The Indian Express’ front-page scoop published today has got people talking given the Radia Tapes-like nexus it seeks to expose between the Essar Group, government officials, ministers, bureaucrats and the media. While the story names top politicians like the Bharatiya Janata Party’s Nitin Gadkari, the Congress’ Sriprakash Jaiswal, Digvijay Singh and so on, it refrains from naming journalists, stating simply that Essar executives arranged “cabs for Delhi-based journalists, in one case for 10 days”.
Newslaundry has in its possession the leaked emails that now form part of a Public Interest Litigation. The journalist for whom a cab was arranged “for 10 days” it appears is Mail Today Editor Sandeep Bamzai. An internal communication between Essar executives shows how a cab was arranged for Bamzai from November 20 to November 24, 2012. Another mail requests for the cab to be extended till December 1, 2012. “Mr. Sandeep Bamzai would like to continue the car till 1st December 2012 fyi,” reads the email.
Bamzai confirmed to Newslaundry that he has resigned as editor of Mail Today following his name surfacing in the Essar emails. “Propriety demands that I quit and I have done so,” he said, adding that he took “an ordinary cab” since his driver’s father had died.
Another journalist for whom a cab was “arranged” is Hindustan Time’s Energy Editor Anupama Airy. “…Kindly arrange to send a Car on 8th Nov for Ms. Anupama Airy. She needs the car from 8th Nov till 11th Nov,” reads an email between Essar executives.
Airy was suspended with immediate effect, according to sources at Hindustan Times. “We came to know about it [Airy’s name in the email] today. She admitted to using the car and we suspended her to start a more detailed enquiry into the matter, following which she resigned,” said Nic Dawes, Chief Content Officer, Hindustan Times. Our calls and text messages to Airy remained unanswered.
Meetu Jain, currently working at Times Now, is also mentioned on the Essar executive’s emails. “She needs a car for local use,” says an email dated October 5, 2012. Jain has categorically denied using the car at all. ” I would like to out rightly deny any allegations that I took a favour, such as a taxi, from the Essar Group of companies while working at my previous organisation. Meanwhile, I would like to add that my Editor in Chief, Arnab Goswami, and the management of Times Now have sought an official explanation from me as of this evening which I shall be giving.
Pending that, I am off my official duties with the organisation,” she said.
Newslaundry will soon publish a detailed report on Essar’s “media management”. Watch this space.