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EDITORIALS

Crisis continues
Congress pays for banking on Gowda
K
arnataka is heading for a fresh bout of political instability paving the way for a Kumaraswamy-led Janata Dal (Secular)-Bharatiya Janata Party tie-up in Bangalore. The Congress’ last-minute offer of the Maharashtra model to the JD (S) (Deputy Chief Minister’s post and two key portfolios) has come too late.

Good riddance
Buta has gone, blot remains
B
IHAR Governor Buta Singh has gone. That’s good riddance. But what remains is the bad politics in which there is plenty of room for such actors and action. Clearly, Mr Buta Singh has demitted office only because it was impossible for him to continue even by the low standards that have come to haunt constitutional offices.



EARLIER STORIES

Go ahead with N-deal
January 26, 2006
Go home, Buta
January 25, 2006
Return of Raja Bhaiya
January 24, 2006
Speaker has no other choice
January 23, 2006
We will focus on economic agenda, says Muzaffar
January 22, 2006
Rein in the khaps
January 21, 2006
Tackling Musharraf
January 20, 2006
Scams and the system
January 19, 2006
No confrontation, please!
January 18, 200618
Reopen and act
January 17, 2006
THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS

Importance of technology
Defence needs must be met
T
HE extent of debate on defence that the reports of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and the Comptroller and Auditor General generate, both within Parliament and in the extended policy-making community, is negligible. That is a pity.

ARTICLE

Buta Singh had to go
Whatever its merits, court verdict has to be respected
by P.P. Rao
T
HE difference of opinion among the three judges who constituted the majority and other two judges who delivered separate dissenting opinions on the Bihar Assembly dissolution is with regard to the validity of the Presidential order dissolving the Assembly on the advice of the Union Cabinet based on the recommendation of the Governor.

MIDDLE

Pure advice
by Trilochan Singh Trewn
O
N reaching Mumbai from Shimla for the first time, we found an elderly pleasant Parsi couple Rustomjee to be our neighbours. As a newly wedded couple, we were open to advice on all domestic matters, specially from Mrs Rustomjee. They lived in an adjoining flat. She accompanied us to visit Chowpatty, Marine Drive, Crawford Market, Juhu Beach, Nariman Point and Malabar Hill.

OPED

Dateline Washington
The Indo-US nuclear deal and the Iran vote
“Mulford’s views echo US Congress’ ”
by Ashish Kumar Sen
E
VEN as the Bush administration distanced itself from United States Ambassador to India David Mulford’s comments about a civilian nuclear deal with India, congressional sources said his remarks are an accurate reflection of the sentiment in the U.S. Congress.

Khap panchayats: Out of tune with the times
by D.R. Chaudhry
T
HE decision of a khap panchayat in Bhiwani district to expel two families from their respective villages which were recently tied together through a matrimonial alliance should make all right thinking people sit up and take serious note of a phenomenon which is increasingly posing a threat to civilized existence.

Oh, for that great cup of coffee!
by Joel Achenbach
P
EOPLE always say to me, “How can I make the perfect cup of coffee?” And I have to break the bad news: One does not make the perfect cup. One tries to become the kind of person who is worthy of attendance at the elaborate ritual known as the perfect cup of coffee. This isn’t amateur hour.


From the pages of

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Crisis continues
Congress pays for banking on Gowda

Karnataka is heading for a fresh bout of political instability paving the way for a Kumaraswamy-led Janata Dal (Secular)-Bharatiya Janata Party tie-up in Bangalore. The Congress’ last-minute offer of the Maharashtra model to the JD (S) (Deputy Chief Minister’s post and two key portfolios) has come too late. While the Congress has virtually lost an important state in the South, the one who has lost most in the 10-day political drama is none else than the former Prime Minister, Mr H.D. Deve Gowda. His position and overall role in the current crisis has been somewhat strange and this has considerably dented his image. He has resigned as National President of the JD (S), perhaps to establish his bona fides. Mr H.D. Kumaraswamy, who has staked claims to form an alternative government with the BJP’s help, is not known outside Karnataka in any other capacity than being one of Mr Deve Gowda’s sons. He may have to walk on a tight rope considering the changing political scenario in Karnataka.

Instability was in-built in the Dharam Singh government from day one. Mr Deve Gowda and his JD (S) were always creating hurdles in the smooth functioning of the government. The Congress too failed to manage its principal ally well. There was no coalition dharma among the partners. The coalition was suffering from internal contradictions all along.

The last straw for the government came with reports that the Congress was considering tying up with Mr Siddaramaiah’s All-India Progressive Janata Dal. Mr Siddaramaiah was removed as Deputy Chief Minister not long ago. Mr Deve Gowda was too wary of the Congress moving closer to Mr Siddaramaiah. This is said to be one of the main reasons for the poor show of the JD (S) in the zilla and taluk panchayat elections. No doubt, the JD (S) stands to gain now, but at what cost? The BJP too will be happy to share power for the first time in the South. For the Congress, losing what was once upon a time its stronghold will be a big blow. It will have to wait for some time to retrieve the lost ground.

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Good riddance
Buta has gone, blot remains

BIHAR Governor Buta Singh has gone. That’s good riddance. But what remains is the bad politics in which there is plenty of room for such actors and action. Clearly, Mr Buta Singh has demitted office only because it was impossible for him to continue even by the low standards that have come to haunt constitutional offices. What should, and will, be remembered is that Mr Buta Singh held out for three days even after the Supreme Court had explicitly indicted him for dissolution of the Bihar assembly in May last. And, during these three days, neither the United Progressive Alliance nor the Congress party asked him to pack up and vacate the Raj Bhavan in Patna; which is what ought to have been done the day the apex court held his dissolution of the assembly to be a subversion of the Constitution.

Obviously, Mr Buta Singh was bent on brazening it out, as evident from his assertion that he will hoist the flag on Republic Day; and which he managed to do though this carried an element of impropriety. So, now if he has put in his papers, which the President has accepted, the only explanation is that there were compelling circumstances that did not allow him to stick to his post.

The development underlines the need for known norms that should be adhered to by constitutional functionaries, like governors. The Bommai case judgment had warned governors of judicial review of a dissolution if political and constitutional authorities do not enforce the spirit of it but condone or connive at subversion of the statute. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, personally a symbol of integrity and honesty in public life, may have to work hard towards enforcing strict guidelines for the governors. Unless that is done, recent developments as in Bihar would be of mere episodic value, when it should be seized upon for its deterrent potential to preclude any governor from making nonsense of the Constitution.

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Importance of technology
Defence needs must be met

THE extent of debate on defence that the reports of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence and the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) generate, both within Parliament and in the extended policy-making community, is negligible. That is a pity. The latest reports tabled in Parliament warned against the continued rise in defence imports, and the poor quality of supplies, from ordinance to tank parts, from both internal and external sources. At Rs 83,000 crore, India’s defence budget this year is among the largest in the world. In purchasing power parity terms, it is led only by the USA and China. Whether that money is being well-spent is a question that concerns us all.

The Parliamentary committee has lamented the fact that after “55 years of Independence, cutting-edge technologies have not been developed in the country.” It has urged the government to lay stress on building a strong R&D base, “with accountability”. Problems with projects like the Arjun, the LCA, and the Kaveri indicate that we are yet to overcome the challenges associated with the creation of advanced, complex, military platforms. The IAF is getting ready to send out proposal requests to foreign companies for a huge, 125-aircraft order. Though this order is for a heavier class of aircraft than the LCA, clearly, if the LCA and the Kaveri engine had been inducted by now, India could have been thinking of making its own medium weight fighters.

The CAG reports make it clear that both import consignments and local production have quality problems. Excellence, innovation and consistency in quality are all related. Import lobbies on the one hand, and the technological shortcomings and unrealistic cost and time estimates of DRDO and the defence PSUs on the other, not to mention corrosive corruption, have not created the necessary levels of mutual trust and synergy. A coherent purchase and production strategy as called for by the Parliamentary committee is long overdue. The government should also task concerned agencies to come up with a plan that will create a scientific, technological and industrial base that can cater to defence needs, at least some time in the future.

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Thought for the day

Honesty is more praised than practised.

— An American proverb

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Buta Singh had to go
Whatever its merits, court verdict has to be respected
by P.P. Rao

THE difference of opinion among the three judges who constituted the majority and other two judges who delivered separate dissenting opinions on the Bihar Assembly dissolution is with regard to the validity of the Presidential order dissolving the Assembly on the advice of the Union Cabinet based on the recommendation of the Governor. While the majority held that the Governor’s recommendation was malafide, based on assumptions and without any material, and the Central Government acted on it without verifying the facts, the minority expressed the view that there was some material and it is relevant. Consequently, the recommendation is not malafide. They upheld the order of dissolution.

At the very outset, the Constitution Bench allocated time to each side for arguments. The respondents were given three days. The Attorney-General, who appeared in his constitutional capacity, the Solicitor-General and an Additional Solicitor-General who represented the Union of India availed themselves of almost all the time, leaving only half an hour towards the end of the third day to me to supplement their arguments on behalf of the State of Bihar. The State of Bihar had no role in the dissolution of the assembly. Even so having been impleaded, the State of Bihar engaged me. I could only read out my written submissions within the 30 minutes given, but not develop any of them nor place a single relevant decision.

One of the precedents relied on by me is the binding decision of another Constitution Bench which had dealt with the duty of the Governor to follow the Constitution and the law in the matter of appointment of a Chief Minister, when Ms Jayalalithaa’s appointment by Governor Justice Fatima Beevi was challenged by B.R. Kapoor and others.

The argument of the petitioners therein was that Ms Jayalalithaa’s having been convicted and sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment, she was disqualified for being chosen as a member of the Legislative Assembly and her appointment was illegal. On behalf of Ms Jayalalithaa, it was contended that her appeal against the conviction was ready before the High Court and there was every possibility of her acquittal, and in terms of Article 164(4) of the Constitution, a person could be appointed a minister for six months even if he or she is not a member of the legislature and her appointment was valid. The Supreme Court declared: “Sub-Article (4) is not intended for the induction into the Council of Ministers of someone for six months or less so that it is of no consequence that he is ineligible to stand for the legislature…… That on the date on which the second respondent (Jayalalithaa) was sworn in as Chief Minister she was disqualified, by reason of her conviction under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the sentence of imprisonment of not less than two years, for becoming a member of the legislature under Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act.”

The Bench added: “The Constitution prevails over the will of the people as expressed through the majority party. The will of the people as expressed through the majority party prevails only if it is in accord with the Constitution. The Governor is a functionary under the Constitution and is sworn to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law’ (Article 159). The Governor cannot, in the exercise of his discretion or otherwise, do anything that is contrary to the Constitution and the laws.”

The Governor of a state is, therefore, bound to have regard to the provisions of the Constitution and the relevant laws while discharging his constitutional functions. This is precisely what the Governor of Bihar had done was my submission. Relying on this decision mentioned in my submissions that having regard to the provisions of the Tenth Schedule and the decisions in Ravi S. Naik and G. Viswanathan’s cases that if a member of the Legislature Party voluntarily gave up his membership of such political party without tendering his resignation from the membership, an inference could be drawn from the conduct of the member that he had voluntarily given up his membership of his political party and, therefore, liable to disqualification on the ground of defection under the Tenth Schedule to the Constitution.

In his report dated May 21, 2005, the Governor, inter alia, stated, “Report has also been received of one of the LJP MLAs, who is General Secretary of the party, having resigned today and also 17-18 more perhaps are moving towards the JD-U, clearly indicating that various allurements have been offered which is a very disturbing and alarming feature. Any move by the break-away faction to align with any other party to cobble a majority and stake claim to form a government would positively affect the constitutional provisions and safeguards built therein and distort the verdict of the people as shown by the results in the recent elections. If these attempts are allowed, it would amount to tampering with constitutional provisions.”

The argument was that the view taken by the Governor was in accordance with the provisions of the Tenth Schedule as interpreted by the Supreme Court. In other words, all 17 MLAs of the LJP, who were in the protective confinement of Jharkhand where the BJP-led government was in power, having voluntarily abandoned their party and there being no merger of the LJP with any other political party, had incurred disqualification under the Tenth Schedule. Therefore, the Governor’s recommendation for the dissolution of the Assembly was not unconstitutional.

Out of the three judgments delivered on Tuesday, Justice Arijit Pasayat in his verdict not only noted the arguments and considered the law declared in Ms Jayalalithaa’s case but also relied on it observing: “The situation cannot be different when the Chief Minister nominated was to head a ministry which had its foundation on taint and the majority is cobbled by unethical means or corrupt means. As was observed in B.R. Kapur’s case (supra) in such an event the constitutional purity has to be maintained and the Constitution has to prevail over the will of the people.”

Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, in his separate judgment, also came to the conclusion that the dissolution of the assembly was not malafide and the facts stated in the Governor’s report that some horse trading was going on and some MLAs were being won over by allurements are certainly facts to be taken into consideration by the Governor.

He added: “the Governor in his report had stated that some horse-trading is going on and some MLAs are being won over by allurements. These are certainly facts to be taken into consideration by the Governor. If by any foul means the government is formed, it cannot be said to be a democratically-elected government. If the Governor has got a reasonable apprehension and reliable information such unethical means are being adopted by the political parties to get majority, they are certainly matters to be brought to the notice of the President and at least they are not irrelevant matters. The Governor is not the decision-making authority. His report would be scrutinized by the Council of Ministers and a final decision is taken by the President under Article 174 of the Constitution. Therefore, it cannot be said that the decision to dissolve the Bihar State Legislative Assembly is malafide exercise of power based on totally irrelevant grounds.” In the view taken by him on the facts of the case, it was not necessary for him to advert to the binding precedent in Ms Jayalalithaa’s case.

Somehow, the majority judgement neither referred to any arguments advanced on behalf of the State of Bihar, nor adverted to Ms Jayalalithaa’s case. One is left to speculate whether the majority considered the said precedent and felt that it was of no relevance or missed it altogether inadvertently. When one of the five judges has not only referred to the binding decision of an earlier Constitution Bench but also relied on it, it is expected that the majority would respond to it at least in passing, as draft judgments are always circulated among the judges before pronouncing in an open court. In law, a judgment which does not consider a relevant precedent is regarded as per incuriam and, therefore, not binding and liable to be ignored. As the Supreme Court observed in the Synthetics and Chemicals case, “‘incuria’ literally means ‘carelessness’. In practice ‘per incuriam’ appears to mean ‘per ignoratium’.”

The next question is: had the majority applied its mind to the law declared in Ms Jayalalithaa’s case, would it have found fault with the recommendation of the Governor? The majority judgment noted that the Governor’s report of April 27, 2005, had referred to: (1) serious attempt to cobble a majority; (2) winning over MLAs by various means; (3) targeting parties for a split; (4) high pressure moves; (5) offering various allurements like castes, posts, money, etc.; and (6) Horse-trading.”

Para 5 of the report mentions that it was based on “newspaper reports and other reports gathered through meetings of various party functionaries / leaders and also intelligence reports” received by him. The court’s response to this report is: “This approach makes it evident that the object was to prevent a particular political party from staking a claim and not the professed object of anxiety not to permit the distortion of the political system, as sought to be urged. Such a course is nothing but wholly illegal and irregular and has to be described as malafide.

The recommendation for dissolution of the assembly to prevent the staking of claim to form the government purportedly on the ground that the majority was achieved by the distortion of the system by allurement, corruption and bribery was based on such general assumptions without any material which are quite easy to be made if any political party not gaining absolute majority is to be kept out of governance…. If such majority had been presented and the Governor forms a legitimate opinion that the party staking claim would not be able to provide a stable government to the state, that may be a different situation. Under no circumstances can the action of the Governor be held to be bonafide when it is intended to prevent a political party to stake claim for the formation of the government. After elections, every genuine attempt is to be made which helps in installation of a popular government, whichever be the political party.”

Right or wrong, every judgment of the Supreme Court is entitled to respect and needs to be given effect to so long as it is not modified or overruled by the court itself. In the face of the finding of malafides, the Governor had no choice but to quit forthwith.

The writer, a senior advocate of the Supreme Court, has just been awarded the Padma Bhushan by the President of India.

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Pure advice
by Trilochan Singh Trewn

ON reaching Mumbai from Shimla for the first time, we found an elderly pleasant Parsi couple Rustomjee to be our neighbours. As a newly wedded couple, we were open to advice on all domestic matters, specially from Mrs Rustomjee. They lived in an adjoining flat. She accompanied us to visit Chowpatty, Marine Drive, Crawford Market, Juhu Beach, Nariman Point and Malabar Hill.

We enjoyed staying in the South Colaba area. Mrs Rustomjee regaled in advising us on almost all matters for leading a comfortable and pure life in the crowded Mumbai. Her first advice was for pure drinking water and pure milk.

One day she introduced us to one Shetkar, a Marathi- speaking lad who was delivering three sealed bottles of drinking water to them. We were promptly told that the pure water with medicinal qualities was from a well located near the judges’ entrance of the Mumbai High Court building near Kalaghora. The water used to be taken out from the well by a chosen person using clean canvas buckets and a wooden storage cylindrical cask. Due to compulsions of friendly neighourhood relations we too agreed to order for this water in bottles on a daily basis.

The next item was supply of milk. Normally, milk supply in greater Mumbai was through Aarey milk scheme booths or its mobile vendors. It was quite satisfactory and reputed. Our neighbours suggested that we should start using Parsi dairy milk marketed by a private dairy located near Marine Lines railway station. That very day we were shown a vendor carrying a large sealed aluminium milk barrel with a numbered lock and tap. Obviously it was a foolproof arrangement and any common vendor could not open the lid and adulterate milk. Although happy with Aarey milk we too joined our neighbours for this superpure milk supply arrangements.

There was something more to come. She advised us to shun petty vegetable shops and buy from reputed suppliers only. We were strict vegetarians and used to buy our vegetables etc from Fort Market. Our neighbours liked fish and red meat which was supplied by a vendor on bicycle in an open-top straw basket. Mrs Rustomjee again insisted that we should buy even our special vegetarian requirements through their vendor who excelled in quality fresh and pure supplies.

Under sustained neighbourly pressure we again fell in line and ordered for pure 25 gram of idli paste. The next day the vendor came. He first took out 500 grams of minced meat wrapped in loose paper for our neighbours. Then he took out our idli paste in another wrapper with a prawn leg sticking to idli paste. We stood aghast. That ended our quest for the pure ones!

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Dateline Washington
The Indo-US nuclear deal and the Iran vote
“Mulford’s views echo US Congress'”
by Ashish Kumar Sen

EVEN as the Bush administration distanced itself from United States Ambassador to India David Mulford’s comments about a civilian nuclear deal with India, congressional sources said his remarks are an accurate reflection of the sentiment in the U.S. Congress.

In an interview with the Press Trust of India this week, Mr. Mulford had said that the July 18, 2005, agreement which seeks civil nuclear cooperation between the U.S. and India may “die in Congress” should India fail to vote against Iran at a meeting of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Calling Mr. Mulford’s remarks the ambassador’s “personal opinion,” US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Wednesday, “how India votes on this matter is going to be a decision for the Indian government.”

The Ministry of External Affairs issued a sharp response to Mr. Mulford’s interview and rejected attempts to link the nuclear agreement with the Iran vote.

Mr. McCormack pointed out that New Delhi had voted against Iran in September and said the Bush administration “certainly would encourage and hope that they vote for referral this time around.”

The Bush administration must get the approval of the U.S. Congress before key laws are changed to allow the deal to materialise. Before that approval can be given, however, India must present a credible plan to separate its civilian and military nuclear facilities. U.S. and Indian officials have still to agree on which comes first - the separation or the request to Congress.

A senior congressional source told the Tribune that the “general sense” of the members of the House International Relations Committee - a committee of jurisdiction on the nuclear deal – is that if India does not vote with the U.S. against Iran it would be a “deal breaker.”

“For changes to be made to U.S. law on the nuclear front, members need to be assured of various issues, particularly that India will be a reliable ally on non-proliferation efforts such as those related to Iran and the PSI [Proliferation Security Initiative],” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Some members of the U.S. Congress have been critical of a proposed gas pipeline between India and Iran and see the upcoming vote in the International Atomic Energy Agency as a test of India’s commitment to non-proliferation. The United States and some European nations insist Iran’s nuclear programme is aimed at developing weapons. Tehran says its goal is to produce energy.

Noting that the civilian nuclear technology agreement will bring the United States-India relationship to a new level, Congressman Joseph Crowley told the Tribune: “It is fair that this relationship comes with the expectation that India will look towards the United States and our allies in Western Europe in standing strong to prevent a nuclear Iran.”

“A nuclear Iran which openly dismisses the IAEA cannot be tolerated by any country,” said Mr. Crowley, a former Democratic Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans.

Mr. McCormack admitted Mr. Mulford was “reflecting the view that on Capitol Hill there are very strongly held feelings about Iran and the need for the international community to act decisively and firmly and with a single voice concerning Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon.”

Congressman Joe Wilson, another former co-chairman of the India Caucus, told the Tribune that India demonstrated its commitment to keeping Iran’s nuclear plans in check with its vote in September.  “Over the past five months, as the threat of the Iranian regime has increased, members of the Security Council have grow even more concerned about Iran’s behavior,” he said, adding, “I am hopeful that the Indian government will continue to support efforts to hold Iran accountable to its international obligations.”

Explaining the opposition on Capitol Hill to the proposed gas pipeline with Iran, the senior congressional source said opponents pose the following question

“If the nuclear deal is to help address India’s energy needs and help our friends in India diversify India’s energy resources, then why is India engaged with Iran’s energy sector which provides Iran with the financial resources to engage in its terrorist activities... and its nuclear pursuits?”

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Khap panchayats: Out of tune with the times
by D.R. Chaudhry

THE decision of a khap panchayat in Bhiwani district to expel two families from their respective villages which were recently tied together through a matrimonial alliance should make all right thinking people sit up and take serious note of a phenomenon which is increasingly posing a threat to civilized existence.

The incidents of khap panchyats issuing fatwas to ostracize families, dissolving marriages, declaring a legally wedded couple brother and sister, doling out punishment (including death in some cases) to those who are perceived to have deviated from some khap norm in a matrimonial alliance are becoming quite common in the khap belt around Delhi.

Khap is an endogamous unit covering a cluster of villages dominated by a particular gotra of Jats in the Jat heartland around Delhi. Members of particular khap units are governed by blood ties and are supposed to observe certain norms in marital alliances. Any deviance is frowned upon.

The institution of khap came into being in medieval times as an outgrowth of clannish formations in the tribal era. It played an important role in fostering a sense of brotherhood among members of a khap, thus creating an instrument of social security in an age when the modern concept of law and order was unheard of and might as a right largely prevailed.

There was no institutionalized system of law enforcement and the khap panchayat was an organ to settle disputes among khap members. Some times it played a larger social role as well. For instance, some khaps played an important role in organising resistance against the British rule in 1857 uprising in Haryana.

Society can exist as a  healthy organism only if it regularly and consistently makes a bid for a creative fusion of tradition and modernity. Tradition untouched by modernity becomes hidebound and moribund while modernity unhinged from tradition is shallow and superficial.

There is no evidence of the operation of this principle in the evolution of khap as an institution. Thus it has become obsolete in its structure and regressive and reactionary in its ideological baggage.

The exposure of the rural youth to the wide world through improved means of transport and communications and the mass media, both print and electronic, coupled with the spread of education, has led to a radical change in the sexual mores in rural society.

The concept of bhaichara members of a khap being brothers and sisters- is a myth now, giving rise to increased interaction and intimacy between the two sexes. When this leads to matrimonial alliance, it is treated as an unpardonable sin inviting barbarous punishment. Various norms governing matrimonial alliance have lost their relevance with the proliferation of gotras in villages of a particular khap.

Thus the Khap panchayat has lost its relevance in modern times. The elected village panchayats, more representative in its composition with 33 per cent reservation for SCs, BCs, and women, (there is no elective principle in khap panchayat) have been deprived of its rationale. In an age when institutions of law enforcement, justice, punishment and settling of disputes — the police, judiciary, the executive etc — have come into being and function, despite lapses, quite regularly, khap panchayat has outlived its utility; yet the age old institution fights back with all tenacity for survival. It is historically dead but physically alive.

Since a dominant community in the rural hinterland that controls land and muscle power and is highly patriarchal in its world view hegemonises the khap panchyat, it is anti-woman and anti-weaker sections. In Talao village of Jhajjar district a high caste girl eloped with a scheduled caste boy and her younger sister went with her for moral support. The girls were caught and brought back. Both were declared dead the next morning and furtively cremated. It is commonly believed that they were done to death. There was no inquest or enquiry into this ghastly incident by the administration.

In Chachhoroli village of the same district a Lohar boy eloped with a high caste girl. The khap panchayat expelled the Lohar family from the village but did not touch the girl’s family.

The khap panchyat has become a law unto itself. Kangaroo courts are held and fatwas issued. Unemployed lumpen youth is in the forefront in such panchyats and goad the elders to take decisions, which are often outlandish, bizarre and abominable. They seek thrills to enliven their drab existence. Strangely enough, these khap panchayats take no notice of numerous social evils like the rising crime graph in the state, corruption in the administration, the adverse sex ratio and growing incidence of foeticide, increasing use of alcohol and drugs by the rural youth and many such other things. Who marries whom is the only issue that agitates them.

However, Rajasthan has provided a silver lining in this dark scenario. The Rajasthan High Court and the State Human Rights Commission took a suo moto notice of the barbaric practice of the caste panchayats in the state and issued instructions to the state to apply a curb on them. The Home Ministry of Rajasthan vide its letter No. P-10 (26) Home 13/98 dated 14.2. 2001 issued instructions to the police and other law enforcing agencies to curb the unlawful functioning of the caste panchayats in the state.

The major problem with Haryana society is that civil society is virtually non- existent in the state. There are no social institutions, organized groups, civil liberty and human rights organizations and NGOs to take up the issues of rights and liberties of an individual guaranteed in the Constitution of the Indian Republic. This leaves the field free to outdated social formations to operate without any check.

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Oh, for that great cup of coffee!
by Joel Achenbach

PEOPLE always say to me, “How can I make the perfect cup of coffee?” And I have to break the bad news: One does not make the perfect cup. One tries to become the kind of person who is worthy of attendance at the elaborate ritual known as the perfect cup of coffee. This isn’t amateur hour. Frankly, some people may never have a knack for it. Try juice, is my advice. Stick to the safe fluids.

But I’ll share a few hints. First off, the perfect cup of coffee is not a substance but an event, one that usually happens first thing in the morning. Cups later in the day are often tarnished by distractions. The serious coffee drinker anticipates the first cup of the morning with something very much like lust. As you’re making the coffee, you find yourself whispering, “Baby, you’re so hot.”

Obviously, the perfect cup of coffee begins with exquisite coffee beans. You mustn’t buy pre-ground coffee, any more than you would buy food that has already been chewed. Some people buy green coffee beans and roast them at home, but if you’re really serious, you should grow your own plants. It can add some time to the process, however, and my children hate it when I wake them at 3 in the morning to start the harvest.

Once you have the whole beans, you must “grind” them, a word whose brutality gives me shivers. We love the bean and want to treat it humanely. Its molecular genius, however, can be liberated only if the bean is disintegrated. Blade grinders burn the coffee; for just a few thousand dollars you can buy special coffee grinders that lovingly break the beans into tiny pieces. I like to smash the beans with a hammer. When my neighbors hear loud hammering before dawn, they know another great cuppa joe is on the way.

You can’t use tap water to make coffee. The water must be filtered or bottled, or, ideally, manufactured by chemists in the form of H3O (the extra hydrogen atom gives the coffee a pleasant nutty taste).

Next comes the apparatus by which the coffee is prepared. All you really need is a technique for allowing water that’s nearly boiling to consort with fresh grinds. Many purists make “cowboy coffee,” in which they add the grinds to a pan of hot water, swirl it around for a minute, and start drinking and eating the resulting mixture. Another term for cowboy coffee is “chewy coffee.”

Let us stipulate that, by hook or crook, you find some method of producing a cup of coffee that meets your specifications for excellence. But wait: It’s still not the perfect cup. You need to work on location. Great coffee is 1/10 chemistry, 9/10 environment.

One Sunday morning recently, after making my coffee, I drove to a small park that overlooks the Potomac River. I brought a fine novel. The first rays of sun struck the bare trees on the bluff across the river. I drank the coffee. Spectacular!

As the caffeine worked its way through my veins, the philosophy neurons woke up. The notion arose that the river emerges from deep time, that it is older than human civilization, that everything we have ever accomplished is but a brief conceit. That we’re just little people, living on a tiny planet in an eye blink of time. How intimidating! How scary! How could we possibly claim any significance in such a vast cosmos?

Well, you start with the perfect cup of coffee.

— LA Times-Washington Post

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From the pages of

April 12, 1925

Dyal Singh Majithia

A newspaper proprietor is not necessarily a distinguished or eminent individual, but Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia, the founder and proprietor of “The Tribune” newspaper, was a remarkable man and was undoubtedly an outstanding personality in the Punjab during his lifetime. For one thing, the never had any idea of deriving any income from “The Tribune”, for the maintenance of which he spent a large sum of money, while the expenses in the Warburton defamation case came up to a heavy amount. Socially he occupied a very high position, being the only son of Sardar Lehna Singh Majithia, Commander-in-Chief of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s army and a man of the highest integrity and probity of character. The flag-staff erected by Sardar Lehna Singh in front of the Akal Bunga in the Golden Temple at Amritsar still stands by the side of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s flag-staff. As a young man Sardar Dyal Singh visited Europe and he returned to the Punjab a staunch patriot and a confirmed nationalist. His independence of character was such as was seldom to be found in a Sikh nobleman and he studiously and with deliberate purpose avoided all Durbar and official functions.

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