By Josy Joseph
Posted on: 27 August 2016
With this book, I wanted to interpret and report modern India that all of us experience. I wanted the reader to share my angst. I also wrote this book for an outsider to India, who is clueless. I wanted the book to give them as much access deep into the system in the simplest way but without compromising on the facts and complexities. Third, I wanted to address the youth because we are one of the youngest countries in the world.
With all these in my mind I created a certain structure and I got on to working on the book. When I began writing the book in 2007, I zoomed in on aviation sector in 1990s when it was liberalized, and ruthless men with shady connections came up, invested themselves and started some of the biggest aviation companies. It took me 8-9 years to complete the book. I hope I am at least half successful in interpreting modern India. I am very used to being legally threatened and I have a collection of a large number of defamation notices that I receive.
Last year Anil Ambani Group threatened to take me to court for defamation fee of 5,000 crores, but they never went to the court. I keep saying this, they should go to court because I love my documents. My book is backed by 8000-10000 pages of documents, and I believe we have very strong independent judiciary. What we do not have is continuity in governance. Somebody’s crime 10 years ago can be white washed by the time next government comes in and he gets a clean chit, and that is what’s happening.
I have also been threatened by parliamentary breach of privilege by parliamentary members. Every time I get a notice I get emboldened. I haven’t spared anyone because of the legal notices from the past and nor have I been soft fearing legal implications. Every time you bring out a big story that’s well documented, you end up saving a huge amount of money for the public and the government. For example, about a year and a half ago, I got a series of stories about the LTC (Leave Travel Concession) scam that resulted in CBI investigations, and so many government officials being charged.
In the last two years, there haven’t been any fake LTC claims by any government employee. So cumulatively the government and in return the public has saved a few hundred crore rupees. In 2009, I did the Adarsh scam. The immediate effect may have been Maharashtra CM resigning, but in the long term, the defense immediately got down to auditing it’s land, and army, navy, air force they are together able to recoup and recover thousands of acres of land that they own, which were illegally occupied by various people across India. Look at the amount of money we saved. As an investigative journalist, ultimately you are not only saving a lot of public-government money for a rich government, but also a lot of money for the poor Indians.
My advice for the younger journalists is that they think morality and excellence are two qualities that are very lonely pursuits. It is very important to believe that you are so special, that you are not on sale in this market, you can’t be bought for any amount of money. Go out and do your job with dignity.
In the last few years, we haven’t seen any great investigative journalist coming out of the younger lot. One of the blames lie in the doorsteps of the hidden camera business. The art of cultivating sources, collecting documents, ability to do data mining and reading papers, spending hours and days just looking at documents; that art has taken a back seat. But fortunately this is changing.
This book is dedicated to my 13 year old daughter, and her generation which I hope, will inherit a better India. Every time you have a new leader, a new status quo comes into being, and that new status quo lets more black money to flourish and political parties to exist in the black market of Indian economy. The status quo needs to change and that change has to come from the youngsters; and if you are a journalist challenging the status quo is to do good stories, but not all your stories would see the light of the day.
Josy Joseph is an award-winning investigative journalist based in New Delhi. He is currently National Security Editor at The Hindu. This article is based on an interview by Chandni Ahuja.
Collection of watchdog reporting from India