119 years of Trust M A I L B A G THE TRIBUNE
Saturday, March 13, 1999
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When Jinnah envisaged Indo-Pak friendship

  MR M A Jinnah visited Islamia College, Peshawar, in 1946 to campaign for creation of Pakistan. I was a student of agriculture in the college and have clear memories of the event. With his grand ability and sharp legal acumen, Mr Jinnah convinced the audience about the justification for creation of Pakistan, emphasising that after bringing Pakistan into existence, he would devote himself for creation of friendship between India and Pakistan for the well being and prosperity of the two countries. He assured everybody that there would be no exchange of population from one country to the other and all would enjoy equal rights, irrespective of their religious leanings. Khan Walli Khan, the veteran Pakhtoon leader, who was then a student and President of the Khyber Union in the college, can bear out these facts.

Unfortunately, Mr Jinnah did not live long to implement his resolves after the din and dust of the partition could settle down. The two countries passed through unbearable turmoils and tribulations which is a part of history. Some interested world powers succeeded in keeping the two sides in locked horns, sinking in the quagmire of hostilities with the help of some fanatics and criminal elements in both the countries, while the public and intelligentsia were thirsting for peace and friendship.

Luckily at long last, an era of goodwill has dawned on the horizon of the two countries when our Prime Ministers, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharif, have gripped each other’s hand for friendship instead of the clenched fist attitude which prevailed in the past. They have taken various measures to bring the two countries closer which are bearing fruit in accordance with the adage “Little strokes fell great oaks”. The success of their efforts is visible in starting a four-day weekly bus service between New Delhi and Lahore. The tumultuous scenes of joy were exhibited by the public and the government agencies on both sides between Amritsar and Lahore when the Prime Minister of India travelled to Lahore on the cordial invitation of his Pakistani counterpart to settle the contentious issues amicably by mutual discussions and understanding. The two sides are doing their very best in coming up to the expectations of the people of the two countries and to fulfil the aspirations of the Qaid-e-Azam and other leaders who freed the country from foreign yoke.


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Destitute children

As mentioned in the write-up “Children on sale” (“From here and there”, March 6), poverty-stricken parents sell their children off for a paltry sum.

It is a pity that even after over five decades of independence, crores of people live below the poverty line.

Shabbily dressed barefoot children are seen picking pieces of iron, glass and waste papers from streets, roads and dumps, or scrubbing utensils in hotels and houses of affluent people and filling their stomaches, quite often, with the left-over meals, etc. A large number of such ill-starred children are capable of acquiring education, but the poor parents cannot send them to schools.

Some parents, reeling under abject poverty, kill their children and then commit suicide to get rid of starvation. In many cases, poor young women and girls are sexually exploited by their employers.

The trauma, undergone by the parents, driven by love for the offspring, on the sale of their children for petty amounts, can be better imagined than expressed. Is not poverty a curse? An Urdu bard has rightly said: Jab tak insaan ki jeb khaali hai/Zindagi ik ghaleez gaali hai (Till the pocket of a human being is empty, life is like a filthy abuse).

I wonder, “Jinhein naaz hai Hind par voh kahaan hain?”


Why blame bankers?

Recently when 12.5 lakh bankers went on a two day strike, the Ministry of Finance and the Indian Banks Association virtually said: “Go on strike, my foot” Bankmen have been compelled to go on strike owing to failure of talks between the IBA and the United Forum of Banks. If the IBA says we have no money and government endorses the same then what right have the Ministers got to live like “Maharajas”?

The IBA holds banks responsible for increasing NPAS. If most of the banks are not in a position to maintain capital adequacy rate, it is the government and not the bankers who are responsible. Who arranged the loot of “loan mela”? Who introduced loan waiving schemes? Who is responsible for introducing government sponsored schemes where in absence of any security recovery is nil? It is the politicians and politicians alone who have played with bank money just to be in power. When IBA chief blames the banks for poor performance then why does he forget the deposit growth which has gone to 95749 crores in 1998 from 38524 crores in 1996.

No employee in a poor nation like India is interested in the luxury of agitation until he is compelled. Two day’s wage cut means crores of rupees to government coffers. In present times when eating “dal roti” has become a luxury no employee wants to go on strike at the cost of wage cut.

It is high time the government considered the legitimate demands of bankmen. If not then they should also start living like “babus” so that they may come to know how “babus” keep their body and soul together.


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No credentials

I am obliged to Prof. Prithipal Singh Kapur for the trouble he has taken to emphasise what he sees as the positive side of the history and achievements of the Shiromani Akali Dal. Unfortunately, neither history nor facts on record can be cited in favour of his argument. The name of the first president of the Shiromani Akali Dal as Sarmukh Singh Jhabal, according to Prof. Kapur, is not endorsed by any of the historians of the Shiromani Akali Dal nor even by the Encyclopaedia of Sikhism of which currently the learned professor happens to be the Editor-in-Chief.

I did not use the word “confused” or “manmukh” in any pejorative sense. The confusion about the nativity of the Shiromani Akali Dal is obvious. “Manmukh” or self-centredness or being guided by one’s own mind is a natural state of human beings. It is one in millions who is fortunate in being guided by the Almighty or the Guru in his daily life. There is no identifiable Guru-centred personality who can be said to have guided the decision to launch the Shiromani Akali Dal as a political party of the Sikhs nor even the “hukamnama” of the Guru on that occasion has been preserved in the archieves of the Shiromani Akali Dal.

These and other facts go to prove that the Shiromani Akali Dal has no credentials to assume the mantle of the Khalsa Panth.


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Tax burden

State governments are empowered to enact legislations for levying sales tax. However, this power conferred by the Constitution on the States is subject to the condition that the transaction is a sale under which there is a transfer of property in the goods. The only test of a levy is whether it is covered by wording of the statute because a notification issued by any competent authority under the law cannot override the efficacy of legislative intent.

Irrespective of wide powers conferred on legislatures to bring within the ambit of sales tax any sale transactions, Sales Tax Acts of all the states have a long list of items which have been exempted from levy of sales tax right from enactment of the statutes. The framers of sales tax law, in their wisdom, must have thought it appropriate to do so in larger public interest. If legislature in any state wants to impose sales tax on any item hitherto falling within the list of exempted goods, its will should not be governed merely by powers vested in it. Finding ways and means to mop up more revenue is, undoubtedly necessary, but every such move must have some rationale behind it. It should not overlook spirit behind basic features of originally enacted law.

Excise and Taxation Department, U.T., Chandigarh has, on February 3, 1999, issued draft notifications proposing to amend Schedule B appended to Punjab General Sales Tax Act, 1948 as applicable to Chandigarh. Draft amendments are aimed at bringing into tax net certain items which are tax free. There is a proposal to levy tax @ 8% on exercise and drawing books. If these items were originally kept outside the purview of sales tax, it might have been done with a view not to put extra burden on vast majority of poor parents who would like to send their wards to schools. These items are not liable to tax in any other state in the country. In view of possible objective behind the exemption, the proposed levy is against the interests of those who are already burdened with unprecedented price rise of essential commodities.

The move to bring radiologists within the ambit of sales tax law through another notification of February 3 is not permitted under sales tax law. X-Ray photographs are in exemption list and no other state has imposed sales tax. The Orissa High Court in the case of Dr Golak Behari Mohanty Vs. State Of Orissa (1974) 33 Sales Tax Cases 514 held: “The primary object of a patient approaching a radiologist is not transfer of title of X-Ray photograph, but technical advice which the radiologist gives on the basis of his readings from the X-Ray photograph. No sale is involved under the law.” Apart from legal interpretation, it so appears from viewpoint of commonsense that framers of law rightly excluded X-Ray photographs from the levy under sales tax law.

The current proposal includes levy on motor spirit also. Motor spirit is already very highly priced in India comparing to its price in international market. There is no justification to further escalate petrol prices.

In the light of spirit behind enacted law and legal interpretation, Chandigarh Administration would do well to withdraw the proposed notifications in larger public interest.



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