|Saturday, January 22, 2000,
intentions not enough
heroes of Kargil
Why is PM losing popularity?
January 22, 1925
Good intentions not enough
ANY information about the coming together of two great democracies of the world should be pleasant. Indo-American political relations have not been in an ideal state for decades. The USA has shown glaring partiality in respect of Pakistan. The US-Pakistan collaboration has gone to the extent of military alliance. Therefore, the plan to establish a joint working group (JWG) formulated by US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and our External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh in London is more than a silver lining in the politically clouded sky in our subcontinent. Terrorism is not a new feature of global life now. Pakistans Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has disturbed peace all over India with the help of mercenaries. Jammu and Kashmir, the North East and even Delhi have seen the terrorist activities of the ISI and its hired agents. The USA, too, has been a victim of international terrorism. Its staff has been subjected to violence on Pakistani soil. Remember a date four years ago in January when a blind Egyptian cleric and nine of his followers were given long prison sentences for plotting to blow up the United Nations office buildings, FBI offices, highway tunnels and many landmarks in and around New York in a single day of terror? And the World Trade Centre blasts? Called by any name, terrorism is a destructive phenomenon which needs not only condemnation but also ruthless action. The USA has been obsessed with an expression war of urban terrorism aimed at altering its policy in West and South Asia. President Bill Clinton and his officials took too long to comment on the hijacking of the IC-814 flight last month. Their reaction to the Pakistani invasion of the Kargil belt was couched in ambiguous political jargon, emitting some sound and fury but signifying nothing.
India has consistently
condemned terrorism in all its forms and its
manifestations affecting the USA and other countries. Mr
Talbott knows as much about the shelter being given to
the hijackers by Pakistan as Mr Jaswant Singh does. Any
JWG in this regard will have to begin with the
recognition of the fact that Pakistan has been sponsoring
cross-border terrorism. Mr Clinton turned down the
request of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to declare
Pakistan a terrorist state. It is not enough to talk
about the IC-814 episode. The representatives of the two
countries, (the USA and Indira) agreed in London to
work together to ensure that the perpetrators of the
hijacking of the Indian plane are brought to justice as
part of their joint efforts.... The latest parleys
appear rather pompous. Reports describe them as positive
and constructive, broad and bilateral, and also
institutional. These are fancy expressions. They will
acquire significance only if Mr Karl Inderfurth, the
Assistant Secretary of State, does some plainspeaking in
Islamabad in the light of the views said to have been
expressed by counter-terrorism expert Michael Sheehan.
What is needed is a total war on global terrorism.
Osama-bin-Laden is a symbol of destabilisation and
death-dealing activities like any ISI leader or his
employer the State of Pakistan. No country which
harbours terrorists can claim to have sovereignty, which
is primarily a moral concept. Sudan or Afghanistan can be
treated as points of reference. But the rearing place of
terror is the fundamentalist mind. The JWG should focus
its attention on General Parvez Musharrafs minions
who can take recourse to any action for their survival.
India has provided sufficient proof of the training camps
set up by Islamabad from where murderers and marauders
pour into Indian states or often sneak into Nepal.
Teaching General Musharraf a few hometruths about terror
can very well be the first task of Mr Inderfurth. An
attitudinal change, and not just the formation of the
JWG, is required to improve the Indo-US ties.
Fernandes & Co stranded
IN his long public life Mr George Fernandes has walked in and walked out of political parties with total freedom. Not footloose, but with insatiable wander lust in the ideological and organisational domain. Now he finds his steps frozen and he is stranded in enemy territory, so to speak. On Thursday the Election Commission ordered him to remain in the Janata Dal (U) and not stray into the Samata Party. There are several cruel ironies in this. The JD(U) is his creation; he persuaded the rump Dal to split by promising one faction electoral success in his partys company. As a visible sop he renounced his partys identity and donned the other mantle. Within three months he had second thoughts and wanted to control the JD(U) but the latter rebuffed his hostile take-over bid. So he decided to return home where he is the master, rather the president. It is then that he ran into a stern Election Commission ordering him to get back to the newly forged party. It silenced him by waving a sheaf of affidavits and letters to remind the stunned Samata leader that he continued to be a Janata Dal(U) M.P. Now he has to wear two party labels the JD(U) one inside the Lok Sabha and the Samata one outside. The unkindest cut will be if the JD(U) issues a whip on a question in which Mr Fernandes has strong opinion! He has to fall in line or face disqualification. That he is in the company of fellow Samata leaders, nine in all, is no consolation to a leader who has earned fame as the most tireless party hopper. He seems to be totally confused as is evident from the way he got his staunchest and loudest supporter, Samata secretary Jaya Jaitley, elected as president. She has the power to allot party symbols but would not get one extra vote in the coming Bihar Assembly election. Another immediate fallout will be to energise his detractors inside the party. It is one big mess, coming as it does when analysts believe that he has been ejected from the inner circle of the Prime Minister.
A personal problem of a
leader of the stature of Mr Fernandes quickly turns into
a political problem. It will widen the gulf between the
JD(U), to which he converted late last year, and the
Samata, to which he wants to reconvert, during the
crucial pre-election days. The Samata is not a united
party and now it is unwilling to unite with the JD(U).
The beneficiary will be Big Brother BJP on the NDA side
of the barricade and the Laloo Prasad Yadav-led RJD on
the opposite side. His partys claim to the second
biggest share of the 324 seats in the Bihar Assembly now
looks weaker not because it has suddenly become weak but
because the adverse publicity will cost it votes. By
unstated but general consensus the BJP will contest half
the number of seats, most of them from its stronghold in
south Bihar and the adjoining areas in the central part.
The Samata clamoured at first for 124 seats and now wants
about 100. The JD(U) believes in strict equality with the
Samata but there are not enough seats to go round. Then
there is the splinter Bihar Peoples Party of Mr Anand
Mohan Singh. The BJP is trying to broker an agreement and
has thrown a very heavyweight into the bargaining. Home
Minister Advani is having a series of meetings with the
leaders of both parties, even as all three have asked the
likely candidates to file their nomination. Seat-sharing
has already soured the inter-party relations and the
restrain order on Mr Fernandes has heightened tension.
Wield axe with care
IF the go-ahead given by the Himachal Pradesh Government to the felling of green trees is misconstrued as a carte blanche, it can lead to wanton destruction of the already depleted green cover. But if the felling is carried out strictly in accordance with the forest working plans for each division duly approved by the Centre, as laid down by the Supreme Court and as has been ordained by the Cabinet, it can be rather a blessing in disguise. The growth of young trees requires specific conditions, which can be provided only by scientific thinning of new plantations. Moreover, it is also necessary to carry out felling in the case of old trees for which the mean annual increment has started declining. Both these requirements have not been fulfilled in the State because of the blanket ban on the felling of trees. The regeneration of forests is essential but it can take place only if things are seen in the right context instead of persisting with a total moratorium. What has to be kept in mind is that the entire economy of countries like Sweden depends on proper utilisation of the area under forest for making paper. In those nations, trees are planted and felled in rotation without decreasing the total area under forest in any way. There is no reason why Himachal Pradesh cannot do the same. All that is required is the maintenance of a healthy balance between development and environment.
The misgivings about the
decision arise because similar provisions have been
brazenly misutilised in the past. Take for instance the
decision to cut old or infected trees. This exemption has
been misused to fell even many healthy trees. There is a
powerful timber mafia before which the government finds
itself helpless. What compounds the problem is widespread
corruption among forest officials. Since laws are
antiquated and facilities made available to them are
woefully inadequate, many officials succumb to the
lucrative offers of the timber smugglers. There is need
to address all these problems. The 16-year-old moratorium
has been lifted but the working plans for all forest
divisions are not ready yet. The government should
reassure the public that felling would be allowed in such
divisions only when plans are ready. Himachal Pradesh has
very limited natural resources. It has been pleading with
the Centre all along that since it has been imposing a
lot of restraint on itself for preserving the forest
wealth, it should be adequately compensated. The latest
decision will earn the state government no more than Rs
50 crore a year. That is chickenfeed, considering the
financial condition of the state. The Centre needs to
give a sympathetic hearing to its pleas if the forest
wealth has to be effectively preserved.
THE last decade of this century has redefined the exclusive space of nation states not only on issues of trade, investment and labour (attempts are still on regarding the last one) but also on the moral issue of corruption. This was previously considered to be internal to the country in question. Interestingly, the bogey of corruption being a global phenomenon was raised then in response to the criticism of rampant corruption in the public sector. This fin de siecle issue has also been assimilated in the globalisation process in the last decade of this century. The aggressive stance of the international institutions can be judged by the denial of a bailout package to Kenya by international funding institutions on the ground that its performance in respect of control of corruption was inadequate.
One reason for the change is that corruption is no longer viewed as an issue of morality but rather an issue of economics. Even the perspective, viewing it as an economic one, has changed. In the late seventies and eighties a functional approach to corruption was dominant among economists. Corruption was viewed as good for economics which do not allow markets to operate freely. There were further refinements showing that predictable and organised (single window) corruption (as in the erstwhile USSR and China) was more positive for the economy than unpredictable and pluralistic corruption in countries like India, Pakistan, most of Latin America and Africa.
There was also physical evidence of growth of Asian Tigers despite prevalence of crony capitalism especially in financial institutions and other ills associated with corruption.
There is, however, now a general agreement that despite the lubrication provided by corruption in regimented and over regulated economies, the impact of corruption is negative not only on a countrys ethos but also on its economy. Paolo Mauro has found a negative correlation between the level of corruption and growth of investment and economy.
There is also the issues of misuse of external credit and aid through leakages. One informed estimate puts the leakage of World Bank assistance and credit for Indonesia at 30 per cent of the total. The latest example is the scam of recycling (through some banks in the USA) to private accounts of a billion dollar in credit given by the international institutions to Russia.
The changed perceptions have resulted in another significant multilateral action. This is the convention on combating bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions which the 29 OECD countries have signed along with some others. This broadly adopts the approach of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of the USA. All the signatory countries are now required to pass legislation to implement the provisions of the convention mainly declaring illegal bribery of foreign country public officials for seeking or retaining business in that country. The signatory countries are also expected to pass laws disallowing tax deductions for bribery amount in such cases (at present most of OECD countries permit such deductions).
The convention is, of course, a satisfying rather than an optimum solution. It covers only bribery of public officials. Donations (which may be actually bribes) to political parties are not covered. Political funding thus is not barred. It may also be long time before all countries not only ratify the convention but also pass necessary legislation. Despite these limitations the convention is likely to be a major initiative of this century.
A number of countries have also initiated significant steps in this regard. Some countries in Africa and Latin America have adopted the islands of integrity approach where specific areas known for high incidence of corruption (like purchases and contracts) are targeted for improvement. Some countries have set up Ministries of Ethics at the national level. Indonesia has initiated investigation into the corrupt transactions during the Suharto regime. Pakistan not only conducted investigations after making payment of substantial sum of $ 4 million to the international investigators but also managed to convict top political personalities (even though the motives for taking up these steps, including setting up of an Accountability Bureau, may be suspect). This is not to mention the significant inroads made against corruption in Singapore and Hong Kong which are two remarkable examples of countries showing exceptional improvement over the past 30 years. In the 60s they were practically at par with India. Hong Kongs ICAC (Independent Commission against Corruption) is especially well known for its positive impact in the 1970s.
In this context it may be appropriate to examine how India stands as compared to other countries, how the issue of corruption has been viewed here, what needs to be done and what can be learnt from the experience of other countries.
The first is (at least making) a serious attempt to assess the quantum and dimensions of corrupt transactions across our polity and economy at micro and macro level. Guesstimate was made by the NIPFP report Aspects of the Black Economy in India published in 1985. This, however, covered only leakages in public expenditures and investments. Taking an estimate of 10 per cent this was estimated at Rs 2000 crore or about 2 per cent of GDP for the year 1981-82 (incidentally the black money generation was put at Rs 20,000 crore). If we update the figures based on relevant national accounting statistics, the amount will be Rs 13,500 crore in 1995-96.
The book Foul Play, Chronicles of Corruption 1947-97 estimated corruption collections at Rs 31275 crore, excluding sales tax, (the only item not concerning the Central Government) the amount is Rs 31775 crore.
Corruption amount, as distinct from the taxes evaded, is put at Rs 3000 crore. Whereas the NIPFP study covers corruption in public expenditure, the latter covers corruption in taxes and duties. The two together lead to a respectable total of over Rs 16,500 crore. It is to be noted that these being in the nature of transfer payments, are not the same thing as black income.
Compared to 1980-85, a survey done in 1998 shows that Indias corruption became worse by 22 per cent as against an improvement, for example of 900 per cent in Indonesia and 90 per cent in Nigeria (The Economist of London). The latest survey (1999) places India at 73 out of 99 countries, whereas in 1998, India was 66 out of 85 countries, thus showing further deterioration. It can be safely stated that by and large we have continued in the bracket covering the most corrupt countries. While we have missed the distinction of having some of our leading public figures being called Mr Ten (some say, Forty) Percent (Pakistan) and Madame Tien Percent (Indonesia), this does not call for self-congratulation. The number of percenters here is beyond count. We are reasonably democratic in this respect!
Mere awareness, however, is not enough. The next step is what social scientists calldesigning appropriate programmes and devising delivery mechanisms for control of corruption. A lot of help is available in this regard. Transparency International has documented the best practices models for eliminating corruption in their Source Book. For example, Germany has identified corruption-prone areas and devised a programme for adequate control and monitoring.
Equador has been listed for its model draft on ethical procurement and contracting practices. The Best Practical documentation covers issues like monitoring of conduct for public officials, transparency provisions, anti-corruption strategy, public officials assets, etc. Nearer home, the Chief Vigilance Commissioner is reported to have sent similar proposals to the government.
There is a need now to devise strategies in the core areas of impact. While devising action programmes and strategies on the lines advocated by the TI and the CVC, policy makers could take note of the following suggestions:
(a) Adopting 80:20 (Pareto optimality) approach. This will enable focus on the most important 20 per cent of agencies and areas which account for 80 per cent of corruption. Micro level surveys will help identify such important areas of intervention.
(b) It seems pointless for each state to provide a separate institution of Lok Ayukta. It will be in the national interest for appropriate central institutions to have jurisdiction over top level public officials of the states. In case such institutions are set up at the state level one special worry is the inevitable dependence of such institutions on state police and the vigilance set-up for investigation. The vigilance set-up in the states is generally perceived to be too corrupt, politicised, personalised and unprofessional to be of much use in catching their own masters ruling the state. Who will guard the guardians? Surely not the guardians themselves! If energy and education can be on the Concurrent List, the important area of eradication of corruption can also be there.
(c) While independent bodies like the Lok Pal and the Chief Vigilance Commissioner need to be established at the national level, it may be desirable to have one single institution. Considering the nature of corrupt transactions and the babu-neta-lala nexus, it is rarely possible to distinguish and investigate separately the role of civil servants and ministers in specific transactions. The two institutions of Lok Pal and Chief Vigilance Commissioner (to deal with politicians and civil servants, respectively) are likely to lead to confusion and hamper proper investigations.
(d) We also need to introduce as quickly as possible the provisions for confiscation of property acquired by unlawful means, on the lines of a similar law in Singapore. We have a draft prepared by the Law Commission. This kind of statute is very different from the provisions of confiscatory fines under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA). The standard of proof required is different. Whereas under the PCA everyone is considered innocent unless proved guilty, the law for confiscation is of a civil nature and operates independently of conviction under the PCA.
It is true that there are no standard true mantras and people will differ on what needs to be done to tackle the menace of corruption. There are a number of additional areas for intervention transparency, electoral reforms, declaration of assets of public officials, etc. The point is to make a start with action rather than prolong dialogue and debate. Zero tolerance approach may appear a pipedream today but it can help define vision. A minimalist programme is definitely feasible. The fact of corruption being a global phenomenon was never a good defence. That India is a developing economy, or that it is a pluralist democracy is no longer so.
Unsung heroes of Kargil
DEFENCE analysts feel that the Pakistanis played their cards well and drove a wedge between the Batalik and Partapur sectors with the aim of progressing south of the Indus river to sever the Kargil-Leh highway. The Pakistani designs also aimed at a major intrusion into the Turtuk sector and Chorbatla. They perhaps intended to initiate insurgency in the Ladakh sector and fanning the communal divide. In the Turtuk sector the aim was to create a popular uprising supported by infiltration by regulars, and perhaps launch operations to capture Thoise. The actions by 3 Infantry Division thwarted all these plans entirely.
3 Infantry Division fought the bloodiest battles on the glaciated heights in Mashkoh-Dras-Kaksar-Batalik-Turtuk sectors. They contained the enemy in the entire Kargil sector, made preparations for launching of attacks and achieved a spectacular victory in the Batalik sector defeating the Pak army.
It was 15 Corps and 3 Infantry Division that had to deal with the intrusions along the Line of Control from Mashkoh, Dras to Batalik. As the strength and might of the Indian Army built up, the intrusion by the Pak army in the entire Kargil sector was detected in time and prevented from further expansion. The intruders were pushed back and preparations made to achieve a victory. The first attacks of Tololing were launched and Tiger Hill isolated in the fourth week of May, 1999. 8 Mountain Division came in later in June, and took charge of further operations. It has been given the much deserved accolades for eviction of the enemy from Tololing and later on in July for Tiger Hill. The entire panorama of these mountains being visible from Dras became a journalists delight.
As the battle for Tololing and Tiger Hill was progressing in the Dras sector, the enemy was steadily being defeated in the adjoining Batalik sector by 3 Infantry Division. The sleepy hamlets of Biamah, Dah, Darchik and Garkhun along the Indus river, known only for their stock of Aryan race, were in a state of insecurity till the gallant soldiers of 70 Infantry Brigade routed the enemy on the razor-sharp ridges at heights above 17,000 feet in one of the most underdeveloped and inhospitable areas of Ladakh.
The enemy had occupied tactically important heights in the unheld areas of Mashkoh, Dras, Kaksar, Batalik. The soldiers in Batalik sector, which had the largest enemy intrusion had to march two to three days from the roadhead under enemy artillery shelling and long-range direct firing weapons before launching physical attacks to evict the enemy who had improvised defences in available caves and builtup sangers for protection. Some retired Army officers who have operated in the area say that the operations in the Batalik, Yaldor and Chorbat La sectors were the most challenging and difficult due to the ruggedness of the terrain and the distance of the enemy pockets of intrusion from the roadhead. The media thus never managed to reach this desolate battlefield.
Maj-Gen VS Budhwar, General Officer Commanding, 3 Infantry Division, states that his operations in the Kargil sector were aimed to target the mind of the enemy by exerting constant pressure along multiple approaches. This paid off resulting in the intruders failing morale and the will to remain in the entire area. The Pakistani troops finally ran way on July 5-6 after suffering heavy losses and the entire intrusion in Batalik was cleared. Indian troops in pursuit occupied dominating heights along the LoC in an operation lasting nearly 60 days. The daunting task was achieved by troops of 70 Infantry Brigade encircling the enemy and cutting off his routes of maintenance. This tactically brilliant operation extending deep behind the frontline and under the very nose of the enemy was a spectacular success primarily due to the courage of the soldiers and perseverance of officers who led from the front. Approximately 150 soldiers, including officers and junior commissioned officers laid down their lives. The success of the division in detecting the intrusion well in time, when Pak operations were incomplete, and turning a situation where national honour was at stake into a brilliant victory in the shortest possible time has not become known as not many journalists could reach the scene of action. The rout of the Pak troops in the Batalik sector is a tale written in blood of the Indian soldier mingled with the sweat of the Ladakhi populace, who came out to work as porters and carried supplies and ammunition for the soldiers in the area which is a logisticians nightmare. The support of the population speaks highly about the civil-military relations in the sector.
The snow-covered peaks of Pt 5203, Jubar, Kukar Thang, Khalubar, Stangba and Dog Hill stand as mute testimonies to the sacrifices of the Indian soldier and would go down in the annals of modern military history as a classic operation in high altitude warfare which cleared more than 800 enemy soldiers from the largest intrusion resulting in maximum Pakistani casualties, capture of maximum prisoners of war, the largest recovery of arms, ammunition, equipment and achieving a favourable and dominating posture over the Pak troops on the Line of Control. 3 Infantry Division along with 8 Mountain Division deserves a special commendation for evicting the Pakistan army intruders from the Dras and Batalik sectors even before the onset of the political dialogue on withdrawal. All this was achieved while ensuring a stoic and aggressive posture in Turtuk, Siachen and against the Chinese in Eastern Ladakh.
The area is now quiet and the hyped activity of blazing guns has been replaced with preparations to combat the harsh winters by both the sides with temperature now dropping to minus 40-degree Celsius. The sanctity of the LoC having been restored, the policy makers and planners have to now concentrate on the task of developing the infrastructure in the remote areas and prevent the advent of trans-Zojila terrorism, which cannot be ruled out as the next agenda on the adversaries mind. Armchair analysts who are critical of the Armys actions need to have an experience of the environment in winter to understand what goes into operating in the area.
Why is PM losing popularity?
WHEN a popular Prime Minister begins, suddenly to start losing his popularity you can feel it, almost tangibly, in the Delhi air. You do not feel it so much if you live in our Capital city all the time but if you have been travelling, wandering about the country or beyond, and then return after a short absence you feel instantly the change in the atmosphere. This time I began to get intimations of what was in store even before my Indian Airlines flight touched down in a city so swathed in fog that the middle of the afternoon had the bleakness of dusk. The intimations came from conversations with fellow travellers on the flight all of whom said they were incensed with the manner in which the government had handled the hijack. They were mainly businessmen, the people I talked to, and it was surprising to hear them speak so angrily because rarely have I met businessmen who get emotional about something that does not concern matters of finance. What seemed to make them angrier than anything else was what they called the mismanagement of the hijack crisis. What were those terrorists still doing in jail? Why did we not make any attempt to talk tough? Why were we blaming Kathmandu airport security when the same thing could have happened at any of our own airports?
Echoes and variations of these questions, I was to discover, were the main reason why the Prime Minister, a hero after Kargil, was now being seen as a weak, ineffectual man. On my first evening in Delhi I braved the foggy, clammy polluted air to venture into one of the citys suburbs for dinner. Here again it was the hijack that was the main topic of the dinner party conversation. There were younger people present, Indian students on vacation from colleges in the United States, and they could not understand why no attempt had been made to storm the plane or, for that matter, why it had been allowed to leave Amritsar in the first place. They were too young, they said, to remember what the Israelis had done at Entebbe airport all those years ago but they had seen the film so knew what could have been done.
If we couldnt do it ourselves we should have just let the Israelis do it for us they said with the naivety of youth. And, when questioned by older and wiser people about whether they would have reacted the same way if they had relatives on board they swore they would. We should have, at least, tried to put on a fight, this way we just ended up looking like a weak, cowardly country.
In the next few days, as a cold rain washed away the fog I met the usual collection of politicians, journalists and officials that one does in Delhi and found that many of the Prime Ministers severest critics came from inside his own government. There had been two views on how to handle the hijack, the critics said, and those who wanted to threaten the hijackers in any way were silenced by what they called the PMO-MEA school of thought. In other words the Prime Ministers Office and the Ministry of External Affairs are being squarely blamed for us having gone to the Taliban on bended knees, begged for the hostages to be released, and then thanked them profusely for their help. People I spoke to said that during the Cabinet meetings that had been held to discuss the situation one of the suggestions that had come up was that we could use the same tactics as the hijackers were using.
A Minister who asked not to be named said: One suggestion was that we warn the hijackers that if a single passenger was killed we would start killing the 35 men they wanted released. Naturally, this could not have been an official part of any negotiations but it wasnt even tried because it was shot down by the PMO-MEA lot. Other people, close to the governments innermost circles, admitted that everyone had been unhappy with the way the hijack had been handled.
Since the Prime Minister, despite his current loss of popularity, remains Indias most popular leader, though, much of the blame is being shifted to Jaswant Singh. From being one of the most highly regarded Ministers in Mr Vajpayees Cabinet, not so long ago, he is now being viewed as someone who has far too much influence of the wrong kind on the Prime Minister.
In the shaming aftermath of the hijack everything he does is being viewed with suspicion and wariness, even his tenth round of negotiations with the American Assistant Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott. Rumours spread easily in the corridors of power and one rumour that currently spreads with the speed of a forest fire is that he is trying to get the Prime Minister to sign the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) before the American President arrives in March. Why does he want us to do this, people ask. What purpose can there be in signing a treaty that has not even been ratified by the American Congress? Then, there are the usual conspiracy theorists, as usual more vocal than the rest, who go so far as to drop dark hints about Jaswant Singh being Americas man in India. These dark hints find their way into the national press and speculation becomes reality to those unfamiliar with the manner in which investigative journalism happens in Delhi.
If the Prime Minister was not already losing his gloss because of the hijack, we now have the strikes by electricity and port workers to compound his problems. Rightly or wrongly the strikes are also being seen as a sign of the governments inherently weak nature. The series of strikes began with electricity workers in Lucknow. Everyone knows that the state electricity boards are bankrupt from spending more on producing electricity than they make from selling it. Everyone also knows that unless they change their methods of functioning they will not survive but everyone still blames the government for not being transparent enough in the changes they were making. Workers should have been involved in the process.
It should have been explained to them that changes were necessary because the state electricity boards together owed bills of more than Rs 10,000 crore. Instead, the government in Uttar Pradesh, which has a Chief Minister handpicked by the Prime Minister, went ahead with making changes and then came down heavily on workers who went on strike.
Then came the strike by
port workers which should be laughable when you consider
that India has the most inefficient ports in the world
but nobody is laughing because again everyone blames the
Prime Minister. And, he, complacent with the plaudits he
got after Kargil and still basking in the contentment of
having won the election sits silently in Race Course Road
apparently unaware of the dangerous currents that weave
their way through the fog of Delhis streets.
THE Malabar Hill outrage, as the result of which a prominent citizen of Bombay was killed and others received more or less serious injuries, is reminiscent of medieval times when armed bodies of men fought in public streets to forcibly rescue or kidnap women.
The knight errants have now, however, become extinct and are only to be found in legends and stories.
Another fact which
invests the recent Bombay tragedy with a peculiar
importance is that some highly placed persons are said to
be behind the crime. Will they be thoroughly exposed?
Will the police spare no pains to bring those responsible
for this grave outrage to book?
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