Millennium Post

Truth, and a little something

Truth-seeking is tricky business. After 20 years at Dawn Herald, when Gururaj Kamath gets out one night to explore Kittur, a small town between Goa and Calicut, he discovers truth is not what gets printed in his newspaper. To Kamath’s amazement, the friendly, neighbourhood Gurkha nightwatchman tells him more about the goings-on in Kittur than his reporters ever did. To his horror, he realises he has filled newspaper pages these long years with half-truths and blatant lies masquerading as news reports.

The culprit of the infamous hit-and-run case he frontpaged was not the driver, as was reported, but the powerful Mr Engineer. He gets to know the Hindu-Muslim riots he had written on were instigated by an MP along with the mafia of the port. It was a real estate transaction masquerading as a religious riot. Losing sanity, Kamath buys a child’s square blackboard and a chalk and scribbles:
The Truth Alone Shall Prevail. A Nocturnal Newspaper. Sole correspondent, editor, advertiser, and subscriber;
Gururaj Manjeshwar Kamath, Esq. Below this, he writes out truth that will never be published. Night after night, after putting his edition to bed.

Unlike Kamath, the deputy executive editor from Arvind Adiga’s Between the Assassinations, when we started out this time last year, we had a little more than a child’s blackboard to put out the truth as we saw it. Millennium Post was conceived as a 16-page, all-colour national daily from Delhi that would deal with no half-truths. Our editor-in-chief Durbar Ganguly had a simple line for us: Small can be powerful too. We may not have the muscle and the money to compete with the top-dog dailies in circulation and reach, he said, but we could do our bit to bring out an intelligent, smartly-produced, non-biased broadsheet that would have only one interest group to cater  to – the readers.

As an idea this was as appealing as it gets. But to get the paper out seemed like mission impossible. There were too few of us in the newsroom and too many questions about us outside. Is there space for a new newspaper in Delhi’s overcrowded media market? How long can a newspaper that is not backed by any powerful industrial house survive? Which political formation is backing us and why? We answered back by putting our heads and hearts together and putting out a newspaper we believed in. No PR plugs dressed up as stories, no sucking up to corporates or political formations, we tried to do things the old-fashioned way: objective reporting, crisp storytelling.

In the days ahead Millennium Post did stories that were picked up immediately by channels and other papers, and some that no one dared to touch with that proverbial barge pole or whatever. After more than a month-long investigation, Millennium Post established that poor quality of food was being supplied in the schools run by the municipal corporations. We painstakingly observed mid-day meal distributions in some of the schools and cited reports from monitoring institutes in Delhi. The details of the test reports of mid-day meal samples provided by Directorate of Education, Delhi government and the three Delhi Municipal Corporations that we published revealed the sorry state of a project which had envisioned providing at least one balanced diet to poor students studying in primary and upper primary government schools. Read the reports here:

Our reports rocked the Delhi Assembly as BJP leader Harshvardhan took up the issue of substandard food being served under the mid-day meal scheme in primary and upper primary schools. He demanded that the government looks into the matter and takes action immediately. ‘It’s a cruel joke on the health of over 1.5 lakh students studying in Delhi government schools. The officers are taking the issue very casually. I request you to direct the government to not take it casually and conduct an inquiry in the scam,’ Harshvardhan said in the Assembly referring to our news reports. ‘The newspaper has alleged an over Rs 220 crore scam in the mid-day meal scheme which needs to be investigated,’ he said. He raised the matter under rule 280 of the Delhi Assembly in which matters of special attention are brought to the notice of the government.

Soon after, we reported that even after being indicted by the Comptroller and Auditor General for showing undue favour to the tune of nearlyRs 16,000 crore to Anil Ambani’s Reliance Power Limited for the Sasan ultra mega power project in Madhya Pradesh, the UPA government is going ahead to extend this patronage. Read it here

Was Congress MP Naveen Jindal digging for gold? We reported how the Rajasthan High Court has taken note of what is alleged to be a multi-billion crore rupee scam involving companies associated with Jindal. The court had issued notices on a PIL asking the Jindal Group and the Rajasthan government why it should not stop mining activity in the Bhilwara area of the state and order a CBI inquiry into the matter. The court also asked why it should not cancel mining lease given to the companies of Jindal group and order a global bidding for allocation of leasing rights. The PIL filed by a group of advocates had claimed mining rights were given to ‘excavate iron ore’ to private companies in a ‘hush-hush manner’ which could have caused a loss of Rs 3,40,000 crore to the exchequer as the area is believed to be pregnant with gold and silver and not just iron ore. Read it here:

These stories were not picked by mainstream dailies or debated by fire-breathing TV anchors. We knew why and carried on. It was not as if we had no compulsions whatsoever. We are a new product and advertising revenues keep us going. But we chose to stick our neck out for what we believed should be put out in the public domain, for public interest. And just like that, a year passed by!

On truth, American feminist Gloria Steinem has an interesting line: ‘The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.’ To her, we say: The truth must have pissed off the bad ‘uns, but we, here, have been set free to carry on.

The author is executive editor at Millennium Post
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