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HindustanTimes Thu,02 Oct 2014

Indrajit Hazra

Buggers in the news
Indrajit Hazra, Hindustan Times
June 25, 2011
First Published: 23:14 IST(25/6/2011)
Last Updated: 23:18 IST(25/6/2011)

The wish to be taken seriously has reached silly proportions. The amount of humbug that followed the media coverage of Amitabh Bachchan's declaration on Twitter that he was going to have a baby - dramatic pause - in the household, made me wonder why everybody's not a Hindu reader.

Sure, tweets from filmstars usually make it only to the front pages of entertainment supplements in newspapers and capsules on television. But if someone like Bachchan does air his joy about being a grandfather on a micro-blogging site - surely a modern gesture akin to distributing sweets - it is as much news as, say, Rahul Gandhi turning 41 or Sushma Swaraj calling the mystery of the chewing gum found in Pranab Mukherjee's office "India's Watergate".

The desire to despise frivolous news - and be seen despising it - is as old as when newspapers would carry only advertisements on their front page. Which doesn't mean that I'd like only silly stories that make excitable readers excited and readers sloshing about with gravitas fuming.

News is about whatever happens around. Interests may vary from one place to another - the run-up to the Tunisian elections in October may not have the same interest level here as it has in Tunisia or among Guardian readers - but the fact that we don't only want to know serious things is a fact.

Case in point, the curious chewed piece of gob concerning the possible bugging of the finance minister's office. First, we who read The Indian Express (may the number of our tribe prosper), were told that Pranab Mukherjee had written to the prime minister last year that his North Block office may be bugged. Mukherjee requested Manmohan Singh to set up a "secret inquiry" into the possible "serious breach of security" after "planted adhesives" were found in 16 key locations in his and his secretary's office room and two conference rooms used by him. The Intelligence Bureau told the reporter that after testing the "planted adhesives" they found them to be a "sort of chewing gum".

Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) officials, however, maintained that the detective agency they hired to look into the matter thought that the "adhesives" had "grooves" suggesting tiny devices that could have been later pulled out.

If things rested here, I would have said that this is extremely serious news. Apart from the excitement of espionage, there is the brow-furrowing gravitas of a breach of national security. Think corporate baddies, think Niira Radia protégés, think (and this is an old chestnut) American lobbyists.

Instead of all that, we had Mukherjee tell us the next day that after the PMO called up IB director Rajiv Mathur directly to crack the mystery of the groovy gum, the investigation "found nothing". So between September 2010 when Mukherjee had written to the PM and last week when Mukherjee said that there was nothing in the matter, what the hell happened?

Did Mukherjee catch up with his eavesdroppers and tell them, "Boss, I'll go to the PM if you don't stop this," only to find out that it was the PM who was behind the tapping? Or did he really not find any gum but just wanted some speculative story to be pursued by the frisbee-chasing media just to irk his buddy in the home ministry? Or, even more Page 3-worthy a possibility, did the PM0 leak the letter to undermine the finance minister at the behest of Sonia Gandhi as an act of loyalty - like they had in Batman Begins where Bruce Wayne is demanded to execute a crooked Chinese farmer to show his loyalty to Ra's al Ghul, the leader of the League of Shadows.

See what I mean? With no chance of us getting to know who the buggers were, the story is as good as the one speculating whether Siddharth Mallya really has intimate relations with Deepika Padukone. At least, we can be sure about the veracity of "News news news!! I am going to become a grandfather.. Aishwarya expecting.. So happy and thrilled!!!"


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