|Monday, June 26, 2000,
|West Asia without Hafez Al-Assad
by V. Gangadhar
ONE of the unfinished tasks of the Bill Clinton presidency was brokering peace between Syria and Israel. The President who is all set to leave the White House in January, 2001, had organised peace talks between Israel and the PLO as well as chipped in to bring about some kind of order and peace in Northern Ireland. His Secretary of State, Ms Madeline Albright, had been touring the volatile West Asia, trying to bring Israel and Syria to the negotiating table.
Gates case: doors are closed
We cannot annoy govt, says NCM
cannot annoy govt, says NCM chief
Fertiliser price enigma
AN economic newspaper carried a scary headline that fertiliser prices have gone up following a Cabinet decision. Well, they have not. The price increase by 7 per cent in the case of phosphatic and 15 per cent in the case of potash was part of the budget proposals and became effective immediately. What the government has done now is to adjust what was once the retention price paid to the manufacturers in line with the new rates. The difference is that between what the fertiliser plants say is the economic cost and the maximum retail price. Curiously the payment is called the base rate of concession, making it impossible for anyone other than an insider to guess what is base about the rate or the concession. This curious jumble of words, which came into usage in the wake of the decontrol of both phosphatic and potash fertilisers, is not the product of mental laziness but a deliberate attempt to obfuscate the issue. The old system of retention price depends on the output by old and new units calculated separately. Some have accused certain fertiliser units of artificially boosting production to claim a fatter cheque. This has larger implications. The money goes to swell fertiliser subsidy and makes the demand for subsidy shrinkage that much shriller. That is really what is base about the concession.
This decision was taken
on Saturday at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on
Economic Affairs which also released nearly Rs 90 crore
to improve computing facilities at the five Indian
Institutes of Technology. By world standards, the grant
may not be a big deal but given the talents of the
students and the surcharged air inside the campuses, it
will go a long way in whipping up that extra degree of
enthusiasm which separates outstanding performance from
success. It has been two days of hectic goings-on. On
Friday, the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment cleared
the proposal to disinvest in 11 public sector
undertakings, including the ageing trading houses like
the STC and the MMTC. The government wants to trade them
in full, making it a complete sell-off after Modern
Foods. They will not fetch a fancy price but add two more
to the list of units set apart for disinvestment and that
sounds good. The other PSUs are only slightly more
substantial but unappetising from the point of view of
the investor. These units will come under the management
control of the new owners if they ever emerge from the
woodwork. But the big names, the stallions in the
government stable, have been held back, making a mockery
of the original claim of big ticket
disinvestment drive. As one business newspaper
caustically noted, it was a half ticket
affair. (This big ticket expression is from the mint of
economic reporters who are furiously busy creating a
lingo of their own, at best confusing the lay reader and
at worse intimidating him.) The term disinvestment is
slowly becoming synonymous with outright sale, and that
too to raise additional funds to rein in the fiscal
deficit. It is not doing much good to the finances of the
government nor is it making the economy healthy.
THE Government of India faces a major dilemma on the question of import of milk and milk products. On the one hand, it has to watch the interests of milk producers who just cannot compete with the milk coming from countries like Denmark at Rs 6 per litre. There are nine million small and marginal farmers living in 100,000 villages who own just one or two cattle each and sell 12 million litres of milk. Their production costs are far higher than the current world prices and they are in the danger of being wiped out. On the other hand, the government has to watch the consumers interests also, most of whom are so poor that milk is out of their reach even at Rs 12 per litre. There has been a big increase in production thanks to Operation Flood. India is today the worlds largest producer of milk. But keeping in view its burgeoning population, the availability per person is still far below the norms. Vegetarians are in a majority in India and they have to drink at least 500 grams of milk every day. But the availability, which was 112 grams per person per day in 1970-71, has only risen to 211 grams in 1998-99. Moreover, about half of the milk yield in India goes towards the yield of ghee, curd, khoya, butter, milk powder, cheese, etc. Obviously much more milk has to be produced but that is not possible till we have a proliferation of bigger farms with 100 or more high-yielding cattle. Import is the only answer, at least for the time being.
Both Mr Parkash Singh
Badal and Mr Om Prakash Chautala have rightly spoken in
support of the dairy farmers. But the scare being spread
by some people over the import of dairy products is not
fully justified. India produces 75 million tonnes of milk
every year whereas its import has been no more than
40,000 tonnes. This comprises a tiny fraction of the
total consumption and cannot trigger a glut as has been
suggested in some quarters. It should be borne in mind
that the liberalised imports started only on April 1 this
year whereas the prices of milk had been falling for the
past nearly two years. There are several social and
political factors at play and the issue cannot be viewed
purely from the angle of economics. The government will
have to examine the issue in a holistic manner and find a
via media so that the interests of all sections of
society are safeguarded. This can be done only through a
compromise solution. Indias current WTO obligations
are to import 10,000 tonnes of powdered milk at a tariff
rate of 15 per cent. Beyond this quantity, the tariff
rate can rise up to 60 per cent. To satisfy the cattle
owners as well as the consumers, the tariff may have to
be fixed somewhere in the vicinity of 30 per cent. At the
same time, two other steps are essential. One, conditions
should be generated so that the marginal farmers are not
condemned forever to surviving on the sale of a few
litres of milk. And two, an aggressive international
campaign has to be launched so that the unjust system of
liberal agricultural subsidies being given in rich
countries comes to an end.
COMBATING SUPPLY-SIDE CORRUPTION
LAUNCHING the Fifth Pillar, a voluntary organisation to fight corruption, at Chennai, Mr N. Vittal, Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), made his oft-repeated remark: Corruption in India is a low risk high profit business and public vigilance could make it high risk. Indeed true and, judging by the public response, this seems to be within the realm of possibility. But to make it happen, vigilance groups like the Fifth Pillar should address the issue sincerely and seriously going beyond tokenism like pinning red-rag badges and declaring instant zero-corruption offices.
Public resentment against corruption and the anxiety to get rid of it have always been there though not very manifest. But in recent times, in civilised countries, the public seems to have finally lost its tolerance of corruption in business and government? The way the revulsion is building up it is corruption, not revolutions or coups, that topples governments these days, and corruption is now an issue that brings the crowds out on to the streets.
True to what Prof Gunnar Myrdal wrote in the Asian Drama three decades ago, in the 1990s, national governments in several countries fell partly due to public uprising against corruption in the government. The direct impact of corruption on human life has been well publicised in Chinas bean curd bridges scandal, wherein 1,600 people died in the metropolis of Chongging last year alone because of shoddy work on construction sites or collapsing infrastructure projects. Nearer home in India there are endless stories of starvation, pollution, drought, death and destruction caused by corruption in the government and business that is going on unabated. If despite spending thousands of crores of rupees in the last five decades large parts of India, including a metropolitan city like Chennai, are still without safe drinking water, quality power and motorable roads, it is in large measure due to corruption. Recent cases of corruption unearthed in the handling of Orissas cyclone and Gujarats drought only highlight the extent to which government officials in India have been brutalised by this despicable venom!
There are two sides to corruption: demand and supply. Unless both sides are tackled simultaneously with equal vehemence, not much can be done to root out this cancer which has already eaten up much of the vitals of Indian society and economy. As of now, Indian legal, judicial, vigilance and investigative systems are oriented mainly to grapple with demand side corruption, virtually leaving out the supply side from its ambit. This renders the fight against corruption weak and ineffective as we have seen in several cases. In this context Mr Vittals initiative in persuading apex bodies like the CII, FICCI and ASSOCHAM to direct its members to desist from giving bribes is a laudable step. But this is only a beginning and a lot more need to be done to ruthlessly root out supply-side corruption. It is time Mr Vittal and his colleagues took the supply side bull by the horn and subdued it since the atmosphere for this is most conducive now than ever before.
In their paper, Fighting corruption: a principled approach, Wharton University doctoral candidate David Hess and legal studies and ethics professor Thomas Dunfee examine the phenomenon of corrupt payments by corporates and show why, increasingly in todays marketplace, companies wont be able to get away with treating bribes as business as usual. The authors offer a set of norms the C2 (Combating Corruption) principles by which companies publicly pledge that they will resist demands for bribes while taking steps to control corrupt payments and be transparent in their transactions. If many companies endorse the principles, Hess and Dunfee say, a cooperative anti-bribery system emerges, which may significantly reduce the supply side of corruption. The C2 principles would level the playing field by insuring that all corporations are abiding by the same rules and that government officials are fully aware of these rules.
In India, several factors are driving the new anti-corruption sentiment in both the public and the business community. For one thing, the many high-profile cases of the 1990s the Bofors scandal, the stock market fraud, Bihars fodder scam and Tamil Nadus public loot have highlighted the damage wrought by corruption on the part of Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers, ministers, businessmen and bureaucrats in a poor country like India. Second, the borderless global marketplace is bringing the Indian economy into greater inter-dependence, and governments as well as businesses are recognising that corruption could drive away investments to more congenial regions. Third, globally the end of the Cold War has permitted policy-makers worldwide to focus their attention on other matters such as corruption. Recent years have seen several multinational and multilateral organisations take on the battle against bribery, such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Organisation of American States (OAS), the Council of Europe and the IMF and the World Bank. And in 1993 a non-governmental organisation, Transparency International, was created expressly for the purpose of combating corruption. Given Indias reliance on these multinational and multilateral agencies, this will have a major impact on our policies and attitudes against corruption.
Transparency Internationals Bribe Payers Index (BPI) is a landmark in the battle against business corruption. Added to this is their existing Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which annually ranks countries on their level of internal corruption. This index brings out in the open literally for the entire world to see a clear picture of the countries which are deeply entrenched in corruption at home. It is a shame that India is listed among the most corrupt nations in the world, rubbing shoulders with some puny banana republics and dictatorships. The publication of these statistics can become a powerful tool for change since most, if not all, nations react strongly against being labelled a corrupt country. This is seen by the reaction of countries listed at the bottom of the Corruption Perception Index.
Moral considerations aside, it is increasingly becoming commercially unwise for businesses to continue their dirty dealings? Perhaps some companies might hold that it is a competitively necessary and viable business strategy. But the fact of the matter is that negative consequences of bribery will almost always dominate the positive effects, often leading to lower economic growth and sub-optimal government spending. For the companies also this could be damaging as has been the experience of Enron, which has now been virtually black-listed in the power sector because of the high education cost they incurred in the Dabhol power project. For individual businesses also the cost can be enormous. A 1997 World Bank survey placed the total in coarse bribery (which it defined as the use of public power for private benefit) in international trade at $80 billion (Rs 3,50,000 crore) a year. Such a due diligence on bribery is long overdue in India and the earlier it is done the better. Given the imposing cost of corruption without substantial benefits to the firms, many of them would like to have some means of getting out of this vicious circle. Appreciation has always been there as to the cost of indulging in corruption but now only its magnitude is being realised.
David Hess and Thomas Dunfee present a uniform set of principles for businessmen and firms trapped in a pattern of paying bribes or having rogue employees: the C2 principles. These principles include pledges to publicly endorse the C2 anti-corruption initiative; to establish a written policy against paying bribes and take disciplinary action against employees who violate it; to provide training and support for employees and a system that allows them to report improper payments without fear of retribution; to record all transactions properly and conduct internal audits; to report annually a statement of the firms policy on corruption and a description of its experience with enforcing the policy; and to require agents and suppliers to affirm that no improper payments have been made. The anti-corruption package also include a call for public reporting of solicitations for payment or, if necessary, private reporting to a social auditor or monitoring organisation.
For a C2 programme to be effective, firms should not endorse the principles just for publicity purposes or merely to emulate other firms in their industry. Endorsement should be done only on a voluntary, sincere and genuine basis. Not only that, businesses will also have to put their money where their mouth is: Adherence to these principles requires moving beyond merely establishing a code of conduct to proactively guiding the behaviour of the corporations employees and establishing a compliance programme to prevent improper payments, says Hess and Dunfee.
In most industries and businesses, however, the big question is: who is to take the first step? Many companies may choose to wait and see how the wind is blowing before they join the battle. But the wind is already blowing with some steam. Theres a changing public perception of corruption. Initiatives like the Fifth Pillar are examples. If companies are late movers, and in the future they are differentially perceived as being a participant in corruption, it is likely to come back and hit them hard. Similarly, those who believe that paying bribes is okay, hoping that the public will understand may be making a big mistake. The C2 principles provide one way out of this dilemma.
Seizing this opportunity
and the atmosphere, the CVC may act as a facilitator and
propeller to get the government, industry, business
organisations, socially conscious citizens and voluntary
agencies together and hammer out an action agenda to
eliminate the supply side of bribery which is at the root
of demand side corruption. On top of the agenda should be
the preparation and publication of the Bribe Payers
Index and the Corruption Perception Index for India in
line with what Transparency International is doing for
West Asia without Hafez Al-Assad
ONE of the unfinished tasks of the Bill Clinton presidency was brokering peace between Syria and Israel. The President who is all set to leave the White House in January, 2001, had organised peace talks between Israel and the PLO as well as chipped in to bring about some kind of order and peace in Northern Ireland. His Secretary of State, Ms Madeline Albright, had been touring the volatile West Asia, trying to bring Israel and Syria to the negotiating table. The peaceful withdrawal of Israeli troops from Lebanon where Syria had a heavy stake was a good beginning to this process. But the death of 69-year-old Syrian President, Hafez Al-Assad may disrupt the ongoing peace process.
It remains to be seen whether the succession issue in Syria will be smooth. The former President had clearly paved the way and groomed his son, Bashar al-Assad, to succeed him. As soon as the news of the President became known, the Syrian Parliament amended the nations constitution so that his son could be eligible to succeed him. The minimum age limit for the highest post in the country was brought down from 40 to 34. The scenario reminded one of how Rajiv Gandhi was chosen to lead the Congress party and India after the assassination of his mother, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
But the death of strong man Assad, who rules Syria for nearly 30 years, may lead to some kind of turmoil. The Syrian economy was in bad shape; the foreign policy revolved around the whims of the President; the military was on the decline and the political transition uncertain. This was often the case when a strong leader died in a nation which had abandoned the democratic path. Syria, unlike Jordan, was not a monarchy where another member of the royal family automatically came to power. When King Hussein of Jordan died, the ascension of Prince Abdullah was achieved without much hassel.
But the Syrian problem was different. The nation had been ruled for long by Assad, who belonged to the minority Alawite community. He was able to put down ruthlessly earlier uprisings instigated by the majority Sunnis. But with a new ruler present, the majority Sunnis may rise in revolt claiming their share in power. It remains to be seen how the new ruler deals with this delicate internal problem.
Though Bashar had been groomed to take over by his father, his approach to domestic and international issues will certainly be different. Only 34, widely travelled and exposed to the West, Bashar will be keen to explore new avenues and achieve a kind of religious harmony in the nation. He had also led a crusade against corruption which resulted in the indictment and detention of several senior Syrian leaders, including former Prime Minister Mahmoud Zubi, who committed suicide last month after being dismissed and sent for trial for corruption charges. Corruption, in most West Asian nations, was always close to the Centre of power, and it remains to be seen if the new President would be prepared to rattle the cupboards and let out the skeletons which may tumble out. Some of those indicted could be powerful power brokers and close allies of his late father.
Bashars main problem would be the lack of a power base. Though he appears to be favoured by all sections of the people, power bases were important in a nation like Syria. His quick ascension to power has no doubt consolidated his position, but Bashar has many miles to go before consolidating his position. In order to win support from the neighbouring countries, Bashar had extensively toured the Arab world and also France. But at that time he was the son of a strong President. Now that he is on his own, he has to reestablish his position as a likely leader of his turbulent country.
How will the West react to the new ruler of Syria? Much depends on the acceptability of Bashar by his people. If the transition was smooth and Bashar could avoid drastic anti-people moves to come to power, he will be more acceptable to the West. But one positive factor is that like his late father, Bashar has no place for Muslim fundamentalists. President Assad had crushed ruthlessly several uprisings caused by Muslim fundamentalists who finally had to admit that they had no influence in Syria. The West had accepted President Assad precisely for this reason despite his continued hostility to Israel. Now that a moderate government was in power in Iran, the West, particularly, USA, will find it easier to isolate and take up the challenge of Islamic fundamentalists operating from Afghanistan and other extremist nations. Syria, under Assad, had also won the gratitude of the USA and the West by siding with them during the 1990 Gulf war against Iraq.
Bashar would expect that the West would loosen its purse strings and help Syria out of its economic mess. For years, the Soviet Union and then Russia had been the main trading partners of Syria, particularly the supply of arms. Syria was the Soviet Unions staunchest ally in the Middle East during the days of the Cold War, but the shrewd Assad saw to it that it never became a satellite. But today Russia is no longer in a position to be as generous to Syria in the past. Russian President Vladimir Putin no doubt was present at Assads funeral and pledged his nations support to Damascus. But beleaguered with economic problems itself Russia had to be propped by Western economic aid. Under such conditions it cannot be a permanent godfather to Damascus.
But the nation which will be watching the change of scene in Syria very anxiously will be Israel. President Assad had watched in dismay and humiliation the heavy defeats inflicted by the Jewish state on the Arabs in the 1948, 1967 and 1973 wars. Syria itself lost heavily, its precious Golan Heights annexed by the enemy. Assads strategy against Israel was engaging the Jewish state in skirmishes and guerrilla attacks from Lebanon while ignoring the more legitimate claims of the Palestinians. He was never an admirer of the PLO and its President, Yasser Arafat.
From the time Mr Bill Clinton brokered the West Asia peace talks between the PLO and Israel, he knew that permanent peace in the region was not possible without appeasing Syria. Syria was a major player in the region. The USA began sending feelers to Damascus right from the time the PLO-Israel peace talks began. Unlike the Palestinians who were prepared to negotiate details over the West Bank, President Assad was rigid on his stand. Syria must get back the entire Golan Heights. This was not an issue for negotiation.
The Jewish settlers who had already built their homes in this region were equally adamant that they would not be dislodged. Successive Israeli Prime Ministers, who always doubted the motives of the Arab leaders, were reluctant to part with the strategic Golan Heights without any complete reassurance that their integrity and borders would be protected. Even while changes were made in the Israeli political scene, President Assad continued to go on forever. Many Israelis felt that so long Assad was in power, there could not be any permanent peace in the region.
Yet Assads tough
stand won him many admirers in the Arab world. But today
the need of the hour is toughness mixed with
reasonableness. The Israelis will be hoping that the new
Syrian President would be more flexible than Assad. This
is Bashars real test. If he can make concessions to
Israel without jeopardising his nations
long-standing demand for the return of the Golan Heights,
he will have achieved a miracle. And, of course, the West
Asian region is known for its miracles.
The Gates case: doors are closed
THE great corporations of this country, said US Senator Platt on March 21, 1890, debating the Sherman Act adopted a little later that year, are every one of them built upon the graves of weaker competitors that have been forced to their death by remorseless competition.
More than a century has passed since these words were spoken on the floor of the US Congress but no better statement of the genesis of Americas anti-monopoly law, embodied in the Sherman Act, can perhaps be made.
Aimed at protecting free competition in the Mecca of free enterprise, and at preventing competition from degenerating into monopoly as it naturally does unless checked by the State, the Sherman Act was applied this month by a little-known American judge to call the worlds richest man, William H. Gates III alias Bill Gates, to account.
Having ordered Microsoft to be broken up into two on June 7 (as I discussed last week), throwing the knowledge industry into a tizzy, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson suspended his split order last Thursday, June 20, until all appeals against the order are disposed of. But the historic significance of his ruling remains.
Jacksons decision shows (the) US anti-trust legacy is not out of date, the International Herald Tribune wrote on June 9, headlining an article by Linda Greenhouse. Anti-trust is the American word for anti-monopoly.
An economy based on heavy industry and capital investment, said Ms Greenhouse, has transformed itself into one based more and more on human capital and information technology to a point where it is pretty hard to find out what the markets are and what really competes with what.
Nevertheless, she said, as the ruling so dramatically demonstrates, the old factories may be obsolete, but the legal principles that led to the break-up of the Standard Oil Trust in 1911 and the American Telephone and Telegraph Co in 1984 are not.
It is impossible to predict, wrote another commentator, Thomas L. Friedman in The New York Times, what effect Microsofts break-up would have on the computer market, the software market or the stock market. But it could not have come at a better time for the rule-of-law market.
For many in the Silicon Valley, he said, government is irrelevant at best and obstructionist at worst. For many in the high-tech community, the world runs on electrons and stock options and government is basically an institution of tax-seeking bloodsuckers.
Judge Jacksons ruling is an indictment of this attitude toward government.
Internet companies are already violating peoples privacy to troubling degrees, Friedman, republished by the International Herald Tribune on June 10-11, continued. New technologies are making it easy for anyone to copy a book, movie or CD and send it to a friend without regard to copyright or royalties. E-commerce is increasingly depriving local and state government of taxes. And unregulated cyberspace is making it easy for two students in the Phillipines to send out a computer virus that melts down 10 million computers worldwide overnight.
That is why, concluded Friedman, government is going to matter more, not less. And you are going to want the rule of law more, not less. The danger, though, is that young people raised in the Internet age and bedazzled by technology companies and billionaires like Bill Gates will lose sight of this fact.
Bill Gates is no ordinary billionaire, of course. As anyone who has read his book The Road Ahead, unfolding his vision of the future, would testify. But his ignorance of the law, especially the anti-monopoly law of the United States more than a hundred years old (and strong), is as striking as his cyber genius and vision.
Concentrations of power, ruled US district judge Charles Wyzanski in 1953, applying the law in United States vs United Shoe Machinery Corp, no matter how beneficently they appear to have acted, nor what advantages they seem to possess, are inherently dangerous.
(W)ell as a monopoly may have behaved in the moral sense (he continued), its economic performance is inevitably suspect. The very absence of strong competitors implies that there cannot be an objective measuring rod of the monopolists excellence, and the test of its performance must, therefore, be largely theoretical.
Industrial advance, the Judge concluded significantly, may indeed be in inverse proportion to economic power; for creativity in business, as in other areas, is best nourished by multiple centres of activity, each following its unique pattern and developing its own espirit de corps to respond to the challenge of competition.
We cannot annoy govt, says NCM
JUST before filing this column I had met Tarlochan Singh, Vice Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, to enquire about the commissions plans vis-a-vis minorities, especially in view of the ongoing blatant attacks on Christians. He came up with the patent: We had summoned the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh, asked for an explanation from the UP government on the recent murders, also sought a report on the incident that occurred in a particular UP college where Muslim students were subjected to violence when they declined to recite Saraswati Vandana... No, he couldnt come up with any concrete outcome of the so called explanations they had sought.
More disappointments were to follow when he introduced me to the Chairman of the NCM. I reproduce this interview with Justice Mohammad Shamim, Chairman of the NCM, and you can decide for yourself whether the minorities of this country should sob or cry or do both whilst getting attacked, much in keeping with the agenda plans. When I asked Justice Mohammad Shamim for his comments on the murder of Brother George and also on the death of cook Vijay Ekka in police custody, he replied This is for the Mathura police to investigate. And when I pointed out the fact that Ekka had died in police custody so what merit would those investigations hold, he added, First let it be proved how the death occurred, we cannot interfere without any proof.... When I asked him why this Commission didnt demand an explanation from the UP administration like the NHRC had done, he said Its a human rights case...true he was from a minority community but let the NHRC take it up, after all they have more powers than us...didnt you write in your last column that we have no teeth except milk teeth and now let me tell you that even they (milk teeth) seem gone! When I suggested that if they are in such a toothless state they should invest in a set of dentures, but he remained unmoved, No, we are going to remain without teeth, using just the gums. Havent you seen people chewing food without any teeth and we are going to be like those old people who chew without any teeth. To my next query that though these attacks on the Christians have been going on for the past several months but till date there has been no condemnation from him, he said: Do you know the facts? No, then hear from me the Christian recently murdered in Punjab was a womaniser and the other Christian who is killed in UP was a homosexual! Then we are not like others, parading our achievements...also dont overlook the fact that weve been in office for a very short time - only from January 24 and that means just four and a half months...now why dont you take some tea and Ill give you biscuits too . When I told him that Im diabetic so not a biscuit or tea enthusiast he insisted, No, no have black tea. Why are you diabetic? Id suggest you become a housewife, so that you dont have any work tensions! See me, I take no tensions. Even Churchill never took tensions and continued with his afternoon nap even when the World War was at its peak and even when there were rumours that London would be wrecked. Managing to distract him from the bygones to the present, I asked him if there was any political interference in the working of this commission. No, but the fact remains that we are a recommending body, which depends on the government and so we cannot annoy them! Justice Shamim can you sleep well at night, that is not disturbed by the thought that in the last four and a half months you have not done your bit for the minorities of this country? To that he said, Im doing whatever I can do earlier visited Kashmir and we are now going to Gujarat. Actually wanted to go there earlier too but couldnt with drought hitting the region but well go now, very shortly. But why should I tell the Press details of my travel plans. Ive always tried to keep myself away from them! Even if you write this quote my brother Tarlochan Singh as having said all this.
Over with the interview details. Before I move ahead I must mention here that ever since this Commission was reconstituted (in January 2000) it has one additional member Vijay Kumar Dar supposedly to look after the interests of the displaced Kashmiris.
Something novel, alright
When Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshits Principal Secretary, S. Reghunathan, invited me to witness the second Bhagidari workshop ( a public interaction between the Chief Minister and her team of ministers and Secretaries with representatives of the Resident Welfare Associations of Delhi) I was apprehensive about the turnout and of the procedural format. But after attending this workshop I must comment that the very idea is excellent based on the western concept where the officials and the citizens sit together and talk about the common problems and how to go about solving them. And present at this bhagidari meet were 70 representatives of RWAs and after they were given a chance to speak on the work done and what remains (since this was the second such meet) the Secretaries of some of the crucial departments DJB, DVB, MCD, NDMC, Environment came to the mike and spoke of the pending problems, even giving specific time schedules by when the remaining work would get complete. In fact, typed circulars were issued, which listed the time period. Next week I will come up with more details on this.
Why career diplomats are a must
The government perhaps
is realising the importance of career diplomats after
this latest round of trouble in Fiji. No sooner we opened
our High Commission at Fiji last year, the government
posted a non career diplomat, Prof Chauhan from JNU, as
the High Commissioner to Fiji. And the general word
around is that he is proved to be a diplomatic failure.
We human beings are what we have been for millions of years colossally greedy, envious, aggressive, jealous, anxious and despairing, with occasional flashes of joy and affection. We are a strange mixture of hate, fear and gentleness; we are both violence and peace. There has been outward progress from the bullock cart to the jet plane but psychologically, the individual has not changed at all, and the structure of society throughout the world has been created by individuals. The outward social structure is the result of the inward psychological structure of our human relationships, for the individual is the result of the total experience, knowledge and conduct of man. Each one of us is the storehouse of all the past. The individual is the human who is all mankind. The whole history of man is written in ourselves.
J. Krishnamurti, Freedom from the Known, chapter I
Science has liberated man from much of the tyranny of the environment but has not freed him from the tyranny of his own nature.... To remake society we have to remake ourselves.
S. Radhakrishnan, Religion and Culture, chapter 11.
The wisdom of all ages, the philosophy of East and West and all the religions of mankind are in essence, the search for love the manifestation of Truth of God. If a person pretends to be wise, religious or philosophic without practising love in his life, he is either a hypocrite or a fool. It is a pity that in the modern age, intellectual achievement has been associated with pride and vanity, not with humility and love.
I. C. Sharma, Karma and Reincarnation, chapter I
By intuitive mind indeed one perceives
That many do not exist at all;
One who perceives many as existing,
He goes from death to death.
|| Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
| Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
| 120 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |