Sunday, August 10, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Quota system has dug its heels

Apropos of Mr Karam Singh’s article Scrapping quotas without ensuring equality will be a big blunder (Perspective, July 20), since its inception, almost three generations have grown up reaping its fruits. Yet no politician has given any thought to review the pros and cons of reservations.

Fairness demands that all contestants have a level playing field in a combat of making a jobs, etc. Nobody could find fault to the rendering of assistance in the areas of education, exemption from payment of fee right up to the university stage, free facilities of preparing for job tests, free travel to and from the exam centres, free boarding and lodging for the duration of the exams to all candidates, hailing from the economically backward classes, but without compromising merit at the stage of intakes. Do our rulers mean to entrench the caste system or to make society casteless? The answer lies in the policies to be churned out by them.

The scheme of quotas, minority appeasement is a legacy from our post-Independence leaders. This system has created an imperceptible cleavage followed by inefficiency, indiscipline and corruption. The word caste is badly exploited. In this backdrop. In India, the wheels do not move. The quota system has dug its heels, is well entrenched and in the visible future would retain its hold.

V.I.K. SHARMA, IAS (retd), Jalandhar



The views of lower castes on government inefficiency, as expressed by Mr Karam Singh, are not good enough to justify incompetence. For, when a bureaucrat is assigned a job, his experience in the job and past performance are given due consideration. Contrary to this, when a person from the reserved category, much younger than his superior, is out of turn promoted to a seat of high responsibility, he may not be able to do his duty properly for lack of experience.

Even a fresh IAS officer is appointed after training. So, inefficiency is not caste-based but is largely due to inexperience, among other factors. The issue in question is why to give priorities at the time of promotions when during selection itself the qualifying marks and the age limit are relaxed and even in a few cases, the examination fee is either subsidised or exempted?

Why not make reservation a one-time affair for a family? The question is not whether reservation should be continued or not, but will the Constitution be amended to really make quotas work for the upliftment of the needy.

D.S. BASRA, Phagwara


A living bond with classics of critical realism

This has reference to Khushwant Singh’s A strange way of healing (Windows, July 12). One may also trace a living bond with the classics of critical realism of the early twentieth century in Philip Roth's ‘When She Was Good’ (1967), a novel dealing with the simple people of a provincial town. This bond is also particularly evident in the novels of Joyce Carol Oates, who has quickly grown from a “rising star” to one of the leading lights of the literary world.

In fact, the theme of the moral elevation of man serves as the basis for the works of most realists in the late fifties and early sixties, such as Bernard Malamud, Saul Bellow, John Updike, Reynold Price and Roth (Goodbye, Columbus). These writers, in many respects, set the trend of spiritual life in America on the threshold of the last quarter of the twentieth century, calling for benevolent human feelings.

American literature of critical realism, thus, attempts to combine everyday individual and social experience with the cumulative spiritual and moral wealth of humanity. Condemning fundamental defects in the social order and human nature such as thirst for profit, social inequality, egoism and bankruptcy of spirit, humanistic life-affirming writers like Roth do not lose faith in the future, nor do they give up the present for lost.



Threat to frescos

Apropos of the article Frescos whitewashed" (July 27), when I visited Sri Darbar Sahib Tarn Taran in June 1971 in connection with my Ph.D thesis “Mural paintings in the 19th Century Punjab”, several frescos were intact in the upper storey of the shrine.

Although originally the paintings were executed sometime in the middle of the 19th century, the dome of the shrine was cracked by the earthquake of 1905 and was rebuilt again and embellished afresh with murals (see Sankhep Itihas Sri Darbar Sahib Tarn Taran by Jagjit Singh, published in 1931).

In June 1971, the surviving frescos depicted mixed themes, including portraits of the Sikh Gurus and scenes from the Hindu mythology (for details see my article "A Shrine at Tarn Taran" (The India Magazine, June 1981).

During my research work, I had come across 193 edifices in Punjab and Haryana with extant remains of wall paintings mostly executed during the 19th century and most of the Hindu and Sikhs religious buildings were painted with themes derived from the Hindu and the Sikh faiths and vice versa.

As regards the claim made in the report that the paintings would last long, I have my reservations, because the true fresco implies work done on wet wall plaster with pigments ground in water and is required to pass through various stages for laborious execution. Since the present art work is done on dry wall plaster with pigments made in an organic medium, these tend to survive for a shorter period.



As a research scholar in the subject of Sikh portrait paintings, I feel, if it is claimed that the painting was done during Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s regime, the Maharaja might have got done gold plating of the Darbar Sahib Tarn Taran.

I have gone through all the books on wall painting/ Sikh painting in Punjab, but there is no reference to this. According to Dr R.P. Srivastava, the dome of Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Tarn Taran had interior painting after 1905 AD and even by this year, Hindu themes of any type were not given any place in any Gurdwara during 20th century. 


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