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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Jairam Ramesh: A Minister with a mind (and no one likes that!)

Mass media have a problem with public persona who have a mind of their own. Media refuses to accept or understand people whose behaviour cannot be predicted or influenced by the media. This UPA government has few such people, media didn't know (and despite Lilawati still doesn't know) how to interpret Rahul Gandhi's rural visits as he avoids the media, they didn't like Tharoor bypassing them to talk to citizens through his infamous Tweets...

...Jairam Ramesh has proved to be difficult to the media. He has not been predictable, he has said things that the media doesn't approve and he has said it at times when they were not looking at him for stories. They are also stuck with the problem of his allocated Ministry. If he was some inconsequential Minister of Panchayat Affairs or some such department, they could even concede that he is a thinking minister. He is with the Ministry that most Corportes would like to have in control, and media opinion is always controlled by corporates anyway. That he says things that cause Corporate heartburn also makes appreciating him difficult for media, and that is an understatement.

So mass media doesn't have any love for him. The unhidden glee in reporting his spats with cabinet colleagues gives their real feeling away. 

Saw just now a media report in which the Megsasay Award Winner Sandeep Pandey calls Jairam as doing to Environmental Ministry what Seshan did to Election Commission, telling comment. Particularly as one of his enterprising predecessors had converted this Ministry into an ATM, especially the environmental clearances that could be downloaded and photocopied and submitted with money for approvals we are told. To bring a functioning character of respectability any public institution must have transparency, public adherence to norms of engagement and very high quality of communication. If any of these are lacking, then the media and corporate can intrude the space for their own benefit.

Jairam Ramesh seems to take his job seriously and actually look at the Environmental clearences, he seems to care to actually look at the coastal zones or the permission for mining. Obviously the corporates don't like a man they cannot corrupt easily. They will keep trying and meanwhile also see if there is an easy way of either defaming him or ousting him. The media has already started to report that he may not get the Rajya Sabha seat from the state where he was nominated last time around

The decision to engage with civil society in an open and transparent manner with general public on an issue of dangerous consequence such as introduction of GMO was a true act of courage and sticking out for a Minister. Jairam Ramesh conducted these consultations with an admirable equanimity and his announcement of the decision was one of the most proactive moves by any Minister in recent history. It may take another 20 years for most to understand the significance of this move. To me it is one of the most high points of practising Democracy in India. As an Indian here is a Minister that I can be proud of. Some one who thinks with his own mind and is willing to act based on thought. Something that his own political party has left to the Courts to do in recent times glad to merely follow. The sad comment by a Supreme Court Judge couple of days ago that the Government ought not leave all controversial issues to be only sorted by the Court and take the burden off the Judiciary by taking some proactive steps is actually a statement on the lack of courage of the current government to stick its neck out on any issue at all. It is in this backdrop that Jairam (and I will say Sashi Tharoor) becomes contrastingly significant.

In a sense the Congress has always represented the aspirations of power hungry Indian, there you have the power hungry farmer Indian of the 60s (albeit commodity and futures trading, working with international markets and a multi-millionaire now), you have the power hungry traditional conventional business man for all times (a true stickler to norms and always with the power centre), the power hungry bureaucrat of the 70s (many are beyond their prime now), you have the power hungry entrepreneur of the 80s and the power hungry MNC manager of the 90s and the white collar criminals of the 2000s. Each of these stereotypes of a fair share of their representation in the Congress party (the problem with BJP is it doesn't have a equal proportion of all of these). 

The problem is when someone defies these rules and still makes it to their ranks. Jairam Ramesh (and a few others) probably stick out because of that. 

So, the media is not particularly favourable, there are enough money bags corporates who would be happy to see some friendly raja in his place and the political party itself has several players who have their daggers out  for him. And what is this man's problem? being a Minister with a mind?! 


Anonymous said...

Shashi Tharoor gone! One more to go... Go, Jairam go we don't need people who can think!!!

Anonymous said...

An example of how the media writes about ramesh -

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