Monday, September 18, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Haryana’s culture and patriarchal forces

MR D.R. Chaudhry’s exhortative article on Haryana’s culture (The Tribune, August 29) poses a serious challenge to all those who cherish the values of equality and social justice. The question, however, is whether we really have enough individuals with broad social concerns. Otherwise the treatment meted out to a film like “Laado”should not have remained unresisted even per se and the maker of this film with a social theme would not have to fight the administrative and political injustice single-handedly, running from pillar to post in the courts of law.

Let me remind Mr Chaudhry that the real players at this crucial juncture are those very sections of the masses who have been denied even human dignity thanks to the outdated and backward socio-cultural milieu which continue to dominate in all spheres of life in Haryana. The women, Dalits and sections of youth are no longer prepared to silently tolerate the status quo. They have started asserting their identity to be recognised. Their potential role should not be underestimated in the social reform movement oriented towards achieving a civic society.

The patriarchal forces are equally desperate in this backdrop in the form of traditional panchayats of khaps and sarvakhaps. The co-existence of medieval caste institutions as the parallel judiciary and the so-called modern establishments does make a paradoxical situation. Although the former cannot enjoy a social consensus notwithstanding the patronage provided by vested interests, the latter has to be strengthened. This was, in fact, the essence of the Presidential address to the nation on the eve of Independence Day which must be taken as a grim reminder of the state of affairs with regard to the oppressed, the ignored and all those subjected to indignation and humiliation.

Let us be very clear that these are the sections which need a social change as historical necessity more than anybody else. They will have to prepare their case and then challenge the decadent forces of the status quo at all levels and ultimately change the system in the interest of one and all.

Secretary, CPM State Committee


Pensionary benefits

Himachal pensioners are feeling neglected, by their state government as, in spite of repeated reminders, the ministry has not so far released their fixed medical allowance at the rate of Rs 250 p.m., leave travel concession at the rate of one month’s basic pension after a gap of every two years and old age allowance at 5 per cent and 10 per cent on attaining the age of 70 and 80 years, respectively, on the Punjab pattern.

The pensioners are very much agitated on this unsympathetic attitude of the government towards them. The Himachal Government should take the necessary measures immediately as it is committed to following the Punjab pattern in respect of pensionary benefits.



Why compromise on law?

Apropos of Syed Anwar’s “The state: protector turns pleader” (The Tribune, September 10), the main issues in the Veerappan case are three: (1) withdrawal of TADA charges against 51 detenus; (2) release/amnesty for Veerappan; and (3) release of Kannada matinee idol Rajkumar.

There is a fair ground to drop the TADA proceedings against Veerappan’s 51 associates. Human rights activists have been highlighting the abuse of TADA since 1997 much before Rajkumar’s abduction. The Supreme Court has held that the proposal to release (mark the word “release”) the detenus would undermine the “rule of law”.

The Karnataka Government is required only to drop the TADA charges and not to release them. The fact of the matter is that TADA was allowed to lapse in 1995 because of the outrage around the country against its extensive abuse. TADA cases against these 51 Veerappan men may be withdrawn. All these 51 detenus and other accused persons will be tried for offences under the ordinary criminal laws — the Indian Penal Code, the Arms Act and the Explosive Substances Act, and punished for the crimes committed by them.

Veerappan, who has committed 138 murders, slaughtered 2,000 elephants, killed his own daughters, swindled ivory and sandalwood worth Rs 100-plus crore, can be released under no situation. No doubt, there are precedents. Terrorists were released to bring Mufti Mohd Sayeed’s innocent daughter Rubiya back home. The notorious Kandahar hijackers were released for the sake of the lives of scores of hijacked persons. But Veerappan is a hardened criminal who should have by now been convicted on 138 occasions, though hanged only once.

Whatever the might of Veerappan, it is perfectly possible to bomb him out of his hideout with the help of satellite surveillance or even with a forceful commando action. But that perhaps spoils the show for Mr M. Karunanidhi, who would very much wish to see the damned criminal to sit in Parliament next to Phoolan Devi.

Dr Rajkumar’s life is dear and precious which has to be saved in any case. No one needs to forget that the forest brigand is now a battle-fatigued criminal on the run.


Punishing rapists

I endorse the views of Mr Dalip Singh Ghuman as contained in his letter “Punishing rape case accused” (September 13). But the fixing of higher punishment for the abominable crime of rape would act as an effective deterrent only if the investigation and trial are swift and the punishment sure. This is not possible in the existing over-loaded judicial system. I would, therefore, suggest the following:

(a) All cases of sexual assault on woman should be tried by special courts presided over by two judges, including a female. Similarly, a female judge should be sitting on the Bench hearing the appeal at all levels.

(b) Investigation of the cases and prosecution of the accused should be conducted by special police cells with specialised training.

(c) In the case of an offence of this nature committed by the kin of a VIP or by a policeman, the CBI should be involved in the investigation right from the initial stage.

(d) The trial, hearing of the appeal and final appeal, including a mercy petition where applicable, should be concluded within one year from the date of arrest of the accused.

(e) The sentence of death where awarded should be carried out within one month after the case is finally disposed of, and widely publicised.

In order to encourage the victims, their parents or other family members to come forward and report the case promptly to the police, society also needs to change its attitude and not to consider the incident of sexual assault as a sort of social stigma on the victim and her family. They should rather get sympathy, the maximum help and moral support in bringing the perpetrators of the crime on women to book.


Public and leaders

This refers to “World of new class lords” by Mr Hari Jaisingh, published recently. It is rightly said that good governance is the best form of government, let the fools quarrel over the forms of government.

Good governance, a doubt, comes from the leaders of high stature at the helm of affairs. Hence the need for fore-grounding the issue. At this critical juncture we are debating over the various forms of government for our country. We are hoping against hope to cultivate the coalition culture among our politicians.

How ridiculous the idea is when the politicians of Laloo brand in different guises prevail upon the scene. We brush aside the idea of having the presidential form of government just because of our fear of inviting dictatorship instead. But just think over it — all these problems converge upon one point: dearth of right leaders. If we have only upright, dedicated leaders with clear vision, convictions and a broad outlook, we need not be afraid of anything.

These are all marginal issues. The million dollar question is: why is this shortage of such leaders? Aren’t we people ourselves responsible for it? More often than not, selfless leaders prefer not to enter into the dirty politics of getting tickets; it is far below their dignity to stand in the line.

There are still many who have the potentiality of steering the country to the right course by their virtues as a leader. But like the unsung heroes of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” they waste their fragrance in an unknown desert.

As voters, we are such a complacent lot that we take things in our stride. We vote for the less worse out of the worst candidates. Should not the public boycott the elections on a mass scale if proper candidates are not given tickets?




Plight of Punwire staff

Agitations and protests have become so common that even if the grouse is genuine, it does not prick our inner chords. We take it as an everyday affair. For instance, more than 1500 employees of Punwire have virtually been thrown out of job and even after 15 months of continuous protests, including dharnas in the scorching heat, the government has turned a deaf ear and a Nelson’s eye to their genuine demand for re-employment.

The “on-the-road” employees are from all categories and some of them are couples. Imagine the plight of such families where nobody is left an earning hand. Does not such callousness breed the symptoms of militancy and turn even docile and law-abiding citizens into anarchists? What is the government waiting for?

Those who are responsible for the misappropriation of money are enjoying, and the poor retrenched employees are bearing the brunt. It is high time the government rose to the occasion and absorbed these employees elsewhere.


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