|Tuesday, May 23, 2000,
The Tamil question in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka was a peaceful country where both Sinhalese and Tamils lived in harmony until Mr Bandaranaikes government made Sinhala as the only official language of the country in 1956 by replacing English that united all communities.
Sri Lanka is the only country in the world to disfranchise a section of the upcountry Tamils in 1949, who were born in and sweated for that country, notwithstanding the successive governments ethnically cleansed Tamil areas systematically. They also frustrated Tamil leaders by going back on their promises of implementing the mutually agreed pacts by unilaterally abrogating them due to the agitation of extremist Buddhist monks and opposition parties.
Why could not this ethnic problem be solved until today? There is no willingness on the part of the Sinhalese to find a peaceful and just resolution to it. The armed conflict is the last resort Tamil youths were forced to choose.
We launched a national population policy way back in 1952 but the irony is that we are still waiting for the results. What has gone wrong? Was our government having misplaced priorities all these years, or have we Indians ourselves invited trouble by shrugging off our responsibilities?
Actually, it is less of the first reason and more of the second one. The government has played its role, though it is an altogether different matter that it realised it too late that it is social security more than anything else that will make the difference. It is not strange that when we speak of stringent measures people often link that to the Sanjay Gandhi era. Stringent measures can well be taken without forcibly sterilising people.
Various incentives can be given. Criteria should be fixed in government jobs. People with many children should be barred from contesting elections. But never has a government in the past five decades talked of this. Obviously, nobody likes to lose popularity. And we the people of India have cared little for our responsibilities.
Women empowerment, prenatal and postnatal health care are good words to use, and I had the option to do that. People think that everything that is shown on TV is for others, and we only understand when something has direct bearing on us. The people giving birth to children one after the other are homosapiens after all and they do have a brain of their own. If they dont use it, nobody can help. We have to be strict because only that can make the difference.
The editorial The billionth mouth (May 12) focused pointed attention on the countrys rising population. The billionth mouth the new arrival undoubtedly rings an alarm bell which can be ignored by the country only at our general peril.
However, to my mind, it seems palpably unfair to greet the Safdarjang Baby with a glum face, as the editorial seems to have done. I subscribe to the view that every birth is like a new dawn and every child is like a new rose bud, and it may prove a harbinger of happier times.
I, therefore, extend the new-comer a hearty welcome, believing with the Mahatma that the earth would always have enough for everybodys needs.
Defective contract system
A case of bitumen meant for building roads being diverted to illegal manufacture of spurious furnace oil, leaving the roads poorer in quality and the contractors richer in ill-gotten money, has just come to light in Haryana (The Tribune, May 8).
That the contract works are of poor quality is quite well known. Ironically, the reasons are also too well known. The poor contractor has to pay nearly 20 per cent commission, nay bribe, to corrupt politicians and officials as a price for getting the government contract. He, therefore, cheats on the use of the essential material while executing the work with the guaranteed give-and-take cooperation of the authorities concerned.
Right at the initial stage, with the connivance of corrupt officials, the cost of the contract is inflated to take care of a larger portion of the bribe. Thus the government itself is made to pay the bribe, and the contractors pay only a little from their own pocket.
The contract system in its present form is, therefore, patently defective. The in-built system of bribes is eating into the government funds, and the use of inferior and inadequate material is rendering the all-important infrastructure substandard in quality.
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