|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Sunday, January 17, 1999
with Who, we forget To whom
right person for tough job
A home for the toiling
in Baroda territory
I keep six honest
Kiplings lines are, or should be, familiar to every reporter and editor, even those who denounce the author as an imperialist. But I would add a seventh serving man To Whom (and damn the rhyme!). That sentiment has been growing for quite some time, but especially after the deaths of Ram Raj Singh, Piru Lal, Rajan Kumar, Gulab Rai and Nasir.
You might not recognise these unless you are a regular reader of the Delhi papers. But I doubt if you would do so even if you are a Delhiite. For the record, however, these are the five men killed in the early hours on Sunday, the tenth of January, 1999, when a BMW ploughed into them. The first three were members of the Home Guard assigned to augment the Delhi Police, the latter two were people who had been stopped at a police barricade.
I am uncomfortably aware such deaths are so common on Delhi that they wouldnt have rated a single column inch on the front page of any newspaper were it not for the identity of the man who was at the wheel of the BMW Sanjeev Nanda, grandson of a former Naval Chief of Staff and one of the citys many pampered brats. Nanda wasnt the only one to be arrested; he was accompanied to jail by Manik Kapoor who was in the car with him and four others.
Which others? Despite crashing into the Home Guards and the men they had stopped, Nanda didnt bother to stop. His first reaction was to steer to the nearby house of a schoolfellow. (Some reports say this fellow was also in the car.) There, the friend and, allegedly, his father ordered two servants to clean the BMW as best as they could. An alert policeman noticed the stream of water, wondered who could be washing a car so early on a cold winter morning, and the rest is history.
You cant blame servants for doing as they were told. But what about the others? Nanda isnt an illiterate idiot but someone months away from graduating from Wharton, one of the best management schools in the United States. Kapoor is studying in London. The indulgent Gupta, to whose house the BMW was traced, is an immensely successful businessman, and you can safely conclude that his son, Nandas and Kapoors obliging schoolfellow, isnt a dolt either.
Whatever their educational qualifications, their undoubted wealth, and their social position, none of the four come across as good human beings. Neither Nanda nor Kapoor thought of stopping to offer whatever aid they could. Neither of the Guptas appears to have thought twice of conniving to break the law. Were it not for an alert policeman the culprits might have escaped altogether.
But none of them sprang out of a vacuum; the Nanda, Gupta and Kapoor families are quite representative of upper-class Delhi. In fact, how many of us would remember the five deaths if it werent for the man responsible for killing them?
There is something seriously wrong when society at large is so concerned with the Who, the perpetrators, that we forget the To Whom the victims. By all accounts the cream of Delhi society came to comfort the accused when they were produced in court. Even the chiefs of the Home Guard werent present as their men set out on their last melancholy journey. Even editors found place for the dead only deep in their papers, reserving the headlines for the accused.
In other words, the elite
have already passed judgment: Nandas only crime
seems to have been getting caught. Who is tell them
otherwise? The police, or at least one conscientious man,
did their bit. Will the judiciary, also an elite body,
follow suit? Wait and watch.
FOR years in the corridors of South Block Gopalswamy Parthasarthy, Indias High Commissioner designate to Pakistan, was known as Chotta GP. His namesake, G. Parthasarthy, was one of Indias tallest diplomat and popularly known as GP but the much younger Parthasarthy often created crisis of identity. Many thought that he was son of the elder GP, some thought both were closely related. The fact was that they came from entirely different background; the elder belonged to Kerala while the younger hails from Tamil Nadu. Some bright guy in the External Affairs Ministry provided an instant solution and added Chotta before GP.
Incidentally, the elder GP was Indias High Commissioner in Pakistan at a very difficult time; from 1963 to 1965. Those were the last days of Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah was sent there by Nehru in his effort to improve Indo-Pak relations and extend his personal invitation to President Ayub Khan to visit New Delhi. GP was the key figure in this exercise. While the Sheikh was in Pakistan, Nehru passed away. The Kashmir leader cried like a child. That was the last week of May, 1964. A year after Pakistan declared war on India.
Chotta GP is posted to Pakistan 33 years after the elder GP handled so skilfully relations with Indias hostile neighbour at a very critical time. Relations with Islamabad is currently at the lowest ebb, particularly after the nuclear explosions by the two countries. Kashmir has bounced back on the international scene to Indias disadvantage but no cut and dry solution appears to be in sight to the 50-year-old dispute. The Kashmir problem notwithstanding strenuous efforts are being made to improve bilateral relations without much success. The role of Indias envoy in this backdrop will be crucial.
Assignment Pakistan is the most daunting challenge to Chotta GP in his 34-year-long diplomatic career. A twist of destiny has thrown Partha, as Parthasarthy is called by his friends, into the most tricky assignment. He was all set to end his diplomatic career as Indias High Commissioner in Australia and planning to his life after relinquishing the foreign service as the Central Government raised the age of retirement to 60.
Already having the experience of working in Pakistan as Consul- General in Karachi from 1982 to 1985, he was considered the most suitable choice to head Indias mission in Islamabad at a very difficult time. Partha was a popular Consul- General and Karachiwalas liked and admired him. This correspondent was witness to his popularity during a visit to Karachi in early 1984. Almost the entire local press corps and socially important persons turned up at Parthas house at a very short notice to meet a small group of journalists from Delhi. It was heartening to see the warmth and cordiality the Consul-General evoked as he mingled with them.
S.K. Singh, who had developed a personal rapport with President Zia, was Indias envoy in Islamabad when Partha was posted to Karachi. Chotta GP got the opportunity to work closely with S.K. Singh (popularly known as SK) for the second time when he became the Foreign Secretary. Having the longest tenure as Ambassador in Pakistan, SK feels that Indias representative has always an important role in Pakistan and Partha, in the present situation, is the ideal choice. He is straightforward, direct in approach to an issue, firm and shrewd, the former Foreign Secretary says.
The Indian envoy, says SK, has to play an important role in Pakistans politics as well and many of the ambassadors had developed one-to-one relationship with the head of the state. SK could himself call President Zia directly and meet him without following the official procedure. The first Indian envoy, Dr Sri Prakasha, a contemporary of Jawaharlal Nehru, was a friend of Liaqat Ali Khan. Yet another High Commissioner, Rajeshwar Dayal, was also a personal friend of President Ayub Khan. The relationship went back to pre-partition days; Dayal was District Magistrate of Mathura and Ayub Khan was a Captain in the Army and his posting at that time was at the temple town.
Parthas predecessors had been distinguished persons and brilliant foreign service officials, some of whom reached to the position of Foreign Secretary. They included Dr Sir Sitaram, G. Parthasarthy, Rajeshwar Dayal, Kewal Singh, Natwar Singh, S.K. Singh and J.N. Dikshit.
Now an important Congress leader, Natwar Singh, also feels that Partha is an apt choice to head Indias High Commission in Islamabad, particularly at present when things have gone from bad to worse. Going by his experience of Pakistan in the early eighties, Natwar Singh says: functioning in that country is like living in a glass house. Unlike India, every movement of Indian diplomats is watched and monitored. The atmosphere in not friendly particularly in Islamabad but things are somewhat congenial in Karachi and Lahore.
Partha came to the limelight when he was appointed the spokesman of the External Affairs Ministry in 1985. He came to good books of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and shifted to the PMO to deal with the media. He accompanied Rajiv Gandhi on most of his foreign trips, doing a lot of leg work along with another brilliant IFS officer, Ronen Sen who later became Indias Ambassador in Moscow. The most important trip of Rajiv was to China in December, 1988, resulting in a leap forward in the direction of improving India-China relations. Parthas contribution in making the China visit a success had been significant.
A home for
the toiling young
For a 13-year-old, Mahendra Kumar Sahu is extraordinarily enterprising. He quit washing dishes and serving tea at a roadside dhaba to set up his own business selling peanuts on the streets of Ranchi.
Mahendra had a role model in Laldev Kushwaha, two years his senior, who left the grinding work in a hotel to cook and sell Duska, a local vada-like savoury, about two years ago. He makes a tidy packet of Rs 1000-1200 a month, sends Rs 2000 home every three months and is easily the richest in his peer group.
Their new-found confidence can be traced to their life at Kalkari, a child rehabilitation-cum-educational centre the first home they have had since their parents abandoned them to the mercy of their employers.
Both Mahendra and Laldev, who belong to Hazaribagh district, were packed off at the tender age of nine and 10, respectively, to work in dhabas (roadside food stalls) at Ranchi so that their siblings back home could be fed. In the tribal dominated district of Ranchi, children are not farmed out as workers, for most people have land and there is more than enough work to do in the fields.
Child workers in the city usually hail from Hazaribagh and some from Palamau, one of the most backward districts. Parents bring them here and abandon them to the mercy of employers once they have ensured that the child is paid a minimal amount and the rest of the wages is either sent to them or saved till they come to collect it.
There are about 300 such children in Ranchi who work in its tea stalls and roadside dhabas. They are expected to put in a punishing 12 hours of work for a pittance of Rs 250-400 a month.
Most of them belong to the landless, scheduled or backward caste families of Hazaribagh. Most have four or five siblings back home and fathers who prefer getting drunk to earning for the large brood they have begotten.
The scene changed somewhat in 1995 when the district administration stepped in to regulate working hours and provide minimum education to these children as part of its drive for universalisation of education.
Out of this drive was born Kilkari, literally meaning a sound of joy, a rehabilitation-cum-educational centre.
Housed in a night shelter built for homeless workers of the city, Kilkari has a full-time caretaker and two instructors who come in every evening to teach the boarders for three hours.
The idea is to impart skills to the children so that they are able to get out of the backbreaking labour that has been thrust upon them, says Dr M.K. Jamuar, member-secretary, district education council and a founder member of Kilkari.
But, despite the patronage of the district administration, Kilkari has only 22 children living on the premises. They keep moving around. Some leave the city in search of better paying jobs, explains Rajeev Karan, assistant project officer.
Kilkari is not an institution that children can visit at will. It is a residential complex, with a kitchen and a dormitory that is enclosed on three sides, with a little room for boarders to store their belongings.
These children are not street children. Their needs are different. Earlier they slept at their workplaces and had little time to themselves. We have now enforced the eight-hour workday and we also keep tabs to ensure that they are not ill-treated by their employers, asserts Jamuar.
The common kitchen gets its supply of grains and pulses from the employers who were asked to make up for the less-than-statutory minimum wages they were doling out to the children. The District Administration and the Labour Ministry provide funds to pay teachers and to meet other sundry expenses. Philanthropic organisations chip in with gifts of blankets and sheets.
I dont pay anything for staying here, says 10-year-old Vinod Chaudhary, one of the youngest boys in the group and possibly the worst paid among them. He gets Rs 150 a month for working at a local hotel.
At the time of its inauguration in September, 1995, the then District Collector Rajeev Kumar had claimed that 19 more such centres would come up in the city in three months. Three years later there is only one Kilkari with a capacity to accommodate 50 children but running at less than half its capacity.
Even its early origins seem mired in administrative high-handedness. We had to physically throw out rickshaw-pullers from this night shelter to occupy the place, says Jamuar without any trace of remorse. We had to, because the administration had allotted us this place, he adds, firmly refusing to be drawn into a discussion on the rights of rickshaw-pullers.
However, Kilkari has opened up several possibilities for these children who have been left to fend for themselves. Tileshwar, who started working at a dhaba at the age of 10, is today caretaker at Kilkari. Two years ago he started a tea stall along with two other resident children and the joint venture is now fairly well established. We share the work and the profits, says Tileshwar with obvious pride. He is the only Kilkari inhabitant with a bank account to his name.
Recently, the television
set provided by the administration broke down and the
possibilities of its repair were nowhere in sight. So the
children dipped into their kitties and collectively
bought a brand new set for Rs 1800 a tall
declaration of independence by small children. WFS
Seaport in Baroda territory
GOOD progress has already
been made with the scheme of constructing a new harbour
near the island on the extreme north of Kathiawar coast
not far from Dwarka. The site selected lies in a
sheltered position where calm deep water obtains
comparatively near the shore.It is within a mile of
Adatra towards Dwarka. The harbour will be able to deal
with fairly good-sized steamers and when completed will
establish a seaport within the territory of the Maharaja
of Baroda and increase the trade with Kathiawar.
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