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EDITORIALS

Crisis in Nepal
Maoists’ real intentions exposed

The crisis in New Nepal is serious, and there is the risk of the country heading for political instability. Prime Minister Pushpa Kumar Dahal Prachanda announced his resignation in the course of a televised address to the nation on Monday. He has accused some of his coalition partners, opposition parties and “foreign powers” (which includes India, too, though he has not named it) for being behind the situation. However, the Maoists themselves are to blame for the situation coming to such a pass.

Expulsions from Sanawar
Headmaster must stand firm
While
the nation is yet to come to terms with the murder of Aman Kachroo in kkangra, allegedly in the name of ragging, yet another incident of violence inflicted by seniors upon juniors comes to light. What makes the incident even mere appalling is that the violence has taken place in one of India’s elite schools. Class XII students of Lawrence School, Sanawar beat up juniors for downright frivolous reasons i.e. failure to cheer the seniors during a basketball match. 



EARLIER STORIES

On a fast track
May 4, 2009
Intellectual and society
May 3, 2009
Low voter turnout in Mumbai
May 2, 2009
Combating the Taliban
May 1, 2009
Mr Q. again
April
30, 2009
Modi remains in the dock
April
29, 2009
Guns fall silent in Lanka
April
28, 2009
Advance of the Taliban
April
27, 2009
Qualification for MPs
April
26, 2009
Pakistan worries US
April
25, 2009
The electoral odyssey
April
24, 2009


Death in custody
Assam Rifles has to clear its name
The
alleged custodial death of a senior leader of the Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC) in the North Cachar Hills district of strife-torn Assam at the hands of the Assam Rifles is deplorable and a matter of serious concern. The incident, in which a magisterial inquiry has been ordered, has sparked off a public protest. According to reports, an Assam Rifles battalion had picked up Laden Jidung last Thursday for his alleged links with the outlawed Dima Halam Daoga.

ARTICLE

Pull of family in politics
Congress remains a dynastic affair
by S. Nihal Singh
Behind
the minuet being played by Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr Rahul Gandhi — one pronouncing the young man’s competence for the top political job, which he would be passing on to the younger generation at some stage, and the other saying that the incumbent staying in office on a Congress victory is non-negotiable — lies the reality of Indian, and larger subcontinental, politics. The party of Indian Independence, as leading parties elsewhere in the region, has married dynastic rule to democracy.


MIDDLE

Gait crashers
by Chetna Keer Banerjee

B
lame
it on shoegate. Mischief makers will now have to watch their gait.
For, CSIO scientists are devising a surveillance system propelled by gait biometrics to catch people on the wrong foot. Literally.
The soon-to-be-developed gait sensor mats will do the talking while people do the walking. Stepping on these mats will give a clue to what’s on a person’s mind. A step in the right direction, eh!


OPED

Zardari is politically weak, but US has no choice
Dateline Washington
by Ashish Kumar Sen

As
per the official transcript of President Barack Obama’s prime-time press conference sent out by the “Office of the Press Secretary” at the White House, Mr. Obama told reporters on the evening of April 29: “I am gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan not because I think that they’re immediately going to be overrun and the Taliban would take over in Pakistan; more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile and doesn’t seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services — schools, health care, rule of law, a judicial system that works for the majority of people. And so as a consequence it is very difficult for them to gain the support and loyalty of their people.”

China’s quake cover-up
by Clifford Coonan

A
lmost
one year on from the Sichuan earthquake, Amnesty International has called on the Chinese government to stop intimidating parents and relatives of the child victims, who face harassment and arrest as they seek justice for the dead and injured. The timing of the quake on 12 May 2008 was particularly harsh for the province’s children – it struck at 2.28pm, when most students were in class. Many of the younger pupils were having a nap before resuming lessons.

Delhi Durbar
Exodus: It’s summer time  in Capital

The election fever has gripped the bureaucracy as well. Almost all government offices are near-empty during peak hours since top bureaucrats have no work to do, they wait for their new ‘masters’ to take charge after the elections. The heat wave in Delhi has provided many top officials an opportunity to leave for hill stations close to the Capital with their families. Those who are not so lucky spend time at various clubs or watery holes in the Capital, discussing political fortunes of various parties.

  • H1N1 flu activates official Delhi

  • Hema Malini skips Delhi

 


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Crisis in Nepal
Maoists’ real intentions exposed

The crisis in New Nepal is serious, and there is the risk of the country heading for political instability. Prime Minister Pushpa Kumar Dahal Prachanda announced his resignation in the course of a televised address to the nation on Monday. He has accused some of his coalition partners, opposition parties and “foreign powers” (which includes India, too, though he has not named it) for being behind the situation. However, the Maoists themselves are to blame for the situation coming to such a pass. They have been endeavouring to induct in the Nepal Army all those who constitute their People’s Liberation Army. But this could not be possible because of the resistance put up by most senior army officers, including its chief, Gen Roopmangud Katawal, as well as by some political parties which are worried about the Maoists’ attempt to gain a strong grip on the government.

The rift between Mr Prachanda and General Katawal ultimately led to the sacking of the Army Chief despite opposition from many of the Maoists’ coalition partners. Mr Prachanda also ignored wise counsel from India, the US, the UN and elsewhere in the world. This led to the intervention by President Ram Baran Yadav, who asked General Katawal to stick to his post. The President took the decision as the Supreme Commander of the Nepal Army, arguing that General Katawal’s dismissal and the appointment of a new Army Chief “do not meet the constitutional requirements and due process” as laid down in New Nepal. This led to two of the Maoists’ allies withdrawing from the coalition, rendering the Prachanda government to a minority in the Constituent Assembly. Mr Prachanda now had no alternative but to quit.

Mr Prachanda never trusted the Nepal Army and its chief. He considered both as impediments in the realisation of the Maoists’ larger dream of “people’s democracy” (read one-party rule). The removal of eight Brigadier-Generals, who were about to be given three years’ extension after their retirement by the Army Chief, should be seen against this backdrop. Mr Prachanda, however, found himself cornered when he sacked General Katawal. India has a huge stake in stability in Nepal. But the people of Nepal will obviously be greater losers if efforts to save the situation fail to fructify and the emergence of a regime based on a wider political consensus runs into rough weather. How political events shape during the next few days remains to be seen. 

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Expulsions from Sanawar
Headmaster must stand firm

While the nation is yet to come to terms with the murder of Aman Kachroo in kkangra, allegedly in the name of ragging, yet another incident of violence inflicted by seniors upon juniors comes to light. What makes the incident even mere appalling is that the violence has taken place in one of India’s elite schools. Class XII students of Lawrence School, Sanawar beat up juniors for downright frivolous reasons i.e. failure to cheer the seniors during a basketball match. The school’s Headmaster, Mr Praveen Vasisht, has done rightly to expel the guilty students and his determination to withstand pressures to revoke expulsion of the bullies must be supported by all right thinking people.

Even though incidents of violence reported in schools in Gurgaon, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh did shake up the nation’s conscience, violence in Indian schools is not a norm. However, violence in the name of ragging continues unabated in colleges, especially professional colleges. In the wake of Aman Kachroo’s death and a spate of ragging incidents in the country, the Supreme Court is all set to issue fresh guidelines to curb ragging. The apex court has already expressed concern that the gun culture of the West may spread in India. Besides, campaigns to make the nation’s schools free of all kinds of violence are gaining momentum. The Sanawar case is not a typical case of ragging but stems from the psyche of subordination and the feeling that seniors can get away with violence against juniors.

Viewed in this light, Mr Vasisht’s assertion, “You can’t get away after committing violence” strikes the right note. Violence by a few bullies in educational institutions cannot be allowed to curb the rights of other students to carry on with their studies in a congenial atmosphere. The Himachal Pradesh government has rightly ordered a magisterial probe. Let us hope the inquiry does not turn into an excuse for letting the guilty walk free. To dismiss the incident as “routine” as is being done by some quarters would set a wrong precedent. Not only would it tantamount to injustice to the injured students who have suffered serious injuries but also embolden other bullies to continue with similar activities. Expulsion is the very minimum punishment such brutal acts warrant.

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Death in custody
Assam Rifles has to clear its name

The alleged custodial death of a senior leader of the Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC) in the North Cachar Hills district of strife-torn Assam at the hands of the Assam Rifles is deplorable and a matter of serious concern. The incident, in which a magisterial inquiry has been ordered, has sparked off a public protest. According to reports, an Assam Rifles battalion had picked up Laden Jidung last Thursday for his alleged links with the outlawed Dima Halam Daoga. But quite inexplicably, however, he was ‘brought dead’ to the civil hospital the following day. While taking Laden Jidung into custody may have been necessary, his death in custody is most certainly not. As a disciplined and responsible paramilitary force, it was the duty of the Assam Rifles to protect him.

The incident revives memories of the alleged rape and custodial death of a 32-year-old Manipuri woman five years ago in July 2004 by some Assam Rifles men that had led to over a dozen women disrobe themselves and stage a protest against the paramilitary force in Imphal. The protest which was an embarrassment to the Manipur government at that time led to a fierce agitation and ultimately made the government to withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from the municipal limits of Imphal. Last Thursday’s custodial death, once again, paints the Assam Rifles in bad light.

Of late, India’s paramilitary forces have registered a comparatively better record of human rights – 138 complaints of human rights violations against over 35,000 against state police forces in 2008 alone, according to the National Human Rights Commission. But in view of the sensitivity of a region comprising secessionist movements, such incidents do not help the country. It breeds alienation and anger against the Assam Rifles as well as the state. The death in custody of Laden Jidung must be probed and the guilty punished at the earliest.

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Thought for the Day

All the troubles of men are caused by one single thing, which is their inability to stay quietly in a room. —Blaise Pascal

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Corrections and clarifications

The front page report on 10 per cent of the candidates in Haryana facing criminal charges (May 2) was based on information furnished in affidavits filed by candidates themselves. The INLD candidate from Hisar, according to Association of Democratic Reforms, had mentioned a case registered under the Prevention of Corruption Act in which the candidate had been acquitted but in which the state went in appeal, which is pending.

In the report on the political course JD (U) might take (Page 2, May 3), it should read CPM ‘Politburo’ and not Politbureau.

In the report from Fatehgarh Sahib about a brother-in-law getting booked (Page 3, May 3) it should read ‘complaint’ and not compliant.

In the report about wives wooing villagers (Page 4, May 3), the award referred to is ‘Padma Shri’.

Despite our earnest endeavour to keep The Tribune error-free, some errors do creep in at times. We are always eager to correct them.

We request our readers to write or e-mail to us whenever they find any error. We will carry corrections and clarifications, wherever necessary, every Tuesday & Friday.

Readers in such cases can write to Mr Uttam Sengupta, Associate Editor, The Tribune, Chandigarh, with the word “Corrections” on the envelope. His e-mail ID is uttamsengupta@tribunemail.com.

H.K. Dua, Editor-in-Chief

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Pull of family in politics
Congress remains a dynastic affair
by S. Nihal Singh

Behind the minuet being played by Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr Rahul Gandhi — one pronouncing the young man’s competence for the top political job, which he would be passing on to the younger generation at some stage, and the other saying that the incumbent staying in office on a Congress victory is non-negotiable — lies the reality of Indian, and larger subcontinental, politics. The party of Indian Independence, as leading parties elsewhere in the region, has married dynastic rule to democracy.

Indira Gandhi had to fight her way and split the Congress in order to retain command of it. Rajiv Gandhi was, in a sense, an accidental successor because of the tragedy that befell his brother Sanjay, who was being groomed for the job. Then came the interregnum, as indeed it came after Jawaharlal Nehru’s death - the Lal Bahadur Shastri era - before the reluctant Sonia Gandhi conformed to the family tradition to keep the seat warm for Rahul, her foreign origin being a handicap.

Indeed, it seems natural to supporters and opponents of the Congress that should the Congress win, Dr Manmohan Singh should yield his place to Rahul, perhaps after two years. Ms Sonia Gandhi herself addressed this question some time ago. She acknowledged that given his lineage, Rahul had a head start in politics, adding that he had however to earn the job.

To put it differently, despite the democratic form of government, there is an ordained family succession in the Congress and members of the family who rebel are outside the pale, to be pitied but kept at arm’s length. Mr Rahul Gandhi, therefore, has the first right of refusal in the natural order of things.

To an outsider, this might appear a contradiction, as indeed was the hereditary succession on the death of the Great Leader Kim Il-sung bequeathing power to his son, the Dear Leader Kim Jong-il in Communist North Korea, a pattern repeated in Central Asia, which no longer swears by the communist faith. But the initial succession in the Congress from Motilal to Jawaharlal was forged in the crucible of suffering in the struggle against colonial rule. Once Jawaharlal had stabilised the Indian state, hereditary succession became one of family choice and the party’s need for a family totem as emotional support and a vote-gathering device.

The results, in part, justified the premise. Ms Sonia Gandhi, for instance, earned her spurs by her ceaseless campaigning in the 2004 general election, unexpectedly winning the Congress the status of the largest single party. And in the current election campaigns, irrespective of the result, she has been displaying remarkable punch in taking her opponents to task in fluent Hindi, a language she had to learn laboriously.

Beyond Ms Sonia Gandhi’s performance, the dynasty bug that has bitten the Congress reflects a deeper South Asian, and perhaps Asian, trait. Is it not in the Indian tradition that a father or parent wants to give his or her progeny a head start in the profession he or she pursues? If a doctor promotes a family of doctors - not an uncommon phenomenon in India - and an industrialist keeps his seat warm for his son or daughter, is it not natural for a politician to bequeath his legacy? This practice is by no means confined to the Congress Party - the leaders of any number of other political parties exercise this prerogative for their sons and daughters, not counting the proxy wives who do duty for their husbands behind bars.

The difference between the Congress and the other parties is that the top of the pyramid is reserved for one family while the progeny of leaders of other parties can aspire to reach the pinnacle if leadership qualities and luck favour them. I asked a professional aspiring to enter politics which party he planned to join. His answer was as blunt as it was truthful. He said the choice among national parties was confined to the Bharatiya Janata Party because the door to leadership was restricted for the Family in the Congress.

Given the lie of the land, how does one family’s entitlement to the top job affect the functioning of Indian democracy? (In Mr Rahul Gandhi’s case, the probable graph will be his progress from the general secretary’s office to a Cabinet ministership ending up in the Prime Minister’s chair). Perhaps the Congress is a true reflection of Indian mores and traditions as they have been merged in the practice of democracy.

In many ways, India remains a hierarchical society in which the highborn and the privileged are looked up to. This remains true despite the empowerment of such intermediate castes as the Yadavs and the emergence of the Dalit leader, Ms Mayawati, and her Bahujan Samaj Party. In a sense, the Dalit or intermediate leader assumes the trappings of an honorary highborn. It is for this reason that the office or the chair (kursi in the colloquial idiom), rather than an individual’s real worth, holds such fascination and power in the Indian psyche.

The pull of family in politics extends beyond India’s borders, as developments in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal testify. In most cases, it is a marriage of convenience between a family member’s ambition to sit on the throne and his or her political party’s desire to exploit the name of the departed leader to win elections. The assumption in each case is that hereditary rule remains an appealing proposition in the subcontinental practice of democracy.

In the case of the Congress, the campaign posters say it all. Either Mr Rahul Gandhi is the only leader sharing the spotlight with an anonymous group of youth or he is featured in the company of his mother and the Prime Minister as the reigning trinity. True to his mother’s admonition, Rahul is trying to earn his spurs by his hectic campaigning for Congress candidates around the country even as his sister has been campaigning for him in his own constituency. As for the future, it lies in the lap of gods.

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Gait crashers
by Chetna Keer Banerjee

Blame it on shoegate. Mischief makers will now have to watch their gait.

For, CSIO scientists are devising a surveillance system propelled by gait biometrics to catch people on the wrong foot. Literally.

The soon-to-be-developed gait sensor mats will do the talking while people do the walking. Stepping on these mats will give a clue to what’s on a person’s mind. A step in the right direction, eh!

This whole gait business has sent some of India’s movers and shakers scurrying into overdrive. For, they all want to be part of the test drive.

First, the scientists have been deluged with requests from political parties to position some mats where the devils don’t fear to tread: the electoral arena. Really, what better place for a trial run than the testing ground of the Big Fat Indian Democracy!

Though shoegate may have partly kickstarted this demand, it’s certainly not the netas’ sole concern. They don’t mind footwear going astray at pre-poll rallies. What gives them sleepless nights is the prospect at the polling booths: footfalls going awry.

Gait biometrics thus offers them a hidden advantage. Besides screening trouble makers from rival camps, gait mats outside polling booths could give a clue to which way the voter is going: Left, Right or centre.

It may spell the death knell of the exit poll. And usher in the era of the tread spill: the gait of voters spilling the beans on their political leanings.

The elections would thus be less about sole searching, more about foot “tapping”.

Talking of “tapping”, the gait-gauging devices have takers in far away South Africa too. For, post-blogbuster, the IPL organisers are not concerned so much about left foot as about the “wayward” foot.

The IPL venue is thus set to play host to gait sensors so that potential blogbusters do not have a field day. The clue will lie not in the run rate but on the gait.

Far from the pavilion is another prospective trial ground. Though it’s got to do with Shah Rukh, Shilpa & Co, it’s closer home: the red carpet in tinsel town.

Post the recent Ashutosh Gowarikar-Sajid Khan spat at an awards ceremony, it’s no longer pleasant to stand on ceremony with sarcasm-dripping hosts.

So, future red carpets and stages will be embedded with sensors to spot mischievous hosts. The spoof of the hosting will lie in the treading.

Ah, but here again, there will always be the risk of gait crashers!

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Zardari is politically weak, but US has no choice
Dateline Washington
by Ashish Kumar Sen

As per the official transcript of President Barack Obama’s prime-time press conference sent out by the “Office of the Press Secretary” at the White House, Mr. Obama told reporters on the evening of April 29: “I am gravely concerned about the situation in Pakistan not because I think that they’re immediately going to be overrun and the Taliban would take over in Pakistan; more concerned that the civilian government there right now is very fragile and doesn’t seem to have the capacity to deliver basic services — schools, health care, rule of law, a judicial system that works for the majority of people. And so as a consequence it is very difficult for them to gain the support and loyalty of their people.”

An unbiased interpretation of the President’s remarks reveals his deep concern about the ability of President Asif Ali Zardari’s government to command the trust of the Pakistani people. This interpretation was carried prominently in newspapers halfway across the globe from Washington.

No sooner had these remarks left Mr. Obama’s lips than did his special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, swing into damage control mode describing reports on the President’s comments as “journalistic garbage... journalist gobbledygook.”

Mr. Holbrooke made the comments to the correspondent of Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper in what was described as a “hastily arranged” interview at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington. One can only assume the special envoy’s comments were accurately reported by the same press he so easily maligned.

The motive behind Mr. Holbrooke’s words was clear. Mr. Zardari will be sitting down with Mr. Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the White House on Wednesday and Thursday for a meeting at which the three leaders will be putting their heads together to find a plan to defeat the Taliban. The Obama administration doesn’t want to rub its two allies the wrong way, but to say that both Mr. Zardari and Mr. Karzai have been a disappointment to Washington will be an understatement.

The Pakistani leader, once dubbed “Mr. 10 Percent” by his countrymen for his dubious distinction of using his wife Benazir Bhutto’s status to line his ample pockets, has squandered much of the goodwill gained after Mrs. Bhutto was assassinated in Rawalpindi on Dec. 27, 2007. Yet there is a realisation in Washington that it must deal with Mr. Zardari if for no other reason than because of the office he occupies.

Bruce Riedel was entrusted by Mr. Obama with the task of chairing an interagency review of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan.

A former CIA officer and a senior adviser to four U.S. presidents on Middle East and South Asian issues, Mr. Riedel says it is no secret that Mr. Zardari has lost a lot of political capital over the course of the last several months.

As for whether Mr. Zardari’s government is strong enough to be a partner in Mr. Obama’s fight against the Taliban and its al Qaeda allies, Mr. Riedel says: “It is not a question of whether he is politically strong enough or not. We have no choice. Pakistan needs to be a partner. There isn’t an alternative solution.”

Reports that the Obama administration has been trying to reach out to Nawaz Sharif have been met with a dose of skepticism.

Mr Sharif’s ties to Islamists are as much a cause of concern as they are a sign of opportunity that the former prime minister can serve as a conduit to these fringe groups in any attempt to bring them into the democratic fold.

But Mr. Sharif is a politician and politicians are notorious for their thin skins and long memories. He remembers well how Washington failed to come to his rescue when he was unceremoniously ousted by his army chief, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and is understandably wary of American efforts to reach out to him now.

Mr. Zardari has described terrorism as a cancer that threatens Pakistan and U.S. officials now want him to act against this menace.

“He sees it as a very difficult political situation, but I think that we should hold him to his commitments,” says Mr. Reidel, who is currently a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy.

Concerns over Mr. Zardari’s ability to deliver results in the war against the extremists are rivalled only by those about the ISI’s continuing links to the Taliban.

According to sources, reports about the Pakistani intelligence service’s support for the Islamists are more than likely to be brought up at the White House meeting this week. U.S. officials have already discussed these links in detail with the Pakistani authorities - both civilian as well as the military.

However, Washington is unlikely to press Mr. Zardari too hard on this issue. “These are serious questions,” Mr. Riedel concedes, but adds that “we should also notice that we have gotten important cooperation with the assistance of Pakistan in the past and we want to continue to do that.”

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China’s quake cover-up
by Clifford Coonan

Almost one year on from the Sichuan earthquake, Amnesty International has called on the Chinese government to stop intimidating parents and relatives of the child victims, who face harassment and arrest as they seek justice for the dead and injured.

The timing of the quake on 12 May 2008 was particularly harsh for the province’s children – it struck at 2.28pm, when most students were in class. Many of the younger pupils were having a nap before resuming lessons.

The number of children who perished has never been released officially, but some estimates put it at around 10,000 – out of a death toll of 80,000. More than 8,000 families lost their only child in the disaster, with angry parents blaming shoddy building – or “tofu construction” – for their loss.

Despite an initial openness in allowing foreign media to witness the aftermath of the quake, when public anger in China rose over badly built schoolhouses, the shutdown was swift and accusations of corruption were met with a stony silence.

The Amnesty report, entitled “Justice Denied: Harassment of Sichuan earthquake survivors and activists”, outlines how officials in the province detained parents and relatives for up to three weeks for simply trying to get anwers about how their children died.

Some were held repeatedly and the youngest detainee was only eight years old. “By unlawfully locking up parents of children who died, the government is creating more misery for people who have said in some cases they lost everything in the Sichuan earthquake,” said Roseann Rife, Amnesty’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Programme Director. “The Chinese government must stop harassing survivors who are trying to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.”

At one of the worst-affected schools, Juyuan Middle School in Dujiangyan, the classroom building collapsed, but nearby apartments and offices remained standing. Hundreds of schoolchildren died.

Within weeks, it was ringed with a high security fence and patrolled by public security officers, who were quick to stop any efforts to film or report near the area. Locals were unwilling to talk, fearful of retribution.

Parents bringing signed petitions to local court offices were often harassed and jailed. Some outsiders who accompanied the victims’ families were ejected from the court buildings, before police raided their vehicles and confiscated equipment that might contain evidence.

The Amnesty report details how parents have been placed under surveillance to stop them from pursuing their cases and some activists who offered assistance to families are facing politically motivated trials on charges of endangering state security, a charge normally levelled at dissidents.

One such activist is Huang Qi, who was held incommunicado for 100 days before being allowed to meet a lawyer. Detained since September last year, his trial has been postponed and he remains locked up without access to his family.

The report also draws attention to a directive issued by the provincial court in Sichuan, which bans all lower courts from accepting cases deemed sensitive. The government introduced measures to try to contain any dissent arising from the aftermath of the earthquake. Now, as China’s economy slows, the government is even more keen to keep a lid on any contentious issues which it feels might lead to social unrest. Beijing has also accused foreign governments and human rights groups of meddling in its internal affairs.

Parents were given a lump sum and 100 yuan each (£11) per month in supplementary benefits and sent messages of support to reduce the political fallout over shabby building standards and poor supervision of school construction.

The family planning commission in Chengdu City set up a special programme to support those parents whose only child was killed or badly injured in the quake.

But many of the parents are looking for something more.

“I want to seek justice for the dead students,” said a father quoted in the Amnesty report. He lost a 15-year-old at Beichuan Middle School. “Corruption is rampant in China,” he added. “The children were still so innocent and suddenly they passed away.

“Some of their bodies are still buried under the rubble and we will never find them. That’s why it is so heartbreaking for many parents.

“Except the school building, other buildings in Beichuan county did not collapse during the earthquake. What kind of earthquake was this?”

— By arrangement with The Independent

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Delhi Durbar
Exodus: It’s summer time in Capital

The election fever has gripped the bureaucracy as well. Almost all government offices are near-empty during peak hours since top bureaucrats have no work to do, they wait for their new ‘masters’ to take charge after the elections.

The heat wave in Delhi has provided many top officials an opportunity to leave for hill stations close to the Capital with their families. Those who are not so lucky spend time at various clubs or watery holes in the Capital, discussing political fortunes of various parties.

At one such impromptu gathering of middle-rung officials at the prestigious Civil Services Officers’ Institute (CSOI) here, one official was heard telling others: “The question in these elections is not which party can go with whom but which can’t go with whom.”

The grapevine has it that many top bureaucrats are anxiously waiting for the poll outcome, expecting a “friendly” dispensation to help them land a plum domestic posting or a major foreign assignment.

H1N1 flu activates official Delhi

The mind-boggling spread of Influenza-A H1N1 virus has lifted the veil of secrecy on the functioning of the government. Since the outbreak of the virus in Mexico last week, the health authorities here have been going out of their way to respond to media queries on the issue and reach out to the public.

Not just that, top ministry officials, barely accessibly otherwise, are now answering every call and making themselves available. The other day one bureaucrat in the ministry even gave the media the privilege of deciding whether they preferred daily or sporadic meetings with experts on the subject.

The media settled for the safer option of “daily meetings”, citing the “sifting of essential information” as the cause. It also turned out later that the Cabinet Secretary had asked the ministry officials to be in day-to-day touch with the media as the Fourth Estate alone can play the link between treatment providers and seekers.

Hema Malini skips Delhi

Admirers of the BJP were disappointed the other day when two star campaigners of the party — Narendra Modi and Hema Malini — cancelled their public appearances.

One view is that the two stayed away from Delhi apprehending that the party might not be able to mobilise crowds commensurate with their star status. But the more widely held belief is the two were scared of Delhi’s heat.

Incidentally, even during the Delhi assembly elections, Modi had come here briefly but made a quick exit, cancelling three of the five scheduled meetings after the crowd turnout proved to be inadequate.

As for Hema Malini, she naturally prefers the cool climes of Darjeeling to Delhi’s blistering heat. After all, she is actively campaigning for Jaswant Singh hand in hand for Gorkhaland.

Anyway her name had come up earlier as the party candidate from New Delhi, but she excused herself. It seems unlike Shatrughan Sinha and Vinod Khanna, Hema Malini prefers the relative comforts of the Rajya Sabha.

Contributed by Ashok Tuteja, Aditi Tandon and Faraz Ahmad 

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