|Saturday, April 22, 2000,
|The backlash against globalisation
by A. Balu
NO poison is a necessary drink, and we cannot be expected to drink globalisations cup of hemlock for the greater glory of the shapers of the new millennium. This caustic comment by the Foreign Minister of the tiny east Caribbean nation, Saint Lucia (population 158,000), at the annual session of the UN General Assembly in September last year, brings into sharp focus the apprehensions and fears of the poorer countries of the world about the impact of globalisation on their economies.
on silver oaks
preserved Udaipurs regal legacy
India, Pak towards peace
April 22, 1925
MUCH as one would like to speak stoically about Le Figaro's description of the President of the Indian Republic as an untouchable, the mind-set impropriety involved in the insult would not be erased from our collective consciousness easily. France and India are coming closer on many issues on which they did not agree until a few years ago. The positive happenings are evident in bilateral agreements and improving economic relations. Globalisation mandates the demolition of several formal barriers. Mr Narayanan had taken a heartload of goodwill with him to Paris for the people and the leaders of France. "An Untouchable at the Elysee Palace" became more than an insulting headline when the government of the host country started discussing it. Le Figaro made a culpable mistake. An apology came from its editor-in-chief. Mr Narayanan, in his magnanimity, looked at the episode as a mere "fixation". He knew that the Constitution he was protecting rejected untouchability as a social evil. Those who perpetrated this deplorable ideological illness were criminals in the eyes of the Executive and the Judiciary. India did not elect Mr Narayanan its President because he belonged to a certain category or section of society. In fact, educated and cultured Indians do not even talk of a "Dalit President". So, the editorial regret beginning with the words, "I understand that one of the headlines of Le Figaro has hurt you as well as your people" shows no real remorse.
The editor-in-chief says
that he apologises personally. One of his fellow
professionals seeks to explain the expression thus:
"It ('untouchable') was intended to convey the sense
of social mobility of the backward classes". This is
an elaborate linguistic as well as conceptual humbug. It
should be remembered that Le Figaro was not alone in
using such demeaning expressions. Le Monde, too, anchored
its report on the President's visit on untouchability.
The point to remember here concerns shades of undying
colonial thinking and expression. Even if the denigration
of Indian culture is justified by problems noticed in
isolated crevices of sick minds, men like Mahatma Gandhi,
B.R. Ambedkar and President Narayanan can be seen
exemplifying the secularism of our democracy and the
officially announced ethos of our sociological hierarchy
in which all citizens have equal rights irrespective of
the rare and senseless compartmentalisation by the
depraved. India does not live in isolation and its
relations with the rest of the world are important. In
company with the rest, it is voyaging through space and
time and there is hope that it will, amidst the present
collapse of morals and standards, try to remain true to
the lasting values of life to which all countries have
contributed and which have stood the test of time. France
knows this fact as well as we do. But then our
President's respect is sacrosanct and so are our
civilisational moorings. International insult deserves
IF the BJP top leadership thought that subsidy cuts and tax benefits to Mauritius-registered companies are closed chapters, it is in for a rude shock. The two issues bounced back rather vigorously at a meeting of party MPs convened to interact with Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha on Thursday. He expected an easy time since the BJP national executive had unflinchingly supported these measures and the Prime Minister had firmly rejected even a partial rollback. However member after member lambasted the move and three senior leaders from Delhi chose to take their case to the media. The MPs feel that relentless pressure from alliance partners and the shrill demand of the opposition will finally frighten the government into providing some relief. If that were to happen, they want to share the credit and not leave the field completely open to others. It does not mean that they are posturing and that it will not have any impact on the government. Far from it. The BJP MPs will carry on their campaign till the Finance Bill is passed in the first week of May. The eagerness to distance oneself from the series of anti-poor measures is near universal. Even pro-reform members share this sentiment, saying that expenditure has to come down but not by piling misery on the rural poor and urban slum-dwellers. As BJP MPs pointed out, the FCI should become slimmer, it should eliminate damage to grains and find ways of scaling down storage costs. The government hopes to save a mere Rs 500 crore by denying fair price shop access to those above the poverty line and nearly doubling the prices of foodgrains to below the poverty line groups. If the bank interest rate comes down by 1 per cent, the subsidy will come down by nearly the same amount of Rs 500 crore. This is because the government has to raise more than Rs 42,000 crore to maintain 41 million tonnes by July 1 when procurement of rabi crops ends.
As though by design, the parliamentary standing committee on food, civil supplies and public distribution asked the government to scrap the price increase in foodgrains to below the poverty line consumers. What is remarkable is that the recommendation is unanimous and BJP MPs sit on the committee. The report harshly points out that a civilised society cannot deny minimum nutrition to people and by steeply raising the cost of foodgrains, the government is abandoning the vulnerable sections of the population. It is vacuous to talk of doubling the quota to 20 kg since such families are unlikely to have the cash needed to lift the grain in one lot. This is doubly cruel since hundreds of tonnes of grains rot in FCI godowns every year even while the poor go hungry. The standing committee is headed by Devendra Prasad Yadav of the Janata Dal (U), a constituent of the NDA. The Telugu Desam Party also chose the same day to step up its protest, though it ruled out voting with the opposition on a possible cut motion. The governments troubles did not end here. The BJP MPs loudly protested against the tax concessions to those companies which are registered in Mauritius. What added to the piquancy is that Union Minister Ram Naik has joined the chorus. He has pointed out to Mr Sinha that out of the 81 companies, only two are genuinely Mauritius-based, and the others have only a sub-office. Even if the BJP leadership manages to quell the rebellion by the party MPs, the damage to the partys image has already been done. That should make a rollback irresistible.
THE reinstatement of a suspended middle-ranking public servant is not a newsworthy event outside his office. But if the return of G.R.Khairnar is making headlines all over the country, it is because what he stands for goes far beyond his person. His "victory" is being taken by the common man as the vindication of a brave man in the right who took on an entire corrupt system. He was a hero as he did not think twice while going after the mighty land encroachers. He is more so today, when the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has withdrawn its appeal against the Bombay High Court order directing the BMC to reinstate him. But is it really the victory of truth over injustice? For six years he was in the wilderness. He has been resurrected when he has only a little more than a month to go before retiring. That effectively means that he has been kept out of "mischief" through much of his productive years. That is generally the fate of all those who display a never-say-die attitude. They are considered oddballs and the system does its best to break them. Most succumb. The few who continue are either neutralised into inaction or are left too bitter and bleeding to be of much use to society. This happens because in most cases the law-breakers are the law-makers themselves. Once someone treads on too many big toes, his being toppled is taken as a foregone conclusion. Such fighters may be public heroes but look at their personal lives! Whether it is Khairnar or K.J.Alphons or Arun Bhatia or Kiran Bedi, they are never allowed a day of respite.
The strangest thing is
that they win the disapproval of even their own
colleagues. It is not that all others are corrupt and
want these "black sheep" out. What actually
happens is that the others are just too docile or timid
to stick their neck out. When a colleague raises his
voice against the corrupt system, the others instead of
joining him only advise him not to do anything reckless.
It is this division between the noisy rebels and the
armchair rebels which allows the perpetrators of various
irregularities to go scot-free. Just think of what would
have happened if a hundred or a thousand people had
protested strongly against the suspension and eventual
removal of Mr Khairnar. Such closing of ranks could have
vindicated the uprightness of the crusader. Better still,
it should have encouraged others to emulate him. Nothing
of that sort happened. The public too happens to have a
short memory. It remembered Mr Khairnar all right but did
not (or could not) really do anything for him. Actually,
such people need to be preserved like a threatened
species because it is they who stand between total
popular disenchantment with the system and faint hope. Mr
Khairnar and others like him have repeatedly underlined
the fact either openly or covertly that it
is the political system which plays a major role in
nailing them. The political bosses just have to realise
that a few unpurchasable persons are a "necessary
evil" in their own interest because they act as a
safety valve through which some of the accumulated anger
of the public against the rampant corruption gets
dissipated. The old advice, "nindak neare
rakhiye", is more apt today than ever before.
IN the post-Independence era and in particular after coming into existence as a separate state in 1966, the economic progress of Haryana has been quite impressive. Luckily, the period of formation of Haryana coincided with a shift in Indias agricultural development strategy embodying an intensive area development programme, of which Haryana was one of the main beneficiaries. Proximity to the national capital provided natural advantage to accelerate the process of industrialisation. By and large, benefits of economic development did accrue to all sections of people in Haryana though income disparities did increase.
In human development index, the position of Haryana in the country is quite high. Average literacy is about 60 per cent, which is higher than the all-India average of 54 per cent. But the quality of higher education leaves much to be desired. Haryana has three multi-faculty state universities: Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra (KUK); Maharshi Dayanand University (MDU), Rohtak, and Guru Jambeshwar University (GJU), Hisar, and one agricultural university at Hisar along with more than 150 degree colleges. In the last five years or so, effort has been made to encourage private initiative in the expansion of technical education and a number of engineering, medical and dental institutes have been established. But in terms of quality and academic excellence, no state institution ranks high on the educational map of India.
Kurukshetra University made a good start in early sixties and eminent academicians of national and international repute were invited and appointed professors and heads of various teaching departments to provide leadership in teaching and research. To impart specialised education even at the undergraduate level honours system was introduced in various teaching departments on the Delhi University pattern. Some good traditions were established but later, complete inbreeding and lack of academic leadership led to stagnation. MDU had not even taken off well before it got trapped in one controversy or the other. It would be quite pre-mature to pass judgement on GJU, Hisar, as it was established only a few years back.
A Vice-Chancellor as a chief executive of the university is supposed to give academic leadership to teaching and research. It has been noted that for quite some time now, the appointment of Vice-Chancellors is not on the basis of academic leadership qualities but to accommodate ones own persons, that too on considerations like loyalty, caste and region etc. However, in the last two decades, no VC could complete his term smoothly as there was a continuous tug of war between the Vice-Chancellor and the state government/Chancellor vitiating the academic atmosphere on the campus.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor is supposed to assist the Vice-Chancellor in running the university efficiently. The experience of the appointment of PVCs has not been a happy one. The mode of appointment of PVC and the terms and conditions of service are such that the PVC invariably becomes an alternative centre of power and discontentment. The VCs find a rival in him and try to clip his feathers, a condition which is bound to induce confrontation. Most of the valuable time of the VCs and PVCs is wasted in this game which vitiates the academic environment on the campus. In Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, the VC appoints his PVC or Rectors from amongst the senior professors to assist him in the discharge of responsibilities. In Haryana universities, workload does not justify appointment of a PVC and if they need to be appointed, mode and terms and conditions of appointment must be changed to avoid the university atmosphere being spoiled, at least on this account.
The Acts of various universities in Haryana provide for the appointment of regular and full time Registrars having certain laid down qualifications in Professors grade as is the case in Punjab and Delhi universities. In Haryana universities, permanent Registrars having required qualifications have never been appointed. For more than a decade, relatively junior IAS officers were appointed for short durations, who did not have any interest in the university and who acted on behalf of the state bureaucracy and political leadership. It has never been realised that in the university system, for efficient functioning and for long-term continuity in administration, a competent permanent Registrar is a must. But vested interests in the state administration and even the Vice-Chancellors do not want a permanent Registrar as he may not play to their tune. Thus, VC, PVC and Registrar, all the three key functionaries, became rival centres of power in a continuous struggle for supremacy and to promote their agenda.
In regional universities, certain groups compete to manipulate authorities through sycophancy as well as by bullying tactics at times a combination of both to extract benefits. These universities are not seen as institutions of academic excellence where scholarship among teachers and students may be encouraged and promoted. On the contrary, these are seen as centres of power and a source of employment whereby certain social forces, namely casteism, communalism and regionalism, are fuelled and power brokers have a heyday and try to promote their own agenda freely.
Genuine and serious teachers are marginalised. They are treated as abnormal people who do not know how to live in the world. The teachers who managed to get appointed on considerations other than academic excellence, argue openly that there is no use teaching or learning. Other things are more rewarding. Dangerously enough, this type of misconceived arguments have got a sort of social legitimacy. Ironically, even the genuine teachers nod approvingly. If a teacher publishes a good research paper in a leading journal and shares it with his colleagues, normally he gets mischievous smiles and it is ensured that he is suffocated, is not able to work in future and turns cynical. Even when some bright people are appointed lecturers, by the time they become Reader or Professors, their degeneration starts. Professionally, they may not remain equal to the high position they are holding!
In the last few years, through a series of amendments to the University Acts, the political leadership and the bureaucracy have taken over all the effective powers and the university authorities, namely the Academic Councils and the Executive Councils and the Courts, have been reduced to debating clubs. The state government has a veto power over every affair of the university. Even the convening of the meetings of the university authorities like EC and AC depends on the convenience and whims of the government. The university is autonomous only in name. If these tendencies are allowed to continue, the position of the Vice-Chancellor will be no better than that of a government college principal. In fact, with the amended Act and statutes, the university system has completely collapsed and it will require a major effort to rehabilitate it.
The political leadership in the state, generally, does not have any clear perspective regarding higher education. It does not appreciate the difference between an academic administrator and a general bureaucrat or administrator. The regional development policies and the state decision making have no organic link with institutions of higher learning in the states.
Therefore, the state political leadership finds universities of no use to their immediate agenda and takes it as an unnecessary financial burden. The state governments are reluctant to provide funds for promotion of research in the universities as they do not appreciate its importance for the state. Therefore, the lofty ideal of university autonomy has no operational meaning for them.
The stated tendencies are playing havoc with the vitals of the education system in the state. Unfortunately, these tendencies got rooted even before healthy academic atmosphere could be established in these universities. The whole concept of university education needs a serious reconsideration to enable it to accomplish its cherished goals.
backlash against globalisation
NO poison is a necessary drink, and we cannot be expected to drink globalisations cup of hemlock for the greater glory of the shapers of the new millennium. This caustic comment by the Foreign Minister of the tiny east Caribbean nation, Saint Lucia (population 158,000), at the annual session of the UN General Assembly in September last year, brings into sharp focus the apprehensions and fears of the poorer countries of the world about the impact of globalisation on their economies. At the same forum, the Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone in West Africa, echoed similar feelings when he said globalisation could not be effected as a one-way street where all the vehicles travel North, leaving only exhaust fumes in the South.
More recently, at the South summit in Havana convened by the G-77, the Cuban President, Mr Fidel Castro, thundered that in the hands of the rich countries, world trade is already an instrument of domination which under neo-liberal globalisation will become an increasingly useful element to perpetuate and sharpen inequalities. Many other leaders of the third world joined issue with the projection by the industrialised nations of globalisation as the panacea for the ills of the poorer nations and rejected the one-size-fits-all attitude that does not account for economic, cultural and political differences among countries.
The weekend protests by thousands of demonstrators in Washington, the venue of the Fund-Bank spring meetings, symbolised in a sense the growing disenchantment with globalisation that many in the third world believe will only perpetuate inequality and insecurity of the poor countries. The mobilisation for global justice demonstration was especially aimed at the two international economic institutions the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund which, according to the organisers of the protest march are the chief instruments used by political and corporate elites to create todays unjust, destructive global economic order.
In the context of the growing anti-globalisation movement, the recent Millennium Report by the UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, puts the whole issue in correct perspective. The report that attracted only marginal notice of the Indian media, while noting the benefits of globalisation faster growth, higher living standards and new opportunities for better understanding between nations acknowledges that at present these opportunities are far from being equally distributed. How can we say that the half of the human race, which has yet to make or receive a telephone call, let alone use a computer, is taking part in globalisation? Mr Annan asked. We cannot, without insulting their poverty.
What is being protested, Mr Annan rightly points out, is not the process of globalisation but its disparities. Thus far, its benefits and opportunities remain highly concentrated among a small number of countries, and are spread unevenly within those countries. In addition, successful efforts have been made to craft strong well-enforced rules for the expansion of global markets, but support for equally valid objectives like labour standards, poverty reduction and human rights have lagged behind. For many people, globalisation has come to mean greater vulnerability to unfamiliar and unpredictable forces that could bring economic instability and social dislocation at lightning speed. There is mounting anxiety that the integrity of cultures and the sovereignty of states may be at stake.
The over-reaching challenge of the times, according to the Secretary-General, is to make globalisation mean more than bigger markets. To make a success of this great upheavel, he suggests, we must learn how to govern better and above all how to govern better together. We need to make our states stronger and more effective at the national level and we need to get them working together on global issues, all pulling their weight and all having their say. Mr Annan grouped the global issues on which states needed to work together under three headings, each of which related to a fundamental human freedom freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom of future generations to sustain their lives on the planet.
Votaries of globalisation assert that it is not evil force claimed by street protesters, but offers the best hope of reducing poverty around the world. Acting managing director of the IMF Stanley Fisher told a press conference in Washington last week that the word globalisation may be a problem but the process it represents is the only way we are going to raise people around the world to the same level as people in industrialised countries.
In the ultimate analysis, going global has its benefits as well as risks. What the developing countries are demanding is that the richer nations of the North should stop dragging their feet in taking positive steps to end the present unfair economic order. That means they should address seriously the question of debt burden of developing nations. The G-7 industrialised nations and the Russian Federation had taken the initiative to cancel the debt of the most heavily debated countries, but the criteria and eligibility are considered to be highly restrictive. The continuing decline in the levels of official development assistance (ODA) serves to highlight the tardy response of the industrialised world to the requirements of the South.
The Havana summit of G-77 has called for a greater vice in global economic decisions, increased aid and exports to under-developed nations, greater technology transfers and the cancellation of unsustainable debt that is forcing many countries to pay more in interest than for social services. There is no denying that the third world has to accept globalisation with all its warts, but as South African President Thabo Mbeki noted at the G-77 summit, there is evidence of a changing atmosphere which a more coherent third world voice can take advantage of.
Cato institute for trade policies studies points out that
globalisation has been powered by the recognition on the
part of national leaders that government controls and
self-imposed isolation from the international economy
were breeding poverty and stagnation. The NDA government
headed by Mr Vajpayee, while reciting the swadeshi
mantra, has after all chosen to go along with
globalisation in the conviction that the advantages far
outweigh disadvantages. That reminds me of the joke that
was circulating among Egyptians in the days of President
Anwar Sadat. As successor to President Nasser, he
declared initially that America was his enemy
number one, but soon changed his stance by throwing
hundreds of Soviet experts out of Egypt. The joke was
that President Sadat, while driving around the streets of
Cairo, would ask his chauffeur to signal left and take a
right turn. The third world, accompanied though by
protests, seems ready to take a cue from the late
President Sadat and embrace globalisation.
AS spring ripens into summer, I notice a sprinkling of gold on the silver oak trees dotting Chandigarhs landscape. Golden flowers adorn their dark green, feathery leaves. The tall, ramrod trees even though poor cousins of the magnificent deodars on the hills too have majesty of their own.
And I have a special fondness for them. I fell in love with their regal, alpine beauty when I first saw them many years ago on the avenue that runs along the citys museum complex. A closely spaced rhythmic plantation of these conical trees on both sides of the road, creates a vista of a green tunnel focussing on the yonder blue hills of the Shivaliks. The gently rolling mounds of the Leisure Valley on the adjoining side, complete the picture-postcard Arcadian beauty of taking a walk on a hill road.
After every such experience, I would wonder, as to how they got their very poetic and romantic name: silver oaks! The mystery was resolved, when once caught on a rainy and windy day on a stroll; I noticed the trees fluttering wildly with gusts of wind. As the feathery leaves upturned, they revealed their hitherto unnoticed undersides. And these were of shimmering silver hues, glistening in the rain that had washed away all the summer dust. Getting wet in the train that day seemed quite worth it.
Getting possessive about their beauty I dreamed of having them right at my doorstep. The small open space in front of our house was almost barren, devoid of any trees, and used more as a car park, than a community ground. Moreover, the monotonous cuboid block of flats with matchbox architecture looked like an eyesore. I pined for something more aesthetic and exhilarating to view from my house. What could be better than to have silver oaks there?
Come next monsoons; I managed to get a small grove of their saplings planted right in front of the house. And I nurtured them with all my passion. I was their gardener, waterman and guardian angel spanking any urchin trying to hurt them.
Seven years later, the tiny saplings have grown into grand sentinels that guard my privacy with their translucent foliage and provide me enormous joy to savour year round. As I gaze at their strapping forms every morning with a steaming cup of tea in hand the filigree of their feathery foliage, cladding and entwining sculptural branches; jutting out from the central column-like stem make me marvel at the many-splendoured architecture of nature. And now in April, the golden shower of their flowers not only dresses up the trees with a festive confetti; but also carpets the ground beneath with tiny blossoms. No wonder, the grove has become the favourite playing corner of the children with their canopy of shade and leaves. An enterprising group has even fixed a makeshift swing there; and the kids have a real swinging time!
And there is even more frolic and mischief to be observed on the trees, Pairs of squirrels engage one another in mock chases and hop from one branch to another like tomboys of the tree-tops. The crows also love perching themselves on their branches though their beauty is really nothing to crow about. But occasionally I am also rewarded with the sight of a very beautiful bird in magnificent blue-black plumage. I suspect its the sunbird; but only a local Salim Ali could tell for sure.
preserved Udaipurs regal legacy
IT was on account of Sir V.S. Naipaul and his wife that I found myself invited, recently, to a weekend in Udaipur. Arvind Singh Mewar had heard that Sir Vidya Naipauls wife, Nadira, was an old friend of mine and since he was being given an award by the Maharana Mewar Foundation he asked if I could come to the ceremony. It was not meant to have been a journalistic assignment in any way but its hard to go to Udaipur and not write about Arvind Singhs remarkable success in keeping his inheritance intact despite 50 years of socialism.
Fifty years in which the Indian princes were stripped of their titles, denied their privy purses and generally reviled by our socialist rulers as a corrupt, degenerate bunch who cared more for themselves than their people. Most were so demoralised by the changes forced on them that they retired quietly into obscurity and allowed what had been their inheritance for centuries to gradually disappear as a new elite of socialist princes rose and a powerful, new royal family took control of the new Delhi durbar. This is what makes Arvind Singhs success in preserving Udaipur all the more remarkable but he claims he is only following a tradition set by his father.
Have you read the letter my father wrote to Indira Gandhi when she was about to do away with privy purses? No, I admitted, and a flunkey was summoned to bring me a glossy, beautifully printed pamphlet called Inheritance 76. On page 11 of the pamphlet there was this extract from Maharana Bhagwat Singhs letter written to Indira Gandhi on August 11, 1970.
I need no tell you that the institution of Maharana has a history of 14 centuries behind it. A history which is universally admitted as glorious and unsullied. I am merely its trustee and servant for such time as it pleases God. Please consider, please reflect for a moment, whether it would be worthwhile for me to live, whether I would deserve to live, whether those who value history and traditions would own me as an Indian, if I were to acquiesce in the derogation of this institution.
It is not my private possession: it belongs to the people. If the traditions created by the people of Mewar, or any other place, are not preserved, what will there be left to inspire the nation and invigorate our self-reliance, self-respect and dignity?
Indira Gandhi, of course, paid not the slightest heed to the Maharanas letter and went right ahead and abolished the princes so he fought back by turning his inheritance and his title into an institution Maharana Mewar Institution Trust. And, so see Udaipur today is to realise, as Naipaul said after receiving his award, that the Maharana had won in the end and Indira Gandhi lost.
My last visit to Udaipur was more than 10 years ago when Arvind Singh had not quite got into full stride so all the city offered was its beautiful lake and, if you could afford it, a stay in the Lake Palace. The bazar was charming in a quaint, old-fashioned way but the massive, yellow-washed city palace, so vast that it is a medieval city within itself, looked as if it had fallen upon hard times. Tourists could view it only from the outside because its exquisite palaces, courtyards and public buildings had crumbled into what seemed like a state of irreversible decay. Rubble lay in heaps in once fine rooms and priceless pictures and furniture lay locked in storerooms.
In the past few years I had heard that one of the palaces had been restored into a five-star hotel called Shiv Nivas and that there had been lots of other restoration work. But, it still came as a complete surprise to me when after driving through the usual unplanned ugliness of post-Independence Udaipur we drove right into what Arvind Singh calls a city within a city. And, then parked the car outside a lovely, old building called Fateh Prakash Hotel, formerly one of the main sections of the city palace.
The Mewar Trusts real achievement lies, though, in not just converting palaces into hotels others have done that it lies in promoting excellence in fields as diverse as information technology and beauty treatment as I was to find out that afternoon. After lunch at the Lake Palace Hotel we were taken to the first of the award ceremonies of the weekend. It was held in a section of the city palace that has been newly converted into an open air auditorium for the Maharana Mewar Public School which also exists inside the city within a city. Sir Vidya Naipaul as chief guest, gave away awards to what seemed like hundreds of young people who had achieved excellence in various fields. The ceremony was long and tedious because the school principal took it upon herself to catalogue the achievements of the school since its inception but it provided more than a glimpse into just how much work the trust has been doing which goes beyond the merely commercial.
After the ceremony Mark Tully, a former awardee himself, inaugurated a new public library which is so modern that it would put most libraries in Mumbai and Delhi to shame. When I had lunch with Arvind Singh the next day he told me that this was only the beginning of what he planned to do. He does not believe that his task will ever be finished but in the next years his city within a city will offer museums, shopping, culture, craft and everything else connected with Mewars inheritance. The driving force is Arvind Singh himself. People who work with him complain that he is very difficult and quite dictatorial but the restoration of Udaipur is such a total obsession with him that he can be forgiven.
There was another long awards ceremony the next day in a magnificent square in the city palace complex but the weekend was not all work. There were banquets on both nights but even these had their touch of culture. So, on the first night we dined under the stars at Jagmandir, where Shah Jahan took refuge, when he was fighting his father. The evening concluded with Veronique Azan dancing against the majestic backdrop of this lake palace.
On our second night the banquet was held in the city palaces restored Zenana Mahal and again we were treated to culture and history in the form of an exhibition of pictures on the restoration work and the release of a CD of Dhrupad music, which is Udaipurs personal contribution to this classical form.
achievements are even more remarkable when you remember
that since Independence our socialist rulers had
destroyed some of the most beautiful cities in the world
Hyderabad, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Lucknow while
he single-handedly managed to preserve Udaipur. The
Maharana has, indeed, won.
India, Pak towards peace
AMID the booming of guns along the Line of Control and the periodic attacks of militants in Kashmir, there have been some heartening and positive events lately such as the visits of Indians and Pakistanis across the border to spread the message of love and peace. Whatever the nature of governments in Pakistan and in India, it has always been obvious that the warmth and friendship between the people of the two countries has been genuine.
Fifty years of poisonous propaganda on both sides does not seem to have affected the innate friendship the ordinary Pakistani feels towards his Indian counterpart, or vice versa. It may be the stalemate that India-Pakistan politics has reached, or it may be the threat of mutual annihilation (euphemistically called deterrence), sensitive people on the sub-continent have come to believe that much can be done by common people to push the two nations towards a state of peace.
During the cold war years, there was a word commonly used, that is, detente. In the Oxford dictionary it is defined as an easing of strained relations, especially between nations. But there is a more positive meaning to the word, as explained in a French phrase: recouler pour mieux sauter taking a step back for a better leap forward. In other words detente means mutual accommodation so that both sides can move together for a positive goal, that is peace and friendship.
The internal situation of a country is a vital component of any lasting arrangement with its adversary. Thus, the present military rule in Pakistan is a serious hindrance for an Indo-Pak detente. President Kennedy once said: The line dividing domestic and foreign affairs has become as indistinct as a line drawn in water. The visits of our Pakistani brothers and sisters, thus, should have an impact on the Government of Pakistan. If there is sufficient feeling in Pakistani society for peace and accommodation with India, that can influence the military regime of that country to reverse its dictatorial policies and move towards democratic rule. India as the bigger partner in the sub-continental cold war, has a greater responsibility to promote detente. But we have here a situation whereby whatever our liberal individuals may achieve in removing prejudice and ignorance about our neighbours will be cancelled by the deliberately aggressive policies of our champions of Hindutva.
In the last two years a Hindu cultural revolution has been promoted by the BJP Government specifically aimed at preventing any accommodation between the majority community and the minorities.
A book on social studies meant for Class IX students in Gujarat is said to contain the following: Mahmud (of Ghaznavi) destroyed ten thousand temples at Kanauj, killed its inhabitants and seized their wealth. Why these atrocities? Because Islam teaches only atrocities. There is praise, too, in these textbooks for Nazism and Fascism as practised by Hitler and Mussolini, for the national pride and bureaucratic efficiency that these doctrines supposedly promoted, while no mention is made of the violent extermination of the Jews, gypsies and others. As opposition members in the committee pointed out, the viciousness of the propaganda is quite frightening. Evidently, the sole purpose of introducing such blatant distortions in textbooks is to poison the minds of the students at an impressionable age against the minorities and in favour of the divisive policies that were pursued in Germany and Italy before World War II.
In the same sort of way a series of discussion papers being prepared by some of the principal institutions that draw up school curricula, describes Hindu culture as defined by the Sangh Parivar as mankinds highest achievement. Spirituality is the core of our culture. It is the theme of Bharatiya culture, it is the backbone of her existence, the foundation of her being and its role is the spiritualisation of the human race.... The spirit of Bharat and Bharatiyata is Dharma.... The best description of Dharma is to be found in the Manusmriti.
WHEN we pass from the abstract to the concrete, we find it impossible to accept Mr Jinnahs contention that he and his party have done the best they could and have carried obstruction as far as it can prudently be carried in the present circumstances.
If there is one man in the country from whom the Independents can expect nothing but justice, that man is Lala Lajpat Rai, who is himself an Independent, though he does not call himself by that name.
Let us see what this
impartial observer has to say about the work of the
Independents in the Assembly this year. I am
afraid, he says, the Independents have this
year completely undone what they did last year and have
thereby stultified themselves and brought humiliation on
their country. This, as our readers are aware, is
exactly the opinion which in the course of a review of
their work in the Assembly we have ourselves felt
constrained to express in regard to it.
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