Thursday, September 18, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Alarming rise in custodial deaths

IN a hard-hitting judgement awarding compensation to the kin of the deceased, the Supreme Court has expressed grave concern about the increase in custodial deaths all over the country and has urged stern action to check the malady (Sept 10). The spurt in custodial deaths is mainly due to the governments’ ambivalent policy towards custodial violence which is another form of human rights violation.

Over the years, police commissions at the national and state level have been emphasising the need to reform and humanise the police force but no concerted effort has been made to implement them. Our jail manuals are outdated, our policemen are not trained in methods of interrogation and they have no access to scientific methods which would automatically curtail the use of force. Consequently, suspects are picked up and detained for days and weeks, third-degree methods are employed and police rules and the laws are flouted in the belief that men in uniform are not accountable.

Clearly, the arrested have a right to be treated with courtesy and dignity and it is an offence for the police to inflict pain on them. But then, there is no place where the arrested can seek redress once they are in custody. There is a dreadful lacuna between declared law and everyday reality.

In cases of custodial deaths or torture, it is not enough to order a judicial inquiry and pay compensation. In several cases of custodial deaths it was argued that the prisoners had hanged themselves from the ceiling as though the jail manual provides for the supply of a rope to every prisoner!


It would be worthwhile to consider seriously a recommendation of the Justice Jiwana Commission which had investigated cases of torture in the prisons of Punjab some years ago. It not only suggested payments of liberal compensation to the victims but also its recovery from the guilty police and jail personnel. That alone will rein in such officials.

Police brutality is sometimes defended by the establishment as an inevitable evil. It begins as an inevitable evil but ends as evil. The state should never believe that excess is the easy way to success. Nietzche once said, “Whoever fights monsters should see that in the process he does not become a monster”.


Why jobs for J&K youth alone?

DURING a visit to Jammu and Kashmir recently, Defence Minister George Fernandes disclosed at a public meeting that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had told the Union Cabinet of a plan to provide one lakh jobs to the Kashmiri youth. I do not know why the Centre continues to give preferential treatment to Jammu and Kashmir. This state has been enjoying so many benefits including special status. How many more benefits should the Centre give to this state?

I do not question the Centre’s prerogative to give jobs. But why this partial treatment to one particular state at the cost of all other states? Lakhs of educated youth in the countryside are sitting idle at home and have absolutely no future. Why shouldn’t the Prime Minister think of absorbing them in suitable areas? Why restrict the employment benefit to Jammu and Kashmir alone?

J.L. JAGGI, Chandigarh

Population explosion

Some years ago, the Union Government celebrated India’s crossing the one-billion figure of population. But it was a matter of concern rather than celebration. The World Bank has now projected that most countries in the world will start showing decline in population in the near future except South Asian countries, especially India. The United Nations has also issued a similar warning.

India should examine these reports carefully and initiate steps to check population growth. It ranks second in population, next to China. China has initiated steps to control population by inducing family planning through legislation. Why should India lag behind? Why can’t it emulate China?

All existing reservations (caste-based or otherwise) should be replaced by a new category of two-child norm. Taxpayers’ hard-earned money is being swallowed by poor people who are not following any norm whatsoever. Instead of wasting money on family planning programmes, the government should save public money by inducing disincentives for persons with large families. All government facilities and subsidies like reservation, medical, ration, government jobs or promotions should be withdrawn to those government employees who go in for a third child in the family.

Most parents go in for a third child because of their obsession for a son. This problem can be solved by empowering women with 33 per cent reservation in the legislatures. A study should be made on the success of family planning programmes in countries like Thailand and Singapore where governments are thinking in reverse direction to motivate educated mothers to breed extra for intelligent children.


Courier nuisance

Nowadays, courier boys are creating a lot of nuisance in Chandigarh. One can understand if the mail is important or relevant. Most of the items received is promotion material by advertisement agencies and is unwarranted. Recently, eating joints, commercial banks and some private companies have also started wooing the customers.

It would be better if these organisations insert advertisements in newspapers. But they do not have the right to disturb customers. Courier boys keep pressing the calling bell and disturb peace. The Chandigarh Administration should look into the problem with the attention it deserves.

Dr U.S. BANSAL, Chandigarh

A wasteful exercise

I do not question the prerogative of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to chose his ministers. But the reinduction of Mr Gingee Ramachandaran and Ms Mamata Banerjee into the Union Council of Ministers shows that Mr Vajpayee and the BJP are willing to compromise principles for political expediency.

Ms Banerjee had left the Union Cabinet on the Tehelka issue and demanded the resignation of Defence Minister George Fernandes in the wake of the exposure. While the Tehelka investigation is still on, Mr Fernandes has returned as Defence Minister. Ms Banerjee too had forced her reinduction. Things do not end here as the firebrand from Kolkata demanded Urban Development or Rural Development portfolio but not the Coal Ministry which she was offered.

Dr NARESH RAJ, Patiala

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