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EXPRESS IN LAST LEG RNG’s ‘F’, ‘H’, ‘T’ Shooed

By Soumitra Bose/Mukesh Kumar Sinha

Time for Century-crossed Seth Ramnath Goenka turn over in his (pathetically, non-altruist but misogynist and solitary{man}) grave whackily, gratuitously, cockily, methodically, arrangedly, assiduously, straight-ly. Unfortunate…but its true…Watch This, Read This : In what is being openly called as No-holds-barred Battle control for Priceless Real Estate for usurpation of multi-billions lands between (Manoj Sonthalia) New Indian Express and (Vivek Goenka) Indian Express,  swords are out in all sides for the final battle or war of attrition. With the South-based New Indian Express group of Manoj Kumar Sonthalia entering the Delhi market with the Sunday Standard, the North-based Indian Express group of Viveck Goenka has returned the favour by entering the Bangalore market with the National Standard.

The 20-page daily, priced at Rs 4, has been launched on Independence Day with a near identical pagination as the main paper in Delhi, but with a strong component of national news, a key blank in the existing newspapers in Bangalore.

After the split in the Indian Express group following Ramnath Goenka‘s demise in the mid-1990s, his adopted son Viveck Goenka got the Express editions in the North, West and East, and Financial Express, which had no geographical boundaries.

The southern editions went to Manoj Sonthalia, who relaunched the publications in the South and Orissa as The New Indian Express. (Manoj Sonthalia’s mother and Viveck Goenka’s mother are sisters.)

(Ramnath Goenka’s daughter-in-law Saroj Goenka (Goenka’s biological son B.D. Goenka had predeceased him), got the lion’s share of the group’s real estate, including the Expressbuilding on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg and Express estate in Madras, on a portion of which she has built that city’s biggest mall, Express Avenue.)

The Manoj Sonthalia and Viveck Goenka groups had an agreement not to step on each other’s turfs, which was broken with the launch of SundayStandard under Prabhu Chawla. The northern group took the matter to court but in vain.

For the record, The Times of India is the market leader in India’s most crowded English newspaper market, Bangalore, with a circulation said to be at least two times more than no.2 placed Deccan Herald .

The New Indian Express, The Hindu, Deccan Chronicle, DNA, are all also-rans. The National Standard is printed at the DNA‘s press in Bangalore.

  (Recently died) B.G. Verghese’s excellent biography “Warrior of the Fourth Estate: Ramnath Goenka of the Express” charts the turbulent course of Ramnath Goenka’s life, from his modest beginnings to his building of the vast ‘Indian Express’ empire with its multiple editions. Unlike the servile peers who crawled when asked to bend, Express’ founder himself took part in Gandhi’s march from Champaran and led the protest against the Anti-defamation Bill. The paper backed Jayaprakash Narayan’s Bihar movement, fought against the Emergency regime of Indira Gandhi, against Rajiv Gandhi for Anti-defamation Bill and slimy corporate chiefs. He struggled to protect three basic values of human beings and continued to fight till his last breath. He became a living source of right inspiration to the world of journalism. His son B.D.Goenka often compared RNG’s values with modern journalists: who by and large are making the noble profession of journalism as Profession of Black Mail and Extortion. In an article of tribute to RNG his daughter-in-law Saroj Goenka says her personal study at grass root levels reveals that most of the people were afraid of journalists and did not want to keep contacts with them. Some of the people had compared the friendship of journalist with that of police who could put you in tight corner anytime at any place and anywhere.  That is the degeneration of this profession.

(The New Indian Express is an Indian English-language broadsheet dailynewspaper published by the Express Publications and based in Chennai. It was founded in 1932 as the Indian Express, under the ownership of Chennai-based P. Varadarajulu Naidu. In 1991, following the death of the owner Ramnath Goenka, the Goenka family split the group into two companies. Initially, the two groups shared the Indian Express title, and editorial and other resources. But on 13 August 1999, the northern editions, headquartered in Mumbai, retained and renamed Indian Expressas The Indian Express, while the southern editions became The New Indian Express. Today, the newspapers and companies are separate entities. The newspaper is known for its intrepid and anti-establishment tone. Express Publications (Madurai) Limited publishes the The New Indian Express from 22 centres in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Odisha.)

RNG’s three fundamental values were Fearlessness, Honesty and Truthfulness in reporting, sometimes at the risk of closure of his company. It is because of these fundamental values that he cherished that the Indian Express, during his days, had never to back out from its stories and exposures.

It is two of these three values close to RNG’s heart – Honesty and Truthfulness that have been mortgaged by his grandson Manoj Sontholia who owns The New Indian Express (TNIE), the divided property of IE Group based in Chennai, Madurai and 20 other editions in South and Orissa. It also has the Tamil newspaper ‘Dinamani’. During the days of RNG, the IE Chennai boasted of veteran editors like Frank Moraes and Dinamani like Chockalingam, A.N.Sivaraman, Iravatham Mahadevan et al. But now the degenerated TNIE chose to hire a rabid communalist and yellow journalist Aditya Sinha as its Editor under whom Hindu chauvinists like S.Gurumurthy and Francois Gautier and others were reeling out communal and anti-minority venom. For the Tamil daily ‘Dinamani’ Sontholia hired K.Vaidyanathan, a known RSS and casteist element who lent pages to all and sundry Kalaignar and DMK baiters. Both papers were converted into mouthpieces and sycophants of their natural ally, the fascist, anti-people and communal Jayalalitha.The advertisement for Dinamani is made in only one TV channel, Jaya TV owned by her, making no bones about their affinity. …

…Yet neither the Editors or anyone in the editorial boards had the basic sense of duty of journalists to verify their own records if not the veracity of the allegation, and published it as if it was a new exposure. This was another instance of their itch to spread canards to discredit the DMK. But again even while publishing the CM’s rejoinder to their reports in an obscure manner the dailies still maintained that “But he (Kalaignar) was silent over how land earmarked for an institution (IIT) was given away.”, thereby exposing their half-baked knowledge.

Kalaignar did not spare them and immediately gave the rejoinder stating that in the very first para of the reports of TNIE and Dinamani, it was said that the TN government unilaterally acquired over 40 acres of land at Taramani standing in the name of IIT in the year 1993. In that year it was Jayalalitha, commanding the full support of the dailies who were in power. So, TNIE and Dinamani should pose the question to the ADMK leadership.” It cannot be assumed that everyone working in the editorial desks of the two dailies was so insane to commit such glaring blunder. But this is a classic example for how blind antipathy for the DMK dictated from above, makes an ass of every ‘learned’ journalist working for their dailies.

Will not Ramnath Goenka, who held the values of Honesty and Truthfulness close to his heart, turn over in his grave on such a degeneration of the dailies found by him?

But those two dailies alone are not of this kind folly. Other English dailies like Deccan Chronicle and The Times of India, Tamil dailies like Dinamalar, periodicals like Anantha Vikatan and Junior Vikatan – leaving aside host of trivial ones – fall in the same category.

Have they all forgotten and forgive the media witchhunt launched during Jayalalitha regimes: filing of over 100 defamation cases against dailies, police raid in the office of ‘The Hindu’ and searches at the residences of its senior journalist and a lady reporter, arrest of ‘Nakkheeran’ editor R.R. Gopal under POTA and jailing him for 18 months, cases and arrest warrant against Indian Express journalist S.Gurumurthy that he had to stay outside the state and returned only after getting a stay in Supreme Court, a similar fate on journalist K.P.Sunil for his column in a periodical etc., If they have forgiven Jayalalitha for all these vindictive actions against the media, ethically and morally they owe explanations to their readers.

What, when now?

 

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