Friday, March 18, 2011

The Hindu's N. Ram Explains

Late on Thursday (17 March) The Hindu's top editor N. Ram was on Headlines Today defending the shoddy story his paper carried about the "Wikileaked" allegation of parliamentary vote-buying in 2008 (see the blog post below).

What had he done to verify the cable was authentic? Nothing, of course, but he blustered that no one had challenged their veracity and that the United States had confirmed their authenticity (it has not). Somewhat rattled by the question, he went on for a bit about how it could be verified, addressing the issue as if it were not a direct criticism of his paper's front-page sensationalism.

Had The Hindu checked with any of the people mentioned in the cable? Well, his reporter had called Nachiketa Kapur (who has emphatically denied having anything to do with the vote buying), but had not asked him about the issue. Headlines Today being what it is, Ram was not asked why that was so. But he added that the Congress Spokesman had called back to ask what the paper was about to publish. "You see, they were nervous!" he said triumphantly.

As with the allegations about the "Bofors scandal" 25 years ago, which were "leaked" to The Hindu and carried with no verification whatever, the current charges come at a critical time for the Indian economy.

The smoke and mirrors scandal about Bofors coincided with the Indian government's first effort at major economic reforms. Because of the huge ruckus in parliament over the entirely unsubstantiated charges, the effort at economic reforms failed. For two years India floundered with a weak and unstable coalitions in Delhi.

The current allegations come at a time when the world economy is headed for a major upheaval, and a weak visionless central government would be a disaster for the country. Vultures like BP, Vedanta, Vodaphone, and HSBC are circling, hoping for a weak and malleable government in Delhi.

Ram pontificated on television about the level of political corruption in India. He should take a hard look in the mirror.

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