off the cuff

Why tracking journos will not work

The GOP administration will never track Russian journos

17:30 April 10, 2018

I am not sure if it is fake news but an online daily digitised that Delhi is planning to track journalists visiting government offices.

“This is disgusting,” I shouted to my wife. “They are trampling on my freedom, why should anyone know who I would like to see?”

“Why would you want to visit a government office? Nobody does that if you know a good agent who can do your work, for a consideration. What takes weeks will be done in days without you breaking a sweat,” my wife said.

She laughed when I said sometimes one needs to visit government officials to get information.

“It’s a one-man show in Delhi, I don’t think any of the ‘babus’ have any information. Anyway, you are not a real journalist,” she said.

“EXCUSE ME”! I said.

“You are a humour columnist, a government office is not the place for you.”

“You never know where you can get a silly story that can be made even more ridiculous. A government office is just the place for me,” I countered.

“How are they planning to track you”? my wife asked.

“They will take away the accreditation cards of journalists and instead give cards with RIDF tags,” I said.

“Rural Infrastructure Development Fund tags,” said my wife trying to be funny. “Sorry, cards with RDIF tags. Radio-Frequency Identification, like the one that was implanted in our cat,” I said.

“A machine can read the tag from metres away and someone from security will shoo me away if I am heading towards a whistle blower’s office.”

“Aren’t there CCTV cameras in the buildings,” my wife asked.

“I think it was the way for the babus to hit back at the prime minister who wanted everyone to get to work on time. They said they will be punctual on one condition, that all the CCTV cameras are removed.”

No big brother watching

“Now if you visit any government office it is like a mummy’s tomb, skeletons with paunches chewing tobacco sit behind huge stacks of files tied up with red ribbon. Occasionally, a civilian gets lost and it takes days to get him out of there. Now every babu gets to work on time but there is no big brother watching. At 4 ‘O’clock, a boy walks in with a wire basket carrying glasses of tea and everyone orders a potato and onion samosa or two glucose biscuits, and everyone is happy,” I said.

“Find out how the delivery boy gets in if you do not wish to be tracked. Maybe he’s got executive clearance from the I & B Ministry and gets a special card,” my wife said.

“I wonder if anyone from the Food, Nutrition and Obesity Ministry ever orders a takeaway pizza or a masala dosa [Indian snack]”, I said. “It would be easy to change shirts with the delivery guy and get in and wander around freely.”

“No babu will order a takeaway, everyone brings lunch boxes or tiffin of home-cooked food. My deranged friend who works in the Statistics, Figures and Lies Department said the canteens offer cheap food, but it is either tasteless or spiced with chillies, and many workers have to take sick leave every other week.”

“What? Look at this? I said showing her my smartphone screen. “It says Department of Home Land Security in the US is looking for contractors to compile information on all journalists, bloggers and influencers around the globe. I will have to learn Russian,”I said.

“Why?” asked my wife.

“It will help me get a job in The Moscow Times or RT, the Russian English-language news channel. The GOP administration will never track Russian journos, after all it was the fake news department in Russia that got President Trump on The Hill.”

“Pravda comrade,” said my wife.

Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi