Thursday, June 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Failure of a mega scheme

SOME newspapers of May 22 carried a full-page advertisement by the Government of India highlighting the success stories of all the water harvesting schemes in the country excepting the one introduced in 1999 — “Recharging the underground reservoir of Delhi by harvesting rooftop rain-water” implying thereby that this one has failed. It was to affect the lives of millions of people who were required to make investment to the tune of hundreds of crores of rupees. The Prime Minister and the Minister of Water Resources has praised it. The latter had even predicted that the water-starved “people of Delhi would be comfortable with their water supply by the year 2000 and beyond.” Thus the scheme was a mega one in every sense of the term.

The failure of this scheme was not unexpected as technically it was ill-conceived; the rate at which roof water gets drained is much higher than that at which recharging takes place with the result that only a small faction of it can be used without some storage arrangement and this is not possible in Delhi for want of land. What is surprising is that the government has done nothing to express any regret for raising false hopes among the public, and withdraw it despite its confirmed failure.

This tragic episode has two important lessons for the government: one to tone up its administrative machinery in a manner so as to make the launching of technically ill-conceived schemes impossible, and two, to lay down and enforce guidelines for the high dignitaries so that they cannot lend their support to schemes of dubious nature and cause frustration among the public.

Is the government listening?

formerly Engineer-in-Chief,
Irrigation Deptt, Haryana


Dissolute monarch

In the write-up “Garden pandal” (“From here and there”, June 7), a reference has been made to an emperor and his favourite concubine, Lal Kunwar (Kumari).

The emperor was Bahadur Shah’s eldest son, Muizz-ud-din, who ascended the Mughal throne by the title of Jahandar Shah. He was a weak, and dissolute king, addicted to the most revolting vices, forgetting his dignity. He spent nights in drunken frolics with worthless low-born companions. He was so devoid of shame and honour that while passing through the streets, he seized the wives and daughters of helpless people.

Khafi Khan observed: “In the brief reign of Jahandar Shah violence had full sway. It was a fine time for minstrels and singers and all tribes of dancers and actors.”

Lal Kumari was a vulgar courtesan. She had complete ascendancy over the licentious monarch, who had become an abject slave to her whims. She received the title of Imtiyaz Mahal Begum (the most distinguished lady) and an annual allowance of Rs 20 million, exclusive of her clothes and jewels, and imitated the style of Nurjahan.

Her kinsmen misbehaved with the highest dignitaries.

Zohrah, a friend of the royal favourite, was promoted to a high rank. The grandees, in order to get favours, sent presents to her through Zohrah.

The emperor was so infatuated with the abandoned lady that he spent his time entirely in low amusement and marrymaking in her company. One night, they returned to the palace in a state of intoxication. Lal Kumari went into the apartments and slept. The coachman, without examining the wagon, took it to the stable. Next morning the palace officers, not finding the king, made a search for him. He was found asleep in the arms of Zohrah in the coach, a couple of miles from the royal dwelling.

He was strangled under the orders of Farrukhsiyar, who enthroned himself as emperor.


Casualness in paper-setting

The quality of answer-books supplied by Kurukshetra University in its recently concluded undergraduate examinations and the ongoing postgraduate examinations is simply intolerable. A number of answer-books had no proper binding, contained blank pages (without filing) and had paper edges jutting out of the whole answer-book.

Not only this, the serial number printed on the cover was either unreadable or in some cases it was totally missing! Even the printing on the cover page was so poor that in many cases there were ghost images.

So casual is the whole situation that in one of the papers of MA (English) on American literature, “Whitman” was spelt as “Watchman”. In another paper on Shakespeare, the paper-setter did away entirely with the internal choice in all the questions.

University examination is a serious business. If the dons of the university do not take proper care for its smooth and efficient conduct, the student community will certainly face an irreparable loss.

I hope someone in the ivory towers is listening!

Ambala Cantt

Homage to Rajesh Pilot

A charismatic leader, roots deep in earth
As humble as earth; more humble in birth.
A champion of the masses, young and old
You stood among us, yet stood out, firm and bold.
Symbol of hope, riding high on the soaring wing
Has been shattered by some unknown, ruthless thing.
A whiff of fresh air! You, more sanguine than dawn
Like Apollo you saw future and sang like swan
Socrates, before drinking the cup of hemlock,
Had told this to Simmias, his old bloke.
The swan who belongs to Apollo predicts future
And sings the most beautiful song before departure.
That was on moral values of life, your perception
Politics without taint and free from corruption.
Pilot! You navigated jetcraft with thundering sound
Cruel fate snatched your manoeuvring skill on ground.
Like a meteor you burst from meridian height
And left us deep in darkness after shining bright.
The wailing cry cannot reach higher in the sky
That this nation holds you in her eye.

former Minister, Haryana


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