August 28, 2000


Search Rediff

E-Mail this interview to a friend

The Rediff Interview/ R V Pandit

'Rollback of power tariffs in AP would mean embracing populism'

R V Pandit Raj Vasant Pandit, 69, was better known as an innovative publisher until the National Award-winning film Maachis, which he produced, hit the screens in 1998 and earned for him the tag of a bold film producer.

While his maiden film was set in Punjab against the background of Operation Blue Star and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and mirrored the tragedy that overtook Punjab, Darmiyaan, the movie that followed Maachis, dealt with the travails and the tragedy of the transvestites in India whose number at last count was 1.5 million.

Then there was Train to Pakistan, a co-production with the National Film Development Corporation. But the movie that R V Pandit thinks will make all the difference to India is Nidaan, a tender love story which powerfully delivers a message of HIV/AIDS awareness, and care and love for those afflicted.

Already, the film has brought the subject into the open -- the Andhra Pradesh government has made the viewing of the Telugu version of the film compulsory for students aged nine and above. Union Home Minister L K Advani and former finance minister Dr Manmohan Singh have exhorted many state governments to follow suit. Critics are all praise for the film.

Jayate, his latest film yet to be released, deals with medical malpractice and negligence, and has been selected for this year's Panorama, the screening of the year's best Indian movies under the aegis of the government. The film will be released in 2000-end.

R V Pandit's next film, Lekin Woh Itnay Kyon Hai? will focus on the population bomb.

He is known for his friendship with people in politics, business and media. Of him, Dr Manmohan Singh has said: "The world needs crusaders like R V Pandit."

He has made a mark for himself as a publisher of books like Ganga, Calcutta, Rajasthan, and journals like Industrial Products Finder. He is remembered for his thought-provoking marquees in Imprint magazine, which, characteristically, he closed down in 1986 with a cover story entitled Let's Not Be Such Bloody Fools, tracing the history of corruption since Independence, and bemoaning the futility of his crusade through the press for probity in public life.

However, he says India and its problems in the areas of economy, health, education and information technology are his major concerns today. He owns about 2,000 generic domain names, and is set to launch catalogue-type journals on the Web.

In a freewheeling conversation with Associate Editor Y Siva Sankar at his apartment in south Bombay, Pandit took a hard look at current affairs and highlighted what ails India.

On the political situation in Chandrababu Naidu's AP:

Congressmen are on a fast-unto-death in Andhra Pradesh to protest against a hike in power tariff. They do this even though they know that if Chandrababu Naidu goes back on his reform programme and restores power subsidy, it will only mean populism. How come these legislators are not protesting against encroachments which cause floods, about the galloping spread of HIV/AIDS in the state, against population explosion?

On PM's health: 'He's fit, and sometimes works from morning to night'

There are a lot of rumours about Vajpayee's health. When he was in jail during the Emergency, his kidney was affected. Everyone knows this. By nature, he is a slow man, in the physical sense. He is rapid fire in his speeches, but slow in his movements. He is also known for his quick decision-making.

When he was prime minister for the first time, for 13 days, he and I have worked till 1:30 in the morning on a couple of occasions. On a recent day, he was up at 4:30 am. Does this give you a picture of a sick man?

Anybody, after the age of 70, would be foolish to make a statement that he would definitely live for 20 or ten more years. But that does not reflect on anyone's health.

I've known him for decades. I meet with him at least once a fortnight, spend a lot of time with him. I know what kind of health he had, what kind of health he is having. I don't think he is in bad health. The other day, at 11 pm, I called at his home to talk about something. I was told that he was in his office! And he had begun his day that day at the office at 9:30 am! He must have woken up at 6:30 am. Is this a sign of a man whose health is endangered? Not at all.

On the row over the 11th Finance Commission's award: 'Holding CMs' meetings in Delhi is not proper'

Naidu has a very good point in his initiative regarding the Eleventh Finance Commission award. Those states that are showing responsibility should not be bracketed with the scoundrels of Bihar and UP. Some states spend money mindlessly. They don't display any fiscal responsibility.

Having said that, let me say that Naidu convening a meeting of CMs is not proper. They have channels to the Centre which they should use to communicate their ire. So far, the Finance Commission reports have always been accepted. This particular Union government is very open.

But states getting together to highlight a problem and talk to the Centre, is a terrific idea. This will strengthen the federal structure. The states will get to understand each other's problems better and realise the need for accountability. A state like Maharashtra can hardly meet its wage bills. Two in ten people work for the state government. Is anyone serving the citizen? One in 1,000 will be a better ratio. The bureaucracy must be cut from two million to 500,000 or 250,000. Currently, it is we who work for the politicians and the bureaucrats, getting hardly anything in return.

On Kumaramangalam's death and medical practices: 'Not coming out with the 100 per cent truth is our habit'

I'm inclined to blame the people themselves to a certain extent. They keep on pressing doctors for time at all times, little realising that doctors too need leisure, they need time to read and refresh their knowledge. Of course, some doctors are greedy, they want as many patients as possible so that their income is maximised.

It is unfortunate that some publications sought to sensationalise Kumaramangalam's illness. It is an Indian habit of not coming out with the 100 per cent truth. That is also responsible for the confusion. That gives room for speculation and rumours. When an American president or some important office-holder goes to a hospital, they circulate all actual data about the patient's condition.

But our governments and hospitals do not learn that lesson. Whatever be the case, what they could have done is issue the full medical reports with the family's permission. If the family had denied the permission, then they should have openly said the family has denied the permission. The family has every right to privacy.

Part 2: 'Vajpayee is going in the right direction'

Part 3: 'It's now clear that communal clashes in the past were politically motivated'

Part 4: 'The consequences of our naach-gaana era would be....Kaun Banega Crorepati'

Part 5: 'Good politicians themselves are more disappointed with India than concerned citizens'

The Rediff Interviews

Tell us what you think of this interview