SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI
O P I N I O N S

Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped | Reflections

EDITORIALS

Politician’s Budget
Who will fund Laloo’s populism?
M
R LALOO PRASAD YADAV’S railway budget for 2004-05 is as status-quoist as was Mr Nitish Kumar's interim budget presented in January this year.

What downsizing?
Ministers go, parliamentary secretaries come
I
F one looks only at the size of the freshly pared Punjab Council of Ministers, there has indeed been a downsizing in conformity with the Constitutional amendment to bring the ministry size to 15 per cent of the Assembly strength.

American cricket
English rules go for a six
M
R JAGMOHAN DALMIYA owes an apology to the cricket establishment for trying to give the game a global face. Is he aware what he has done by inviting international attention to the game that helped the British aristocracy make ungainful use of the limitless time at its disposal? 








EARLIER ARTICLES

THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
ARTICLE

Silent war against India
How designs of China, Pakistan failed
by K. Subrahmanyam
H
ERE is a speculative hypothesis that India, China and Pakistan have been locked up in a silent war, the latter two allied against India for the last 50 years. That war is coming to an end with India emerging victorious. At stake in the war was the very concept of India as a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic democratic polity — the vision associated with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders of the nationalistic struggle.

MIDDLE

Goodbye Godfather
by Rajnish Wattas
I
first saw Marlon Brando on the screen in one of his less remembered films titled One-Eyed Jack in 1961 as a teenager. Though a low grade “spaghetti western”, set in Mexico; Brando played the role of an outlaw seeking revenge from a sheriff with panache. His dashing looks, sedate mannerisms, mumbled dialogues spoken with a nasal twang through a cigarillo in the mouth; had hypnotic presence.

OPED

Contracts make journalists insecure
Women in regional newspapers face discrimination
by Usha Rai
W
ITHIN six hours of a journalist from the North-East recounting the indignities of working for Delhi's most acclaimed newspaper and the problems of journalists in that far-flung region of the country, she got an email from her boss, based in Kolkata, thanking her for her services and telling her politely but firmly “dear contributor, we are downsizing and your services are no longer required.”

There’s more to being happy than money
by Oliver James
F
OR the last six months, I have been investigating middle-class angst around the world. Thus far I have studied the citizens of Sydney, New Zealand, Singapore and Shanghai. Those of Moscow, New York and Copenhagen eagerly await my visit.

 REFLECTIONS

Top










 

Politician’s Budget
Who will fund Laloo’s populism?

MR LALOO PRASAD YADAV’S railway budget for 2004-05 is as status-quoist as was Mr Nitish Kumar's interim budget presented in January this year. Both budgets have some common features: no hike in passenger fares and freight rates; both failed to give a professional touch to the Railways and clear its financial mess; both announced new trains, extension of the existing routes and new projects without providing for funds, hoping the Finance Minister would take care of such needs. Some 230 railway projects, requiring Rs 43,000 crore, are pending or are in various stages of implementation. Despite increased market borrowings and fund allocations, it is estimated that projects worth about Rs 20,000 crore will still remain unfinished even after five years. Politics has driven the Railways to its present state of financial ruin.

The National Democratic Alliance, now in opposition, faced a general election then. The ruling United Progressive Alliance has assembly elections ahead. Election or no election, politicians have often used the Railways to further their political ends. As one Samajwadi Party MP said, "the ministry has become the private property of whoever becomes the Railway Minister". Mr Nitish Kumar extended the route of Magadh Express to Islampur for the benefit of his constituencies of Nalanda and Barh. It cost the Railways a whopping Rs 108 crore. Mr Laloo Yadav plans to set up a wheel manufacturing unit in his own constituency, Chapra. In the past 10 years the three railway ministers from Bihar have allocated projects worth Rs 10,000 crore to their own state.

Mr Laloo Yadav has announced measures ranging from the emotional ones like free second-class travel for unemployed youth appearing in examinations and concessions for critical patients and deaf and dumb persons to the ludicrous like deploying lady ticket checking squads. What the travelling public really expects from the minister is safety — safety from accidents and from robbers and intruders, particularly in trains passing through Bihar. To run the Railways professionally, the Rakesh Mohan Committee's recommendations — like 8 to 10 per cent hike in second-class fares in five years, corporatisation of production units, revamp of the Railway Board to include professionals and hiving off of non-core activities — are available, but it requires a lot of political courage to implement them. The UPA government, like the NDA regime, has not displayed any. One expected a better show from the Manmohan Singh team.
Top

 

What downsizing?
Ministers go, parliamentary secretaries come

IF one looks only at the size of the freshly pared Punjab Council of Ministers, there has indeed been a downsizing in conformity with the Constitutional amendment to bring the ministry size to 15 per cent of the Assembly strength. But to get the correct perspective, one has to have peripheral vision as well. While there has been shrinkage in the number of ministers, the number of parliamentary secretaries has swelled. Since the latter enjoy almost the same perks and privileges as the ministers, the letter of the law has been honoured without being too particular about its spirit. Then there are also sundry board chairmen who happen to be kings in their own right. So, the new amendment does not really deprive many of productive employment. The situation is not peculiar to Punjab. Political brains almost everywhere in the country are trained to spot loopholes from a thousand miles and utilise them fully.

Who will stay put and who will go was supposed to be decided on the basis of the performance in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections. But the two lists seem to have actually been drawn up taking into account the loyalty factor. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has emerged stronger with many of his supporters suitably accommodated and the adversaries shown the door. His wish list was far more ambitious. Yet, what he has managed to get is not insignificant in any way.

He would have liked to see the back of Deputy Chief Minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal but that was perhaps too tall an order for the party high command to concede. She is a seasoned campaigner and a political heavyweight to boot. She will be very much there, although with cropped wings. If anyone thinks this is going to curb dissension in the ranks, he may have disappointment in store. There are reasons to believe that disgruntled elements may rather become more vociferous in the days to come. Nobody bows out of a ministry quietly.
Top

 

American cricket
English rules go for a six

MR JAGMOHAN DALMIYA owes an apology to the cricket establishment for trying to give the game a global face. Is he aware what he has done by inviting international attention to the game that helped the British aristocracy make ungainful use of the limitless time at its disposal? When the Americans get interested in democracy or cricket, they make the global community conform to the rules made by them. The one-day version was a huge concession by the purists who insisted that good cricket could be played over a period of five days only, with a rest day thrown in.

When Pele took football to America, he too thought he was doing the game a great service. However, the superpower promptly changed the rules and the gear for playing what is now called American football. So what if the players look like gladiators in fancy dress? Now cricket will have non-batting bowlers. No country dare question the superpower's role of a pioneer in making rules that would cut the game of cricket to soccer-size in terms of the time it takes to ensure a result.

In any case, it always gives added pleasure to the former British colony to tell its parent country that America is now the lord and master of the universe. American taps open the other way and so do the electrical switches. What the Americans have done to the English language would have incurred the royal wrath had the sun not set on the British Empire. Only a fool or a born again ignoramus would dare to make the dollar kingdom conform to the globally accepted rules in diplomacy and sports. A guide had the audacity to tell an American tourist that the Taj Mahal was not for sale. The visitor told him with natural nonchalance that "everything has a price".
Top

 

Thought for the day

Change is inevitable in a progressive country. Change is constant.

— Benjamin Disraeli
Top

 

Silent war against India
How designs of China, Pakistan failed
by K. Subrahmanyam

HERE is a speculative hypothesis that India, China and Pakistan have been locked up in a silent war, the latter two allied against India for the last 50 years. That war is coming to an end with India emerging victorious. At stake in the war was the very concept of India as a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic democratic polity — the vision associated with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and other leaders of the nationalistic struggle.

Pakistan’s visceral animosity to a secular, democratic India has been known since Independence, and the Pakistanis believed that the Indian unity would not last long and the country would break up. There were doubts about Nehru’s capacity to lead. That was the time when Selig Harrison wrote about “India’s dangerous decade.” By 1965 the US war-game planners concluded that the Indian Army would not be able to stand up to the Pakistan Army. Pakistan and China started helping the insurgents in the North-East in the mid-fifties.

The Chinese communists had contempt for Nehru and exhorted the Indian communists to wage a war against the “running dog of imperialism”. The communists, drawing inspiration from the Zhadanov thesis of 1946 and the proceedings of the Calcutta Asian Youth Conference, launched an insurgency in Telangana and elsewhere. For them the unity of India was less important at that stage than establishing communist enclaves.

In the mid-fifties the Chinese started treating India as an adversary and began establishing relations with Pakistan for joint pressures on India. The 1965 war with Pakistan had full Chinese support. Though that war did not go in favour of the Pakistanis, as the Chinese and Americans expected it, China intensified its campaign against India with its articles “Spring Thunder over India” and “Prairie fire sweeping India”, a source of inspiration for the Naxalites. China also became Pakistan’s primary military supplier.

India had not always been a passive party. In the 1950s, knowing the Chinese hostility, India offered limited resources and facilities for the US efforts to keep the Tibetan insurgency alive. In the sixties India actively helped Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League which finally led to the emergence of Bangladesh.

In 1971 Pakistan, China and the US did not anticipate the will power India demonstrated by involving the then USSR in a countervailing deterrent framework and successfully completing the Bangladesh campaign with a little bit of luck. The “Kissinger Papers”, conversation of Kissinger with the Chinese leadership, brings out the utter contempt in which Mao and his colleagues held India in the 1970s.

The Bangladesh war and the 1974 Pokhran nuclear test projected an image of India with a will to emerge as a regional power. As the Kashmir issue was solved with Sheikh Abdullah, Laldenga gave up insurgency and became the Chief Minister of Mizoram and a peace accord was signed in the North-East. But the imposition of the Emergency exposed India’s vulnerability. China and Pakistan signed a treaty when Bhutto visited Beijing in June 1976. Thereafter the Chinese appeared to have decided to use Pakistan to countervail India by making Pakistan a nuclear weapon power. In 1980 both China and Pakistan became allies of the US in the war in Afghanistan. The Americans decided to look the other way when the Chinese began to help Pakistan to acquire nuclear arms as the price to obtain Pakistan’s support for the Mujahideen campaign in Afghanistan.

Deng Xiao-Ping was more sophisticated than his predecessors. He did not want to play any direct anti-India role and, therefore, in accordance with his policies vis-a-vis the other South-East Asian countries, stopped all Chinese support to anti-India insurgents. General Zia-ul-Haq, emboldened by his nuclear capability acquired from China, started a pro-Khalistan campaign in the mid-eighties. The came the proxy war (terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir) in 1989. The Chinese also decided to arm the Pakistanis with a whole range of missiles. There are rumours that the Chinese assisted Pakistan during the May 1998 tests. The China-Pakistan nuclear relationship was so strong that the Chinese reneged on their pledges to the US about stopping supplies to Islamabad in the 1990s.

By giving Pakistan the nuclear shield the Chinese enabled it to act with impunity vis-a-vis India in terrorist campaigns, but this also gave confidence to successive Pakistani administrations to extend support to the Taliban and Al-Qaida in defiance of the US. Once again the Shakti tests of India asserted that New Delhi was determined to display its will to become a major power. By that time India had successfully withstood Pakistan’s campaign in Kashmir for nine years. Pakistan tried its last card — the Kargil intrusion — and it became totally counter-productive. Then came 9/11 and Pakistan did a U-turn, abandoned the Taliban and Al-Qaida and became a partner in the war against terrorism. Yet Islamabad expected to save its capability to carry on terrorism vis-a-vis India using jihadi organisations. It also hoped that it would still be able to indulge in nuclear sabre-rattling.

Two more developments have exposed China’s Pakistan game. One, the disclosure about the A.Q. Khan proliferation network involving China and the usual denial of China that its help to Pakistan was only for civilian purposes. What China says on the issue is no longer credible. Two, the 9/11 commission found that successive Pakistani governments helped the Taliban and Al-Qaida partly because these jihadis were available for operations in Kashmir. This has been confirmed by President Clinton in his book.

Now China is reconciled to dealing with a multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic and democratic India without any hope of its breaking up. The arrogance of Maoist communism and the contempt for Nehruvian liberalism have given place to the understanding among the new generation that they have to change their fossiled ideologies.

The Pakistanis are isolated. Today circumstances are ripe for long-term durable peace both with China and Pakistan after 56 years of a silent war. India did not reach this stage through the Panchsheel and Simla Agreements but through Shakti and Agni tests and the sacrifices of thousands of security men in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations, besides the casualties suffered in the five wars this country has fought.
Top

 

Goodbye Godfather
by Rajnish Wattas

I first saw Marlon Brando on the screen in one of his less remembered films titled One-Eyed Jack in 1961 as a teenager. Though a low grade “spaghetti western”, set in Mexico; Brando played the role of an outlaw seeking revenge from a sheriff with panache. His dashing looks, sedate mannerisms, mumbled dialogues spoken with a nasal twang through a cigarillo in the mouth; had hypnotic presence. No wonder all the girls in the school had their hearts throbbing for him; and not for the puny, scholarly classmate — me, mostly busy solving trigonometric equations, and not astride a galloping horse shooting with both hands.

I never forgave him for stealing the thunder. And ignored all his films that followed. But then came along The Godfather. For a change here was a film better than the book. Saw it once, twice, thrice … but it was never enough. And how many times could one go to the movie hall? Videos, CDs and DVDs had not come along then. But one talked, debated about it, endlessly — such was the mesmerising effect of the Francis Ford Coppala's classic!

Even now after more than 30 years of its release the movie is constantly being screened by some movie channel or the other on the TV. I have been seeing it with renewed interest and fascination; and like vintage wine it only gets better with time The magic of it is that it never seems dated. There is always a contemporary relevance about it to the times we live in.

It's one movie where every component: the music, the subdued Rembrandt-paintings-like lighting, the least explicitly violent killings; and of course the legendry, studied silences, gestures and understated dialogues of the protagonist Don Vito Corleone played by Brando — come together to create a perfect symphony on celluloid.

No one can ever forget the memorable lines of Don Corleone in the movie — that have almost become a catchphrase, "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse," symbolising mafia's gunpoint ways of making people bend. The musical score of the movie has such an enigmatic, haunting quality that a tape is my constant travelling companion in the car; especially on a hill dive.

It's hard to believe the fantastic, wide reach of the movie. At the Infosys campus at Bangalore where my daughter works, there is a regular Godfather fan club. Once at a dinner party at our house, I was astonished to find out that a top cardiologist's favourite movie was the Coppala masterpiece and he had seen it at least 30 times. As he passionately went on to explain the subtle nuances of various scenes he said, "The movie is not about crime; but management of power as has always existed in all large corporates." No wonder, he sent many a heart fluttering with his throbbing fascination for Don Corleone!

As Marlon Brando does his final act — not reel but real life — it's goodbye Godfather. Wish I could make you an offer you couldn't refuse. And come back for a sequel.

Top


 

Contracts make journalists insecure
Women in regional newspapers face discrimination
by Usha Rai

WITHIN six hours of a journalist from the North-East recounting the indignities of working for Delhi's most acclaimed newspaper and the problems of journalists in that far-flung region of the country, she got an email from her boss, based in Kolkata, thanking her for her services and telling her politely but firmly “dear contributor, we are downsizing and your services are no longer required.”

Ironically the “firing” of the journalist took place on the day the Press Institute of India’s study on the status of women journalists in the country was released by the Secretary for Information and Broadcasting, Mr Navin Chawla, at the stomping grounds of women journalists — the Indian Women's Press Corps. It happened within hours of the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women, Dr Poornima Advani, who had sponsored the study extolling journalists "speak up and get yourselves heard. The Commission's doors are always open for redressal.”

Whether the sacking of the journalist was coincidental or a deliberate move to put down outspoken journalists is difficult to tell, but as the report points out that with unions dead and most journalists working on contracts of two to three years, there is no court of appeal for women journalists. Managements are breathing down their necks.

It is for the first time that such a comprehensive study has been done on the status of women journalists in the print media by journalists themselves. Six of them fanned across the country to listen to their sisters in the profession and to understand their problems.

What came out strongly is the tremendous job insecurity among journalists and more so in the case of women working in regional newspapers. They are employed like daily-wage labour, signing a muster at the end of the month to get a pittance of Rs 1,500 to Rs 3,000 as wages. Those working on contract at least have job security for two or three years but these journalists have neither an appointment letter nor any designation. So they are not entitled to any of the mandatory benefits like maternity leave, provident fund etc. They work at the mercy of the management and can be fired without notice — like the contributor from the North-East. If there is downsizing, it is invariably the woman who is the first to be shown the door.

The regional language Press, that has a greater readership than the English Press, is ridden with gender-based problems that inhibit a woman's career and even their survival in the profession. There is a different wage structure for those in English newspapers and those in the regional newspapers of the same group. The English newspapers not only give higher salaries but dole out more perks than the regional newspapers.

The women are the worst hit because most of them do not know how to negotiate a contract and there is no one to advise them. In the regional language Press very few women get an opportunity to do reporting. Most of them are stuck at the desk or produce coloured supplements of newspapers. Political reporting is denied to them.

As Mrinal Pande, Editor of Hindustan, points ou,t women in the Hindi media have traditionally remained desk-bound. Coming from small towns and having studied in Hindi-medium colleges, they do not know how to fraternise with the power pack. The media organisations they work for are owner (read male) driven, pre-occupied with profit margins and politically ambitious. Most newspaper groups prefer men in key positions as they can be used to gather and present news while pushing for ads and political favours, in a way women cannot.

The middle class, small town communities these girls hail from, usually pressure them to opt for arranged marriages after which their continuation in this high-risk, long hours profession become tenuous. Those that survive these social pressures face another hurdle when they get pregnant. Women's productive and reproductive years being the same, and many media outfits frowning on maternity leave and benefits, getting married and having a baby becomes, if not the end of the road, certainly a guarantee for stagnation at the desk for most of them.

In fact, a major problem in most newspapers is that there is no one to turn to for redressal. Trade unions are dead in most newspapers and since more and more journalists are pushed into contracts, the managements call the shots. Only 25 per cent of the women journalists contacted during the survey were members of a union. So frustrated and disappointed, a large number of women are forced to quit the profession.

Though 40 per cent of the women journalists denied sexual harassment, 23 per said they had been harassed. Only 15 per cent made a formal complaint. For a variety of reasons, most of them chose not to do anything about it. Sexual harassment is more a problem of small towns and the regional Press and it can vary from display of a pornographic site on the computer when the male boss calls in a woman journalist to discuss something or denial of promotions, a reporting job etc till the woman meets the personal demands of her male senior.

What is more shocking is that though the Supreme Court has ruled that every organization in the country should have a permanent committee to look into complaints of sexual harassment, women journalists said no such committee existed in their newspapers.
Top

 

There’s more to being happy than money
by Oliver James

FOR the last six months, I have been investigating middle-class angst around the world. Thus far I have studied the citizens of Sydney, New Zealand, Singapore and Shanghai. Those of Moscow, New York and Copenhagen eagerly await my visit.

The question which intrigued the British Council, who have commissioned the report, and I was: ‘Why are the middle-classes throughout the developed world so much more screwed up compared with 1950, despite being far more affluent?’ In each country, the local British Council bods line me up with specimens of middle-class misery and I prod and probe to see if it takes different forms in different cultures, a kind of Mind Tourism.

I always assumed the British Council consisted of spooks posing as university lecturers and spooky lech(tu)rers a la David Lodge.

While I cannot assert with absolute authority that there are no spooks in their midst, I am pretty sure that most British Council staff are not spies.

Rather, they are in 110 countries teaching English and promoting UK achievements in science, art, education and human rights, from Uriah Heep to Dolly the sheep, from Amnesty to the Prodigy, from Ophelia to Jamelia.

They help the world’s young geniuses study in Britain and they help people like me study the world.

I can summarise similarities in my findings to date as follows: to an astonishing extent, the lives of the middle-classes in all four countries are dominated by property prices and school fees; the women of all but New Zealand are obsessed with the shape of their bodies; Starbucks tastes the same in all the countries, with identical rules forbidding smoking in their emporia.

There are, of course, certain differences. Despite 20 years of Third Way bullshit from their government, the New Zealand people are a model of authenticity and decency.

The Sydney Aussies are fast disappearing down the American plughole, drowning in a vulgar materialism. At least they still like sex.

In Singapore, a socking great shopping mall, lust for money and career success has so replaced lust that the state has to mount campaigns to encourage nooky among the young.

By contrast, Shanghai throbs with consumerism rather than being rendered impotent by it. The trouble is, not only does it want to be the New York of the east, it will very likely succeed. Its leading psychiatrist estimates that it will be merely 20 years before it has the same rates of depression and angst as that capitalist heart of darkness.

So, guy, you've been round the world: what's the secret to happiness?

Apart from religion (found in nearly all the happy people I've met), it's too early to say, apart from this: if you must support a football team, let it not be Chelsea or England. — The Guardian
Top

 

The more is a man’s attachment to the world, the less is he likely to attain knowledge. The less his attachment to the world, the more is the probability of his gaining knowledge.

— Sri Ramakrishna

Every force completes a circuit. The force we call man starts from the Infinite God and must return to Him.

— Swami Vivekananda

High and low come to be by His will.

— Guru Nanak

Choose the company of your superiors whenever you can have it; that is the right and true pride.

— Chesterfield
Top

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | Delhi |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |