Saturday, May 27, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Nuclear club’s hypocrisy

YOUR editorial (“Nuke club’s hypocrisy”, May 4) aptly exposes the duplicity of the five-member nuclear club which has no qualms about upgrading its own nuclear weapons while lecturing others about the virtues of shunning these very same weapons! Originally, the aim of calling a nuclear conference was to focus not only on non-proliferation but also on universal disarmament. By overlooking the disarmament clause and thereby allowing themselves to retain their nuclear arsenals the Big Five have broken their earlier understanding and have, therefore, failed to win the trust of the non-nuclear world. The non-nuclear countries would voluntarily give up their desire to join the exclusive nuclear club of five in exchange for the latter to “cap, roll back and eliminate” its nuclear weapons. The sentiments in general for a nuclear-free world are too strong for the skewed NPT to be regarded as sacrosanct.

  Almost all the non-nuclear countries have been calling upon the Big Five to practise disarmament through pressure groups recently formed. It has become all the more necessary in view of the US insistence to upgrade its own nuclear weapons and set up a missile defence shield to protect itself from “rogue states”. A sheer fear psychosis this! It is beyond comprehension why the world’s strongest super power, with two oceans on either side, should feel the need to have a defence shield to protect it from the so-called rogue states when it fails to perceive the threat which India faces with two collaborating nuclear powers on its borders.It is hypocrisy of this nature which makes the nuclear regime, especially the USA, a suspect in the eyes of non-nuclear powers. The USA may lament the lack of progress towards a nuclear-free world, but what has been its own contribution to it? Legitimising these doomsday weapons by giving them an aura of power and prestige?

You are perfectly correct in your observation that unless more honest approach by the Big Five is adopted, based on a time-bound programme to eliminate their nuclear arsenals, the trust of the non-nuclear world cannot be won back. Neither the NPT nor the CTBT nor any other flawed treaty will remove the fear of a sudden catastrophe, which apparently haunts Washington as well.


Financing education

This refers to Mr S.S. Gill’s “Financing of education” (May 19). By and large, political administration in the developing countries has overlooked the fact that in any economic transformation and social change, education plays a very vital role. It is often beyond their vote-bank calculations to realise that a good educational system not only produces professionals, administrators, scientists and thinkers but it also plays a great civilising role in society.

With the fast changing pattern of governmental functioning in the light of the globalised economy and a distinct emphasis on privatisation of enterprise, the Indian government is also stressing the need for self-financing particularly in the cases of higher and technical education.

A government may have financial constraints but one cannot ignore the fact that higher education is not just an extension of elementary education but it is supplementary to it. One cannot survive and sustain without the other. Even in the most developed countries like the USA, Japan and Canada it is the public government funding that is the major source of financing higher education.

In India, if our government finds it difficult to finance education, including higher education, it is not that it is spending more than the international commitment of 6.5 per cent of the GNP on education. In fact, India spends just 3.5 per cent of the GNP on education.

Our governments, lacking in professional outlook and training, have failed to display an effective fiscal management. Our financial priorities need to be recast and our tax collection system must rise above political considerations. Is it not ironical that many of our MPs, ministers and even former Prime Ministers have unpaid dues running into crores of rupees, and people like Harshad Mehta, Hiten Dalal and many Bollywood stars have thousands of crores to pay to the government on account of income tax?

How shall our politicians, many of whom are not educated, realise that a better fiscal management also comes through good higher education and training?


Recurring droughts

Water, one of the most precious life-sustaining elements, is fast depleting. When in abundance, few value it. Those who are deprived of the mere sight of a single drop of it know what it is worth (priceless). Like the people in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Orissa!

Moreover, these states abound with mostly poor people for whom shifting to some wet areas for the time being is almost impossible. The fiercest drought of the century has converted several acres of land of Rajasthan into an animal graveyard. People are also dying of thirst and starvation in these states. Now they are running helter and skelter in search of water, however dirty it is, collected in ponds, craters, etc. This presents a dismally pathetic picture.

What is disgusting is that the Vajpayee government, as ever, is holding the previous government responsible for it. With the provision of a few water tanks from the government side, it is still a mirage for more than 50 per cent of the drought families.

We hope the government preserves trees, continues tree plantation programmes, store rain-water for drought days, provides a direct-water-supply-canal connected with some evergreen rivers to dry areas. Only then can it come to grips with recurring droughts.


Stage show

Recently US President Bill Clinton visited India. As he wanted to see the grassroots, the Indian organising committee arranged his visit to Nayala (Rajasthan) where he met traditionally dressed Rajasthani milk-maids and witnessed their milk cooperative venture. He was gaga over the empowerment of these women in the dairy sector and apparent spread of computer application in a village like Nayala which is one of the poorest places on earth. He was made an honorary member of the Nayala Milk Cooperative. He said: “I will put this card in the office of the President in Washington D.C. so that all those who visit the place could see and know about the women empowerment in Rajasthan due to dairy movement.”

But the ghoonghat-sporting women of other villages (Besmer, Pokhran and Lekhar) of Rajasthan have another tale to tell Clinton: “Rajaji, what you had seen in Nayala were Hathi ke dikhave ke daant. Haathi ke asli daant to yehan hain. They do not have water to drink and we women have to walk miles to fetch water.”



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