Friday, February 26, 2010

This is not an ordinary book. It is a book with mission, says critique Amitabh Srivastava in Sahara Time magazine

Saturday, February 20, 2010

MAN BEHIND THE MISSION:Union Minister for Corporate Affairs, Mr. Salman Khushid receiving the first copy of pictorial coffee-table book Prime Ministers of India:Bharat Bhagya Vidhata-1947-2009 published to rehabilitate Sultana Begum, the great grand daughter-in-law of India’s last emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar who is living in a slum in Howrah. Book has been compiled, edited and published by Neena Jha and Shivnath Jha under the aegis of Andolan Ek Pustak Se.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010



K G Suresh*

Ram Gopal Varma’s ‘Rann’ has been run down by the media, particularly electronic, no end. The Amitabh Bachchan starrer has been rubbished as a figment of RGV’s imagination with an exaggerated story line and unreal characters. Yet, the fact also remains that even highly acclaimed movies such as ‘Three Idiots’ suffer from these very shortcomings – a technical person handling a pregnancy with an improvised suction and the new born responding only to a song ‘All is Well’ in a miraculous climax. Or for that matter, the Oscar winning ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ where an excreta enveloped Jamaal shakes hands with the Big B. But the media did not condemn the movies as they did with ‘Rann’ because RGV touched a raw nerve, rubbed where it hurt the most.

In a world where Rakhi Sawant and Raju Shrivastava are prime time and television ratings thrive on ghost stories, where trivia has become mainstream and professional ethics mere lip service, it is but natural that Varma becomes enemy number one for stating the unpalatable truth. The truth is that sensationalism rules the roost and paid news has become a harsh reality. The Indian Media Centre and its publication ‘Media Critique’ were the first to highlight this syndrome, which was later picked up by The Hindu and subsequently the Editors’ Guild of India. Yet, surprisingly, the Guild’s statements have been published extensively by none other than The Hindu.

Once upon a time, newspapers had the courage and conviction to publish even the counter point but today they have become a self-righteous lot. To cite a recent personal experience, the highly over rated The Hindustan Times recently published an article outrightly condemning former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda terming him as the worst Prime Minister India has ever had. Having covered Mr Gowda extensively as Prime Minister, I knew for certain that he may not have been among the best but was certainly not the worst. I have mentioned his contributions already in these columns earlier. I wrote a small piece for The Hindustan Times enumerating the contributions of the former Prime Minister in response to the critique. Forget its publication, they never bothered to even acknowledge its receipt.

It’s not just about self-righteousness but also vengeance of the highest order. CNN-IBN’s orchestrated campaign against Shiv Sena in the party’s spat with King Khan was apparently and evidently a response to the Sainik’s vandalisation of their studios last year. Whither objectivity? Agreed, Bal Thackeray is no paragon of virtue but SRK too is no messiah. He did not take a Pakistani player in his own Kolkata Knight Riders and painted the town red with his rhetoric generosity towards Pakistani players, ensuring in the process the success of My Name is Khan across the border and courtesy a self righteous media, we had the entire Mumbai police who could not prevent 26/11 protecting the commercial interests of Messrs Karan Johar and Khan.

Silver Lining among Dark Clouds

However, all is not dark and dingy. There are honest and committed journalists around who believe that they have to play the role of catalysts in a society where as per Government’s own figures 77 per cent of the population earn less than Rs 20 a day and for all you know that could even be Rs 2 or 5.

What a tragedy that in an agriculture dominated economy, we have only one P Sainath to boast of. Journalism in this country was born in the cradle of freedom struggle. Journalists were more of missionaries and less of mercenaries. While much water has flowed down the Ganga since then, ilsome of those missionaries are still around. Shivnath Jha is one of them.

The newspaper vendor turned senior journalist along with his wife educationist Neena have brought out a first ever compilation ‘Prime Minister of India – Bharat Bhagya Vidhata’. Nothing great except that proceeds from the sale of the coffee table book on the 14 prime ministers, would go to rehabilatate Sultana Begum, last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah's great grand-daughter-in-law who currently ekes out a living selling tea on the streets of Kolkata.

The 444-page hard bound 12x 12 illustrated book enlists the performance of the leaders as well as their achievements and the controverises they survived, starting from Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh.

It is the fourth book in the "Andolan Ek Pustak Se" movement, which was launched by the duo in the year 2007 to publish one book per year aiming to honour and help "those who have brought laurels to the country."

"Sultana Begum runs a tea stall in Cowies Ghat slum in Bengal's Howrah district. She lives in dirtiest of conditions and earns a living to support her family. We hope we can help her through the royalty we earn from the book," says Jha.

The "Andolan Ek..." series was begun with a "Monograph on Ustad Bismillah Khan," to draw attention to the plight of the ailing shahnai maestro. Other books in the series include one on the then railway minister Lalu Prasad, "Lalu Prasad: India's Miracle," as well as "India calling -to commemorate India entering 60th year of Independence."

Jha had earlier used the sale proceeds of the book on Bismillah Khan to rehabilitate Vinayak Rao Tope, the great grandson of Tantya Tope, a front line leader of the 1857 uprising.

The book which is priced at Rs 8000, includes writings by eminent personalities including noted historian Bipan Chandra. Your truly too had the privilege of contributing a write-up.

Kudos to Shivnath and Neena for rediscovering that extinct Dodo called journalism with a mission in an era of commodification and commercialization of Media. One sincerely hopes that this modern day classic would inspire the media fraternity to come out of their ivory towers and work for the Sultana Begums and Kalavatis, lost and waiting for redemption in the dusty streets, lanes and bylanes of Hindostan.

(*The author is a Delhi-based senior journalist and Editor of Media Critique)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Change MAKER

Change MAKER

The proceeds of Shivnath Jha's new book will go towards the rehabilitation of Sultana Begum, the great-granddaughter of Bahadur Shah Zafar, says SHAILAJA TRIPATHI in The Hindus' Metro Plus on February 11, 2010

They are literally the words of change; “Prime Ministers of India: Bharat Bhagya Vidhata”, the 534-page coffee-table book compiled and edited by the husband-wife duo of Shivnath and Neena Jha, is meant to transform the life of Sultana Begum. The great-grand daughter-in-law of India's last emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, Sultana Begum lives in a pitiable condition in Howrah, West Bengal. Covering Nandigram for a newspaper, Shivnath stopped over in Kolkata for a day to meet his friends and that's how he met Sultana, who lived selling tea on the streets of Kolkata. Adding to the Moghul heiress' stress was the impending marriage of her youngest daughter.

“There are thousands of publishers to print different kinds of books but I wanted to bring out one which could change somebody's life,” says Shivnath. The exhaustive compilation boasting contributors like Bipin Chandra, Inderjit Badhwar, Sunil Shastri and Salman Khurshid looks at the performance of the 14 Prime Ministers of the country — Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru to Dr. Manmohan Singh — who have held the prime position so far. The proceeds generated from the sales of the book will go towards helping Sultana Begum.

The trigger

It was the sad plight of the legendary Shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan which coaxed the pair to kick off the initiative “Andolan Ek Pustak Se: Bismillah The Beginning Foundation” in 2002. Under the aegis of the foundation, they envisaged a monograph on the virtuoso's life. The proceeds from its sale were used to fulfil his dream of educating his grandchildren and revamping his ancestral home in Bihar. “When I couldn't fulfil his last wish to perform at India Gate, I took a resolve to induce a change in the lives of the people who contributed to making India what it is today,” says Shivnath, who followed up it up with “Lalu Prasad: India's Miracle” with a view to help Vinayak Rao Tope, the third-generation descendant of Tantya Tope, a significant leader of the 1857 Uprising.

“Bahadur Shah Zafar was the Commander-in-Chief of 1857, when we fought the First War of Independence. A freedom fighter's daughter-in-law living in slums is a sad commentary on our society,” says Shivnath, explaining why Sultana Begum qualifies for help. “Anybody else who I thought deserved it would have also got the same treatment,” adds Shivnath, who now plans to take up the case of a sportsperson fallen on bad days.

The money generated from the sale of the book has ensured money for Sultana's daughter's marriage. Besides the amount of Rs.5 lakh to be deposited in her account, there are plans to get her a one-room flat in a decent colony in Kolkata and a job with a Government school, which will fetch her a monthly salary of Rs.6,000. “Young well-settled Indians from Kuwait, the U.S. and other places wrote to us offering to marry Sultana Begum's daughter without taking a single penny,” says Shivnath.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Union Minister for Heavy Industries Mr. Vilas Rao Deshmukh (former Maharastra Chief Minister) reading the purpose of bringing out the first-ever pictorial coffee-table book Prime Ministers of India:Bharat Bhagya Vidhata-1947-2009 which is dedicated to Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and victims of terrorists attacks in Mumbai.

A Good Teacher, a human being

Yesterday, I got a surprise call followed by a mail from Ms. Sahiba More, an Assistant Professor in Mumbai University after watiching Lok Sabha TV's programme on Andolan Ek Pustak Se:

Dear Shivnath ji

As I spoke to you I am so glad to have talked to you. Believe me I could never in my wildest imagination thought that I could get through the phone in the morning , I am glad we poke. Shivnathji we need people like you ,going thruogh your profile I am came to know that what a difficult life you lead both oppourtunity wise and monetorily too. What a job are you doing! I must say that "sahee mann mein jeevan to aap hee jee rahe hai.kisi aur ke liye jeena ab tak sirf kitaboon mein dekha tha padha tha aaj pratyakhsha dekha!" I cant do much but whenever you are in Mumbai do give me a call. Let me know if you need anything I will help you in which ever way I can.

Just to tell you aboout me I am asst professor in mumbai university for last 20 years. I love my country unconditionally, and am ready to do anything to make my country a better place . I also want to remove religious misunderstanding amonst people. I write poetry, dramas, write ups as and when I get an opputunity. if I can write somewhere else do let me know. I was born in UP and have travelled the length and breadth of country due to my fathers transferable job. Have lived in metros and small town both. I am a theatre buff love to see drams and can speak hindi marathi urdu punjabi and gujrati with ease.

Thanks for sending the sms of course we are friends
sabiha more"