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Media over-hype about Sheila Dikshit after tabling of CAG report
In the last 24 hours, the media, especially television channels, have gone overboard in jumping at the throat of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit after the release of a CAG report, which pointed out financial irregularities in CWG spending.

ON PRIME time shows many television channels were quick to pounce on Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit for her alleged “involvement” and “irresponsibility” in taking financial decisions that led to loss to the exchequer. Former Chairman of the Organizing Committee of CWG, Suresh Kalmadi, now in jail and awaiting trial, was given a similar treatment on television channels – condemned and found guilty on public television, without formal completion of trial on the basis of facts and not mere opinion in the Fourth Estate.

The CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) report made public, and tabled in the parliament on Friday, stated that huge amount of extra and avoidable expenditure was incurred by the Delhi government headed by Dikshit on building the Commonwealth Games Village, landscaping of the city, and renovation of Connaught Place. The media rightly reported the findings of the report, but their reporting was unnecessarily dramatic – putting Dikshit in the dock, finding her guilty, and casting personal aspersions – without concrete and proven evidence in court. One leading news television channel went one step too many – and questioned Dikshit’s personal integrity – holding her “guilty on TV” of not stepping in to curb bloating CWG expenditure.

It appears as if news coverage of the CAG report was consciously polarized against Dikshit in order to invite opinion on live television for the sake of debate. Furthermore, how can such a debate be fair and complete without an official rebuttal by Dikshit? The Chief Minister has now, after release of the report and the ensuing media furor over it, said that her government will soon be giving its side of the story. Wouldn’t television channels have done better had they organized a debate after her government’s response? Why should one or a clan of television channels take it upon themselves to be the accuser, judge, defendant, and jail warden?

This brings us to a very important point. Is it not the Delhi government as a whole that should be held accountable for the CWG mess? After all, Dikshit has herself admitted many times that her hands were tied regarding delay in CWG projects and cost over-runs. This was because construction work required co-ordination between municipal bodies, Delhi state government and the central government - and throughout the preparations for CWG projects there was a constant tug-of-war between them - causing delay, and fly-by-night setting up of ad-hoc committees, which caused even more confusion and cost escalation. The CAG report has also mentioned this crucial anomaly in its report – saying that lack of a single authority, multiple agencies, and disastrous management and co-ordination was responsible for the hundreds of crores that the government ended up paying extra to vendors.

Without taking into consideration these aspects, news reporting has caused irreparable damage to India’s reputation in the international arena – as such washing of dirty linen by the media can leave viewers and decision makers with uninformed opinion, which is not something that the government or citizens want.

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sheila dikshit
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suresh kalmadi
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