Saturday,  September 9, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E



Procurement date
HE announcement made by the Union Minister for Food, Mr Shanta Kumar, in Chandigarh on Thursday that he would ensure procurement of paddy by central agencies from September 21 would provide tremendous relief not only to farmers of Punjab and Haryana but also the Chief Ministers of the states which were facing the onslaught of the kisans as well as the opposition parties. 

George turns grave 
EFENCE Minister George Fernandes has extraordinary mental powers unknown to all lesser mortals. Even before setting foot on West Bengal he is convinced that the situation there is grave which warrants central intervention. It is the kind of script Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee would have handed him to read. 

Kalyan, Kusum, Kranti
HE practitioners of dirty tricks are out in full force in Uttar Pradesh with a single point agenda of painting former Chief Minister Kalyan Singh as a “dirty old man”. It does not require great political insight to zero in on the party which would gain the most by having the reputation of the former strongman of the Bharatiya Janata Party torn to smithereens. 



Calling USA on the cheap
September 8, 2000
“NaPak” and revolting
September 7, 2000
Food for free
September 6, 2000
RBI’s urgent warnings
September 5, 2000
Apex court is angry
September 4, 2000
Battle for White House hots up
September 3, 2000
Of numbers and seats 
September 2, 2000
Small mercy this 
September 1, 2000
Adding insult to injury 
August 31, 2000


Nailing the ugly monster 
by Shyam Chand
OMMUNISM is dead. Is capitalism next?” This is the question frequently debated by the American “think tanks”. They are catechising the role of the corporate world and are trying to save mankind from the stranglehold of corporate covetousness.


Jerusalem vital to peace process 
by Pramod S. Bhatnagar
FTER the recent Camp David peace talks broke down without an immediate solution in sight to Palestine-Israeli peace process, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been jet-hopping across the Asian region, explaining his stand. Prior to his latest brief halt in New Delhi, Yasser Arafat had visited Beijing, Tokyo, Jakarta and Dhaka.


Dyal Singh MajithiaBorn as people’s mouthpiece
NEWSPAPER of standing, like a prominent personality, is generally a product of the times and the prevalent social, economic and political conditions. In the last quarter of the 19th century the conditions in northern India were unstable, with indications of widespread distress and ruthless oppression. 



Procurement date

THE announcement made by the Union Minister for Food, Mr Shanta Kumar, in Chandigarh on Thursday that he would ensure procurement of paddy by central agencies from September 21 would provide tremendous relief not only to farmers of Punjab and Haryana but also the Chief Ministers of the states which were facing the onslaught of the kisans as well as the opposition parties. Particularly vulnerable was Mr Parkash Singh Badal, what with the Sunam assembly election scheduled to be held on September 29. While he was rattled by the strong reaction of the opposition parties within the assembly, it was the massive rally by the BKU, the Kirti Kisan Union, the Punjab Kisan Union and the Punjab Kisan Sabha in Chandigarh which must have caused even greater worry. The date announced by Mr Shanta Kumar is a sort of compromise. While Mr Badal and his Haryana counterpart, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, were insisting on September 15, the Union Government had wanted to start procurement from October 1. (Last year, it had started on September 22.) One week this way or that way had become a matter of life and death for the hapless farmers because there had been a distress sale of paddy in the state in the absence of the central procurement agencies. Now they will at least get the support price of Rs 540 per quintal. Another significant decision is that the Union Government has agreed to carry on with specifications of last year when 18 per cent of moisture was allowed instead of this year’s 16 per cent. This again had become a source of heartburn among the farmers. Mr Shanta Kumar has, predictably, denied any bias against the Punjab farmers and has tried to justify the delay in procurement operations by saying that with the buffer stock of foodgrains having ballooned to 42 million tonnes, marking an excess of 18 million tonnes over the norm, any additional storage would cause tremendous loss to the exchequer. While he is correct on facts, the emphasis that he lays on this one topic is excessive. The factual position is that there is tremendous wastage in the operations of the central procurement agencies, excess or no excess.

The minister talked of a brave new world which would have a new food policy envisaging procurement involving private entrepreneur, cut in subsidy and better storage. In fact, the Centre has approved a national storage policy, which aims at involving the private sector in a big way. The Food Corporation of India is sought to be radically restructured. All that sounds very good to the ears but as of today, there is a lot of old ad hocism at work. Most of the policy announcements reflect shortsightedness. For instance, the decision to provide free foodgrains to the poorest of the poor even when there is no adequate mechanism to identify the intended beneficiaries is tailor-made to promote corruption. There is also a concerted attempt to wean farmers of Punjab and Haryana away from paddy and towards oilseeds. That will be easier said than done, because under the situation prevailing in these parts, the harvesting of oilseeds is not all that remunerative.


George turns grave 

DEFENCE Minister George Fernandes has extraordinary mental powers unknown to all lesser mortals. Even before setting foot on West Bengal he is convinced that the situation there is grave which warrants central intervention. It is the kind of script Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee would have handed him to read. There are several flaws in his assessment, the major one being his political miscalculation. Prime Minister Vajpayee asked him to visit the state mainly to placate Ms Banerjee who threatened to resign as Railway Minister and not to prejudge the issue. By this gesture Mr Vajpayee has ensured that she does not do anything melodramatic during his long absence from the country. This is obvious from the timing of the meeting which decided to send a one-man fact-finding mission. The lady set a Thursday deadline and Mr Fernandes goes to West Bengal on Friday. There is no bowing to pressure but only a symbolic response. Home Minister L.K. Advani said as much when talking to media persons after the meeting. He would wait for a report from the state government and then act according to constitutional provisions. This could well mean that after the Defence Minister’s assessment, it will be the turn of Union Home Secretary Kamal Pande to visit Calcutta for discussion with officials there. What is significant is that the Centre is in no mood to concede the demand of the Railway Minister either to dismiss the state government and impose President’s rule or to declare five districts — Midnapore, Bankura, Birbhum, Hooghly and Burdwan — as disturbed area. One opinion is to invoke Article 355 and issue a warning to the state government about the deteriorating law and order. Chief Minister Jyoti Basu has said that the visiting minister has not sought a meeting with him, nor has he any intention of inviting him for talks.

There have been clashes between the supporters of the Trinamool Congress and the CPM in these five districts, the worst affected being Midnapore and Bankura. But as Mr Basu says forcefully, there is tension only in some pockets and not in entire districts and the police is free to book the rioters. But Ms Banerjee paints a black picture. She accuses the CPM of unleashing its armed gangs to terrorise her party’s cadre and points out that she has to set up three camps to accommodate those who have fled their villages fearing attacks. The police, on the other hand, blame both parties for repeated clashes and points out that often fighting breaks out at night and continues for hours. Apart from sharp-edged weapons, crude bombs and pipe guns too are used. This shows not only the depth of mutual hatred but also the level of preparation and readiness. There has been no crackdown on violent men for the simple reason that one set enjoys state government patronage while the other that of the central government. It is both a dangerous and delicate state of affairs and calls for cautious handling. Mr Fernandes has not helped any by his blatantly partisan stand. His pathological hatred for Communists has overwhelmed his meagre reservoir of patience.


Kalyan, Kusum, Kranti

THE practitioners of dirty tricks are out in full force in Uttar Pradesh with a single point agenda of painting former Chief Minister Kalyan Singh as a “dirty old man”. It does not require great political insight to zero in on the party which would gain the most by having the reputation of the former strongman of the Bharatiya Janata Party torn to smithereens. In the good old days when politics was relatively clean projecting someone as corrupt was enough to destroy one’s political career. But corruption and crime have become essential ingredients of Indian politics. This is the primary reason why the anti-Kalyan Singh forces have introduced a woman in the script for destroying his reputation as also the chances of success of his Rashtriya Kranti Party in the assembly elections next year. They did not have to work hard for discovering a Monica in his cupboard. Those who know Mr Kalyan Singh as a politician know Ms Kusum Rai equally well. She is the one who pushed Mr Kalyan Singh in many an avoidable controversy when he was Chief Minister and the mainstay of the BJP in UP. After parting company he was being seen as the biggest threat to the BJP in next year’s assembly election. As it is the ruling party had begun to show signs of falling apart shortly after Mr Kalyan Singh was expelled on the charge of raising the banner of revolt against Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee. The installation of a political non-entity in the form of Mr Ram Prakash Gupta as Chief Minister put the BJP in a state of free fall. Mr Kalraj Misra was recently appointed President of the UP unit of the BJP in the hope that his political experience would come in handy in arresting the fall. But what the BJP leadership could not have achieved has now been made possible by Mr Kalyan Singh’s close confidants in the RKP. As Chief Minister he had invited the wrath of his colleagues by letting Ms Kusum Rai, a municipal corporator in Lucknow, to become his shadow.

This time the cause of the rift is said to be his having become the shadow of Ms Rai. Mr Ram Prakash Shukla was expelled from the RKP for questioning Mr Kalyan Singh’s relationship with, perhaps, the most controversial woman in UP politics after Ms Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the one and only Ms Phoolan Devi, who owes her rise in politics to Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party. However, Mr Shukla’s expulsion may not mean much in terms of loss of support for the fledgling RKP whose political USP lies in its image as a party of the backwards castes. But by expelling Mr Ganga Charan Rajput, who was not happy with having to take orders from Ms Kusum Rai, the former Chief Minister of UP may have played into the hands of his political enemies. Mr Rajput too belongs to the same Lodh caste which helped Mr Kalyan Singh emerge as the strongman of the BJP in UP for countering the political fallout of the implementation of the Mandal Commission report. The saying that there is a woman behind the success of every great man has, perhaps, become irrelevant because of a variety of reasons. One is that she no longer believes in playing an invisible role. The other is her change of priorities in which she has given primacy to her own success rather than to being a mere factor in the success of any Tom, Dick and Harry. However, in real life stories women have been the primary cause of fall of many men from the dizzy heights of success. Unfortunately, Ms Kusum Rai and Mr Kalyan Singh are too small to be compared to the fallen heroes of yore who lost empires and rejected crowns because of the charm of the women in their lives. Yet, his fall from political grace would be a cataclysmic event in the context of the delicate political equations in UP where the BJP has been projected, by surveys, as the biggest likely loser in the assembly elections next year.


Nailing the ugly monster 
by Shyam Chand

“COMMUNISM is dead. Is capitalism next?” This is the question frequently debated by the American “think tanks”. They are catechising the role of the corporate world and are trying to save mankind from the stranglehold of corporate covetousness.

“The idea that a corporation is endowed with the rights and prerogatives of a free individual is as essential to the acceptance of corporate rule in temporal affairs as was the ideal of the divine right of kings in an earlier day.” From this observation of Thruman Arnold in his book, “Folklores of Capitalism to Dr Korten’s Life After Capitalism,” there is growing feeling and concern about the trail of miseries and sufferings the corporate world inflicts on mankind.

We start with the testimony of two “capitalist billionaires”, James Goldsmith and George Soro. Goldsmith, “a corporate raider who specialised in the buyout of timber companies and the pillage of their forest assets”, wrote The Trap, a bestseller “on environment and social devastation wrought by the global economy”.

George Soro, “the world’s most famous financial speculator”, startled the world with his article, The Capitalist Threat, in which “he denounced the self destructive ideological rigidity of capitalism and labelled it a threat to open society”.

“Start Taking The Backlash Against Globalisation Seriously” was written in 1996 by Klaus Schwab and Claud Smadja, founder president and managing director, respectively, of World Economic Forum, which is the Association of Multi-National Corporations. They made the following observations:

* Globalisation is causing severe economic dislocation and social instability.

* Although conventional wisdom says that technological change and increase in productivity translates into more jobs and high wages, in the last few years technology has eliminated more jobs than it has created.

* Globalisation leads to winner-take-all situations; those who come out on top win big, and the losers lose even bigger.

* Globalisation tends to delink the fate of corporation from the fate of its employees. The most efficient corporate CEO is one who eliminates more jobs.

* They warned that unless serious corrective action is taken soon, the backlash could turn into open political revolt that could destabilise the Western democracy.

In “Silent Coup: Confronting the Big Business Takeover of Canada”, Tony Clark, leader of Canada’s Citizen Movement, points out that the “corporate rule is the megaton gorilla in the middle of the room”. If megaton gorilla is not destroyed, it will destroy us.

The slogan of his New Party is: “Fair Economy. A Real Democracy. A New Party.” Its agenda centre on strengthening the rights and capacities of people to self organise. In 1997, 152 of its 231 candidates won the election.

Robert Monks, a former corporate executive and staunch Republican, who held high level appointments under Reagan and Bush, writes in The Emperor’s Nightingale: “Corporations are not people; they have no conscience. Although corporate acts are carried out by individuals, even individuals with high moral standards often find themselves caught up in corporate action that is beyond their control — or even, in some cases, their knowledge.” He has come out with the ideas that make corporate executive accountable to shareholders which include. (1) “Obeying the law; (2) fully disclosing in their financial reporting what they know or strongly suspect regarding the cost imposed by their firms on the function of society; and (3) minimising their involvement in political processes.” This seems to be a mild criticism of corporate sector.

New people, new ideas, new programmes and new initiatives are coming all over the USA. “Politics of Meaning” is a grassroot non-party political movement with 10 chapters in major US cities. Its main agenda is to enforce Ethical Committee Report, according to which city, country and state governments should “take into account the history of social responsibility of corporations” in awarding public contracts. It also requires every corporations to apply for renewal of its charter every 20 years and “after each five years, the corporation would have to prepare and make public an Ethical Impact Report with one section prepared by the management, another by its employees and another representing community stakeholders.

“The Alliance For Democracy” is a progressive movement with 49 chapters in US cities. “It aims to provide a vehicle for citizen action to end government-corporate collusion against the public interest and expose the anti-democratic nature of rule by global capital.” Its emphasis is on social accountability of corporations and amendment in the US constitution to establish that corporations are not persons and not entitled to the right thereof.

Jeff Barber of the Integrative Strategies Forum heads the NGO Task Force on Business and Industry, which functions within the framework of the United Nations Commissions on Sustainable Development. “It is working to counter initiatives from the corporate sectors aimed at keeping issues of corporate accountability off the UN agenda. The Task Force is also helping make visible within the UN system the consistent failure of voluntary codes of corporate conduct.”

Richard Grosman and Ward Morehouse, co-directors of the programme on Corporation Law and Democracy, a national alliance of individuals, are “spearheading a campaign to limit corporate charters and restrict corporate rights and increase corporate accountability.”

These and many other initiatives, big and small, growing in size and shape are carried forward by concern and commitment of citizens who are “fed up with political corruption and the abuse of corporate power.”

There was a “legendary citizen boycott” of the Nestle Corporation demanding that it stop encouraging poor mothers in Third World countries to favour bottle feeding over breast feeding. Nestle Corporation is responsible for countless infant deaths in developing countries. People in developing countries did not raise their voice in support of US citizen initiative and Nestle were at it again.

Europeans gave preference to bananas from Caribbean countries grown on small farms. US agri business corporations-Chiquita, Dole and Del Monte-grow bananas on large plantations in Latin America, where they have displaced hundreds of small farmers from their lands. They alone control about two-thirds of world’s banana market. The USA used the “WTO” to force Europe to end its preference for small producers and open its market to unrestricted access by global mega corporations.” Neither Chiquita corporation’s donations of $ 1.1 m to the Democratic Party, nor $ 1.4 m to the Republican Party, nor the influence of its chairman along with donations from other two corporations, had any direct bearing on US government interest in the case!

People in the USA sharply criticised this action of their government but small farmers in other countries did not support them and the Europeans. Our policy makers are oblivious of the miseries and sufferings of the farmers and the poor, when all doors in India are open to foreign goods from April 1, 2001. The NDA government is also contemplating to scrap the Land Ceiling Act to make MNCs entry in Indian agriculture very smooth. They will displace small land holders and reduce them to the status of agricultural labourers.

This does not mean that every American is up in arms against the corporate sector. Fact is that the citizen initiatives are gaining ground to check the menace of corporate power. Paul Ray, a values researcher based in California, conducted a survey in 1995 and identified three major groupings in the USA based on their “cultural identities”.

(a) The Modernists “who embrace dominant mainstream materialistic values”. They actively prize materialism and drive to acquire money and property. They tend to spend beyond their means, take a cynical view of idealism and caring relations, and value winners”. They place their faith in consumerism.

(b) Heartlanders, who “reject modernism in favour of more traditional values of premodernism. They value traditional way of life and gender roles. They tend towards religious conservatism and fundamentalism”. But they believe in charity, caring relationship and volunteerism.

(c) Cultural Creatives have a strong commitment to family, neighbourhood, environment, internationalism and feminism, with well developed social consciousness”. They are interested in alternative health care practices, personal growth, spiritual development and they are careful, thoughtful consumers”.

Cultural Creatives share with Modernists a receptivity to change and with Heartlanders, a concern for human relationship and social commitment. However, “they reject the hedonism, materialism and cynicism of modern media, consumer and business culture...........and the intolerance of the Religious Right.

In his survey, Ray estimates that 47% or 88 million people are Modernists. 29% or 56 million people are Heartlanders and remaining 24% or 44 million are Cultural Creatives. In his “refined” analysis, Ray describes 29 million of the Modernists as “alienated” Modernists and 26 million as ‘titular’ Modernists. Alienated Modernists believe in nothing at all. Titular Modernists play by rules of modernism but they yearn for spiritualism. They are proving potential recruits to Cultural Creatives.

Heartlanders are sandwiched between Modernists and Cultural Creatives. Elimination of racial segregation, discrimination, apartheid in South Africa, and growing contempt for religious fundamentalism tend to make Heartlanders think twice and move towards Cultural Creatives for identity. The survey conducted by the Herwood Group shows the shift towards cultural Creatives. But the remaining 33% Modernists manipulate the levers of power.

Cultural Creatives are not worried about it. They enjoy added advantages over others. “They find cultural and ethnic diversity deeply attractive, enjoy mastering new ideas, are socially concerned and are strong advocate of environment sustainability and women’s rights. They are engaged with the world, tend to be leading-edge thinkers and creators and are deeply aware of modernism’s failings.” They want to make and leave this planet more beautiful for their children then they got it from their forefathers.

Their optimistic affirmation that not only are they not alone, but as modernism exhausts itself as a viable cultural system, they have the opportunity to define the new mainstream of global culture.

The new definition of this global culture found its expression in the award of Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998. The contest was between Prof A Sen, the propounder of the Theory of Welfare Economics based on social security net and Prof Jagdish Bhagwati, the brain behind the draft proposals of WTO. Prof Sen won. But RSS outfits denounced this award to Prof Sen and termed it a Christian conspiracy. They even went to the extent of sponsoring Prof Bhagwati’s name as an economic adviser to the Prime Minister. Truth prevailed on insanity and the government, subduedly, conferred Bharat Ratna on Prof Sen.

Service to mankind is summed up by Tagore:

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy

I awoke and saw that life was service

I acted and behold, service was joy.”

The writer, a former Minister of Haryana, is an occasional commentator on corporate affairs.


Jerusalem vital to peace process 
by Pramod S. Bhatnagar

AFTER the recent Camp David peace talks broke down without an immediate solution in sight to Palestine-Israeli peace process, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has been jet-hopping across the Asian region, explaining his stand. Prior to his latest brief halt in New Delhi, Yasser Arafat had visited Beijing, Tokyo, Jakarta and Dhaka.

Arafat’s hosts everywhere extended a welcome hearing to his stand on Jerusalem. However, it is emerging that international opinion does not subscribe to the Palestinian stand of unilateral declaration of an independent state on September 13.

True, the latest 15-day negotiations between Palestine and Israel ended without a comprehensive settlement. But it would be a mistake to say that the peace process is over. Camp David’s latest round provided many first-time solutions that had eluded the two camps till date. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians a real state in virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza. He offered a realistic solution for the Palestinian refugee issue too. He conceded to Arafat a virtual administrative control and sovereignty over the Arab areas of Jerusalem and Muslim holy sites.

Arafat too, offered unprecedented security arrangements. He expressed readiness to adjust the 1967 borders to accommodate some Israeli settlements in the West Bank and virtually agreed to relinquish control over Jewish areas in the old city of Jerusalem.

All these were no mean achievements. The challenge now is whether the two parties can carry on this pace of progress. Realistically speaking, the leaders could not go ahead to make a deal as that risked losing the support of a majority of people at home.

The most heartening news is that the Israeli Press’ publication of the concessions Barak offered to Palestinians, has evoked no violent protests in Israel. According to an opinion poll, about 40 per cent of Israelis are already reconciled to give up East Jerusalem. In Palestine too, the streets have been quiet in spite of the Camp David negotiations not leading to a comprehensive settlement.

While significant progress on most of the permanent status issues was made at Camp David, the most vital issue of Jerusalem defied agreement. The decisions arrived at minus the Jerusalem dispute do not enthuse because nothing is agreed to unless everything is agreed to.

For Israel besides being a holy city, Jerusalem is central to Jewish identity of history and culture. In Judaism the Wailing Wall is the holiest site. Israeli leaders have repeatedly assured their people that they would maintain a united Jerusalem and eternal Israeli sovereignty over the city.

For Palestinians too, Jerusalem is enormously significant. It is the location of Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is Islam’s third holiest shrine. It is the symbol of Palestinian history. Arafat has always assured his men that East Jerusalem would be the capital of the independent Palestinian state.

The claims of both the parties are formidable and solution to the problem is not easy. On the ground, Palestinians as well as Arabs have always rejected Israeli control over East Jerusalem. International law position also goes against Israel as the UN General Assembly states have overwhelmingly voted against Israel’s control over Jerusalem. Israel retains its control over the city only by force.

Curiously, the brutal truth about Jerusalem is that it will be united only if it is shared. Anyone who has visited Jerusalem knows, it has been psychologically and religiously divided since 1967.

Israel has had control over all of East Jerusalem for over three decades now but most Israelis hardly venture into these areas. It is still a foreign and insecure place for them. Even Israeli taxi drivers refuse to take their passengers to these parts of East Jerusalem. In fact, contrary to conventional assumption, Israel never annexed East Jerusalem. In 1967, only Israeli law and administration were applied to the enlarged municipal boundaries of Jerusalem. Words like “sovereignty” and “annexation” were never used.

Judging from the mood of the world leaders Arafat has visited so far after the latest Camp David round, it is clear that they are not for unilateral declaration of Palestinian independence. Today, Palestinian Muslims enjoy free access to the Haram-al-Sharif. After a unilateral declaration of statehood, Palestinian access to the areas might be curtailed by Israel. In case of violence, the access may be halted completely.

The solution to West Asia wrangle lies in compromise on Jerusalem. Israel must be given sovereignty over the Jewish quarters of the old city, the entire Western wall and all the Jewish neighbourhoods, new and old. Palestinians have to have sovereignty over all the outer Arab and the inner neighbourhoods, and the Muslim, Christian and Arabian quarters of the old city. What the Muslims call the Haram-al-Sharif and what the Jews Call the Temple Mount must be shared with joint sovereignty. The only way they can share Jerusalem is by acknowledging and respecting each others’ deepest claim.

It is worth considering that the Palestinians have a capital in Jerusalem in Abu Dis, outside the city’s municipal boundary. They can also be authorised to administer Arab neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem. Israelis may retain control over Jerusalem’s Jewish neighbourhoods which may be merged with Tel Aviv.

This arrangement will retain Israeli control over the biggest Jewish Jerusalem. It will be for the first time that Jewish neighbourhoods in East and West, the biggest ever area, will be given international recognition under Israeli authority. This arrangement will lead to cordiality and instead of maintaining a formal control, Jews would now move freely anywhere in their area.

There is a time to be born and a time to die and also a time to plant. In Arab-Israeli diplomacy, there has now arrived a time to decide and put an end to the age old conflict. There is only one way to bridge the chasm. Prime Minister Ehud Barak has to convince his people what they have to give up for a security environment. The ageing Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, too, has to make hard concessions and convince his people to see the reality and shed their hostility towards Jews.

The truth is that Palestine-Israeli peace process has not ended at Camp David. It has just begun.


Born as people’s mouthpiece

September 9, the death anniversary of Dyal Singh Majithia, is observed in The Tribune as Founder’s Day.

A NEWSPAPER of standing, like a prominent personality, is generally a product of the times and the prevalent social, economic and political conditions. In the last quarter of the 19th century the conditions in northern India were unstable, with indications of widespread distress and ruthless oppression. Inevitably, even mild men were transformed into leaders of national movements emphatically seeking redress for the wrongs and injustices associated with the foreign administration. British imperialism had spread to large areas, and India’s economic resources were being extensively exploited for the rulers’ benefit.

The traditional system, in fact the entire fabric of the country’s community life, had consequently been shattered. Official reports confirmed that the masses were seething with discontent and becoming desperate, the immediate cause being the havoc wrought by the recurring famines, especially that of 1877, which were symptomatic of the times. Some of the famines caused deaths on an unprecedented scale. Following a realistic assessment, Allan Octavian Hume, founder of the Indian National Congress, was convinced that India was “in immediate danger of a terrible outbreak”.

For obvious reasons British civilians posted in Punjab did not encourage the expression of public resentment. The administration’s aim at the time was to protect the province from the “contagion” of nationalist sentiments which were brewing in Bengal and the North-Western Province (now UP). Right from the start, British rulers took special care of Punjab to safeguard their own interests. Even so, the spirit of nationalism gradually gained strength in the region.

In the Punjab I formed friendships, the memory of which, though the friends, alas, are now dead, is a grateful treasure of my life. There for the first time I met Sirdar Dayal Singh Majeetia. Our acquaintance soon ripened into warm personal friendship. He was one of the truest and noblest men whom I have ever come across. It was perhaps difficult to know him and to get to the bottom of his heart, for there was a certain air of aristocratic reserve about him, which hid from public view the pure gold that formed the stuff of his nature. He threw himself actively into the work for which I had been deputed. I persuaded him to start a newspaper at Lahore. I purchased for him at Calcutta the first press for The Tribune newspaper and to me he entrusted the duty of selecting the first editor. I recommended the late Sitala Kanta Chatterjee of Dacca for the post, and his successful career as the first editor amply justified my choice. His fearless courage, his penetrating insight into the heart of things, and above all his supreme honesty of purpose, the first and last qualification of an Indian journalist, soon placed him in the front rank of those who wielded their pen in the defence of their country’s interests. The Tribune rapidly became a powerful organ of public opinion; it is now perhaps the most influential Indian journal in the Punjab, and is edited by a gentleman who in his early career was associated with me as a member of the staff of the Bengalee. But it is not the only gift that the Sirdar gave to the Punjab. He gave away all he had for the benefit of his country; and the Dayal Singh College is an enduring monument of one of the worthiest sons of the Punjab, whose early death all India mourns in common with the province of his birth. 
— Sir Surendranath Banerjea in his book, “A Nation in Making”, published in 1931.

To the factors that created a new political awareness in the country during the period must be added the impact of Western education. The inspiration derived from high political ideals and the study of the works of Milton, Burke, Mill, Macaulay and others inforced the demand for self-governing institutions and a larger share of Indians in the services. Even in the 1880s the administration at higher levels was the exclusive privilege of Europeans who held all but 16 of the 900 posts in the Indian Civil Services. Education with English as the medium of instruction also brought with it the precious gift of a common language which enabled the progressive sections of the people from various provinces of India to meet the conferences and chalk out plans to pursue their nationalist aims. Several religious reform movements, notably the Brahmo Samaj and the Arya Samaj, strengthened the patriotic fervour.

Bengal was progressing fast politically and produced several outstanding leaders, but Punjab was making little headway. The standards of general education and literacy were low, and most of those who were literate knew Persian, Urdu or Sanskrit but hardly any English. The state’s educational backwardness continued for several decades. According to the census report, the proportion of educated persons was one in 26; literate Hindus and Sikhs were one in 15 and Muslims one in 69. In the total educated population only one person out of 10 was able to understand English. The Public Service Commission report for 1886-87 showed that there were 18,390 “educated natives” in Madras, 16,639 in Bengal, 3,200 in the United Provinces and only 1,944 in Punjab.

Punjab’s close vicinity to Afghanistan and Russia made the rulers view its problems from the imperial rather than the Indian angle. A war with Afghanistan had just ended (1879) but memories of the defeats and disasters suffered by the British Indian Army at certain places were fresh in the people’s minds. The Press Act, enforced by Lord Lytton and intended to gag Indian newspapers, was still on the statute book.

The disconcerting social and economic conditions, together with the people’s educational backwardness, impelled Dyal Singh to do whatever he could to promote the interests of the province. He felt convinced that liberal education and enlightenment were essential for the people’s salvation. Public opinion had become articulate much earlier in Bengal. In 1868 G.C Ghosh started the Bengalee, a weekly journal, which became a fearless exponent of the national cause. The journal was taken over by Bacharam Chatterjee, but it declined rapidly until Surendranath Banerjea, who played a leading role in organising the nationalist Press at that time, bought it. The consideration money he paid for the goodwill of the paper was only Rs 10.

Years later a link emerged between The Tribune and the Bengalee. By a coincidence, the Kesari (in Marathi) and the Maharatta (in English) were started by Balgangadhar Tilak at Poona in January of the same year (1881) in which The Tribune was founded. In one of its early issues the Kesari made this significant statement: “The evils of flunkeyism and flattery have been growing since the beginning of imperial rule, and surely every honest man will admit that it is harmful to the true interests of our country”. both the Poona papers consistently pleaded, as The Tribune did, for justice — social, economic and political. All the three had identical nationalist goals, but the difference in tone and in approach was unmistakable. While the Kesari roared, The Tribune argued and pleaded, its forte being logical chopping and reasoning.

In Punjab a start with Indian language journalism had already been made in the 1860s. Two newspapers in Gurmukhi were established before 1880. But S. Natarajan has pointed out that in Punjab the Indian language Press was until 1880 an offshoot of Hindi journalism. The Akhbar Shri Durbar Sahib, launched in 1867, with Munshi Hari Narain as Editor, espoused the Hindu cause and sought to win the goodwill of the British. But it was with the emergence of Baba Ram Singh and the puritanical Sikh Kuka movement that the growth of Punjabi journalism commenced. The Singh Sabha was formed in 1873, but the influence of Sanskritised Hindi continued and the two newspapers in Gurmukhi, the Sukavya Samodhini and the Kavi Chandrodaya that began publication a year before the emergence of The Tribune, were nearer to Hindi than to Punjabi. Following the literary and religious movement started in 1880, Bhai Gurmukh Singh, professor in the Lahore Oriental College, established several journals to advocate the cause of the Singh Sabha.

The Civil and Military Gazettee (which had started publication from Lahore as a daily five years earlier) and the Pioneer of Allahabad were intended to project the official viewpoint and cater for the British services. The need for a periodical which would advocate native interests and act as an exponent of enlightened nationalist opinion in the region was being keenly felt. Dyal Singh came forward to fill the gap and provide an organ to mirror the impulses that stirred the minds of progressive people, including the youth.

The odds against a newspaper in those days were heavy, and it was an act of extraordinary courage on Sardar Dyal Singh’s part to launch the venture. The equipment necessary for printing a newspaper was difficult to get. The foreign Government could hardly be expected to provide facilities for starting a nationalist paper. Nor was competent staff readily available (at any rate, not in northern India) for editing such a journal. However, Dyal Singh had set his heart on the enterprise and earnestly pursued his aim. With the guidance and cooperation of leaders from Bengal he succeeded.

But the Sardar’s immediate aim was to counteract a subtle move to establish a university in which the predominant position was to be given to the classical oriental languages, Persian, Sanskrit and Arabic, and English was to be relegated to the status of a secondary language. A controversy on the issue was raging at the time. Dyal Singh’s opposition to the scheme for giving preference to oriental languages may appear strange in the perspective of time, but many progressive Indians, including ambitious young men, insisted on securing prominence for English in the educational set-up. They regarded this language and the scientific ethos of the West necessary for realising their ideal — united action to ensure the country’s regeneration.

The chief champions of the oriental scheme were two zealous British educationists, Dr G.W. Leitner, Principal of the Panjab University College and later of the Government College, Lahore, and Sir Robert Egerton. They were supported by an influential section of the Indian intelligentsia. Dyal Singh led the campaign against the scheme and sought primacy for the scientific thought of the West. The basic stand voiced through The Tribune was correct and was ultimately conceded. The pattern of education established in the province was of the Anglo-Indian variety.

The Sardar entrusted the task of selecting the first Editor of the paper to Surendranath Banerjea, who recommended Sitala Kanta Chatterjee of Dacca for the post.

The Tribune started publication on February 2, 1881, as a 12-page weekly newspaper, priced at four annas a copy. Incidentally, that was the year in which the infamous Vernacular Press Act, 1878, was withdrawn. Lord Lytton, the then Governor-General, was very unhappy with the tone of the Indian Press and his reported intention was to “behead the hydra at one sudden stroke.” The intended beheading could not take place and Lord Ripon’s administration repealed the Act in order to build bridges of understanding between the rulers and the ruled. One of the aims of The Tribune, while advocating the people’s cause, was to facilitate the building of such bridges.

The editorial in the first issue, entitled “About ourselves,” explained the reasons for publishing the paper and the policy it intended to pursue. “The projectors and conductors of The Tribune,” the editorial said, “have no pet theories to maintain, nor any personal interests to serve through the medium of this journal. They profess simply to act for the public weal, and they are conscious that the public weal is more advanced by charity and moderation than by rancour and hard words. Our appearance in the field of journalism is to meet a crying want of this part of India, namely an English journal for the representation of ‘native’ opinion..... The aim of The Tribune will be, as its name imports, fairly and temperately to advocate the cause of the masses. In its columns we shall seek to represent the public opinion of India, specially of upper India”.

The editorial added: “As the mouthpiece of the people The Tribune will be conducted on broad and catholic principles... We shall not be identified with any particular race, class or creed, nor seek to give prominence to the views of any particular party. But our paper, as the champion of the people, will not scruple to speak plainly against class interests, nor shrink from boldly assailing them whenever they should happen to clash with the welfare of the masses..... In religious matters we shall maintain a strictly neutral position.”

Because of the times in which it had taken birth, the paper considered it necessary to specify its stand vis-a-vis the Government of the day. “As the mouthpiece of the people The Tribune will make known to our Government their wants and grievances and their hopes and aspirations. Similarly, it will seek faithfully to interpret the intentions of the Government to the people.... so that cordial relations may be established between the governors and the governed”.

The editorial, which set the tone and temper of the paper for the decades that followed, asked the readers to regard the paper as their common property, and to foster it as such, by making use of its columns largely for the discussion of political, social and literary questions of the day.

(From A History of The Tribune by Prakash Ananda)




Believe God to be the doer and shed worries from the mind. Attach yourself to the feet of the Lord who has created you. One who has firmly put his faith in the holy feet of God; in this everchanging world, that man is lucky indeed.

— Mahatma Mangat Ram, Samata Prakash


God can be addressed by any name that taste sweet to your tongue or pictured in any form that appeals to your sense of wonder and awe.

God designed in different faiths adored by different human communities are all limbs of the One God that really is.

God does not live in structures of stone or brick. He lives in soft hearts warm with sympathy and fragrant with universal love.

God has no forms, no limbs, no qualities, no preferences, no prejudices.

God has no beginning and no end.

— From the discourses of Sri Sathya Sai Baba.


Every man has his own conception of God. The God of a military man wears a helmet. The God of a China-man has a flat nose and a pipe for smoking opium. The God of a Hindu has marks on his forehead, and wears a rosary and a garland of flowers. The God of a Christian wears a Cross. For some God has wings. A buffalo will think that God is a very big buffalo .... God is beyond human imagination but He is a living reality.

—Swami Shivananda, Bliss Divine, Chapter 23


Science has learned that all matter is made of invisible building blocks — electrons and protons — just as a house is built of bricks. But nobody can tell why some electrons and protons become wood and others become human bone, and so on. What intelligence guides them? This line of questioning gives room for God in even the materialist's theories about the nature of the phenomenal worlds. The sages of India say that everything proceeds from and goes back into its source: God.

— Swami Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest


When men make gods, there is no God.

— Eugene O'Neill, Lazarus Laughed, 2.2

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