Saturday, June 24, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Contours of Sri Lankan policy

Apropos of the editorial of June 17 (“Contours of Sri Lankan policy”), whatever compulsions there are for the Sri Lankan government asking for India’s military support, the reality is that the regiments of the Sri Lankan army and Sinhalese majority would be critical of any Indian intervention militarily. Moreover, the military support would be short-term convenience, not a solution of the ethnic problem.

New Delhi’s policies so far have been practical, measured and conscious about the limitations under which all parties concerned are functioning. The latest $ 100 million credit line to Sri Lanka is one such step in that direction. We are politically supportive of the unity and integrity of Sri Lanka and, at the same time, wish that the LTTE and the Sri Lankan government decide the issue between themselves by alternative military and political interaction.

This, however, is not to suggest that New Delhi should adopt an absolute “hands-off” policy. From its security viewpoint, what India faces vis-a-vis Sri Lanka are not so much options” as compulsions. Unlike last time, India should get involved in Sri Lanka only if the conflict affects its security interests. If Jaffna falls to the LTTE, the Indian navy will inevitably be drawn into the process of troop evacuation. India’s other problem will be refugees. This country must ensure that the problem is contained within Sri Lanka. In my opinion, the most practical solution, as editorially suggested too, is to exert pressure on both the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE to come to the negotiating table. For the talks to make any headway, it is also essential that Sri Lankan government and the opposition United National Party unite on the issue and have a bipartisan consensus on devolution of powers to Tamils.

For its part, the international community must exert pressure on the LTTE. While the USA and India have declared the LTTE a terrorist organisation, the European Union must hasten the process of giving effect to the recommendation for a ban on the Tamil Tigers. This would have the effect of choking off sources of support to LTTE in Europe and pushing them towards negotiations. For the LTTE this is the most opportune moment for agreeing to talks because, in the changing scenario, it cannot hope to conquer the Tamil dominated areas in the east.


Office functioning

The working of the Irrigation and Public Health (I&PH) Department in Una Circle of the State leaves much to be desired. The rickety functioning of course, invites adverse public criticism off and on but, sadly and strangely, with little positive result.

The other day I happened to call on a high-ranking officer of the department, posted in the aforesaid circle, in connection with some departmental chore. The officer in question, literally dragged me into a “wordy duel” vis-a-vis public criticism of the department’s working, vociferously arguing that it was simply “foolish and futile” on the part of the “critics” to expect the department to perform any better under the obtaining murky political circumstances and that the media-persons who criticised the department for its poor working betrayed stark ignorance of the harsh ground reality.

While partially conceding the officer’s point on the subject, I ventured to state that, to my mind, there was ample scope for improvement in the area under question even under the prevailing “unfavourable” political circumstances provided the “gods” ruling the roost meant business, put in a little extra effort and exercised proper supervision over the field staff. However, the officer firmly stood his ground and refused to relent.

To my contention that the departmental authorities, under a democratic setup, could ill-afford to flout/ ignore public opinion about their working and that they must respond to public criticism over the matter, the agitated officer retorted that he, for one, required no “character certificate” from the so-called public quarters about his “style of functioning” and, as for public opinion on the subject, he cared just two hoots for it. The stunning utterance of the “brave officer” left me utterly speechless. The “wordy duel” ended abruptly on a grim note and, with my tongue literally in the cheek, I had perforce to beat a hasty retreat.

I no longer wonder, thanks to the telling experience, why the I&PH Department was moving along like a ramshackle old bus spitting misery all around and why the situation on the vital front was registering rapid deterioration with each passing day. No doubt, it seems absolutely “foolish and futile”, as the spunky officer observed, to expect the unhappy situation to take a turn for the better in the foreseeable future unless, of course, the powers that be mercifully woke up out of their sleep over the matter and went in for a thorough overhauling of the rusty departmental setup in an earnest bid to improve matters. What a gloomy state of affairs!

Ambota (Una)


Teachers and corruption

Most teachers seem to be corrupt. I speak from experience. I have to date taught for about 13 years in various schools, but I never met a teacher who could truly be described as honest. There are sermons galore all through the year — that is, until examinations come, which astonishingly extinguish all their idealism. Most ironically, they unabashedly engage in the examination hall criminality: they actively help the students in their misdemeanour of copying.

What is the effect of this on students? Those who think that students foster a certain contempt for their teachers in this situation are naive. Students, in fact, eulogise teachers. Students are socially precious these days. They know a certain amount of chicanery is absolutely necessary in today’s context to prosper. No wonder, since teachers contribute in their pursuit of social-climbing, they are glorified.

The student-teacher relationship thrives on a symbiotic note. Much as students wish to apotheosise their teachers, they are reluctant to do so overtly; for they know only too well that our steep fall in the field of morals notwithstanding, society has not yet given amorality complete countenance.

This also explains why teachers are ever so enthusiastic when it comes to spouting moral cliches.




One rank one pension

The long-standing demand of the defence personnel again seems to have been pushed into cold storage.

The Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, had announced very boldly on April 10, 1999, during the tercentenary celebrations of the Panth Khalsa at Anandpur Sahib that the one rank one pension demand had been accepted and would be implemented soon. More than a year has passed. Defence personnel are eagerly awaiting the implementation. Mr George Fernandes has ignored the sacrifices of defence personnel.

Our defence forces are the most disciplined in the world, loyal to the nation, devoted to duty and always ready to sacrifice their lives to defend our motherland. To keep up the morale of the defence forces, their genuine demand, which had been also accepted by the Supreme Court of India long long ago, should be implemented without any further delay.


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