Thursday, April 28, 2011



The initial draft of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Parliament, chaired by Dr.Murali Manohar Joshi, on the 2G scam and matters relating to it has not yet been considered and adopted by the PAC. Only when it is so adopted after discussion in the Committee will it become the findings or conclusions of the PAC. Till then, it will remain a draft prepared by the staff of the PAC for consideration by the PAC as a whole.

2. It will be inappropriate to comment one way or the other on the draft. One has to observe restraint till the final report as approved by the PAC is released to the public after it has been cleared for release by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha.

3. In the meanwhile, sections of the media---print as well as electronic---have managed to get hold of the initial draft and have given wide publicity to it. It is up to them to decide in this matter. The purpose of this article is to draw the attention of responsible sections of the Indian media not only to the continuing attempts of Arnab Goswami of the Times Now news channel to exploit certain observations in the initial draft on the role of some journalists who were in touch with Niiru Radia, the professional lobbyist, to carry on what appears to be a campaign against Barkha Dutt, the highly-reputed journalist of the NDTV’s news channel , but also to the current controversy in “The Hindu” group of Chennai which, in my view, has a bearing on ethics in journalism.

4. This campaign has been going on for some time since December last year. The professional jealousy of some journalists has been compounded by a vicious campaign being carried on against her and her channel by small sections of Hindutva groups, which are strongly opposed to her views on Shri Narendra Modi, the Chie Minister of Gujarat, Kashmir, terrorism and India’s relations with Pakistan.

5. As one could see from the beginning of this campaign in December last, Barkha as well as her channel have been maintaining a dignified silence on this issue in adherence to certain core values to which they are attached and have scrupulously avoided any resort to any campaign which could degenerate into mutual mud-slinging.

6. Uninfluenced by this restraint, the Times Now has maintained its subtle, but vicious campaign against Barkha that ought to be deplored by all right-thinking people who are attached to restraint in behaviour.

7.This viciousness in projection has been accompanied by a disturbing silence by many senior journalists on allegations regarding the contacts of Radia with senior journalists of the Times Now channel and other media houses--- these contacts were allegedly not of an innocent nature--- and on the controversy now going on in “The Hindu” regarding certain allegedly objectionable features of the management and editorship of N.Ram, its Editor-in-Chief. These features have been brought to light by N.Ravi, the Editor of “The Hindu” and a relative of N.Ram, in two letters ---one addressed to the staff and the other to Ram---both of which are available in the professional web site devoted to journalists at The latest of the letters of Ravi addressed to Ram is annexed.

8. Ram was in the forefront of the senior journalists who initially spearheaded the campaign against Barkha and even wondered why she had not been removed from her post by her channel. The blatant double standards of Ram in matters relating to journalistic propriety have been exposed by the controversy concerning him.

9. One would have expected that the allegations regarding the role of certain journalists, including a senior journalist of the Times Now channel, in maintaining contacts with Radia and regarding the objectionable features of Ram’s management and editorship would have received the scrutiny they called for in order to ascertain the truth. Instead, they have been pushed under the carpet and there is a deafening silence on these allegations from the senior members of the journalists’ fraternity.

10. This conspiracy of silence regarding the hypocrisy and double standards prevalent in our journalistic community should be a matter of concern to all right-thinking persons who believe in fair-play. I hold no brief for Barkha. She is quite capable of defending herself. At the same time I do feel I will not be worth my salt and will be guilty of cowardice if I keep quiet in the face of what seems to me to be a vicious campaign against her because she outshines many in our TV world. Throughout my life, I have taken the lead in supporting talented people and encouraging them. No one can deny that she is one of our highly talented TV professionals. ( 28-4-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi. E-mail: )


N.Ravi’s rejoinder to N.Ram's defence of The Hindu's coverage of the 2G scam, and the denial of a quid pro quo. (§ionId=1&valid=true )

Dear Ram,
The Hindu of April 23, 2011 carried on Page 15 of the Chennai edition your refutation of a report that was not carried in The Hindu. Fairness demands that you publish my account of the issue of the coverage of A. Raja relating to the Telecom licences and 2G spectrum allocation that is given below:

At the meeting of the Board of directors of Kasturi and Sons in January, I had specifically raised the issue of the biased coverage of the 2G spectrum scandal. While Raja was in office, even as evidence was mounting and there were widespread calls for his resignation, The Hindu did not demand his resignation. On the other hand, it functioned as an apologist for Raja and even on the day of his resignation carried an interview with him on the front page, with the transcript published inside. In this interview as well as the one on May 22, 2010, there were no hard questions but only the obvious ones designed to elicit ready, scripted answers. The entire coverage up to the point of his resignation was tailored to make him look good.

This unexplained softness towards Raja contrasted sharply with the coverage and editorial stand on other scams including those relating to the Commonwealth Games, Adarsh Society and land allotment in Karnataka. In those instances, The Hindu was quick to demand the resignations of Suresh Kalmadi, Ashok Chavan and Yeddyurappa even at a stage when the evidence was far less compelling than the material that was in the public domain on the 2G scam before Raja resigned. All the editorial outrage was reserved for the period after Raja’s resignation.

With regard to the advertisement that was published in The Hindu of May 22, 2010 along with his interview on the front page with the full transcript inside, records in the Central Government, particularly in the Ministry of Telecommunications relating to the clearance of this particular advertisement and of some others would go to establish by whom and how this advertisement was cleared. Of all the newspapers that are said to have carried the advertisement, only The Hindu published a friendly interview and not the others. People in the media are aware that promotional advertisements of this type unrelated to any occasion or to any specific announcements are issued as much as rewards to the media as for publicity for the Minister. The Minister’s intention to hugely reward The Hindu that had been so friendly to him in its coverage was obvious. Publication in other newspapers was just a cover, it would have been untenable for any Ministry to have issued an advertisement to just one newspaper.

Yours sincerely,



( Triggered by an interview of the pilot telecast by the Times Now news channel since this morning )


The clandestine Purulia arms drop of December 1995, in which an aircraft piloted by a group of mercenaries hired by an unidentified extremist organisation---suspected to be the Anand Marg--- managed to fly right across the Indian air space to Purulia in West Bengal, air-drop a consignment of arms and ammunition to a collecting party on the ground and fly to Pattaya in Thailand unprevented and unintercepted by the Indian intelligence and security agencies and the Air Force despite the availability of precise advance intelligence is a shameful episode in the history of Indian intelligence.

2. A few weeks before the actual air-drop, the extremist organisation which had procured the arms and ammunition had approached a retired pilot of the British Air Force and offered to pay him handsomely if he organised the air-drop successfullly. Even though tempted by the sum offered, he did not initially agree to carry it out. He asked for time to think over it. He then contacted an official of the British Defence Ministry and told him about the approach made to him by the extremists. The official advised him not to reject the officer and wait for further instructions.

3. The Defence Ministry official then told the MI-5, the British Security Service, about it. The MI-5 immediately informed the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), with which it had a liaison relationship, about it.The R&AW, after examining the matter, asked the MI-5 to advise the pilot to accept the task and to keep the MI-5 informed of all his meetings with the extremist organisation and the detailed plans for the air-drop including the date and time, the place of the air-drop and the flight path.

4. The pilot faithfully carried out the instructions and kept the MI-5 informed of all the details at every stage. These details were passed on by the MI-5 to the R&AW which, in turn, passed them on to the Intelligence Bureau, which was responsible for follow-up action. It was reported that the R&AW passed on the details given by the pilot through the MI-5 to the IB as if it had collected them on its own from one of its sources instead of specifying that the details were coming from the pilot himself through the MI-5.If the R&AW had taken the IB into confidence and told it that the details were coming from the pilot himself through the MI-5, the IB might have taken the details more seriously.

5.Normally, in such cases, if the matter had been handled professionally, the R&AW would have taken the clearance of the Prime Minister for flying out a team of officers of the IB and the R&AW to the UK to meet the piliot secretly with the help of the MI-5 and the British Defence Ministry and take his co-operation for organising a trap on the ground so that the collecting party could have been arrested while collecting the air-dropped arms and ammunition and the identity of the extremist organisation established.

6. Nothing of that sort was done. The R&AW passed on the information in a routine manner to the IB without specifying that it was coming from the pilot through the MI-5. The IB, instead of organising the follow-up action itself, passed it on to the West Bengal Police in an equally routine manner. The then Chief Secretary of the West Bengal Government later on complained that the IB had sent the information by registered post and that it was received after the air drop had taken place and the aircraft had flown out of India.

7. One does not know whether the R&AW and the IB kept the Indian Air Force in the picture so that the IAF could have kept track of the plane and made sure that the pilot did not play any tricks. The plane entered the air space over Mumbai from Pakistan, flew to the air space over Purulia, air-dropped the arms and ammunition and then flew on to Pattaya in Thailand.

8. In the meanwhile,most of the air-dropped arms and ammunition had been removed by unidentified elements. The IB issued an alert to all concerned to look for the plane if it flew over the Indian air space again while flying back to the UK. After a couple of days, the British pilot and his Latvian crew took off from Pattaya, flew to Chennai, landed at the airport there, got the aircraft refuelled there and then took off. Only after the aircraft had taken off from Chennai did the intelligence and airport officials realise that it was the same plane that had air-dropped the arms and ammunition.

9. The IAF intercepted the aircraft before it could leave the Indian air space and forced it to land at Mumbai. One person on board the plane, who reportedly belonged to the extremist organisation, managed to quietly walk out of the airport without being stopped by the security and the immigration. The British pilot and crew were arrested. Sections of the media had reported that the pilot was in a very violent mood and abused the police and intelligence officials.

10. No wonder. He had taken the initiative in alerting the intelligence agencies and keeping them informed of all the details. He expected that he would be honoured and rewarded. Instead, he was allegedly treated roughly, prosecuted and jailed.

11. A few weeks after this incident, the then British Home Secretary had come to India on a scheduled visit. In his interaction with our local media, he pointed out how the British intelligence had kept its Indian counterpart informed.

12. I have been writing about this shameful episode off and on since 1996. In my book "Intelligence---Past, Present and Future" published in 2001 ( Lancer Publishers of New Delhi), I had stated as follows on Page 233: " The normal response of any professional counter-terrorism agency, on the receipt of such precise information, would have been to organise a trap in co-operation with the pilot who had reportedly volunteered the information, for catching the terrorists on the ground while they were collecting the arms and ammunition after the air-drop. Till now, no satisfactory explanation has been forthcoming from the security agencies as to why this was not done."

13. We do not know the answer to this even today. (28-4-11)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi )