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EDITORIALS

Off with the agreements
Punjab buys more time
I
T was easier for India and Pakistan to solve their dispute over river waters than for Punjab and Haryana to come to an agreement on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal. As if the arguments and agitations that had been plaguing the latter dispute all these years were not enough, the matter has been made many times more complicated by the decision of the Punjab government to annul all water agreements it has signed.

Helping hand
India must give humanitarian aid
W
ITH the establishment of the interim government in Iraq, India is showing greater interest in the task of reconstruction of that war-ravaged country. This is a happy development in view of the friendly relations New Delhi had with Baghdad before the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime by the US-led international coalition forces.







EARLIER ARTICLES

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TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Stars and strips
By George, Uncle Sam is unkind
F
ORMER Defence Minister George Fernandes being strip-searched, not once but twice, by US immigration authorities in Washington's Dulles airport is more than just a case of individual humiliation. It amounts to heaping an indignity on official India and, therefore, is surprising that the matter did not stir public sentiment earlier.

ARTICLE

A question of prestige
Governors should go with change of government
by P. H. Vaishnav
T
HE current controversy involving the BJP and the ruling coalition over the issue of resignations/removal of Governors has brought disgrace to our public life and indignity to this high office. Regardless of the incumbents appointed to these posts, all parties owe it to the office of Governor to uphold its dignity.

MIDDLE

The flower show
by Shriniwas Joshi
S
HIMLA has an old history of organising flower shows. The first recorded Flower Fete was held at Annandale in May, 1851. A poem was also written by Stiggins to commemorate the occasion. A para reads, " The gardens were deck'd in gorgeous array, / The ladies, like flowers, were blooming and gay;/ The Malees and Dalees were waiting to be/ Beprais'd and bepriz'd by the great committee."

OPED

News analysis
Hike in defence budget justified
The armed forces to be better equipped
by Girja Shankar Kaura
T
HE steep hike in India’s defence allocation of Rs 77,000 crore in the Union Budget for 2004-05 may have raised many an eyebrow around the world, but it can be attributed to the legacy of defence deals left behind by the previous NDA government as also to the rising inflation rate and the falling value of the rupee.

Health
Tackling excess toxicity in body
by Dr John Briffa
I
N my practice I see significant numbers of women who find that the presence of cellulite on their buttocks and thighs really gets under their skin. Many are keen to do what they can to rid themselves of the puckered dermal distortion that is characteristic of the condition.

 REFLECTIONS

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Off with the agreements
Punjab buys more time

IT was easier for India and Pakistan to solve their dispute over river waters than for Punjab and Haryana to come to an agreement on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal. As if the arguments and agitations that had been plaguing the latter dispute all these years were not enough, the matter has been made many times more complicated by the decision of the Punjab government to annul all water agreements it has signed. While legal minds mull over the legality of it all, it is indeed odd that such a step should be taken so many years after the agreements were signed only to escape the Supreme Court order under which Punjab was to hand over the construction work on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link Canal in its territory to the CPWD by July 15. After all, Punjab is not the only party to the agreement. If states try to find solutions of disputes by reneging on various agreements to suit their own convenience like this, their sanctity will always become questionable.

Legal luminaries are divided over the controversial step, depending on which side of the fence they are. Whatever the experts may say, it is the apex court which will have the final word on the issue. And by any yardstick it is going to be a difficult decision, given that it will have far-reaching consequences not only in these states but all over the country. A similar ordinance passed by the Karnataka Government in the Cauvery dispute 13 years ago was struck down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

The ultimate outcome notwithstanding, the Punjab Government has certainly managed to delay the construction of the canal, which would have been politically embarrassing for it. The final court decision is unlikely to come before the elections due in the neighbouring Haryana. To that extent, the situation suits the Congress in Punjab, Haryana as well as at the Centre. But a decision has to be taken sooner or later. The whole issue has been politicised so badly that whenever this is done, battle cries will rent the air. Instead of being a national resource, water has been made into a national bone of contention. The situation demands Central effort at the highest level.
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Helping hand
India must give humanitarian aid

WITH the establishment of the interim government in Iraq, India is showing greater interest in the task of reconstruction of that war-ravaged country. This is a happy development in view of the friendly relations New Delhi had with Baghdad before the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime by the US-led international coalition forces. Sending troops to Iraq is not in India's interest even at this stage, but the Manmohan Singh government, it seems, has plans to help that country in different other ways like humanitarian aid and funds for its reconstruction projects. That is one reason why a higher budgetary allocation has been made for developing countries. India has also acceded to the new Iraqi regime's request for reopening its consulate in Mumbai, which will facilitate the growth of trade between the two countries.

India got a foothold in Iraq's reconstruction process in October last year when it pledged $10 million at an Iraqi donors' conference in Madrid (Spain). The pledge was reiterated at a meeting of the donors' committee early this year in Abu Dhabi. The committee that includes India will have a special role to play in infrastructure development and other reconstruction activities in Iraq. Already there is greater demand in the devastated country for Indian technical personnel, respected for their competence in West Asia and the rest of the world.

India's "medical brigade" idea may be more popular with the Iraqis immediately. The heath care facilities in that country are a shambles whereas the number of the sick and the wounded is on the rise because of unending violence. One hopes India will be able to repeat its Somalia experiment in Iraq. The ground situation is slightly better today than what it was when the Vajpayee government's Najaf hospital plan was finalised but could not be implemented. The Iraqis must be expecting more assistance of different kinds from India because of reasons of history. India should not let them down when they need help.
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Stars and strips
By George, Uncle Sam is unkind

FORMER Defence Minister George Fernandes being strip-searched, not once but twice, by US immigration authorities in Washington's Dulles airport is more than just a case of individual humiliation. It amounts to heaping an indignity on official India and, therefore, is surprising that the matter did not stir public sentiment earlier. If the subject has come up again, it is because of the reference to the unflattering incidents in the book "Engaging India — Diplomacy, Democracy and the Bomb", by former American Deputy Secretary of State, Mr Strobe Talbott. It is shocking that US officials went ahead with the search despite the Indian ambassador's repeated pleas to spare Mr Fernandes the embarrassment. Hardly surprising then, that Mr Fernandes, who had informed then Prime Minister A B Vajpayee about the humiliating experience, should have decided not to go the US in future. Of course, the inevitable conclusion that follows such happenings is that if this can happen to an internationally known Indian public figure, then the treatment received by lesser mortals from India at the hands of US officialdom would be much worse — though not every incident would get publicised in this manner.

In the aftermath of 9/11, there have been others, including celebrities from India, who have been subject to such indignities. But the case of Mr Fernandes is particularly jarring because it was during the NDA's tenure that India-US relations deepened for the benefit of both nations. Yet, the lesser dance partner, symbolised by Mr Fernandes in this case, was not treated as befitting a representative at the high table to which Mr Vajpayee's government had led India. More surprising is that there is not even a murmur of protest by Americans despite the fact of Mr Fernandes being acquainted with officials of successive administrations in Washington. He was the minister-in-waiting for President Jimmy Carter when he visited India in 1978. All that is so much water under the bridge when it comes to the pride and prejudice prevailing on the Potomac.
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Thought for the day

I awoke one morning and found myself famous.

— Lord Byron
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A question of prestige
Governors should go with change of government
by P. H. Vaishnav

THE current controversy involving the BJP and the ruling coalition over the issue of resignations/removal of Governors has brought disgrace to our public life and indignity to this high office.

Regardless of the incumbents appointed to these posts, all parties owe it to the office of Governor to uphold its dignity. Even as it is an office given as a gift by the government of the day, those who seek removal of the existing incumbents with a change in regime and the holders of these offices themselves need to ensure that the prestige and honour of this post is not allowed to be lowered.

It will be acknowledged on all hands that even though a constitutional post, it has come to be regarded in practice an office of a political nature, and a change in the regime at the Centre does require a view as to whether the existing incumbents need to continue in case they themselves refuse to resign either because of a party mandate or on their own.

Even as Governors have lost unfettered discretion as to whether a party is the single largest party or whether a Chief Minister has a majority or has lost it, the post remains powerful in certain situations. We saw that in the case of UP, where Mr Bhandari recommended President’s rule and nearly succeeded in having it imposed.

The ideal thing, therefore, would be for the holders of this office themselves to relinquish their position without ado. The political parties going out of office should not make an issue of it as has been done by Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Mr L.K. Advani. The former described this as amounting to treating Governors as daily wagers. If Governors or the political parties appointing them were to insist on the Governors sticking to their posts, they might as well be described as “daily wagers”.

One is reminded of outstanding examples of honourable behaviour in the past. When Indira Gandhi lost office, the late P.N. Haksar as the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission sent in his resignation. Morarji Desai asked Haksar to continue in view of the high reputation he enjoyed. But Haksar pressed for the acceptance of the resignation. So was the case with his distinguished successor, Lakdawala. He was appointed by Morarji Desai in view of the fact that he was a distinguished economist and a widely respected academic. When Morarji Desai resigned following a vote of no confidence, Lakdawala sent in his resignation to Charan Singh on the ground that with Congress support, there was a change in the regime and he was duty-bound to resign. Charan Singh wrote back that as a caretaker Prime Minister, following the withdrawal of support by the Congress, he was neither competent to accept the resignation nor make any consequential appointment.

Soon Indira Gandhi was returned to office and Lakdawala sent in his resignation so that she could be able to appoint her nominee while forming her Cabinet. Mrs Gandhi asked him to continue till other arrangements were made. Lakdawala then asked her if she wanted the Chief Ministers to be called for Plan discussions so that there was no uncertainty with regard to the Plan in the budget of the states that were due to be presented in February 1977. When the Prime Minister’s office wrote that the discussions be scheduled and dates were intimated, Mrs Gandhi sent a note to the Secretary, Planning Commission, over the head of Lakdawala, to call off the discussions. Lakdawala did not wait for one moment to leave office and told Mrs Gandhi that she had caused avoidable embarrassment to him as he had sent in his resignation even before she had got down to forming her Cabinet.

The Union Home Minister has also erred in justifying the removal of some Governors on the ground that they believed in the RSS ideology. Much as one may disagree with the RSS ideology, it is a legal organisation and its ideology is not a ground of relevance to justify the removal. In fact, this sort of reasoning furnishes a basis for litigation. When Mr V.P. Singh became Prime Minister, all Governors were asked to put in their papers on pain of being dismissed. No reasons were, therefore, required to be advanced in justification of the present Home Minister’s decision.

There was some indication that the affected Governors might seek redress in courts. Better counsel, however, seems to have prevailed. Otherwise, the country would have seen the prospect of the heads of states appearing as petitioners, begging for justice. Nevertheless, the BJP as a party has filed a public interest petition in the Supreme Court, thereby placing the political process in the hands of the judiciary. But in the name of public interest, private and party interests have not hesitated to seek protection for themselves.

The new government also has failed in observing certain salutary conventions as regards higher appointments in the services. The Cabinet Secretary, who had hardly three months to go, was shifted out without reason. So also the Home and the Defence Secretaries. The Janata regime had destroyed the concept of government as a continuum and instead functioned as a regime.

It is sad that regime changes have started affecting Civil Service postings thereby creating a situation in which civil servants are labelled as men of this or that minister or this or that political party. There was urgent need for putting an end to such unhealthy practices. And we had hoped that under Dr Manmohan Singh things may change for the better, but the Union Government has not hesitated to follow the bad precedents that have become routine at the state level. We thus have the prospect of continued politicisation of the Civil Service.

It is sad that there are no conventions about these matters. We seem to be having the security of the British system, the spoils of the American system and the litigation of the Indian system, with the handicaps of all the three and the advantage of none. All this despite the fact that the Sarkaria and Venkatachelaiah Commissions have made recommendations and the Inter-State Council is a standing body that could spell out the conventions governing such appointments. The nation is in distress and there seems no early end to it.

The writer is a retired bureaucrat
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The flower show
by Shriniwas Joshi

SHIMLA has an old history of organising flower shows. The first recorded Flower Fete was held at Annandale in May, 1851. A poem was also written by Stiggins to commemorate the occasion. A para reads, " The gardens were deck'd in gorgeous array, / The ladies, like flowers, were blooming and gay;/ The Malees and Dalees were waiting to be/ Beprais'd and bepriz'd by the great committee."

A dog show was added to it in the year 1869. The flower shows and the dog shows became routine annual features here but were held separately. The shows continued even after the merger of Shimla in Himachal Pradesh. The dog shows have come to a halt and the last that I have heard of was held in 1995 about which my friend LC Sharma had happy memories of "getting the opportunity of shaking hands with the then Governor of the State because of his German Shepherd 'Jimmy' that had bagged a prize."

The flower shows, after the horticulture department washed its hands of holding these, are, somehow, being organised annually by a voluntary organisation called SAGES - Shimla Amateur Garden and Environment Society. As a member of the society, I contact quite a few of my bureaucrat colleagues requesting them to send potted plants to the show.

In one of such endeavours, one high up in the Civil List told me that somebody had pussyfooted quite a few pots from his garden and that his wife would visit the show to find out if the whisked away property was being displayed there. The other said that she would send the pots if, at least, one prize was guaranteed in advance. I had nothing to give to them except smile and silence.

Yet another one said that had that been a dog show, he would have sent his dog. To him I told a story of four people with four smart dogs in a dog show. The engineer's dog called "Sextant" brought sand when asked to bring cement. The policeman's dog called "Baton" remained sitting comfortably in chair with pee-cap donned in style despite lots of noise around. The doctor's dog called "Stethoscope" passed off medicines with expired date to the visitors. The bureaucrat's dog called "Secretariat" assaulted the other three dogs, claimed he injured his paw while doing so, bow-wowed on inadequate display arrangements, threatened to report about the behaviour of the organisers to recently "saffroned" Maneka Gandhi and then toddled off home. The poor show-persons turned blue in the faces.

I stood up by saying that we enjoy a different blush of blueness - "daisies pied and violets blue" and prefer Dog Flower (antirrhinum) and Dog Rose (Rosa Canina).
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News analysis
Hike in defence budget justified
The armed forces to be better equipped
by Girja Shankar Kaura

Illustration by Gaurav SoodTHE steep hike in India’s defence allocation of Rs 77,000 crore in the Union Budget for 2004-05 may have raised many an eyebrow around the world, but it can be attributed to the legacy of defence deals left behind by the previous NDA government as also to the rising inflation rate and the falling value of the rupee.

Besides, the UPA government is eager to display its resoluteness not only in defending the State and keeping the armed forces happy, but also to counter the allegations made by the Hindutva parties that it would go soft on issues relating to national security.

Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, in announcing an increase of Rs 11,700 crore over the allocation of Rs 65,300 crore made in the Union Budget of 2003-04, has made clear the UPA government’s resolve to honour all deals signed or negotiated by the NDA government.

In the post-budget press conference Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee went a step ahead to say that despite the largest-ever budgetary allocation, he might seek more funds from the Finance Ministry for the purchase of military equipment later this year. The sum of Rs 33,000 crore earmarked for capital expenditure may actually not be enough for fresh contracts. Incidentally, the allocation made by Mr Chidambaram is Rs 11,000 crore more over the allocation made by previous Finance Minister Jaswant Singh in the interim budget presented in February last. Apparently, Mr Jaswant Singh overlooked the deals which had been signed in the last phase of the UPA government’s tenure or were in the pipeline and as such Mr Chidabaram had to make a provision for them. This, however, did not come without a detailed presentation made by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the armed forces just a few days before the presentation of the Union Budget for 2004-05.

There is not only confusion over what is the real percentage of the hike brought about in the allocation for defence this year, but also over the fact that such a hike has come at a time when India is seriously engaged in peace talks with Pakistan.

The hike varies from 16.6 per cent when compared to the allocation of Rs 66,000 crore made in the interim budget to almost 18 per cent when compared to the allocation of Rs 65,300 crore made last year to almost 28 per cent when compared to the revised estimates of Rs 60,300 crore for the year 2003-04.

But in hiking the allocation, the UPA government has, for the first time in recent years, brought India on a par with the other big spenders in the defence sector in the Indian subcontinent. Both Pakistan and China in India’s neighbourhood have been spending in the range of 5 to 6 per cent of their GDP on defence while India’s spending had always been just above 3 per cent.

In this year’s hike the government has also made an attempt to bridge this gap effectively which would go a long way in making the Indian armed forces better equipped and, of course, in further establishing India as a regional power.

Questions as to why such a hike at a time when India is engaged in peace talks with Pakistan are also ill-founded as on a closer analysis the hike is actually not surprising. An inflation rate of over 6 per cent, a decline in the value of the Indian rupee along with the large number of deals in its kitty, the UPA government had no option but to go for the substantial hike.

In real terms, this increase will not be as large as it may sound to the outside world. Although the Indian economy is growing at a healthy rate, the impact of inflation and the drop in the rupee value would mean that the increase would just be around 7 to 8 per cent in real terms.

The hike can also be attributed to the quiet burial given to the Vajpayee government’s proposal to set up a non-lapsable rolling fund for three years for capital equipment purchases. Had the UPA government gone ahead with the proposal of the NDA government, it would have had some extra funds on its hands as the amount returned by the MoD would have been made available through this non-lapsable fund for the new purchases.

But by throwing the proposal out of the window, the UPA government naturally had to go for a steep hike to meet all the expenses in store. The hike, incidentally, also reflects the confidence of the UPA government about not under spending, an issue which the Congress had been raising time and again with the NDA government in Parliament discussions.

If one backs out of the list of defence deals, which had led Mr Chidambaram to allocate more, then it would mean heavy financial penalties. These deals include the purchase of Hawk AJTs from the UK and the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier from Russia.

The IAF plans to buy 126 Mirage jets from France at a cost of $ 30 million each and the Navy has to buy six submarines, again from France, at a cost of $700 million.

Similarly, the Army, in its bid to standardise the artillery capability, is in advanced stage of negotiations with South Africa, Israel and Sweden for the purchase of the Howitzer guns. The purchase of between 1,200 and 1,500 Howitzers would bring the bill in the region of three billion dollars.

Besides, India has already signed a deal with Israel for the purchase of three Phalcon airborne early warning systems. All these deals require a down payment and the hike in the allocation would cover it.
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Health
Tackling excess toxicity in body
by Dr John Briffa

IN my practice I see significant numbers of women who find that the presence of cellulite on their buttocks and thighs really gets under their skin. Many are keen to do what they can to rid themselves of the puckered dermal distortion that is characteristic of the condition.

Ever on the lookout for novel, natural approaches to health issues, my eye was recently caught by an article heralding the arrival of anti-cellulite jeans. The jeans are impregnated with a form of vitamin A (retinol) which is said to reduce cellulite by promoting healthier structure in the skin.

I'm all for innovation, but even I have to admit the idea that a cure for cellulite may be found in a pair of jeans is stretching it a bit. Those looking for a leg-up in the smoothing of cellulite may be interested to learn of other natural approaches. One common feature in cellulite is fluid build-up (oedema), which in natural medicine is taken as a reaction to excess `toxicity' in the system.

Those with cellulite are often recommended to reduce their toxic load, primarily by eating as natural and unprocessed a diet as possible. Easy-to-assimilate foods such as fruit and vegetables, washed down with plenty of water, are the cornerstone of diets designed to help the body clear itself of internal effluent.

The fact that cellulite occurs almost exclusively in women and does not blight pre-pubertal thighs points to the hormone oestrogen as a likely provoking factor. Many natural practitioners recognise an excess of oestrogen (or `oestrogen dominance') as a condition, manifestations of which include irritability, fluid retention and breast tenderness before a period. In practice, the herb Agnus castus seems to smooth this hormonal imbalance, and may help to smooth the appearance of the skin, too. There is some evidence that the fluid accumulation characteristic of cellulite is related to `leakiness' in the small blood vessels under the skin. Herbal preparations of Horse chestnut may help, because a substance in this plant (aescin) appears to reduce leakage from the body's vessels.

Another factor that appears to underlie cellulite is reduced flow of blood and lymph fluid (essentially, the body's sewage) in the affected area. Taking a preparation of Ginkgo biloba may help to stimulate the circulation.

Another approach to getting blood and lymph flowing is vigorous brushing of the skin of the legs. Brushing in an upwardly direction encourages the draining of lymph and excess fluid, and helps to stimulate the circulation. Brushes made for this purpose are available in health-food stores. This, in addition to other natural approaches, can work wonders to transform the orange-peel appearance of cellulite into peachy skin. — The Guardian
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The main reason for the invisible God incarnating himself physically in the midst of human beings was to lead them who can love only physically to the healthy love of his physical appearance, and then, little by little, to spiritual love.

— Saint Bernard

High and low come to be by His will.

— Guru Nanak

Unless one practises absolute continence, one cannot comprehend the subtle truths of spirituality.

— Sri Ramakrishna

If we acknowledge God in all our ways, he has promised safely to direct our steps, and in our experience we shall find the promise fulfilled.

— Payson

The whole universe is a symbol, and God is the essence behind.

— Swami Vivekananda
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