|Born||6 May 1974|
Cherthala, Alapuzha District, Kerala, India
|Education||Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University NSS College, Cherthala, University of Kerala|
|Alma mater||Sainik School Kazhakootam|
|A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India|
|Spouse(s)||Priya Solomon (m. 2001)|
|Children||Supriya Ann Joseph (2002)|
Early life and education
Josy Joseph was born on 6 May 1974 to KM Joseph and Annamma Joseph of Karondukadavil family in Cherthala, Alapuzha District, Kerala as the third of their four children. He completed his schooling from the Sainik School, Kazhakootam in 1991. He later graduated from NSS College, Cherthala, affiliated to the University of Kerala, in Mathematics, Physics, and Statistics, and holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Journalism. Joseph received his master's degree in International Relations in 2007 from the Global Master of Arts Program (GMAP) at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, and was a prominent face of its international campaign in 2011–2012. He was also a fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Singapore and is an alumnus of the Colombo-based Regional Centre for Strategic Studies.
He is married to journalist-entrepreneur, Priya Solomon, and the couple have a daughter, Supriya Ann Joseph.
Joseph has been previously Editor-Special Projects for the Times of India, an Associate Editor with the DNA newspaper, and has also been with Rediff.com, The Asian Age, Mid Day, and the Blitz. His stories have fostered greater public debate and have contributed to significant policy and systemic changes. Joseph's reporting has resulted in several high-profile officials being forced out of office, triggering the arrest of many others as well as federal criminal and military investigations.
Particularly high-profile investigations have included, for example, the Mumbai Adarsh Housing scam and the many misdeeds in the run-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, both of which contributed significantly to the anti-corruption movement of recent times.
Joseph's articles have featured in many publications both in India and internationally. He has gained acclaim for many investigative journalism pieces, including the following scoops:
"Leave Travel Concession" (LTC) scam
Starting in August 2013, Joseph ran a series of stories showing how members of the Indian Parliament and government employees were submitting forged flight tickets to claim reimbursement, in what is now called the "leave travel concession" (LTC) scam. Many Members of Parliament and dozens of government employees are currently under criminal investigation, and the government has since revised its travel reimbursement policy.
Kickbacks in India’s Telecom Licensing
In 2010–2011, Joseph revealed several crucial aspects of the conspiracy involved in allotting costly 2G cellular spectrum to select businesses at throwaway prices. Among those he exposed were the country's Attorney General of India and one of India's richest businessmen, Anil Ambani.
2010 Commonwealth Games
Joseph's investigations into misdeeds, including kickbacks, front companies floated by alleged criminals, and compromises in construction and venue qualities, in the lead-up to the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, led to a public outcry. He exposed senior ruling Congress party leader and chairman of the games organizing committee, Suresh Kalmadi, and many of India's leading sports administrators, who were later arrested and subjected to criminal investigations.
The Adarsh Housing Society Scam
Joseph's detailed investigation in 2010 into the construction of the Adarsh highrise apartment complex in downtown Mumbai for war widows and battle heroes revealed that the apartments were being allotted to military chiefs, political leaders, and well-connected bureaucrats. The story provoked a massive outcry and the repercussions were immediate: Maharashtra state's powerful chief minister, Ashok Chavan, whose relatives were among the apartment owners, was sacked; three ex-military chiefs publicly gave up their apartments to atone for their actions. The federal crime investigation agency arrested several people involved in the conspiracy and in December 2013, a judicial inquiry indicted four former chief ministers of Maharashtra, one of who was then the Union home minister, for allowing Adarsh to proceed in violation of existing rules.
President of BJP Party accused of money laundering
Joseph's stories also led to the ouster of the president of India's principal political party, the BJP, in early 2013. Joseph and his team revealed that Nitin Gadkari's Purti group received investments from over 100 companies, many of which were controlled by close aides, including his driver, his accountant, and close family. Several investigative agencies are now probing the group for money laundering and other criminal acts.
Joseph broke this story in DNA on 31 July 2005. Several follow-ups followed. It resulted in the arrest of many officers, stalled the Parliament and led to a CBI investigation. The story of how national secrets were being smuggled out of the top secret War Room in South Block continues to have reverberations even today. It resulted in a comprehensive upgrade of security in military installations.
Controversial regional peace plan for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Kashmir by US
In May 2003, Joseph published a five-part series on the long-term outlook for security issues in Pakistan, based on a secret roadmap for Kashmir, Afghanistan, and Pakistan prepared a year after 9/11 by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. The U.S. Department of State accepted the veracity of the document, but accused him of committing security breach on its premises.
Interview with Hizbul Mujahideen Chief Commander
In April 2001, Joseph conducted one of the last known interviews of Abdul Majid Dar, the chief commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, Kashmir's biggest militant group. During the interview, Abdul Majid Dar claimed that Hizbul was opposed to suicide attacks, which the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) had just begun carrying out in Kashmir. Dar was killed a few months later.
In October 2016, Joseph along with Vijaita Singh, exposed the details of Operation Ginger, one of the deadliest cross-border surgical strikes carried out in Pakistan by the Indian Army. The details of the surgical strike, executed on 30 August 2011, were published in The Hindu—along with official documents, video and photographic evidence. Major General S.K. Chakravorty (Retd), who planned and executed the operation as the chief of Kupwara-based 28 Division, confirmed the raid to The Hindu.
Bank of Baroda’s role in South Africa’s Gupta scandal
In February 2018, Joseph with Khadija Sharife, in a joint investigation by The Hindu and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), exposed India's state-owned Bank of Baroda's crucial role in the financial machinations of South Africa's politically influential Gupta family, allowing them to move hundreds of millions of dollars originating in alleged dirty deals into offshore accounts [known as Gupta scandal], which resulted in the resignation of South African President Jacob Zuma. In February 2018, Bank of Baroda gave notification to the South African Reserve Bank that it will be exiting the country.
In November 2019, Joseph raised commitments for a seed-funding round from Accel founder Jim Swartz, among other high net-worth individuals, for his digital media startup, Confluence Media. London-based journalist and filmmaker Adrian Levy is part of the startup's core team. The startup, owned by Confluence Online Ventures, is headquartered in Delhi with offices in Mumbai and London, and aims to create an investigative journalism and real life events based IP (intellectual property) across verticals such as books, feature films, documentaries, web series, and podcasts. It plans to first establish and create revenue streams for some of the early IPs; and, subsequently, launch a news website for investigative stories. Confluence Media is currently in the process of negotiating and concluding IP-driven contracts with publishers and production houses in India and overseas.
2011: The Prem Bhatia Memorial Trust selected Josy Joseph for 'Outstanding Political Reporting of The Year', for a series of investigative reports, including the Adarsh scam, several corrupt decisions in organising the Commonwealth Games, etc.
2018: In January, Joseph's book A Feast of Vultures, was named the best book for 2017 by the jury in the non-fiction category of the Crossword Book Award. The competing entries included books by Amitav Ghosh, Pradeep Damodaran, Pankaj Mishra, and Shashi Tharoor. While announcing the prize, the jury said: "This is a book about the truth about our nation. It confirms what we already suspect and shocks us further by unraveling the workings of the Indian system."
2019: Recipient of India Press Club of North America's Madhyamasree Puraskaram
Josy Joseph's award-winning non-fiction book, A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India, was published in July 2016 by HarperCollins, India. A tour de force through the heart of modern India, weaving together the daily struggles of its poorest with the shenanigans of its rich, A Feast of Vultures clinically examines and irrefutably documents the crisis gripping the world's largest democracy. Through a detailed investigation, Joseph reveals how evidence exists that some of the most successful of India's new generation entrepreneurs have thrived through bribes, manipulation, and possibly even murder. Joseph also writes about the real beneficiaries of this corrupt and crumbling system. Many of India's elite are lawmakers and lawbreakers – who use their financial and political clout to steer policymaking and legislation to benefit their business empires – and keep competitors at bay.
In an interview with Rohan Venkataramakrishnan for Scroll.in, Joseph said: "I'm the father of a 13-year-old girl. I would rather set an example for her than let my friends in the industry be happy or be scared of someone. I'm ready for it, if there is any litigation, I think it would be a great fight to have." "Very honestly, I’ve been in Delhi for 25 years, and I’ve never seen this level of self-censorship in public discourse. Ever. The worst is the self censorship that reporters are subjecting themselves to, and the distortion of facts. I hope it’s a short-lived phenomenon. In a young country like ours, you cannot suppress dissent. At least not forever." "It's an embarrassing thing for journalists, though. We've forgotten our duty and become lapdogs of the establishment. Some of us will have to stand up and fight, and be firm about values. It is when we stand up, then things will change."
In an interview with Preetha Nair for TheNewsMinute.com, Joseph said: "It is a coincidence that my book comes at a time when we are celebrating 25 years of liberalisation and 70 years of independence. A lot of us born in the socialist era have come to believe that middlemen are part of our system. Liberalisation has given a fillip to middlemen and they've grown a hundred times. If you get the right middleman, you can even buy a government. My book is an angst-ridden narrative on the distortion of our democracy." "One of the fundamental flaws in our system is that Indian politics sucks in a lot of black money and our corporates are forced to feed the political class. If we can bring transparency in political funding, that itself will diminish corruption."
In an interview with Syed Firdaus Ashraf for Rediff.com, Joseph said:"As reporters, we are always dealing with a tiny bit of a large puzzle. We are also hamstrung by space limitations, various kinds of censorships imposed by corporate, political and such interests as well as other restrictions. I wanted to report and interpret modern India without any self-censorship, varnishing or any other considerations. A Feast of Vultures is my first step in this direction."
"Investigative journalist Josy Joseph’s book A Feast of Vultures, which deals with corruption at all levels of Indian society, opens a Pandora’s box..The book highlights some forgotten corruption cases involving the rich and the powerful, which the CBI failed to unravel." — Coomi Kapoor, in The Indian Express
"A book that breaks new ground and speaks the truth at many levels, A Feast of Vultures turns an unflinching gaze on the way democracy actually functions in India."— Karthika V.K., Publisher and Chief Editor, HarperCollins Publishers, India
"This is an irritatingly brilliant book. Too sweeping, too condemnatory, and, perhaps, too true. None of the chapters in the book would have made a report for any newspaper – nor would have any news editor let them get into the newspaper. Yet, there is a story to be told, and Joseph does it with considerable competence and style. A deeply sober and sobering book." — Harish Khare, Editor, The Tribune
"Compassionate, observant, acute, with a strong sense of justice, all in fine, mellowed prose. I hope it is widely read." — Harsh Mander
"A brave and brilliant book; exemplifies the best of Indian investigative journalism." — Varun Gandhi on Twitter
"This is going to be the book of the year!" — Sagarika Ghose on Twitter
"Joseph, who belongs to a fast-vanishing tribe of investigative journalists in a media largely reduced to a tawdry spectacle, then embarks on an ambitious inquiry of what ails India…Part memoir, part reportage and part polemic, Joseph’s book is a cautionary tale of a nation losing its way…When Joseph shines a light on the dark corners and the frayed edges and the decaying heart of the world’s biggest democracy, it’s a good time to ask: when will Indians confront their realities head on?" — Soutik Biswas in OPEN Magazine
"The book paints a realistic picture of the country, which, sadly, never gets depicted in the works of our academicians or even journalists. This is also a book that should be read by analysts who see the world through the prism of the business-economy lens—of stock market, emerging market, rural market, India vs China growth story. This is a book for everyone who is interested in the story of post-independent India told in the most blunt manner." — Rishi Raj in The Financial Express
"Josy Joseph’s A Feast of Vultures is an important, if sobering read, meticulously researched and intelligently written… Joseph judiciously mixes field reporting and investigative research: No wonder he is an award-winning journalist… This narrative reads like a thriller and is alone worth the book’s price." Aditya Sinha in Mint
In October 2018, Joseph wrote in the Mumbai Mirror on the dramatic politically-motivated ouster of CBI chief Alok Verma by the Cabinet Committee on Appointment in an article titled 'This CBI crisis is not 2 officers' egos clashing': "For those who have snarled their way into power, holding onto the protective hallows of it at any cost is important. They also know that tactical rhetoric served on an hourly basis is opium enough for the larger public to forget the massive assault on democratic institutions being staged in front of them. The removal of CBI chief has to be seen in that light. The pigs of Animal Farm are now beginning to walk upright on two feet, like the humans they opposed. It is no more possible to distinguish between the saviours of democracy and its enemies. The pigs and human all look the same. Darkness does not descend on us like an iron curtain at once, but slowly drips in, drop by drop, and before we realise it would be blinding dark."
In December 2018, Joseph wrote on the death of investigative journalism in a prominent article in The Caravan Magazine, titled 'The Byline is Dead: How Indian newsrooms became morgues for investigative journalism': "Over the past few decades, Indian media is increasingly being driven by profits, and has all but abandoned its role as the fourth pillar of democracy. In this landscape, far from being appreciated, good reporting is actively censored. Editors play brokers, trying to balance various interests while maintaining a veneer of professionalism. And owners have pawned their brands for political and commercial glory. The fastest promotions and the fattest salary packages are reserved mostly for middlemen, who masquerade as journalists but primarily fix deals and manage the sundry troublemakers for the media baron—politicians, tax authorities and the police, among others."
On 4 December 2016, Joseph delivered a TEDx Gateway Talk on 'Investigative Journalism: Silence is an Expensive Commodity', organised at the NCPA Mumbai. He spoke about how most countries that emerged from colonial rules, exist in a governance blackhole, and that at the highest levels is a grand conspiracy of silence and bewildering collusion between politicians, corporates, powerful middlemen and other players uncovered by investigative journalists like him and. He further went onto explain why it's so important to break the silence in today's immoral society.
Civil defamation suit by Jet Airways
In December 2016, Jet Airways and its founder-chairman Naresh Goyal filed a civil defamation suit seeking Rs 1,000 crore in damages against Josy Joseph, after he wrote about the alleged links between gangster Dawood Ibrahim and the airline company in his book A Feast of Vultures: The Hidden Business of Democracy in India, published by HarperCollins.
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- Joseph, Josy; Sharife, Khadija (27 February 2018). "Bank of Baroda's role in South Africa's Gupta scandal". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
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