Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Constable Brij Bhushan shot dead while trying to catch car thieves in Delhi.
Understaffed policemen attacked by a mob in Seelampur.
New Delhi: It’s not an easy job to do - long hours, on your feet, in the line of fire. And, getting paid just Rs 20 to keep their khaki clean and crisp.
Raju is a police constable, working on a North Delhi beat. On average, he works 15 hours a day - a number that rises during the festival season. So, what’s his reward?
“This salary is not enough for the kind of hours we are putting in the service. There are not enough houses. Our HRA is not enough for a place like Delhi,” he says.
CNN-IBN filed a Right to Information petition in three states - Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Haryana - to get a status check on the constable’s salaries.
Take-home salaries for a constable range between Rs 6532 in Uttar Pradesh to Rs 8550 a month in Delhi.
A Delhi constable gets a generous ration allowance – Rs 722. A Haryana constable gets Rs 300.
A uniform is a must. To maintain and keep it clean, the Delhi government pays a princely sum of Rs 20 a month. This rises by a Rs 10 in Uttar Pradesh.
“Rs 30 is what we get as the washing allowance per month. That is used up in buying one soap,” says a constable.
Director General of Police Research and Development Bureau, Kiran Bedi sheds light on the problem. “In case of unclaimed bodies etc, there is a contingency fund, but its not disbursed properly, so policemen have to pay from their own pockets,” she says.
A Delhi constable is entitled to a cycle allowance of only Rs 30 a month. Motorcyles and scooters are for sub-inspectors.
There has also been no revision in salaries since 1996.
“Things are stuck between the demands of the home and finance ministries. But we are trying our level best to expedite the process,” says Home Secretary V K Duggal.
While one might be forced to think the abysmal salaries is a justification for taking bribes, but the financial duress under which these policemen work is a signal that the government needs to put in place a system where the remnants of colonial high-headedness are wiped out.


Mohammad Bashir, a Pakistani national from Multan cannot contain his grief. He lost his brother and nephew in the horrific Samjhauta Express twin-blasts on Sunday.
Out of the 68 dead, Bashir could identify only his nephew's body at the Civil Hospital in Panipat.
But his problems are far from over. Now he is being stopped from carrying the body beyond the Wagah border.
“No announcement has been made by Pakistan as to how to take the dead bodies back to Pakistan,” says Bashir.
With nowhere else to go, Bashir and his cousin Itwari, are calling for help from the Pakistani government through CNN-IBN.
“I am appealing to President Musharraf and Mr Kasuri through CNN-IBN to keep the blasts in mind and make proper arrangements to transport the bodies,” says Itwari.
Identification of charred bodies continues to be the biggest challenge for those who lost loved ones in the blasts.
Over 20 bodies have been identified so far. But even after that ordeal is over, for Pakistani nationals like Bashir, there are greater hurdles ahead.

Samjhauta blasts still a mystery

A week after the Samjhauta Express blast, new leads have been unearthed. Police say the train had slowed down to just 11 kilometers per hour between the Dadli and Holambikala stations prior to the blasts.
“It’s just a precaution step for railways that all the trains are supposed to slow down at this stop,” SP Bharti Arora says.
Burnt coaches lie on the track and revive memories of the unfortunate incident. As far as the investigations are concerned, a lot of questions still remain unanswered for example why the train deliberately slowed down? Also what is the connection between the train driver and the two suspects getting off the station?
Police has released revised sketches of the two suspects. The sketches have been reworked on the basis of fresh eyewitness accounts. Posters with the revised sketches will be put up on display at public places, which will also carry information on the objects used in the blast.
“We want more and more people to see these objects and provide info,” says the Senior Police official.
A cash award of Rs 5 lakh has also been announced for anyone who can give information on the suspects. The investigations into the Samjhauta Blasts are being carried out by the Haryana, Punjab and Maharashtra Police, along with intelligence officials. So far over two-dozen people have been questioned in connection with the case.

Monday, February 12, 2007




Sunday, February 04, 2007


Thursday, February 01, 2007


The Ardh Kumbh in Allahabad reflects the changing face of spiritualism in the country – it's a confluence of the new and the old with spiritual gurus who are also moving with the times.

The Chairman of ISKCON at the Kumbh mela, Sarva Bhaum Das, who hails from Pakistan and is a doctor by profession, has a healing touch which has touched many a devotees lives.

"Teacher, preacher and healer are close to God and as a doctor I am treating patients and as a preacher helping in their spiritual healing as well. There is a holistic approach to healing," says Das.

While Das follows his holistic approach there are others like Narayan Swamy, who have given the term management guru a new connotation altogether.

This young IT professional from Mumbai has degrees in management and public relations. He is now working as a manager at the Kumbh Mela and says the Indian sadhu has gone global.

"A lot of sadhus are going to foreign countries to impart India's traditional values to the large number of Indians staying there," says Swamy.

Sadhus using laptops and other gizmos have now become a regular feature at the Ardh Kumbh. It's no longer just about sages in quest of spiritual enlightenment; the Kumbh has now evolved into an organised and well-managed brand.

"There are many departments here such as 'inquiry', 'housekeeping', 'accommadation' and all need to be looked after and accounted for,” says head of the Juna Akhada, Swami Avdeshanand.

If naga sadhus live in caves, there is another band of evolving sadhus who are modern and global and it is perhaps these extremes, which deepen the mystery of Indian spirituality.


You have seen them bald. You have seen them with long matted tresses. But which sadhu at the Ardh Kumbh could have the best hair?

A Juna Akhada sadhu, Mahant Satyanand Bharti’s matted hair doesn’t need combs nor oil. All it needs is holy ash as nourishment.

However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t go in for a bit of decoration. He likes to adorn his hair with rings offered by devotees.

“I am a Naga sadhu and these locks are my assets,” says Bharati.

But for some other sadhus the rugged look just doesn’t wash, Swami Harish Giri and Surya Das say they prefer to be clean-shaven.

“I should not be called a bald man but I am a swami that is why I prefer to be clean shaven,” says Giri.

And what about the babas with the wet look at the banks of the Ganga?

There are many who wish their hair were always under water. Says Gyani Das Maharaj, “Nobody has hair like mine.”

Hair accessories including rudraksh beads and silver moons are major favourites among the sadhus. But the competition is always to see, whose locks are the longest

Kumbh's hub of illegal animal products

Sadhus are on a shopping spree at the Ardh Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. And it’s not just rudraksh beads or silver moons or the like are on demand but tiger nails, snakeskins, deer horn and mongoose hair also.

Tantriks say these are charms that will protect them from ill omens.

Though the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, bans the sale and purchase of any part of wild animals, the law seems to have taken a back seat at the Kumbh.

When efforts were made to contact the administration, none of the officials were available for comment.

Meanwhile, the vendors selling the illegal animal products are doing brisk business.

Kumbh mela is the biggest converging point for the sadhus. But in the superstition bazaar at Kumbh, illegal animal products are selling like hot cakes.


The non availability of NEO SPORTS the new broadcaster for the home matches till 2010 was a dampener on 21st January 2007. Many parts of the urban areas leave aside rural India did not get the channel and the unresolved tiff with Prasar Bharti left a bad taste in the mouth. The absence of AIR from doing radio commentary is something that baffles one and all the the rights are not sold to anyone. However no audio and visual relay of the match meant a dry day for cricket fans on a Sunday.

Electronic Media journalists were kept on their toes with two to three updates in every 30 minute news cycle.

People in Nagpur left their homes and flocked to the stadium to catch updates of the match. Policemen on duty failed to understand the dispute and walked up to me in the OB van and wanted an explaination why Doordarshan in snot telecasting the matches. I was covering the event for the national broadcaster DD News and people gathered around me and wanted an explanation. I tried to make the large crowd understand but it was not easy. Saurav and Gambhir’s exploits made my position tough. The common man was left high and dry and he wanted an answer. They got a big group and stood behind me in the live bulletin. They started shouting editable statements against the BCCI Chief and the private broadcaster. The matter got out of hand but needed to walk the tight rope with a smile as the BCCI chief is an also a cabinet minister and a part of the UPA in the centre.

Someone had to be blamed for the mess and as West Indies came out to bat the board secretary Niranjan Shah and BCCI Vice President Shashank Manohar also the President of the Vidharbha Cricket Association stormed into the press box and warned that NIMBUS is going to file a petition in Supreme court. What for…was the big question? They explained that Prasar Bharthi is not ready to co-operate and wanted more share of the pie in terms of revenue. The truth was that as per the old revenue sharing principle the 75:25 offer was rejected and NIMBUSwanted Prasar Bharti to telecast the matches 15 minutes defeered live. The first rule was not agreeable to Prasar Bharti while the second was backspaced by NIMBUS. The broadcaster’s spokesperson or the office of the channel was not issuing any statements. However the two wise men, two BCCI officials trying to enlighten the press on the next move of the broadcaster. Funny but’s transperancy for you. We got immediate response from the Prasar Bharti office as they came out with the truth and BCCI was on the defensive. The two officials had a hasty retreat as the TV crews came running like bees to their hive for quotes. The matter was not dead and buried as mounting pressure on the private player pushed them into issuing statements and counter statements on a holiday.

In the end, the private player budged and agreed to come with a fresh proposal to Prasar Bharti. The battle is won but the big war only gets over when viewers across India get to enjoy the next seven matches without a glitch and the new channel can breathe easy as they down to standarise their distribution network.


Cricket is back in India, the country where it is next to GOD in terms, of fan following. The dwindling fortunes of the Men in Blue in the lead up to the world cup does not deter the sponsors and the even the cricket fans to flock the stadiums to catch a glimpse of their idols.

The journalists are back with a bang as India is playing at home and now with the return of DADA (Saurav Ganguly) the Bengali journalists cannot hide a smile on their face and are out in large numbers to cover the opening match in Orange City (Nagpur). Two local TV channels in Bengal have even deployed their OB vans to catch the action as it happens.

Friday and the buzz is evident as fans flock the stadiums during practice sessions to catch a glimpse of their icons. Saurav Ganguly gets the biggest cheers as he enters the stadium.
The former captain fans are ecstatic and the smile is back on Saurav’s face afterall he is making a comeback into Team India after a 16 months hibernation. Saurav’s deceptive style of throwing unsolvable puzzles started with his warm-up with Robin Uttappa but padding up alongside Gautam Gambhir send journalists into decoding mode.

On the eve of the opening match in Nagpur. Rahul Dravid sensed trouble looking at the large journalist’s turnout from the East. The men in Blue captain, Dravid knew Saurav’s return meant journos flocking the team hotel and gossip galore. He stamped his acumen into the new role following his policy to announce his final eleven in South Africa into the home series. Many considered this a positive step but it was indirectly meant to neutralize the Bengal effect. Super stuff! Rahul. It was a dampener for the journalists from the east but for the rest it was a sigh of relief.

Sunday, the match started and in walked Saurav and Gambhir in the middle to open the batting for India. The journos from the East were the first in the press box in the best possible positions to catch DADA in action. The South Paw did not disappoint and let his willow do the talking. His shots through the offside, his cut, his pull was all exquisite and the left hander was back. However, lakhs of viewers missed the action as the channel broadcasting the match refused to share the feed with Doordarshan. The 32,000 capacity stadium was jam packed by 11 am and the non visibility of the channel in the press box and in major parts of the city forced people to rush to the stadium to catch updates.

Saurav roared and stamped his class with a superlative knock of 98. His diehard critics and journalists who had written for months together that he is history were forced to eat humble pie. He missed the hundred but had booked his ticket to West Indies.
The top order firing all cylinders was a treat but the presence of Saurav in the team is it the reason for such aggressive style employed by the batsmen baffled many.

The Post match press conference and there was a buzz as Saurav missed the man of the match award thanks to Shivnarain Chanderpaul who played a calculated innings but ended up on the losing side.

Rahul defended his move of going into the match with a 7-4 combination but his comments did indicate that he was feeling edgy. The pressure was clearly visible and his body language indicated he was under tremendous pressure. He sensed the mood and did handle the situation well. Meanwhile, the Indian team, came back next to the press conference room for a snack and the journalists were confused what to cover, the PC or the team snack party.

Rahul had played another ace, he was able to control the situation and get over with his PC in 12 minutes, another first for the captain for the world cup.

Rahul walked out and along with him the team but Saurav a champion when it comes to using the media to his advantage delayed his snack party and the media pounced on the Prince of Kolkata. Saurav spoke to the local TV channels in Bengal and also to his friends from Bengal. The Bengali journalists who were in Pakistan clinging on to national daily journalists for stories were suddenly standing on their feet and looking tall. The national daily journalists felt cheated and they had every right to do so.

The victory was team India’s but the star was Saurav and the south paw gave some juicy quotes which dominated headlines on Monday. The Prince of Kal was the top story running across four to six columns while the Dravid quotes did get sparse mention. The TV channels saved BCCI the blushes by showing the PC live.

Match one over and India has seven more matches before the World cup but the message is loud and clear. Rahul has to watchful and he needs to keep his head on his shoulders on and off the field as his captaincy is under pressure from two quarters.