Sunday, April 22, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Pakistan — a failed state?
Rakshat Puri
S it appropriate to speak of a state as having failed? Ordinarily no. A state emerges historically to its particular identity as an evolutionary process. A sense grows gradually of fellow feeling in a group of persons that inhabit a particular area or territory continually until a common identity comes to be assumed naturally.

The heart of living
V. K. Kapoor
IFE is not heroics, but small practical things that come together to give effectiveness. It consists of small discreet goals that become an entire universe.

Taste of official ‘honey’
Swaraj Chauhan
HE Tehelka revelation is yet another dramatic manifestation of an age-old malaise — the abuse of public office for private gain — that was vividly recorded by ancient India’s foremost theorist, Chanakya, in the first scientific treatise on statecraft.


Akal Takht on girl-child
April 21
, 2001
Big leap in space
April 20
, 2001
Plane truths
April 19
, 2001
A hollow threat
April 18, 2001
A testing time ahead
April 17, 2001
Peace or pandemonium?
April 16, 2001
Female infanticide and falling status of women
April 15
, 2001
Spy plane compromise
April 14
, 2001
“Kharkoo” in the net
April 13
, 2001
Old ties, new thrust
April 12
, 2001
Signals from Haidergarh
April 11
, 2001
IT sheds its sheen
April 10
, 2001

Social justice initiative
Shyam Ratna Gupta
OR the first time in free India, social welfare has been upgraded to a ministerial status, labelled Social Justice—a concept borrowed from the Marxian lexicon, and synthesised with animal welfare, it is ideologically aligned with the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence.


Harihar Swarup
Supreme leader of Iran
HEN Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee met Iran's supreme leader, Ayatullah Seyed Ali Khamenei, a newspaper headline screamed: ‘‘Saffron man face to face with Ayatullah’’. Truly, Vajpayee’s party professes an ideology which is divergently opposite to Islamic hardliner Khamenei's faith yet both leaders were closeted for over 40 minutes.


Congress caught in its own web(site)
HE dilemma of the Congress of finding an honourable way out of the Tehelka expose is beginning to become an albatross around its neck. 

  • Disinvestment blues

  • Diplomacy on the sly

  • DNA of NDA!

  • Parking travails

  • Congress satisfaction

  • Wife's husband


Humra Quraishi
Maharaja who put an end to invasions
HE bicentennial celebrations of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh start at Vigyan Bhavan here on April 21. And going by the very elaborate invitation card and the who’s who invited to speak on the occasion — Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Mr Khushwant Singh and Dr Manmohan Singh — it should turn out to be an impressive function. 






Pakistan — a failed state?
Rakshat Puri

IS it appropriate to speak of a state as having failed? Ordinarily no. A state emerges historically to its particular identity as an evolutionary process. A sense grows gradually of fellow feeling in a group of persons that inhabit a particular area or territory continually until a common identity comes to be assumed naturally. Common aspirations surface without reflection, a common concern for social and national security crystallises, the feeling of a distinctive home-country takes root in the mind, and a common cultural gesture of thoughts tends to take definite shape. In such a state, where individuals in society have a context of historical growth in togetherness through triumphs and vicissitudes, it would not seem appropriate or valid to speak of a state as having failed.

It may not, however, seem inappropriate to speak of a state having failed if it has not evolved to its present distinct character but has been created artificially. In southern Europe, Yugoslavia was for example created artificially. It could not stay. It has broken up into the ethnically compact and homogeneous regions of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia etc. Yugoslavia might aptly be described as a failed state.

There are two artificially-created states in South Asia — Afghanistan and Pakistan. They may not be in the process of coming apart — though East Pakistan’s separation as Bangladesh, for reasons of lingo-cultural differences which defied linkage of a common Islamic religion on which Pakistan’s creation was based, was, and in the prevailing conditions remains, ominous.

Afghanistan was created in the second half of the 19th century as a part of the Russo-British Great Game. The last part of the creation was the agreement negotiated on the Durand Line, which separated British India from the Kingdom of Afghanistan. The kingdom was created by bringing together various consolidated tribes and ethnic groups to form a single state — Tajiks in the north-east, Uzbeks in the north, Pushtoons in the east and south-east, Persian-speaking Khorasanis in the west, Shiaite Hazaras in the central highlands, Baluchis in the south-western corner etc.

The question of compatibility among them was not considered. The situation that prevails today in that unhappy country may well be rooted in the artificial manner of its creation. Afghanistan did not evolve to become a state. Similarly, Pakistan was also created artificially by tearing it out of an India that had evolved and consolidated into a state with a definite and identifiable character under the British rule. An Islamic party, the Muslim League, was favoured, even nurtured, by British policy-makers to not merely counter the Indian National Congress. The purpose also was, obviously, to create a friendly state in South Asia where the British might continue to have a foothold after they left the sub-continent.

The British attitude became eventually clear enough in the way that British army officers instigated revolt by the Gilgit Scouts against the J & K Maharaja’s forces on the eve of the Pakistani invasion of Jammu & Kashmir, which started on October 20, 1947. Major Brown led the revolt. Prof F. M. Hassnain has provided a graphic account in his Gilgit — The Northern Gate of India, which appeared in 1978 when he was Director of Archives, Jammu and Kashmir.

Subsequently, when the UN considered the Indian complaint against Pakistan’s invasion — the Cold War had got into stride — this attitude of strategic self-interest marked the approach jointly of the British and the US governments. In due course Pakistan came to be patronised by the American-led West.

It became a member of various West-backed treaties and groupings, such as the South-East Asia Treaty Organisation and the Baghdad Pact and was made member of an economic grouping along with Iran and Turkey — that was essentially a pro-West group with a role in the Cold War, and which eventually broke up because of culturo-economic incompatibility.

The driving force behind Pakistan’s policy moves and alliances was and is hostility towards India. This hostility seems an unspoken, possibly unconscious, attempt to find a Pakistani national identity, which nevertheless remains elusive.

The attempt seemed necessary because Pakistan’s history and culture are the part of India. Its official language is Indian in origin. India also has a sizable Islamic population — the bulk of the pre-1947 Muslim population did not migrate to Pakistan.

Down the years, as part of this attempt, Pakistan has seemed to welcome a kind of British-US—later almost exclusively US — patronage in spite of its not quite coinciding with the independence of action in Islamabad. But it did help to keep Pakistan politically as well as financially afloat. Then, even while Pakistan was part of the various Western treaties and groupings for containment of Soviet and Chinese Communism, it walked into close friendship with Beijing, after China’s border war with India put the seal on Delhi-Beijing hostility. On March 2, 1963, it actually signed an agreement with Beijing illegally ceding a part of Jammu & Kashmir to China even though the

J&K issue was under UN consideration. Curiously, all this did not seem to disconcert too much the Americans and their allies. About a decade later, Henry Kissinger, as Nixon’s Secretary of State, flew on an ice-breaking visit to Beijing from Pakistan.

In 1954 the USA introduced Pakistan to the nuclear world by sending the Atoms for Peace exhibition to tour that country. American scientists helped set up Pakistan’s Atomic Energy Commission, and also the Pakistan Institute of Nuclear Science and Technology.

Possibly, the USA did not have exact measure of Pakistani nuclear ambitions. China did. It gave Pakistan nuclear technology and missiles. Washington was disturbed and resorted eventually to cut-offs in aid under various legislative restrictions amendment.

These were waived and aid resumed from 1981 when Pakistan helped the USA by organising Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan against invading Soviet forces. Meanwhile, Pakistani friendship with China thrived because Islamabad became a model instrument for Chinese strategic interests. One of the purposes was to keep India in check. Another seemingly was to influence, and to some extent control, fundamentalist forces. Its connection with the Afghan Mujahideen is said to date back to the Soviet-invasion days.

Two years ago, Chinese received unexploded American missiles from the Taliban in that country. Last September, it is said, Chinese technologists set up Chinese electricity-generating and communications systems for Taliban. If the Chinese can influence and control Taliban in Afghanistan, is it not likely that their influence and control extends to Pakistan-based fundamentalist Islamic and jehaadi groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed?

Today, Islamabad seems to move and act almost entirely on Beijing’s advice. With conditions as they seem to be developing in China, it is the People’s Liberation Army that seems calling the shots in Beijing. The advice that moves the military regime in Islamabad may therefore essentially be from the PLA. How far does the Musharraf’s regimes writ run? Does it control the Inter-Services Intelligence? What is Musharraf’s relationship with the Generals who put him in power at the time of the coup? What is the Musharraf regime’s relationship with the fundamentalist Islamic and jehaadi groups?

In the midst of all this, there are the economic and the sectarian or separatist problems. It has been pointed out that some 80 per cent of Pakistan’s external national debt of $ 37 billion is rooted in its military endeavours. A former Pakistani Finance Minister, Mr S. Babar Ali, has gone on record saying that “Pakistan cannot afford further escalation of defence expenditure, we need to focus on strengthening our economy.” In Pakistan’s sectarian troubles, the problem is not merely Shia-Sunni and other similar differences. There are also some pronounced separatist tendencies.

Recently, Munawar Laghari, director of the World Sindhi Institute in Washington, said during an interview that Sindh has a much longer history than Pakistan’s. As against Sindhu Desh, Pakistan is an accident of history.

Last September, at a meeting in London of Pakistani opposition leaders of Sindh, Baluchistan, the NWFP and of the Urdu-speaking Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the MQM leader declared that the division of the sub-continent into Pakistan and India was the biggest blunder in modern history — the Titanic of the Islamic umma is now sinking… We did not want to hear the truth in 1971 (when Bangladesh won independence from Pakistan), and Pakistan broke up. Then, according to a report in The Economic Times, he even sang the first line of Saare Jehaan Se Achha Hindustan Hamaara.

Would it be right, then, to describe Pakistan as a failed state? (Asia Features)


The heart of living
V. K. Kapoor

LIFE is not heroics, but small practical things that come together to give effectiveness. It consists of small discreet goals that become an entire universe. Little things console us because little things afflict us. An average person is programmed for safety and fear is a dominant component of his internal operating system. Both courage and fear emanate from within. There are no wins where fear and safety dominate. Fear and security are antithetic to the creative process. People remain trapped in their own fears and anxieties. Our pre-determined limitations are our natural enemies. Mind, body and emotional system are closely aligned. One is optimally situated between euphoria and depression, boredom and excitement, relaxation and anxiety. A fine line exists between “psyched-up” and “psyched-out” and that optimal performance occurs right in the middle of two extremes. This is a state of harmony—of complete mental and physical coordination. Removing the risk is not the answer, managing it is. Achievement is what you do to yourself, not what you do to others. Success is the currency of life.

Feelings of confidence depend upon the type of thoughts that habitually occupy your mind. Thoughts define our minds’ health. Evil thoughts are the most powerful of man’s interior enemies. Our lives are made by thoughts and ideas. We become finally what we think. Habits of thoughts are mental magnets that draw to us certain things, people and conditions. Self-confidence is the external expression of our inner view of our self. It shows a strong internal belief system. We can do almost anything if we believe we can and are incapable of performing the simplest tasks if we are insecure or fearful.

Confident and successful people are holistic, not myopic. They are macro, not micro. They are qualitative and not quantitative. They operate inductively not deductively. Pervasive of all minds’ defense system is belief in self and life. Psychologists refer to it as “self-acceptance”— the power that enables us to see realistically and to concentrate on our assets so that we come to like what we see. This is also called “inner strength,” which we all have in varying degrees. We have to find our own insight and then follow it. Each individual is unique and each individual life has a beauty in its uniqueness. Invest yourself in everything you do. It is better to wear out than to rust out. You do what can be done. You do what you can do. Tackle any hiccup and get back on the road. Recognise your limitations, but focus on your strength.

Focus on benefit, constructive thinking and making things happen. Flexibility is the key aspect. You change your behaviour as the situation changes. People do things for their own reasons, not yours. Do what is sensible and practical at every moment. Learn to sense the mood around you directly. Each step should be determined by the evolving situation. The choice of action at a particular moment should be purely practical. You can’t catch fish unless you put your line in the water. As Arthur Koestler puts it: “If the creator had a purpose in equipping us with a neck, he certainly meant for us to stick it out.”

Retain your poise and calmness. You should be actively calm, and calmly active. Ordinary life is like a pendulum, ceaselessly swinging back and forth. Activity should be under the control of your calmness. Nothing can influence you unless you choose to accept it. The mental climate a person creates determines whether he shall have hope even when things seem hopeless, have courage even when apprehensive factors appear, or live in fear because of hopelessness and apprehension. You can think your way for hope and courage or you can think your way into the dark morass of fear and misery. For people with a negative attitude, existence can become painful.

If you can’t control yourself, you can’t control the situation. It starts with you. You have to be in control to create control. Once you have control inside, you will have control outside. When you react, you are being controlled by the situation. When you respond, you are dealing with it. You should respond and not react to situations. Control your emotions or they will control you. Control does not mean suppression, it means regulation, channelisation. Control adds tempo to performance, daring to vision and brilliance to performance. In the power of self-control lie the seeds of eternal freedom and internal growth.

Use the chisel of wisdom to build a protective hedge of self-discipline. Self-discipline is self-caring. Temptations and desires are like a dice rattling before a gambler. There is nothing greater than the power of the mind. Resurrect your mind and reconstruct your life. Most people behave like puppets, manipulated by environment, other people and circumstances. Work out a compromise between your idealistic desires and practical duties of life. Make mental blueprints of little things and keep on making them materialise until you make your big dreams also come true. You possess the power of thought and power of will. Utilise to utmost these divine gifts. Don’t worry vaguely and without focus. We are greater than we know.

There is nothing greater than contentment. Contentment gives a person radiance. For some people life becomes an archive of unhappiness. A person’s joy announces itself as vividly as his misery or an inherent contentment as readily as a permeating sorrow. Every person has an aura, an atmosphere, a vibration that is characteristic and unmistakable. It is easy to detect a miserable man—his smell of sorrow, his smudged rages, his dead brain cells. Cultivate the habit of happiness. At times we are miserable because we over-estimate the good fortune and happiness of others. Despair has no ally except one’s own self.

The ideal character best able to enjoy life is a warm, carefree and unafraid soul. Mencius enumerated the three “mature virtues” of great men as “wisdom, compassion and courage.” He is most wisely drunk, who is half drunk. The ideal philosopher is one who understands the charms of women without being coarse, who loves life heartily, but loves it with restraint, and who sees the reality of successes and failures.

Be decisive and action oriented. Even if a decision does not work out, taking action breeds the possibility of taking mere action, whereas doing nothing increases the possibility that the next time there is a choice, you will again simply drift with the current. Drifting is easy and it may be tempting when the alternative is to turn and row upstream. Be careful or what you choose, you may get it. Take charge of your life. Assume responsibility of yourself.

Effort is everything. You should make more effort to improve all your abilities in all walks of life. You have to do much yourself. No one, howsoever powerful, can do everything for you. Life is a do-it-yourself affair. Find out your inherent sources of strength. You will never become lost if you search within, but you will always be lost if you are searching something outside yourself. The search lies within. We keep on looking through the amber sunsets of nostalgia about the lost weekends of youth and good times. That creates unhappiness. Live in the present. Enjoy the moment.

(The writer is a senior IPS officer of Haryana)


Taste of official ‘honey’
Swaraj Chauhan

THE (king) shall protect trade routes from harassment by courtiers state officials, thieves and frontier guards…(and) frontier officials shall make good what is lost…Just as it is impossible not to taste honey or poison that one may find at the tip of one’s tongue, so it is impossible for one dealing with government funds not to taste, at least a little bit, of the king’s wealth.
— From the Arthshastra by Kautilya (circa 400 BC)

THE Tehelka revelation is yet another dramatic manifestation of an age-old malaise — the abuse of public office for private gain — that was vividly recorded by ancient India’s foremost theorist, Chanakya, in the first scientific treatise on statecraft.

Obviously, neither the 2400-year-old Sanskrit classic, an omnibus volume of instruction for princes and administrators, nor the deterrents devised by governments in free India have been able to dissuade politician, and officials from dipping their fingers into “official honey”.

The visual beamed into millions of homes in the country and abroad on television came as a shock, and a visible proof (if any was needed), that corruption is now eating into the vitals of our body-politic and society.

Now the question: Will Tehelka’s expose lead to yet another round of rhetoric (or political one-upmanship), or turn the fight against corruption into a true priority issue?

With the Opposition refusing to return to the Parliament until the NDA government resigns, the political landscape has begun to resound with battle cries. The Opposition and the ruling NDA combine have opted for mass rallies to “reach out to the public”.

In this prevailing din rhetoric has returned to the centre stage. With allegations and counter-allegations floating merrily, the response of political parties to the Tehelka jolt has been predictable. The debate is yet to veer round the urgent need to develop an institutional framework, and work ethics, for ensuring accountability and punishment.

In the past decade or so we have seen numerous examples of corruption at the top (political and bureaucratic), but not a single case of conviction. We have seen a record number of Prime Ministers come and go, all resorting to unending rhetoric.

It is instructive that in the post-Tehelka period, the general discourse continues to ascribe the spurt in corruption and bribery to high cost of contesting elections. Surely, this is not the only reason. The changes in lifestyles, accelerated through media exposure, are pushing even the God-fearing and honest people in the corridors of power into doing something “at least for their dear family members”.

We saw on television in graphic detail the sad spectacle of senior politicians, Army top brass, and even venerable members of the civil service salivating in anticipation of the forbidden fruit (or honey, as aptly described by Kautilya).

The Delhi elite’s mindset is not much different from that of the Islamabad establishment. We have our own Bhuttos, Sharifs, Generals, civil servants, etc who risk their jobs/lives just to ensure that, among other things, their children at least get away from this “wretched country” and “live well abroad”.

It is noteworthy that the corridors of power in India and Pakistan, especially during the past two decades, have been rocked with scandals, especially concerning the purchase of arms. The open loot of the treasury seems more pronounced in Pakistan. The public suffers in the two extremely poor countries (who share a common heritage).

It is important to remember that the precious funds/resources can be diverted towards education, health and environment to benefit millions of people in this subcontinent.

In Tehelka tapes, a political leader was shown making up his mind whether to accept payments in dollars or rupees. He need not have worried. In this digital age the money laundering is so easy, and, yes, its magnitude mind-boggling. A 1998 United Nations agency report revealed that the movement of illicit capital through the world’s financial system was estimated at $ 1 billion a day.

So where do we go from here? When the late Indira Gandhi stated that “corruption is a global phenomenon”, most among us sniggered. But now we need to ponder over that statement. The world is fast turning into a “global village”, thus enabling the fraternity of the corrupt to grow at an international level. It is far easier now to stash bribes and ill-gotten wealth abroad.

It’s not just the traditional Swiss bank accounts to turn to. The prestigious American Journal of International Affairs (Spring, 1998) states that the IMF has identified a dozen offshore money laundering centres, many of these in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and Europe. The Cayman Islands, for example, with a total population of mere 30,000 souls has 500 banks. Of these only 17 banks maintain physical presence, while others conduct business primarily through high technology!

More than half the world’s stock of money, UN agency estimates, transits through the offshore centres with about $ 2 trillion of private wealth (20 per cent of the world’s total) invested there. The flight of capital is a major source of worry even for the so-called advanced countries.

For example, according to a report of the US Working Group of Organised Crime, “in the early 1980s, the Justice Department was unable to prosecute Citibank for its practice of ‘parking funds’ overnight in tax havens to avoid regulation.” The investigation against the company fell through as computerised transaction “made it difficult to prove any wrongdoing”.

Another question: Can India succeed in its fight against corruption when even the mighty USA seems to be groping in the dark? The USA invests huge sums to monitor, investigate and prosecute money laundering.

According to a 1995 report from FinCEN, a branch of U.S. Treasury Department to combat money laundering, the United States was the top money-laundering centre in the world. The reason was stated to be the enormous size of American financial markets and the high volume of transactions, making it difficult for enforcement agencies to differentiate between legal and illegal transactions.

The United States, however, held a high moral ground in the world with its two-decade old Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (although American companies doing business abroad have been groaning ever since). Under this stringent US Act, the penalty can be as high as $ 2 million for each instance of bribery, no matter how small the amount. Imprisonment awaits both the bribe givers and their supervisors. The guilty company is debarred from government procurement and export privileges.

An US Department of Commerce study estimated that the country’s anti-bribery statutes cost American companies billions of dollars annually in lost business.

With our own Armsgate much in news, it is worth recalling how the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act first put the fear of God in the minds of companies doing business abroad. The Lockheed Corporation pleaded guilty in 1995 of giving a bribe of $ 1 million to a consultancy firm owned by Dr Leila J. Takla, a member of the Egyptian Parliament.

Lockheed Corporation had to pay $ 24.8 million worth of fines — twice the profit it had made on the $ 79 million worth of three C-130 Hercules transport planes sold to Egyptian air force. One of the company’s top officials was sentenced to over a year’s imprisonment and fined $ 125,000.

Western countries have begun to realise that the climate of bribery and corruption in developing countries is proving to be a serious impediment in transacting business. When the economies of India and some other countries began opening up, there was an initial ambivalent attitude, such as “…bribing strategies…minimise the average value of time costs of the queue…and are compatible with the prevailing cultures in some countries”.

However, this attitude began to change. To quote from Foreign Policy (Summer, 1997), a respected American journal: “In India, one high-level civil servant who had been bribed could not process an approval faster given the multiple bureaucrats involved in the process, yet he willingly offered his services to slow the approval process for rival companies.”

Under the banner of liberalisation of trade, India is opening up its economy without ensuring that the checks and balances are in place. Western countries have not developed stringent controls over the years to ensure that “free market” does not undermine the state authority, nor paralyse society.

In initial flush of excitement, even the multinationals played in the hands of middlemen. Now they are learning from experience. For most major multinationals, bribery has long ceased to be good business practice, according to America’s Management Review. “And thanks to years of international negotiation, it will no longer be legal either. In November (1997), 34 nations signed the first Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions in Paris.”

The signatories were 29 members of the OECD, in addition to Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile and Slovakia. The OECD includes all major exporting nations except China.

The chief US negotiator had then stated: “We can’t undermine our own efforts to promote more stable governments while at the same time permitting our companies to undertake the kinds of bribery that destabilise political systems and discourage the development of democratic institutions.”

If we have shown such eagerness to open up India’s market, why should we hesitate to learn from abroad the tricks of preventing our politicians and others from dipping their hands into “official honey”.

Many emerging economies are now prepared for the international community to deliver concrete support in the fight against corruption, says a former World Bank expert. Public education efforts and training programmes in investigative journalism, accounting, and auditing can all get a boost with the international community’s support. Collaboration with Transparency International is also advocated.

It is suggested that international institutions, such as UN agencies and the World Bank, can deliver technical assistance programmes, develop transparent and effective treasury departments, and spearhead procurement and auditing reform within governments.

All this needs a serious attention. In the post-cold war world destabilisation of developing countries is most likely to be the direct fallout of the all-pervasive bribery and corruption. The civil society will eagerly respond to the global participation to fight this evil.

Another issue that needs to be addressed globally is the challenge posed by the digital revolution. This is because multinational corporations, not governments, exercise control over access to communications technology, which is developed and controlled as part of the commercial and business cycle. The competitive environment makes it difficult to forge coalitions, let alone making these bodies cooperate with the law enforcement agencies.

Thus the shocking revelations about corruption and bribery, such as Tehelka tapes, instead of leading to mere rhetoric, analyses, conferences and writings, should inspire concrete action at the national and international levels.

The old malaise, as recorded by Kautilya, may not be completely eradicated. But at least it can be ensured that those attracted to the pot of “official honey” are also made aware of the crippling and painful effect of the sting of honeybees.


Social justice initiative
Shyam Ratna Gupta

FOR the first time in free India, social welfare has been upgraded to a ministerial status, labelled Social Justice—a concept borrowed from the Marxian lexicon, and synthesised with animal welfare, it is ideologically aligned with the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence. A youthful, controversial leader, Maneka Gandhi (nee Anand, and historically and correctly Ghandy, a Parsi or Parsian surname) holds this portfolio in the Council of Ministers in New Delhi.

This innovative initiative of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has not come too soon. Moreover, it is broadly in line with the Indira Gandhian culture. The pillars of this Ministry—call it a small temple, mosque, church, gurdwara or synagogue—are—or should be—compassion, concern, consideration and care for all disadvantaged living things, human, animal, bird or plant. Is the ministry able to rectify the numerous aberrations committed by an obdurate, all-pervasive bureaucracy, senseless officiousness, vulgar greed and self-centred, aggressive lifestyle of today?

A few examples may serve as illustrations here, and some suggestions are put across for policy-makers in the context of the current setting.

As the world population is “greying” with a considerable number of elderly people or senior citizens, an insensitive commentator in a British daily asks: “How long will Mr Youth take care of the elderly people?” The commentator representing the “Bobbies,” the latest avatar of the yuppies, does not, doubtless, think that in the next score of years he or she might also be “elderly.”

In Delhi, we seem to be lucky because there is HelpAge India. But what are its good (or bad) facets and activities? Apparently it has a large budget because it is linked with an international organisation with an identical nomenclature.

In India, HelpAge produces attractive folders and, astonishingly enough, has an impressive bureaucratic structure. With a president at the top, it has reportedly a director-general, deputy director-general, directors, deputy directors, public relations officer, project-programme officers, and possibly supporting staff, as in government offices! These great benefactors, possibly well-paid and with office staff, live off the benefits which should legitimately go to the elderly in Delhi.

But HelpAge officially, formally and tersely states that “it runs programmes... and funds projects for the aged, and unfortunately support to individual cases is not covered under our Memo of Association.” Its official letterhead with the names of current and former Presidents of India, other foreign and Indian distinguished personalities is, to an aged person, intimidating. Do they approve the proverb?

It is obvious that the donations from abroad are misused as they are spent on the large staff that probably “approves” funding to their favourite agencies and friends. If so, such an organisation should be closed down. Alternatively, its staff should work in a voluntary capacity, i.e., in a purely honorary capacity, drawing no emoluments or benefits from it. Only well-intentioned, motivated “servants of the people,” as Gandhiji would have insisted, should guide and supervise HelpAge activities. If it is at all necessary, its rules should be flexible, or it should liquidate itself immediately.

Such an application of voluntary, personalised and sincere service to the aged by the elite who adorn its letter-form, is needed, not a denial under any pretext. Social justice demands that all voluntary organisations—NGOs as they are called—should have an absolutely honorary staff that should work in spare time, and draw no advantage from them. Even the premises in which their offices are to be located should be obtained rent-free as a philanthropic gesture. To make service to the aged a lucrative “career” with its bureaucratic structure and at the same time invoke the names of the great, mighty and powerful personalities is clearly an abomination in the name of service and help to deserving and disadvantaged people.

With an imaginative and energetic Minister at the helm of the wheel of social justice, it may be pertinent to offer a set of guidelines for NGOs and voluntary organisations in India. First, all such organisations should be invited to furnish a two-page summary of their office structure, stating that they are voluntary workers, obtaining no benefits from the unit or centre they serve. Second, they should publish their budget disbursement, and the programmes they pursue or support. And third, the shortcomings or obstacles they have to face at the grassroots level.

Irrespective of their beliefs, religious or political, social or cultural, these NGOs should update their report in the first three months of each year. It should be the task of the Ministry of Social Justice to separate pseudo and shady NGOs from those that serve the disadvantaged sincerely and honourably in the Gandhian contour of free, unbiased service. Those which are not voluntary or are riddled with their own bureaucratic malaise should be either persuaded to mend their ways or asked to fold up because they do not conform to the disciplines of service in the land of Mahatma Gandhi.

Likewise, those devoted to the care of animal, bird and plant life should be appropriately surveyed to ensure that they are not self-serving units. Gandhi was concerned with cattle welfare: he advocated “go-sadans.” Why should fallow land, infertile and rocky, not be enclosed for cattle at public cost?

It is time that Maneka Gandhi, true to her “inaccurate” surname, directs her officers to weed out those NGOs, like HelpAge India, that have huge bureaucratic burden from those that serve, work for free and function from rent-free premises in Delhi and other states, upholding the Gandhian ideals in the 21st century.

The writer is a retired diplomat and a former Chief Editor of Indian and Foreign Review, New Delhi


Supreme leader of Iran
Harihar Swarup

WHEN Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee met Iran's supreme leader, Ayatullah Seyed Ali Khamenei, a newspaper headline screamed: ‘‘Saffron man face to face with Ayatullah’’. Truly, Vajpayee’s party professes an ideology which is divergently opposite to Islamic hardliner Khamenei's faith yet both leaders were closeted for over 40 minutes. Evidently, mutual interest transcended the barrier of religion and the supremo blessed the Indo-Iranian strategic partnership initiative. Ayatullah is a scholar in the ways of ‘‘Sharia’’ (Islamic law) and platonic philosophy but, astonishingly, ignorant and indifferent to non-Muslim culture.

Khamenei claims that his authority is indisputable and explains the true meaning of the Iranian concept of ‘‘velayat-e-faqih’’ (authority of the leader). He was quoted by Iranian radio as saying ‘‘the person in charge of the Islamic government does not make mistakes and, if he does, he will not be the supreme leader from that moment’’.

Ayatullah, who leads the hardliners, has used his absolute powers to stall reforms and has come in direct conflict with reformists said to be represented by President Syed Mohammed Khatami.

Reformists question Ayatullah's supreme status and contend that he is not above the law. Jailed reformist Abdullah Nouri too has criticised Khamenei and repudiated his claim that he was above the law. A former Interior Minister and a close ally of President Khatami, Nouri was sentenced in 1999 to five years in jail for religious dissent.

In spite of Khamenei's direct control of the Intelligence Ministry, the judiciary, the armed forces and the broadcast network, the popular mood has been turning against him. People in general, particularly the youth constituting more than half of the population of 65 million, want more liberalisation of social restrictions and a progressive direction.

Since President Khatami's landslide victory in the 1997 election, he has pushed for political reforms, calling for an easing of the strict codes and greater freedom of speech and promoting ideas of greater democracy in Iran. While Khamenei enjoys the support of the powerful elite in the country and presides over what effectively amounts to a parallel government, President Khatami has the support of the masses who elected him, particularly young voters, many of whom were born after the Islamic revolution and never experienced life under the US-backed Shah.

Khamenei has his detractors too. His legitimacy was challenged by veteran Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri, who was sacked as his anointed successor and by dissident philosopher, Abdolkarim Soroush, who advocated separating the mosque and the state.

Ayatullah Ali Khamenei was elected successor to the late Ayatullah Ruhollah Khomenini, the leader of the country's Islamic revolution, in 1989. Under Iran's constitution, the supreme leader can dismiss the President.

Ali Khamenei was known to be the most favourite disciple of Imam Khomenini, the leader of the revolution, but he lacks his guru's charisma and learning. He took active part in the revolutionary movement against Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, was arrested many times and spent three years in prison between 1964 and 1978.

After the revolution, he was selected as the representative of the Revolutionary Council in the army as well as Deputy Minister for Revolutionary Affairs in the Ministry of Defence and a Commander of the Revolutionary Guards. As far back as 1981, an attempt was made on his life but he escaped with minor injuries. He was elected President of Iran for two terms — in 1981 and 1985 — and is known to be a staunch anti-US in his approach. In June 1989, a day after the demise of Imam Khomenini, the Assembly of Experts elected him the supreme leader.

Born in Mashad, the second holiest city of Iran after Qom, in 1939, Ali Khamenei went to high school in the same city and graduated in 1957 and studied theology at Qom. His parent too came from families of clergies. In 1958, he became a disciple of Imam Khomenini and took active part in the anti-Shah activities. He was arrested in the early sixties for carrying clandestine messages of his leader. After he was released he returned to Qom but was apprehended again for anti-Shah activities and this time sent to the high security prison in Teheran.

Khamenei is not new to India. He had written a book ‘‘Role of Muslims in Independence Struggle of India’’ and visited New Delhi in 1981 as a member of the Revolutionary Council and met the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.


Congress caught in its own web(site)

THE dilemma of the Congress of finding an honourable way out of the Tehelka expose is beginning to become an albatross around its neck. While anxious Congress parliamentarians are fidgeting in their seats not knowing how to make the leadership see reason, the opinion gaining ground is that Congressmen are finding it increasingly difficult to play the role of an Opposition without queering the pitch for themselves.

Their biggest problem is to shake off the hangover of having held the reigns of power for more than four decades.

Even their genuine friends who have left the Congress but continue to remain Congressmen at heart are breaking their heads at the utter lack of ‘‘political sense’’.

They insist that all that Congressmen have to do is to refresh their memory by carefully going through the country's nascent history vis-a-vis the BJP to pin down Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and the disparate NDA Government.

What these erstwhile Congressmen feel aggrieved about is that the Congress with a hoary history of more than a hundred years is dabbling in ‘‘rank lumpenism holding the dangerous portends of undermining democratic institutions.’’

Disinvestment blues

Disinvestment appears to be the Achilles heel of the Vajpayee Government. Hardly has the Opposition heat died over the disinvestment of government equity in Balco, the Government has been facing criticism from within the Sangh Parivar.

The NDA Government's economic policies, especially on disinvestment and labour, have drawn flak from a section of the parivar.

While the Prime Minister has deputed veteran BJP Minister Sunderlal Patwa to handle the Congress on the Balco issue, he entrusted Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie to convince the Sangh Parivar hawks on the economic policy of the Government.

Shourie's task was to convince the trade union leader of the Sangh Parivar, Mr Dattopant Thangadi. Thangadi not only heads the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh but also the Swadeshi Jagran Manch and the Kisan Sangh. In other words he leads workers, traders and the farmers.

Shourie tried his persuasive skills in convincing Thengadi to see the good points of the government's policy but the veteran leader refused to fall in line. Vajpayee has yet to taste success on either the Congress front or within his own parivar.

Diplomacy on the sly

There are any number of busybodies floating around who appear to have the blessings of the BJP-led NDA Government for keeping Pakistan engaged despite the deadlock and no-go situation at the official level between New Delhi and Islamabad.

Former career diplomats, intellectuals, erstwhile chiefs of staff of the armed forces, journalists, Indo-Pak experts and others enjoying contacts across the border in Pakistan are doing their bit in impressing upon Islamabad to give up its machinations in Jammu and Kashmir.

Even though cultural exchanges have seemingly increased over the years in various spheres, it seems to have made negligible impact on Pakistan's Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf or the powerful military establishment in that country.

The Prime Minister's office is actively promoting track II diplomacy clearly aimed at giving an impetus to Atal Behari Vajpayee's peace initiative in troubled Jammu and Kashmir. The latest entrant in this regard seen doing the rounds of the PMO is K.S. Bajpai, a former Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs.


Ever thought what is the DNA of the ruling NDA Government? According to the Congress, it is four ‘‘Cs’’— communalism, careerism, corruption and cynicism.

The main Opposition party, which is out to prove that the ‘‘intransigient’’ ruling NDA has not allowed the normal functioning of Parliament by not conceding its demand for JPC, is coming out with innovative definitions of the NDA.

The party's youth wing, the Youth Congress, seems to be a step ahead in this game and has already coined several expansions of the NDA like ‘‘National Disaster Alliance’’.

While the Congress seems to be trying to pin down its opponent through catchy lines and smart turn of phrases, the BJP is on a more hard-headed approach. It has tried to wean away other Opposition parties from the Congress on JPC and has been apparently successful.

Parking travails

The non working of Parliament for the past so many days seems to have been misunderstood by the authorities as a holiday. How else does one explain the construction work going on at the parking lots in and around Parliament complex when the session is in progress.

The cumbersome construction of the sandstone boundary wall is not only time consuming but has also thrown parking facilities in disarray. Mediapersons and visitors are the worst hit and scribes are having a tough time finding a parking lot. And, even when they manage to find one, it is too late as Parliament business has not been conducted for more than a few minutes. By the time the scribes reach the House it is adjourned.

Congress satisfaction

The steamrolling of the Railway Budget in the Lok Sabha was a big blow for the Congress but then there were some leaders who tried to see the positive side in it.

Before the budget was passed by voice vote, Ms Margaret Alva was heard asking Railway Minister Nitish Kumar whether the budget was Mamata Banerjee's or his. She went on to add that Mamata had become theirs and in that sense the budget was also theirs.

Wife's husband

Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala managed to retain his sense of humour even while addressing a public condolence meeting for his father Devi Lal at Talkatora Stadium in the Capital.

Addressing the distinguished gathering that included the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the former Chief Minister of Bihar, Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mr Chautala referred to Mr Vajpayee as ‘‘Har dil aziz pradhan mantri (favourite Prime Minister of the people)’’, Advani as ‘‘Loh purush (Iron man)’’ and Laloo as Patni Mukhya Mantri. There was a peel of laughter at the sombre meeting.

(Contributed by TRR, Satish Misra, T.V. Lakshminarayan, Prashant Sood, S.Satyanarayanan, Gaurav Choudhury and P.N. Andley).


Maharaja who put an end to invasions
Humra Quraishi

THE bicentennial celebrations of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh start at Vigyan Bhavan here on April 21. And going by the very elaborate invitation card and the who’s who invited to speak on the occasion — Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Mr Khushwant Singh and Dr Manmohan Singh — it should turn out to be an impressive function. However, since I am filing this column a day before so I am concentrating only on what Khushwant Singh says about Maharaja Ranjit Singh. In fact Mr Khushwant Singh will not only deliver the keynote address on the occasion but there’s also a new edition of his biography coming up — Ranjit Singh: Maharaja of Punjab (Penguin) and an English version translated by Kaamna Prasad. In fact, Mr Khushwant Singh emphasises that what could be termed the most crucial and noteworthy aspect about Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s reign is the fact that for the very first time in 800 years he put an end to all invasions from the North-West frontiers. “And Maharaja Ranjit Singh could do so by building the feeling of Punjabiat amongst the people.....even in his army he made no demarcations between Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs....the artillery of his army led by General Ilahi Baksh comprised a majority of Muslims. His Chief Minister was a Muslim. Three ministers in his Cabinet were Muslims — the Faqir brothers. In fact one of their descendants, Faqir Aijazuddin, is coming from Lahore for this function. He adopted children of all those killed in warfare. With the result hundreds of Hindu, Muslim, Sikh orphans were brought up by him and after his death out of the 31 women who claimed for widows’ pension 18 were said to be Muslim women. And in today’s context I would like to emphasise that it is absolutely essential to bring about the concept of Indianness. Why should our politicians talk along Hindu, Muslim, Sikh lines when what is crucial is the concept of Indianness? Why should incidents like the Babri Masjid demolition be allowed to occur here when what we need is more universities, more development.....” says Khushwant Singh.

Before proceeding to write about other events of the week let me offload this thought — demarcations along religious lines have already been going on for some time. But what are we doing to counter them? Only a handful amongst us lash out at the divisive forces, whilst others no matter how very secular, sit like mute spectators to the tamashas leashed on us by the so-called political leaders of the day, where they continue to cause deep divisions in our midst along religious categories.


And yet another function is to take place on April 21 evening , but because of deadline constraints I have to write about it a day prior. And this one is the protest by writers and scholars and artists to the damage done to the Buddha figures at Bamian. Ironical it may sound that the world’s largest Buddha figures —175 and 120 feet tall — were carved during the third and fourth century AD and destroyed now, in the 21st century when we are said to be moving towards the peak of development! Such ironies hit you like a tight slap. And on April 21 evening this protest by the artists etc will be in the form of the creation of on- the-spot artworks “inspired by Buddhist principles of compassion and peace....” I repeat, for long term changes in the very mindset every effort has to be made by secular citizens to counter communalism otherwise we will be steadily moving backwards, into those dark ages.


An award for Arundhati Roy for her creative writings seems a trife belated but nevertheless the Minister of Culture and Communication of the French government has conferred on Arundhati Roy the award of “Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier des Arts et des lettres).” Ms Roy’s talent and contribution to literature and the universality of her message find recognition in this French decoration .....” And next week the French Ambassador to India, Bernard de Montferrand, will be conferring this award to her at a special ceremony at his residence. So the bonanza continues for Roy! I must add here that ever since the new French Ambassador took over (last August) he has been busy hosting one event after another and if I’m not mistaken, at an average every single week there’s function hosted by him and he must have honoured at least six or seven of our artists.


Last week Khushwant Singh hosted a small get together for Lord Swraj Paul but before it was bottoms-up time (that is — sharp 8 pm, time to depart from his home) Swraj Paul came up with this” How is it I can only shake hands of pretty women whereas he (Khushwant Singh) can even give them a peck!” A query Lord Paul alone can answer. Actually this time Paul was travelling alone and looked much more relaxed than on earlier occasions when he was accompanied by his wife. Probably, like all married men Paul is scared of his wife! What else?!


Just before their departure, from New Delhi to Ohio, Jacqueline Lundquist, wife of the most recent US Ambassador to India, declared that there are going to be two more books by her — one is based on the correspondence between her parents (Jacqueline was only five and a half years old when her father had died at war) and the other will be a guide-book for those upper-class Americans visiting India. And if you were to ask publisher Narendra Kumar the time of the publication of both those books he says she will be back here in July with the manuscripts. Thus, it will be around autumn that the gardens of one of our five star hotels will get spruced up, yet again. Since Americans are paranoid about security so the exact details will be parted with only on the 11th hour. But the joke going round is that when asked about what she would miss most about their stint in New Delhi, Jacqueline is said to have spontaneously blurted “our 10 (Indian) servants!”

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