Tuesday, June 20, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Row over defence officers’ transfer

This is with reference to the June 14 news item "Row over defence officers' transfer". It is true that some of the officers of the Directorate-General of Defence Estates (DGDE) at times are browbeaten and thus get demoralised to act correctly. Upright officers, who resist falling in line with their superiors, become immediate and ultimate losers. It may be equally true that a majority of the DGDE officers follow the line of least resistance particularly while dealing with persons having "political clout" who indulge in unlawful activities / encroachments. Defence land encroachment can be removed only if DGDE officers and the Cantonment President (Station Commander) are spared the harassment from above at the behest of "law beakers".

The "path of least resistance" is not restricted to DGDE officers. Even the Presidents of Cantonment Boards (Station Commanders) are shy of taking strong measures as per the Cantonment Act as they are often subjected to harassment and undue victimisation. The "vested interest" reigns supreme not only in matters of encroachment on defence lands but also in other matters concerning serving and ex-servicemen. For example, the Punjab Government levies illegal additional excise in lieu of octroi duty on liquor sold to them through CSD canteens since 1988. This is totally illegal as it is only the GOC-in-C who is vested with the authority to levy octroi duty in cantonments and military stations. Despite having taken up the case, the Punjab Government has not refunded "illegally collected" amount (about Rs 40 crore). Serving soldiers are also subjected to Punjab development cess when they have nothing to do with Punjab's development as a vast majority of them hail from other states.

  Another example of politico-bureaucratic high-handedness against the serving and retired defence persons is illegal and fraudulent occupation of land meant for the Defence Services Officers' Institute (DSOI), Chandigarh. The request for the allotment of land for setting up the DSOI was made by the GOC-in-C to the Chandigarh Administrator and the same was allotted to "Defence Organisation Chandigarh" in 1991, but Punjab bureaucrats illegally manipulated to establish their control over the DSOI. It is the serving and retired defence persons who are suffering as they cannot enjoy canteen facilities as the DSOI is not under the "Defence Organisation", as it was originally intended, but is controlled by a Secretary of the state government. So why blame individuals when even the Punjab Government is indulging in illegal acts with impunity?

The crux of the matter is that in India law is only for the weak and not for the powerful. "Might is Right.” And that is the de facto law of the land called Bharat.


Medical services

Apropos of “Privatisation of medical services” by Mr Satya Prakash Singh on May 30, the author has just put a feeling, which came to my mind into words. It is not just medical services but also other fields where brain-drain from government sectors to private sector is increasing at an alarming rate. Though not always true, but the main motive of today’s man is to earn money, to live a luxurious life, to provide everything which his children demand.

No doubt, a government job is secure but why to bother for job security if a person serving in public or government sector can’t afford to live even a normal middle class life? Unlike government hospitals, private nursing homes provide a better medical service and immediate attention to the needy. Everyone avoids to stand in long queues and harassment. Everyone prefers to go to a private hospital even though he/she has to pay a higher fee.

But the question is who is responsible for poor quality of services in govt/public sectors? Why public is losing trust in government institutions? First obvious reason in case of medical services which came to everyone’s mind is doctors' working in public sectors. I am not talking of all of them but those who feel that whether they pay better attention to patient or not. It doesn’t affect their pay scale. They get their salary even if they cause painful experience to general public. In contrast the earning of a private practitioner is directly proportional to the quality of service offered to the patient in private hospitals. This may be the reason that in spite of having PGI and two government hospitals, the city is flooded with private hospitals.

Next to blame is the general public which thinks that government hospitals are a property of the government and they have nothing to do with it.



I found the editorial "FEMA is not FERA" (June 8) very useful. There is certainly need to find out that the Foreign Exchange Management Act is people-friendly. To see that it is a real friend, we should have clear-cut understanding of the various provisions under FEMA.

The difference between FEMA and FERA may not be clear only by saying that the violation of the guidelines governing foreign exchange transactions is a civil offence, not a criminal offence. FEMA may prove to be old wine in a new bottle. To make it really people-friendly, those who implement the law need to be given training in humanism and relationship management.


Largesse for telecom staff

Now that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has okayed the largesse worth hundreds of crores of rupees per year for Telecom Department officers and employees, who belong to the comparatively affluent classes of society, will he persuade his American sympathisers to permit him to do something for the poor also, by way of restoring some of the subsidies which his government had withdrawn.


Pollution & road users

Trucks and buses release too much smoke. The passengers in the following vehicles continue to inhale polluted air. To avoid irritation, vehicles tend to overtake.

If exhaust pipes of trucks and buses are fixed in such a way as to direct the smoke towards the sky, as in the case of tractors, the public using the road will get much relief.



Question: What has the country lost in Rajesh Pilot’s death?

Answer: A second pilot who could also be India's Prime Minister!



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