Skip to content

This post is republished in public interest from the Cobrapost website, which appears to be having trouble.

Cobrapost exposes more than two dozen media houses, including some prima donnas of India’s holy Fourth Estate, where they all show their underbelly in its most visceral form.

New Delhi: In the second part of Operation 136, Cobrapost has exposed owners and high-ranking personnel of more than two dozen media houses, both mainstream and regional, the biggest ones and the smaller ones, the oldest ones and the newer ones. ‘Operation 136: Part II,’ in fact, shows Indian media’s underbelly in its most visceral form, where even the “big daddies” do not mind agreeing to undertake a campaign that has the potential to not only cause communal disharmony among citizens but also tilt the electoral outcome in favour of a particular party. This they will do if they are paid the right price, and sometimes they have no compunctions to quote a price as high as Rs. 1000 crore, as did the Times Group owner Vineet Jain, while others showed a propensity to indulge in any kind of illegality bordering on criminality.

The media houses agreeing to run the campaign are Times of India, India Today, Hindustan Times, Zee News, Network 18, Star India, ABP News, Dainik Jagaran, Radio One, Red FM, Lokmat, ABN Andhra Jyothy, TV5, Dinamalar, Big FM, K News, India Voice, The New Indian Express, MVTV and Open magazine.

We have received an exparte stay order from the honourable Delhi High Court on the evening of 24th May, 2018, which debars us from including the Dainik Bhaskar Group in our investigation. The honourable High Court has passed the injunction in favour of Dainik Bhaskar without hearing our side of the case, and we shall consequently be challenging the court order in the interest of truth and justice.

Senior Investigative Journalist Pushp Sharma used the same cover and the same ruse! Wearing the garb of a seasoned Pracharak, Sharma adopted malleable identities which he used according to the situation at hand. He first used his association with an Ujjain-based ashram, claiming himself to have been schooled at Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan, to have studied in IIT Delhi and IIM Bangalore, settled in Australia and to have been running his e-gaming company out of Scotland. Sometimes, he claimed to be the head of the Madhya Pradesh unit of Om Prakash Rajbhar’s outfit, Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, charged with party affairs in Karnataka, Maharashtra and the Northeast. At times, the journalist used all his assumed identities in a single meeting. As the investigation evolved to take on a pan-India character, he assumed the identity of a representative of a fictitious religious organization, Shrimad Bhagwad Gita Prachar Samiti, purportedly on a mission, a gupt vyavastha (secret arrangement), at the behest of the “Sangathan” to bolster the prospects of the party in power in coming elections.

The journalist approached these media houses with his hideous proposition. As he offered them a fortune in return, Cobrapost saw them all crumble under the weight of a “big business opportunity” that was knocking on their doors without asking. Almost all bent themselves backward to grab this opportunity. However, there were two notable exceptions, Bartaman Patrika and the Dainik Sambad, which refused to play ball. No amount of cajoling or inducements could bring them around.

While meeting the owners and senior-most personnel of these media houses, Sharma asked them to run a media campaign on his behalf. While offering them a big fortune in terms of ad spend, which ranged anything between few crore rupees and Rs. 500 crore, he spread wide before them these essential ingredients of his agenda:

In the initial phase, the first three months, promote Hindutva through customized religious programmes to create a congenial atmosphere.
Then, the campaign will be geared up to polarize the electorate on communal lines by promoting speeches of Hindutva hardliners, the likes of Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti and Mohan Bhagwat, among others.
As elections approach, the campaign will target opposition leaders, namely, Rahul Gandhi, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, caricaturing them using less than dignified language like Pappu, Bua and Babua, respectively, for them, in order to show them in poor light before the electorate.
They will have to run this campaign on all platforms – print, electronic, radio or digital including, e-news portals, web sites and social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

Negotiating hard, in what you can say was a value-for-money deal, the journalist drove home all these points as they all spread a red carpet for him. The interactions that the senior journalist had with all these media houses during the course of Operation: Part II can be summed up as follows:

They agreed to promote Hindutva in the garb of spiritualism and religious discourse.
They agreed to publish content with potential to polarize the electorate along communal lines.
They concurred to besmirch or thrash political rivals of the party in power by posting or publishing defamatory content about them.
Many of them were ready to accept unaccounted cash, in other words, for the job to be assigned to them.
Some of them agreed to route cash through a third-party agency to turn it into white, even suggesting hawala routes such as Angadiyas.
Some of the owners or important functionaries admitted that they were either associated with the RSS or they were pro-Hindutva and would thus be happy to work on the campaign, forgetting the cardinal principle of journalism: neutrality.
Some of them agreed to plant stories in favour of the party in power in their publications, while others were ready to unleash their investigative teams to rake muck on opposition leaders.
Many of them agreed to develop and carry advertorials especially for this purpose.
Many of them agreed to develop content for this invidious campaign by employing their own creative team.
Almost all agreed to run this campaign on their platforms – print, electronic, FM radio or digital in its various avatars such as e-news portal, e-paper or social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
Some of them even agreed to run down Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Manoj Sinha, Maneka Gandhi and her son Varun Gandhi, among others.
Some of them also agreed to run stories against leaders of BJP alliance partners, like Anupriya Patel, Om Prakash Rajbhar and Upendra Kushwaha.
Some of them even agreed to paint agitating farmers as Maoists in their stories.
Many of them agreed to create and promote such content as would aim for the “character assassination” of leaders like Rahul Gandhi.
Many of them are ready to run the content in such manner as would not look like paid for.
Almost all FM radio stations agreed to allow their customer to monopolize their free air time.
Many FM radio stations also agreed to use RJ mentions to promote the agenda: Hindutva and character assassination of rivals.

Operation 136: Part II is unique in the sense that it not only has exposed all these media houses but has also brought to the fore the fact that in a technology-driven age an agenda can find a mobile app a very effective medium to reach out to millions of users. Our expose of Paytm does exactly that. It brings home the point that one does not need an elaborate arrangement of the conventional media such TV channels or newspapers. A simple mobile app can achieve what the conventional platforms cannot: it can deliver the message with a blink of an eye. In fact, our interaction with top Paytm honchos is quite revealing in many respects, for it not only shows the company’s affinity to both the BJP government and its ideological fountainhead RSS, but also shows that users’ data can be compromised.

As India has slipped two paces to 138 from its position of 136, as this investigation was underway, in World Press Freedom Index (https://rsf.org/en/ranking#), Operation 136 has found that most of the media houses are either owned by politicians themselves, particularly the regional ones, or patronized by politicians, and it is natural for them to become their masters’ voice. It was high time we coined a new phrase to define this journalism as crony journalism a la crony capitalism. For instance, ABN Andhra Jyothy, a prominent Telugu TV news channel is patronized by TDP supremo Chandrababu Naidu. It is no surprise if we hear its Chief Marketing Manager E.V. Seshidhar say: “We have very good connects with TDP … We have do [sic] lot of what do you call we have main official what do you call for AP government Andhra Pradesh government, we have official event telecaster rights for Andhra Pradesh government.” While this connect goes beyond the TDP, to include the BJP and other outfits, Seshidhar even goes to say that their newspaper Andhra Jyothy holds so much sway that they could influence the outcome of the Karnataka elections.

On the other hand, Lakshmipathy Adimoolam, the owner of the 70-year-old prominent Tamil daily published from Chennai, wears his family allegiance to the Sangh Brotherhood on his sleeve. We are, therefore, least surprised to hear him say that he has imported especially designed software which could help in the promotion of Brand Modi: “You have newsletters … sent to … brochures, leaflets sent to party workers … say there is Modiji’s picture is there, just move your camera over here … it gives audio of Modiji.”

It was not that Cobrapost has exposed only those high ranking-personnel whose business is to negotiate a deal and bring business to the organization they are working for. In the course of this investigation, Cobrapost found some senior journalists, who have now donned the mantle of owners or CEOs, genuflecting before their big-ticket client and happily agreeing to work for his agenda. One such senior journalist was Purushottam Vaishnav who is working for Zee Media as its CEO Regional News Channels. Agreeing to run down political rivals by unleashing their SIT on them, Purushottam said: “Content mein jo aapki taraf se input aayega wo absorb ho jayega … humare taraf se jo content generate hoga investigative journalism humlog karte hain karwa denge jitna hum logon ne kya hai utna kisi ne nahi kiya hoga wo humlog karenge (Whatever input you will send in the form of content that will be absorbed … the content we will generate … we have been doing investigative journalism, we will do it for you. [Compared to Zee] None of the channels has done so many … we will do that).”

In fact, our investigation establishes the fact that the RSS, and as a corollary, Hindutva, has made deep inroads into not only the newsrooms but also the boardrooms of Indian media houses where even owners either blatantly admit their allegiance to the party in power and its parent organization or are eager to have an association with them. For instance, Big FM Sr. Business Partner Amit Choudhary admits to the relationship between the company that owns Big FM and the party in power in no uncertain terms: “Waise bhi Reliance BJP ka supporter hee hai (Anyway, Reliance is always a supporter of the BJP).” Then we have Basab Ghosh, Regional Sales Head of Open magazine, which is owned by the RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, who also confesses to their allegiance to the RSS: “Acharyaji shayad aap bhi busy rehte hain aap shayad Open dekhte nahi hain regular. Main aapko ek baat bataata hoon. Open jitna support karte hain sangathan ka shayad hee koi karta hoga. (Acharyaji, perhaps you are a busy man and maybe you don’t read Open regularly. Let me tell you one thing. Nobody supports the Sangathan [RSS] as much as does Open).”

While the journalist had a tough time in convincing Ajay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm that he was there to fulfill the assignment received directly from the Sangathan under a “gupt vyavastha” or secret arrangement, the senior vice president of the mobile-app utility payment company candidly admitted his association with the top brass of both the RSS and the BJP. Taking his prospective client as someone belonging to the Sangh Brotherhood, he made a very shocking revelation. Referring to the stone pelting in Kashmir last year, Ajay Shekhar said: “Jab JK mein band huye the na pathar … toh humari personally PMO se phone aya tha kaha gaya tha ki data de do ho sakta hai ki Paytm user hon (When the stone-pelting stopped there in J&K, I personally got a phone call from the PMO. They told us to give them data saying maybe some of the stone-pelters are Paytm users.)” Paytm users may now be wondering if the company has violated its policy of privacy and data safety!

Another interesting fact that has emerged during the course of ‘Operation 136: Part II’ is that although they might be swearing by their allegiance to the RSS or the BJP, they don’t give a damn to Modi’s public stance against black money for which the Prime Minister did not back away from subjecting the entire citizenry to untold miseries by enforcing demonetization in November 2016. Punching holes in what has been gloried as “surgical strike” against black money, we found Vineet Jain, Managing Director of the Times Group, and his aide Executive President Sanjeev Shah, naming some big corporate houses which could help make black money squeaky clean and even suggesting to employ the services of ‘Angadias’—a Gujarati name for hawaladars or hawala operators of illicit money—to get the job done. While Vineet Jain says, “Aur bhi businessmen honge jo humein cheque denge aap unhe cash de do (There are other businessmen who would give us cheque against the cash you may give them), his aide Shah informs us: “Who will take that from him in Delhi suppose if Goenka says I want it in Ahmedabad so that I Angadia will have contact in Ahmedabad where they will exchange in number on a note or whatever.” Hope our Prime Minister and other arms of his government are listening!

Of all interviews that the journalist had with the owners and personnel of all these media houses in the course of this investigation, Manda Mhatre’s stands out in its revelations. While criticizing her own party, and claiming that it was the RSS leadership which ensured she got a ticket to fight election after she switched loyalties from NCP to the BJP, what the BJP legislator from Belapur, Pune, told Cobrapost is quite revealing: “Mere ko Sangh wale bol rahe the ki Muslim masjid todo ye karo. Main boli sorry main ye nahi kar sakti. Masjid sthal sab kachre ke maafiq dekhte hain. Itna log ko hum haay nahi le sakte hain kyonki aadhe log apne se jud gaye hain (The Sangh people were telling me time and again to destroy the masjids of Muslims. I told them ‘Sorry I can’t do that.’ They all look at a masjid something like trash. I cannot afford to earn so much ill-will of all those people [by resorting to such hate] because many Muslims have joined the BJP).”

We know it well that such open confessions of their allegiance to the ideology of the RSS could be brushed aside as personal opinions, but given the position they hold in their respective organizations what they say cannot be taken lightly. The reason is that it is rather the business interests that have an overarching influence on the editorial policy of a media organization, and Operation 136 has once again shown it in ample measure. The first part of Operation 136 had exposed India TV, Dainik Jagaran, Hindi Khabar, SAB TV, DNA (Daily News and Analysis), Amar Ujala, UNI, 9X Tashan, Samachar Plus, HNN Live 24×7, Punjab Kesari, Swatantra Bharat, ScoopWhoop, Rediff.com, IndiaWatch, Aj and Sadhna Prime News.

All these on-camera confessions make it clear that the malaise of paid news has set in deep as it is no longer confined to a few individuals who would show no scruples while publishing paid content, camouflaging it as news stories or reports. Over the years, paid news has become institutionalized, as this investigation establishes, for no one in authority in news business would receive an agenda, which is overtly communal and defamatory, with enthusiasm, let alone committing to undertake it, particularly when there are clear-cut guidelines to follow and laws to abide by.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) has well laid-down provisions, for instance, to deal with various unlawful acts that these media houses agreed to commit. Section 153(A) makes any attempt to “promote disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different groups” punishable with imprisonment for a term of three years or a fine or both. Section 295(A) of the IPC also provides for the same punishment to be meted out when an individual deliberately, and with malicious intent, hurts the religious feelings of a community. Then, Chapter IXA of the IPC deals comprehensively with offences related to elections. Section 171 of the IPC makes interference with the free exercise of electoral right, in any form, punishable with an imprisonment of one year or fine or both. These provisions of the IPC, thus, ensure that the offence of polarizing a group on the basis of religion, caste or community is punished. The provisions of Chapter IXA of the IPC with regard to free exercise of electoral rights are overarching in their ambit as they are also relevant paid news to influence voters to gain electoral benefits.

In addition, the provisions of Cable Television Networks (Regulation Act) 1995, along with Cables Rules, and Representation of People’s Act, along with Conduct of Election Rules, make paid news and communal polarization for electoral gains an offence. Both the Cable Act and the Cable Rules prohibit transmission or re-transmission of programmes that do not conform to the advertisement code. While Rule 6 of the Cable Rules prohibits programmes of communal nature or that promote anti-national attitudes, Rule 7 also lays down the advertisement code prohibits publication of advertisements of political or religious nature. Rule 7(10) of the Cable Rules further states that “all advertisements should be clearly distinguishable programmes, viz., use of lower part of screen to carry captions, static or moving alongside the programme”. Then, Section 125 of the RPA makes communal polarization an offence punishable with imprisonment for three years or fine or both, while various provisions of Section 123 declare an act aimed at polarization and the practice of paid news as “corrupt practices” making election of a candidate null and void.

Apart from these and other legal provisions, there are “Norms and Guidelines on Paid News” of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority and “Norms of Journalistic Conduct, 2010” of the Press Council of India, which all media establishments are expected to adhere to. But do they really care for such scrupulous adherence? Our investigation says no.

We would like to make it clear that Operation 136 should in no way be taken as an effort to undermine Indian media or question its sanctity as an institution. Our investigation does not intend to cast any aspersions or pass judgment, either, on the journalists who are working in these media platforms. They have done good journalism in the past and will do so in future. However, if the management indulges in paid news, in all its gray shades, it creates a very difficult atmosphere for the journalists to ply their trade in. This story aims to underline our earnestness to address the malaise that has been dogging Indian media for the past three decades or so and look within to make course correction, so that the faith of India’s citizenry in this vibrant pillar of democracy is not dented.

5

I am an atheist, but was Hindu by birth in a family that studied the dharma and followed it to its best. My father refused to do kanyadaan in my second marriage (in spite of the priest insisting that proper marriages have one), because a kanyadaan can be done only once for each daughter. This was later endorsed by the head priest of the temple where my father in law works. My mother-in-law does the full bells and whistles of made (special Brahmanical rules for purity that involve bathing, pure clothes, avoidance of touch of impure people - including other Brahmins not currently in that state, and more). I grew up knowing half the Gita by heart and I dare say I can still recite along - simply from hearing it so much. I grew up immersed in Hindu philosophy discussions under a man who had devoted his retirement to the study of religion and philosophy. I dare say I have a passing knowledge of what is respect for Hindu traditions and what is an insult.

This can be a long and varied debate, but the bottom line is, Brahmins cannot rule as per Hinduism. Sanyasis cannot chase material pursuits, including wealth and power. Whether a religious state is desirable is an entirely different debate as is you not minding because you "trust" them, but Brahmins in ruling positions in the government is already a mockery of Hindu beliefs.

Uma Bharti, for example is a self declared Sanyasi (is there any other kind?). Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Sakshi Maharaj or even Yogi Adityanath are some more.

A Sanyasi is one who has renounced Maya Moh. A sanyasi who desires votes that lead to a position of power is not a sanyasi, but a fraud and an insult to Hindu beliefs. Sanyas is not a joke. At least not for those claiming to respect Hindu traditions.

Sadhus are ascetics. They have dedicated their life to the pursuit of moksha.

The duplicity is extensive. For examples, the torch bearers of Indian nationalism are the creation of an organization that chose to not fight India's colonizers, choosing instead to focus on fighting the Muslims of the occupied Bharat, which now is the very breath in their lungs, since they don't have to risk anything to stake a claim. How can an entity that choose to abstain from fighting for freedom claim to be the real heir of the resulting free identity?

Where do the traditions of the RSS come from? I am not aware of Hindu traditions of shorts as uniform. It could be argued that dress changes with time, but shorts are still not accepted as traditional wear among the Hindus of India. On the other hand, shorts are a common garment in uniforms in the west.

The views of the RSS commonly echo Christian and Islamic beliefs, including lack of importance to caste (in theory), condemnation of women as "fallen" - a common theme and usual first assumption for any RSS supporter seeing a woman they do not like. The Artha shastra actually recommends a more severe punishment on one who insults a prostitute, but then that isn't what the supposed Hindu nationalists respect, is it? They see a prostitute as a bad woman and in fact call women they don't like prosititutes.

Hindu nationalists have a severe contempt for sex. RSS Pracharaks must be brahmacharis (abstaining from sex and marriage), which is probably what caused Modi to dump his wife and pretend to never have entered Grihasthashrama. It is a good fantasy, but the stages of life don't have a "rewind" button. A grihastha - man who marries and sets up home with wife can no longer be considered Brahmachari.

Speaking of Brahmacharis, RSS is full of bachelors in the land of the Kama Sutra, which is devoted to desire. Marriage (and bearing children) is a responsibility in life according to Hindu beliefs (also why Hindu parents tend to obsess over it). An organization of bachelors is basically one that prevents the natural cycle of life.

How can such apabhransh (violation/impurity) be considered representative or even respectful of Hinduism?

I understand many followers of the current cartel in power think of this blog as an unreliable and biased source. They are urged to ask their parents, gurus or anyone whose knowledge on Hinduism they respect the following questions:

  • Is it acceptable for a sanyasi to rule, campaign, or even prefer one government over another?
  • Is it possible to become a brahmachari after entering grihasthashrama?
  • Why do Hindu parents pressure their children to marry and tend to not approve of decisions of extended bachelorhood?

Hear the answers from an authority you trust - which is likely not me - and decide for yourself if you are being told the truth about the religion of this landgrab or you are being conned by using your love for your UPBRINGING to serve political goals of cunning strategists.

I do not believe that a religious state is compatible with India's constitution. To disregard the constitution is as good as a conquest of India by a completely different rule, which is what I believe is going on. However, I believe in democracy and it will mean that citizens wanting a religious state must also have voice. But perhaps citizens who want a Hindu Rashtra need to ask themselves whether what is being advertized is actually even respectful of Hinduism, let alone being an ideal Hindu rashtra.

India's Godmen seem to be falling a little short of godliness. Asaram Bapu has had his bail plea in rape cases dismissed by Supreme Court. In the meanwhile, the FOURTH witness against him to be attacked, his ex-doctor (Ayurveda) Amrit Prajapati has died. Three others were attacked a month ago in separate incidents. With Amrit dead, the cases against Asaram weaken considerably. You can look forward to worshiping Asaram Bapu again if you wish. (This is the same Asaram, whose arrest demoralized Vanzara of the fake encounters to resign after losing faith in the government for whom he was doing his duty in the form of fake encounters.)

Dwaraka Peeth Shankaracharya Swaroopananda Saraswati has taken an issue with worship of Sai Baba by Hindus because he is "Muslim". Ironically, on the other side is Hindutva-max, BJP's Cabinet Minister for Water Resources,River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Uma Bharti (also accused in Babri Masjid demolition).

Not to be left behind, the Naga sadhus have rallied behind Shankaracharya Swaroopananda's call and are determined to prevent Sai Baba devotees from bathing in holy places.

Puri Shankaracharya Swami Nischalananda Saraswati has stayed away from Odisha’s largest and most important religious gathering (where he has an important formal role normally) after his ruling that devotees would not be allowed on the chariots (for safety) axed the massive loot the daitapatis engage in by charging devotees money to come aboard. The daitapatis retaliated by playing on the words of his ruling and limiting the Shankaracharya's own disciples allowed on the chariot to two as well (he had seven last year). Justifiably outraged by the insult, the Shankaracharya stayed away from the rath yatra.

Also in Odisha, self-proclaimed godman Rama Chandra Sahu of Simulia Maidipur village was arrested for outraging the modesty (whatever that means) of a minor girl.

In other news, Basava Prabhu Swamiji (59) of the Vishwa Lingayat Dharma Parishat Trust, Belgaum was arrested for allegedly raping a 47 year old cook in his mutt.

Kishore Mandalik alias Dada Maharaj (45), head of the Shiv Goraksha Ashram of Ambegaon tried to get away from paying monthly support to his divorced second wife (who had filed a case for cheating against him after he abandoned her after one week of their wedding and 4 lakh rupees). Court squashed it.

In still other news, BJP MP Babul Supriyo claimed that he got a ticket on recommendation of Baba Ramdev when on February 28 that he found himself travelling in the same flight as Ramdev and overheard the yoga guru discuss ticket distribution with someone else. He joked that he wanted a ticket or would reveal to media that Ramdev was distributing tickets to people. Three days later he got a call from an RSS pracharak, and the rest is history. But then Ramdev had made headlines earlier as well when BJP Alwar candidate Mahent Chandnath told him just before a press conference started (and the cameras and mics were on) "paise le aane mein badi dikat ho rahi hai (there is great difficulty in bringing the money)" and Baba Ramdev admonished him, "yahan baat karna bandh karo, bhole ho kya? (Stop talking here. Are you a fool?)"

And the story continues...

Why this hurry to submerge tribals and farmers under Narmada waters?

In a shocking decision[1] on June 12, 2014, the Narmada Control Authority (NCA), headed by the secretary, Union Ministry of Water Resources (MWR), & which includes secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forests (MEF) and senior officials of four states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh & Rajasthan, have sanctioned, in what The Hindu called “emergency meeting” (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/narmada-dam-to-be-higher-by-17-m/article6108571.ece) installation of 17 m high gates on the Sardar Sarovar Dam on Narmada River in Gujarat, taking the effective current height of the dam from 121.92 m to 138.68 m. This has been done after the Rehabilitation sub group (RSG) of the Narmada Control Authority, chaired by secretary, Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE) has also cleared this decision. This decision implies submergence of thousands of ha of land and displacement of lakhs of tribals and farmers in three states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, when their rehabilitation, as legally required, has not been done.

Strangely, the government that talks about transparency, had nothing to report on its website (either PIB website or MWR website till 12 noon on June 6, 2014) about this decision, who will be affected, reason for such emergency decision or basis for the decision.

Sardar Sarovar Dam

More importantly, Gujarat & Rajasthan can get their share of water from Narmada river without this height increase and are not able to use even 20% of the water already available to them at the current height. This is clearly unnecessary, unjust and unwarranted decision that is not likely to have even legal sanction. Only additional benefit that increase in height can provide is additional water storage, which will imply about 10-20% additional power generation, in which Gujarat’s share is only 16%: 57% share goes to MP and 27% share goes to Maharashtra.

Sardar Sarovar Dam Project
Sardar Sarovar Dam Project capacity is already not utilized fully. What is the hurry to displace people? Or is it about power generation in power surplus state?

There is some misinformation that this height increase is required to take the water to Kutch, Saurashtra and North Gujarat. This is completely wrong. The Full Supply Level of Narmada Main Canal is 110 m and once water enters this level in the dam, water can be taken to the canals. Once water enters the main canal, it can be taken to the Kutch, Saurashtra and N Gujarat. Based on information we have obtained from SSNNL under RTI, we have seen that Gujarat can get its full share of 9 Million Acre Feet of water at current height and no height increase is necessary. Had Gujarat built the necessary canal distribution system with branch canals, distributary canals, minors, sub minors and field canals to fields in Kutch, Saurashtra and N Gujarat, it could have taken Narmada water to these regions even eight years ago. To suggest that height increase will achieve this is clearly spreading misinformation. Similarly, as far as providing drinking water to the drought prone areas is concerned, height increase is not required to complete that.

Gujarat, in the meantime have increased the share of drinking water (1 MAF) and industrial Water (0.22 MAF) from 0.87 MAF for these combined sectors, at the cost of irrigation, without any participatory or transparent process. (see new share in this report in The Hindu on June 12, 2014: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/a-long-wait-ends-for-gujarat/article6109547.ece).

The claim of Gujarat government that cost of the project has increased because height of the dam has not been raised is completely wrong. The cost of the project is going up (TOI has reported on June 13, 2014 (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Narendra-Modi-gives-Gujarat-its-lifeline-Narmada-Dam-height-to-be-raised-by-17-metres-lakhs-will-lose-their-homes-activists-say/articleshow/36453275.cms) that the project has already spent Rs 65369 Crores and ultimate cost is likely to be Rs 90 000/-) because Gujarat government has not been able to complete the canal network and has also been paying huge amounts to service the debt.

It is shocking that all the officials of the central and state governments and all the concerned ministers (including Water Resources Minister Ms Uma Bharti, Environment Minister Mr Prakash Javdekar, Social Justice Minister Mr Thaawar Chand Gehlot, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in addition to Gujarat and MP Chief Ministers) have towed the line dictated by Prime Minister Mr Modi and Gujarat Government in this regard, within two weeks of new government taking over. No additional rehabilitation could have been accomplished in these two weeks, which seems to indicate that a political decision has been taken, without considering the ground realities, merits or justification of the decision or necessity of the decision. This does not bode good for the functioning of the new government.

It should be noted here that the installation of gates will take three years, and in any case, for closing the gates, the project will need clearance from Environment Sub Group, RSG and NCA again. Secondly, the gates have been lying in the yard of Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Limited (SSNNL) for many years and a question mark was raised about the safety of the gates in a recent meeting of the Sardar Sarovar Construction Advisory Committee. Now, as The Times of India reported on June 13, 2014 (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/ahmedabad/Use-of-30-year-old-gates-worries-experts/articleshow/36453333.cms), even former Gujarat Government officials are raising the issue of old technology of 30 year old gates when new technology gates would be also be safer. In view of all this, it may have been better, as Narmada Bachao Andolan has suggested, for the government to first take proper stock of the situation rather than rush into this “emergency” decision on the eve of the monsoon, when no work is in any case possible in monsoon.

It is also shocking that even before the RSG and NCA were to take the decision; Gujarat Government was already busy preparing for celebratory meeting at the Dam site. This shows that the functioning of the statutory bodies has been taken for granted and their decision was pre-determined, as directed by higher authorities.

Gujarat can get its water share without increase in height The new government wants to take the SSP Dam from its current height of 121.92 m to its final design height of 138.68 m. Firstly, there are serious doubts if this height increase is required since it can be shown that Gujarat and Rajasthan can get their share of water from Narmada without this increase in height. Secondly, Gujarat is not even in a position to use more than 20% of the water it already gets from the river at current height of the dam for the purposes for which the project was designed: providing water for the drought affected regions in Kutch, Saurashtra & North Gujarat. On the other hand, urban centres, industrials areas, SEZs, cosmetic river beautification schemes have appropriated a large chunk of SSP waters without legal, democratic sanction or justification. Gujarat really does not have a case for increasing the height of SSP Dam.

Moreover, this will also entail such massive additional submergence, displacement and disruption of lives of tribals and farmers that it is sure to create huge opposition. Narmada Bachao Andolan estimates that an additional 2.5 lakh people will face unjust submergence in three states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The just rehabilitation of already affected people is far from complete, in fact, most of the affected population has not been given minimum 2 ha of land required under the Narmada Tribunal award and subsequent accepted policies.

Mr Modi during his tenure of 13 years as Chief Minister of Gujarat failed to complete the canal network of SSP in the drought prone areas in whose name the project has always been justified. It needs to be noted that the agitation against SSP did not stop Gujarat government from going ahead with construction of canal network. It was not for lack of finances that SSP could not complete the canal network. SSP has been getting largest quantum of money from the Government of India’s Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme ever since the AIBP scheme started in 1996. This support to SSP from AIBP was clearly wrong since SSP was never the last mile project for which AIBP was meant, but the big dam lobby in Union Water Resources ministry and Gujarat government were hand in glove in this misallocation of AIBP money for SSP. In fact, Mr Modi arm-twisted the Planning Commission in 2011-12 to sanction the escalated costs for SSP even when the issues raised by Planning Commission officers remained unanswered.

It is the ineptitude of Gujarat Government under Mr Modi that is on show as to why it could not complete the canal network on drought prone areas in Gujarat. Mr Modi would do well to remember the reasons for that failure before he considers the mega projects agenda as Prime Minister.

Moreover, on SSP, the issues of completing repairs of the damages the Sardar Sarovar dam structure suffered four years ago & related issue of safety of the dam are yet to be resolved[2] and Gujarat has embarked on building another Garudeshwar Dam in immediate downstream without any impact assessments, participatory democratic process or required sanctions[3]. The legality of the Garudeshwar Dam work stands challenged in the National Green Tribunal by the affected tribals.

Conclusion This unnecessary, unwarranted and unjust decision is not going to go down well with any right thinking person. The new government at the center is clearly treading a path that is bound to raise huge uproar and make the common person on street question: for whom and for what purpose is this government working. It would be in best interest of everyone if the government was so confident, to get this debated in the Parliament.

Post by Himanshu Thakkar (ht.sandrp@gmail.com) published originally under Creative Commons licence at the SANDRP blog.

3

Perhaps the way the Modi government intends to deliver good governance is to do about turns on many things they used to criticize. Here are the highlights.

How important is education exactly?

Smriti Irani, a never elected, never graduate politician is heading HRD. Which in itself isn't such an awful thing, given that lack of a degree may actually be better than learning the crap graduates often come out with, but the Minister handling education lying about education on election affidavit is a casual insult of the system BJP could have easily avoided after all their tall talks on importance of education and how UPA2 had fucked up.

To save the Ganga or not to save the Ganga?

Swami Nigamananda died under mysterious circumstances fighting the (then BJP) state government crony sand mafia to protect the Ganga. Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand in Haridwar, who was Guru Das Agrawal, former professor of environmental engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur before becoming an ascetic has been fighting a long war to save the Ganga from ecological destruction due to hydroelectric projects and went up against the notoriously pro-large project BJP government itself several times. So did Uma Bharati, actually. There are 650 dams proposed and Uma Bharati, when she was out of the BJP had opposed them. The BJP has put Uma Bharati in charge of water resources. Yet the BJP policy remains pro hydro electric projects, and just yesterday cleared the Polavaram project on the second day of government itself with a special ordinance, which it had earlier fought tooth and nail to make a national project. So which side of BJP is to be believed? The Uma Bharati, who after all of BJP's penchant for hydel projects is now handling Water Resources and Ganga clean up or the cabinet at large that remains firm on its old track?

CAG reports must not be used as a weapon to target political opponents

After abundant attacks on the UPA2 government using CAG reports, Modi decides that CAG reports must not be used as a weapon to target political opponents. One wonders why. Is Modi saying that CAG reports are not reliable information? Or that if CAG reports find misgovernance or bad practices, they must not be criticized?

"I personally believe that CAG reports must not be used for political gains but utilised to find solutions. I introduced such a system here and asked my men to go to the roots of problems (mentioned in CAG reports),"

Is Modi going to explain how non-BJP entities can use CAG criticism of a BJP government to find solutions other than attacking and forcing accountability? Or is Modi saying that people should cover up government failures in their own capacity?

Or is it more about devaluing CAG reports as valid criticism because CAG rapped his Gujarat government for 17,000 crore losses? BJP certainly had no hesitations using CAG reports to corner the Congress before the elections.

Talks with those who behead Indian soldiers

Modi talks to please his voters and acts to please his sponsors and there is no confusion here. After a career of criticizing UPA for any action even remotely conversational with Pakistan government, Modi suddenly has woken up to the idea of India-Pakistan peace. As recently as his pre-election interviews, he was clear that there could be no talk with Pakistan if terror continues. The chicken biryani quote will be remembered long. Then you have "Hemraj's wife kept wailing, but this government could not get her head back." said Modi about the UPA2 government in January. This time, Hemraj's wife objected vociferously to his invitation to Nawaz Sharif, and how did he act any different from the UPA2 government? Modi called Nawaz Sharif "Man of Peace" when two soldiers were killed and two injured in a cross border ambush at the LoC exactly a week before his meeting with Nawaz Sharif. His super-patriotic bhakts will ignore these double standards, because they have been conditioned to believe whatever Modi does to be the right thing to do, so this isn't any argument with them, their nation is Modi, and they are "Nationalists". For the rest, it may be worth considering that Adani wants to build a power plant in power surplus Gujarat to export power to Pakistan. Anyway, 24 hours after Modi meeting Nawaz Sharif, his stronghold of Punjab passed an anti-Modi resolution condemning him for accusing them of terror activities anyway.

Rajnath Singh on Modi's cabinet

Less than a month ago Rajnath Singh was saying he would not be on "Modi-led NDA alliance government" as he preferred to remain BJP president and had responsibilities. He is on the cabinet handling ministry of home affairs.

And this is just day 3.