Wednesday, February 2, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Bhagat Puran Singh on tree felling

IT is heartening to note through the columns of The Tribune (January 30) that noted environmentalist Sunder Lal Bahuguna, Dr Inderjit Kaur, successor to the saint of Pingalwara, the late Bhagat Puran Singh, and Dr R.S. Pirta have decided to start a CHIPKO movement in the hill state against the decision of the government to allow large-scale felling of trees (if the government does not reverse its decision). The Tribune also deserves appreciation for publishing this news on its front page to highlight this noble cause. Thank you, The Tribune.

Here I am reminded of Bhagat Puran Singh’s warning displayed at Pingalwara, Amritsar, which reads:

“In India, ten lakh and fifty thousand hectares of green forest land is denuded every year. If such a vast deforestation is not checked and afforestation is not increased the land of India will become desert till 2010 AD.”

  It is strange that the government itself has allowed large-scale deforestation. It is shameful that it exposes the gap between what the government preaches and what it practices.

If the Himachal Pradesh Government does not reverse its decision relating to large-scale felling of trees, my humble self (along with members of the Green Association, an NGO) will go on an indefinite fast in Shimla. It is not an emotional decision but a well-reasoned out one to see that there is no gulf between my ideals and practice so far as the protection of trees is concerned. There is at least one thing regarding which I practice what I preach, and that is planting and protecting trees.

Deptt of Commerce & Business Management,
Guru Nanak Dev University

New century

My January 2000 (volume 282) copy of Scientific American — one of the oldest science magazines — has arrived. Every issue reproduces some important and interesting news under the column 50, 100, 150 years ago. This particular issue carries the following under January 1900:

“In the daily press we find a fierce epistolary battle ranging between those who believe that the year 1899 marks the close of the nineteenth century and those who hold that not until 1901 shall we cross the threshold to the new era. It seems to difficult to understand that 1800, 1900, 2000, designates not for the beginning, but the end of a century. It is evident that there never was a year 0, that the century must begin with a 1. A hundred years ago the same wordy war was waged; a hundred years hence it will be renewed.”

How true!

And this will be repeated every 100 years because we human beings are tuned to logical, linear thinking and are incorrigible.

This year, of course, the debate got highlighted and compounded due to coincidence with the expected eruption of the Y2K crisis.


Power sector reforms

State Electricity Boards were constituted with the intention of improving the working of this utility service and to meet the future needs of the states. There was a clear provision that the SEBs will generate 3 per cent profit. But, soon after the creation of the SEBs, the state governments (politicians) started exploiting this important utility service to serve their own interests.

State governments keep their stranglehold on the SEBs through their boards, whose Chairman and members are generally selected after their pliability is ensured.

When the largesse of free power to the farming sector was given in Punjab, the entire board fell in line, simply after a phone call was received by the then Chairman from the office of the then Chief Minister. Even the Technical Members, who were engineers with long service with the board, could not dare record their voice of dissent.

In view of the above background, I would like to suggest, particularly to the Union Power Minister, that an all-India panel should be constituted under the aegis of the UPSC from which the states should select the Chairman and Members of the board.

For the post of Chairman, anyone from the private or public sector can be allowed to offer his/her services for empanelment. For the posts of Member, only professionals should be considered eligible.

The PSEB Engineers Association sometime in the 1970s had a chance to discuss the issue with Dr Sidheshwar Parsad, the then Power Minister, and it was suggested by him that the formation of an all-India service of power engineers can only be the answer to free the SEBs from the stranglehold of state governments. But, in the same breath, he said the state governments would not agree to effect this change.

I feel the AIPEF should support the idea. The intended reforms/privatisation may only leave the rural sector/the less privileged at the mercy of those whose main aim will be profitability, and not making available electric power to each and every one at an affordable price.

former Engineer-in-Chief, PSEB



Fighting terrorism

This has reference to the news item. “More special forces for J&K, proactive approach to be adopted” (Jan 19). It is a matter of agony and torment that none of our leaders or bureaucrats has the simple commonsense that the basic requirement to fight the insurgents is to keep our plans top secret and to gain maximum information about the terrorists designs. The moment our plan has been made public, the whole objective stands defeated.

During the long period of insurgency in Punjab the terrorists killed a few thousand of armed policemen and escaped. Now the terrorists in J&K have been attacking well defended Army positions and that of the paramilitary forces with success. In retaliation our fighting men have not been able to kill many fleeing terrorists on the spot. The reason for this utter failure on the part of our men is that they have no training to fight these desperados with the training that our commandos have, they are hardly in a position to deal with the insurgents. Our intelligence network is as poor as it was during the Chinese aggression in 1962. The government should raise battalions of young and volunteer commandos. It will not be unwise if they are trained by instructors requisitioned from Israel or any other country.


Unfair water tariff hike

The decision of the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation to raise the domestic water tariff to double and four times for gardens is most unjustified. Increases, whenever made, should come in reasonable instalments and should not be 100 per cent and 400 per cent, thus making a heavy dent on the consumers’ budgets.

What needs to be done immediately is to take effective measures for stopping the gross wastage of water resulting from the taps and hydrants at certain public places leaking for days and weeks.

Chandigarh has earned the reputation of being a city of gardens, but with such a steep hike in the water tariff, the green will soon turn brown.

Taking in view the above points, we feel the hike is absolutely unfair and we are strongly opposed to it.

Hony Secretary,
Blood Bank Society


Keeping in view the fact that Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha’s last year’s Budget was “Dil Se”, what could be his Budget like this year?

Answer: “Dimagh Se!”



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