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Back to the classroom
THE nationwide strike by the teachers of universities and colleges has been called off after a 26-day-long, agonising and avoidable stalemate.

Early economic warning SANITISED prose and a string of stern warnings go hand in hand in the RBI annual report released late last week.

Edit page articles


Now dropsy takes its toll
AFTER the plague, cholera dengue fever, comes the dropsy epidemic. If someone wanted to prove that India is a land of disease and disaster, no further evidence would be needed after more than 40 persons have died in the Capital and over 1,000 laid low with dropsy.

Significance of
teachers’ role

by Jagdish Kalra
IT is a palpable reality that the level of a nation could well be measured by the social standing and status of its teachers.And if we are to judge of India today we shall have to judge of it by its teachers.

point of law
.Apex court limits
scope of PIL

By Anupam Gupta
PLODDING back to its conservative past, the Supreme Court has struck yet another blow at public interest litigation.


Of government parlance
By Sanjay Manchanda
I owe my knowledge of official parlance to over a decade’s association with the government.

75 Years Ago

Notes and Comments
Indian Military Budget

THE "Economist" of London has, in commenting on the heavy military budget in India and the demand for reduction of expenditure in proportion to the taxable limit of the country, taken an exaggerated and militarist view of the situation in Central Asia and the danger of invasion.

Uma Bharti’s choice
By Humra Quraishi
T HE week has been full of news. We start straightaway with the news that Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sport Uma Bharti has recommended the appointment for a new D-G for the Nehru Yuvak Kendra Sangathan.


The Tribune Library

Back to the classroom

THE nationwide strike by the teachers of universities and colleges has been called off after a 26-day-long, agonising and avoidable stalemate. About four lakh teachers will hopefully go back to the classrooms, claiming spectacular financial success. Two of their major demands — the simultaneous implementation of the revised pay-scales across the country and the benefit of the third promotion—have been conceded. Feeling hurt by the crises in the temples of learning and the grave national loss being caused by the disruption of the process of higher studies, we appealed to Human Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi, who was himself a teacher before being lured into politics, to find a solution to the problems logically put forth by the cream of the teaching community. Ministers are seldom moved by such appeals, but we are glad to note that Dr Joshi chose the path of dialogue and discussion with the teachers' representatives who sat and took a decision that would benefit society particularly in the fields of information, knowledge and acquisition of skills in science and technology. Mr Joshi did considerable dithering and allowed much valuable time to be wasted. The teachers had to use strike once again as an instrument of bargaining. At stake, however, was the future of students and higher education.

In retrospect, we find that the days, when glaring distinction was not made between higher and lower education and knowledge was the goal, were better than the present period. Knowledge was worship rather than a source of power and material well-being. Now we cannot lose sight of the divergence between quantitative and qualitative achievements. In the post-Independence period, we have gone in for multiplication of the number of universities which are manned by trained men and women, ideally, of excellence. If the problems of such persons are not solved promptly and with foresight, it would not be possible to create a climate which would be conducive to the full blossoming of the individual's and the nation's intellect. To restore the supremacy and sanctity of institutions of higher studies, we need a renaissance of faith and a firm determination to set things right. Do teachers tend to leave their intellectual pursuit and engage themselves in gaining more and more power in academic bodies with the sole objective of getting more money? Education might be a mass-production and labour-intensive industry still tied to handicraft technology. But we require an administrative dispensation by which the basic needs of the teachers are justly and adequately met. The University Grants Commission needs more finances and greater freedom. The Ministry dealing with education has to be made more responsive to the requirements of the educators. The strike, which ended on September 5 (Teachers’ Day), was preventable and now teachers should go to the classrooms and make good the losses that they and their students have suffered during the past 26 days. There will be no victimisation of the teachers. A similar deal should be available to the students. They should get ample attention and be helped by such committed mentors as do not watch the clock or the calendar for holidays. They will require extra care in the matter of mandatory attendance. No financial foulplay should come in the way of the implementation of the settlement arrived at in New Delhi. And the teachers should remember that excellence is never granted to a man but is the reward of labour.


Early economic warning

SANITISED prose and a string of stern warnings go hand in hand in the RBI annual report released late last week. It thus strikes a sombre note, quite contrary to the hope and cheer that Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha tries to spread. Agriculture will grow by 3 per cent, the report notes, and counts it as a positive signal. It is not; the expected increase in output will barely make up for the loss sustained last year — by 3.7 per cent. The service sector — banking and telecommunication among others — should expand by 9 per cent and it accounts for 48.1 per cent of the GDP. Industry? The growth cannot be more than 5 per cent if the RBI’s estimate of 6.5 per cent overall growth comes true. That level will signal less production, meaning that the ongoing slowdown is gaining strength. Combined with the likely lacklustre performance in exports, lower investment and the clear signs of recession the world over, the immediate future is not very rosy for the Indian economy. Within this broad frame, the RBI finds stray strong points. The rupee and inflation have stayed steady, foreign exchange reserve is adequate, current account deficit is still less than 2 per cent of the GDP and all this should encourage capital inflow. This in a year when most Asian countries are in the grip of an economic crisis of varying degrees of severity. And a growth rate of 5 per cent in these days of global sluggishness is definitely something to crow about.

It is, however, the alarm signals that make the RBI report compelling reading. Inflation is not as tamed as it used to be; investment, particularly by the government, is drying up with the Centre diverting more funds to revenue expenditure. It has shrunk demand and industrial activities. This year the government plans to borrow nearly Rs 80,000 crore which is fully a third higher than last year’s total and represents one half of the savings of the household sector. The total public debt today equals about 55 per cent of the GDP. When the government soaks up this volume of funds from the system there will be pressure to put up interest rates; it will inhibit investments and hence halt capital inflows. The worst hit is the infrastructure sector, the key element in sustained economic growth. Also this has the potential to fan inflationary embers, adding to the woes of the average consumer and all exporters. While the apex bank has asked the government to mend its ways, it has also threatened to tighten its monetary policy to suck out excessive money from the system. Another innovative step is to increase its contingency reserve, mostly to shore up the rupee from currency and interest rate speculators. That fund could be as big as $8 billion. Also, there is going to be no early full convertibility of the rupee; it has to wait for calmer days in the global currency market.



Now dropsy takes its toll

AFTER the plague, cholera and dengue fever, comes the dropsy epidemic. If someone wanted to prove that India is a land of disease and disaster, no further evidence would be needed after more than 40 persons have died in the Capital and over 1,000 laid low with dropsy. More than 10 days after the Delhi government banned the sale of all mustard oil, the epidemic rages on. Indeed, it is spreading to other states, more than 10 of which have also proscribed mustard oil sale. Besides the epidemic, a wave of insecurity and fear is sweeping through the country.

The dropsy outbreak speaks of a terrible social pathology, driven by maldevelopment, cheating by traders, a nexus of vested interests with governments, and a medical infrastructure that is simply incapable of looking after the citizenry. If India is not to be battered again and again by such disasters, and if thousands of people are not to perish wantonly, we must tackle this pathology and transform India into a safe, secure, humane and civilised society. But first the facts. Dropsy is caused by a toxin called sanguinarine, found in the seeds of the common weed, prickly poppy (argemone mexicana). Argemone grows profusely in different parts of the country and its seeds have been used in recent years to adulterate mustard seeds, to which they look identical. Sanguinarine affects blood capillaries and causes haemorrhage, leading to the swelling of legs, blindness, and irreversible damage to the liver, the heart and the kidneys. There is no cure for dropsy.

Roughly, one-quarter of all mustard oil samples tested so far have been found adulterated with argemone. According to Dr Mangla Rai, a well-known scientist at the Indian Council of Agricultural Council, such contamination cannot be accidental — through the mixing of mustard with the weed in the field. The two do not share the same habitat (mustard has a canopy under which nothing grows) and ripen at different times. The adulteration is deliberate, systematic and pre-meditated. Apart from the price difference — mustard seeds cost Rs 18 per kg, whereas the price of argemone is the cost of collection, under, say, Rs 2 — the reason for the adulteration is to add additional zing or pungency to the oil, which comes from substances known as glucocyclates, which are common to both seeds.

Two interesting facts emerge. First, the dishonesty of the trader (and perhaps some farmers) in resorting to adulteration. And second, the proliferation of high-yielding new hybrid varieties of mustard, especially in eastern and northern India. These "artificial", laboratory-bred strains lack the natural pungency associated with organic mustard. Hence the temptation to infuse into them a "natural" flavour artificially. If the second reason is related to the limitations of the Green Revolution, and reduced nutritional value and taste or flavour of laboratory-bred hybrid seed varieties, the first is located in the culture of dishonesty that rules many activities in India.

This culture is neither new nor limited to a particular region. After all, Indian traders made hundreds of crores during the Bengal famine of 1943-45 by hoarding foodgrains and profiteering on the lives of poor people. Our merchants have adulterated every conceivable commodity from food to medicine and cosmetics. Fake or adulterated haldi, pepper and saffron, and substandard antibiotics, fungus-ridden IV fluids, and date-expired vaccines are the stuff of which quick profits are made from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. And it is no accident that liquor and bottled-water manufacturers spend vast sums of money to develop tamper-proof seals and stoppers just to thwart crooks who use fine syringes to infuse hooch into Scotch bottles.

There is a difference, however, this time around. Even well-known brands of mustard oil have been found to be contaminated, including the National Dairy Development Board’s generally reputable and reliable "Dhara". This speaks of unpardonably lax quality control procedures followed by the best of our manufacturers, and the absence of elementary inspections by the food and drug administrations in numerous states. Delhi’s Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Department cut inspections by 77 per cent between 1994 and 1997. This year, it started checking oil samples only after dropsy patients began dying.

Secondly, the BJP government in the National Capital Territory (NCT) set up a review committee in May, 1998, to look into the PFA, 1954, which diluted its provisions. This blatantly pro-trader committee considerably weakened the law’s penal clauses. This was seen by traders as licence to adulterate, granted by their very own swadeshi government. Nothing bears more eloquent testimony to the callousness of the government towards the health and survival imperatives of the people. It can blithely sacrifice innocent lives to put filthy lakhs into the pockets of its most loyal constituents —traders.

It is bad enough that we live in a horribly unsafe society where there is virtually no escape from heavy pollution, contamination and adulteration — whether of air, water, foodgrains, fruit or medicines. What is worse, we now have governments that are least sensitive to such problems. Some of the adulterators seem bent on poisoning babies and turning our children into half-cretins with their brains affected by toxic chemicals and assorted pollutants. In terms of pure ethics, it is hard to distinguish this from pre-meditated slow murder.

How else is one to read the damning 26-page judgement of the Delhi High Court on the Delhi NCT government’s handling of the 1996 dengue epidemic? The judgement says it was in a "total state of unpreparedness" despite repeated warnings by the World Health Organisation. These lines could equally validly apply to the so-called gastroenteritis (euphemism for cholera) epidemic of 1986-87, the plague of 1994 or the malaria outbreak of 1995. The fact that the NCT government has conducted itself so irresponsibly and callously has a special significance. Whether it is in the area of sanitation, water or power supply, or in education, transport and traffic management, Delhi provides an unmatched model of misgovernance and incompetence. Its public service facilities are among the best funded, but easily the worst-run in the country. Delhi has 20 to 60 per cent more policemen per one thousand population than most other cities. Yet its crime rate is 35 per cent higher.

Such misgovernance is rooted in political sleaze and corruption, and in utter callousness towards the poor. The Delhi BJP regime has carried sleaze to extreme levels in the last five years. Indeed, matters have got worse with the installation of the BJP-led coalition at the Centre since March. This should have facilitated better coordination between the two. Instead, their synergy of sleaze and cynicism has further degraded the Capital’s quality of life.

Politics apart, there are at least three larger lessons to be drawn from the dropsy epidemic. First and foremost, we must strengthen quality control, inspection and certification procedures of all foods and beverages. This is a primary duty of the state where a laissez faire attitude is simply impermissible. Nothing should be allowed to be sold merely because it is made. The "Agmark" system has become undependable and only covers a tenth of all food sold. It must be revamped, with a tightening of standards. All state-level FDAs must be greatly strengthened. Most are understaffed, and have very little test equipment. This, like environmental protection or pollution control, is an area where the state must come in and perform, not withdraw.

Second, we must institute effective and stringent penalties for food adulteration. Currently, the conviction rate under the PFA is less than one-third. What often deters wrong-doing is not the severity, but the certainty, of punishment. FDA personnel must be legally retrained to collect clinching evidence and secure better conviction rates. The consumer courts’ jurisdiction must be extended to cases of food contamination, with extensive penal powers. This will speed up the adjudication process.

And, finally, we must cultivate civic responsibility and safety awareness. As citizens, we have a right to safe drinking water and pure, uncontaminated food. We must teach our children from the kindergarten upwards about the importance of safety — in respect of fire, on the road, safety at home and the importance of good, wholesome food. Without citizens’ awareness on safety, we won’t be able to build a culture that demands accountability from our rulers or from slothful, corrupt and callous bureaucracies —even when the safety of our life and limb is at stake.


Of government parlance
by Sanjay Manchanda

I owe my knowledge of official parlance to over a decade’s association with the government.

The popular terms like "issue", "receipt" and "diarising" were totally alien to me until I got entangled with the "bhoolbhulaiya" of a government office. It was only later that I learnt that these three terms were most significant for every government department, for without these no track can ever be kept of any communication or file. Without fail, each one of them is bound to get lost in the record room, which can easily be categorised as a "jungle" of dusty, unkempt papers. Besides, they also act as a deterrent for the "extra-efficient" employees of the government, who excel in inventing new ways and means for the "disposal" of papers.

Yes, "disposal" is the most commonly used word in every government set-up. "For quick disposal" is a usual cryptic message from a boss, who, after scribbling these "gospel" words, feels that his job is over and that of his subordinate has begun. But, then, for the juniors either, it is not a Himalayan task, because for him the meaning of disposal is absolutely literal — the garbage clearance. So, he would simply sweep the main issue clean by giving an interim reply on the paper under consideration (PUC) that the "necessary action is being taken."

Now this business of "necessary action", everybody knows, can take any length of time, even upto infinity. In other words, it was "necessary" to make the PUC a forgotten entity, and, therefore, there is no need to bother about the "action".

Another hackneyed and frothy phrase frequently used in all office files is, "May kindly persue". "Kindly" and "please" are two synonyms without which any noting would be incomplete. "For kind approval", "For information, please", if not used at the end of a note, can, at times, offend the boss even though information and approval had nothing to do with the subject. Even the usage of the language has to be confined within a set of certain words.

What I have always failed to fathom over the years is that why officials of the government tend to lose their originality of expression when it comes to writing official drafts and notes. Otherwise, in their no-holds-barred gossip sessions over a cup of tea they are always brimming with ideas. Their discussions certainly are quite innovative when "madams" talk about trendy fashions, latest jewellery and kitty parties, while "sirs" have jibes at politicians, both national and international (including Mr Bill Clinton).

I often wonder as to why we cannot instead get together to make our bureaucratic parlance open, simpler, more receptive and easily acceptable, at least for the new entrants to government service, so that they don’t have to face the embarrassment that I suffered right at the commencement of my job. It so happened that I was directed to get a souvenir published in a very short time which was to be released at a state-level function. I got the work done to the satisfaction of my superiors, but when I brought the printer’s bill to the office for payment, my boss promptly turned it down for want of three "quotations".

I straightaway rushed to a nearby library and brought three select sayings, the only form of "quotation" I was aware of then. Ironically, one of those sayings read: The rate at which a person can mature is directly proportional to the embarrassment he can tolerate. And now I have come to discover that this quotation actually is an exact reflection of the prevalent system in our government offices.


Significance of teachers’ role
by Jagdish Kalra

IT is a palpable reality that the level of a nation could well be measured by the social standing and status of its teachers. And if we are to judge of India today we shall have to judge of it by its teachers. For that is needed some perspective of the events of the last half a century.

Each age has its peculiar characteristics. Our own age is no exception. Fiftyone years ago at the stroke of the midnight hour when the world slept, India woke up to "life and freedom" and discovered itself again — a vision long cherished was materialised. The solemn moment was but a step, an opening of an opportunity, to the greater triumphs and achievements that awaited us. We took the pledge of dedication to the service of India and its people and to the still larger cause of humanity. Did we grasp this opportunity and accept the challenge of the future? The founding fathers in the vanguard of the nation’s march undoubtedly kept the torch burning to light the path. But have we proved worthy of the charge?

Alas! Across the years ideas and ideals have changed. Our age has become an age of organised masses and disappearing individuality. The unique, autonomous, larger-than-life person is ceasing to exist or, at any rate, is under heavy pressure. Technology, on the one hand, is fulfilling man’s material desires and, on the other, it is also magnifying the evil effect of our time too. Nationalism and socialism are being questioned and are found wanting. Political leaders, chieftains, pathfinders, pacesetters and captains in the various walks of life have fallen from their high positions. A crisis of faith and decline of the fixed standards is conspicuous. Leaders of religion are timid where they were once commanding. In various spheres human values have disappeared altogether. Public opinion no longer feels bound to enforce morality. The upper classes have ceased to inspire imitation as models of correct behaviour. Things once considered inherently wrong are being tolerated. Teachers no longer dominate the minds of the young. As we face the end of this century and are looking forward to the ringing in of the 21st century, the outlook is not very encouraging.

We suffer a sense of loss of orientation. Old orders has broken up. Whatever there was of the old order has surely broken up by now and yet no new stability has been found. We seem to be in a world that is too much with us; we are gripped in weariness. We crave for a glorious bearing, but the problems seem immense.

Of course, the criminal element, rampant corruption, casteism, the passivity of the masses, the emergence of the new mafia group, the tightening grip of the corrupt and unscrupulous, the emergence of the parallel establishment that thrives on extortion tortures and threats of killings, and the dominant and the despicable role of black money are eating into the vitals of our society. Yet the tolerance of the people as a whole cannot always be taken for granted.

If the future of India is to consist of these dreadful factors, how can we ever make progress? This has to be tackled effectively and efficaciously. How can it be done? That is the question. Our only hope is the bright-faced boys and charming girls playing and growing strong in mind and body in the colleges and the universities. They have to play a significant role in wiping out the evils and rejuvenating and reinvigorating the nation. Can we make them valiant and valorous soldiers to fight against the unjust and antagonistic elements? How can we achieve all this?

Let there be no mistake that in a cultured society the teacher has to be revered and respected and given a place of honour, for only a teacher affects eternity. Teaching is still not a lost art, but unfortunately the regard for it is a lost tradition.

Unfortunately, our educational system normally disqualifies people for honest work. Not only do they not get recognition in their own country but are also denied even a dignified job. And yet, ironically, there is hardly any country in the world today where our teachers have not made a substantial contribution. The very policy for higher education has been made not by academicians but by political masters, and its evil influence is descending on the nation like inheritance. In our system, a whole generation is being lost because of the opaque and cloudy direction. Remorsefully, intellectual curiosity is being subsidised and facts and figures are being provided instead of values and virtues.

We are conveniently forgetting that teachers are the true allies of the legislators. They are the real builders of a nation. Despite the mist and haze, the most significant of all indirect influences in the progress of a nation is the influence of a good teacher.


Apex court limits scope of PIL
Point of law
Anupam Gupta

PLODDING back to its conservative past, the Supreme Court has struck yet another blow at public interest litigation. An Administrative Tribunal constituted under the Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985 "cannot entertain a public interest litigation at the instance of a total stranger," it ruled categorically on August 25, spurning an invitation to extend the frontiers of PIL into the arena of service disputes in the most service-litigious country in the world.

There is no doubt, says the court, once a wild PIL enthusiast, that a "total stranger to the concerned service cannot make an application before the (Administrative) Tribunal. If public interest litigations at the instance of strangers are allowed to be entertained by the Tribunal, the very object of speedy disposal of service matters would get defeated."

Applicable only to courts of limited jurisdiction created by statute, and not the higher courts — the Supreme Court and High Courts set up under the Constitution and enjoying plenary power — the ruling retains, nonetheless, a high degree of significance. The sprawling vagueness of the philosophy of public interest litigation, its innate inability to submit to any procedural discipline, and its ever-too-frequent forays into areas not normally amenable to judicial intervention, have been a source of considerable, if helpless, concern. The August 25 verdict is a timely reminder of the need to observe caution, to rein in before the horse throws off the rider.

"The question as to the maintainability of public interest litigation before the Tribunal," says the Supreme Court, setting out its approach, "depends for its answer on the provisions of the Act. The Tribunal having been created by the Act, the scope and extent of its jurisdiction have to be determined by interpreting the provisions thereof."

It is a strictly legal approach, though not a narrowly legal one. Contrary to popular, even professional, conception, disregard for statutory language is not always a sign of judicial broadmindedness. Assuming that the statute is happily worded — which unhappily is not always the case — language is an index of intention. And whatever the judicial activists might say or desire, the task of the courts in interpreting a statute is primarily to decipher the intention behind it.

"Legislative intention," says Francis Bennion of Oxford, author of the most highly respected and uptodate work on statutory interpretation available in the common law world, is "not a myth or fiction, but a reality founded in the very nature of legislation."

Comparisons are odious, but Bennion’s scholarship makes Craies and Maxwell, the two conventionally famous authorities on statutory interpretation, almost unworthy of reading in comparison. Joining issue with eminent thinkers like the late Prof Cross, who dismiss the concept of legislative intention as a fiction (since the legislature, a plural body, cannot be said to have a "mind"), Bennion dubs the idea that there is no true intention behind an Act of Parliament as "anti-democratic".

A legislative text, he writes, dilating on the point, is not made into law otherwise than through the agency of the human mind. A famous conjecture supposed that a million monkeys dancing for a million years on a million typewriters might at random reproduce the plays of Shakespeare. "Acts of Parliament are not produced at random, or by monkeys. Neither are they yet produced (as in the future they conceivably may be) by computers. Under our present system Acts are produced, down to the last word and comma, by people."

Deciphering the intention behind the Administrative Tribunals Act of 1985, the Supreme Court focuses on Section 19. Subject to the other provisions of the Act, it says, "a person aggrieved by any order pertaining to any matter within the jurisdiction of a Tribunal may make an application to the Tribunal for the redressal of his grievance."

The expression "aggrieved person", holds the Supreme Court, is an elastic, and to some extent, an elusive concept. It cannot be confined within the bounds of a rigid, exact and comprehensive definition. Its features can, at best, be described broadly and tentatively, its scope and meaning depending on diverse, variable factors such as the provisions of the statute, the specific circumstances of the case, the nature and extent of the petitioner’s interest, and the nature and extent of the prejudice or injury suffered by him. Nevertheless, a person aggrieved must be a person who has suffered a legal grievance, a person against whom a decision has been taken. A decision that has wrongfully deprived him of something, wrongfully refused him something or wrongfully affected his title to something.

It is but apparent that a public interest litigant is not a person aggrieved in this sense. "In service jurisprudence," Justice K. Ramaswamy of the Supreme Court declared in 1993 in R.K. Jain’s case, "it is settled law that it is for the aggrieved person, that is, the non-appointee to assail the legality of the offending action. A third party has no locus standi to canvass the legality or correctness of the action."

A Judge passionately devoted to the cause of justice but paying little heed to the law, Justice Ramaswamy (now retired) is no one’s favourite on the Bench today. But, for once, his views (doubted and referred to a larger Bench) have been vindicated by history.


Uma Bharti’s choice for NYKS chief
Diversities — Delhi letter
Humra Quraishi

T HE week has been full of news. We start straightaway with the news that Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Sport Uma Bharti has recommended the appointment for a new D-G for the Nehru Yuvak Kendra Sangathan and he is none other than a former member of Parliament from Madhya Pradesh, Mr Prahlad Singh Patel. The recommendation of his name has been approved by HRD Minister Murli Manohar Joshi and forwarded to the Appointments Committee. Mr Patel is said to have links with the RSS.

The other news is that after a gap of several months the post of Disabilities Chief Commissioner (DCC) got filled on September 1. Earlier, ever since bureaucrat Ashok Pahwa proceeded on "long leave" immediately after his appointment as the DCC, search committees had been formulated to focus on his successor. Last year they even narrowed down on former Telecom Secretary R.S. Takkar (under Sukh Ram’s ministership), whose name for the post was said to be strongly pushed by the then Welfare Minister Ramoowalia. But after a hue and cry was raised by the media, for Takkar didn’t fulfil the required conditions, not only his appointment but even the search panel stood cancelled. Another panel was drawn but as the suspense continued on the final choice came a surprise — sidetracking all the names, the Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Welfare, Mr B.L. Sharma, became the new DCC. Experts point out that it was one of the most sensible decisions taken by the government, for to enable the DCC to work on a comprehensive plan and bring about lasting changes in the disability sector a serving bureaucrat could be the best option.

Whilst on bureaucracy some more news. Former Union Fertilizers Secretary Inderjit Gupta, who had been battling blood cancer since the last two years passed away last Saturday. One of the band of upright civil servants his interests varied from trekking to playing the violin. Then, the other in-focus talk is the way and manner in which Urban Affairs Secretary Kiran Aggarwal has been last week sidetracked by minister Ram Jethmalani. So much so that she has been divested of key charges, which have now been given to the Additional Secretary of the ministry. But matters are not to stand still at this juncture, for as some bureaucrats rightly point out that this would establish a very wrong trend whereby the minister would simply shoo away the role of the bureaucrat and work according to his political whims or take decisions arbitrarily which could have dangerous implications. (This holds esp true of Jethmalani’s bizarre plans of razing down bungalows in Lutyen’s Delhi and in their place building a concrete jungle in the form of multi storeys). Anyway, to come back to track, the battle is hotting up, for Aggarwal is not only the President of the IAS Association but a person of integrity so has the backing of the majority of her colleagues. And it is being said that one of the first things that the PM would be doing after his return from South Africa is to sort out this complicated battle, between Aggarwal and Jethmalani, rather between bureaucracy and politics of the day. Giving sops to the bureaucracy in the form of raising the retirement age is no good if they can be jostled around by the clowns of today’s political circus.

The next news is from the Mahatma Gandhi clan. Gandhi’s great grandchildren — Delhi-based grandson Raj Mohan Gandhi’s two children Dev Dutt and Supriya — have chosen interesting further studies options. Whilst 21-year-old Supriya Gandhi, who’d earlier passed out from St Stephens’s College, leaves for Iran to do further studies in Islamic philosophy from Teheran university, her 18-year-old brother Dev Dutt who has just finished his schooling from the Rishi Valley School (Karnataka) has just joined the Williamette University, Salem, Oregon (US). Quiet, unassuming, extremely well bred children along the middle class pattern they leave an impression. So much so that Khushwant Singh cannot really forget that several years back when he wrote in one of the leading dailies about why he doesn’t believe in God, Supriya, then a child of six or seven years, had responded with lines to this effect: "Dear Peanut ... I don’t know why you say that you don’t believe in God....... God visits our house everyday. He is here everyday with us....." Khushwant was so touched that he says that he has preserved Supriya’s letter to this day.

Then there is news that two major concerts will be held here — on October 2, at the IIC in memory of Begum Akhtar and on December 18 at the Habitat Centre in memory of Talat Mahmood and the best part seems to be that they are being arranged by a woman who is linked to both these bygone personalities. Rafia Hussain, wife of a retired foreign service officer, is related on her father’s side to Akhtar and from her mother’s side to Talat. And so this would be her way of reminiscing and making you remember Akhtar and Talat..

Whilst on this let me also write that bureaucrat-turned-writer-cum-commentator Chaturvedi Badrinath is most disturbed by the "irresponsible and shabby" way the organizers of Spic-Macay behaved last fortnight, in the context of inviting him for a lecture in their latest series. "First of all the invitation and its follow up was all on the telephone but I still agreed for I want to talk to the younger generation and esp the topic I chose was very important in today’s social context — ‘the self and the other: in personal and social relationships,’ but, then, without any prior notice they left a message with my servant that the talk has been postponed. And, mind you, this message of postponement came on the day of the talk itself — August 19. This sort of shabbiness coming from Spic Macay has left me disappointed... speaks of the all round decay in values" says he. Anyway, one can hear Chaturvedi in the next Priya Tendulkar show, speaking on "What it is to be a Hindu."


Notes and Comments
Indian Military Budget

THE "Economist" of London has, in commenting on the heavy military budget in India and the demand for reduction of expenditure in proportion to the taxable limit of the country, taken an exaggerated and militarist view of the situation in Central Asia and the danger of invasion.

Its facts are perhaps given by those who are interested in raising India’s military expenditure. They have no concern with the effects of heavy taxation on poor people and if there is discontent, their rough remedy is more troops to suppress it.

The "Economist" cannot ignore the effect of a heavy military budget on the material development of the country which is obstructed.

Wise statesmanship requires that defence policies and plans should be regulated according to the taxable conditions of the country and economy should be pursued in all directions.

Indianisation of the Army is, therefore, advocated but it is anathema to the militarists. Both military and civil departments are run on a costly scale and if those in power cannot reduce it, self-governing India will be able to do it and the alternative plan is to hasten the grant of such powers to the people.


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