Thursday, March 23, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Akalis & the dominant realities

IT is difficult to imagine greater chaos than the one that prevails at the moment in the Akali leadership. Tragically, it has been essentially and internally engineered by the Akalis’ own perversion of power. The disorder is all the more condemnatory as it has encompassed not only the political but also religious institutions.

Undoubtedly, the challenges faced by the Akali-led government were quite complex when it assumed power in the state. Peace had been restored in Punjab but the state needed an impulse for political and economic rehabilitation. The Sikh populace also expected that the Akalis, who were their kindered representatives, would attend to the lingering and acerbic issues relating to the period of turmoil in the state. The Akalis touched the zenith in pre-election promises. The overwhelming majority with which they came to power raised great expectations. Paradoxically, though their performance is utterly negative, they characteristically remain “Vachanbadh” even after three years of governance.

  The Akalis also inherited, in the period of their assigned rule, the spirit and enthusiasm emanating from the celebrations connected with the tercentenary of the birth of the Khalsa. The beginning of the year of the exalted celebrations was mired with calamitous leadership wrangles, and it seems the concluding ceremonies too would witness similar overtones.

The top Panthic leadership has unsuccessfully couched in nobler terms its raw struggle for power. In the bargain its legitimacy has evaporated and it has exposed itself to the vulnerability of non-performance, corruption and nepotism. Other patchwork expediencies too have taken their disastrous toll.

The Akali leadership which springs from the Panthic mass base needs a wider political craft necessary to govern Punjab, considering its demographic character. It appears that the leadership has totally failed to grasp the following dominant realities:

(a) That Punjab is a civic state and public spirit or civic culture is an essential condition of governing it.

(b) That the religious institutions have their own exalted domain. The dictates of theocratic nature too have their own sphere of influence. The political milieu must not seek to disturb the equation of sociological relativism.

(c) That the religious institutions are not political cards, and if political benefits are sought through these it would, in reverse response, generate political chaos.

The disenchantment with the state of affairs at the top echelons of the Panthic leadership is so depressing that one looks for diversions to retain sanity. The Akali leaders who should have drawn strength from Panthic institutions are drowning these along with themselves. Whatever political chicanery is employed to tide over the present crisis in government and Panthic circles, it would surely add a baggage of infirmities to the principles, procedures and practices of the institutions involved, and in the process diminish the capacity of the Akali leadership to govern.

Those believing in “the religion of hope and optimism” wish for the proverbial “Owl of Minerva” which symbolises wisdom and appears at the twilight of civilisation. Or do the Akali leaders expect divine intervention to turn the tide.



The Haryana Public Service Commission (HPSC) has advertised the posts of HCS (Executive Branch) and invited applications in April, 1999. As in the tradition, the date of examination was not announced. When the age limit was raised from 35 years to 40 by the Chautala Govt a corrigendum was given in The Tribune in November last year again inviting applications as per the new age eligibility criterion. Again upholding its “tradition” the HPSC kept the date of exams a secret. Any inquiry from the HPSC office about the probable date of HCS tests always met with a stock reply “Kuchchh Kah Nahin Sakte”.

After a long wait and about 15 days before the exams, the candidates received their roll nos/admission cards specifying March 17, 2000, as the date of commencement of HCS examination. The HPSC gave only 15-day notice to the candidates whereas it is mandatory for any board/commission to announce the probable date at least three months before the examination.

Now, once again, the HPSC has indefinitely postponed the holding of the HCS exams. It has caused deep resentment among serious candidates whose labour, planning and preparations have gone down the drain due to the erratic, irresponsible and insensitive functioning of the HPSC.

The functioning of the HPSC has always been under a cloud. Such delayed and unannounced holding of exams and abrupt postponement only erode its credibility. It would be in the fitness of things that in future the HPSC announces a time bound schedule for holding HCS exam.


Better late than never

For the past several years, through the columns of your esteemed paper, I have been advocating that the only way out for the states of Punjab and Haryana to control their fast depleting water table was to start artificial recharging by injecting the rain water now going waste via drains and that they are already late by more than a decade in setting up such recharging stations. Its net effect has been that the shallow tubewells in these states, which have been the backbone of their green revolution, are on the verge of extinction. Nobody knows what their fate shall be after another five years, specially when these happen to be dry one. The long-range implications of allowing the water table to remain depressed for prolonged periods are equally grim; brackish water from the adjoining areas can start intruding into the sweet zones. This can mean an irreversible ecological disaster.

Realising the gravity of the situation, the Vice-Chancellor of Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, has made a welcome move. He has decided to set up at least one such station before the next monsoon on a pilot basis.

This station shall have vertical filters, the like of which have not been tried anywhere else. Their efficiency will be tested on some distributary before installing them on a drain.

Belated though it is, Punjab can still be a pioneer in removing the stigma of wasting its rain water in this age of water shortage and instead using the same for controlling its rapidly falling water table.

This can become a turning point in the history of ground water management in this state.

S. P. Malhotra


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