Monday, May 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



These IT-crazy governments

IN the last few days, Haryana, Punjab and the Chandigarh Administration have been vying with one another in announcing an Information Technology (IT) policy. As by simply wearing an English suit and tie and renouncing dhoti-kurta one does not become modern, Haryana and Punjab can neither become modern nor hi-IT states by copying Andhra Pradesh.

India and its states are known for making ambitious policies but their execution is disappointing. The same thing is surely going to happen in the field of IT, especially in Haryana and Punjab.

The policy-makers have not kept in mind the ground realities in these states while announcing the IT policy.

First, these states are starved of funds. From where will the money come to develop cyber cities, IT complexes, hi-tech habitat, technology parks, etc?

  Second, both states suffer from a chronic shortage of electric power. There is no use of computers and e-governance without regular power supply. Moreover, when power is supplied its voltage is erratic and fluctuating. That will spoil computers, especially in government offices where maintenance for such things is very poor.

Third, most of the time computers will be out of order in government departments because employees are either untrained or careless.

Fourth, almost all government offices and schools in the districts are housed in dilapidated and leaking buildings having broken windowpanes. Computers will start weeping shortly when placed in these dirty and dusty conditions.

Fifth, smart card-based citizen’s ID is a very laudable idea. But it is likely to meet the fate of the voter’s I-card. Mostly voters complain that there are wrong entries and wrong photos in their voter’s I-card. Smart cards may not enable people to interact with services as computers have to be operated by human beings. To err is human and humans in India err too much. Computers as well as smart cards are going to fail in the company of shirking, dishonest and corrupt government employees.

Sixth, the IT policy is going to be successful if more and more people buy and have computers at their offices and homes. No doubt, the Haryana Government has exempted the IT industry from sales tax and the applicable rate of sale tax on computers is very low. Computers are still by and large out of the reach of the common man.

Seventh, the IT literacy plan, especially of Haryana, is a hoax. According to one report, in Yamunanagar district, 317 posts of JBT teacher and 59 posts of head teacher have been lying vacant for the past several months in government primary schools. Eleven schools in Yamunanagar district are without teachers (The Sunday Tribune, April 30). From this example of one district, one may imagine the dismal scenario in overall Haryana.

For the last three years, due to financial crunch the Haryana Government has not been allowing any vacancies to be filled in colleges. Salaries to the teachers of aided schools and colleges in Haryana have not been paid for three to six months. The IT literacy plan implies that in Haryana there will be no teaching except IT literacy, no salary, no fans, no furniture in educational institutions except computers! What a funny situation!

Ambala Cantt

Villages remain ignored

Despite the tremendous advancement of science and technology in India, millions of people have been rendered homeless and helpless because of a severe drought. It is not only Gujarat and Rajasthan which have been smitten by this natural calamity but also many parts of Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. The level of underground water has gone down, rivers and wells have dried up.

Man and animal both are starving. They don’t have water to quench their thirst. In Churu and Udaipur districts of Rajasthan, the daily wages have plummeted from Rs 40 to Rs 14. The sons of the soil have been uprooted and forced to lead undignified lives. They are moving with their cattle and children through other states like strangers and beggars. I think this year’s drought has been more horrible than any other drought in the recent past.

There is another painful aspect of the present tragedy. The way millions of villagers have been suffering for days proves beyond doubt that the cities have grown and prospered at the cost of rural areas. Rural India has been treated casually. This disturbing imbalance between the rural and urban areas must be removed if we wish to see a stronger India.

Mindless urbanisation and industrialisation have made the cities the biggest centres of modern civilisation whereas the villages remain criminally neglected. There is urgent need to reverse this trend and develop a new technology to ensure the welfare of the rural people in every possible way. Even our vast gangetic plains can have a drought-like situation in the near future if we fail to protect and preserve the existing water resources. These fertile plains are dotted with tubewells, wells and pumping sets which have been pumping out underground water for the last 30 or 40 years. We have overused them. Our biggest rivers, the Yamuna and the Ganga, are getting polluted day by day. Their water is no longer fit for human consumption. Millions of tonnes of sullage is being released into them every day. If we wish to have clean potable water in adequate quantity for our people, we must wake up and preserve very carefully the most precious gift of nature — water, yes dear water.


Mistakes in DD serials

On May 10 I was watching a Doordarshan serial, "Abhimaan", at 9 p.m. This was just by chance. I seldom take interest in such serials. Anyway, I heard Kanwaljeet misquote an Urdu couplet of Mirza Ghalib which pained me very much.

Kyon gardish-e-mudam se ghabra na jaye dil
Insaan hoon payala-o-saghar nahin hoon mein

He spoke " Saghar-o-payala", which was not only incorrect but must have also hurt the soul of Mirza Ghalib. My point is that scores of people are involved in preparing a serial. The mistake could have been avoided.

Such mistakes creep in our serials and other programmes almost regularly. I will quote a few:

"Wapas loutna" is as bad as "To return back". "Der aaye durust aaye" in place of "Der aayad durust aayad". Instead of "Bashart-e-ke", they say only "Basharte" and use "Bhi" after "Bawjood", which is incorrect.



Why waste time on cricket?

ABOUT cricket Bernard Shaw said, "it is a game played by 22 fools and watched by twenty two thousand fools", little knowing that one day he will be proved right although in a different context.

And when corruption has become a way of life in all spheres of human activity in developing countries in particular, why should anyone deprive the poor "cricketers"of the privilege of making a fast buck?

I also don’t understand why everyone, from top to bottom is wasting time on this matter since at the end of the day no one will be found "guilty" and "fixed" because in this country law does not take its course where influential and powerful people are concerned.

Let the nation address bigger issue like militancy in J&K and the North-East, drought in Rajasthan and Gujarat and, above all, national security interests, and not fritter away its energy on non-issues.



Insulting a poet

As mentioned in the editorial, "A matter of concern" (May 3), at the Indo-Pak mushaira, organised by the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union in honour of SAARC delegates, who visited Delhi in connection with the SAARC writers’ conference, the audience started hooting Ahmad Faraz, a popular poet from Pakistan, when he was invited to recite his poems.

Was it not a great insult to the literary luminary? Instead of showing discourtesy to him, the audience should have heard his "kalaam" with keen relish.

Ahmad Faraz is a great poet of socialism. He vehemently condemned the rulers of his country, who oppressed the innocent masses and exploited the downtrodden for political mileage, instead of doing something for their economic uplift. He declared:

Tum aab-e-hayaat maangtey ho un sey
Jo log faqat zaihr key saudaagar hain

(You want nectar from those people, who are merchants of only poison).

As a result of his outspokenness, he often incurred the wrath of the powers that be. In fact, he is one of the few poets of Pakistan who render the contemporary realities in verses, showing their concern about the decay in politics and social life.


Need for new phone directory

The telephone directory for Bathinda was issued in 1996 (corrected upto 31.8.1996). Since then thousands of new connections have been added and most of the old numbers have been changed. Thus the directory has been rendered useless.

For the convenience of the subscribers, the DoT should bring out a new edition of the directory without delay.


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