|Saturday, March 18, 2000,
subsidy goes up!
CURSE OF CORRUPTION
|Clintons visit & the
by P. D. Shastri
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has rendered a great service by awakening us from the pleasant dreams regarding President Clintons visit by stating that we should not expect much from it.
mania rules the roost
flags, remembering pioneers
March 18, 1925
HERE is yet another proof of the BJP-led governments wobbly thinking. It has decided somewhat late in the day to increase the procurement price of wheat (and other rabi crops) by Rs 25 a quintal to Rs 575. But only a few hours after Parliament went into budget recess. Propriety demanded that it should announce the new prices on the floor of the Lok Sabha. That is a purposeless pinprick. The Cabinet did not gain anything but still managed to annoy two other powerful groups. The farmers of this region will not be happy since they have demanded a minimum hike of at least Rs 50 a quintal above last years Rs 550. They are in the midst of calculating the damage to their interests by the fairly sharp push to fertiliser prices and last years and the impending increase in diesel price. Of course, there is the old complaint about mounting debt and the absence of investment both in input supply and research. It is not the right setting to palm off the farming community with a crumb. But the section which will see red is the new breed of economic reformers whose fetish is to scrap all subsidies, force the rural folks who are engaged in the vital task of feeding the nation, to pay the economic cost and shovel incentives and concessions to industry and transform India into an overnight super power. Many members of this overactive band is in economic newspapers the pink pens, going by the colour of the newsprint they use. One of them has already condemned the token gesture as doling out more food subsidy. How? Here is the the impeccable logic. It will cost the government a minimum of Rs 375 additional crore. It is because the FCI hopes to buy about 15 million tonnes of wheat and the higher price will mean a drain of Rs 375 crore! It is obviously the opening shot of another bout of anti-subsidy battle. The government will be curtly told to put up the sale price again, to recover the full cost of the PDS (public distribution system) grains!
Given the beleaguered
mood of the government, it may even think of a trade-off.
It will be willing to marginally restore the subsidy cut
if its allies agree to an increase in the issue price.
And some allies will find that an acceptable face-saving
device. There is a pattern behind the governments
perpetual motion hopping from one problem to
another. It wants to prune spending from obvious areas,
so obvious that everyone tends to see in it an
anti-people approach. Take the reduction in food subsidy.
The money involved is huge and that is not caused only by
the concessional sale to the very poor. This is being
done for the past five years on the correct realisation
that the government has two moral obligations and they
are to protect the life of the citizens and ensure
reasonable nutrition to the most deprived. But the bulk
of the FCI expenditure is caused by bank interest,
storage charges, damage to grains, plain misappropriation
or theft and the bloated babudom. Neither the government
nor the born-again reformers think of starting the cost
cutting job from any of these points. No, they are not
blind but have a vested interest, either ideological or
political, in safeguarding the urban middle class. For
them the social sections from which to demand sacrifice
stand pre-determined. This blinkered view is stark in the
response to the objection to the sell-off proposal of two
steel plants. Opposition stems from the fear of
largescale unemployment in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh
and Tamil Nadu. Also from the muddled approach to
disinvestment or privatisation or whatever. Why does not
the government hold out a public promise against mass
retrenchment? Instead, the reformers see the rise of
Nehrus ghost and the Left being misery-mongers. It
is an ugly we-versus-they mindset with they
being the sole culprits.
THE 30th Chief Minister of Bihar has passed the mandatory majority test. Yet again, mock and ephemeral governance has begun in the state. This is the third term in less than three years for Mrs Rabri Devi in the hot seat. She assumed office for the first time on July 25, 1997, when her husband, Mr Laloo Yadav, was implicated in the multi-crore fodder scam. Her proxy rule ended on February 12, 1999; the Bharatiya-Janata-Party-led Union Government dismissed her and imposed President's rule on Bihar. Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee reinstated her on March 8 that year; the defeat of his Government was imminent in the Rajya Sabha on issues concerning Rabri raj. The ides of March brought her this year in the proximity of office. Freshly enthroned Nitish Kumar saw his seven-day wonder fading fast. On March 17, Mrs Rabri Devi's fresh baptism was strengthened by legislative confirmation. She was supported by 166 MLAs. The number crossed the half-way mark in the House with five additions to the expected figure. The Opposition arithmetic of 122 (NDA) plus 12 (JMM-S) made her a winner. There is no reason to blame Speaker Sadanand Singh for ordering a division of votes. This method is not less constitutional than taking a cattle-specific headcount. Opposition leader Sushil Modi should stop protesting. An established parliamentary norm has been adhered to at least this time. Governor Vinod Chandra Pande needs to console himself and Mr Nitish Kumar, whom he had peremptorily chosen earlier as Chief Minister. Those who are asking for his scalp have seen his astrological judgement nullified.
Around a festival, no
expression is treated either as derogatory or as abusive
in Bihar. Mr Sunder Singh Bhandari was called a
"Chhuchhundar" (a shrew?) by Mr Laloo Yadav and
a "Langra" ( a lame person) by a reveller. Yet
another former Governor, Mr A.R. Kidwai, was
"humorously" described as Murgi-chor
(hen-thief) by BJP leaders. Mr Pande has got several
rustic nicknames. The choked gutters in Bihar do not
allow sound to come out easily; there can be no written
or oral language of the gutter there. So, why worry? Mrs
Rabri Devi herself has several other names which she
likes immensely "Robbery",
"Rubbery", "Rabri", for instance. The
appellations may sound uncouth to the extra-sensitised
Bihar intellectuals now beyond 60 years of age. But they
bring much comic relief in the ungoverned, mafia-managed
and not yet literate state. Mr Nitish Kumar has lost his
post in New Delhi. To cry in silence with him there are
quite a few dignitaries: Mr Sharad Yadav, Mr Digvijay
Singh, Mr Babu Lal Marandi, Mr Ram Jiwan Singh, Mr
Shahnawaz Hussain, Mr Rajeev Pratap Rudy.... Mr Yashwant
Sinha, Mr George Fernandes and Mr Ram Vilas Paswan are
lucky men though! There will be quarrels for
ministership. Congressmen will fight BSP aspirants and Ms
Mayawati will have a good time as a spectator. The Left,
fortunately, is not in a position of disgrace. Stability
eludes Bihar. The problems will appear in their enormity
when the Jharkhandis start talking in their sonorous
Chhotanagpuri dialects. It is a no-win situation. The
future may be darker than the past. But for now, it is
"Holi-hai" time in Lalooland. Come April, and
we will see the real state of things more breaking
than building. Mr Laloo Yadav has won but Bihar has not.
NEPAL has plunged into another
whirlpool of uncertainty and instability following the
resignation of the Prime Minister, Mr Krishna Prasad
Bhattarai, on Thursday. The stepping down has come about
as a face-saving formula on the eve of an almost certain
ouster caused by serious dissension within the ruling
Nepali Congress Party. Only a day later, a vote was
scheduled to be held by the party on whether to dump him
for failing to stem a Maoist insurgency. A tug of war had
continued between Mr Bhattarai and the party president,
Mr Girija Prasad Koirala, ever since the former was
chosen Prime Minister 10 months ago. The ego clash
between the two septuagenarian leaders might have split
the party had it not ended in the Prime Minister quitting
his post. At the same time, it must be said that his
reign had been lacklustre and ineffective. The unrest in
the party might have occurred even without being fanned
by Mr Koirala. In the face of criticism by senior party
leaders, Mr Bhattarai had agreed three months ago to step
down in April-May. But he was reluctant to do so now. As
a result, a no-confidence motion was tabled by 58 MPs of
the Nepali Congress on February 16 while 11 Ministers
resigned in protest. The political situation was such
that Mr Bhattarai had no option but to resign unless he
wanted to undergo the ignominy of ouster. That would have
been a slur on his long tenure in politics. The Nepali
Congress has 113 members in the 205-seat Pratinidhi
sabha, the lower House of Nepal's bicameral Parliament,
and 24 in the 60-seat Upper House, the Rashtriya Sabha.
Technically, he could have stayed on as the head of the
government; for that he would have had to seek the
support of opposition parties. That sort of manipulation
might not have been impossible but would have been too
taxing for him, considering that he has been ailing for
long and has been bed-ridden for nearly a month now.The
Nepali Congress had lost power in similar circumstances
in 1994. The next few days will be crucial for Nepal. The
mantle of Prime Minister might be acquired by Mr Koirala
yet again or it may go to the much younger former Prime
Minister, Mr Sher Bahadur Deuba. In either case, there is
no guarantee that the internal problems of the party will
come to an end. What is an even greater cause for worry
for the lovers of democracy is the fact that the
political friction might increase the influence of the
Crown still further. The King has ostensibly kept away
from the day-to-day functioning of the government but his
powers cannot be underestimated.
CURSE OF CORRUPTION
POOR beggars. Poverty. Potholes. Power-cuts. Not even potable water for the poor. All a familiar sight in India. Despite 50 years of Independence and so many five-year plans. In spite of the aid and the loans. Where has all the money gone? Into the coffers of the corrupt!
Corruption is as old as the man. It is a crime as old as time. It is a curse on the community. Especially in a developing country. It saps the ability of the able and the initiative of the individual. It takes away the wisdom from the wise Gold, somehow, dissipates all doubts in a moment. It shuts out the objectivity of the authority. Like a drop of poison in a cup of milk, corruption pollutes everything that it touches. It has to be curbed. To combat corruption, it is imperative to identify the causes and then to look for the cure.
First, the causes of corruption.
The perennial shortages. Of almost all the basic necessities. And of even the essential services. The shortages are actual as well as artificially created. Like those of food. There is a shortage even when there is a bumper crop. Also of electricity and water. These are always there. Then of shelter. Of hospital beds and seats in schools. You name anything, which is in demand, and it shall be scarce. Almost everything is in short supply.
The men in charge of all the services. The executive has proliferated every field of human activity. It has assumed functions, which make the state omnipotent and omnipresent. The citizen has to bear with it from birth to death. Everywhere. And the services are incompetent and inefficient. Despite a heavy burden of pays and allowances. The citizen pays and still suffers. Only men of means are worth their wiles. A majority of them like only the purse sight. They talk in money-syllables. When money stops talking, they start walking. The bureaucratic bottlenecks cause avoidable delays. These are a major cause of corruption. The evil effects of the licence, permit and quota raj in the country are still there for us to see.
Then there is a rampant consumerism. We have an extravagantly expensive system of elections despite statutory limits. An ineffective complaint redressal system. A lax supervision. An almost total lack of transparency. Above all a devaluation of old values. All the bad elements combine to drive out the good from the society. Leaving behind a disappointing state of decay and depravity Gold has become the goal. And with gold, you can lead a man by the nose. Resultantly, we have a society where vice and not virtue prevails.
Despite all this, we cannot give up. We cannot just stand and despair. There are always some moral men even in a predominantly amoral society. And their existence makes public virtue an attainable ideal. We have to try. What should be done?
Educate our children. Teach them to emulate the good and the honest. Help them to inculcate old values. Train them to grow up as good human beings. Teach and train them to be able to lead an honest and austere existence. To become patriots and not mere job seekers. For this, all of us shall have to lead by personal example, as the children trust their eyes more than the ears.
Remove the shortages by working hard and producing more. Also by a proper regulation of supply. And by ensuring that there is no hoarding at the level of the unscrupulous trader or the governmental agencies.
Having taken care of these two segments, we shall have to deal with the corrupt. They broadly fall in two categories. The coward and the hardcore. It should be easy to tackle the timid. They can be scared even with a speech. For the hardcore, we have to take harsh decisions. The strategy has to be tough. They must be handled firmly. Prosecuted to the end. How? Is it possible under the present legal system?
Man has continuously committed and also fought against crime. However, all laws in a civilised society presume innocence. These proceed on the assumption that no person is guilty till the guilt is proved. Beyond a reasonable doubt. A charge has to be proved by producing reliable evidence at a fair trial. The evidence has to be objectively assessed by an impartial judge. In this process, investigation of the case is the first important step.
Investigation is a search for the truth. A pursuit for the proof. To protect the innocent. To find the criminal. The individual who investigates has to work hard. Conscientiously. He has to gather the relevant material and analyse it. To sift the grain from the chaff. It is he who has to bring the guilty man to the court. To stand before the bar of justice. The investigation has to be fair, honest and impartial. It must not ever fall below that standard.
The investigators role makes it imperative that the selection is proper. Only persons with a keen eye, good power of observation, a dependable memory, quick reflexes and unimpeachable reputation for integrity should be trusted. They should be thoroughly trained for the job. Their actions should inspire confidence and faith in the minds of all concerned.
In India, the investigator faces a peculiar problem. The reluctance of the witness to stand and speak. There are more than one good reasons for this attitude. Repeated interrogation by the policeman. Appearances and wastage of time in court. Running the risk of being disbelieved by the judge despite telling the whole truth. And then earning the enmity of the accused and his friends for a lifetime. All this without even a promise of protection. Why would anyone buy the botheration? It is time that we reduced the harassment to the witness. Simplify the law and give protection to the witness.
The law relating to the trial of the accused needs to be simplified. In case of trial on charges of corruption, the need is still greater. A speedy trial is essential to produce the desired impact and to instil the much-needed fear in the minds of the erring members of the society. Long-winded proceedings in never ending trials take the sting out of the sin. The inordinately long delay itself becomes a mitigating circumstance and defeats the very purpose of the trial.
Still more, the law should provide a deterrent punishment. It should make it unprofitable for a person to be dishonest. The law should provide that on the charge of corruption being proved the entire property of the family shall belong to the state. The fear of losing all the family assets should discourage many a diehard. This should be in addition to the usual punishment of imprisonment and fine, which the law lays down.
And the law should make a distinction between the petty corruption of the poor peon or the village patwari and the kickbacks collected by the politician. A tin of sweets on the birthday and a piece of chocolate to a kid cannot be at par with a big suitcase stashed with currency for a favour by the government or one of its instrumentalities. The difference, though of degree, is vital. We should not get lost in trivialities and burden the courts with frivolous cases. The distinction should be of relevance in determining the course of action.
Above all, those who complain should remember that a corrupt person accepts only what is offered. Why do we not resolve to seek no favour and to give nothing to anyone?
Lastly, the corrupt should take a lesson from the fate of Wang Jianye. He was accused of having taken 900,000 pounds in bribes... Wang was paraded through Shenzhen streets on the back of a lorry... drove into a local sports stadium where a crowd was waiting. Wangs crimes were read out over the loudspeaker, a gun was put to his head and he was shot dead. He met this end for he was an obstacle to the progress of the economy.
EUNUCHS victory upsets Congress, BJP, says a headline in a Delhi-based newspaper.
Shabnam, a eunuch, won the Sohagpur Assembly constituency in Shahdol district in Madhya Pradesh. Shabnam, who contested the by-election to the above seat as an independent candidate, defeated the formidable rivals from two major political parties the BJP and the Congress.
She won the seat which had fallen vacant due to the death of the Congress MLA. She polled 39,937 votes as against 23,074 votes of the BJP candidate, and 17,282 of the Congress candidate.
Four other members of her gentry won in civic bodies elections held in the State only a few months earlier.
Kamla Jaan, contesting as an independent, had defeated the Congress and the BJP contestants to win mayoral post of the Katni Municipal Corporation. It was reserved for women.
Three other eunuchs won the elections. They had contested as independents. They were Minabai, Hirabai and Gulshan.
There is nothing wrong in electing eunuchs to civil offices and political positions but one has to see whether they are good enough for the office.
A wag once remarked that Indira Gandhi was the only male in her Council of Ministers. The implication of the statement was devastating against the males in the Council of Ministers. Was that a compliment to Shabnams?
Probably, the two major parties of the country are upset because their own political virility has been bruised, if not left bleeding. A defeat by a strong and powerful opponent is accepted. It is like saying that there is a victory in defeat:
But defeat by a gentry of the neuter gender, is hard to digest, especially by those who look upon themselves as politically potent forces.
I surmise that at the subconscious level, there is another reason. The enunch is a loud-mouthed, shrewish and a turbulent woman.
She is quarrelsome and aggressive, having none of the graces and virtues we love to associate with comely femininity.
One has to watch when she is around. Brother, she is strong-minded, and strong-handed who can clap your wits out! She is sharp-tongued, plying and dangerous. She curses and yells like a fishwife.
visit & the Kashmir question
U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has rendered a great service by awakening us from the pleasant dreams regarding President Clintons visit by stating that we should not expect much from it. We were living in a world of wishful thinking by hoping that Mr Clintons visit signifies that Americas favourite is no longer Pakistan but India: that his visit will be a signal for flooding India with dollars and massive foreign investments that will change the economic face of India; that Americans would impose sanctions against Pakistan for killing democracy and would insist on its earliest restitution (we forget that American regarded Pakistan as its most valued ally during the tenure of Pakistan dictators, much to the detriment of the worlds largest democracy, namely India); that American could declare Pakistan as a terrorist state and call upon it to withdraw all its fighting forces from Kashmir, now engaged in the proxy war and so on.
Pakistan is Americas natural ally having long proved its usefulness during the long years of the Cold War and recently in its war in Afghanistan. India is too big and too independent to be led by the nose to fit in with the USAs global strategy. India, like China, is too great; it can be looked upon as a potential rival, rather than its camp follower, or as a subordinate member of its block.
Even when General Musharraf was hurling threats at the US to dare to ignore Pakistan during his visit to South East Asia, the American President kept his extraordinary cool. His weak reaction was: I hope to have Pakistan as my ally to fight against international terrorism. No one knows better than Mr Clinton that Pakistan is the prime source of international terrorism: that the chief leader of that is Osama bin Laden. Afghanistan and Pakistan and its regular army men along with foreign mercenaries are fighting in Kashmir (Pakistan calls them Kashmiri freedom fighters). All these elements are one and the same thing. The President knows that Osama bin Laden has declared jehad against India, the USA and Russia in his bid to Islamise the world through the holy war.
Nor can the President forget that Osama was responsible for the killing of 200 Americans in its African embassies for which he has been demanding his extradition to America.
America deserves all credit for keeping its cool, for the sake of its future national interests. The natural reaction would have been to proceed against Pakistan for daring to challenge the worlds sole super power. But America had done business with Pakistans military dictators in the past; it is willing to do the same in future too. Since Osama and Co declared jehad, everyday there are more and more killings in Kashmir. But the requirement of diplomacy stands supreme with the President. He seeks to mould the whole situation according to the interests of the United States despite grave provocations of rebuffs, threats and temporary loss of face.
Mr Clintons chief worry seems to be that Pakistan being a nuclear weapons state threatens to let loose a nuclear war on India and the world if Kashmir is not given to it. Kashmir is the flash point, says the President, the fuse of the atomic war. He has, therefore, offered a helping hand to bring India and Pakistan together for a dialogue all in the interest of saving the world from the nuclear war whose destructive dimensions stagger imagination. India must take a special note of this offer, a sort of a referees role to help in the solution of the Kashmir problem. For Pakistan, Indo-Pak dialogue means handing over Kashmir to it on a platter; nothing less than that. It will discuss no other problem except Kashmir. To it the only solution of the Kashmir problem is to give Kashmir to it at once.
Should India hand over Kashmir to Pakistan to have the ignoble peace, once and for all? This once for all is a misnomer. Public memories are short. People forget that till 1947, it was repeated infinitumgive us Pakistan and there would be peace for all time and all the problems between us will stand solved.
If Pakistan were to get Kashmir, it would open the Pandoras box and give rise to many yet unexpected problemsmore serious than all the earlier ones.
Appeasement never brings peace; it increases the aggressors appetite and makes him fight for more and more. Kashmir is on Mr Clintons agenda. The most worrisome part of Mr Clintons programme is to lend a helping hand in solving the Kashmir problem. We have been shouting from the housetops that we would not accept any third party mediation; it is a bilateral matter and must be solved by India and Pakistan. The President might pressurise Indian leadership to make any sacrifice to save the world from the nuclear holocaust, which once started by chain reaction would spread worldwide, resulting in the death of countless millions.
Pakistan wants nothing but Kashmir, the whole Kashmir and nothing less than the total Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmir has been its obsession; for it in 1971, it chose to lose 55 per cent Pakistannow Bangladesh. For India too, gifting Kashmir is not negotiable. No country wants its vivisection. The recession of one part often leads to general fragmentation.
Any solution that Mr Clinton or anyone else may suggest will mean a loss to India, big or small. Is the Vajpayee government strong enough to say No?
What then is the solution? The solution lies in India acquiring maximum strength military, economic and diplomatic. Only a nation strong as a giant can maintain its unity or integrity against all attempts by detractors. No one makes such a request to China; rather it has got back Taiwan; for a dozen years the U.N. recognised it (Formosa) as China, holding Chinas seat in the U.N. and in the Security Council.
Pakistan harps on half a century-old U.N. resolutions, which are more dead than dodo. Its two clauses have become absolutely unenforceable, namely (i) Pakistan must withdraw all its forces from all parts of Kashmir, including occupied Kashmir and ii) all the residents of Kashmir (as in 1947) must be rehabilitated in their original homes. The world has changed beyond recognition.
Of course, President
Clintons visit will bring many good things. Our
relations with the sole superpower will improve more than
ever before. India with a one billion population is
rapidly expanding the market for all exporters. America
would love to have a major share in it. So, Indo-American
friendship is in the best interests of both the great
mania rules the roost
THE Mumbai socialite was aghast. You mean you havent been invited to Jacquelines dinner for Bill Clinton she gasped, her many chins quivering with amazement. No, not to the American Ambassadors dinner or for that matter any other, I replied but she had already turned away to talk to someone who clearly had. In the drawing rooms of Delhi and Mumbai, in the private clubs at the Taj and Oberoi, over glasses of chilled wine and cups of fragrant coffee almost all small talk for weeks has been only of Clinton. These are not ladies or gentlemen who have any interest at all in politics but they have devoured every detail of the visit that appears in the press and measured status by whether you have an invitation to meet the American President personally or not.
In more serious business circles the atmosphere has been pretty much the same. Businessmen gauge each others worth by whether they have been invited to the Prime Ministers dinner in Hyderabad House or not. So much so that usually ponderous financial newspapers carry stories that read suspiciously like gossip columns. US hacks have not remained unaffected by Clinton mania either as can be seen from the fact that front pages of most major newspapers in the country have been carrying at least one Clinton story on a daily basis. If it isnt his security arrangements that merit interest it is the arrival of his luggage or speculation about his itinerary that varies from newspaper to newspaper. So if one front page tells you that he will not be visiting the Ranthombore sanctuary another tells you that he will not only be going but will go accompanied by his daughter and mother-in-law.
Personally, I have found all this excitement slightly distasteful. This may be the first visit by an American President to our humble land in twenty years but do we need to go so completely overboard? Do we need to go gaga over a man whose policies have been largely responsible for turning the subcontinent into what he himself has described as one of the most dangerous places in the world?
For those who have any doubts about this may I recommend a book called Taliban: Islam, Oil and the New Great Game in Central Asia by a Pakistani journalist called Ahmed Rashid. The book provides fascinating details of how Americas foreign policy makers have virtually supported the Taliban in Afghanistan purely because American oil companies are interested in exploiting the vast reserves of oil and gas that lie hidden under the ground of Central Asia. They have done this knowing that Afghanistans economy today is fuelled almost entirely by drug money that is used to train Islamic terrorists for export to various so-called jehads, including in Kashmir. Afghanistan today produces three times more heroin than the rest of the world put together and this has been allowed to happen because the United States initially backed the Taliban in the hope that if they brought peace to Afghanistan it would lay the ground for American companies to build pipelines to transport oil and gas.
Ahmed who has covered Central Asia and the unfolding story of Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan, more closely than almost any other journalist, blames the United States for much of what has gone wrong in the region. After the end of the cold war he writes Washingtons policy to the Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran-Central Asia region was stymied by the lack of strategic framework. The USA dealt with issues as they came up in a haphazard, piecemeal fashion, rather than applying a coherent, strategic vision to the region.
And, listen to this, In 1999 getting Bin Laden was Washingtons primary policy objective, even as it ignored the new Islamic radicalism Afghanistan was fostering, which would in time only throw up dozens more Bin Ladens....US policy has been too preoccupied with wrong assumptions....some US diplomats saw them (the Taliban) as messianic do-gooders like born-again Christians from the American Bible belt. US diplomats believed that the Taliban would meet essential US aims in Afghanistan eliminating drugs and thugs, one diplomat said. It was a patently naive hope given the Talibans social base and because they themselves did not know what they represented nor whether they wanted state power.
Madeleine Albright, the American Secretary of State, likes boasting about how America believes in spreading its values by backing democratic regimes and fighting corrupt and dictatorial ones so how does she explain this support for the Taliban? You do not need to be an expert on Afghanistan to know that the Talibans version of Islam is a dangerous blend of extreme ignorance and brutal intolerance. Women have been forbidden education, jobs and even ordered to wear shoes that do not make a noise as this is also interpreted as an attempt to attract male attention. Religious police patrol the streets ensuring that women are covered from head to toe and that men do not cut their beards. Homosexuality is punished by burying suspects alive and public executions are so routine as to have become unremarkable. From the moment that the Taliban took power in Kabul they have worked towards taking Afghanistan back into the dark ages in the name of some twisted, bizarre interpretation of Islam. They have also openly encouraged people like Bin Laden to set up training camps for terrorists.
These terrorists find their way into the Kashmir Valley in such large numbers that it is mainly foreign militants who now fight for Kashmirs cause. Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in India have spread their activities so far outside Kashmir that support for those who hijacked the Indian Airlines plane last December appears to have come from a group in Mumbai. Signs of Islamic terrorism can, in fact, be found as far down south as Coimbatore.
We rightly blame Pakistan for most of these incidents because it is that countrys sinister intelligence agency, the ISI, who were directly responsible for creating the Taliban who now rule Afghanistan. And, it is Afghanistan that has increasingly become the centre for terrorism, drugs and the export of violence.
When Mr Clinton talks of
the sub-continent as being one of the most dangerous
places in the world he generally means that it is the
possibility of a nuclear war over Kashmir that makes it
so. He forgets that American policy in the region is
largely responsible for laying the ground for such a war
if it ever happens. Will things change after Mr
Clintons visit? Unlikely, so let us treat the
arrival of the most powerful man in the world as what it
really is a nice, little tamasha to distract us at
a time when political entertainment (now that the Bihar
drama is over) is in slightly short supply.
flags, remembering pioneers
PRESIDENT Bill Clintons scheduled visit to India comes in the wake of news about Indian immigrant success stories in the USA, the Silicon Valley tycoons and others who have not only done well in that country, but have also raised awareness about India and matters Indian in various political and cultural forums.
The Indian immigrant is now toasted in many a town of the USA, especially California, where the Silicon Valley is located. They are often welcomed (though occasionally handcuffed) for their knowledge of computer software and other skills.
This was not always so. Indian immigrants were first mentioned in American records in 1790, but the first significant immigration of people from that country did not occur until the end of the 19th century.
According to the 1900 US census, 2,050 East Indians were found in the USA. According to one estimate that number had grown to 7,000 by 1923. They were largely from Punjab, and were mostly Sikhs, though they were all called Hindus.
Almost all the immigrants were male, though I remember seeing a photograph of early Indian immigrants in which there was one sari-clad woman also. They found work as labourers and were generally not welcomed, largely because of their ethnic origin and the different way of dressing up.
They were called East Indians or Hindus to differentiate them from the local Indians. The California Alien Land Law of 1913 (revised in 1920), prevented migrants from owning and leasing their own land. Most married women of Mexican origin and prospered as farmers. They also built a gurdwara at Stockton, CA, in 1915.
Though they were doing quite well materially, they remained very concerned about their motherland and provided the support base for the Ghadar movement in 1913 for the freedom of India. The Ghadarites, as these people were called, were eventually crushed. They were convicted in 1917 of violating the US Neutrality Act. In fact, the Immigration Act of 1917 placed India in the barred zone.
The Immigration Law of 1924 prevented recent immigrants from retrieving family members from their native country. Thus, wives and children were unable to join their husbands and fathers.
It is interesting to see the effect of immigration through various individuals who were in a sense defined by it. Bhagat Singh Thind, was a Punjabi who entered the USA in 1912. Thind was attending college and working in a lumber mill when he was inducted into the US army. He was honourably discharged from the US army on December 16, 1918. In 1920, Thind applied for citizenship and it was granted to him in Oregon by the district court.
The 1920s were, however, a time of anti-immigrant hysteria. President Harding signed the Quota Immigration Act in 1921, the US Congress revoked the citizenship of citizen women marrying alien men through the 1922 Cable Act, and 1924 marked the passage of the National Origins Act.
A naturalisation examiner objected to the courts decision and sought for the cancellation of Thinds citizenship on the grounds that he was not white. The U.S. Supreme Court decided against granting Naturalisation (citizenship) to Thind on February 10, 1923.
Justice Sutherland decided that East Indian immigrants, referred to as Hindus, were aliens ineligible to citizenship. They were designated as Caucasian, but this did not mean that they were White. Citizenship was only allowed for Whites and persons of African descent; thus, Asian Indians were not allowed citizenship in the country.
It was only in 1946 that the Luce-Celler bill changed this, and the person who championed this was Dr Dalip Singh Saund. The person who was later to become the first Congressman of Asian origin in the USA, suffered a lot because of the politics of exclusion embodied in the immigration laws.
This native of Amritsar came to the USA in 1920 to study at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated in 1922 with both M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Mathematics. He married the woman he loved, only to see her citizenship revoked for marrying him. In 1930 he wrote the book My Mother India in which he addressed the anti-immigrant issues. He became a fertiliser distributor, and was active in various political activities.
Working with J. J. Singhs Indian League of America and Mubarak Ali Khans India Welfare League, Saunds efforts paid off when President Truman signed the Luce-Cellar Act in 1946, says Phil Tajitsu Nash, in an article on Saund.
After becoming a citizen in 1949, Saund became active in mainstream organisations such as the Democratic Party and the March of Dimes. He was selected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1952, 1956, and 1960, and decided in 1950 to run for a judgeship in Westmoreland Justice Court. To understand the determination of this pioneer, imagine how he felt when, after winning the judgeship in 1950, he was told that he could not serve because he had not been an American citizen for a full year before the election. Rather than quitting, he ran again in 1952, and served from then until he moved to Washington as a Congressman in 1957. He served three terms until he was defeated in 1962. Dr Dalip Singh Saund died on April 22, 1973, in Hollywood, California.
Even as we salute our new flagbearers and wave Indian and US flags for President Bill Clintons motorcade, we should also salute the pioneers who went in search of the Promised Land a century ago.
IT cannot he honestly said after going through the statement that the Governments belief that the two ministers would have the largest measure of support is particularly strong. It would not have devoted so largest a measure of space to indicating to the State Legislative Council both the constitutional methods open to it of expressing its disapproval of the Governors action, and the interpretation it would itself put upon the use of one or other of those methods, if it had not had a very serious element of doubt that the ministers might not be acceptable to the House.
Turning to the methods themselves, it must be admitted that between them they practically exhaust the whole field. Of the three methods, those of moving a vote of censure, moving for the adjournment of the House and the reduction of the salaries of ministers during the discussion of the Budget, the Government itself favours the last.
That this is the most
satisfactory of all three methods in normal circumstances
admits of no doubt, but in the abnormal conditions
obtaining at present an occasional resort to the other
two methods, and especially the vote of censure, is
|| Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
| Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh Tribune | In Spotlight |
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
| 119 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |