SPECIAL COVERAGE
CHANDIGARH

LUDHIANA

DELHI


THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
O P I N I O N S

Editorials | Article | Middle | Oped | Reflections

EDITORIALS

On the mat
Centre should convince SC on quota
T
he Supreme Court has rightly pulled up the Union Government for announcing 27 per cent reservations for the socially and educationally backward classes without collating comprehensive data on the Other Backward Castes (OBCs).

Another low
Keep drugs out of cricket
W
ith Pakistan’s two top speedsters, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif, in the dock for possible drug use, cricket is clouded by another issue of concern. Under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) protocol, they face a two-year ban if the charge is confirmed.


EARLIER STORIES

N. Korea under sanctions
October 17, 2006
Consensus on delimitation
October 16, 2006
What ails the police?
October 15, 2006
Code for babus
October 14, 2006
SC on pardon
October 13, 2006
Dangerous liaison
October 12, 2006
Regrouping of Taliban
October 11, 2006
It wasn’t a bluff
October 10, 2006
Tactical victory
October 9, 2006
Reform the cop
October 8, 2006
Poverty of Congress
October 7, 2006


Glittering Sensex
This rally is not broad based
A
fter keeping low for some time, the BSE Sensex has once again stirred excitement by scaling a new peak. It is within striking distance of 13,000 and brokers expect more fireworks this Divali.

ARTICLE

Quarrelling over Kargil
Antiquated decision-making system must go
by Lieut-Gen Harwant Singh (retd)

T
he controversy and quarrel over Kargil has been one of the most futile and unproductive inter-service exercises. However, Kargil does throw sufficient light on the prevailing set-up to take note of the discord and delay in the decision-making process that could seriously jeopardise national security.

MIDDLE

The pure one
by Raj Chatterjee
B
eing a devout Brahmin, Rati Ram began his day with puja and though now it is more than 75 years since I saw him at it, his routine has stuck indelibly in my mind.

OPED

Farmers as victims
SEZ model is too authoritarian
by Janak Raj Gupta
T
he special economic zone (SEZ) model has created a great furore in the country. The proponents of the model consider it as a panacea for the all-round development of the Indian economy, while opposition comes from the cultivating community which is likely to be forcibly deprived of its livelihood.

Bangladesh’s notional fight against terror
by Rajeev Sharma
W
hen the Bangladesh High Court confirmed the death sentence on the seven top leaders of Jamiatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) on August 31 for the murder of two judges, the general opinion was the sentence would be executed within the next thirty days.

US accepts first batch of North Korean refugees
by Valerie Reitman
H
elp. I’m a North Korean enslaved by a married man in China.” In February, “Deborah” surreptitiously posted her plea on a Web site she discovered by typing “talbukja” – Korean for “escapee from the north” – into an Internet search engine.

Editorial cartoon by Rajinder Puri


 REFLECTIONS



Top








 

On the mat
Centre should convince SC on quota

The Supreme Court has rightly pulled up the Union Government for announcing 27 per cent reservations for the socially and educationally backward classes without collating comprehensive data on the Other Backward Castes (OBCs). “You play the game first and then frame the rules”, said the Bench consisting of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice L.S. Panta. The court’s observations, in response to a public interest litigation challenging the Centre’s reservation policy, cannot be viewed as a confrontation between the judiciary and the executive. The Supreme Court is only doing its duty to protect the Constitution. As the guardian and watchdog of the Constitution, it has to examine the constitutional validity of any legislation enacted by Parliament. If it is satisfied that a piece of legislation is not in accordance with the Constitution, it can declare it null and void.

Significantly, the apex court has asked the Centre to submit the report of the Standing Committee of Parliament on the proposed reservations for the socially and educationally backward classes. The Centre would do well to follow the directive and satisfy the court with complete facts and figures on the imperative need to provide reservation to the OBCs. It should not question the court’s jurisdiction on the matter. As the proposal is backed by an all-party consensus, it should not be difficult for the government to defend its stand in the court.

The court’s intervention on the issue was not unexpected. When the aggrieved students approached the court during the peak of their agitation in May, the apex court made it clear that the proposed legislation will have to stand the test of judicial scrutiny. The Centre appointed the Oversight Committee headed by Mr M. Veerappa Moily to look into the nitty-gritty of reservations for the OBCs. However, apparently, the government has not done its homework adequately with regard to collating data on the OBCs. Specifically, the apex court has asked the government how it has fixed the quantum of quota at 27 per cent. It has also raised questions on the creamy layer — an issue on which serious differences exist among the UPA’s coalition partners. As the court will take up the matter on December 4, the Centre should tap every available source to present its case properly and convincingly.

Top

 

Another low
Keep drugs out of cricket

With Pakistan’s two top speedsters, Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif, in the dock for possible drug use, cricket is clouded by another issue of concern. Under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) protocol, they face a two-year ban if the charge is confirmed. Cricket is yet to fully shake off the match-fixing shadow cast over it, and banned drugs in cricketers’ kits are the last thing the game needs. WADA does not consider cricket a high-risk sport for drug use, but the possibility always exists. The International Cricket Council has instituted random dope testing during the Champions’ Trophy, and Pakistan Coach Bob Woolmer had asked his own board for tests in order to obviate a greater mess later.

Drugs are not a bane in cricket as they are in other sports like athletics, as most “performance-enhancing” drugs only add to the explosive muscle power of a sportsmen, but will do little for his endurance or skills. Cricket is a game played over the whole day, if not five days. Bowlers are more susceptible, particularly the speedsters, as some muscular strength and throwing ability may be enhanced. Shane Warne copped a one-year ban for testing positive for a banned diuretic in 2003. Akhtar and Asif have tested positive in their first samples for nandralone, a well-known, muscle-building, anabolic steroid. It is a high profile drug, but many do not resist the temptation as there are doubts in the testing procedure. Athletes taking protein-based nutrition supplements might also test positive.

Pakistan is going through a particularly rough time, what with the ball-tampering affair in the Oval test in England recently, followed by the yes-no-yes drama of Younis Khan’s captaincy. Drugs may, indeed, not provide better hand-eye co-ordination or help a bowler turn the ball square off the deck, but any experimentation should be discouraged. In the interests of the game, both the ICC and all boards should work together to ensure that the scourge of drugs does not vitiate the gentlemen’s game.

Top

 

Glittering Sensex
This rally is not broad based

After keeping low for some time, the BSE Sensex has once again stirred excitement by scaling a new peak. It is within striking distance of 13,000 and brokers expect more fireworks this Divali. The recent uptrend in the stock markets is fuelled by excellent corporate results. Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services have posted results beyond expectations. Besides IT, the telecom, consumer durables and infrastructure sectors have shown improved performance. The banking stocks too are on a roll because of high demand for credit and soft interest rates. Significantly, the market capitalisation of the BSE companies has, for the first time, exceeded the country’s GDP (Rs 32 lakh crore) to touch Rs 34 lakh crore. On this score, India ranks with the developed countries.

The Sensex has gained 200 per cent in two years and every new high provokes the same old question: Will the party continue? The latest rally is not broad based. Shares of only large companies of select sectors are sought after. Small and medium companies have not participated in the rally as their valuations are too high and it is risky to enter at these levels. Retail investors and day traders are mostly keeping away from the market. It is the mutual funds and foreign institutional investors who are driving up the stock prices.

Apart from the better-than-expected corporate results, global oil prices, too, have contributed to the sentiment. The demand for a rollback of the recent hikes in the diesel and petrol prices is getting increasingly strident. The economy remains on the upswing. Latest figures of industrial growth are encouraging. Agriculture is still stagnating, but efforts are on to push growth in this vital sector, which still supports 70 per cent of the population. The growth story is indeed intact, but it is the global perception of it that decides whether foreign funds stay invested or not.

Top

 

Thought for the day

A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.

— George Moore

Top

 

Quarrelling over Kargil
Antiquated decision-making system must go
by Lieut-Gen Harwant Singh (retd)

The controversy and quarrel over Kargil has been one of the most futile and unproductive inter-service exercises. However, Kargil does throw sufficient light on the prevailing set-up to take note of the discord and delay in the decision-making process that could seriously jeopardise national security. The Air Chief’s ruminations and the issue of helicopters versus air power, lack of lateral flow of information do bring out, in stark reality, the unsavoury fact that the Air Force and the Army have been operating in water- tight compartments. These episodes do throw up important lessons, which require unbiased and objective assessment and need to be assimilated for better understanding and future inter-service working.

The Kargil sector had been free from jihadi and terrorist activity essentially because the local population is Shia, Buddhist and Droks, with only a sprinkling of Sunnis. Intelligence reports of the period pointed to some concentration of jihadi elements opposite this sector. At that point of time, the Indian Army was heavily committed in counter-insurgency operations in other parts of J and K. The requirement of reinforcing the Kargil sector was neither necessary nor were there troops to spare for this task. No one need be apologetic about this ground reality.

The Kargil sector has no strategic importance and the terrain does not favour offensive operations from either side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC). With the opening of an alternate route to Leh, from Manali, the importance of the Srinagar-Leh road had considerably reduced. Moreover, the LAC in this sector is clearly delineated and well recognised by both sides. Further, it has been India’s avowed position that any attack by Pakistan across the LAC in J and K will be taken as an attack on India and that India will respond accordingly. Given these circumstances and ground realities, no large-scale mischief by Pakistan could be expected. According to the circumstances then prevailing, Pakistan was neither spoiling for nor was it in a position to risk a war with India.

In view of this and the slip-ups in the collation and analysis of the limited intelligence reports then being made available, the Kargil sector required no special attention. Large gaps between the posts along 164 km of the front from Chor Batla to the Mushko Valley, across very difficult terrain, susceptible to heavy snowfall and consequent frequent avalanches, could not be regularly patrolled during the winter months. During the previous years the Army had lost entire patrols under snow avalanches. As such, infiltration and occupation of gaps between the posts by jihadi elements was not immediately detected. Determining the full scale and extent of ingression was a time-consuming process.

Since they were initially reported to be only the jihadis who had infiltrated, there was nothing wrong in the deployment of attack helicopters to engage them. These helicopters could engage targets from a distance of four kilometres or so, keeping well away from the enemy’s small arms fire. They are required to engage enemy tanks, staying outside the range of the tank’s heavy machine guns. Therefore, tasking them to engage jihadi elements with cannons and missiles was not a very inappropriate commitment for them.

These helicopters do have some limited capability to evade a heat-seeking missile. In any case, jihadis were not expected to be equipped with shoulder- fired anti-aircraft missiles (Stinger-type missiles). Therefore, Air Headquarters’ sustained reluctance to deploy these and that “we know better” attitude cannot be justified. In the end, even a fighter aircraft was brought down by these alleged jihadis, negating Air Headquarters’ objection against using attack helicopters. An attack helicopter is entirely a ground support weapon system and considered the world over as integral to the Army’s fire support assets. To contend that the Indian Army is unaware of the capability and employment of this weapon speaks volumes of the chasm that exists between these two services, the exchange of polite letters between the two chiefs after the Kargil conflict notwithstanding.

If Air Headquarters felt so strongly against the deployment of armed helicopters, it could have instead offered the use of fighter aircraft and in which case both the Army and the Air Force together could have approached the government on this issue. Where was the question of escalation in the event of employment of air power over own territory (air space) against the enemy, which had infiltrated deep inside India. In any case, Pakistan had denied any involvement. After all, the Army’s heavy artillery was already relentlessly engaging the intruders.

On arriving at a consensus within the Chiefs of Staff Committee, the government could have been apprised and advised on the issue of deployment of air power. Further, it was necessary to have pointed out to the government that deploying the Air Force within Indian airspace against jihadis (or even if Pakistani troops were there) who had penetrated inside Indian territory, could not possibly provoke Pakistan to start hostilities against superior conventional forces (both ground and air) nor would it have started a nuclear conflagration just because we were engaging jihadis well within Indian territory. Therefore, this bogey of escalation and consequent inordinate delay in the decision to deploy the Air Force cannot be employed to dither and defer vital decisions. Nor can the obfuscation of the self-generated confusion created in the use of air power and not armed helicopters find justification in this dithering. No one has ever considered helicopters as an extension of artillery. Though they are, in reality, an extension of armour. They carry direct firing weapons (missiles and cannons) and, employing appropriate techniques, can operate even in the face of enemy anti-aircraft capability.

Fortunately, the enemy merely occupied the gaps between our posts and had no intention or the capability to progress operations any deeper into India. Consequently, it posed no threat to any vital areas in depth. Were the enemy to have the capability and the intention of driving deeper towards some vital objective, the semantics, mistrust and petty fogging within the Chiefs of Staff Committee, and the attendant delay, could have had grave consequences.

Time and again this discord and differing perceptions have surfaced. Be it the 1962 war against China or the wars against Pakistan, the Services have failed to function as a well-oiled machine and proof of this, if any, lies in the continuing spat between the two Service chiefs even seven years after the event. The existing arrangement of the Chiefs of Staff Committee with its conflicting views, “turf tending” and differing recommendations can merely confuse the political executive and result in delays and dithering which would prove disastrous in the event of grave national emergencies demanding quick responses.

The imperatives of single- point advise to the government, on defence matters, needs no further emphasis. A nuclear and emerging economic power with ambitions to exercise a sobering influence in the region, for its stability and security, cannot have an antiquated and potentially dysfunctional decision-making system within its defence apparatus.

Top

 

The pure one
by Raj Chatterjee

Being a devout Brahmin, Rati Ram began his day with puja and though now it is more than 75 years since I saw him at it, his routine has stuck indelibly in my mind.

The early morning bath from a bucket of cold water, winter or summer, his chanting of mantras as he scrubbed himself, the dab of yellow paste on his forehead, a clean dhoti and the sacred thread — everything had to be in the right order as part of the ritual that ended with prasad before the small clay figure, garlanded with marigold or jasmine, that stood in a niche in the wall.

And then, after cold chapatis and a glass of lassi he would don his official garments. First, the kurta and pyjama of homespun material. Then the achkan, red serge in winter, white cotton in summer, then the white, starched turban and, finally, with the solemnity of a high priest, a broad cummerbund round his waist and a sash over his shoulder, both interwoven with gold thread, and the latter carrying an oblong brass badge with the legend ‘Education Department Government of India.’

Rati Ram was my father’s head peon by virtue of which appointment he had been given an outhouse in the compound of our house. Off-duty, he had been many things to me. My protector from the sting of my father’s cane on the numerous occasions when I had deserved such chastisement, my tireless story-teller on summer nights when I slept on the lawn, my courier, when I became old enough to send tender messages to the young ladies with whom, from time to time, I fancied myself to be in love.

I was about nine years old when I became friendly with Itwari, the only son of our sweeper, Khairati. He became my aide in such healthy outdoor sports as stealing birds’ eggs or smashing streetlights with a catapult. Rati Ram strongly disapproved of this association. It wasn’t proper, he said, for the son of the head of the department to be fraternising with a sweeper boy. And I mustn’t forget, he would add, to take a bath and change my clothes if I had been playing with Itwari, before I sat down to a meal.

One night during the summer there was a tremendous hullabaloo in the servants’ quarters. A couple of minutes later Khairati came rushing into the house, crying and beating his head. Itwari had been bitten by a snake on his foot.

Fortunately, a doctor friend of ours was dining with us that night. And he knew exactly what to do. After he had applied two tourniquets to the boy’s leg, he made a small incision with a sterilised razor blade where the skin had punctured. Then he asked Khairati to rinse his mouth with an antiseptic solution and suck the open wound. The man recoiled in horror. Drink the blood of his own soon? He would be called a murderer by his “biradri”.

And then, suddenly, Rati Ram stepped forward. Before anyone knowing what he was doing, he knelt down and put his mouth to the wound. Itwari, I am glad to say, recovered quickly in hospital.

Rati Ram asked for three days’ leave. We found out later that he didn’t go home to a village near Rohtak. He had gone to Varanasi — to cleanse himself in the holy Ganges and ask for absolution.

Top

 

Farmers as victims
SEZ model is too authoritarian
by Janak Raj Gupta

The special economic zone (SEZ) model has created a great furore in the country. The proponents of the model consider it as a panacea for the all-round development of the Indian economy, while opposition comes from the cultivating community which is likely to be forcibly deprived of its livelihood.

Ironically, the model was adopted in China, an authoritarian state, and is naturally alien to a democratic set-up like ours. When China decided to reform the national economic set-up in 1978, the Chinese government embarked on a policy of opening to the outside world in a planned way and step by step.

Shenzhen, a coastal region, was first declared as a SEZ in 1984 and later on more and more coastal cities were designated as special economics zones. In addition, China has also developed about 15 free trade zones, 32 state-level economic and technological development zones, three high-tech industrial development zones, besides a large number of rural business hubs. One wonders why did the SEZ model alone catch the eyes of our policy-makers?

A special economic zone is a territory where investors enjoy complete freedom in respect of labour laws, tax laws, minimum wages etc along with other special incentives, and is “deemed to be a foreign territory for the purpose of trade operations, duties and tariffs.”

At the time of its opening up, China was short of productive resources, viz. capital entrepreneurship, modern technology etc. China adopted the SEZ policy directly under the central authority to attract FDI. It allowed SEZs only along the coastal line and river beds and not in the interiors.

Thus, the farming community was duly protected. It is another thing that it created a wide gap between the farming and non-farming communities and between the rural and urban areas.

As reported in the Washington Post, China has landed itself into “a two-tier society separated by a widening gap in incomes. Social discontent has been on the rise, fuelled by income disparities, land disputes, pollution problems and an inadequate legal system that is widely seen as failing to address people’s needs.”

Now all of a sudden it appears that perhaps the spectacular growth of China was due to the creation of special economic zones, which, in fact, it was not. It was more due to the sops and other concessions offered to the investors in general and foreign investors in particular.

Then the low economic base and the sudden shift towards the market-driven economy accelerated the growth process. The commune system in agriculture was abandoned and full property rights were given to the actual tillers. The prices for compulsory grain deliveries were raised substantially and 50 per cent premium was offered for grain delivered above quotas.

Now coming to the adoption of SEZ policy in India. The SEZ model is neither indigenous nor have we moulded it to suit our own requirements. More important is the fact that we have never initiated the necessary debate over the adoption of this model.

The irony of our decision making is that most often than not, some of our politicians in power feel as if they are the storehouse of all wisdom. However, in a democratic set-up, before taking any vital decision, we should always initiate a wider public debate and have collective wisdom.

This is more important in a federal country like ours, where the states are also the stakeholders. The Union Government must take the states into its confidence before taking any decision on their behalf.

For example, take the adoption of VAT in the country where both state governments and the Union Government enjoy their independent tax jurisdictions. Although it took about three-four years to implement the VAT in the entire country, a wider public debate and involvement of all stakeholders made the transition very smooth.

One wonders what the Centre wants to achieve through the adoption of the SEZ model. Already there is a rat-race among the states to attract private investors, whose sole objective is to enlarge their empire of real estate through fair and foul means.

They are offered various packages in the form of sops and freebies by the states. In fact, in respect of the special economic zone, they will be the sovereign owners of their own territories. Why the states pamper them is understandable. But why should the poor farmers become the victims?

Let the government continue to give various tax and other incentives to private investors but there should be no use of force on farmers to sell their land particularly to the private parties, where no public purpose is involved, as is the case with a SEZ.

It should also be kept in mind that the provision of such sops and tax holidays leads to artificial channels of diversion of resources. For example, many units in Parwanoo (HP) continue their production in their erstwhile firms located in other states. They have opened their offices in Parwanoo just to avail of various sops and subsidies.

Further, in respect of the SEZ policy, even if one forgets the problems of revenue loss (which otherwise would have been there), food security, poverty and inequalities, there is no justification in using the state’s might against farmers to deprive them of their livelihood.

There is no guarantee that the model which has succeeded on the economic front but failed on the social front in an authoritarian state, is workable even on the former front in a democratic set-up.

*****

The writer is a UGC Emeritus Fellow, Department of Economics, Punjabi University, Patiala.

Top

 

Bangladesh’s notional fight against terror
by Rajeev Sharma

When the Bangladesh High Court confirmed the death sentence on the seven top leaders of Jamiatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) on August 31 for the murder of two judges, the general opinion was the sentence would be executed within the next thirty days. After all, these terrorists had taken the position that they would not appeal against the sentence, as they did not believe in man-made law.

Of the seven sentenced, one is still absconding. That would not be a matter of major concern, since the head of the JMB, Sheikh Abdur Rahman, the second-in-command Siddiqul Islam alias Bangla Bhai, strike force commander Ataur Rahman Sunny, Abdul Awal another kingpin of JMB and the two assassins of the Jhalakathi judges, were in custody and sentenced. The Bangladesh government had claimed it had broken the terrorist network, and the country was to be delivered from the nightmare which started with the countrywide bombings of August 17, 2005.

But things have started moving very differently. Law Minister Moudud Ahmed recently said it was a practice not to carry out execution in the month of Ramzan. In parallel, all the accused gradually changed their position and decided to appeal, including Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai. The question is, whether the JMB leaders were persuaded to appeal for mercy for some other more important agenda in the offing for the powers that be in Dhaka? These developments are suspiciously close to the next general elections scheduled for January 2007.

On August 2, when the US Assistant Secretary of State for Central and South Asia, Richard A. Boucher arrived in Dhaka, a group of alleged radical Islamic terrorist trainees were picked up from a forest area. They were being imparted combat training by Abdur Rauf, an Afghan trained Mujahid. The authorities wanted to impress Boucher and the US of Dhaka’s commitment to counter terrorism. The fact, however, is that this gang was booked under a minor section of law - arrested on suspicion, and bailable.

The two JMB leaders, Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai, have implicated several BNP and JeI ministers, law makers and leaders of supporting, encouraging and protecting them. Since then, the JMB terrorists have been kept incommunicado from the media despite requests. Nor have the interrogation reports been made public and the earlier leaks to the media have been plugged.

Complicity of the JeI and sections from the BNP with the JMB, has now been well established. The network spreads wider than the country. The JeI has acted as a channel for many transfers from foreign NGOs some of which are linked to the Al Qaida network. For example, the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (RIHS) of Kuwait, the Benevolence International funded by the Al Qaida, and some others have been highly active in Bangladesh since the Four Party Alliance (FPA), predominantly BNP and supported by the JeI, come to power in October 2001.

Surveys by various private psephologists and the two intelligence agencies, the NSI and DGFI, have come up with rather dismal prediction for the BNP. The desperation among the BNP and JeI leaders has, therefore, become palpable. For some in the BNP like Begum Khaleda Zia and her elder son Tareq Zia, a defeat in the elections holds unpredictable personal consequences. For the JeI, it will have to go back to the drawing board and their Pakistani mentors.

Top

 

US accepts first batch of North Korean refugees
by Valerie Reitman

Help. I’m a North Korean enslaved by a married man in China.” In February, “Deborah” surreptitiously posted her plea on a Web site she discovered by typing “talbukja” – Korean for “escapee from the north” – into an Internet search engine.

A reply directed her to Chun Ki Won, a pastor in Seoul, South Korea, who is hailed as a modern-day Moses. His underground railroad has spirited more than 500 North Koreans out of China and on to South Korea.

Two years earlier, Deborah had fled the world’s most closed nation with a broker who promised to support her starving family if she would wed his Chinese client. Instead, she was sold to a married man in Beijing as a sex slave.

Deborah’s captor threatened to kill her or report her to police – who return all defectors to North Korea – if she left the room in which she was imprisoned.

Earlier this year, Chun also received e-mailed pleas from other North Koreans hiding in China. Among them: a brother and his little sister who said they had been tortured in North Korean gulags after a failed escape; a young man who waded across Tumen River into China to find food for his starving family, and women who said they’d been sold as wives or sex slaves to farmers.

Thanks to Chun, Deborah and the other defectors would receive an unprecedented opportunity to rewrite the stories of their lives. They would become the first North Korean refugees allowed to resettle in the United States. But first, they would have to be smuggled out of China.

Conditions in North Korea aren’t as dire as in the 1990s, defectors say, when famine killed 2 million people. But food shortages persist, and conditions could deteriorate as the international community responds to North Korea’s nuclear weapon test in early October.

Hundreds of thousands of North Korean defectors live clandestinely in China, where markets beckon with cheap vegetables, meats and kimchi. Conditions are grim. They live in fear of being caught, sent to detention camps in China and North Korea’s gulags, where many die or are executed.

The rescuers operate at great peril as well. One of Chun’s compatriots drowned while helping defectors cross a river in inner tubes. Five others are in Chinese prisons. Chun himself spent seven months in a China prison in 2002 after defectors, whom he guided to the Mongolian border, were caught and reported him.

But the plight of the defectors torments Chun; the gruesome details of their e-mails, he says, compel him to continue despite regularly receiving death threats.

After Chun received Deborah’s e-mail, he instructed her to leave immediately for Shenyang, a seven-hour bus ride from Beijing. Deborah’s captor had gradually allowed her out to shop for food, and she bought a ticket with money she’d saved.

Chun’s contact in Shenyang took her to a safe house where she waited for her passage to freedom.

Chun spent hours poring over the e-mail pleas from Deborah and others like her. He knew the U.S. government had yet to implement part of a 2004 law mandating that the country accept North Korean refugees. So he concocted a plan that involved his well-placed contacts.

Chun sent the translated e-mails to Deborah Fikes, who directs the Ministerial Alliance of Midland, Texas, a human-rights activism group with global influence. Its letterhead trumpets its presidential connection: “Hometown of George and Laura Bush.”

Comprising 200 Protestant, Catholic and Evangelical church organizations, the alliance aims to make international human rights – including religious freedom – a part of U.S. foreign and trade policy. The alliance helped the North Korean Human Rights Act sail through Congress in 2004, but logistical and political hurdles prevented defectors from being admitted.

Chun says Fikes delivered their pleas to her fellow Texan, President Bush, urging his help, sending them through “proper channels” at the State Department and National Security Council.

In March 2006, Chun went to see fellow activist Michael Horowitz, a lawyer and former Reagan administration appointee who directs the conservative Hudson Institute’s Project for International Religious Liberty in Washington. Horowitz informed Chun on March 30 that the United States had agreed to accept some North Korean refugees.

Elated, Chun called the defectors individually to ask whether they wanted to go to the U.S. or South Korea. He explained that in South Korea, they would know the language, share a culture, automatically gain citizenship and receive up to $30,000 from the South Korean government to resettle. But he explained that many North Korean defectors were miserable there, viewed as country bumpkins by the modern South.

— By arrangement with LA Times-Washington Post

Top

 

They who never thought of their own Rama in time of comfort, are now not acceptable even if they utter Allah (to appease the Mughal tyrants in order to seek safety and maintain honour).

— Guru Nanak

Do good wherever you can. Do not hesitate in helping others. The person who does good without looking for a return is at the highest stage of self-realisation. He does not need any yoga. He does not need any other form of prayer or renunciation.

—The Bhagavadgita

Top

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