|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Thursday, September 2, 1999
PROBLEMS OF EX- SUPERPOWER
threat alarming signals
Mohan Lal a Karmayogi
in oriental languages
Dealing with Pakistan
FOREIGN Minister Jaswant Singh's assertion on Tuesday about a dialogue with Pakistan is a judicious mix of firmness and reasonableness. While he has indicated that he might meet Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif or Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session this month, he has added that Islamabad would have to put an end to its policy of aiding and abetting cross-border terrorism. That, of course, is a big "if". Even when Islamabad has made a song and dance about its "bhai-bhai" friendship, it has been working feverishly to harm India. The situation has changed dramatically after Kargil and it would be rather futile to expect any sudden change of heart. Under the circumstances, one cannot be too hopeful of anything tangible emerging from the talks. Nevertheless, dialogue remains the only effective means of resolving bilateral differences. Despite Pakistan's repeated perfidy, talks have to go on, if only as a forum of letting off steam. The Foreign Minister was at pains to point out that an end to support for terrorism was only an essential ingredient and not a precondition for talks. His declaration is a calibrated signal to the world in general and Pakistan in particular that Delhi can continue to be reasonable even in the face of gravest provocations. At the same time, it is an attempt to condition the minds of the Indians who are opposed to any kind of contact with the hostile country. Among them is BJP ally Bal Thackeray. Their anger over repeated frauds played by Islamabad is understandable but then emotional outbursts are no substitute for exigencies of international diplomacy.
Pakistan's demand of a $
60 million compensation for the shooting down of an
Atlantique naval combat aircraft was a none too
sophisticated attempt to deflect attention from its
violation of the border agreement and has been rightly
rejected. As Mr Jaswant Singh said, the plane was
entirely on a military mission and well within Indian
space. Not shooting it down would have been a slur on the
Indian defence forces, especially in the wake of the
alleged intelligence failure in Kargil. It is obvious
that Pakistan will try to splash this incident and the
perennial Kashmir issue at the UN General Assembly
Session in New York in a big way. Mr Jaswant Singh would
have to be at his persuasive best to carry out any kind
of meaningful talks there in the face of such
provocations. New Delhi has to hammer at the fact that
the real element spoiling the ties is the subversive
activities sponsored by Pakistan. Terrorism is the
burning issue; not Kashmir. Having suffered at the hands
of the Taliban and other such groups, we hope that the
world community and the USA would now understand the
Indian position better than ever before. On a different
plane, Mr Jaswant Singh has correctly left the CTBT
question to the next government but has, predictably,
justified the release of the nuclear doctrine document on
the eve of the elections. After all, he was speaking from
a party platform.
Waking up to Taliban reality
AFGHANISTAN and India have,
besides cherished geo-physical partnership in the global
context, unbreakable socio-cultural bonds. India,
undivided and ageless, existed with that country through
difficult as well as pleasant times. Now what is known as
the land of the fanatical Taliban was thought of as a
friendly country represented by Kabuliwala. The recent
past has been marked by interest superseded by callous
disinterestedness, thanks to our policy-planners and
leaders. After the Russians left the region, New Delhi
chose the erroneous path of non-interest with regard to
Kabul. Pakistan took advantage of this situation, fuelled
militancy in Afghanistan and trained fanatical experts in
self-justificatory religious fundamentalism. The
ISI-managed camps, called educational centres, armed
disoriented Afghans on Pakistans soil, initiating
them into violent methods. Students or knowledge-seekers
were turned into "militants at home and mercenaries
abroad." After long years of alienation, India is
trying to play a proactive role. This newspaper was,
perhaps, the first media organ to describe the beginning
of what is now known as the "Afghan syndrome"
as "the creation of Pakistan". The war-torn
country is bleeding because of the machinations of
Pakistan. For survival and clout, its rulers are
exporting terrorism through the Taliban trained in
Pakistan. Is there any doubt about the spill-over of
Afghan terrorism as the primary factor in Islamabad's
misadventure in Kargil? External Affairs Minister Jaswant
Singh has pragmatically called our Afghan policy an
exercise in the "supine acceptance" of
frightfully negative developments. He will discuss the
Taliban-Pakistan issue in Washington with a proactive
attitude. But it will be worth remembering during the
talks that Washington was, at one point of time, keen to
be a friend of the Taliban. The American people began to
condemn the inhuman treatment of women in Talibanised
Afghanistan and the growing menace of human rights abuse
there. They asked their government: "Who is
responsible for terrorist attacks on American officials
and international centres?" Capitol Hill saw wisdom
dawning upon it. Afghan Northern Alliance President
Rabbani repeatedly exposed Pakistan's patronage to the
Taliban. The USA did not react positively. India showed
crass indifference. Then Kargil came. And then followed
the realisation of a vital fact: Pakistan was, largely,
fighting the Taliban war. Afghan Opposition commander
Ahmad Shah Masood has accused Pakistan and Unocal, an
American oil firm, of backing the hardline Islamic
militia. Pakistan is hurting India with the help of the
Taliban guerrillas. Unocal wants the creation of a
pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, crossing
Afghanistan. In the sole super power's reckoning, money
talks louder than human interest and political realism.
It is time for India to put the USA wise to the totality
of the Afghan syndrome, which is the fountainhead of
escalating terrorism. The Taliban have enjoyed power and
pelf arrogantly. But violent delights have violent ends.
India and the USA should join hands to show to the
Pakistanis and the Taliban that truth needs no evidence
to prove its infallibility.
Hello, its TRAI calling
TRAI is at it again, happily for telephone subscribers. It has proposed slashing the rental for mobile telephones and tariff for calls by a hefty 25 per cent and more. What is more, it has called for an end to the anachronistic system of charging a fee for incoming calls. These changes are not mandatory since they figure only in a consultation paper, released on Tuesday, and will hopefully come into force from November 1 after the new government has a look at it. Even cellular operators and subscribers will have their say on September 7 when TRAI plans to meet with them. This is the second time that the regulator has drastically cut the tariff, the first was in March when the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) bitterly opposed the very idea of a lower fee structure, saying that it would hurt its revenue collection and hamper the efforts to take the telephone to rural areas. The then Union Minister too lent his voice but TRAI stood firm and soon everybody came to accept the idea that a lower, cost-determined tariff is a better bet to encourage a wider use of a vital modern facility like the telephone. At that time it was a revolutionary suggestion and since then it has become part of the basic philosophy of all service providers.
The menu TRAI has offered is very tempting. Monthly rental for a mobile phone will come down to Rs 475 from Rs 600. A call will cost Rs 4 for one minute; since the pulse rate (the minimum accounting unit) is 30 seconds, a shorter duration call can be made for just Rs 2. Use of a mobile phone for Rs 2 was unthinkable a few months back.There is a similar reduction in the tariff for calls from fixed phones to mobiles; it is Rs 2.40 for two minutes though the DoT wants a rate of Rs 3.90. The department may have more bad news in store. TRAI has made all its calculations on the cost and revenue in the metropolitan areas. These are high earning zones. In the circles (that is, non-metro areas) the new rates may not be that attractive. The regulator has projected that with the tariff being more affordable, the subscriber base will widen by at least 10 per cent. In metro areas this will mean a large number of new users, but not in the circles where mobiles are yet to become a habit. Also, the logic behind the suggested cut is the migration of operators from the fixed licence regime to the revenue sharing one. The licence fee accounted for 30 to 40 per cent of the project cost and under the new system this will drop to 7.5 per cent. That way the operators should see their revenue (not profit) balloon by 150 per cent in metro areas and double in the circles.
Not the DoT but the
government has something to smile about. TRAI has
indirectly blessed the controversial switch-over from the
licence fee to revenue sharing method. Actually its
consultation paper released on Tuesday takes the new
arrangement forward and gives it its weighty approval.
Needless to say, subscribers and operators will widely
welcome the lower tariff and thus root for TRAIs
considerable authority and the regulator, in turn, will
keep its chin up and search for more ways to make
telephony a more level playing field than what it has
been for decades.
RUSSIAN President Boris Yeltsin need not worry about his future after his retirement in the year 2000. His antics as the countrys leader are ideally suited for a career on the stage, and the first role he should attempt is that of the queen in Alice in Wonderland. The queens favourite piece of dialogue was Off With His Head. This is also true of Mr Boris Yeltsin, who has been chopping off the heads of Russian Prime Ministers with amazing speed.
Mr Vladimir Putin, former KGB chief, was sworn in as Prime Minister a few days ago, the fourth in 17 months. His predecessor, Mr Sergei Stephashin, lasted just three months. One does not know how long Mr Putin will continue to be the Prime Minister. His appointment came after Mr Yeltsin returned from a foreign tour. All the wining and dining he enjoyed abroad must have gone into his head and it was off with yet another Prime Ministers head.
The President, obviously, enjoys the sackings. Do they keep him fit? Mr Yeltsin, who underwent a quintuple heart surgery in 1996 and whose addiction to vodka was well known, recently announced that his heart was working like a clock. The pain he had been experiencing for the past three years had completely disappeared, he added.
If the clock was functioning perfectly, who winds it and takes care of it? Are there other forces behind the Presidents bizarre actions in sacking the Prime Ministers at will? Political observers in Russia pointed out that the real power in the country was in the hands of the family, one member of which was related to the President, his daughter Tatiyana. She had been working as her fathers Image Adviser since 1996 and now wields considerable influence in all matters of state. Other members of the family were tycoon Boris Berezovsky, the head of Russias electricity monopoly, Mr Anatoly Chubais, and the Presidents Chief of Staff, Mr Alexander Voloshin, who bore a striking physical resemblance to Lenin.
The areas in which these family members operated were not clearly known but the President relied on them for most of his major decisions. Obviously, he would not indulge in the Prime Ministerial musical chairs without considering their views. The Russian media often commented sarcastically on the role of the family in national affairs. Boris Yeltsin has turned the family into a dynasty, said a headline in the publication Sevodnya while commenting on the sacking of Mr Stephashin. His successor, Mr Putin, reportedly sought the blessings of the family before assuming office.
It is not difficult to find reasons for Mr Yeltsins quixotic changes at the top. His term as the President expires by the middle of 2000, and by law he was not eligible to run for a third term. Mr Yeltsin would dearly love to amend the Russian constitution which would make him eligible for a third term, but he lacks the political clout for carrying out this coup. The next best thing is to have a successor who would go by his word and not probe too deeply into the several serious misjudgements and mistakes of the Yeltsin years. The new President should be someone who would be able to protect Mr Yeltsin, his family and cronies who had done themselves remarkably well during the past eight years. Mr Yeltsin had hoped that some of the former Prime Ministers could be trusted to do this job. But suddenly he developed cold feet and sacked them one after the other. How long Mr Putin would last as the Prime Minister, no one knows.
Meanwhile, Russia is no longer the great power it once was. Mr Yeltsin has done more damage to Russias prestige, prosperity and pride than any other President. The nation is racked by poverty, threatened by civil war. After Chechnya, it is now the turn of Dagestan to demand independence. The once famous and powerful Russian armed forces are now sullen, depleted and ready to scrounge around for a living. Quite often members of the armed forces, who belonged to the privileged class in the past, took on the ordinary people in clashes all over the nation. They have completely lost their self-respect.
This feeling is shared by the proud Russian people. They must be squirming in embarrassment at the decline of their beloved country on the international stage. As the Soviet Union, Russia had been a super power along with the USA and competed with America on equal terms in military and nuclear power, space research, technical education and sports. Today Russia no longer counts as a major force in the United Nations. It had to keep quiet as the USA and the UK unleashed bombing raids on Iraq, a long-standing ally. Closer home, Russia found its stand blatantly violated by the Western powers in Bosnia and more recently Kosovo. Russia is also worried about the expansion of NATO which is being carried out by the USA and its European allies. Though the expansion is meant to checkmate Russia, its rulers are unable to do anything about it.
Mr Yeltsins Russia is in an unenviable position of not being able to react to any act of humiliation. This is because it has to survive on Western aid, pitifully doled out by the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other agencies.There is an air of condescension when the West, particularly the USA, discusses Russian affairs, mainly economic. American President Bill Clinton has made it clear that the USA will support Mr Yeltsin so long as he bows to the stiff economic conditions imposed by the Western agencies. This is a humiliation which the great Soviet Union of the past never suffered. Financially broke and always at the mercy of the Western moneybags, Russia has been reduced to the level of a vassal. It has no choice but to play dead as the USA and the UK go ahead with their plans for a multipolar world.
The Russian people appear to have lost their will to fight such a misrule. They are more obsessed with getting their daily bread. The once powerful Soviet Union today has no food no bread, no vegetables and even no toilet paper! There is always a stampede for these items in the market. The much-touted free economy has floundered badly. Production and distribution have been taken over by the pindaris in the system for whom individual profits mean everything. These men also enjoy state patronage.
No doubt, Russia enjoys a bit of personal freedom. But this means nothing in the face of continuing shortages for food and other essentials. The President is often drunk and unwell to perform his duties. Public reactions to frequent changes of government range from deep indifference to muttered complaints of insanity of the President. The Russian society is now one of scroungers scrounging for food, clothes and shelter. Even the Tsarist days were better.
But Mr Yeltsin does not bother about these problems. He wants to go down in history as the great saviour of democracy in his country. The West, in the past, had acknowledged this rule, but today it is seriously concerned about the Presidents style of functioning. The financial agencies are reluctant to grant loans and extend credit because repayments have become sluggish and irregular. The President is also scared that once he is out of office, his detractors and political enemies will prosecute him on corruption and mismanagement charges.
Mr Yeltsin is keen to go
down in history as the great saviour. But
unlike the Russian heroes of the past, he has no feel, no
sense of history. Forget history, even the future looks
gloomy. Despite the frequent changes of Prime Ministers,
the President has no sense of security. He is scared that
hostile political forces led by the Mayor of Moscow and a
group of regional satraps, who called themselves,
Fatherland All Russia, will capture
power both in Duma (Lower House of the Russian
Parliament) and the Kremlin. If the alliance nominates a
former Prime Minister, Mr Yevgeny Primakov, as its
presidential candidate, Mr Yeltsins nominee, Mr
Putin, will be in trouble.
Neglected human resource
INTERNATIONAL Literacy Day, which falls on September 8, is unlikely to attract much attention because the country is in the grip of a rising crescendo of electioneering. Nonetheless, this particular day in the UN calendar should be an occasion for deep introspection for India. After more than 50 years of Independence, almost half of the Indians cannot read the writing on the wall, literally.
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen is right when he argues that a major reason for India being an economic laggard is its failure to develop its human capital through literacy. With a literacy rate of only 52 per cent, India harbours the largest illiterate population in the 15-plus age group (291 million) in the world. About 35 per cent of the males and 62 per cent of the females in the country are illiterate. The global literacy figure is 77 per cent.
The worlds most populous nation, China, has much fewer illiterates than India (166 million). It has a literacy rate of 82 per cent. The literacy rates of the other populous countries are: Mexico 90 per cent, Indonesia 84 per cent, Brazil 83 per cent, Nigeria 57 per cent, Egypt 51 per cent, Bangladesh 38 per cent and Pakistan 37 per cent.
Indias lugubrious performance on the literacy front is ascribable to two obvious factors: burgeoning population and neglect of the educational sector. The first factor has been operating like a vicious circle. Runaway population growth has been resulting in rapid accretions to the mass of illiterates. And growth in the mass of illiterates has been causing an exponential increase in population.
The World Banks various reports on India as well as the latest Human Development Report brought out by the UNDP contain detailed data which shows how this country has neglected its educational sector. In fact, a major reason why the countries of East Asia and South-East Asia have outstripped India economically is that they have paid more attention to human resource development by according a high priority to education.
The problem of illiteracy has to be tackled both at the level of school education and adult education. School education provides, perhaps, the most glaring example of socio-economic disparities in India. Children of the rich and the well-to-do go to what are euphemistically called public schools, imbibing expensive, superior education and acquiring a high competitive ability which gives them a headstart in life. But as regards the mass of Indian children, the state has largely failed in its duty to provide them with even nominal education, leave alone superior education.
The Directive Principles of the Constitution contain Article 45, which enjoins: The state shall endeavour to provide within 10 years free and compulsory education to all children until they reach the age of 14 years. It is not that nothing has been done. Since Independence the number of schools in the country has gone up from 2.30 lakh to 7.44 lakh, the number of teachers from 6.24 lakh to 28.36 lakh and of school children from 1.92 crore to 14.94 crore. But what has been achieved is inadequate not only in terms of quantity but also quality, showing a regrettable lack of seriousness and political will on the part of the countrys leadership.
Here are two examples: In order to reduce the dropout rate as well as nutritional deficiency in government schools, the Centre, taking a cue from the experiment launched by the MGR government in Tamil Nadu in 1982, announced on August 15, 1995 that a sum of Rs 612 crore would be allotted for a midday meal scheme to be run by the state governments, which were supposed to undertake a matching expenditure. At the end of 1995-96 an amount of only Rs 422 crore was utilised. And now the offtake of the Central grant by the states has more or less dried up because of a lackadaisical attitude towards the scheme. Again, nearly one lakh schools have no building. Operation Blackboard, launched with much fanfare in 1987, has as yet achieved only 50 per cent of its target of providing a two-room all-weather building for each primary school. Further, in many states there is a huge backlog of unspent funds for teaching and learning materials.
Since Dr. S. Radhakrishnans birth anniversary (September 5) is celebrated as Teachers Day, it needs to be pointed out that upgrading the salary scales of primary school teachers is essential if the quality of education is to be improved. That the Haryana government regards a cash award of Rs 2500 as sufficient honour for the 15 best teachers selected by it for 1998-99 is indicative of the dismissive approach towards the community of teachers.
The erstwhile United
Front government introduced a piece of legislation in
Parliament to make education a fundamental right. This is
nothing but gimmickry. Considering that it would have
become obligatory for parents to send children to school,
such legislation would have degenerated into yet another
farcical addition to the plethora of laws which are
followed more in breach than in observance. It is more
important for the state to perform its fundamental duty
to provide proper education than to play to the gallery
by harping on making education a fundamental right.
LIFE turns into a nightmare when the entire media becomes a perpetual obit tract, as it always does during war. The pride at our soldiers valour is tinged with sorrow at the annihilation of the flower of Indias youth. What homage can one pay to a soul for doing his duty? The Kargil crisis has brought out the best within us. The peacetime fissiparous tendencies metamorphosed into rocklike unity instantly.
In the sombre defence community the joy of pushing back the enemy is tempered with the grim realisation that one may never see ones bunkmate or spouse again. The most essential part of a soldiers training is the physical and mental toughening up. Paratroopers are kept physically fit through soul-sapping exercises that turn ordinary flesh and bones into high tensile steel.
Even in the 1950s there was a woman paratrooper in the IAF whose sturdiness was legendary. Flt Lt Dr Gita Chanda was a medical officer who was also the first Indian woman paratrooper. She was appointed as instructor for paratroopers an all-male assemblage. She proved to be the right medicine for them.
She would take the boys for the mandatory 20-kilometre run. Woe begone the man who fell or faltered on the way. The poor chap would get an earful. She was known to pull the guy by the scruff of the collar. While with the Provost Flight, I witnessed her actually kick the trainees in the you-know-what. Her scorn and the colourful language could make the sailor blush. During off duty hours her pupils studiously avoided getting in her way.
Yet, later on they readily acknowledged that her dose stood them in good stead in their professional life. One of her favourite lines was, The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war
What we do during
peacetime determines the results during wartime and other
emergencies. To paraphrase Lord Nelson while he
was confronting the formidable Spanish Armada
today India expects every citizen to do his duty. This is
what India needs, standing on the threshold of the
turbulent new millennium.
AIDS threat alarming signals
THE PGI (Post-graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research) was the first to detect an AIDS patient from this region in 1987. He had tested HIV positive at the Immunopathology Department during a blood screening test. The patient was from Punjab, and had contacted AIDS while visiting Congo in Africa.
This incident is just 12 years old, yet it sends alarming signals that today PGI is receiving 10 to 12 patients every week suffering from AIDS. In 1987, PGI was the least equipped to detect and handle such cases. However, the scene has changed rapidly for the better. Here is a follow up:
It was in 1982 that the world woke up to face a terrible challenge in the form of AIDS. The USA, was left powerless before a patient detected HIV positive of which there was no cure. Although a scientist from Europe had already invented a fool-proof technique to confirm HIV, yet there was no cure, a la cancer. The developed countries plunged into rigorous research to meet this challenge.
At the PGI the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) joined hands to provide infrastructure to screen blood. The ICMR began supplying test kits each costing about Rs 50, which enabled the Department of Immunopathology to aggressively conduct screening of blood to monitor HIV onslaught in this region.
The PGI has a feather in its crown in the Blood Bank Society, which again was the first of its kind founded in this region. People had begun blood donation for needy patients. However, there was no provision to establish the fact whether the donors blood was free from virus of HIV or not. With the help of ICMR compulsory screening of a donors blood was introduced in 1991-92.
At the PGI Dr Shobha Sehgal has been credited with the pioneering work in this field. She conducted studies in HIV epidemic in Punjab besides a special report on truck drivers of the region who had unknowingly transported the HIV virus to their families. Dr Sehgals further studies detected a total of 656 cases as positive out of 26,696 cases screened.
Her research also revealed that 65 per cent of the patients acquired HIV through hetero-sexual promiscuous behaviour and 15.5 per cent from infected spouces. Further 12 per cent acquired HIV after blood transfusion or renal transplant surgery, 3.5 per cent were children from infected mothers and 2 per cent through intravenous drug abuse.
On the world scene, so far, the worst affected country with AIDS is Africa. However, in times to come India will be the worst affected. A total number of people in the world who have lost their lives due to AIDS has amounted to 40 million. In India, NACO figures alone are alarming. It examined 34,37,118 persons of which 84,006 were detected HIV positive, Dr Shobha Sehgal elaborated.
Dr Usha Dutta, who heads the Immunopathology Department of the PGI, says in the initial six years only 150 cases were detected HIV positive but in the following six years the number swelled to 1,400.
At the PGI two departments are directly involved in handling AIDS patients: The Department of Immunopathology screens the blood and confirms the existence or otherwise of HIV virus. While the initial test-kit costs only Rs 50 the Western Blot or another ELISA-Plus, a rapid test, costs between Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500.
After the diagnosis it is the Department of Medicine which steps-in. An enthusiastic Dr Archana Sood of the department, who has been taking keen interest in AIDS patients, reveals. Its a well known fact that AIDS is not curable. However, certain drugs have been discovered which can prolong the life of an HIV positive patient. The three drugs (Highly Active Anti Retroviral Therapy) administered in a combination is extremely costly, ranging from Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000 per month.
On an average for an HIV positive affected patient, it takes between 5 and 7 years to become a full-blown AIDS case depending on overall health.
The Department of Medicine at PGI initially restricted the patients of AIDS in the communicative diseases ward only. However, with the increase in number of such patients the general wards too have been extended for them. The initial fears, apprehensions and risks have been covered with aggressive campaigning. We have been holding seminars and workshops to educate not only doctors but also nursing staff, lab-technicians and class IV employees to make them aware of how to safely handle patients. Our department even published a booklet, AIDS infection control measures which turned out to be very useful. The reality is that the risk from a declared HIV positive patient is far less than from the unknown amidst us, informs Dr Archana Sood.
The PGI has also been holding continuous medical education (CME) for the people within the institute as also for private practitioners. Today throughout the region private labs have been opened where HIV blood screening tests are conducted. Besides private doctors are also handling such cases. Hence holding health education programmes for such people is appreciable. Reportedly the response from private doctors and technicians is overwhelming for the CME programme.
When AIDS erupted
in Africa in an alarming way it opened AIDS
orphans society giving shelter to deserted
patients, affected wives and children and segregating
children who were not affected. In India today we need
such NGOs who could come forward with such aims and
objectives to cope with this ticking bomb. So many
deserted-ailing families come to the PGI but we can only
provide some medical relief. Society has to rise to
handle this lurking monstrous disease, appeals Dr
Pandit Mohan Lal a
PANDIT MOHAN LAL is no more with us to guide the destinies of Punjab and the Sanatan Jagat in the North and North Western regions of the country.
A brilliant exponent of laws and scriptures, a dedicated social and political reformer, a seasoned parliamentarian, an eminent educationist and a distinguished former minister, he was essentially a man of religion and culture with a mind set in the highest traditions of unalloyed patriotism of democracy and secularism and of Advaitvad in Hinduism. He lived a simple and contented life of personal austerity, of cultural catholicity and eternal love towards humanity and his fellow beings.
If he had any yearning at all, he wanted Punjab to get back its lost glory and glamour as an integral part of the Indian Union, and play its traditional role in its defence and development.
It was in 1982-83, when consequent upon the introduction of 10+2+3 pattern of higher education in Punjab and Chandigarh, the Government of the Union Territory directed its (Govt) colleges to get their Plus Two classes affiliated with the CBSE, Delhi and sent a circular to the non-government colleges of arts and science, to follow the same course, that Pt Mohan Lal, as president of the local Goswami Ganesh Dutta Sanatan Dharma College Society, decided not to fall in line. Chandigarh, he thought, was an integral part of Punjab and was to be merged with it in due course. There was, therefore, no reason that its young boys and girls should clear their senior secondary examinations without Punjabi as a compulsory subject, and thus be at a permanent disadvantage vis-a-vis their Punjab counterparts. The Punjab Government was quick enough to realise the force in his arguments, and did not only prevail upon the Chandigarh Administration to withdraw the above circular, but also issue a fresh directive to its government colleges, to get these classes affiliated with the Punjab School Education Board, instead.
Pt Mohan Lal was a staunch advocate of Hindu-Sikh Unity. They were, he often said, like two facets of the same coin and any attempt to separate them, whether from within or without, would only be futile and self-defeating. As president of Shree Sanatan Dharma Pratinidhi Sabha, Punjab, he spared no pains, both by holding frequent Akhand Paths of Shrimad Ram Charit Manas and Shakti Yogyas and organising Ekta Sammelans and Shivirs to repair the bonds of goodwill and harmony of friendship and cordiality and of amity and concord between these two communities, during the period they were under severe strain on account of the activities of militants and miscreants.
As an educationist of repute, he had not only been the Minister of Education in Punjab but also a Senator and Syndic of Panjab and Guru Nanak Dev Universities, President of the Non-Government College Managements Federation of Punjab and Chandigarh, President of the Sanatan Dharma Education Board and the founder President of Goswami Ganesh Dutta Sanatan Dharma College and Pt Mohan Lal S.D. Public School in Chandigarh and Pt Mohan Lal S.D. College for Women, Gurdaspur. His commendable work in these capacities was recently given public recognition when Guru Nanak Dev University at Amritsar conferred upon him the Honoris Causa Degree of Doctor of Philosophy for his services to the cause of education in general and of women education in particular.
I pay my homage to the
memory of this great Karmayogi. The legacy he has left
behind, whether as a front-rank Sanatanist or an apostle
of Hindu-Sikh unity or progressivism in education bears
testimony to his qualities of head and heart and places
him beyond any controversy and endears him to all those
who came in contact with him. They will continue to
remember him with affection and gratitude.
SIMLA: A Punjab Government communique says:- The Board of Examiners (Army Department) proposes to hold examinations in oriental languages under the Indian Regulations relating to the study of foreign and Indian languages at Lahore on the Ist, 2nd and 3rd October.
Officers serving under the Punjab Government who were eligible to appear at examinations conducted by the old Board of Examiners are eligible to appear at these examinations.
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