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Ethics in politics
Manmohan Singh's heart is in the right place

P
RIME Minister Manmohan Singh has in his first Independence Day speech tried to keep off the beaten track. Unlike most of his predecessors, who saw the customary speech as an opportunity to announce a slew of new schemes, he used the occasion to make a vision statement. In the process, he also addressed some of the key concerns of the nation.

Trade with Pakistan
There is a huge potential to be tapped

O
NCE again, India has offered to improve its trade relations with Pakistan. Pakistan is yet again indifferent to the Indian proposals, including the opening of the Wagah-Attari border for trade. Despite the ups and downs in India-Pakistan relations, trade has somehow continued. In 1996, India accorded the MFN (most favoured nation) status to Pakistan.




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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
Killer mob
A chilling display of public impatience
I
NDIA is no stranger to mob violence but what happened in Nagpur on Friday should make the whole country sit up and take notice. A notorious criminal, Bharat alias Akku Yadav, involved in over two dozen cases of murder, extortion, dacoity, robbery, theft, rioting and molestation was brought to a court when a mob comprising mostly women stormed the courtroom and lynched him.
ARTICLE

US policy on West Asia
A long period of instability ahead
by K. Subrahmanyam
T
he Iraqi situation is getting murkier. No new nation has offered to send troops to Iraq in spite of the resolution of the Security Council authorising UN members to contribute troops. NATO has sent a mission to study the situation since the issue of troops of NATO countries functioning under US command is still unresolved. The Saudi proposal for Islamic countries to send troops proved a non-starter.

MIDDLE

In good spirit
by Raj Kadyan
I
t was the summer of 1991. We had been in France only a few months and decided to beach-bathe on the Mediterranean. We booked ourselves a gite — an outhouse —in a small mountain village close to the coast. Driving down the 800-odd kilometres from Paris, we reached our destination well before sunset.

OPED

Reinventing the steel frame
Public perception of civil servants not edifying
by P.P.S. Gill
T
he report of the Committee on Civil Service Reforms, headed by Mr PC Hota, is now with the Cabinet Secretary; and still under wraps. Its recommendations mirror the state of the “steel frame’’ or how this frame has rusted if not disintegrated or how it has lost trust of the public. It identifies measures to remove impediments to make the civil service “honest, responsive, politically neutral and professionally sound’’.

People
Leaves US citizenship for political ends
U
S citizenship is a coveted "title". Ask any of the thousands of people eager to go to the land of opportunity. But former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi's son Amit has given up his US citizenship in apparent readiness to launch his political career in a by-election later this year.

  • Halle Berry: black and beautiful
  • Manisha to act in Pak film

 REFLECTIONS



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Ethics in politics
Manmohan Singh's heart is in the right place

PRIME Minister Manmohan Singh has in his first Independence Day speech tried to keep off the beaten track. Unlike most of his predecessors, who saw the customary speech as an opportunity to announce a slew of new schemes, he used the occasion to make a vision statement. In the process, he also addressed some of the key concerns of the nation. Every citizen who is worried over the growing criminalisation of politics is bound to lap up his call for a code of ethics for all individuals in public life. The question of "tainted ministers" that has been dogging his government must have been at the back of his mind when he made this call. Since such a code cannot be left to the individuals themselves to abide by, he has called for a code of conduct for political parties as well.

The ugly spectacle of charge-sheeted persons occupying ministerial posts would not have arisen if the parties concerned had denied them tickets to contest elections. It is not because Dr Singh has any soft corner for persons like Mr Shibu Soren that he allowed them a place in the Cabinet. Compulsions of coalition politics left him with no other option. After all, the criminality of a person undergoes a change when there is a change in government. In a classic case, a politician alleged to have killed several persons was incarcerated during Ms Mayawati's regime but the moment she lost power, he was declared a "saviour" and sworn in as a minister. It is against this backdrop that his suggestion to evolve a code of best practices for the government should be seen.

The nation is privileged to have a person of Dr Singh's eminence and integrity at the helm. However well-intentioned he may be, he cannot make much difference except with the cooperation of all political parties. Constitutional bodies like the Election Commission have also suggested the need for a consensus on blocking the entry of criminals into the public domain. Today most people look down upon politics as a career. Even people with a commitment to public causes prefer to keep away from politics letting the criminally inclined to have a field day. As a result, there is widespread corruption and degeneration of politics. If the Prime Minister is able to pursue his idea of introducing ethical practices in politics, he would be doing a great service to the nation.
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Trade with Pakistan
There is a huge potential to be tapped

ONCE again, India has offered to improve its trade relations with Pakistan. Pakistan is yet again indifferent to the Indian proposals, including the opening of the Wagah-Attari border for trade. Despite the ups and downs in India-Pakistan relations, trade has somehow continued. In 1996, India accorded the MFN (most favoured nation) status to Pakistan. The latter is yet to reciprocate. The balance of trade today is in Pakistan's favour. Pakistan's exports to India from April to September last more than doubled to $32 million, up from $15 million during the same period in 2002. On the other hand, India's exports during the same period declined to $68 million from $107 million in 2002. The best year for trade between the two countries was 1998 when it had peaked at $354 million.

Pakistan is cold to trade with India because it fears Indian goods, if allowed entry, would swamp its markets. Secondly, Pakistan insists on a settlement of the Kashmir issue before any major trade initiative could be taken. There are other barriers to trade. These include poor road, rail and air links between the two countries. Traders and businessmen are issued limited visas and their travels are restricted. India's gas pipeline project with Iran has got stalled, courtesy Pakistan. The Karachi-Mumbai ferry service is pending. Trade through the Wagah border can cut costs. The loss, at the end, is mutual and heavy.

Right now only those goods can be traded legally which are on a mutually agreed list. However, informal trade is carried out through third countries like Dubai, CIS nations and Afghanistan. Unofficial exports of goods like food items, synthetic fibres, cement, machinery, tyres, tea, medicines and chemicals are valued at about $2 billion. Indians and Pakistanis, by not buying and selling from each other, end up paying higher prices for products thus imported. Cars in India are almost 40 per cent cheaper than in Pakistan. Drugs in India are four times cheaper than in Pakistan. On the other hand, raw cotton, pulses and dry fruits are cheaper in Pakistan. Both countries have to be more flexible and practical. Needless to say, increased trade is in the interests of both.
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Killer mob
A chilling display of public impatience

INDIA is no stranger to mob violence but what happened in Nagpur on Friday should make the whole country sit up and take notice. A notorious criminal, Bharat alias Akku Yadav, involved in over two dozen cases of murder, extortion, dacoity, robbery, theft, rioting and molestation was brought to a court when a mob comprising mostly women stormed the courtroom and lynched him. Most members of the mob were believed to be from the locality where he ran his unholy empire and awarded him a death sentence on the spot. The court was not in session and the escorting constables had no option but to be mute witnesses to this bizarre happening. The incident is shocking, to say the least. Rarely has a mob made it bold to storm a court and dispense instant justice. In a way, it is a challenge to the judicial system. While the behaviour of the mob is indefensible, the episode has to be seen in totality because it gives a clue to public mood.

Here was a criminal who was cocking a snook at civilised society despite being neck-deep in criminal activities. He was believed to be hand in glove with the police. The residents of his area suspected that he would be acquitted even in the robbery case in which he was on trial. They had also organised a Press conference some time back to express their anger. These were ordinary men and housewives who ultimately turned into killers themselves.

So what is it that makes ordinary people take the law into their own hands? It is their desperation and impatience over criminals going scot-free. The infirmities of the system ensure that a criminal either evades justice or gets away lightly. Even in cases where he is served just desserts, the punishment comes way too late. This tendency seems to be getting on the nerves of the victims and potential victims. While nothing can condone mob violence, social scientists and administrators must learn lessons from the failures of the system and correct them lest the contagion spreads.
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Thought for the day

Children sweeten labours, but they make misfortunes more bitter. — Francis Bacon

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US policy on West Asia
A long period of instability ahead
by K. Subrahmanyam

The Iraqi situation is getting murkier. No new nation has offered to send troops to Iraq in spite of the resolution of the Security Council authorising UN members to contribute troops. NATO has sent a mission to study the situation since the issue of troops of NATO countries functioning under US command is still unresolved. The Saudi proposal for Islamic countries to send troops proved a non-starter. Iraq does not want any troops from its neighbours. They are all Sunni Muslims and there are other ethnic problems as in the case of Turkish troops in Kurdistan.

The transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis has not contributed to the stabilisation of the situation. While the new Alawi administration is trying hard to increase the effectiveness of Iraqi security forces in dealing with militancy - more Iraqi forces are under training - it is yet to be proved that the Iraqis under the new government would be upto the task. The Shiah cleric and leader of the Mahdi militia Moqtada Al-Sadr, has resorted to militancy in Najaf and Sadr areas of Baghdad and is defying the Iraqi government. It is difficult to believe that the latest attack on his fighters by US forces has dampened his morale.

Apart from the US unilateralism having alienated major European powers, the US policy towards the region has made things more difficult for America. The only major Shia power of the region is Iran and the US is pursuing a hostile policy towards it partly because of its alignment with the Wahabi Saudi Arabia. It must be recalled the Shia-Sunni antagonism goes back more than 12 hundred years. Iran has grounds for grievance against the US and Western powers. While they are applying enormous pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear weapons programme, the US and Western Europe have been extremely permissive towards Pakistani proliferation activity. Iran has not done as much damage to the nonproliferation regime as Pakistan has done.

Pakistan too is a Sunni country in which many terrorist acts have been carried out against Shias, particularly Iranians. The interests of Pakistan and Iran have been at odds on Afghanistan. Iran, as a Shia country, has a lot of influence over the majority Shia population of Iraq and the US appears to think that they can afford to antagonise Iran in addition to Iraq.

In Pakistan, there is a widespread belief that Islamabad may come round to sending troops to Iraq and the UN appointing Ashraf Qazi as its representative was intended as an inducement and a justification to send its troops to Iraq. But the overwhelming majority of the public opinion in Pakistan — political parties and the clergy — appears to be against it. However, it is not possible to rule out the Pakistani military, under pressure from the US, sending its troops to Iraq. But it is not likely to prove a permanent solution for stabilising Iraq.

Meanwhile, oil production in Iraq is under threat. In Russia, the Yuklos oil, the largest share of oil export, is also under threat because of government action against the company. The oil price is reaching unprecedented heights in the international markets. This has its impact on international economic recovery. This in turn may influence the outcome of the US elections. Unlike other areas of the world, stabilisation of this area and full exploitation of oil of this region are in the basic interest of world economy and therefore major economic powers cannot afford to neglect this area. Foremost among them is the US. Nor can it allow, according to its own assertions, the dominance to be developed over the oil and gas assets of the region by any other single power.

The avowed aim of President Bush to bring about regime changes in all Islamic countries to advance democracy in them make them in a sense potential battlefields. Since almost all the regimes are not democracies they are bound to have a stake in slowing down the regime change process as much as possible, even while assuring the US that they are faithful partners in bringing about the change. One can see Pakistan and Saudi Arabia playing the role models in this game.

The Bush strategy of bringing about a regime change through the use of military force in Iraq is bound to lead to a long period of instability in West Asia, a slowing down of the war on terrorism by attrition and high economic costs for the US and the rest of the industrial world. The basic assumptions of Washington that European powers and others would the follow US into the war, that the majority of Shias of Iraq would collaborate with “liberating” US forces and the swift US military victory would compel the Islamic regimes to opt for progressive change towards democracy have all proved wrong.

Even if the Bush Administration returns to power it will have to make drastic changes in its strategy in dealing with Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Kerry administration has already indicated its intention to change its strategy. Democratisation of the Islamic regimes is not against the Indian interests though it is open to question whether the Bush strategy was the appropriation one.

India is bound to be affected by these changes whether Mr Bush or Mr Kerry occupies the White House next year. While our present policy of not sending troops to Iraq is the appropriate one, the evolving situation needs to be reviewed continuously, and the possibility of India having to play a stabilising military role along with other major European nations should not be ruled out. The likely changes in the US policy towards this region should be assessed and our contingent responses should be formulated. In the war on terrorism both countries share common goals though US continues with its policies of making tactical compromises with the nations whose commitment to the war on terrorism is dubious. This is a subject which should be the top priority for our National Security Council. It should start with a comprehensive assessment of the evolving situation for the next 6-12 months in West Asia.
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In good spirit
by Raj Kadyan

It was the summer of 1991. We had been in France only a few months and decided to beach-bathe on the Mediterranean. We booked ourselves a gite — an outhouse —in a small mountain village close to the coast. Driving down the 800-odd kilometres from Paris, we reached our destination well before sunset.

It was a newly constructed gite. We were on lower side of the hill. The main house and the gite were separated by a middle terrace with a family swimming pool on it. This was to be our first experience of interacting with a French family. The wife and I had picked up the basics of French language, though less than adequate to converse with a southerner. The daughter had learnt the language well in her school and acted as our interpreter when needed. We went strictly by the guidelines given to us by our agent (an Indian) in Paris; paid half the total amount immediately on arrival, were to be careful not to blacken the cooking utensils or scratch the furniture, were to use only the gite and no other facility, and the like. The agent had repeatedly cautioned us on the prissiness of the French.

After we had settled, the landlord and his wife came to formally inform us that there would be a party at the swimming pool that night (it happened to be the gentleman’s birthday) and to apologise for any inconvenience or disturbance the noise might cause. This was in consonance with the prevailing French norm.

We thought it would be a good gesture to send a token gift. I had carried a few bottles of Indian rum. When the party was in good swing — as was evident from the noise — we sent the daughter to present our gift of Old Monk to the birthday boy. Through her I also sent a word of advice that this Indian “wine” was strong and should be taken with water unlike their vin rouge or red wine. The revelry went late into the night.

Early next morning the hosts were at our doorstep. They were greatly touched by our gesture and kept saying that the best, le mieux, part of the party was our gift of the Indian wine. Referring to our advice of water mixing, the gentleman said that he had promptly announced it to the gathering. However, one of the guests, having had a goodly intake of vin rouge already, ignored the advice with a disdainful ‘pfuh’. Then grabbing the gift bottle by the neck he took a largish swig. Though the landlord was throwing in an odd English word in his narration, being unsure whether with the language limitation we would get the full import of what happened next, he went into a demonstrative mode. Having said, “he fall immediatement”, he prostrated and added, “comme ca, like this”. We all went hysterical with laughter.

From that moment all barriers of formality between us were broken. Among other things they arranged two bicycles for the children, told us to use the swimming pool whenever we liked, hosted a dinner for us with their teenage son cooking some marine delicacies etc. From strangers we had become friends.
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OPED

Reinventing the steel frame
Public perception of civil servants not edifying
by P.P.S. Gill

The report of the Committee on Civil Service Reforms, headed by Mr PC Hota, is now with the Cabinet Secretary; and still under wraps. Its recommendations mirror the state of the “steel frame’’ or how this frame has rusted if not disintegrated or how it has lost trust of the public. It identifies measures to remove impediments to make the civil service “honest, responsive, politically neutral and professionally sound’’.

Taking cognizance of rampant corruption in the civil service, the committee has recommended an amendment to Article 311 of the Constitution to enable the President or the Governor to dismiss or remove a public servant summarily in case of corrupt practices or having assets disproportionate to known sources of income. It has also recommended that under the Central Vigilance Commission committees of experts be constituted in all departments to scrutinise cases of officers before initiating departmental action for corrupt practices or launching prosecution under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

For effective, transparent governance and accountability of bureaucrats, it has recommended that their annual property returns be put on the website and rules be framed under the Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, 1988, for the attachment or forfeiture of benami or ill-gotten property of corrupt bureaucrats.

It has desired that the directors of training academies may invoke the Probation Rules to weed out unsuitable officer-trainees. Also, after 15 years of service, a rigorous review be done on the performance of civil servants and those not honest or performance-oriented be weeded out.

The government should amend the Official Secrets Act to cover only essential minimum requirements of national security, public order and individual privacy. The officers having public interface must wear name badges.

The committee favours representation of women in higher civil services to be raised to at least 15 per cent from 12 per cent to 13 per cent now and also bureaucrats to be debarred from being appointed private secretaries or officers on special duty to ministers at the Centre and states.

There should be a cooling period of at least two years after retirement or resignation before a civil servant can join any political party and contest elections.

To ensure bureaucrats were politically neutral, they should not be given any post-retirement appointments, as members or chairperson of statutory commissions, quasi-judicial tribunals or even in constitutional authorities. No civil servant, who has retired or resigned, be appointed Governor for at least two years.

The report recommends that civil servants be appointed to posts on the basis of “objective criteria, assured minimum tenures and held accountable for performance’’. The civil service can be expected to play a proper role only if the bureaucrats had fixed tenures and targets and political executive respected their “neutrality, integrity and hierarchy’’.

It has recommended the lowering of eligibility age to 21-24 years from the present 21-30 years to “mould young entrants into government through training’’. Also responsibilities and functions of all senior officers must be publicised and after every five years or seven years, they should spend at least two months with some NGO or academic institution or in the private sector.

While suggesting the “state-of-governance report’’ to evaluate performance of civil servants, it says that for clean, honest and transparent functioning “antiquated rules and procedures must be discarded and new, simplified ones put in place, so essential for e-governance’’.

The report says political executive should have the final authority to transfer an officer at any stage in public interest, but an officer aggrieved by such premature transfer can approach a three-member Ombudsman, who may, where suitable, award monetary compensation to such officer.

Once the political masters and civil servants appreciate their respective roles, there would be synergy, unity of purpose and harmony in the higher echelons of government.

Suggesting a comprehensive law on the civil service, it has recommended a “code of ethics and a statutory minimum tenure’’ for bureaucrats. Officers on deputation to their home states must report back to the parent state on the expiry of their term. However, the exemption at present available to officers of the North-East, Jammu and Kashmir cadres in matters of deputation would continue.

Based on its interaction with people across the country, the report gives a bird’s eye-view of public perception of civil servants. The civil servants, it has recorded, have lost their “neutral and anonymous character’’. Upright civil servants are getting “marginalised’’ and corrupt practices are prevalent. The public perception of higher civil servants as a class is not edifying.

In the absence of a fixed tenure of posting, they do not function as “effective instruments’’ of public policy and are simply ‘’wasted’’. Majority of the bureaucrats are “arrogant’’ and have lost touch with the people. “Groupism’’ among civil servants is growing and they are divided along “sectarian lines’’. Some have even an “unhealthy nexus’’ with power brokers and use questionable means to get a good posting at home or abroad.

Due to a fear of the Central Vigilance Commission and the state vigilance, there is a “fear psychosis’’ and bureaucrats are afraid to take bold decisions in public interest. As the IAS officers have monopolised all services, recognition must be given to the IPS and IFS officers in posting.

Even the brightest officers get de-motivated as they move up and stop reading to increase their “domain of knowledge’’. Also, without performance targets, the civil service degenerates into a closed priesthood with no accountability.
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People
Leaves US citizenship for political ends

US citizenship is a coveted "title". Ask any of the thousands of people eager to go to the land of opportunity. But former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Ajit Jogi's son Amit has given up his US citizenship in apparent readiness to launch his political career in a by-election later this year.

Amit Jogi, 27, who was born in the US, is preparing to contest the Marwahi by-election in November. The seat had been vacated by his father after he was elected to the Lok Sabha from the Mahasamund constituency.

Confirming the news, state police chief O.P. Rathor said copies of Amit Jogi's citizenship registration had been given to them by the Union Home Ministry.

The citizenship certificate was issued on July 26 and lists his home in Raipur as his official address.

Amit Jogi is facing Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probes in three cases with his father. The cases include conspiring to kill Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Ramavtar Jaggi in June last year and offering cash to BJP legislators for breaking away from the party. The Congress had suspended Ajit Jogi for his involvement in the cash-for-MLAs scam.

Halle Berry: black and beautiful

Halle BerryAfrican American actress Halle Berry feels the colour of her skin holds the key to her beauty.

The Oscar winner, popularly touted as one of Hollywood's most beautiful women, is completely happy with her looks and believes that black women don't age quickly.

"I'm happy with what I see. I feel relaxed about ageing. I haven't had any operations yet. Black women in my age really don't have to worry about anything," the Austrian magazine Woman quoted her as saying. 

"My grandmother is over 80 and her skin is immaculate. I hope I won't have to think about getting Botox treatment until I'm 80," the 36-year-old actress added.

Manisha to act in Pak film

 Manisha Koirala For the first time, two Bollywood stars — Juhi Babbar and Manisha Koirala — are to act in a Pakistani movie.

The two have agreed to act in producer Khalil Rana's upcoming film "Pyas", Daily Times has reported.

Rana told the paper that the film would be shot in Germany. Juhi will go to Pakistan in November to sign the contract while Manisha is expected to sign by the end of this month.

The Indian stars will be cast opposite Pakistan's Ahmed Butt in the film, which will be marketed in India and other places.
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British rule has impoverished the dumb millions by a system of progressive exploitation, and by a ruinously expensive military and civil administration which the country can never afford. It has reduced us politically to serfdom. It has sapped the foundations of our culture.

— Mahatma Gandhi

India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.

— Mark Twain

If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India.

— French scholar Romaine Rolland

The Guru’s word is ever-pure and ever-illuminating.

— Guru Nanak

In religion there is no caste; caste is simply a social institution.

— Swami Vivekananda
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