Thursday, April 06, 2006

 

PRAKASH KARDALEY

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

 

Prakash Kardaley - Chronology

In his own words:
I was born in Nagpur and my father Shri Murlidhar Kardaley was a lawyer by profession and as every father dreams of his son stepping into his shoes, my father did the same. But I was meant to do different things in life. I finished my schooling from one of the best schools in the town. Patwardhan School was a government school but unlike today it was simply the best. Then I joined Institute of Science for graduation but was not interested in the field so I left my mathematics paper blank. Yes, I was a dropout.

My father was very furious about my decision and questioned me about my life. Then I decided to be a journalist but my father was worried because it was a secured job but not well paid. That time perception about journalist was that they are very idealistic and do it for pleasure. So he decided to send me to Mumbai because metro cities are always full of opportunities especially for a different field.


Then I went to Mumbai and completed my diploma in Journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, which was an autonomous institute there. It was a two-year course and during my internship period (1966) I worked with the Indian Express. I was the earliest of so called trained journalists. Indian Express liked my work and recruited me after I passed out in 1967. I was working in Mumbai, when in 1972 I got the opportunity to come to Pune. I liked the city so much that I made it my home.


I was very close to Arun Shourie, so he took me to Delhi in 1981 where I joined the bureau and worked with H.K.Dua. That time the bureau was very high profiled and it was full of meeting babus and netas. So it was all about building good relationships and contacts. But I was feeling very suffocated there, I didn’t like Delhi nor such high profile meetings, so within six weeks I came back to Pune where I was already working as special correspondent.


I always liked to highlight the grassroot problems and more fieldwork. My aim was to know more about knowing grievances faced by people not just writing about those netas. I never had the fascination for the big names, I was happier to serve the people of the region. To me there is no difference between reporting the proceedings of the Parliament and a Municipal Corporation.
In 1984, I was again taken to Mumbai and appointed as Chief reporter cum Bureau chief, but I stayed there only for a year and came back here. Again in mid 1985 I was hauled up to Mumbai to build up reporting section. I enjoyed my work there training the budding reporters most of them were girls. It was good to see them working hard.


I was happy with my work but I was missing Pune. In 1986 I decided to quit Indian Express and join another paper based in Pune. As I was juggling with this thought, Arun Shourie intervened to convince me to stick to Express as they were planning to take out the Pune edition very soon. After serving as the Deputy Resident Editor in 1988, I became the Resident Editor in 1989 of the Indian Express Pune edition. I really can’t count the number of years of my association with this paper. It is 38 years, I guess the longest ever for any person.


It was during my tenure in the 90s that I founded the Express Citizen Forum (ECF), a joint initiative with activist - citizens, which worked on civic activism in Pune. It became a phenomenon. It was an alliance of activists plus citizens where citizens took up issues and the columns in the paper reflected the public opinion. This was the best phase of my life and this became the strength of my paper also.


I retired in 2000 and since then I have been working as Senior Editor for the Indian Express Initiative and this is the time when Right to Information caught my fancy. Now I am actively involved in this work and can talk in length about this and my work in the later chapters.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

 

Prakash Kardaley - The Activist

Prakash Murlidhar Kardaley is a journalist to the core. Using his impeccable news sense, he looks at everything analytically. Over the years he made invaluable contribution to the field in his capacity as the founder of the Pune edition of The Indian Express and its Resident Editor from 1989 to 2000.


But his story begins much earlier when he joined the newspaper in 1967 after internship at Mumbai. A science student from Nagpur, Kardaley chose to become a journalist out of his commitment to highlight the cause of the commoners. The commitment grew stronger and stronger and directed him towards public - interest activism.


On ECF:
But Kardaley has been cautious to draw the fine line between his profession and passion. “I am a journalist first,” he says. He believes the citizens should be activists. As a journalist, “I would provide them the platform. I would be the facilitator,” he says. It was out this urge to groom the citizen – activist, Kardaley founded the Express Citizens’ Forum (ECF), which initiated the civic activism in Pune during 1990s. However, Kardaley humbly refuses to claim any credit for ECF. He says, “It was the idea of Vivek Goenka, who had taken charge of the Express group, to synthesize columns with public causes. I was privileged to be part of it.”

Ever since he moved to Pune in 1972, Kardaley is a man in love with the city. As the coordinator of the ECF, Kardaley led the citizens’ initiatives in tackling the civic problems of Pune. He distinctly remembers a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) about limiting the size of Ganesh festival pandals on the streets. “It was 1995 and I was given police protection,” he says. However the leaders of the festival realized the logic behind the PIL and things are much better now.
Referring to the initiatives of ECF Kardaley says, the Forum became a force to reckon. However, he gives the credit to the readers who joined hands with ECF. “They were all knowledgeable people who held senior positions or were dedicated activists. They not only took up issues but also found solutions to the problems, sold it to the administration or forced them to swallow it by means of PILs.”


Following the Kargil conflict, The Indian Express urged its readers to “pour out their heart to the cause of the disabled soldiers.” As the Senior Editor of the ECF, Kardaley looked after the matter. He recalls, a committee comprising high profile defence personnel and civilians was formed to help him. The response was once again overwhelming. The committee decided “not to confine the reciprocation only to the Kargil Operation but also extend a helping hand, funds permitting, to all disabled soldiers, sailors and airmen, including veterans of previous operations.” Kardaley was indeed happy to be part of the move, which endeavoured to “improve the quality of life of the courageous men who had lost vital parts of their body” while guarding our borders and integrity.


Citizen’s War Memorial:
The veteran Editor was also the coordinator of the Express Citizens’ War Memorial Committee, which erected a War Memorial at Pune Cantonment in 1999. It is a tribute to all the soldiers from Maharashtra, who laid down their lives in action since independence. It is the “first citizen – initiated war memorial in this part of the world,” informs Kardaley. The initiative has its origin in the celebrations in December 1996 of the silver jubilee of India's decisive victory over Pakistan in 1971 leading to the birth of a new nation Bangladesh. It was then that the need to have a post-independence war memorial was acutely felt.


A committee of citizens, formed by the Express, resolved in January 1997 that during the golden jubilee year of independence the citizens would begin erecting the memorial in Pune. “We did not wait for the government,” Kardaley informs.


The committee under the chairmanship of Brigadier N B Grant (retired) approached the Southern Command of the Army for suitable land. The Pune Cantonment Board “promptly earmarked the land.” by the Pune Cantonment Board. The citizens' committee functioned as a catalyst for fund raising. A reputed contractor began construction on August 15, 1997 and exactly one year later the then Governor of Maharashtra, Dr P C Alexander dedicated the Memorial to the nation.


“The memorial has a 18 metre high tower dressed in cherry brown granite with marble panels carrying names of the martyrs on three sides. Over 1,100 names of officers and men hailing from Maharashtra who laid down their lives in action since August 15, 1947 till date - including Kargil and post-Kargil casualties - have been inscribed on marble. The names have been listed year-wise and alphabetically. A volume comprising names of all martyrs from the three services from all over the country is kept for inspection at the memorial site,” Kardaley describes the memorial in detail.


Wadgaon War Memorial:
History takes Kardaley to Wadgaon Maval. It was there on January 14, 1779, the forces of Maratha Confederacy, led by General Mahadji Shinde, imposed a crushing defeat on the invading forces of the East India Company. But the vistory was deliberately kept hidden from pages of history. “Two and a quarter century later, The Express Nagarik Wadgaon Vijaystambh Pratisthan, pioneered by The Indian Express, proudly commemorated the spirit of this Indian triumph, with a victory pillar and the statue of the great Maratha general, Mahadji,” Kardaley informs. Wadgaon Maval Group Gram Panchayat adopted the memorial on behalf of the people of Wadgaon, with the support of Maval Taluka Prathamik Shikshak Sahakari Griharachana Sanstha and Shrimant Mahadji Shinde Pratisthan, who made the land available. The victory pillar was styled after the `Deep-Maal' erected by Mahadji's father Ranoji Shinde at the famous shrine of Jyotiba near Kolhapur in 1730.


Kardaley informs, several people and institutions contributed to the fund created for erecting the memorial. Prominent among them were Arun Firodia, Dr K H Sancheti, and Gopinath Munde. The state government also contributed Rupees 50,000.
While working with the ECF, Kardaley often faced the question whether he was an activist or a journalist. He never had the doubt. Kardaley ensured to remain in the background and never allowed any publicity of his involvement with the initiatives ECF made. “The Indian Express had specific instruction for not mentioning my name or taking my photograph,” Kardaley recalls. In print he was always mentioned as the ‘Coordinator of ECF.’ An amused Kardaley shares the joke of being dubbed as “the phantom coordinator of ECF.” Days with the ECF have been “the best part of my life,” Kardaley adds.


On Right to Information:
Kardaley always believed in “empowerment of the people.” But for that citizens needed to be properly informed about the state of affairs. Unfortunately the situation in this country was not conducive for the citizens to seek any information from officials and there was no transparency in the functioning of various governmental departments. Indians, unlike citizens of United States of America or Canada had no right to information. However, many Indians like Kardaley felt the need for such a ‘right.’


After retiring from the Indian Express, Kardaley became the Senior Editor of ‘Express Initiatives.’ A technically savvy Kardaley was part of several internet – based discussion networks. It was through such a network, he got in touch with Arvind Kejriwal, who informed Kardaley about the ‘Maharashtra Right to Information Act’ (MRTI). Kardaley got interested.
Around this time (2001) activist Anna Hazare was launching a movement seeking better right to information. Kardaley knew Hazare for a long time. In no time he joined Hazare’s movement. The state government was forced to draft a new legislation. With other activists (like late Satyaranjan Sathe), Kardaley looked into the draft and made certain suggestions on it to Hazare. “Anna got those suggestion being incorporated in the final Act,” Kardaley recalls with satisfaction. Since then he has been fighting for people’s right to information. “It’s an ongoing fight,” he asserts. “I have become Anna’s associate now in this matter,” he adds.


Kardaley formed a network of activists for educating people about their rights under the MRTI. Gradually the “loose network” became a “formidable force regarding the Act.” Under the guidance of Kardaley the network organized workshops all across the state. People were encouraged to use the state law. “More than 30,000 applications were filed under the MRTI and of them one – third were satisfactorily dealt with,” he informs. It was indeed an achievement on part of the citizens to compel the authorities to act. Kardaley asserts,” Compared to United States and Canada the usage was encouraging, considering the infant stage of the law here.”


He also got in touch with Aruna Roy, who resigned from the administrative service and became an activist. The contact led Kardaley to join the ‘National Campaign for People’s Right to Information’ (NCPRI). He is currently a member of the NCPRI Working Committee. He has been moderating an e-group ‘Hum Janenge’ for last three years to enable people interested to know about the Act and exchange experiences. He has been associated with Maharashtra’s ‘Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration’ as a guest faculty on the RTI Act, training officers about their role in making the law effective.


He feels the Non - government organizations should have a confrontationist attitude. Referring to the current ‘National Right to Information Act’ (NRTI) he recalls the NCPRI’s relentless efforts behind the NRTI right from the conceptual stage. Besides organizing nationwide campaign, it was NCPRI, which formulated the initial draft of the law. “The Government had to introduce the Bill in Parliament in 2002,” Kardaley says. As a veteran activist he feels RTI Acts can be implemented quickly and easily than other public interest laws. With the officers opening up and extending support to the citizens, he thinks the future of the NRTI is bright.


Kardaley sees himself as “an expert of RTI” and “not an user.” With his characteristic determination to shun the spotlight, Kardaley prefers to guide people who file applications under the RTI Act rather than use the law himself. He says, “I have not filed a single application under the Acts so far. As a professional journalist I must safeguard the position of my organization.”
When asked about his opinion on other ‘public interest’ issues, Kardaley’s response is short. “I am now interested in ‘Right to Information’ only. I feel strongly about it and devote most of my time campaigning,” he says. However, he attends meetings on civic issues though his participation is “low key.”

Thursday, March 23, 2006

 

Prakash Kardaley - The Journalist

Prakash Murlidhar Kardaley began his career with The Gomantak in Goa. After a brief stint there he joined The Indian Express as a reporter in 1967. For 38 years he stayed with the organization and in Pune Kardaley became synonymous with the Express. All the while he remained true to the spirit of the profession by being accurate. His news stories were never without authenticity.


Kardaley specialized in investigative journalism. His excellence became evident through his series of well-researched reports from 1977 onward. As a Chief of News Bureau in Pune, Chief Reporter in Mumbai, Special Correspondent in New Delhi, or as the Resident Editor in Pune, he made splendid contributions to The Indian Express and the profession of journalism.


In 1978 he became the Special Correspondent for the Express. The change in position led to enriching experiences. “It was not a routine job of reporting. A Special correspondent has to concentrate more on special stories,” he says. When asked about his approach to the work he asserts, “ If you are communicating with the people, you must give issues which are close to their heart. To know it you have to vibe with them. You too belong to people and haven’t dropped from heaven. To be with them and understand them you should have sensitivity and objectivity. People have this impression that a journalist should know all the politicians and bureaucrats. But I can proudly say I also knew common man and his issues.” Kardaley therefore refused to “survive solely on the briefings” given by the officials and leaders. “I chose different field. I am never comfortable with the babus and the netas. I am not hostile to them but never rubbed shoulders.”


As a journalist Kardaley preferred to get the first hand information from the people and give it to his readers. “My primary responsibility is towards my the readers. They come before the society,” Kardaley is candid about his preference. He was aware that he was catering to middle - class urban readers and took up issues as much as it concerned them. Thus while dealing with rural issues he “wrote about economics of farming rather than elaborately describing the farming techniques.”


But Kardaley is quick to point out that he was never an urban – biased man. He highlighted the plight of rural citizens explicitly. Kardaley recalls how in summer of 2004 he was aghast to find that no one was writing about the drought – hit rural Maharashtra. The situation was grave. Crops had failed. Rains have been abysmally below normal, not merely during the monsoons 2003, but in most cases, for three successive monsoons. Wells were drying up fast. “The government water tanks would go to the village and pour down 5000 litres of water into 80 –feet deep wells. Ladies and children would scramble to collect the muddy water. Vinita (Deshmukh) told me how children in two villages fell down in those deep wells while trying to get some clean water. Two women in their mid twenties had fallen into the well and were crippled for life time. So I drove out of Pune and 40 kilometres from the city limit it was a different world. It was appalling,” Kardaley says. The government officials in Mumbai were unpardonably casual about the entire thing. He recalls, “I asked them why they don’t supply water directly from the tank but they gave an excuse of a circular banning such distribution since it results in quarrels and stampede.” He found “no logic in pouring water in deep wells instead of setting up storage tanks in the village which could be easily accessible.”


Kardaley took up the issue and wrote about it in Express Initiatives page. He says, “What stuck me was the condition of women who are always a soft target and face gender bias. A village woman is the first one get up early morning, she has to cook food before daybreak, look after children and after toiling for whole day she has to go and fetch water. It is a daily affair; you will never see a man fetching water.” He urged the urban society to “lend a helping hand to their rural sisters in their hour of crisis.” The people were shocked. They were not aware of such miserable living conditions of their fellow citizens in nearby villages. One of them Sanjay Deshpande, an engineer and son in law of builder D S Kulkarni, offered to build ‘Ferrocrete’ water storage tanks in 10 such affected villages. “I was very impressed,” says Kardaley.
Soon appeals for funds were made and citizens came forward in large numbers. Kardaley distinctly recalls a young Information technology professional gave away his whole month’s salary to help the drought stricken villagers. Kardaley says it was one of many instances when spirited younger people impressed him with their eagerness to work for the lesser privileged. “I have lot of faith in the young generation,” Kardaley adds.


A journalist is a “contemporary historian.” Kardaley explains, “When Mahatma Gandhi was leading the ‘Dandi march’ in 1930, a foreign correspondent who was reporting the event, felt that the courage of Indians to face the brute British force was historic and he reported ‘India has become free.’ But many a times the journalist doesn’t even understand that he is witnessing an event or a personality who will go down in history.” Over the years Kardaley had his share of witnessing such history. “In 1985 I watched a rally of farmers’ leader Sharad Joshi at Rahuri in Ahmadnagar district of Maharashtra. About 200,000 farmers had gathered there to listen to him. Suddenly the skies opened up. Some people got up to leave. But Sharad Joshi said ‘All of us here are farmers and we live with nature. Please be seated.’ And everybody stayed back. I realized that I was witnessing history. I couldn’t resist from getting out of the canopy meant for the journalists, to join the farmers and get drenched,” Kardaley goes down the memory lane. In the same breath he mentions about the ‘Osho Commune’ and its founder Osho (Rajnish). Once his friend Kirti (a sportsperson) informed Kardaley that Osho would appear before the devotees on Gurupurnima day. “I took my son along with me so that he may watch an historic figure,” Kardaley says as he explains his proximity with the commune “despite their drawbacks.”


The man who is passionate about right to information is himself a storehouse of information. An avid traveller, Kardaley has given umpteen numbers of scoops from different places. In the process he has transformed into a newsmaker from news gatherer. No wonder then eminent members of the fraternity refer back to him to seek information, guidance and encouragement.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

 

Kardaley on current media trends

Kardaley believes each form of media has its own strength. “No media deliberately acts against another media,” he says. With the advent of 24 hours television news channels, the competition has become intense. Kardaley however makes a clear distinction between television news and the newspaper. “On TV you see the same jokers again and again delivering the same news,” Kardaley is candid. “Whereas in newspaper there is some freshness in every issue,” he adds. However, he warns that the media in general is loosing its focus.


“Flippancy is creeping in the newspapers as a result of market oriented policies,” Kardaley cautions. So what should be the ideal content for a newspaper? Kardaley says, “A newspaper is not a gazette or a political mouthpiece. You can’t stuff it with irrelevant issues. You should know who you are communicating with.”


When asked about competition among the journalists Kardaley accepts that journalists have to compete with each other for surviving in the market. “But I have always found the competition to be healthy,” he asserts.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

 

Kardaley on Journalism as a discipline

In his own words:
People keep on asking me whether I see any major difference in the study of journalism then and now? Well frankly speaking I haven’t seen the course content of any of present journalism schools but I think that it will be more or less same as the formal education in journalism studies is modelled in USA and we follow the same pattern. But certainly there is emergence of electronic media and these institutes are concentrating on it too.


I was the earliest of so called trained journalists. What I mean by this is that I don’t believe that to be a good journalist you need not to be trained or have some kind of training. But I don’t brush aside possessing a degree completely because formal education does help in forming good foundation. What I mean to say is that education is essential but not a prerequisite.


What is most important that a person should have nose for news. If you write well and think that you can be a journalist. Forget it then!!! There are some qualities that you must possess as a journalist. First thing is to spot the news then process it and finally present it to your readers. So all this requires skill, professionalism and discipline of mind. One should have sensitivity and objectivity. So the three steps of input, process and presentation create major difference between a storyteller and a journalist.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

 

Prakash Kardaley - Personal Life

Journalists are believed to lead glamorous life. One cannot deny this idea with so many celebrity journalists around. What about Kardaley? “I have a run of the mill lifestyle,” Kardaley says. “Being a Maharashtrian,” he is satisfied with whatever he has. “My needs are limited,” Kardaley sounds content with his frugal lifestyle.

Kardaley looks amiable though he admits he has been “a hard task master” as the Editor of the Indian Express. But when he is out of the garb of the Editor, Kardaley is indeed a caring man for his family members including son Amol. “He is currently in Australia,” Kardaley informs emphasizing how easy it has become to go abroad nowadays.

Primarily a private man, Kardaley has been choosy about his friends. “I have limited friends circle and do not socialize much. I don’t enjoy it,” he admits. Friends in Kardaley’s life keep changing according to his shifting interests. He explains, “Most of my friends now are associated with the RTI movement since I am also part of it.” However, there is handful of lucky people whom he counts as his close friends. “But they are less than 10,” he adds.


When asked about his pastime, Kardaley takes no time in giving full marks to beer. “I enjoy beer in the company of my friends. That’s my greatest pastime,” he says. But a traditional Maharashtrian, Kardaley prefers his drink at cosy, decent places rather than at his home.


Relationship with others in the professio
“My relationship with the contemporaries has been minimal. As I have been a private person, socializing with colleagues wasn’t much of a priority,” Kardaley admits. But his positions as the journalist and an activist kept him in close contact with media persons. “It was mostly professional,” he says.

Beyond the known identity:
His profession allowed him to travel a lot particularly in the 1970s. “Now I keep going to Mahabaleshwar. I may go there anytime I feel like and even halt for a night. I like that place even though it is expensive,” Kardaley specifies.
But wherever he may go his heart remains at Pune. Comparing Pune with Mumbai, Kardaley rues,” Mumbai is hell. Till 1970s the city was disciplined. But now that Western culture is gone.”
Internet has become an important part of Kardaley’s life. “After retirement I have become an Internet addict. I will be not surprised if Internet becomes a threat to television,’ Kardaley places his faith in the new media vouched by his activism through Internet.

Finally:
How is then Prakash Murlidhar Kardaley? “I may seem to be a dry person but I am not,” he says. Indeed an activist who is a veteran journalist cannot be “dry.” But no matter whatever he does, he remains a methodical an analytical. Kardaley will never judge anything or anyone without being armed with accurate facts. Thus he would refuse to comment on why the Communists have been able to run successive governments in West Bengal, “without studying the facts.” Thus he remains a journalist to the end.


Still, as he delves into the realistic world of fact and facts, Kardaley doesn’t mind humming the “excellent” tune of Kajrare.

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