|Wednesday, May 17, 2000,
behind Pak offer
drive: much fury, little understanding
Clinton keeps fit
colours of beauty bandwagon
May 17, 1925
THE "remote-controlled" killing of Jammu and Kashmir Minister of State for Power Ghulam Hassan Bhat on Monday has once again exposed the gaping holes in the security apparatus in the militant-infested valley. It was yet another reminder of the capability of the militants to pick their targets with care and execute them at will. The powerful landmine, which ripped apart the bullet-proof car of Mr Bhat and killed the minister and four others travelling with him, was planted at a spot barely 75 kilometres from Srinagar. The killers evidently wanted to send out a message that they can, if they want to, even turn up for breakfast with Dr Farooq Abdullah. They have time and again shown that breaching the most elaborate security arrangements seems to be as simple a task for them as picking a safe is for a burglar. It is not difficult to understand the source of tension and trauma of the people of the troubled State. It can be traced to the continued display of "cluelessness" by the powers-that-be in Srinagar and Delhi about how to tackle the problem which has shattered the peace of mind of the people and economy of Kashmir. Neither the Chief Minister nor anyone at the Centre ever goes beyond repeating the same old statements which were made when Pakistan decided to intensify the proxy war in the valley in the mid-eighties. For instance, Dr Abdullah is reported to have expressed shock who would not? over the latest militant-strike in the valley and has said that "those behind such barbaric and inhuman incidents do not want peace restored in the State. But our Army is ready to accept the challenge and will soon launch a major operation to flush out the militants". Union Home Minister L.K. Advani too did not go beyond stating for the umpteenth time that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence was behind the latest incident of killing. Both Dr Abdullah and Mr Advani need to be told that the kind of statements they make after every incident of mindless violence in Jammu and Kashmir only heightens the sense of insecurity the militants have so effectively instilled among the people.
Whether it is the Hizbul
Mujahideen, which has claimed responsibility for the
killing of Mr Bhat, or some other Pakistan-supported and
trained militant outfit active in the valley, the script
of the story seldom changes. Members of the Sikh
community were singled out and killed in Chhatti
Singhpora for conveying the same message as the latest
incident is meant to convey to the governments in New
Delhi and Srinagar. The writing on the blood-splattered
road near Srinagar was meant to tell New Delhi that even
if it succeeds in persuading the Hurriyat leaders for
unconditional talks within the parameters of the Indian
Constitution the situation in the valley is not likely to
improve. The incident should also be seen in the context
of the calculated leak of the news in a section of the
Pakistani Press that Islamabad is planning yet another
nuclear test in Chagai. Whether General Pervez Musharraf
will go ahead with the reported test before signing the
CTBT, "to neutralise the effects of the act of
defiance", or is merely using it as a bluff to
unnerve the Indian leadership into an ill-considered and
hasty reaction to a non-event is not clear. A point on
which there is no ambiguity is that the military dictator
is not going to allow the Kashmir cauldron to cool down
before accepting the Indian offer of reviving the Lahore
process. India too should understand the futility of
making peace-overtures to a country whose political
approach revolves around a rabid hate-India campaign for
deflecting attention from its internal economic turmoil.
Years ago Mr Advani had spoken about unfolding a
pro-active Kashmir policy for restoring peace in the
valley. If the policy for the elimination of the
militants has been implemented and even then they are
continuing to have the upper hand in the proxy war in
Kashmir, the well-meaning Union Home Minister would have
to think up of a more effective approach for restoring
peace in the benighted State. He is far too seasoned a
politician not to know the difference between rhetoric
and State policy.
DEVELOPMENTS on Monday have partly lifted the thick mist lying over Indias Sri Lankan policy. Clarity and sobriety have come from New Delhi and, more importantly, from Chennai. Simultaneously, the mood of an imminent fall of Jaffna to the LTTE has given place to cautious hope since the rebels have not advanced one inch for two days now. Extending the ban on the organisation for two more years, the Central Government described the LTTE as one of the deadliest terrorist organisations in the world and a Tamil Eelam under its control would spell great danger to peace in Tamil Nadu. The order has to be endorsed by a tribunal headed by a retired High Court Judge and the LTTE or its admirers can mount a challenge, although the tribunal routinely clears it. But the statement of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi is more significant. He was replying to the debate on the appropriation Bill on police in the Assembly when he decided to clarify his partys stand on the Tamil Tigers. He blasted the LTTEs claim to represent all Tamil people in Sri Lanka. Then he turned the knife mercilessly in the wound. It had killed tall leaders of other Tamil groups and a gang that kills other Tamils cannot protect the Tamils there. For good measure he added that there was support for the Eelam demand, knowing full well that all non-LTTE parties would be satisfied with the generous devolution package President Chandrika Kumaratunga had proposed. The Chief Ministers clear-cut stand on Eelam-versus-LTTE is a bold attempt to isolate the fascist outfit and deny it a share in the popular sympathy for the broad Tamil struggle for autonomy and equal economic opportunity. Since the DMK today is easily the strongest Dravidian party, and since Karunanidhi is the tallest leader of the state, his spirited speech is the first salvo in undercutting the LTTE sway among impressionable Tamil youth.
In Sri Lanka too the
tide is turning against the Tigers, or so it seems. On
Sunday it looked as though the army had been dealt a
bodyblow and Jaffna was again the LTTE headquarters. In
fact, opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe felt that
the town in the northernmost part of the island republic
had fallen and the morale of the soldiers was abysmally
low. But later reports indicated that the guerrillas had
stopped on their tracks. This can be because of one of
the two reasons. The aerial bombing seems to have damaged
the road link, making it difficult to move field guns and
also men. The other can be the heavy casualty the LTTE
has taken during the past week of intense firing and is
waiting for reinforcement. Whatever be the ground
reality, it is clear that the LTTE has lost the initial
momentum, so vital for success in a five-year-long war to
recapture Jaffna. It is not good for its morale. So is
the Karunanidhi bombshell. It was expecting silent
support or at least silence from Tamil Nadu now that two
political parties ardently espousing its cause are allies
of the DMK and the ruling NDA. Instead the two parties
are not as loud in their support as they should be and
the Chief Minister is very loud and logical in his
denunciation. If his harsh criticism receives general
welcome, it will turn out to be a double blow for the
LTTE: its cadre will get dispirited and the rival Tamil
parties in Sri Lanka will find their voice again.
IN a comprehensive article on illegal constructions in Himachal Pradesh, The Tribune had warned on March 25 that such activity was playing havoc with the fragile environment of the state. The nightmare that this newspaper had predicted came true last week in the state capital when the haphazard cutting of a hill for constructing a hotel triggered a landslide, which led to the collapse of a residential building in the heart of the town. The inmates of the building had been evacuated minutes before the collapse, otherwise it could have claimed very many innocent lives. The government has responded in its typical laidback manner: all construction in the area in question has been banned! But there is no plausible explanation as to how such large-scale cutting of a hill went undetected. How is that when encroachments and illegal constructions take place so brazenly, the government functionaries, who are supposed to check these, are the last ones to know about them? That too when the buildings are complete and occupied! That is why Shimla is no longer a hill resort; it is a concrete jungle like any other town in the plains. High-rise buildings, which were virtually unknown in the hill areas, are mushrooming without any control. How can there be any check when the headquarters of the Town and Country Planning Department, which is responsible for prohibiting such constructions, has itself been declared an unauthorised building? And it is not the only one of its kind. Unauthorised construction has taken place in Shimla in Raj Bhavan, the High Court, police headquarters at Khalini and the PWD headquarters near Chhota Shimla.
The enforcement staff
says it does not have powers to check the patently
illegal constructions by the land mafia. The fact is that
when top VIPs are involved, the inspectors find it
pragmatic to look the other way. And when it is the
ordinary mortals who are breaking the law, this turning
of the gaze comes at a price. The end result is that
Shimla town has more than 3949 unauthorised buildings
today. The figure goes well beyond 11,000 in Himachal
Pradesh as a whole. Political patronage ensures that very
little, if any, action is taken. So far, only eight
buildings have been demolished. All parties raise their
voices against this wanton rape of the hills but when
they come to power, they legalise unauthorised colonies,
just as their predecessors did after imposing
ridiculously low penalties. The sufferer is the honest
citizen, who does not get even the basic necessities.
That is the price he has to pay for living in the
"lap of nature". Shimla is already a town on
the decline. Many tourists seething at the woeful lack of
parking space, electricity and drinking water have
started giving it the cold-shoulder. The existing
infrastructure is not able to cope with even the local
population. Caving in has taken place several times,
including near Lakkar Bazaar a few years ago. No hill
resort has been developed in Himachal Pradesh after
Independence. It will be a shame if this already
existing, once-pristine one is allowed to go to seed. And
Shimla is not the only one. Manali, Solan, Kasauli
; things are being allowed to deteriorate almost
behind Pak offer
THERE is a growing school of thought in this country that says that New Delhi must hold talks with Islamabad, if not for anything else, to find out what Gen Pervez Musharraf has in mind. Pakistani leaders keep saying that New Delhi must resume bilateral talks without any conditions as the only means for peace and a settlement of long-standing issues. Pakistans Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar recently said in an interview that his government has no conditions and will not accept any conditions for a dialogue with India.
That is all very well. Pakistan may not have any preconditions; it just cannot afford to levy any, so it is no big deal. But India has a valid point. It cannot go to the negotiating table under blackmail. As long as Pakistan continues to support terrorism and turns a blind eye to what is going on, it cannot expect India to accept the bilateral talks offer.
It is no argument to say that Islamabad has no control either over terrorists or over Kashmiri insurgents. To the extent that it has, it must exercise its power. Who, for instance, started shooting at the Siachen Glaciers towards the end of April? One sees a growing insistence on the part of Pakistan for bilateral talks; in part this could be because the USA is now practically at the edge of calling Pakistan a terrorist state.
A US State Department report on terrorism has clearly identified Pakistan and Afghanistan as providing support to international terrorists. A few more terrorists attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, and Washington may finally find itself branding its former ally a terrorist state. The consequences could be very hard on Islamabad. But why is there such a persistent demand among Indian strategists and commentators that the time has now come for holding bilateral talks? Among them is Mr K.F. Rustamji, a well-known strategist whose intentions surely are strictly honourable. His arguments are as follows:
General Musharraf on the whole appears to be a civilised person; he must be helped out if our subcontinent is to have a future. If we help Pakistan and Afghanistan at this time we will be doing a service to all in our neighbourhood. A wounded Pakistan, a desperate Pakistan, an isolated and unsupported Pakistan will be a real danger to us. On the other hand, if we help Pakistan out of its present predicament, this will be remembered. Why cant we help Musharraf to restore Pakistans economy? Instead of weakening him, we should try and strengthen his hands, so that he can control terrorist groups.
Mr Rustamjis further argument is that poverty and hunger have driven many Afghans to terrorism and that General Musharraf has been diverting them to Kashmir in order to save Pakistans own skin. Ergo, Mr Rustamjis solution is that first we must work out ways of helping Afghanistan to return to normalcy which in turn would reduce the number of Afghans who are resorting to mercenary activities which in turn would help Pakistan and in the end India as well. The argument is appealing. One should certainly help Afghanistan, but how? Shouldnt the USA which once used Pakistan to arm Afghan rebels to fight Soviet intrusion in their territory, now come into the picture in a big way to help starving Afghanistan? Has Mr Rustamji thought of that? He says that whatever we choose to do, can we refuse to talk to a neighbour who is imploring us to come to the fence and settle differences?And he adds: Can we close the gate never knowing, never understanding, what he wants to say?
That is enticingly put. But it is not that Pakistan is all that helpless and isolated. If it wants to convey something to New Delhi, it can do so very easily by whispering into the ears of the US Ambassador in Islamabad as to what it has in mind and surely Washington will then do the needful? Pakistan cannot pretend to be helpless in controlling terrorists. Has it come to such a stage that it cannot control law and order within its own jurisdiction? India can afford to be generous, but time and again this has been taken for weakness, right from the days of Prithviraj who was fooled by Mohammad Ghauri. And was it General Musharraf who was planning Kargil when, out of the goodness of his heart, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee undertook the bus journey to Lahore? And for being decent and willing to extend his hand of friendship to Pakistan the Congress has been berating him ceaselessly. Why should the Vajpayee government or any government in New Delhi allow itself once again to be taken for a ride?
We have to strive to get out of our kinds the mood of retribution, says Mr Rustamji. Goodness knows that India wants peace in Jammu and Kashmir as much as if not more than anyone else. It has released Hurriyat leaders. Former Chief Minister of the state, Syed Mir Quasim, is being seen as a key intermediary between the government and the Hurriyat leaders. That is just as well. The All-Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) apparently wants Pakistan to be a party to any talks with the government. That is a bit too early. Let talks be first initiated between the Hurriyat and the government, and let there be some understanding between the two. And if a third party has to be brought into the discussions why shouldnt it be Ladakh or Jammu? Surely, those who have been displaced from the valley, especially the Kashmiri Pandits, should also have a voice in deciding the future of the state?
The government may think that it can as well speak on behalf of the Kashmiri Pandits and the Ladakhis, but why make such a presumption? Let the Pandit spokesmen face the Hurriyat leaders on their own. If anybody has paid a heavy price, it is the Kashmiri Pandit community. That community has every right to be represented at any talks between New Delhi and the Hurriyat. Not Pakistan. And if any understanding is reached between these two, then that should be binding on Pakistan, which in any event has no locus standi in regard to Kashmir, no matter what its pretensions are.
But it may well be argued that that is not how Islamabad sees the issue and it may, in the circumstances, wish to continue to create trouble for India. Against the wishes of the Hurriyat? Against the wishes of a united Jammu and Kashmir? That would take some nerve. But if our liberals want India to offer some face-saving device for General Musharraf, that should not be difficult to arrange. Perhaps Pakistan can be invited to send a non-official observer at the talks. At any rate it is unlikely that the Hurriyat will not be in constant touch with Pakistan during the negotiations. Nobody wants to see Islamabad eat crow or be seen to be humbled though it deserves that treatment. But it must remember that it cannot blackmail India and it cannot force this country to enter into bilateral talks through terrorist activities. That is plainly a No. In the final analysis, it is up to the people of Pakistan to rebel against their own Army for bringing them to such terrible straits. There are signs that the Pakistani people are getting restive. And it is a good thing to encourage them now. Fully and firmly.
much fury, little understanding
THE pasting of the list of tainted IAS and IPS officers on the Web by the CVC had the effect of an avalanche being unleashed, leading to much sound and fury. The move was dubbed quixotic and publicity stunt, and certain defects in the list were exploited to call the action unfair and imprudent. In the dust that was kicked up, the clarity of vision appears to have been lost. Much of the fury and outrage appear to have been caused by the lack of awareness of the mandate and powers of the institution, as also the lack of understanding of the ways in which corruption ought to be fought.
Corruption is not a phenomenon peculiar to India. Different countries of the world have been grappling with the issue ever since it was conclusively established that it was the most formidable roadblock between a people and their prosperity. One approach to fighting this menace, around which consensus has been building up world-wide, is to make corruption visible. Traditionally, even talking formally about corruption in public used to be considered below dignity, and even today talking about corruption in ones own organisation is considered as despicable disloyalty. The issue was such a taboo that Lal Bahadur Shastri, the then Union Home Minister, could not secure a formal status from the government for the Santhanam Committee on the Prevention of Corruption, which he was instrumental in setting up in 1962. The result of suppressing a formal debate and the deliberations on corruption has been that it has grown constantly, and has assumed dimensions today that are nothing less than catastrophic.
It has to be clearly understood that it is high time corruption was made visible by talking and writing about it, and by publishing all the material that may be available on the subject online. What the CVC has done is, therefore, in conformity with the accepted norms world-wide. As regards the publication of names of dead persons, and persons who have been exonerated, admittedly the CVC could have been more discrete. However, there is nobody who does not make mistakes. While the CVCs action has caused much anger and resentment among a certain class of people, it has attracted wide appreciation from common citizens. This is because of the widespread realisation that the higher bureaucracy in India, represented by the IAS, the IPS and the Central Services, has failed the country, and is largely responsible for corruption among the political executive which cannot afford to be corrupt without their active or tacit collusion. It is also widely felt that corruption among petty officials at the cutting edge levels cannot persist in its present form without the active or tacit patronage of these high civil servants. This is not to suggest that all or most of the higher civil servants are corrupt. But certainly the number of dubious elements among them has grown to an unprecedented level. The Central Vigilance Commissioner has done well to hit them hard, and people expect him to hit them harder. The debate caused by the episode would certainly contribute towards a greater awareness of the issues involved, and would ultimately, therefore, lead to a reduction in corruption if the tempos maintained.
Those who saw the material placed on the website would pity the institution of the CVC for its sheer helplessness. A column in the table of tainted IAS officers against whom proceedings or prosecutions were recommended by the CVC, starting in 1990, showed that in nearly all cases the government departments did not till date inform the CVC whether any action was taken by them on the commissions recommendations. Not many people know that the commission is a purely advisory body, and its recommendations are not binding on the government or any of its undertakings. This point was raised and debated when the commission was going to be set up. The governments reply to this was that even though it was granting it an advisory status, its recommendations would be accepted in the same manner in which the Union Public Service Commissions recommendations were accepted, which was also an advisory body. Under the Resolution of the Government of India of 1964, the CVC has powers to call for reports from the government and its departments. However, this power does not seem to have worked because till date the institution does not have any information on what happened to its recommendations of proceedings or prosecutions against some of the high officials. The commission is supposed to report all this through its annual report which is placed before Parliament, but the latter has not been able to find enough time to look into such petty matters. The only way left to the CVC was, therefore, to go public and place the information online that it was helpless in securing the necessary details from the government departments. The commissions initiative has been able to generate the necessary public opinion and pressure to set the ball rolling.
Questions were also raised asking the CVC to explain what it had been doing on other more important fronts for curbing corruption, such as gathering concrete evidence against the officials. Not everybody knows that the commission does not have its own investigative machinery. Few would also know that as early as 1963 the Santhanam Committee had felt that the CBI (then known as the Delhi Police Establishment) ought to be placed under the control of the commission. From 1964 to 1998 the institution did not have any investigative arm over which it had any control, though it was empowered to refer complaints to the CBI for enquiry or investigation. The commission did not even have powers to search premises and effect seizures, to examine safe deposit lockers, to take evidence on oath or to compel witnesses to testify before it. After the statutory status was conferred upon the commission in 1998 through an Ordinance in pursuance of the Supreme Courts orders, it was given certain powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, like summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath. But the commission is still not empowered to search premises and effect seizures for gathering evidence against its suspects. These are some of the powers that must be conferred on the commission if it is to be enabled to gather concrete evidence against people, and to fulfil peoples expectations. However, the CVC Bill, 1999, does not seek to confer these powers on the institution, though the debate in Parliament may lead to suitable provisions to this effect being inserted in the final Act.
This is not to say that the commission has done in the past all that lay within its competence. However, it is never too late, and the present CVC deserves peoples support for taking certain concrete measures, not taken earlier by any of his predecessors, for building awareness around the issue of corruption in high places, and for exposing the corrupt. However, the focus of the commission now ought to shift to more positive and painstaking work possible within the powers that are available, and that may be granted to it under the CCV Act, 1999, that awaits approval of Parliament.
Clinton keeps fit
PRESIDENT Clinton, in a far-ranging interview to Esquire magazine, had spoken of how he keeps his cool under the pressures and stresses of his office and his prescription for keeping physically fit.
Exigency of space forced Esquire to excise parts of the interview. Here with the excised portion.
Mr President, we notice that youve exceptionally well-developed wrist muscles. Do you do any heavy exercises with iron dumb-bells?
No, I dont. I use the full force of the strength in my wrists to twist the arms of multilateral financial institutions like the World Bank and the IMF and force them to indefinitely suspend loans and grants to poor, developing countries of the third world who dont toe the American line. This is an exercise I enjoy very much.
Mr President, could you tell us how fishing helps you to keep fit?
Well, fishing helps me to relax and unwind from the tensions and pressures of the oval office. However, I dont mean fishing for trout and salmon in the Potomac river. Instead, I enjoy fishing in troubled waters.
Mr President, the American people are very proud that they have a President who at 54 stands ramrod straight without the slightest hint of a stoop. What exercises do you do?
Well, Ive developed my own regimen of isometric exercises which I call cold war posturings. That accounts for my erect stance.
How does riding help you keep fit?
Well, theres nothing as good for the inside of a man as the outside of a horse. Mind you, riding two horses at the same time, like solemnly pledging Americas untinted support and commitment to human rights and liberty and simultaneously arming to the teeth blood-thirsty tyrants.
Mr President, may we also comment on your tremendously well-developed neck. Do you recommend any special exercises to develop neck muscles?
Well, Ive my own regimen. Even to the most reasonable proposals like temporarily suspending the aerial bombardment of Yugoslavia to facilitate a diplomatic solution to the Balkans crisis or measures to restrict the emission of the greenhouse gases. I shake my head vigorously in dissent and that helps exercise my neck muscles.
Mr President, what about the food you eat? Do you follow any special diet which accounts for your glowing health?
Well, actually I dont follow any particular diet, but I do confess that Ive a weakness for desserts?
colours of beauty bandwagon
IT was in 1966 that a 19-year-old medical student from Mumbai Sashayed down the ramp just for a lark, dressed in her mothers saree and a pair of wobbly gold sandals which gave way in the final round.
Walking barefoot on the ramp and, to the amazement of everyone including herself, Rita Faria swept away the Miss India crown. A few months later, she clinched for India its first Miss World crown. In spite of the achievement, however, all Faria got in the country was a few column spreads and momentary adulation before slipping into the nations collective amnesia.
Thirty four years later, another young Indian, 22-year-old Lara Dutta, clinched the Miss Universe 2000 title in Nicosia, Cyprus. But this time, there may have been a sense of deja vu. Indian beauties coming up trumps at international pageants has become all too common. Dutta, 5 ft. 8 in. tall, beat 78 beautiful contestants to win the crown.
Duttas title was Indias fifth in international pageants in six years. Winners from India include Miss World 1999 Yukta Mookhey, Sushmita Sen who won the Miss Universe title in 1994, Aishwarya Rai (Miss World 1994) and Diana Hayden (Miss World 1997).
Beauty is serious business now, having come a long way from the days of Rita Faria. Months of rigorous training, fitness workouts, skin care and personality development go into the making of a beauty queen.
In a sense, the turning point came in 1992 after Madhu Sapre lost the Miss Universe title for failing to impress the judges in the interview round. A battery of experts then began working on contestants. And then came 1994, the watershed year, when Indian women won the two most coveted international beauty pageants: Delhi girl Sushmita Sen became Miss Universe and the doe-eyed beauty Aishwarya Rai brought home the Miss World title.
With that, the spotlight was definitely on these contests and in came a host of professionals the dentist, the cosmetologist, the dietician and what have you to make things picture perfect. And the tools of the trade also became more sophisticated.
It was reported that at the Miss India contest, Rai was reportedly horrified at the thought of revealing sallow thighs in the swimsuit round and promptly got herself an artificial tan under a solar lamp at Pais clinic. Former Miss India Manpreet Brar, one of the runners-up at the Miss Universe contest, had her angular jaw chiselled into a softer oval by cosmetic orthodontist Mayekar whose skills have lighted up the smiles of several Miss Indias.
Rhinoplasty, a common nose job, is a fad today, with sharp tips and pearl-drop shaped nostrils being the in thing. A couple of silicon injections could also turn a pursed grimace into a voluptuous pout and chubby cheeks make way for high cheekbones.
The makeovers cost anywhere from Rs 25,000 to Rs 100,000, but given the sweepstakes which run into several thousands of dollars for winners of Miss Universe and Miss World titles its a small investment. That, in a span of five years, has helped India produce almost as many international beauty queens.
The bottom line, of course, is big bucks. It is rumoured that sponsors like Palmolive spend more than Rs 100 million on the Miss India pageant in return for free and prolific publicity. Miss India and the two runners-up in turn endorse all their products gratis, for a year.
In 1999 four extra crowns were added Miss Talented, Miss Body Beautiful, Miss Beautiful Smile and Miss Photogenic. The changing profile of the contests ultimate goal can be gauged by the fact that the winners are now called Miss India-Universe, Miss India-World and Miss India-Asia Pacific. The erstwhile titles of Miss India, Miss India-Runner-up first and second are passe.
Also the pageants dont just showcase dumb beauties. From 1947 when Eves Weekly sponsored the event and the early sixties when Femina took over, successive years have seen girls from varied backgrounds: Rita Faria returned with the Miss World crown to complete her studies and pick up the stethoscope, while a host of contemporary beauty queens are pursuing careers that have little to do with looks. Former Miss India-Asia Pacific Mini Menon is doing her doctorate in communications, Miss India Lymaraina DSouza is pouring over her psychology books in the University of Hawaii while Miss World Diana Hayden is sharpening her acting skills at the London School of Drama.
Not surprisingly though
many queens have carved out a career in modelling
Lara Dutta herself, Mehr Jessia and Madhu Sapre leading
the brigade while Bollywood has lured many more like
Zeenat Aman way back in 1970, and then Tina Munim and
Juhi Chawla. Of course, there was Persis Khambatta who
stormed Hollywood as the bald prima donna of Star Trek.
India Abroad News Service
of Tihar jail
PACKED into one barrack of New Delhis top-security Tihar central jail are dozens of women whose frail appearance and claims of innocence hide the brutal crime for which they are in prison. They are the women either accused or convicted of murdering their daughters-in-law, by setting them afire, feeding them poison or throwing them off the roof. The crime is called dowry murder, an offence fed by an insatiable greed for wealth, and the growing number of inmates in ward number seven, jail number one, the mothers-in-laws barrack, shows how prevalent it is.
Until last year-end there were 70 women in ward number seven. Today there are 95 of them, almost a fifth of the entire population of women held in the sprawling Tihar jail, reported to be Asias largest, where prisoners are grouped together by the nature of their offence.
Almost all claim to be innocent of the crime, whether they be undertrials or convicts. Seventy-year-old Rama (not her real name), for instance. Convicted of burning her youngest daughter-in-law, Rama still maintains that she had nothing to do with the death. I was in no way involved in her suicide, Rama told the IANS correspondent who got special permission to visit the jail and interview the women.
According to the prosecution, Ramas son married his sweetheart five years ago despite her objections. The daughter-in-law brought little dowry and one day, after a spat, she burned her to death. Rama claims the daughter-in-law went into the kitchen, closed the door and set herself on fire.
Harmeet Kaur, an undertrial in prison for the past two years, claims her daughter-in-laws death was an accident. She claims that her daughter-in-law went on to the terrace of their house to clean it, slipped and fell off the roof.
In jail, the day begins early for the mothers-in-law, with the wake-up call sounding at 5.30 a.m.
The convicts among them are assigned the tougher jobs such as cooking and cleaning the toilets and the undertrials relatively lighter chores such as gardening or attending to children in the jail creche.
Seldom do the women have a good word for their late daughters-in-law. Maya, who is accused of poisoning her daughter-in-law, said: My daughter-in-law was very quarrelsome. Even when I was not well she never looked after me. Even her death has brought nothing else for me and my family but pain, trouble and suffering.
In a rare case, Radha was booked for the deaths of both her son and daughter-in-law. Radha claims that after a bitter quarrel between them, her son and daughter-in-law committed suicide. The police arrested Radha and three other members of her family.
Tihar, Indias best
known jail, has housed some notorious prisoners,
including alleged multiple murderer Charles Sobhraj. Some
11,000 prisoners are lodged in the jail which sprawls
over 400 acres. The 512 women in the prison include 83
convicts and some are as hardened criminals as any of the
men. India Abroad News Service
THE value of work in the direction of improvement in the status and position of women is very important. It is proposed in this connection to carry on an agitation against the purdah system, and work for the removal of numerous legal and social disabilities imposed on women, for securing rights of property and inheritance, enfranchisement for women, raising the age of consent, prevention of child marriages by legislation, provision of special facilities for the right sort of education to girls, etc.
The list of functions is fairly comprehensive, but one greatly misses anything in regard to the amelioration of the condition of widows. The objects detailed are praiseworthy, touching as they do several aspects of social life on which the people in general have not yet learnt to think with an open mind.
Some of them are sure to
meet with a deal of opposition especially, the
work of securing rights of property and inheritance to
women is likely to meet with serious opposition.
But propaganda and agitation against disabilities have a
great significance and when earnestly carried on never
fail to leave a deep impression on the public mind. The
Womens Association has thus a wide career of
usefulness before it and we wish it every success in its
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