A chance reporter, reporting for CNN-IBN from Bhopal. Has reported for the Sun Magazine, Delhi MidDay, Hindustan Times, Asian Age and Sahara Samay in the past.
Moral science mafia on the rampage in MP
Posted on: 03:03 PM IST May 23, 2011 IST
A classic story of how the ruling mafia (read government) creates propaganda tools in the form of media houses that run news papers and cable networks is unfolding in Bhopal these days. The idea behind creating such propaganda tools is to safeguard the interests of the secret society that oils the 'mafia machinery' with its unaccounted ill gotten wealth. Occasional corruption exposing stories that emanate from these newspapers and cable networks are aimed at enhancing their blackmail potential. Once the deal is done the stories vanish only to be replaced by fresh agendas that can further enhance the blackmail potential. There is no end to this cycle. Higher the blackmail potential, bigger the net worth.
Successive rulers in Madhya Pradesh have created several such blackmailers over the years. There are so many of them lurking around as conscience keepers giving moral science lessons everyday but there are some who have made it real big. The Dainik Bhaskar story is really enthralling but I have kept it for some other time. This piece is dedicated to the Raj Group that owns the Raj Express daily newspaper and for a long time ran the cable network alongside the Dainik Bhaskar group.
I came to Bhopal on my present assignment in August 2005 and around that time Raj Express was the happening media story Arun Sehlot, the owner of the group, an engineering graduate who started as a petty contractor could do no wrong. Over night he became a builder constructing huge townships All of a sudden his pockets became really deep and he arrived on to the media scene threatening to break the Dainik Bhaskar monopoly. Hoardings put up across the city claimed Raj Express was a close second to Bhaskar within the first year of its launch. The marketing mantra was to buy subscription. through gifts that were valued more than the subscription amount that the reader was made to shell out So even if some one did not want to read Raj Express, taking a six month or one year subscription was a good deal .The gift reimbursed the subscription amount on day one. The 'raddi' at the end of the month was the profit. No one questioned this economic model obviously money was being pumped from outside? The source was never questioned.
The Raj Express grew in power (read blackmail potential) The then Chief Minister of the state Babu Lal Gaur danced garba with Arun Sehlot and film stars that Sehlot brought from Mumbai. He diversified into making tiles. Got a government contract to build pavements in the city and multiplied his worth. Everything was going fine but than Sehlot grew too big for his shoes and his paper started barking at those who had helped him acquire the wealth. Even Anurag Jain the special secretary to the chief minister was not spared. Incidentally Anurag Jain was the collector of Bhopal when he had started acquiring the land on which he built his townships. Things turned to the worse earlier this month when the government, of which Anurag Jain is a very important part, realized that Sehlot had built most of his empire on government land.
Bulldodzers arrived at his newly constructed mall earlier this month. The government claimed he had encroached more than 140 acres of government land and built shopping complexes and residential colonies on it. The mall was pulled down with out much resistance. The demolition was targeted at Sehlot but it broke the back of over 100 shop keepers who had purchased property inside the mall. Sehlot claimed he had got the necessary clearances from all government agencies Even the banks financed the purchase of these properties. What a holy mess it finally became. The government not just did allow encroachment of its land but gave construction clearances and Sehlot made crores and reinvested some of this wealth in to his newspaper and no one dared to question him.
This economic model that thrived on looting public property and fleecing innocent people crashed along with the Mall that he had built after the government decided to show him the mirror and tell him he had been doing for the past so many years.
Now the municipal authorities have marked with red the houses that Sehlot built on encroached land. The people who bought these houses don't know what will be their fate. They have the registries in their name but fear their houses will be pulled down? Why else have they been marked red? What a tragic state of affairs it has come to that people who have invested their lives savings in houses are paying the price for the wrongdoings of the unholy builder bureaucrat-politician-media nexus.
What bothers the most is the fact that no one of any little consequence is coming forward to the rescue of these helpless people. Youngsters rose against the government's decision to change the name of Bhopal to Bhojpal. Nothing wrong with that but the city will protect its conscience, if support is galvanized for those whose earnings of life are being brought down to dust.