These may well be the best and worst of times for the Indian media. At a time when it’s being hauled over the coals for its numerous indiscretions, the media gloats publicly about unearthing three astounding scams—those relating to the Commonwealth Games, the Adarsh Society and the sale of 2G spectrum. And when it comes to claiming credit for doing so, a farcical game of one-upmanship has broken out. Channels don’t cease clamouring about being the first and papers even go to the extent of printing a chronology of their coverage.
However, in the case of the dubiously sold 2G spectrum, it was J. Gopikrishnan of The Pioneer who broke the story. It’s his dogged persistence that uncovered A. Raja’s hidden links to firms that profiteered from the spectrum sale. It was his series—totalling over 100 reports beginning on December 11, ’08—that precisely detailed names of Raja’s kith and kin in a firm that got money from Swan Telecom, a beneficiary of the discounted spectrum sale. He also unveiled Genex Exim, another little known firm formed with a paid-up capital of just Rs 1 lakh, and how it was allotted Swan’s shares worth Rs 380 crore. He then connected the dots to reveal Genex’s link to a Dubai-based real estate conglomerate ETA Ascon Star Group, which is currently involved in many infrastructure projects in dmk-ruled Tamil Nadu. It was he again who uncovered the evidence of conversations between Raja and lobbyist Niira Radia.
Predictably, after Raja’s dismissal, the paper’s editor Chandan Mitra didn’t hesitate to heap fulsome praise on his reporter in a front-page article, recalling how “information flowed to him like a magnet attracting pins”. Recalling his stories, Gopikrishnan says, “Many people approached me after I wrote the first article. While they were not threats, there were advisories to stop writing,” he says. On the other hand, many people, including senior government officers who wished to lay bare the scam, sought him out. “They gave me information that helped me connect the loose ends.”
But how does Gopikrishnan react to criticism that he may have been used by people who wanted Raja booted out? “My main source is a government officer who reads 20 papers a day and with no vested interests. Some corporates may have been happy on Raja’s exit and some unhappy. That isn’t my concern. My only bother was that it was a loot of the treasury’s money and this was something that needed to be corrected.”