Sunday, August 20, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E



System constraints bedevil education
Coherent policy needed in Punjab
by P.P.S. Gill

unjab has no policy for education, nor one for the youth who gave up the AK 47s with great difficulty. There is a policy for industry and one for information technology. Is the state content with following the “national” policy on education, as in the case of agriculture? But is that enough? Shouldn’t the state have a need-based policy of its own with a linkage to the job market?

She is brave, she sends her daughter to school
by Aditi Kapoor
(Uttar Pradesh): Illiterate Punwasidevi of Lalpura village is a rather progressive lady in this ‘backward’ region where almost every child works for a living. She believes that daughters should go to school. 

Gaining independence from archaic laws
Need to have a second look
by Aditi Tandon

“Law is for society. So the law will change as and when society changes; changes in the society will not be determined by law."
This saying of the world's first lawmaker, Hammurabi, holds good even today. It underlines the need for re-examining the existing laws at regular intervals and as mould them that they harmonise with the changing times.


Trade union of CMs 
August 19, 2000
The Kashmir divide
August 18, 2000
Ill-planned yatra ends
August 17, 2000
Back to tolerant age
August 16, 2000
STD tariff set to fall 
August 15, 2000
It’s Terroristan 
August 14, 2000
Now, cybersex industry
August 13, 2000
Explosive frustration
August 12, 2000
Why Advani is angry
August 11, 2000
Black shadow on green cards
August 10, 2000
Free fall of rupee 
August 9, 2000
A soft state indeed 
August 8, 2000
A loud no by states 
August 7, 2000
Restructuring our federal polity
August 6, 2000

Begum who turned into a rebel

is the only woman Muslim member in the 545-member Lok Sabha and she, incidentally, belongs to the Congress Party. The lone representation does not speak well of the secular ethos of India; more so, when “the hand that rocks the cradle” has been fighting for reservation of women in the legislature.


No smile please
here is an element of unease among the aides of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that some BJP members of Parliament are trying to gain mileage by professing to have the eyes and ears of the head of government.


Pakistanis seek truth on Kargil
By Gurmeet Kanwal

YEAR after Pakistan’s stunning military defeat at the hands of the Indian Army in Kargil, the skeletons are now tumbling out of the cupboard. Deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made several revealing accusations that have vindicated the Indian position in the Kargil intrusions.Top

System constraints bedevil education
Coherent policy needed in Punjab
by P.P.S. Gill

Punjab has no policy for education, nor one for the youth who gave up the AK 47s with great difficulty. There is a policy for industry and one for information technology. Is the state content with following the “national” policy on education, as in the case of agriculture? But is that enough? Shouldn’t the state have a need-based policy of its own with a linkage to the job market?

Administratively, school education was bifurcated into high and primary levels nearly four years ago. There is a secretary for school education and separate secretaries for higher education, medical education and research and for technical education. Each has a directorate to lord over.

There may be some justification for the prevalent system from the political and administrative point of view. However, this fragmentation has affected continuity. The drawback is there is no integrated and coordinated approach to education. The lack of networking has proved to be the undoing of the education system, which produces only the “literates” — misfits in the job market of the future. This also does not help to draw the best out of the youth, for whom earning a livelihood later in life often becomes difficult. The resultant frustration has its own consequences.

Schools act as a feeder to higher education, irrespective of the academic field a student opts for after matriculation or +2. The in-built faultlines at the school level affect the kind of students who enter colleges and universities.

In Punjab, merit is at a discount in respect of teachers, teaching and research. Planning and commitment to education is missing. The state of affairs has been reduced to teachers seeking convenient postings, transfers and more pay. Academic work takes a back seat.

The ever-shrinking lecture hours (below 180 days in a year as per the recommendations of the University Grants Commission, UGC, do not prick their conscience; nor does absenteeism both of teachers and students nor the lengthening queue of jobless and unemployable youths whom they once taught. There is also a lack of motivation. Add to this the long spell of examination and the delay in the declaration of results.

Reforms aimed at reducing academic drudgery get defeated. Here is an example: The Panjab University Senate approved that the new academic session should start from July 12 to cover the prescribed 180 teching days. The former vice-chancellor, suo motu, changed the date to July 27. Should teachers’ organisations not speak-out? Should teachers themselves not work for a minimum 180 days?

There are also far too many holidays. Most educational institutions observe all holidays declared by the respective state governments? Holidays cut into the duration of the academic session and affect education. There is also in-built cussedness in the system. A casual approach of the teachers and “babus” further adds to the problems of education.

Repeatedly, silly mistakes attributed to them surface — either when they total up marks or when they enter the same in detailed marksheets. On top of it, not only are the names often wrongly written; there are also careless spelling mistakes. These blemishes and bloomers frustrate the efforts of students and parents to get them corrected.

Forget the poor handwriting and poorer quality of paper used by the institutions of higher learning. Such glaring and avoidable mistakes mirror the growing degradation of administrative controls and decadence of academic standards. In universities and colleges unionism rules the roost, nothing else matters. Empathy is unheard of — caring for students who though keen on education get a raw deal at every turn and counter.

University senates and syndicates often become arenas for slinging matches where members display their lungpower. They discuss everything except academics and problems besetting the students. These are academic bodies, with strong political overtones. Often courses are approved without a debate, budgets are passed without understanding and the entrance test system is not discussed though it determines the universities’ own examinations. This happens simply because the entrance tests fetch money, which is seldom ploughed back to improve the educational system and academic infrastructure.

Then there is pervasive financial constraint. This is despite an occasional hike in fees. The desired educational environment has proved elusive, while administrative control is lenient. Several universities have introduced “self-financing” courses, whose fee pattern vary in government and non-government aided colleges. The fee ranges from Rs 15,000 to Rs 22,000 a year.

Teachers continue to be appointed on an ad hoc basis; on daily wages — getting paid Rs 75 a lecture in government colleges. Others are paid between Rs 4,500 and Rs 7,700 a month for about seven months a year. This has a negative impact on the education system. When universities remain engrossed in moneymaking, can private colleges lag behind?

It is against this backdrop that one has to see the attitude of the political executive and the bureaucracy to what goes on in the name of education, insulate as they are from real life. What does education aim at in its present form?

In Punjab there are 165-odd private and 48 government colleges. There is no regular principal in as many as 38 government colleges. Only “current duty” charge has been given to incumbents in their own pay scale. There is also an acute shortage of lecturers in government colleges. There are nearly 500-odd vacancies. There is a ban on recruitment. To make up for academic loss, part-time lecturers are appointed. In this ad hoc system can one expect healthy results or academic excellence? Can teachers and students be expected to be serious?

For the selection of government college principals, the departmental promotion committee (DPC) met nearly 10 months ago. Its recommendations continue to gather dust due to political indifference as well as interference. The Chief Minister constituted a Cabinet sub-committee to study the recommendations. The former has had neither the time nor inclination to meet even once all these months.

The point involved is simple: The October 19, 1999, notification of the department of personnel stipulates the criterion for promotion to principal (as also for some other designated posts in the government). It is “merit-cum-seniority”. A candidate must have a “very good” entry in the Annual Confidential Report in last five years. The DPC “faithfully” applied this yardstick. Then the powers that be intervened on behalf of some of the principal-candidates who wanted only “seniority-cum-merit” as the basis for selection. The government continues to dither on the issue.

Under the UGC guidelines, Ph.D. qualification is pre-requisite. Even on this the state is dragging its feet. Contrary to UGC instructions which were recently reiterated in response to a query from the state, the department of higher education has extended the implementation of the Ph.D. clause by another three years to enable more aspirants to qualify for appointment as principals. But is there a uniform pattern for both government and aided colleges?

The Principal Secretary, Higher Education, Mr G.P.S. Sahi, says steps are being taken to make education “meaningful”. A meeting of all vice-chancellors has been held. Besides other decisions, they have reached a broad consensus on introducing uniform syllabi at the undergraduate level from the next academic year. Have the respective administrative secretaries ever met to discuss ways for integrated, coordinated working or evolving a comprehensive policy on education? No.

On networking the various streams of education, Mr Sahi said the emphasis should be first on improving the quality of education at the school level. The “sifting” should be objectively done at the cutting-edge: matriculation or +2 level. The students should be apprised of social and job-market requirements. Proper counselling on career prospects (in tune with their aptitude) would enable students to branch out into the right academic discipline.

This is possible provided a comprehensive data bank is created for each system of education, including vocational. The data should reflect the socio-economic status, project details on future requirements in different disciplines (medical, arts, science, commerce, engineering etc.), segments of economy and the job-market. Correspondingly, the courses and syllabi should be designed to commensurate with education to be imparted.

Parents often desire that their children opt for “management” courses. This has created a vacuum in other educational streams, particularly in life and social sciences. For a nation to progress and a society to benefit basic sciences must have their due place in education. Can any form of education, general or professional, be divorced from the market demand?

Due to system constraints, including finance and politics, research has been impeded in most universities and professional colleges. The need is to reorient planning and make teaching attractive, education cost-effective and purposeful. Only then the ever-lengthening queue of jobless youth will get shortened.

With integrated working, extraneous forces, which influence education, will get eliminated. It is teachers who make use of such forces for short-term gains. They are either unmindful or feign ignorance of the damage they do to the education system. All for just some selfish aim. Should the teachers not introspect? The omnipresent politicians and bureaucrats are ever willing to oblige, often in the wrong way.Top


She is brave, she sends her daughter to school
by Aditi Kapoor

MIRZAPUR (Uttar Pradesh): Illiterate Punwasidevi of Lalpura village is a rather progressive lady in this ‘backward’ region where almost every child works for a living. She believes that daughters should go to school. “When our girls work we eat twice a day. When they study we eat once a day but it is an investment for their future security,” she says. Punwasidevi sends her daughter to the Bastra community cottage school run by the Centre for Rural Education and Development Action (CREDA), a Mirzapur (Uttar Pradesh)-based NGO. The NGO is engaged primarily in eliminating child labour in the Mirzapur-Bhadhoi carpet weaving belt of Uttar Pradesh and uses education as an effective tool to wean children away from all kinds of exploitative work. Supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and NORAD, CREDA today operates 50 village-level schools, each with a hundred students, in the two blocks of Hallia and Lalganj. The target group is children aged between 8-14 years, mainly from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Most of the children belong to landless families and are first-generation learners.

More important, CREDA’s work has proved that poverty alone is not a major cause of child labour. Other non-income factors such as lack of adequate schools and health facilities, discrimination based on caste and gender and apathy of government functionaries have a far greater impact on creating an environment where children are sent to work. If good schools and quality education were available, more parents would be motivated to send their children, including girls, to school. A firm ‘No’ to government schools, says Barantidevi at a women’s meeting in village Bastara. “We did send our daughters to the government primary school 3 km away. But the munshi (master) would lean against his chair and take naps while the children played. It was better for children to work and earn something rather than waste time in school.” According to Kamladevi, “Government schools are only for those with quick minds. In CREDA schools, the masters teach very well.”

Kamla Shankar Singh, pradhan of Sonbarsha panchayat, is equally dismissive of government-run schools because the rigidity of the caste system extends into schools. Most of the teachers belong to higher, or ‘forward’ castes and discriminate against lower, or ‘backward’ caste students. Lower-caste students are made to sit at the back and are virtually ignored by the teachers.

Girls are considered the least important of all students. Indeed, the government’s education delivery system is not responsive to the special needs of the girl child. Parents often cite reasons such as absence of single-sex schools, unsafe travel and inadequate number of women teachers. In a society where over 90 per cent of the women are illiterate, even girls who aspire to study find few role models. Coupled with restrictive social norms, a learning environment for the girl, especially the adolescent girl, is still lacking in most of the villages here. Girls’ education is a special focus area for CREDA. In the UNDP-supported schools, 44 per cent of the 5000 students are girls. Workers now recognise that domestic work at the cost of schooling is exploitative for girl children. The government’s National Child Labour Project (NCLP), implemented by the same NGO earlier, focused primarily on boys working on carpet looms.

“Less than an eighth of the children released from work were girls under the NCLP project,” says Mr Sunil Kumar, CREDA coordinator. “This is because girls usually work at the pre-loom stage and work on the threads at home. The UNDP’s approach of targeting all out-of-school children as potential child workers has widened the net.” The UNDP believes that universalisation of primary education is possible only with removal of child labour. Community participation has been the backbone of the NGO’s work from the beginning. Unlike the NCLP, the UNDP-NORAD assistance has made community’s involvement in the programme mandatory. Village-based ‘vigilance’ groups comprising parents (particularly mothers), village elders, and other volunteers have been formed.

Moreover, unlike in government schools, parents can monitor, complain about and question teachers in these schools.

Villagers help the activists in identifying, and withdrawing child labour. Village committee members keep vigilance on activities of agents who recruit and supply child labour.Says Shamshad Khan: “CREDA has successfully enrolled children into government schools and retained them there with the active help of the community. Community support organisations have also helped check the high absenteeism among primary school teachers and the widespread system of proxy teachers. Since our intervention, the district magistrate and education officers have paid several field visits, forcing the situation to improve.” The villagers, however, face a challenge when it comes to higher education because there are hardly any secondary-level schools and colleges in the region.

This means girls hardly go in for higher education though a few ‘forward’ caste parents engage private tutors for their daughters.

The community has put some pressure on government schools to add senior classes. Convincing the society and the parent has been a long and a tough battle but the community is today proud to have children studying rather than toiling.




Gaining independence from archaic laws
Need to have a second look
by Aditi Tandon

“Law is for society. So the law will change as and when society changes; changes in the society will not be determined by law."

This saying of the world's first lawmaker, Hammurabi, holds good even today. It underlines the need for re-examining the existing laws at regular intervals and as mould them that they harmonise with the changing times. Though the logic is simple, the Indian legal system has failed to adopt it.

It may sound harsh but there is sufficient evidence to sow that about two-thirds of the existing laws have not been used in independent India. About 10 per cent are such that society will come to no harm if Parliament were to decide not to keep them in force. Besides, quite a few of the laws that are in use are marked by glaring lacunae and contradictions. The result is that instead of helping the common man get justice against any wrong, our laws only add to his torment.

Most of these laws were framed by the British to serve feudal interests. The British have gone, but their laws continue to govern us. While the socio-economic framework has undergone a seachange, the legal structure has failed to keep pace with it.

As for the reform process, it is bound to be long. But it will start only when there is ample political will to initiate it. The only body which looks into the need for letal reforms is the Law Commission, which faces the constraint of being merely an advisory body. The commission has already taken upon itself the gigantic task of scrapping redundant laws.

In the course of this exercise, the commission has discovered that only about 40 per cent of the laws are in regular use. There are reports that the commission is studying into the possibility of categorising all such laws and placing them in a single codified system.

While the Law Commission has, from time to time, been sending proposals to the government regarding alterations in the legal system, Parliament has somehow not found time to pass most of them. Says a local High Court lawyer: "The Law Commission has been discharging its duty insomuch as it has at regular intervals requested the Union Government to annul certain laws which have not been put to use for a long time," adding that the best thing to do perhaps will be to have a system in the statute that makes for automatic scrapping of a law after a certain number of years, in case it has not been invoked even once."

So far the Law Commission has sent about 230 requests in this connection. "These requests include scrapping of laws which have never been used at all. I have myself been closely associated with the legal reform process and I have seen how red tapism and lack of political will harm good intentions of reform," says a Chandigarh-based law expert.

One major reason that blocks legal reform is that it is a low priority area for Parliament. While India is badly in need of effective reforms, media reports indicate that the time spent by the law-making body on law making is less than 0.6 per cent of a Lok Sabha/ Rajya Sabha day. There are 53 different Bills pending in Parliament. The number rises to 54, with the Judicial Reform Bill introduced by the former Law Minister, Mr Ramakant Khalap, still kept in abeyance. Many Bills which have been introduced will lapse with the coming to power of another government and will have to be presented afresh before a new Lok Sabha.

A law enacted several years ago may continue to exist simply because no one has ever thought of reviewing or culling it. One example is the Police Act, 1861.

A number of provisions of the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1947, and then of 1973, were out of tune with the present state of Indian economy. And the Act was finally repealed after 26 years in 1999. While FERA concentrated on regulation, the new Act — Foreign Exchange Management Act — concentrates on facilitation. Repealing FERA was a welcome step but what needs to be noted is that it took such a long time.

Experts point out that some laws in force in the country are so harmful to the process of economic liberalisation that, if not tackled at the right time, they may pose a grave danger to the liberalisation process.

The Companies Act, 1956, for instance, is hefty in the sense that it consists of over 650 sections and 15 schedules. It contains sections which provide for major controls in areas covering incorporation of companies, public issues, share capital, procedures, registration etc. Such controls are against the spirit of liberalisation.

The Agricultural Land Ceiling Act allows non-resident Indians to make investments in agriculture but it does not allow them to cultivate of those holdings while they are out of the country. While the use of modern technology by the NRIs is thus prohibited, the Government has to spend huge amounts on developing the rural infrastructure.

There is yet another problem so far as dealing with reforms in the legal system is concerned. While most legal experts contacted agreed that the system needed a major overhaul, they also pointed out that it was not easy to dub a law as "good or not good."

Says a local High Court lawyer, "There is all the possibility that something which has no meaning for you means a world to me. I may want a law which makes wearing of helmets compulsory for all, males and females. But you may feel this is not essential or required. This is what has happened on the helmet issue. Consensus is very difficult to obtain. Hence the trouble."

"There are many other inherent problems which need to be looked into and that too, fast enough to stall their detrimental effect. But one thing is clear -- that amending a law, passing a new law, or scrapping an old one has to be essentially a continuous process. It cannot be done in bits and pieces. One good idea is to keep the law in existence and sieve its impractical parts", says another lawyer.

Other law experts maintain that the procedural codes are far more faulty. Out of the three codes in India, the Evidence Act was passed in 1872 and the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) was passed early in the 20th century. The most ironical feature of the procedures is that they have all remained silent on the maximum number of days which should be taken for a case to be settled. That explains why the judicial process has become so lengthy and dilatory.

"Another problem is that we are normally averse to change because we are not used to taking risks," says a lawyer, pointing at the protests launched by the lawyers against the proposed amendments to the Civil Procedure Code.

A low conviction rate makes mockery of the judicial system. The city police has a conviction rate of less than 10 per cent. Lawyers also suggest that one way to prevent unnecessary litigation is to hold conferences to counsel the accused. Says a senior criminal lawyer practising at the High Court, "There is great likelihood that a case may be settled there itself. This will reduce the burden of the courts."

While there is no contesting the fact that the political will to take up legal reforms as a priority area is clearly lacking, a major factor that hinders the reform process is the red tapism involved. In this context two examples can be cited:

The Legal Aid Bill of 1987 actually came into effect only after eight years in 1995.

Similarly, it took the Finance Ministry three years and a further induction of 80 pages of rules to introduce three words in the Telegraph Act. These three words are — private sector participation.

The Telegraph Act, 1885, passed when the concept of television did not exist.

If you go by the provisions of the Post Office Act, 1898, sending a letter through courier amounts to breaking the law. This Act states that the right of conveying letters is exclusively vested with the Government.

The Representation of the People Act 1951, Section 29 A provides that a political party cannot be registered unless it bears true faith and allegiance to the principles of `socialism'. That surely is a dead letter today. 


Begum who turned into a rebel

BEGUM NOOR BANOO is the only woman Muslim member in the 545-member Lok Sabha and she, incidentally, belongs to the Congress Party. The lone representation does not speak well of the secular ethos of India; more so, when “the hand that rocks the cradle” has been fighting for reservation of women in the legislature. The Begum is no ordinary Muslim woman; she is the daughter-in-law of the erstwhile princely state of Rampur. Why political parties — secular as well as non-secular — could not ensure victory of more than one Muslim women in the Lok Sabha elections is a question difficult to answer.Always clad in a showwhite chiffon sari, the Begum represents the womanhood of India. She is widow of Nawab Zulfiquar Ali Khan, popularly known as “Miki Miayan”, who died in a road accident in late 1991, leaving the political legacy to her. Such was the hold of “Miki Mian” over the electorate of Rampur that he was elected to the Lok Sabha five times and faced defeat only twice-in 1977 and 1991 (months before the fatal accident). Though the Begum remained behind the scenes all these years, she was the moving spirit behind the success of her husband, organising election campaigns, managing the funds and, above all, coming forward with mature political counsel at critical times. “Miki Miyan” was a jovial, carefree man with a remarkable sense of humour and a large circle of friends.

Though the Begum came to active politics in early 1991, she has seen politics from very close quarters and knows its arithmetic well but few are aware of her political acumen. She sent shock waves in the Congress Party when she decided to contest for the post of Secretary of the Congress Party in Parliament representing the dissidents group. In Congress circles the group has come to be known as “anti-Sonia”; some call it an anti-coterie combination. The Begum did not withdraw her candidature even after days of persuasion by Sonia loyalists in spite of the Rampur Nawabs two-generation-old association with the Nehru-Gandhi family. Personally, she was quite close to Indira Gandhi and had free access to her. The late Prime Minister would often escort the Begum to her study and Sonia, as the daughter-in-law, served coffee to them.

Why did the Begum turn into a rebel? Her grouse appears to be not so much against Sonia but against the so called coterie. Though the Begum lost the CPP election by six votes, having secured 76 votes, the message was loud and clear, indicating mounting resentment against the leadership of the party. She has come to symbolise the rebellious spirit in the Congress party and this is bound to be reflected in the ongoing organisational elections the process of which is expected to be completed in November with the election of the Congress President. Indications are that there may be a contest for the top slot of the party.

There was a time when the Begum, while on political mission or on her social service rounds, moved in “purdah” in the erstwhile Rampur estate. She has done a lot of social work among Muslim women and carved out a committed vote bank for herself. It was only in 1992 when she became an AICC member that, as per the desire of her supporters, she came into the open and actively worked for the Congress Party and, at the same time, continued her social service, particularly among downtrodden Muslim families, looking after women in distress in rural area and destitutes.

Belonging to the princely state of Loharu in former Punjab (now in Haryana), she was married to Nawab Zulfiquar Ali Khan of Rampur when she was barely 16 and completed her senior Cambridge examination. She is now 61. After the merger of the princely states with the Indian Union, her father Nawab Aminuddin Ahmad Khan moved to Jaipur where the young Noor Banoo was brought up and got her education; played tennis and took part in swimming competitions. Her life completely changed when she entered the conservative house of Rampur.

The Begum made her debut in the Lok Sabha in 1996, having defeated her BJP rival by a margin of 74,747 votes and sat in the opposition benches. There was, for the first time, instability at the Centre and it was clear that the fragile coalitions were not destined to last for long and in less than two years a mid-term poll was foisted on the country. She suffered her first political setback having lost the Rampur seat to BJP’s Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi by a norrow margin of 4,936 votes in 1998. The setback was temporary, the BJP-led coalition was shaky since its inception and virtually collapsed under its own weight in 1999 plunging the country in another snap poll. The Begum avenged her defeat by trouncing Naqvi by a huge margin of 1.15 lakh votes and triumphantly returned to the Lok Sabha. Her victory was considered significant as the Congress could win only 10 of 85 seats from UP.

The Begum is now in dissidents camp with an important role cut out for her in UP in the Congress President’s election. Her state has the largest number of AICC members who choose the party chief.


No smile please

There is an element of unease among the aides of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee that some BJP members of Parliament are trying to gain mileage by professing to have the eyes and ears of the head of government.

One Delhi BJP MP has been constantly seen at functions at the official Race Course Road residence of the Prime Minister. He has also not missed any photo opportunity by ensuring that he figures in all the photo frames along with Vajpayee. This particular MP has been hoping to catch the Prime Minister’s eye in the hope that he is inducted in the Union Council of Ministers. He is not lacking in showmanship when it comes to his constituency. The busybodies around the Prime Minister have reportedly taken exception to this particular MP’s over-enthusiasm in constantly getting photographed with Vajpayee. Directives have been issued down the line to keep the MP out of the Prime Minister’s gaze especially at the RCR residence. That must surely come as a dampener to the MP’s ministerial ambitions.

Gandhi’s legacy: Congress members never fail to stress on their party’s rich lineage and party member Mani Shankar Aiyar is no exception. The former diplomat during the course of a debate in the Lok Sabha last week proudly claimed that he came from a party which followed Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals. At this juncture a member of the Telugu Desam Party intervened to say that the entire country was a follower of Mahatma Gandhi. Not to be cowed down, Mr Aiyar retorted that the TDP unfortunately was not founded by Gandhi and the Congress was. At this point another voice from the floor was heard enquiring about which Congress was the MP talking about. Mr Aiyar said he was talking about the Congress which has been there since 1885 and the one which had a continuous history. He went on to add that the TDP member would not know all this as he was a Congress rebel.

Reacting to Mr Aiyar’s claim, a wag pointed out that what the Congress MP forgot to add was that he too was a Congress rebel a couple of years ago. At a time when Mr Sitaram Kesri was the party President and several Congressmen were deserting the party, the former diplomat-turned-politician too resigned from the Congress and joined the Trinamool Congress all too briefly. He, however, returned to the Congress after the Trinamool Congress refused to give him a Lok Sabha ticket of his choice in West Bengal. Some continuity this!

Nationalism challenged: The Sangh Parivar which boasts of being the most nationalistic among all the political organisations in the country saw its claim being punctured last week by members in the Opposition and from one of their own senior members.

First it was the turn of the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak to come under attack in the Lok Sabha with some Opposition members charging that the organisation never hoisted the national flag at its headquarters at Nagpur. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan, however, came to the rescue of the RSS and tried to set the record straight on the activities of the Nagpur organisation. He said that on every Independence Day and Republic Day, the tricolour was faithfully hoisted atop the Nagpur headquarters of the RSS.

The furore over the flag hoisting incident had barely died down when reports came in that the Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Ram Naik had shot off a letter to the Prime Minister objecting to the putting of flower petals inside the national flag and also attaching the tricolour to balloons. An embarrassed ruling party this time deputed senior leader L.K. Advani to prevail upon Ram Naik to withdraw his complaint over the Flag Code.

The Minister promptly wrote another letter to the Prime Minister and admitted that it would have been better if he had not raised the issue and promised to exercise care to avoid such incidents in future.

Hear him: This is the heart rending story of Manoj, an OBC candidate from Kerala whose ambitions of being a civil servant has come crashing because of a hearing impairment suffered when he was only eight years old. The 28-year-old made it to the Indian Administrative Service in his third attempt. He achieved an all-India rank of 222 and the Union Public Service Commission informed him that he had been selected and alloted the Manipur cadre. Manoj was asked to undergo extensive medical examination at the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in the capital where his hearing impairment was discovered. When his report was sent to the UPSC, Manoj was categorically told that he could not be accommodated as hearing impairment can seriously impede the functioning of a district collector. There are precedents of successful IAS candidates having been rejected after the medical examination has thrown up problems like night vision blindness. What is amazing is that during the interviews the members of the UPSC selection board barely had a clue that Manoj was hearing impaired. Manoj believes it is a travesty of justice after coming so far and is likely to move the Supreme Court for redressal. One will have to wait and see what the country’s apex court says in such matters.

Singing a different tune: It was a gathering of top professionals in the Capital and this included several bigwigs from the Finance Ministry. Surprisingly, these men had not gathered to discuss the various problems confronting the country or for that matter any financial matter. They were assembled to have a nice evening.

Taking the lead was Mr B.P. Srivastava, Director-General of the National Academy of Central Excise and Narcotics, who enthralled the audience by playing some melodious tunes in his flute. Cheered by the audience, Mr Srivastava went a step ahead and belted out old hit songs.

(Contributed by TRR, T.V. Lakshminarayan, Girija Shankar Kaura and P.N.Andley.)


Pakistanis seek truth on Kargil
By Gurmeet Kanwal

A YEAR after Pakistan’s stunning military defeat at the hands of the Indian Army in Kargil, the skeletons are now tumbling out of the cupboard. Deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made several revealing accusations that have vindicated the Indian position in the Kargil intrusions.

Calling the Kargil fiasco the “biggest debacle after the 1971 war with India,” Sharif bemoaned the fact that he was not taken into confidence by Pakistan’s rogue army about its Kargil plans and, though the preparation for the intrusions began in January, 1999, he was informed only in May, 1999, when the “weak and deficient” operation was already under way. He has confirmed that the naval and air force chiefs were also not informed.

Even within the Army, only the Chief of General Staff (CGS), the Director-General of Military Operations (DGMO), the General Officers Commanding 10 Corps (Rawalpindi) and 11 Corps (Peshawar) and the Force Commander Northern Areas (FCNA) — all of them directly concerned with the planning and conduct of operations — were informed; the other Corps commanders who form part of Pakistan’s real power elite, were kept out of the decision-making loop.

Sharif, who himself is a wily and scheming politician and is known to run with the hares and hunt with the hounds, has admitted that regular battalions of the Northern Light Infantry were employed to launch the “ill-conceived and ill-planned military misadventure” and that “whole units of the NLI were wiped out.” The curtain has been conclusively rung down on Pakistan’s carefully orchestrated charade of the foot soldiers of Islam waging a jehad against Indian security forces to “liberate” Kashmir.

While the Indian estimates of Pakistani casualties were that 45 officers and 704 other ranks had been killed, Sharif has stated that Pakistan “had to suffer heavy loss of human lives which was more than even the 1965 war.” Withdrawing back from across the Line of Control (LoC) with unseemly haste, the Pakistan army even disowned its dead soldiers and refused to accept their bodies.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, when Sharif states that Gen Pervez Musharraf, the Chief of Army Staff, had himself requested the Prime Minister to “bring the USA into the picture to sort out the mess.” It emerges quite clearly that the intruders’ hastily prepared positions had become militarily unsound by June-end, and that they were faced by the prospect of total annihilation by the Indian infantry-artillery combine, supported ably by the Air Force, if they were not quickly bailed out.

The Pakistan army has, naturally, been stung by Nawaz Sharif’s revelations. An official spokesman called the statement shameful and said that it was designed to compromise national dignity. The fact that the Pakistan army has threatened to try Nawaz Sharif for treason for his disclosures only serves to confirm their authenticity.

As is to be expected in a polity run by a military dictator, several opinion piece writers in the Pakistani press have questioned Sharif’s judgement, motives and timings. However, large sections of the Pakistan media have demanded a national level inquiry commission to establish the truth. Such demands will grow more strident as the people of Pakistan come to terms with the ineptitude demonstrated so far by the Musharraf regime and its inability to solve any of Pakistan’s problems.

Hopefully, it will now be realised that any army can achieve initial tactical surprise by intruding across a clearly demarcated LoC and occupying unheld ground in inhospitable terrain in an area without any prior history of conflict. The difficult part is to be able to sustain such intrusions tactically and logistically over a period of time against a determined adversary. It is here that the Pakistan army failed to measure up in planning and execution and the Indian army showed its famed mettle — an abundance of blood, guts and firepower.

Pakistan’s “Operation Badr” was quite obviously intended to be Musharraf’s crowning glory. Instead, it has now metamorphosed into an albatross around his neck. However, the real issue is — how will the increasing instability in Pakistan impact on India and can India do business with the deceitful and untrustworthy Musharraf regime?

As the world’s foremost sponsor of transnational Islamist fundamentalist terrorism that is bound to eventually boomerang, more than ever before, Pakistan appears to be inexorably headed towards becoming a failed state. Though the fears of a Taliban backlash are gradually gaining ground in Pakistan, the military rulers can be expected to persist with their policy of active intervention in Afghanistan in aid of the Taliban militia and continued sponsorship of a low-cost, high-payoff proxy war against India. Under the circumstances, India’s stand that there can be no diplomatic discussions with Pakistan till it stops sponsoring terrorism in India, is entirely justified.

That Pakistan’s army could plan and execute a clandestine military operation, even as the nation’s Prime Minister was making overtures to India at Lahore, has served to once again confirm that the real seat of power in Pakistan is the army’s GHQ at Rawalpindi and that even powerful Prime Ministers like Sharif can hope to exercise only nominal power from Islamabad.

The clearest lesson to emerge from the present civil-military imbroglio in Pakistan is that as long as the Pakistani armed forces remain far more powerful than the country’s legitimate security considerations warrant, the spectre of repeated military coups will continue to hang over Pakistan’s fledgling democracy like the proverbial sword of Damocles.

The well-wishers of Pakistan in the West, who have consistently and rather naively, been supporting the Pakistan army, ostensibly to strengthen democracy in Pakistan, need to reassess the warped calculus of their analyses. — Asia Defence News International (ADNI)

The writer is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.

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