‘Public memory’s short. Media memory’s shorter’

The dirty old man of Indian journalism, Khushwant Singh, has a good question in his latest column in the Hindustan Times. Where, he asks, is yesterday’s news? In other words, whatever happens to the stories that the media pursues like a pack of hounds for a while, and then—suddenly, mysteriously, inexplicably, uniformally—falls silent?

“There are some things about our judiciary and the media that continue to baffle us. For some days our papers and TV channels are full of news of proceedings in law courts; then suddenly they disappear and we are left guessing about their outcome.

“Stories break out but seldom come to a conclusion. Some have even stuck to my mind.

“Years ago, the house of Pandit Sukh Ram, Minister of the Central Cabinet, was raided by the police and crores of unaccounted cash was recovered. Both he and his lady friend were accused of accepting bribes. Sukh Ram is still active in Himachal Pradesh politics. But does anyone know whether he or his lady friend were ever acquitted or convicted? What happened to the money that was recovered?

“Then there was case of Ravi Inder Singh Sidhu, who as Chairman of the Punjab Public Service Commission, selected hundreds of officers in return for cash. Crores worth of currency notes were recovered from his house. He spent some years in jail before he was let out on bail. What happened to the cases piled against him? Where does he hide his face now?

“The case against ex-Chief of Naval Staff-turned businessman Admiral Suresh Nanda’s grandson, Sanjeev Nanda, for running over and killing six men sleeping on the footpath received extensive publicity for a few days and then mysteriously went into oblivion.

“The more notorious is the case against former Foreign Minister Natwar Singh, his son Jagat and his buddy Sehgal. They were involved in the Oil-for-Food scam worth thousands of crores. Associated with their name was the colourful Mathrani appointed as an ambassador by Natwar. This ambassador was reported in some journal to be a patron of prostitutes and took a couple of his lady friends with him when representing his credentials. Where does Mathrani hang out?

“We know more about Natwar. He tried to sow seeds of discord between the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi. When that failed, he rubbished both of them; he swore loyalty to the Congress party one day, and was seen with the Samajwadi’s the next day. As representative of the Congress he proposed the name of the man opposing the nominee of the Congress Party for the President of the Republic. How does anyone deal with a character like him? What happens to all the tainted cash seized by the police? By now it must run into thousands of crores. Is it accounted for as revenue from corrupt practices?

“We would like to know, but there is no one to tell us about them.”

Read the full column: With malice towards all