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Tehelka
Editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal
Categories News
Frequency Weekly
Circulation 110,000 [1][2]
First issue 2003
Country India
Language English, Hindi
Website http://tehelka.com

Tehelka is an Indian weekly magazine under the editorship of Tarun Tejpal. The publication began in 2000 as a news website, Tehelka.co]. In 2001, with an exposé of match-fixing in professional cricket in India, it got public attention, but it was the defense sting, called Operation Westend that got it the international attention, which led to the resignation of Indian Defence Minister [3][4].

Contents

Controversies

It was forced to close down temporarily due to hostile government action following Operation West End, a major expose on corruption in defense procurements.[3][5]. This was a dark period when the meager budget of a startup media firm was exhausted by legal expenses facing a Commission of Enquiry. As Shoma Choudhury writes, the tide turned in January 2002:

We had crossed an important milestone. A week earlier, we had turned our backs on the Commission of Enquiry. In a masterful performance, Ram Jethmalani had blown craters through the government's case against First Global and Tehelka. And Justice Venkatswami had finished writing his interim report on the 15 defence deals being examined behind closed doors. The Establishment was running scared. Consummate strategists, they replaced Justice Venkatswami with Justice Phookan. There was talk of starting from scratch. We had had enough. We had co-operated; we had fought, but the impasse with the government was leaching us dry. We refused to be a part of our own witch-hunt any longer. We bowed out of the new Commission. This was the end of Tehelka 1. Almost miraculously, it freed our heads. It released us from a death embrace. The blueprint of our story began to change from reactive defence to proactive hope. [6]

In 2003, it was relaunched as a weekly newspaper, funded by 200 founding subscribers and other well-wishers who donated more than $2,000 each[3]. In 2007, it once again underwent a transformation, and shifted to a regular magazine format. In September 2007, Tehelka came up with a Hindi news based web portal "Tehelka Hindi". Just after a month in October 2007, it once again captured widespread attention for an elaborate sting operation that captured on hidden camera several perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat riots admitting to horrendous crimes, and revealing the riots to be part of a well-planned conspiracy that had state sanction. In 2004, Art Silverblatt and Nikolai Zlobin described Tehelka as a "muckraking site" in their book "International Communications: A Media Literacy Approach"[7]

Operation West End

Operation West End was a sting operation aimed at sensationalizing the corruption underlying India's large defence contracts. The original investigative piece by Tehelka in 2001 targeted several members of the then ruling coalition, the National Democratic Alliance, headed by Bharatiya Janata Party's Atal Behari Vajpayee. It showed several political figures, as well as army top brass, colluding to take bribes[8] that approached 4% of orders totalling hundreds of crores in order to approve defense contracts.

The minister in charge of Defence, George Fernandes of the Samata Party, resigned after the tapes were made public, but he was reinstated later. Part of the tapes show the treasurer of his party talking about accepting bribes of 1 crore or more from arms dealer ex-Naval officer Lt-Cmdr Suresh Nanda, son of ex-Chief of Naval Staff Admiral S. M. Nanda.

Initially the government, instead of acting on the evidence, accused Tehelka of fabricating allegations[9]. However, five years later, in October 2006, the Central Bureau of Investigation filed charges against George Fernandes, former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sushil Kumar, and others in the Barak missile case, claiming that there was reasonable basis to suspect corruption and criminal conspiracy[10]. In March 2008, the Nandas were arrested[11]. Fernandes was interrogated in May 2008[12].

In the Tehelka tapes, the reporter (usually Mathew Samuel) poses as a representative of the fictitious large arms supplier West End. Both editor Tarun Tejpal and editor investigation Aniruddha Bahal did not initially support the sting operation, but agreed after Mathew Samuel initiated the sting. There were a total of 105 tapes shot by Mathew Samuel.

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Armoured Recovery Vehicles

At one point, the Samata Party national treasurer RK Jain was trying to convince the fictitious dealer West End about his prowess in swinging deals. He mentions how in the first defence deal that he was involved in as the party treasurer, Suresh Nanda of Crown Corporation had paid Samata Party Rs 1 crore to swing the Rs 250-crore (USD 60 million) order for Armoured Recovery Vehicles (ARV) in favour of a Slovakian company.

  • Samata Party treasurer R.K. Jain: "Nanda approached me. Czechoslovakia's price was the lowest, second Slovakian, third was the Poland."
  • Tehelka: "Haan, Haan."
  • R.K. Jain: "He said, 'I will give you one crore rupees in advance'."
  • Tehelka: "Okay."
  • R.K. Jain: "You get disapproved the last one. Czechoslovakia because they are so lower that we cannot match their price."
  • Tehelka: "Okay."
  • R.K. Jain: "If you can push him out. Delegation is going on to the... delegation has been ordered to go to Czechoslovakia. Stop this delegation, and technically reject this company. Here are the documents."
  • Tehelka: "Hmm."
  • R.K.Jain: "By which it's proved that this company is closed for the last two years. They will start only after getting this order."
  • Tehelka: "Yeah, yeah."
  • R.K. Jain: "I will give one crore rupees. And I will give you... if they are technically disapproved, then you are my agent."
  • Tehelka: "Yeah."
  • R.K. Jain: "For this particular... perks... and I will give you so much of commission."
  • Tehelka: "Okay."
  • R.K. Jain: "I said, 'Fine.' He gave me the correspondence. I took the correspondence to George."
(the then Defence minister George Fernandes was from Samata Party)
  • Tehelka: "Hmm."
  • R.K. Jain: "And he said, 'All right, I'll reject it.' He is a very intelligent man."...
  • Tehelka: Okay, it is manipulated.
  • R.K. Jain: He wrote straight away on the file himself. He never goes and orders to a Joint Secretary. He wrote it himself, and sent the file back. Nanda gave me one crore rupees. He called me, "Yes, Mr. Jain, the file has come down. Like you know George…"[13]

Barak Missile System

At another point Jain also says that he had received another Rs 1 crore for the Samata Party from Suresh Nanda to help swing the contract for an air-to-air and surface-to-surface missile system for the Indian Navy. Nanda was an agent for the Israel Aircraft Industries who make the Barak missile.[14]

Since the tapes were the result of a clandestine sting operation they are not directly admissible as evidence in court. However, the videos (and the media furore following it) resulted in the Central Bureau of Investigation conducting its own investigation, based on which R.K. Jain was arrested in February 2006.[15].

Key people

  • Harinder Baweja
  • Rana Ayyub

Tehelka in Media

The Tehelka expose has been documented time and again through various media sources. Veteran Indian journalist, Madhu Trehan, has penned down an entire book on the expose and its aftermath. The book, Tehelka as Metaphor, is a forensic study of the sting operation and how the Indian government got back by attempting to destroy Tehelka and its investors.

References

  1. ^ Tehelka's circulation is over 110,00 copies while its readership is over 1.2 millions per week Business Standard, May 12, 2008.
  2. ^ Tehelka storm rages on Shuchi Bansal in New Delhi, Rediff.com, [June 11]], 2004.
  3. ^ a b c India's cultural elite revive muckraking magazine: After declining under previous government, Tehelka.com rebounds, bolstered by reader funding. The Christian Science Monitor, July 26, 2004.
  4. ^ Tehelka Practising journalism: values, constraints, implications, by Nalini Rajan. Published by SAGE, 2005. ISBN 076193378. Page 70-71.
  5. ^ Tehelka Billions of entrepreneurs: how China and India are reshaping their futures--and yours, by Tarun Khanna. Published by Harvard Business Press, 2007. ISBN 1422103838. Page 55.
  6. ^ http://tehelka.com/story_main.asp?filename=te013004our.asp&id=2
  7. ^ [International Communications: A Media Literacy Approach -Art Silverblatt, Nikolai Zlobin, M.E. Sharpe, 2004. P.183]
  8. ^ Rekha Saxena (2003). India at the Polls: Parliamentary Elections in the Federal Phase. Sangam Books Ltd. pp. 18. ISBN 81-250-2328-.  
  9. ^ "Tehelka report: Fernandes cleared". http://www.rediff.com/news/2004/feb/04def.htm.  
  10. ^ http://www.hinduonnet.com/fline/fl2321/stories/20061103001804100.htm
  11. ^ http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/india-news/cbi-arrests-nandas-over-barak-missiles-kickbacks_10025561.html
  12. ^ http://www.thaindian.com/newsportal/uncategorized/cbi-quizzes-fernandes-in-barak-missile-deal_10050490.html
  13. ^ "Tehelka Tapes (transcript)". Tehelka.com. p. 21. http://www.tehelka.com/home/20041009/operation/investigation21.htm. Retrieved 2006-08-17.  
  14. ^ Srivastava, Mihir. "Finally, West End Lands Jain In Jail". Tehelka. http://www.tehelka.com/story_main16.asp?filename=Ne031106Finally_west.asp. Retrieved 2006-08-16.  
  15. ^ PTI (2006-02-07). "R K Jain arrested five years after Tehelka expose". Outlook. http://www.outlookindia.com/pti_news.asp?id=366868. Retrieved 2006-08-16.  

External references


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