Sunday, June 4, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


A sick system for long in ICU
Five faults of India’s socialism
by Gurcharan Das
Socialism died around the world almost a decade ago but in India it continues to exercise a mesmerising influence. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) unveiled a new manifesto the other day, and although it recognised that much had changed, it still hankered after state control of economic activity.

Fiji: a sense of deja vu
A long haul to multi-racialism

by Salman Haidar

Reports of the coup in Fiji have brought a sense of deja vu. Once more an elected government has been thrown out. Once more Indians cower as swaggering Fijian bullyboys rule the streets.

The spirit of the bamboo people
Optimism in war-ravaged Vietnam

by Abu Abraham
Y second (and last) visit to Vietnam was in 1978, this time to Hanoi and Haiphong. The war had been over for three years. I was in Hanoi for the Liberation Day, April 30.




Illustration by Rangaby Harihar Swarup
Inheriting Mahatma’s humility
HILDREN, it is believed, imbibe the trait of their grand-parents. Modern society rejects the theory of “samskar” passing from one generation to another but medical science is now veering round to the point that genealogical similarity is quite possible. 


Paswan makes BJP see red
HE sudden decision of the Union Communications Minister, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, TO distribute freebies to his staff has left many in the BJP see red.

75 years ago

Prohibition of Animal Sacrifice
As bold and courageous as it is progressive and humane, the recent order by the Maharani Regent of Travancore, prohibition the slaughter of animals as sacrifice in all State temples, deserves to be highly commended. 



A sick system for long in ICU
Five faults of India’s socialism
by Gurcharan Das

Socialism died around the world almost a decade ago but in India it continues to exercise a mesmerising influence. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) unveiled a new manifesto the other day, and although it recognised that much had changed, it still hankered after state control of economic activity. The Congress party seems to have changed course and now wants to return to Nehruvian socialism as its ticket back to power. The rest of the Opposition regularly invokes socialism to block the reforms when what it really wants is cheap populism. The question is why does a bankrupt system, which brought untold misery to millions around the world, refuse to die in India?

Socialism is attractive because it appeals to our idealistic wish for a rational and compassionate society. Robert Heilbroner, an eminent American thinker, suggests that socialism can still serve as the vision of a society we would like our grandchildren to live in. Such a society might have, for example, the level of social welfare of Sweden, civil liberties of Holland, income distribution of Norway, health care of Germany, the public culture of France and the security of employment of Japan. In other words, the collapse of socialism should not put an end to our social imagination. If we think of socialism as the improvements we would like to make in our society, it is clear that we must make economic peace with the demands of our environment. Making that peace means that we do not contaminate “the green-blue film on which life itself depends.”

But Heilbroner confuses the issue, for he makes socialism synonymous with idealism. Socialism strictly defined means the ownership of the means of production by the state. In this sense, socialism has failed everywhere, and its problem was of performance, not of faith. If socialism had worked, most of the world would have continued to be socialist today — for it was a noble vision that wanted to wipe poverty and oppression from the world. The ideas of the Russian Revolution — the equality of men, women and nations, the right of everyone to work and to have a fair share in the distribution of the wealth they produce, the undesirability of an idle leisure class — were lost in Soviet practice. But as ideals they retain their validity. They will be remembered long after the lies and perversions of Stalinism are forgotten.

The problem with socialism is that it leads to “statism”. In India, we have learned from painful experience that the state does not necessarily work on behalf of the people. It usually works on behalf of itself — the politicians, bureaucrats and the interests that support them. State employees become in all socialist economies a powerful vested interest group which is responsible to no one. They often believe they don’t need to work. There is little incentive to excel in day-to-day life. One visit to the local branch of one of our public-sector banks and you know what know why our socialism has such a bad odour.

There were at least five things wrong with India’s socialism: one, it adopted an inward-looking, import-substituting path rather than an outward-looking, export-promoting route; it thus denied itself a share in world trade and the prosperity that trade has brought in the past 50 years. Two, it set up a massive, inefficient, and monopolistic public sector to which it denied autonomy of working; hence, our investments were not productive and we had a poor capital-output ratio. Three, it over-regulated private enterprise with the worst controls in the world, and this diminished competition in the market. Four, it discouraged foreign capital and denied itself the benefits of technology and world-class competition. And five, it pampered organised labour to the point that we have extremely low productivity.

In stubbornly persisting with the wrong model of development (especially after 1970, when there was clear evidence that this path was doomed) our rulers suppressed growth and jobs and denied our people an opportunity to rise into the middle class. It is ironic that men and women of goodwill created this order and they were widely admired. The second irony is that they pig-headedly refused to change course in the name of the poor. The worst indictment of Indian socialism is that in the end it did very little for the poor. All the countries of East Asia did far better. To top this tale of India’s lost decades, members of the Indian ruling elite — the politicians, the MPs, the senior bureaucrats, and the economic planners — are not contrite. They complacently proclaim: “after all, we have done rather well compared to the 3.5 per cent Hindu rate of growth.” There is no more defeatist an expression than this fatalistic phrase. They feel no humiliation that India has lagged behind in a “Third Worldish” twilight while its neighbours in East and South East Asia have gone ahead. There is no feeling of shame that countries with a fraction of India’s natural and human resource potential have created some of the most prosperous societies in the world. They have used the recent troubles of East Asia to justify our incomplete and frustratingly slow reforms. When individuals blunder, it is unfortunate and their families go down. When rulers fail, it is a national tragedy.

In all likelihood we are now headed in the direction of some version of capitalism. The strength of capitalism is that entrepreneurs and companies innovative, expand, contract, change in the marketplace daily. In the process they create jobs and wealth for society. But all this energy of a market-driven society also needs governance and public goods (education, roads, public health) and it needs to avoid deleterious outcomes (for example, to the environment). We need the state to create public policy and public goods, which is very different from central planning or the “license raj”.

We must have no illusions that the market economy is perfect. But like democracy, with all its flaws, it is still better than any other system. The commercialisation of life is not a pleasant prospect, but it is the price we have to pay for prosperity and efficiency. We have to put up with it as we have to put up with politicians in a democracy. In the short term, capitalism increases inequality; but in long term, it leads to a much more democratic society. It is merciless to the weak producer and uncompassionate to the worker who loses his job, but it rewards the economy as a whole by creating more jobs, lowering costs and prices, improving the quality of the products and raising the standards of living.

The free market leads to inequality because of the unequal ability of people to work and make money. Some people are just more productive than others, whether they are labourers or farmers or managers. Capitalism rewards them unevenly, according to their productivity. But the market also breaks down conventional barriers to equality because of the continually changing demands of labour. Indian cities today are far more socially egalitarian than the village society that they are replacing. What is emerging from this equalising process is the Indian middle class.

A middle class society does not achieve Marx’s “classless society,” but a high degree of social mobility within it permits more and more people to identify with its aspirations and to believe that they will one day become its members. Social inequality is not eliminated, but the source of inequality is now due to natural differences in talents, productivity and the division of labour rather than the old arbitrary man-made hierarchy of the village. In successful economies the vast majority of the population becomes the middle class.

In India, our biggest failure is not that we did not eliminate poverty, but we failed to create a middle class. Our middle class was only 8 per cent of the population in 1980 and today it is 18 per cent.

There are other flaws in capitalism. It tends to concentrate economic power in a few firms, and it needs a policeman to ensure free and fair competition. Capitalism needs a strong judicial structure to enforce contracts and to catch crooks that fix prices or engage in insider trading.

Capitalism also leads to a greedy consumer society, where people only care about their own interest, and have lost faith in religion or idealistic ideologies; they are left with little to do except to go shopping.

The answer to capitalism’s flaws is not to hanker after socialism. The answer is good governance and vigorous institutions that protect the consumer, the producer, and society. Our politicians need to come out and squarely tell this truth to the people. Only then will the second generation of economic reforms take-off.

The writer, a former top executive of Proctor and Gamble, is the author of “India Unbound”.


Fiji: a sense of deja vu
A long haul to multi-racialism
by Salman Haidar

Reports of the coup in Fiji have brought a sense of deja vu. Once more an elected government has been thrown out. Once more Indians cower as swaggering Fijian bullyboys rule the streets. Shops and restaurants — Indian-owned — are looted and vandalised. The constitution is contemptuously dismissed by gun-wielding gangsters. Even the dramatis personae are familiar — Rabuka, who led the former coup, hovers in the background; Ratu Mara, the respected father figure who led the way back to constitutionality, has been pushed out of the President’s office; Mahendra Chaudhary, the deposed Prime Minister, then, as now, a prominent political leader of the Indian community.

There are differences, of course, between the coups of 1987 and the present one. Most significant is the difference in the two instigators, Rabuka and Speight. The former, for all his brutal utterance, was a trained soldier, out of the same mould as so many from the Commonwealth — indeed, he had passed a staff course with the Indian Army at Wellington.

By contrast, Speight is a ruffian who has released violence and pillage in his country, targeted at the Indian community. Despite the army takeover, reports from Fiji indicate that Speight and his gang have not been dislodged from the environs of the Parliament building where they have immured the Cabinet.

But even if Speight disappears, that is far from the end of the matter. Military rule is no more the answer in Fiji than in Pakistan. Restoration of democracy is what the world demands, and until that happens there will be sanctions, ostracism and other pressures. How effective these pressures may prove is not at all clear; perhaps a look at what happened last time can be instructive.

Then, as now, the coup in Fiji was treated by the world as largely a matter to be resolved within Commonwealth. Fiji’s membership was suspended and its major regional partners, Australia and, especially, New Zealand, were at the forefront of a regime of sanctions. These measures were far from effective. On the contrary, Rabuka instituted a second coup in 1987 to consolidate his authority, and having obtained strong backing from the indigenous community, he was able to give a semblance of respectability to his regime. In this he was immensely aided by the fellow feeling of the neighbouring South Pacific island nations for whom the ethnic issue was more important than questions of democracy: they had sympathy for the action taken against what they regarded as an alien community that could overwhelm the indigenous people.

As things began to settle down, a laboured process of constitutional reform came into effect, involving close negotiation between the different political and ethnic groups. While other Commonwealth members were ready at this point to forgive and forget, India did not permit Fiji’s re-entry until the talks had led to an agreement that satisfied all opinion in the country. Indian support was eventually the sole external compulsion in favour of restored democratic and multiracial rule.

The 1997 constitution that came out of these talks has just been roughly discarded. This statute, though finally accepted by all sides, represented a watering down of the position of the Indians under the original constitution of 1970, itself weighted in favour of the Fijians. Emigration after the 1987 coup had reduced the numbers of the Indians, and it had become brutally clear that they could not aspire on their own to anything beyond a secondary role. Mahendra Chaudhry’s government is a coalition inclusive of different ethnic groups — Ratu Mara’s daughter is one of his Ministers. But even a coalition of this sort could not be tolerated by the likes of Speight.

If the past is any guide, a further decline in the situation of the Indian community is to be feared. The restoration of the ousted government is impossible. The stamina of the Commonwealth in maintaining sanctions may well be limited. Many of the neighbours might deplore violence but may nevertheless quietly sympathise with the affirmation of indigenous rights, whatever the means employed. Within Fiji, the army is presently in control but it will surely be mindful of the hard line position of the Great Council of Chiefs, where Rabuka presides. Those Indians who are in a position to do so will surely emigrate. Last time the well-heeled and the well-trained fled, knowing they could make their way in Australia and New Zealand. This might happen again, leaving behind those least well-equipped to cope with a deteriorating situation. It is a gloomy scenario.

This represents a nasty problem for India to handle. Over the years, the feeling of kinship with the Indian diaspora has strengthened within the country. Maltreatment of Indians in Fiji generates considerable resentment, accentuated by the public anguish of the family members of the deposed Prime Minister. There is a feeling that we must respond effectively, yet so little can be done when the scene of action is so far out of range.

What is clear is that there is no scope for any direct intervention by India. Indeed, it is difficult to envisage any sort of direct intervention from outside, by one country or by a group of countries. It would take a sustained breakdown of law and order and systematic oppression of the more vulnerable ethnic groups for such action to begin to be envisaged — it’s best that it should never come to that.

Diplomatic action by the international community is the only realistic option. In this, India will need to take the lead. That a senior MEA official is going there is all to the good. The Commonwealth in particular will have to be induced to hold firm against the racist, anti-democratic action that has overthrown Fiji’s government. It is likely to be a long haul, and previous experience suggests that others may be inclined to relent prematurely. Much will depend on India.

Economic and other sanctions will no doubt come into effect — already Australian trade unions have taken the lead. Sporting such sanctions, in which governments have a prime role, may prove more galling than any other, as was the case with racist South Africa. Careful monitoring will be needed, for which the Commonwealth could set up a body. Such means may not serve to restore the Mahendra Chaudhry government, or even the 1997 constitution, but they will drive home the point that without multiracial rule in a form acceptable to all communities, there can be no return to international respectability for Fiji.

In one respect we may be better placed to play our part, for we have a functioning Mission in Suva today, which was not the case last time. Instead of all manner of intermediaries, some reliable, some not, we will have the benefit of having our representative on the scene. He should be kept there and not withdrawn in a fit of pique. His role will grow in importance as the situation unfolds.

The writer is a former Foreign Secretary.


The spirit of the bamboo people
Optimism in war-ravaged Vietnam
by Abu Abraham

MY second (and last) visit to Vietnam was in 1978, this time to Hanoi and Haiphong. The war had been over for three years. I was in Hanoi for the Liberation Day, April 30. There was no celebration on that day, as I remember, only quiet meetings in public halls. It was a day of memories, a day to look back on the hell, night and day, that the people had courageously suffered.

The scars of war had been covered up. In Haiphong, an industrial port town, in 1972 alone, 15,000 tonnes of bombs were dropped. A million square metres of housing was destroyed, and thousands of people were killed. Very little of all that havoc could been seen. New houses for workers had come up in large numbers. The port was being modernised.

Illustration by AbuMost remarkable of all, there were these utterly cheerful people wherever you went. Always smiling, especially courteous to visitors, full of optimism. On my drive from the airport to Hanoi, a distance of 40 kilometres, my interpreter and companion, Nguyen van Quan, an energetic young official from the foreign ministry, who spoke English and French besides his mother tongue, apologised for the slow progress into town (it took two hours to get to my hotel). “Our kilometres are longer", he said laughing, “because our roads are bad.” I asked him why, when there had been so much bombing, I couldn’t see any craters. “There are plenty,’ he said and pointed out several on either side of the road. They were neat circular ponds created by the early showers of the rainy season. They were breeding fish in them, Quan told me.

As we entered Hanoi city we crossed the mile-long Long Bien bridge over the Red River. It was built by the French in 1905 when the city’s population was only 30,000. The bridge was no longer adequate to serve a population of 1.5 million. There were plans at that time to build a new modern bridge.

The Red River is so called, simply because its water is a muddy red. A young girl said to me in Hanoi: “Some people like a river to be blue, but we like our river red. Besides a red river brings fertility to the soil”.

Hanoi literally means ‘river inside’. Ha is river and noi is inside. It is a graceful river, somewhat like the Jamuna, wide and curvy, with potato and cabbage cultivation on its banks.

My hotel was a stylish new building on the edge of a large lake on the outskirts of the city. It was built by the Cubans two years earlier as a gift to Vietnam. There were no porters in the hotel, no room service; you were supposed to make your own tea with hot water kept in a thermos flask and tea bags.

The view from my room reminded me of Cochin. The houses and buildings on the farther side were like those in Kerala, with curving roofs. Hanoi was a mix of a French provincial town and Cochin. There was a lot of water around, with five lakes within the city and shady boulevards and squares. The streets were strung with red banners carrying patriotic slogans and exhortations from Ho Chi Min for socialism, and for higher production.

It was a busy city. Everybody was on the move, everybody doing something. There were no loafers, no layabouts. The bicycle was the common means of transport. There were not many cars or buses. Singly or in pairs, they were all on two wheels — young and old, babies and grandmothers — they glided through the streets coolly and gracefully, while cars slowed down, giving priority to the cycles. At rush hours, in the morning and early evening, as people went to their places of work or returned home, the entire population it seemed was on wheels. It was an extraordinary sight, the streets teeming with bicycles.

After two days in Hanoi, Mr Ky, secretary general of the journalists’ association, an editor and a scholar, asked me what my impressions were of Hanoi. I said, “ the smile!” I had expected to see serious and sullen faces after all the suffering in the people had endured for years. Ky beamed and said: “The Vietnamese character is optimistic. Our Prime Minister (Pham Van Dong) smiles a lot and reassures the people.”

I said to Ky that the Vietnamese are frail but tough. He agreed, and then gave me a discourse on the bamboo. The Vietnamese, he said, are like the bamboo, frail strong. The bamboo bends in a storm, but does not break; it has strong roots in the earth. Vietnamese children have cradles made of bamboo, they grow up in bamboo houses, they sleep on bamboo beds, store rice in bamboo baskets. The chopsticks are made of bamboo, so are sandals. They fight with bamboo weapons; their coffins are also made of bamboo....

For a man to be compared to a bamboo is, in Vietnam, to be called a gentleman. A bamboo is hollow, so it hides nothing; a ‘bamboo’ man is one without evil schemes, an upright and honest man. We start our socialism from bamboo, he said, not steel. We even made factories with bamboo. We carry machines on bamboo sticks. Ky explained that if bamboo is kept under water for one year, it can last a hundred years. Stone bridges in Vietnam sank in the bombing, but the bamboo bridges didn’t, he said. They could be easily repaired and kept going within a short time after the bombing. “We didn’t fight the United States with the American way of war,” he added.

Ky said that the Vietnamese are perhaps a little too frail. ‘We have to move from poverty to plenty to keep ourselves healthy and to maintain our fine characteristics.’ I was told by others that the Prime Minister was a great believer in the food value of milk. Traditionally, the Indo-Chinese people, like the Chinese, didn’t drink milk. Then, under a new scheme, high-yielding buffaloes from India — the Muria — had been brought in to improve the milk supply.

The Vietnamese buffalo is the first cousin of the bison. They are larger and rounder than the ordinary Indian type. In the villages, little children look after them. They ride these animals, boys and girls; they sit on them, lie on them, use them like a large and comfortable settees.

The writer is a well-known cartoonist.


Quote — Unquote

"I hold that in the new century, cooperation between India and China is a historical necessity.

— President K.R. Narayanan


“We do not want some Fijians (read ethnic Indians) to become second class citizens".

— BJP party spokesman Venkaiah Naidu


"The need of the hour is to rise above petty political difference and help vast multitudes of suffering people".

— Congress (I) President Sonia Gandhi.


"Social justice demands that a woman should be treated equally both in the economic and social sphere".

— 174th report of the Law Commission emphasising 'Property rights for Women: Proposed reforms under the Hindu Law'.


"The Speaker's isolation and guaranteed aloofness from the main stream would enhance the dignity of his office and enable members to look to him and respect him as the impartial protector”

— G.M.C. Balayogi, the Lok Sabha Speaker presiding over the 63rd conference of the Presiding Officers of Legislative bodies.


"While scribes as a class cannot claim immunity, I object to this provision on the wider basis that the police will grossly abuse the power and harass a lot of innocent professionals".

— Former Additional Solicitor General A.M. Singhvi maintaining new "terrorism Bill" as a major threat.


"Members of Parliament should focus on general development processes instead of seeking an increase in amount given under MPLADS (Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme)

— Union Minister for Planning and Programme Implementation Arun Shourie.


"Singapore is trying to create a knowledge based society and industry. Together, we can create a multiplier effect on the IT (Information Technology) front".

— George Abraham, Executive Director, Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.


"I am being made the target of either a deep-rooted conspiracy or personal jealousy and animosity".

— India's cricket coach Kapil Dev

— Compiled by Kuldip Kalia


by Harihar Swarup
Inheriting Mahatma’s humility

CHILDREN, it is believed, imbibe the trait of their grand-parents. Modern society rejects the theory of “samskar” passing from one generation to another but medical science is now veering round to the point that genealogical similarity is quite possible. India’s High Commissioner-designate to Sri Lanka, Gopal Gandhi, is the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi and grandson (from the material side) of C. Rajgopalchari, popularly known as “Rajaji”. Gopal Gandhi’s father, Devadas Gandhi, was married to Rajaji’s daughter. Could it be that the second generation of the “real Gandhi” has inherited the Mahatma’s humility and the mettle of Rajaji?

A newspaper headline described Gopal Gandhi’s incognito visit to a drought-affect village of Gujarat as “Gopal in Gandhi’s footstep”. True to Gandhian style, newspaper reports say, he slogged at a relief site, slept under a tree and did not bathe for four days to experience the miseries faced by the famine-hit people. The most amazing aspect was that the residents of the remote village in Banaskantha district did not know who the spectacled, tall and slim man, who mingled with them so freely was. They would not believe when later told that he was the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.

Evidently, “self-purification” was the motivation that took Gopal Gandhi to the forlorn village. He must have been moved by the plight of the drought-affected people of Gujarat. Or, could it be that the self-purification exercise before his Sri Lanka assignment was to acquire moral strength to bring peace in the strife-torn island? Fluent in Tamil and half Tamilian himself (he has risen above than mundane things like ancentry), he knows Sri Lanka very well.

Gopal Gandhi had a sufficiently long stint in the island country — 1978 and 1982 — as First Secretary in India’s High Commission and was stationed at Kandy. His assignment then was the rehabilitation of ‘India’ Tamils; repatriating them to the land of their origin in terms of the Indo-Ceylon Agreement of 1964. Under the pact 5.25 lakh persons with their ‘natural increase’ were to repatriated to India, leaving three lakhs with their ‘natural increase’ to stay back.

He interacted with a large number of tea plantation workers during the four-year stay in Kandy. Based on the experience of his meeting with a large number of estate workers in preparation of their journey to “a motherland they hardly knew”, Gandhi penned a moving novel “Saranam meaning “refuge”. Most of the repatriates had been born in their estates in the central highlands of Sri Lanka and knew little of the world outside.

Gopal Gandhi in the beginning of his novel tells his readers the meaning of the Sanskrit word “Saranam”. It denotes shelter, refuge, the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Tamils employ the word similarly: “Swamiye Sarnam Ayappa! (Ayappa! You are my only refuge). In the true spirit of Buddha, the grandson of Gandhiji will travel to Sri Lanka this month to bring peace between Tamils and Singhalas. Will he succeed?

Former Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao might have seen reflexes of Mahatma Gandhi in Gopal Gandhi when he appointed him India’s first High Commissioner in South Africa which had overthrown the yoke of apartheid. It was very thoughtful of the former Prime Minister to think of Gandhiji’s grandson as India’s first envoy to the land where the Mahatma perfected his weapon of non-violent struggle. This correspondent happened to meet Gopal Gandhi for the first time at the High Commission in Pretoria when Prime Minister I.K. Gujral visited South Africa in 1997. He was the first-ever Indian head of government to visit the land of Nelson Mandela and this correspondent accompanied him. Four days in the company of Gopal Gandhi, travelling with him to Cape Town and Durban had been a memorable experience.

The sheer simplicity of the man, genuine approach to a problem and sincerity of purpose impresses one instantly. He reflected the same informality and cordiality when I met him off and on at social gathering in Delhi after he became President K.R. Narayanan’s Secretary. Gopal Gandhi had been very popular in South Africa and even Mandela developed a liking for him.

Gopal Gandhi had perhaps served former President R. Venkataraman, for the longest time. As Vice-President, Mr Venkataraman brought him as his Secretary and when R.V. went to Rashtrapati Bhavan, he took him along. Though Mr Venkataraman virtually treated him as his adopted son, Gopal Gandhi never tried to take advantage of his proximity to the President, always kept a low profile and never projected himself. Many in Rashtrapati Bhavan for long did not know that he was the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi.

Gopal Gandhi was born in New Delhi in 1945 and read English literature at St Stephens College between the years 1961 and 1964. Doing his masters in the same subject from the Delhi University in 1966, he joined the IAS and served in different positions in Tamil Nadu and at the centre until 1992. He took voluntary retirement from service in 1992 and was later appointed the first Director of the Nehru Centre in London.


Delhi Durbar

Paswan makes BJP see red

THE sudden decision of the Union Communications Minister, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, TO distribute freebies to his staff has left many in the BJP see red.

The move literally caught the Government unawares considering the manner in which reports of the PMO’s unhappiness over the populist measure started circulating.

It was a catch-22 situation. Officially the Government cannot be seen asking the Minister to shelve the plan for the fear of irritating a large and influential section of the people. But if the order is not withdrawn, the Opposition is bound to make political capital out of it.

The Congress has already fired the first salvo, criticising the move saying that while the Government was not willing to restore subsidies in order to provide food security, it was throwing away scares resources in a cavalier manner.

After all the government stood firm and did not withdraw or rollback the slash in subsidies on items issued through the public distribution system.

Now there are reports doing the round that the Communications Minister was upset over the manner in which the contentious issue of licence fee for cellular operators was handled although he was not the man in charge at that time. He is also understood to be unhappy as the Government turned down his proposal for regularlising some 2.5 lakh casual employees in the department.

Mr Paswan who in his earlier avtaar as Rail Minister in the United Front Government had issued passes to his supporters, is trying to create a new constituency in Sanchar Bhavan and in the process punched numbers which went wrong.

Cabinet expansion

The speculation on the reshuffle in certain key Ministries including Power and Finance led to its own share of problems for the Government.

Reports started circulating about the imminent shift of the Power Minister Mr Rangaranjan Kumaramangalam and trifurcation of the Finance Ministry with Mr Yashwant Sinha getting a truncated portion of it.

At least one senior Minister called up the Union Home Minister, Mr L. K. Advani, to reassure himself that there was no move to change his portfolio.

Apart from creating confusion, the Government was more worried what effect the speculation would have on the volatile share market which had in the past shown a tendency to react to “rumours”.

And finally at the swearing-in ceremony when Mr Sinha arrived, he was greeted by the party General Secretary, Mr M Venkaiah Naidu: “So you remain one”.

Meanwhile, PMK’s Mr Shanmugham who was shifted out of Health to Coal is understood to be looking for an able PR man. Considering the manner in which his relocation was attributed to “poor performance” in the Lok Sabha, he needs a real media-savvy person for the job.

Considerate Sonia!

The Congress President, Mrs Sonia Gandhi may have antagonised a section of senior Congress leaders by denying them re-nomination to the Rajya Sabha, she has not dumped them.

Apparently aware that many a senior leader like Mr Sitaram Kesri, among others, do not have an accomodation in Delhi, the Congress President has directed the party to draw up a list of newly-elected MPs who strictly do not require official houses.

A list of some six such MPs has been drawn and it includes industrialist Mr R.P. Goenka who has been elected to the Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan. The attempt is that once these MPs get a house alloted in their name under the rules, the same will be occupied by needy party members.

The favour done by Mr Mani Kumar Subba, the controversial MP from Assam to the party spokesman, Mr Ajit Jogi, is perhaps being replicated on a larger scale.

Battle for room

The reshuffle in the Union council of Ministers also led to a situation throwing up the problem of accomodation for the new entrants.

The youthful Minister of State for Sports, Syed Shahnawaz, apparently wanted to occupy a room that was originally earmarked for the Cabinet Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa.

At the time of the change of portfolios, Mr Dhindsa was in Rio De Janerio, Brazil, and was accordingly informed of the change. The State Minister was asked to look for an alternate room and when last heard, he has got a room vacated by another Minister which has been done up so well that it could give a luxury hotel a run for its money.

Tihar food

Well strange as it may sound, a visiting British professor has given a certificate to the quality of food supplied in Delhi’s maximum security Tihar jail.

Mrs Ursula Smart, a Professor at Law and Criminal Justice and senior consultant to the British Home Office, has recently admitted this.

Apparently, Mrs Smart and her husband contracted a rather severe bout of food-poisoning at a luxury hotel in Khajuraho and on inspection found its kitchen appalling.

In a letter to the Director-General of Prisons, Mr Ajay Agarwal, she said: “Standing in the appalling so-called five-star kitchen with my muddy boots on and my head uncovered I told them (other other chefs) the story of having to take my shoes off and my head to be covered upon entering the Tihar jail kitchens. That the jail food and tea was a hundred times more edible and hygienic than at the hotel’’.

Well the prisoners at the overpacked jail can take some consolatation that they may not get five-star treatment but the food they got was better than that served by a luxury hotel.

Media management

The other day, the Congress party wanted to react to the ongoing developments in islands of Fiji and Sri Lanka. The party had not taken an official stand and after stalling an answer for few days, it decided to make its stand public.

Suddenly it found that the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Department was not available and the next in line was not willing to face the media. Fortunately, the media managers found that they could not utilise the services of additional spokesman Mr Anand Sharma, who also serves on the department’s consultative board. So while Mr Sharma made his debut after his recent appointment as additional spokesman, the party also benefitted from his experience of being a close aide of the late Rajiv Gandhi whose IPKF decision was now getting another round of beating.

(Contributed by K.V. Prasad and P.N. Andley)



75 years ago

June 4, 1925
Prohibition of Animal Sacrifice

As bold and courageous as it is progressive and humane, the recent order by the Maharani Regent of Travancore, prohibition the slaughter of animals as sacrifice in all State temples, deserves to be highly commended. The State subjects also must have their share of the credit, since the more enlightened among them lent their support to the measure in its experimental stage.


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