|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Thursday, September 10, 1998
Durban to Pachmarhi
Keep off Kashmir
WHEN UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan went to Baghdad and persuaded Iraq to soften its stand on the weapons inspection issue he was hailed as a fearless peacekeeper. But his annual report to the General Assembly, in which he has clubbed Kashmir with other areas of global tension, shows that he is neither fearless nor an impartial peacekeeper. If anything, he is like a teacher who is told by the school bully how to maintain discipline in the class. He is evidently not aware that the only way to ensure discipline in the classroom is to expel the bully from the school. It is unfortunate that the chief executive of the UN after showing glimpses of being fearless and fair in taking up the challenge of maintaining global peace has shown, through the thoughtless reference to Kashmir in his annual report, that he too cannot ignore his masters voice. US President Bill Clinton in between saying sorry for his inappropriate relationship with a White House intern, young enough to be his daughter, still finds time to do a bit of India-bashing. He did it during his state visit to Russia where his request for stopping arms supply to India was ignored by President Boris Yeltsin. The infection seems to have spread. South African President Nelson Mandela mentioned the Kashmir issue in his address to the NAM summit in Durban. The official expression of regret for the inappropriate reference cannot undo the damage so long as it remains part of the NAM proceedings. If Mr Mandela was genuinely sorry for having violated the NAM charter by referring to a bilateral dispute, he should have offered to withdraw the offending passage for the official text. As far as Mr Annan is concerned, he is too senior a diplomat to let his tongue slip even inadvertently on sensitive issues. His tongue was firmly in his control when he ignored Indias solemn commitment to no first use of nuclear weapons after the Pokhran tests.
Neither the USA nor the UN
can take away from India the right to take such steps as
may be necessary to secure its national
interests a favourite expression of
President Clinton to justify the acts of US aggression
against smaller nations. Mr Annan would have earned the
respect of the global community had he even mildly
questioned the USA for the missile attacks on Afghanistan
and Sudan without even informing the UN. He would have
done justice to the UN Charter had he lent his voice to
Indias demand for removing the discriminatory
clauses in the CTBT and supported its demand for the
elimination of nuclear weapons by the blessed
five, along with India, Pakistan and Israel (a
threshold nuclear state), within a specified time-frame.
As far as Indias response is concerned, it is both
inadequate and unsatisfactory. Prime Minister Atal Behari
Vajpayee must realise that one Jaswant Singh is not
enough for explaining the countrys case after
Pokhran II to the USA and others. In international
diplomacy more points are often won by remaining silent
rather than by letting everyone join the babble of
protest. This form of diplomacy was practised effectively
last year by Mr Inder Kumar Gujral in his address to the
UN General Assembly. He ignored Mr Nawaz Sharifs
reference to the Kashmir issue and instead highlighted
the need for action on issues of collective global
concern. It is evident that without a Cabinet rank
minister in charge the noises emanating from the Ministry
of External Affairs are incoherent and ineffective. What
is needed is diplomatic clarity for launching a major
damage control exercise. Can a clueless MEA ensure that
during the General Assembly session other members, apart
from Pakistan, will not bring up the subject of Kashmir
to please the UNs American master?
Folding up a war camp
TAMIL Nadu strongman Jayalalitha has declared a ceasefire and the BJP is entitled to smile all the way from Chennai to New Delhi. The major party in the ruling alliance has one worry less to concentrate its energy on, particularly at this testing time. It faces tough assembly elections in three states with its main opponent, the Congress, flexing its rejuvenated post-Pachmarhi muscles. This then is the extra dimension to the statement of intentions by Ms Jayalalitha on Tuesday. Her acting had the essential element of surprise, which would have done her proud during her brief years in Tamil films. She blandly denied issuing any threat of withdrawal of support, accused the media of fabricating news, twice asked the amused reporters to consult the dictionary and finally announced that her party would be present at the airport to receive Prime Minister Vajpayee on September 15. Of course, she herself would not be in the city on that day but at Trichy, 300 km away, paying homage to Annadurai who was the founder-president of the DMK. (The second A in her partys name stands for Anna, short for Annadurai.) She originally ordered her own mass rally as a show of pointed discourtesy to the BJP leaders, but has since explained it away as a regular annual feature. It is as well, since a rival Anna birth anniversary show in Chennai promises to be a mega event with the leaders of most alliance parties joining the MDMK of Mr Vaiko to make it a victory celebration. She has rightly decided to keep herself away; otherwise, she would have been the odd woman out.
The peace overture is an
embarrassing denouement for her, though she has been
preparing her retreat in a carefully phased manner. From
issuing threatening letters to formally announcing a
no-disagreement relationship with the BJP has been a long
travel on the road to political realisation. At one time
she had all options open and all Tamil Nadu allies on her
side. Plus the eager television cameras outside her
fortress-like residence. One by one she has lost these.
With the DMK skilfully manoeuvring to snuggle up to the
BJP and with the Congress playing hard to get, the threat
of her party becoming friendless has become real. And no
single party can win an election in that state, to go by
the experience since the 1967 general election. And these
are days of flux and confusion in Tamil Nadu politics.
The DMK and its alliance partner, the TMC, are not
getting along well, and the latter, which is the real
Congress in the state, has shown no great enthusiasm to
rejoin the parent party. The Sonia Congress will under no
circumstance join hands with the DMK, a suspect in the
eyes of the M. C. Jain Commission. In theory the AIADMK
has two winning options : to go to battle with either the
BJP or the Sonia Congress. If the November assembly
election results sound the alarm for the BJP, and if the
Congress gets ready to enter the fray, it would find the
Jayalalitha party more than willing to swell its ranks.
If not, she will sulk the rest of the tenure of the
present ruling combine in splendid isolation. In one
respect Ms Jayalalitha is both truthful and accurate. She
says there is no threat from her to the BJP-led
government and it is the fact. She is no more in a
position to pose any credible threat!
Literacy and political will
PRIME Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has rightly said that the government can spend any amount of money but it cannot succeed in eliminating the scourge of illiteracy from the country unless the National Literacy Mission is converted into a people's movement. In his opinion, this is a must for providing the light of literacy to the millions of unfortunate Indians who remain deprived of it. This means that a mass-based campaign will have to be launched to ensure the involvement of all those who are lucky to have the wealth of education. But do we have enough and sincere NGOs to share the responsibility, which after all lies on the shoulders of the government? Is there provision for providing these voluntary organisations enough incentives and resources so that they do not lack in enthusiasm and capacity? Here the role of the government comes into play. If the people's participation on a massive scale is essential for the success of the National Literacy Mission, the will of the political leadership and the bureaucracy is a major factor which cannot be ignored. Compare the case of Kerala with that of Punjab and the situation becomes crystal clear. The southern state is nowhere near the northern giant in terms of financial resources, but it has incomparable involvement of the political class, bureaucrats and, of course, the literate people so far as the question of removing illiteracy is concerned. The result: Kerala's literacy level has reached over 90 per cent, whereas Punjab is far behind with its nearly 40 per cent population still remaining illiterate. Punjab's Ropar district (officially known as Roopnagar) which got from the Prime Minister the Satyen Maitra Memorial Award on September 8 for its best performance in implementing the total literacy scheme, in the face of fierce competition from over 540 other districts of the country, could perform so spectacularly because of the untiring efforts of certain top officials, including the Deputy Commissioner. And the district adopted the Ernakulam model.
The absence of the
political and bureaucratic commitment in this respect is
more pronounced in the Hindi heartland where more than 50
per cent of India's illiterates reside. Human Resource
Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi admitted this
painful fact while addressing the National Literacy
Mission Council's seventh meeting last month. The slow
progress in spreading literacy in Bihar, UP, Madhya
Pradesh and Rajasthan is a cause for great concern if the
country has to enter the 21st century without this black
spot on its face. The situation is so bad in these four
states that they have certain pockets where literacy
among women is as low as 5 per cent. There is urgent need
for those looking after the National Literacy Mission to
concentrate their efforts and resources in the four dark
areas. Incidentally, it is the Hindi heartland where the
rate of population growth is also very high, which can
prove to be a big hindrance in reaching the literacy
FROM DURBAN TO PACHMARHI
FROM the NAM summit at Durban in South Africa to the Congress brainstorming session at Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh, recent events have hammered home three important and largely painful lessons which cannot be easily brushed aside. Whether these will be duly learnt by the powers that be is, of course, a moot question.
The first of the lessons stems from the furore at the NAM gathering over President Nelson Mandelas inclusion, in his inaugural address, of Kashmir among the issues the nonaligned should do something about. The rest of the story is too well known to need recounting. However, the feeling in the corridors of power in New Delhi seems to be that after Mr Atal Behari Vajpayees sharp rejoinder, the subsequent South African apology and the amendment of the draft declaration, especially on the nuclear issue, to Indias full satisfaction, the matter can be treated as closed. This is a grave error.
For, Mr Mandelas slip of the tongue or deliberate decision to twist Indias tail was not the problem. It was in fact a symptom of the deeper problem which is that this country hasnt paid adequate attention to the gulf that has divided it from supposedly like-minded South Africa on crucial issues of which the nuclear question is only one. Nor is there anything to indicate that a systematic attempt to bridge the gulf is likely to be made in the near future. On the contrary, the prospect is that of a phase of distrust and bitterness.
New Delhi cannot pretend that it did not know. The evidence of growing estrangement between India and South Africa was plentiful and visible to the naked eye. In February-March, 1997, I was a participant in a Track-II dialogue between the two countries think tanks. Our hosts were most courteous and polite. But there was no mistaking their reluctance to accept the Indian worldview. On the nuclear issue none of the academics or mediapersons was willing even to talk. When a discussion was sought with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the South African side was represented almost entirely by dyed-in-the-wool White officials of the old, apartheid vintage. They outdid the Americans in pushing the US line. One of them was candid enough to declare that South Africas dependence on the USA was so great, indeed so desperate, that no other policy could be pursued by Pretoria.
Not only that no one tried to mend this state of affairs, but also the situation was allowed to deteriorate. South Africa, lacking in the requisite skills, asked for Indian help in preparing for the NAM summit. It was promised but never delivered. Instead, even the simple matter of who should or should not be this countrys High Commissioner in Pretoria was allowed to become a source of discord between the two governments, causing needless bad blood.
The moral of the sordid tale is that you cannot ignore an important country, fail to explain to it either your Kashmir policy or your nuclear policy (it was a mistake to assume that a single phone call by the Prime Minister to Mr Mandela had removed all the differences) and yet expect that it would respect Indian sensitivities.
So much for the first lesson confined to the field of diplomacy. For the second one, there has to be a long jump from Durban to Pachmarhi. To most observers, this Congress conclave has been most notable for the manifest consolidation of Mrs Sonia Gandhis leadership and her display of both firmness and astuteness in conducting the proceedings. This is entirely understandable, given the growing sentiment among large sections of the population and the political class that the sooner the present government is replaced by one formed by the Congress, the better, even if such an alternative government is led by Mrs Gandhi.
However, an immediate lesson of great import to emerge from the intellectual churning at the hill resort in Central India is that globalisation and liberalisation, generally called economic reforms, have become much less popular today than was the case even six months ago. Left to itself, the Congress leadership realises that a fast rate of economic growth, accompanied by policies that would enforce fiscal and economic discipline, would benefit the poor more in the long run though in the short run the rewards will go faster to the rich. In any case, the present system of huge subsidies and poverty alleviation schemes, run so badly that of every rupee spent only 15 paise reach the needy, according to Rajiv Gandhi, appear more attractive than they really are.
Even so, at Pachmarhi the rank and files pro-poor sentiment prevailed. The fact that the much-praised Asian tigers have run into economic disaster has also helped to turn the sentiment against economic reforms. Not just in the Congress, which initiated the process during the Prime Ministership of Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao, now given a wide berth, but also within the ruling BJP. Witness, the assault on the governments economic policies by the Sangh Parivars very own Swadeshi Jagaran Manch even while Mr Vajpayee was travelling in foreign lands. The circumstances in which the Tatas have had to withdraw their Rs 1,475 crore airline project does not add to the governments credibility or the attractiveness of the Indian market.
It is in this dismal context that one must turn to the third lesson the authors of which also are the Congress leaders who assembled at Pachmarhi. They have set their face against the signing of the CTBT for at least one year on the ground that the deadline for doing so is September, 1999, and even this could be extended by another six months.
In taking this stand, the party leadership has been more flexible than many in the party ranks who (barring a few who want the treaty to be signed immediately) are opposed to India signing the CTBT in its present form ever. But this does not help either the government or the country because signing the CTBT is at the heart of the all-important discussions between this country and the USA in the persons of Mr Jaswant Singh, the Prime Ministers special envoy, and Mr Strobe Talbott, the US Deputy Secretary of State.
The alternative Indian proposal to give de jure status to the Indian commitment not to conduct any more tests is apparently not acceptable to the Clinton administration and perhaps to some other countries which have signed the treaty without ratifying it. Interestingly, the US Congress has also yet to ratify the CTBT, and many Americans believe that Indias continuing refusal to sign on the dotted line would make US ratification well neigh impossible.
No wonder then that President Clintons National Security Adviser, Mr Sandy Berger, is demanding Indian decision within two or three weeks. A reasonably strong case for signing the CTBT can be made, now that India has conducted all the tests it needed and has announced that it would never again conduct any test. In return for this, the American side can be persuaded to end the restrictions on the transfer of dual-use technologies as also accept, in some form or the other, Indias (and Pakistans) new nuclear status.
But no government, and
certainly not the ramshackle BJP-led coalition, can take
a decision to sign the CTBT without first building up a
national consensus behind it. Sadly, there is not the
slightest sign so far of this much-needed effort. Mr
Vajpayee needs to be told that the time at his disposal
is not limitless.
Preparing for nuclear war?
THE people in India and Pakistan have protested that the nuclear madness that threatens mutual annihilation must be stopped. Unfortunately, the nuclear die has already been cast. There is, therefore, no option but to prepare for the worst with the hope that the worst will not happen.
Ironically enough, the impression created in the country and abroad is that we have become a nuclear power. But, in reality, we have hardly moved towards nuclearisation. Nor have we tried to analyse the process that we have to follow to become a nuclear nation.
Being the adherents of the no first use principle, we should start the process of nuclearisation with the precautionary measures that we need to adopt against a nuclear strike by the enemy. But no precautions can be taken unless we have a pre-warning of the impending nuclear attack. Given the fact that such an attack will generally be coming from the air, we have to have a proper active air defence (AD) system. This system is required to identify, intercept and then destroy or neutralise any delivery system that the enemy is launching at us. It could be a fighter bomber or a surface-to-surface missile. At present we have no anti-missile weaponry or airborne laser weapon system to intercept or neutralise these platforms. Surprisingly, we do not have even a single airborne warning and control (AWAC) aircraft. All this makes us highly vulnerable to any nuclear attack.
To protect our people against a nuclear attack, an elaborate passive air defence (PAD) system has to be evolved. This should be done by preparing special underground shelters which can house the population of an entire town so that radiation does not affect the people. These shelters are required to be stocked with food, water, milk and other necessities. Proper medical aid should also be available in these shelters to those who get affected by radiation. The people may have to live in these shelters for weeks together.
To create nuclear deterrence, we have to prepare ourselves for a nuclear offensive. A nuclear weapon whether it is a surface-to-surface, air-to-air, air-to-surface one or a submarine-borne has to be mounted on a proper delivery system which has not only to be developed but also to be perfected. Besides, the target acquisition system has to be streamlined. When to use these weapons will depend on the accuracy and reliability of our intelligence system. Any mistake in our assessment about the enemys intended nuclear strike can prove very costly. The command and control set-up for this warfare has also to be carefully worked out.
Little thought, if any, has been given to the minimum financial outlay that we require for a nuclear weapons arsenal for a second strike capability that we envisage in our nuclear strategy. The experts feel that this should consist of at least 400 IRBMs (interim-range ballistic missiles) fitted with nuclear bombs. The cost of each such bomb will come to Rs 1.5 crore, whereas the Agni missile of the IRBM class will cost about Rs 15 crore each. Thus, these IRBMs would cost us Rs 6,600 crore. To monitor these missiles, we need a command, control and communications centre which will cost around Rs 3,500 crore.
Even if we decide to phase out this expenditure of Rs 10,100 crore over a period of two years, we need Rs 5,050 crore this year. Of the defence allocation of Rs 41,200 crore this year (as against Rs 36,099 crore last year), Rs 4,038 crore has already been set aside for implementing the Fifth Pay Commissions recommendations. This leaves us with a balance of Rs 1,063 crore out of the additional allocation of Rs 5,101 crore for all other requirements, including the procurement of weapons, whereas we need Rs 5,050 crore for the nuclear weapons programme alone this year without taking the galloping inflationary trends into account. Where, then, is the money for nuclearisation?
Add to this, the
mind-boggling expenditure that the nation has to incur on
the unavoidable PAD measures, and you come to a
conclusion that it is beyond the reach of a poor country
like India. That Pakistan is sailing in the same boat
should give us no satisfaction because we have also to
contend with China.
Grandpa goes to school
FIFTEEN years ago my septuagenarian father was aghast when we planned our daughters admission to a nursery school. He was of the firm view that sending children below six to school was cruelty against them; and Neha was only three then. It was time for her to just play and be pampered by the grown-ups, he believed. And thats what she mostly did; sitting in grandpas lap, listening to stories, playing or, at the most, learning the names of flowers and the birds that came to the garden.
But our argument to not let the child lag behind her peer group finally prevailed; and the hitherto princess of the roost had to step out of the protective shell to enter the big real world.
It was the first day at school, and like all children she didnt quite know what she was in for. Smartly dressed in her new uniform with a fancy school bag, a water bottle and a flower in her hand, she looked forward to it as more of a picnic. But when the time came for us to leave her alone and part company, she bawled as if heavens would fall. Even though a wrench, we did manage to walk away.
But next day her grandpa had different plans. when the school bus arrived to pick her up there was a co-passenger. Smartly attired in a suit, tie and a red silken kerchief, her grandpa too hopped into the bus. Throughout the school hours, he patiently sat outside her classroom; keeping a watchful eye, and then the happy two-some returned home.
For a few days the teachers put up with such grandindulgence, but, then, one day a curt note against such spoilt-brat pampering arrived. This, of course, ended grandpas school excursions but not his keen interest in her academic growth.
A veteran engineer and a wizard in mathematics, he often taught her novel ways of solving tricky sums in quicker and non-conventional ways. Also, he held his own surprise tests and quizzes, with cash awards for solving them. Notwithstanding his advancing age, his love for tutoring her remained unabated over the years.
Now that Neha has passed her twelfth class and also secured admission to the engineering course of her choice, she is a free bird though not in the literal sense. In the interim holidays, we enrolled her in a driving school to enable her to take independent charge of the road ahead in her life. But when the driving school jalopy turned up for the first days lessons, there was her grandpa too, ready along with the pupil, to keep the ever watchful eye! The instructor winced, but welcomed him to join, with the reverence due to an octogenarian guardian.
Nehas only worry now
is about his secret plans on her joining the engineering
college. For, he has been lately seen to be getting his
wardrobe spruced up, and there is that old naughty glint
in his eyes....
Turning into trash-bin of food
NO sooner comes the news that India is thinking of allowing the import of one million tonnes of contaminated soyabean from the USA, the European Union appears to be contemplating imposing a ban on the import of groundnut from India for fears of carrying traces of aflatoxins. In the process, both India and the European Union have sent diametrically opposite signals to the international trade. And this will determine the shape and trend of future trading.
Earlier too, India had accepted a million tonne of contaminated wheat from Australia at a time when it faced no serious threats to food security. On the other hand, the EU had banned the import of seafood from India, Bangladesh and Madagascar on the plea that it carried potentially lethal bacteria harmful for human health. The result was obvious: while India was virtually turned into a trash-bin of global trade, the West became overtly cautious in allowing any kind of exotic diseases and pests to enter its national boundaries.
Import of soyabean from the USA brings along five exotic weeds and at least 11 viral diseases, of which two are economically dangerous. Such is the desperation to import the sub-standard soyabean, that the government has even created an additional facility of splitting the seeds on its arrival at Kandla port. Ostensibly aimed at warding off any criticism of allowing the exotic weeds to germinate within the country, what the government has failed to explain is how it intends to check the viral diseases from spreading? And still more worrying is the fact that the imports contain the first major consignment of genetically-engineered soya into the country. At a time when genetically-manipulated soyabean and corn have become a major political and consumer issue in Europe, it appears that India is merely being used as a dumping ground.
But then, India has a strong tradition of importing sub-standard foodgrains to feed its millions. It had accepted sub-standard Australian wheat containing 44 weeds, including 15 exotic species, in utter disregard to the ecological and environmental risks associated with alien wild plant seeds. The EU, in view of the hygiene problems associated with the presence of Salmonella and Vibiro bacteria in the frozen fish and seafood, had decided to stop the imports. In other words, EU had made it abundantly clear that it will not compromise on quality. India, on the other hand, had conveyed its willingness to accept even cattle feed instead of foodgrains.
The EU had sounded the warning a few years ago. And when the exporting countries refused to enforce quality parameters, came the ban. In India, first came the diseased wheat from the USA, followed by adulterated grain from Australia. With Indias refusal to terminate the contract signed with the grain exporting companies for failure to conform to the quality norms, receiving contaminated wheat shipments from Australia was surely unavoidable. So much so that the US Wheat Growers Association has succeeded in impressing upon the government not to follow the sanitary and phytosanitary standards prescribed by the World Trade Organisation. India has more or less accepted their plea to allow imports of sub-standard wheat as was being made available under the PL-480 food aid programme.
Such was the care a damn attitude of the exporting countries that even Australia had expressed its helplessness in cleaning the wheat shipped in bulk. India, Bangladesh and Madagascar too made a strong plea for lifting the ban for the simple reason that such a restriction will cripple the seafood industry. While the Australia stand, irrespective of being unprincipled, was surprisingly accepted, the EU only relented when the exporters agreed to provide quality produce. To justify the imports, the Australian wheat was distributed in the non-wheat growing areas and was programmed to arrive in India only when the sowing season was over. But the EU did not resort to any such political gimmick and was more than keen to send a clear message: if you want to trade in seafood, ensure quality production and processing.
Several of the minor weeds that came along with PL-480 wheat shipments in the past have turned into biological nuisances, often the weed becoming a national menace. Lantana camera was among such weeds which entered India two decades ago. Today, it has spread wide and wild, and has withstood all control measures. Being poisonous, not even the cattle feed on it. Phalaris minor too came with the wheat consignments from the USA. This weed, already resistant to chemicals in the USA and Australia, has established itself as a strong competitor of wheat in India. The weed has also become resistant to chemicals in India and is responsible for reducing wheat yields by an estimated 25 per cent.
India can no longer afford to be a dustbin for biological trash. Already, the policy to appease foreign investors at the cost of national pride and safety, has cast an ominous shadow. The trend was set into motion by the Narasimha Rao Government which had refused to initiate legal proceedings against the erring foreign banks in the infamous securities scam. For fear of sending wrong signals to investors, the banks were let off without even minor penalties. With the result, foreign traders and investors have become the new class of untouchables. And in the bargain, the nations health and environment has been put at stake.
The EU ban on groundnut
and seafood should serve an important lesson in trade for
India. After all, India too needs to send across the
right kind of signal. Rejecting Australian wheat could
have been the beginning. Even stopping the import of
genetically-engineered soyabean from the USA can be the
right step. It will certainly signal the arrival of India
on the international trade scene as a no-nonsense trader.
But then, as long as the masses continue to accept such
inequalities in trade, the mandarins in the Commerce
Ministry and the powers that be will continue to make hay
while the sun shines.
Sikh institutions at crossroads
CHANDIGARH: Wedged into the existing Sikh institution politico-religious, is the World Sikh Council.
The WSC owes its birth to a resolution adopted at the World Sikh Sammelan held at Amritsar in September, 1995.
It is three years now but the WSC is yet to find its feet. Its first few steps have led it to the doorstep of court, engaging it in a controversy not of its own making. There are, at present, two councils: an original and a clone!
According to the written constitution, the WSC is to be a "global organisation aimed at promoting international brotherhood among the Sikhs and to work vigorously towards the abiding glory of the Khalsa and the well-being of the mankind". The council is to work under the auspices of the Jathedar of Akal Takht, who is the patron.
The listed aims and objectives are ideal. Their accomplishment seems rather difficult. There are apprehensions, even among some optimistic persons closely associated with the council as to where, when and how to make a beginning. The teething troubles are many. In ways more than one, the council, therefore, has remained a non-starter.
The aims and objectives include preservation of, and respect for Sikh identity, safeguarding Sikh cultural heritage, protecting their socio-economic, agricultural and industrial interests, ensuring acceptance of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) outlined "rehat maryada", promoting literacy, providing quality education in general and technical in particular, elimination of caste and sectarian appellations, integrating, totally, backward sections of the Sikh social order into the mainstream, propagating and strengthening faith in fundamental human rights and dignity of human persons, equality for all and working for the well-being of the humanity.
For accomplishment of these, the WSC proposes to set up universities, educational institutions, establish chairs in the universities, bring out a daily newspaper, magazines, journals etc and work for acquiring financial, movable and immovable assets for the council from any "lawful" sources.
It has a plan for fund raising (notwithstanding the present imbroglio over misappropriation of already collected funds from within and abroad which has embroiled the jathedars of takhts in an unsavoury and avoidable showdown). It also gives guidelines for membership: individuals, Sikh institutions and organisations and gurdwaras are eligible to become members. Besides office-bearers there is an executive committee.
The present lineup is: president, Justice Kuldip Singh (retd), vice-president, Mr Baldev Singh Sibia, secretary-general, Brig Gurdip Singh (retd), member finance, Mr Sarabjot Singh of Sant Samaj, and Director-General of the council, Mr Ram Singh. All takht jathedars are members of the executive, so are the chairmen of the 10 regional committees (only six have been set up, so far), five members nominated by the patron and another five by the SGPC.
Despite existence of several Sikh institutions there remains a vacuum. There is no intra-institutional cooperation or coordination on "collective thinking" as to how to prepare Sikhs to meet new challenges in the next century. It is a known fact that Akali leaders have parcelled various politico-religious institutions between themselves for decades and believe fervently that their hold will last for ever. Even the executive of the WSC suffers from this infirmity, resulting in its fractured decision-making.
There has been no serious effort anywhere by anyone to nurture secondline of politico-religious leadership. The efforts which may have been attempted did not, rather were not allowed, succeed. The same were repeatedly scuttled by those in positions of power and influence. Now a new class of educated, aware Sikhs is emerging expecting things will change. The question is how? Where should a beginning be made?
Despite the best of intentions and hard work diligently done to espouse the "Sikh cause" and "cleanse" the politico-religious system for the sake of the "Sikh Panth" the Sikh institutions continue to remain unsuccessful. Reasons are not far to seek. The "enlightened" individuals who have either constituted or dominated several existing institutions adhere to different ideologies and owe allegiance to different individual Akali leaders, who protect their factional interests and proteges. Consequently, there never has been an occasion or an effort to attempt provide a "common" meeting ground and an "agenda" for diverse Sikh institutions to get together and work together on any agreed common minimum objective.
The Sikh institutions and individuals enjoying different political patronage thus, work in isolation and remain insulated from hard realities. Ego hassles is one of the major stumbling blocks in ensuring cooperation and coordination. Conflict, contradiction and avoidable confrontation dominate the Sikh institutions. Either out of respect or indifference ordinary Sikhs remain aloof. Those who are wont to do something or are keen on something being done cannot change the mind-set of the existing Sikh leadership.
Thus like all existing
institutions, the WSC is also another mute witness and a
helpless spectator of what goes on in the
"drama" in the theatre of the absurd, where
more than the leaders people have suffered and sacrificed
all these years. When will they learn a lesson from the
past? The moot questions are wither the Sikhs and what of
IT has been announced that with effect from Ist November next post-graduate courses will be started at Pusa College for graduates of Universities in India. A course of animal husbandry at Bangalore and agriculture at Pusa will be started to enable provincial agricultural officers and others to qualify for appointments in Imperial Agricultural Services without the necessity of having to go abroad.
We hope this arrangement will enable Indians to be appointed in future in higher posts in the department and put an end to the employment of foreigners whose ignorance of local men and conditions has hitherto been a bar to practical work.
It is also announced that the three military dairy farms will be transferred to the civil department. A considerable amount of public money is spent on these dairy farms without benefit to the people.
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