CRISIS: Experts say IL&FS needs at least `100 crore a month to remain afloat! An overhaul in its expenses is in the works that include big cuts in the wage bill and possible layoffs
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week which marked the 35th anniversary of the OHeraldo and the birthday of the Goan Observer. For a Saturday following the week when the #metoo sexual harassment movement spread to the media claiming high profile victims including Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar.
For a Saturday following the week when we were shocked to learn that the biggest defaulter among companies is not a private company but a government company IALS, in which the LIC has a majority stake.
And a few stray thoughts on the 35th anniversary of the Herald which marks the birth of the Goan Observer. I had decided to quit the Herald by the first week of September because the managing director, Raul Fernandes, was pestering me to get him a casino license from the then Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. The corollary was that I should support the BJP government. Both of which were repugnant to me and I decided to quit. However I resolved to wait until October 10, which would mark the 20th anniversary of the Herald.
By then I had already started an online version of the Goan Observer and the mini print edition as well. This invited several warning letters from the then general manager of Herald, Promod Revonkar, who is now the general manager of the Navhind Times. All of them insisted that I could not start another publication while I was still an employee of the Herald.
I went ahead with preparation for the launch of the Goan Observer and inaugurated its office at rented premises at the Tropicana Apartments in the La Campala Colony soon after we got our provisional registration from the RNI. There was a tradition in Herald to hold a mass at the Sao Tome Chapel which was just down the road, a hundred metres from the Herald office at Fontainhas.
I finally presented my resignation letter after working virtually 24 hours per day, seven days a week, 365 days a year for 20 years to make Herald the most fearless and respected newspaper in the state. The 35th anniversary of the Herald also marks the 15th birthday of the Goan Observer as the company Goan Observer Pvt Ltd was set up on November 1, 2003. I have long since forgotten the day of the anniversary of the Herald. I am only reminded of it when I see the October 10 edition of the Herald which inevitably has a write-up on the birth and growth of the Herald.
There were several years when no mention was made of my name as the founder editor of the Herald. I was presently surprised in the morning on Wednesday this year, when I read the traditional birthday supplement of the Herald.
In sharp contrast to previous occasions the article on the history of the Herald is written by Wilfred Pereira, among the many journalists I hired who later went to work for papers in the Gulf. Wilfred is among the few who decided to return to Goa and rejoined Herald after returning to Goa. Wilfred has been kind enough to mention my name half a dozen times in the write up titled — Herald: ‘The Mother of all Journalists’. I believe that a more appropriate title would have been father of all journalists as it was I, Rajan Narayan, who trained several generations of journalists in the Herald, which equipped them with skills to work in any part of the world from the Gulf to Singapore and Hong Kong and even China.
Wilfred rightly refers to the Herald role in the Konkani agitation to make the language of the Goan people the official language of the state. This was stiffly opposed by the Marathawadis headed by MGP and the Marathi lobby within the Congress cabinet which included then chief minister Pratapsingh Rane himself.
Out of frustration, those campaigning for the mai bhash to become the raj bash took to large scale violence. Most of the roads, particularly in south Goa, were blocked with huge trees and electric poles. The only people who were permitted to cross the barricades were reporters and the then editor of Herald, Rajan Narayan. The protestors at the barricades even lifted the jeeps and motor cycles of our reporters across the barricades because the Herald was the only newspaper which was extending total support to the Konkani movement.
Wilfred, then a chief sub editor, who was in charge of producing the paper on the day of the historic bill making Konkani the official language, also recalls Churchill Alemao walking into the Herald office wanting to know what would be the next day’s heading. Churchill, who supplied the muscle power for the Konkani agitation, was bitterly disappointed over the law passed by the Legislative Assembly, specified that only Konkani in the Devanagari script would qualify to be the official language.
Contrary to vicious attacks on me by the likes of Frederick Noronha about me mistreating staff and playing politics, Wilfred remembers that I had invited members of my staff to stay at the basement flat at Dona Paula as the roads were blocked and they could not get back home. Wilfred was worried about how he would get back home at least for Christmas, since the family lived in Margao. Though he started early in the morning on Christmas eve he could reach his residence in south Goa only at 10 pm, just a time for the traditional midnight mass.
Everything was fine in the Herald till the father AC Fernandes was alive. He was a simple man who ran a stationary shop at the Municipal garden and had a small printing press. He started the paper not to make money but for the prestige it would bring. He would come to visit me every day during tea time and his only advice was to do good for the people of Goa. He never asked for any political favours and on the contrary stood up to the most authoritarian chief minister Goa has ever had.
Many of you will be surprised that Pratapsingh Rane was even more arrogant and vindictive than Manohar Parrikar. I recall that we had carried the story on how on the insistence of Vijaya Devi Rane, wife of Pratapsingh Rane, the very distinguished theatre personality Damu Kenkere, who was the director of the Kala Academy, was sacked. His crime was he refused to change the costumes of the girls who were part of the Indian Music choir which was to perform for a meeting of the hotel federation.
Unfortunately we heard that VM Salgaocar one of the main architects of the Opinion Poll victory had died. Both AC Fernandes, the publisher, and I attended the funeral at Hira Niwas grounds in Vasco where the family stayed. To our shock the then Chief Minister Pratapsingh Rane abused my publisher for carrying a story and in fact asked him to sack me immediately. AC Fernandes like the late RD Goenka of the Indian Express, stood up to the chief minister and told him that I was not heading a government department, it was he who was paying my salary and the chief minister could not dictate whom he should hire and fire.
I cannot think of any of the present owners standing up to the chief minister. On the contrary, most of them including the present Herald owners, are willing to crawl when merely asked to bend. I understand the wheel has come full circle and Ajay Thakur who is the boss, although his name does not appear in the imprint line, is under pressure to support the BJP so that Raul Fernandes could get his casino license.
I continued with the Herald not for love of Fernandes, but for love of the baby I had created and nurtured into a 20-year-old adult. I used to get an enormous salary of `10,000 per month, travel to work on the pillion of the PSO’s scooter and got less than a lakh of as settlement when I quit after 20 years of service to Herald. I do believe at least 80% of the credit of what Herald is now, should come to me, Rajan Narayan. I dare to hope that all those who sing the praises of the Herald would be generous in supporting us on our 15th anniversy starting November 1st.
SENIOR JOURNOS OUTED
And a few stray thoughts on the #metoo movement that has belatedly brought the harassment of women in journalism finally out in the open. I have known for years that M J Akbar, present minister of state for external affairs, and previously a brilliant journalist, was a compulsive womanizer. So was the late Vinod Mehta, who was the editor of Debonair where my better three quarters started her career in journalism. Among the other known womanizers was shockingly the then MD of the Times of India, JC Jain, who ironically had a shrill, lady like voice. He was the person who started all the magazines of the TOI group, which included Femina and Filmfare. Filmfare, the only film magazine apart from Screen (published by the Express group), used to hold contests for identifying promising actors in collaboration with the film industry.
The story goes that Dharmendra came to Bombay because he won the contest and from the airport or railway station called up JC Jain. JC in his girlish voice welcomed him to Bombay. Dharmendra, who was a he-man, shot back ‘I don’t want to talk to Jain’s secretary, I want to talk to him’. JC had to clarify that it was he who was talking to Dharmendra.
Besides JC Jain there was a senior reporter in the TOI Bombay, the late Seshagiri Rao, who used to routinely pick on young women reporters and trainees who came to TOI, which included Pankajbala Tara Narayan. His MO was to invite the then pretty young women to an Irani restaurant which had small closed cabins, specially designed for Laila-Majnus. Over lunch he would make passes at them to see if they would respond.
Though the extent of sexual harassment in the media industry, including print and television, has been well known, it took cub reporter Sandhya Menon to start the stripping of the gods of media. Sandhya followed in the wake of women speaking about harassment by well-known men and tweeted that KR Sreenivas, resident editor of the Hyderabad edition of the TOI, had made an unsolicited advance at her in 2008.
This opened the sealed lips of other women journalists with seven young women complaining of sexual harassment by K R Sreenivas, who was the resident editor of Goa before he was transferred to Hyderabad. I wonder if any of the female TOI staff in Goa will come out in the open about his behaviour while in Goa.
Many male heavyweights in the media world have been exposed by brave women, including a journalist-turned-minister in the BJP government, MJ Akbar. Sandhya Menon who started it all, also accused former executive editor at TOI and former editor-in-chief of DNA, Gautam Adhikari, of kissing her without her consent. Two other women stepped forward recounting similar harassment by Adhikari.
No paper, not even the venerable Hindu, has escaped the #metoo charges. Padma Priya has complained about sexual harassment in one of the Hindu editions against the then resident editor. When no action was taken she wrote directly to the editor-in-chief who asked the journalist to quit.
Avantika Mehta, a former reporter at the Hindustan Times, accused Prashant Jha, a very senior journalist and national political editor at the paper, in Delhi. There have also been accusations of senior journalists at India Today.
#METOO IN GOA
And a few stray thoughts on how Goa has not been immune to charges of harassment of women both at work and outside work by senior journalists. A case is pending in the courts against Arun Sinha who continues to be the editor of Navhind Times long after his retirement age because he is seen as close to Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, who has a chance of becoming prime minister. Arun was accused of trying to molest his young maid who ran away and took shelter in the nearby house of the then editor of Goa Dhoot, a BJP paper. The management however has refused to take any action against Arun Sinha.
More recently there were allegations against Rupesh Samant who was incharge of PTI, and who was considered a serial molester. A case against him had been registered as in the case of Tarun Tejpal editor of Tehelka who stands accused of attempting to molest one of his young female employees in the lift at the Bambolim Grand Hyatt during their annual ‘Think’ festival.
I also recall an incident in the Herald where the MD Raul allegedly seduced a young reporter with the promise of marriage. The young reporter who is now a high flying PR person had very important contacts among politicians, particularly the then powerful Congress leader Alex Sequeira. When Alex Sequeira, who knew the parents of the young women very well, asked if Raul was serious, the MD just laughed it off. The very next day I got a note from the MD to start attacking Alex Sequeira in the paper for daring to interfere in his affairs.
The advertising director of the Herald, Manjunath, who started his own agency, was also accused by a young lady of sexual harassment by a coincidence or otherwise soon after we quit the Herald.
I hope many more young women will come out and tell us the horror stories of sexual harassment in media organisations. But as a young journo, Nibedita Sen, had rightly posted on FB, the media should be a little conscious as there may be many cases where women have used senior journalists to advance their careers, so one cannot rule out the fact that some relationships were consensual.
However, the fact remains that women in media were very vulnerable and perhaps are even more vulnerable now, because salaries are very attractive and a job with the media, particularly the electronic media, can take them places.
And a last stray thought on my surprise that the biggest defaulters and corporate cheaters are not only from private corporate houses like those of Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya. Nirav Modi is alleged to have cheated multiple banks, particularly Punjab National Bank, of more than `11,000 crore. In the case of Vijay Mallya the figure is over `8000 crore.
But this is nothing compared to the `39,000 crore that is owed to the banks by Anil Ambani.
There has even been talk on social media on whether Anil Ambani will be the next businessman to skip the country. That is unlikely because the family will bail him out. After all the richest man in the country will not allow his brother to be arrested — at least as long as the mother Kokilaben is around.
However the biggest defaulter is government controlled Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Ltd, with a debt of `91 crore, in which LIC has the largest stake.