Saturday, March 4, 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

Chautala on probation
WITH the return of Mr Om Prakash Chautala as the Chief Minister of Haryana, a new chapter has begun in the state. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) has established itself as a credible party, winning 47 of the 90 Assembly seats and Mr Chautala has been able to give the people a single-party government.

A Guinness-size ministry
A SIMPLE rule of thumb for assessing the political stability of a state is to look at the size of its council of ministers. A small ministry normally indicates stability and single party rule. It also indicates a fair degree of political harmony within the ruling legislature party. But single party rule is now a rare occurrence in Indian politics.

Indian name in Western homes
THE acquisition of the UK-based Tetley Tea by Tata Tea at Rs1,870 crore has one clear message: corporate India is fast learning to compete globally. Tata Tea, of course, is the world's largest producing company of its kind, having major interests in India, the USA and Sri Lanka, with as many as 74 tea plantations.


EARLIER ARTICLES
 
OPINION

MISPLACED RETALIATION
Cultural terrorism in action
by Darshan Singh Maini

HISTORY, a crowded, variegated and rich spectrum, has been seen in many a philosophical, theological, politico-sociological study of man, and its ideological partisanship has never been seriously questioned, particularly since Marx, though some new voices have floated the ideas of “white”, neutral historiography in the manner of “white prose”. We are not concerned here with these theories, and my aim is just to connect the theme of this piece to the larger ideas, or to the grid of energies that animate such ideas.

The Cripps Plan and Sikhs
by V. N. Datta
I
WELCOME Mr. Gur Rattan Pal’s criticism of my lecture on “Partition of Punjab and Sikh Leadership” delivered in Punjabi University, Patiala on Feb 14 (The Tribune, Feb 22). It is the creative spirit of criticism which keeps the discipline of History alive.

MIDDLE

The prescription
by J. L. Gupta

THE bedside window gives me a good view of my neighbour’s house. I see him. Almost regularly. Even hear about him. From the neighbours. Also from others. He is able. Educated. Intelligent. Very busy. Not very rich. At least, monetarily. But, he is totally contented. Absolutely fearless. Happy. At peace with himself. He is always unruffled. Keeps his cool. He is never angry. His pitch is never high. His steps are never hurried.

PERSPECTIVE

The new menace of NGOs
By M.S.N. Menon

THAT a man is at his best when he is working for himself and not for others, and at his worst when he is working for a government — these are some of the props of American capitalism. There is a large element of truth in them, which is why capitalism continues to flourish and socialism has faded away.


75 years ago

March 3, 1925
Rising Price of Wheat
THE price of wheat, the staple food of the people, has been rising for over a month and the bulk of the population is feeling the pinch. It was believed that the rise in price was due to larger exports to foreign countries due to famine and deficiency in supplies in certain wheat-producing countries abroad.



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Chautala on probation

WITH the return of Mr Om Prakash Chautala as the Chief Minister of Haryana, a new chapter has begun in the state. The Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) has established itself as a credible party, winning 47 of the 90 Assembly seats and Mr Chautala has been able to give the people a single-party government. The Bharatiya Janata Party, its ally, could get only six seats; 23 of its 29 candidates were defeated at the hustings. The advice of the BJP's central leadership to its legislators in Haryana to keep away from seats of power is understandable. The alliance, however, is in place. At the oath-taking ceremony on Thursday, Mr Chautala managed to have the presence of distinguished representatives of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The list of ministers is relatively small. But, as the Chief Minister has already indicated, several conflicting interests are to be reconciled and represented, and the ministry is bound to become large.

The Chief Minister cannot afford to forget that during his earlier short stints in the hot seat, he had worked under the protective umbrella of the reputation of his father, Mr Devi Lal. In his fourth term in July last year, his opportunity was tainted by the opportunism of defections. Now his fifth chance has put him on firm ground. Besides transparency, accountability and fairplay, he will have to show other qualities of good governance—for instance, an iron will to undo the wrongs done in the past by unkept promises and the selling of populist day-dreams of development. The power and water problems have made and unmade some of the state's previous governments. Similarly, unpragmatic decisions like that to introduce prohibition obstinately and instantly have hurt the exchequer much. Haryana requires no lecture on civilisational values on the one hand and the inexorable march of the market forces on the other hand. It needs a crime-and-corruption-free atmosphere, educational opportunities and a sound health-care system, besides a strong industrial base. The Opposition in the Assembly will watch the performance of the government critically. Its quality is not insignificant — the Congress has 21 members, including Mr Bhajan Lal who has vowed to topple Mr Chautala within a year or so. The Haryana Vikas Party has just two members but one of them is Mr Bansi Lal! There are quite a few impressionable Independents among the representatives of the 11 seats. The BSP, the NCP and the RPI have token but vocal representation. Treading warily and not floating in euphoria should be the mantra for Mr Chautala. Those who caused Mr Bansi Lal's fall may not change their attitude or style overnight. A pro-farmer government, with a distinct scientific and technological orientation and respect for the people's rights, is the need of the hour. Mr Chautala had brought Mr Chandrababu Naidu to campaign for him. The cyber CM told him a couple of hometruths about the introduction of modernity in a tradition-bound society. Gurgaon, Faridabad, Bahadurgarh and Daruhera have immense industrial, technological and scientific growth-potential. Manpower is not scarce or too expensive. Mr Chautala is expected to work dedicatedly for the good of the public. Circumstances are in his favour and his going should be good if he treats himself on daily probation.
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A Guinness-size ministry

A SIMPLE rule of thumb for assessing the political stability of a state is to look at the size of its council of ministers. A small ministry normally indicates stability and single party rule. It also indicates a fair degree of political harmony within the ruling legislature party. But single party rule is now a rare occurrence in Indian politics. And the "dharma" of running coalition government does not include accepting the advice of experts that the strength of the ministry should preferably not be more than 10 per cent of the strength of the legislature. Of course, the "small is beautiful" norm was seldom followed even during the period when voters were evidently led to believe that being anti-Congress was the same as being anti-national. In the era of coalition politics even foul means adopted for coming to power are usually touted as fair, just and "as mandated by the people". Therefore, political pundits should refrain from attacking the size of the new Manipur ministry headed by United Front leader Wahengbam Nipamacha which was sworn in by Governor Ved Marwah in Imphal on Thursday. He had no option but to secure the support of other "like-minded" political parties because neither his front nor any other political formation was able to win a minimum of 31 seats in the 60-member state assembly for securing a simple majority. The fact that the Chief Minister was able to talk 10 MLAs of other parties plus an independent into becoming part of the United Front comprising the Manipur State Congress and the Federal Party of Manipur meant that he had to accommodate at least 11 non-front members in the new ministry. Who said that members of the party or front whose leader is called upon to form the government are less demanding than those who are "accommodated" for the purpose of ministry-making?

The question which needs to be asked is whether a cash-starved state like Manipur can afford to have a 34-member council of ministers. Why did Mr Nipamacha have to have a dinosaur-size ministry which may only help him earn entry in the Guinness Book's section on crazy political deeds? It is evident that he is merely following the example of other politically smart chief ministers who do not believe in exercising fiscal discipline. It is not his primary concern. Survival in office is. This he has ensured by leaving out only five MLAs out of total of 39 [including himself] now on his side while forming the new government. One of them would most certainly be elected Speaker of the new assembly. Which means that if the four "left out" representatives of the people of Manipur were to revolt, Mr Nipamacha would still have the entire 34-member council of ministers on his side in a House whose effective voting strength would be reduced to 59 after the election of the Speaker. A larger issue which needs urgent attention is the situation in the North-East. The context is the escalation in the ISI-induced acts of violence. Can an effective war be waged for rooting out from Indian soil the groups promoting militancy and insurgency without putting into place a workable policy for ensuring durable political stability in the north-eastern states? Political stability in at least sensitive states should logically find mention somewhere at the top in the list of issues which represent national interests. Keeping the stability factor in mind it may not be wrong to say that the political signals which have emerged from Manipur, and continue to be sent out by other states in the region after most assembly elections, are hardly reassuring.
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Indian name in Western homes

THE acquisition of the UK-based Tetley Tea by Tata Tea at Rs1,870 crore has one clear message: corporate India is fast learning to compete globally. Tata Tea, of course, is the world's largest producing company of its kind, having major interests in India, the USA and Sri Lanka, with as many as 74 tea plantations. It, however, foresaw a tough competition emerging in the next few years, specially when the domestic market will cease to have any restrictions for world players. Tea export is already facing a severe competition from Sri Lanka, Kenya and China. The step that the House of Tatas has taken was, therefore, the best option available to beat the competitors at the domestic as well as the world stage.

The marriage that Tata Tea has formalised with Tetley is the biggest business event in the context of India.Though the two companies will continue to have their separate functioning, Tatas will obviously have full control over the world-wide operations of the UK tea giant. Tetley enjoys the world's number two position in the tea bag market, with a 22 per cent share in the UK and a 38 per cent share in Canada. It has six production establishments located in Britain, the USA, Australia and India (Kochi). Tetley is a highly respected brand name in the West which will provide enormous advantages to Tata Tea. Mr Ratan Tata has rightly commented that he has acquired not only a world tea major but also an established brand name. No doubt, it is a "defining moment" for the House of Tatas as also for this country as the most respected business name of India will be seen daily in millions of Western homes. The Tata Group is not going to stop here. There are reports that it is also planning to acquire certain key companies in Africa soon to further strengthen its position in tea business. Indians, however, missed the bus when certain Indonesian plantation units were up for grabs during the recent East Asian currency crisis. That was a sign of sluggishness which the Tata Group has proved has disappeared. Even now there is abundant opportunity to go in for takeovers in Sri Lanka and Kenya, besides Indonesia, and it should be made use of. No country can claim to have a better skill than India---the world's biggest tea market--- in the area of managing plantations. And when acquisitions and mergers have been discovered as tactically the most powerful weapon of the business world today, no one can raise any objection to this style of eliminating a competitor. What has happened in the case of the UK's tea giant---much bigger than Tata Tea in terms of the financial position--- at the hands of an Indian business house is truly "a great signal for global industry by Indian industry".
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MISPLACED RETALIATION
Cultural terrorism in action
by Darshan Singh Maini

HISTORY, a crowded, variegated and rich spectrum, has been seen in many a philosophical, theological, politico-sociological study of man, and its ideological partisanship has never been seriously questioned, particularly since Marx, though some new voices have floated the ideas of “white”, neutral historiography in the manner of “white prose”. We are not concerned here with these theories, and my aim is just to connect the theme of this piece to the larger ideas, or to the grid of energies that animate such ideas. That is to say, in effect, that both imperialism and terrorism in their various avataras and in disguises have had their locus in the history of man since the dawn of civilisation. And whatever arguments have been advanced in their behalf in the end wither away into rationalisations. This history, in fact, seen from the psychological angle, as both Freud and Adler in their separate ways have done, affirms one distressing, ineluctable truth that relates to the nuclear nature of man. While Freud located the “civilisation discontent” in the sexual or genital tragedy of man and woman, Adler saw the power urge or drive at the root of our human state and its multiple tyrannies and satisfactions, though a closer examination would reveal the convergence of both these ideas at some point.

In this little preamble I have tried to examine the phenomenon of cultural imperialism turning into cultural terrorism in today’s India, particularly since the rise of all manner of militancies — of gun and bomb, of fire and flame, of thought and conduct. And in this connection, out of the several blatant examples of cultural terrorism, I pick up two specific events or occurrences: the decision of the Gujarat BJP government to allow the state employees to join the RSS (justified soon by the Prime Minister, Mr Vajpayee, and now compelled to change his stance under intense pressure) and the ugly, dangerous drama or hangama, if you like, staged by the RSS and other militant, fanatical Hindu outfits in Varanasi to denounce the Deepa Mehta film, Water, and force the producer to leave the sacred soil close to the holy Ganga. The questions that crop up, and keep buzzing in the mind, like a swarm of stinging bees, are not easy to answer in a compact, capsuled manner. For the arguments on both sides involve a polemics whose pitch can be raised to an unacceptable level, for in all such cases passions, history and mindset get hopelessly telescoped. Which is not to say, however, that the arguments are equally, or almost equally balanced. To be sure, the forces that represent militant and ideological thought have a far heavier displacement than the forces of cultural freedom, aesthetic space and liberal humanism, though cultural or artistic liberty does have a tendency to degenerate into licence. Certainly, where an individual’s right to certain freedoms can turn openly or covertly into an abuse (as is feared in the case of “the saffron State” of Gujarat), a novel, a play, a film can, in certain hands, turn into a pornographic extravaganza. In any extreme case; then, the sense of moral duty, which is constitutively a part of any human activity, is lost, and the outcome can only produce one kind of terrorism and imperialist ethos, or another.

So far as the question of RSS and the land of Mahatma Gandhi’s birth is concerned, the records alone are enough to stop the militant ideologues, eggheads and loudmouths. From the Mahatma’s martyrdom in the cause of dharma to the demolition of the Babri Masjid with the hammers of history, it’s not an edifying story, though I grant the fact that the RSS has a certain cultural, patriotic, social sewa agenda, and that its present-day militancy is largely a thing of revivalism — and misplaced retaliation. The context has changed out of recognition, but the old text is sought to keep its energies.

The darker fears come into play when one ponders the problematics of cultural and aesthetic freedom, and the kind of insanity and incendiarism seen in action in that great city on the Ganga, celebrated in Indian song and story for centuries, and raised to the level of “the Eternal City” as in Raja Rao’s great metaphysical romance. The Serpent and the Rope despite the city’s brahmanical excesses and excrescences. It may, in passing, be also recalled that Raja Rao’s classic Kanthapura is a lyrical paean raised to salute Gandhism at its best and holiest. So, when a leading Indian writer evokes the mystic greatness of the city and the river and yet remains a Gandhian in thought, that’s a standing rebuke to those responsible for the outrage today. The entire RSS case in relation to Deepa Mehta’s Water, therefore, looks shabby, if not deeply disturbing. And as the film-maker observed in a Star TV show, “Aap Ki Adalat”, a few days ago, no one outside of herself, the script-writer, the Censor Board and the Information Ministry knew anything yet about the real contents of the story, let alone its transparent message. The mob fury has been whipped up just because the projected film is perceived as an attack on the sacred heritage of the Hindus. On the contrary, as Deepa Mehta averred, the story shows how the Hindu society’s soiled and ruined heritage is salvaged by the very elements — the child-widows, left in Varanasi by their insensitive, hide-bound families, to fend for themselves in the midst of all manner of thugs and prowlers and pimps. One typical case only to highlight the utter misery and helplessness of such abandoned, slighted and prostituted women! The film, in other words, seeks to uphold the cause of women and dharma, as the ancient Hindu sages have enunciated in countless songs and sermons, in discourses and debates from the pre-medieval ages to our own times — the recent examples being Vivekananda and Tagore, among other free thinkers. Again, to quote Deepa Mehta, a painstaking research job was done to make the film both authentic and positive.

Instead of being a slur on Hindu heritage or culture, it’s intended to be a resounding affirmation of women’s inalienable and rightful place in Hindu society. And I’m glad, both Deepa Mehta and Shabana Azmi (herself a great social causes activist) have decided to take on the saffron brigades, and complete the film, whatever the costs and the consequences. There seems to have been a covert understanding between New Delhi and Lucknow rulers to let the herd-mind have a field-day, and then use the mob violence as a law-and-order problem, thus justifying their wrongdoings.

In the end, I may say a word or two about the concept of culture per se, since the entire to-do is about the supposed denigration of Hindu culture. The English word as we know, is derived from the Latin word, “cultus”, and means “to cultivate”, clearly, it’s a biological expression in essence, implying the process of growing, flowering and fruition. Applied to human societies, it obviously suggests a long process of maturing and refinement in which the senses, the mind and the imagination work in unison to create what Matthew Arnold called “sweetness and light”. To extend the point, the 20th century’s celebrated American cultural and literary critic, Lionel Trilling (whom I had the privilege of knowing) in his several books, more particularly in The Liberal Imagination, described culture as the base of all great art or literature since the moral “hum and buzz” could always be heard in the warp and woof of the text or the aesthetic statement. Thus culture, Hindu or any other, could only be kept in good health, vibrant and positive, if it allowed liberal, humanistic, egalitarian energies of the peoples to mature into a settled moral vision. Let, then, the Sangh Parivar pundits of today shed their ideological allergies, and allow their society to recover something of its great pristine glory. The choice is between culture and anarchy to recall Matthew Arnold’s book of this name written over a century ago. Hinduism is known the world over for its spirit of tolerance, though sadly, we have made it a commodity and a fetish without realising its deeper truth.
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The Cripps Plan and Sikhs
by V. N. Datta

I WELCOME Mr. Gur Rattan Pal’s criticism of my lecture on “Partition of Punjab and Sikh Leadership” delivered in Punjabi University, Patiala on Feb 14 (The Tribune, Feb 22). It is the creative spirit of criticism which keeps the discipline of History alive.

Mr Singh faults with my conclusion that “the Sikhs failed to cash in on Cripps plan”. Mr Singh has confused the Cripps proposals (1942) with the Cabinet Mission Plan (1946), which were two different offers made by the British government to resolve the political problem in India. A distinction between these two plans is necessary. The Cripps proposals stipulated that a province had the right to opt out of the Indian Union, and a provision was made for its subsequent adherence to the new Constitution; the province was given the right to decide its future relationship with other members of the British Commonwealth.

The Sikh leaders saw in the Cripps proposals the seeds of Pakistan and rejected them. In this connection Baldev Singh, Tara Singh and Sir Jogender Singh met Cripps on March 21, 1942, and expressed strong resentment against the proposals. Cripps assured them that the Sikhs enjoyed an advantageous position because as a balancing force between the Hindus and Muslims they could extract maximum benefits from either of them. They submitted a memorandum on behalf of the Sikh All Parties Committee dated March 31, 1942. While repudiating the division of Punjab, they suggested in the memorandum the redistribution of Punjab into two provinces with the river Ravi, roughly forming the boundary. It must be emphasised that according to the perception of the Sikh leaders in 1942, the carving out of a province into two parts was contingent on the creation of Pakistan. Tara Singh’s meeting with Wavell’s Private Secretary, L.G. Pannel on March 30, 1942 makes it clear. The Sikh attitude was thus a sort of defence mechanism designed to offset the creation of Pakistan. The argument was “We want United India, but in case Pakistan is conceded, then Punjab must be divided, with the river Chenab or the Ravi forming the boundary line. Of course, perception about the boundary changes from time to time.

About the Sikh attitude on the Cabinet Mission Plan, the Sikh leaders resiled from their earlier stand. The Cabinet Mission Plan reconciled the imperial idea of a United India playing a role in British Commonwealth, the Pakistan idea of having two zones in east and west in groups B and C, and Congress idea of a common Constituent Assembly. The scheme gave to the Muslim majority area a sub-federation with an all-India Federation. In section B of the scheme, Punjab was clubbed with the North West Frontier, Sind and Baluchistan. The proposals offered to the Sikh leaders a trapdoor entry of Pakistan which amounted to their perpetual servitude under Muslim rule which they refused to accept. This they made clear to the members of the Mission, including Cripps, who again stressed the advantage of their bargaining position which they could exploit. The Cabinet Mission Plan gave them only four seats in the Constituent Assembly with the Muslims 29 and Hindus 9. The Sikh leaders wanted an increase in their numbers in the Constituent Assembly, and also their right to exercise communal veto in the Constituent Assembly on issues which were inimical to their interests.

The Sikh leaders changed their stand later. Due to the persuasion of Cripps and Billy Short they accepted the long-term part of the Cabinet Mission Plan. This was to qualify them for a berth in the interim government. Thus Baldev Singh became the Defence Member of the Interim government for which Vallabhai Patel played a significant role.

It must be emphasised that the Sikhs found themselves in a predicament, which exasperated them. They constituted 13.5 per cent of the Punjab population; they never made a majority in any district; only in two tehsils, Moga and Tarn Taran they were in a majority, but these areas were not contiguous. The Sikhs were almost equally divided in the east and west of Punjab; and their rich and prosperous canal colonies lay in the West Punjab along with their holy places. The main contenders in the Partition of India were the Congress and the Muslim League. As such in the overall situation there was little scope for manoeuvrability for the Sikhs to avert Partition. Their anxiety was to save as much of Punjab as possible and in this they built up their case ably. Largely their approach was constitutional. And it was for them that a major portion of the majority-Muslim Gurdaspur district was allotted to India by Radcliffe that was to provide a link with the Jammu and Kashmir State.

I think that the Congress rejection of the Cripps proposals was a fatal blunder which cost the country dearly. The Cripps proposals gave to the Congress the last opportunity to keep the country united. At one stage in their negotiations with Cripps, it seemed that the Congress President Maulana Azad and Nehru were anxious to find a way to work with the British, but Mahatama Gandhi’s telephonic conversation with them from Wardha on April 11, 1942, which was intercepted by the British, scuttled all possibility of a settlement. The Cripps proposal offered to India (1) liberty to secede from British Commonwealth (2) the responsibility of framing the Constitution was left entirely in Indian hands and (3) a specific method of carrying out their obligations was provided by a bilateral treaty and (4) the Muslim interests in the majority areas were also safeguarded.

Gandhi’s perception was that the British were going to lose the war. What is more important, Gandhi was a firm and convinced pacifist, and he was determined to keep the country out of war. He lost himself in the tangle of inconsistencies which baffled the British and some of his co-workers. The negotiations with Cripps broke down on the Congress insisting that the Viceroy be made only a constitutional head which was thought an impossibility by the British during the war emergency. Nehru’s Prison Diary in 1947, which historians tend to neglect, shows clearly how Nehru and Azad felt the Mahatma going the wrong way on some of the crucial matters which produced disastrous results and left the field open to the Muslim League to consolidate itself in the country while the Congress leaders lay isolated in prison for more than three long years.
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The prescription
by J. L. Gupta

THE bedside window gives me a good view of my neighbour’s house. I see him. Almost regularly. Even hear about him. From the neighbours. Also from others. He is able. Educated. Intelligent. Very busy. Not very rich. At least, monetarily. But, he is totally contented. Absolutely fearless. Happy. At peace with himself. He is always unruffled. Keeps his cool. He is never angry. His pitch is never high. His steps are never hurried.

Is he an ascetic? Has he renounced the world? Does nothing tempt him? I am curious. Even inquisitive. I look for an opportunity to talk to him. To know the secret of his state of tranquillity. I get a chance. What do I discover?

He belongs to this world. He has a family. He works. He earns. He looks after everyone. Like you and me. But, his needs are few. He has virtually no desires. Unlike his colleagues he is not planning a trip to Antarctica. Nor to the moon. He is not preparing any scheme to sell fridges to the Eskimos. He is not dying to please the mighty. Nor fearing to displease even his boss. He enjoys austerity. He has no ambition. He says — “Do not worry about what you eat. Only take care of what is eating you. Do not be in a rush in this world. You will not be rushed to the next”. This is his simple recipe. For a happy, healthy, long and peaceful life.

And, he is not even old. In fact, life had made a beginning for him in the cold month of January. In the year of the “Quit India” movement. In an ordinary, middle class family. Since then, it has been a good going. Occasionally, the journey may have been arduous. On the whole, it has been a rainbow. In all its colours. In full splendour. Bright. Happy. Satisfying. He has no regrets. God has given him plenty. A job. Respect. A good family. A nice home. Affectionate children. Better still, a grand pair of grandchildren.

These little ones are God’s best gift to him. Small. Innocent. Sensitive. Still learning to walk on the rough road of life. But, responding to the slightest show of love and affection. Reciprocating whole-heartedly. Spontaneously. Without any motive. For him, the greatest fun is to play and prattle with them. The tiny tots riding on his back. To please them. To make them laugh. To eat with them. His world seems to revolve around them. They are a source of infinite delight for him. A rare pleasure. And he savours it in good measure.

In fact, he has not lost interest in any of the good things of life. He takes care of even the few hair that is left. The solitary lock. It has gone gray. It is all silver. But, he sees the bright side. To him, it symbolises the snow on the rooftop. And, he does not feel shy of claiming that there is a lot of fire within. He says so with a mischief in the eye. A naughty smile. Even in the presence of his daughter-in-law. And, despite the expansion of the middle, he is not yet convinced that the middle age has set in. He has a good appetite. He enjoys good food. He is human and humane.

Any other characteristics? Typical of him? Yes! He is never late. For anything and to anywhere. He is punctilious about punctuality. Hard work is his hallmark. He discharges his duty like his debt — without delay or demur. He is totally unsparing of himself and his colleagues. Gives no nonsense. Would take none. From anyone.

Yet, he stays away from the stresses and strains of modern day life. He enjoys his drink. But does not attend any cocktail parties. Enjoys a rubber of Bridge. But does not go to the Club. Gets back to the family as soon he has done the day’s job. Looks for all the happiness at home only.

And then, he asks — “How can you trade your self respect for the other man’s ego? Or lose your peace of mind for the fulfilment of only a dream? Or sacrifice today’s happiness for tomorrow’s success which may never come?”

Infinite desires demand endless labours. Happiness may still remain a distant hope. No desire — no disappointment. No greed. No grief. The real peace lies in the moderation of desires. Not in their fulfilment. Having achieved this, he is happy. Always.

Can’t this be the prescription for all our present-day problems? A simple remedy for every malady!
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The new menace of NGOs
By M.S.N. Menon

THAT a man is at his best when he is working for himself and not for others, and at his worst when he is working for a government — these are some of the props of American capitalism. There is a large element of truth in them, which is why capitalism continues to flourish and socialism has faded away.

But how many men work for themselves today? When Adam Smith was working out his theories, the vast majority of English people were either independent farmers or self-employed craftsmen. This is no more the case. Today the majority are working for others — for corporates and governments. Any theory of economic life should, therefore, reflect this reality and not ideals, if it is to be scientific.

America wants to convert the world into a private enterprise. It wants to privatise everything. Even foreign policy and defence. In short, it is working for a world without borders and governments, for a world without any regulations. And no democratic controls, either, when the litany is all about the virtues of democracy!

The world, however, is not in agreement. The business of America may be business, but the business of India is not business. And so must be the stand of many other countries.

But the effort continues to make business interests guide the human destiny. The latest is the NGO phenomenon — a new menace to the world. “Anybody who is somebody is an NGO these days,” says a UN official. It is said that America has two million NGOs! They are shaping the destiny of not only America but of the world. It means to America a few million additional jobs and greater control over the global economy. Perhaps it is the last push to universalise capitalism and monetise the earth and every human activity. Most of these NGOs came up during the last thirty years.

NGOs are there where there are wars, floods, refugees, famines and such other calamities. They have taken over from governments the work of relief and rehabilitation.

A 1995 report has estimated that there are 29,000 international NGOs, dominated by America. The domestic NGOs are growing faster. They don’t need much capital like the MNCs. In Russia, where none existed, there are today 65,000.

Most of the NGOs are small operators. Only a few are big, with worldwide operations. Do our social scientists know what this implies? Do they know that these NGOs work in the social, political and economic spheres? Do they know that they are more dangerous than MNCs?

NGOs do a variety of jobs. But one of their main activity is to distribute aid — of the UN as also of countries.

America was (it still is) the largest aid giver of the world. Much of it went through USAID. But it brought only ignominy. In “Index of Economic Freedom”, a study done by the Heritage Foundation (USA), it was said: “If history is any guide, foreign aid clearly is no pre-requisite to economic prosperity.”

It is this reality which forced the USA to encourage the NGOs to take over aid distribution. They are more efficient, and dynamic. They could also serve the interests of the State Department and the Pentagon.

Government spending is on the rise all over the world. Between 1980 and 1996, the share of US Government spending in GDP rose from 22.0 per cent to 22.2 per cent, and in the UK from 38.3 per cent to 41.7 per cent. Today both the USA and UK try to spend this growing amount through the NGOs.

The idea in shifting every activity from public to private sector is to remove all democratic controls over economic life. Unfortunately, the liberals, who are rather blind most of the time, cannot see what is happening to the global economy. Thus, from the eighties there has been a steady effort to remove all regulatory controls over western economies.

A growing share of development spending, emergency relief and aid transfers goes through NGOs. Much of the food aid by the World Food Programme is routed through the NGOs. And so is the case with the European Community’s food aid. The Red Cross estimates that the NGOs distribute today more aid than the World Bank.

Government spending forms a large part of the NGO budget. Of the 98 million budget of Oxfam, 24 million was given by the British Government and EU (1998 figure). World Vision US, the largest privately funded Christian relief and development organisation, collected from the US Government $ 55 million worth of goods. The UN now considers NGOs indispensable for its assistance programme.

Today it is the work of the NGO to promote US foreign policy which draws much attention. NGOs collect a lot of information in the process of their work and pass them on to US agencies for a consideration. Of course, the CIA can give an assignment to the NGO to collect specific information.

Today more NGOs are working on human rights and environment because funds are easily available. Amnesty International, the largest NGO in this field, has one million members working in 162 countries! Remember Amnesty gave us hell on human rights violations in both Punjab and Kashmir? Who paid the bill? Who else but America? And our own environmentalists draw their wages from abroad.

Developing countries look to NGOs for expertise today. Take the case of Oxfam. Its specialists are working all over the world. Then, there are NGOs, which work for TNCs and MNCs. Some of the biggest ones have arms for both commercial intelligence gathering and media work. They also provide information on investment strategies. Bill Gates has been funding huge sums for such activities.

Control or influence over media is an important objective of all NGOs, for their very existence depends on publicity. Publicity alone can help them raise funds. In fact, in the scramble for funds by thousands of NGOs, what finally counts is publicity. Hence the pressure on the media.

As the NGOs grow into large organisations, they look like any big business. The original idealism is lost on the way. Earlier, they never made profits, kept wages low and employed only idealists. But no more. “Any neat division between the corporate world and the NGOs is long gone. Many NGOs operate as competitors seeking contracts in the aid market, raising funds with polished media campaigns and lobbying government as hard as any other business”, says the London Economist.

Though NGOs are more efficient, less bureaucratic and less wasteful, they are not accountable to anybody. They can get into evil ways because there are no checks and balances. Their activities are not scrutinised closely like that of government.

Some of the NGOs are used to promote the American way of life or the western values. They are the ones to be watched, for they are out to subvert developing societies.

Of course, NGOs never think in long terms. Matter of the moment — that is all their concern. Nor do they pursue broad aims.

The NGO, as I said, is a dangerous phenomenon. Here the ambitions of individuals and the foreign policy objectives of the powerful nations are cleverly inter-mixed that it is difficult to make out what is going on. The potential for mischief is far greater than that of the MNCs. Yet there is no awareness of it in this country. I am not saying that all NGOs are uniformly bad. But how do we know unless we keep a watch on them? They are not like trading or a factory. Can the media serve the purpose of a watchdog? I have my doubts.


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75 years ago

March 3, 1925
Rising Price of Wheat

THE price of wheat, the staple food of the people, has been rising for over a month and the bulk of the population is feeling the pinch. It was believed that the rise in price was due to larger exports to foreign countries due to famine and deficiency in supplies in certain wheat-producing countries abroad.

Under such circumstances it is usual for big merchants and speculators to form combines and otherwise raise prices artificially. This is reported to have actually occurred in the USA and large profits as well as heavy losses were reported.

It is not known to what extent this practice prevails in this country, but the Government should show greater concern for the welfare of the people by trying to secure them food at normal prices, especially when production is normal.

One of the previous Governors of the Punjab laid down a maxim that the people of this Province were entitled to purchase wheat at 10 seers a rupee and the Government should endeavour to maintain the price at about this level, failing which high price allowances will have to be paid to Government employees and clerks automatically. We hope this matter will engage the attention of the authorities.
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