|Saturday, July 1, 2000,
index crawls up
A peep into MNCs operations
by Shyam Chand
IN 1886, in the case of Santa Clara County vs Pacific Railroad, the US Supreme Court decided that a private corporation is a person. Justice Morrison Remick Waite, before hearing the argument, pronounced: The court does not wish to hear argument on the question of whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.
Torture: growing awareness
by A. Balu
TORTURE treatment centres around the world are trying to restore the victims dignity and sense of trust and hope so that they could get on with their lives, thanks to a unique effort by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims.
things really changed?
challenging case in Canadas history
Human index crawls up
INDIA has moved up from the 132nd position to 128th in terms of the human development index (HDI). This is what the latest UN Development Programme (UNDP) report says. But any satisfaction from this progress will be deceptive, if not illusory. The movement is based on three tangible factors, buttressed by two intangible ones. The report finds that the per capita income has gone up and life expectancy has increased. Now per capita income is a statistical illusion and does not reflect what the bottom layers really earn and spend. It is arrived at by mechanically dividing the gross domestic product (GDP) or the value of all goods and services produced in the country) by the population figure. It is as though every citizen gets an equal share, which does not happen. Often growth in the GDP triggers a widening of the disparity and in its theoretical analysis, the report lays stress on this. On paper, therefore, the HDI appears rosy but the underlying development part is unhealthy. What complicates the matter is the adjustment of the per capita income for the real purchasing power of the rupee. Calculated thus, the UNDP report has found that in 1998, the per capita income improved to $ 2077 from $ 1670 two years earlier. An Indian can hope to live for 62 years and nine months compared to the earlier 62 years and six months. Adult literacy too has become better from 53.5 per cent to 56.5 per cent. Since these three factors decide the countrys ranking, India has crawled four notches up. India is in the company of Myanmar (125th rank) and Pakistan (135). But Sri Lanka at the 84th and the Maldives at the 89th are far ahead of India. The report lauds Indias efforts at gender justice by encouraging womens participation in panchayat elections and also for its unique institution of public interest litigation. These two have not given this country HDI marks but have evoked general admiration.
Prof Amartya Sen has
written the first chapter which is in itself a thesis on
human development as an adjunct to enlarging human
rights. He sees a common motivation behind
enriching the lives and freedoms of the ordinary
people. The report also makes two related points.
One, a democratic system alone is no guarantee of human
rights. Abuses are common, particularly in the case of
minorities and indigenous people. Two, democracy does not
ensure open government. Small groups take vital decisions
which affect the lives of the people in a dozen different
ways. Arbitrary measures like slum clearance (depriving
people of their homes), big dams (flooding villages and
uprooting thousands) and budget allocations which are
tilted in favour of the rich and the middle class like
water supply and other civic amenities are extensively
prevalent. At another point, the report appeals to
governments to consciously enlarge the influence of
fair-minded citizens and bring big companies and
multinational corporations under state-centred
accountability. This does not strictly fall under the
scope of the UNDP but protection of the small man is what
human rights is all about.
POOR Mr Ram Prakash Gupta, the "imposed" Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, is being blamed for the rout of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the panchayat elections. He was virtually pulled out of thin air after Mr Kalyan Singh raised the banner of revolt against not someone his size in political stature, but Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.Those responsible for the BJP's rapid fall from political grace in UP are not to be found in Lucknow but in Delhi. Mr Gupta's last big political innings was played way back in 1967 when he was made Deputy Chief Minister in the ill-starred SVD government. Of course, the BJP has plenty to worry about, specially in the context of the assembly elections next year. The central leadership is caught in a catch-22 situation. Removing Mr Gupta may result in the multi-party arrangement falling apart. And a party which has been given a sound drubbing in the panchayat elections, in spite of controlling the levers of power, cannot be expected to put up even a semblance of a fight in the event of early assembly elections. Allowing Mr Gupta to continue would be seen as reaffirmation of the central leadership's political deathwish expressed last year when he was nominated to replace Mr Kalyan Singh as Chief Minister. Imposition of President's rule in UP until the assembly elections would give extra ammunition to the combined opposition, although Governor Suraj Bhan is capable of playing a proactive role in bringing back the voters who deserted the BJP after Mr Kalyan Singh's expulsion. There is little the BJP can do for changing its upper caste image. Even if Mr Kalraj Mishra, Mr Rajnath Singh and Mr Balramji Tandon give up fighting for the political turf in UP, they cannot give the BJP the necessary backward castes under-pinning. The Soron assembly bye-election had sent out the message that Mr Kalyan Singh can become an important factor in UP politics if he can raise the resources for spreading his base across the state.
The results of the
panchayat elections too have sent out the signal that no
party can hope to make an impression in UP without Dalit
support. As of today, the political destiny of the state
is being controlled by two leaders of regional parties.
Apart from the fact that their names begin with the
letter "M", there is little they are willing to
share for strengthening Dalit control over UP politics.
In almost all the panchayats the contest for the right to
rule was between the Samajwadi Party of Mr Mulayam Singh
Yadav and the Bahujan Samaj Party of Ms Mayawati. With Mr
Kalyan Singh too having thrown his hat in the ring, the
battle for the political favours of the Dalits promises
to become more interesting. Since Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav
and Ms Mayawati are unlikely to bury their political
differences in the near future, the BJP
"outcaste" can play a decisive role in tilting
the balance in favour of the Samajwadi Party, with which
he has already done covert political business through
Sakshi Maharaj during the Lok Sabha elections. But the
analysis of the outcome of the panchayat elections in UP
cannot be complete without bringing the Congress, the
oldest surviving political party, into the picture. What
picture? Which Congress? It was nowhere in sight for
miles on end. Mr Salman Khursheed was sent to UP for
performing the twin miracle of rejuvenating the party and
convincing the minorities that they had erred in
abandoning the Congress after the demolition of the Babri
Masjid. But he is either incapable of doing the
impossible or he is into some kind of a political
"match-fixing" so that the political advantage
remains with the rivals. The fact of the matter is that
there is little to celebrate either for the BJP or the
Congress. If Lucknow gave the thumbs down to Mr Vajpayee,
the grassroot message for Mrs Sonia Gandhi from Amethi
too was not very encouraging. As of today, the relevance
of the "M and M factor" in UP politics, with
the "K" also trying to get into reckoning,
cannot be ignored.
Towards final settlement
IF all goes on expected lines Mr Bill Clinton will soon add another feather to his cap before his second and last tenure as US President comes to an end in December. Whether or not he succeeds in arranging a summit meeting on the lines of the 1979 Camp David talks that led to the final peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, his efforts appear to be progressing quite satisfactorily, keeping alive the hopes of a permanent settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Lady luck is also favouring him. If there is anything that can be treated as an irritant is the stand reiterated by Israeli Prime Minister Yehud Barak on Wednesday that he would not accept the border position that existed before the 1967 war that changed the face of the region. However, every West Asia watcher knows that Mr Barak has to make such statements to keep his government intact. Only a few days back his government had been reduced to a minority in the 120-member Knesset (Israeli parliament) when the 17-member ultra-orthodox Jewish Shas Party announced its withdrawal from the coalition headed by Mr Barak. That awful situation has changed with his tactful handling of the Shas Party. Despite accusations from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat that the Israeli Prime Minister lacks the will to reach a final settlement, Mr Barak has been affirming his country's commitment to forge a peace deal with the Palestinians.
There are certain issues
which have to be examined to find their solution
acceptable to both sides the Palestinians and the
Israelis. These include the third Israeli withdrawal from
the West Bank as promised, the demarcation of the new
State's borders, the status of East Jerusalem and the
fate of Palestinian refugees. The Palestinian State that
should be reborn by September 13, as agreed to between
the Israeli and Palestinian leaders with the USA as the
mediator, will comprise the areas of the West Bank and
the Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem, as Mr Arafat claims,
as its capital. This will mean returning to the Arab
Palestinians nearly all the areas that Israel captured in
the fierce war 33 years ago minus Syria's Golan Heights.
Israel is reluctant to accept this status of East
Jerusalem and to return the remaining part of the
captured West Bank area because of pressures from
right-wing parties. Yet it yearns for peace. It was
mainly the West Bank factor that had caused the temporary
rift between Mr Barak and the Shas leader, Rabbi Ovadia
Yosef. The Shas leader has now quietly given his nod for
the land-for-peace deal as is being worked out between
Israel and the Palestinians. But much depends on what Mr
Barak promised to US Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright during her latest visit to the region. Mr Arafat
has declared that he will feel free to proclaim an
independent Palestinian State after the expiry of the
September 13 deadline owing to the growing pressures from
his constituency. What ultimately happens will depend on
the success of President Clinton's endeavours to make the
two sides specially the Israelis realise
that any price is worth paying for the much-needed peace
in the region.
IN 1886, in the case of Santa Clara County vs Pacific Railroad, the US Supreme Court decided that a private corporation is a person. Justice Morrison Remick Waite, before hearing the argument, pronounced: The court does not wish to hear argument on the question of whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does. The defendant corporations are persons within the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdictions the equal protection of the laws.
This judgement has changed the course of world history by paving the way for global corporate rule. Corporations now enjoy unlimited life, virtual freedom of movement anywhere on the globe; control of the mass media; the ability to amass legions of lawyers and public relation specialists in support of their cause; and freedom from liability for the misdeeds of wholly-owned subsidiaries. They also enjoy the presumed right to amass property and financial resources without limit; engage in any legal activity; bring liability suits against any private citizen or civic organisation that challenge them; make contribution to individual candidates, political parties; political action committees and deduct those contributions from taxable income as business expenses; withhold potentially damaging information from customers; and avoid restrictions on the advertising of harmful but legal products in the name of commercial free speech.
Robert Monks in his The Emperors Nightingale says that corporations are not people; they have no conscience. Not only do they not have conscience, they also do not have human soul. It is money that flows in their veins, not blood.
The British East India Company and the Hudsons Bay Company, formed by the British Crown as monopolies to exploit colonial resources and markets, ignited the American Revolution not only against these companies but also against the Crown itself.
Now the Crown has been replaced by shareholders whose corporations are expropriating and selling off living capital of human societies and the planet. In the words of ecological economist Herman Daly, It looks as though we are holding a going-out-of-business sale.
According to Dr David Korten, formerly of Harvard University Business School, the corporate sector has depleted or destroyed all kinds of capital natural capital, human capital, social capital and institutional capital.
Strip-mining forest, fisheries and mineral deposits in the developing countries become the first targets of the corporate sector. By marketing toxic chemicals and dumping hazardous wastes, they turn once-productive lands and water into zones of death.
In their book, Plundering Paradise, Robin Broad and John Cavanagh have cited the case of the Benguet Mining Company in the Philippines: In the quest for gold, Benguet Mining cuts deep gashes into the mountains, strips away trees and top soil, and dumps enormous piles of rock into local rivers. With their soils and water depleted, the indigenous Igorot people who live in the area have difficulty in growing their rice and bananas and have to go to the other side of the mountains for drinking water or to bathe. The cyanide used by the corporation kills their coastal fish and coral reef.
What Benguet Mining is doing in the Philippines, Shell Oil is doing in Nigeria. Taxaco in Equador and Freeport Mc Mo Ran in Indonesia do not lag behind.
Exploitation of labour or depletion of human capital is very alarming. Bob Herberts article, In America: Nikes Boot Camp, The New York Times (March 31, 1997), is a narration of the deplorable condition endured by young women, aged between 15 and 28, working at factories that make Nike shoes in Vietnam, where three meals of rice, a bit of vegetable and perhaps some tofu (bean curd) cost the equivalent of $ 2.10. Renting a room costs at least $ 6 a month. Yet the workers making Nike shoes that may sell for more than $ 100 a pair must cover these and all other expenses out of a pay-cheque of $ 1.60 a day. The CEO of Nike, Mr Philip Knight, is one of the wealthiest Americans. In Mexican Maquiladoras young women are employed for three to four years by which time they are permanently handicapped due to the loss of eyesight, allergies and kidney problems.
According to the 1997 UNDP Human Development Report, in 1960, 20 per cent wealthiest people had income 30 times more than the 20 per cent poorest; in 1991 it was 61 per cent and in 1994 it was 78 per cent. Now 1 per cent wealthiest people in the world enjoy 20 per cent of its wealth while the poor 20 per cent live on just over 1 per cent of the worlds wealth. The total assets of 447 world billionaires are roughly equal to the combined annual income of the poorest half of humanity. A large corporate CEO earns annually between $ 7.8 million (326 times the earnings of an average factory worker) and $ 223 million. The best corporate CEO is one who eliminates most jobs.
The depletion of social capital is caused by breaking up unions, bidding down wages, treating workers as expendable commodities and uprooting key plants on which community economies are dependent to move them to lower-cost locations, leaving it to society to absorb the family and community breakdown and violence that are inevitable consequences of the resulting stress. The Dole company of the USA now owns the majority of the high quality land in the southern islands of the Philippines. Farm labour is replaced by fossil fuel guzzling machines. Jobless and destitute peasants migrate to the slums and crowded alleys of the cities where, in turn, job competition drives wages down and rent up.
As far as institutional capital is concerned, corporations undermine the necessary function and credibility of governments and democratic governance as they pay out millions in campaign contribution to win public subsidies, bail-outs and tax exemption. They pose a great threat to democratic institutions of the country they enter.
It is not that some people in India are apprehensive about these multinational corporations; people in America know the real danger posed by them. Bill Quinns book, How Wal-Mart Is Destroying America, shows how Wal-Mart, the most powerful marketing organisation in the USA targeted the business of the local retailers by aggressively undercutting their prices. Wal-Marts concept is clear and simple, writes Forbes magazine: Discount stores in small towns and rural areas, each big enough to freeze out competition. The assessment of Fortune magazine is eye-opener. And, finally, there is the ruthless, predatory Sam, (Sam Walton, who incorporated Wal-Mart, was the richest man in America before he died in 1992) who stalks competitors in any size, shape or form and finds sport in blasting them from the sky like so many quails.
Watch out! Wal-Mart is entering India!
MNCs thrive on subsidies but hate them in countries they enter. A couple of examples will suffice. The incentive package given to Motorola by the State of Virginia includes a $ 55.9 million grant, a $ 1.6 billion tax credit and a reimbursement package worth $ 5 million for employee training. In Tulsa, Oklahama, the country sales tax for one year was directed from public purpose to pay for the construction of a Whirlpool factory. In addition, the State would reimburse Whirlpool 4.5 cents for every dollar paid in wages to eleven hundred workers for 10 years.
Our dairy farming is under threat. Our milk products cannot compete with imported milk products enjoying a subsidy of $ 1,000 per tonne. Our milk plants sell ghee at Rs 1,25,000 per tonne. Can they compete with foreign ghee enjoying a subsidy of over Rs 40,000 per tonne? And what will be the fate of poor villagers who augment their income by selling milk?
A small or marginal farmer, who gets land on rent for Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000 per acre per annum from a big or absentee land owner, to widen his operations to enjoy the economy of scale, will be wiped out if his wheat does not fetch the procurement price of Rs 1,000 per quintal after the complete withdrawal of subsidies on fertilisers, seeds, pesticides, insecticides and electricity. With the procurement price of Rs 1,000 per quintal, the issue price must be Rs 1,500 per quintal. At this price the working class cannot survive. A great social tension lies ahead.
But why do the World Bank and the IMF insist on the withdrawal of subsidies on agriculture? The answer is simple. When the cost of production becomes higher, our markets will be flooded with cheap imported wheat at about Rs 500 a quintal. They would maintain this price till our farmers start committing suicide at a faster rate and their fields are infested with reeds and thorny bushes! This liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation is likely to prove liquefied petroleum gas.
THANKS to the recent cricket capers, the gambling instinct in the family has been aroused. And whats more, its becoming a daily fix.
Instead of being gullible idiots, raising BP levels watching crooked cricket matches whose outcomes are determined more by bookies than umpires; we have turned the home turf itself into a gambling pitch. The previously crick-in-the-neck travails of daily life have now become a delightful game of glorious uncertainties.
The first call for bets is made at the dinner table. Since the family gets three newspapers and each from a different hawker, you can place money on which one will be the first to arrive in the morning. And lo and behold yesterdays Sleepy Joes are today up with the lark, to wait with bated breath, the thud of the first paper to land at the doorstep! The game has become even more exciting, ever since the hitherto late arrivals from Delhi have also become locals.
The next bet is on naming the family member of the day, who will be caught in the bathroom with soap just when the taps will go dry. A parallel bet is on in the kitchen if the bartanwali will show up. And if she does can it be a double ton of luck that the jharu-pocha-wali will also respond to the call of duty? And once in a while all previous records of wilful absenteeism by the domestic staff are broken, when not only these two, but a hattrick is performed by the rare arrival of our parttime mali also.
But all these are petty bets compared to the real bumper bonanzas that rival World Cup excitement; when major domestic crisis strikes. A big game is on if you can correctly guess the day of the third week when the cooking gas will suddenly run out with a tragic hiss at dinner time; leaving our guests wondering whether the sudden change in our pallor is due to the heat or their birping?
And if the phone goes dead, a months betting season can be declared open, and for a Great Gambler the odds can even be placed in years, for the instrument to come alive. Cell-phones for placing these big bets are of course allowed in this ball game. Another gambling opportunity that can distinguish the boys from the men is on when there is a power failure on a hot, muggy night. The entire neighbourhood usually joins in this community casino as no tips are possible from the electricity department, as their standard reply is that its a grid failure.
So far the game has been going on well; but it wont be long before a killjoy Prabhakhar will come up with some tehelka sensations. But when that happens there are now many inspiring role models to emulate. Depending on your acting skills or spouses prodding, you can choose the flavour of the month farce. If struck by a Con-jee conscience immediately turn to your priest/padre/mullah and sing out all your sins; but make sure you have passed on the muck to people with darker skins. And if you want to do a real tearjerker a la Vadhe Paaji then put on gallons of glycerine and go live as a real weeping willow on the TV.
But if everything else
fails, just blow the whistle on 20 other compatriots or
file defamation cases on all your previous pals, who in
turn will do the same to 20 others; thus turning it into
another endless crooked game where the only
suckers will be the viewers and never the players.
Torture: growing awareness
TORTURE treatment centres around the world are trying to restore the victims dignity and sense of trust and hope so that they could get on with their lives, thanks to a unique effort by the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims.
According to Dr Inge Genefke, Secretary-General of the council an umbrella group for more than 220 centres for torture victims worldwide, a major achievement of the 26 years of the councils existence is that where once there was silence, now torture is on the international agenda.
On the occasion of the third annual commemoration of the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture on June 26, Dr Genefke told reporters at the UN that what remained was to ensure that the 119 countries that had ratified the Convention against Torture took that commitment seriously and acted to implement it. India is one of the few countries which has not ratified the treaty, prompting the chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Mr Justice Verma, to comment the other day on the failure of New Delhi to join the majority nations.
The Convention adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1984 obliges States/parties to make torture a crime and to prosecute and punish those guilty of it. It notes explicitly that neither higher orders nor exceptional circumstances can justify torture.
A joint declaration issued under the auspices of the UN this year calls on all States to ensure that torture is considered a crime in their domestic law and to rigorously pursue perpetrators. It also urges States to become parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
A highlight of the UN efforts to help torture victims is the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, which was established in 1981. Over a hundred programmes treating torture victims in more than 50 countries from the USA to Nepal receive financial assistance from the Fund. This year the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has approved about seven million dollars for grants to 160 programmes submitted by 150 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in 65 countries which will provide assistance to victims of torture and members of their families in 2000-2001.
According to Dr Allen Keller, Director of the Bellevue Hospital, New York University Programme for torture survivors, the UN Fund has breathed life into his programme. The youngest victim the Programme had treated was a six-year-old girl from Albania, suffering from burns and trauma as a consequence of having her arm plunged into boiling water by thugs who were trying to intimidate her parents.
A Nigerian torture survivor, Mr Omoyele Sovore, who was present at the press conference, narrated the traumatic suffering he had undergone through injection with poison and detention. Torture is not only an act of power, it is an act of cowardice, he said, noting that Nigeria which had returned to democracy last year had not yet ratified the UN Convention.
The UN Secretary-General, Mr Kofi Annan, in his message on the occasion of the commemoration of International Day, recalled a question posed by Feodor Dostoevski in The Brothers Karamazov. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one creature...would you consent to be the architect on those conditions?
TWENTYFIVE years after an Indian Prime Minister made herself Dictator we have seen our first real remembrance of the Emergency. Earlier anniversaries have gone by with, except in the first two years, a perfunctory sort of acknowledgement that Indian democracy was declared dead on June 26, 1975, for a few brief moments. This time, perhaps because many of the political leaders jailed during the Emergency are now in government, we have really tried to remember what happened. There have been endless programmes on television and a flood of articles in the regional and English language Press on what went and why and the consensus appears to be that we have all learned from the mistakes made by Indira Gandhi. But, have we? Have things really changed?
Well, there has been a constitutional amendment that makes it much harder for a Prime Minister to become a Dictator but when you look beyond this you might find that things have not changed that much. Mrs Gandhi deluded herself into believing that she could suspend democracy because in Delhi she ran a durbar and not a government. Unfortunately, Delhi is still a durbar. Since we have a coalition government there is an inevitable reduction in levels of sycophancy but courtiers still lurk in those corridors of power and the atmosphere of pomp and circumstance still prevails. Only notice the long queue of Ministers who collected at Delhi airport to see the Prime Minister off when he left for Europe last week. It is a sight you never see in Western democracies so why should we still be forced to suffer this patently feudal practice? When I made some inquiries I discovered that the Prime Minister quite likes the idea of his Ministers lining up bearing flowers.
A Minister who once tried to evade the airport line-up said he ended up going because the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs rang him that morning and reminded him that his presence was expected.
This is not the only evidence that the durbar is alive and well. You only need to see the bowing and scrapping that goes on around the Prime Minister and his family to know that only the characters in the tableau have changed. Sadly, the bowers and scrapers include not just politicians and bureaucrats but businessmen, journalists and the usual motley crowd of supposedly ordinary people. The fact that ordinary people only get to see the Prime Minister when he chooses to have a durbar speaks for itself. Even Leftist Prime Ministers like I.K. Gujral favoured the idea of these durbars clearly without realising that the very word should be obsolete in a real democracy.
The atmosphere will only change when high officials and our elected representatives move out of their palatial residences into humber quarters and suffer the same problems of day-to-day Indian life as we do. In the past twentyfive years there has not been a single Prime Minister who has dared suggest such a change in accommodation. Nor has there been one who has dared suggest that it is unhealthy for ministers and bureaucrats to be surrounded by armies of lackeys.
Mrs Gandhi also managed to become dictator because she ran the Congress party like a private estate. This is exactly how the party is still being run by Mrs Gandhis Italian daughter-in-law. The new Mrs Gandhi is, if anything, even more dictatorial than the old one and has made it clear that she believes dissent of even the mildest kind needs to be crushed like a bug under her elegantly shod feet. Things are so bad in the Congress party that even those who oppose Sonia say that the only hope left now is Priyanka.
If the idea of dynastic inheritance were restricted to the Congress there would be less to worry about. But, there is almost not a political party in India that has not adopted it in some way or the other so that parliamentary constituencies are now handed from one member of a family to another almost as if they were inherited estates. High office often gets handed around in similar fashion as we have seen, in its most magnified form, in the Laloo-Rabri succession. The excuse political leaders give for these feudal practices is that they get their sanction from the people. So did Indira Gandhi. The fact that she managed to win again in 1980, despite having made herself Dictator in her last tenure, means that even where the people are concerned democracy is only a semi-understood concept.
Which brings us to the Press. The newspapers that have this year carried special articles on the dark days of the Emergency were the very ones that acquiesced politely to censorship. Only two national newspapers tried resisting The Statesman and the Indian Express and they paid for it. I worked, in those dark days, as a junior reporter in The Statesman and remember vividly days when the newspaper would come back from the censors as late as 8 a.m. so that it was effectively killed for that day. I also remember that a series of articles I did on conditions in Delhi hospitals was considered political enough to merit censorship. All I said was that government healthcare was not as good as it should be but that was already too much. Naturally, all real political stories were banned so if there were riots, incidents of compulsory sterilisation as part of Sanjay Gandhis family planning programme or demolitions of whole residential localities, like Turkman Gate, we were allowed to say nothing at all.
So, have things changed? Well, in my view, the newspapers who accepted censorship then would accept it once more without protest. But, censorship is now virtually impossible because private television channels have changed the circumstances of the game.
Maybe we will never have
another Emergency but let us please not delude ourselves
into believing that things have changed all that much.
The saddest thing that remains unchanged is that the
leaders Mrs Gandhi jailed, those who made so much noise
about the death of democracy, today practice the same
feudal politics that made a Dictator possible. What more
can be said than that twentyfive years on even conditions
in Indian jails remains as abysmal as they were when
people like Atal Behari Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, George
Fernandes and Arun Jaitley were lodged in them as guests
of Mrs Gandhis Government.
challenging case in Canadas history
INVESTIGATORS in Canadas most elite police force concede that the probe into the Air-India bombing of 1985 is the most complex case they have ever handled.
Grant Learned, head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Polices (RCMPs) public affairs wing, said: The investigation is complex as it entails four countries, the evidence is 6,000 feet plus deep and spread over 20 km in the Atlantic.
One homicide in itself is complex but in case of the Air-India tragedy one homicide is multiplied by 331 times 329 Air-India victims and two victims at Narita Airport, Grant said.
It is the greatest mass murder in Canadian history and the information that we have gathered is mind boggling, the RCMP spokesman said.
The ill-fated Air-India aircraft, which took off from Canada, went down off the coast of Ireland on June 23, 1985, killing all passengers and crew on board. While members of certain Sikh extremist groups based in Canada are the primary suspects, formal charges have not yet been framed. Canadian investigators also link an explosion that went off in the Narita Airport of Japan, killing two, to the Air-India crash.
Addressing members of the victims families in Vancouver, the RCMP spokesman said the force has collected over a million pages of documents and evidence. The material, he said, is now with the crown attorneys (government prosecutors) who for over one year, after receiving the material, are sifting through those pages and asking more questions, clarifications.
We feel bad that we cant tell anything more than this to members of the victims families as there is the question of the privacy act and breach of the official secrets act and it also entails the integrity of the investigation, Grant said.
The investigation was recently stepped up, he pointed out. The size of the Vancouver-based Air-India task force has been increased from 16 to 20 full time investigators. Additionally, there is a seven-member support staff. There are 11 crown counsels sifting through all the evidence and they should soon come up with an answer to lay charges against the suspects, Grant said. But theres no immediate indication of any time limit, he conceded.
Grant claimed prosecutors are closer to a decision on whether charges are warranted and so investigators are extremely cautious not to say anything lest it be taken out of context, with a negative bearing on the investigation.
We have been doing our best, what we responsibly can. New information is still surfacing that leads to more investigation. Crown counsels are asking for some fine tuning of the material already with them, additional pieces of details are being requested or substantiated as part of the decision-making process, Grant said.
The victims families had on June 23 organised a function to mark the 15th anniversary of the death of their loved ones at Queens Park, where they lay a plaque and create a miniature shrine of sorts every year. The families bring flowers and incense sticks, reciting their own prayers for those who perished in the air tragedy.
Silence without action that is sincerity.
Through sympathy it pervades that is the spirit.
Motion that has not yet been formed, that lies between the existent and the non-existentthat is the germinal.
Sincerity is quintessential, therefore, it enlightens.
spirit is responsive, therefore it is subtle.
The germinal is infinitesimal, therefore it is obscure.
He who comprehends sincerity, spirit and the germinal is called a sage.
Chow Tun Yi. The Book of Universality, 4
All of us.... are bound by the fetters of karma, and have to clear our accounts. Till all karma, good and bad, is destroyed, God-realisation is not possible. It is necessary, therefore, to practice bhakti which will destroy all good and bad karma..... Karma does not contaminate and bind us if we bear it with equanimity, without attachment or resentment, but with the attitude, Thy will be done. In this way it will not bear fruit again and we will not have to be reborn in order to reap its fruit.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Sant Mat, chapter 4.
Dream you that mens misdeeds fly up to Heaven
And then some hand inscribes the record of them
Upon Gods tablets; and God, reading them,
Deals the world justice? Nay, the vault of Heaven
Could not find room to write the crimes of earth,
Nor God himself avail to punish them:
Justice is here on earth, had ye but eyes.
The grand law of causation includes the law of action and reaction, the Law of compensation, and the Law of retribution. All these laws come under one general, all embracing heading, viz., the Doctrine of Karma.
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