics + landlords + entrepreneurs dominate the political landscape in India today. (Political clout might save the day ) Cash changes hands freely while the media is paid off in cash or in secular money.
I say we hold off on asking our soldiers to make the supreme sacrifice until we fix the house. Do you agree ? Dont we owe them that much ?
Jan 14 2009 : 2000 Cr Satyam bailout (2G scam ref)
Manmohan Singh and P. Chidambaram who are completely silent on the Rs 60,000 Crore spectrum scam can hardly be expected to represent the hapless tax payer.
May 5 2009 : No issues of any kind this election
It does not define itself. If the BJP is for Hindu rights, where was it in Malaysia or Sri Lanka ? It did not make a big deal about the Spectrum scam (which I think is a hidden factor in this election). Either it did some adjustments on the scam or was unable to make an issue out of it. Both scenarios are disturbing. Still its work on the Ram Sethu is appreciated.
Was really upset the BJP did not make the spectrum scam an election issue.
22 May 2009
Barkha Dutt / Vir Sanghvi talk to Radia here on 22 May 2009
This is the untold story of Mediagate. You can see by now HOW MUCH water has flowed under the bridge as far as the 2G corruption story goes. It is in this context that Mr Manu Joseph of The Open Magazine nailed Barkha Dutt on her show.
Where is the story ? This would have been the story of the century for me and almost all Indians. That a corporate lobbyist it pushing an already tainted person into the same ministry. Not to mention the splits in the DMK. Nothing. Nada. Was reported.
Not only is this a story but is evidence of a crime committed against the hungry.
Jun 3 2009 : The vote magnet
“you accuse them of hopeless bias, exagerration, dramatization, and working up a frenzy, the perplexing defence the media will offer you is : “Hey let us go, only 1% of 3% watch English electronic media”. The fact is, the media still sets the table at dinner. What they dont like isnt even on the menu. Competition is laughable as they are mostly from the same gene pool. For example : they could have easily pursued the spectrum scam as vigorously as Varun. This would have dramatically changed the colour and the mood of the free agent voters.”
Oct 24 2009 : CBI raids DoT offices over spectrum scam
It would be helpful to recall the media’s complete unwillingness to follow the story when it broke. I know what you are thinking, “Gotcha RC, How can you link to stories in the media and then claim the medias deliberate silence ?” The answer is that there is a big difference between reporting a story and following a story. The media coverage, with the notable exception of the Daily Pioneer, was nothing more than repeating the newswire. We never had any interviews with the guys behind Dynamix Balwas, Tiger Trustees, Zebra and Parrot Holdings, Genex Exim (allocated 300Cr of Swan with only 1 lakh share capital) – who exactly are these guys who became billionaires overnight. Not one question was put in front of the then Finance Minister Mr P Chidambaram and the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh.
Oct 26 2009 : Sunil Jain on spectrum scam and the corrupt state
There is a lot of blogtalk about Kashmiris and Naxals. For arguments sake consider the following. What really happens if scams of this size time and again go unsatisfactorily handled. At least in the past they took place in the darkness of government media.
The more I follow this story, the more I feel that Mr Raja of the DMK must not be the only ones investigated. Mr Raja clearly mentions that Mr Chidambaram and the PM were appraised at every step. Mr Raja appears to have appraised the former FM at various stages. There have been no rebuttal from the either the former FM or the PM, so we have to assume what he is saying is true.
Oct 31 2009 : Raja turns tables
This CBI case is dead on arrival. The people of India have lost 60K Cr because their property (airwaves) has been stolen. The only way for this story to make more headway is for the media to latch on to this. In the 90′s the media would stay put on corruption stories and that was in no small way for the downfall of the Congress. What happened “post liberalization” ?
Nov 19 2009 : Serendipity and the new age entrepreneurs
Normally, monsoon time means rains and fog, but it seems like this season it is smoke and mirrors.
Jan 22 2010 : Chennai based company sells stake to Etisalat for 380 Cr
How many have heard of this company ? How many companies without even a website sell their stake for Rs 380 Cr. This single deal is worth more than half of funds raised by all Private Equity (PE) firms combined* in 2009. Surely a monumental achievement. Yet no one talks about it.
Aside : Outstanding and courageous journalism by Mr Gopikrishnan and the Pioneer. All other media houses are avoiding this story at the same time as if on cue.
Back in the early 90′s, the media would jump on every story of corruption. That in no small measure was responsible for toppling the Congress party’s monopoly. You would think that will all the liberalization, the media would go hammer and tongs on this one. Well its not happening and that tells you a lot about how liberalized the media really is.
Another scandal the media isn’t touching
The case, popularly known as Motorola…
Sep 24 2010, Corruption across the spectrum
I have blogged extensively in the past about the so called 2G spectrum scam. What really sets this scam apart in a nation wallowing in corruption is the scale, the brazenness, and the role of the media (we want clinching evidence Prabhu Chawla).
Role of the media: Take spotlight off the beneficiary
Recently, a leading media channel organized another Business Awards night. The usual suspects were awarded. …
You would expect that a couple of young entrepreneurs who crashed into the Forbes India Billionaires list at position #49 and #50 would find at least a mention. Not to be. Is this how we treat our young entrepreneurs and start ups ?
In the answer to this lies a great secret.
Our media these days is very careful to screen beneficiaries of corruption. They would rather prefer a top-down approach to coverage of corruption stories because inevitably this gets lost in bureaucratic ‘octopus-ink’. In contrast, a bottom up pursuit will act as very potent entry points into the scam and have a high human interest angle. All Indians, including Maoists, really hate others getting rich on their money.
Lets put the scam in terms of the actors (underlined) :
Foreign firms paid market value to Indian middlemen for a natural resource who in turn paid peanuts to the government.
So does the media give equal airtime to the three actors. Lets see.
We have a spectacle of an interview with Telenor CEO, who plainly said his firm is used to doing business in “countries like India”. We also have the cursory interview with the government officials and ministers. But, you never hear from the “middlemen” who now command companies with market valuations in the billions of US dollars. I have another example of a inspirational entrepreneur. They are a venture capital firm which sold their stake for 350 Crores – more than a 1/2 of all private equity investments in India in 2009 – yet we did not have one interview with their management and not one award. Contrast to the constant air time and awards given to sundry silicon valley venture capital firms who talk big over puny investments of 1-3 crore. How are our young supposed to get inspired ?
Forbes India quite obviously has a lot to learn about India.
Nov 20 2010 : Spectrum scam – Daddy’s got a sweet tooth
But, if you push this line of offense you are falling into their trap. They will trap you in technicalities and word play. This is what Sibal is doing. The intent will be relegated to the corner and something absurd like a technicality or misinterpretation or word play will take centre stage.
Thanks for getting this far.
This is not the end. The media even today is having unfocused coverage of this particular scam. The disallow any talk about this scam in isolation instead always wanting to pull in a secondary irrelevant scam as a smokescreen.