Monday, July 31, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



The malaise weakening India

THIS has reference to Prof Bhim S. Dahiya’s article, “Centre and the states: the malaise weakening India” (July 26). There are certain words in the Indian political vocabulary at the mention of which everyone stands to attention in an attitude of respectful submission. One such word is “autonomy”, another is “regionalism” and yet another is “decentralisation”.

At the level of its dictionary meaning, regionalism implies linguistic and cultural attachment to a given area and a sense of belonging to and sharing a local tradition and ethos which no political device can root out. But dictionary meanings have no relevance in Indian politics except as a facade behind which the reality lurks. This reality is the “regionalism” on the lips of politicians which is a euphemism for a political device exploited from time to time to keep the Centre in the place and extract as large a piece of the national cake as possible for the state.

Reduced to its fundamentals, regionalism re-emerges as populism in the state and dissidence against the Centre. The respectability of regionalism in its dictionary role has been transferred to a political device in which the Centre is pictured as a villain of the piece and the states as innocents helplessly in the grip of a ruthless national leadership. The principal fallout from this is an adversarial relationship between the Centre and the states in which such things as the dissolution of the assembly, the introduction of President’s rule and the selection of the Chief Minister, not to speak of inter-state disputes, are recognised as useful pawns in the game. So much so that the unity of all-India parties is drastically modified by regional affiliations and loyalties. These conflicting demands have created a context in which a high premium is placed on expediency and this in turn has proliferated into defections, shifting loyalties, intrigues, head countings and factionalism of the most blatant variety.


In this sense India is today at a very delicate point in its political evolution. There is another grave danger if the present trend continues. It is the cry for “self-determination”. Frustration of people in many states has reached a point where the sense of national unity and integrity is in jeopardy.

Nation-making presupposes a strong Centre, a focus of authority that keeps fragmentation at bay and makes possible a controlled development and liberalisation in the direction of what Justice Sarkaria has called “cooperative federalism”.

Looking at the wrong side of the Centre, it can be said that there is much truth in the charge often levied that while disbursing resources, the Centre generally favours the states run by its party governments. It adopts a lukewarm attitude to the financial needs of the other states. In the interest of equity and fairplay, which are the basic tenets of our Constitution this discrimination should not be there. When the Centre plays a fair game in the distribution of resources and other help, it is very likely that there will be less noise for more financial autonomy generally made by Opposition governments.


Thackeray’s case

The Mumbai Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s dismissal of the case against Mr Bal Thackeray as time-barred has brought all-round relief, saved the peace and law and order and saved the Central government from embarrassment. The magistrate said that the Section under which this prosecution had been launched (153-A) had a maximum time limit of three years, which expired long ago. Rebuking the prosecution, the magistrate went on record to say.

“No one has the right to file a charge sheet in the court whenever he likes — at his own free will.”

No one, however, eminent is above the law. Correct. But no government too is above the provisions of law. The prosecution wanted the magistrate to ignore this provision — which request he rejected. The prosecution advanced the plea that they could not get the Central government’s permission to launch this prosecution earlier. The law is law; it can’t take notice of such excuses.

At the present moment after eight years, it looks not a legal case, but a political strategy to settle old scores, to consolidate the position of the state ministry, by dividing their rivals.

The ministry sought propaganda mileage out of it, by pleading as if to say: Look, we can take the wild bull by the horn, which no one else dared.

The whole of Mumbai, nay much of Maharashtra, also the whole nation felt excited over the case for 10 days. Now they will feel at peace.

All in all, it looks not like a legal battle but a political case, in which the general public has won.


Female infanticide

This refers to the news item “No move for law on infanticide” that appeared on June 5. The report was filed by PTI with reference to Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Rita Verma’s press conference at Coimbatore.

The Department of Family Welfare’s views are as follows:

(1) Infanticide whether of a male or a female child is a crime punishable by law, and there is no need to bring a special law for the infanticide of girls.

(2) Female infanticide is more of a social issue. Cases obviously are not reported since female infanticide is committed either by the parents themselves or by someone (dais, etc) paid by them.

New Delhi

Garbage on college campus

We are students of Beant College of Engg & Technology, Gurdaspur. Ours is a government engg college, fully residential with hostels for students and residential quarters for the staff for the last 20 days the Municipal Committee of Gurdaspur has been dumping the city’s garbage daily on our college grounds.

How has our Principal allowed the committee to use the college campus as a dumping ground? This is unimaginable. When we tried to contact the Principal, he was reluctant to meet us on this matter. Already much garbage has got accumulated and the future is so gloomy.

The dumping is being done close to the classrooms and the residential area. We are bewildered how we can continue our studies under such polluted conditions. Already so much of bad smell is spreading in the campus with flies, mosquitoes, etc!

PUNEET and many others

Failing medical services

There have been frequent write-ups about the deteriorating medical services in the country. The plight of the common man can be very well imagined from the plight of doctors themselves.

I have been serving the government of Punjab as Medical Officer, PCMS-I, for the past 16 years. Even then I was unable to get proper medical treatment for my father, who died at my home when he should have been at the hospital.

I did not get any medicines from the hospital. What a pity! Had I been a politician or a bureaucrat, could this happen? So, my ordinary countrymen you are not suffering alone.


Small industry

The writer of the article, "Small industry in Punjab: Technology policy and modernisation" (July 29) was Vikram Chadha.


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