My India trip was a little more than 3 weeks, yet in such a short span, I witnessed the new-found power of the Indian media in almost as many sting operations.
First, there was [[http://aajtak.com|Aaj Tak]] with [[http://www.cobrapost.com/documents/one.htm|Operation Duryodhan]] in collaboration with Cobrapost, which showed 11 MPs taking money for **doing their job** (raising questions in the parliament). Then, there was [[http://starnews.indya.com|Star News]] with [[http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=60199|Operation Chakravyuh]], capturing 6 MPs taking bribes in the MPLADs scheme on camera. Apart from these two, there are several other small operations and event coverages which are not as high profile, yet still significant (the MCD debacle in Delhi, the Operation Majnu by Meerut Police etc)
While these exposes ruffled the political parties in the short term, in the long term probably a majority of these corrupt MPs will get away. However, such operations have several stronger, positive long term impacts. Firstly, they explicize what is common knowledge. By putting the picture in front of everyone to see, they give the common man more power, more confidence to stand up to corruption. Secondly, they sow the seeds of fear in corrupt ministers. Next time I run into a public servant taking money to do his job, I’m doing to have some fun with him by announcing that I’m recording everything on my cell phone and transmitting it live to the news channels.
It gives me a good feeling so see the Indian news channels pursuing news so aggressively. Perhaps eventually the news channels themselves will bend over under political pressure (as has been so often seen in the United States), but atleast right now, it seems that news channels are having the crooks run for their money. No matter how small the matter is, in the remotest corner of the country, someone is covering it. And once the ball gets rolling, everyone jumps on board with lightning speed. Be it the shocking rape case on the Pushpak express, or the firings in IISc, the news channels were on top of the news within a matter of minutes.
Such sting operations are not new. Perhaps the first really popular one in recent times was the [[http://www.rediff.com/news/defscan.htm|Great Indian Defense Scandal]] exposed by Tehelka. There might have been others earlier, I’m not sure. However, such covert operations are becoming easier and more popular today because of the reach of the Indian media, the large number of young, energetic reporters willing to take such risks, the shrinking size of hidden cameras and the public interest in such issues.
So next time you find yourself giving a bribe, stop for a moment and think if you can avoid it. Put up a fight, make a scene, give a call to Star News or Aaj Tak, and carry your camera cell phone with you!