|Monday, April 17, 2000,
|The missing aggressive export
by S. Sethuraman
INDIAS incremental trade liberalisation during the 1990s has not given the desired thrust to export growth, and there is virtually no change in the countrys share in world trade or any significant variation in the ratio of foreign trade to the national gross product.
power to the rescue
Book as worshipful juristic person
controversial VIPs in capital
April 17, 1925
LABOUR laws, organisations and traditions were evolved in and calibrated to an era when industrial life was predictable, steady and, yes, slow. Now with the economy about to shift to the fast track, cracks have developed in the cosy trade unions-government relationship, the organisational profile of the working class has changed beyond recognition, and newspapers have lost interest in labour issues which affect fully one-third of the population. All these developing and developed friction points were on display during the two-day Indian Labour Conference which ended on Saturday. Its agenda was short, just three items, but the meeting ended with the three parties trade unions, employers and the government talking at each other. Each side harked back to old and tired positions, the government was stoically ambivalent and Minister Satyanarayan Jatia claimed success. This partisan and piecemeal approach to entrenched problems reflected the tone set by Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee in his inaugural speech. Reading an address drafted by a faceless, and perhaps even clueless, bureaucrat, Mr Vajpayee, who was the first Prime Minister to address the apex labour relations body in many years, blew hot and cold, mostly hot. He chided the central trade unions for clinging to decomposed dogmas which are an antithesis to the new mantra of globalisation and radical economic reforms. The working class has to redesign its policy so as to help the government in deepening and accelerating the ongoing reforms. Until a decade or two ago labour interests were one of the core issues in shaping economic policies. This tough talking will not cost the BJP in electoral terms since the conference he was addressing claims to represent one-tenth of the 33 crore workers in this country. Others are trapped in the unorganised sector, beyond the reach of any redemptive law.
The three issues the
conference grappled with but finally slurred over have
ceased to be fashionable themes a long while ago. On
workers education, the only movement forward is to
integrate all existing facilities and give the theme a
fresh look. Many will however wonder if there are really
facilities for regular upgrading of the skill of workers
or train them for new jobs; the sad fact is that like all
state-run welfare measures, this too is rusty and wholly
unrelated to the changed environment. The second point
was appointing workers on the board of directors of
leading companies. The employers opposed it, saying it is
too premature to give the idea a try and the government
was expectedly neutral. This demand is not outlandish in
these days when several companies are setting apart
shares for sale to their staff. The last was the
perennial dilemma of restructuring the public sector
units. With everyone from the Prime Minister downwards
pledging to protect jobs, and with disinvestment nearly
petering out, there was not much to do but to whip the
dead horse of the Board for Industrial and Financial
Reconstruction. At one time a consensus was evolving that
BIFR should be sent packing since the task assigned has
proved too much for it. Somebody brightly suggested that
prevention is better than cure for sick units. There was
no mention of who or what will do the regular check-up.
The matter rests there. The government wants to rewrite
important labour laws to strip the worker of his right to
permanent employment and to drastically restrict the
power of trade unions to secure registration and give
strike calls. And it wants to push through legislation
without delay. This desire for quick action reeks of
unseemly hurry since it has set up the second National
Labour Commission precisely for this purpose. Nor should
any importance be attached to the setting up of two
groups of Ministers. The one it appointed and asked to
file its report by March end has not even met once. The
BJP is right when it says the government is stable
stable as opposed to moving!
THE poor and not so poor on both sides of the Indo-Pak divide must be heaving a sigh of relief as Samjhauta Express, the cheapest mode of transport available to them to meet their relatives in either country, has not been discontinued as could be expected under the circumstances. The uncertainty has ended after the representatives of the railways in the two countries met at a border post near Wagah on Friday. India agreed to send its rake to the Pakistani side despite being faced with a very difficult situation in view of the killing of 35 Sikhs at Chatti Singhpora village by terrorists on March 20 at the behest of Pakistan. This was not only a part of the ethnic cleansing plan of the enemies of India but also aimed at presenting a horrifying picture of the Kashmir crisis before the visiting US President, Mr Bill Clinton. He admitted this the other day during a fund-raising luncheon for Georgia Democratic Rep Cynthia McKinney at Atlanta. In his own words, "Those people lost their lives because I went to India and to Pakistan." This is another evidence before the US President to declare Pakistan a terrorism-exporting country. American reluctance to take such a drastic step shows that it is not sincere in combating terrorism, the biggest threat to world peace today. So far as Indo-Pak relations are concerned, no improvement is possible till Pakistan shuns the path of terrorism. Even the much-wanted train link, Samjhauta Express, will remain under constant threat of being snapped in the absence of any change in Pakistan's policy of aiding and abetting terrorism part of its proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir. While agreeing to let this useful link remain intact, India will have to strengthen vigilance as the train has in the past been used by Pakistan to add an economic dimension to the ongoing proxy war printing fake Indian currency notes and then smuggling these into this country.
The significance of this
biweekly train service can be understood from the fact
that reports about its possible cancellation by Pakistan
from April 15 led to great panic among the Indian and
Pakistani nationals who were away from their homes
visiting their near and dear ones on both sides. Many cut
short their visit and reached Attari or Wagah to board
the first available Samjhauta Express to go back home.The
train began its run on July 22, 1976, between Amritsar
and Lahore in the wake of the Simla Agreement. Then it
used to cover a distance of 42 km. The distance was
reduced considerably after the disturbances in Punjab in
the late 1980s. The Indian Railway authorities were
forced for security reasons to terminate the train's
journey at Attari. The Ayodhya incident in 1992 and the
subsequent developments led to the train's periodicity
being reduced from six times to twice a week. The latest
agreement between the railway officials of the two sides
has it that Samjhauta Express will cover a distance of
merely 3 km, between Attari and Wagah. In 1994, India
decided not to send its rake to the Pakistani side citing
security reasons. The Pakistani rake was also terminated
at Attari, and not at Amritsar as had been the practice
earlier. The first round of talks has saved the crucial
rail link, and it should be hoped the second round, to be
held on April 26, will result in the resolution of
certain other contentious issues coming in the way of
continuing the train service. The biggest problem,
however, is its possible use to foment trouble in parts
of India. The two countries must reach an agreement that
the train will not be misused for destructive purposes
under all circumstances.
THE latest allegations of match-fixing and bribery involving top South African cricketers, including Hansie Cronje and a network of bookmakers, have sent shockwaves through the world of cricket. Their seismic effect stands further magnified by Cronjes confession that he had indeed accepted up to $15,000 to pass on information to a bookie. This has deeply shocked fans who admired Cronje as an honourable, God-fearing man who could do no wrong. And yet Cronje has not come completely clean. The idea that a racket could be run by bookmakers only for match forecasting, not match-fixing, defies credibility.
At any rate, the ongoing debate should silence a lot of people who refuse to believe that wholesome, proper, genteel, middle class or wealthy people playing a gentlemanly game cannot be corrupt and indulge in misdemeanours which are only associated with the unwashed masses lacking in education, values and samskara, or with the Laloos and Rabris of the world. All evidence and there is a good deal collected for the first time by an official agency, including tapes of telephone conversations points to the opposite. Clearly, a thorough, full-fledged, no-holds-barred, international investigation into match-fixing has become urgently necessary. This must be conducted in the face of stiff resistance from cricketers and control boards, and amidst charges of racism and the stoking of gung-ho nationalism so often associated with sports.
Whatever the specifics of the Cronje case, an organised international racket involving speculators, bookmakers and top-class cricketers seems to have been in operation for many years. Some of its first signs appeared as early as 1981 when Rod Marsh and Dennis Lillee openly betted against their own side! Since then there have been serious and credible disclosures of match throwing by Indias Manoj Prabhakar, by Australias Shane Warne and Tim May, by Englands Chris Lewis, and later by Pakistans Wasim Akram and Salim Malik.
One-day cricket betting in India alone is said to involve Rs 1,000 crore per match, or 100 times more than the volume of gambling on the Indian Derby. Bookies are known to offer multiple options: side-bets, sub-bets, spread bets.... The cricket authorities have done their best to suppress this. But attempts to cover up murky dealings, including the Chandrachud enquiry, have only ended up damaging the inquirers reputation. No one can now pretend that the world of cricket is clean or lily white if it ever was.
Such cleanliness as there might have been disappeared when the white flannels of slow, boring, five-day tests were replaced by luridly coloured uniforms emblazoned with corporate logos, and even the red ball yielded to a white one. At least for a quarter-century, and especially since one-day cricket took over the game, commerce has ruled cricket. Long ago cricket burst upon the ex-colonial Anglophone world as a spectator sport. In the words of C.L.R. James, the great West Indian scholar, and the pioneering theoretician of the sport, cricket has since been first and foremost a dramatic spectacle.
That opened cricket to the depredations of commercial interests, especially with the spread of television. The decisive change came with Kerry Packers conscious effort to detach the game from its moorings, especially its dependence on five-day tests, and quicken its pace. Television freed cricket from its locational dependence, transporting it right into the drawing room, and providing through the zoom lens a better view of dramatic moments than the naked eye can possibly get.
One-day cricket multiplied several-fold the availability and accessibility of the sport as a consumable commodity. Its audience ballooned exponentially into scores of millions and became the advertisers prime target. Corporate sponsorship has since become the natural form of business incursion into sport, especially spectator sport. First-class cricket was once limited to half a dozen countries. It went international with teams like Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka coming in and making a mark. This also greatly raised its visibility, audience size and commercial profile.
Cricket, with the enormous scope it offers for individual star performance, became especially amenable to commercial exploitation through sponsorship, high fees and prizes, as well as speculation and gambling based on links between sportsmen and powerful bookies. Today, each series involves TV rights running into scores of millions of dollars. The sheer size of the business and the exceptional importance of subjective and intangible factors in cricket individual skills, temperament, weather and ground conditions, and all the other glorious uncertainties associated with the game facilitate predatory speculation. From here, it is but a small step to corruption. Bribery or crime is nothing but business by other means.
Here, cricket stars have hardly been examples of rectitude with all their fratricidal intrigue, eagerness to make a fast buck, and willingness to be corporate tools. Many cricketers have emerged as models of greedy go-getters ready to violate the collective interest for personal self-aggrandisement. The story of the dramatic rise and equally dramatic decline of cricket in Sri Lanka, for instance, is also the story of sheer greed fees running into millions of rupees ruining the game. Once compromised on the core morality of the game and its basic values, an individual player can easily transit to corruption of the cruder variety.
Even more malign has been the influence of the organisational bosses of cricket, the control and selection boards. Unlike in earlier times, these are not the preserve of old-fashioned lovers and patrons of the game, with time to spare and a desire to earn goodwill and prestige via the exclusive club. The boards are now dominated by an altogether devious breed of power-brokers with an axe to grind, and games to play in team selection. They too are more susceptible to corporate manipulation. Corporates in turn have a higher stake than in the past in exercising such influence.
In all this, cricket has come to reflect or mimic the broad direction of evolution of the Indian elite, with its growing corporatisation, avarice, amenability to shady influence, narcissistic individualism, and in the last analysis, its own moral debasement. Like other institutions central to the elites life, such as stock markets, exclusive schools or posh clubs, the organisational structures of cricket also dutifully reflect compromised value systems. If you can buy membership of the gymkhana club with Rs 10 lakh, half of it in black money, then what is wrong with making a few lakhs in black through corruption? Once you embrace the greed creed, whats your argument against the rationale (ably summed up by Manoj Prabhakar) for match-fixing?: Why will anyone want to win a match for a mere Rs 1 lakh when they can earn 20 times more for losing it?
To put it simply, in cricket-in-action, three games/processes are played out simultaneously. There is the sport, of course. Then, there is the money game, with crores changing hands, some of them illegally. And there is the reproduction and further perversion of values that define, represent and shape our elite. The popularity of cricket is explained partly by the aesthetics of the game, and by the voyeurism it permits. A remarkably large number of people without great athletic prowess can and do play the game; they can imaginatively substitute themselves for the players. Crickets popularity is also driven by glamour, and by its function as a vehicle of nationalism and symbol of patriotic achievement.
The extreme commercialisation of sports under way today has three major consequences. It makes sports universally vulnerable to malpractice and crime, of which match-rigging is only one form. This is likely to grow unless sports are de-corporatised and limits are placed on sponsorship and size of prizes/bonuses. Secondly, we have all become, largely unwittingly, victims of the controllers of the sports business and the spectacle-related media. It is they who will decide which game to promote and how. It is they who have run down a great game like hockey, while hyping up a small-audience sport like golf. Tomorrow, it might be the turn of polo or baseball to be promoted or demoted. Well still be consuming whatever is promoted relatively passively.
And third, under
excessive commercial influence, sports will increasingly
lose the two things in their character that make them
really attractive to ordinary people. The first of these
is the intrinsic thrill in using ones physical and
mental skills in controlled and innovative ways, often as
part of a collective effort. Winning a game is as
important as playing it well and in its own spirit
even while losing it. The second is the unique ability of
sports to be levellers and do poetic justice.
In real life, the underdog loses. But on the playground,
she/he can win. We often want her to win. The way
spectacle sports are evolving in their super-corporatised
avatar will leave no room for such role reversal, indeed
for imagination itself. That would be a tragedy far, far
worse than match-fixing of the vilest variety!
missing aggressive export strategy
INDIAS incremental trade liberalisation during the 1990s has not given the desired thrust to export growth, and there is virtually no change in the countrys share in world trade or any significant variation in the ratio of foreign trade to the national gross product.
Export performance took a downturn in the latter half of the decade, especially since 1996-97 and the four-year average till the end of March, 2000, gives a dismal growth of less than 5 per cent. After the negative growth of 3.9 per cent in 1998-99, exports recovered in the current year encouragingly to around 12 per cent but on a low base. The growth dynamism of the immediate years in the post-liberalisation era, with a 20 per cent growth average, was irretrievably lost in the rest of the decade.
In unveiling the new export-import policy, the Commerce Minister, Mr Murasoli Maran, is optimistic about achieving a 20 per cent growth rate in 2000-01 with the export-friendly measures embodied in the new policy. For a country which was wedded to licensing and other controls in the import-subscription regime in the first four decades of Independence, export pessimism was a dominant factor of the development scene.
Indias share of global trade fell from over 2 per cent in the 1950s to around 0.5 per cent, notwithstanding some attempts to promote exports through policy and procedural changes from time to time. This was in sharp contrast to smaller Asian nations making rapid strides. However, for Indian policy-makers, export-led growth was not only undesirable but also inappropriate for the size of our economy.
India began opening up its economy in 1991, and it was essentially crisis-induced, and partly externally driven once the country had to go to the IMF to bail itself out of the payments difficulties. Trade policy liberalisation was the starting point and together with the delicensing and deregulation of industry and exchange rate adjustments, the country could, for the first time, begin to look upon exports as an engine of growth. The reforms paid off with exports rising from $ 22.7 billion in 1993-94 to $ 34 billion in 1996-97. The current year is likely to end up with $ 36 billion reflecting a virtual stagnation in the past three years.
The trade policy for 2000-01 has been drawn up in the context of the lifting of quantitative restrictions (QRs) on 714 items of consumer goods categories, mandated by the WTO, to be followed by freeing the imports of another 700 and odd items in April, 2001. Domestic industry and agriculture now get exposed to international competition to a greater degree though some protection to local manufacture has been ensured through tariffication to prevent the dumping of cheaper goods on the big Indian market.
Though the average consumer will not benefit from a choice for goods which may be qualitatively better, the Government has to take care of domestic producers through the levy of import duties at levels which are not inconsistent with tariffs bound with the WTO. With the peak tariff average at 40-45 per cent, India is still regarded as overly-protected. Although India was committed to bringing down the average to 25 per cent the levels in many East and South-East Asian countries by 2000, the emphasis is on calibrated globalisation which incidentally helps the government to safeguard its revenues from customs duty.
The export slowdown of the last three to four years has been largely attributed to world economic conditions, especially the Asian financial crisis and its contagion spread, the steep fall in commodity prices and the recession at home. While these factors cannot be wished away, the real problem is one of making the country highly export-conscious.
Neither industry nor the government has fashioned an export strategy over the years so that India has already missed the target of achieving at least 1 per cent share of world trade by 2002 which would call for an export turnover of some $ 75 billion as against the likely $ 36 billion we would have ended up in 1999-2000. Even if Mr Maran succeeded in his target in the new year, Indias exports would be no more than $ 45 billion at the maximum.
Since manufactures account for nearly 80 per cent of the exports, a slowdown in this area reduces the demand and hence the output. Recent experience has demonstrated that exports are becoming crucially important for the domestic economy. In any case, with the lowering of practically all non-tariff barriers, and the need for larger imports for a growing economy, India is compelled to earn increasingly larger quantities of foreign exchange to stay afloat without having resort to debt-creating capital flows.
Indian exporters have been facing an uphill struggle and the government has hardly been able so far to minimise infrastructure constraints or reduce the transaction costs. Subsidisation of exports will no longer be possible under the WTO rules and disciplines to which India stands committed. That is why the Finance Minister, Mr Yashwant Sinha, proposed in his latest budget a phased removal of the tax exemption available to exporters till now.
Following the example of China, which opened up its economy through special economic zones (SEZs) in the coastal areas, to begin with, and stands out for its double digit growth and record levels of foreign direct investment (FDI), Mr Murasoli Maran has announced the setting up of such zones in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu and also extended support to other state governments in setting up SEZs. However, he has ruled out any change in labour laws or such other special facilities as are the hallmark of the Chinese SEZs.
There is, therefore, some doubt whether India can make a success of this experiment any more than its present free trade zones and export promotion zones. There are, however, some sector-specific initiatives to boost exports of gems and jewellery, chemicals, leather and handicrafts which together make up a sizeable chunk of the present exports.
Agriculture and the small-scale sector have become somewhat vulnerable to global competition from the freeing of imports, even if tariffs are fixed at stiff levels. The governments decision to raise the import duty on rice to 80 per cent, the ceiling bound with the WTO, indicates the kind of problems that would be encountered in the coming days.
Mr Maran has to do a lot
more to improve infrastructure and get the states work in
tandem to face growing international competition, let
alone carving out a distinct place for India as an
emerging global player.
to the rescue
I THINK the harried and harassed people of Delhi can have a profound sigh of relief the citys painful and prolonged power crunch could soon be a thing of the past thanks to wind energy.
The Delhi State Industrial Investment and Development Corporation (DSIIDC) has identified several locations in the capital which have sustained high velocity winds and steady hot air blowing at 120 km per hour and if they could be harnessed, for which proven indigenous technology is readily available, substantial qualities of electricity could be generated.
Some of the locations identified by DSIIDC experts for setting up wind power stations are:
Boat Club Lawns the venue of mammoth political rallies, the most recent being that of national opposition parties. Sensitive instruments placed around the periphery of the Boat Club lawns have recorded the former Deputy Prime Minister and Haryana strongman Mr Devi Lal denouncing the urban upstrats and extolling the virtues of the toiling kisans, generating gusty winds which measured 110 km per hour.
Mr Ramakrishna Hegdes impassioned speech to a huge gathering consisting of 10 urchins returning home from a late night movie in a tent cinema and imploring them to uphold value-based politics at any cost produced as much as 5 cubic metres of hot air. The idea being worked on by the DSIIDC experts is to connect the microphones to a generator. Another technology being evaluated is to erect several windmills on the Boat Club lawns and as highly principled politicians tilt in whichever direction the political winds are blowing, the windmills will rotate and produce electricity.
Council Meeting Room, New Delhi Municipal Corporation. This is an ideal site for generating low-cost, non-polluting electricity by harnessing the winds and quite possibly, this is one of the windiest spots in Delhi where people in the visitors gallery have to hold on to one another to avoid getting blown away.
City Fathers meet in the Council Hall once every nine months or even as frequently as once a year to consider pressing civic problems like finalising the itinerary of their extended foreign jaunts at the tax-payers expense, effecting substantial increases in their salaries and sumptuary allowances, purchase of Maruti Omni vans for their personal use and appointing a single nursery teacher in municipal school to teach 500 children. As the deeply civic-conscious councillors take the floor to talk on the items on the agenda, hurricane-force winds are generated which can be tapped to produce electricity. This site is located less than a kilometre from the B station of the Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking (DESU) and this will result in lower transmission cost.
Banquet Hall, Raj Nivas.
DSIIDC experts have identified this location in Delhi
where hot air which is currently being flared away as a
waste could be harnessed to produce electricity. Banquet
Hall is used to wine and dine visiting Heads of
Government and other VVIPs and dignitaries and when
toasts are drunk and long-wined speeches made pledging
eternal friendship fraternity and cooperation, hot air is
spontaneously generated which could be exploited to
generate power. This power could be led through the
chambers of the Delhi Electricity Minister just across
the road and fed directly into the citys grid.
as worshipful juristic person
IT is to give effect to such (religious or charitable) sentiment, widespread and deep-rooted as it always has been, with reference to something not capable of holding property as a natural person, wrote the Madras High Court in 1904, but it could well have been writing today, that the laws of most countries have sanctioned the creation of a fictitious person in the matter, as is implied in the felicitous observation (that) Perhaps the oldest of all juristic persons is God, hero or the saint.
Holding in a judgement otherwise replete with citations, that the Holy Book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib, is a juristic person capable of holding property in its own name, the Supreme Court of India somehow overlooked that observation from Pollock and Maitlands The History of English Law, first published in 1895. Yet, found in one of the ablest and most scholarly histories of law ever written, it imparts to the judgement, pronounced on March 29, an almost invincible historico-legal sanctity. Even as the quote (as a whole) from the Madras High Court about sums up all that the Supreme Court has to say in support of itself.
A legal or juristic person, says Salmonds classic textbook on jurisprudence, not depreciated by lapse of time and a flurry of new works, is any subject-matter other than a human being to which the law attributes personality.
Persons are the substances of which rights and duties are the attributes. It is only in this respect that persons possess juridical significance, and this is the exclusive point of view from which personality receives legal recognition.
The extension, for good and sufficient reasons, of the conception of personality beyond the class of human beings, says Salmond, is one of the most noteworthy feats of the legal imagination.
In the case of the Guru Granth Sahib, the feat has been accomplished by the Supreme Court with relative ease and confidence for two reasons.
One, the obligation of secularism as perceived by the court. And two, the very nature and personality of the Guru Granth Sahib as perceived by the Sikhs.
As contrasted with its 1985 ruling in the Shah Bano case, which bespoke a blazing secularism anchored in the constitutional conception of a uniform civil code, the Supreme Court does not employ the term secularism even once in its March 29 verdict.
Evidently conscious of the backlash that that case provoked, it rather uses the occasion to clarify that faith and belief cannot be judged through any judicial scrutiny. It is a fact accomplished and accepted by its followers.
And yet, it is more than obvious from the repeated references to Hindu law, and the established position therein of an idol or deity being a juristic person, that the courts secular convictions and conscience would have been totally compromised if it were to adopt any other view of the point in dispute. What is true of a Hindu deity or idol must be true of that to which the Sikhs pay obeisance, their distinctive aversion to idolatry notwithstanding.
The Guru Granth Sahib, the court acknowledges, cannot be equated with a Hindu idol as idol-worship is contrary to Sikhism. As a concept or visionary for obeisance (it adds), the two religions are different. Yet, for its legal recognition as a juristic person, the followers of both the religions give them respectively the same reverential value. Thus, the Guru Granth Sahib has all the qualities to be recognised as such.
While, therefore, the Shah Bano case exposed the limitations that the ground realities of a conservative, multi-religious society impose on judge-made secularism, the March 29 verdict highlights the gains that can accrue to religious minorities by judicial action under a secular Constitution wedded to complete equality between citizens regardless of religion. And regardless of whether it is the Constitution itself, or mere statutory or customary law, that is under adjudication.
While on the point, it must be pointed out however that the Supreme Courts understanding of Muslim law that a mosque, just as a Hindu idol or a church, also enjoys juristic personality is clearly wrong. And so is its reading of Sir George Rankins opinion on behalf of the Privy Council in the Masjid Shahid Ganj case (1940), the leading authority on the subject.
From these considerations special to Hindu law (said the Privy Council in its conclusion, which the Supreme Court has forgotten conveniently to note) no general licence can be derived for the invention of fictitious persons... Their Lordships, with all respect to the High Court of Lahore (which had decided otherwise) must not be taken as deciding that a juristic personality may be extended for any purpose to Muslim institutions generally or to mosques in particular. On this general question they reserve their opinion; but they think it right to decide the specific question which arises in the present case and hold that suits cannot competently be brought by or against such institutions as artificial persons in the British Indian courts.
If despite this glaring fault the court has proceeded correctly to confer legal personality on the Guru Granth Sahib, it is because of the unique reverence in which the Holy Granth is held by the Sikhs, who are ordained to and do treat it as a living Guru.
It is of vital importance that the student of Sikh religion and society should appreciate the depth of this reverence, writes Prof W.H. Mcleod, one of the foremost scholars of Sikhism in the world today. The same spirit which successively inhabited the bodies of (the ten Gurus) is now believed to dwell in this particular Book. This is no mere fundamentalism of the Western variety. The Book is endued with a personality in the literal sense of that word.
controversial VIPs in capital
TWO controversial VIPs , if they can be called so, are currently in the Capital on a visit. One, of course, is Salman Rushdie who, to the disappointment of many, is visiting India not with his latest love, Padma, but with his son, Zafar.
On April 14, at a Press conference at Oberoi hotel (the occasion Commonwealth Writers Prize), there was a virtual stampede, with some of the guests and reporters/photographers being jostled and pushed around. In fact, security was perhaps tighter than witnessed in the case of those dreaded VVIPs. And though the invitees were disgusted, it must be said on the part of the government that they couldnt possibly have taken any risk vis-a-vis Rushdie.
And during the course of an informal chat with journalists, Rushdie said: May be Ill convert my family home, Anees Villa (in Himachal Pradesh), into a writers retreat...it all depends ...but Ill be spending more time in India. Im very happy to be here... yes Ive been noticing changes here, for one there is more money with a certain class and with that intense poverty, too, in certain quarters. But in spite of these changes the people havent really changed.
And to the query pertaining to the latest love in his life and why hasnt she accompanied him here, he laughed and said bad luck. To the fatwa and whether Khomeini deserved a share of his royalties he quipped. He is not around to share it and regarding the fatwa it has ceased to exist.
And barely had Rushdie finished mouthing these sentences than British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook arrived on the scene. Hes yet to open his mouth on controversial issues especially about the Kashmir crisis, but lets not forget his utterings the last time he had paid us a visit in 97. Anyway, all those details in next week, since Cook will be here for four days so you can imagine what a trail of utterings and mutterings he would leave behind.
National street theatre day
April 12 was National Theatre Day (coinciding with Safdar Hashmis birthday) and since this year it also coincided with Ram Navami so the actual celebration was postponed by a day. And on April 13, Sahmat chose to focus attention on the saffronisation of our polity and educational and cultural institutions... Thankfully safforinisation hasnt usurped us all, otherwise that evening the Constitution Club wouldnt have speakers like K.N. Panikkar, Irfan Habib, Neera Chandoke, Rajeev Dhavan, blasting the trend of growing saffronisation and giving a fervent call for spontaneous acts of resistance to the growing communal tendencies. Attention was also drawn to fresh cases of assault on Christian and missionary schools in Western UP. Prof Neera Chandoke of DUs Political Science Department spoke against the disturbing trends. What is worrying is that 10 years back the Sangh Parivar had to take recourse to political theatrics but today it doesnt have to do so, for it has managed to whip up sentiments and grow in numbers... What is even more worrying is that there was no collective outburst or reaction to one of the first statements made by Sudershan, after taking over as RSS chief when he announced that soon there would be an epic war between Hindus and non-Hindus. A shocking statement yet it produced no reactions....
Supreme Court lawyer Rajeev Dhavan said the Sangh Parivars strategies seem two-fold: the encouragement of political gangsterism/political fiefdom and also an attempt to take up certain processes of the government like the RSS bid to take over educational institutions in a state like UP with over 40 million population or like Gujarat Governments attempts to make government servants members of the RSS.
K.N. Panikkar who has very recently himself been a victim of the ICHRs policies, said the present government wants to not only conceal history but even to manufacture some of it... the state of affairs is so pathetic that ICHR Chairman Grover had some time back written to the Education Secretary that the Babri Masjid was not destroyed but it had collapsed! And more recently the ICHR has terminated the services of research coordinator Vasudev Chatterjee. Though no official reasons has been given but we all know that it was connected with the politics centering around the volumes authored by me....
A writers launch ignored
I really dont know why Hyderabad-based author and poet, Prof Shiv K. Kumar, chose this week for the launch of his latest novel Infatuation: The Crescent and the Vermilion (UBSPD). Before I move on to the man and his latest novel let me quickly clarify what I meant about the not-so-perfect timing. With all attention on the Commonwealth Writers Prize and shortlisted writers, it would be impossible to expect attention to be focussed on his novel, at this point of time. Anyway, this 79-year-old professor of English Literature has several distinctions to his credit, besides four novels, several short stories and poetry collections. He has also translated poems of Faiz Ahmad Faiz (from Urdu to English), is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (along with R.K. Narayan, Vikram Seth and Anita Desai) and the recipient of the Sahitya Academi Award. But, apart from any of these what I liked is a certain honesty and genuineness in his talks.
He was frank enough to say that for him writing is like doing yoga. Writing is therapeutic and there is a lot of truth in the lines that every writer sheds his sickness in his writings. Believe me if I hadnt gone through some very trying periods in life a divorce, a 15-year-long litigation battle monetary stress, failed relationships then I couldnt have written so much, for each, setback was countered by writing, more and more....
And on his looking much
less than his actual years, he lets out a moral:
Empty your mind for some time and let it wander
aimlessly and then walk for at least one hour a day-it
keeps away all possible diseases....
THE Punjab Zemindar Conference passed a resolution, protesting against the export of cattle to foreign countries.
When India is already
experiencing a dearth of cattle, so essential for her
agriculture, as is evident from the high price the
Zemindars have to pay for them, it needs no elaborate
reasoning to show that the practice of exporting cattle
should be severely discouraged. Is it too much to hope
that the Government which is never weary of professing
its sympathy with agriculturists will do something
tangible in this essential matter to translate its
sympathy into action.
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