Wednesday, March 1, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Road mishaps and the police

I am quite baffled at the way the traffic police handles road accidents. The Tribune of February 24 reported a tragic road accident involving a car and a truck at Jassibaghwali (Bathinda) in which eight members of a family perished.

Even after ascertaining that on account of the bursting of the rear tyre, the car went out of control and hit a truck coming from the opposite side, the police found it prudent to arrest the truck driver. I wonder what the unsuspecting truck driver was supposed to do in such a situation? I am sure he did not possess supernatural powers to know that the car will hit the truck after puncturing the tyre. Any right-thinking person will accept this as a tragedy caused by tyre burst over which there is no control.

This is not the only case of its type. I find that in the majority of the cases the owner of the bigger vehicle is held responsible and arrested on the spot. If the accident is between a scooterist and a car, or a car and a bus, the traffic police gives a clean chit to the smaller vehicle owner even if the person concerned is at fault.

  In all fairness the police should carry out arrests only after ascertaining facts of the case through proper investigation.

Chandigarh is notorious for such accidents because of a very high two-wheeler population and the crazy young drivers who like to zig-zag through flowing traffic throwing all caution to the winds. The police has to take all the facts into account before taking action against the offender.


Constitutional arbitrariness

In his article carried on February 24, Justice Verma has identified only one area in respect of judiciary requiring review, and that pertains to the mode of enforcement of accountability of the higher judiciary. But there are other areas also requiring review. One of them is the growing arbitrariness of judges.

To check arbitrariness, there is Article 141 of the Constitution under which the law declared by the Supreme Court is binding on all courts in the country. However, more often than not, the mandate of this Article is observed in breach, without any heed to the provisions of Article 51-A also, under which it is the duty of the judges, as citizens of India, to abide by the Constitution.

Obviously, it is these aberrations which promoted the President of India to observe that the Constitution has not failed but we have failed the Constitution. And, presumably, it is in similar contexts that Justice Verma has suggested that the need “only to constitutionalise a desirable convention for working the provision”.

This suggestion is, however, vague. What a constitutional review must ensure is not only the non-occurrence of such aberrations in judicial dispensation but also the rehabilitation of the victims thereof — at least over the past one decade.


Alternative medicine

Alternative medicine (also termed as unconventional or complementary medicine) refers to homoeopathy, ayurveda, reiki, unani, siddha, imagery, chiropractice, acupuncture, massage therapy and relaxation therapy. Alternative medicine ignores mechanisms and relies on ancient practices and natural remedies.

Conventional medicine has always disparaged alternative medicine as unscientific and quackery. Conventional medicine requires marshalling of rigorous evidence of safety and efficacy for approval by the regulatory authorities, while alternative medicine relies on anecdotes and theories. Very few alternative medicines are backed by double-blind randomised controlled clinical trials.

Any step to embrace alternative medicine and integrate it into the mainstream should be taken with great caution. The potential risks and benefits of alternative medicine must be weighed carefully.

Practitioners of alternative medicine often practice with hardly any formal training. At times, they are not even armed with a formal licence.

Drugs used in alternative medicine are largely untested and their quality is uncontrolled. The products available in the market as dietary supplements and herbal remedies may be contaminated or may vary tremendously in content, quality and safety.

There is no rigorous monitoring and documentation of the side-effects of the alternative medicine although numerous known or potential drug interactions exist.

The goals of medicine, whether conventional or alternative, are the same for all practices. To adopt alternative medicine without developing quality standards for its practices, products and research is to return to a time when quackery and therapeutic confusion prevailed. Alternative medicine should be subjected to scientific testing, no less rigorous than conventional medicine. If it is found to be reasonably safe and effective, it should be accepted unequivocally. The challenge lies in moving ahead carefully, using both reason and wisdom as we attempt to separate the pearls from mud.


Pension anomaly

The Punjab government has implemented the revised pay scales/pensions with effect from 1-1-1996. However, the state employees who retired between 1-1-96 and 30-9-96 are badly affected in the matter of pension as compared to those who retired before January 1, 1996 and after September 30,1996.

Now the central government has modified the formula in accordance with the recommendations of the Fifth Pay Commission and directed its pension sanctioning authorities to revise suo motu the pensions of those who retired during the period from January 1 to September 30, 1996, without calling for fresh applications from the government servants concerned by taking into account DA upto consumer price index (CPI) level 1510 as on January 1, 1996, instead of the actual DA drawn during the period for which the salary was drawn in the pre-revised scale plus the notional increase in the basic pay by applying the fitment benefit of 40 per cent to bring the affected pensioners on a par with pre 1-1-1996 and post 30-9-96 retirees.

The Punjab government should adopt the central government’s revised pension formula extending the same benefit to the corresponding category of its pensioners who are greatly disadvantaged at present.



Misuse of office cars

One department has done great service to the public by preventing the misuse of funds of honest tax-payers by restraining its staff from using staff cars. Earlier certain state governments had tried to minimise the misuse by making use of cars by pooling by the staff.

In fact, the use of staff cars by anybody in government service, or for that matter any public office, should be stopped all together as it has been observed by everybody that the staff car is very much misused — taking children to school, college, back home; wives for shopping, kitty and picnic parties, daily purchase of fresh vegetables and fruits, etc.

This encourages the staff drivers, peons, clerks and others also to do the same, as the boss does not stop them.

The most glaring examples are the misuse by our so-called top leaders provided security guards. If at all the facility is to be given, it should be in the form of a fixed conveyance allowance.


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