|Tuesday, May 23, 2000,
The Urban Air
outwitted on Lanka issue
May 23, 1925
ETHNIC clashes have become an everyday occurrence in Tripura, to the extent that news about them has now come to be relegated to the inside pages of national newspapers. But since the death toll in this never-ending bloodletting has crossed the 45-mark within last few days, the country is again waking up to the gravity of the situation. The misfortune of Tripura is that if it is not rocked by ethnic revenge killings then it has to suffer violent insurgency. In the retaliatory attacks that have been going on for long, it is futile to blame any one group. If it was the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) which was on a killing spree on Sunday shooting non-tribals, it was the United Bengali Liberation Front of Tripura (UBLFT) which bombed to death tribals a few days earlier. Both sides have displayed brutality of the worst kind, not sparing even women and children. On paper, these are outlawed organisations but neither suffers from a shortage of either men or material. The NLFT is particularly overstocked with arms. Tripura has an 856-km stretch of international border with Bangladesh on three sides and malcontents have been getting weapons freely. In fact, there are many camps for the insurgents across the border. External agencies like the ISI are fomenting trouble to the fullest. The government has failed to maintain law and order despite tall claims. A special task force of commandos was raised in March, the first of its kind in the northeastern region, with modern weapons, wireless sets, bulletproof equipment and night vision devices. But even that has not made any difference.
The situation in the
state is indeed critical. More than 10,000 non-tribals
have had to flee their homes. There are separate
fortifications of tribal and non-tribal areas. Things
have deteriorated so much that no tribal travels by the
transport run by a non-tribal and vice-versa. The result
is that a vehicle carrying tribals or non-tribals can be
easily distinguished and ambushed. The UBLFT was launched
in October last year after constant brutal attacks on
people of Bengali origin since 1996 but the NLFT today
accuses Chief Minister Manik Sarkar of being in league
with the Bengali ultras. That accusation may not be
genuine but is sensitive enough to anger the tribals who
believe in it fully. The Centre's role has been less than
fair. The fervent pleas of the state for additional
forces have been ignored for long. Nor has it helped in
the development of the state, in the absence of which the
area becomes a breeding ground for disaffection. There is
urgent need for the deployment of adequate security
forces, fencing of the Indo-Bangladesh border and the
posing of more BSF personnel on the border. The issue of
militant training camps in Bangladesh has also to be
taken up with that country in a more forthright manner.
IT is the oldest known fact but the newest study announces it with the aplomb of an adolescent convert to radical ideology. Punjab tops both in terms of the percentage of high income households and per capita spending. Needless to say, Haryana, its green revolution twin, is a very close second; in fact, it noses out the bigger brother in terms of a fewer number of households with a low income. There are two significant aspects to the findings. One, data were collected from 30,000 households and way back in 1997-98. Developments during the past two years, though not major, would still make it necessary to finetune the figures. The National Institute of Applied Economic Research (trying to sound like the more well-known and respected National Council of Applied Economic Research) has confined itself to tabulating the information collected by the field staff. At least from a brief summary appearing in a daily newspaper, it appears the institute has not gone into the economic and social implications of the set of statistics it has come up with. The nation has to wait for a month to read the full report and put together a more comprehensive picture. The wait will be worth it.
Punjab has about 110 lakh households and as high as 40 lakh (36 per cent) have an annual income of Rs 1 lakh or more. As a percentage this takes the state to the very top. Haryana has 32 lakh households (35 per cent) in the high income bracket. Judged by the same yardstick, Maharashtra, the state with the highest gross state domestic product, lags behind with 27.8 per cent but this converts to 168 lakh households, thanks to its bigger population. This is the rich part of the story. The poor part takes Haryana ten notches above Punjab; 28 per cent of the households earn Rs 22,000 or less a year while for Punjab it is 30 per cent. These are averages and need a deeper look to gauge the ground level situation. Big farmers in the rural areas, industrialists, transport operators, contractors and traders should be prominently figuring in the high income bracket. Given the level of development, both in Punjab and Haryana, particularly in the former, a very good percentage of the 40 lakh households must earn several times the benchmark of Rs 1 lakh. If this assumption holds good, the glittering creamy layer should not only be thick but also growing every year.
If read with the number
of low income households, an interesting hypothesis
emerges. Not all families in this group would be bringing
in Rs 22,000 a year; a very good part of it much less
than that because of the nature of rural employment
opportunities and wage rates. Simply put, the disparity
in income, both in the rural and urban areas, is
widening. And in the two top states with the highest per
capita income, dramatically so. This surely will have
some social and political ramifications.
THE Salim Malik "tapes" have given a new twist to the match-fixing controversy, which has shaken the very foundations of international cricket. Britain's News of the World newspaper has claimed that it has infiltrated a global match-fixing ring headed by the talented Pakistani batsman. It said that "undercover reporters" were deployed for obtaining video tapes of the conversation they had with Malik. The footage shows Malik promising to fix games for a whopping amount of Rs 3.5 crore per match. He confirmed the charge, first made by Mr Ali Bacher of the United Cricket Board of South Africa, that the inconsequential 1999 World Cup match which Pakistan lost to lowly Bangladesh was fixed. A significant point which has emerged from the latest expose is that match-fixing assumed the form of a raging epidemic in 1994. Manoj Prabhakar said that he was offered a sum of Rs 25 lakh by a senior Indian cricketer to play below par in a Singer Cup match in Colombo in 1994. Mr I. S. Bindra shifted the needle of suspicion from Mohammad Azharuddin to Kapil Dev. The former President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India said that Prabhakar had mentioned Kapil Dev's name to him. Now the "Salim Malik tapes" would have the cricketing establishment believe that a 1994 match between Pakistan and Australia in Colombo was the "mother of all fixes". It was a "double fix" - players from both the teams had taken money to lose! It is the same match in which Shane Warne and Mark Waugh had taken money for, they claimed, providing merely weather and pitch information to an Indian bookie. Instead of punishing those who have already been caught cheating, a relentless campaign , in which Mr Bindra is playing a role not associated with him, has been launched to destroy Indian cricket. The investigations should begin from Australia and if the trail leads to India, the players and administrators found guilty should be awarded exemplary punishment.
If the News of the World
report is based on authentic information, the
International Cricket Council should, by way of abundant
precaution, put on hold all international commitments,
including the staging of the Asia Cup in Dhaka from May
28. Until the bad boys are separated from the honest
players, and punished for causing irreparable damage to
the game, every match would appear to be fixed. Kapil
Dev's plea for a break from international commitments, in
the light of the latest developments, is based on sound
logic. It cannot be business as usual without smoking out
the crooks and cheats of international cricket. The
Australian Cricket Board has promised to
"investigate" Salim Malik's charge of a match
between Pakistan and Australia having been a "double
fix". But If the ICC really wants to remove the muck
from the game, it should not allow the ACB any role in
the proposed investigations. The last time Warne and Mark
Waugh were caught with their hands in dirty money, the
ACB slapped a token fine and tried to hush up their acts
of wrong-doing. The ICC should have, in fact, rapped the
ACB on the knuckles for hiding the two cheats under the
bed. The only way to get at the bottom of the
match-fixing controversy is to begin at the beginning.
The so-called money-for-information deal of Warne and
Mark Waugh is the first authentic case of an act of
wrong-doing by international cricketers. Professional
investigators should be able to get the complete and true
story out of the two Australian players. The disgraced
former South African captain, Hansie Cronje, is already
being investigated by a judicial commission. He will most
probably come clean. An enquiry, both by the police and
the BCCI, based on the testimony of the three confessed
cheats of international cricket would have far greater
credibility. What is happening today in India looks more
like a witch-hunt.
The Urban Air
THE logic sounds unassailable: Urban pollution in India has reached unacceptable levels. Much of the deathly haze that hangs over our cities and causes so much health havoc comes from suspended particulate matter (SPM), the worst of our air pollutants. Motorised vehicles are responsible for three-fifths of it. And diesel buses contribute almost a quarter of all SPM pollution caused by vehicles. Hence, switch to a clean fuel like compressed natural gas (CNG). And voila! Youll clear up the worst of urban pollution and reduce colossal losses due to pollution-related inefficiency and ill-health.
Right? Not quite. The answer may be far more hazy. The Supreme Court, despite its noble intentions, may have erred grievously in ordering the Delhi Transport Corporation to phase out all buses that are eight years old or older, and augment its fleet by April 1, 2001, to 10,000 buses, all of which must be CNG-run. Delhis air quality has certainly improved a little after 1,830 DTC buses and another 15,000 vehicles were taken off the roads. Concentrations of SPM and oxides of nitrogen have fallen by a third or more.
However, there is an acute shortage of buses on the roads. The DTC has only been able to procure 28 CNG buses as replacement for the scrapped diesel buses. The few manufacturers of CNG kits in India are unable to supply large numbers. No city in the world has a sizeable CNG bus fleet. CNG engines are not standard manufactured items. For a long time the DTC will have to depend on borrowing or leasing diesel-run buses. So well witness a trade-off between pollution and other forms of inconvenience to the majority of Delhis 12 million people who depend on DTC buses to the extent of 60 to 65 per cent of their trips.
In the long run, CNG might not turn out to be a decisively superior fuel to diesel in Indian conditions. There are at least six reasons for this. First, CNG is certainly a cleaner fuel than diesel or petrol, but it is not 100 per cent clean; nothing is. CNG consists largely of methane. So CNG emissions of SPM and of the oxides of nitrogen and sulphur tend to be 25 to 90 per cent lower than from diesel engines. However, says a January, 2000, study by the Harvard Centre for Risk Analysis, the proportion of particles less than 2.5 micron size in CNG emissions is higher than from diesel fumes. And there is evidence that ultra-fine particles penetrate the respiratory tract deeper and cause serious health damage.
Secondly, most available comparisons of CNG or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) with diesel engines are based on unmodified diesel fuels and on engines which do not use innovative emission control systems. Engineers have developed green diesels without sulphur, greatly reducing SPM emissions. New kinds of pollution traps can reduce other noxious emissions. Compared with these fuels and technologies, CNGs advantage over diesel decreases significantly.
Thirdly, short-term toxic emissions are not the sole environmental hazard of automotive fuels. They have an adverse long-term climate change potential. Diesel engines operate at a higher compression ratio, and have higher fuel efficiency. They have lower emissions of carbon dioxide, the commonest greenhouse gas causing global warming. Unlike diesel, CNG contains a high proportion of methane, which is bound to escape into the atmosphere during CNG engine operations.
CNG is typically stored at high pressures such as 160 to 200 atmospheres, liable to be released through faulty valves. Methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. According to one study, life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions from CNG engines could be up to 10 per cent higher than from diesel.
Fourth, there is the question of safety. CNG is categorised as highly flammable, diesel only moderately so. Natural gas leaks pose serious problems, especially because they form clouds of vapour concentrations which can explode violently. Collisions between vehicles carrying CNG tanks could pose serious problems, especially in Indian conditions, which are marked by low levels of safety.
Fifth, there is the question of performance. CNG has 40 per cent lower energy density, and there is loss of power, especially in heavy-duty vehicles. CNG vehicles have a limited driving range, and need frequent refuelling. The typical DTC bus runs 300 to 350 km a day, but the CNG charge only lasts for 250 km. Some of these problems will only be understood and resolved if a proper pilot project is run and standard operation and maintenance norms established. No one in India has studied the actual performance of dedicated CNG buses in an urban environment. What is available and used here is CNG kits, which cost Rs 1.25 to 2 lakh for a bus and about Rs 35,000 for a taxi/van. But even retrofitted buses have not been properly studied. The additional weight of the bus kit (the original engine is still present) means 15 to 20 per cent fewer passengers and higher running costs.
This brings us to the sixth issue, costs. Studies from California show that a natural gas truck costs about 50 per cent more than a diesel truck. In a passenger bus, the increase could be even higher because of large fuel tanks and special fire suppression and safety devices. (It would be impermissibly foolhardy for us in India to compromise on safety to lower costs.) In addition, there are the capital costs of installing CNG facilities. An American study found that such facilities could cost $350,000 for a fleet of eight trucks. Another estimate is $2 million (Rs 9 crore) for a 200 fleet of buses. In India, this would increase the capital cost of the typical bus by 50 per cent-plus.
Costs are vitally important for environmental reasons. Consider this. There are 5,000 chartered buses in Delhi. These provide point-to-point service at peak hours to about two to three lakh commuters, and account for 11 per cent of all trips, compared to the 3 to 4 per cent provided by autorickshaws. A study shows that 43 per cent of the chartered-bus commuters own two-wheelers and 11 per cent own cars. If chartered bus fares (which are now Rs 400-500 p.m.) have to be raised, it would become more economical for some commuters to drive their private vehicles. In that case, the overall pollution levels will increase. For instance, 10 two-wheelers will cause much more pollution than one CNG bus! The purpose of promoting the clean fuel would be defeated.
This is not to argue that we should continue with diesel-run buses, or that the present transport system does not need radical reforms, rather we need to take a more informed, rounded, view and evaluate different options. Regrettably, the Supreme Court has not done that. It had a two-fold choice. It could have stipulated maximum permissible emission norms and pollution standards and then left the choice of fuels and technology open to bidding. Or, alternatively, it could have gone into specific details of different technologies and expertly evaluated them. It did neither with rigour. It embraced the general, apparently commonsensical, idea that CNG is a clean fuel. Like domestic LPG, it produces no fumes.
This approach has an unfortunate precedent. In its judgement in the M.C. Mehta case on polluting industries in Delhi, the court made a blanket order asking them to relocate elsewhere. This led to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs. The owners made a killing by selling prime property. Most industries simply shut down in violation of industrial and labour laws, and in most cases, without compensating workers. The court was, regrettably, blind to the human suffering.
Our higher judiciary needs to take a balanced and comprehensive approach to environmental issues. To return to transportation, there is of course, a diesel lobby in this country. It first tried to sell low-quality, highly contaminated, high-sulphur, fuel and then delayed the implementation of the July, 1998, Supreme Court order for 22 months. The DTC did little during this period to prepare for the transition. The same lobby has been trying to promote diesel-run cars and portable generators. This must be opposed. In India, diesel is deliberately priced low (in relation to petrol) because it is consumed as a major fuel in the transport infrastructure and in agriculture. Using it in private cars does not make economic, social or ethical sense.
However, we should be
alive to the possibility of developing improved diesel
fuels and pollution control systems and to find a
rational mix of fuels and technologies within a
sustainable transportation policy. We need a policy which
discourages private transport, conserves energy, reduces
import dependence, promotes safety and is environmentally
sound both in terms of emission and climate damage
potential. For that to happen, the Supreme Court should
review its blanket order on CNG buses.
aged and their solutions
MANY do not know that 1999 was the International Year of Older Persons since nothing substantial was noticed regarding the welfare of the aged in India. Are we really alive to the recognition of the concept of welfare of old people whether as a State, as a society, as a family or as a conscientious citizen. When a person passes through such a phase of life when he cannot himself do anything and is totally dependent on others for every trifle in life, he has none else to look forward to than the family, society and the State.
Medical science has confirmed that a yellow streak develops in you the moment you begin to breathe life. The process of ageing starts in the mothers womb. We dont realise in our youth, or even in the middle age, that a day will come when we will also feel weakness in our limbs; our eyes too will throw everything out of focus, and, to cap it all, the pulse throb will become milder and milder, as if tired of throbbing the whole of life. The State, society, the family and the citizens at large have a responsibility towards the senior citizens.
Unfortunately, we in India, of late, have not been able to recognise the concept of respecting, caring and helping the older generations in a systematic way as some of the industrialised nations in the West have done. Not to suggest that our culture, history and way of life never recognised this phase of life in human beings, but with the breaking of the joint family system, the problem has assumed newer and complicated proportions.
Of all the senior citizens the world over, one out of every 10 is an Indian. The population in India of older persons on the wrong side of the sixties is the fourth highest in the world. By an official estimate there will be over 76 million old persons in the country by the end of 2000. There do exist some schemes with the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. There is a provision of financial assistance ranging from 90 per cent to 100 per cent in the case of different welfare schemes. There are old age homes, residential units for at least 25 poor destitute aged persons coming from lower income groups. There is a part-time medical officer to attend to the inmates. Then there are day care centres and mobile medicare service units besides other non-governmental organisations old age homes, lending their invaluable assistance for the cause.
On the part of the government, the old age homes are not only insufficient but also ill equipped insofar as the paraphernalia needed is concerned. Health care for the old people should be the responsibility of the State since it requires close and regular monitoring with the supply of medicine and related wherewithal. The social welfare departments have very little to boast when it comes to the care of the older generation. This is not to suggest that the handicapped, orphans and destitute women deserve less attention, but it is a hard fact that for the old people this wing of the State is not really very genuinely enthusiastic.
There may be several reasons. The short life ahead of the old people might not allow long-term planning, obtaining results by the governments various wings and putting to practice concepts of rehabilitation, etc but, then, one could well have short-term welfare schemes. Sarkari officials are not only apathetic to the welfare of older persons but are also not imaginative at the same time. But once the recognition of the senior citizens is conceptualised not only by society but by the government too and certain concessions are sanctioned for them, this might well deliver the goods.
After the State, society has an important role to play in many ways. First and foremost being respecting the senior citizens and placing them ahead of everybody elses interests. In Western countries, if you see an old person climbing stairs, when you are climbing down, you always let him/her climb up first and get aside to the convenience of the old and infirm senior citizen. It is this kind of treatment with so many other things of course is the need of the hour. Offering seats to the old in the train or bus you are travelling along with them, helping them cross the road, assisting them carry their luggage, fetching them water, etc, are some of the gestures which, if practised, will show our appreciation of their needs. The feeling that the older generation belongs to society and not to a particular family will go a long way in establishing the desired norms for dealing with them with more esteem, approval, reverence and dignity.
In the family, the old people deserve a still better deal. They have given everything to their family and have a right to being recognised as the most important persons. When children are born we tend to shower all kinds of concerns and care on them and forget the old parents, who need equal attention, if not more than the new generation.
The most peaceful place
for an old person is in the family. But in the case of
the people who do not have this advantage, adoption is a
good idea. We always prefer to adopt children. There are
legal hassles and there are innumerable commitments. This
is definitely a long-term decision, which has to be taken
with regard to the childs future. His education,
career prospects, affection and many other things worry
the couples who adopt children. Those who can adopt but
cannot make long-term commitments have a more satisfying
option in the old people. It only requires them to have a
nurses outlook and dedication. This may give them
great satisfaction .
BEING a senior citizen, I had the privilege of being given the first five-hundred-rupee note by the bank that pays my pension. It was fresh, crisp and aromatic smelling like any fresh currency note. But with a difference. It was five times as valuable as the one I had got used to.
The five-hundred-rupee note, when it first came to my bank, there were smiles on everyone's face. The cashier was happy because the cash deposits and disbursements would involve less labour. The customer was happy because it would save his time. The bank manager was happy because it would make his life that much easier, caught as he is in the perennial grindstone of dissatisfied customer- discontented staff confrontation.
But good things seldom last long. The first omen manifested itself within a year when my grocery storekeeper looked at the note distrustfully. When I paid his bill flourishing the currency note, the smile on his face disappeared promptly. His usually dancing eyes narrowed with suspicion.
"What the matter?"
"Don't you have smaller denomination notes?"
"I don't know, but you do read newspapers I hope?"
"Yes I do, so..." suddenly the tubelight flickered on. The blood rushed to my head, "Do you suspect me of palming off a counterfeit...?"
"Your intentions might be honourable, saheb, but times are such that one has to be careful." The shopkeeper deftly avoided the confrontation.
Despite his placatory verbiage, he wouldn't take the note. So I paid in smaller bills and returned home a bit miffed with the world.
Damn this information technology. Now anyone can scan a currency note and churn out fakes on his laser printer like that fellow did, as per newspaper reports.
The situation at the bank was worse. The cashier wasn't smiling anymore. He took the note and examined it carefully. He rubbed the watermark with his saliva. Put it under the infra red lamp and generally turn an ordinary inspection into a full-fledged inquest. The trial was on the following lines:
"Where did you get this note from?"
"From this very bank"
"I get my pension from here and have a savings bank account".
"That's not enough...you could have got this note from somewhere else"
"I am a pensioner and don't have any other source of income..."
"The cashier melted and looked at me a bit sympathetically, "Do one thing, go to the manager..."
I went to the manager. He too was not smiling. He went through the same drill, more or less. At last his face brightened up.
"We shall certainly help you..."
"Oh, thank you..."
"Write down the details of the currency note on a piece of paper. Then write down your name, address and savings bank account number. We shall send this note to the RBI. If they find it genuine we shall credit your account with us."
"How much time would that take?"
"Anything between one month and one year...may be more."
outwitted on Lanka issue
THE Vajpayee Government has done another hat-trick this time on the Sri Lankan crisis the effectively taming and silencing its recalcitrant southern allies. Even a few days earlier, it seemed Vajpayee has got stuck up between the imperatives of a meaningful foreign policy and political compulsions of the partners of the ruling NDA in Tamil Nadu. For some time, even government circles had conceded the total failure on their part to deal with outfits like the MDMK, PMK and the main ruling party DMK.
The whole sequence calls for a little elaboration to highlight the real significance of the operation subjugation which should provide valuable lessons in political management under coalitions. How could the PMO cunningly turn the tables on the hardliners like MDMK leader Vaiko and PMK boss Ramdoss?
The Government had enough signals from different sources about the crisis building up in Jaffna area in the past few weeks. As back as September, 1998, the LTTE had effortlessly recaptured Killinochchi after killing hundreds of Lankan soldiers. The LTTEs determination to overrun Jaffna was apparent right from November, 1999, when the Tigers forced the government troops out of their camps in Vanni mainland.
The Government also had reports of massive preparations by the LTTE for the final push. If Delhi had ignored all such grim warnings, it has been more due to domestic political disabilities. The political managers knew that the best way to tackle the Sri Lanka crisis, whatever may the parameters, was to make it look like a sudden decision forced by unavoidable circumstances. This could force the ever apprehensive southern allies into half-hearted compliance. Therefore, things were to be pushed at the right psychological moment. As per this political strategy, Jaswant Singh began to make subtle announcements about Indias crucial role in resolving the crisis.
By far, the Governments position has been sound that no repetition of the IPKF folly but other kinds of assistance is possible. This included humanitarian aid and an assurance to consider despatch of arms if Colombo specifically asked for it. But this made the BJPs Tamil Nadu allies red-faced and they all began rushing to Delhi with veild threats. Panicked at the angry reaction incidentally, all major ardently pro-LTTE outfits are in the BJP alliance led by the DMK the Government began to go back on its earlier decisions.
Suddenly, all talk of arms aid, even humanitarian aid stopped. Soon, the Prime Minister made it clear that even if Jaffna fell, there would not be any Indian response. The Government, however, asserted that it would not support the separate Eelam demand. Its offer of mediation aimed at as a concession to the pro-LTTE allies provided both sides made a request, means little. It is futile to expect a ruthless strategist like Prabhakaran to make such a request when his troops are on the verge of a decisive strike.
What had irritated the BJP most has been the public campaigning by Vaikos MDMK and the PMK, the latter with a strong base in a few Tamil Nadu districts. The DMK too has been apprehensive of the mood of an electorally influential group among its ranks. Vaiko even lobbied with some NDA allies and got a public assurance of support from Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray. It was at this stage that the PMO activated itself and used all tricks of the trade some borrowed from the annals of cold war political operations in alien states some of which are now being elaborately retold the rein in the rebellious allies.
The PMO managers knew that Karunanidhi was crucial to the NDA muddle in Tamil Nadu, and it should concentrate on weaning him away from the admittedly pro-LTTE outfits like MDMK and PMK. Vajpayees first meeting with Karunanidhi has not been much of a success. It was more a compromise of positions that the Government would not repeat an IPKF-type adventure, offer help to resolve the crisis if both sides sought for it and there wont be any action even if Jaffna fell. This was in exchange for an assurance of free hand to the Government from Karunanidhi. All this had made observers, domestic and foreign, to conclude that instead of wresting the initiative from the interest groups in Tamil Nadu, the Vajpayee Administration had become victim of their manipulations.
Soon, the PMO launched the more crucial operation a multi-pronged campaign aimed at simultaneously isolating the MDMK-PMK groups and winning over Karunanidhi to the Centres side. This was accompanied by a well-orchestrated, well-documented propaganda campaign aimed at marginalising the pro-LTTE groups. Special briefings were arranged for the opinion makers who promptly came out with articles critical of the Governments no-action policy. The main argument was that if India failed to assume an important role in Sri Lanka, others will fill the gap to Indias peril.
Columnists were supplied with neatly printed but unsigned sheets detailing various aspects of the Lanka crisis dangers of supping with Prabhakaran, how he had murdered fellow Tamils, his grandiose plans to use those like Vaiko to emerge as a dictator of a greater Tamil nation comprising both the island and part of the mainland. Victims of Prabhakaran were listed with details like dates and places. For the special benefit of the DMK, its old links with anti-Prabhakaran groups were cited and how the LTTE spoiled Karunanidhis chances. In fact, Karunanidhis statements in the assembly gave the same figures complete with dates. Thus the power of the information war has proved its crucial role in isolating the allies like MDMK and PMK from the DMK.
Murasoli Maran, avowedly BJP friendly, has been an important player in getting his uncle to the Centres side. It was put to him that the DMK has to view everything in the context of its rivalry with AIADMK both in central and state politics. With the Assembly elections not far off, it is highly risky for the DMK to disturb the present arrangement which may not mean much to tiny men like Vaiko or Ramdoss. Karunanidhi had suffered electoral jolts due to the LTTE stigma even without aligning with them.
To be with a stable NDA would mean an effective protection from such situations as Coimbatore blasts. Just to be with the NDA meant an effective media shield from accusations and scandals. Implied in this was veild suggestions about Karunanidhis own vulnerability to old charges. Another point effectively put to Karunanidhi was that the LTTE itself rather than its emotional fallout like Rajiv murder was not a factor in elections. Last, the MDMK or PMK cannot go too far because the people of Tamil Nadu will not go out of the way to back the Lankan Tamil cause.
Such convincing arguments apart, the extent of public responses among certain sections in Tamil Nadu will remain unsettled until the elections. Vaikos strategy has so far been not to directly come in conflict with the Vajpayee Government but quietly work up on the Tamil sentiments through his ranks and other elements. The Sri Lanka fallout will depend on so many factors some unforeseen like the nature of developments in the island and the effectiveness of the pro-LTTE elements on this side. There is always something called invisible support which a largely pro-establishment media fails to scent. Like the pro-Laloo wave in Bihar and Diggi Raja currents in Madhya Pradesh where the media had even named the BJP Chief Minister. Moreover, even before the present crisis there have been signs of new equations developing in Tamil Nadu politics.
Apparently, Vajpayees political managers have attained a high degree of sophistication in the art of handling the allies. At Cabinet and NDA meetings, Vajpayee loses no opportunity to play on the egos of such crucial leaders as Fernandes, Mamata and Maran for their success. However, during crises, the operators use persuasion and inducements and, often plain threats. Whether it is in the case of the allies protests against the cuts in subsidies or increases in prices or opposition to the formation of new states or dealing with the RSS top brass, the PMO strategy has been similar. These unique experiments in tackling inter-party conflicts will provide tremendous empirical input for other coalition managers for use in similar situations.
At the preliminary stages of conflicts, the first response will be to ignore the objections, then when it becomes more shrill, offer palliatives and try to delay the whole process by way of simple devices like PM is considering. It is a known political dictum that sheer delay can render any process irrelevant. Whenever this fails to work, ruthless display of grit and firmness begins to push through the decisions. Long back it was tried in the case of the Bills to form new states. Protests from areas like Uddham Singh Nagar and Hardwar alone had frustrated the moves. Normally, political trickery and deals can work at the leaders level. Unfortunately, its efficacy diminishes when it turns out to be highly sentimental issues on which people by and large are involved. Here, a different kind of political engineering alone can be effective.
Removal of the political
hurdles in Tamil Nadu is bound to give a more free hand
to the Government to deal with the Sri Lankan crisis. In
four days, Karunanidhi came out with three statements,
each one steadily moving closer to the Centres
position. Concurrently, there has been a hardening of the
Centres position with clear signs of more fringe
involvements. Indian patrolling of the seas will help
prevent movement of LTTE supplies. Now there is talk of
both air reconnaissance and air cover for the government
troops. Another proposal is to send military
advisers as the US initially did in Vietnam.
Apparently, now the government feels freer to handle the
EVERYONE acquainted with the history of the non-co-operation movement must have regretfully noticed the intolerance which a small section of Non-co-operators evinced towards those who did not see eye to eye with them.
The same spirit is being exhibited today against some among non-co-operators themselves. A Madras telegram states that while Dr Varadarajulu Naidu, President of the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee, was addressing a public meeting at Mayavaram, there were not only frequent interruptions but heaps of sand were thrown on the platform and stones were flying in all directions.
Many people left the meeting for personal safety and the police also arrived on the scene. Even Dr Naidu had to be conducted to his residence under the escort of volunteers and a large crowd, the police marching in the front.
We do not know and do not care to know the motive of those responsible for this rowdyism.
Be their motives what
they may, every right-thinking person will condemn their
conduct. Is it too much to hope that all our public men,
to whatever school of thought they may belong, will unite
together in unhesitatingly condemning these exhibitions
of intolerance? In the interest of the countrys
progress, it is essential that the people should realise
the need of giving a patient hearing to all sides of a
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