Sunday, February 13, 2000,
Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


THE TRIBUNE MILLENNIUM DEBATE

A period of missed opportunities
Nation’s interests must be guarded
by V. N. Datta
AS we enter the new millennium, it is appropriate that we do some serious introspection by way of drawing a balance-sheet of our performance during the twentieth century and identify the credit and debit side of our doings. Each age has its own compensations and sufferings. Winston Churchill had said, ‘The further backward you look, the further forward you can see’. We can draw from history those timeless values which have stood the test of time. Knowing where we faltered and fumbled, will put us in a better position to stand up and meet the challenges facing us.

In search of a technological society
Development backlog has to be cleared
by Jagvir Goel
AS India enters the new millennium with an alarming population of one billion, the necessity of producing enough energy and applying engineering for greater infrastructure development stares in her face. Notwithstanding the progress made till date, basic amenities are still missing in many parts of the country. Industry remains labour intensive and low growth and productivity are obstructing technological progress.

Influential sections cornering all resources
Process subverted by the elite
by Sucha Singh Gill
INDIA’s social and economic development in the post-Independence period of one-half of the century has been much below its potential and its own targeted level. India was expected to achieve the takeoff stage, a stage of self-sustained growth by the mid-1960s. But in reality it was involved in a deep social, economic and political crisis during this period.


EARLIER ARTICLES
 
PROFILE

Sketch by Rangaby Harihar Swarup
Man who wants to end graft
THE web site on which Mr N. Vittal has put the names of government officers suspected to be corrupt reads — http://www.cvc.nic.in. Repeated attempts through the Internet to reach the site has been a frustrating experience. After each try the message flashes on the computer screen: “Netscape is unable to locate the server.....”. One wonders if the site has been deliberately obstructed or has the VSNL and MTNL purposely created a snag.

PERSONALITY

The gentle prophet
by Abu Abraham
WHEN we have a namby-pamby government, a hypocritical government, one with as many faces as there are allies in the alliance of odd bedfellows, a government that is always groping for a clear ideology or steady direction, this nation of ours is fortunate in having a President like Mr K.R. Narayanan.

DELHI DURBAR

Whom does ‘Water’ cannot target?
Water “cannon” aimed at Jaitley
Who is the real target of Sangh Parivar enthusiasts spearheading the campaign against Deepa Mehta’s film “Water”? The easy answer: film-maker Deepa Mehta herself. A little sophisticated answer could also engulf actress-turned pro-Third Front MP, Shabana Azmi. The down-to-earth answer, however, may be baffling but it is true: the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley.


75 years ago
February 13, 1925
Distinction without a difference
THE workings of the bureaucratic mentality are, indeed, strange; and it is not easy for ordinary mortals unfamiliar with the art of bureaucratic government to follow the intricate reasonings of this mentality.

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A period of missed opportunities
Nation’s interests must be guarded
by V. N. Datta

AS we enter the new millennium, it is appropriate that we do some serious introspection by way of drawing a balance-sheet of our performance during the twentieth century and identify the credit and debit side of our doings. Each age has its own compensations and sufferings. Winston Churchill had said, ‘The further backward you look, the further forward you can see’. We can draw from history those timeless values which have stood the test of time. Knowing where we faltered and fumbled, will put us in a better position to stand up and meet the challenges facing us.

History is the story of the steps and slips of mankind. Edward Gibbon, perhaps the greatest of historians of all times, wrote that ‘history is indeed a little more than the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind’. In the first half of the twentieth century it was generally believed that nationalism would give way to a world organisation based on liberal or communist principles and eventually by a process of trial and error, a world government would emerge based on equity and justice but in the world constituted today the pressure is on the other side. Over 100 million deaths occurred in wars during the last century, and military expenditure still remains at about 700 billion a year. We had hoped that the last world war was fought to end all wars but alas! that was not to be. History shapes the perception of the structural portion of the situation. The only lesson of history is historical experience to which we have been woefully indifferent.

The avenging force of fact is that the twentieth century has been the most terrible and violent age where even the non-combatant population was not spared. The weapons of nuclear warfare have multiplied. With the flabbergasting collapse of the Soviet Union, America has emerged as the only superpower and there is no one to challenge it. The balance of power in international politics has been extraordinarily disturbed. Britain and France are reduced to regional powers. Japan and Germany possess economic power but not military. The United Nations has not worked well, and the resolutions on aggression, human rights and disarmament are usually blocked there. Despite remarkable scientific and economic development human beings continue to live under appalling and brutalised conditions. Paradoxically, riven by religious and ethnic conflicts, the world has become far more of a simple operational unit with e-mail, satellite television and cholesterol medicines.

The greatest achievement of India in the twentieth century is her emancipation from the fetters of British rule which had bound her for about two centuries. India became a sovereign, independent republic to choose her own way and make her fortune. Doubtless, progress in the scientific and economic development in the country has been remarkable since independence. Two-thirds of Indians are literate now.

Our economy is growing at 6.5 per cent a year against 1 per cent 50 years ago. The average Indian now lives twice his earlier age. The backward classes have come forward in the mainstream of national life, and the middle class is vibrant and influential in the building of the country. Despite all-round progress, India still ranks 124th in the world in the case of income per capita and 131st in human development.

The strength of a nation-state is determined by (1) its military power, (2) its efficient foreign policy backed by public support, and (3) its material interests both within and outside the country; and its reaching a high standard of living and the adoption of consumption to contemporary level. The hard fact is that both our foreign policy and economic development have been adversely affected by the embittered Indo-Pakistan relations.

Kashmir continues to be an intricate bone of contention between India and Pakistan. Despite bilateral negotiations conducted at intervals, U.N. mediations have failed to resolve the festering dispute. I think that in our whole approach to the Kashmir question we have shown a lack of foresight and firmness. The Kashmir case has demonstrated our incapacity to handle sensitive diplomatic issues. Diplomacy is all skills, and we are regrettably wanting in them. We continuously missed opportunities and failed to understand the need of the hour.

Just after the Bangladesh war we had almost everything creditable on our side, yet we squandered the gains by not settling the Kashmir issue with Pakistan. By signing the Simla Agreement in 1972 between India and Pakistan, we allowed ourselves to be duped by the wily smiles of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Despite our lofty idealism and commitment to peace, laudable virtues, indeed, which governed our foreign policy, and widely acclaimed as a proud legacy of our national movement, the harsh reality is that we failed to safeguard our national interests. This was strikingly evident in our relations with China. Jawaharlal Nehru ruled out the possibility of war with China. India did not know that China was building the Aksai-Chin road by linking Sinkiang with Tibet, posing thereby a threat to India. We were caught napping. We were too confident to be prudent. We refused to define our priorities, and showed later infirmity in our dealings. In moments of crisis we took steps which were fitful. After Kargil, we have now the most distressing experience of a Indian airliner hijacked by Pakistani militants at Kathmandu, who have succeeded in compelling the Indian Government to release three hardcore militants from prison who had played havoc in the Kashmir valley by their gruesome terrorist activities. Such a release under ignominious circumstances is a memorial of national humiliation.

However beautiful a sermon may be, it cannot resolve any problem. We have had enough of preaching and sermonisation which has become almost an occupational disease with a number of professional politicians who are adept at tricking people by holding out false promises. There is a striking gap between promise and performance. Even Jawaharlal Nehru failed to implement some of his laudable schemes such as cooperative farming, family planning, the Panchayat Raj, and compulsory literacy.

In a democracy, education is the panacea for the ills of society. In a number of universities the standard of teaching is appallingly low. The quality of teaching depends much on the research potentiality of a teacher. Teaching without research is like friendship without devotion. Little attention is paid to excellence in research. Usually hackneyed topics for research are selected; guidance to the researcher is inadequate, and the conclusions drawn by the researcher in his thesis are usually trite. In the universities there is no accountability of a teacher in his performance, and when a teacher is found guilty of some misdeed, all sorts of pressures are exerted on the authorities not to take any action against the culprit. It is a pity that the emphasis is mostly on teaching, which is a one-way traffic, but not on the tutorial work in which a student is expected to do his assignment for scrutiny by the supervisor. The Kothari Commission had recommended about 30 years ago that a basic change must be made in the examination system. The commission suggested a continuous ‘internal assessment’ of the student during the academic year. Initially the universities accepted the recommendation but later most of them abolished it. Similar fate the M. Phil degree was to meet.

We have waxed eloquent on the virtues of our cultural inheritance of which the notion of ‘composite culture’ forms a potential ingredient. Cultural tradition cannot be inherited except through hard labour which requires, as T.S. Eliot says, ‘a historical sense’, a perception ‘not only of the past but of its presence’. We have accepted the western models uncritically, mainly its external features to the neglect of the intrinsic values for which the West has stood. A critical evaluation of our inheritance is necessary in order to create a stronger and better order. The universal values which provide the growth of individual and his society are part and parcel of human existence which we tend to neglect.

For all its near billion population and booming economy, India is held back by the fetish of ‘inward-looking’ nature of the people, lack of resilience, chronic apathy, stoic forbearance and the tendency to mistake the shadow for the substance. Just a month before he died, Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor and the architect of Germany, was asked how did he make Germany a great country, he remarked, ‘Alone, alone, alone’. Our political leaders through their sufferings has liberated the country, and they gave it to us as a trust which we must not betray. We must remember that the Roman Empire fell to pieces because political arrangements had become corrupt, vicious and obsequious.

(The writer is a well-known historian.)
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In search of a technological society
Development backlog has to be cleared
by Jagvir Goel

AS India enters the new millennium with an alarming population of one billion, the necessity of producing enough energy and applying engineering for greater infrastructure development stares in her face. Notwithstanding the progress made till date, basic amenities are still missing in many parts of the country. Industry remains labour intensive and low growth and productivity are obstructing technological progress. The dawn of the millennium compels us to look ahead and gear ourselves to clear the backlog of development and meet the future challenges.

No computerisation is possible, no application of Information Technology can be achieved unless the daunting task of making power available to every section of this populous and financially strained country is fulfilled. This is possible only if the power sector matures into a competitive, commercialised and profit-making sector. For that, this sector has to be kept free of ills like subsidy, political interference and populist measures. Further, a world-class infrastructure has to be created for it. The present scenario, however, wil reject this thought as a far-fetched dream.

India today has a total power capacity of 90,000 MW. Yet the country faces a normal hour shortage of 20 per cent and a peak hour shortage of 30 per cent. Projections made in the 15th Electric Power Survey estimate the energy demand to increase from the present 395 billion units to 450 billion units in 2001-02. Looking for the preparations, we have not even quickened our pace, leave aside arousing the spirit to fight. The huge hydro potential of the country is yet to be exploited. The start of the Parbati project is the only consolation. On the non-conventional energy front, though we are located in an advantageous position from the solar energy point of view, we have not made any major use of this freely available, pollution free energy. In a nutshell, despite being aware of the situation, we have not fully taken off!

As for infrastructural development, much has been achieved but it is not commensurate with the growth of population and the consequential requirement. We may project impressive figures but India is a country where numbers just cannot be believed. The simple reason is our burgeoning population. The real picture emerges when the density is looked into. For example, the number of telephones installed in the country is 12 million. The figure looks impressive. But when we look at the telephone density, it works out to 1.2 telephones per 100 persons. The road length all over the country sums up to 2.4 million kilometres, However, comparing the rate of laying of roads with the rate of growth of road transport, the figures are disappointing. Since 1950, the road passenger traffic has increased 65 times, the number of vehicles on the roads 80 times and cargo transport 58 times. Yet the road length has increased just five times.

Today, India has only 27 kilometre road length per 100 sqm of area. Japan has 172 kilometres and Britain 86 kilometres. Not only that, many bridges and flyovers of importance are yet to be built, tunnels are yet to be driven through the mountains and many rail-lines to be laid are still pending. Widening of the highways to four-lane width, strengthening of the existing 2-lane roads and laying of expressways constitute a task that can no more be delayed if a rapid mass transport system is to be ensured. America shows a fine example of achieving economic prosperity through laying an impressive and integrated network of inter-state highways. Mass transport development, therefore, needs to be allocated priority next to the development of power in India if an economically prosperous and fairly technological society is to be built.

Introspection will show that we lack devotion. We have not even taken off when we begin to see problems. Before making an affort, we lose steam. We lack initiative and accept failure readily. We are averse to adopting new technological developments. Our engineers prefer to stick to conventional methods and machines. Mechanisation is still missing from the infrastructure development scene. We need to adopt new methods, machines and technology that will ensure economy and save time. A multi-pronged strategy needs to be devised on the power and infrastructure development fronts.

In order to make our power sector free of its multifarious problems, we need to work on the following lines with equal attention to each and by fixing time-bound targets:

1. Full utilisation of existing power plants.

2. Renovation and maximum possible use of the old power plants.

3. Addition of more power plants.

4. Reduction of T&D losses from the present 23 per cent to 12 per cent.

5. Exploitation of non-conventional energy sources.

6. Integration of regional grids.

7. Effective energy conservation.

As for infrastructure, special attention has to be paid to mass transport development. Future traffic projections ask for faster laying of roads,widening of highways, addition of more bridges, flyovers and tunnels. Bridges, that bring togetherness, make the distances shrink, leap over valleys and rivers to bring people closer; tunnels, that pierce through the mountains and bring unknown villages into neighbourhood; are structures that must be built at any cost. To solve the problem of funds, however, mass transport development may be subjected to the ‘Build, Operate and Transfer’ concept.

The search for excellence never ends. We achieve the best and then find that the best is yet to come. It is a never ending process. We have to remain in pursuit of excellence. This is the only way to create, to add quality and refinement to life. Looking for a technological society that aims at creating conditions for economic and social progress of the country has to be the ‘search’ for all of us in the new millennium.
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Influential sections cornering all resources
Process subverted by the elite
by Sucha Singh Gill

INDIA’s social and economic development in the post-Independence period of one-half of the century has been much below its potential and its own targeted level. India was expected to achieve the takeoff stage, a stage of self-sustained growth by the mid-1960s. But in reality it was involved in a deep social, economic and political crisis during this period. This was manifested in terms of the Bihar famine, stagflation in the economy, social strife signified by the Naxalite movement, political instability and the continuance of mass poverty, unemployment, a high level of illiteracy spread of diseases reflected in a high infant mortality rate and low life expectancy. The situation has now improved marginally in terms of social and economic indicators.

Comparatively, a large number of countries in the Third World, which were placed adversely compared to India in the 1950s, have done much better. In this category come China, the Asian Tigers (particularly Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong-Kong) and other countries of South-East Asia. They have performed better than India in per capita income terms. Their achievement is far susperior as reflected by social indicators such as the adult literary rate, average years of schooling, the life expectancy level, the infant mortality rate, health care, etc. The all-India average with respect major social and economic indicators conceals the dismal performance of highly populous states of U.P., Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan due to the inclusion of better performing states like Kerala, Maharashtra, Punjab and Gujarat. India’s backward states are poor performing even as compared to the world’s worst performing countries of sub-Saharan Africa.

It is time India’s performance pricked the conscience of enlightened citizens who may think of redeeming the loud promises made by the first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, in his famous speech of “Tryst with destiny” in the mid-night of August 14, 1947. This relates to “the ending of poverty and ignorance and disease and inequality of opportunity”. Today nearly 40 per cent Indians are living below the poverty line, 50 per cent are illiterate and more than 50 per cent without basic health care. This is not to discount India’s considerable achievements of transformation from a stagnant to moderately growing economy, self-sufficiency in food-grains, defence, establishment of industrial complexes, nuclear installations, and the space programme but to remind the responsibility towards the common man and the promises made which need redemption at least after 50 years of Independence. Things have reached to such a level that these promises are not even part of the rhetoric resorted to on ceremonial occasions.

It would be useful to examine why the promises instead of being redeemed are dropped from the agenda of the rulers? The clue to the answer to this question can be found in the nature of socio-economic transition and the attitude of the ruling elite towards the common man in making the destiny of the country. From the very beginning, when the vision of an independent India began to be articulated (from 1938 with the setting up of the Planning Committee under Nehru) it was clear that under the leadership of the Indian National Congress the country’s transition would be on capitalist lines with an active role of the planning process. This became more evident from the Congress Agrarian Reforms Committee Report in 1948.

When the Sheikh Abdullah led-National Conference implemented radical land reforms and distributed land among lakhs of tenants and made them owners of the land without any compensation to the erstwhile landlords, he was not only thrown out of power but had to remain in jail for many years.

Telengana, another area where tenants organised a movement for land to the tillers, their drive was crushed with the help of the Army. This paved the way for the consolidation of the position of landlords and started the process of exclusion of tenants from the development process. Under the pretext of land reforms legislation, tenants were largely ejected from the land they cultivated, and many of them were forced to become agricultural labourers without any regular employment. Leaving a few patches, even the consolidation of land holdings have not taken place till this date, and in vast areas there are no updated land records.

Under the planning process the development of rural areas meant the development of agriculture and for landowners only. All others, particularly agricultural labourers, had to fend for themselves with no land base with them. The rural poor deprived of land were neither empowered through literacy and health care nor could they make their presence felt through the electoral process. Instead of making them partners in development activity, they were put on the fringe of the whole process. It was the landowners, particularly big owners, who monopolised the gains of development and exercised social and political authority in collaboration with the urban rich.

In urban areas it was the industry and business which ruled in collaboration with landed rich of the rural areas. The formation of this alliance at the early stage did not allow the process of capital formation for industrialisation by massive transfer of resources from landlords to industry and business. This resulted in the dependence of Indian industry on foreign capital for capital and technology. A dependent and collaborating industrial capital in alliance with landlords could not give a fast rate of industrialisation nor could it generate enough employment to absorb a large supply of labour created by the growing demographic pressure and the displacement of tenants from cultivation.

The experience of late capitalist development has been extremely slow and difficult particularly under the electoral system based on universal adult franchise. Electoral dependence of the industrial capitalist class on the landlords deprived it a potential source of surpluses for fast capital formation, and its dependence for capital and technology abroad drained out a sizeable part of resources and developed a chronic foreign exchange crisis.

Within the country, industry and business (leaving small unionised workforce less than 5 per cent of the total) deprived workers of the minimum statutory wages, regulated hours of work and other facilities at work and social security against old age sickness. Since unionised labour could enforce labour legislation/core labour standards, industry increasingly shifted its work in the unorganised sector producing sweated labour struggling for life without any safety nets either by the government or by the community.

The inability to transfer surpluses from the rural rich and no possibility of surplus transfer from abroad, industry and business resorted to the practice of tax evasion and for this purpose these connived with the top bureaucracy to avoid the recording of economic activity. The unrecorded economic activity for purposes of tax evasion is known as black economy. This was earlier shared by business and industry on the one side and the bureaucracy on the other. As the unregistered/ unaccounted part of economic activity became bigger, ruling politicians began to be part of it. It started as the contribution to political parties for elections but soon business for individual leaders and functionaries of political parties and the government. This had very serious consequences for the polity and society. The petty politicians with a lot of money ultimately replaced the politicians having social concern, vision and commitment. As a result the whole political process came to acquire a character of a business to wield power and earn money. This has put governance under siege.

The rich in both rural and urban areas are not willing to pay taxes in connivance with politicians and bureacrats. Consequently, the finances of the government at every level — the centre, the states and the local bodies — are in bad shape. The institutions build over years such as schools, colleges, universities, research centres, public dispensaries, civil hospitals, medical colleges, etc, are starved of funds and are suffering from mindless and indiscriminate budget cuts.

Public sector undertakings such as the electricity boards, the railways and the road transport corporations are made to give subsidy to influential sections, and governments are refusing to compensate. They are subject to public ridicule and non-performance. The selection, posting and transfer of employees in the government are made on the basis of money and influence leading to the disappearance of work culture in government departments characterised as non-governance.

A deeper structure of the working of the socio-economic and political system reveals that the influential sections in society are cornering all the resources, comforts and power leading to the exclusion of a vast majority of population from the development process and fruits of development. In the absence of any social safety net the exclusion of the vast masses would be resented.

Prof S.R. Hashim, Member, Planning Commission, in his address to the Indian Society of Labour Economics at Mumbai on November 18 remarks that the “exclusion will lead to alienation and alienation will lead to consequences that are dreadful to the sustenance of the fine social fabric”. He made a forceful plea for making every able and willing person involved in productive economic activity and a participant in our social and economic endeavour. The vast majority of people have a large capability to build a vibrant society provided they are not excluded from the socio-economic system.

Nobel Laureate Prof Amartya Sen is the votary of public action on the part of the disadvantaged groups to avoid government apathy towards their needs. Without awakening these disadvantaged people and building their organisations for public action neither promises made by Nehru would be put on the agenda of public policy nor any effort would be made for their redemption.

In fact, the whole development process has been subverted by the elite in the urban and rural areas, cornering all the benefits and shifting the liabilities to the disadvantaged. The elite would continue to perpetuate their selfish interests at the cost of society till the disadvantaged groups become organised and assert their position. Here is a role for the conscientious people to work as catalysts to set in motion the process of organising the disadvantaged.

(The author is a Professor of Economics, Punjabi Univer-sity, Patiala.)
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Profile
by Harihar Swarup
Man who wants to end graft

THE web site on which Mr N. Vittal has put the names of government officers suspected to be corrupt reads — http://www.cvc.nic.in. Repeated attempts through the Internet to reach the site has been a frustrating experience. After each try the message flashes on the computer screen: “Netscape is unable to locate the server.....”. One wonders if the site has been deliberately obstructed or has the VSNL and MTNL purposely created a snag. It requires patience and persistent efforts to reach the official web site of the Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) running into several pages and containing the names of 86 IAS and 22 IPS officers involved in corrupt practices. The CVC has recommended that criminal or departmental proceedings be initiated against them.

Barely sixteen months in office since the CVC was conferred statutory powers by the Supreme Court, Mr Nagarajan Vittal has sent shock waves in bureaucratic circles by cataloguing the names of the corrupt and the debased in the higher echelon of officialdom and making them public through the web site. The list includes such high and mighty as Secretaries, Chairman-cum-Managing Directors, Joint Secretaries, DIGs and SPs. Day-to-day experience has shown that corruption is rampant in the undertakings headed by Chairman or Managing Directors. Also the police is known for unabashed act of corruption.

Mr Vittal has a missionary zeal despite long years in government service — his critics call him eccentric — but the small step he has taken in tackling the worst menace in the system needs wide-ranging support. But can the bureaucracy be rid of corruption, if graft continues to flourish at the political level? According to shocking figures often repeated by Mr Vittal, India’s place is 66th in 85 most corrupt countries of the world.

One of the scheme of Mr Vittal to check corruption is being implemented in Customs and Immigration Department with the help of close-circuit TV sets at the international airport in Delhi. The bribe-taking Custom men cannot escape the prying eyes of the camera but the imaginative, among them, have found an escape route. According to a prestigious magazine some enterprising officers found an easy way of blocking the TV camera. They put chewing gum on the lenses and did brisk business as usual. Who were the culprits? It would, possibly, be never found out.

Mr Vittal often quotes from two books “The Foul Play” by Shiv Vishwanathan and “The Pathology of Corruption” by S.S. Gill to bring home the all-pervasive nature of corruption. He has, possibly, derived his five major players in corruption after going through the two books. They are “neta”, “babu”, “lala”, “jhola” and “dada” and they are identified as the corrupt politician, the corrupt bureaucrat, the corrupt businessman, the corrupt NGO and the criminal.

Criminalisation of politics, he says, can also be directly traced to corruption, which flourishes because of the need for ever increasing funds for political purposes in the country. Is there a way by which corruption can be eliminated if all the sectors are connected with graft? This is the vital question.

So far as Mr Vittal is concerned, he says: “Once we are able to check at least the “babu” and the “neta”, perhaps, there will be a salutary effect and other sectors can be brought under control”. In other words, he says, “I want to seriously put before you the proposition that we can eliminate corruption in the country. It is a question of mindset. If you are determined, we can do it. Today, in our country corruption is accepted cynically and with a defeatist attitude the people have become apathetic. I want to change this apathy into anger and action”.

When Mr Vittal issued an order directing that every office should put up a board “Don’t pay bribe”, his office people told him that it would appear naive to some. After all people will take bribe under this sign as they smoke under “no smoking” boards and park their cars under “no parking” labels. His argument was that this sort of warning would slowly create awareness among the people.

An amiable person by nature, Mr Vittal avoids controversies but often unwittingly lands in uninvited rumpus. Once he is thrown into battle, he fights with the zeal of a crusader. He invariably succeeds because his plans do lot of public good though often hurt vested interests. He is a firm believer in the teachings of the Gita and says its precepts have guided him in difficult times. As Secretary, Telecommunication, he and his the then Minister, Mr Sukh Ram, developed serious differences. Mr Sukh Ram did not like Mr Vittal’s transparent and upright manner of functioning, yet they managed to pull on.

Born in Trivandrum in 1938, Mr Vittal had his early education in Tiruchirapalli and Chennai. After graduating in chemistry from Lolola College, Chennai, and a short stint as a lecturer, he joined the IAS in 1960. His experience covers a wide spectrum with the focus on industrial administration as well as administration of the departments connected with science and technology. He has also written more than 125 articles with focus on industrial administration, public relations, human resources development, management technology and public sector management.

Vittal has an advantage of working practically in all southern states and in the north too. Though he is not a linguist, he can fluently converse in Tamil, Kannada, Gujarati and, of course, Hindi. He starts his day quite early in the morning with prayers followed by long walks.
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Personality
The gentle prophet
by Abu Abraham

WHEN we have a namby-pamby government, a hypocritical government, one with as many faces as there are allies in the alliance of odd bedfellows, a government that is always groping for a clear ideology or steady direction, this nation of ours is fortunate in having a President like Mr K.R. Narayanan.

He knows his mind; he is clear in his thinking; he has an acute understanding of the problems this country has to deal with. He is an intellectual with universal sympathies, who combines a sensitive liberal outlook with a realistic approach to politics and society. Above all, he has courage and honesty. He speaks with simplicity and clarity. He avoids verbiage. Honest people don’t need pompous and long-winded phrases.

His address to the nation on the eve of the 50th anniversary of our Republic Day must rank amongst the great speeches of modern times. It moved me almost to tears. He spoke for the oppressed and the deprived; he spoke frankly about the iniquities of Indian society, the perversions and imbalances of our political, economic and social development. It was an operation with the clinical precision of a surgeon. He laid bare for all to see the malignancies of our system.

Like a gentle prophet, he foresaw and warned the nation of the terrible consequences that can come from denying the fruits of development to the vast mass of the poor that is spread all over the country. Short of calling for rebellion, the President spoke of the need for a revival of the revolution which began in 1947 but which somewhere along the way lost its direction and purpose.

The President’s next great achievement of this new century was his address to the joint Houses of Parliament in the Central Hall on January 27. This was an equally forthright speech, in which he asked plainly whether it is the Constitution that has failed us or is it we who have failed the Constitution. Of course, he had suspected, as many of us have, that the move to ‘review’ the Constitution is only a step towards revising it, or as a Congress party spokesman said, to saffronise it. Yes, that is what this government has in mind, what some call their hidden agenda and many others see as its not-so-hidden agenda. Whatever they may do, Hindutva is the driving force of this government, which, the BJP thinks, in course of time, can transform the country into Hindu Rashtra.

Here too, Mr Narayanan is warning the poor and the downtrodden to beware of a total takeover by the upper classes and castes of the reins of government and the levers of economic power. With the help of its allies, or at least with their passive acquiescence, the BJP will bring in the Hindutva ideology through the back door, the side door or the front windows. Hindutva runs in their veins, they are obsessed with it and it is becoming harder for them to hide their true intentions.

In Gujarat, at least, they have come out in the open. It is a challenge to all norms of democracy as we have known it so far when government officers, magistrates, policemen can openly owe allegiance to the philosophy of the RSS. The infiltration of the RSS into the government services has already started. What now stops the armed forces from getting a dose of Hindutva?

The Gujarat Chief Minister at least is honest enough to show that there’s nothing hidden about his agenda. Have you ever seen in the last fifty years a Chief Minister parading around in khaki shorts? Anyway, where’s the need for changing the Constitution when anyone is free to raise the flag of Swastika? What’s the need when any bunch of hooligans can attack a film director and her crew in the name of Hindutva and our ancient culture?

Sorry, Mr Vajpayee, you don’t seem to be in control. Maybe that’s your deliberate policy, your style of governance. But it’s no government at all. You’ve got to redesign your priorities, get down to basics. No government can afford to ignore for any length of time the urgency of reducing poverty, providing drinking water, medical care and schools. What the President called the pedestrian crossing. But you have the reputation (as Ms Pandian of the Madras Institute of Development Studies has said) of being indifferent to the underdogs and of reflecting only the aspirations of the dominant classes. May Gold help you!
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Delhi durbar
Whom does ‘Water’ cannot target?
Water “cannon” aimed at Jaitley

Who is the real target of Sangh Parivar enthusiasts spearheading the campaign against Deepa Mehta’s film “Water”? The easy answer: film-maker Deepa Mehta herself. A little sophisticated answer could also engulf actress-turned pro-Third Front MP, Shabana Azmi. The down-to-earth answer, however, may be baffling but it is true: the Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Arun Jaitley.

Ever since this suave professional lawyer was sworn in as a minister by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, a large section of the Sangh Parivar have not turned green with envy but have blatantly shown tendencies of jealousy. They did not like the minister’s penchant for freedom of expression as evidenced from his decisions to allow the resumption of telecasting of Pakistan TV over the cable channels. He has been the least interfering Minister as far as AIR and Doordarshan are concerned, going by the admission of the staff of Prasar Bharati. Journalists not known to be close to the Sangh Parivar have been received warmly by the minister who in his earlier incarnation as a spokesman for the BJP, had been pungent in his comments but polite in his demeanour.

The script of “Water” having been passed by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the jealous faction of the Sangh Parivar thinks that it can embarrass Mr Jaitley by raising a shindy. However, in the process, what they forget is, it is they who stand exposed — the fact that their viewpoint does not count in the Union Government was exposed every time they disrupted the shooting of the film in Varanasi.

Different strokes

Both young Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled states — Digvijay Singh of Madhya Pradesh and Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan — proved over the past week that though out of power at the Centre, the party has a potential, provided the traditional cadre which has grown through the party’s movements over the past three decades, are trusted. While Mr Digvijay Singh took the sting out of the Sangh Parivar’s campaign by inviting Deepa Mehta to Bhopal to discuss the possible filming of “Water” in a location by the Narmada in that state, Mr Ashok Gehlot, even while facing a major agitation from the state government employees, romped home to win an overwhelming majority in the panchayat elections in Rajasthan.

Mr Digvijay Singh’s approach exposed his counterpart in Lucknow: RSS strongman Ram Prakash. Crowds gathered in Bhopal when Deepa Mehta went to meet the Chief Minister, but they were curious crowds, in sharp contrast to the belligerent mobs in Varanasi. The crowds in Bhopal are no less “Hindu” than the mob of Varanasi. The BJP is yet to strike roots properly in UP whereas its precursor, Jana Sangh, has been a major party apart from the Congress in Madhya Pradesh politics since 1967. Apparently the crowds’ attitude is determined by the dispensation of the State: if the Chief Minister is not willing to play ball, no one can disrupt freedom of expression.

Ataturk’s legacy?

RSS leader K.C. Sudarshan’s observation that Turkey had done well in the regime of its Dictator Kemal Ataturk by switching the official language from Latin to Turkish (six decades ago), made during a function organised by “Panchjanya”, was promptly replied to by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee who cautioned against Hindi chauvinism which Mr Sudarshan’s comment was tending to promote. While the RSS admires Ataturk for his language policy, it perhaps forgets that this ruler in Istanbul had also done away with the veil for Muslim women — known in India as the “Burqa”.

Ataturk was a progressive reformer in the Islamic world. His example was replicated in India by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, who as the leader of Jammu and Kashmir National Conference in the pre-Independence days, also campaigned for the removal of “burqa” among the Kashmiri Muslim women. Alas, “burqa” is back in Kashmir, thanks to Islamic militants. It is good to recall Ataturk’s legacy, but should not be mistaken as being a tool for promoting chauvinism or fundamentalism.

Man for all seasons

Mr Vincent George, the Nehru-Gandhi family faithful who has been in the eye of a storm, carried out yet another task for his master, albiet the fallout of which could be interpreted as a “reduction” of his stature. As the Leader of the Opposition, Mrs Sonia Gandhi is entitled to the perks of a Union Cabinet Minister which include having an IAS officer as her Private Secretary. She chose a 1974 batch UP officer, Mr Pulok Chatterjee, who had served in the Prime Minister’s office during her husband’s tenure and later in the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

There was a hitch — the rank of the officer she is entitled to have as her PS is that of a Director whereas Mr Chatterjee is a Joint Secretary. The matter was kept pending for quite some time till Mr Vincent George walked up to the portals of South Block and used his influence with officials in the PMO to get the appointment cleared. Apparently, even in today’s dispensation, you have a man for all seasons.

Kabaddi or kho-kho?

A political analyst, asked to comment on the style of Om Prakash Chautala and Bhajan Lal in Haryana politics, said that the two are competing, though their expertise is in different games. Mr Chautala specialises in kabaddi, a game in which the players have to go into alien territory and use their survival skills to score a point. Mr Bhajan Lal’s game is kho-kho where you have to pat a player on his back and make him run. After the election results are out, in case there is a hung Assembly, it will be interesting to see whether the kabaddi philosophy works or kho-kho prevails.

(Contributed by SB and P.N. Andley)
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75 years ago
February 13, 1925
Distinction without a difference

THE workings of the bureaucratic mentality are, indeed, strange; and it is not easy for ordinary mortals unfamiliar with the art of bureaucratic government to follow the intricate reasonings of this mentality.

The latest instance of this was offered by Mr Denys Bray in the Legislative Assembly on Monday.

Mr T.C. Goswami asked if it was a fact that the Prince and Princess Arthus of Connaught, who were not State guests, were touring the country in special trains provided for them at the expense of the State?

In reply, Mr Denys Bray, while admitting that the Prince and the Princess were not State guests, said that “at the suggestion of Government, the Railways concerned are making no charge for the haulage as an act of courtesy towards members of the Royal family.”

We have absolutely no objection to the Railways concerned showing this courtesy to members of the Royal family; but we fail to understand how this does not mean public expense, as the reply purports to show.

The Railways concerned may not charge anything for the haulage, and in that sense the special trains do not entail any expenditure on the Foreign or Political Department of the Government of India, but surely that does not mean that the special trains do not involve any expenditure for the Railways themselves, a large number of which are owned and managed by the State.

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