|Friday, January 28, 2000,
Unjustified felling of trees
THIS relates to the large-scale felling of trees recently allowed by Himachal Pradesh and reported in The Tribune.
The situation in the country at present is that of "plant or perish". Instead, Himachal has allowed mass felling of trees my soul curses those who took the decision.
No civilisation has survived the destruction of trees. Who has not heard of the great ancient civilisations of the valley of Nile, Syria, Greece and our own Indus basin as revealed by the ruins at Mohienjo-Daro and Harappa. These civilisations were destroyed not so much by foreign hordes as by the local people themselves. Deprived of the protection afforded by trees, homes and land became choked and were buried by sands, brought down by floods and blown by winds. The sooner we stopped thinking of
|the trees as a mere mass of leaves
supported by a stem the better it would be for our
understanding of the true role they play.
I strongly feel that greed, not need, is the reason for allowing the mass felling of trees. India is known to be a corrupt country, and those concerned with satisfying their greed may devise some other way instead of targeting the trees.
It has been scientifically concluded that each tree during its life-time, on an average, provides benefits worth Rs 32 lakh as per an estimate done in 1988. The loss that the government is going to cause is, therefore, mind-boggling.
As far as India is concerned, corruption is not a new thing (Growing corruption, by Mr R.N. Gupta, Jan 22). It was present even in the 15th century, as there are references of it in the compositions of Bhakti poets.
When there is corruption the state exchequer is the biggest sufferer, because bribe means the amount divided by the government employee and the man approaching him. In most of the cases the money which is to be credited to government account is divided, and because of this process being in existence we are not in a position to give to the public what we actually proposed.
Some people believe that when a project costs Rs 1 crore only Rs 60 lakh is spent on it and the remaining amount goes into the pockets of the people at work. That is the reason why people serving in some of the departments become rich in days while those working in other departments are not benefited.
Forest wealth looters: I read with immense interest the editorial Wield axe with care (Jan 22), focusing attention on the HP governments reported decision to lift the 16-year-old moratorium on the felling of green trees and advising the Forest Department to exercise utmost restraint/care while going ahead in the matter. I also tend to believe that the harried government might have taken the unpleasant decision under the stress of financial stringency.
However, I am not very optimistic about the matter, candidly speaking. To my mind, the decision in question comes virtually as a bonanza for the politician-bureaucrat-contractor axis.
It would be foolish and futile to hope that the crafty/money-hungry timber mafia and forest officials, who seem to enjoy active patronage by unscrupulous politicians, would not exploit the new forest policy to their mutual advantage. In fact, the guys may act in the matter with a vengeance to make up for the loss, thanks to the accursed moratorium.
It would be pertinent to recall the fate of the much-publicised recommendations of the Fifth Pay Commission. Whereas government employees now carry every month a hefty pay packet to their homes, the corresponding benefits which were supposed to accrue to the country at large following the implementation of the report seem nowhere in sight. Likewise, rather than improve the financial health of the state, the new forest policy would help fill the coffers of only the plunderers of the states forest wealth, including the unscrupulous politicians. Let the powers that be beware.
Terrorism demands action
In his article, A proactive package for Kashmir terrorism demands action, not rhetoric (January 27), Mr Hari Jaisingh has rightly suggested that the foreign mercenaries recruited in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries operating in the valley demand extra-special attention of the security forces.
Some newspaper reports say that 80 per cent of the terrorists operating in the valley are mercenaries. A separate law should be enacted to ruthlessly eliminate the mercenaries found or caught in the valley. This law should exclusively be applicable to the mercenaries and not to native terrorists.
The only punishment under this law for mercenaries caught alive in the valley should be death.
Provision should also be made in such a law that no query can be raised by any court or any other institution of the government if any mercenary dies in the custody of the security forces.
Special Status: All eight steps suggested by the writer need attention of the government.
However, ours is a poor country, with no unlimited resources. Kashmir has become a big drain on our resources, and a permanent headache needing diversion of our attention from other serious issues. The basic question is that why our rulers allowed this problem to assume such a serious magnitude. Why do we not remove all those factors which contributed to make Kashmir a problem?
It has been very correctly observed in the article that "Kashmir is not merely a military matter. It also needs to be seen as part of psychological warfare unleashed by the enemy from across the border". The basic question is that why Article 370, which created a psychology of separateness, is supported by all the political parties, excepting the BJP. It is shameful that all these so-called secular parties give more importance to their vote banks rather than the unity of the country.
Why can these parties and Dr Farooq Abdullah not tell the Kashmiris as well as the Pakistanis that India is a secular country with more than 12 crore Muslims enjoying equal rights? Why should the Kashmiris have a special status? They should also be told that Kashmir is getting the maximum per capita central aid while the rest of the country is deprived of the basic necessities of life. They should also be told about the conditions of the people living in occupied Kashmir. All the pseudo-secular parties and Dr Farooq Abdullah should do heart-searching, and mend their ways.
On what grounds does Dr Farooq Abdullah plead for autonomy? Pakistan should be flatly told that talks could be held only about occupied Kashmir.
Smoking: inadequate steps
Fighting menace of tobacco by Mr Harihar Swarup (Jan 16) was interesting. The wise governments of the UK and the USA have banned smoking in public places railway stations, bus stands, libraries, offices, etc.
For travels by train there are separate compartments for smokers. In double-decker buses the lower part is for non-smokers and the upper one for smokers. In single-decker buses the front seats are for non-smokers and the rear seats for smokers.
In addition to this, there is a warning for smokers not to smoke while the bus starts or stops as also when non-smokers object to smoking.
On packets of cigarettes there is the warning of dangers of smoking. Comparatively in India there are no such restrictions. There is an eyewash that in railway compartments there is written, at unimportant places that one should not smoke without the consent of co-passengers. But who cares.
There is no checking in any compartment. There is no checking in the buses or in public places.
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