Saturday, February 5, 2011

Media and BJP eat humble pie on the Black money story

There has been so much written about black money recently. So much hype created around the subject. So much expectation raised. We all expected to hear big names. To hear big sums of monies being un-earthed. And what did we get? A few totally irrelevant and un-important names and a paltry sum of money that cannot even be called loose change!

So will media and the BJP explain itself? Will they eat humble pie? No way.....both have done what they do always. They have already concluded that the black money exists and that if the leaks are a disappointment, its only because the government is involved in some way. The latest canard is that the government itself has released the names.....till now the accusation was that the government was not releasing the names! So their upshot really is that they have pronounced the government guilty irrespective of what it does. Damned if they reveal. Damned if they dont!

Its not a happy state of affairs at all for all of us Indians. If the fourth estate behaves and conducts itself in this shallow manner, then its really a sad day for Indian democracy. I remember the days when all of us would take reports in newspapers at face value. Newspapers stated facts correctly.....after weighing all the data carefully. They always offered the other party a chance to state his/her views. They always clarified that they may not be entirely correct if they were not sure about their analysis. They always mentioned it if their sources were unreliable.

In today's times, journalists have themselves got sold. Its now common public perception that its possible to get a news story printed.....if you know a journalist and are willing to pay a certain fee. The truth does not matter. Everything is available for sale.

Its the same with this story of black money. The BJP wants to continue putting pressure on the government. So they grab this story with both hands. They dont have to prove anything. They dont need to explain why they did nothing when they were in government. If the names are big, they prove a point. If the names are not big, then they can get away by saying that the government is hiding facts. Its a win-win situation for them either ways. The Indian media wants to gain readers and viewers. Again, Indian media does not have to prove anything. They can simply state what they want to and get away with it. No one can touch the media.....if anyone dares do that, then they will be accused of subverting democracy. The fact is that it is the media that is subverting democracy.

The fact is that there is a lot of black money abroad. But the numbers are no where close to what is being claimed. The BJP claims that the amount of black money abroad is between $500 and $1400 billion .Where they get this figure from.....god only knows. Honestly, there is no reason for us to believe such numbers. Then there is the much touted Global Financial Integrity (GFI) report which has done a more detailed calculation. Its highlight shows that there is some $462 billion stashed abroad. But if you read the report carefully, you'll realize that the actual sum siphoned off over 60 years is just $213 billion. The rest is what is called "present value" adjustments. Basically adjustments to account of inflation, or interest rates, or some such thing. This money was taken out over the last 60 year....even if 10% of this is said to have been taken out in the last one year ($21 billion), that's so disappointing a sum. That's no more than 1.5% of the Indian GDP. I have always said that India has been a 10% corrupt nation.....this 1.5% is so small, its really a non-story. But then, who cares for the facts. The media and the BJP both like big numbers. So rather than do all this explaining, its more convenient just to mention $462 billion. Who cares for the truth.

The real truth is that in today's politically surcharged environment, no one is interested in getting to the bottom of things. There is simply no time for that. The plot is changing quickly. Who cares for autheticity. Who cares for research. Just grab some headlines and move on. The real truth also is that all of Indian media has become politically aligned with one political party or another. So Times Now is pro-BJP and NDTV is pro-Congress. CNN-IBN cant figure out what it wants to do. These channels have become mere platforms for people with agendas to come and spread their lies. They put up panels with people who are aligned with their own agendas. Indian TV news channels never had any credibility. Their anchors were never called journalists. Now they are increasingly being called pimps. That's what we should be worried about.

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