Wednesday, February 23, 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


EDITORIALS

Hooliganism in Gujarat
ORGANISING acts of hooliganism as an expression of resentment against government policy or official action is not the monopoly of any political party. It never was. For several decades after Independence the Congress was the only party which did not have to resort to violence because it was in power in every district and state, with the exception of Kerala, of the country.

Planned poverty
TWO reports independently analyse the level of poverty in rural areas and find the situation unchanged and alarming. The one by the Hyderabad-based National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) finds that the number of those living below the poverty line remains the same, though as a percentage of the population there is a marginal decrease.

Premier Dosanjh
PUNJABIS have a new role model now. Local munda Ujjal Dosanjh has become the Premier of British Columbia, a prosperous province of Canada. He is the first Indian - rather the first Asian - ever to win this distinction. There are more than four lakh Punjabis in Canada, but they are easily outnumbered by the Chinese.


EARLIER ARTICLES
 
OPINION

DEBATE ON CONSTITUTION-I
Is there a case for rethinking?
by J. S. Verma
THE words “rethink” and “review” do not have an identical connotation. The meanings given in the New Oxford Dictionary are: rethink — assess or consider (a policy or course of action) again; review — formal assessment of something with the intention of instituting change if necessary; critical appraisal of a book, play or other work.

Parliament must cease to be venue of brawl
by A. Balu

‘‘THERE are people who use free speech to stop others speaking. Instead of giving a reasoned reply to an argument with which they disagree, they resort to mindless abuse and bullying and shouting. Their real target is the denial of free speech to their opponents and this is against everything that the Commons stood for. In my view, these people are the weevils working remorselessly to destroy the fabric of our parliamentary democracy.’’

MIDDLE

Humour at hustings
by I.M. Saini
ELECTIONS, which provide abundant opportunities to candidates for letting out verbal gas, often provide humorous quips to people. These gems of geniality tickle the humour bone — if the reader/listener has one.

NEWS REVIEW

Beijing’s warning to Taiwan
From Danny Gittings in Hong Kong
THE CHINESE Government has warned that it will use military force against Taiwan unless the island’s leaders agree to join talks on reunification at some future point. In its toughest statement in recent years, Beijing said it would take “drastic measures, including the use of force” against Taiwan, which it regards as a renegade province.

Unequal pay for British women
From Lucy Ward in London
BRITISH equality campaigners have called on the UK Government to respond to new evidence showing British women suffer heavy pay discrimination, by compelling employers to prove they pay men and women equally and refusing to do business with those who do not.


75 years ago

February 23, 1925.
The “Mussalman”, on a Mussalman Demand
“COMMENTING upon the demand of the Punjab Muslims, now backed by Mr Jinnah, that while the “Mahomedan representation in Bengal and the Punjab should be on a population basis, that in the other Provinces should be according to the Lucknow pact”, The Mussalman says:

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Hooliganism in Gujarat

ORGANISING acts of hooliganism as an expression of resentment against government policy or official action is not the monopoly of any political party. It never was. For several decades after Independence the Congress was the only party which did not have to resort to violence because it was in power in every district and state, with the exception of Kerala, of the country. But those who believed in socialism or had faith in the Left ideology had no hesitation in organising violent protests for the redressal or real or imagined grievances. The saffron brigade was exempt from this charge because it acquired political shape and substance only in the late eighties. Today the socialists of the Lohia school have become extinct and the street fighters who once found gainful employment with the Left outfits have discovered more money and muscle in promoting the politics of Mandal or “kamandal”. However, going by certain recent incidents in Gujarat it may not be wrong to say that there is now an unhealthy competition between the Congress and the Sangh Parivar in promoting and protecting the culture of political violence. What happened inside the Assembly and outside in Gandhinagar on Monday merely helped expose the depth to which Congressmen are willing to fall in the name of fighting the “forces of communalism”. The Congress is not alone in expressing resentment over the decision of the Bharatiya Janata Party government in Gujarat to lift the ban on RSS membership for public servants. The issue is likely to be raised by the combined Opposition during the Budget session of Parliament. But the kind of ugly scenes created by Congress MLAs inside the Assembly and workers outside the building merely confirmed the popular view that politics has indeed become the last refuge of scoundrels.

However, the acts of violence engineered by members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad on Saturday inside the Municipal Corporation building in Ahmedabad were equally reprehensible. According to reports, the VHP activists managed to force their way into the office of the Mayor because the watch and ward staff did not expect them to behave as if they represented the Opposition in Gujarat. The activists raised slogans like “Jai Shri Ram” and disrupted the corporation’s budget session being chaired by Mayor Malini Atit. It was an exact replay of the scenes witnessed in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly several years ago when Mr Kalyan Singh became Chief Minister through engineering defections in the Congress and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The only difference was that in the case of UP the free-for-all was between the elected representatives of the people. The VHP activists not only indulged in acts of violence but also used filthy language against the Mayor and other members of the Municipal Corporation. They evidently forgot that not too long ago they were fighting for protecting the dignity of women by stopping Ms Deepa Mehta from shooting a film on the lives of widows in Varanasi. What the Congress leaders and workers did on the issue of RSS membership for government servants on Monday was abominable. But it would appear to be less offensive compared to the methods adopted by VHP activists against their own “political soul-mates” at the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation premises. They resorted to violence because they were unhappy with the order for the demolition of some temples, including the Ramdevpir Mandir in Uttamnagar. The BJP corporators were reportedly roughed up and asked to resign for failing to protect the religious places of Hindus from being demolished. Mahatma Gandhi belongs not only to India but also to the rest of the globe and his method of peaceful protest against any imagined or real wrong is as relevant today as it was when he used it against the might of the British. It is unfortunate that the political leaders of the state which gave birth to the 20th century apostle of peace have forgotten his message and given legitimacy to the politics of the gutter by encouraging acts of hooliganism in the state Assembly and at premises of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.
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Planned poverty

TWO reports independently analyse the level of poverty in rural areas and find the situation unchanged and alarming. The one by the Hyderabad-based National Institute of Rural Development (NIRD) finds that the number of those living below the poverty line remains the same, though as a percentage of the population there is a marginal decrease. The World Bank points out that in six states the very poor account for 40 per cent of the population and in Bihar the percentage is as high as 60 and getting worse. The NIRD has very cheerful news for this region. Haryana and Himachal Pradesh top the list of states with creditable infrastructure and social development. Punjab is in the higher region of the middle group. What this means is that in these states villages are not abandoned places but boast of reasonable schools, road network, drinking water supply, electricity, markets and primary health centres (infrastructure). The social development index is based on fair price shops, housing, female literacy, educational standard and toilet facility. Haryana owes its pre-eminent position to the frenzied phase of development during the first term of Mr Bansi Lal as Chief Minister and also the initial beneficial impact of the green revolution; Punjab is close to the top thanks again to the spectacular increase in farm income. Himachal Pradesh has always been a pioneer in rural electrification, drinking water supply and female education. The report attacks certain pet shibboleths but echoes certain others. Allocation of funds is no guarantee or even an index to poverty reduction. The various schemes evolved and worked over the decades have created an illusion of development without resulting in any improvement. With land reforms stalled or scuttled, there is no viable way to transfer assets to or improve the purchasing capacity of the vast number of the landless. However, it places all its faith in the panchayati raj institutions to empower this vast section, forgetting the hold of feudal thinking and its potential to upset any transformation of the villager’s life.

The World Bank laments the fading away of the focus on attacking poverty and deprivation. Significantly it says that the ongoing L-P-G (liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation) is sure to pass by the poor, implying that if the government does not intervene energetically, the position may get out of hand. In other words, both reports underline the recent anxiety of liberal economists that free market economy helps in generation of wealth but it also widens income disparities. (Command economy did hamper quick wealth creation but tried to distribute the wealth in an even manner, however tardily and unsuccessfully.) At last month’s World Economic Forum meeting at Davos, the same point was stressed in crisp terms by the French Finance Minister. He said, “yes to market-driven economy, but no to market-driven society”. Again both reports find the many safety nets a sham and call for rapid expansion of educational facilities and income-generating plans with the participation of the intended beneficiaries. One surprise finding is that Kerala and Tamil Nadu find themselves in the lower half of the first group, but Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, two of the undisputed leaders in information technology, are in the top half of the third group — the laggards. These two states have a glittering capital city but the villages remain neglected. That is the central point of the NIRD complaint: all along development philosophy has had an urban bias and it is time this is ended.
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Premier Dosanjh

PUNJABIS have a new role model now. Local munda Ujjal Dosanjh has become the Premier of British Columbia, a prosperous province of Canada. He is the first Indian - rather the first Asian - ever to win this distinction. There are more than four lakh Punjabis in Canada, but they are easily outnumbered by the Chinese. It goes to the credit of Mr Dosanjh that he still managed to become the Premier. Even more creditable is the fact that he is a self-made man all the way. Born in Jalandhar district in 1947, he arrived in Canada in 1968 and worked as a janitor to begin with. Getting a degree in law on the prodding of his wife was the catalyst that he needed. After that the typical Punjabi entrepreneurship took over and he became the Attorney-General and the Home Minister for some time. The Premiership is the just reward for his determination and grit. His triumph is all the more welcome because it signals that the Punjabis are no longer living in splendid isolation in foreign lands. That is a charge usually hurled against them. The family bonds in India are so strong that most of those who go abroad tend to form a diaspora and are not willing to look beyond it. It is men like Mr Dosanjh who encourage others to assimilate fully in the social milieu of the country of their adoption. At the same time, praise is due to Canada which has allowed an immigrant from another continent to occupy the highest political seat of a province. Perhaps that will be a lesson for those who want to keep all foreigners out of senior positions in India.

Mr Dosanjh belongs to a family of freedom fighters and is a committed nationalist to boot. Small wonder then that he has strongly opposed separatist movements. It is ironical that those who created mayhem in Punjab demanding "Khalistan" had attacked and injured him in Canada a few years ago. There is still a real danger that he may be targeted even now, but he has all along bravely faced such threats from fundamentalists. Like a committed liberal he has campaigned against violence and for better health and education. One hopes that he will get the help of every Canadian of Indian origin in this endeavour. But the political situation in that province is such that he may be Premier only for a brief period. His New Democratic Party may be forced to call for fresh elections soon enough where the chances of victory are not very bright. As one political commentator of that country has said, if you blink you are going to miss his moment of glory. But it is a historic moment nevertheless.
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DEBATE ON CONSTITUTION-I
Is there a case for rethinking?
by J. S. Verma

THE words “rethink” and “review” do not have an identical connotation. The meanings given in the New Oxford Dictionary are: rethink — assess or consider (a policy or course of action) again; review — formal assessment of something with the intention of instituting change if necessary; critical appraisal of a book, play or other work.

It does not appear that the word “rethink” in the theme for the debate is confined to its literal dictionary meaning or it is meant to combine the meaning of both “rethink” and “review”. The debate must, therefore, focus its attention even on overlapping areas.

The Preamble to the Constitution contains the objective of the document, including the constitutional promise made therein. The machinery provisions later are enacted to indicate the manner in which the constitutional promise is meant to be realised. In my view, there is nothing to rethink or review in the Preamble to the Constitution which is laudable and the exercise is, therefore, required to be confined to the later machinery provisions. In the performance of this exercise, attention has to be focused on the later specific provisions to determine whether the failure to achieve the objective to the extent expected in 50 years of work is on account of any deficiency or defect in any provision so enacted, or it is in the manner of its working. Unless any defect is found in the provision itself, the occasion to recast the provision would not arise and the need would be only to improve its operationalisation.

The operation of any provision in the Constitution through the instrument devised for that purpose is essentially by some human agency. It is the improvement of the human agency in that situation which is warranted. We have then to think of the process by which the improvement can be made. There may, however, be some area in which the provision is found deficient or there is a gap which needs to be filled by enacting some specific provision to fill the vacuum because unfortunately it has not yet been filled by the development and acceptance of a proper convention for that purpose. May be, in practice for some time, possibly at the beginning, foundation has been laid of a healthy convention to fill the gap or to regulate the operation of that provision and later it was not uniformly respected. In that situation that convention needs to be formalised by enacting a specific provision to fill that gap.

As I see it, except for a few areas, there is a case essentially for improving the performance. That would require working of every provision by the best quality of human agency available in the country. This, unfortunately, has not happened always in the recent past. How to cure that defect appears to me the most important aspect of the problem. Good governance, assured by improvement of the machinery to work the constitutional provisions in order to translate the constitutional promise into reality is the real task before us. The debate needs to be focused on this aspect more than anything else.

The situation brings to mind the thought — “A bad workman quarrels with the tools”. I for one do not think that we need new tools. All we need is sharpening of the tools and making the best use of them, if need be, with only some modifications.

My own view is that the basic structure of the Constitution is sound, requiring no rethinking. The only change required may be in some parts of the machinery which provides for implementing the constitutional programme because of the deficiencies revealed in its working and the margin available in the existing system for its subversion by the unscrupulous, which tendency is increasing. There are only some areas in which experience has shown that there is need for a change to strengthen the constitutional fabric and to provide some effective measures to achieve the constitutional goal. Such areas are only a few where some amendments may be necessary or fresh provisions need to be enacted, but that too is only to realise the constitutional promise initially made.

The review, if any, is required only to this limited extent. But then this requirement also arises only because the country has failed in recent times to “throw up such men in abundance as will have the interest of the country before them” and place them at all vantage points in the machinery for working the Constitution as visualised by its framers. The failure is, therefore, essentially of the men who have worked the Constitution and not of the Constitution itself. The pious hope of Dr Rajendra Prasad, expressed at the concluding session of the Constituent Assembly, has been belied.

He said thus: “Whatever the Constitution may or may not provide, the welfare of the country will depend upon the way in which the country is administered. That will depend upon the men who administer it. It is a trite saying that a country can have only the government it deserves.... After all, a Constitution, like a machine, is a lifeless thing. It acquires life because of the men who control it and operate it, and India needs today nothing more than a set of honest men who will have the interest of the country before them.”

Dr Rajendra Prasad had also hoped that the gaps in the Constitution would be filled in its working by developing proper conventions. It was hoped that the conventions would be developed keeping in view the participatory role of different constitutional functionaries who were together entrusted the joint responsibility in certain spheres in the nature of a joint venture to work for people’s welfare, and the programme of constituting India into a welfare state would be uppermost in their minds. The fundamental principles of governance enunciated in the Directive Principles of State Policy also were required to be kept in view by every public functionary in all instruments of governance. People’s welfare must be the primary concern in all acts of governance and it has to be remembered that the political sovereignty vests in the people as clearly indicated in the Preamble, by the opening words “We, the people of India” and then the emphasis on the “dignity of the individual”.

The leaving of gaps in framing a Constitution by its framers is an advanced constitutional device and should not be considered to be a deficiency in the document. This device is meant to build hedges which help in avoiding rigid postures being taken by different authorities and it prevents the likelihood of confrontation between them. It promotes a culture of understanding and tolerance to other’s point of view. In this sense, the framers of the Constitution of India exhibit profound vision, in providing certain gaps meant to be filled by developing proper conventions in the light of experience gained by the working of the Constitution.

It has also been recognised judicially that an accepted practice or convention developed in the working of a provision, the requirement of which is more than that of the enacted provision, becomes a part of the law on the subject and a lesser requirement in the enacted provision is no justification for the failure to comply with the larger requirement of a settled practice or developed convention.

A Constitution being an organic document meant to serve for all times and to meet the current needs of society, the rules of interpretation of the constitution are not always identical to those of ordinary legislation. A debate relating to rethinking in the context of the Constitution of India requires these factors to be kept in view.

It is my firm belief that the aberrations found in the working of the Constitution are more because of the failure of, or the deficiency in those who have worked certain provisions at different times. This is the reason why the same provision as originally enacted has not been found wanting for quite some time initially even though its working later on has given rise to a debate for its alteration. Some instances alone would suffice.

Article 356 of the Constitution for quite some times was not misused and there was no occasion then to think that it needed a change. However, it has been misused frequently in the later years for vested political interests by the ruling party at the union level to dismiss the state governments ruled by the opposite parties which has given rise to a serious debate on the desirability of that provision itself. The objectives of enacting Article 356 obviously was to ensure the unity and integrity of the nation and governance of all parts of the country in accordance with the Constitution. The exercise of this power is meant only in extreme cases for preserving the larger national interest. There is, however, a reasonable view shared by many that the power under Article 356 has not always been exercised for the purpose for which it was meant. The need, if any, to re-enact the provision is not because of any inherent defect in the provision but because of the absence of political morality in its exercise on occasions.

Similarly, the power to issue Ordinances is meant only to enact legislation when the legislature is not in session and when immediate steps became necessary to legislate. Obviously, this power is not meant to circumvent the need to debate the issue in the legislature or to enable the executive to bypass the legislature. It is also necessary that the exercise of this power be confined only to situations which could not be foreseen when the legislature was in session, and which could not wait till the House was reconvened. However, the exercise of that power has been very frequent giving occasion to the Supreme Court to adversely comment on the manner of its exercise. This, too, cannot be treated as a deficiency in the enacted provision, the aberrations being only in the manner of its exercise.— INFA

(To be concluded)

The author, a former Chief Justice of India, is the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission. The article is based on a speech he delivered at a recent seminar in New Delhi.
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Humour at hustings
by I.M. Saini

ELECTIONS, which provide abundant opportunities to candidates for letting out verbal gas, often provide humorous quips to people. These gems of geniality tickle the humour bone — if the reader/listener has one.

When the President of the aged 114-year old Congress party, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, had made a statement the hardcore of which was that Bellary was in Andhra Pradesh, she had unwittingly revealed her ignorance but provided mirth to many. People chuckled in their sleeves.

The “mother of technicalities,” by now, must have spotted her Karnataka constituency in an atlas, at least.

Laloo Prasad Yadav, the king-maker of not so distant past, can always be trusted with his rustic darts, said he: “What has vikas (development) to do with rajsatta (political power). There is no link between the two. Only intellectuals think otherwise.”

The dazed and fazed Laloo must have now seen some intellectuals having the last laugh!

His rival, Sharad Yadav, also came out with a rib-tickler, “Vote ki loot rokna beti ki izzat se bara hai.” (The prevention of rigging is more important than the honour of one’s daughter).

The hoary Congress party has been known for its culture of sycophancy and unashamed worship of the “Dynasty”. No wonder, the slogans bandied about during the elections reveal their slavish psyche. One Congress slogan in Almora read: “Jo bahu ko bahu na mane, who Bharat maan ko na pehchane. (They do not recognise the great Bharat who do not respect daughter-in-law). This is reminiscent of “India is Indira; Indira is India”.

The Congress had once sung in chorus: Indira lao desh bachao. This was later changed to Sonia lao Congress bachao. In this election, it changed into Priyanka lao Sonia bachao.

The wooden spoon for the best bon mot goes to a Muslim candidate in Bihar who when asked about the poor state of roads in the state replied with a straight face: “people too poor to travel would not know what to do with good roads.”

Indeed. Jokes are cruel things. The line between the comic and the absurd is very thin.
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Parliament must cease to be venue of brawl
by A. Balu

‘‘THERE are people who use free speech to stop others speaking. Instead of giving a reasoned reply to an argument with which they disagree, they resort to mindless abuse and bullying and shouting. Their real target is the denial of free speech to their opponents and this is against everything that the Commons stood for. In my view, these people are the weevils working remorselessly to destroy the fabric of our parliamentary democracy.’’ These observations made by a former Speaker of the Mother of Parliaments, Mr George Thomas, in his fascinating memoirs published several years ago, could as well have come from the Lok Sabha Speaker, Mr G.M.C. Balayogi, or his immediate predecessor, Mr P.A. Sangma.

As Parliament opens its budget session on Wednesday with an address by the President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, the question uppermost in the minds of the public will be if the honourable members will stick to their usual drill of obstructing the proceedings of the House or allow decency and decorum to prevail so that meaningful debates on the vital issues before the nation take place and legislative business is transacted expeditiously.

It must be conceded that no Parliament in the world is free from occasional bouts of misbehaviour, shouting matches and scuffles. The House of Commons has witnessed scenes that can only be described as unbecoming of the members. Speaker George Thomas has described in his memoirs many such scenes during his seven-year tenure in that high office, and on occasions cautioned that ‘‘any action which undermines the dignity of the House undermines its authority both here and outside.’’

The 210-year-old U.S. Congress has come a long way from stray incidents of violence among members in the 18th and 19th centuries to the present day situation where members seek the ‘‘unanimous consent’’ of the House to extend their speeches even by half a minute. It is not that there are no noisy exchanges, but everything is within limits. Ms Hono Nickels, a veteran observer of US Congress, recalls that in the 19th century, duelling was a widespread solution for personal disputes among leading citizens and that included members of Congress. It is a matter of relief, she says, that ‘‘in our time, occasional shoving and tie-pulling matches have replaced more lethal weapons.’’

In one incident in recent years (June 27, 1925), the then majority leader of the House of Representatives, Mr Jim Wright (he later became Speaker and made an unceremonious exit on grounds of ethics), who was presiding over the House, left the rostrum, grabbed a Republican member by the arm and threatened to punch him in the mouth. Lately, however, as Ms Nickels notes, there have been advances in matters of decorum and civility of the House.

The scenes of fisticuffs witnessed in the last Lok Sabha session during the introduction of the Women’s Reservation Bill touched a new low in parliamentary decorum and decency. With more controversial issues on the agenda for the ensuing budget session, it will not be surprising if members resort to their familiar form of protest of rushing to the ‘‘well’’ of the House and obstruct the proceedings, forcing the Speaker to adjourn the House. In the Commons, there is a Speaker’s ruling that no member is entitled to ‘‘perambulate’’ around the chamber.

In the past, Lok Sabha Speaker Balayogi has begged, pleaded with and cajoled members in vain to restore order in the House. What has been missing is the execution in full measure of the Speaker’s authority. Leaders of parties in the Opposition have failed to curb the unparliamentary conduct of their followers and, on the other hand, they themselves have joined in causing a pandemonium in the House. Speaker Balayogi could perhaps draw inspiration from his former counterpart in the Commons, Mr George Thomas, and carry out his prescription: ‘‘There is only one thing to do and only the Speaker can do it, that is to exercise a firm hand and throw out the people who break the rules.’’

The weapon of punishment — suspension of the members who repeatedly defy the Speaker’s authority — has been rarely used in recent times. In the first Lok Sabha constituted in 1952, Speaker G.V. Mavalankar used his stentorian voice and the gavel to call ‘‘order, order’’, but occasionally when a member disobeyed the Chair, he would seek and secure his expulsion and suspension. Repeated suspension of erring members should help in sending the right message to their constituencies. Indian parliamentary democracy has won the acclaim of the international community and it will be a tragedy if its vital pillar, Parliament, loses public esteem and becomes the laughing stock of the nation and the rest of the world.

Only the other day, the Vice-President and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Mr Krishan Kant, lamented the poor coverage by the media of parliamentary proceedings, saying that there was a growing impression among parliamentarians that the media was interested in reporting only what was sensational, which often meant highlighting the disorderly and unseemly conduct of some members and ignoring or downplaying sober, serious and thoughtful contributions.

While the Vice-President had a valid grievance, the lapse is not on the part of the media but on the part of members. As a reporter who had covered the Lok Sabha for nearly two decades since its constitution in 1952, I might point out that in those days the newspapers gave wide coverage to the proceedings in Parliament simply because the debates were worth reporting. In the present situation, even uproarious scenes, because of their daily occurrence, have ceased to be newsworthy. No one can deny that in a democracy people have the right to know what their elected representatives do in Parliament, but the “bully boys” have to blame themselves if the media is unable to project a positive image of the unique institution which, regrettably, has, more often than not, become the venue of street brawl.
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Beijing’s warning to Taiwan
From Danny Gittings in Hong Kong

THE CHINESE Government has warned that it will use military force against Taiwan unless the island’s leaders agree to join talks on reunification at some future point.

In its toughest statement in recent years, Beijing said it would take “drastic measures, including the use of force” against Taiwan, which it regards as a renegade province. The threat — which could cover anything from an attack to an invasion or all-out war — came in an 11,000-word policy white paper issued in a clear attempt to influence Taiwan’s upcoming presidential polls.

Previously, China suggested that force would be used only in the event of a foreign invasion of the island, or a declaration of independence by Taiwan. But now the threat has been extended to apply if Taipei indefinitely maintains its refusal to hold talks on unifying the two governments, under Beijing’s leadership.

“The only future for Taiwan is reunification with the China mainland,” warned the policy paper. “Any attempt to separate Taiwan from China through a so-called referendum would only lead the Taiwanese people to disaster.”

No deadline was given. But the tougher tone was seen as a bid by Beijing to put pressure on the island’s voters, who vote on a new leader on March 18.

“This is a sign of impatience and desire by (China’s President) Jiang Zemin to see the issue of Taiwan on the path towards some kind of resolution during his leadership,” said Professor David Zweig at the University of science and technology in Hong Kong.

China fears the island has slipped further from its grasp since Taiwan’s outgoing president, Lee Teng-hui, spoke last summer of “a special state-to-state relationship”, a remark that infuriated the communist leadership by portraying Beijing and Taipei as equals.

The policy paper bitterly attacked Mr Lee, calling him a “saboteur” and “troublemaker” bent on pushing Taiwan towards independence.

Beijing tried to frighten Taiwan’s voters in 1996 by conducting missile tests near the island during the presidential election campaign. But its strategy backfired when the sense of crisis rallied voters behind Mr Lee.

As a result, observers saw the warning as an attempt by China to achieve its objectives through less drastic methods.

“It’s much better than sending missiles,” said one western diplomat in Beijing. “It’s a sly move because it increases the pressure on the candidates without saying too much.”

China’s threats have already succeeded in forcing the main candidates in Taiwan’s presidential poll to tone down their rhetoric. Vice-President Lien Chan, the ruling Kuomintang’s candidate to succeed Mr Lee, has struck a conciliatory tone and called for closer contacts with the mainland, although he has also reiterated his support for the controversial two-states formula.

Even Chen Shui-bian, the candidate for the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, which formerly supported Taiwanese independence, is now at pains to stress that he has no intention of making any early moves in this direction.

Beijing fears that the island is feeling bolder after the US House of Representatives recently passed a bill providing for increased military assistance for Taiwan.

Although President Clinton has said he would veto the bill, China accused the USA of having “repeatedly contravened its solemn undertakings” not to provide the island with arms.

By arrangement with The Guardian
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Unequal pay for British women
From Lucy Ward in London

BRITISH equality campaigners have called on the UK Government to respond to new evidence showing British women suffer heavy pay discrimination, by compelling employers to prove they pay men and women equally and refusing to do business with those who do not.

Following the publication of a government-backed study revealing an average woman will earn almost 250,000 (US $ 400,000) less in her lifetime than a similarly qualified man — even if she has no children — the English Trade Union Congress (TUC) demanded a strengthening of equal pay laws to force employers to carry out pay audits by gender.

The Equal Opportunities Commission, which also supports pay audits, called for legal reform to streamline the cumbersome employment tribunal process and make it easier for women to bring equal pay cases.

Research confirmed that the pay gap between women and men stands at around 20 per cent, with women paying a heavy price simply for being female.

The British government ministers for women Lady Jay and Tessa Jowell acknowledged that women were still hit by a “female forfeit” and said the report — Women’s Incomes over the Lifetime — exploded longstanding “myths” that women’s incomes were lower than men’s because they took time off to have children.

But campaigners argue that government pledges to encourage schoolgirls to opt for better paid professions, and to help women keep in touch with the employment market if they take time off to raise children, are inadequate to deal with the problem.

Lucy Anderson, TUC equal rights officer, said the government should legislate to force employers to conduct and publish pay audits comparing men’s and women’s salaries, rather than merely urging them to do so. The TUC also wants a body such as the Central Arbitration Committee to be given powers to look at pay structures in general.

Unions want action to tackle pay inequality for the lowest paid women workers, who suffer discrimination because they are the backbone of traditionally low-paid sectors such as caring professions and nursing.

The Equal Opportunities Commission said that, without action, the pay gap would remain stuck at 20 per cent. Its chairwoman, Julie Mellor, said the government should show leadership by tackling the pay gap in the public sector.

“The government should insist that taxpayers’ money is not spent paying suppliers who do not pay women equal wages,” Ms Mellor said.

She added: “Twentyfive years after the Sex Discrimination Act was introduced, women are still sacked because they are pregnant, paid less for equal work and earn less over a lifetime than men, even if they never have children.”

The Equal Opportunities Commissioner, Jenny Watson, said the government should set a date for promised moves to reform employment tribunals, making their findings applicable to whole employment sectors rather than simply individual workers.

— By arrangement with The Guardian
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75 years ago

February 23, 1925.
The “Mussalman”, on a Mussalman Demand

“COMMENTING upon the demand of the Punjab Muslims, now backed by Mr Jinnah, that while the “Mahomedan representation in Bengal and the Punjab should be on a population basis, that in the other Provinces should be according to the Lucknow pact”, The Mussalman says:

“We may be pardoned by our co-religionists if we fail to understand the logic or appreciate the justness and equity of such a demand. If there should be proportionate representation in the Punjab and Bengal, fairness demands that there should be proportionate representation in other provinces also.

“If the other provinces should have representation more than what is their due. Bengal and the Punjab cannot then claim what they are entitled to in accordance with their respective numerical strength. We ask our co-religionist all over India to bestow their serious thought on the matter and then come to a decision, so that the charge of making any unreasonable demand may not be levelled against the community.”

Evidently, it is not every Muslim organ which believes in the justice of the policy summed up in the saying, “Heads we win, tails you lose”.

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