The crusading journalist who repeatedly created history in India
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The conflict turned into confrontation when, Kalchakra, a magazine run by Vineet Narain of the Jain Hawala case fame, published allegations of impropriety against (CJI) Anand’s wife.
                India Today, Aug. 7, 2000
The matter did not end there. In response to Narain’s petition before the President of India, Rashtrapati Bhawan forwarded it the Law Minister.
                       Outlook, Aug. 7, 2000
 
 
 

Considering that pen is mightier than sword, Vineet Narain chose journalism as an instrument to bring attitudinal change at the grass-root level and to seek truth about the failure of the system in delivering to the common man. In this process he locked horns with some of the mightiest people of the land and achieved historic success in several of his crusades.

Today his name is synonymous with the fight against corruption, yet, the established opinion makers are often hesitant to give him his due credit. Institutions which claim to recognize and encourage such courageous journalists, have maintained a mysterious silence about him because such awards are normally given to those who align with one or the other political party or vested interest groups. Anyone can judge by going through this website that there is none who has done so much in the history of Indian journalism . Not realising the fact that if we glorify a lie and suppress the truth then how can we be an instrument of establishing the goodness in society ?

  Young Reporter with Hindustan Times group (1984)
 
After an early experience with TV journalism Narain started his career in print journalism from 1984 as a reporter for The Hindustan Times group from Western UP. During 1987-88 Narain worked very hard to produce some excellent investigative reports for Jansatta, the Hindi daily of the Indian Express group.
  ‘Sach Ki Parchaian’ Shadow of Truth on Doordarshan (1986-87)
 

During 1986-87, Vineet Narain compered,literally produced, the first ever investigative TV show on Indian television titled ‘Sach Ki Parchaian’ (Shadow of Truth) on the national network of Doordarshan. Narain ventured out to the remotest areas of the country to unearth truth about the corruption in implementing government’s programmes at the grass-root levels.

By now TV had become colored and was reaching the nook and corner of the country. In his enthusiasm to usher in a new era of transparency Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi gave lot of freedom to critically assess the

 
performance of various ministries and programmes of the Government of India. Several such programmes were started on Doordarshan. Mr. Vinod Dua used to present a studio based show Janvani. Ms. Priya Tendulkar presented Rajani to dramatize corruption. Mr. MJ Akbar presented Newsline and Mr. Prannoy Roy presented The World This Week based on footage from abroad. But Narain's show had some exclusive reviews;

 

 
Here are some media comments about Narain’s TV show;
Vineet Narain’s Sach Ki Parchhain ... went far beyond Delhi to get a feed-back on urban housing ... only bright spots during the period under review...
Indian Express
Keenly look forward to Vineet Narain’s incisive and unpretentious reporting...
The Hindustan Times
This week, for instance, the prevalent practice of child labour was very well handled. There were interviews with the children concerned, their parents who talked of their ‘majboori’ and leaders of social and government welfare organizations who spoke of changing the mental attitude of the parents.
The Telegraph
‘Sach Ki Parchain’, scores marks for its sincerity. Vineet Narain obviously works hard at getting his facts, background materials, interviews and putting them all together.
City Scan
On Monday Sept. 15 (1986) the national programme promised a capsule of investigative journalism in the Sach Ki Parchhain series.
The Hindu
This time the programme brought out the real truth from the shadows. The programme was not only informative but it had all the ingredients of a good T.V. report. This programme assures that if television decides to attract the national attention on real issues, it can do that, instead of diverting it as it normally does. Vineet Narain presented the whole show in a very balanced way.
Jansatta
 
Narain fights the corrupt bureaucracy and sacrifices a glamorous career in TV Journalism (1987)
In 1987 Narain produced an investigative report for this show in which he highlighted the corruption in the Urban Development Authorities of Patiala, Delhi, Ghaziabad, Bhopal, Bangalore and Trivendrum. One of the bureaucrat exposed in this report had powerful connections. He offered Narain some precious land to suppress his part of the expose but Narain declined the offer. There was tremendous pressures upon him to do only selective exposures. Narain decided to quit and look for an alternative to Doordarshan.

A Bombay based magazine TV & Video World later reported; "It may sound surprising, but men of principles, willing to take a tough stand and unwilling to compromise on basic ideals, still exist in our society. When, in April 1987, one of his programmes n the Sach Ki Parchaian series was arbitrarily stopped by Doordarshan authorities, its producer, TV and newspaper journalist Vineet Narain vowed never to present anything on the government-controlled network until it was made autonomous and functioned more democratically".

This moral stand of his drove him out of the main line TV journalism. While his contemporaries ensured a lucrative career in TV journalism and hogged lime-light, Narain remained stuck to his guns against corruption and lost a golden opportunity to ensure similar life for him and his family.

 
Explores the possibility of a people's TV news show (1987-1989)
 

From 1987 to 1989 Narain devoted this period to explore the possibility of starting a people’s TV news show on a video format. Those days independent channels were a remote possibility but video cassettes were very popular through the large network of video libraries. This was a new concept. He had the experience and skill but no money. His idea was immediately lapped up by several opposition leaders who were wanting a TV medium to air their views since Doordarshan was the government’s mouthpiece. Desired funds were offered to Narain on the condition that final editorial decision will be taken by the politicians, who would arrange the finance. Narain refused to compromise on his editorial freedom and preferred to execute his plan through voluntary efforts so that people’s interest remains supreme. Meanwhile he joined the Hindi daily newspaper of the India Express group at New Delhi and did his level best to highlight issues of public concern.

   
  Narain starts India’s first independent TV news in Hindi in 1989
 


In his quest to highlight the real issues of public concern through audio-visual media Mr. Vineet Narain launched Kalchakra (Wheel of time)- India’s first investigative news videocassette in Hindi –the language of the masses.

Where there is a will there is a way
He did not have any financial backing, but mobilized voluntary help from a TV studio owner and some colleagues in the print media. His video magazine was an instant hit. There was no budget to do the publicity yet the bold editorial content made Kalchakra a house hold name throughout the country during 1989-91. The print media lapped up the product. Well-known Indian media critic Mrs. Amita Malik wrote in Indian Express (April 8, 1990), "Kalchakra had shorter items which were crisp and punchy. What is more Kalchakra picks up topics which Doordarshan would or could not touch with a barge pole".

 

One-man Team
At Kalchakra it was a one-man show. Right from scripting, production, editing, marketing and resource mobilization Narain did everything. His wife also did lot of hard work to keep this going. Subsequently several journalists joined him voluntarily. The corrupt and powerful people in the country felt threatened with each release of Kalchakra and repeatedly harassed this team through the Govt. controlled Film Censor Board.

This led to the withdrawal of support by the video film distributors of Bombay. They were willing to back Narain with advance finance facility provided the Film Censor Board did not disturb the regularity of Kalchakra. He had to fight many legal battles to get Kalchakra productions released. This turned out to be fight for the freedom of electronic media.

Journalism of Integrity
Appreciating his zeal and potential, several corporate giants offered full financial support at this stage but he politely declined their offer. It was a tactical mistake because he got left behind in the race when the private channels descended on the Indian sky. Print media journalists with no background in TV journalism secured high positions there. However in one way this stand proved right because it was due to the total editorial freedom Kalchakra enjoyed that Narain could expose the famous Jain Hawala Scam through his video in 1993.

 
 

Noted film producer B R Chopra of
B R FILMS wrote about Kalchakra

April 12, 1990

Dear Shri Vineet Narain,

I wish to compliment you for the quality of your programme. In fact I found it very interesting and even inspite of some of the censored portions, I found the whole thing very absorbing and critically engaging. Personaly I would not want you to change your style and bring in anything frivolous in your Kalchakra. Let it retain the dignity of news worthiness and impartial and constructive comments.

With regards
Yours sincerely
BR Chopra

 
 
 
  Following is the list of some of the TV reports Vineet Narain produced during 1989-1992 for Kalchakra:
 
Exposure of illegal female foetal infanticide.
Cheated voters - Cheater leaders.
Exposure of dual standards of the Film Censor Board.
Corruption in Sales Tax Dept
Massacre in Ayodhya and subsequent debate on secularism and communalism.
Why censor video news ?
Cheating of women political activist by the male leaders of their parties.
Violence in Indian elections.
Dangers of consuming monosodium glutomate in Chinese food.
Heinous ivory trade in Indian forests.
Will mafia rule India ?
India heading for water crisis.
 
   
  Narain got tremendous response from viewers and the media. Some of the media comments are as follows:
 
Kalchakra’s quest of the truth behind sensitive and burning issues marks definitely the beginning of a new era in the field of TV. journalism.
Dainik Jagran, (Lucknow), March 1990
 
Kalchakra is the result of Vineet Narain’s committed and honest efforts to give the right direction to video journalism. It is definitely a step worth appreciating in the field of video journalism ...... It is a daring stride in the field of communication.
 
Aaj, (Varanasi), January 11, 1990
  Kalchakra is raising those issues before the people, which are being ignored by national media.
 
Amar Ujala, (Bareilly), April 16, 1990
  By releasing just two video cassettes, Kalchakra has created a storm every where.
 
Aaj Kal, Calcutta, April 1990
 
It is worth watching for the story which ran into problems with the censors focussing as it does on men who buy women. The feature employs the potential of candid camera in a manner, which Doordarshan has yet to discover.
 
Times of India, April 1, 1990
 
Note: The use of spycam which Tehelka did in 2001 was actually pioneered by Narain 11 years ago to expose corruption and mal-practices)
  Why censor video news? organised by the makers of Kalchakra video news cassettes raised many valid points.
 
Patriot, New Delhi, January 21, 1990
 
Despite the government’s insistence that it will be more open and will grant autonomy to the electronic media, Kalchakra was subjected to censorship.
 
The Telegraph, Calcutta, January, 21, 1990
  Kalchakra’s reports on women political activists shocks the viewers.
 
Maya*, Allahabad, January 31, 1990
 
The way Kalchakra reports expose the harsh realities of our society and political reality represents the voice of objective video journalism.
 
* Vishwamanav Bareilly, March 8, 1990
   
  Narain’s crusade for the freedom of electronic media (1990)
 

Since Kalchakra video news cassette was being subjected to constant harassment by the Film Censor Board, Narain waged a war against this attack on the freedom of press. His argument was, “when the print media is not subjected to pre-censorship, how can audiovisual news be pre-censored”. He felt that unequals i.e. fiction and video news were being treated equally, while equals i.e. print news and video news were being treated unequally. He filed a PIL in the Delhi High Court challenging the pre-censorship of video news. To generate public opinion he traveled across the country and addressed dozens of Press Conferences. A notice was issued to the government. The matter is pending in the Court however, with the passage of time the new technology of satellite TV has made pre-censorship irrelevant.

During those days in almost every debate on the freedom of TV news and autonomy to Doordarshan, Narain’s views were highlighted in the print media along with other prominent people. However, when the autonomy was granted to Doordarshan, he was never invited to present the news shows or produce documentaries. Obvious because his kind of bold and principled journalism would not have benefited the mandarins of Mandi House, whose names often appear in the press in connection with several scams in assigning TV programmes. It is clear that Prasar Bharti Board has to go a long way before it can claim complete autonomy. That would be the time when Indian audience will have the benefit of seeing some of Narain’s work on Doordarshan.

 
 
Click on image to enlarge
  Narain attempts to create parallel TV (1994)
 

 

In 1994, in his quest to create a people’s TV Narain attempted something unique in Delhi and NOIDA. He felt that Doordarshan had an edge over news - video cassettes because it had a pre-announced broadcasting schedule, which ensured it a captive audience.

To counter this Narain ensured that 500 cable TV operators simultaneously show Kalchakra news cassette.

This unique experiment was an instant hit. Unfortunately due to the shortage of funds Narain could not continue to produce Kalchakra news video otherwise he would have created more ripples in the country during the period preceding the arrival of independent satellite TV on Indian sky.

 
  Kalchakra Fortnightly from 1994
 
When in 1994, Narain felt that the mainstream print-media was showing hesitation in highlighting the Jain Hawala Case, because of its political ramifications, Narain launched Kalchakra English Fortnightly.
Although it couldn’t remain regular due to financial constraints, yet it made an impact for its bold investigative reports on several issues of national concern. The writings Kalchakra are taken seriously by the ruling elite because of their well researched content.
Kalchakra likes to take up developmental issues in this paper. But the publisher of this paper Kalchakra Samachar Trust requires enough funds to sustain this kind of bold, hones, objective and patriotic journalism.
If you would like to support this kind of cause journalism, you may contact:
Secretary
Kalchakra Samachar Trust
C-6/28, Safdarjung Development Area
Hauz Khas, New Delhi - 110016 (India)
Phone: 91-11-26566800
Email: vineetnarain@hotmail.com
   
 
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