|Friday, February 11, 2000,
of panchayati raj bodies
THE statement issued after the inaugural meeting of the Indo-American joint working group (JWG) on counter-terrorism in Washington on Tuesday is a diplomatic victory of sorts for India considering that it targets Pakistan, although without naming that country. Even more important is the fact that the two sides have unequivocally condemned not only terrorism but also extremism. These have been branded as criminal and unjustifiable, whether the considerations are of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature. The words to be underlined here are "political" and "religious" because Pakistan has all along been trying to project its mischief in Kashmir as a "moral" support to a "jehad". That it is not just moral but also out and out material help is known to the entire world all along. In fact, it has been a Pakistani show through and through. The active involvement of regular Pakistani armymen in the garb of mujahideen has been no secret either and has rather been exposed fully during the Kargil intrusion. But never has this fact been acknowledged as clearly as in the joint statement of the JWG. The co-relationship between terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking has also been suitably dealt with. If the spirit of the declaration is not diluted at the implementation stage - as has been, unfortunately, done many times in the past -- the two countries can now tackle the menace more effectively. The tone and tenor of the statement also signify an unequivocal acceptance that the war against terrorism is global in nature and the entire world has to unite to win it. The recent hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane was proof enough that innocent people from all over the world were treated as nothing more than sitting ducks by those committed to missile culture. The specifics of the assistance that the USA will offer to combat terrorism are yet to be finalised but it is obvious that these will involve active sharing of information, manpower and material.
While there is a positive ring to the intentions of the JWG, the related events of the past few days have put a question mark on the efficacy of this body to rein in the forces of terrorism. For one thing, the USA has been overlooking the irrefutable evidence of Pakistan's hand in fomenting terrorism in India. Even the clear signals about its role in the hijacking have been slurred over. As such, the actual definition of what constitutes terrorism may prove to be a sticky point. The USA condemns the activities of Osama bin Laden all right but is less than enthusiastic when it comes to condemning the daily killing of innocent people in the valley by hired mercenaries. The Secretary of State, Mrs Madeleine Albright, said the other day that President Clinton's visit should not be taken as an endorsement of New Delhi's policies. With regard to terrorism, all she said was that the USA had raised the issue with military ruler Gen Pervez Musharraf. Even more disquieting was the statement of US Defence Secretary William Cohen that as the lone superpower, the USA must get involved into India-Pakistan and other international disputes "to advance the cause of peace". While both of them described Kashmir as a "tinderbox" or a "fuse", they decided to keep silent on Pakistan's contribution towards converting the heaven on earth into a veritable hell. As such, it is very important for India to ensure that its sovereignty is not compromised in any way through outwardly friendly gestures. Cooperation should not only be welcomed but also sought but it is necessary to watch out that nothing sinister is lurking behind the thin edge.
Adhocism on new states
THE issue of a separate state for the tribal people of Bihar is again in focus. The reason: the assembly elections in Bihar are slated to begin tomorrow. Ever since the announcement of the three-phase poll, which will also be held in certain other states for a few Lok Sabha and assembly seats, one after another BJP leader has been assuring the people that the 18 tribal-dominated districts of South Bihar will be accorded the status of a new state immediately after the elections in honour of their aspirations. The latest assurance has come from the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee. Allaying the fears on the creation of a new tribal state while the BJP calls it Vananchal, the others want it to be known as Jharkhand Mr Vajpayee has declared at Bokaro that Bihar will be compensated for the loss of this mineral-rich area by a special economic package to be given by the Centre. The truth, however, is that the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha and the other local organisations which have built up their political base on the issue are still not sure of the promised new state coming into being so soon. Leaders of the BJP and its other partners in the ruling National Democratic Alliance assert that Vananchal will be a reality within three months after the conclusion of the elections as the Bill on the subject is already with the President. After the constitution of the new assembly the President, they say, will send the Bill to the state legislature and then the task will be accomplished. But this is not as simple as it appears. Within the ruling alliance itself there are serious differences on the question of carving out smaller states. The Telugu Desam Party had come out openly against any such idea some time ago.The NDA constituents are not airing their differences nowadays because of electoral compulsions. Then at this stage no one can be sure about the complexion of the Bihar Legislative Assembly after the poll.
However, if the people
of South Bihar are carried away by the NDA leaders'
assurance the ruling coalition at the Centre will have
regained the loss of following it suffered during the
recent Lok Sabha elections. The entire exercise of making
so categorical a promise is primarily aimed at this.
Otherwise how could the NDA constituents evolve unity
among themselves on such a sensitive issue today when
till some time ago these parties had no unanimity of
views even on the introduction of the Bill in
Parliament's winter session? The decision to defer the
introduction of the Vananchal Bill had so upset the
Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, the Jharkhand People's Party and
the All-Jharkhand Students Union that these parties along
with the Congress had threatened to launch a massive
economic blockade to achieve their objective. Now that
the Prime Minister has come out with a clear-cut
commitment on the issue, those who have been expressing
doubts over the NDA's promise may keep quiet at least for
some time, waiting for the next move of the Centre on the
subject. But this is no way to handle the sensitive
demand.The ideal approach would have been the
constitution of a states reorganisation commission after
debating the problem at the national level. A piecemeal
solution will take the country nowhere. Even if the
promised states like Vananchal, Uttarakhand and
Chhattisgarh finally become a reality there will be no
end to the demand for more states on various grounds,
including the one that smaller states are easily
governable. The Vananchal issue may take a new form as Mr
Laloo Yadav of the Rashtriya Janata Dal says that if at
all a new state is to be carved out by depriving Bihar of
its 18 mineral-rich districts, it should comprise the
tribal-dominated and contiguous areas of West Bengal,
Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. His idea is that the new state
that will be born in this manner will have 26 districts
and will be better placed to take care of the tribal
people's interests, the basis on which the Vananchal
demand is being considered. Be that as it may , the moot
point is: will political parties ever learn to give
primacy to the people's interests over those of their
PRESIDENT CLINTON'S VISIT
WHETHER US President Bill Clinton visits Pakistan or not need not be a matter of debate or concern to India. It is the Americans' business to decide the usefulness or otherwise of such a trip. And they strictly go by what they perceive to be US interests. They hardly care for the sensitivities of other nations, including democratic ones. That is the reason why in the larger issues of Indo-Pakistan relations, Washington has invariably either shown a tilt towards Islamabad or treated the two South Asian countries somewhat even handedly.
The USA has always considered Pakistan as its strategic ally. Five decades of Indo-American relations are a testimony to the fact that Washington has used Islamabad to promote its strategic, economic and political interests in the larger global context, especially to ensure its primacy as the sole superpower from Afghanistan to Central Asia as well as to establish itself as a watchdog of strategic areas of China and India. This is not a slanted account but part of hard geo-political realities which cannot be wished away by selective calculations.
It is a different matter that India has only itself to blame for being indifferent to its vital interests in Kabul and beyond after the eighties. The recent hijack episode has exposed the serious flaws in Indian diplomacy in this area.
Symbolically speaking, President Clinton's visit to India is surely of significance. It holds some promise for the growth of future relations between the two countries. It is, however, not yet clear whether American policy-makers have genuinely undergone a change of heart. All the same, there have of late been some positive indications which underline tactical changes in the American attitude towards this country. It is too early to say whether these will acquire concrete shape in the evolution of a new policy on the subcontinent.
The USA will elect a new President in November this year. And Mr Clinton will then be part of history. Subsequent developments will be shaped by the new occupant of the White House. If he maintains the present thrust in favour of India, it will be quite something. In any case, there is no escape for American policy-makers from seeing India in a new global perspective and differently from its old mindset.
India today holds the key in Asia. Despite its numerous problems, it is fast emerging as a forward-looking dynamic nation which will, in all probability, begin to compete effectively with the most developed nations in the next millennium.
India has, in fact, scientific and technological skills which will propel it on the highway of globalisation. Perhaps, the Americans see signs of the emergence of a new India and that is one reason for their somewhat changed attitude towards this country.
Of course, there are grey areas. Also, points of friction do not allow Indo-US relations to grow to the desired level. However, given the skills of Indian diplomacy and the special efforts being put in by External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, there is no reason why bilateral problems cannot be sorted in an atmosphere of goodwill. There are a number of things the Americans can do if they are genuinely serious about improving political and business relations with this country.
First, it needs to see India as an independent entity and not through Pakistan's tainted glasses. In other words, it should give up the old habit of equating the two countries.
India and Pakistan cannot be equated for a number of reasons. The Americans have actually hurt the Indian sensitivities in the past 50 years by their inability to see India as a democratic and secular nation and by comparing it with a theocratic country controlled by the military establishment.
The Americans would do well if they begin to see India vis-a-vis China. They need to realise the importance of this country and its potentialities and its inner strength and the value system which may be nearer to the ideals of the average American.
Second, once Washington puts New Delhi in a new slot of special relationship, the floodgates of Indo-US cooperation will open to mutual advantage. The Indians are as friendship-loving as the Americans are. They also cherish middle class values, liberty, equality and human dignity of fellow citizens. A theocratic state like Pakistan may be useful to Washington for limited strategic purposes, but in today's hi-tech age such relations cannot stand the test of time. Strategic needs change. So do equations. There are already some signs of a change in Pak-American equations, howsoever limited and tentative.
Third, it will be worthwhile for the Americans to actively cooperate with India to root out terrorism of all shades and forms. In fact, a major global problem of terrorism has emanated from Islamabad which has become the main factor disturbing a faster economic growth and world peace.
Fourth, the Indians expect the Americans to be a more positive and understanding on Kashmir. We often hear about dubious American plans to further disturb the status quo in Kashmir. Such moves are both unethical and misplaced.
The policy-makers in Washington should understand that India will not give up Kashmir and hand it over to Pakistan on a platter. If it comes to the crunch, New Delhi may have no option but to get the Pakistani aggression of 1948 vacated.
Indo-American interests in the region will be safe if the USA shows a better appreciation of Indian perspective on Kashmir.
However, the moot point is: will Washington mend its ways? Going by its past behaviour, it is doubtful if US policy-makers are ready to bring about radical changes in their priorities and postures in the subcontinent.
US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was quite candid the other day on President's Clinton's trip to New Delhi. She graciously acknowledged the importance of the visit and declared: "I believe that the USA has made quite clear that having a relationship with the world's largest democracy is important. But, obviously, we continue to have very serious concerns about the issue of non-proliferation and about the dealings on Kashmir."
This is a typical American observation. Mrs Albright is, ironically enough, both vague and categorical. She apparently does not approve of the "hype" in official and non-official circles on President Clinton's visit.
This is just as well. For, it will be in India's interest to be both pragmatic and correct on such a crucial policy matter.
Emotions do not decide foreign policies. The trouble with policy-makers here is that they allow themselves to be carried away by limited or ad hoc considerations. What is needed is a fresh perspective on India's changing interests and priorities, both in short and long terms.
Equally crucial is the much-needed dynamic thrust to the country's political, strategic and economic diplomacy.
The Americans understand the language of business. Before we "surrender" our vital business interests in favour of American multinationals, it is necessary to extract the right concessions from Washington. In this context, South Block ought to learn a lesson or two from Beijing in tackling the top brass in the US establishment.
Diplomacy is a test of nerves. It requires tough bargaining. Rightly or wrongly, our leaders give the impression of caving in under pressure from hard-boiled American negotiators. Perhaps, a well-directed aggressive diplomacy in the pursuit of national interests may pay us dividends.
On the non-proliferation issue too New Delhi has not been able to have its way. It is time New Delhi made it clear to Washington that India was a nuclear power and it must be accepted as such by the Americans as they did in the case of China.
As for Kashmir, it is
not enough just to merely talk about a proactive policy.
Such a policy has to be pursued in action, starting with
the elimination of the training camps of terrorists.
India has to earn respect from the outside world,
including the USA, by its decisive action against
terrorism which is also hurting American interests badly
the world over.
Empowerment of panchayati raj bodies
LOCAL governments have been a matter of considerable controversy in every democratic country with a unitary or federal type of constitution. It has given rise to a number of issues pertaining to its structure, power, role and functions, and relationship with other organs of the government both vertically and horizontally. India cannot be an exception despite the memories of indigenous village panchayats, a background of more than 100-year-old and formally organised local bodies in several states, and the experience of well-planned panchayati raj set-up to handle development and welfare activities at the village level.
Having both political and administrative significance, panchayati raj has been subject to many experiments. Still a pattern acceptable to all states has not been evolved. The mood, however, is in favour of further changes and experiments.
From the idea of local handling of local affairs initiated in the last quarter of the 19th century, local bodies became the mechanism of decentralisation and devolution in the 1950s under the panchayati raj system and were looked upon as institutions of self-government under the 73rd amendment of the Constitution in 1992 in conformity with the Directive Principles of the Constitution.
In the course of years, several patterns have emerged to suit the local needs and convenience of the state governments concerned and the stage is now reached to consider the empowerment of local bodies. It indicates the presence of a gap between the theoretical and practical position of panchayats necessitating central intervention to ensure that panchayat bodies act as units of self-government as envisaged, and not as limbs of state governments as they are treated.
Empowerment is the key word applied with reference to many weak subjects in these days of social justice such as women, the Backward Classes, the dalits, the poor, etc. In the case of panchayati raj, it brings in the question of their constitutional status and devolution of powers from the state governments and also the status of the members and presidents of panchayat bodies vis-a-vis of those of Parliament and state legislatures.
Advocating strongly the adequate empowerment of village and other civic bodies as a step towards invigorating development works, Defence Minister George Fernandes said: I believe decentralisation is not only the distribution of funds but also administering effective law and order. He suggested the shifting of policing and law and order mechanism to the control of municipal bodies and the panchayats. He was speaking at a seminar on Government and Social Justice in New Delhi. He rejected the contention that the empowerment of local bodies would boost corruption.
The Government of India announced on January 13 a move to revamp the public distribution system by conferring social audit powers on the panchayati raj institutions to make the system more target-oriented and prevent the diversion of the commodities supplied under it. The expectation is that the panchayati raj institutions would ensure the consumers right to information regarding stock availability, entitlement, prices etc.
The Government of Indias enthusiasm in empowering panchayat bodies is not likely to be matched with similar gestures by all state governments each of them facing its own problem in the matter of local self-government. For, panchayati raj institutions are the creations of state governments by legislation and are under their control although the 73rd amendment of the Constitution in 1992 led to the compulsory constitution of panchayats and mandatory elections to panchayat bodies.
Meanwhile, there is also a report that the Union Government, in deference to the suggestion made by the TDP government in Andhra Pradesh, is likely to introduce a constitutional amendment Bill to allow state governments to restructure the panchayati raj set-up according to their convenience. In fact, there has been a persistent demand from some states for structural changes in the system prescribed by constitutional amendment.
The Government of Tamil Nadu has pointed out that the present system has removed the link between the three tiers by introducing direct elections to panchayat unions and district councils. It is in favour of constituting panchayat unions with the presidents of village panchayats and district councils with the chairman of panchayat unions as provided earlier in the state.
Though a constitutional apparatus, the panchayat bodies depend much on the goodwill of the state governments and, therefore, flourish or decline according to the advantages and disadvantages available in the states. It is because of this that there has been constant tampering with the constitution and functions of panchayat bodies all along.
It is not possible to alter the situation as the federal arrangement recognises only two centres of government authority the Union and the States. The basic structure of the Constitution cannot be changed by amendments. Panchayati raj bodies at the most, with the best cooperation from the state governments, can take care of decentralised functions and their responsibility and cannot hope for any substantial devolution of power below the state Capitals.
Still the panchayati raj
system can fulfil a very useful role as the watchdog in
the implementation of various schemes of the government,
and see that the projects and programmes benefit the
sections for whom they are meant. It can help in the
enforcement of law and order and the prevention of misuse
of power and authority. To play this role fruitfully, it
is necessary to keep the local bodies above party
politics. Theorising cannot achieve this. It is for the
people living in the villages to assert their unity for
welfare and development against the devisive forces of
party politics. INFA
KASHMIRI LAL walked into the lawyers office. Appeared to be a jolly good man. Bald. With a big belly. Yet, a perfect posture. Erect. Immaculately dressed. In a three-piece suit. Nice fit. Well ironed. Stinking of good tobacco. He had a neat looking file in his hand. Seemed prosperous. Every inch.
He was ushered into the bosss chamber. The lawyer stood up to greet him. Offered him a seat. Then he glanced through the file. Quickly, he absorbed the truth. And his face fell. The visitor was not a company director. Not even an executive. Nor a man in business. He was a petty clerk. Posted in the Central Civil Secretariat. Aggrieved by the fact that he had been overlooked for promotion. The disappointment on the lawyers face was almost visible.
However, he put on a serious and solemn look. In a patronising manner and tone, he addressed the man sitting opposite him. He said, Litigation is a very expensive affair. Almost prohibitive. Beyond the reach of the common man. There is a heavy court fee. The typing charges. The professional fees. Some miscellaneous expenses too. It piles up to a lot. An honest salaried person cannot even afford to enter the portals of a law court. My sincere advice to you is not to indulge in this misadventure. Please do not sacrifice the two loaves that you earn for your wife and children.
Kashmiri Lal was not convinced. Nor discouraged. Not even disheartened. He looked the lawyer straight in the eye. With an air of confidence. Then he said, I do not want your honest or sincere opinion. I have come to you for your professional advice. Be a lawyer. Treat me like a client. Please charge your fee and fight my case. I want your best shot. At your price.
The lawyer was not prepared for this kind of a response. Not one bit. He began to look at the papers more seriously. Made a mental assessment. And then quoted the fee. He did not miss the fact that the man was not surprised or upset. Slowly he added a similar figure on account of travelling and other expenses. All this shall work out to Rs Ten thousand. Seeing that the man was not shocked, he quietly added per day.
Kashmiri Lal deposited the fee for three dates. In advance. Rupees thirty thousand. Told the lawyer to prepare the papers. Give him his address, telephone and fax numbers. Even the E-mail address. And then he left.
The lawyer looked at the wads of currency notes. Some money for a clerk to pay. He prepared the case. It was filed. A number of hearings followed. At periodic intervals.
As time passed, the two became friendly. Even informal. At least to a degree. They started travelling together to the court. On the way, they would chat freely. About almost everything. Even the family. The children. The schools they attended. Their education. The future plans.
The lawyer was surprised when he discovered that all the four children were studying in good public schools. St Josephs, Darjeeling and St Andrews, Shillong. At a fabulous cost per month. For each child. More than what even he was spending on his only son. Despite being a prosperous and successful professional.
How does he afford all this? What does he do? Various questions were bothering the lawyer. Ultimately, curiosity took the better of his logic. He bluntly asked How do you manage all the expense? What is your salary? Do you have any other source of income?
Simple, I get up at two. Every morning. All the 365 days of the year. Rain or shine. I go to the office of a company and write the accounts. At four I go to another office. For a similar job. At five thirty, I reach the house of the company director and teach his child for an hour. From seven to nine, I teach three more children. Then I go to my office. Punctually at ten. Before the boss reaches. Attend on him for fifteen minutes. Have coffee with his PA. After the office, I work at five places till about midnight. Write accounts and teach children. Then I get back home. Besides the salary from the government, I make about twenty five to thirty thousand rupees every month. But, all honest and hard labour.
When do you take rest? asked the curious counsel.
From eleven to five in the office, I catch up with my sleep.
Contradictions in Bangladesh
HALF the people of Bangladesh are friendly to India. You fought and died for our freedom, Sheikh Hasina told Atal Behari Vajpayee recently. And half are unfriendly to us. But why? Because we liberated them! Such are the absurdities in the life and thought of our neighbour Bangladesh.
Sharing of water was the major bone of contention. Yet more water flows through Bangladesh than through any other country causing regular calamities. What is more, Bangladesh is in the highest rainfall area. It brings annual floods.
In the eyes of the people of Bangladesh (that is the half), it is treason to cooperate with India. How else can one explain their opposition to gas expert and transit facilities?
Bangladesh has large reserves of gas as much as 25-30 trillion cu.ft. Should it sell gas or should it sell power to India? On this it has cogitated for two years. And it wants three more years for an answer!
Is this because it does not want to sell gas to India? Or because it wants more money and employment by generating power? No one knows for certain.
The World Bank says that it is more profitable to sell gas. If Bangladesh still wants to sell power, it must take into account one fact: when the gas reserves are exhausted, the investment in power will go waste. And the workers will be on the street. If, however, Bangladesh invests in hydropower, for which it has huge water resources, the returns can be for ever. It is a renewable resource. There are other benefits: irrigation, river transport, fishery, etc.
India is interested in both gas and power. The Asian Development Bank seems ready to finance both. ENRON, the American MNC, is also there to press on, which explains why the US Government is putting pressure on Dhaka to make up its mind.
Bangladesh cannot have a better customer than India. In fact, there are no other major customers in this region. But even Jyoti Basus plea has had no effect on Dhaka. India cannot wait indefinitely, when there is an alternative in Mynmar.
Mynmar too has huge deposits of gas. It may mean higher investment on pipelines. Perhaps we may not be able to transport it to Calcutta. It may have to be utilised or processed in the North-East region.
Foreign investors are not willing to invest in gas unless its sale to India is cleared. Bangladesh must be aware of this. The Shell chief in Dhaka says: This opportunity may not be available in future. He was obviously referring to the Mynmar alternative. The Mynmar Commerce Minister has already announced in Dhaka that his country was planning to sell gas to India.
India cannot wait indefinitely, for even after a project of this kind is cleared, it takes seven to eight years to lay down the pipelines.
India should, therefore, make known its final terms in the near future. In the meantime, it must examine the Mynmar angle. It will be trouble-free unlike deals with Bangladesh. It will also be more rewarding to India in the long run.
India has proposed a free movement regime along the 600-km-long border with Mynmar. This is a new policy. The idea is to have a more active border for commerce and culture. The Buddhist angle is important. The bilateral trade with Mynmar was already worth Rs 984 crore in 1997-98. There is tremendous potential for economic relations. China and Thailand are well entrenched in the country. India should not stay back.
How long the supply of gas can last should be a major consideration in view of the huge investment. If we go by this criteria, a gas pipeline from Iran is more advantageous. Iran has 16 per cent of the worlds gas reserves, that is 816 trillion cu.ft. It can last for the next 500 years according to experts indeed a very long time.
Six years ago, India and Iran signed an MoU for a 1000-km off-shore gas pipeline, costing four billion dollars. This could supply 30 million cu.ft. of gas per year to India. Feasibility of this project has been carried out. The project has been stalled for some technical reasons. The idea is to skirt the Pakistan waters. This will, of course, raise the project cost.
Oman was our first preference. Now Qater is also in the picture. But the proposal of Iran is by far the best, because it is a large country with a large market. And it has great future potential.
One of the major concerns of India has been to obtain transit facility for its goods through Bangladesh territory to the North-East. The Hasina Government has agreed to it in principle. But the opposition has characterised it as appeasement of India. And yet in the near future, road and rail links are going to be established between South-East Asia and South Asia, passing through Bangladesh and India. The goods will pass through both countries without any obstruction under an international convention. It is difficult to understand the stand of the Bangladesh Opposition in these circumstances! Do they want to oppose these international efforts to promote trade and commerce?
The President of the Bangla Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr M.H. Rahman, says: We can earn foreign exchange without compromising our national safety and security. Why would not we allow them transit?
While there is justification for caution in the case of gas supply, one cannot understand the opposition to the transit facility in an age of globalisation. What is more, transit is provided under SAPTA as also in the agreement for the Joint Economic Commission between the two countries.
The Asian highway linking South-East Asia (Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Mynmar) and South Asia will enter India at Tamu (near Imphal) at the Mynmar border and, after passing through Sylhet (Bangladesh), will enter India again. This highway will thus link Indias North-East with the rest of India through Bangladesh.
Similarly, the Asia-European Union rail project, which is nearly complete, will link eastern India with the EU through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey. India is heading the task force to make the study.
Sponsored by the Paris-based International Union of Railways, the project is expected to provide an alternative to the sea route. The sea route takes 45 days, while the rail is expected to complete the journey from Singapore to EU in 20 days. The revenue is to be shared on the basis of route length.
This rail route will also pass through Bangladesh and India, thus providing a transit facility from the North-East to India.
These are in addition to the existing facilities on both sides. For example, the Dhaka-Calcutta bus service was inaugurated in July, 1999. The work on restoring the rail link, which was broken in 1965, is nearly complete. And there is a proposal to set up a freight corridor between South Asia and West Asia and Central Asia. India, Bangladesh and Iran are to be members of this project. One corridor will go through Western India, to be linked with Bandar Abbas in Iran, by sea, where the goods will be put on rail. The other corridor will go through Pakistan, Iran and onward.
Here are prospects that boggle ones mind. And yet here are politicians who still talk of over our dead bodies.!
It is time to create a South Asia constituency in this region of committed politicians, businessmen and intellectuals to fight for the good of the region. May be Inder Kumar Gujral can devote the rest of his life for this cause? He alone has got the background for this task. And his job is going to be simple: in a decade or more, South Asians will be neighbours to two of the largest economies in the world that of China and India.
ONE would have thought that with the changed political conditions in the country, the Governments outlook in respect of those persons who have incurred bureaucratic displeasure on account of their political views, would have undergone a rational change.
That this is not so is evident from the reply the Punjab Government gave in the last Council session to a question by Lala Bodh Raj.
The Government said that
Pandit Lok Nath, an Updeshak of the Arya Pratinidhi
Sabha, Punjab, who applied for a passport to Africa for a
religious mission, was refused permission owing to
his past record. Does this fact not show
vindictiveness on the part of the Government in dealing
with persons who are not in their good books?
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