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Friday, December 4, 1998
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Threats from declining water-table

  IT has been stated in the news-item “Ludhiana ground water toxic” (The Tribune, December 1) that for arresting the decline in the water table, the Union Ministry of Water Resources would soon issue a notification imposing certain restrictions with regard to the use of sub-soil water. This would be anti-development, and even then it would be treating only the symptom and not the disease. The only lasting remedy for the declining water-table is increasing the recharge by artificial means and making it at least equal to the output.

The problem of the declining water-table is not confined to the city of Ludhiana alone. Nearly 14 lakh tubewells in Punjab and Haryana, which were the backbone of the Green Revolution in these states, are also the victims of the same problem. Would the ministry impose similar restrictions on these tubewells also?

Till now the problem is reversible. But if the underground reservoir is allowed to go on depleting at the present rate indefinitely, the brackish water from the adjoining areas can intrude into the sweet water belt. Its chances would increase tremendously as soon as the present wet cycle of rainfall is followed by a dry one. This underlines the necessity of undertaking corrective measures without the loss of further time.

Punjab and Haryana have got plenty of rain-water, which is being allowed to go waste via drains even in this age of water shortage. It is an unpardonable sin, and yet both states are guilty of it. All this water can be used for recharging the underground reservoir by artificial means. All that is required is to desilt this water and inject it into the ground through bore holes at suitable places.

The desilting is not going to pose any problem as a foolproof device can be built into the drain itself. It shall work automatically round the clock without much supervision.

Neither of the two states has the necessary knowhow for artificial recharge. As a matter of fact, none in India has got it. Some amount of research and experimentation is unavoidable, but the two states have not shown any inclination for such a pioneering venture. The deadlock continues, and so does the suffering of tubewell owners.

The two states have no choice but to start research on these lines and thus make a virtue of a necessity. Can the Ministry of Water Resources ask the two states to wake up from their slumber and do the needful in their own interests before it is too late?

Formerly Engineer-in-Chief,

Irrigation Department, Haryana

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A mismanaged economy

Apropos of Mr Hari Jaisingh’s article “Game of political survival: economy is the casualty” (Nov 27), ever since the BJP-led government was formed, the country, as most of the industrialised world, has been waiting to see how it will tackle the serious economic problems the United Front government had left. However, so far the present government’s pronouncements have been anything but reassuring. These have not only cast serious doubts on its willingness to maintain openness in the economy and continue India’s halting integration with the world economy, but also reflected no understanding of the crisis towards which the country is headed.

Undeniably, the economy needs a kickstart. The Prime Minister has promised “growth, more growth and still more growth”. But growth must mean more employment and poverty alleviation. Real wages are the most significant measure of poverty. Economic policies must address the ground realities and improve the economic condition of the poor.

The process of economic growth must operate as a system of empowerment of the people rather than one of further enriching the rich. No economy can maintain the momentum of a high growth rate unless the benefits of increased output benefit an increasing number of people, including the poor.

Poverty estimates too need a different approach. Poverty must be measured by I dare to coin “Kitchen Price Index” (KPI), and not by the Wholesale Price Index (WPI). The reason is that 80 per cent of the consumption basket of the poor comprises food-items. A sudden rise in the prices of food-items ravages the marginal workers and their families, putting 50 per cent of the population in the endless poverty and malnutrition cycle.

The recent skyrocketing of the prices of fruits and vegetables, specially onions and potatoes, showed that our marketing system was biased in favour of commission agents, retailers and wholesalers. That together exploited the consumers and farmers while the government did precious little in this respect.


Phase of crisis: Though the Vajpayee government has been making bold announcements, it has not taken any clear stand on the vital issues of socio-economic importance. It has made only ad hoc plans and taken arbitrary decisions leading finally to a feeling of distrust and frustration among the people. The country is passing through a phase of all-round crisis.

While the Finance Minister keeps assuring the public that the fiscal deficit will be reduced to 3 per cent, the rate of inflation rose to 8.85 per cent on November 7. The common man is reeling under an unprecedented rise in the prices of essential commodities, while the government keeps befooling him with impracticable projects like the 7000-km six-lane cross-country highway or the Ganga-Cauvery link-up costing more than Rs 28,000 crore. Who said we don’t have among us the Nero of Rome and the Louis XVI of France, apart from our own Muhammad Tughlaqs?


Too much talk, too little action: Although it was presumed that the BJP-led government would extend relief to the masses, its functioning during the past eight months has been disappointing on this score. Mr Yashwant Sinha is a big failure as Finance Minister of the country. He spends more time on disinvestment than other more significant issues which could make a qualitative difference to the management of the economy. They are talking too much of swadeshi but they have done nothing in this respect. Funny, the government has invited tobacco multinationals to establish their bases in India, and we all know that tobacco causes cancer and heart diseases.


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Indications for snap polls

The future of democracy depends on the level of social awareness. It entails the responsibility of every citizen to keep himself abreast of the current situation. External vigilance is the price of our freedom. The ideals of the country’s builders are a part of our living heritage.

The outcome of the elections has eroded the image of the coalition government. The state of affairs indicates snap elections.


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50 years on indian independence

Appointing a VC

The appointment of a university’s Vice-Chancellor should be decided purely on the basis of merit. It is a highly responsible and significant position. Any kind of political interference or favouritism can ruin the institution concerned. But, unfortunately, in this country, specially in Himachal Pradesh, merit has generally been ignored in such matters, and people close to the seat of power have been favoured.

When a Vice-Chancellor has been appointed, the basic yardstick of his popularity should be his equation with teachers, students and the administrative staff — the three integral wings of any university which ensure its smooth functioning. Judged from this angle, the performance of the present Vice-Chancellor of HP University has been satisfactory. There is no reason why he should not be invited to head the university for another term. Let Himachal set this healthy tradition, so that it serves as eye-opener for other universities.


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Illogical move

The Haryana government’s move to shift the Agriculture Department from Chandigarh to Kurukshetra, instead of Panchkula where land is already earmarked and allotted for the purpose, on the plea that the pilgrimage city needs to be developed (at the cost of Panchkula) appears illogical.

Panchkula has its own standing in Haryana. It has developed into one of the best cities and districts in Haryana, with wide open spaces, modern buildings etc. It still deserves the government’s patronage.


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The other day at a marriage party I met a retired army officer. On my asking how he keeps himself busy in his retired life, he smilingly answered: “MBA”. And himself went on to explain the abbreviation — it stands for attending Marriages, Bhog and Akhandpath.



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