Tuesday, July 4, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



It was not the darkest hour

DEBATE on Emergency had been initiated with the declared aim of examining both aspects of the event. Unfortunately subsequent exposition of the event had been biased with political overtones from the word ‘Go’. The very headlines announcing the programme on TV carried the biased lable “Emergency— Democracy’s Darkest Hour” — which predisposed the viewer with a preconceived perception.

Having seen and experienced the pre-Emergency and post-Emergency environs from Calcutta and the adjoining industrial belt — where I happened to be posted during the period 1971-76 — I can vouchsafe that Emergency brought about much required discipline in this most unruly industrial labour of the region. Fear of prompt disciplinary action against erring government officials improved their work culture. The productivity of public sector steel plants (with which I was closely connected), most of whom were in the ‘red’ improved and production of steel increased substantially during the ensuing years. Industrial strikes and agitations on frivolous grounds became rare. Besides punctuality in the running of trains, the commercial dealings of railways showed marked improvement. Rolling stocks became easily and readily available which, before Emergency, were available only against consideration on the pretext of acute shortage of wagons and rakes. Free movement of goods improved trade and availability of essential goods across the country.


It won’t be very wrong to describe the chaotic conditions prevailing before Emergency as Mobocracy. There were ever-increasing dharnas, gheraos, strikes and even attacks on Parliament by the unruly mobs on flimsy grounds. Productivity in all industrial establishments, particularly in public sector undertakings was at its lowest ebb. Petty politicians were having a heyday by arousing public sentiments over minor issues for their personal political advancement. Indiscipline and total lack of work culture among government employees had immobilised the government machinery. Trade unions were functioning in a most irresponsible manner. Management of trade and industrial establishments were harassed, cowed down and belittled through gheraos and strikes to extract privileges and bonuses without any regard for productivity. Corelation between rights and responsibility had lost relevance. As a result of this most of the government and public sector undertakings were in the ‘red’ and corruption was rampant in govt departments (not that it has changed for the better now — thanks to the continued mobocracy due to weak and populist governments).

With the backdrop of these dismal working environments prevailing in the country coupled with Jayaparkash Narayan’s call for so-called revolution and his seditious call to the armed forces and the police to disobey government orders, Ms Indira Gandhi’s declaration of Emergency was initially hailed by general public as a great relief and a welcome step to end chaotic conditions and to restore order in the country.

Today our planners are pre-empted by the ever-increasing population and we are still groping in the dark to stem the tide of galloping population explosion. If family planning campaign launched during Emergency was handled with care and sensitivity and consistency we could have made substantial progress in controlling our population growth.

The administrators of the emergency rule would have had the opportunity of removing the deadwood and to corrupt elements from amongst the bureaucratic and political setup and to cleanse the political system of its criminal connections. This would have toned up the government apparatus and instilled sense of discipline and responsible behaviour amongst the government employees thereby bringing about better governance. But, alas, this was denied due to misadventure of some irresponsible and extra-constitutional power centres who had, somehow, managed to hijack the governing apparatus. It was this coterie of selfseeking upstarts who misused the emergency powers and gave a bad name to the event. Had it been steered by persons of integrity and vision, the emergency rule for a limited period would have accelerated the pace of much needed reforms in our governing apparatus. In the wake of these reforms our political system would not have produced Laloo Prasad Yadav of Fodder Scam, Rao of Fertiliser Scam, Sukh Ram of Telecom Scam, Jayalalitha of Innumerable Scams, and Harshad Mehta of Stock Scam. The nation would have also been spared of populist leaders of the likes of Badal and Paswan of Freebies whose irresponsible action are causing economic hurdles in the progress of the country.

It is, therefore, not the instrument of Emergency (provided for in our Constitution) which was wrong but it was the weilders of this powerful instrument who were at fault and failed the nation. We are now throwing out the baby along with the bathtub and consoling ourselves by singing anti-Emergency propaganda to get political mileage by distorted and exaggerated exposition of Emergency events.

Brig W. S. CHOUDHARY (retd)

Sorry, no cheap milk

An advertisement inserted by the Punjab government in The Tribune on June 13 that imported milk and milk products will not be allowed to sell at cheaper rates is shocking, to say that least.

Why should the availability of cheep milk ring alarm bells for the private dairy owners and the government milk plants? Why can’t they compete with the foreign companies who are able to sell milk at cheaper rates despite the additional cost of logistics and transportation?

Instead of encouraging competition the government promptly sides with the self-seeking dairy owners and the inefficient milk plants to block sale of cheap milk to the detriment of poor consumers.

If the government is hellbent on pursuing its anti-poor policies, it would be well advised to strengthen its armoury with some more (dirty) tricks to face the “danger” of other cheap items hitting the market — a cheap cycle from China is already in the news. The “evil” designs of foreign entrants to bring down prices and spoil the habits of the Indian poor should be nipped in the bud.

Well done and keep it up!

Wg Cdr C. L. SEHGAL (retd)

Father’s Day

I have read with keen interest a writeup by Mrs Kanwarjeet Kaur Kochhar in your paper entitled “Today is Father’s Day — Best Friend, Worst Critic”, (June 18). However, my observations are contrary to her feelings in view of the particular fact that majority of the parents and especially the fathers in these days are looked upon by their sons with utmost contempt and derision and they are no more considered as their best friends, but only worst critics, though their criticism at times, if any, may be for their own interest and benefits.

Although the father has given everything in his power and possession to his sons and does not wish anything in return from them except a little respect, yet most of the sons under the influence of their wives, young age and earning capacity, not only ignore and humiliate their parents, particularly fathers, but also behave in a most arrogant and derisive manner.

Since facts are stranger than fiction, instead of celebrating Father’s Day, wider publicity in the press and other media should be given to inculcate the spirit in them to treat their parents and fathers with respect and reverence so that their feelings are not hurt and they may lead the evenings of their lives with a sense of peace and tranquility.

S. P. Jain

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