|M A I L B A G||
Monday, September 27, 1999
Threats from vehicular pollution
I WOULD like to bring to your attention an unusual problem, which the traffic authorities should urgently focus on. We talk about pollution everyday, on the radio and TV and through newspapers. Every pedestrian and everyone travelling in public transport vehicles is exposed to so much pollution, both visible and invisible. People get exposed, albeit for a short period at the traffic intersections where the emission load is high. We have not focused attention on the hapless traffic constable who does his duty everyday regulating traffic and inhaling smoke from the city buses, trucks, lorries, two-and-three-wheelers and passenger cars while standing there for hours together.
I remember reading some time ago that a study conducted by a research institute in London revealed that traffic constables were exposed to high levels of lead and benzene inhalation and other toxic elements. Lead is known to cause kidney damage as also brain damage. Benzene is a known carcinogen like asbestos. Petrol contains benzene and the WHO says no amount of benzene is safe. Though international norms for acceptable benzene levels are only 1 per cent. In India the benzene level in petrol as supplied by the refineries is 3 to 5 per cent which is still quite high.
Coming to Delhi, a large number of vehicles in the Capital are two-and-three-wheelers and passenger cars which run on petrol and emit these particles. Not only the traffic cop but also all innocent bystanders run a major risk. Please provide a mask for the traffic cop whatever happened to the scheme of pollution masks, they seem to have gone out of business. There is also the problem of pollution by diesel, which causes respiratory problems. But the problem from petrol is far more lethal because the pollutant coming out is invisible.
We need to tackle the problem urgently. The gas mask for the traffic cop is a must. To prevent the exposure of high levels of toxic elements in air, particularly at traffic intersections, the only two solutions are: phase out all old vehicles if they are more than 10 years old and look for alternative green fuels which are less polluting. And until you can find them use fuels which have a small sulphur content as is the case with diesel and have less benzene as we find in petrol.
Punjabs tax anomaly
This has reference to the news published in the business section of The Tribune on September 24 under the heading Punjab tax anomaly to go.
It is heartening to note the candid admission by the Financial Commissioner and Principal Secretary, Punjab, that the states sales tax rules are not in tune with the industrial policy of 1996 for the industrial units that have gone for expansion and modernisation.
An entrepreneur, undertaking the expansion of his unit under the industrial policy of 1996 found himself in a great state of quandary when he applied for sales tax incentives with the authorities under the policy.
Since the sales tax authorities had not updated their records and made the necessary amendments to imbibe the spirit of the industrial policy people used to face a lot of harassment at the sales tax department office. The interpretation of the sales tax incentives had been the problem. Many had to knock the doors of the High Court to get the anomalies removed.
The Financial Commissioner has rightly admitted that there is an anomaly and the Sales Tax Rules, 1991, need be updated in tune with the industrial policy of 1996 for the industry undergoing expansion.
While Mr Bains has agreed to delink the installed capacity of an industrial unit and its substitution with the last three years for vanaspati manufacturing units undergoing expansion. I am at a loss to understand as to why the scope of this benefit is the exclusive domain of vanaspati manufacturers. Why can the government not enlarge its scope and apply uniformly to all the industrial units?
I appeal to Financial Commissioner to ensure that the assessing authorities follow the industrial policy in the same spirit in which it was formulated.
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Problem of dhobi huts
It is repeatedly advised by the police to the Chandigarh residents that they should bring to their notice the particulars of their servants (male or female) engaged on a part or full time basis. This is supposed to prevent the commission of a crime or help the investigation of a crime case.
But it is strange that when I informed the police regarding the coming up of a Dhobi hut near a house in Sector 27-C, where many strange faces are seen, no action was taken. Those living nearby are faced with not only a security threat but also unhygienic conditions. The administration should issue strict instructions to the police to disallow Dhobis stay at night in the huts in the interior of a colony.
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The UGC in its communication dated August 31, 1999, directed Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, to implement a 10 per cent mandatory cut in its expenditure and a 10 per cent cut in its teaching posts as well. Obviously, the UGC intends to enforce such cuts on all the universities and colleges of India.
Even if it is experiencing financial constraints, it should think twice before enforcing the universities and colleges to apply cuts especially on teaching posts. It will prove to be a self-defeating measure and will be tantamount to pushing the academic clock back. Will it not be disastrous to the country if the UGC holds the NET qualified promising prospective teachers of the universities and colleges? It can adopt austerity measures by further curtailing the Plan expenditure relating to providing physical infrastructure in educational institutions.
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This has reference to Mr S.K. Sharmas letter Intelligence agencies (September 9). The writer seems to have ignored the ground realities when he states that Next time, remember, if thieves enter your house because you forgot to lock the door. It is true that the intruders took advantage of unmanned gaps, but it is totally unrealistic to compare the wide open LoC with a secure house.
It would perhaps be more appropriate to compare it with the open fields of two farmer neighbours. There is a lot of difference between a house and a field. While the former is manned all the 24 hours, the latter is manned only for half the period during the day-time and left unguarded during the night. The farmer neighbour also does the same with both having trust in each other.
Almost similar conditions existed around the LoC. There also the posts are manned only for half the period in the summer months and left unguarded during winter with both neighbouring countries leaving it to each others trust. This arrangement has been working well for many years. But when one would decide to betray cannot be predicted. In any case, you cannot blame the present generation farmer for failing to guard the boundaries of his fields. If at all, the blame would lie on his forefathers who had put in place the existing arrangement.
Even after a neighbour-farmer breaches the trust and trespasses the field boundaries during the unguarded period of night, it may not be possible for the victim farmer to resort to guarding throughout 24 hours. Similarly, it would be next to impossible to man the posts on the LoC throughout the year and, therefore, some sort of mutual neighbourly trust would have to be restored which would be good for both countries.
Wg Cdr C.L.
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Exit polls: EC was wrong
The Chief Election Commissioner argued that exit polls by the electronic and print media could mislead the illiterate population of India. Therefore, it was suggested to ban such polls.
In the rallies of political parties is the whole of the audience literate? Most of those present are brought in truckloads from far off places to make the rally look big by the workers of the parties concerned. A large number of them are poor and illiterate people. Are they not misguided by the speeches of party leaders who lure them by making false promises?
If the argument of the CEC has some weight then the speeches of such leaders should also be banned. We know that this cannot happen in India due to the freedom of the Press. That is why the Supreme Court ordered the EC to withdraw the ban on the electronic and print media for the exit polls.
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