|Monday, May 8, 2000,
Rooftop water harvesting
THIS year is not the first time that the issue of water harvesting is in focus. Last year, too, with a view to arresting the fast depleting water-table in Delhi, the Government of India had launched a scheme for harvesting water on the roofs of private buildings in the Capital. With great fanfare, the Prime Minister along with the Minister for Water Resources, issued appeals to its citizens for adopting this technique at their own cost as per a prescribed method. The latter was so optimistic about its outcome that he even predicted that the people of Delhi will be comfortable with water supplies during the summer of year 2000 and beyond.
It appears that this prescribed method had not been tested in the field anywhere. Through my letters published in three leading newspapers, including The Tribune, dated June 16, 1999, I had pointed out that because of a very obvious snag in this method, it was not possible to achieve the target, and that the hopes linked with the project could never be realised. The public also seemed to have held a similar view and consequently they did not pay any heed to the appeals from the high dignitaries and patronise this method. A redeeming feature of this tragic episode has been that the investment by the public on this project, which could have run into hundreds of crores of rupees, has been saved from becoming infructuous. Otherwise the government would have found itself in an extremely awkward position and may have been burdened with claims for the financial loss suffered by the public.
The least the bureaucracy should now do is to show courage to express its regrets to the public for raising false hopes and to formally withdraw this already dead scheme as it has brought nothing but bad name to the government.
S. P. MALHOTRA
The article Punjabi not getting its due at university by Dr Amrik Singh, published in The Tribune on April 24, though well-intentioned, expressing concern about the neglect of Punjabi at Punjabi University, Patiala over the past few decades, including his own tenure as Vice-Chancellor, does not present the full picture of the efforts made to promote the language, literature and culture particularly during the past one year or so.
The writer himself was at one time the Vice-Chancellor of Punjabi University when he had all the authority to set the distortions right, but he has not cared to mention what distortions he set right, if any.
The record of the university as far as the development of the Punjabi language and literature is concerned has been trend-setting. It is this university which is making all-out efforts not only to develop the Punjabi language but also the concept and spirit of Punjabiat at the regional, national and international levels. Such a development is an on-going process.
After working with a sense of devotion and dedication Punjabi University has established its distinct identity in the academic world. Though every Vice-Chancellor has his peculiar style of functioning based on his vision, the efforts of the present Vice-Chancellor, Dr Jasbir Singh Ahluwalia, since his taking over last year, have made big strides. Besides organising a series of millennium lectures and seminars on different topics of national and international importance, the university has spread its wings to cater to the needs and aspirations of the Punjabis settled in countries like the USA, Canada and the UK.
Dr Ahluwalia has played a pivotal role in establishing a centre in New Mexico in the USA for the teaching of Punjabi as a foreign language. For this centre Punjabi University will provide all the relevant material. In due course this centre will be developed into a centre for Punjabi studies and Sikh studies.
The UGC-financed Audio-Visual Research Centre (AVRC) has been recently activated to prepare TV films on Punjabi culture and literature so as to project the vibrant aspects of Punjabi life to the various audiences of television networks at the national and global levels. Another ambitious project undertaken is the preparation of Comprehensive History of Punjabi Literature which will include Pakistani Punjabi literature also. The cultural history of Punjab is yet another project which has been undertaken. The preparation of Encyclopaedia for Children in Punjabi is progressing well.
The Balbir Singh Centre at Dehradun has been reactivated and a full-time director and three scholars have been appointed to undertake time-bound research. As we are living in an era of Internet, Punjabi University has developed its own web-site which is already attracting enquiries from different parts of the world. The university has conferred fellowships on a number of scholars, including Dr Harbhajan Singh and Prof Kirpal Singh.
The real and lasting contribution of a university is its publications. Punjabi University can take legitimate pride in having published over 2500 titles on various subjects. The majority of these books are in Punjabi. Last year around 160 new books or reprints, which amounts to an average of three books per week, were released. The Encyclopaedia of Sikhism by Prof Harbans Singh, the English version of Sri Guru Granth Sahib by Prof Gurbachan Singh Talib, dictionaries and reference books are a few of the many prestigious publications of the university.
Foodgrains from Punjab
This refers to the news item that appeared in The Tribune dated 3-5-2000 under the caption Punjab pays price for plenty.
In order to set the record straight, I wish to clarify that it has always been the endeavour of the FCI to move maximum stocks of foodgrains from Punjab. These efforts are naturally constrained by factors such as the capability of the receiving regions to store the foodgrains and the offtake in the public distribution system.
In the period from January to April, 2000, almost 72 per cent of the total movement of foodgrains from the North has emanated from Punjab. Wheat stored by the state government and its agencies is taken over at the time of movement. In this period January to April, 2000 the movement of wheat stocks of state agencies has been 82 per cent, 77 per cent, 80 per cent and 79.7 per cent of the total monthly movement of wheat out of Punjab. It would thus be evident that there is no discrimination against the Punjab government or its agencies in the matter of movement and takeover of stocks held by them in the Central pool.
D. P. REDDY
J&K: no mean achievement
In the article of Mr Hari Om, J&K Autonomy Panel Report (May 3) there are several errors and erroneous arguments.
The author says that the J&K Constitution (Amendment) Act, 1954, was one of the revolutionary steps taken to democratise the polity by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed. By this amendment the Council of Ministers ceased to act as the final interpreter of the J&K Constitution Act, 1939. What he glosses over is that a non-elected Central government appointee, Sadar-i-Riyasat (eventually Governor), acquired this power whereas the Council of Ministers, which is responsible to the elected Assembly, lost its power. By what stretch of imagination does this become a revolutionary step?
One of the major differences between J&K and the Central government was over the land reform policy of the National Conference. It is a moot point whether the extension of right to property would have enabled the NC government from abolishing jagirdari and for the distribution of land to the landless Kashmiris between 1948-52. Surely, freeing people from feudal bondage was no mean achievement.
What is surprising is that author shows complete lack of understanding of the present ground reality and remains mired in controversies that have lost their relevance.
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