“I’m definitely not retiring,” journalist Barkha Dutt said, with a laugh, during the Mumbai launch of her book, This Unquiet Land, on Thursday.
Dutt was referring to the fact that the memoir-like tone of the work has some people speculating that she might be hanging up her boots.
This Unquiet Land was launched as part of a Literature Live! event and featured Dutt in conversation with former finance minister P Chidambaram, writer Anil Dharker and actor Kangana Ranaut. They discussed, among other issues, reportage of the Kargil War and the 26/11 terror attacks, Naxalism, and the challenges facing broadcast journalism.
Chidambaram raised the issue of mob opinion via social media informing policy-making and turning everything from governance to legislation into needless controversy. Meanwhile, he said, “a coastal police station [in Mumbai] is merely a shack, state governments are ineffective and the citizens are not angry enough to see that some action is taken against the city’s susceptibility to terror”.
Dutt, in a rebuttal, pointed out the situation was much the same when Congress leader Prithviraj Chavan was the chief minister, before the BJP-led combine won the last state election.
“During the Zaveri Bazaar attacks, I remember going to interview him. He told me that he could not get through to his top police officer because the phones did not work and the wireless system did not work for the first 15 minutes,” Dutt said. “And the thousands of CCTV cameras that were meant to be procured in the aftermath of 26/11 were still not procured because no bureaucrat was willing to sign for them.”
Chidambaram conceded that while a concern like that “is valid, every decision of the government is questioned” which has led to an atmosphere where inaction is embraced in order to avoid any kind of censure.