|Sunday, June 18, 2000,
A crusader & a doer
begin at home
friend, worst critic
bright light during dark hours
Freedom became one of the beacon lights of my life and it has remained so ever since. Freedom with the passing of years transcended the mere freedom of my country and embraced freedom of man everywhere and from every sort of trammel. Above all it meant freedom of the human personality, freedom of the mind, freedom of the spirit. This freedom has become a passion of my life and I shall not see it compromised for bread, for security, for prosperity, for the glory of the state or for anything else.
Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan
IN the dying moments of the 2nd millennium, standing on the ramparts of the Lincoln Memorial at Washington DC, President of the United States of America, William Jefferson Clinton declared: The story of 20th century is the triumph of freedom. We must never forget the meaning of the 20th century or the gifts of those who worked and marched, who fought and died for the triumph of Freedom.
That self-effacing Noble Laureate and philosopher-economist Amartya Sen, in a BBC interview that preceded President Clintons homily, echoed this in equally emphatic terms. According to Prof. Sen, Freedom is more critical for the developing world because it gives voice to the poor and the needy.
It is this voice, when heard loud and clear, that facilitates access to necessities, so essential for alleviating poverty. For him freedom was the best thing to have happened to India, giving its poor a voice and say in the policies of governments. True indeed.
At the dawn of Independence, the founding fathers of our Republic chose the path of freedom and democracy despite extremely trying circumstances. Thanks to this, in the more than 50 years of our existence as a free nation, we have considerably surmounted the problem of poverty. What is more, despite all trials and tribulations and its many imperfections, India today is being lauded as the largest democracy on earth. But this very freedom stood trammelled and extinguished for 21 months commencing from this day 25 years ego.
Loknayak Jayaprakash Narayan, popularly known as JP was among Indias tallest leaders who had worked and marched, fought and died for the triumph of freedom in a country wherein live one-sixth of the human race. And he did it not once, but twice as a fiery fighter for freedom from alien rule under Gandhijis leadership and later winning it back from a native durbar, which brought in emergency rule through the back door, under his own stewardship. But this gift of his has been ignored and his name is being virtually erased from public memory.
This, in fact, is the trauma and tragedy of the Indian nation, keeping its resourceful but miserable millions, at the bottom of the pit. We worship the high and the mighty or those anointed or propelled by them. We adulate self-seeking, power hungry hypocrites hailing them messiahs and revolutionary leaders. But we ignore and indeed humiliate sincere, honest and selfless people who have given everything for the country and its people, but did not seek anything in return.
JP is one such man who sacrificed all that he had his youth, his family, his health and his life so that this country attained Freedom and later sustained it. Tragically today, he stands near totally forgotten, slighted and ignored by the very people for whom he gave up everything.
A quarter century ego, in the dark hours of the night of June 25/26, 1975, when people slept, this ancient land of ours, wedded to freedom and democracy since Independence, stealthily slipped into slavery. In earlier instances when Indians lost their freedom, these were through external aggression and hegemony.
But this time around, the nation and its people were sought to be subjugated through internal repression and suppression of dissent wrought in by a native, democratically elected leadership, which was facing public wrath due to its various acts of commission and omission.
This sordid saga of National Emergency (from June 1975 to March 1977), which imposed dictatorship by suspending Indias Constitution and the Fundamental Rights of its citizens, is the most devious and dubious chapter in Indias 50 years existence as a Sovereign Republic. Painfully so, since this was done with consummate ease and through a seemingly democratic process.
For India and Indians, Year 2000 is more than an inaugural year of a new century and a new millennium. It is the completion of half-a- century of our Democratic Republic and 25 years of the ravaging of that democracy and its attempted replacement by a coterie-led dictatorship.
During the 18 months of active Emergency, people moved in hushed silence, stunned and traumatised by the draconian goings on. Across the nation, groveling academicians, advocates and accountants vied with each other to sing paeans of glory to the Emergency rulers, some signing pledges of loyalty and servitude in blood!
Whisky swilling and pipe smoking social climbers and sycophants chanted in unison, Discipline is preferable to Democracy, just because trains were running on time and they got parking space in Connaught Place! The bulk of the civil service crawled when asked to bend. Higher echelons of judiciary bowed to the dust and decreed that under the Emergency regime citizens did not even have the right to life.
Politicians of all hue and colour, barring honourable exceptions, lay supine and prostrate. There was gloom all around and it looked as if every thing was over and the worlds largest democracy was slowly but surely drifting into dictatorship. But through this all, one single soul, one lonely spirit continued to stir in anguish and agony, for the first few months in captivity at Chandigarh and later attached to a dialysis machine at Bombays Jaslok Hospital and a spartan house at Patna. Yet, this defiant, indomitable spirit in the person of Jayaprakash Narayan dared the might of Indiras dictatorship and defeated it thereby restoring freedom and democracy to India. This he did despite being in the frailest of health and living on borrowed time.
The happenings during the first few months of the Emergency (when JP was in captivity and lodged at the special ward of Chandigarhs PGI, temporarily notified as Jail) were truly momentous in the sense that the true agenda of the democrats-turned-dictators and the extreme vulnerability of Indian elite to state power and tyranny. was revealed But for the rise of JP and the people finding an icon in him, India would have irreversibly passed into dynastic autocracy with Sanjay Gandhi inheriting the mantle of power from that self anointed Queen-empress, Indira Priyadarshini Nehru-Gandhi.
All nations, most of all India, need a symbol, human or not, to which they can cleave when times are bad, which can unite them across barriers of caste, creed, clan and language. Mid-seventies were bad days and through the draconian and repressive regime of National Emergency and the era of discipline positioned against anarchy and chaos, Mrs. Gandhi was building herself up into that national symbol, that icon.
If she had succeeded, she would have got a clear mandate of the electorate in any ensuing election, since majority of voters would have voted for her instead of opting for a vacuum. When firmly in saddle, with autocracy and the Emergency endorsed by the electorate, the iconship would have passed on to Sanjay Gandhi who was waiting in the wings. With age in his favour and his known dislike for the democratic process, India would have drifted from direct democracy to directed democracy, a euphemism for dictatorship. An alternative icon was needed to prevent this tragedy from happening and JP with his towering personality and his aura as the hero of Quit India movement eminently filled the bill.
JPs emergence as an alternate icon to take the nation back to freedom and democracy was not an easy task. The Sarvodaya leader was out of circulation and public view for several years before he surfaced in 1974 to lead an uprising, which mostly involved the youth. Mainly students spearheaded this uprising, popularly known as JP movement.
Emphasising on the movements main thrust JP said, We have always raised our voice against corruption. Prevention of corruption was the main aim of our movement. These were indeed genuine and unassailable demands and should have received positive response from any Government run on democratic principles. Instead, a power drunk ruling coterie chose to respond brutally with harsh repressive measures resulting in the strengthening and spreading of the JP movement.
The Allahabad High Court judgement of June 12, 1975 unseating Mrs. Gandhi from Parliament for corrupt practices gave a big fillip to the movement, which was poised to sweep the country. But before it could gain momentum Mrs. Gandhi struck and in one swift move declared the Emergency and incarcerated all worthwhile leaders who commanded public following.
On top of the list was enemy number one of the state Jayaprakash Narayan. By this time JP had come to symbolise the conscience of the nation and uncompromising opposition to corruption and despotism which had become the hallmarks of Congress party and governments. By locking up an ailing JP in confinement, the ruling coterie thought they could break his body and spirit and thereby eliminate the only hurdle they had in enjoying uninterrupted and unfettered power.
What man proposes God disposes. In this case it was a woman proposing to be the icon of 70 crore (700 million) people and the unquestioned leader of the vast sub-continent of India for years to come and then pass it on to her chosen progeny. Using the Emergency as a whip to discipline the nation and building herself up as Indira is India, she would have eminently succeeded with individuals and institutions collapsing one by one and falling by the wayside. And, barring sporadic murmurs of dissent, she had no opposition whatsoever and all roads were clear as far as eyes could see. But God has his own way of disposing.
During the initial days of the Emergency, within the confines of the yet to be commissioned intensive care ward of the PGI, JP was a old, haggard, incoherent, disjointed and defeated individual who felt that all hopes were gone and freedom in India stood extinguished. He had also mentally reconciled himself to die in confinement as a prisoner of Indira Gandhi. But the Almighty and the Ultimate Arbiter had other ideas. He wanted this man, who once symbolised all that was fiery in Indias Freedom struggle and all that was noble in pursuing a cause, to resurge, rise again and re-emerge as the nations hope and the alternate icon to lead the people back to freedom and democracy. For accomplishing this, He chose an insignificant instrument in me, then the Commissioner-cum-District Magistrate-cum-IG Prison of Chandigarh and therefore the custodian of JP in Jail.
When I received prisoner JP at the tarmac of Chandigarh Air Force base on the night of July 1, 1975, the Emergency was only a few days old. JP had been taken into custody under the dreaded Maintenance of Internal Security Act by the District Magistrate, Delhi on 25/26 June night, moved around nearby areas of Haryana and Delhis All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, and was being brought to Chandigarh for safe custody and medical care. To me at that time JP was an enigma as well as a mystery. My memory of him as the Hazaribagh hero of the forties was hazy and the perception of his recent campaign for total revolution was rather confusing. The reception party of myself, Chandigarhs Senior Superintendent of Police M. L. Bhanot and the Air Force Station Commander Air Commodore Bhasin was very courteous to JP and he was taken directly to the PGI Guest House, done up with all security trappings. My first impression of the old man was that he was totally perplexed and did not know what was happening.
The directive from Delhi Durbar was that on depositing JP in the PGI Guest House, I should report to Mr. Bansi Lal, the then Chief Minister of Haryana and a key member of the ruling Emergency coterie. When I called him up, his instructions were terse, yeh salah apne aapko hero samajtha hai. Us ko wahin pade rehne do. Kisi se milne ya telephone karne nahin dena. Aap hi khatam ho jayaga.(This damn fellow thinks he is a hero. Let him lie there. Dont allow him to meet anybody or telephone any one. He will be finished this way). The same night Union Territorys Home Secretary conveyed to me another dicktat from Bansi Lal that JP should not be allowed to take a walk in the open between sunrise and sunset. Being unaware of the actual Emergency agenda I did not give much importance to this. But later events were to reveal as to how ominous these remarks and these instructions turned out to be.
Something in my subconscious told me that this was not an ordinary man and his days in confinement would one day be part of history. As I drove back home from PGI Guest House around midnight, my mind went back to the days of India celebrating Independence when I was a tiny toddler. I vaguely remembered that in the far corner of the country where I belonged to (Kanyakumari, the Lands End of India) it was JPs name, which was in everyones lips. And his name was spoken in awe and admiration. Now also, within one year of his coming back to active public life, he has roused the people and their conscience which was lying dormant all the while.
In such a short period he had become the idol of the youth and the leader of a mass movement which shook Governments at their very foundation. During the 22 weeks JP was in Chandigarh, I did come to know him very intimately. And having understood the nobility of his struggle and the intensity of his commitment, partook in all matters concerning him and the State, shared his intimate thoughts and feelings, discussed political events and happenings, played Devils Advocate, participated in brainstorming and strategy sessions, took charge of his mental and psychological well-being, initiated the reconciliation process between him and the Prime Minister and succeeded in reviving his faith in himself and his people which he was on the verge of losing.
In short I became part and parcel of the transformation of the dare-devil hero of the first freedom struggle from a defeated idol in to an inspiring icon who 15 months later led the second liberation movement successfully and restored India back to freedom and democracy.
Needless to say that the short tenure of JPs confinement was filled with high explosive events. One central thread however that stretched through the entire period of nearly five months of JPs confinement was the confused and erratic attitude of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in dealing with JP as Prisoner obviously under pressure from the Delhi Durbar. This predicament trickled down to all echelons of Government both in the Centre and the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Even on the day JP arrived at Chandigarh this confusion was evident. Though he was an ordinary MISA detainee whose health was not all that bad we were under strict instructions from Delhi to have him housed in the PGI under the care of a battery of doctors for no apparent reasons. So we had to hurriedly do up a guesthouse in the PGI campus with all security arrangements, declare it a temporary jail and lodge the VIP prisoner there.
My world lies in shambles all around me. I am afraid I shall not see it put together again in my lifetime. May be my nephew and nieces will see that. May be. These opening words of JPs Prison Diary-1975s first entry dated 21 July a full three weeks after his arrival in Chandigarh amply describe a sense of defeatism and extremely fragile state of JPs mind and spirit during the initial days of his confinement under MISA. While this was the state within PGI confines, outside some strange things were . Under instructions from the Delhi Durbar, Chandigarh Administration was preparing a contingency plan in the event of JPs death in detention and a death drill was being rehearsed. I was party to this bizarre event of discussing and rehearsing a living mans funeral and it did leave a scar in my mind. The main point at issue was the Armys role in such an eventuality and there was strong difference of opinion on this.
Blissfully unaware of these happenings and the rehearsal of his own funeral, JP was taking stock of things and doing some hard soul searching, introspection and evaluation of events leading to the imposition of the Emergency and its aftermath. This intense solo-brainstorming led JP to believe that the intellectuals who had egged him on saying JP you are the only hope of the nation and whom he counted upon as bulwarks of democracy have buckled and have betrayed him. My sincere efforts to assure him otherwise did not carry conviction with JP.
This deep mental hurt was the main cause for some disturbing developments later including his conclusion that at least for the foreseeable future, democracy in the country was dead. And even when it was put together after a long time he will not be there to see it. So, over a period of several days he drafted a letter of farewell to Mrs. Indira Gandhi pouring out his heart in anguish, pleading with Mrs. Gandhi to mend her ways and reconciling to die a prisoner under her regime. This letter-indeed an epistle-sent on July 21, 75 to the Prime Minister caused quite a ripple along the corridors of power.
Rules and instructions from Delhi Durbar regarding interviews with detainees and sending/receiving letters as well as taking walks in open air were harsh and draconian. If these rules had been complied with, JP would have been in near total solitary confinement unable to meet anybody and allowed to send/receive only very few letters.
Any one with some conscience would not allow this to happen and I was no exception. So I stuck my neck out and got the harshest rules amended and others circumvented/defied to give some humane treatment to JP by allowing frequent interviews with his close friends and relatives. This came as some relief for the forlorn old man who had no family wife, son or daughter to call his own.
JP has been expecting some response to his impassionate letter of July 21 from Mrs. Gandhi whom he often referred to as the child who used to play in my laps When this did not materialise, he felt slighted and humiliated. Besides, he has been reading heavily censored newspapers containing news of intellectuals, academics and groups of people hailing the Emergency and the decisive leadership of Mrs. Gandhi as the best thing to have happened to the country. What particularly upset him was his mentor Vinobha Bhave describing the Emergency rule as anusashan parava (era of discipline). Already smarting under a deep feeling of betrayal, these reports had tremendous psychological impact on JP and he became a defeated idol giving up all hopes and ready to fold up.
At this time came the extremely disturbing news of the amendment of the Representation of Peoples Act granting immunity to the PMs election and also reports that a constitutional amendment was being contemplated to make the election of President, Vice-President, Prime Minister and Lok Sabha Speaker non-justiciable. This was the proverbial last straw on the camels back and something inside JP snapped and he lost all hopes for the revival of democracy and decided to offer the supreme sacrifice at the altar of the nation. On Sunday, August 10 I had permitted Mr. S. N. Prasad (brother-in-law of JP) an interview for one hour in the presence of Mr. Mohinder Singh, Executive Magistrate cum Jail Superintendent. Around noon Mohinder Singh delivered to me a letter from JP addressed to the Prime Minister conveying his decision to go on fast until death unless the Emergency was revoked and all prisoners released within two weeks.
JP had authorised Mr. Prasad to announce this to the outside world. Considering the grave implications this could bring forth I took upon myself the task of dissuading JP from this disastrous move and succeeded after a two-hour highly surcharged nail splitting verbal duel with the hard-boiled revolutionary.
In the midst of all these, I was a mute witness to Delhi Durbar Playing politics with peoples misery. Extremely concerned and perturbed by the devastation and destruction caused by unprecedented floods in his home state of Bihar, JP drafted a SOS to the Prime Minister (reproduced below), that was delivered post haste to Delhi:
Prime Minister, New Delhi
Feel deeply disturbed at reports of Patna and Bihar floods. Never in known history had Patna suffered thus. Pray for a months release on parole so that I may mobilise peoples help from within and without the state and organise popular relief in cooperation with the state and Central Governments. Even if floods recede there would remain colossal work to be done. At the time of the Great Bihar Earthquake of 1934 the British had released Rajen Babu from Hazaribagh for similar work. Request urgent attention and action.
JAYAPRAKASH (27 August, 1975)
This was a frantic message in telegraphic style denoting extreme urgency. What followed was heartless and cruel politicking in Delhi with no concern for the misery of millions. Despite the floods getting worse and JPs repeated pleadings for parole to organise relief, the response from Delhi Durbar was a stony, deafening silence.
Though the Bihar episode was a bitter pill for JP to swallow, it did have a small streak of silver lining. Utilising this opportunity Prof. P.N. Dhar, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister had sent Mr. B.B. Vohra, an Additional Secretary in the Union Ministry of Agriculture for briefing JP on the Bihar flood situation.
Though nothing much came out of it, here was an opening for a possible breakthrough to initiate the process of political dialogue and reconciliation. So I got working on this, quietly putting the thought of reconciliation in the mind of JP, and increasingly getting positive response from him. My efforts culminated in a warm gesture by way of a letter to PM on September 17 expressing hope of an early end to the Emergency.
The first tangible result of my efforts towards reconciliation and restoration of normalcy in the country came in the form of a letter from JP to Sheikh Abdullah on September 22, 75 in response to a statement issued by the Sheikh expressing himself in favour of Conciliation at All-India level and offering his services towards this. The letter, written at my instance, inter alia said: However, in spite of all that has happened and is happening, I am prepared to seek the path of conciliation. I shall, therefore, be much obliged if you kindly see me as soon as possible so that I could discuss this matter with you.
I being the villain of the piece, the arch-conspirator, culprit number one, a return to true normalcy, not the false one established by repression and terror, can only be brought about with my co-operation. I am herewith offering you my full co-operation. This letter was delivered at Delhi on 24 forenoon and the response from PMs office, already working on the idea of reconciliation was swift. A special emissary of the PMO (Sugatha Das Gupta, Director, Gandhi Institute of Studies, Varanasi, of which JP was the Chairman) arrived on 25 morning to initiate efforts for a political dialogue between PM and JP.
Though as per Delhi instructions I was not to be present at the meeting, on JPs insistence, I participated and succeeded in breaking the ice and paved the way for the reconciliation process to begin. There were some more visits by Sugatha and the preliminary work on reconciliation was going apace.
Kamarajs death on October 2 came as a major setback for JPs Grand Alliance plan to defeat Indira Congress as and when election came. JP had confided in me that Kamaraj was the most suitable person to head the united political party he was planning. According to him since Kamaraj made Indira Gandhi the PM, he should be the one instrumental in removing her since she has turned dictatorial. JP also wanted Mr. Kamaraj and Mr. M. Karunanadhi to come together so that Tamil Nadu could get into the national mainstream and a powerful regional opposition spearheaded by DMK could be put together against the Congress party.
JP said that Kamaraj had agreed to this in principle since according to him (Kamaraj), allowing AIADMK to capture power in Tamil Nadu would be a unmitigated disaster since this party is nothing more than an unprincipled cinema-crazy crowd.
The only contentious issue of Kamaraj and Karunanidhi joining the Grand Alliance was the inclusion of RSS-backed Bharatiya Jana Sangh with its communal image. JP was confident of resolving this in view of the solemn commitment given by the top leadership of both these outfits to eschew communalism in case the Alliance captured power at the Centre. That the commitments were not honoured is another matter.
As hope for the success of reconciliation efforts and restoration of democracy was rising, certain mysterious and intriguing things happened raising disturbing doubts in my mind. Though old in age and suffering from diabetes and mild heart problem, JP was by and large keeping fairly good health and was given good medical care at the PGI.
The first symptoms of some major ailment appeared on September 26, just a day after commencement of preliminary efforts towards reconciliation following JPs letter to Sheikh Abdullah.
When asked about this the doctors said that they are looking into it. For about a month JP was OK but on October 24 the ailment (severe stomach pain and sweating) reappeared with more intensity and was noticed by me when I visited him in the morning.
The doctors had no explanation for this. This again inexplicably happened just two days after the delivery of a sealed letter from Lord Fenner Brockway (eminent British Labour MP, Member of Cripps Mission and a friend of India) to JP for which he was contemplating an appropriate and positive response.
The content of the letter was supposed to have been read only by the PM and came with instructions that even I should not open it. As per directions of the Union Home Ministry, I had personally delivered this letter to JP unopened. JP opened it, read it and with a smiling face gave it to me insisting that I should read it.
The content of the letter was a virtual apology on behalf of Indira Gandhi for imposing the Emergency and seeking JPs co-operation in restoring normalcy in the country. Obviously Prime Minister was keen to end the Emergency at the earliest, but there were powerful forces working against it.
Looking back, I feel that the 10 days from November 7 to 16 75 greatly influenced Indias post-Independence history. On Nov 7, sharing the concern of JPs brother Rajeshwar Prasad I had asked him to write a suitably worded letter to the Prime Minister apprising her of the seriousness of the matter. JPs health was deteriorating fast and my suspicion was getting confirmed due to the doctorss hedgy replies about JPs health and the disappearance of Lord Fenner Brockways letter, which was key to the revival of the reconciliation process. Added to this was the intriguing phenomenon of Sugatha returning JPs letter to Sheikh Abdullah undelivered.
Under the circumstances, I was convinced that it would be unsafe to keep JP in Chandigarh any longer and he should get to a place where his ailment could be diagnosed correctly and treated properly.
This conviction led me to initiate silent and swift steps to launch a multi pronged assault - through PMs envoy Sugatha, JPs brother Rajeshwar Prasad, Chandigarh Chief Commissioner/Union Home Secretary (official) and my personal channel on the PMO with the same message content If JP dies to create a crisis mind set and situation in Delhi.
This worked admirably resulting in a flurry of activities leading to JPs release under dramatic circumstances on November 12, 75 by an order served on him by the Chief Secretary and District Magistrate of Delhi who flew into Chandigarh by a special BSF aircraft.
They had brought with them two mutually confusing orders-one for parole and one for release- as a last ditch attempt by the Delhi Durbar to sabotage the whole thing. I saw through the game and guided JP to take the appropriate decision resulting in his release on unconditional parole.
Following the release of JP, there was hectic activity and efforts by the Delhi Durbar to delay his departure from Chandigarh as long as possible and they were putting pressure on the PGI doctors not to discharge him. This only strengthened my suspicion further and I gave this blunt poser to the PGI Medical Superintendent on November 14: Though JP is no longer in my custody, I am the District Magistrate and am concerned with law and order since students in the Panjab University campus, just across the PGI were getting restive. I want an answer are you curing him or discharging him? Take a decision.
That very evening doctors discharged him and pronounced him fit to travel. On hearing of this there was panic in Delhi with its repercussions in Chandigarh and I was pulled up for speeding up JPs discharge. I realised that there was no time to lose. Therefore, at great risk to my person and career I hastened JPs departure by virtually commandeering the Indian Airlines Srinagar-Jammu-Chandigarh-Delhi Flight on November 16 to get him out of Chandigarh in the company of Messieurs Rajeshwar Prasad, M.R. Masani and R.K. Mishra who had come to take JP straight to Bombays Jaslok Hospital.
Though JP broke down while taking leave of me, my colleagues M.L. Bhanot, Mohinder Singh, R.D. Sharma (Deputy Jail Superintendent) and the PGI doctors, I could see a steely resolve in him. The departing words of JP only confirmed this. After he was seated in the aircraft and the doors were closed, they were opened again and the airhostess called for me saying that JP wanted to see me. When I went to him he shook me by the hand, thanked me profusely and said, You are like a son I did not have. I will never forget your kindness to me. Feeling terribly embarrassed I responded by requesting him to look after his health. JPs reply to this still rings in my ears. Mr. Devasahayam, my health is not important. The health of the nation is. I will defeat that woman and have it restored. And then the aircraft departed.
As I drove back home, I
thought about JPs departing words. I knew that
woman was the harshest word JP would ever use
for Indira Gandhi. What he said meant that the fire was
back in him and I had been of some assistance in
transforming the Hazaribagh Hero from a
defeated idol to a defiant leader paving the
way for Indias second freedom some months later.
With this satisfaction I went back to my chores. The rest
A crusader & a doer
CALL him demolition man or give him any other name, Jagmohan is a crusader, a doer and a cleaner Delhi, a greener Delhi has been his dream for almost a quarter of a century. As Lieut-Governor of Delhi, he initiated the process of greening areas around several monuments of historical significance, like Jahapana and Hauz Khas forts, in order to preserve the monuments and create lungs of green. A determined person, Jagmohan is hellbent on changing the face of Delhi from the most polluted city to a neat, clean and green capital of the worlds largest democracy; he may succeed given the support he gets from Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in this task.
The Urban Development Minister does not depend on official machinery, particularly the Delhi Development Authority (DDA), on feedback but visits the spots himself and, on many occasion, unannounced. One fine morning he dropped in at the capitals prestigious Nehru Park following complaints by the morning walkers. Incidentally,this correspondent was witness to the surprise visit. What Jagmohan saw was shocking. The green lawns were ruined by cricket and football players while the municipal laws strictly prohibit any sport in the park. The artificial lake, a beauty, was made virtually a cesspool.
The next week the entire top brass of the New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) was summoned to the park and Jagmohan himself showed them how poor was the upkeep of the boulevard, adjudged the best a few years back. Within days the Nehru Park was spruced up but, regrettably , in the following months the NDMC was back to its callous ways and the maintenance of the promenade deteriorated.
Jagmohans current drive against illegal construction has revealed shocking details. Almost 90 per cent of DDA flats have some sort of illegal construction or the other, endangering the community life. The residents have become a community of law violators. There are big guys who break the law with impunity, as if, they have the licence to carry out illegal construction. A residential accommodation meant for a family of four or six persons has turned into commercial structure, housing showrooms, offices and even godowns in the basement. Sainik Farms, known as the poshest illegal construction, has been aptly described by a former Lieut-Governor, P.K. Dave, as a monument to corruption.
Jagmohan feels that cities give an immense opportunity to integrate culture, values and heritage, provided that a creative and positive approach is adopted. For example, constant influx of migrants from rural to urban areas is a reality, but even such large-scale migration could be converted into an asset if skill-oriented patterns could be developed, if migrants could be settled in areas connected with their employment and avocation. Similarly, nallas could be converted into green canals. A positive attitude could transform liabilities into assets; great cities are made by great people. Taking simple steps like extending Rajpath in Delhi to the riverfront, and creating green belts and cultural nests along the length of the road, could create a cleaner environment, cultural awareness and a tourist attraction, he says.
Jagmohan propose to extend his cleanliness drive to other major cities too and does not want to confine himself to the Union Capital alone. Evidently, the cooperation of State Governments is needed in this task.
Jagmohan is, perhaps, a most organised and meticulous person, a writer and a thinker. He does not waste a single minute on non-productive gossip in the Central Hall of Parliament. When he was not a Minister he would rush to the Indian International Centre (IIC) the moment he was free from his parliamentary obligations and devote his time at the IICs library, going through the voluminous books and, as someone remarked, producing articles by the kilos.
Jagmohans talents came to the fore during his term as the chief executive of Delhi Development Authority and the dash in him was recognised by the late Sanjay Gandhi and the later Indira Gandhi who pitchforked him to the position of Delhis Lieut-Governor. Jagmohan became Delhis youngest Lieut-Governor and set a record, having held the sensitive post for two terms. He, on his part, proved his mettle, having successfully organised the Asian Games, CHOGAM and the nonaligned conference in the Union Capital.
Jagmohan bounced back on the national scene as the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. During his first term he established himself as a popular ruler and the people of the trouble-torn state admired him. The militancy was then latently but menacingly growing. Jagmohan could sense it but the rulers in Delhi remained oblivious to the magnitude of the threat. In January, 1990, when V.P. Singh was the Prime Minister, Jagmohan was drafted for the second term almost in an emergency situation. The then External Affairs Minister, I.K. Gujral, gave a mid-night call to Jagmohan and by next morning he was on board a BSF aircraft flying him to Srinagar. His second term was bogged down in controversy but many of the points made by him later came true. His book My Forzen Turbulance in Kashmir is, perhaps, the most authentic work on the ethos, culture and problems of Indias northern most state.
He will always be remembered in J & K for formulating and carrying out the historic reform of Mata Vaishno Devi shrine. Thousands of pilgrims going to the shrine first thank Jagmohan as they begin the arduous climb,made much more easy by him. Jagmohan joined the BJP much later and he is among few front rank leaders in the party who had never a close link with the RSS. He has, in fact, been recognised as one of the top most civil servants of the post-Independence era.
WITH the government pushing second generation of reforms and slashing subsidies, the pinch is being felt or will begin, being felt all around. Yet one sore point has been the highly-subsidised canteen for Parliamentarians by the Railways.
The canteen is useful to many MPs who not only get piping hot food at exceptionally low rates it also reduces the expenditure of travelling to their places of residence for bite during break when the House is in session. In addition staff including security personnel attached to various MPs/Ministers and also scribes benefit from the cafeteria.
Believe it or not a full plate of tandoori chicken costs Rs 40 and you can buy a three-course meal for as little as Rs 14, vegetarian thali for Rs 5 and of course a bowl of daal and rice for Rs 2.60. Amazing economy.
Now the prices of the Parliament canteen have not been revised since 1985 and the figure of subsidy which is taken care by the Secretariats of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha has been growing. If it was Rs 66 lakh in 1993-94 it stood at Rs 2.55 crore in 1998-99.
Now in order to attend to this aspect, a Joint Committee has been set up in Parliament which among others will consider revision of rates of eatables, consider the level of subsidy and provide excellent.
Did Pilot have any premonition?
Did Rajesh Pilot have a premonition that his time was coming to an end ? Well nothing can be said but going by the manner in which some people narrated incidents after his sudden departure, it seems the former Air Force pilot had some inkling that it was round the corner.
Pilot who was keen to contest for the post of Congress President was already preparing by addressing workers meeting at various places in UP. While many in the party thought he was challenging Sonia Gandhi, the party chief never thought so. In fact, two days before his death he met Mrs Gandhi and cleared the misunderstanding.
Next day, on June 10 to be precise Pilot called up more than a dozen party leaders, including Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh and party spokesman Ajit Jogi. Was he making up with influential leaders or was it a farewell call? The thought is now haunting many in the party.
Et Tu Yadav !
People who recently accompanied a VVIP on a visit abroad were surprised by the complimentary gift given to the passengers by the countrys national carrier, Air India. While it is normal for the passengers to receive curios, the precious gift this time was a crystal vase. Now that could seem okay except for the shape Lotus. Ever since the recipients have not stopped talking about the u-turn by this Mandalite towards saffron.
Minister without work
Minister of State for Youth and Sports Syed Shah Nawaz is nearly jobless. While he has to pay attendance to Anath Kumar for his Youth portfolio, he has to report to Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa for Sports. One would have normally presumed that he would be a overburdened with work but he has not files to attend to.
The only charge he has been given is Nehru Yuvak Kendra but even here there is a catch. Nehru Yuvak Kendras present boss happens to be his former boss under whom he had served when he was not a Member of Parliament. The present boss of Nehru Yuvak Kendra is none other then Anoop Mishra who is a nephew of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. When Shah Nawazs well wishers like former Minister Uma Bharti tried to raise the issue, it boomeranged on the young Minister. When Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Brajesh Mishra asked Shah Nawaz if he was unhappy with his portfolio, the poor Minister was left with no option but to sulk.
Kapil, Manoj rivalry
The rivalry between Indian cricket coach Kapil Dev and his former team-mate Manoj Prabhakar is not only spilling onto the front pages of the newspapers but is also having its effects on the media persons.
The bitter rivalry between the two has also divided some people in media with some alleging things against Kapil and the others defending him. There is a great debate underway as to if Kapil was clean then why did he not choose to suggest that he would not take up the job of Indian cricket coach till the time his name was absolved of all charges.
However others charge bitterly that Prabhakar was also not a straight person. Kapil cried because he is a simpleton from Haryana, some argue while others counter that it is the guilt that makes one cry.
Then there are others who charge that if Prabhakar was also clean then his name would not have appeared in a criminal case. Would the journalists be slugging it out for the two rivals, is to be watched.
(Today is Fathers Day)
WHEN we were in our teens we had not heard of Fathers Day. But with the western culture seeping in, we also started celebrating Fathers and Mothers Day. I always thought it was a very good idea to tell your parents that you loved and respected them. Though the parents know how much their children love them, to have a special day means something else. We can pamper them and show how important they are for us. I used to send flowers to my father and wish him early morning on this day. It used to please him immensely. But this Fathers Day will be entirely different for me as I lost my dear father recently.
With his passing away, it seems Ive lost my umbrella, which protected me from the worldly evils. He was always there since I came into this world guiding, encouraging, protecting and consoling me. I could ask him for anything and he would provide it to me even if it were not within his reach. He was a pillar of strength; he guided me but never forced me to follow a particular path. He was my best friend and my worst critic, always exaggerating my achievements but trying to hide my failures and weaknesses from others.
He was the only one in the whole world who wanted me to be the best in all fields and he was also the only one who could scold me forgetting that I was grown up, married and a mother of grown up children. I never thought that this umbrella would be no more to protect me.
We never feel this can
happen to us although we see each day people leaving and
going to an unknown world. No one can ever take his place
in my life. We can never count his years but only his
blessings and love. May his soul rest in peace as I shall
always love and cherish his memories till I live.
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