Hafta letters: US's track record abroad, subscription issues, NEET in Tamil Nadu

NL subscribers get back with bouquets and brickbats!

ByNL Team
Hafta letters: US's track record abroad, subscription issues, NEET in Tamil Nadu
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Hi team,

A subscriber's mail from last week talked about prestigious colleges in the "privileged" states being centrally funded. I can't speak for other states but the most prestigious medical colleges in Tamil Nadu like Madras Medical College, Kilpauk Medical College and multiple others are all funded by the state. Some are jointly funded with a 60-40 split (centre vs state). So, no, they are not centrally funded. In fact there is no AIIMS in Tamil Nadu and construction of Madurai AIIMS has not picked up pace for over three years owing to improper fund allocation from the centre.

Tamil Nadu government, across party lines, has prioritised establishing education institutions over the years and this has led to the infrastructure in place now. Tamil Nadu has a government medical college for every district. There is already a robust system in place in Tamil Nadu to handle medical admissions and that has helped the state achieve its high healthcare standards while maintaining social justice.

So, in fact, the centre has to take a leaf out of Tamil Nadu's book and replicate it elsewhere rather than imposing NEET on us. NEET is clearly against disadvantaged communities and Tamil Nadu wants to maintain its social justice. Equality is not the same as equity, equity comes with being considerate of all the caste and class disparity that exists in our country.



Hi team,

The Pioneer reported a dynamite story in July. But yeh toh sala kacchhe jitna bhi nahi phhata. Would love to hear this story probed on Hafta, especially since the deafening silence around this might be a story unto itself. How does one even manage to pull this off in 2021? Is there any real chance that this silence is completely organic/incidental?

Manisha, thanks for the wonderful recommendation with Best of Enemies. If I may reciprocate, I can't recommend Ken Burns' three-episode documentary Prohibition: A Nation of Drunkards enough. Prohibition is the only constitutional amendment to ever be repealed in US history, brought together the unlikeliest of allies in social movements, won an iconic president a critical election and came to define American lives in ways I couldn't imagine. Best part, it's freely available.



Hello team,

I have been an NL subscriber since 2017 and a fan of the content you create. Great job you are doing on this front.

On Hafta 347, the team tried to discuss different angles in the current situation of Indian media. The one that was missed was related to society's consumption habits. We prefer cheap over quality. This bias is not only with media but in making other decisions in daily life as well, be it telecom operators or food. Being a poor country with weak institutional support just amplifies the impact on quality.

If channel 1 decides to go for ground reports, it will add up to the cost of the final product. But their competition is with channel 2 who is making stories from Twitter and broadcasting it for free on ad revenue. The "mass" consumes the later one and eventually in the survival game, channel 1 ends up laying off reporters.

Though you vouch for the subscriber based model, it has no mass reach. People subscribe to NL because they like the content you make. But I am not yet convinced about the on-ground impact of the work you are making, which TV media has. I see merit in every story you make for some government inquiry. But institutional apathy turns it down. Your content must reach the masses for such an impact. For that use subscriber money but make reports/content free for everyone or at least make it freely available for the people who are getting impacted by that story, for example, the Maharashtra floods story should be available for free in Marathi and not for some NRI.



Don't want to take up too much of your time because I know this topic has been covered already but I wanted to recommend with regards to Afghanistan, Anand Gopal's book No Good Men Among The Living or his article for the New Yorker, The Other Afghan Women.

I've been curious about the US "war on terror" and the effect of the money it has pumped into the media/Hollywood. In Afghanistan's case, people tend to see America's caretaker government as a lesser evil and Gopal's book lays out, better than most, how the victims of that govt far outnumber those of the Taliban (and is as regressive as the Taliban outside Kabul but reportage on that is rare).

So, there's little coverage of the destruction caused in the Afghan countryside by its "civilian" government and American JSOC but we get three movies a year about how badass the SEAL teams are. These teams have literally barged into peoples' homes and murdered them in their sleep in many cases (as recorded in Jeremy Scahill's Dirty Wars, Mark Mazetti's The Way of the Knife and Gopal's work) because a neighbour who had a property dispute with them told JSOC that they were terrorists.

I understand Raman sir's point about not minimising the harm caused by the Taliban but I hope we can all also agree that the US, which funded terrorists in Guatemala and Nicaragua and successfully sent those countries into death spirals so United fruit could make cheaper bananas, is not a good faith actor.



Hi NL team. Love your work. I have one request: to enable PayPal payment for NL Sena too. Thanks.



For Hafta 347, two questions:

(1) If there are business processes that have been outsourced, I would not count as job losses in the media. Because it means an increase in jobs elsewhere. Is there data on trends of absolute numbers of journalists, news gatherers, etc? It is hard to imagine there are 80 percent fewer journalists today compared to five years ago. Could it be a possible systematic erosion of journalistic strength to usurp political power? That is probably a conspiracy theory.

(2) How is the cocaine haul at Mundra port not a headline?

General feedback:

On the Hafta main page for the episodes, can we have a brief profile of the team on that Hafta? Would be great to look them up and follow them elsewhere.



I have a controversial opinion about the Indian armed forces: they represent stable employment in a desperately poor and chaotic country. Nothing more, nothing less.

Too many Indians idolise the armed forces and mistakenly believe that those who sign up are heroes, putting their lives on the line in the defence of the “motherland”. This is followed by some vague claims about being able to sleep in peace while the soldier patrols the border, valiantly deterring "enemies" while civilians "enjoy" their "freedom".

Were the Indian state sensible, it would encourage more trade and travel across India's borders, both excellent deterrents to military engagement. Were India to offer paths to gainful employment and a society with rule of law, there would be a short queue for employment via the public purse. Please convince me that the deification of the soldier is not celebrating brutishness and glorifying murder by the state. Is this not a symptom of a militarist and illiberal society obsessed with hierarchies of patriotism? Is this not yet another Indian institution that has calcified to the point where anything less than unflinching reverence makes you an enemy of the state?


Hi team,

My father is a subscriber and I use his account.

So, in the episode about NEET you were looking for some person from medical background for discussion on NEET.

I did my schooling from ISCE board, did MBBS and MD from JNMC Aligarh Muslim university, worked in AMU as faculty before moving to UAE.

Here I am working as assistant professor in Dubai Medical College. I was always passionate about education (more than medicine at times) and am enrolled in Oxford Uni for MMed (master in medical education).

I have a first hand experience of struggle of a medical student, different boards, different exams common exam. So I may provide some insight to the panel, I might not be the best but I have international experience and I see what they want to do through NEET. The intention is good, but the preparation and execution is questionable.


Hi Newslaundry team,

I am 17 (would be turning 18 next month) and have been a subscriber for last six months (pocket money).

Recently, with the whole thing with AUKUS, I understood that why UK was not invited in the Quad, which comprises US, Japan, India and Australia, because Japan has some constitutional restraints and India has a policy of strategic autonomy. But the thing I don't understand is that even after being the member of the NPT, Australia is allowing the nuclear powered submarines of US in its naval base, though Morrison did say that he will continue to meet all the nuclear nonproliferation obligations but wouldn't that be the whole ashwathama hato hata kind of thing.

By the way, big fan of your work. Keep going, and more power to you all.



Hi Team NL! Hope you are doing well and people uncancel their subscriptions :)

Would like to comment on Biden/Harris and their not-so-subtle criticism of Indian democracy. While I fully agree with the criticism itself, it is difficult to take any POTUS/Veep seriously on the topic of democracy and human rights. The US is a nation that is infamous for not only allying with dictators (in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf nations), but also has toppled/assassinated several democratically elected leaders and replaced them with dictators. Some examples include Patrice Lumumba and Salvador Allende who the US helped replace with Mobutu and Pinochet, and there are many more.

The excellent New Yorker article "The Other Afghan Women" by Anand Gopal shows how they put warlords like Amir Dado in charge, and these were just as tyrannical as the Taliban. Gopal's book No Good Men Among The Living details many more instances. So much for human rights and democracy.

With that track record, the US expressing concern about democracy is like Modi expressing concern about the rights of minorities. Uncle Sam would be perfectly happy to let a govt carry out executions, mass rapes, war crimes and even genocide as long as American companies make money out of it. Maybe this is a cynical take, for the US, human rights is just a convenient instrument to achieve their foreign policy objectives, would like to hear your take on it.



Hi Abhinandan! Wasn't expecting it to be announced, but thanks for acknowledging the idea regarding the CAG audits in the last Hafta. You didn't however give a conclusive response on whether it will be worth the time and effort from NL team.

A recently published audit report on direct and indirect tax collections of the union government for the financial year ending March 2020 can be found here. It has a pretty functional website that allows you to go through a wide range of domains across union as well as state governments that you can filter and access. Since the scope of it all can be rather large, maybe can pick up topics or focus areas based on your subscriber demographics to evaluate it's practicality and feasibility while hopefully gathering good feedback too.

Also, since it was mentioned that the NL app was in dev and the beta version will be launched soon, is there a way to get early access to it? I myself work as an IT product manager in Ukraine and will be happy to help if needed. Of course I realize I am not the product owner so will consciously curb my inner urges in terms of giving more than feedback and ideas and focus on making myself useful :)



Hi Abhinandan and team,

Due to a recent change in online subscription regulations from RBI (called eMandate), there have been changes in how recurring transactions are processed/approved. This regulation came into effect on October 1 and this is probably what caused many people's subscriptions to expire, as most recurring payments will have to be reinitiated under this new eMandate.


M Stoner


For F's sake, Abhinandan, allow others, especially guests, to finish their thought instead of jumping in and trying to complete their sentences for them. This talking over one another needs to stop.



Hi Abhinandan,

Good to hear from you.

I know there is some challenge with the subscription. I have been trying to work it out but couldn't. Believe me, I'm really conscious of getting back my subscription asap.

I have enjoyed every bit of my subscription with Newslaundry. I have been a student until recently and got my first salary after a study break today only.

If you include this email in the next Hafta, I'll upgrade my subscription too (courtesy next month's salary).

Keep up the good work. Wonderful listening to you on Hafta and love everything that Manisha, Atul, Nidhi put up on the website. Have few criticisms also, will write another mail for that.

I'll renew soon, stay assured.

Thanks and love


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