|Wednesday, February 2, 2000,
glaring CBI failure
luxury of priorities
February 2, 1925
A glaring CBI failure
EVEN by its own abysmal standard, the CBI hit a new low of incompetence on Monday. The hawala case involving Jains and several top leaders and a few bureaucrats just disappeared into history without leaving any scar. The last chargesheet has been thrown out by a court. In Delhi again, a sessions judge reprimanded the agency for trying to distort records to secure the release of a person from whose house it had recovered nearly a kilo of opium. In Calcutta, it found its case against the only Indian link in the Purulia arms dropping case was thrown out a the court, which lamented that there was nothing on record to link the Ananda Marg with the frightening operation although it is apparent that it was the intended recipient. For one day it is a distressingly long list of fiascos and worse. For those who are struggling to come out of the shock acquittal of the accused in the Priyadarshini Mattoo case, the latest clutch of failures must be a painful reminder.
The hawala case once appeared to be clear cut but the CBI succeeded in converting it into a ridiculously porous one. It had the dairy of Jains, several computer disks and it also had a detailed confessional statement by one of the brothers. All it had to do was to collect circumstantial evidence by painstaking leg work and, yes, its homework. Instead it sent in for its hack writer and wove a story on the basis of the diary, some loose sheets and the confession. The court held the paper proof as inadmissible thereby nearly killing the prosecution case. When Mr S.K. Jain retracted his statement the CBI charge looked flat like a table without legs. Only the last rites remained and they were performed on Monday. In the West, money-laundering and tax fraud are considered serious economic offences and there are independent investigating agencies to chase and punish the guilty. Big names had been jailed within a very short time. The hawala case would have most certainly ended in a string of conviction if the CBI had pursued the leads with a degree of diligence and commitment. For instance, it hurled very serious allegations against Mr Arif Mohammed Khan but failed to find any evidence to prop them up. It means that either the charges were flippand and false or the agency is lazy and stupid.
The arms dropping case
is as serious in terms of national security as the hawala
case is in terms of economic security. Yet only a bunch
of mercenaries face a jail term and the real criminals
are free. It is like shooting the messenger for bringing
an unpleasant message. Who organised the gun running,
which the court says, could disturb the entire region? In
other words, what was the purpose or the motive? Again,
who or what stood to gain by receiving this deadly cargo?
Those who read the escapades of Sherlock Holmes in their
school days will know that the clue to solving a crime is
to search for the motive and the likely beneficiary. The
CBI obviously has not learnt this basic lesson. It has a
weak alibi in the fact that seven other accused are
absconding and they are all, apart from Davy, avaduts and
anands, meaning members of the Anand Marg cult. As the
judge has curtly remarked, the CBI had conveniently
concluded that the cult had ordered the arms and since
its three-storeyed white building in the area was the
focus of dropping, the charge stood established. But the
court cannot go only on circumstantial evidence even if
it is as compelling as in this case; there must be strong
basis to accept it as substantial evidence. So he
acquitted a local cult member and for the present cleared
even the Ananda Marg of any link with the gun running.
India is wracked by armed insurgency and yet a bunch of
amateurs are able to sneak into the country to dump
several crates of arms and ammunition with precision and
the CBI, thanks to their chance arrest at Mumbai airport,
can only proceed against five wretched crew members and a
flamboyant sub-leader. What is the message the CBI is
sending to potential economic pirates and arms smugglers?
It is terrifying.
THE British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr Keith Vaz, has a lot of explaining to do on the controversial visa-for-money project. The anger in India over the proposal to charge 10,000 pounds (about Rs 7.5 lakh) as surety from those desirous of visiting their relatives in England is understandable. The officials of the British High Commission in Delhi have made a vain attempt to justify the pilot project likely to come into force later this year. They have claimed that it is wrong to suppose that everyone going to England will have to deposit the bond money. Those visa seekers whose papers are in order will not have to do so at all. More than 56,000 visas had been issued from Delhi last year. At the same time 11,000 visa seekers had been rejected. It is for the benefit of the latter category that the scheme was being implemented, it is being claimed. Among them are many who want to visit their relatives in England but cannot be given visas because immigration officers suspect that they will overstay. Those considered "borderline" cases could be given visas on furnishing bonds either by themselves or by their relatives in England. What no one has been able to clarify is what will be the mechanism by which certain cases will be identified as "borderline". Even otherwise, the scheme is discriminatory on several counts. First of all, it is sought to be implemented without consulting India. Second, it is to be applicable only to India, Bangladesh and some countries in Africa. The irony is that it is not applicable even in the case of Pakistan. Under the circumstances, the Indian government is absolutely right in saying that it would consider taking reciprocal measures if the scheme is implemented. It has been pointed out that any new rules or regulations should be implemented on a non-discriminatory basis for citizens of all countries. This basic courtesy has not been extended to India.
Having said all that,
there is need for doing a bit of introspection also. What
has to be conceded is that Indian and Bangladeshi
citizens are notorious for staying in England and other
countries illegally. There is a mafia in operation which
takes people from here to western countries on fake
papers. Then there are many who go on valid travel visas
but go missing once they enter the country of
destination. Many of these take recourse to various
stratagems for taking permanent residence there. Some
live like slaves and are exploited by those who know that
they are without valid papers. Others take the plea that
they are being persecuted in India. Among them are many
who do not have any evidence to prove this. And yet, they
hire professionals to prove their false accusation. The
result is that a wrong impression is formed about the
situation in India. This tendency needs to be
The question of Jerusalem
AS Palestinian and Israeli negotiators are endeavouring to hammer out a final framework for a comprehensive peace agreement between the two sides by the fast nearing deadline February 13 strategically the most significant information has been leaked out by the Israeli side, whether purposely or otherwise. Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh, who is considered close to Prime Minister Ehud Barak, has been quoted to have said that opinion in his government is veering round to the view that the Palestinians can be allowed to establish the capital of their future homeland in the eastern part of Jerusalem, as they have been demanding. Israel hopes to help resolve the thorniest issue that could render useless all the progress made towards reaching the final status of the peace accord signed in Oslo, the Norwegian capital, in 1993. But the Barak government does not seem to be as honest as it appears on the face of it in the matter of handing over the control of East Jerusalem, captured in the 1967 war, to the Palestinian Authority. The idea, is to extend the municipal limits of the historic city and then, perhaps, part with some of the East Jerusalem areas to accommodate Palestinian aspirations. If this is the truth, then Jerusalem will continue to remain an issue and an explosive one, no doubt. And without finding a convincing answer to the Jerusalem question, any understanding on the two other knotty issues the return of the Palestinian refugees and the delineation of the borders of the State of Palestine will fail to bring about the desired results.
Of course, until
yesterday no Israeli government could agree to divide the
city, so significant it is for the Jews, religiously
speaking. But the followers of two other monotheistic
religions Christianity and Islam too feel
equally attached to the city. The Palestinian Arabs
cannot think of a homeland without the entire East
Jerusalem being part of it. This part is predominantly
inhabited by Arabs, the status Israel has been trying to
change since its capture in 1967, though unsuccessfully.
In fact, the Palestinians were initially hesitant to
enter into any kind of negotiations even at Oslo so long
as the final status of Jerusalem was made part of the
whole exercise. They later on relented as there was an
understanding that the city could be used as the joint
capital by the two sides. Mr Yossi Beilin, a Minister in
the then Labour government in Israel who was involved in
the Oslo parleys, some time ago described the Palestinian
gesture as their benevolence. He, at the same
time, pointed out that it was also almost unthinkable for
the Government of Israel to take the decision it did
sharing Jerusalem as its capital. But without
exhibiting the spirit of compromise no discussion can
lead one to the intended objective. The melting of ice on
both sides has given birth to a process that can change
the entire atmosphere in the West Asian region in the
days to come. Both sides have benefited immensely, Israel
being the major gainer. Israels relations with
Jordan have undergone a sea-change during this period. It
is in the process of negotiating an agreement with Syria
on the issue of the Golan Heights as also on Lebanon. All
this could not be possible without the success of the
Oslo initiative. If the Barak government could manage to
hand over the control of East Jerusalem to the
Palestinians, it would, in the process, strengthen the
hands of the Yasser Arafat administration to neutralise
the influence of the Palestinian hardliners who use every
opportunity to incite violence against the Israelis.
INDIA'S NUCLEAR ODYSSEY
INDIA'S tryst with the atom unfolds a story packed with romanticism of reaching out to advanced scientific quests in an industrial backwater. As Dr Bhabha once put it: taking a leap from the bullock cart to the aeroplane, as the shortest means to pull India out of the mire of poverty and backwardness.
Indias nuclear quest is also tied to an accident of history a confluence of two of the most striking personalities the world of science and political decision-making has seen. They were Indias first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, and the great nuclear scientist and organiser, Dr Homi J.Bhabha. Nehrus strong attachment to science provided the political will, and Dr Bhabhas scientific genius mapped out the path for Indias acquisition of nuclear capability.
Dedicated primarily to atomic power generation and other peaceful applications such as agriculture and medical domain, Indias nuclear technology acquisition kept the weapon option open. For both areas peaceful applications and the weapon option Bhabha had a clear strategic vision and priorities. A poor country like India cannot afford to give priority to atomic weapons. And uranium enrichment based on the diffusion method, then the prevalent route to weapon making, was ruled out absolutely for the massive input of electricity and other resources that it involved.
India had to build up scientific and technological capability based largely on self-reliance that was the Bhabha-divined road for the acquisition of nuclear capability, with priority for atomic power generation, and a lower priority for the weapon option.
Acquiring capability along the entire nuclear fuel cycle was the goal set out by Bhabha. What does this mean? Building up of nuclear and related industrial capability all along the line from uranium mining and refinement, fuel fabrication for diverse reactors, designing and construction of reactors, building heavy water plants and nuclear industrial units, and finally running atomic power stations. Safety and the problem of nuclear wastes management was, of course, given primacy right from the start. By self-reliance, however, neither Bhabha nor his successors meant exclusivism. Science like all knowledge was universal, and international cooperation in science and scientific quests was to be welcomed and sought for. But if scientific cooperation was denied self-reliance and indigenous efforts came in.
A landmark in the build up of infrastructure for Indias nuclear capability was the construction in 1994-95 of a nuclear spent fuel reprocessing test plant at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) by a team of scientists and engineers headed by Homi Sethna. It is this breakthrough that provided the link between nuclear power production and the weapon option based on the plutonium route. Over the years, as Indian scientists acquired a grip over spent fuel reprocessing, the plutonium route to atomic weapons opened up, bypassing the enormously costly uranium enrichment method.
India now has four reprocessing plants while the pioneering BARC unit has become a full-fledged plant, at Tarapur a spent fuel reprocessing plant was built and has been operating for a decade and a half, and the most modern and advanced reprocessing plant has come up at Kalpakkam. The fourth unit, a specialist reprocessing plant, has recently been commissioned at Kalpakkam itself for reprocessing FBTR spent fuel.
The acquisition and rapid development of spent fuel reprocessing technology justifies the Indian claim that this countrys route to the nuclear weapon option is a spin-off from the power programme and the cheapest weapon programme anywhere in the world. Albeit, with the limitation that Indias aim is the build up of a credible nuclear deterrent which rules out India joining a nuclear arms race of global proportions.
Another link between the Indian atomic power programmes growth and the weapon option was the construction of the high flux nuclear research reactor, Dhruva, whose indigenous development by a team of leading engineers and scientists at BARC in the eighties denoted the acquisition of nuclear technology of a high order. Dhruva, an important tool as a research reactor in the atomic power programme, also provided weapon grade plutonium 239 essential in the plutonium route to nuclear weapons. Plutonium obtained from reprocessing power reactor spent fuel is not weapon grade as its structure has the predominance of Pu240, undependable for weapons. Plutonium obtained from the high flux research reactor, Dhruva, is weapon-grade. A small additional source of Pu239 in India is the Cirus research reactor built with Canadian collaboration in 1962. But not till Dhruva spent-fuel plutonium pool had been enlarged to have a stockpile could India have exercised its weapon option.
That flashpoint in the Indian weapon programme came in 1998 when on May 11 and 13 five tests of varied strength, which included testing of a thermonuclear device, were conducted very successfully at Pokhran. Between Pokhran I and Pokhran II a vast scientific and nuclear technology acquisition by Indian scientific institutions is revealed.
Glamorous as the Pokhran II tests appear to be, far more fascinating and absorbing is the uphill road taken by India for building up atomic power generation capacity as mapped out by Bhabha, overcoming the constraints of denial by the West of advanced reactor construction technology. To overcome uranium enrichment problems for reactor fuel later encountered for the operation of the Tarapur reactors built with American turn-key collaboration India took to the pressurised heavy water reactor (PHWR) design of the Canadian type, and has built a chain of PHWRs in different locations of the country, upgrading the design and operational features, particularly the safety features, in the process. These are 220 MWe reactors, the last commissioned being the state-of-the-art eleventh reactor at Kaiga. The next line of 500 MWe PHWR reactor construction has now commenced.
On the way to the implementation of the Bhabha strategy of constructing pressurised heavy water reactors in the first phase, followed by fast breeders in the second and third generations activating Indias vast thorium reserves, a strong base has been laid for Indian nuclear capability overall by creating a comprehensive research and development network all over the country. Some of the R&D centres established in fulfilment of Indias nuclear programme match those of the advanced Western countries. In laying this R&D base for nuclear capability, India is ahead of China and Japan, next only to the nuclear big three the USA, France and Russia.
The country can proudly proclaim this. A glimpse of some of these centres is inspiring. From the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) to BARC to IGCAR at Kalpakkam, the Centre for Advanced Technology (CAT) in Indore, the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre at Calcutta, the Institute of Plasma Research at Ahmedabad, and the Atomic Minerals Directorate. Here is a chain of advanced research centres which provide backup not only for Indias nuclear operations, overwhelmingly in peaceful nuclear applications power generation, medical domain, agriculture, hydrology etc but also in the exercise of the weapon option.
Today, under the purview of the Atomic Energy Commission and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) along with the atomic power programme and nuclear applications in agriculture, medicine, hydrology and other spheres, the chain of research institutions has generated a number of high technologies,which include lasers for use in surgery and industry, accelerators for nuclear research, Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) at Pune, the biggest in the world, outclassing the largest radio telescope in the USA, a supercomputer system using parallel processing techniques, advanced remote handling and robotic devices and servo-manipulators for applications in industry, scintigraphic techniques used in organ imaging in medical diagnosis, and sophisticated facilities for analysis and the characterisation of ultra-pure materials.
The full story of Indias road to nuclear capability acquisition is bumpy but absolutely absorbing and spread over 50 years.
FOR a person known for her crusade on issues relating to the environment, Ms Maneka Gandhi has now been entrusted the task of empowering the deprived and disabled, a job she is attending to seriously.
Im heading an NGO based ministry. I dont have the luxury of priorities. Ive street children, disabled and old people. Ive all those the world forgot, says the Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Ms Maneka Gandhi, while talking passionately about the social obligations that are synonymous with her portfolio.
To most people in her ministry, Maneka Gandhi means business. In her second year as the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, she has taken a series of measures aimed at bringing about a qualitative change in the lives of the street children, the disabled and the elderly. It is not rare to find such persons knocking her office door for help. To know more about her policies this correspondent spoke to her at her office in Shastri Bhavan in New Delhi.
The following are the excerpts from the interview:
Q: You propose to provide preventive, curative and rehabilitation services to the disabled at the doorstep. Can you elaborate?
Ans: Ever since Ive taken over, Ive focused very strongly on disability. One thing that was quite obvious was that while disablement was growing, none of our services cater to it at all in spite of the fact that we have a ministry for it. We have national institutes for it, we have the Rehabilitation Council of India. The objective was to convert all these into service centres which regard the disabled as clients not as beggars you give something to. The maximum they were doing was some camps every year. From seven NGOs my predecessor was supporting, we raised it to 2,300. Secondly, we changed all the schemes removing the clause for mandatory State Government permission for applications from NGOs. This permission was holding up things for four to five years. We are no longer asking State Governments to check. But, we have retired Army personnel, social service institutes like Tata and Delhi Social Service Institute to check whether these institutions run at all. We also increased the salaries for the staff of the NGOs to a realistic sum to ensure that they would stay.
Q: How are you streamlining the functioning of the national institutes working in the disability sector?
Ans: All the national institutes were told to expand their work last year, the National Institute of Physically Handicapped organised 50 camps. We found that even that was not enough, Im a person in a hurry (laughs) and everybody knows that. I cant wait a thousand years to reach every block, district and taluk. We have decided to set up permanent centres for the deaf in 112 districts. Each would cater to the blind, the deaf and the disabled so that if anybody in a rural area has a problem, he can go to the centre. We are working with the State Governments to provide us a place and have already had our meetings! Besides, each national institute working in the disability sector has been revamped with better targets.
Q: Can you tell us about the pension reforms proposed by a committee nominated by the government?
Ans: The project called OASIS (old age social and income security) was commissioned by the Ministry to examine policy questions connected with old-age income security in the country. The pension scheme will change the whole of India if we do it. The 21st century needs new ways of dealing with the population and providing them security. Right now, only 9 per cent people get pension in India. We are looking at recommendations which propose simple ways of facilitating savings. The committee has proposed a new pension scheme based on individual retirement accounts.
Q: Any other plans for the disabled?
Ans: We are trying to set up private employment agencies for the disabled in every State. We have started one in Calcutta. We are in the process of starting one in Pune and negotiating with somebody in Delhi.
Q: Are you proposing any amendments to the Rehabilitation Council of India Act and the Persons with Disabilities Act (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act?
Ans: Weve changed the council. We have made a team and 25,000 doctors have been trained in one year to deal with disabled people. The Act is being changed to make it stronger. It is awaiting Cabinet approval. We are also changing the Persons with Disabilities Act to include more disabilities and to have 3 per cent job reservation each for private and government sectors and award very strong penalties for violation. These are penalties which the violators would be scared of.
Q: Are you satisfied with the budgetary support to your Ministry?
Ans: Im happy with the Budget. I just think I should be more competent to use it. Last time, it was about Rs 1600 crore. You know housewives make one rupee stretch when they use it well. We are no longer spending money on going abroad.
Q: What are the changes you have brought about in the Ministry?
Ans: I found that every single officer in the Ministry was working with one NGO. So, they never had time to do any policy planning and no new ideas were coming up. I created an NGO wing comprising four Directors, a Joint Secretary and an Additional Secretary to expedite matters.
We have given 42 computers and we have employed data entry operators to complete all data entries by April. So there is no question now of losing files which was very common here, or losing letters. Today, this is the only Ministry that has brought out a book of every single scheme along with the forms so that you know what is being offered. We have given it to MLAs and NGOs. Until now, nobody knew what this Ministry did and how they could apply. Once the computer goes on the Net, everything will be transparent.
I would like to think that the Ministry is working 70 per cent of its capacity.
Q: Youve made a long overdue intervention to ensure that court cases of senior citizens are settled expeditiously. Have you got any feedback and is there any mechanism to monitor its implementation.
Ans: We requested the Chief Justices of all High Courts in the country to issue suitable instructions for expeditious disposal of cases involving older persons (60 years and above). All of them have responded. It is for them to supervise. Im now going to write to them since it has been six months since they agreed. You and I know that property cases go on for ever and old people who are struggling are going to die without seeing the end of the case.
Q: You mentioned that juvenile justice homes are not good and we are insensitive to street children. Why are they no good?
Ans: Because in India we have no respect for those that are not owned whether it is stray animals, street children, old people or the disabled. Therefore, an institution that has to look after somebody who does not have any voice tends to be a brutal system. There is no education most of the time. There are very few facilities. Children are burnt. There is no attempt to make them responsible human beings who go happily into adulthood. There is a combination of beating and starvation. Some of them run away. The older and the younger children are kept together. So there is sexual harassment. There are lots of things wrong.
Q: What do you propose to do about them?
Ans: Lots of
non-governmental organisations have involved themselves
and once NGOs enter the system and start looking at the
juvenile justice system, they get slightly better. The
first thing I tried and we were not a failure at were to
involve corporates to take over one or two homes each. A
lot of corporates came but when it came to actually
shelling out money, they all backed out. We were going
through meeting after meeting after meeting with them and
saying you dont have to do any work. The NGOs will
do the caring. You only have to put aside an X amount of
money. Weve evolved a programme for street children
which was a smashing success. We have set up a 24-hour
Child Helpline Service in several cities to help children
MR Mosleys visit to Kinkinarah has impressed him, among other things, with the imperative necessity of an immediate inquiry into the conditions of Indian labour a need which has been repeatedly urged in the Indian Press and by Indian public men who have studied the labour problem in India in its various aspects.
Working men in India at present labour under manifold disabilities and difficulties. Among the main points requiring immediate attention are the housing problem, the question of making provision for old age and illness proper organisation, the question of hours of work and the adequacy of wages. Whether the costly method of a Parliamentary Commission, for which Mr Mosley declares he would work on returning to England, would be the proper thing for an inquiry into these problems and for suggesting their solution is, however, open to doubt.
India is too poor to pay
the heavy cost of Parliamentary Commissions in quick
succession. But there is no doubt that a strong case has
been made out for an enquiry into the labour problem in
India and that if a cheaper method can be adopted to that
end, the Indian public will welcome the enquiry.
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