|Tuesday, February 8, 2000,
grammar of proactivity
Vajpayee losing his grip?
February 8, 1925
The grammar of proactivity
PRIME Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee evidently cast off his illusions originating from a pacifist approach to Pakistan while speaking at a function in Jalandhar on Sunday. His speech should be taken as the capsule evocation of the thinking of the Head of Government, keeping in view the trouble he has taken in the recent past to visit the neighbouring war-mongering country by bus and being misunderstood in important quarters at home and abroad as a person "bent upon making the soft state vulnerably softer". What has made him take an unambiguously frank, forthright, uncompromising and deterrently proactive stand rather late? The answer lies in his legacy of political restraint as also in his growing frustration due to the belligerent postures of Pakistans theocratic-militarist regimes. Statesmen are prone to the avoidance of haste and, in the process, being looked upon first as meek and then as weak persons. Look at what the nation led by Mr Vajpayee had to swallow and suffer. Indira Gandhi re-enacted her father's over-generosity at Shimla. Mr Morarji Desai took his conciliatory inclinations too far but failed even to initiate the process of a change of heart in the Pakistani rulers. Mr I.K. Gujral was obsessed with the idea of achieving a breakthrough with the help of secular Punjabiat and diplomatic niceties. Mr Vajpayee moved on wheels, forth and back, without looking at wheels within wheels in a country where the "Kashmir mudda" is the core of a congenitally infecting and undying hate-India campaign. After Kargil and Kandahar, however, he is a wiser person.
Mr Vajpayee's Jalandhar
plainspeaking should be crystallised as an attitudinal
formula aimed at endowing our Pakistan policy with steel
will and diamond strength. Briefly, he has stated that
only one condition will be laid down by India for holding
talks with Pakistan now the vacation of
aggression, in V.K. Krishna Menon's idiom, and the end of
the illegal control of Pakistan on forcibly occupied
parts of the Indian state, in his own words. No fear of a
nuclear war will work. .... We are being threatened
with a nuclear attack... If they think we would wait for
them to drop a bomb and face destruction, they are
wrong.... The country is fully prepared to give a fitting
reply in any hostile eventuality. We have promised not to
use a nuclear device against them first. Why don't they
reciprocate our gesture?" All international pressure
on the Kashmir question will be ignored. One third of
Jammu and Kashmir is waiting for liberation. As the Chief
Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh
and Haryana said, the 50-year-old Pakistani fraud must be
buried under the plinth of the political rogues' gallery.
One of the Union Ministers has used scriptural eloquence:
"Both eyes for an eye and a jaw for a tooth".
General Musharraf has to meet his match. The guidelines
have been given in the form of the grammar of
proactivity. We have to keep our powder dry.
INLD changes tack
IT was not too long ago that the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) of Mr Om Prakash Chautala was in the forefront of various vociferous agitations demanding free water and electricity for farmers in Haryana. So firm was its "commitment" that it even warned Mr Bansi Lal against any kind of agreement with the World Bank. How things have changed! Its election manifesto released on Sunday has conveniently dropped these commitments and shifted the focus to only reforms in the power sector. Also, given up is the promise to ensure 24-hour power supply. All that it says is that the distribution system of electricity will be reformed to ensure sufficient power to each category of consumers, and steps will be taken to stop electricity pilferage. Changes that the incumbency factor brings about are strange indeed. However, it is hard to say whether there has been a genuine change of heart. The U-turn might very well have been due to the fact that there is growing considerable in almost all districts over the acute power shortage and voltage fluctuation. The kisan has also come to realise that free electricity is not only economically unviable but is also a curse because he is never too sure when he will get the supply, if at all. If one takes into consideration the cost of running diesel generators when there is no power supply, it becomes evident that it would be cheaper to pay one's electricity bills and get assured supply than cope with never-ending power shutdowns, crippling voltage fluctuations and transformer burn-outs. Resentment has been growing in the interior over these everyday occurrences and Mr Chautala has only tried to assuage the farmers' feelings through this clever attempt. Then there is also the Central pressure over any kind of profligacy. The neighbouring Punjab is paying a heavy price for its free electricity and water supply scheme.
The rest of the
manifesto offers so many things to so many sections that
it is hard to believe that these are actually meant to be
implemented. There is the assurance of providing drinking
water to every village, proper sewerage infrastructure
and implementation of the crop insurance scheme. What is
noticeable is that no time-frame has been mentioned for
this wish-fulfilment. It is now for the voters to decide
whether all these are the outlines of a future which is
close by or yet another attempt to lead them up the
garden path. Mr Chautala has tried to link his manifesto
with the agenda of the NDA at the Centre. If he can match
his words with deeds, Haryana will be in a better shape.
At the same time, the manifesto includes some proposals
which may generate a lot of heat and debate. Among them
are the commitments to implement the reservation
guidelines in the private sector and the introduction of
English in schools from Class I itself.
Punjab cops at it again
JANUARY 8 was yet another black day for the much-maligned Punjab Police, going by the reports of alleged atrocities committed by the men in uniform in different parts of the state. According to a report from Jalandhar, residents of Ughi village held a dharna in front of Nakodar police station in support of their demand for the arrest of policemen responsible for the death in custody of a local farmer. The protest by the villagers resulted in a case of murder being registered against four policemen. If flight is proof of guilt, the four suspects would indeed have much to explain if and when they are arrested. In Phagwara, the residents expressed their displeasure over the inability of the police to arrest the armed miscreants who had barged into the premises of St Joseph School and terrorised teachers and students. In sharp contrast a report of the same date from Patiala carried details of the effort of the district police to make the lower ranks understand the importance of being courteous while dealing with the public. But the lower ranks have not got used to addressing ordinary citizens as "sir" or "madam". On January 22 the Central Bureau of Investigation registered a case of extortion, abduction with the intention of murder and wrongful confinement against an IPS and two PPS officers. The case was registered on the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court. On January 25 the S.A.S Nagar Superintendent of Police was directed by his superiors to investigate a case of some policemen having allegedly let off drug-carriers after pocketing 500 gms of opium and receiving Rs 30,000 as hush money. The same day a case of suspected custodial death was reported from the same township. Two days later the High Court directed a DSP of Patiala to present himself to explain his role in the alleged abduction and illegal confinement of an officer of the industries department. It is evident that in spite of confirmation of reports of atrocities by global, national and state human rights organisations the Punjab Police has done little to change its image. The refusal to change carries a dangerous message because instances of police brutality had contributed substantially to the sharp rise in acts of terrorism in Punjab in the 80s.
On February 1 two BKU
activists were killed virtually in cold blood when the
police was "ordered" to open fire on
demonstrators in Bathinda district. The failure of talks
between BKU leaders and the local administration on the
issue of "overcharging" of fare by mini-bus
operators on the Rampura Phul-Jathuke route provided the
police personnel the excuse to show their muscle power,
rather than tact, for controlling the situation. The news
of the arrest of the district president of the BKU is
said to have provoked the farmers. Interestingly, the
written order for opening fire supposed to have been
issued by the Duty Magistrate is missing from the police
files. Last Friday in another case of atrocity in Sangrur
five policemen, including an SHO, were booked for the
death in custody of a resident of Sirsa district. The
victim of police brutality had gone to Dialgarh village
three days before Lohri to meet some relatives. The
"icing on the bloody cake" is the alleged
disappearance of three residents of Jalandhar picked up
for "interrogation" by the police early last
week. A local reporter and a news photographer
investigating the mysterious disappearance of the three
men were threatened by five policemen at the office of
the Criminal Investigation Agency in Jalandhar. The three
men work for a businessman who conducts his operations
from a shop owned by the wife of a policeman stationed in
Assam. She wants him to vacate the premises. Since the
warrant officer has been directed to submit his report to
the High Court on February 11 there is hope that the
mystery of the missing men would be unravelled soon and
that the guilty policemen would be made to pay for their
crime. The court should also give a sharp rap on the
knuckles of senior officers for failing to make the lower
ranks not abuse the uniform by terrorising those whose
life and property they are duty bound to protect.
HANDLING SECURITY CRISES
THIRTYFIVE years ago, Walcott, an international smuggler, landed at Safdarjung airport. He was arrested and locked up in Tihar Jail and his plane was impounded. A few days later Walcott escaped from the jail, drove straight to Safdarjung airport hangar, bluffed his way through and flew off in his impounded aircraft. By the time the authorities woke up and alerted the Air Force, Walcotts aircraft had crossed the Indian airspace. Walcotts small propeller aircraft would have taken at least an hour and a half to fly across the Indian airspace but, that was not adequate time for Indias security authorities and the Air Force to thwart the smugglers escape. Thirtyfive years later, with all the advanced gadgetry and instant communications which the infotech revolution has ushered in, no clear-cut instructions were issued by the authorities responsible for the crises management when the hijacked Indian Airlines aircraft, IC-814 was on Amritsar tarmac for 65 minutes on December 24, 1999. Has nothing changed in the security system all these years?
Hijacking of aircraft is a post-1970 phenomenon and the originators of this terrorist adventure were the Palestine Liberation Organisation and its militant wing, Al-Fatah. Their hijacking of four aircraft belonging to TWA, BOAC and Swissair on a single day, on September 6, 1970, burst upon the world as a thunderclap. The hijacking of the international airliners hit the headlines in the world Press as were the grievances of the hijackers and their cause the Palestinian homeland.
The hijacking of aircraft in West Asia captured the imagination of militants all over the world and it was no surprise that some of the Kashmiri militants were also discussing the possibility. It was at this time, Hashim Qureshi, an agent working for a paramilitary force posted in J & K gave information that some of the militants were contemplating hijacking an Indian Airlines aircraft from Srinagar. The Home Ministry had issued detailed instructions to the states, the airport authorities as well as to Air-India and Indian Airlines on the various preventive measures to be taken for tightening airport and aircraft security. This was followed by several seminars and workshops which were attended by police officers from states, pilots and cabin crew of both Air-India and Indian Airlines and others.
Agent Hashim Qureshi, however, double-crossed and joined the militants and hijacked a Fokker Friendship aircraft of Indian Airlines on January 30, 1971, after it took off from Srinagar and was forced to land at Lahore. It turned out to be of historic significance as the aircraft was blown up at Lahore airport at the instance of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto himself, and the Government of India promptly banned all the flights of Pakistani aircraft across Indian skies. This crippled Pakistans military efforts in the emerging Bangladesh crisis since Pakistani aircraft had to take a long circuitous route over the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal to reach what was called East Pakistan.
The second hijacking incident involved IC-491 on the Delhi-Jaipur-Bombay route and took place in September, 1976, but it was successfully tackled. After this hijacking, the Government of India appointed a committee headed by Cabinet Secretary B.D. Pande to look into the various aspects of aircraft and aviation security. After its report in March, 1977, a directorate to look after all the aspects of civil aviation security was set up in the Ministry of Civil Aviation in 1978. A committee consisting of representatives of the Ministries of Civil Aviation and Home, Air-India, Indian Airlines and the Airport Authority of India visited all the international and some major airports in the country and submitted detailed recommendations. The crucial recommendation was to set up a Central Civil Aviation Security Force since the state governments were not adequately equipped to carry out the task effectively. Airport security was not a priority calling for state governments, who usually deputed the unwanted from the police force for such duties. Moreover, whenever there were law and order disturbances, all the policemen were pulled out of the airports. The proposal was not accepted.
Even earlier, the formation of a chowkidari force to man some of the important airports was recommended by a committee set up after the Walcott incident. At that time the estimated annual cost was Rs 40 lakh, but the proposal was turned down as it was considered a costly exercise. In 1978 the cost of setting up the Central Civil Aviation Force was estimated at Rs 2 crore per annum. In April, 1983, Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad, Minister of Civil Aviation, announced in Parliament the governments intention to raise an Aviation Security Force and the cost was estimated at Rs 100 crore. After the latest hijacking of IC-814 Mr Sharad Yadav, Minister of Civil Aviation, had again come up with the proposal. Currently the estimated expenditure on such a force may be around Rs 150 crore per annum. Whether such a force would eventually be formed is doubtful as proposals on the subject have been turned down continuously since 1965.
Will the Indian airspace and aircraft be safe even if a specialised force were set up? In the recent case of IC-814, the hijacking was engineered in Nepal, but the crisis had to be tackled when the aircraft landed at Amritsar. This is where the question of decision-making by the authorities comes in, and unfortunately we seem to be lacking in this respect at various levels. The Purulia arms dropping incident which took place on December 17, 1995, exposed the defenceless nature of the Indian skies as well as Indias security system as a whole. Kim Davy and his associates were international mercenaries, involved in the traffic of arms and drugs. Their aircraft, an AN-26, took off from Karachi with a load of arms and landed at Varanasi for refuelling and then took off for Calcutta around 10 p.m. The pilot told the Calcutta ATC that he was proceeding to Yangoon but he diverted westwards to Purulia and dropped three parachutes with arms. It was suspected that the aircraft thereafter proceeded to Bangladesh and dropped some more arms. After the arms dropping the aircraft landed at Calcutta at 12.40 a.m. On December 17-18 and thereafter proceeded to Phuket in Thailand. Three days later, on December 21, it took off from Phuket to overfly India but instead of taking the Calcutta route as cleared by the DGCA, it flew to Chennai and then to Mumbai. It was at that time that the Air Force was alerted which forced the AN-12 to land at Santa Cruz airport, Mumbai. Kim Davy, however, bluffed his way through and escaped from the airport and remains untraced.
The dropped weapons included 240 AK-47 and AK-56 assault rifles, 10 rocket launchers, 81 anti-tank grenades and 61 hand grenades. It is not quite clear for whom the weapons were really intended and why they were dropped in Purulia, a remote district of West Bengal. The case against Kim Davys accomplice, Peter Bleach, and the five Latvian crew members has now ended in conviction and all of them have been sentenced to life imprisonment. What is to be noted, however, is that the aircrafts flights from Varanasi to Calcutta and onwards when it dropped the arms over Purulia and its subsequent landing in Calcutta after an hour were not apparently monitored either by the civil aviation authorities or the Air Force radar stations. There was an inquiry into the entire incident but its outcome is not known.
The Walcott case of 1965, the Purulia arms drop incident of 1995, and the hijacking of IC-814 in December, 1999, demonstrate that there is something chronically wrong with the Indian security system as well as with the decision-making process. India and its hostile neighbour, Pakistan, are now nuclear powers, and the latter has repeatedly threatened the unleashing of a nuclear attack on this country. A nuclear missile takes only a few minutes to reach the target. Indias nuclear doctrine enunciates the principle of no-first use but a punitive retaliatory nuclear attack. There should be a highly efficient and foolproof command and control system as it has to act in the shortest possible time when the nations survival is threatened. If the given past instances are any guide, it is doubtful whether critical decisions in the shortest possible time can be taken when faced with serious security crises.
Corruption: Lok Pal as the answer
THE corruption-weary public cannot but wish all power to the elbow of Chief Vigilance Commissioner Vittal, who has struck an unprecedented blow for probity by publicising the names of 91 IAS and IPS officers facing charges of corruption since January, 1990. This is in keeping with his oft-repeated view that transparency in public administration is essential to root out corruption.
But the CVC cannot fight the monster of malfeasance single-handed. He needs the support of the government. Unfortunately, the powers that be in New Delhi have invariably had a pathetically dishonest record when it comes to battling corruption.
The CVC is unhappy at the way the government has been dragging its feet in according sanction for prosecution of most of the IAS and IPS officers against whom criminal proceedings have been recommended. It is not understood what is the rationale behind the pernicious clause in the Prevention of Corruption Act that no public servant can be prosecuted without the sanction of the government. This clause should be rescinded forthwith. It not only enables the government to protect corrupt bureaucrats but is also iniquitous inasmuch as members of the public are not accorded such protection.
Corruption is a hydra-headed monster. Corrupt bureaucrats constitute only one face of it. What about corruption among politicians Ministers, MPs and MLAs who do not come under the purview of the Central Vigilance Commission? If one goes by the truism that corruption flows from top to bottom, checking corruption among politicians is still more important because they occupy a somewhat higher position than bureaucrats in the political-bureaucratic establishment. It is here that the institution of Lok Pal comes in.
The Lok Pal called ombudsman in the West and first established in Sweden in 1904 would be a high-powered autonomous body completely independent of the government and entrusted with the task of investigating charges of corruption at the highest echelons of power. This would include the office of Prime Minister.
Instead of having the Lok Pal for politicians and the Central Vigilance Commission for bureaucrats, it might be better to abolish the CVC and have just the Lok Pal to cover both categories. The reason for having one unified anti-corruption authority is obvious. Most scams show a linkage between babus and netas. Therefore, having one anti-corruption body for the former and a different one for the latter would cause confusion.
The preponderant view is that the Lok Pal should not comprise one person but be a three-member body. Chief Vigilance Commissioner Vittal would be the ideal choice to be one of the three members.
The term Lok Pal has been bandied about for more than two decades, with Indira Gandhi being the first Prime Minister who toyed with the idea before dropping it like a hot potato. It is a measure of the stink at the top, and the potential effectiveness of the Lok Pal, that all the Prime Ministers of India have fought shy of this institution and developed cold feet whenever it has come to the crunch, with the result that various Lok Pal Bills lapsed.
Prime Minister Vajpayee is no exception. The amount of tears Mr Vajpayee has shed on the problem of corruption would put even a crocodile in the shade, but on the specific issue of Lok Pal he is maintaining a deafening silence.
Since the Lok Pal is supposed to also cover the office of the highest executive in the land, it is important that the method of his appointment should be insulated against the influence of the Prime Minister. The Lok Pal should be selected by a high-powered committee comprising the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, the Chief Justice of India, the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
The institution of Lok Ayukta in the states is not functioning properly because of certain defects. We should learn from this depressing experience when the Lok Pal is established at the Centre. One, as in the case of the National Human Rights Commission, the Lok Pal should have his own independent investigative machinery. This extra expenditure would be justified because of the urgent need to cleanse the country of the canker of corruption. Two, even if the recommendations of the Lok Pal are not given a mandatory force, some no-nonsense stipulation should be introduced into the statute to ensure that his recommendations are seriously acted upon by the executive within a specified time.
The call of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner to the three apex chambers of commerce FICCI, ASSOCHAM and CII to hold a joint convention and declare that their members will not pay bribes is going to be like water on a ducks back. Indian businessmen are so inured to corruption that the three apex chambers are not willing to create a joint financial corpus through which politicians could be financed in a transparent manner. Businessmen are hand-in-glove with politicians. This black money nexus cannot be loosened, leave alone broken, unless state funding of elections is introduced.
Obsolete laws which
clutter the administrative system act as an inducement to
corruption. A committee appointed by the government in
the recent past suggested that more than half of the
nearly 2500 administrative laws should be scrapped.
Alive in November!
COME November and all retired government servants have to inform their respective treasuries, which draw their pension, that they were alive in the month. This has to be done through a life certificate given by a gazetted officer. Non-gazetted officials or other respectable persons cannot certify that you were alive in this particular month.
Once I forgot to give such a certificate and left Shimla for Bangalore during winters. On my return, I found that my pension had stopped. I went to the officer concerned and gave him self-introduction. Also told him my Pension Payment Order Number. He was kind enough to go through my file and said: You have not deposited the required certificate showing that you were alive in the month of November. I told him, When I am alive today and standing in front of you how could I be dead in November. He became officious and said, No, the file should speak for itself. As far as we (office) are concerned you are a dead man.
I started doubting myself whether I was on this side of the grave or not. I felt my own pulse. It was throbbing. My heart was pounding on the wrong side also because of the gravity of the situation. I pinched myself and felt the pinch too. Sure of my being alive I went to the nearest office, caught hold of a gazetted officer and brought a certificate showing that the divine spark still glowed in my body. The officer concerned accepted the certificate and ordered for the release of pension which was to be collected by me the next day.
The next day I got the pension for the month of March paid in April. I requested the disbursing official to release the pension for the past four months too. He looked at me as if I were a talking mummy and said, But our file says that you were dead in the months from November to February. How could it be when I am alive today? It defies all logic, I pleaded. I do not understand the language of logic or magic, I understand the language of the file. And it says you were dead in the past four months.
I was about to be out of my shirt but I managed my cool because I was reminded of a story that my friend Col Gupta used to tell me.
Once a retired sepoy had a tiff with the Treasury Officer. He said, Come out of the office. I will knock your teeth off. The Treasury Officer calmly retorted that he could inflict the same wounds on the fellow without even getting up from his chair. The sepoy got agitated and shouted, You are only a T.O. and not the Almighty God. Do whatever you can. I will see you. He left the place in a huff.
The Treasury Officer picked up the pension papers of the retired person and against the item Identification Mark filled, Two front teeth missing. The poor soul had to run from pillar to post for getting his pension released but could get the pension only when he went to a dentist and got his two front teeth removed.
losing his grip?
IT is becoming increasingly difficult to make out what is really happening in the Capitals corridors of power. For all appearances, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is in full command. Yet, we also have conflicting signals about the strains in the complex relationship within the ruling establishment. Apparently, different interest groups have begun working at cross-purposes to score points over the others. Only over a month back we were all led to believe that Vajpayee has finally been able to assert his sway over the RSS parivar.
Now even the very validity of the Chennai declaration is being put to test. The essence of the declaration adopted at the BJPs National Council has been a total moratorium on Hindutva programmes. The party had in 1998 assured to put in freeze the three controversial issues of temple construction at Ayodhya, abrogation of Article 370 and imposition of a common civil code. The Chennai declaration had gone a step further to assert that the BJP had no agenda other than that of the NDA. It bound the party to spurning any issue with a religious supremacist undertone. Now even a hyper-active office-bearer at the party headquarters leads the Hindutva campaign in Kashi.
The BJP spokesman who was among those who had piloted the Chennai declaration even ridicules his governments Information Ministrys endorsement of Deepa Mehtas controversial script. The Uma Bharati episode highlights the losing sheen of the Vajpayee edifice. His persuasive best failed to dissuade her from quitting the ministry. Until a few months back, a broad Vajpayee smile might have had done the trick. It is not that Uma is so indispensible at the Centre. It is her fancy for the Mamata role model that worries every one, especially the Madhya Pradesh faction leaders.
There are clear signs of things slowly slipping out of Vajpayees control. After Chennai, the RSS and its numerous outfits have undoubtedly turned more aggressive. They may not be directly aimed at the Prime Minister or his party. But the tone and tenor of the challenge is loud and clear. If the BJP follows the NDA agenda, the RSS siblings could also toe their own parent bodys programme. At the moment, it is not clear whether the RSS itself is encouraging its outfits to pedal the hostile campaign. But the way the religious separatist issues are being raised in various parts of the country, it looks they have the RSS nod.
Interestingly, to avoid formal action by the party high command, much of this is being done by little known or freshly formed manchs and samitis. In most cases, even BJP legislators are taking a leading role. Even the ever active PMO seems to compulsively ignore such mushrooming defiance of the Chennai spirit. There have also been instances when even the chhota netas, of the VHP outfits openly hit out at the Prime Minister. Bajrang Dal General Secretary Harish Bhat, for instance, ridiculed the BJP leadership for following what it said pro-minority policies and predicted they would learn a bitter lesson soon. The BJP will have to come back to the Hindutva fold if they have to survive, he had put his warning on record.
The way the outfits like Bajrang Dal which will hold an all-India session this month at Bhopal are going ahead with their hostile campaign, signifies their determination to choose their independent path irrespective of the Chennai fiat. The Bajrang Dal, for instance, has announced the decision to form its own highly trained youth squads to deal with the Islamic terrorists and Christian missionaries. May be this is a prompt response to RSS boss Rajendra Singhs lament on the Hindu cowardice. More than any thing, the BJP Government will have to tackle administrative implications of such parallel forces.
At Bhopal, the Dal will also chalk out an action plan to correct all past mistakes of the Islamic rulers by liberating every temple, place of worship or any site converted into Muslim place of worship. This has been a VHP programme at the peak of the Ayodhya frenzy. The Bajrang Dal will also undertake a survey of newly built mosques and madrasas to verify their anti-Indian links. Not a day passes without some such outfits coming out with their own shrill threats. In fact, the challenge is not confined to minor parivar outfits.
Earlier to this none other than RSS General Secretary, H.V. Sheshadri embarrassed the BJP Government by launching a scathing attack on the Christian missionaries and the ISI for their attempt to destabilise India. He specially targeted Pope Paul II for bringing troubles to other religions. Soon after this, Ashok Singhal warned that the Vajpayee Government will fall if permission was given for shooting Deepa Mehtas Water. This was before Arun Jaitely allowed the shooting after Mehta dropped some offending references.
Even the BJPs UP Chief Minister has become bold enough to repeatedly assert that he would allow construction of the Ram Temple if the VHP wanted it. Initially, such affronts by the state leaders were promptly dealt with the PMO or party headquarters. Now they are so frequent and assertive that few in Delhi seems to bother about them. In the early days, trouble shooters were rushed to silence the VHP extremists in Dangs, UP or Orissa. The Christian Bishops who had met the Prime Minister had come out with some hopes in his ability to halt the harassment. However, it now looks that things are rapidly slipping out of Vajpayees hands.
Unfortunately for Vajpayee, his own BJP Governments in states have defied the Chennai spirits by introducing anti-minority religious building bill in UP and allowing Hindutvisation of the bureaucracy in Gujarat. The Gujarat leaders, who have many such divisive programmes to their credit, knew that the removal of the ban on the RSS is an issue which Vajpayee dare not to intervene. A visiting Minister at Gujarat Bhavan had in private challenged Vajpayee to take action against them on this count. At least on this issue, Vajpayee seems to have adhered to the dictum, if you cant lead, follow. The developments since the Chennai meeting indicate that the RSS and its outfits will not relent on other issues as well.
All this has triggered a debate in the Prime Ministers charmed circles about a changed strategy with regard to Hindutva vs NDA agenda. Under the proposal, it is time for the BJP to politely tell the NDA allies that while the party would ensure faithful implementation of the agreed agenda in letter and spirit, it has no jurisdiction to impose them on the other members of the RSS parivar. The latter have their own leadership hierarchy and agenda. The BJP will certainly try to convince them not to wreck the boat at midstream because it ultimately serve the parivars objectives as well. If they refuse to listen, all that the BJP could do was to treat their Hindutva action plans as normal law and order problem and tackle them accordingly.
In the case of the recalcitrant BJP State Governments, these sections in the BJP argue that the NDA is strictly an arrangement at the Centre for a coalition. The State Governments are invariably run by the respective NDA constituents as their own establishment. No formal alliance exists at these levels. Therefore, it is argued that the BJP State Governments could implement the partys original policies without being bound by the NDA agenda. This is in the spirit of sheer reciprocation. Of course, such a delineation will amount to the admission of the erosion of Vajpayees authority on the ranks of his parivar. This is an aspect that should worry his image keepers.
However, if the BJP can convincingly sell the fact about its limited political jurisdiction to the allies, it will provide it a crucial political advantage. First, it will leave the RSS parivar free to continue with its aggressive campaign thereby winning over wider sections to its fold. This could even be done under the BJPs silent patronage as ultimately the BJP itself is going to be a beneficiary. On the other, if the Hindutva movement fails to catch on, the BJP could easily disown it. Second, an influential section within the BJP argue that the NDA allies, as they are, will not make this an issue if it is boldly but politely put it to them. The very need to fight their local rivals will force them to stay on with the BJP. In any case, most of them wont risk power which is crucial for their own existence.
According to this thinking, power has already made the NDA partners to discard the old untouchability. In a changed situation they will also learn to live with the BJP with all the latters conflicting roles in States and at the Centre and among the parivar members. When it comes to that, the regional parties will find their own political alibis as most of them have already done. The BJP should now further convince them through the election results that what they may lose by way of minority votes, will more than be compensated by the accretion of the Hindutva votes. Chandrababu Naidu, they claim, is already convinced of this changing Hindutva arithmetic.
If the parivar outfits
go ahead with their aggressive action plans, as it looks
certain, all such debates will become irrelevant. The
main players in the parivar seem to have already
reconciled themselves to the two-channel, parallel thrust
forward. Ministers and party officials with special
affinity with the RSS betray signs of restlessness. Even
the normal channels of dialogue within the parivar looks
choked. Instead, the party managers have begun the
delicate task of convincing the NDA allies
about the helplessness of the BJPs dominant
leadership. The coming weeks will show how the party
deals with the emerging crisis.
PROFESSOR E.P. Soleman made an astounding suggestion to the Taxation Enquiry Committee. The most effective method of reducing income-tax frauds in India, he said, was to offer 25 per cent of the additional revenue to the informers with whose assistance it was realised.
If this was coupled with the imposition of a proportionate fine, plus imprisonment not exceeding 12 months (simple) on the delinquent, there would be no loss to the revenue from the gratuity given to the informer and no possibility of a collusion between informers and assesses.
We can only hope that the Professor does not know what he is talking about. Even under the present system of assessing income-tax, which is not at all satisfactory, cases are not infrequent in which innocent persons are unnecessarily harassed.
If, however, the
Professors proposal were adopted, it would place
the commercial and business community at the mercy of
informers and the position of a large number of assesses
would be rendered altogether intolerable.
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