Saturday, May 20, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Fighting for women’s rights

The Sunday Tribune (May 14) contained an excellent account by Mr Harihar Swarup of Ms Asma Jahangir’s struggles against the stranglehold of obscurantism and Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan.

Mr Swarup has cited, among others, the case of Salamat Masih, who was sentenced to death for scribbling blasphemous words on the walls of a mosque, despite his being illiterate. He adds that Masih was “acquitted on appeal”. Kindly permit me to complete the record. For this purpose I can do no better than quote from the Readers’ Digest of May, 2000 (Pakistan’s war on Christians).

“In February, 1995, Justice Arif Bhatti overturned the death sentences on the two survivors. But posters printed by an extremist group soon called for the public lynching of Salamat and Rehmat, and they had to be smuggled out of the country.

“On October 10, 1997, Justice Bhatti was shot dead by a gunman in his Lahore law office”.

SAS Nagar


Alternative medicines

The article entitled India & search for alternative medicines by Mr M.S.N. Menon (May 12), made interesting and informative reading benefiting particularly those who are under the sweeping influence of the modern system of medicines, which, as has been pointed out by the author, do not provide answer to all the health problems faced by all the people but on the contrary complicate the same through after-effects or addiction etc.

The age-old popularity of the ayurvedic and unani or the traditional systems of medicines in India was eroded during British rule since the alien rulers who had imported the European or modern system called allopathy for their own benefits owed political responsibility towards the establishment and popularity of “their” system in this country, for which they had forced that system upon our people.

Very few readers may know that during the Governor-Generalship of Lord Dalhousie, a new allopathic hospital was started at Allahabad and all the people, including women living in seclusion, were forced to visit the hospital while the Indian vaids and hakims were forbidden to prescribe any medicine or to treat any patient. That order issued by the English rulers at Allahabad has caused such a commotion amongst the masses that the officials were compelled to withdraw the “order”. The natives did not oppose any such move so vehemently everywhere with the result that such an official policy affected the latter system badly during pre-independence era.Things have not changed even after independence.

Shahpur (Phillaur)

Women in panchayats

Though the 73rd Amendment has ensured adequate representation of women at different levels of panchayati raj institutions in Haryana but there seems to be no end to their problems. A large percentage of women elected to these bodies feel themselves inferior to men due to their illiteracy and ignorance. The illiteracy inhibits their decision-making roles and they are controlled either by their husbands or other male members of the family. The male members act as proxy-sarpanches or panches. The decisions of these women are largely influenced by their spouses.

The meetings of these bodies are attended by their husbands or their relatives. There is virtually no shift of power and it is still in the hands of the males. During the March elections in Haryana, in majority of cases where women contestants were illiterate, it was noticed that only the male members of these contestants were canvassing while they themselves were nowhere on the scene. Many women withdrew from elections because they felt that there was no financial gain in this venture and moreover the males are not going to accept their changing roles. Thus, by and large, the results of the elections are satisfactory but to achieve the desired results of women empowerment, some serious efforts are urgently required, Some suggestions are as follows:

First education of women is very important and it has to be ensured that only the educated women come to these institutions.

Second, all elected members of these institutions must be given remuneration as is given in case of elected members of state assemblies and Parliament.

Third, provision must be made to stop the proxy-participation by husbands and other relatives and finally, provision should be made for training and orientation of women regarding the working of the institutions. The universities and other educational institutions can be associated in these endeavours.


Another blow

In the ‘Chandigarh Calling’ item on May 8, ‘Another Blow’, the date of death of the legendary singer K.L. Saigal has been inadvertently mentioned as January 18, 1947. He died on January 18, 1946, at Jalandhar.

Though K.L. Saigal has made a mark in the Hindi film music because of his melodious and mellifluous voice, yet he did not encourage his children to adopt singing as a profession despite the fact that they had inherited singing from their father. In fact Saigal himself has found it hard to make both ends meet with whatever he earned from singing. That is why he started acting in films. Not only Saigal but other singers like Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhosle, Geeta Dutt, Talat Mahmood, Mukesh, Kishore Kumar Surrender etc., also had to act in films as they could get only pittance by singing in the films. As they felt quite insecure in the singing profession, none of them encouraged his/her children to adopt singing as a profession. This is true of the children of Mohd Rafi and Talat Mahmood.

What a sorry state of affairs that despite the presence of the gifted children of renowned singers, the music industry is facing a draught of talent and calibre in the realm of music.


We are 100 crore

It was widely reported in all leading news papers of the country as we touched 100 crore on May 12,2000, the second largest population in world, next only to our gigantic neighbour China. Keeping in view the annual growth rate, India will take over China in the next 50 years.

Population explosion puts extensive pressure on already limited civic amenities viz; water supply, public transport, housing, medical facilities etc. The fragmentation of land in rural areas is progressively reducing the size of land holding, thus increasing the rural poverty. The incidence of poverty can be witnessed in the most horrifying manner in rural India. Our buffer stock is overflowing with grains (the apex agricultural body, FCI is in dire necessity of additional storage space) but vast chunk of population has no financial resources to procure grains, thus getting dragged in a never-ending cycle of abject poverty.

The other gory manifestation of poverty is unemployment, the great stigma on body fabric of country, unemployment on a large scale generates broken homes, civic unrest, law & order problem. It puts great pressure on law enforcing agencies. Govt organisations have no concrete policy of population control. The significance of small family will only be realised when education is available in rural India.



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