Tuesday, October 15, 2013

ANCHORS WITH RANCOUR-FOURTH ESTATE DEGREE METHODS


The other day I tuned TV and turned on channel 606.  As usual a histrionic  anchor, the inimitable “talk show connoisseur”, was judging the BJP leaders from Gujarat from the CBI point of view. CBI Officers must be vying with the idea of inviting this “anchor with rancour” for a talk show on how to  use “fourth estate degree methods” to down and drown ‘witnesses’ and make them “accused.” It may not be surprising as we have the example of “Lalu on rail” (now in jail), having been invited by ‘secular’ management schools to talk on how it helps to be a rustic and how to survive on fodder. I saw it only a few minutes as further viewing would have been a nauseating experience. On one side was a BJP man or fan and on the other side, a self-styled lady rights activist or who so ever it was. He was seen saying this. “My question is ‘Why was it necessary for a leader in the position of State Home Minister to talk to the officer of the level of DIG? (As per him, DIG post is too low in the police hierarchy.)  BJP has a duty to answer this question. Yes, they should answer. There is no escape. I repeat that BJP should answer the question.”  He repeated this many times. The unfortunate BJP leader wanted to open his mouth to answer but was not allowed to do so by the repeated “BJP should answer” shouts from the anchor. All the time the purported rights activist or who so ever, was seen mockingly smiling at the discomfiture of the BJP leader not being allowed to answer. I switched the channel.

Issue here is whether the anchor possesses total knowledge of how CBI works. If so, there is something seriously wrong with CBI, whose modus is highly confidential. Still, the anchor wants to pluck hairs from a perennially bald head or feathers on an egg. There is nothing in the rule book to prevent a Home Minister talking to even a constable in the course of duty. So, the anchor does not know what he wants to prove and to hide this fact he shouts so the other person has no chance to express.

I will share my personal experience with the CBI.  Long back, I was summoned by the CBI, Hyderabad as a witness/possible accused in a case related to indiscriminate lending to unidentified beneficiaries under a government scheme called “DRI” Scheme. The rate of interest on this scheme was 4% p.a., in itself an incentive for misuse. Around 1500 loans granted under the scheme went bad and it came out that there was large scale misuse. I was the second in line in the branch in Hyderabad during a part of the period and was 30 years of age. Considering my high voltage reputation in the bank those days a lot of interest was generated and many rancorous anchors predicted I was called to be arrested for being a ‘conspirator-glove-in-hand’ with the perpetrators in the misuse.

The questioning went on for two days each spanning two/three hours. They placed before me a set of about hundred documents where I made remarks on the borrowers and recommended loans. The Inspector asked me, “Did you see the beneficiaries?” I said “No”. He asked me how I recommended so many loans when I did not see them. I replied that in a “target oriented approach in banking, where we were given unreasonable targets by the higher officials under advice from political bosses it was not possible to verify each borrower’s credentials for loans of Rs.500/- to Rs. 1000/-. I also told him that we were trained to be part of the social uplift of sections of society. He told me that they had information that I was in collusion with the beneficiaries. I replied that if it were proved so, I was ready to be punished. So went on the investigation. They asked me to name any one who might have been involved in the scam. As I did not know, I said I did not know. Later, the culprits received two years’ imprisonment.

By the time I returned from the questioning many stalwarts of running commentary started questioning me and most of those envious of me started speculating my doom. After two weeks two CBI officers came to my house, might be for further questioning. I was living in a two room tenement then with my wife, three children and mother. By the time they came, my wife was seen carrying buckets of water from the ground floor well. One officer asked me, “Is this where you live?” I said “yes”. In fact I was not having proper furniture in my house then to make them comfortable. We offered coffee. They said or did nothing. They started talking general issues to my wife, mother and showered affection on my children. They asked me about my financials. Finally, they thanked us and left.

Later, I did not hear from them. They obviously gave me a “clean chit”. Might be they made their own investigations. There were no anchors to question them then. I was informed by our higher officers that my name was dropped even as a witness.  All freaks in the bank were disappointed.  I narrated this to show that institutions work within a framework of rules. If they are misused there are courts to intervene. To brand all officers of CBI or any other institution bad and to brand each one that they talk to as a culprit is sacrilege.

Investigations are done by the officers of CBI. In the course of duty they talk to many people. It is not in the media houses that judgements are passed. There are set rules. These rules are not framed by talk show hosts or rights activists. If, by any chance, the institutions or officers exceed their mandate and harass innocent people or take political sides then question them in proper forums.  Sources do not do investigations. There are specialists for that. Let us leave it to them. If something is amiss, let us question them in courts or people’s courts. Let us not forget that media investigation turned the Arushi murder case take ugly turns.  First it was parents, then servants and again parents. Still, the investigations are on. CBI is looking into it. But media did not stop to stoop to further levels. Let CBI officers do their duty. Mr. Anchor! Investigative journalism does not mean demeaning people. It is a “pious” duty dedicated to national interest. Do not sabotage real investigations by your biased investigations. You can not be the investigator, witness, advocate and judge at the same time. Confine to journalism, the job you are best suited for!

Once, one SP in a district, called me to witness how difficult a police officers’ job was. He was addressing a Press Conference on an alleged encounter in the district. After the conference I told him that it was a horrible experience. The Press was asking all inconvenient questions and trying to get the answer they wanted. He smiled it away. He retired from service now at DGP level.  Once, I approached another SP of a district for protection as I was under threat and one of my family members went missing for a day (probably taken away by miscreants). As I entered his cabin, his finger was on the trigger. I asked him, “When I sent my card, why are you still paranoid?” He replied, “We can’t say. Making a visiting card is not that difficult”. So, anchors! Know police and investigating officers risk their lives for a better society. There are black sheep everywhere. For that, do not blacken the institutions. Live your job. Let them live theirs!  


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Disclaimer: With lot of criticism against CBI for being partial there is a possibility that I be misunderstood that I defended them from any wrong doing on their part. It is not so. I wanted to show that in our over enthusiasm to take political sides, we are slowly killing the ‘spirit’ of institutions and making out ‘villains’ out of everyone. There are politicians to play politics.  Let the media not do it. On our part let us vote for a change in the whole system.