Two journalists including one senior editor from Times of India group have faced condemnation on social media after they were accused of lobbying Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for an international posting of an income tax officer.
The screenshot of a WhatsApp chat involving Diwakar Asthana, Times of India Executive Editor, has now gone viral.
In the WhatsApp chat, Asthana is seen flaunting his contact with Jaitley and how he had spoken to the finance minister about London posting of IRS officer Anupam Suman of 2004 Batch.
Asthana accidentally posted the message in the group meant for Times of India journalists based in Delhi for editorial discussion on Delhi affairs.
Let’s read what the WhatsApp message said, “Babu, met FM (Jaitley) along with Ramesh regarding ITOU. He called Dash and in the presence of FM, the latter agreed that CBDT has wrongly held that you are in deputation when you are actually on study leave. It was also clarified in the presence of FM, that your fellowship has not been funded by government. Dash told FM that Arun ji had spoken directly with CBDT chief and, therefore, he was not in the loop. He also told FM that the matter is no longer with finance ministry as the CBDT has referred it to the foreign service board under MEA. Upon this, I said that FM, being the competent authority, can overturn the decision of the CBDT. Dash said that we can scrap the entire ITOU panel as recalling the name for just London station may not look good. Upon this FM said ok and told us ‘chalo.’ What do you think of it?
Asthana posted the above message at 4.02 PM on 31 May and it took him at least 15 minutes to realise the blunder he had committed.
His next message at 4.17 PM said, “Wrong group.”
What’s the story?
Going by the WhatsApp message, Asthana is speaking to IRS officer Anupam Suman about the conversation he had about his foreign posting with Jaitley. He also informs him that PR Ramesh, a former bureau chief with Economic Times too had accompanied him for meeting with Jaitley. Economic Times is a business newspaper belonging to the same family of Times of India. Ramesh is currently with Open Magazine
The IRS officer in question is currently in London, on a private funded study leave. From what we gather from the message, Suman was keen to be posted in Income Tax Overseas Unit (ITOU) in London. This post is very sensitive in nature and is held by a first secretary level officer. The post itself was created to track Black Money operations.
Dash in the message is Jaitley’s private secretary, Simanchala Dash. According to the WhatsApp message, such was the clout of these two journalists in the finance ministry that Dash even advised Jaitley to cancel all foreign postings, so that Suman can avail the plum posting in London.
What’s even more concerning is that Jaitley, according to the message, agreed to cancel foreign posting to accommodate Suman for London role.
Journalists-Politician nexus and Jaitley’s role
Delhi-based journalists have often come under condemnation for their ability to use their proximity with politicians for personal gains. This has given rise to what’s now known as Lutyen journalists, who are identified more as power brokers than with the noble profession of journalism.
Jaitley is one politician, who’s often been accused of wielding exceptional influence on the goings on in Indian media, particularly TB channels. Many TV insiders say that Jaitley is the de-facto editor-in-chief of almost every news channels in India.
The same applies to a lot of newspapers too. Many in print media would agree that if Jaitley has decided to get a story killed, there aren’t many, who can dare not obliging him.
The latest episode involving two journalists is not an isolated incident. This has come just a mere confirmation of the dirty dealings that take place every day in the corridors of power in Delhi.
Meanwhile, social media users on Friday trended ‘Editors or Brokers.’
Suraj Pratap Singh wrote, “What a shame 2 know that Editors r being caught for engaging in transfers and postings of plum positions in the IT Dept.”
Prabhu, “You got to believe this it’s million dollar question is why such malpractices are allowed to happen in the FM”
Icecream Baba Vichu wrote, “It is high time Finance Minister Arun Jaitley should plugg such unpleasant activities by venal journalists and Editors or Brokers.”