Tuesday, August 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Terrorism isn’t freedom struggle

THERE has been much confusion over India’s stand on holding talks with the Hizbul Mujahideen “within the Indian Constitution”. Kashmir today is an integral part of India, ruled by a democratically-elected government. Much like the rest of the nation, the state of Kashmir lies within the Indian constitutional framework.

Kashmir may enjoy special status due to historical reasons but that does not bar the state from the same legislative governance that binds the whole country together. Therefore, it follows that any talks involving the Indian government must necessarily be within the parameters of Indian Constitution — since Kashmir is not “anything otherwise”.

A democracy, by design, provides for voices of dissent from the members of its community. A democratic country strives to address such dissension through peaceful means and dialogue, as much as possible.

The Kashmiri militant groups must realise that the involvement of foreign mercenaries or foreign governments to destabilise peace and terrorise people cannot, by any reasoning, qualify as a “freedom struggle” for Kashmiris. In this regard, the militants are not justified in criticising the Army’s presence, which is a necessary reaction from the government to check terrorism and maintain law and order in the region.

Schaumburg, IL (USA)

(Received in response to the Internet edition)


Environment at PGI

This refers to a news-item regarding two faculty members who left the PGI recently. I have had a 27-year-long association with the PGI.

Dr B.N.S. Walia, ex-Director of the PGI, said: “The government plays around with the interest of doctors....” Let us examine what is the “government” in relation to the PGI, an autonomous national institute. The director is its chief executive with well-defined powers and duties. He has a total and absolute control of the institution. For handling financial and administrative matters it has bodies like the governing body, the academic committee and the standing finance committee that meet periodically.

The agenda for their meetings is prepared by the Director. He is also responsible for recording and implementing the decisions. Therefore, for all intents and purposes it is the Director who governs the PGI.

We should seriously examine the factors that influence academic achievements. Salaries and fringe benefits are important but developing the right ambience for scientific endeavours is equally important.

It is the responsibility of the chief executives to restore the confidence of highly qualified professionals and save the institute.

Former Professor, Paediatrics (GE), PGI
Rochester (MN, USA)

PU Health Centre

Apropos of the news item on the Panjab University Health Centre (July, 31), lakhs of rupees go down the drain every year on account of lack of proper administrative control over the nature of its beneficiaries. This reflects laxity on the part of the authorities.

From this, it is amply clear that the recommendations of the committees specially constituted to suggest ways and means to streamline the functioning of the Health Centre have not been heeded to. One of the arguments advanced in justification of their non-implementation is that the poor “babus”, who, on an average, draw a minimum salary of Rs 7,000 to Rs 10,000 per month, cannot afford the exorbitant cost of the renewal of their health cards. This is ridiculous.

Nevertheless, the problem is not too big to be solved. The university should take a cue from the UT Administration, which has successfully tackled the problem of touts in the Estate Office. The secret of this success lies in the proper harnessing of computer technology.

All that the university needs to do is to go in for a computer and a computer-mounted camera. This gadgetry will solve the problem of the renewal of the health cards, practically at no cost. To meet the running costs, the beneficiaries may be charged a token fee of Rs 5 per head.


Humiliating the man in uniform

I had the chance of seeing certain newspapers dated July 27 carrying photographs of Vijay Divas celebrated in Delhi. To my horror, I saw the men in uniform being subjected to physical search by a wing of the police — the SPG guards. In other words, the man in the olive green was being told that his loyalty to the nation was under doubt. And who carries out these searches — the police.

Despite such an attitude and approach, the soldiers are still guarding the borders of the country? With such a leadership, do we need external enemies to worry about?


Disabled soldiers

Traditionally, the Punjab Government and people have taken pride in their soldiers. They have done a lot for them, particularly for the victims of Kargil war. However “pre-Kargil” soldiers have not been that lucky. It can be best illustrated with the help of an example. Sepoy Ram Singh (20th Battalion, Sikh Regiment) Heeron Khurd village, Dist Mansa (Punjab), lost his leg over two years ago while in military service and was boarded (Army ter for being “thrown” out of service) on “medical grounds”. Ever since, this luckless (and legless) soldier has been made to run from pillar to post (on his remaining leg) to get a job, even out of the so-called “quota” for the ex-servicemen. He was even interviewed by the “competent authority” for the job in 1998. But then there was a “ban” on recruitment at that time, and thus Lady Luck eluded the poor soldier.

Those who put the “ban” did not distinguish between “normal civilians” and the soldiers who were boarded out on medical grounds due to injuries “attributable to military service”, and whose numbers are too insignificant to affect the government’s budget. What an indifferent application of mind while framing such rules!

Now the “ban” on recruitment of “handicapped persons” has reportedly been lifted, but Sepoy Ram Singh has not been offered any job. He is educated, is in the prime of his youth (just about 30), has been fitted with an artificial leg by the Army, and is otherwise fit to perform all jobs (within his handicap). Answers to his queries are couched in “bureaucratic jargon”: “apply again” .... “get so and so certificate”, ... “procure so and so documents” etc, etc. One wonders why he can not be recruited, based upon his previous application for the job for which he was interviewed? Why this callous attitude? Imagine a handicapped soldier hopping on crutches, boarding buses, waiting in long queues to get admittance to various offices, finally to get such indifferent replies! Least that can be done is to have separate windows and counters for such cases.

This is just one example. If this is the state of rehabilitation of a “handicapped soldier”, what will be the fate of thousands of others who retire in their 30s? Earlier joint family system and reasonable land holdings used to take care of these soldiers. Now that the institution of joint family is all but broken and land holdings are too small (due to successive divisions) to support these soldiers, they are facing destitution. Some urgent solution is required to solve the problems of those who gave their youth for the defence of the country. They must be saved from their impending fate “destitution”.


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