Me­dia and Ex­clu­sive Re­ports

India Strategic - - EDITORIALS -

The In­dian Navy’s iconic Har­rier jump jets were given a cer­e­mo­ni­ous adieu this month af­ter 33 years of stel­lar ser­vice. The oc­ca­sion re­minds me of my own ca­reer as I broke the news of In­dia’s de­ci­sion to ac­quire this air­craft. I had the priv­i­lege of work­ing with UNI news agency, a great or­gan­i­sa­tion then. The Edi­tor, Mr GG Mir­chan­dani, told us that an av­er­age jour­nal­ist, par­tic­u­larly of a news agency, was a stenog­ra­pher as he or she would re­port only in ‘said here to­day’ terms and UNI col­leagues, he in­sisted, must pro­duce ex­clu­sive re­ports. Mr BRP Bhaskar, the News Edi­tor and ed­i­to­rial men­tor to most in­clud­ing my­self, made sure that we did not make er­rors. The two bosses re­ally made a great team and trig­gered the com­pany’s rise away from ‘steno­graph­i­cal com­pe­ti­tion’. News­pa­pers, from whom the rev­enue came, would not want the same ‘said here to­day’ re­ports from one more news agency, Mr Mir­chan­dani pointed out. “You must read a lot, have a hor­i­zon­tally wide base of in­for­ma­tion if not knowl­edge and good so­cial mo­bil­ity,” he would say. There was a Rs 500 prize for The Ex­clu­sive Story of the Month, which in those days, was per­haps 20 to 30 per cent of one’s salary. UNI was the only news or­gan­i­sa­tion then to pro­vide tele­phones and 75 per cent in­ter­est free loans for cars to all its re­porters. Any ex­penses on host­ing a din­ner or giv­ing a gift to­wards ‘so­cial mo­bil­ity’ were re­im­bursed. I had be­come a re­porter in 1974 with lit­er­ally an ex­plo­sive en­try, break­ing news about In­dia’s first nu­clear test. Where it hap­pened, what was hap­pen­ing at the test site, and the first in­ter­na­tional re­ac­tion in Canada with­draw­ing nu­clear as­sis­tance to In­dia, were all re­ported by me. I was gra­ciously en­cour­aged by the Chief Re­porter, later Chief of Bureau and Edi­tor, Mr Viren­der Mo­han, who him­self was the es­tab­lished leader in break­ing news those days. I was his #2 in cov­er­ing De­fence and For­eign Af­fairs, till I was as­signed in 1980 to set up a news net­work in the Mid­dle East and sent to Abu Dhabi, UAE. The Min­istry of Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs ex­tended us full sup­port, with Mr JN Dixit, then Joint Sec­re­tary (XP), play­ing a key role. No­table sup­port was given by For­eign Min­is­ter PV Narasimha Rao and For­eign Sec­re­tary Romesh Bhan­dari, who told his aide, Mr Pra­mathesh Rath, to make sure ‘Gul­shan gets what he needs’. UNI pi­o­neered ex­port of news from In­dia, and nearly ev­ery English news­pa­per in the Gulf re­gion sub­scribed to us. My al­lowances were lib­eral, diplo­matic level, but there was a rider from Mr Mir­chan­dani: I want my money back af­ter 2 years. I re­signed from the as­sign­ment af­ter 12 years with 200-plus profit mar­gin for the com­pany. A big ex­clu­sive I had there was about the im­mi­nence of the US-led at­tack on Iraq in 1991 a few hours be­fore Op Desert Storm was launched Jan­uary 17. The news about the Har­ri­ers was given to me by the then De­fence Min­is­ter, Mr Jagji­van Ram, him­self. Some of my other ex­clu­sive re­ports then in­cluded the Navy get­ting the Mar­itime Squadron from IAF and the three Ser­vice Chiefs sign­ing a joint me­moran­dum in 1979 for a cadre re­view in the armed forces.

Gul­shan Rai Luthra

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