|Friday, May 26, 2000,
in a state of drift
of economic reforms
Tempora of India!
for new social systems
May 26, 1925
NOT all the king's men could put Humpty Dumpty together again. Much the same has happened to international cricket. The game's reputation has been damaged beyond repair. The enterprise of the Delhi Police forced Hansie Cronje to confess in April. Thereafter everyday unfolds a new story about the link between crime and cricket. It is not difficult to identify the period when international cricket became the source of organised white collar crime. Those who are in mourning do not know that the match-fixing controversy has actually increased the popularity of the game. Now even those who do not understand cricket, but are fascinated by crime stories, have begun to follow the unfolding drama with the enthusiasm of neo-converts. To them Kapil Dev was a vaguely familiar name. They may not recognise the cricket icon who showed his buck-toothed grin while lifting the World Cup in 1983. But they will have no problem in spotting the man who broke down, and wept like a child, on a TV show. Manoj Prabhakar's thunder was stolen by Mr I. S. Bindra. But the former Indian allrounder has added an over-dose of spice, while lifting the lid of suspense, by mentioning the names of several other former cricketers as witnesses to Kapil Dev's attempt to bribe him to play badly. Those who care a damn about what happens to the game of cricket are enjoying every bit of the fast paced, and gripping, crime thriller. The genuine lovers of the game the fanatics, for whom cricket had acquired the status of a parallel religion are in pain. They feel let down by their gods!
If Prabhakar's charge is
correct, Kapil Dev is not a slimy cheat but a
daring crook who does not care a
whit about the presence of witnesses to his acts of
wrong-doing. If he had the temerity to offer Rs 25 lakh
to Prabhakar, it is safe to presume that he would have
made similar offers to other players. Prabhakar was a
talented allrounder. But he is fast emerging as equally
talented in the art of story-telling. He allowed the
suspense to build up for three years. He has now given
the senior player a face. He has
roped in Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Ajit Wadekar,
Navjot Sidhu and Prashant Vaidya as witnesses. Their
denial would make them appear to be in cahoots with Kapil
Dev. Their affirmation of Prabhakars claim would
crucify Indias most successful bowler. The news
from neighbouring Pakistan is more depressing for cricket
fans and exciting for the lovers of tales of crime. Salim
Malik has become the first internationally recognised and
respected player to be banned from playing cricket. He
and Atiq-ur-Rahman are the first international cricketers
to be punished on the basis of the findings of a judicial
commission. The commission has also imposed a fine of Rs
10 lakh on Malik for his role in turning cricket into a
game of thugs and thieves and not of gentlemen. The News
of the World caught him on camera boasting to
undercover reporters that he
could fix any match for Rs 3.5 crore per game. No
visiting team is allowed more than 14 players. If the
amount mentioned by Malik for fixing a match is
distributed equally, each player would end up with Rs 25
lakh in his pocket as the price for losing a match.
Prabhakar says he was offered Rs 25 lakh to play badly in
a Singer Cup match in Colombo in 1994. Those who still
believe in the future of the game should start counting
the number of clean international cricketers. The list of
crooks or suspected crooks is becoming unmanageable with
each passing day.
HISTORY was created in Lebanon just before dawn on Wednesday when marching Hizbollah guerrillas forced the Israeli occupation army to retreat from the southern part. The pullout was not half as unorganised and ignominious as the US vacation of Vietnam in 1975 but there was much confusion and loss of face all the same. The troops, stationed there for the past 22 years, were scheduled to return on July 7 but the mere announcement enthused the guerrillas to mount a sustained attack. As they started reoccupying village after village, the Israel-propped mercenaries calling themselves members of South Lebanon Army (SLA) crumbled, leaving the Jewish state no option but to advance the withdrawal date. With the shield of the SLA gone, the Israeli army would have to engage the Hizbollah and it had no stomach. With its options gone, liberated villagers and some guerrillas drove the final nail when they raided an SLA-run prison, freeing 100 prisoners amidst scenes of wild jubilation. That was a proof of the evaporation of authority and a warning of worse things to come.
It is a significant turning point in the regions history. This is the first time that Israel has been worsted militarily. In all earlier occasions it had the last word, demanding and securing concessions just to leave occupied areas. What is worse, a guerrilla force has inflicted this defeat on it despite its relentless demonisation as an Iran-sponsored Shiite group. This charge was invented when Iran was in bad odour for threatening to export its brand of Islamic revolution. Also, Israel was trigger happy. At the slightest provocation it would launch its war-jets and target civilian areas. A few years ago its bombers unloaded deadly cargo on a UN-run shelter and killed more than 130 women and children. Only a few days back, its jets knocked out the entire electric system in Beirut. All this ostensibly to teach the Hezbollah a lesson, but in reality to terrorise the ordinary people and the Lebanese authorities to distance themselves from the guerrillas. It did not work; on the other hand, they had grown in strength and often booby-trapped SLA men and Israeli soldiers causing death and red faces.
It would be tempting to
think that peace has returned to southern Lebanon. That
would be a distant dream. Israeli has claimed, as it is
wont to, that it reserves the right to enter southern
Lebanon or send its jets if it felt threatened. And it is
not as conditional as it may sound. As a people Israelis
are forever jumpy and the political and military
leadership is happy to talk and act tough. And the
guerrillas too love a fight, particularly after this
triumph. And they have two outstanding issues to start
lobbing a few Katyusha rockets across the border. One,
Israel holds two of their leading cadre and the Hizbollah
would like to exploit the present mood to press for their
release. Two, Israel continues to occupy a small piece of
land, saying it belongs to Syria and not Lebanon. The
guerrillas reject this and might exploit it to open fire.
Above all, there are hundreds of Lebanese collaborators,
whom Israel has abandoned but some of whom will attract
revenge killing. As it is, there much anger against the
Jewish country for disowning thousands of persons who
helped it administer the region all these 22 years. Over
1500 southern Lebanese Christians who joined the SLA and
fought the guerrillas have already sought refuge in
Israel, convinced that they would be liquidated if they
stayed home. The border area is thus filled with
discontent, frustration and anger a perfect recipe
for low grade turmoil.
in a state of drift
WHITHER the Congress? Even Congressmen do not seem to have any clue to their 115-year-old organisation's ills. The party is in a state of drift. There is growing resentment against the leadership of Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Several Congress MPs doubt if she could help them win a future election.
Ironically, politics in this country is mainly guided by vote bank calculations and the ability of a leader to swing voters in favour of the party he or she leads. The problem with the Congress is that most of its leaders have not allowed a free play of democratic forces from the grassroots upward, with the result the party's growth has suffered.
In the absence of clarity of thoughts and action, the party today looks vulnerable. Its mass base has shrunk. Its policies and postures appear to be either inadequate or are prompted by sheer adhocism. Today the Congress even looks ideologically tired. How can the leadership revive the confidence of the rank and file in the circumstances?
Congressmen would, of course, like us to believe that they are disciples of Mahatma Gandhi, and that they can do no wrong. True, they had been under Gandhi's influence for three decades. But did this transform the party? The answer is a simple no. Two episodes in its history produce a different picture.
On June 25, 1946, at a meeting of the Congress Working Committee called to discuss the British Cabinet Mission proposal, Gandhi admitted his helplessness. "You are not bound to act on my unsupported suspicions. You should follow the dictates of your reason," he told the members.
On this episode, Pyarelal, Gandhi's Secretary, writes: "In that hour of decision, they (Congressmen) had no use for Bapu. They decided to drop the pilot. Bapu returned to his residence. At noon, the Cabinet Mission invited the members of the Working Committee to meet them. Bapu, not being a member, was not sent for and did not go. On their return, nobody told Bapu a word about what happened at the meeting." ("Mahatma Gandhi: The Last Phase").
A more disquieting characterisation of the Congress cannot be found. According to Pyarelal, the Congress betrayed Gandhi for power.
Perhaps, Congressmen had one goal: power. That is true even today. This is how the betrayal of Gandhi began.
A day before his death, Gandhiji advised Congressmen to dissolve the party and form a Lok Sewak Sangh. He had his reasons for mooting this proposal. He had seen how Congressmen had become corrupt and power hungry. Nehru thought that the suggestion was impracticable. But within a few years, in sheer anguish, Nehru dubbed the Congress a "den of wild animals"!
One more example. Gandhi was opposed to raising election funds. He saw in it the perversion of democracy. But he was overruled. Today this is at the root of all evils in this country.
Democracy could have saved the Congress. But its instincts were either monarchic or feudal. Though an ardent democrat at heart, Nehru had his moments of weakness. In "Snakes and Ladders", author Gita Mehta writes: "Nehru had shown an Achilles heel by supporting the appointment of his daughter Indira Gandhi as President of the party organisation." She is, however, not surprised at what Nehru did, for she writes that "Nehru himself had been anointed leader of the Indian National Congress by his own father while travelling to a nationalist convention (at Lahore) in 1929." Motilal Nehru ruled out the need for an election!
This is the legacy of the Congress. When an effort was made to introduce democracy in the Congress, it was sabotaged. More often, the Congress broke up into two under pressure. Though Indira Gandhi split the party, she was shrewd enough to carry the people with her. She became the first populist politician.
But the biggest mistake in her political career was the imposition of the Emergency. Though sensitive and forward-looking, Rajiv Gandhi inherited a legacy that was probably not in tune with his modern temperament. At the 100th anniversary of the Congress, Rajiv Gandhi was frank enough to admit that the Congress was in the grip of "power brokers". The "wild animals" had transformed themselves into "power brokers".
And when Narasimha Rao became Prime Minister, the party got entangled in scams and scandals.
Though Nehru was partly responsible for the direction the Congress took after Independence, Sardar Patel was actually the man at the helm of the Congress. Nehru could not have done much. He was not happy with the way elections were being fought. He then sincerely felt that Congress principles were being sacrificed in favour of "personalities" (that is, in favour of those who could get votes, as is the case at present) and caste candidates. He wrote to Morarji Desai on this. Morarji denied it. In his last letter to Morarji on the subject on October 27, 1951, Nehru confessed: "I have felt recently as if I was in a den of wild animals."
The rot in the Congress was becoming insufferable. "A den of wild animals" that is Nehru's judgement on the Congress. The den soon became a vast jungle. Caste became the major factor in politics, thus paving the way for mandalisation.
Nehru's tragedy was that he could not muster enough courage to go through "a divorce", although Jayaprakash Narayan had been insisting on it. Nehru put up with the incompatible marital situation. And at that stage he began to compromise!
Sycophants have ruled the Congress for a long time. Like the eunuchs over the Chinese empire. That tradition continues to this day. Today, the party is faction-ridden and is devoid of cohesive thinking and action. Who is to blame? Congressmen alone are responsible for the mess they have created for themselves, courtesy sycophants.
It is not loyalty to Nehru's ideals which has attracted the sycophants around the Nehru family. They are like priests promoting particular "idols". Their eyes are on the benefits. In short, while the country is moving towards decentralisation of power, the Congress is trapped in a web of its own making.
The Congress is the mother of virtually all political parties in this country. It was extremely fecund. About 40 parties have come out of the Congress. But why did they come out at all? Because the party leadership was never accommodative. It did not believe in sharing power. And since these parties were all founded by Congressmen, they carried the "culture" of the Congress with them. Which explains why they all behave like clones. They have no distinct ideology of their own, although they swear by secularism, socialism and democracy.
Of late, the splinter parties have realised that the parliamentary system is a game of numbers. Without the required number, power will elude them. So Ms Mayawati is at the door of the Manuwadis for votes. And Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mr Laloo Yadav are less beholden to Mandal. But they will not cut into the remaining vote banks of the Congress.
The moot point is: why can't the Congress change with the changing times? It ought to see the writing on the wall and reorient its thinking on new democratic lines. Political parties in a democracy are made and unmade by the people. More than anything else, the Congress has to look within and strengthen itself from the grassroots upwards. Once the party gets popular mood, it will find answers to its real problems. Mere shadow-boxing will not take the party and its leadership far.
It will be easier for the party to rejuvenate itself if it becomes "mindful of the aspirations of the new groups demanding a place at the high table". This should also help to "stear the course of Indian politics from personality-based to issue-based politics", as once a Congress leader put it.
The message is clear and candid: the audience in the Indian political theatre wants new faces to meet new demands.
The people as a whole want a government that actually works faster, not for vested interests, sponsors and hangers-on, but for the man in the street. They demand better implementation of the programmes for tackling the basic problems of poverty, development, re-arranging priorities and avoiding wasteful expenses. It is more than a matter of vision. It calls for a broad-based all-India perspective. Can Mrs Sonia Gandhi deliver the goods? Only time will tell.
BROUHAHA and blame game witnessed in the wake of the recent revelation that the decade-long economic reforms made no significant dent in Indias poverty profile despite a record 6 per cent annual economic growth should compel attention at the content, sequence, pace and timing of the reforms, rather than pandering to the plaints of the roll-back-reforms lobby. Based on whatever has emerged from the thin sample surveys conducted by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO), it would be childish to conclude that the socialistic policies were more pro-poor than the reforms regime.
Without going into the dichotomy of data and the inferences drawn by the NSSO, the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) and the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER) in regard to the drop in poverty and economic growth, pre-reform vs post-reform, it would be safe to state that with the onset of reforms, the sale of consumer goods registered remarkable growth in both rural and urban markets, wage rates increased and the per capita availability of cereals improved significantly. In any event, there is a strong case for overhauling and streamlining our statistical systems. Sooner the saner.
By their very nature, the economic reforms have thus far basically benefited the urban areas. Reforms led boom in the industrial and services sector, essentially an urban phenomenon, resulted in an upswing in growth rate whereas the agricultural sector limped along, the growth rate in foodgrain production early matching the increase in the population. This explains a significant drop in urban poverty and a marginal increase in rural poverty, as a sequel to the reforms. This has more to do with the inadequacy of the reforms than with the reforms per se.
Undoubtedly, there is a strong case for enhancing the reach of benefits of economic reforms by expanding and extending them to the areas which have been all but bypassed by the reform process. This alone would ensure equitable distribution of resources and proper resource management in rural sector.
In the 1950s, when the agriculture sector accounted for 60 per cent of the GDP, nearly 70 per cent of the population was dependent on it. Fifty years on, 62 per cent of them still subsist on it which contributes no more than 26 per cent to the GDP. Economic growth should have entailed increasing absorption of labour force from the farm sector into the non-farm sectors industry and services leading to substantial poverty reduction. Agriculture absorbs a tiny fraction of labour force in developed countries USA (3%), Japan (7%), Austria (8%) and Ireland (11%).
The impact of economic reforms has had wide inter-state variations. Whereas Gujarat, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Kerala with strong social indicators fared well in achieving growth and poverty reduction in the nineties, the states of UP and Bihar where maladministration and criminalisation reign supreme witnessed worsening poverty. Weak social indicators weaken the impact of growth on poverty.
The distributional impact of economic reforms is as hotly debated a topic as the assertion that our poverty estimates are overestimates. The poverty line is defined in terms of 2500 calorie consumption on the basis of a fixed basket of consumption. Changes in the consumption pattern and the debatability of the requirement of 2500 calories for a poor person call for redefinition of the poverty line. Officially, one out of every three persons in India is poor.
The state-sponsored poverty alleviation programmes include the ones based on wage employment, the public distribution system (PDS) and credit. Wage employment programmes have proved to be better targeted and more effective than the credit-based Integrated Rural Development Programme. As for the PDS, it is wider in coverage but poor in its reach to the poor.
Considering the mixed success of the conventional credit-based programmes, some experts have mooted the idea of microfinance to mitigate rural poverty. Microfinance consists of loans of the order of Rs 100 per month and saving services with saving amounts as low as Rs 20 per week. Success stories of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh and SEWA Bank in India have been quoted in its support. An elaborate network of microfinance institutions needs to be developed to make microfinancing an attractive proposition for the lender and the borrower alike. Presently, commercial lending institutions do not undertake microfinancing. Suitable sops backed by a legal framework may be given to the corporate entities to enter the fray.
Apart from an increase in the real wages of agricultural labour, non-price factors such as private and public investment in infrastructure, irrigation, transport, technology and power are as important to increasing production and productivity. Road connectivity levels rural-urban inequities. Timely technological inputs are vital to stem stagnation and push productivity. Today Punjab needs a Greener Revolution. But for public investment in rain-harvesting technology in drought-prone areas, the spectre of suicides would not have haunted the farmers of Andhra Pradesh. The regime of freebies ought to be replaced by a proper pricing policy of user charges.
In the long run, public investment in primary health care, primary education, empowerment of women, abolition of child labour, socio-economic security for the aged and the widows, et al, would determine the direction of poor-sensitive reforms. Pity is that little is left for anti-poverty programmes after the payment of debt interest, salary bills and budgetary support to public sector enterprises. And leakages take care of whatever little is left!
It is about time
socio-economic reforms are undertaken at the Central and
state levels in all earnestness. State-level reforms are
a sine qua non for state subjects, including agriculture.
Given good governance, there is considerable scope for
high growth through increased efficiency. The South
Korean economy, which melted two years ago, has risen
from its ashes and is growing at 10 per cent annually!
HELLO, I greeted an old professional friend of mine at a party the other day. When I say old I am referring not only to his age but to his profession. He used to be a journalist. Now he is a product manager. Some years ago he even became a newspaper editor. Now he edits a market.
We exchanged the usual long-time-no-see pleasantries and then I asked him a question I wanted to ask ever since that white Sunday. Tell me, did you get paid for that day?
Why not? he asked.
I mean no-work-no-pay and all that?
Look, let me tell you it is harder work to leave the page blank than it is to fill it, he said.
Thats right, said his boss who had just joined us. The basic thing is to break from tradition, he went on. The new motto is, if it is fit to print, leave it out. For instance, just the other day we had these reports about the centurys worst drought in Gujarat, two thousand kg of RDX seized in Kashmir, 400-odd gastro cases in Delhi and that sort of traditional stuff. We were at our wits end about what to put on the front page till one of our chaps brought this scoop on whether Hrithik Roshan would reverse the adverse trends in Bollywood.
Yes, that was a great lead story, I said.
You see, readers are fed up of political parties and politicians. So, as you have noticed, we give them more about the cocktail parties, about the real movers and shakers. If you see a pun in the last two words, thats your problem. What I am talking about are men of substance.
I see your point, I said. Tell me, who according to you are the top two men of substance in the country today?
Shabana Azmi and Deepa Mehta.
Of course there are.
Like the one you are talking to, he said.
But of course, I said, The other, I suppose, would be the Prime Minister?
Yes, you could say that, but things are a little different now, he said; I mean, how many Prime Ministers have the guts to break from tradition, how many of them would go to office and leave their most urgent files blank?
Not many, I agree, I said. Now that one thinks of it, that blank front page was truly revolutionary. One of these days you might perhaps consider giving a bigger treat to your esteemed readers by leaving all the 30 pages blank?
new social systems
THE world is again in search of ideologies. Globalisation, like a computer virus, has made na-kaam of every extant ideology. They are of no relevance today.
The Congress is in a state of utter confusion. The CPM is in a worse plight. As for the BJP, it is being torn between two anti-thetical forces swadeshi and globalisation.
But in a world without borders, where the very concept of a nation is under threat, where national characteristics are submerged in a sea of universalism, what ideology can they really craft, for globalisation has taken away much of our sovereignty? The global economy is controlled by the G-8, more so the global finances, trade and technology. It is the financial agencies which do your credit rating and assess the value of your currency.
The prospects may thus be bleak. But like the very process of evolution, man can only correct his errors in his onward march. He cannot invent new paths.
Each man has his utopia. He has his prophets, too, who, alas, may still leave him in the lurch. Moses led the jews to the desert of Sinai and left them to fend for themselves. At home, Gandhi tried to lead an impatient crowd of ambitious men and in the process lost his life. Yet another man Jayaprakash Narayan tried to bring about total revolution only to end up in the total anarchy of the country. Karl Marx offered to lead the peoples of the world to a socialist utopia. But the men who guided the peoples in his name took them to despotism and tyranny. This is the weird record. Progress is not linear. It zig-zags. We can draw proper conclusions from these horrendous experiences: that is, never put a man on a high pedestal. And that is true of even our prophets.
And yet there had been progress of sorts through the millennia, but not because of prophets. The men who invented the fire, the wheel, the grain, the healing balm and, of late, electricity and the steam engine have done more for man than the very gods men worship. It is they who should form the pantheon of our worship, not the popinjays that strut about on the public forum.
Man has indeed much wisdom, but he has not found a way to pass on his wisdom to the next generation. Every child must touch fire to know that it burns and it must learn the three Rs all over again. This is the curse on man. This is his predicament. Those who want to guide men will do well to remember that in one generation all that has been gained can be lost.
Today, as the world ponders over the past, there are few certainties left. It can neither trust its prophets nor its idealogues. Should we then leave our future to the flux of history or to the daily decisions of men, whose horizon is as limited as that of a pig.
It is true men need a goal an ideology. But let them profit from their past. Socialism is still a good ideal, but purged of its false conclusions. It was ethics which inspired men to seek a good and just society. It is this which sets apart men from beasts.
How do we reach this goal? There is no clear path. The path tried out by Russia and China has been proved false. But their experience was valuable. We must profit from it. We must create a global framework for a new successful socialist goal.
Both public good and private greed are deeply ingrained instincts in man. He is capable of compassion as also cruelty. Marx failed to see man in the whole. We cannot make that mistake all over again.
We thought that the public sector would promote public good. But, more often public funds were converted into private profit by the greedy. The politician turned the public sector into his private vote bank, the bureaucracy turned it into sources of his private profit and the employees saw it as a milch cow.
That is why the public sector should be made free from vested interests. This poses a major question: how to control the controllers? This is the ultimate question before men. We have yet to go into it. The controllers refuse to have any control over themselves. There was no one to control the Soviet Communist Party or the Soviet bureaucracy. If socialism failed in India, it was because there was no control over the politicians and the Indian bureaucracy.
The rulers and bureaucrats in India have corrupted the entire administration, destroyed the value system and spawned a permissive system in which chalta hai has become the dominant ideology. And they have created a cobweb of laws from which the citizen cannot escape.
Bureaucracies tend to expand. The more they expand, the less they are useful. With competence devalued, mediocrity reigns supreme. While the bureaucracy is trying to sabotage the reforms, the politicians are making a plea for a go-slow policy. It is a plea for status quo. Both have vested interests. Deregulation will deprive them of the sources of patronage and kickbacks. No more will the army of patronage seekers call at the ministries.
India will do well in studying the experience of Latin America and that of other countries. Above all, of Russia and China. Earlier, rich people never went to jail in Mexico for economic offences. But when they began to go to jail, there were fewer offences. In India, a man can spend years in jail for murder. But if he poisons hundreds of people selling hooch he can go scot free, for he will find patrons to plead his case.
There is a belief in this country that the bureaucrat knows better. That is why they have come to occupy the highest positions. This belief must be purged. The bureaucracy has failed this country on its own admission.
In the final analysis, socialism will never die as long as man has a moral conscience. And for the same reason, capitalism will never find full acceptance in its present form. Capitalism still poses a serious moral problem because it is the mother of greed, inequality and misery.
It is said that competition will eliminate monopoly power. But who will enforce competition? Even the World Bank admits that governments have to do it, for, as it says, no economic actor can be a player and umpire simultaneously. Similarly, if a unit becomes sick, which is largely because of inefficient labour, government should not try to prop it up. Inequality is inevitable in any system. It can only be ameliorated, never abolished.
Similarly, unemployment is in-built into capitalism. This is not acceptable to any humane society. The alternative, however, is not guaranteed employment or job security. Efficiency must be rewarded and inefficiency punished. This is the only way to ensure a society committed to excellence.
Capitalism is amoral. This must change. The only capitalism which is morally acceptable is a kinder one. But in a poor country like India, there is a limit to what government can do. Even the richest countries are giving up the welfare state.
The state cannot be held responsible for everything, because it has no full control over its citizens. For example, Indias population has grown three times in the last half a century, although the state was against this explosion in numbers. Punishments and rewards are part of the governing process. That is why men have devised jails and criminal laws to punish those who violate laws. Why not apply the same principle for non-compliance of accepted social goals?
There is then the profit motive. This is natural. But purpose must go with profit. There must be a limit to profit. And restraint on the speculative instinct. (The cricket episode has shown that there is nothing sacred in the life of man.)
In the final analysis, the market has an affinity to democracy. It provides choice. Socialism offers none. (But this can be remedied). As the citizen is sovereign in a democracy, the consumer should be supreme in the market. Today, that choice extends well beyond income and employment to health, education, environment, human dignity and freedom. But globalisation destroys choice. In short, globalisation and the maket principle are antithetical. This is what the worlds new system builders must ponder over.
THE passing of the death sentence
for murder and allied offences has been a subject of
controversy among jurists in all ages. Some have
considered it as the safety valve of society by which
means it has freed itself from dangerous characters. On
the other hand, there are others who consider the death
sentence to be a standing disgrace to justice and to
civilisation. One of their arguments is that there have
been instances where conclusive proof of the innocence of
condemned persons has been obtained after the men have
been hanged. A Bill has been introduced in the House of
Commons by a Labour M.P. for abolishing the death
sentence altogether. The outcome will be awaited with
interest, although it is learnt that there is at present
little chances of the Bill being passed. The Bill
proposes to substitute for the capital sentence penal
servitude for life in cases or murder or treason,
provided that if a convict is recommended by the jury for
mercy, the appellate court may reduce the term to one of
not less than 10 years.
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