Monday, September 25, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Corruption: shocking scenario

CORRUPTION in Punjab appears to have touched an all-time high. Newspapers have been reporting scams to the tune of lakhs and crores. Government functionaries not only at the lower level such as inspectors, sub-inspectors, and naib tehsildars but even at the higher rungs are reported to be involved in alarming cases of graft and misappropriation of public funds.

The situation is shocking because it has materialised under the dispensation of the Akalis (not that the earlier rulers were honest) who claim that their politics is not divorced from religion — both are inter-twined. This has been stated and emphasised almost ad nauseum, since the time of Master Tara Singh, the doyen of Akali politics.

What should the people understand by the word “religion” if it is not godliness, truth, probity, integrity and the negation of lust and greed; if it is not following the injunctions of their great prophets namely Guru Nanak Dev and Guru Gobind Singh. Had the Akalis been faithful to those injunctions, graft would have long disappeared from this state under their rule, and they could have proudly proclaimed to the world: “Look, we have completely eliminated the cancer of corruption from our body politic and administration.

Can anybody dare raise an accusing finger even at a single MLA or minister who may be suspected of being involved in corruption himself directly or through his kin? They dare not say so for the facts speak otherwise.


The BJP ministers in the coalition government were expected to function as watchdogs. But today we do not hear even a feeble voice against corruption from their sick throats. Perhaps they, instead of exposing their Akali colleagues, have preferred to join in the loot. All the more shocking because the life-springs of this party also emanate from the glorious traditions of Hinduism which produced stalwarts such as Chanakya in the hoary past, and Madan Mohan Malaviya in the 20th century.

Why do our politicians forget the hard fact that they cannot transfer their ill-gotten wealth to their accounts in heaven or hell after their sojourn on this earth comes to an end? Why can’t they emulate the example of great men belonging to their own fraternity such as Lal Bahadur Shastri (who slept on the poor man’s string-bed), Rafi Ahmad Kidwai (who, according to the late Prem Bhatia, had only four kurtas in his wardrobe) and Giani Kartar Singh (who could make do with a few coarse kachhas and pajamas and shoes with patches on, which the writer of this letter happened to observe himself). All glory to those dignified souls!



“Sare jahan se achha ...

After having struggled for the creation of Pakistan and tasted life there for over 50 years, the leader of the Muhajirs, Mr Altaf Husain, is now a disillusioned man. According to Press reports, at a meeting held in London he admitted that this creation was a blunder and that the Titanic was sinking. He expressed his keenness to write to Indian Muslims and share his agony with them.

His biggest grouse is that the Punjabis are dominating in Pakistan. As we know, they have a prepondering majority in the army and this is likely to make them feel intoxicated. A living example of the same is the brutalities committed by the Pakistan army against Bangladesh in 1971. Sheikh Hasina, the present Prime Minister of Bangladesh, is now asking Pakistan for an apology.

What has surprised me most is the fact that Mr Altaf Husain is making no secret of his liking for Iqbal’s famous poem, “Sare jahan se achha Hindustan hamara” and did not hesitate even to recite the same at the meeting itself.

Let the Hizbul Mujahideens and the Harkat-ul-Ansars on both sides of the LoC learn a lesson or two from the bitter experience of Mr Altaf Husain and join him in singing the immortal lines of Alama Iqbal before the birth of another Bangladesh.




Sarbat Khalsa

This has reference to “Sarbat Khalsa to be convened” a news item published on September 20.

Bhai Ranjit Singh appears unaware of the history, role and functions of the institution of Sarbat Khalsa, which was evolved during the early eighteenth century in the worst period of the Sikhs’ persecution. The meetings were held twice in a year on the occasions of Baisakhi and Diwali festivals at Akal Takht at Amritsar, and were called with the willing consensus of all the Sikhs and the Misl Sardars, and not by any individual.

The first item on the agenda was to select the “Panj-Piaras” to form the presidium to guide and control the deliberations. The main theme of the discussions was to protect the Panth and weaker sections of society, including the minorities, and to formulate a common strategy to check invasions from across the North-West frontier of India by the Abdalis and the Durranis.

The heads of the five Takhts began to be called Jathedars after the enactment of the SGPC Act, 1925, although this term is not even mentioned in the Act. During the Gurus’ period (1469 to 1708) there was no name or appointment as such. Important Gursikhs were addressed as Baba or Bhai such as Baba Budha, Bhai Gurdas, Bhai Kanhaiya, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur et al. In the Misl period, Misl heads were known as Sardars like Sardar Kapur Singh, Sardar Jassa Singh Ahluwalia or Ramgarhia. Only the heads of contingents (jathas) were called jathedars, military rank.

Bhai Ranjit Singh’s announcement “that he would convene a Sarbat Khalsa” to claim the post of Jathedar with the support of the “Sangat” is both historically and traditionally unjustifiable.



Four-laning of highways

This has reference to the three-piece write-up on “Road accidents” published in The Tribune on August 19, 20 and 21. The writer has obviously taken great pains to collect the figures presented in the report.

However, it would be more meaningful if the data is properly analysed, shortcomings identified and suitable solutions suggested.

The writer has rightly attributed a high incidence of fatal road accidents to less wider highways like those connecting Delhi to satellite towns like Gurgaon and Faridabad. It has been noticed that most of the accidents take place on those highways or those portions of highways which are yet to be four-laned. Head-on collisions account for most of the fatalities which generally occur on one-way roads.

Four-laning of roads greatly relieves the driver from the strain of traffic coming from the opposite direction. It helps relaxed driving and, therefore, lesser human errors.

Another important point touched upon in the write-up is that smaller towns have lesser accidents than the bigger ones. To my mind, this can be attributed to rash and careless driving by the spoilt siblings of the affluent residents of prosperous and big towns.

It is, therefore, suggested that all high density highways are four-laned on a war footing and effective steps taken to curb rash and negligent driving by youngsters, most of whom are under-age, to enhance the safety of innocent road users.

Wg Cdr C.L. SEHGAL (retd)


Peruvian success story

This refers to the editorial “Change in Peru” (September 20). Consequent upon the unveiling of a bribery scandal, Peru strongman Alberto Fujimori’s plans to foist himself as the country’s President for the third term in succession have come to a naught. His forced exit has brought his dictatorial rule to an end.

Peru, located on the pacific coast of South America, was at one time the heartland of the great Inca (Red Indian) empire. It shook off the Spanish colonial rule in 1824, and yet got caught in the military junta rule led by Gen Manuel Odria in 1945.

Again, after a military coup in 1968, a civilian government was restored in 1980. Though a new constitution was promulgated in December, 1993, Fujimori’s “methods”, such as suspension of the earlier constitution and dissolution of the parliament “were too dictatorial for him to remain popular for long”. These dictatorial steps were described as “self-coup” by political analysts.

Nevertheless, credit for the economic success of this small country in Latin America must go to Fujimori. The country, with a population of 25.2 million, has a literacy rate of 89 per cent, as compared to India’s 52.11 per cent. The Peruvian per capita income is $ 4680 against India’s $ 380. Its gross national product is $ 58.7 billion compared to India’s $ 357.8 billion.

Notwithstanding this economic success, Fujimori’s “disregard for democratic norms” has proved his undoing. After centuries of colonial rule followed by long spells of military and autocratic rules, Peruvians are now keen on making democracy work, as Latin American countries, from Mexico to Chile, as also the banana republics of Central America, are all basking in the dawn of democratic rule.



The Thackeray case

Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray has once again escaped from the long arm of the law.

The technicality of the case being time-barred might be good in legality, but the issue at stake was justice. Too many people have suffered and died everytime communal violence has engulfed Mumbai in response to Thackeray’s fanatical outbursts in Saamana.

It is difficult to understand how our courts can repeatedly exonerate someone so directly responsible for the conflagrations and violence that have ravaged Mumbai several times in the past.

The Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of the Bhoiwada court, Mr B.P. Kamble, who was quick in his observation that the prosecution had no leg to stand on, discharged the accused after declaring that the offence registered by the police could not be taken cognizance of, even though the defence was only asking for bail and had not applied for discharge.


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