Corruption a symptom of governance: Mark Tully (Video Report)

21 Nov,2011

By Shruti Pushkarna


Almost twenty years after he wrote ‘No Full Stops in India’, veteran journalist Mark Tully unveiled his latest addition to the India series, ‘Non Stop India’, in the capital on Saturday, November 19. Addressing a packed hall of avid readers, Mr Tully confessed that he was most nervous about talking to the Delhi audience. Citing an Indian cricketer’s concern, he said, “It’s hardest to play against a home crowd, and Delhi is very much my home and all of you all will be my severest critics.”


Mr Tully also confessed that he didn’t want this book launch to be another one of the mutual admiration sessions that these things are often brought out to be. He admitted, “We journalists are actually very good at having self-congratulatory sessions.” He said he was delighted that his old friend, Karan Thapar, agreed to join him, “…as Karan would be the last person to give me an easy ride.”


Acknowledging that much has changed in terms of how India looks at itself as well as how it is looked at in the international arena, since he wrote ‘No Full Stops in India’, Mr Tully said, “I think the danger in the Indian story, and this in a way is the point of this book, is that it can lead to ‘jugaad’, the concept that we are going to get there anyhow, so why do we worry about the problem which we have. It’s like the gentleman who I once met, who I asked, what does he think about India and he said, ‘Main bhagwan main bharosa karta hoon.’”


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Known for his love and admiration for this country, Mr Tully also confessed to his audience that he didn’t find himself very settled in Britain so he thought that maybe his ‘karma’ has landed him here.


Defending his work against one criticism made by Outlook reporter Pavan K Varma where the latter said that he would have liked Tully Saheb to leave the safer shelter of an observer and give his own views far more robustly, of what is wrong or right with India, Mr Tully said that it’s not entirely a negative book and it does warn about problems which lie ahead. He also added that for one to be able to criticize, one has to be extremely understanding and sympathetic of the issues at hand.


Quoting a journalist who once said, ‘these are my conclusions on which I base my facts’, Mr Tully hoped that this book produces some facts which contradict some commonly held conclusions. A few of those that he has written about in this book include, the problem of Naxalites, the Dalit situation in the country today, the issue of privatization and the problem with ministers pouring money into troubled areas, like Kashmir. He said, “Overall the story is really about governance, something that you all hear about now. And I hope the story makes the point that this corruption that we are so concerned about, is, I think and many of the stories suggest this, more like a boil…boils are created by blood poisoning, they are not the blood poisoning themselves, they are a symptom rather than what is going wrong, And corruption in my view is basically a symptom of governance which needs reform.” Adding on, he said, “…And that’s why I fear that this whole Lokpal campaign. Yes maybe Lokpal will be a help but it would be more of a problem if everyone then sits back and says we’ve solved the problem, everything’s all right.”


When asked how much of a problem was the Prime Minister himself, Mr Tully unswervingly admitted, “I think the PM has a major problem because we all know where the power lies very often and it’s not necessarily the PMO and we also all know that Manmohan Singh for all his many qualities, is not basically a politician who has grassroots experience. And in my view one of the problems with the Congress party is, at the Centre most of the people are not really grassroots politicians.”


Probing him further on the issue of governance, Karan Thapar asked him whether the problem actually lies with Sonia Gandhi. To which Mr Tully candidly replied, “I think the difficulty and the problem with Sonia Gandhi’s position is that too much influence lies there when in fact it should lie in the PMO.”


While Mark Tully spoke at length on the first two chapters of the book that concern the problem of Naxalites and Dalits in the country, he also remarked on the recent criticism of Indian media made by the Chairman of Press Council of India, Justice Markandey Katju. Mr Tully said, “I think that one thing that we should look at is, we are culpable as journalists because we don’t stand together, we don’t fight for our right to do our job, we are meant to be the professionals who know what goes on television screens, who should know what goes into newspapers and yet all the time we allow ourselves to be dictated to, by managements who basically have interests other than putting out the news in a readable and a fair and balanced way. And this is the problem everywhere. This is the problem which gives rise to this continuous obsession with breaking news and rolling news on Indian TV.”

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