Tuesday, March 28, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Views on soft state

MR T.V. Rajeshwar in the write-up “Formulations of a soft state” (March 22, 2000) has raised pertinent questions concerning the neglect of social, educational and health sectors by the powers that be. As a result we are faced with the paradoxical spectacle of being a nuclear power and an emerging IT, super power and yet are getting bracketed with countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan in terms of human development index. This surely calls for serious introspection and adoption of corrective and even radical measures, if necessary.

The population control programmes, for instance, have failed to produce tangible results and in spite of massive efforts by the union and various state governments have not gone beyond the stage of education and propaganda. We have failed to appreciate that population strategies can be more effective if combined with achieving a better quality of life. Fast track development initiatives resulting in expansion of employment opportunities, specially in rural areas, along with sincere efforts to raise literacy levels can certainly bring about a decline in the birth rate.

However, for the initiative to succeed it has to be in the form of a “movement” rather than just a programme. This will entail the active involvement of highly motivated and committed human resource. “Development”, it has often been said “is the best contraceptive”. The question is, do we really mean business?


EdwinaWhen Edwina “wept”

It was kind of Rear Admiral Satyindra Singh (retd) to send us (Pamela and me) copies of the articles (on Edwina Mountbatten, published on November 4,1999 and February 28, 2000). Pamela and I are very touched.

It is marvellous to have a first hand account of such a moving and unexpected event that took place over half a century ago.

We often think of those extraordinary times in India and value the numerous and continuing friendships very much.

Patricia Mountbatten of Burma
Kent (UK)

Tree-felling in HP

I have read the editorial captioned “One issue, two responses” (March 14, 2000). It was satirical, interesting and bold. You have rightly said that heavens would not fall in the decision to lift the ban on felling of green trees in Himachal is taken but the hills might.

The proceedings in the Norwegian parliament clearing an anti-environment project which made the pro-ecology Prime Minister to submit his resignation should be studied by the Himachal government which has lifted the ban on tree-felling.

In the Himachal context, it does not make political sense to defend the wrong and bad decisions of the previous government. Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal should not support the wrong decision of previous Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on the issue of tree-felling in the state.

Palbhu (Hamirpur)

India in “disguise”

President Bill Clinton should visit India more often. During each visit he should try to cover all the states of the country. Why? Because the few states he went to during his current visit were made at least neat and clean.

What I fail to understand is why are we giving so much importance to Mr Clinton! I agree, that his visit will help India in one way or the other. But if we really need help then why don’t we show him the real face of India—its slums? Why is he shown a neat and tidy Agra but not the actual dirt and poverty in which most Indians live.

Spending crores of rupees on a person who is visiting us for just 7400 hrs (approx.) is simply hilarious. Showing him a false picture, a disguised India will not solve the problem.



Downsizing government

Certain measures like subsidy cuts etc have been taken, though half-heartedly, in the Budget to contain fiscal deficit. The most appropriate method, however, would be to downsize the administrative machinery.

Reduction of staff strength would be accepted without much resistance if the beginning is made from the top — by downsizing the bloated ministries. It is suggested that size of Central and state ministries should not exceed 10 per cent of the strength of MPs or MLAs with a provision of minimum 10 ministers for legislatures below the strength of 100 members.

This should be done through an act of Parliament since our worthy friends in the legislatures will pay no heed to mere suggestions or pleadings.

It goes without saying that a cohesive and compact ministry would be more efficient. Even the district officials will show better performance, when relieved of attending to far too many ministers every other day.


Water supply

The water supply situation in sector 18 is highly erratic.

The morning supply generally starts at 4 a.m. and may suddenly stop at 9 a.m. But if the operators are in obliging mood it goes on till 11 a.m. Afternoon supply is more erratic. It may start at 1 p.m. or 2 p.m. or even 3 p.m. Sometimes residents are made to wait in vain. In the evenings too water may start flowing at any time between 5 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. and abruptly stop. If, however, the operator is feeling sleepy he may allow the supply till late in night.

Water pressure too is sometimes so high that it fills overhead tanks on the third level. Sometimes it is so low that boosters have to work overtime to feed even 1st floor residents. What would be the situation in the summer months? Obviously, worse.



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