Posts

Showing posts from March, 2013

Gujarat's swine flu puzzle

Image
By Rajiv Shah
It was October 29, 2009 evening, around 5.00 pm. I had just reached my office in Gandhinagar after my routine round of Sachivalaya. A journalist-colleague, representing a vernacular daily, came down to me and told me that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, back from Russia, was suffering from swine flu. As a newsperson, I didn’t believe what he said, yet I tried to frantically find out whether this was true, but all in vain. Then sitting in the same building, Akhbar Bhavan, this journalist told me frankly, he had filed a story about this to his paper, but it was not being carried as his bosses in Ahmedabad found the information “humbug”. Hence, in retaliation he had decided to pass on the “exclusive” information, to which he alone was privy, to me and others. Thanks to this journalist, several newspapers quietly pushed out a news item about Modi suffering from swine flu as some sort of rumour with a punch-line (not uncommon) that there was no confirmation from officia…

NGOs' foreign funding dilemma

Image
By Rajiv Shah
This happened in 1995. Prof Indira Hirway, then working at the Gandhi Labour Institute, Ahmedabad, as senior faculty, handed over to me over a study she had just prepared on foreign funding of Gujarat NGOs, which I promptly reported in the Times of India without thinking about its repercussions. A highly sensitive issue, many activists were extremely angry with the report, more so because till then I had reported only on those realities of Gujarat which activists tried showing me — poor wages, caste divisions, impact of 'development' on vulnerable sections. They had found in me a "great friend" on whom one could rely upon. However, this report seemed to embarrass them. So much so, that the then Gujarat Institute of Development Research (GIDR) director, late Prof Pravin Visaria, a top demographer, angrily refused entry to me in a seminar on development which he had organised with Gujarat NGO support. "You have already obliged us enough by your piece…

Wharton, Modi and Ania Loomba

Image
By Rajiv Shah
This event took me back to my good old student days – mid-1970s. One of those who played a key role in the campaign against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s aborted video-address to the Wharton India Economic Forum happens to be Ania Loomba, an active member of the left-wing student body in Delhi University to which I also belonged during my post-graduation days.
When Ania’s name appeared, I instantly informed about it to two of my other student-colleagues, Neeraj Nanda, who edits Melbourne-based South Asia Times, and Khursheed Latif, a Mumbai-based film-maker, who spends half the time in US. Neeraj was happy, saying it was “great news”, forwarding me her email ID and complete profile, while Khursheed curiously phoned me up to know more about Ania, and what she was doing. Ania is right now Catherine Bryson Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, and her academic interests are wide ranging, including histories of race and colonialism, postcolonial st…