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A Rafale fighter jet preparing to land | Jasper Juinen/Bloomberg
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Front Page

The front pages look skittish, again, this morning. Plenty of headlines and reports, but few points of convergence: Rakesh Asthana’s departure from the CBI, and Maharashtra’s dance bars make the cut.

However, first, two Page 1 ‘exclusives’: The Hindu Publishing Group chairman N. Ram, the paper’s former editor-in-chief, rarely appears in print. So when he does, take note. His lengthy report, “Modi’s decision to buy 36 Rafales shot the price of each jet up by 41%” is “based on information exclusively available to The Hindu”.

Ram writes, “It focuses on the interesting question of how and why the price” of each Rafale aircraft “changed substantially over three points in 2007, 2011 and 2016”.

He quotes chapter and verse “from official documentation” and concludes that the decision-making process “does bear an eerie resemblance” to the Bofors deal but with one significant difference: “No money trail has been discovered” in Rafale thus far.

The Times of India’s exclusive relates to the recommendation to appoint Rajasthan High Court Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajendra Menon to the top court that was rescinded this month. “The unauthorised leak of names of judges even before recommendations were finalised under the memorandum of procedure, along with fresh ‘adverse’ material, made CJI Ranjan Gogoi recall the collegium’s December 12 proposal,” it writes.

The piece is remarkable for one reason: It is told from the CJI’s viewpoint, with extensive quotes from a “source” — one who knows the CJI’s inner thoughts, even his “second thoughts”.

Reports on Asthana’s departure from the CBI are straightforward: The Telegraph and The Times of India lead. “Rakesh Asthana out of CBI in burial drive” (The Telegraph) and “CBI purge continues: Asthana, 2 Verma loyalists moved out” (TOI).

The Indian Express goes for balance with “After Verma, his rival Asthana moved out”. Hindustan Times sums it up in small Page 1 column: Asthana’s transfer closes “a bitter chapter in the history of the bureau”.

The Supreme Court’s decision to allow dance bars in Maharashtra gets word play in the Express: “SC says yes to dance and bar in dance bars in Maharashtra”.

TOI says the court’s verdict “has revived hopes in the hotel fraternity”. However, the SC’s line on “obscenity” has reportedly discouraged bar openers. “How can anyone define obscenity? We’d rather stay closed than spend our lives in jail,” it quotes a bar owner as saying.

The Express takes the lead on the SC setting a date for the Lokpal Bill. This “is a significant step in the direction of establishing the anti-graft watchdog”, it writes.

Opinion

The Express, Hindu and HT comment on the ongoing SC collegium controversy.

In “An Opaque Bench” (Express), former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A.P. Shah argues the collegium system is “opaque… working as if in a cabal”.

Its proceedings “lack transparency”. He adds, “The time has come to revisit the collegium system either through a Presidential reference to the SC… or a constitutional amendment.”

In its editorial, “Collegium Controversy”, The Hindu writes: The “controversial collegium system… is under public scrutiny” again. It advises the SC to continue “the recent practice of making public all resolutions of the collegium”, in the interest of “transparency”.

HT’s “Reforming the collegium system” reminds CJI Gogoi of his words on “noisy judges” and independent journalists as democracy’s first line of defense. It urges him “to speak up” now and clear the confusion on the appointment of SC judges.

Prime Time

Many news channels reveled in the Supreme Court verdict that CNN-News18 pithily called “#DanceNoBar”.

Other news channels felt self-righteous about a Congressman’s distasteful comment on the BJP president’s illness – ie, Times Now, Republic.

Sudarshan TV, meanwhile, continues its campaign to singlehandedly reduce the population of India, at least its Muslim segment.

And then there was the cow.

India Today/Aaj Tak reported on the plight of farmers and cows in “Yogi’s Gau Pradesh”. Associate editor Anand K. Patel spoke to farmers who claimed to fear both police and the NGOs that herd stray cattle. “The road to Delhi’s crown goes through these fields,” Patel sought to warn politicians.

Anchor Rajdeep Sardesai, then, asked if the holy cow was “a burden” for farmers.
BJP spokesperson Anila Singh said the party’s government had done everything to help farmers and protect cows.

When Rajdeep said cows were still sheltered in schools and fields, Anila agreed and disagreed: “You are right in some sense,” she said, but added that most such reports are a “conspiracy” by those who want to “crush our religion and culture”.

Animal rights activist Ambika Shukla, Union minister Maneka Gandhi’s sister, who runs an NGO involved in cow protection, said her organisation didn’t “earn a penny”.

CNN-News18 and Mirror Now went to town on dance bars. Mirror Now’s Faye D’Souza led a panel debate that included Nationalist Congress Party’s “Mr Deshmukh”, as D’ Souza called him, who said bars were “a gateway to prostitution… where illegal people stay”.

“Illegal people?” repeated a perplexed D’Souza.

Former police officer A.A. Khan rubbished this: Dancers depend on bars to “avoid prostitution”. He recounted his personal experience of allegedly picking up interesting tips from the likes of criminal Tiger Memon, at bars, once they were intoxicated: “Very useful.”

However, activist Rahul Easwar said these bars were only good for the “commodification of women, sexploitation and prostitution”.

On CNN-News18, anchor Zakka Jacob repeatedly had to “calm down” panelists Sanju (BJP) and Aabha Singh, a social activist, on the role of dance bars in a debate titled “Livelihood v/s Morality”.

Sanju claimed the SC verdict would increase prostitution. Jacob quoted “data” that said illegal trafficking of women had increased since bars were closed.

Praveen Agrawal, a dance bar owner, made an extraordinary claim: Asked to provide data, he said since former dancers had fled the country after the bars were closed, the airports would have the data.

On Aaj Tak, anchor Rohit Sardana discussed the Congress’ reported support for the JNU students accused of shouting seditious slogans at a 2016 protest.

Aadil Singh Boprai of the Congress said, “Supreme Court has ruled that merely shouting slogans is not sedition. When elections approach, BJP uses these factors to garner votes.”

Sardana badgered Boprai on the issue, which annoyed the latter: “India is a mature democracy and you should not look at binaries, we are (to conduct) a sensible debate.”

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5 COMMENTS

  1. And money trail will never be found, thanks to a noisy species called “journalists”. They have completely spoiled the game. The groundwork was being done for multi year reaping of harvest by making a huge and lucrative project easily available to Anil Ambani, because he was seen as what’s called in Gujarati, “Apdo Manus”, meaning a confidant, literally meaning, “our man”. We all know how, because of spoilsport noisy journalists, what was supposed to be a cakewalk for Mr Ambani has turned out to be sticky wicket for him, and has put Mr Modi himself on a back foot. He is so much on back foot that he may get out “hit wicket”!

    Trail of “money” is visible as trail of illegal and intangible “gratification” obtained by Mr Modi. Even if no money changed hands, Mr Modi has benefitted an UNSUITABLE candidate “for the gratification of his personal ego, by misusing his official position, and by risking our country’s security and wasting our national funds”. Surely it’s corruption of some sort!

    (Whatever has transpired in Rafale, has not transpired due to Mr Modi’s PERSONAL FRIENDSHIP with anyone in France but because of his official status as prime minister of India.)

  2. N Ram’s logic is opaque. He considered the 2016 price with a scenario of what could have been the price with India-specific enhancements if the bid had been accepted in 2009-2012. This didn’t happen and is just a wishful thinking. If we think of options available in 2025-2016, the calculations would be as below: The total contracted price for 36 planes is 7.87 billion euros , i.e. 0.219 billion euros per plane. Now reduce 1.3 billion euros from the total cost of 7.87 billion euros- the amount comes to 6.57 billion euros, i.e. 0.1825 billion euros per plane – this is the cost that includes coast of a bare plane plus cost of weaponry and spares etc. per plane. (To purchase x number of planes excluding the facility of India specific enhancement , we would have to pay 0.1825*x billion euros). Therefore, now multiply this by 126, it comes 22.995 billion euros. We may now add the total cost of India specific enhancements of 1.3 billion euros, the aggregate cost, as per Mr. Ram’s logic, would come to 23.295 billion euros. The total cost per plane comes to 0.190 billion euros. Thus the comparison is 0.219 billion euros per plane versus 0.190 billion euros per plane. Thus the price has increased by 15 percent and not by 41 per cent as claimed. And to enjoy this price difference the country was required to shell out huge amount of Rs.1.63 trillion !( 23.295* 70=Rs. 1630 billion)

  3. Ram in his own wisdom says there is no money trial in Rafeal deal.My dear Ram I say you erred on wrong side .In the name national security and purchase of arms ,nation can not be fooled by Rhetorics and dancing on the stage and dragging army and patriotism to play. This is an internal governmental agreement without sovereign guarantee. Everybody with some knowledge know the limitations of comfort letter.The agreement is in fly away condition so where is place for offset partner. Indian government do not have any MOU with Dassault as such India can not proceed against Dassault in case of any dispute whatsoever ever. How many Indians believe that Dassault has choosen Anil defence as offset partner without any indication from Mr Modi. Is it not true that then defence Minister parrikar said in the TV panel interview that he did not know about deal, Mr Modi put the deal the and I endorse it.Is it not true Anil group failed to pay Rs550/ crs to Ericson as committed in the supreme court and it is an offence where imprisonment is for 6 months.?Is it not true in IDBI case Anil group is facing bankruptcy under IBC2016. ? What is the financial status and jet manufacturing capacity of Anil group. Anil group purchased the land at Nagpur only after Dassault invested Rs245/ crs in Anil group. Pl do a fact check

  4. Mr. Ram wants to hang an imaginary impropeity on the rafeal deal. But try as he might he finds not even an imaginary trail. So he freaks out that he can’t find one.

  5. What ever happened in Rafael deal is very unworthy of the situation. Now whatever is said now is that, it could have been avoided had the purchases were approved and finalized during UPA’s regime. Nobody is questioning them as why it didn’t happen then? Why was nation’s security not prioritized?

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