Wednesday, July 23, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Need to prevent man-made disasters

I endorse the views expressed in the editorial "Cloud burst in Kulu" (July 18). Every year during the rains, flash floods, triggered by cloud bursts, strike one part or the other in the hilly tracks of Himachal Pradesh and wash away bridges, roads and large chunks of fertile land. All communication links are snapped and power supply is disrupted. Such a disaster occurred at Pulia Nullah in Gadsa valley of Kulu district. A large number of labourers camping dangerously close to the river were washed away by the swollen river.

Cloud burst is a topography-related feature and most vulnerable areas are the steep, narrow vallies where great devastation occurs. Even in the towns of the hills such a natural phenomenon can bring great destruction because in the race for constructing houses even the natural drainage lines are covered and obstructed.

Moreover, multi-storeyed houses also pose a danger, particularly whenever a tremor occurs, may it be of slight intensity. Haphazard growth can be noticed in most towns of the state, particularly Solan and Shimla.

I appreciate the suggestion that man-made contributory factors need to be eliminated and a disaster management mechanism is necessary at district, state and national level.

Dr L.K. MANUJA, Nahan (HP)


Where have we gone wrong?

Botswana, a small country in South Africa is much better than India. Its population is 1.6 million, almost a tenth of Delhi and one-firth of India’s size. India attained Independence 55 years ago, but this has led us to no where. About 40 per cent of our population is below the poverty line, and two times meals a day is still a luxury for the underprivileged.

According to Transparency International’s Global Corruption Report-2003, Botswana is the most transparent country in the world. Our Freedom of Information Act is still struck. In our country, corruption is so rampant that we daily read in newspapers about scams, pay-offs, commissions etc. Our political masters are corrupt to the core.

Botswana, tied up with giants like Japan and Norway, has an impressive economic growth. Its growth rate is 13 per cent GDP. The country spend $ 358 per capita on public health every year as against India’s $71. Social expenditure there is 30-40 per cent of all public expenditure which means education is free and compulsory, adult literacy rate has doubled whereas our social expenditure is just 15 per cent.

If a small country like Botswana, which got independence 20 years after us can achieve a lot, why we have failed?

Dr NARESH RAJ, Patiala

Harvesting rainwater

The article “Harvesting rain water” (July 17) made an interesting and informative reading. It is sad that once the rainy season has set in, the people forget about the water shortage and the same story regarding the ways to conserve water would be repeated during the next summer. Water harvesting is the need of the hour and for this, there should be big ponds which have disappeared in cities and villages.

During a visit to the small town of Theog, about 30 km from Shimla, very recently, I was astonished to find big cemented reservoirs at the top of hills for harvesting the rain water. The water so collected is used for daily needs and also for growing non-seasonal vegetables. The people of the region should take a lead from it and device ways to store rain water. Otherwise, it will either create havoc in the form of floods or goes finally to the sea.

V.K. SHARMA, Shimla

Formula on poverty

Apropos of the report “Punjab rejects Centre’s formula on poverty” (July 10), our organisation “Volunteers for Social Justice” has been focussing on the elimination of bound labour and child labour, the welfare of migrant labour and the empowerment of rural women. We feel disturbed at the confusion caused by a lack of scientific criteria to conduct empirical survey on identification of families below poverty line. The Central Government's proposal to adopt a quota system has further aggravated the situation. Only those who work at the grassroots know the severity of poverty being faced by the labour class, rural women and children.

In our view, all those who do not get sufficient food, clothing, reasonable living conditional, primary healthcare, and facilities for at least primary schooling of their children fall below the so-called poverty line. This apart, there is another category of workers who are not seen on the surface, but toil in agricultural fields, languish in thingy factories, brick kilns, dusty stone quarries, and work in unhygienic dhabas or are engaged in home-based industries working for unlimited hours, but still not getting sufficient wages for a simple living. The Centre and the states are oblivious of their existence and sufferings.

We had earlier pointed out to the Centre and the states about a flaw in an item in the questionnaire being used for the BPL survey. This pertains to a reference to “bonded labour”. Unfortunately, the item does not seem to intend to elicit any information regarding bonded labour; not is it that easy to get information on this. Further, we understand that school teacher and lower-level functionaries in government offices have been deputed to administer the questionnaire who do not know what is “bonded labour”. Government agencies always try to deny its existence as this is a scar on them.

Recently, we had associated two prominent professors of Punjab University for an on-the-sport-study of the factory and home-based hosiery workers in Ludhiana. The wages being given to them are hardly sufficient even for two square meals a day. The living conditions of the factory workers are abysmal.

JAI SINGH, Phillaur

Custodial deaths

This has reference to A.R. Wig's article “Death in custody” (July 10), suggesting a change in the 142-year-old Police Act, adopting recommendations of the Malimath Commission and bringing about a change in the behavioural approach of our police. I am fully in agreement with the author that no civilised system of governance can accept police brutalities and its extreme form of custodial deaths. As many as 1,308 deaths in a single year is rather shameful for the world's largest democracy.

While dealing with the police excesses in a systematic and civilised way, it is essential to understand the causes thereof which exist in our system and operate in addition to the general callous behaviour of the police personnel. To my mind, police torture is aimed at satisfying the retribution of the victim of the crime and to fulfil the evidence requirement of the case. For the latter, lack of scientific investigation techniques and tools compels the police to extract something from the accused and that is not desirable in the present-day world.

Even in the face of all weaknesses of our police, I plead for making confessions before the gazetted police officers admissible under the Indian Evidence Act. For satisfying the retribution of the victim of the crime, a clear and liberal law to compensate the victim is urgently needed. And if we interpret UP and Bihar leading in custodial deaths, lower levels of literacy and legal consciousness appear to be the cause which needs to be tackled by our law colleges with thousands of teachers and students. Legal awareness should be an essential part of the LLB curriculum. Above all, our police needs to be freed from the political control.

DR SUBHASH C. SHARMA, Reader, Law Dept., GND University (Regional Campus), JalandharTop

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