|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Monday, July 26, 1999
films (not seeing) is compulsory
parents were troop entertainers
For princes and rich men only
A half-hearted review
BY ordering an inquiry into the entire gamut of the Kargil affair, the BJP-led ruling alliance has sought to achieve two objectives. The first is to silence the opposition, particularly the Congress, criticism that there had been intelligence failure and that the government was trying to hush it up. The second is to project the governments record in initiating timely action, both on the military and diplomatic fronts to vacate the intrusion within a short time. But there is a third, and a crucial, objective and the government has decided to ignore it. Kargil is a national issue and should have been treated as such if the government is serious about not politicising it. For that it should have sounded, if not consulted, the opposition before announcing the inquiry. This is particularly relevant to the Congress which has accused the government of not acting on timely warning of a possible intrusion by Pakistan based on field reports. Involving the party in the formation of the inquiry panel would have neutralised the charge. And that is necessary in these pre-election days if the achievement of the jawans, at considerable cost in terms of human lives, is not debased to whip up cheap emotions and secure undeserved votes.
This is not the only
demerit of the inquiry decision.The panel consists of
three respected specialists and inevitably a bureaucrat.
No one will doubt their competence or non-partisanship
and their findings will be keenly awaited. The government
has not fixed any terms of reference, as is the practice
with non-statutory commissions of inquiry. By the same
token, the government is not under any obligation to
place the report on the table of the House, as it
happened to the Henderson-Brooks report on the
Sino-Indian border clashes in 1962. That report never saw
the light of the day. What is striking about the inquiry
decision is the context and timing. Only a day earlier
the Prime Minister had denied any intelligence failure
and hence by implication rejected any inquiry. On the
same day though, two Union Cabinet members had not only
committed the government to an inquiry but challenged the
opposition to face it. That was the trademark speaking in
two voices. Obviously the government opted for a review
the official term and not inquiry in view
of the stridency of opposition criticism and the release
of military documents by the Congress. This last
development suggests that there are a few elements who
would like to embarrass the political leadership for the
unusually large number of casualties in a short and
localised fighting as the one in Kargil. And that is
Now, Chautalas khichri
MR Om Prakash Chautala, who now holds the reins of power in Haryana, enjoys a dubious reputation of heading short-lived governments. His first term as Chief Minister lasted less than six months (December 2, 1989, to May 22, 1990). The INLD leader's second stint was only for five days (July 12 to July 16, 1990). He lost the top post for the third time within a fortnight (March 22, 1991, to April 5, 1991). He has now grabbed the gaddi for the fourth time after prolonged haggling and behind-the-scene bargaining with groups of different shades and hues. Whether he will be lucky this time and complete the remaining term of the Assembly of about two years seems doubtful. Just look at the permutation and combination of the power-sharing business. The state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party with 10 legislators was part of Mr Bansi Lal's outfit the Haryana Vikas Party (HVP) till Saturday morning. It has now switched its loyalty to the INLD which has a strength of 22 MLAs. The breakaway HVP (D) with 15 members was part of the outgoing Chief Minister's HVP. The dissidents have dumped one Jat leader in favour of another. The six Independents have gone along with Mr Chautala. Theoretically, this should provide the new Chief Minister with a comfortable majority of 53 members in the Assembly with an effective strength of 87. Fortyfour is the magic figure required for a majority. Haryana's politics, however, does not follow dotted lines. It is always a tricky business with individual ambitions having a free play. In any case, the fear of facing the next elections has kept most of the MLAs in Mr Chautala's coalition together. They are obviously not sure if they will be able to win the election next time. They would, therefore, prefer to make hay while the sun of power shines.
Mr Chautala has promised
a clean and stable government. He has also said that
"maintaining law and order, protection of citizens
from anti-social elements and providing them with power
and water" will be the immediate concern of his
government. These no doubt reflect good intentions. But
in today's politics, these are hardly taken seriously. Mr
Chautala has built a certain reputation for himself which
is far from flattering to him. He has several dark spots
in his political career which cannot be erased. We are
also not sure of his concept of a clean and stable
government. The sort of politics being practised in
Haryana these days can hardly be called
"clean". For that matter, even the concept of
stability has got distorted in an atmosphere where party
and group loyalties change for a consideration. The
64-year-old Jat leader, who traces his political roots to
his father, former Deputy Prime Minister Devi Lal, will
have to make a fresh beginning if he means to implement
the promises he has held out to the people. If he wants
to project a clean image of himself, he will have to
start with a clean slate. Building a clean image in
politics is not an easy exercise. It will be all the more
difficult for Mr Chautala whose past deeds still haunt
Haryana's sensitive citizens. Viewed in this light, it
will be interesting to watch his moves to protect the
citizen from "anti-social elements" who have of
late multiplied in Haryana from the infamous days of
CARETAKER GOVTS LIMITATIONS
HARDLY a day passes without a leak in the Press about the confrontation between the President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, and his caretaker Council of Ministers over one issue or another. The main burden of these leaks is that, while the President would like the caretaker ministry to realise the limitations of its temporary office, the Vajpayee government is behaving as if it were a full-fledged government.
The most disturbing aspect is the leak itself. The Constitution is very clear on the point: The question whether any and if so what advice was tendered by Ministers to the President, shall not be inquired into any court. This position has been confirmed by the Supreme Court, with the rider that the materials on which the advice of the Cabinet was based could be looked into, by the court.
As a journalist, I cannot cavil at leaks these do provide interesting copy put what worries me is the motive of those behind the leaks. Successive governments have declared their intention to have a new Information Act but none has lived long enough to implement it. But when it suits them, they themselves leak out what they have written to the President or what the latter has written to them.
The other day The Hindu published a very curious item on the subject. Apparently, it represented the Rashtrapati Bhavan point of view. It sought to make out the case that, despite notes being exchanged between Rashtrapati Bhavan and South Block, there was really no confrontation between the President and the Council of Ministers.
It was true, said the paper, that Rashtrapati Bhavan in recent weeks had found itself constrained to convey its reservations and queries in a number of matters, such as the desirability of convening a Rajya Sabha session, the propriety of the telecom package or the appointment of a new Chief Justice for West Bengal. But, the paper added, the relationship between the President and the Prime Minister was correct, that the ministers were routinely seeing him. These were strictly within the framework of the constitutional parameters, which had been accentuated by the caretaker status of the government.
It must be conceded that the nation is faced with an entirely new situation. No caretaker government was ever required to conduct an undeclared war or to take other vital decisions, which, ordinarily, is best left to an elected government to tackle.
Clearly, the President was within his rights in suggesting the convening of a session of the Rajya Sabha in order to consider the Kargil issue. I have argued elsewhere that, with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, the edifice on which the Council of Ministers stands collapses because it can live only so long as it enjoys collectively the confidence of the House. With the House itself wound up, the Council of Ministers cannot and does not survive.
If the President asks the outgoing Prime Minister to hold the fort it is because he has to have a Council of Ministers to aid and advise him in the discharge of his functions. And, following the British convention, the outgoing Prime Minister is asked to do the job.
If the constitution-makers had wanted a defeated government to have the same powers as it had during an undissolved House they could have easily said so. They did want a sort of continuity between one Lok Sabha and the next and hence provided that, even after the dissolution of the House, the Speaker shall not vacate the office until immediately before the first meeting of the House after the dissolution. Had they wanted similar continuity for the outgoing ministry, they could easily have said so.
It is a fact that as Presidents, Mr Sanjeeva Reddy and Mr R. Venkataraman did lay down the Lakshman rekha beyond which a caretaker ministry could not go. And by and large Chaudhary Charan Singh and Mr Chandra Shekhar respected the presidential wishes.
Whether there are real compulsions for the Vajpayee government in taking some vital economic and other decisions, would depend upon ones point of view. For instance, the President is reported to have told the government to leave the question of new telecom policy for the elected government to handle. The government has let it be known, through leaks, that the PMO is preparing a detailed note to justify the telecom decision. On the other hand, the leftist parties have alleged that the new policy is nothing but a scandal involving crores of rupees.
It appears that, should the government persist with its view and merrily keep taking vital decisions, there is little that the President can do. What must be realised is that the only constitutional check against the arbitrariness of the President is his impeachment nearly impossible in a fractured Lok Sabha. And the only check to the arbitrariness of a Council of Ministers is loss of power through elections.
Parliamentary democracy in the country can simply not survive if constitutional morality is totally abandoned. That is why it is necessary that a caretaker government should consult the President before taking vital decisions. Consultation need not mean concurrence. What is suggested is better give-and-take between the President and his Council of Ministers.
In any case, both Rashtrapati Bhavan and South Block would do well to prevent leaks and ministers would do well to refrain from publicly commenting on the Presidents observations or decisions.
A case in point is Mr
Jethmalani being upset over the President declining to
approve the appointment of a new Chief Justice for the
Calcutta High Court. He conceded that the President might
have good reasons for it, if so why this public comment.
Surely if Mr Jethmalani has not read it himself, someone
would have told him that, according to one newspaper, the
President had agreed to the removal of Mr Kidwai as
Governor on the condition that no new Governor would be
appointed until a new government was formed. This perhaps
explains why he has allowed the appointment of a Governor
in a North-Eastern region but had put his foot down on
the appointment of a Governor for West Bengal or Bangla
as the state is proposed to be called.
Amoeba called the Janata Dal
ELEVEN years ago, in 1988, inspired by the victory of Mr Vishwanath Pratap Singh in the Allahabad byelection, diverse political forces came together to form the Janata Dal, a new incarnation of the Grand Alliance of the early seventies, sans the flag-bearers of the erstwhile Jana Sangh, now the Bharatiya Janata Party. Though the BJP had won only two seats in the 1984 Lok Sabha elections, in 1987 the party, then under the presidentship of Mr Lal Krishan Advani, had set the target of the year 2000 for it to come to power in New Delhi. Apart from the Allahabad, development, the triumph of Mr Devi Lal in the 1987 Haryana state elections was also a factor in the formation of the Janata Dal the partys green flag was perhaps inspired by Haryanas Green Brigade.
The Janata Dal put up the facade of being a secular party. Thus, in the election campaign of 1989 though there was a tactical alliance between the Janata Dals Wheel symbol and the BJPs Lotus on the one hand and the green Wheel and the Left Fronts red banner on the other, Mr V.P. Singh, while sharing the Bofors-centred diatribe with these diametrically opposed forces, refused to share a platform with the BJP. At certain places in Uttar Pradesh two dais had to be set up, one for Mr V.P. Singh and the other for his right-wing allies, who, incidentally had no qualms about accepting the strange arrangement because in effect the Janata Dal was reversing the untouchability factor which had triggered the collapse of the first successful non-Congress endeavour on the national plain the Janata Party of 1977.
The Wheel symbol has now become a centre of dispute. While the JD President, Mr Sharad Yadav, has sided with his former mentor in the erstwhile Samyukta Socialist Party (SSP), Mr George Fernandes (now leader of the Samata Party), and decided to be with the faction of JD which is knocking at the doors of the BJP-led ruling National Democratic Alliance, Mr H.D.Deve Gowda has been elected leader of the faction which prefers to distance itself from the BJP. Incidentally, while most former SSP elements (minus Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mr Laloo Yadav who were in diverse camps) are now with Mr George Fernandes, Mr Deve Gowdas party has most former Praja Socialist Party (PSP) members. Thus the Socialist divide of the fifties between the followers of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia and Acharya Narendra Dev has been somewhat revived, albeit in different circumstances.
The latest split in the Janata Dal has perhaps lent credence to two points of criticism voiced by Congress propagandists over the past decade. One, the JD is like an amoeba, which splits and multiplies and again comes together to split yet again. Two, there is the more damaging formulation, made during the 1993 Assembly elections and repeated only recently, that the JD is a Trojan Horse of the BJP. The second charge, made apparently out of reasons of pure rhetoric, has suddenly come out to be true, at least partially. Thus, the tall talk of social justice and secularism has been abandoned at the altar of realpolitik.
To understand the intricacies of the present scenario the eagerness of a section of the JD to align itself with the BJP and the BJPs reluctance to embrace its new allies one has to go a little over a quarter century back into history. The 1967 general election was a watershed. It was the first election minus Jawaharlal Nehru. It was also the first election in which the Congress faced a near rout. It was wiped out of power in all the states from Punjab to West Bengal. The Grand Trunk Road was free of Congress rule. The year 1967 also threw up giant killers Mr Fernandes of the SSP, who defeated S.K. Patil in Bombay South; Manohar Lal Sondhi of the Jana Sangh, who vanquished Mehar Chand Khanna in New Delhi; J.M. Biswas of the CPI, who defeated Atulya Ghosh in Bankura, et al. Of these, only Mr Fernandes is still at the centrestage. The entry of Indira Gandhi into the arena triggered a split in the Congress and that acted as a catalyst for moves for anti-Congress unity among the parties which, by then, had spent two decades on the Opposition benches of the Lok Sabha. The result was the Grand Alliance.
Indira Gandhi gracefully survived the onslaught of the Grand Alliance in 1971 her victory in Bangladesh was to follow her electoral glory. The elections in 13 states held in 1972 after the Bangladesh victory saw Indira Gandhi consolidating her political adjustment with the CPI and yet another round of rout for the Grand Alliance. The Emergency of 1975 changed everything. The combined Opposition forged an alliance in the jails, and the result was a one-to-one fight between the Congress and the members of the erstwhile Grand Alliance in the 1977 elections which, for the first time, saw the Congress winning just over 150 Lok Sabha seats and the emergence of the Janata government led by Morarji Desai.
The word Janata incidentally was used for the first time during the Lok Sabha byelection at Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh in early 1975. The seat had been held by the Congress without a break since 1952. The byelection was caused by the death of Seth Govind Das, a great proponent of the Hindi language, who had been winning this seat since 1957. The combined Opposition chose a young Samajwadi Yuvajan Sabha activist, Mr Sharad Yadav, as the Janata candidate. He won. Combined with the Gujarat Navnirman movement and the JP movement in Bihar, the Jabalpur result electrified the political atmosphere. (Mr Sharad Yadav was also the combined Oppositions candidate against Rajiv Gandhi in the 1981 Amethi byelection he lost.)
The anti-Congress unity which manifested itself after the formation of the Morarji Desai government with the launching of the Janata Party on May 1, 1977, was a shortlived affair. The question of dual membership the loyalty of members of the erstwhile Jana Sangh to the RSS brought the Morarji Desai government down in 1979. The Sangh Parivar finally parted company with the Janata Party after the 1980 Lok Sabha elections and contested the state elections that year by floating the BJP. Since then for the non-Sangh Janata leaders the BJP has been a taboo. There have been endless attempts at launching a third front a force other than the Congress and the BJP.
Wheel has come full circle. The latest split
in the Janata Dal perhaps symbolises the collapse of the
third front bid, the presence of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav
and Mr Sharad Pawars respective outfits in the
political spectrum notwithstanding. While the JD split
has rung the alarm bells in the BJP, this may be sweet
music for the Congress. Under Mrs Sonia Gandhi the party
has been moving from one political miscalculation to
another, Haryana being the latest in the series. However,
it may be comforting for the party to think that even in
its present dilapidated condition the Congress can be the
fulcrum for unity of diverse forces arraigned against it.
Showing films (not seeing) is compulsory
CAN the government force cinema halls to show a short documentary or news film, say, for instance, on Kargil, before the real Bollywood stuff comes on?
Threatened by video and television and struggling to revive their business, cinema owners say no. Mindful of the national and public interest, and constitutional limitations on free trade and free speech, the Supreme Court says yes.
Requiring an entertainment medium like cinema theatre, ruled the court on July 15, to show for a short duration of its programme, films which educate and impart information cannot be considered as an unreasonable restriction on the right to carry on business.
Nor do compulsory films infringe the freedom of speech and expression. When there is adult franchise without literacy, said the court in an important social statement, it becomes all the more necessary that information and ideas reach the population. To earmark a small portion of time of this entertainment medium for showing such films, therefore, is designed to further free speech and expression and not to curtail it.
The logic of the statement applies with equal force to television, or cable television, and its practical significance in a country of Indias size and population should not be underestimated. As a matter of fact, the Bench, speaking through Justice (Mrs) Sujata Manohar, cites the latest American decision on cable television, the Turner Broadcasting Systems case of 1997, in support of the view that it has taken.
Its juristic significance lies also in the fact that a totally different view of the matter was taken by the Supreme Court 45 years ago at the dawn of the Constitution.
Striking down a condition in a cinema owners licence that he shall exhibit at each show in his theatre an approved film of such length and for such length of time as the government may direct, a Constitution Bench of the court had in the year 1954 observed:
Neither the length of the film nor the period of time for which it may be shown is specified in the condition, and the government is vested with an unregulated discretion to compel a licensee to exhibit a film which may.... exhaust the whole of the time or the major portion of it intended for each performance. (It may) compel a licensee to exhibit an approved film, say for an hour and a half or even 2 hours.
A condition couched in such wide language, said the court, is bound to operate harshly upon the cinema business and cannot but be regarded as an unreasonable restriction. It savours more of the nature of an imposition than a restriction.
An opinion more suspicious than practical which government would compel a cinema hall to show a documentary or news film so long that it would leave no time for the main film for which the audience had purchased tickets? it reflected a libertarian judicial approach rather unusual for those incipient times. The present judgement restores the balance.
When a substantially significant population body is illiterate, it says, or does not have easy access to ideas or information, it is important that all available means of communication, particularly audio-visual communication, are utilised not just for entertainment but also education, information, propagation of scientific ideas and the like.
The best way by which ideas can reach this large body of uneducated people is through what the court calls the entertainment channel. Meaning the cinema as entertainment, though the term easily covers television as well. It is this channel which can legitimately be used by the government to educate and inform the people.
The nature of the film (scientific, educational or news film or other documentary) and the short duration (generally 15 to 20 minutes) for which it is to be shown are designed, the Bench holds, to further the public purpose of dissemination of information and knowledge. And if that be a little abstract, the court slips in a reference to the need to educate the general public on issues of national or general importance to enable them to function effectively in the democratic framework of this country.
Compulsory films, adds the Bench, broadening the jurisprudential framework of the argument, are no different than other forms of compulsory speech or must carry provisions in a statute, rule or regulation.
Cigarette cartons, for example, must carry a statutory warning that smoking is injurious to health. So also with food products. Any food product must carry on its package the list of ingredients used in its preparation and its total weight. In either case, the information is intended to enable the user to make a correct decision as to whether he should use the product or not. Such mandatory provisions even though they compel speech cannot be viewed as a restraint on the freedom of speech and expression.
Neither, for that reason, can compulsory films.
At a time when
entertainment has been swamped by advertisement, the
cinema has gone violently astray and the nation has just
come out of Kargil (or has it?), the Supreme Court has
done well to remind us that not all compulsion is bad.
Martyrs parents were troop entertainers
THREE deaths have left a depressing dent this week. The arrival of Captain Haneefuddins body, 44 days after he was shot in the Turtuk sector put an end to all speculations that he could have been alive and the media turned its attention to the grieving mother and his two brothers, staying in a middle class East Delhi apartment building, Kala Vihar. Probings reveal that both Haneefuddins mother Hema and his deceased father Aziz had earlier worked for the Song & Drama Division and thats the place they had initially met and married. And in the 60s this couple had been part of those troupes which had travelled to the border areas, performing for our troops posted in those areas. From the Song & Drama Division Hema had moved to Kathak Kendra but resigned as one of her friends says on grounds of certain principles, thereafter played the vocalists role for many a dancer. Haneefuddins two brothers are also into music Samir, the elder one teaches in a school whilst the younger one Nafis was just about to cut his first disc when this tragedy struck.
And the news of the death of John F Kennedy Jr again brought about pained reactions, especially from people who had the chance of interacting with him whilst he was in India, on two occasions. Retracing events tucked away memory, says Khushwant Singh, When he had last come here he was often spotted running/jogging in the Lodi gardens ...I had invited him over for dinner to my home. And in the guest list I took care to invite several politicians and three pretty women. Surprisingly he didnt even once talk to the women and spent the entire evening talking to the politicians .......it isnt that the women didnt try to converse with him but it seemed that he just didnt take note of them, chatting only with the politicians ...I watched it all with much amusement. And though John was alone on this trip but it seems that later he was joined by his mother Jacqueline, for Khushwant Singh adds that he had met Jacqueline during one of the flights to Hyderabad and found her to be not only very plain looking but looking strained and lost.
And on Friday came the news of the passing away of Hakeem Abdul Hameed, who was not just the founder chancellor of Jamia Hamdard University but the man who had put the Unani System on par with the rest. He revived all those herbal drinks (Roohafza included) and medicinal potions and could diagnose the health of the person simply by feeling the pulse. One of those men who whilst remaining completely apolitical managed to set up several educational institutions, tried to bridge the communal divide so much so that probably he was the only Muslim to host Holi milans with the same enthusiasm as hed host Id milans. And after Mahatma Gandhi probably the only Indian to dress up so very austerely so as to possess two or three darned shervanis and he took pride in stating that he darned those himself. In fact, here let me also add that whilst doing a feature on bedrooms/bedroom habits of several known personalities, during which the Hakeems bedroom also had to be covered, one was amazed to find nothing much in its confines two or three faded and darned shervanis, a takht, a table and chair. When I queried about the bare floors he hastened to stress that rugs and carpets are the basic source of bacteria and dust in a home, so their use should be avoided .... He was one of those who till the last few years jogged at Shantipath at the crack of dawn, believed in working 20 hours a day and living on only one cooked meal a day.
A lost looking Sahib Singh and....
The only time I have
seen a politician looking lost and unsure was when I
spotted Delhis former Chief Minister Sahib Singh
Verma at the Iraqi National day celebrations here, on
July 16 evening. His entry and departure went unnoticed
by most even though his burly physique towered above the
rest. He came in late and realizing that he had not been
recognized went straight towards the cuisine spread. And
though at this stage some of the hotel staff did react
but without eating much he made a quick exit. And here I
must add that one marvels at the sheer enthusiasm of the
Vice President of India for, for each national day
reception he is the chief guest/guest of honour (even the
French and the Iraqi national day he was the guest of
honour). Another regular at such receptions is the
spirited Somalian ambassador, Mohamed Osman Omar. At the
Iraqi evening he regaled with his fluent Hindi, confessed
to a love for dancing into the wee hours, and also put
forth arguments against family planning! I have
seven children and an equal number of grandchildren.
However, I have calculated that each of my children
should have five kids in turn. That makes it 35
grandchildren! Ah! That would make me a satisfied
grandfather he sighed wistfully. And on part of the
Iraqi diplomats the talks did get focused on the ongoing
sanctions and the hardships in their wake they
stated that the latest UNICEF reports confirm that 250
children under the age of 5 years are dying everyday in
Iraq because of lack of baby food, no medicines and
medical equipment for treatment. So much so that the
present Iraqi ambassador to India Salah Al Mukhtars
10-year- old son had to have a tooth extracted without
anaesthesia, in a Baghdad hospital. And in the midst of
this turmoil the Iraqis are determined to carry on with
their cultural traditional of holding the Babylon
Festival in October. Why? Because we feel that
cultural activities should never get affected even in the
harshest of times ...we also want to prove to the world
that the US designs have failed and though we are living
under very tough conditions but still surviving as free
citizens and not as slaves of the dictates of the USA.
For us proud Iraqis it will always be a case of
Freedom before Food.
princes and rich men only
THIS Yakuti or life-giving nectar has been prepared from the best, choicest, and richest vegetable drugs. It has wonderful properties or increasing virile power and it rectifies urinary disorders. In fact, it makes man a man.
This valuable medicine is used in large quantities not only by our Rajas, Maharajas, Nawabs and many of the nobility, aristocracy and gentry in this country but it is greatly patronised by people in all countries of Europe, America, Asia and Africa.
It is needless to expatiate upon the magical qualities of this invaluable medicine.
We recommend it especially to those persons who desire to tone the nervous system, to strengthen the body, refresh the memory, and to guard against debility. Suffice it to say that the use of this medicine is recommended to those who have any faith in Ayurvedic medicines.
It works like a charger
and the effect is lasting. It replaces lost power and
rejuvenates the emaciated and it is enough to say that
musk is not that which a perfumer admires. It is that
which diffuses fragrance of its own accord. Price per tin
containing 40 pills, Rupees 10 only.
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