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Posts Tagged ‘CBI

This editorial in The New York Times of June 7, 2017 expresses serious concern at Narendra Modi’s intolerance of Free Press:

 

Press freedom in India suffered a fresh blow on Monday when the country’s main investigative agency raided homes and offices connected to the founders of NDTV, India’s oldest television news station. The raids mark an alarming new level of intimidation of India’s news media under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The story is a bit tangled, but here’s the gist: The Central Bureau of Investigation says it conducted the raids because of a complaint that NDTV’s founders had caused “an alleged loss” to ICICI, a private bank, related to repayment of a loan. In 2009, ICICI said the note had been paid in full. Not really, the investigators said: A reduction in the interest rate had saddled the bank with a loss — and hence the raid.

That doesn’t wash. India’s large corporations regularly default on debt with nary a peep from authorities. In fact, even as India’s state-owned banks are holding bad debt of about $186 billion, Mr. Modi’s government has hesitated to go after big defaulters. But suddenly we have dramatic raids against the founders of an influential media company — years after a loan was settled to a private bank’s satisfaction. To Mr. Modi’s critics, the inescapable conclusion is that the raids were part of a “vendetta” against NDTV.

Since Mr. Modi took office in 2014, journalists have faced increasing pressures. They risk their careers — or lives — to report news that is critical of the government or delves into matters that powerful politicians and business interests do not want exposed. News outlets that run afoul of the government can lose access to officials. The temptation to self-censor has grown, and news reports are increasingly marked by a shrill nationalism that toes the government line.

Through all this, NDTV has remained defiant. Last year, its Hindi-language station was ordered off the air for a day as punishment for reporting on a sensitive attack on an air base, but it stood by its reporting, insisting that it was based on official briefings.

Praveen Swami, a reporter for The Indian Express newspaper, warned on Twitter that Monday’s raids were “a defining moment,” adding: “The last time this sort of thing happened was during the Emergency,” a reference to the strict censorship of 1975-77 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency and ruled as an autocrat. Sadly, Mr. Swami’s warning is warranted. The Central Bureau of Investigation said on Tuesday that it “fully respects the freedom of press.” Even if that’s true, the question still outstanding is whether Mr. Modi does.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has started disappointing the people with its investigation of the Vyapam scam. There is now an apprehension that it may only be cooperating with Special Task Force (STF) of Madhya Pradesh police in trying to save big-wigs involved in the scam. 

Disposing of a number of petitions in the midst of a nation-wide outrage over several deaths suspected to be related to Vyapam scam, the Supreme Court had directed CBI in July last year to take over investigation of Vyapam scam cases from STF headed by an IPS officer of the rank of Additional Director General of Police. But the CBI investigation in the past eight months has not come up with anything to sustain people’s faith in the impartiality of the country’s premier investigation agency. 

It was largely through his own initiative that former independent MLA Paras Saklecha got himself invited by the CBI team last week. Saklecha has made a significant contribution towards exposing the Vyapam scam by raising the matter in the Assembly and also by moving the court. However, he was a disappointed man after his three-hour meeting on January 29 with the CBI officers investigating the scam. He, though, did find out that STF had kept certain Vyapam scam cases, presumably involving big-wigs, with itself through a misrepresentation in the Supreme Court and this is in the knowledge of the CBI. 

According to Saklecha, STF had registered 212 cases in connection with the Vyapam scam. But it mentioned only 185 cases when the matter was heard by Supreme Court and the apex court directed STF to hand over these cases to CBI immediately. The remaining 27 cases are still being investigated by STF. Saklecha says that CBI has expressed its inability to do anything regarding these 27 cases unless directed by the State/Central government or by a competent court.

The names of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, his wife Sadhna Singh Chouhan and his close family members and associates are being mentioned in connection with the Vyapam scam. An FIR was registered against present Governor Ram Naresh Yadav but it was quashed on a directive of the High Court because the Constitution does not permit registration of a criminal case against a serving Governor. The Governor’s son Shailesh was accused in another Vyapam scam-related FIR. Shailesh has since died. Laxmi Kant Sharma, who was Minister of Technical Education when the scam was virtually institutionalised is on bail, as are some top functionaries of Vyapam. 

Vyapam is the acronym for Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal or Professional Examinations Board (PEB) in English. The modus operandi used in the scam was somewhat like this: the candidates for PMT (pre-medical test) who had worked hard and done well will be disqualified and other names (either on the recommendation of some important person or against payment of a heavy amount) will be shown as having qualified, and even put in merit list, for admission to medical colleges. After investigation, the STF has come across names of doctors working in hospitals who had not even appeared in PMT but had been declared qualified against payment of hefty sums. The young boys and girls who had worked hard for their tests were just at a loss to understand what went wrong.  

Complaints of impersonation in tests, like in other examinations, have been made for decades. Occasionally there were reports of leakage of question papers also. But such irregularities were reported only sporadically and there was no evidence of an organised racket.  Complaints of irregularities in an organised manner started after 2000 only. Between 2000 and 2012, as many as 55 FIRs were registered in various districts of the State, mostly in Indore and Bhopal. Some parties approached the courts also.

Following a hue and cry inside and outside the Assembly, chief minister Chouhan constituted STF of Madhya Pradesh police to look into the matter. The entire investigation was then handed over to STF which Chouhan probably thought would be easy to control, instead of keeping a track of what was going on where. The STF lost no time in seizing documents, hard disks and other relevant material from the Crime Branch of Indore police. It is said that no records were kept of handing over and taking over of the material from Crime Branch of Indore to the STF which gave rise to the suspicion about tampering with the evidence to save some high-ups. 


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Value of propaganda

Adolf Hitler believed in the use of propaganda as an integral element to seizing and holding on to political power. His maxim was 'the bigger the lie, the more easily it will be believed, provided it is repeated vigorously and often enough'. (Sean Murphy in his book 'Letting the Side Down')

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