Skip to main content

Gujarat Media Club foundation day: Between welfarism and 'compiling' archives

GMC awardees standing in the second row
By Rajiv Shah
Six years is indeed a big gap. After retiring from the Times of India in January 2013, last week I attended the annual meeting of the Gujarat Media Club (GMC), which I very recently came to know is, legally speaking, a registered as a non-profit company, working for the welfare of journalists. The term welfare seems vague, but its past office office bearers would tell me it’s not a union, that’s the great difference.
Be that as it may, the last meeting I attended (perhaps it was in early 2012, or what it late 2011?), was when the then GMC president, Bharat Desai, then editor, the Times of India, put forward a series of demands before the chief guest, who happened to Narendra Modi.
The demands included giving land for a GMC building, where he had planned to set up a journalism school, in which, I was told, I should also be involved post-retirement. Modi nodded, and journalists were happy: Land would be allocated, cheap, subsidised.
Bharat Desai didn’t remain president after that. I don’t really know if any effort was made after that to pursue land allocation. If only we had a building of our own, just as other states’ press clubs have, it would be place to carry out many activities, including media conferences.
I must admit, as a member of GMC since its very inception in 2006, I have never been active. Till 2012, as and when GMC office bearers would require, I would accompany them to IAS babus in Gandhinagar, where I was posted. Sometimes I would also come over at the GMC cricket tournament -- more to meet colleagues in Ahmedabad. That was all.
Over the last six years, however, I kept a wait-and-watch attitude, though I was impressed how it was trying to take a shape under the last president, Darshan Desai, who has the abilities of becoming the editor of any good media outfit, but is happy to remain a freelancer.
Abhishek Singh Rao
I would attend a GMC-sponsored press meet, addressed by Swaraj Abhiyan leader Yogendra Yadav), and a workshop taken by Google on sensitizing journalists on online ways. Only once have I visited the GMC office, a one roomer on the terrace on a building opposite the spot where the Ashish School once stood. The same school, off Satellite Road, where my children initially studied after we returned from Moscow in 1993 to settle down in Ahmedabad. I also attended a couple of demonstrations. One of them was held at the Gandhi Ashram immediately after the gruesome murder of Karnataka journalist Gauri Lankesh in 2017.
Following a WhatsApp message, which must also have been sent to me in an email id which I rarely open now, I decided to attend the last week’s annual meet – mainly to meet some old friends. It was held in a five star hotel on the SG Highway, and the chief guest was Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani.
I met several of my colleagues, including editor the Times of India, Harit Mehta, a very likable person whom I have known since my Gandhinagar days (previously he was English lecturer in a state capital college), as also Darshan Desai. I also met Rathin Das, whom I know closely since my Delhi days of early 1980s. Rathin is with the Statesman now, but more important, we had a common comrade-in-arm of Safdar Hashmi, a street theatre star killed in 1989 by goons (shouldn’t they be termed terrorists?) after he performed his play in Ghaziabad.
The moment I entered in, I met Bhagyesh Jha, a proud Sanskritist who, post-retirement, is in the chief minister’s office. He surprisingly told me that he “misses me” -- I wondered why did he say so, I even expressed my surprise, which he may not have liked. He should have been fair. I had written several uncomfortable items (including in True Lies column) on him during my Times of India days. Sitting next him was a person better known as Kakuji, an amenable person who at one point of time, I was given to understand, would handle Modi’s finances.
In front rows sat former chief secretary PK Laheri, whom I have known ever since 1998 when he was secretary to Modi’s bete noire, Keshubhai Patel. I asked Laheri, who must be in his mid-seventies now, what was he doing, and he said, he was in the Somnath Trust, wrote columns in a daily or two, and was also attached with “some NGOs.”
Jaydev Patel
“Some NGOs?”, the journalist in me asked him. “NGOs is a dangerous word in the current situation. Don’t you think? Ask him!”, I pointed towards Jha, who had now come to sit with Laheri. “You now look old, Rajiv”, Laheri replied, smiling. “I am really telling you. Everything can become dangerous at any time. Even this time. Why just NGOs?”
As Rupani came in, everyone began take a seat in the jam-packed hall. I found a seat next to a well-connected public relations expert. Announcements were made about who all were being awarded for last year’s best stories, which interested me. While other stories must have been good in their own way, the one that particularly attracted me was by Abhishek Singh Rao, a young journalist, in the online category.
Written in a little known (at least I had never heard of it) online news media, hindi.thearticle.in, the story is on the exploitation of Gujarat trainee women cops – how they were made to suffer distressing comments during monthlies, and how they were forced to take bath in the open. After a hectic search for the URL (including through GMC current president Nirnay Kapoor) I found it and read through it. THIS is its URL. A must read, indeed. But would the authorities act? They don't seem to have so far, Rao tells me.
Speeches followed. Those of us who had retired from formal journalism expected Rupani to make an announcement or two about welfare of journalists. One of them was on give post-retirement pension, which other states have begun to offer. Rupani in his a lengthy, some would say boring, speech, only vaguely spoke of freedom of speech, democracy and nationalism.
Be that as it may, at least there was one consolation: A veteran journalist, Jaydev Patel, was awarded Lifetime Achievement Award. Don’t know if I have ever met this octogenarian journalist. Previously with Gujarat Samachar and Sandesh, he is currently (imagine! he is still active) with Divya Bhaskar. Ajay Umat, editor, Navgujarat Samay, graphically pointed to how erudite Patel was, so much so that if you wanted to know about the top Urdu story teller Saadar Ali Manto, one could approach “Jaydevkaka”.
That such gems are not known to general public should be blamed on the vernacular media, was my immediate reaction. They have never even thought of giving byline to stories! A search in Google didn’t show his name! A humble person, when he was asked to say a few words after he was given the award, this is all that he said: “I am not used to speaking. I can only write. Thank you.”
The meeting was over, and dinner was served. All in all, I was happy that Nirnay Kapoor made a small but significant announcement – to create an archive of writings by Gujarat journalists. I don’t know how does he propose to do it. But hope he succeeds. I was reminded of what a veteran journalist of yesteryears, M Chalapathi Rau said: that journalists are “quick historians.”

Comments

Jagdish Patel said…
Excellent article, Rajiv. Congratulations

TRENDING

Hold your breath! UK ex-Muslims to celebrate Blasphemy Day on September 30

Soheil Arabi The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (CEMB), in a suprise move, has decided to observe September 30 as the Blasphemy Day. In an email alert, Maryam Namazie, CEMB spokesperson, has asked anyone interested to join CEMB in celebrating blasphemy by " uploading your photo into our #blasphemyday frame and sharing on social media."

What this veteran Gandhian witnessed at Rajghat is indeed intensely disturbing

Renowned Gandhian, activist and physicist Professor VK Tripathi witnessed an “intensely worrisome” event at the Gandhi Samadhi on his birthday on October 2, 2021. “The children of the Hindutva criminals who assassinated him have captured places which are supposed to keep Gandhiji's heritage alive”, says Deepak Joshi in a Faceook post, insisting, “We should strongly protest against it. It is already too late.”

Forthcoming book explodes Western myth: Personal qualities are biologically inherited

Jonathan Latham, PhD, Executive Director, The Bioscience Resource Project, New York, has said in an email alert via JanVikalp that his forthcoming book about genetics and genetic determinism, provisionally titled "The Myth of The Master Molecule: DNA and the Social Order" criticises the notion that personal qualities are biologically inherited: *** The contention of the book is that the key organising principle of Western thought is the seemingly innocuous and seemingly simple idea that our personal qualities are biologically inherited. That is, our character derives from our ancestors rather than being an always-adapting product of our own experiences, decisions, and education. The book makes the case, first, that genetic determinism is a scientific fallacy. Organisms are self-organised systems and therefore are not genetically determined. Second, the explanation for the myth, which predates Mesopotamian cities of 6,000 years ago, is its utility. Genetic determinism rationa

International Energy Agency floats new plan to end oil, gas, and coal expansion

In major shift, International Energy Agency (IEA)’s World Energy Outlook has mainstreamed 1.5°C pathway, showing need to end oil, gas, and coal expansion, insisting on new fossil fuel phase-out benchmarks in order to test government ambition ahead of COP26. A report by Oil Change International, distributed by BankTrack: *** For the first time, the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s flagship annual report on global energy pathways, used worldwide to influence trillions of dollars in investment, details an achievable roadmap to keep global heating below 1.5 degrees Celsius (°C). By making a 1.5°C scenario the benchmark of this year’s World Energy Outlook (WEO), the IEA challenges governments and companies to back up lagging Paris pledges with immediate action to shift the energy system away from fossil fuels. Notably, this year’s WEO solidifies the policy conclusion, first presented by the IEA in May , that no new oil, gas, and coal extraction projects should be approved under a 1.5°C-

Gujarat cadre woman IAS official who objected to Modi remark on sleeveless blouse

By Rajiv Shah Two days back, a veteran journalist based in Patna, previously with the Times of India, Ahmedabad, phoned me up to inform me that he had a sad news: Swarnakanta Varma, a retired Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat, who was acting chief secretary on the dastardly Godhra train burning day, February 27, 2002, which triggered one of the worst ever communal riots in Gujarat, has passed away due to Covid. “I have been informed about this from a friend in Jaipur, where she breathed her last”, Law Kumar Mishra said.

Known to have assissinated O'Dwyer, Udham Singh chose not to apologise to the British

Udham Singh (26 December 1899 – 31 July 1940), best known for assassinating Michael O'Dwyer , the former lieutenant governor of the Punjab in India , on 13 March 1940, done in revenge for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar in 1919, for which O'Dwyer was responsible, was subsequently tried and convicted of murder and hanged in July 1940. While in custody, he used the name Ram Mohammad Singh Azad, which represents the three major religions of India and his anti-colonial sentiment. Writes a well-known analyst, "He too could have apologised. He chose the noose instead!" Udham Singh's speech prior to sentencing in UK: *** “I say down with British Imperialism. You say India do not have peace. We have only slavery Generations of so called civilisation has brought us everything filthy and degenerating. known to the human race. All you have to do is read your own history. If you have any human decency about you, you should die with shame. The brutality and blood

Diaspora protest as Biden failed to publicly address persecution of minorities in India

As Modi addressed UN, human rights groups decried “monstrosity” of persecution of Muslims, Christians, Dalits, and other minorities in India. Demonstrators gathered outside UN to protest fascism, hate campaigns, weaponized rape, apartheid, lynchings, unlawful arrests, attacks on the media, and other abuses in India: A report distributed by the diaspora group Hindus for Human Rights: *** While observers said it was “shameful” that President Biden failed to publicly address widespread persecution of religious minorities in India when he met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on September 24, more than 100 members of interfaith and human rights groups spoke out as Modi addressed the United Nations General Assembly. Speakers condemned the egregious human rights violations and murders of religious minorities in India under a government that openly supports Hindu supremacy. The rally was sponsored by 21 organizations, including Ambedkar International Center, Ambedkar King S

Indian Doctors for Truth want Modi to stop overzealous universal vaccination drive

At a time when there is a huge demand to ensure that vaccination should be universal in order to gain immunity against the pandemic, an organisation called Indian Doctors for Truth, have asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the “urgent need to stop the overzealous universal vaccination drive against Covid-19.  Read the letter, signed by 18 doctors and a health expert: ***

Non-entity 6 yrs ago, Indian state turned Fr Stan into world class human rights defender

Jharkhand's Adivasi women  By Rajiv Shah A lot is being written on Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest who is known more for his work for tribal rights in Jharkhand. His death at the age of 84, even when he was an under trial prisoner for his alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon violence three years go, has, not without reason, evoked sharp reaction, not just in India but across the world.

Ex-official: Why not offer Vaishnaw loss making BSNL, Air India to prove his worth?

By Rajiv Shah A senior chartered accountant, whom I have known intimately (I am not naming him, as I don’t have his permission), has forwarded me an Indian Express (IE) story (July 18), “Ashwini Vaishnaw: The man in the chair”, which, he says, “contradicts” the blog (July 17), "Will Vaishnaw, close to Modi since Vajpayee days, ever be turnaround man for Railways?" I had written a day earlier and forwarded it to many of my friends.