|Monday, February 28, 2000,
IN POWER SECTOR
day of British troops in India
is trivial, review real
warming experts speak
Resurrection of Laloo
BIHAR has thrown up the hung-est Assembly, posing a formidable constitutional problem for Governor Vinod Pande and a severe test to all political parties and leaders. The Laloo Prasad Yadav-led RJD has inched ahead of the BJP-led alliance but is still 40 MLAs short of a bare majority. Normally procuring this number, just about 12 per cent of the strength of the House, should not be a problem in these days of political free-lancing. But this support has necessarily to come from a pool of sworn RJD-haters. The dilemma of the Congress exemplifies this. It has 23 seats and is committed to opposing the communal NDA, but it fought the election on a strident anti-Laloo Yadav platform. And to give credence to its changed attitude towards its former uneasy ally, it packed its list of nominees with a good number of Maithili Brahmins from Darbhanga and Madhubani districts, who won largely because of anti-RJD sentiments. If the Congress were to pursue in Bihar its Delhi-dictated policy of anti-communalism, the legislature group will split, with a small section walking over to the NDA. If it stays neutral, the NDA will form a government, thus defeating its second plank of its election campaign. It is a classic Catch-22 situation. The Left has to make an equally painful choice. The CPM is sitting pretty, though this minuscule formation has long ago compromised on its proclaimed anti-corruption crusade and joined the RJD as a minor partner. But the CPI (six seats) and the CPML (six seats) had spurned the RJD hand of friendship and vowed to politically eliminate its leader to establish a strong third force and provide a pro-poor and corruption-free administration. They have reiterated their opposition to both leading groups and decided to keep equal distance. The upshot will be to indirectly smoothen the way for an NDA takeover of the government.
The NDA is not in a happier position either. It needs 42 more MLAs to reach the magic figure. And here it runs into two roadblocks. One, it has to first readmit seven members who stand expelled for defying the edict to withdraw from the contest, but are formal party men since they fought on the NDA symbols. Four of them are BJP men and being soft to them, even if expediency dictates such a course, will militate against party discipline and anger the rank and file. The second issue warrants total abdication of principles, something that the Kalyan Singh-led government performed in neighbouring UP. Bulk of the additional manpower has to come from Independents, and among the 20 successful men are six criminals or gang lords. (There are four more history-sheeters who don the NDA label.) Brazen embrace of ruthless criminals will highly damage the image of the combine at the national level. There is another danger lurking just beneath the surface. If the NDA aggressively goes on a recruiting campaign and breaks the Congress on caste lines, Mr Laloo Yadav will find a door slightly ajar to wean away his backward castes men from mainly the Samata Party. The wily Yadav continues to publicly admire Mr Nitish Kumar while pouring scorn on Mr Ram Vilas Paswan. No, it is not a one-sided affair. The Samata leader too has hailed Mr Laloo Yadav as a top leader of Bihar enjoying the solid support of the poor. It is also true that he has rejected any notion of giving up his anti-Laloo Yadav campaign. There is another indication of the NDAs nervousness. Both by the evolving tradition and the sheer weight of numbers the BJP should occupy the Chief Ministers seat if the NDA were to form a government. But within hours of the final outcome, the BJP has gifted the coveted post to, yes, Mr Nitish Kumar. Is it an attempt to bolt the defection door? The electoral resurrection of Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav and the razer-thin difference between the two front-rankers have exposed the helplessness of Bihar politicians. The momentum of the result has forced them to blindly and mechanically resort to time-tested ruses. They cannot follow a different route, they cannot innovate and they cannot shape the future. They are all pathetic victims of the present.
MR NAVIN PATNAIK has led the Biju
Janata Dal (BJD) and himself to victory in Orissa. The
party's achievements have two points of salience. One, it
has given a good account of itself by winning 68 of the
84 seats contested by it and by leaving the Bharatiya
Janata Party in the position of a poor cousin. The BJP
contested 63 seats and won 38 of them. The difference in
terms of unpopularity is indicated by the number of the
contested seats lost25 in the case of the BJP and
16 in that of the BJD. Two, the Congress has been routed
in spite of being guided by Mr J.B. Patnaik and doing
good work as the ruling party after the most virulent
cyclone in recent memory which ravaged coastal Orissa.
The party had a clear advantage accruing from the
nuisance value of the expelled BJD stalwart, Mr Bijoy
Mohapatra, and his anti-Navin brigade. Therefore, it
should be kept out of the reckoning for the present. Now
the major issues are those of Chief Ministership and
Deputy Chief Ministership. Prime Minister Atal Behari
Vajpayee crowned Mr Navin Patnaik king during his Orissa
campaign without realising the fact that his own BJP had
serious reservations about "the man of his
choice" on the grounds of rootlessness,
near-illiteracy in Oriya and lack of
politico-administrative experience. Mr Navin Patnaik has
formidable rivals, including Mr Biswabhusan Harichandan
of the BJP who has gone quite far by indicating that Mr
Vajpayee's pre-poll nomination could be mere tactical
hype. However, Mr Patnaik is all set to get into the
Chief Ministerial chair. What will be worrisome for him
subsequently is the tacit support for Mr Harichandan by
the Bijoy Mohapatra faction, aided by the Congress and a
few ambitious persons in Mr Navin Patnaik's own camp.
Although the position of the Union Minister for Mines and
Minerals is not insignificant, the thought of ruling over
a state is a more attractive proposition. The idea of
having "a couple of Deputy Chief Ministers" may
not appeal to Mr Navin Patnaik. Many of his supporters
feel that the placatory move to have one deputy or two
deputies may not prove conducive to his unfettered
functioning in the long run. Temperamentally, Mr Patnaik
is not an efficient player of the game of political
manoeuvring. The Kendrapara and Dhamnagar experiences
deserve serious consideration. Post-cyclone Orissa needs
a stable government and an enormous effort at
infrastructural reconstruction. Politicking will hinder
the process of giving the hapless adequate relief.
Agriculture and small industries will require continuing
and undivided attention. If the BJD and the BJP are at
loggerheads, developmental work will suffer. The communal
factor is likely to prove a challenge to a truly secular
government and the BJP's ideological arms are being
looked at with suspicion in this regard. One would wish
Mr Navin Patnaik success. But his over-dependence on
alliance strategies will be less productive than the
BJD's dedicated work at the grassroots level. Orissa has
been blessed with holiness by Lord Jagannath and it has
got abominable notoriety because of Dara Singh and men
THE power sector is currently going through a period of turmoil. State Electricity Boards are making heavy financial losses and are unable to take up adequate expansion programmes. The governments efforts to bring in the private sector have so far failed. There have been large-scale slippages in the capacity addition programme. Most of the states are facing power shortages. These conditions have thrown a big challenge to power engineers.
With the beginning of the globalisation of the economy in 1991, power generation, which was till then primarily in the domain of the public sector, was opened up to the private sector. The intention, as stated, was to attract additional financial resources. This policy generated considerable interest among the potential foreign and Indian investors. A large number of MoUs involving over 70,000 MW capacity were signed with the potential investors. Only a few schemes totalling around 3000 MW-4000 MW, however, could actually take off.
There was a huge shortfall in capacity additions, both in the public and private sectors. Only 16,400 MW could be added, against the target of 30,500 MW, during the Eighth Plan. There is a lot of talk about hydel development. In the Eighth Plan the achievement, unfortunately, was only 2,427 MW against the target of 9,282 MW. The result was that the country suffered an overall peaking shortage of about 11000-12000 MW (18 per cent - 20 per cent) during the Plan period, and many states experienced worse shortages.
When the governments meandering policies failed to implement any sizeable power expansion programme hydel or thermal they came out with a shortcut scheme of setting up of liquid fuel and naptha-based power plants. Proposals aggregating to about 12,000 MW were recommended for fuel linkage under this programme. Unfortunately, even these have not yet taken off.
A scheme for setting up mega projects (of over 1000 MW for thermal and 500 MW for hydroelectric projects) was announced recently. These projects have been offered attractive financial incentives which are not available to any other project. A corporation called the Power Trading Corporation has also been set up to buy power from the mega projects for sale to the various SEBs in the states which agree (i) to set up regulatory commissions for the fixation of tariff; (ii) to privatise power distribution in all towns having a population of over 10 lakh and, (iii) for the devolution of state Plan funds in case the SEBs fail to make payments for the power supplied.
The tariff at present is framed by the SEBs. No need has ever been felt for assistance in this matter from any other agency. As regards the privatisation of distribution systems, an adequate number of parties with this experience or private funds of the magnitude required are not available. The proposed scheme would, therefore, be a total failure apart from disrupting the existing performance of the SEBs in this field.
Over the years, transmission and distribution systems (T&D) have been grossly neglected. Normally, outlays matching the provision for generation have to be provided for the development of appropriate T&D systems. A look at the past would confirm that hardly 50 per cent of the needed outlays were provided during the various Plan periods. This resulted in making the T&D systems inadequate and undependable. The lines and transformers are grossly overloaded. There are frequent system failures, trippings and heavy voltage fluctuations. T&D losses are high, and are partly being camouflaged as agricultural consumption.
As per the 15th Electric Power Survey Report (EPS), the overall peak demand in the country at the end of the Eighth and Ninth Plans were estimated at 68,370 MW and 95,760 MW, respectively. As per recent Press reports, the estimated peak demand at the end of the Ninth Plan is likely to scale down by 10,000 MW due to the sluggish economic condition. While the country was looking forward to the Ninth Plan programme providing a faster pace of power growth, the Planning Commission estimated that a generating capacity addition of only 40,000 MW (22,500 MW in the public sector and 17,500 MW in the private sector) may be feasible during the Plan period.
Recently, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission indicated that the actual realisation may only be 28,000 MW with a shortfall of 12,000 MW. A capacity of only 7500 MW has been commissioned during the first two years of the Plan. Many people feel that in view of the slow progress and overall fund constraints being faced by the power projects both in the public and private sectors, a capacity addition of about 20,000 MW may at best fructify. Severe peaking and energy shortages will, therefore, be faced, adversely affecting the economic growth of the country. Even the common man may suffer considerable hardships due to prolonged and frequent shutdowns and breakdowns in power supply.
Such a grim power position, at the onset of the new millennium, could be akin to powering the new millennium sans power. It is, therefore, necessary to draw up a constructive strategy not only to accelerate the capacity additions but also to maximise the utilisation of the existing capacities through the accelerated programme of renovation and modernisation of power plants and T&D systems, and the enforcement of energy conservation and demand management measures to mitigate power shortages. The government should suitably enhance the budgetary support for power projects in the public sector which has so far been playing a dominant role in power development.
Having again failed in the privatisation of power development, the government has now come out with a programme of power sector reforms in the states. The World Bank has offered to lend soft loans for this purpose. It has, however, stipulated certain conditions: the dissolution of the State Electricity Boards and formation & companies for generation and transmission. It has also been suggested that the distribution of power should be privatised. The unbundling of the boards will make the electricity utilities top heavy. The successor agencies will largely remain busy in solving their mutual problems, adversely affecting the service to the consumers.
The reforms in the case of the SEBs should be by constituting them with duly qualified and experienced professionals. The chairman and members should be appointed with specific tenures of three or five years. They should be held accountable for their performance. The boards should also be made free from political interference as envisaged in the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1948, and allowed freedom of action, including the fixation of tariff. Of course, they would work under the policy direction of the state governments.
Another reform essentially needed is with regard to improving the finances of the boards. The SEBs are at present incurring heavy losses primarily due to the supply of power at subsidised rates to agricultural and domestic consumers (in some states even free of cost). While power sales to the agricultural consumers account for about 30 per cent of the total sales by the boards, the domestic consumers account for about 15-16 per cent. The subsidy involved in the supply to the agricultural consumers is estimated to be around Rs 20,000 crore and that for the domestic consumers around Rs 6000 crore. Although a part of this shortfall in revenue is covered through cross-subsidisation from the industrial and commercial consumers, a gap of around Rs 13,000 crore Rs 15,000 crore a year remains uncovered. Efforts at further cross-subsidisation would make the Indian industry highly uncompetitive in the global market.
While there may be some justification for supplying power to the agriculture consumers at concessional rates in view of the much needed food security provided by this sector for the country, there is no justification to supply power to the domestic consumers at subsidised rates. The time has now come when the state governments must review their populist policies to supply power at subsidised rates and allow the power sector to raise some internal finance for survival. Even if around 50 per cent of the cost of power supply is recovered from the agricultural consumers over a period of one-three years and the full cost of supply charged from the domestic consumers, it will bring in an additional revenue of Rs 14,000 crore-Rs 15,000 crore a year. Coupled with strict control over the theft/pilferage of power, the yearly total additional revenue may be around Rs 17,000 crore-Rs 18,000 crore. This can make the SEBs financially viable, accelerate the pace of capacity augmentation, and lead to the expansion of the T&D systems. Once the SEBs become financially viable, this will help attract private sector investment to the power sector.
breeds social tension
THE economy of Punjab (with 70.45 per cent rural and 29.55 per cent urban population as per the 1991 census) is essentially rooted in its agrarian social structure. There is more relative development of agriculture but limited industrial development and irrational expansion of the tertiary (social services) sector. The existing mode of the production structure of the economy and also of its social relations has led to a distorted development and generated disarticulated social change. Thereby the dialectics of this specific agrarian transformation and relative industrial and cultural backwardness in Punjab is often expressed in the form of social tension in society.
At present, in this mode of distorted economic development and disarticulated social change lies the genesis of the Punjab problem. And it is also manifesting in the emergence of the social-lumpens in Punjab with serious and negative consequences for the future prospect of development. In this context, the adopted normal measures are often only of a peripheral help. But a partial solution of the Punjab question is possible through a process of (internal) capital accumulation and with a move of the Punjab economy towards rapid (or rather a hyper) industrialisation.
The dialectics of the integration of the Punjab region with the Indian State and its economy has subordinated it to the Centre. This region had a population of 231.51 lakh in March, 1999, residing in 12428 villages, 100 towns and 10 cities, and it comprised only 1.57 per cent area and 2.40 per cent population of the country. The social policy of the Indian Union towards Punjab is the same as it was during the days of the British. It is to develop and maintain its economy for supplying foodgrains and agricultural raw materials, and to use its internal/home-market for industrial commodities produced outside the state.
Among the many internal factors that are responsible for the present Punjab situation, an important one is its economic evolution and the nature of its social structure since Independence. In general, its overall agrarian transformation is based on intensive agriculture, having an 84.12 per cent net sown area with a 95.4 per cent sown area as irrigated and cropping intensity at 185. But the relative industrial backwardness has only generated a distorted and disarticulated development and change in Punjab, lacking sectoral readjustment.
In the structure of the gross state domestic product (GSDP) in 1996-97 (P) of Punjab (at 1980-81=100), the relative contribution of the primary sector (including agriculture) was more (44.51 per cent) than the secondary (including industrial) sector (27.23 per cent) and tertiary (social services) sector (28.26 per cent). Even though in Punjab the owner-cultivators predominate, the ownership of land, operational holdings, farm assets and capital are unequally distributed, thereby giving rise to a differentiated agrarian social structure.
There were fairly widespread disparities in the distribution of land-holdings among the Punjab cultivators in 1961, and this had become far worse by 1971. Then in 1990-91, among all the cultivators, more than two-fifths but less than one-half (44.74 per cent) were marginal and small farmers (up to five acres), and more than one-fourth (25.85 per cent) were medium farmers (of 5-10 acres). Apart from these 70.59 per cent of the marginal, small and medium farmers, the remaining 29.41 per cent were big farmers (of and above 10 acres), including 6.01 per cent extra-large farmers (of 25 acres and above).
The Green Revolution is only one chapter in the long history of the increasing penetration of the Third World agriculture by the economic institutions of Western capitalism. In India, Punjab is one state in which the strategy of the Green Revolution was most effectively implemented. The agrarian transformation resulted from the overall strategy of the world capital to integrate the Third World into the global capitalist system.
Since the mid-1960s the dominant social class of the Punjab economy has been the rich/capitalist peasantry. It has achieved a high degree of social unity and is in a position to politically mobilise the otherwise economically differentiated peasantry. But the country has not allowed proper political integration of this regional rich class with its overall democratic politics. Also, the economic integration of its social interests with the all-India economy is very weak because these rural-rich have not moved into industry.
The much-needed rapid industrialisation, with its capacity to radically transform the economic and socio-cultural values and the life pattern of the people, has failed to materialise in this state. In fact, without rapid industrial development, suited to the socio-economic endowments and conditions of Punjab, future economic development has only a bleak prospect.
In a way, the over-dependence on agriculture in terms of production, income and labour employment cannot generate viable economic prosperity and raise the social status of the people of Punjab. In this context, Punjabs contribution to the central pool of foodgrains was substantial and noticeable in 1980-81 of wheat 73 per cent and of rice 45.3 per cent. Now it is tending to decline; it was only 59.2 per cent in the case of wheat and 34.8 per cent of rice in 1995-96, as the output of these main food products is also increasing in other parts of India.
Even in this situation, sitting atop the established hierarchy of the state power structure is the dominant rich peasantry. Its power dominance is largely unchallenged from the nascent industrial and commercial classes. In the past, its social confrontation with the Indian State and its dominant industrial interests have often led to heightened social tension in Punjab. These regional ruling interests usually protest against the political manipulation of the Centre not via any alternative socio-economic policy. Rather, this opposition is often only through the mode and slogan of regional and religious-ethnic discrimination.
The distorted structure of economic development, experienced by such a Third World region as Punjab, has far-reaching socio-political implications marked by cultural contradictions and social tension. The complexion of the multi-dimensional Punjab problem is also rooted in the socio-economic and cultural historic-structure of the land and its people.
Moreover, the structure of the Punjab economy, in its sectoral division, is fractured and the historical process of a rational social change is checked, rather thwarted. The process of transition of economic power of the specific social groups into their political power is not getting structured. Because of this, the resolution of the Punjab problem clearly calls for a new interaction and dialectical balance between the productive forces of the economy and the nature of social superstructure.
British troops in India
ALTHOUGH at midnight on August 14, 1947, British rule in India ended, some British troops remained in India right upto February 28, 1948, precisely 52 years ago. A farewell parade was held on this date in Bombay. A very moving account of this occasion is recorded by Philip Mason (ICS and former Secretary of the Chiefs of Staff Committee), in his volume The men who Ruled India. To quote Philip Mason. On 28 February 1948, the farewell parade to the last British troops in India was commanded by Lt Colonel Prithipal Singh of the Sikh Regiment. The Ist Battalion of the Somerset Light Infantry, the last British troops in India, bear on their cap badges the word Jellalabad, in memory of the illustrious garrison of which they had been a part in the last years of British wars, a 100 years before.
On this last parade, they were presented with a silver model of the Gateway of India, with an inscription to commemorate the comradeship of the soldiers of the British and Indian Armies and the dates 1754-1947. The date looked back to the arrival of the battalion that was later the Ist Battalion of the Dorsetshire Regiment Primus in India.
Indian Guards of Honour from the Indian Grenadiers, the Maratha Light Infantry, the 2nd Royal Battalion, The Sikh Regiment and the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles presented arms in a Royal Salute, the bands played God Save the King. The Somerset Light Infantry presented arms in a Royal Salute and the Bands played Bande Mataram, which six years before had been the rallying song of insurrection, the Kings Colour and the Regimental Colour were trooped through the Gateway of India, the Bands playing Auld Lang Syne.
It was over. The long years of partnership and strife were ended and divorce pronounced. Varied and often inconsequent it had seemed but it ended in a mood of astonished warmth on one side, of wry relief on the other, both expressed with dignity.
As a backgrounder it needs to be mentioned that the first native of England to set foot on Indian soil was Captain Hawkins. In 1608, in his ship the Hector he cast anchor at Surat. He had a letter from James I, then King of England, to the Great Moghul. So he went to Agra. Jahangir who was the then Great Moghul treated him very hospitably and it is related that a Christian Armenian woman was given in marriage to Hawkins.
But Hawkins had soon to return to Surat, as he found the Portuguese Jesuits at the Emperors Court were working against him. In 1612, Captain Thomas Best was sent out with a squadron of four ships armed for war. He attacked the Portuguese squadron at Surat and captured their fleet. The Portuguese being beaten, Surat fell into the hands of the English, thus raising their national prestige in the East.
On February 6, 1613, a treaty was arranged with Emperor Jahangir, by which it was agreed that an ambassador should reside at the Moghul Court, and permission was granted to the English to establish a factory in Surat. Sir Thomas Roe was the first English Ambassador at the Court of the Great Moghul, who laid the foundation of trade with India.
Lord Louis Mountbatten, the then Viceroy together with staff paid a visit to Bombay to bid farewell to the British troops that were leaving India for good. Sir Maharaj Singh was the Governor of Bombay at that time and Commodore Inigo Jones was the Commodore in charge of Bombay. They embarked from the Gateway of India and proceeded to The East Indies Flagship anchored in Bombay harbour.
On the quarterdeck of
the flagship, Mountbatten addressed the officers and
ships companies and as the then Lt R.K.S. Ghandhi
(later Vice Admiral and Governor of HP) the
Viceroys ADC told me a few days ago that
Mountbatten during his long speech regaling of all the
good things that the British had done in India during
their rule, he highlighted the fine and noble Prime
Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru. His words were
something as follows: My Prime Minister Jawaharlal
Nehru, what a fine person he is. We, the British locked
him up in jail not once, not twice but several times and
yet at midnight on 14/15 August 1947, when he came to
request me (along with Rajendra Prasad) a British, to be
the first Governor General of India, he asked for a glass
of port and toasted the health of his Majesty the King of
England, the person under whose name Nehru used to be
locked up. This is the kind of man that will be ruling
India from now onwards.
Tokenism is trivial, review real
IF we are to hope to understand the often violent world in which we live, Isaiah Berlin, disagreeing with Marxism, said in 1988, we cannot confine our attention to the great impersonal forces, natural and man-made, which act upon us. The goals and motives that guide human actions must be looked at in the light of all that we know and understand; their roots and growth, their essence, and above all their validity, must be critically examined with every intellectual resource that we have.
Only barbarians, added Berlin, one of the 20th centurys most distinguished thinkers and historians of ideas, are not curious about where they come from, how they came to be where they are, where they appear to be going, whether they wish to go there, and if so, why, and if not, why not.
It would be interesting to apply this elementary, deeply elementary, yardstick to the 11-member Constitution Review Commission notified by the Government of India last week. And to seek to know, at least as regards some of them, how they came to where they are even if it be somewhat uncertain where they appear to be going.
A Dalit, a Sikh, a Muslim, a Christian and a woman. Five of the Commissions eleven members (or rather 10, for the member-Secretary of the Commission is yet to be named), almost 50 per cent of its strength, owe their position to an unwritten, social and communal quota system of sorts.
The Sangh Parivars aggressive majoritarian stance and its ideological and temperamental inability to respect the ethic of secularism in practice has forced the ruling BJP, in the interests of its own credibility and survival in an age of shaky coalition governments, to implement such a quota system.
To be fair to the government, a broad and equitable composition of the Commission, representative of the various sections of the community, especially the social and religious minorities, was one of the principal pre-conditions set by the former Chief Justice of India, Justice Venkatachaliah, before agreeing to head the review panel. And without Justice Venkatachaliah, and the aura of principled and impartial liberalism that hangs around him, the Commission would have been a total non-starter given the President of the Republics dramatic public outburst against the very idea underlying it.
But, next to a Constitution Review Commission loaded with spokesmen of one community or caste, the majority Hindu community and the upper or forward caste (s) in that community, the worst thing that could happen to the cause of an objective and authentic review of the Constitution for the sake of national betterment is a Constitution Review Commission set up on the basis of a caste and communal quota system. A Constitution must rise above the divisive street realities of the nation it holds together.
Add to that the practice of tokenism, of selecting a token representative of a caste or community as proof of the commitment to social justice or respect for minority rights. A representative who is least likely to pose any problem for the rulers of the day and who distinguishes himself (or herself) by a singular lack of distinction.
This, the practice of tokenism which totally trivialises and vulgarises the ideal of social representation, extends to groups or communities not based on caste or religion. Women, for instance.
What, pray, if I may be permitted to ask illustratively and in all humility, are the credentials or qualifications of the womens representative on the Constitution Review Commission, Ms Sumitra Kulkarni, to review the Constitution? The sole womens representative on a panel bearing so portentously on the future of the nation and the fundamental principles of its governance.
RSS sources, Rajesh Ramachandran disclosed on February 20, writing in The Hindustan Times, say the Sangh (Parivar) had whetted the list of reviewers, and the choice of the inexperienced Sumitra Kulkarni, Mahatma Gandhis granddaughter, was deliberate.
A Gandhi, says Ramachandran, imparts credence to the exercise, besides serving the long-standing RSS aim of co-opting someone from the Mahatmas family to dilute its biggest black mark: the ideological inspiration it provided his assassins.
From a non-ideological, ethical perspective, the irony of Ms Kulkarnis nomination lies in the fact that of all the leaders of the freedom movement, Nehru included, the Mahatma was practically the only one who gave no quarter whatsoever to any of his progeny or relatives.
Married at thirteen, Louis Fischer writes in his biography of Mahatma Gandhi, perhaps the best biography ever written on so difficult a subject, offering a rather incomplete explanation, Gandhi never had a boyhood and therefore never understood his own boys.
That the Mahatmas life is his message is too trite a truth to be repeated yet again. And though I do not know Ms Kulkarni at all and have no reason to speak against her personally, I am absolutely certain that her appointment to the Constitution Review Commission owing to her kinship with the Mahatma is a decidedly unGandhian act.
LAST Sunday afternoon was reserved to hear Dr Klaus Topfer, Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme, at a meet on Indias Agenda on Global Warming, organised by a New Delhi-based NGO-Development Alternatives. But before I roll out the details of what he and the other experts spoke I must add that it was a sheer disappointment to hear them. In the sense they uttered nothing original or offbeat. To quote Topfer global warming can have a disastrous effect on Indias poor in urban and rural areas....U.Ns treaty on climatic change provides an opportunity for India to reduce the vulnerability of its poor to long-term changes in climate while accessing cleaner technology for its economic growth.... And whilst Dr V. Raghuraman from the CII stressed that conversion to CNG was no solution because with the usage of lead free petrol a new monster in the form of benzene is fast appearing on the scene, Professor P.S. Ramakrishna of the JNU said vast chunks of marginalised section of society are going to be affected by global warming, because it will have an impact on the food security of countries like India.
I know I should not go any further on what each one of them said. For the simple reason that dont we all know what is happening on the environmental front but, then, till the government and its agencies dont play an earnest role things are not going to change. And why talk of just the environment, there is an obvious decay on almost all fronts but in spite of warning signals and detailed reports pinpointing at the havoc, little is being done to retrieve the situation. In fact, let me also bring to your notice a recently published report on the very reasons that lead to communal rioting and how riots can be controlled. Titled Communal Riots: Prevention And Control, it has been brought out by the Minorities Council of Delhi and edited by Iqbal Ansari. And though it highlights those particular instances when the role of the administration was questionable (in controlling the riots) yet there is little that the government is doing to control the growing communal tendencies of its very men, the so-called civil servants. On the contrary the decision of the Gujarat government to lift the ban on government servants joining the RSS will give a definite fillip to the very tendencies and instances this detailed report is laced with. I think it is important for every responsible citizen to read this report, to know how much bloodshed has taken place unchecked, uncontrolled and unwarranted, all in the name of religion.
Cartoonist Sudhir Tailang is adding a new dimension to cartoonists and in that process to their cartoons. On March 2 is the preview (at India Habitat Centre) of the film Tailang has made on Indias top four cartoonists Shankar Pillai, Mario Miranda, Abu Abraham and Samuel. And when I queried Samuel, who? Tailang quipped Hes been one of our greatest cartoonists yet lives forgotten...yes, lives in New Delhi. You will meet him that evening...
Cartooning is, anyway, one of those art forms that is yet to pick up here. I wonder why we are not producing new names and new talent, for times are such that politicians and their lot need a good deal of lampooning.
Nayars book released
Eyebrows were raised when news went around that Kuldip Nayars book on Shahid Bhagat Singh was to be released by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in the sense the two belong to different political thought. When contacted Nayar had this to say: Why are people criticising? After all, I hadnt asked the Home Minister to release the book and the Prime Minister is the Prime Minister of the whole country. Also, dont forget that six week back when I requested him to release this book the RSS issue wasnt around.
And at the book release function the Prime Minister surprised many because it was obvious that he had read the book in detail (though he had received it just two days prior to the book release function) and thats why he could comment on particular incidents mentioned in the book. He commented on the fact written by me that though Bhagat Singh did not agree with Lala Lajpat Rais views that the country be divided into two (along the Hindu-Muslim lines) yet Bhagat Singh avenged his death. He also commented on the other fact written by me that Vir Sawarkar and other Maharashtrian revolutionaries were fundamentalists and he even said that he does not agree with this. To that I said I cannot change history. says Nayar.
Supper, music and a headache...
After months I dragged
myself towards a combination of music and food. No
suspense and to get straight to the point on
February 22 the ParkRoyal hotel, The British Council and
Teamwork Films hosted an evening of music by Rag
Foundation and Mrigya bands, to be followed by supper.
With the venue changed, from the hotels poolside to
one of the halls, which certainly wasnt equipped to
be turned into an auditorium, problems arose. By the end
of it all the head felt battered and heavy. Not just mine
but there were others too who uttered painful moans. The
organisers should have stuck to the poolside (venue) for
music cannot be enjoyed in a stuffed hall.
SEVERAL witnesses before the Taxation Committee suggested, as one of the means of raising fresh taxation, that a succession duty might be imposed in India. In England the imposition of this form of tax was not undertaken until the accumulation of wealth so necessary for the financing of industries had made sufficient progress.
It is astonishing that in the present conditions of Indian industry and the meagreness of capial, such a proposal should be put forward. Other unjustifiable methods of taxation also were suggested such as tax on early marriage.
We do not think that the Government is so desperately in need of fresh revenue as to consider the possibilities of raising taxation by such means.
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