Friday, February 4, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Politics of packages

THROUGH his write-up, “This politics of packages: new development strategy needed for North-East” (January 28), Mr Hari Jaisingh highlights the ills afflicting the north-eastern region of the country which are not entirely unknown. The region has suffered not so much for lack of understanding of its myriad problems, including ethnic and insurgency-inspired violence, as for lack of political will to tackle them.

Defence Minister George Fernandes in the Vajpayee government has done what two former Prime Ministers, Mr H.D. Deve Gowda and Mr I.K. Gujral, did during their week-long visits to the region. By exhorting militants of various hues to come forward for dialogue and by blaming the lack of development for the increase in insurgency.

Militancy in the north-east is a multi-faceted problem. Over the years, while the Centre has sought to solve the problem on the cheap (author’s apt description of “distributing lollipops” in the form of economic packages) and has tended to depend excessively on regional satraps, state leaders have developed an abiding vested interest in keeping the problem alive.

  Insurgency has indeed become an industry. While the historical, geographical and emotional aspects of the problem cannot be ignored, insurgency is largely the result of consistent economic neglect. Whether the establishment of a separate Ministry for the North-East Affairs will serve any useful purpose is debatable. What is, however, required is a clearly defined development model.

There is no reason to differ with the columnist’s observation that any policy strategy which does not keep in mind the structural specificities of the region is unlikely to yield the desired results. However, some militant groups, at the same time, need to be dealt with an iron hand if they refuse to give up violence.

A number of expert committees have put together reports on what is wrong with the region in economic terms and what should be done. Implement their recommendations, making them time-bound. Institute financial accountability and crack the whip if people are caught cheating and looting. Don’t hesitate to send the CBI or other agencies to expose them. And press for local initiatives, local governance (through the village panchayats, municipal councils, creating a genuine devolution), local industry and farming strategies.

We do not need more reports. We need more action. Time-bound action. One of the most important tests of the Vajpayee government relates to how it tackles the concerns of the people in the North-East.


CENTRAL AID A MUST: I do not agree with the view that the economic package of Rs 10,271 crore announced by the Prime Minister for the states of the North-East and Sikkim resemble feudalism in any way.

Insurgency and terrorism in the North-East and Jammu & Kashmir have badly damaged — almost derailed the economy. To put these states back on the rails and to heal the wounds of militancy-affected people in these states, liberal financial aid goes a long way in providing succour to them. The people in these states suffer for no fault of their own.

Every state has its own peculiar problems. The author has rightly pointed out: “Problems vary from region to region, and from area to area within a region; as also from district to district in a state and even from village to village in the same district.” The economy of the states like Himachal Pradesh cannot be managed properly without Central assistance. Himachal will become a financially viable state when its hydroelectric projects become fully operational. But the task of tapping these resources also needs thousands of crores of rupees.

Bijhari (Hamirpur)

CULTURAL VACUUM: Providing financial packages at the time of elections is vote bank politics and does not solve any problem. While everything possible should be done to wipe out insurgency, efforts should be made to fill the cultural vacuum which is often the cause of it. To treat the problem as a purely law and order one without going into the underlying causes would invite perpetual ferment, transforming the area into a potential target for foreign subversion. It would be difficult to deal with external threats if internally the fabric of a nation is being torn to shreds.


Parents & their progeny

This refers to Mr J.L. Gupta’s middle, “The parent and the progeny” (The Tribune, January 20). What the writer has said may be true in most cases where children have settled abroad. This is due to various factors like traditions and living conditions which are entirely different.

The very set up in the West is self-centred. The lifestyle in those countries is dictated and driven by selfishness. Things are comparatively better in our country, especially where old people are not financially dependent on others. Quite an extent it is possible if, besides being financially independent, parents also take care not to interfere in the day-to-day life of their children and grandchildren. If possible they have a separate kitchen in the same house so that both sides have separate and independent functioning even while living together. This way they are not only available but of use to each other in the case of an emergency. Then there is moral support to both sides.

The whole situation is reciprocal. Love and affection beget love. If there is reciprocity, mutual respect and regard for the sentiments and needs of either party, this arrangement of living together is the best one, and beneficial to both sides.

Nothing in this world is perfect. By virtue of my profession I have had access to many homes and have been able to observe that this kind of arrangement is the best suited to our kind of social set up.


Unfair plan

It was so appropriate for the nation to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Indian Republic. Its coming into existence marked the end of a ruthless foreign rule.

However, it was unfortunate that the ruling NDA, instead of debating a sensitive issue, used the occasion as a springboard for launching a patently partisan agenda of review of the Constitution.

As regards the popular mandate for the NDA, we must not lose sight of the fact that the alliance has been given a bare working majority to rule the country as long as it can deliver the goods in terms of governance, development and cohesion, and not a two-thirds majority to turn the Constitution upside down. And yet the Union Home Minister and the Law Minister have the gumption to delude the people by saying that there was no difference of perception between the President and the Prime Minister on the Constitution review issue.



Hapless senior citizens

There is a continuous flow of statements and writings everywhere to restore the dignity and pride of senior citizens, but in practice nothing is being spared to hurt and degrade them as far as their place in society is concerned. This is especially so in respect of those who have left nothing to feed themselves in their old age of dependence and haplessness, or are now left to depend on their meagre savings, not covered by any pension scheme.

The problem has progressively become acute in view of rising inflation. Deposits have not earned so much as has actually been eaten away by inflation. The gradual reduction in interest rates on bank deposits and small savings has added to their miseries. Then, there are institutions Panjab University, Chandigarh, which first float a pension scheme, frame the requisite regulations, and get these approved from the government, ask for option, the beneficiaries opt for the same, keep money ready to deposit it with the institution, use the spare money for their households and social necessities, and then the institution almost backs out from the scheme, leaving the senior citizens high and dry.

It is the moral and inescapable duty of the government to do something really positive and purposive, and not lean, in crises, upon lip-service, double-talk and evasion. Some relief, at any rate, should have been given in the International Year of the Old (1999), honouring India’s commitment to social reforms and legal measures in keeping with the spirit of the age.



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