Swatantra Bharat was started in 1947, on the day India got independence, and was christened likewise to signify its birth. With a claimed readership of 8 lakh, the newspaper is published simultaneously from Delhi, Lucknow and Kanpur, with special editions for Allahabad, Faizabad, Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Shahjahanpur and a dak edition for the city of Kanpur and adjoining areas such as Bundelkhand and Madhya Pradesh. Given its reach, the vernacular definitely dominates the news business in this large part of Hindi heartleand. Although the newspaper on its web site claims to provide reliable and balanced news coverage, it is indeed an irony that our investigation shows the newspaper is far from a provider of reliable news. As our foregoing interview with Sanjay Singh Srivastav, its Lucknow Business Head and Editor, reveals, what concerns the top management of the newspaper most, sadly, is their bottom line.

We have set aside a budget of Rs. 1.5 crore for your newspaper, Sharma tells Sanjay Singh, as it has a good standing. The first three months will be like a trial phase during which our campaign will focus on soft Hindutva through the preaching of the Bhagwad Gita and shlokas of Lord Krishna. This will help build up an atmosphere in favour of the BJP for the coming elections and as elections arrive there will be a lot of muck raking and our campaign will do just that. At this point, an agreeable Sanjay Singh says: “Haan haan ye toh bhagwan shri Krishna bhi kehte hain (Yes, yes. Even Lord Krishna has said that).” Yes, the campaign will run according to that arrangement only. Sanjay Singh adds: “Aapko idhar se bhi aisa kuchh nahi milega humare end par bhi personally kahe aapko koi jhooth ka vyavastha ka … (You will not find anything lacking at our end. [I] personally [commit] say there will be no lies in this arrangement).”

As he agrees to play ball, Sharma now plays for him the audio jingle that he has purportedly made for Karnataka where state elections are due in May this year. So, the second part of the agenda is to promote the speeches of firebrand Hindutva leaders like Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti and Mohan Bhagwat on your digital platform, Sharma now tells him, and the part will consist in thrashing political rivals through evocative jingles and animated content. Sanjay Singh has no problem as he says: “Haan haan isko hum plan kar denge aur barhiya plan kar denge koi diqqat nahi hai ismein (Yes, yes. We will plan it and we will plan it in a better way. There is no problem in it).” He father adds: “Waise  ek cheej aur hai humari jo web site hai jab usko aap dekhenge www.sawtantrabharat.com usmein ek space humne de rakha hai advertisement ke liye bhi toh wahan par bhi hum usko post kar denge (One more thing. If you look at our web site www.sawtantrabharat.com , [you will see] there is a separate space for advertisements. We will post your content there also).” When Sharma asks him about the circulation figures of his paper, Sanjay Singh suggests being headquarters it is his office that issues commands for all editions. In other words, it is he who makes business decisions for the newspaper. Informs Sanjay Singh: “Circulation humara teen editions hain Lucknow, Kanpur aur Delhi. Lekin choonki ye headquarter hai to yahi se sara deal hota hai sab kuchh yahin se command hota hai … to thoda sa aap bhi plan ker lenge according hum bhi plan kar lenge usmein kahin koi diqqat nahi hai (Our circulation … we have three editions [published simultaneously] from Lucknow, Kanpur and Delhi. Since it is headquarters, everything is dealt with and commanded from here only).” But there will be no ifs and buts, hopes Sharma. Reassures Sanjay Singh: “Haan ismein koi if and but nahi rahega commitment hundred percent koi kahin diqqat nahi balki koshish ye rahegi ki jitna hum aapse kahe jab dein to zyada ho (Yes, there will be no ifs and buts. There will be 100 percent commitment [on our part], there is no problem at all. Rather, when we deliver it will be more than what we promise).”

Reassured thus, Sharma comes to the mode of payment. What if we pay in advance in 60:40 cash? He asks Sanjay Singh. Although he says he will seek permission for payments in cash, a few moments later he comes around saying he has no problem in accepting payment in cash. Says Sanjay Singh: “Nahi nahi koi diqqat nahi hai kar lenge hum log fir aap isko plan kar lijiyega number hai hee aapke aap humein call kar dijiyega according hum log plan karke saari cheejein plan kar lenge (No, no. There is no problem. We will accept [cash]. You plan it and you have my number. Give me a call [when you are ready], then we will work according to that plan … there is no problem at all).” When Sharma seeks to make a combo proposal for both print and digital medium and ask Sanjay Singh to give him some time finalize the deal, the editor and business head of the paper reiterates his commitment in no uncertain terms: “Usmein kya hai na jo cheejein abhi jayengi usmen bhi jab aap usko dekhenge aap humse kuch kehte hain toh then we will be go for it aisa nahi hai kyonki koi bhi deal final hoti hai toh ekdum nahi hota hai bahut saari cheejein hongi ki kuchh humare taraf se ayengi kuchh aapke taraf se aayengi toh usmien koi diqqat nahi hogi aapko ye mera aapse commitment hai jo cheej kehenge usko poora karenge aisi cheej nahi milegi ki apko sharmindagi uthani pade sharmindagi aapko hui toh humein bhi hui jimmedari le lee na (The point is when you will see the things you want to go in it, you will get to us only then we will go for it. The point is you don’t start immediately even if the deal has been made. You will suggest something and we will tell you something. This way there will be no problem. I give you my commitment that whatever you tell me to do we will deliver. We will not leave anything to embarrass you, for embarrassing you also means embarrassing ourselves. Now the responsibility is mine).” The reason is clear: “Kyonki ab ye sakha bhav se kaam hoga na (Because now this will be done in a brotherly spirit).” Lamenting that he cannot contribute directly to the cause that Sharma is purportedly espousing, Sanjay Singh says in a self-solacing manner: “Lekin hum iss tareeqe se karenge toh lekin hum kuchh bhi contribute kiya toh contribution toh hai (But if I do it in this manner then it will be like I have contributed something worthwhile [to the cause]).”  To see reactions of concerned person click here


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