|M A I L B A G||
Thursday, February 25, 1999
The ordeal of Bihar
PRESIDENTS rule has been imposed on Bihar once again. The number of times this God-forsaken state has gone through this ordeal has reached the proverbial double-digit figure which we normally use in common parlance when we talk of inflation. For pure-bred democrats the imposition of Presidents rule is sheer anathema. But is there a credible alternative to it when the state experiences excessive outbursts of violence and a general breakdown of the rule of law, and becomes virtually ungovernable?
Allow me to recall at this time certain observations made by Mr Boutros Boutros-Ghali just prior to his laying down office as the UN Secretary-General. In effect he said: We have heard of failed individuals, failed institutions and corporate entities. The time has come for us to reckon with the possibility of failed States.
Mr Boutros-Ghali was, of course, having in mind some of the smaller countries in Africa and elsewhere facing economic turmoil and political upheavals. He was certainly not having a country like India in mind, but on further reflection we wonder if there is a possibility of some of the states in India failing individually in both economic and political terms, becoming basket cases. Bihar, undoubtedly, is one state which comes dangerously close to being branded as one. It passes our comprehension how a state endowed with plenty of water, minerals and other natural resources and with so much of intelligent manpower can go down to such abysmal depths in mismanagement by political bosses.
I said at the beginning that Bihar is a God-forsaken state. Yes, even Presidents rule cannot save it. Let us, in all earnestness, invoke His Divine Intervention. Nothing short of it can save this state.
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Conversions: 3 dimensions
The issue of religious conversions needs to be considered with a rational and realistic attitude. There are three different dimensions to this issue, which draw our attention: economic, administrative and cultural and historical.
For the economically downtrodden, the main problem is of survival and not of faith. Keeping ones soul and body together is more important than deciding where to bow ones head in prayer. When a person is ready to relinquish the benefits of being a Scheduled Caste Hindu only because the new faith would guarantee his basic needs of food, shelter and clothing, we need not get offended with the propagators of the new faith. Instead, we need to concentrate on the States failure despite its loud claims of achievements in the last 50 years.
If we accept that in Orissa and Gujarat there have been cases of large-scale forcible conversions, it also implies the failure of our administrative set-up. Do we wish to conclude that the State machinery, including the police and the bureaucracy, is unable to check forcible conversions? If so, how can we ensure an effective implementation of a new law against conversion when the law and order machinery is unable to execute the existing laws?
Historically and culturally, the phenomenon of conversions is not new to Hinduism. Even in the regimes of Ashoka and Harshvardhana, there were conversions. In the times of Mughal rulers forcible conversions were the order of the day. Despite all this, Hinduism has flourished and spread.
The so-called saviours of Hindus and their fundamental outbursts are a negative attempt at limiting Hinduism to a particular and narrow religious faith and way of life, which may prove to be more harmful than the collective impact of all conversions till date.
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Role of religion
The debate over building a tolerant society may yield a viable solution to Indias most peculiar problem of killing of innocent people in different parts of the country at different occasions.
While religion was invented to help people in having faith in an invisible force so as to sustain themselves in their moments of distress, its use by selfish elements to create hatred against those belonging to different other faiths has eroded its very purpose and given rise to intolerance, violence and barbaric acts of killings.
A simple solution to this problem is to immediately eliminate all kinds of preferences based on religion or caste. This will help in dissolving mutual hatred to a large extent, thus generating social tolerance among us.
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UGC grades in Punjab
The Punjab Governments notification (Feb 19) implementing the revised UGC grades with effect from 1.1.1996 for university and government college teachers is most welcome. However, regarding the retirement age, its decision needs a review. It should be 62 years for all the university and college teachers in accordance with the notification issued by the UGC as well as the Human Resource Development Ministry.
The state government is further urged to release the revised UGC grades for government-aided private college teachers also without delay. Concerning the pension-cum-gratuity scheme for private college teachers, the government should implement it with effect from 1.4.1992 according to its earlier decision.
YASH PAUL GHAI
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Exploding a myth
There is a popular belief that Christians are converting Hindus to Christianity. A cursory glance at the national official census for 1971, 1981 and 1991 will make it clear that the Christian population has decreased from 2.6 to 2.4 per cent and then to 2.3 per cent, respectively, every decade. Where have all the Hindu converts gone?
Readers might find it interesting to note that the population of all the religious communities is increasing in India except that of Christians and Parsis, which is decreasing every tenth year. What is worse (better, eh?), during the period 1981-1991 Hindu population increased by 24 per cent.
Political and religious crooks (call them leaders, if you like) should not be allowed to misinform and misguide the innocent people into believing that Christian missionaries are forcibly converting Hindus, and that too in big numbers.
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