The Tribune - Spectrum
 


A century of more deaths, more advance
by Shelley Walia

THERE are very few people who do not look back to the past with a sense of nostalgia or to the future with a sense of fear. We find ourselves at a historical moment in the process of a major change or destruction. But propagandists like Fukuyama or short-sighted politicians like George Bush and Bill Clinton tenaciously bask in the misapprehension that the old imperial order has passed and we are embarking on a New World Order as liberal democracy takes firm root.

Following the devastating events of two world wars and the rise of oppressive ideological dictatorships in the early part of the century, 20th century thought has been characterised by pessimism, both over the future of mankind and the potentially catastrophic effect of natural science. If socialism and conservatism have disintegrated, and politics in the advanced capitalist world is a conspiracy to defraud the general public, it is understandable why many historians have written with a sense of nostalgia and pessimism.

Though a historian needs emotional and chronological distancing to write about a period, Hobsbawm has finally stepped out of a distant past which has been his concern throughout his career, and has written "Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century", an autobiography of his times that coincides with the larger part of the 20th century, a period that begins, in his own words "at Sarajevo (as we can now sadly recognise) and also ends at Sarajevo, or rather with the collapse of the socialist regimes of the Soviet Union and the eastern half of Europe".

This is history writing, grand in ambition, an eloquently rich and erudite portrait of a society where once the Nazi and the communist experiments promised to remake the world but, instead, Auschwitz and Kolyma lead us to doubt the basis of human wisdom.

More than being circular, history seems to be downhill all the way. Each age wades deeper into its own blood, with the 20th century the most bestial, as is evident from the number of people killed which is more than ever before in human history. And this is in spite of the maximum number of people receiving education in an age which had the positive features of emancipation, decolonisation and firm entrenchment of the women’s liberation movement.

It was Hitler’s rise to power in Berlin in the late 1920s that determined Hobsbawm’s politics and his passionate interest in history. Probably, because of these reasons he differs as an historian from others who share his views on historical interpretation: "I must in some sense see things differently from my friends whose experience of war was different — from the late E.P. Thompson who served as a tank commander in the Italian campaign, or from the Africanist Basil Davidson who fought with the partisan in Voivodina and Liguria."

The advantage that historians like him have is that they can appropriate the "otherness of the past" which younger historians are at a disadvanage to perceive. Change in generations is central to the writing of the 20th century history.

Though not a polemical, "Age of Extremes" is a moving exegesis of three sharply divided periods in the "short twentieth century": the suicide of liberal bourgeois order from 1914 to 1945, the golden age of economic prosperity from 1945 to the early seventies, and lastly the period of communist uncertainty leading to the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1991. Going by the record of millions dying in the two wars and other political upheavals around the globe, the age is truly one of extremes, unlike the peaceful and quiet 19th century. So, what has science or reason or the Age of Enlightenment given mankind if not a "rising curve of barbarism"?

The issue of growing poverty in the Third World concerns Hobsbawm and he wonders how the western powers can possibly feel triumphant and secure over their progress. While the eastern political systems have ceased to exist, the stability of the non-communist states, in both the developed and the developing countries, can also no longer be taken for granted.

And if on the economic front there is not much encouragement, what about culture with its high modernism which keeps the masses out of its very elitist engagements and aestheticism? In his analysis of arts, Hobsbawm introduces the apocalyptic note, insisting that western civilisation is sliding into instability and decline and that this evidence can be found in the fact that its literature is rarely tragic or religious.

Within a very short period humanity had no doubt transfigured the face of the earth by annihilating space and time through the revolution in communications and urbanisation of the world, but when it seemed that man had almost overpowered nature, the nightmare of ecological crisis struck with a terrifying vengeance as hideous as the liquidation of millions in this age of catastrophe, of decomposition, of uncertainty.

Scientific progress, according to Hobsbawm, undoubtedly gives us reason to believe that we have progressed, but the nightmare of the Gulag always lurks in the background making it impossible to overlook the horrific capacities given to the war machine to commit mass murders.

Without appearing pedantic, Hobsbawm gives a marvellous account of this illusion of economic progress resulting from the death of reason. Moral regression and the decaying of social solidarity are what make up the complacent contemporary life.

Standing at a point of historic crisis, Hobsbawm writes at the end of the book: "The forces generated by the techno-scientific economy are now great enough to destroy the environment, the material foundations of human life. The structures of human societies themselves, including even some of the social foundations of the capitalist economy, are on the point of being destroyed by the erosion of what we have inherited from the past. Our world risks both explosion and implosion. It must change."

This is history written not only with an organising ideology, but with passion and with an almost Old Testament mood of foreboding and fearsome judgement. The narrative piles horrifying catastrophe upon another, famine flourishes amidst unimaginable wealth and the earth edges imperceptibly towards more global disorder and more military operations. Wars, massacres, natural disasters: the storyline rhythmically and bleakly repeats itself with an end that no one can predict.

Though the general pattern of his own ideas about his times imprints itself on his observations, the book, which is a stimulating reassessment of the century gone by, presents the view that "the fundamental experience of everyone who has lived through much of this century is error and surprise. What has happened has often been quite unexpected. Whatever our reactions, the discovery that we were mistaken must be the starting point for our reflections on the history of our times".

The story that this last of the European humanists tells of this century is the story of his own life told in such a vivid and unhysterical tone of voice that one cannot but be impressed by the desperate sincerity and humanity, as well as the range and depth of scholarship behind it.Top

 

Voice of the East: so said Edward Said
by Rumina Sethi

MARX’S views on interests of the dominant groups in society generally forms, the basis of Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony which gives the most thoroughg oing understanding of how a ruling group exercises and sustains domination through consent and persuasion. In other words, the ideas of the ruling class are not directly imposed through coercion on subordinate groups but permeated in society through a consensus of subordinate will in order to appear legitimate and normal.

One of the spectacular books that appeared in this century is Edward Said’s "Culture and Imperialism", where Said treats culture as a vehicle for the imperialist venture rather than an area of art and learning alone. Following Gramscian parameters by treating culture as an instrument of political control. "Culture and Imperialism" has the ambitious scope of defining the patterns of relationships between the western world and its overseas territories.

Spurred by American forays into imperialism, Said takes the reader through 200 years of narrative history with a view to highlighting the unconscious imperial attitudes which underline the narratives of those writers scarcely associated with the goverance of "others".

Connecting Conrad and Jane Austen, for instance, with this enterprise, Said holds them culpable of depicting native peoples as "marginally visible" and "people without history". It is in the very omission of the salient fact of imperialism that much English literature from "Jane Eyre", "Vanity fair" and "Great Expectations" to Raymond Williams’s "Culture and Society" assumes its character.

For Said, Conrad may be deeply anti-imperialist, but he is also an author who believes with equal conviction that Africa or South America could never have had a history or culture independent of their western masters. Earlier, Defoe’s "Robinson Crusoe" introduced to English gentry the founder of a new world and "Captain Singleton" less explicitly but surely, related to the annexation of riches and lands abroad.

Less directly, Fielding, Richardson, Smolett and Sterne did the same. Indeed, the English cultural forms like the novel and the opera served as important cultural affiliations within England, yet, unconsciously perhaps, ignored the presence of an area outside "felt vaguely and ineptly to be out there" instead of, as a body of humanistic ideas, preventing the acceleration of imperial powers.

We are now well aware of Said’s well-established and canonical 20th century classic, "Orientalism", where he defines this science as a western reading of the Orient that distinguishes the East from the West. Said has argued that the epistemological and ontological categories employed support a relationship of domination and authority.

Further, he claims that the Orient is consistent in its attitudes, behaviour, and patterns of living; the mind of its people is imagined to be static and their thinking as "others"is believed to be vastly inferior to that of the West.

The quintessence of the Orient is seen in its sensuality and passivity, and this view has endured. Not many European travellers, pilgrims, scholars or academics have disagreed widely with this Oriental "truth".

Said has emphasised that the creation of orientalist stereotypes was past of the intellectual exercise that strategically made colonialism possible and legitimised it. The Orient, correspondingly, has been characterised by a variety of essentialist characteristics that vary with the trends of foreign governance.

In the interest of colonialism, the Orient was a creation which played a vital role in constituting the differing religious, political, and aesthetic positions of European imperialists. For those legitimising colonialism as a channel of advancement, imperialism was the prerequisite to progress and an antidote to feudalism.

From within this perspective, academic orientalism can be interpreted in the light of Said’s hypothesis which does not accept the study of the Orient as the only motive of the orientalist. In other words, there is a link between scholarship and power since orientalism, in Said’s terms, is not simply a romantic discipline for disinterested seekers.

Said has been extremely useful in the last three decades of the 20th century in any discussion that brings the role of knowledge and power into the understanding of non-European culture. In general terms, he has done much work to expose the creation of the subject as the "Other". The conglomeration of various cultures into a single position facilitates an understanding of counter-strategies of representation.

Even though he has not outlined any strategy for circumventing the assumptions of orientalism, his model is useful in analysing what may be called "orientalism in reverse". In other words, Said’s argument can be used to explain how the indigenous idioms, fashioned to wrestle with orientalist assumptions, in fact, correspond closely with the orientalist problematic and often turn out to be relational rather than oppositional categories of orientalism.

"Culture and Imperialism" shows a concern not simply with Asia and Africa but with neo-imperialism of a kind perpetuated by the USA in the guise of a rationalised "world responsibility". Having militarily intervented in the Third World every year between 1945 and 1967, the USA has been extremely active over the decades in imposing "the rule of law", most notably in 1991 when 650,000 US troops travelled 6,000 miles to resist an Iraqi invasion of a US ally.

What Said, and earlier Chomsky, have noted is the media exercise of "manufacturing consent" so that intervention in Cuba, Nicaragua, Panama, Chile, Guatemala, Salvador and Grenada among others can have mainstream approval and consensus.

Said is vociferous in his condemnation of hundreds of thousands of deaths at the hands of a "friendly"government and of American policies (pushed through the United Nations) of enforcing resolutions for wrongdoing (as in Iraq) when it has in fact keenly supported, with utter inconsistency, similar misbehaviour elsewhere (as in Israel). The presentday American domination can be traced to its sources in the wars with native American Indians, allegorised, for instance, in Ahab’s stubborn quest of Moby Dick.

As for cultural hegemony, control is exercised through the American media imperialism which forces even a Saddam Hussein to rely on CNN for news. The American media has built an impression of Iraq as a "brittle" land, with suggestions of Arabic subhumanity and aridity, only because such beliefs can legitimise killing, bombing and destruction of people who were, it is inferred, deserving of it.

But what about giving a thought to Baghdad as the seat of the Abbasid civilisation? What of the Tigris and the Euphrates, Sumer, Babylon, Nineveh, Hammurabi, Assyria and the Mesopotamian civilisation which laid the foundations of modern-day Iraq?

Said questions the obeisance and passivity of intellectuals — much before this subject was to become the theme of his 1993 Reith lectures — who give up their "vocation" for "porfessionalism". Such intellectuals are accused of brandishing "jargons of an almost unimaginable rebarbativeness" like post-modernism, new historicism, deconstruction and discourse analysis even as Said himself has addressed the agenda of culture and imperialism through these very modes.

It is strikingly apparent that Said belongs neither to that category he identifies as "intellectual" because of his position among the post-modern, post-colonial prophets imbued with specialised learning, nor with the "professionals" precisely because of his easy dismissal of critical movements and standing as a "public"critic.

It is important to appreciate Said’s growing concern with finding alternatives to homogenising tendencies as long as there is ambiguity in the representation and definition of culture. In fact, this book clearly brings out his optimism that it is not entirely impossible to conceive of a scholarship that neither "corrupts"history, nor is indifferent to human reality. He indicates how post-orientalist historiography should trace Third World indentities as relational rather than essentialist, a view from a vantage point not external to the actuality of relationship between cultures or from a privileging epistemology centred in unequal relationships, but within the actuality, and as participants in it.Top

 

Old world-view, new perspectives
by Anil Rajimwale

TO single out a few books from among the pile of a millennium or even a century is a near-impossible task, particularly when the century is witnessing an information explosion. As we stand at the edge of a new millennium and look back, certain great works and authors stand out as having left a lasting impression on human history and thought. They stand out by their ability to grasp the inherent dynamics of human existence: Aristotle, Newton, Kant, Hegel, Marx and Engels, Bernstein, Kautsky, Lenin, Einstein, Max Planck, Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, Gorbachev, Toffler, Fukuyama, Paul Davies, and many others.

Their works were those of great anticipation, of boldness of thought, indepth analysis, negotiating major turns of human history. Hence their lasting effect and value.

The Industrial Revolution produced giants of thought, who grasped its various aspects. Hegel’s "Phenomenology" and "Science of Logic", Adam Smith’s "Wealth of Nations", Marx’s (and Engels’s) "Capital" and other works took us deep inside the natural and social phenomena from philosophical, scientific, socio-economic and other angles. The Hegelian dialectics was taken to newer heights by Marx. His works continue to inspire vast millions, being simultaneously intellectual works of unparalleled scientific depth. It was he who along with Engels discovered, rather than invented, sources of social and, in particular, industrial and natural motion, treating society as an object of scientific investigation, thus transforming social thinking into a science.

Marx, along with Engels, in numerous works like "Manifesto", "Capital", "German Philosophy", "Grundrisse", "Eighteenth Brumaire", "Utopian and Scientific Socialism" (Engels), and others, unveiled the dynamics of large-scale production. He visualised large-scale production with collectivised and composite labour coming in conflict with increasingly centralised capitalist ownership, causing a revolutionary crisis which would open the floodgates for further development of productive forces.

As a result, the ownership would also be collective. The beginnings of marxist theses are to be found in "Communist Manifesto", perhaps the most widely read booklet. "Capital" and "Manifesto" are the concentrated expression of the industrial age.

Perhaps, Marx over-emphasised the capitalist aspect of industrial society. This is becoming clearer today when we are having to deal with the problem of transition from industrial to post-industrial society, relegating capitalism to a secondary place. Most of the conclusions of Marx stand modified or have become unsuitable in the transition period to post-industrial era.

At the same time, his notions of dialectical movement of productive forces continue to be valid. The very application of Marx’s method invalidates his theories based on the industrial revolution. The reason is simple: the forces of production have taken a forward or "reverse" leap. Rather than growing into larger scales, they are growing into progressively small scales.

Besides, with the introduction of electronics as a technology and science as a productive force, production is no more industrial, and hence the concepts and notions can no more be industrial in nature. This is where modern marxism has failed. Perhaps, Marx, the scientist, would have drawn appropriate conclusions. His followers, barring Lenin, did not revise marxism.

Lenin’s writings like "State and Revolution", "Imperialism", "Materialism", etc. reflect the growing conflict in industrial society and the upheavals of world capitalism. He felt that capitalism in its last, monopoly or imperialist stage, had begun destroying forces of production; hence it had become moribund and parasitic. This conclusion was not fully confirmed by subsequent history.

Russian revolution was only partially successful in raising the productive forces and in creating a non-capitalist society even as productive forces in the West kept growing. The revolution was ultimately overcome by the new technological revolution. Soviet Russia tried to develop its productive forces through the Stalinist repressive machine, something which Lenin had apprehended and warned against.

Lenin’s genius lay in unveiling modern capitalism and raising visions of a real revolution. He had begun revising his thoughts from 1921 onwards, preparing for a longer transition through new economic policy in the absence of a revolution in the West.

Lenin attacked the Soviet bureaucracy comparing it to the Czarist one. He even said the people of Russia had the right to bring down the Soviet government, something that really happened several decades later in a different historical setting and after much suffering.

None of the theories of social change has been up to the mark in the great lab of world society. They have turned out to be ideological magnifications of partial truths. Marxism was the more complete of them. But they all tried to impose their partial truths on society. The battle of ideologies in the 20th century has taken thought to new heights connecting ground reality with abstraction. Yet, ideologies hid more and more of reality looking at the latter as if through a prism.

This prismatic ideological perception was broken through in the great revolution in recent decades by science and technology. The means of production and communication made a quantum jump. Technology and science had all the time been developing while ideologies battled it out on a diminishing base of reality. There was a complete break between science and technology, on the one hand, and ideology, on the other. Industrial concepts fell into a crisis. Economics, social sciences and humanities lay exhausted and in complete confusion by the end of this century, unable to explain the new world.

The Soviet system slipped into severe crisis, not able to renew its productive forces and becoming a hurdle in their path. It needed an electronic-communication revolution to break its bureaucratic stranglehold.

And it also needed a Gorbachev. His perestroika will always be criticised and also praised. Rarely has there been a bolder act. It shook the Soviet system, and the whole world, to its very roots, and began a rethinking on everything everywhere. It forced the capitalist world to update its lessons in democracy. Never before had one individual opened a whole society and the minds of a people to the need for democracy. He offered the Soviet experiment to the stringent criticism of history. There never was a nobler act.

The computer and electronics revolution has taken over the world and science and technology have become the main productive force. They have relegated social sciences to the background as themes of the past. Social sciences, economics and politics are in deep crisis, refusing to connect with new science.

Science has made a quantum jump from Newton to Einstein and to the present. All established scientific theories have been upset. Quantum theories, contrary to common sense, are becoming the driving force in the present revolution and post-modern society. Quantum philosophies are emerging, quite different in nature from traditional philosophies. Artificial intelligence in the form of Internet and cyber space engulf the planet, allied to human intelligence.

Alvin Toffler has emerged as one of the leading frontier-thinkers of the electronics age. He has termed the revolution as "Third Wave", dealt with its impact in "Future Shock" and has studied the consequent "Power Shift". He traces the vast leap in a compressed time interval from industrial to post-industrial society in the fifties and sixties. The concept of post industrial society as evolved by Daniel Bell, Toffler and a host of others helps us understand the developments in social, economic and industrial fields in the decades since the fifties. The great contribution of Toffler is that he developed concepts explaining the new world, a task humanities are unable to fulfil after the collapse of the industrial world-view. Hence the need to evolve new tools of knowledge if we are to interpret the new world.

The scientific-technological revolution has overtaken industrial society before the latter could find solutions to its problems. The new technology is based on the use of forces not naturally occurring on the earth. This imparts novelty to the revolution. New technology has broken through the class, national, state and all other social barriers, and entirely new social strata are emerging causing dissolution of class features.

The social use of quantum forces has caused an information and communication revolution, so much so that Mark Poster has termed it as "mode of information", the title of his fundamental work. For the first time in history, production has been relegated to a secondary place yielding primacy to information. The mode of production is replaced by the mode of information.

And when we talk of history at this juncture, we cannot ignore Francis Fukuyama’s "The End of History." There has been widespread misunderstanding about the concept. It is natural because we are habituated to the concepts of the industrial age. We try to explain the new with outdated concepts."The End of History" deals with the end of the existing history and contradicts its interpretation as a unilinear one.

The world is undergoing great historical shifts which have been dealt with by frontier writers like Toffler, Fukuyama, Tom Peters, Drucker, and others. Paul Davies, Robert Nadeau, Alain Aspect, Stephen Hawkins, John Wheeler, etc. have dealt with the philosophical aspects of the same. The industrial revolution produced thoughts and philosophies that dealt with tangible and mostly visible things.

The quantum revolution has brought out limitations of such thinking, and went into the intangible world. The Newtonian world-view was upset, and along with it the philosophies based on and created during the industrial era.

Time-determination of events has become the central theme of post-modern society and its world-view. Consequently, the planet and its society present a holistic unity, a moment in the inter-galactic spaces, a self-discovery of human existence.Top

 

Freedom in all its complex facets
by Rekha Jhanji

LIKE one’s choice of friends, one’s choice of books is also very personal. These choices keep varying with one’s intellectual development. Those of us who like reading autobiographies are interested in knowing about and learning from the lives of others. The autobiography of Simone de Beauvoir and her theoretical work, "The Second Sex", played a very significant role in forming my feminist consciousness. Her life is a testimony to how a woman can realise her creative freedom and look upon herself as an equal to her male contemporaries.

Her relationship with Sartre was an example for all thinking young women of my times. It was not hierarchical like the traditional man-woman relationship. They travelled together and thought and wrote on most of the important happenings of their times. They had the courage to defy the bourgeois social norms and live together without being married. "Prime of Life" (second part of her autobiography) gives a very vivid description of the post-war intellectual scene of France, and if one can identify its one essential element, it is the affirmation of individual freedom.

Nothing comes in the way of this boundless freedom, not even God, for He is dead and man has no essence. Man is free to create himself, like a sculptor creates a sculpture. This philosophy was the leading light for my formative years.

As I grew older, I realised that such freedom is ridden with conflicts — conflict between I and the Other, and conflict between my own self and my alter ego. The affirmation of individual freedom always pits one against others. Each individual sees the other as a potential threat to his freedom. Sartre’s dictum "Hell is the Other" is a logical consequence of this affirmation of individual freedom.

Also, since one’s desires keep changing, one is constantly in conflict with one’s own self. Further, in the social world some people are circumstantially more free than others. Sartre himself accepted that existential freedom is only notional in those societies which are ridden with inequalities, for in them there are very few possibilities of actualising freedom. At the same time I could not agree with Marx that human being will become liberated once a classless society is created.

With the passage of time, I began to accept that there may be some necessary conditions of freedom, but they are not sufficient. Economic equality is one such necessary but insufficient condition. One may be economically self-sufficient and yet be psychologically under all kinds of pressure.

In order to experience freedom, one will have to understand oneself. Without self-knowledge it will not be possible to free oneself from one’s self-created chains. Amongst these chains, fear is the foremost.

My search for freedom prompted me to turn to Indian sages and seers. A book to which I have constantly returned for inspiration and guidance is "The Autobiography of a Yogi" by Paramahansa Yogananda. Yogananda was born on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur where he spent the first eight years of his life. His father was a disciple of the great yogi Lahiri Mahashaya. He was initiated into kriya yoga by Swami Yukteswara Giri, another disciple of Lahiri Mahasaya.He established an institute of yoga in Ranchi which is functioning to this day.

From his early age he was propelled by the search for truth. By recounting the story of his life, Yogananda shows that true freedom does not consist in being able to do what one wants. It lies neither in being wayward or arbitrary nor in being adventurous but in one’s capacity to harmonise one’s consciousness with the transcendental consciousness and in accepting the unacceptable.

By merging his consciousness with the divine, a yogi frees himself of all desires. He becomes completely detached and ceases to have any personal agenda of his own. Since he desires nothing, he has neither hopes nor fears. Realising his inherent identity with the transcendental consciousness frees a yogi from all conflicts with others and fills him with unbounded love.

For all "Otherness" is born of ignorance. In reality there is no Other but only the transcendental self manifesting itself in variegated forms and hues. Ignorance lies in identifying oneself with one’s limited ephemeral being. This ignorance cannot be destroyed by rituals but by a concerted search of one’s true nature.

Yogananda’s whole life is a passionate search for unveiling the mystery of this universe and man’s place in it. Through his autobiography comes alive a whole galaxy of saints of last two centuries. His guru, Swami Yukteswara Giri, helped him cleanse himself of all the blemishes in his personality. Yogananda also abided by his advice in full faith.

His guru made it clear to him that merging one’s consciousness with the transcendental consciousness is not to abandon action and live in apathy but to renounce one’s involvement in the fruits of actions and become a medium for the manifestation of the divine. Yogananda writes: "Truth is no theory, no speculative system of philosophy, no intellectual insight. Truth is an exact correspondence with reality. For man, truth is unshakable knowledge of his true nature, his self as soul."

Yogananda became a world teacher and demonstrated the value of yoga as a scientific technique for experiencing one’s spiritual being. Through his mahasamadhi on March 7, 1952, he proved that a yogi has no fear of death. After concluding his speech at a banquet in the USA, he entered into mahasamadhi as peacefully and joyfully as you board a plane to meet an old friend. There was neither a trace of fear nor of anguish in the parting.

His was truly an exemplary life. It was like bhairavi sung on an early morning on the side of a mighty ocean. I recommend it to all sensitive readers who are captivated by the search for truth.Top

 

When courts bat for ecology
by J.S. Yadav

Environmental Pollution and Developments: Environmental Law, Policy and Role of Judiciary by Chander Pal. Mittal Publications, New Delhi. Pages 544. Rs 995.

POLLUTION can be defined as a undersirable change in the physical, chemical or biological characteristics of air, water or land which can harm the health, survival or activities of humans or other organisms.

After World War II the westerencountries witnessed an industrial boom made possible by a burgeoning population, advanced technology and a rapid rise in energy consumption — all symptoms of development. During the 1950s and 1960s this growth significantly increased the volume of wastes released into the environment.

New chemicals, including insecticides and pesticides, used without sufficient testing for their environmental and health effects, caused, and continue to cause, enormous problem not anticipated when they were introduced.

Unfortunately, the problem is worsening as the variety and amount of pollutants sharply increase while the capacity of air, water and the land system to assimilate wastes is limited.

The pollutants also damage the health of human beings, plants and animals. The effects of pollution on the biosphere are numerous and are multiplying every day. Unless checked, they could make the planet uninhabitable.

In India, those most deeply affected by environmental deterioration are the poor. Displaced and dispossessed by deforestation and other natural resource despoilation, they are the first victims of poor sanitation: foul air, contaminated water and shrinking fuel and fodder. They are the ones who suffer the most from the loss of the nation’s precious "commons" — water, air, soil and forest.

Their advocates, especially those who file public interest litigation, must have the material at hand to carry on their work. The book under review seeks to furnish those material and to indicate how cases and writ petitions can be filed to protect the country’s environment.

The book is divided into eight chapters followed by a compendium of important national and international documents on environment and a select bibliography. In fact, this part makes the book a must for everyone interested in the varied aspects of environment for one gets all material at one place.

The first chapter, "Jurisprudence of global and national environmental law" deals with the impact of environment on mankind and issues of global concern; it also gives a bird’s eye-view of the pollution problem in India. There is a brief account of the sources of environmental law in India and enumerates the possible ways of controlling pollution. It makes a forceful plea for teaching environmental law and proposes a syllabus for the LL.B course.

The next chapter details the environmental policy with special reference to legal policy for protection of environment and the usefulness of environmental impact assessment. A reference has been made to the various movements launched for protecting environment like the chipko, aapiko, etc. and levels at which the conflicts exist — economic, technological and scientific — have been highlighted.

Two other chapters deal with the control of various kinds of pollution — water, air, noise and land — and the laws dealing with these, the procedure and practice. While describing earlier attempts at legal control, it discusses the present-day legislation, bringing out the shortcomings of the various laws. The judicial response is the highlight of the discussion.

In fact, a whole chapter has been devoted to this aspect which gives an account of the role of the judiciary in protecting, preserving and conserving environment.

The Supreme Court Judges have embarked on complex administrative exercises. In the Dehradun quarrying case, for example, the Supreme Court appointed several expert committees and through periodic directions monitored the regeneration of the valley, which had been devastated by unscientific limestone quarrying.

On other occasions, the Supreme Court had tried to reduce the pollution level of the Ganga by closing down tanneries and directing municipalities to take immediate action to prevent municipal wastes from flowing into the river, controlling pollution affecting the Taj Mahal by closing down iron foundaries in Agra, reducing air pollution in Delhi by directing the government to relocate factories and banning 15-year-old motor vehicles.

These reforms have altered the complexion of environmental politics. Judicial activism finds a liberal mention in this chapter.

The concluding chapter discusses the possible future trends and also offers suggestions to control pollution, save environment from degradation and maintain sustainable development.

The growing incidence of pollution, legislation and the functioning of state-level pollution control boards notwithstanding, it is the people who are the important agents of control. There is thus a need to educate the masses about personal and community hygiene, and also their rights and duties. Without education, laws and action plans will have only a limited success.

Einstein once said that two things are unlimited: the universe and man’s foolishness. We can only hope that the latter does not lead him to go on polluting his environment until he falls victim to his own folly.

The book is addressed to all who have interest in Indian law on environment. Apart from the law faculty and students of universities for whom this has been specially written, others who can benefit include the judiciary, public interest litigation lawyers, government officials, members of environmental organisations and all those with interest in environmental protection.

The book is a must for all libraries.Top

 

Unionists: unique actors who thrived and faded
by G.V.Gupta

Politics of Sharing Power — The Punjab Unionist Party 1923-1947 by Raghuvendra Tanvar: Mahohar Publications, New Delhi. Pages 215. Rs 425.

The rise and fall of the Unionist Party of Punjab province is an interesting and unique phenomenon of the Indian party system in the first half of the 20th century. A party of purely feudal interests of both the Hindu and Muslim communities and strongly supported by a large number of peasant proprietors, the party was tolerated and even encouraged by the colonial power. It stressed the growth of local government and opted for provincial autonomy and held power for a decade, denying space to both the Congress and Muslim League, which held sway over the rest of British India. In this respect it was an exception.

A question arises: how could this happen and only in one province and, again, how could the party just vanish within such a short time? Prof Tanvar has made an impressive effort at providing answers. He has depended on both textual and oral resources and has been deeply influenced by the studies of Ian Talbot, a renowned authority on Pakistan, on the one hand, and the students of Chhotu Ram, on the other. His heroes are Fazl-i-Husain and Chhotu Ram, both of whom left Congress when it called for non-cooperation and preferred to follow a constitutional path in pressing their demands.

The basic thesis of Tanvar is that a skewed land-holding pattern, low urbanisation, high indebtedness of the peasantry, restriction on the right to vote only to property-holders, reservation of constituencies on religious and urban-rural bases and a specific religion- and regionwise profile of the population were responsible for the creation of a "rural block" of affluent legislators with numerical domination which ultimately emerged as the Unionist Party.

The emergence of this block was facilitated by the Congress boycott of electoral politics in the mid-twenties and the colonial policy of extending strong support to the dominant rural elite for their role as social intermediaries in army recruitment and maintaining peace in the countryside. An administrative structure coopting this group in important administrative jobs such as "lambardars" and "jaildars" also made them loyal. This line was thus strongly backed by the colonial power.

Once in power, Tanvar feels, this group consolidated its hold by taking various legislative and administrative steps which helped the peasantry which, in turn, backed this formation. These included banning sale of agricultural land by cultivating classes, insulating the personal effects, bullocks and agricultural implements as also standing crops from being attached in the discharge of debts, restricting the total interest on long-standing loans to the amount equal to the principal, abolishing the concept of mortgage with an in-built provision for sale on failure to redeem and providing for the automatic redemption of mortgages after a specified time.

The Unionist Party also recast the provincial budget to start rural schools and dispensaries and to strengthen the local government. The religious composition of Punjab at that time was such that no single community could form a government, with the Muslims, Hindus and the Sikhs forming 51 per cent, 34 per cent and 12 per cent of the population. The Unionist Party not only handsomely won the 1937 elections, capturing almost all Muslim rural seats and all but one of the Hindu rural seats in south-east Punjab, it also continued to rule the province till just before independence.

Tanvar has ably supported his arguments with detailed statistical data. Fazl-i-Husain was the political strategist who organised this block of feudal leaders into a political party and functioned as its chief spokesman till his death in 1937. Sir Chhotu Ram was its ideologue and championed the rural interests. Tanvar illustrates the superiority of this combination by pointing out the success of the zamindara conference organised by the party compared to the poor attendance at a kisan sabha held by the Congress at the same place on the same dates.

The rapid collapse of the Unionist Party on the eve of independence is attributed by Tanvar to the weak character of Sikander Hiyat Khan in surrendering party interests to Jinnah by allowing its Muslim members to join the League and the inexperience of Khizr Hiyat Khan who forfeited the support of Chhotu Ram’s followers, who had by then died. He also makes a general remark that the party of feudal interests, which was infested with internal intrigues and contradictions, was no match to the mechanics of the Muslim League which had caught the imagination of the Muslims.

This brings us to the essential contradictions in Tanvar’s approach which, on the one hand, emphasises the ideological approach of Chhotu Ram and, on the other hand, finds the Unionist Party devoid of a coherent and relevant ideology. In counting the benefits Chhotu Ram brought to rural society, Tanvar is unable to specify what help small and marginal farmers and also the landless received. For the author, rural society is synonymous with peasant proprietors.

He also slurs over the fact that the Unionist Party was dominated by Muslim zamindars with a degree of collaboration from Hindu landowners. This robbed the party of the loyalty of the Hindus, Sikhs and the Muslim masses.

The land alienation law did depress the price of land by restricting the type of people who could buy. Tanvar readily admits the marginal effect of moneylenders legislation. This debt relief legislation helped liquidate only 2 per cent of the total debt. Unimaginative and poorly enforced debt relief laws lower the commercial value of land in the absence of an alternate source of credit. This was proved in Haryana in the late eighties when such measures had to be hastily abandoned to keep agriculture commercially viable, which was threatened in the absence of private lending.

It is well known that large farmers monopolise cooperative credit. A lack of adequate understanding of the importance of trade and credit in the economy not only kept agriculture underdeveloped but also in some ways it hindered the advent of modernising forces. Haryana till today suffers from a lack of cultural growth. It continues to be a society highly oppressive of women and the landless. In the absence of post-independence land reforms, Pakistani Punjab continues to be the source of political instability.

As regards partition, as pointed out by Ayesha Jalal, it became inevitable when both Nehru and Jinnah sabotaged the concept of provincial autonomy. For Jinnah the security of the Muslims required a unified and large landmass. For the Unionists, their interests could be served only in an autonomous Punjab province. When it became clear that an autonomous province was not on the cards the Unionists disintegrated.

Secular socialisation of the polity in terms of unity of the agriculturist castes was not possible in the absence of proportional representation. Compulsions of constituency-level compromises require unique formations. When adult franchise became imminent, the Unionists collapsed. They were able to create a province-level party only when franchise was selective.

Secular socialisation in terms of administrative structures of the "mahalwari" system predated the Unionists and has survived them. Its essential advantage is the very precise and detailed identification of proprietary rights in land in the modern sense of property. This provided stability. Constitutionally mandated changes have proved after independence that the old concept of "lambardar" is not vital to its survival. Land reforms have been carried out within this structure. Abolition of pre-emption laws and industrialisation have not damaged it. Therefore it is not possible to locate any vital link between this system and the growth of the Unionists.

But the Unionists would not have been what they were but for Chhotu Ram. He was the secular face of a predominantly Muslim outfit. In him was located the source of the ideological respectability of the Unionists. The importance of Chhotu Ram lies in his realisation of an opportunity to advance the interests of peasant-proprietors in the specific context of the agitational politics of the Congress to the extent that it was tolerated by the colonial rulers and the Muslim landlords of central and north Punjab.

The problem with some of the leftist intellectuals of Haryana has been their emotional inability to objectively assess the role of Chhotu Ram. Tanvar also gives no importance to the role of the Arya Samaj or the Jallianwala Bagh carnage.

The importance of the Unionist phenomenon is that communal unity requires a large dose of decentralisation and of a fully democratic nature. Jinnah and Nehru were both votaries of a strong centralised authority and therefore they had to divide their prospective empire.

In spite of some emotional and ideological weaknesses, Tanvar has done a commendable job.Top

 

Women: Still the inferior sex
Write View
by Randeep Wadehra

Women in Management by Sanghamitra Buddhapriya. APH, New Delhi. Pages xix + 257. Rs 800.

A COUNTRY that ignores 50 per cent of its human resource does not deserve to, and cannot, progress materially or otherwise. This is precisely what is happening in India. Only since the late sixties the concept of working woman, especially as manager and decision-maker, has caught on although fitfully.

In a milleu where the sex ratio — an important indicator of woman’s social status — has been progressively declining from 972 per thousand males in 1921 to 929 per thousand males in 1991, Indian womenhave found gender equality a tough, if not impossible, proposition. However, despite the rigid patriarchal set-up, she is slowly but surely coming into her own. One unmistakable indicator of this trend is the increasing visibility of women managers in the corporate sector.

But the situation is far from satisfactory. Women employees in the organised sector formed 12.1 per cent of the total work force in 1980. In 1991 it rose marginally to 14.1 per cent. In the management cadre, only 8.7 per cent of the top managers were women in 1991.

It is true that there is no legal, constitutional or other formal discrimination against women but one can notice that informally, various corporate and other employers do not consider them as a viable managerial asset despite evidence to the contrary. With the expansion of female education, the changing socio-cultural mores,and more effective assertion of women’s rights, the fair sex is able to increase its share in the managerial segment.

Yet one cannot help notice that a glass ceiling does exist. Consequently, while at the lower and middle management levels one finds more women, at the top of the corporate pyramid there is rarely a woman.

This reminds one of the exasperated retort of a female colleague long ago, "Never underestimate a man’s capacity to undervalue a woman’s abilities." And her contribution, perhaps.

Indeed, even in these days of information explosion, the stereotype male attitude towards females persists. Women, being emotional, are inferior managers as they cannot be trusted to take objective decisions. They are more suitable for the domestic chores and cannot shift to new places.

However, what is forgotten is that male members, both at home and at work place, do their utmost to make her life difficult. She is invariably burdened with the dual role of housewife and manager. It is a rare husband who shares her domestic workload. Rarer still is the colleague who would ungrudgingly accept her proven managerial or intellectual superiority.

This is an excellent book for those interested in understanding the changing socio-cultural scenario in the country. Tables and statistics supplement the lucid and learned presentation.

Women Rural Labourers by Mahesh V. Joshi. APH, New Delhi. Pages viii + 270. Rs 600.

ACCORDING to a national commission ’94 per cent of the total female work force is employed in the unorganised sector. According to the 1991 census, the rural working population comprised 27.06 per cent women. This is not exactly a happy situation. Females form a majority of the casual labour population, ripe for exploitation.

According to Alwa Myrdal and Vioila Klein, "Transplantation of seedlings, usually performed by women, is a tough job." The women have to stand in water for long periods of time. While transplanting paddy, they move backwards in a bent posture for eight hours a day, because the seedlings should be transplanted with minimum delay after they are pulled out of the nurseries.

Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution enjoin that women are not discriminated against and are provided adequate safeguards. The report of the core group on national perspective plan for women 1988-2000, observed that women are discriminated against in the context of wages as well as working conditions, even when their productivity is at par with that of men.

They hardly have a share in their family holdings. Being mostly illiterate or poorly educated, they get only low-paid jobs. Deprived of their earnings, rural women are truly leading a pathetic life. Thus one of the major factors in keeping their standard of living very low is the lack of adequate employment opportunities, as well as roadblocks in their quest for realising their full potential as productive and equal citizens of the country.

The research study, now published in a book form, covered eight districts of Gujarat. It drew data from 14 castes, mostly backward landless agricultural families. Most of the female agricultural workers were married and lived as part of joint families. The study concluded that, on an average, women earned Rs 30 or less a day. Their employment was seasonal with no job or social security.

This is where the policy makers need to think deeply. How is it that despite a whole range of welfare measures and laws, a huge chunk of popultion remains deprived and exploited?

The Divine and the Mortal, by Joginder Singh Hemkunt Publishers, New Delhi. Pages 168. Rs 150.

THE author states that his book is the end result of his quest for the Almighty. He has narrated several spiritual experiences at different periods of life. He has also written about Shri Guru Nanak Dev, Satya Sai Baba and other saints as well as places. Frankly, most of us — yours truly not excepted — seek God only when in trouble. For people like me Samuel Butler exclaims, "How holy people look when they are sea-sick!" When life’s vicissitudes torment us we cry out, "Have mercy on us O Shiva!" Pray, why should He?

How does one define piety? Is it the same as spiritualism? Again, must one take cognisance of Jung’s conclusion that nothing is more repulsive than a furtively prurient spirituality; it is just as unsavoury as gross sensuality. Perhaps one could take a more realistic view and quote William Blake, "You smile with pomp and rigour, you talk of benevolence and virtue; I act with benevolence and virtue and get murdered time after time."

For Dr Radhakrishnan spiritualism was a philosophical concept based on irrefutable logic. Spiritualism is a way of life, an attitude developed over a period of time through self-discipline, meditation and self-realisation. It elevates one’s worldview, enabling him to break the temporal shackles that promote crass materialism.

Gandhi’s idea of spiritualism was not born out of any desire for a tryst with the supreme being. He postulated that truth is God (and not vice versa as it would promote fundamentalism of the type we are witnessing today). In fact he firmly believed that one should practise piety while living in the material world and not by fleeing from its temptations.

This conviction finds an echo in Samuel Johnson’s assertion that piety practised in solitude, like the flower that blooms in the desert, may give its fragrance to the winds of heaven, and delight those unbodied spirits that survey the works of God and the actions of men. But it bestows no assistance upon earthly beings, and however free from taints of impurity, yet wants the sacred splendour of beneficence. A religous person is one who seeks Truth is its absolute form that would, in due course, fulfil his desire for a date with the Almighty. Spiritualism is not a byproduct of fear or an act of hypocrisy.

As Anthony Trollope once said, "I judge a man by his actions with men, much more than by his declarations Godwards. When I find him to be envious, carping, spiteful, hating the successes of others, and complaining that the world has never done enough for him, I am apt to doubt whether his humility before God will atone for his want of manliness."

Spiritualism has other facets too. Shades of double-talk, tinged with schizophrenia bedevil those who want to be socially accepted as enlightened beings, when they are still struggling against minor vices. To wit, the late British author Daisy Ashford, "Bernard always had a few prayres in the hall and some whiskey afterwards as he was rather pious".

Normally one can discern a fake sentiment at the outset. There is no dearth of people who feel that by mere praying they can achieve sainthood. These are the people who are less pious than they profess to be. As the Scottish poet Robert Burns once remarked, "Their sighin’, cantin’, grace-proud faces/Their three-mile prayers, and half-mile graces."

Prisoners and Human Rights by S.K. Pachauri. APH, New Delhi. Pages viii + 314. Rs 600.

PRISONERS the world over are looked down upon as sub-humans who are a menace to society. It rarely crosses one’s mind that not all of them are habitual or wilful criminals. Some of them are victims of circumstances who committed crime either under duress or out of ignorance. Others might be actually innocent. Other mitigating factors should separate the wolf from the lamb. However, our propensity for generalisation prevents us from looking at prisoners as fellow human beings caught in the misfortune not necessarily of their own making.

Pachauri has quoted chapter and verse from our law books and case studies to show that there is need for treating prisoners with some dignity. While passing judgement on solitary confinement, Justice Desai once remarked, "Solitary confinement has a degrading and dehumanising effect on prisoners."

So have third-degree tortures and other forms of torment that are inflicted in a routine manner in prisons. Perhaps that is the reason why there was a violent upsurge in the Chennai jail recently leading to the death of a jailor and several others. The reforms implemented in the Tihar jail by Kiran Bedi had a humanising effect on the inmates, though much remains to be done. Similarly it is becoming essential to usher in wholesale improvements in the way Indian prisons are run. There is no dearth of relevant laws and legal provisions safeguarding the prisoners’ right. All that is needed is politico-administrative will to implement such laws. The moot point is whether the ruling elite has it.

Self-Hypnosis for a Better Life by William W. Hewitt. Pustak Mahal, New Delhi. Pages 183. Rs 80.

IF the human body is the most complex contraption ever crafted by Mother Nature, the human mind is the most sophisticated motor ever structured to run the contraption. But like all machinery, the human body too develops defects that may or may not be possible to repair.

Consequently, various systems of medicine and meditation claiming to set right various ailments are in the market. Self-hypnosis is one of them. Basically a mind-over-matter concept, this book provides self-hypnosis scripts for 23 major problem-solving situations.

It prompts a person to think positive, enabling him to overcome negativism. The various audio-tapes, mentioned in the book, are designed for different situations. The "Affirmation for adults’" tape, for example programmes many powerful, positive, constructive, helpful and successful suggestions into several levels of one’s subconscious mind that enrich one’s life. Similarly there are tapes to help you enhance your will-power etc. Top

 

Violence, and the variety of it
by Surinder S. Jodhka

Problems of Violence: Themes in Literature by Barinder Pal Singh. Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla. Pages 189 Rs 350.

VIOLENCE has been one of the most popular subjects of discussion among the thinkers of all ages. Not only have modern social scientists and thinkers written on the subject, violence has been a central issue since the days of the Buddha and Christ.

Though it has almost always been viewed as a social and law-and-order problem, commentators have also given due consideration to situations where it becomes inevitable.

Defining violence also poses many problems. What constitutes violence? Why does it occur? How to build a society without violence? These are the questions that have kept thinkers of all ages preoccupied.

Barinder Pal Singh’s book attempts to provide an introduction to the various theses or "reflections" on the subject, "thematising the large corpus of literature" on violence.

Modern thinking in the post- Enlightenment phase as well the early social scientific theory viewed violence in an evolutionary perspective. Violence was believed to be linked to the stage of evolution of a given society. It was a feature of the barbaric and the primitive human mind. As societies progressed and became modern and industrialised, incidence of violence was supposed to dip. The civilised societies, beginning with the modern West, were to eventually become violence-free!

Two centuries later not only had this prophecy proved wrong, the later generations of social scientists and thinkers began to view the very process of "modernisation" and civilisation (of the western kind) as a violent one.

Today there are no certainties about the future of human societies. New literature seems to suggest that only the forms of violence have changed and not its extent.

Singh cites the example of the process of development introduced during the post-independence period in India which many see as inflicting violence and adding to the misery of the poor and the marginal. They are being "uprooted from their soil, culture and traditional occupation". The development process has already displaced 18.5 million people in India between 1951 and 1991, of whom nearly 75 per cent are tribals. The story is not very different in the developed countries of the West either, as this stream of thought would contend.

It is rather interesting to note that in much of the existing literature on the subject, violence is not viewed in a purely moralistic terms. An important distinction is made between "violence from below" and "violence from above". While "violence from above" is condemned and is viewed negatively, "violence from below" has been viewed positively and could be creative and liberating.

This is a recurring theme in much of the revolutionary theories of violence. The Marxist and the anarchist thinkers did not celebrate violence per se. However, they recommended that if there were no other options available, violence could become necessary for building a truly "non-violent" and "non-exploitative" society.

It was in the later theories of scholars like Sorel, Fanon, Sartre and Marcuse that violence of the proletariat and the colonised was glorified. For example, in his celebrated work, "Wretched of the Earth", ideologue of the Alegerian revolution Fanon has argued that for the colonised individual violence is a cleansing force. "It freed the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction; it made him fearless and restored his self-confidence".

Sartre and Marcuse too wrote in a similar vein and further developed Fanon’s argument in their writings on the subject. These thinkers were obviously criticised for glorifying and preaching violence. However, none of them celebrated violence just for the sake of it. Rather they saw violence as being the only effective mode of action available to the subordinate groups in a given structure of power and domination.

Interestingly, Singh finds many similarities between the modern theories of violence (discussed above) and the attitude that religious philosophies have towards violence. "The pre-enlightenment philosophies of all major religions of the world have also advocated the use of violence when all other modes of redressing a wrong have failed." It is not only in Islam and Sikhism that the use of violence was given religious sanction, even in Christianity and Hinduism violence was justified if it was required to "restore order in society and grant justice to the suffering people".

The contemporary significance of religious philosophies advocating violence if required for the good of all, according to the author, lies in the legitimacy that it provided to various militant ethnic and religious nationalist movements at the end of the 20th century in different parts of the world.

The longest chapter in the book is on "Violence in science and society" where Singh explores some other meanings and dimensions of violence in contemporary societies and their institutions. Much of the literature reviewed in this chapter deals with the various critiques of modernity and themes in the post-modernist writings.

Interestingly, the contributions of Indian scholars to this thinking has been quite important. Perhaps the most popular in this category of scholars are Ashish Nandy, Veena Das and Vandana Shiva.

Unlike the modern theorists of violence and the advocacy of violence by religions, these "anti-modernist" thinkers approach violence from a different perspective. For them violence is not the bloody action of some men against others. They talk of violence as being ingrained in the modern institutions of governance, and particularly in modern science and technology. Its worst sufferers have been the people of the Third World countries where in the name of progress and development, age-old structures of human relations and ways of life have been dismantled by borrowed western traditions and technology.

These scholars not only talk about the violence inflicted by modern science on man but also about the violence modern technology done to nature. Thus the whole question of environment also becomes a question of violence. The much-celebrated idea of development has become the most abhorrent term in this line of thinking. They look at it as "an ideology of the ruling elite and effective means of propaganda" often used to legitimise the plunder and displacement of the marginalised strata of society.

"Development is totalitarian because it simply means power" and an "officially sponsored tirade". Vandana Shiva would substantiate such an argument by referring to the fact that the peasants in the prime green revolution areas like Punjab have become poorer and indebted. Community networks have broken down giving rise to the kind of violence that Punjab experienced during much of the eighties.

One is rather surprised that in such a well-researched book, one does not find a critical framework. Even simplistic formulations like those of Vandana Shiva are presented without any critical comments from the author. Singh only reviews a large volume of literature on the subject, which in itself is quite a commendable job, a critical perspective of his own would have surely helped in making his thematisation more meaningful and richer. However, the book is still makes very valuable and useful reading.Top

 

Frankly talking

MR P.D. SHASTRI deserves full marks for plain speaking without pulling any punches in his review (December 26) of the books "Fragrant Spiritual Memories" and "Sai Grace and Recent Predictions".

Among other things, these books talk glibly and ever so confidently of the precise identities of saints, etc. in their earlier "lives" and of their future reincarnations; and they also feature at length "accurate" astrological predictions (although as a rule they turn out to be accurate only when they relate to events which have already occurred!).

Quite often critics soften their language when they have to say something negative but Mr Shastri has not hesitated in giving these books the description they really merit — namely, "trash".

The reviewer has also taken a swipe at the The Tribune for wanting this unworthy type of publications to be reviewed; one only hopes that some good will result from that well-intentioned critical observation of his.

SAROOP KRISHEN
Chandigarh

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