|E D I T O R I A L
P A G E
Saturday, May 1, 1999
ambitions & vanities
programmes face competition
Judicial air freshener
GREEN activist M.C. Mehta can claim another important victory for the people of Delhi suffering the consequences of increased vehicular and industrial pollution. According to a study conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment, one out of 15 residents in Delhi is likely to get cancer because industrial pollution has gone up four times and vehicular pollution eight times in the past 20 years. The alarming increase in the number of asthmatics in the National Capital Region too can be traced to the increased level of pollution. The Supreme Court on Thursday responded positively to Mr Mehtas petition for phasing out the use of heavy emission non-commercial vehicles from the NCR. Although the Government of India had notified April, 2005, for switching over to Euro II emission norms, the apex court agreed with the contention of the petitioner that the process of switching over to the use of safe fuels should be expedited. The three-judge Bench ordered a ban on the registration of private non-commercial vehicles without Euro II emission norms in the NCR from April, 2000, and those without Euro I emission norms from June 1, 1999. The order is likely to have a negative impact on the already recession-hit automobile sector. Maruti Udyog Limited is said to be the leader of the pack of automobile manufacturers who have been slow in introducing international emission norms.
The phasing out of
20-year and 15-year-old commercial vehicles and the ban
on diesel-run taxis have already helped reduce the level
of pollution in the NCR. A faithful implementation of the
apex courts latest order would earn for the
judiciary and the green lawyer another round of
well-deserved applause. In fact, happy days may be back
in the NCR sooner than expected due to the increased
public awareness for the need to fight pollution and the
decision of the Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL) to
increase the number of compressed natural gas fuel
outlets for vehicle owners. GAIL has promised to expedite
the setting up of 80 new CNG outlets to meet the
increasing demand for what is being marketed as the green
fuel of the future. There is no reason why CNG should not
drive out of the NCR diesel and petrol driven vehicles.
The fuel is not only eco-friendly but also easy on the
pocket. The cost of running a car on CNG works out to
about 60 paise per kilolitre compared to 1.60 for petrol
and about 80 paise for diesel. Environmentalists in the
region too should petition the Punjab and Haryana High
Court for directing the authorities in their jurisdiction
for the implementation of the orders on public transport
norms for plying of commercial vehicles and time-bound
implementation of Euro I and Euro II emission norms in
the NCR. After all, a disturbing increase in the level of
atmospheric pollution caused by vehicular emissions is
not limited to Delhi. If Chandigarh were to implement the
Delhi norms, it would be putting a stitch in time to save
FIRST a stinging political reversal and now a potentially punishing court trial. For AIADMK Amma Jayalalitha, the past fortnight has been a nightmare. It did not start so menacingly. Quite the contrary. She flew into Delhi very much like later-day royalty, hogged the limelight, pulled the plug on the BJP-led government and put on the airs of being a king-maker, a worthy successor to the late and much lamented Kamaraj. When it all ended, she was alone, with her plans in tatters and future uncertain. As she vacated her Rs 30,000-a-day suite in a five-star hotel, there was no television camera to even capture her 48 suitcases. The court will frame charges on May 10 and soon it will be time for day-to-day hearing. That is how special courts function and her efforts to stall the proceedings by making repeated appeals to higher courts have so far failed. Ms Jayalalithas last hope lies in the Supreme Court allowing her revision petition. But the background is rather grim. The Attorney General has told the court that a crucial Central Government notification in her favour did not have the prior approval of the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court, which is mandatory. He also admitted before the court that on this ground alone the court could reject the notification. All this before she performed the trapeze act in the political circus in Delhi. Now she is friendless in the Capital and the government in her state is openly hostile.
The case is difficult to
defend. As one reporter put it picturesquely, Chief
Minister Jayalalitha sold to businesswomen Jayalalitha
several acres of land in Chennai at bargain basement
price. Senior bureaucrats and one former Minister are
involved and the prosecutor hopes to elicit clinching
evidence from some key witnesses. Once she is
chargesheeted, she will find it difficult to stand for
election under the new rules. That is a legal hurdle.
Charges of corruption itself do not matter much. After
all, her party won last Lok Sabha elections in a big way
after she spent some time in jail precisely on this
ground. In other words, the coming court case does not
pose an immediate political challenge. With her attention
riveted on planning her legal defence, and her political
plans unravelling in Delhi, Ms Jayalalithas
troubles seem to have just begun. Even if the Congress
accepts her as an electoral ally, it will be on its terms
and she has to agree to play a minor role at the national
level. She is as big a loser in the Delhi farce as
anyone. Only that nobody sympathises with her.
THE Rabri Devi government in Bihar has gone on a transferring and reshuffling spree, causing grave administrative instability in the state. What began as a two-day selective but massive reorganisation exercise on April 25 is continuing with rapidity and vehemence. In the fourth major reshuffle on Thursday yet another lot of 33 senior officials were displaced. Like autumn or summer there is no transfer season in Bihar. The ongoing summary destabilisation of officials, usually familiar with their areas of work and the composition of the population (generally divided on caste lines), has pre-electoral overtones. That an election would be announced soon became clear on April 25 when the Congress and the Left Front apprised the President of their "inability" to form an alternative government at the Centre. The return of Mr Laloo Yadav from the Union Capital spurred the shifting process of "pliable and committed" officers. Even the Chief Secretary, the Home Commissioner and the Director-General of Police were not spared. Among those who were chosen subsequently for the new dispensation were District Magistrates, Deputy Commissioners and Superintendents of Police. Now the turn of less influential functionaries has come. The game-plan is clear: Post such persons as have been helpful to the Laloo-Rabri regime in sensitive places and subvert the electoral process from the subdivisional level to the district level.
A thorough evaluation of
the list of the transferred officers is called for. Those
who had been censured or criticised by the Election
Commission for indulging in irregularities at poll time
as Returning Officers earlier should attract immediate
attention. It is a pity that the existing laws cannot do
enough to curb such apparent aberrations. Since the dates
of the poll have not been notified, the Election
Commission would not like to intervene. The Governor is
too aloof a person to recommend the cancellation of the
transfers that have heavily motivated malignity behind
them. He has to approach the President or the Chief
Election Commissioner through the proper channel, which
happens to be the Rabri cabinet. The caretaker Central
government would look partisan if it makes a move against
this Rabri-Laloo self-exceeding. One thing is clear.
Bihar is going to face a disturbed and crafty election.
The transfer issue is just the tip of the iceberg. By the
time of the actual poll, the traumatised society will, in
all probability, try to rid itself of the imposed
uncivility. And as we take note of these facts, a news
agency brings in the message of an unbelievable shunting
of 41 senior police officers in sensitive parts of North
Bihar. Worse is to follow. The so-called senas are in
perpetual confrontation. There is total unconcern for the
common man and the rule of law. If any state was to be
singled out for holding no fresh election, it was the
subliminally untranquil Bihar. But then democracy has its
own logic and the political show must go on.
SMALL LABOUR STRUGGLE
SOME struggles of weaker sections appear to be very small at first glance, but they have the potential for much wider social change of great significance. If this potential can be tapped properly at the right time and linkages established with wider issues, then results can be achieved which are far greater than the issues involved in the immediate struggle.
A clear example of this is a struggle for minimum wages which took place in Rajasmand district of Central Rajasthan in 1989-91. At that time some sceptics asked why so much struggle was taking place for obtaining a few extra rupees for a few workers. But it was this small struggle which soon attracted nationwide attention and that too for very good reason it proved to be a pathbreaking effort in the struggle to obtain peoples democratic right for information.
Ajit Bhattacharjee, Director for the Press Institute of India, says: I regard this as one of the most relevant and important struggles of recent times. Workers and peasants initiated a struggle which is of such great importance for democracy and for which journalists should have played a leading role.
This entire effort had a very small beginning in Dev Dungri village of Rajasmand district (the nearest town is Bhim on the Ajmer-Udaipur highway). When Aruna Roy, an IAS officer, decided to leave her high profile job and settle here to work among the rural poor she had good company in Nikhil Dey, an idealistic youth who had just returned from the USA, and Shankar, a communication genius with a special skill in puppets. This small group lived an austere life and worked without any institutional funding, obtaining just an occasional research or writing project to ensure survival. Their dedication and openness soon attracted a large number of villagers and their organisation was named Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS).
One of the first challenges the MKSS faced related to the non-payment of legally fixed minimum wages at the various relief work sites. In the precarious rural economy of Rajasthan, these relief workers are supposed to play an important role in protecting the rural poor from the worst forms of deprivation, particularly in serious drought years. However, apathy and corruption had badly eroded this role of relief work, as was evident in the open and large-scale flaunting of legal minimum wage laws. Only a few years back another leading social activist Sanjit Roy had fought a prolonged case in the Supreme Court in which the highest court had confirmed that legal minimum wages should be paid at relief work also. The MKSS learned soon on the basis of reports reaching from nearby work sites that despite this workers were still not getting the legal minimum wage.
In 1990 the MKSS launched a movement against violation of minimum wage laws in rural employment works in the Bhim region culminating in a hunger strike-cum-dharna. Despite the administrations heavy-handed methods, the movement succeeded in drawing attention to the issue of non-payment of minimum wage at rural employment works. This led to a two-day discussion on the question of minimum wages in government sponsored rural employment programmes which was organised at the Institute of Development Studies in Jaipur. Senior officials, academicians and social workers who participated in this discussion resolved that minimum wages should be paid in all government sponsored employment work, including famine relief works, and that too, within a week of completion of the muster-roll.
This meeting gave strength to the struggle of the MKSS and its activists were hopeful that the revised minimum wage of Rs 22 would be paid henceforth. However, when work on Jawahar Rozgar Yojana started at 13 places in Barar panchayat, it was seen that payment at much below the minimum wage rate was the general norm, and in fact no worker was being paid the legal minimum wage of Rs 22. Several workers made requests for proper measurements to be taken and when this was not done, they refused to accept the lower than minimum wage. However, several workers were ultimately forced to accept lower wages due to their precarious economic condition and the immediate need for cash. This final confrontation was confined to 12 workers who steadfastly refused to accept anything less than the legal minimum.
Officials were quite willing to make an off-the-record extra payment to the 12 workers who had refused to accept the low wage, and thereby to reduce the matter to one concerning only a dozen persons. For the MKSS, however, it was of crucial importance to get this extra payment on official record, so that this decision would prove helpful for similar struggles. It was in making the payment on record that the officials faltered, appearing to agree sometimes and then backing out. Finally the MKSS had to resort to another dharna-cum-fast unto death in Bhim in the first week of May.
By now the decision-making appears to have passed from the hands of the local officials to state level officials. Once again the state government adopted an arrogant and indifferent attitude. In a particularly glaring act of ruthlessness and insensitivity, the government sent a large number of policemen to forcibly lift the five hunger strikers and carry them to a hospital a long distance away. While the reason given was that their lives had to be saved, in reality some of them were denied even water for a long time.
Finally, what appeared to have changed the heartlessness of the Rajasthan government was the firm stand taken by the department of rural development in Delhi. The state government was not only asked to pay minimum wages, but was further told that it grants for JRY would be held up if it failed to do so.
What was more important, of course, was the precedent that was established in this matter. This immediate fallout could be seen in surrounding areas where workers employed at several employment works started getting the legal minimum wage.
This prolonged struggle against corruption led further to the idea of several jan sunwais or public hearings against corruption. These public hearing also provided a good example of how the participation of various sections, including officials, mediapersons, social workers, elected representatives and other prominent citizens was obtained to expose the shocking levels of corruption in rural development works.
This entire difficult and prolonged process convinced the MKSS that one of the most effective methods of fighting village-level corruption is to provide people the right to obtain copies of official records (such as muster rolls, bills and vouchers) relating to rural development and anti-poverty programmes implemented in their areas. This soon became a central point in the demands being raised by MKSS.
The MKSS now embarked on a series of dharnas (sit-ins) in various districts of Rajasthan to take the message of the right to information to more and more people. Despite having a very low resource base, the MKSS was able to organise dharnas and meetings in almost all administrative divisions of Rajasthan. People and organisations from very different backgrounds joined these efforts once the meaning and implications of this campaign became clear to them.
Finally the Rajasthan government agreed to provide a limited right to information which enabled citizens to examine all records relating to panchayat development work and also to obtain photocopies and certified copies of these records. This means that if anyone prepares fake records then local villagers can expose this corruption by asking to see the relevant records. This is why corrupt forces are opposing this right to information. MKSS activists are continuing their good work by using the new right in several interesting ways to expose several cases of corruption and also to test the practical aspects of exercising this right at the grassroots level.
At another level MKSS
activists have interacted with lawyers, journalists,
academicians and others to carry out a nationwide
campaign for enacting right to information legislation at
the national level. The work of the MKSS at the
grassroots level has been a big source of strength and
inspiration for this national campaign. So what appeared
to be a small struggle or workers has certainly created
very relevant and positive impact at the national level.
Foreign trade scene hazy
THE present political fluidity has particularly cast its shadow on the foreign trade scene. Various notifications pertaining to the export-import policy, which was announced on March 31, have been withheld. Commerce Minister Ramkrishna Hegde has cancelled his appointments with various export promotion councils.
The possibility of the next government after the elections revamping the export-import policy cannot be precluded. There is a precedent for this. In 1990, when Mr Arun Nehru took over as Commerce Minister in the V.P. Singh government, he revamped the export-import policy announced by his predecessor, Mr N.D. Tiwari. With the Left parties playing a prominent role in the current politicking, it is quite possible that the new government may overturn the decisions pertaining to removal of quantitative restrictions on imports and conversion of export processing zones into free trade zones.
Even as things remain in a state of flux, the news on the trade front is disheartening. The trade deficit for the period April 1998-February 1999 has widened to $8.2 billion compared to $6.4 billion in the corresponding period of 1997-98. This has happened mainly because of a shortfall in exports. As against an export growth target of 20 per cent, the actual growth in the first 11 months of 1998-99 has been only 1.98 per cent. In fact, the first three quarters registered a negative growth and it was only in the last quarter that exports showed a positive trend.
Exports have been sluggish partly because of a global recession and partly owing to the economic crisis in East and South-East Asia. With their incomes down, the affected Asian countries, including Japan, imported less from India. Further, drastic depreciation in the currencies of these countries made the Indian goods look more expensive. India lost a substantial part of the West European market.
While some concern about a trade deficit is legitimate, it would be wrong to throw up our hands in despair and panic. India has foreign exchange reserves of over $30 billion which provide an ample cushion. More importantly, it needs to be realised that, considering the countrys size and stage of development, India would have to live with a trade deficit for quite some time.
On the one hand, a large, fast-growing economy is going to need imports on a massive scale. On the other, there are at least three factors that circumscribe Indias ability to increase its exports beyond a certain point.
First, Indian industry is constantly subjected to the competing pull of a large domestic market which makes exports a that much less attractive proposition. Unlike small countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, India need not have an export-led growth. Second, India was an over-protected economy for a long time and it is only in 1991 that things began to change. The result is that Indias mollycoddled manufacturing sector has become inefficient, producing sub-standard goods which sell at high profit in a captive market. The culture of producing high quality, reasonably priced goods that would be competitive in the international market would take considerable time to develop.
Third, Indias rotten infrastructure is not at all equipped for a high export growth rate. The cost of transport by road and rail is high compared to our competitors. The turning around of a ship in Indian ports varies from four to seven days, whereas it is hardly 12 hours in Sri Lanka and four to five hours in South Korea and Singapore. The container facility is not available in time. Loading and unloading of air cargo is too slow to meet international delivery schedules. And the whole system is reeking of corruption, with exporters having to pay speed money at every step.
However, the export-import policy, assuming that it is not changed, represents a fairly bold step to liberalise imports and merge the Indian economy with the world economy. Since 1991, more and more items have been shifted from the restricted list to SIL and from SIL to OGL. Now additional 894 items have been shifted to OGL and another 414 items to SIL. That leaves 667 items for which an import licence will still be required. The deadline set by the World Trade Organisation for India to remove the quantitative restriction on its imports is 2003.
means that imports will increase, more so if the
industrial growth picks up. The oil import bill will also
increase because the downward trend in international oil
prices may not continue. Although the Commerce Ministry
is too wary to announce an export target for 1999-2000,
analysts point out that exports in the current financial
year should increase by 15 per cent to support a higher
level of imports. Despite the sops given to exporters in
the export-import policy in the form of procedural
simplifications, this may not be possible, especially
because the world trade is unlikely to pick up in the
THE first manuscript the wannabe writer in me submitted for publishing years ago, was written in gushing longhand on pages torn from a school notebook. Not surprisingly it came back. The raw outpourings of my fertile imagination were not the stuff to impress any editor.
And when I saw the standard note: The editor accepts no responsibility for returning unsolicited contributions... contributions submitted for consideration must be neatly typed... it became the literary commandment.
But not knowing typing, I had to first write in longhand, and then sit along with the typist, personally, to read out the text especially, the spellings of unfamiliar words. Yet, in that era of manual typewriters, many errors would creep in. If a word was misspelt, the white erasing fluid had to be used, imparting to the manuscript a bandaged look! And if some words were missed out then the only remedy was to insert them shabbily by hand.
When the computer era was ushered, things got much smarter. But as a computerphobe I still preferred to write in longhand; and loved the magic of putting pen on paper and seeing ones imagined words flowing out, taking shape in swirls, twirls and squiggles. Moreover, I thought I was in good company as even celebrity writers like R.K. Narayan, Khushwant Singh and Shobha De wrote in longhand.
Finally, I too, caved in and have now become computer savvy to type out my pieces on the PC. While its full of many conveniences it also has its exasperating side.
The main ritual after writing is to go for a spellcheck. And thats both a chastening and a comical experience. The former happens, when you discover that how poor you are with spellings even of some most common words and the latter, when the computer flashes error as it reads names and vernacular terms.
For instance, the first error pointed out in my pieces is of my own name. And the suggestion given is to change Rajnish to Raja! Though quite flattering, I have to press the ignore command and move on, as I have no kingdom to be crowned for. And then it flashes Wattas with the suggestion to change to Watts. Refusing to get anglicised or become a relation of the legendary James Watts of the steam engine fame I fume and fret at the racial bias of the PC.
Further down the text, Simla is suggested to be metamorphosed to smile. Not a bad idea though, considering its terrible present state of decay, with nothing to smile about. Similarly Jali becomes Jail which I dont think the architect in me ever designed it as.
When the writing is over I still have to decide about the font I should choose. Should I print it in the Times New Roman or Book Antique or AvantGarde? Each one of them has a distinct calligraphic charm of its own. Yet, at times I sacrifice aesthetic preferences over superstition and decide to choose the font that proved lucky with my last piece.
Finally with the Print
command given, I sit back and relax to enjoy the marvel
of the printer swiftly transforming my muse into
elegantly printed pages of a manuscript. But will it make
it to print? There is no computer command for that magic.
Whispering ambitions & vanities
IT is said to have been a coincidence that in the very week in which we saw Indian history being made for the tackiest and most meaningless reasons I should read a line of poetry by T.S. Eliot which reminded me of how extraordinary it can be for other peoples, other countries. Perhaps, even for us, in another time.Before I give you the line of poetry, allow me to give you a context. It was on the day that a much-subdued Sonia Gandhi announced, after two days of trying that the numbers do not add up so the President has given me some more time. Or something like that. India had, in effect, been under Presidents rule for a week when arrogance and supreme confidence turned to humility.
It was a gloomy announcement and I decided that I was sick of prose, particularly of the kind that you read daily in newspapers and picked up a book of poetry to lift my spirits and this is the line I read. Think now history has many cunning passages, contrived corridors. And issues, deceive with whispering ambitions guide us by vanities. Think now she gives when our attention is distracted and what she gives, gives such supple confusions that the giving famishes the craving.
None of us, no hack in the world, has the imagination or sensitivity to put it that way and in the tawdriness of history that we have seen repeated (thanks to Congress) three times in three years there is nothing of cunning passages and contrived corridors. But, there is much of whispering ambitions and vanities.
We saw Sitaram Kesri topple Deve Gowda for still unknown reasons, then we saw Inder Gujral, sweet, but ineffectual toppled by a report on Rajiv Gandhis assassination that nobody from Congress has mentioned since. And, now we see a government, doing reasonably well, a country beginning to be optimistic again, destabilised on account of whispering ambitions and vanities.
Considering that those with the ambitions and vanities fell flat on their faces we should be laughing. But, alas, there is nothing funny about what has happened. A stock market that had become buoyant after nearly 10 years is now back down in the doldrums. Investors are believed to have lost close to Rs 100,000 crore. There will be no policy decisions possible till the next election, since caretaker governments are by their nature lameduck, and as for the political side what is there to be said? India, the largest democracy in the world, as we so proudly boast, cannot have a government in power long enough for it to be able to do any good to anyone. Even the politicians suffer since our MPs go back to their constituencies without the comfort of pensions and free travel.
What a mess, what a terrible mess. And why? Nobody knows for sure. We do know that Dr Jayalalitha Jayaram was offended enough in some deep way for her to decide that she would come to Delhi to sound the death knell of Atal Behari Vajpayees government. Her excuse was she had suddenly discovered, one year on, that she had supported a government that was incapable of delivering the goods so she had decided in the national interest to withdraw support. But, fear not, she told the army of journalists, she was committed to ensuring that there would be another government in place before she returned home to Chennai because she wanted to avoid putting the people through yet another general election.
It can be seen from the coverage that her announcement received that most of the national press believed that this was a possibility. So, when the Vajpayee Government lost its vote of confidence by one vote in the Lok Sabha there was a ripple of excitement in the press galleries as everyone dashed off to file their copy. As someone who did not share this excitement I paid careful attention to what happened next and how it was viewed.
By and large the excitement in this new game, this making of history, continued reporters en masse haunted the forecourt of Rashtrapti Bhavan to report the comings and goings of our leaders. So, in fullest detail we covered the first press conference that Sonia Gandhi has ever given. She claimed the support of 272 MPs and announced confidently that there would be an alternative government in place in two days, which was the time that the President had given her.
Then, the cookies started to crumble. In the two days that followed it became increasingly clear that one important component of the alternative government was not in the mood to oblige. Mulayam Singh Yadav made it absolutely clear that he had no intention of supporting a Congress government from outside. He said it loudly and often but the Marxist Machiavelli, Harkishen Singh Surjeet, hump-backed and beady-eyed, continued to tell the armies of hacks who followed his every move, that a solution was in the offing. Congress supporters, even those close to the mighty Sphinx herself, let it be known that there was no serious problem and that Mulayam Singh would be persuaded. They had no doubt about that at all. Sonia would become Prime Minister, they said, even if it meant that she led a coalition government. So, we waited eagerly. Until, the rumours of Mulayams intransigence became reality instead of rumours. By Friday (April 23) he announced categorically that is support was not available from the outside.
The supporters of secularism are a strong breed so they did not give up even after this. Instead, they made it known that there were now serious efforts to make Jyoti Basu Prime Minister of a third front government which would receive outside support from the Congress. Why, we asked, puzzled? What use would this be? Because, they said, we dont want a BJP caretaker government.
Why, we asked again? Caretaker governments had few powers and had been routinely rejected by the electorate. You dont understand, they said, and the games continued until, in the end, there were no games left to play.
So, the 12th Lok Sabha
was finally dissolved last Monday and history was once
again made. But history without cunning passages,
contrived corridors. History, yet again, about
whispering ambitions and vanities. History that, once
more, leaves us poorer as a country instead of enriched.
What was it all about? Why did it need to happen? Ask no
questions, for there are no answers.
Star programmes face competition
SUMMER is hot enough without the daunting prospect of what lies ahead for us on the media. The elections the World Cup and, for the children on holiday from school, some predictable chhutti programmes, which do not seem to change from year to year.
And while on the subject of children, the one thing I noted after a brief look at Shaktimaan was that the music it was using was the James Bond 007 theme in one of its episodes. I think it is time someone wrote a book about plagiarism of foreign music in Indian cinema, TV and radio.
Some music composers have preferred to steal from Tagore, which was very Indian of them. Once while judging an inter-school debate at Bishop Cotton School in Shimla, where the finest brains from our best schools stagger one with their acumen, the subject was India is a land of plagiarists. It is amazing how many of those children dug up the sources from which our painters (beginning with Picasso), musicians and writers for the cinema had picked up their brilliant ideas. They actually identified the people, the films, the songs, the painters who had helped themselves.
Every time I watch TV, I recognise familiar tunes creeping up unacknowledged. I have already written about Saira Banos Sitarey programme having borrowed heavily from Singin in the Rain for its theme song. I believe some American copyright holders did try some time ago to file cases in Mumbai about other instances of musical copyright, but found the whole legal process so complicated that they gave up. This is why, I suppose, plagiarism flourishes unchecked. A pity, because surely India does not lack in musical creativity having such an infinite variety of musical forms from light to classical.
What, then is the viewer to choose? Personally, I find the Nirja Guleri programmes Tu Tu Main Main and Ooh La La unbearable, regardless of their tall claims Saans is waning with longevity, while Saboot gains in professional stature with Anita Kanwar having built up her character with finesse. Indias Most Wanted and its unabashed follower Apraadhi, provide reality of a different kind, while Sonys reconstruction of actual court cases on Thursdays often provides gripping drama.
The greatest pity of all is that TVI India had commissioned some of the best programmes on Indian TV in terms of quality and social purpose. But its erratic existence, and constant repetition of the same programmes down the years has robbed it of the sort of viewership it deserves. Besides, cable operators often play about with the channel and only two days ago, I got very wobbly reception and had to switch off.
The other channel where I notice a good deal of improvement is in Zees News channel. Vastly improved spot reporting and, what Star News often lacks, off-beat and colourful snippets to brighten up the news I sometimes feel, especially on Saturdays and Sundays, that Star News becomes a bit too earnest. I also wish their anchors did a variation on sitting at a table looking down at their script, then lifting their heads in slow motion, and introducing themselves and the programme in the same way, week after week. The movements are identical, whether it is Sunil Sethi or Radhika Bordia or the other Limelight. A bit too contrived and monotonous and it really palls after a time.
Zee News has some of the
most beautiful women on Indian TV as newscasters and
presenters, not all of them matching this with
professional competence. But its men reporters tend to be
sloppily dressed and not too telegenic. Anyway, at least
Star now has some competition, with Sony catching up fast
with Star Plus and Zee dominance. Star News will have to
work hard to retain its top position.
MR Nur-ul Haq Chaudhri, Swarajist whip, in the Bengal Council has given notice of a question drawing the attention of the Government to two letters said to have been written by Mr S.N. Roy, ICS, Officer on Special Duty, to some of the non-official members of the Council with a view indirectly to getting their support in the passing of the budget and asking whether those letters were written with the sanction of the Government, and whether Mr S.N. Roy had been acting as a Government whip in the Council with the sanction of the Government.
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