|Thursday, May 18, 2000,
soft blow to states
crimes rise in London
May 18, 1925
IT has been a long and justified complaint of the state governments that the Centre treats them like indisciplined second-rate entities. And New Delhi once again lived up to the charge when Parliament pushed through a Constitution Amendment Bill which would take effect from 1995, yes 1995 full fives years earlier. The delay in acting on the recommendations of the Tenth Finance Commission (which submitted its report in that year) has been sharply criticised by Chief Ministers, economists and editorial writers. But that does not mitigate the indifference of the Centre to the demands of the states or its unconcealed attempts to nibble at their financial autonomy. The Bill aligns the provisions of three Articles in the Constitution stipulating the devolution of funds from the Centre. Until 1995, the states received 77.5 per cent of the income tax collection but more or less nothing else. Now the states will get a share of all taxes at a fixed 29 per cent. This is despite the repeated calls by the states for a higher share, say, 33.3 per cent, to help them gain a breathing time. Even here there is stinginess. The Finance Commission proposed that the share should be worked out on the gross receipts; the Centre has changed it to net collection. As a result, the cost of collecting the taxes will be deducted from the pool before calculating the states share. This works out to Rs 2000 crore and thus the states will collectively lose about Rs 700 crore. In other words, there will be sharing of not only revenue but also expenditure. Who can say the Centre is not treating the states as equals?
The Eleventh Finance Commission, headed by Prof A.M.Khusro, is to submit its report by June 30 this year and it will come up with ideas of its own, which may require a similar constitutional amendment. Why did not the Government wait and introduce a comprehensive amendment? It is a mystery. It is known that the Commission has already asked the Centre to release about Rs 16,000 crore to the states to help them tide over the serious financial crisis. There has been no action by the Centre. The RBI has earlier estimated that the additional annual burden of all states on account of the Fifth Pay Commission recommendations is about Rs 20,000 crore. Maharashtra says it has to set apart 75 per cent of its revenue to pay the salary of its employees and Punjab is forced to borrow Rs 100 crore every month to remain financially afloat.
The Centre has an answer
to this and that has angered the states. It has asked the
Finance Commission to suggest punitive measures against
those states which do not introduce economic reforms it
orders. In other words, money will go to those states
which unquestioningly obey the central orders on
financial matters and will be denied to those who have an
independent mind of their own. Kerala Chief Minister
Nayanar has protested against this central directive to
the Finance Commission and has demanded its immediate
recall. The instruction is particularly inopportune since
the Union Finance Minister has convened a meeting of
Chief Ministers on Friday. He could have mooted the
question there and elicited a collective opinion. But he
chose the backdoor method and it reveals the
Centres attitude to the states. Stormy days are
FURORE in the media and the outcry by the IT industry have had the desired effect and the Information Technology Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha without draconian provisions. If the recommendations of a Standing Committee in this regard had gone unchallenged, it would have not only been necessary for anyone visiting a cybercafe to produce a ration card or some other proof of his identity but the café owner would also have had to keep track of what websites he visits. These suffocating provisions have been kept out but the one relating to the "police raj" is still there. Under this clause, any police officer not below the rank of Deputy Superintendent of Police, or any other officer of the Central Government or a State Government authorised by the Central Government on its behalf, may enter any public space and search and arrest without warrant any person found therein who is reasonably suspected of having committed or of committing or of being about to commit any offence under this Act. This brings it as close to TADA as it can get. First of all, the record of the police in misusing even less severe provisions is well known. These become a convenient tool for them to harass anyone they feel like or to make a quick buck. Two, the government reserves the right to authorise even a junior functionary to do the needful. All he has to do before the dreaded midnight (or mid-day, as the case may be) knock is to have or feign "reasonable" suspicion that a computer crime is "about to be committed" at this place. The logic forwarded by the Information and Technology Minister, Mr Pramod Mahajan, in this regard is ingenious. If this clause is not incorporated, he says, the CrPC will become applicable and even a constable will be able to take action. This is a classic case of being given a choice between the devil and the deep sea: if you don't want to be harassed by a constable, grin and bear it when it is the DSP who does so! Internet has grown into an extremely powerful tool only because it was free of government fetters all over the world. Getting the chains ready is neither desirable nor feasible.
As it happens in the
case of all highly technical Bills, this one has been
rushed through the Lok Sabha at double-quick (it was
circulated among members on Saturday and passed on
Tuesday). Despite its widespread ramifications, there was
very little debate on the various clauses. When the Prime
Minister himself says that he has limited knowledge of
the subject, the condition of the other MPs can well be
imagined. Two things need to be properly understood in
this regard. There is need to enforce laws in cyberspace
to nip hacking and computer frauds. Only then can
e-commerce and e-governance grow. Regulatory structure is
necessary to give a fillip to Internet-based commercial
transactions. But as far as the content of various
websites is concerned, it is undesirable to have
censorship. What is available on the Internet is a matter
of individual choice and there are tools galore which
ensure that such and such types or images or words do not
reach one's computer. If it is the government which goes
out with the scissors, the results can be disastrous for
the right to free speech and unfettered communication. It
should be remembered that wherever human rights have been
violated in the world in the recent past, the Internet
has been used effectively by the victims to let the
outside world know about their plight. In any case, it is
futile to attempt to put restrictions. Even if you excise
all "undesirable" material from Indian
websites, what about the contraventions committed outside
India? What is actually required is a team of top experts
who can keep one step ahead of the hackers and
cyber-criminals. Just as anti-social elements can reach
across the borders with the help of the Internet, this
force of trained men can keep them in leash. The task is
too sensitive and specialised to be left to thanedaars.
As it is, the country has too many speedbreakers on the
information highway. It will be suicidal to put
"police nakas" as well.
THE Union Cabinet's approval of the Bill to carve out a new hill state of Uttaranchal has led to a Catch-22 situation for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh. While the issue of Udham Singh Nagar has gone into the background as UP politicians appear to be less interested in its future, a major controversy threatening the very survival of the BJP-led coalition ministry headed by Mr Ram Prakash Gupta has erupted over Hardwar. The draft Bill, likely to be introduced in the current session of Parliament, has it that Hardwar, besides Udham Singh Nagar, will be a part of Uttaranchal. Obviously, the Chief Minister has not been able to convince his party's central leadership not to touch Hardwar because of religious and economic reasons as it does not fit into the latter's scheme of things. In any case, his word against the decision carries little meaning as Mr Gupta does not have the required political muscle. The BJP stand has annoyed not only its coalition partners in UP but also many of Mr Gupta's party colleagues who had already been plotting to throw him out of the Chief Ministerial chair. The Loktantrik Congress Party led by Mr Naresh Aggarwal and the Janata Dal (R) have threatened to dissociate themselves from the ruling coalition if their viewpoint is ignored. The disenchanted BJP leaders in UP who have not come out against the Union Cabinet's decision so openly must be quietly expressing their resentment as Hardwar may influence the outcome of the assembly elections due next year. The economic aspect of the Hardwar issue is more serious than anything else for those fighting for UP's case, as Uttaranchal with Hardwar will have the controlling point of the Ganga Canal with it, and that means the new state can create problems for UP if there is a clash of interests between the two in future. Or one can say that giving Hardwar to Uttaranchal will amount to sowing the seeds of a Cauveri-type dispute in the North. All this means a major loss for the BJP in UP, already weakened because of the absence of Mr Kalyan Singh. And with Mr Ram Prakash Gupta as the party leader, there is no escape from a disaster. The party's central leadership knows all this and may have to look for Mr Guptas replacement in the near future, the denial by the BJP chief, Mr Kushabhau Thakre, notwithstanding.
Yet the Hardwar question
will remain unanswered for UP. The supporters of
Uttaranchal argue that historically and culturally
Hardwar has always been a part of the area going to be
given the status of a state. The truth, however, is that
the district is being used to weaken the case of the
people of Udham Singh Nagar the majority of whom are
opposed to their area being gifted to Uttaranchal. It is
a different matter that without Hardwar and Udham Singh
Nagar, the new state will be economically unviable.
Uttaranchal, if created in accordance with the provisions
of the Bill cleared by the Union Cabinet, will continue
to remain a BJP pocketborough as it is today. Any
alteration in it will spell doom for the party in the new
state. One can, therefore, understand the strategy of the
BJP leadership: why lose something already in your hands?
UP can be taken care of at a later stage. But it is not
as simple as that. A weak party in UP may not be in a
commanding position at the Centre.
BETTER late than never that should be Indias approach in straightening out the knots with the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), presently going through yet another review conference at New York. Rather than close ones eyes in the face of a ferocious entity, one has to be on vigil how best to tackle it make peace with it or confront it with equal ferocity.
That describes Indias predicament in relation to the NPT. Unfortunately hitherto the tendency here has been to shut ones eyes to the NPT by repeating the mantra, India is not a member of the NPT! But as Foreign Minister Jaswant Singhs statement on the floor of the Lok Sabha indicated, New Delhi is leaving this posture behind to engage the NPT powers in order to sort out Indias nuclear status as well as this countrys role in the treatys declared, but hitherto largely fictitious, objective of curbing and ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons.
In engaging the NPT, one has to take the ground reality into account. True, the NPT is discriminatory; it is hegemonistic and inimical to India. But it embraces a near world-wide membership. All but four nations Cuba, Israel, India and Pakistan are on its rolls. And of these, Cubas non-accession to the NPT is related to the continuing American presence at Guantanomo base on its soil, not because of weapons programme. Israel does not defy the NPT, for it can hide its nuclear weapons behind the Wests apron strings. Can the NPT be ignored by India despite its being discriminatory?
Five years ago when the NPT review and renewal conference was held at New York, India chose to shut its eyes to the conference despite this countrys vital stakes. India was on strong ground to confront the five NPT overlords because of its impeccable record. But instead of telling the NPT review conference to restructure the treaty because it was being used as a tool by the five nuclear weapon powers, Indian absence from the scene was used by the big five to steam-roll their hegemony by extending the NPTs life indefinitely. Fortunately, the 1995 conference made provisions for a review in the year 2000. The present conference is the occasion to straighten out the knots by registering Indias status as a weapon power.
Let it be clear, however, that this is not going to be a smooth affair, all the more because in Indias dealings with the NPT, the trajectory of events has been jumping between fault lines. Indias initial stand on the NPT was flawed. While rightly denouncing the treaty as discriminatory, India should have offered to join the NPT with weapon power status on the strength of its plutonium-based weapon capability, acquired in 1965 by building a spent fuel plutonium reprocessing plant.
The validity of this Indian breakthrough in weapon technology was tested in 1974 at Pokhran and Indian scientists got top marks. But a forthright assertion of Indias claim for a membership of the NPT with weapon status was lacking. Instead, India remained content with proclaiming that it retained the weapon option which, after the elapse of two and a half decades, looked weak and apologetic, because elsewhere atomic weapon arsenals and innumerable tests were piling up. The point to realise is that in confronting the NPT powers a wishy-washy stand in favour of abolishing nuclear weapons will not do. Apologias and even proclamation of no-first-use of nuclear weapons have been of no avail in pushing India case forward.
It is the assertion of Indias right to weapon status that matters. But this has to be backed up by rightful and weighty claims. One, because India has created weapon capability indigenously, by its scientific abilities just as any of the other weapon states. Two, because even if one accepts the NPTs irrational and self-proclaimed cut-off year as 1969, India had built weapon capability by virtue of creating weapon grade plutonium four years ahead in 1965. Three, Indian weapon capability has been tested twice in 1974 and then in 1998 in a series of highly successful tests at Pokhran.
One should have no illusions that a rapport between the NPT powers and India is going to be easy. If for no other reason than the fact that the Indian tests conducted just two years after 1995 NPT review conference gave the treaty indefinite extension and a mandate to carry forward its non-proliferation mission have shaken the confidence in the NPT. The present NPT conference, in fact, poses a credibility test for the treaty which, if it fails to fulfil, may well result in the NPT gradually fizzling out. The consequence is growing tension between the NPT and India. The five nuclear weapon states have come out with a statement asserting that they will not recognise India as a nuclear weapon state despite its successful tests, and have asked this country to abide by the Security Council resolution asking India and Pakistan to roll back their weapon programmes.
Where do we go from here? The fact is the NPT, despite its massive membership, has many chinks. It is far from being unassailable. A determined India can force it to accept a reasonable and rational modus vivendi in the interests of building an edifice for nuclear non-proliferation and curbing weapon arsenals with a view to ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons. India can build rapport also with most of the NPT members who are non-nuclear weapon states, interested in the containment and ultimately elimination of nuclear weapons. The five NPT overlords are aware of their shaky dominance since they continue to be the biggest vertical proliferators.
Voices are already being heard from within the NPT critical of the five weapon states who had pledged that they would work to eliminate nuclear weapons but have gone in the reverse direction. Seven key nations Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, Ireland, New Zealand, Egypt and Brazil said in a statement from the UN: We stress that the total elimination of nuclear weapons is an obligation and a priority and not an ultimate goal. The nonaligned countries too have shaken off their ambiguity and called upon the signatories to the NPT to negotiate a legal instrument to assure non-nuclear weapon states against the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons. India has support this NAM initiative but most of the NPT weapon powers are opposed to the move.
India could well seize the initiative to bring about a rapprochement. Mr Jaswant Singhs approach towards the NPT elaborated in his statement in Parliament is a timely contribution in this direction since it will push the ongoing discussion in the NPT conference at New York. India has given up its earlier wishy-washy posture. The unambiguous message from Mr Singh was that the NPT community must understand that India cannot join the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state. Implicit in this assertion is a revision of Indias hitherto facile stand of boycott of the NPT, opting for the possibility of India joining the treaty with a weapon status. Can this be done? It can provide the treaty is amended to include nations such as India as members of the NPT with weapon status. An alternative is to add a protocol to the NPT recognising the reality of Indian weapon status and accepting Indias willingness to cooperate and join in building a non-proliferation regime that is universal and effective.
A way out of the nuclear imbroglio on these lines is not only salutary but also promises advance towards the goal of curbing nuclear weapons. Any alternative bid to coerce India will recoil. It will hurt the powers that take a hostile posture towards this country and will damage the non-proliferation regime which the five weapon powers claim to be working for. One of the first casualties will be the CTBT which is unworkable without Indian participation. The question will, of course, still have to be solved about the relevance of the NPT once the CTBT structure is complete and the CTBT comes into existence after due ratification by the five weapon powers and the few others that have still to sign the CTBT, including India and Pakistan. India is, as Mr Jaswant Singh has stated explicitly, in full compliance with the obligations that the NPT imposes on a nuclear weapon state, the most important being not to further spread its weapon technology to other states at any price. Though not a party to the NPT, Indias policies have been consistent with the key provisions of the NPT that apply to nuclear states, Mr Jaswant Singh said in his policy declaration in the Lok Sabha.
On resolving the question of Indias weapon status and amicable relations with the NPT members, therefore, rests, to a large extent, the future of non-proliferation endeavours as well as the NPT-CTBT conundrum. Let wisdom and larger interests of humanity prevail, rather than the power play of the five big nuclear states.
of managing drought
DROUGHT has made life miserable in many parts of the country, especially in the Kutch-Saurashtra region of Gujarat, western Rajasthan and western Orissa. In the absence of rain, the last seasons residual water in small storages owned privately or provided under public utility services by the government has exhausted and wherever little is left is contaminated and unfit for consumptive use. Groundwater has receded beyond the extractable level. The situation is that of a water famine. The other adjoining areas and the Deccan plateau, even some of the northern states, including important cities, are facing a water crisis. In general, the scarcity of water in summer months is widespread.
The country has eradicated food famine in terms of starvation, but water famine still persists and strikes almost every year albeit in varying intensity. Among about a 100 drought-prone districts covering 13 states, a few like Jaisalmer, Barmer, Bikaner and Jodhpur in Rajasthan, Kutch, Banaskantha, Rajkot and Jamnagar in Gujarat; and Kalahandi and Phulbani in Orissa are familiar drought period names. Rajasthan has the largest drought-prone area followed by Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, UP, West Bengal, Orissa, Haryana and J & K. Sahdol district in Madhya Pradesh has the least irrigation and drinking water facilities. The next in order are Jaisalmer and Churu in Rajasthan. Mahendragarh in Haryana is on top of all the drought-prone districts for harnessing surface and groundwater resources.
Typically, the drought-affected areas in Rajasthan and Gujarat deserts receive an annual rainfall of 100 mm to 400 mm, and the pan evaporation varies from 2500 mm to 3000 mm. A comparison between the two natural processes is an outright mismatch. It is useful to hold all the rain at the point where it falls if the benefits are commensurate with the efforts put in for the purpose. Those involved in the efforts to mitigate drought in the desert by capturing rain must take note of the related hydrological phenomena as success in such conditions would be elusive.
Water harvesting is useful for such areas as receive frequent storms of a large magnitude to cause surface runoff. Semi-arid areas with an annual rainfall in the range of 400 mm to 750 mm having rolling terrain, including a hard pan plateau region, can benefit from the water harvesting technique by making ponds, dykes at slope bottom and a series of small dams on seasonal streams to intercept surface runoff. These will be beneficial short-term supplements in a drought-like condition. The forage around such water bodies will increase with an improved moisture regime despite a still high pan evaporation of about 2000 mm to 2500 mm. A medium rainfall in the range of 750 mm to 1000 mm and also high rainfall areas are ideally suited for water harvesting. The pan evaporation in these areas is about 1500 mm to 2000 mm and 1000 mm respectively. While meeting the dry period demand, the water will also percolate down to improve the aquifer. The hilly areas where surface runoff quickly drains away leaving the upland high and dry would be immensely benefited by such measures.
Instances of successful roofwater harvesting in water butts already exist in a few countries as also in the Indian states of Meghalaya and Mizoram. The conventional roof material was replaced by corrugated steel sheets so that the quality of water is acceptable for bathing and washing purposes. There is need to replicate the technique under similar conditions in other states as well for domestic use. Even critical irrigation for small holdings as we mostly have in the country has been in vogue through a large number of historical tanks and ponds in Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The other states ought to take a cue by encouraging NGOs and mobilising farmers associations for harvesting surface runoff.
The current plight of Rajasthan could have been minimised by the expeditious completion of Indira Gandhi Nahar Pariyojna (IGNP), Stage-II. Benefits of IGNP, Stage-I in Ganganagar and Bikaner districts in terms of increased vegetal cover, a rise in rainfall, greater social mobility and decreased migration have been revealed in various studies. Similar changes are expected in Jaisalmer, Jalore and Barmer districts on the completion and proper operation of IGNP, stage-II. With Gujarats share of 11.1 cubic km in Narmada waters, the severity of drought would have been felt less in Bharuch and the adjoining areas of Gujarat as well as Jalore district of Rajasthan if the construction was not hindered by anti-dam lobbyists. Medha Patkars supporters, lying low at this time of crisis, should change their Narmada Bachao stance to a Drought Hatao movement so that water-starved people can quench their thirst and also hunger by tilling their land. The apathy towards their miseries is a sin.
The country already has national highways, national waterways, the national power grid, etc. In view of the frequent drought in summer and floods during the monsoon, there is need to have a National Water Grid or whatever other name given to it, for inter-basin management of water resources as a long-term solution to the problem ensuring a sufficient quantity of acceptable quality water to the people.
WHENEVER and wherever you meet a person of disarming innocence, you are instinctively inclined to be drawn into the larger questions of evil and suffering in life. For to retain the bloom of innocence in a long passage is to be blessed with energies or character-qualities that somehow remain sufficient and whole even in the midst of overt and covert terrors. The cruelty of certain contingencies and encounters in life, therefore, can only bruise such souls for a while; its powerless before those armed with innocence that passeth understanding. Well, the heroine of our brief story which has the air of a fairy tale, so to speak, is a sprightly, handsome lady who carries the glow of 70 summers on her fair ginger-white head with ease and aplomb, and whose radiance touches beatitude in certain moments of felicity. It appears to me, her natal or primal innocence, which almost always gets dissipated en route at some stage, got subsumed in her plate-glass transparency. Just a single meeting with her is enough to stop the cynics in their track. In her presence, evil does look banal, to recall Hannah Arndts words.
However, let me return to her not-too-long association with me and my wife. She walked into my life one memorable morning like a breath of spring breeze, and in that moment I felt an upswing in my spirit, a moment to be preserved in its purity. A laughing, chattering warbling gracious lady with something of a winsome girlish aspect, her entry has, since then, lit up my secluded study at the rear of the house in the manner of the cathedral candles in the twilight hours. Its difficult to describe the poetry of her high spirits, her beautiful buffoonery, and her compelling energies. Since my condition age and illness and my constraints do not permit me to socialise around, she, amongst others, has always tried to quicken my pulse, to sweeten my abbreviated, stricken life, though she remains a sui generis phenomenon in an age of insensivity and hedonism, an orchid of rare charm and aroma in an expanding wilderness.
Yes, I have had the privilege of receiving armfuls of roses and love from persons, quite a few from nowhere, and these include some literary kinsmen, some young dove-like young girls descending from the boughs, as it were, to coo endearments into my eager ears, some little girls in frocks and frills me into a state of silliness, or toddlers reaching out to plant a peck on my drawn cheeks. And in this jolly crowd, Tara, for Im now privileged to call her by her maiden name, she stands out as a person with her own signatures and her own address, a person possessed by happiness.
I spend my time, day
after day, month after month, year after year now in the
territories of the mind and the imagination, with
nostalgia as a faithless mistress, and with some old
dreams gone grey and senile. When the clock of memories
stops ticking, I turn to the one on the wall in front of
me to measure my medicines or other creature needs, for
otherwise the Canadian machine up there remains in a
sweet swoon for most part of the day. And its out
of such a vacancy, such a waste, and such a bed of
blues that Im pulled back by my
ordained callers. And I repeat, in sheer boisterousness
and abandon, no one comes close to our lady of the
lillies, as Im tempted to call her. And so
Tara the name itself proclaims her essence
who, I understand, is a godmother to so many
other stricken senior citizens, and who administers to
their needs and even fancies; organises, single-handed,
festivals of joy ever so frequently has, as you can
imagine, come to occupy a place in the sanctuary of my
trudge in droughtland
SEOTI pulled the yellow veil on her face and held it in between her flashing white teeth. Unlike other women she hadnt waved her bangle-filled arms in protest against being photographed. Her health and manner revealed that she was a bloom in the oasis.
The way she gave a helping hand to her mother-in-law to lift the pitchers full of water revealed that she came from a hard working stock. With her mother and three sisters she used to fetch water from a distance of 5 to 6 km at Gopalpur in Alwar district.
She had been married to Ram Sumer in Barmer for he had a permanent government job. During her mothers time marriage to men of Barmer was considered to be a big no no. The men of the area were considered weaklings compared to the tall and lanky men of Alwar.
Seoti was pulled out of school as her parents considered schooling up to fifth standard enough education for girls. After all within a couple of years of her puberty she was to be married off, the father reasoned.
Then there were elections. Borewells were sunk in the area. The Central Government fell within six months. The wells went dry before that.
People in the area were unhappy over the manner in which a few party goons had usurped the contracts for boring wells, doing a half hearted job at that and leaving the people high and dry.
Many of them decided to pool their ideas and energies. Thus was born the Tarun Bharat Sangh. Despite impediments by way of legal action and fines, a johad was dug to capture rainwater. A year later the entire village planted trees in the upper part of the johads watershed.
The time came when the johad brimmed with rainwater and most of the borewells began to yield water. For Seoti this meant a shorter trudge to fetch water. Around this time she was married.
Water scarcity in Barmer was like Gopalpur before the johad. Seotis sister Reoti whose husbands posting in the Army had taken her to Maharashtra wrote to her a few days back about Anna Hazare an old man, but more dynamic than Alwar men. He got people of Ralegan Siddhi to build their percolation tanks. Thus transformed a destitute village into a prosperous one.
Seoti along with other women of the village come a long way to fill their pitchers with brackish water of the well on the outskirts of the village, because its water was better than the water supplied by water tankers.
Last Monday when she was returning from the well she saw the camel eating away the straw from the hut. Her instant reaction was to throw away the pitchers and save the roof. Sensing that it was already dark the lonely trudge to the well and back would not only be arduous, but invite censure from Ram Sumer and the mother-in-law. She held the veil within her teeth and moved on.
There was a flurry of activity next morning. The carcasses strewn on the caked earth were being collected in dumpers and driven away to be fed to vultures. Seoti would feel like throwing up every time she would pass a carcass.
The tankers, leaking, water were rushing to village wells and tractor-trailers were carrying fodder to depots. Overnight village wells were full of water, fodder depots full of stocks.
Seoti was surprised to find a drinking water kiosk near the road at which she along with other men and women worked under the famine relief scheme.
The third day a helicopter descended on the village and a neta moved about the area along with his henchmen. The villagers were heard telling one another the big leader from Delhi would set things in order.
A few days later life came back to its snail speed. It was the same trudge to the well of brackish water where women squabbled to fill the pots with leftover water from what was unloaded on the eve of the netas visit before rushing to the work site.
In Seotis sister-in-law village when people sighted a water tanker once in a week they left the work to fill the vessels and lost the days wages. Life seems to be a no-win race here. It is either water or work.
Heatstroke struck Ram Sumer when he was paddling homewards in the afternoon. He had been feeling thirsty in the office. Since the tanker had not arrived, there was no water in the vessels of the office. He started for home with a parched throat. Since he no longer wore the turban, heatwave struck him on the way. When he entered the hut he felt giddy. It was only when Seoti returned in the evening from the relief worksite that a sherbet was prepared which brought some succour to him.
He is stuck to the mat. He is all alone while Seoti does back-breaking work along side 90-year-old Meerabhai at a relief site.
As I shuffle the photographs of the man-made drought, I recall Vikram Seths lines
That sun that, were there water,
could bless the dispirited land,
coaxing three crops a year
from this same yieldless ground.
Yet would these parched wraiths still
starve in their ruins, while
silkworms around them grow
into fat cocoons? Sad soil.....
crimes rise in London
London: New figures show that race-related crimes in the British capital have more than doubled since last year.
The figures indicate that more such crimes are now actually being reported to the police. But the police believes that many still go unreported and that the incidence of race-related crimes in London is rising rapidly.
The new figures follow a national survey which showed that asylum and immigration are the primary issues of concern to most British nationals. Those concerns hint at resentment against foreigners.
The new report indicating rapidly rising race crimes come as fresh evidence of an upsurge of feeling against foreigners. The crimes are not always directed at non-white foreigners, police figures show. Many white asylum-seekers from Bosnia and East Europe have been attacked in recent incidents.
And while the new figures record a more than double rise in race crimes in London, police believes such a rise has taken place across all of Britain.
According to the police in London, there were 23,346 racist incidents here in 1999-2000 compared to 11,050 in 1998-99.
Gurbux Singh, the new chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, an independent government-funded group, said in a statement that the London figures point to a massive nationwide rise in recorded racial incidents.
Mr Gurbux Singh, who is of Indian descent, said: My job is to make sure that the police never again place a lower priority on catching those who victimise other human beings just because of the colour of their skin. Ethnic minorities need better support and better protection from the police.
The police must take racist incidents seriously, listen to local communities and use the latest surveillance and intelligence-gathering techniques, he said. We need to send a clear message to the racists that they will be caught and prosecuted.
He called for a zero-tolerance policy against racists and said lenient sentences send out a message that it is all right to be a racist.
He added: The
proof of whether these policies were working will come in
the shape of a greater diversity of people working in the
public sector. More emphasis on tackling poor education,
poor housing and poor social services that specifically
affect ethnic minority communities and individuals.
IN the opinion of a disinterested American champion of India, belonging perhaps to the School of ODwyer and Sydenham, the Indians have shown their incapacity to exercise self-government in their failure to take advantage of the reasonable advantages that were vouchsafed by the new constitution. But then, what is the remedy?
This worthy American should have given a counsel of perfection to the British by asking them to revoke the constitution and govern Indians in their own interests from Whitehall! Having failed to tender this advice to the British, he was at least as certain as anything can be that India will not get any real power for a century more.
I feel, says he, as certain that the British will be the dominant political force in India a century hence, as I feel certain that we shall have a republican form of government in the United States a century hence.
It is, however, a great
pity that the correspondents of Anglo-Indian paper take
great pains in telegraphing such absurd effusion and
thereby encourage a great many persons to vie with one
another in making outrageously absurd statements so far
as India is concerned. By this process they are doing a
great disservice both to India and England.
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