From Licence Raj to Silence Raj?

10 Feb,2023



By Ranjona Banerji


Ranjona BanerjiThe “humbling of Gautam Adani” says The Economist. Not sure if the Government of India is going to ask UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to personally spank the editors of the prestigious journal with his hairbrush, but this article provides a good round-up of the Adani “growth story” and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s allegedconnection to Adani.


For the media however, is this damning paragraph to ponder on.

“Licence Raj to Silence Raj

The Modi years have in many ways eroded India’s checks and balances. His government has steadily undermined the independence of the courts and the police. The media are mostly too cowed to investigate the mighty as they once did. Few Indian newspapers would have touched a story about Mr Adani had an American firm not asked the tough questions first. Mr Adani himself recently bought NDTV, a news channel that was once critical of the government but is now supine.”

Obviously then, everyone knows how cowardly the Indian media is. Not that it’s a secret. Our star TV anchors are inordinately proud of their pusillanimity. And their ability to prostrate themselves in front of power. It gets them promotions and is thus profitable.

Here’s an example of how TV anchors behave, as if we didn’t already know. This is Navika Kumar, exalted “group editor” of Times Now. Her love for the Prime Minister is no secret, nor is her lack of aspiration to journalism, She has had to apologise for her treatment of Opposition politicians. But so what, eh? Clearly her love is pure.



The Prime Minister of India thundered through the speech above in Parliament, as ever blaming the last UPA government and previous Congress governments for the state of India. That Modi and the BJP have been in power at the Centre since 2014 means nothing to the BJP because they know they will not be held to account by the media. This Kumar tweet is not different from the way any of these TV anchors and those in cahoots with them behave. These are collaborators in a massive heist on Indian democracy. And they know it.

Adani, you may ask, where was Adani in the PM’s speech. Nowhere and that did not bother most Indian TV anchors and mainstream journalists anyway. Some asinine reference by Modi to the Nehru surname has excited them as Modi’s great “oratory”. Others are thrilled that Modi ignored Adani and had his own “agenda”.

As if after over eight years, we don’t know what the agenda is. Should I tell you? Or have you figured out what is lying in plain view?

The reason that Modi cannot mention Adani and that the media can allow him to get away with it is that Adani’s stock values have not stopped falling since the Hindenburg Report was released at the end of January. And that Modi has not been able to use his massive powers to help either Adani nor stem the effect of Adani’s troubles on the Indian economy points to both weakness and incompetence. The sad fact of the matter is that the media has boosted Modi’s oratory – which is mainly anti-Muslim and anti-Opposition – as good governance and ignored his government’s inability to provide governance and policy.

The short spurt in journalism which we saw during the pandemic has subsided.

And thus, this story remains buried somewhere on the inside pages:

Even the other week, we had top TV anchors tweeting about what a good job Modi had done with Covid compared to other countries. Not to mention how he had personally vaccinated all of us for free. I exaggerate but we all know that that’s how it rolls.

Meanwhile, journalists in India, the unknown, the unsung, who try to expose wrongdoing, pay the price:

Maybe that explains the extreme cowardice of our top anchors?


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator. She writes on MxMIndia on Tuesdays and Fridays. Her views here are personal


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