Sunday, October 1, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E

Parliamentary Committees

A catalyst for responsive governance
Examine ways to make system more effective
by C. Narendra Reddy
HILE a debate on reforming the Indian Constitution is on, it may be relevant to make an assessment of the significant step taken, rather silently through an innocuous amendment to the Rules of Procedure in 1994-95, to reform the functioning of Parliament by introducing the system of standing committees related to various ministries.

Evolution of the committee system
O make parliamentary activity more effective and to make the Executive more accountable to the Legislature, a beginning was made in the Eighth Lok Sabha in 1989 by setting up three department-related Subject Committees, one each on agriculture; science and technology; and environment and forests.


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by Harihar Swarup
The disillusioned Mohajir
N an interview for a government job in Karachi a young man was summarily turned away. The reason: the interviewers discovered that he was a Mohajir. He protested: “I have been duly called and I fulfil all the requirements”. The protest was ignored and as the young man was being elbowed out, he yelled: “I will just now telephone Altaf Bhai”. The guards almost froze; there was a flurry of activities and the young man was ushered in. 


Laloo finally on the net
ASHTRIYA Janata Dal supremo and former Bihar Chief Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav is finally on the net. The RJD supremo, who till the other day maintained that Information Technology and computerisation was not meant for Bihar, has got an e-mail address.



A catalyst for responsive governance 
Examine ways to make system more effective
by C. Narendra Reddy

WHILE a debate on reforming the Indian Constitution is on, it may be relevant to make an assessment of the significant step taken, rather silently through an innocuous amendment to the Rules of Procedure in 1994-95, to reform the functioning of Parliament by introducing the system of standing committees related to various ministries.

A perusal of the reports of these standing committees in the past six years gives an unmistakable impression that they have contributed to the improvement in the functioning of the Parliamentary system of the government. The beneficial impact is perceptible both in the functioning of Parliament and the government.

Apart from heightened scrutiny of budget allocations, legislations and policies of the government, the system of standing committees has led to greater interaction between government departments and Parliament Members as well as the interaction of both with the public. This has contributed to mutual understanding and involvement in matters of public concern and governance.

A close study of the working of the standing committees reveals that the high expectations from the system that were there when it was launched have not been altogether belied.

While formally launching the formation of standing committees related to ministries at a function in the Central Hall of Parliament on March 31, 1993, the then Vice-President, Mr K. R. Narayanan, had hoped that “This system, apart from dealing with the basic or ordinary issues, will tone up the functioning of Parliament.”

The constitution of standing committees is a unique experiment that has evolved out of Indian experience and is not a blind adaptation of the system prevailing in any other country. The nearest is the committee system in Commonwealth countries like the UK, Australia and Canada whose Parliaments had introduced the system of standing committees related to departments in post World War II reforms. The likeness to the committee system in US Congress is more in form than in content. The standing committees in US Congress are constituted to consider specific issues and not to continuously monitor the respective departments.

Ministries get guillotined

The necessity to constitute standing committees arose out of the experience over the years that demands for grants of a majority of ministries were being guillotined and passed without discussion because of a lack of time to consider them even after extending the as it is long budget sessions lasting 10 to 12 weeks. That was leading to frustration among Members.

With the social and political situation in the country becoming increasingly tense and political parties getting more and more fractured with splinter groups antagonistic to each other, both the Houses were getting increasingly embroiled in sectarian issues, leaving less and less time for the consideration of government business. This was reflected in the demands for grants of more and more ministries getting guillotined and their demands getting passed without discussion.

To have been discussing the demands of less than half of the ministries since 1985 was bad enough, but to have fallen to the consideration of demands of just three ministries in 1989 was a disaster. That meant out of nearly Rs 1,75,00,000 crore of budget passed by Parliament, demands for grants amounting to only Rs 40,000 to 30,000 crore was actually discussed by Parliament — that is less than 0.2 per cent. In 1993, the discussion of demands of only two ministries was taken up. That made the introduction of the committee system in 1994 an absolute necessity.

Secondly, the debates on demands of ministries used to be wide ranging and not pin-pointed. Members, given a chance to speak on the floor, generally are eager to cover related and unrelated matters to draw the attention of the Chair and the government through him to matters of their concern.

The ministers concerned also in their replies to debates could cover only a few points raised by Members, usually leaving the rest with broad assurance that they had taken note of all points and issues raised and would examine them with due care. There was, however, never a proper follow-up on the recommendations and suggestions made by Members in these debates in the House.

The power of financial sanction was the repository power of Parliament to bend the authorities to their dictates. But with the evolution of political parties and the rule by majority, Parliaments over decades have got accustomed to passing budgets framed by their governments without major changes. Even in India, while practically no changes are made to allocations ministry-wise, a minimum of changes is made to taxation proposals, that, too, to assuage any strong popular resentment.

The constitution of standing committees is, in a way, a reassertion by Parliament to exercise greater scrutiny of government budgets. Initially that was the driving force in constituting the standing committees.

Though the committees have not made even minor changes in budget allocations, they have gone into deep detail of the schemes and policies of each ministry and have made several recommendations by way of improvement and modification that the governments have in majority of cases accepted. Separate action taken reports on the recommendations relating to demands for grants of each ministry are presented to Parliament. This in itself is a major contribution to the functioning of parliamentary system that the reform has brought about.

Terms widened

The Rules Committee of Parliament had the foresight to see that the purpose of the standing committees should not end with the passage of Budget and so widened their terms of consideration to include legislation as well. That was a very important step they took as earlier legislations used to be passed without much consideration to detail and their wider implications with the brute majority enjoyed by the ruling parties.

The close scrutiny that is now undertaken by standing committees of the Bills has avoided several glitches and hitches in the law and its implementation that surface at later stages.

The Indian Parliament has been very active in its prime legislative sphere. The volume of legislation has almost been doubled since Independence. The volume of legislation has increased to 60 to 70 Bills per annum on an average. That is stupendous by any standards — 20 to 25 Bills in each of the three sessions in a year.

With the paucity of time, not much attention was being paid to the details regarding the Bills that were introduced. Very few Bills were being sent to either select committees or joint committees. That was an indication that the government was in a hurry to pass the Bills, and most of them get passed.

In the 10th Lok Sabha, for example, as many as 284 bills were passed, out of which only six had been referred to joint committees and three to select committees.

A number of amendments to these Bills were accepted by the government after their introduction, suggesting that the drafting was also being done hurriedly. There were 1,044 amendments to these that were moved, of which slightly less than half were accepted and the rest negatived.

Since the standing committee system was introduced, on the other hand, as many as 87 Bills in the 10th Lok Sabha and 22 Bills in the 11th Lok Sabha have been referred to the standing committees.

While the recommendations of select committees and joint committees are more or less binding on the House, the suggestions of standing committees are only recommendatory. Yet, the government has been accepting all unanimous and majority recommendations of these committees.

According to the Lok Sabha secretariat, “the new system has helped in having a detailed and in-depth analysis of various provisions proposed in the Bills.”

Apart from the examination of demands for grants and Bills, consideration of annual reports of ministries and departments and also “national basic long-term policy documents presented to the Houses” have also been listed among the functions in Rule 331E.

In practice the standing committees have gone even farther and have been taking up suo motu any important issue or programme pertaining to ministries.

The Parliament standing committees have been barred from considering the day-to-day functioning of ministries to avoid interference with administrative matters. But that has not prevented them from taking up the consideration of implementation of any policy and scheme.

The main committees have taken recourse to constituting sub-committees to consider any of the identified issues for detailed examination. This is an extension of their function.

The standing committees, even though they have not supplanted the informal consultative committees of Parliament attached to each ministry, have definitely over-shadowed them.

That the standing committees have taken effective control of broad policies, budget and legislation relating to each ministry without interfering in their day-to-day administration, is indicated by the greater seriousness the officials have begun to attach to standing committee meetings than to informal consultative committee meetings. This is so in spite of the fact that while the later are headed by the ministers concerned, the former are headed by senior Members of Parliament of ruling as well as Opposition parties.

The Ministries of Defence, External Affairs and Agriculture are taken more seriously than others with the average presence of members in the standing committee meetings over the years being slightly more than half. Of late, the Ministries of Finance and Railways have also been gaining in the interest being shown by members as the figures for the year 1998-99 indicate.

Cost saving

The cost-effectiveness of the ministry standing committees is indicated by the number of sittings they have in a year and the average duration of each sitting. The average duration of the sittings of the standing committee meetings in a year has been 1 hour 40 minutes. The trend of late has been to have only one sitting in a day. This should preferably be extended to two sittings a day to save on the time and cost involved.

The cost effectiveness of the committee meetings gets even clearer by the total number of days spent by the committees in a year.

If an average Parliament day is taken as five hours and an average Parliament month as 22 days, then in a year these committees together have been meeting for nearly 6 1/2 months. This is in addition to the normal sittings of the two Houses.

The standing committees, thus, have contributed, in a way, to extend the session of Parliament. More time spent means closer attention to various issues. The government of the day will also be aware that, now with committees seized of issues, Parliament cannot be taken for granted.

It is not a one-way traffic in the standing committees. An effective dialogue takes place between the government and Members of Parliament belonging to various political parties.

On an average, the standing committees accept 30 per cent of the replies sent by the ministries on various suggestions they have made. A standoff exists between the two in the case of at least 20 per cent of the suggestions that have been made by MPs.

The standing committees have used another lever they have to enforce their authority. This is the periodic review of action taken by the government on their recommendations. That this scrutiny is effective is evident from the fact that almost all ministries and departments in the past six years have accepted more man 50 per cent of their recommendations. Separate reports are submitted on action taken and reviewed by the committees at separate meetings meant for that.

The standing committees provide an opportunity for interaction between the representatives of people and the government. In most of the recommendations, the government also in the past five years has been understanding and accommodative.

The percentage of recommendations accepted by the government has been slightly above 50 per cent all these years. In the beginning, the percentage of acceptance had touched 60.2 per cent. Though it had fallen to 52.5 per cent in 1997-98, it rose to 58 per cent in 1998-99, 57 per cent being the average for these years. The members also sometimes tend to be demanding. In the circumstances, that should be considered to be a fair rate of acceptance.

The rate of acceptance is highest in the case of Ministries of Defence and External Affairs, being above 70 per cent. It is also high in the case of the Ministry of Petroleum, being above the average. Surprisingly, however, in the case of ministries having public interface like the Railways, Agriculture, Food and Civil Supplies, the percentage of acceptance is below the average, sometimes going down to 25 to 30 per cent only.

The percentage of convergence between the government and the Parliament joint committees is much more than the divergence that exists.

The pooled percentage of recommendations accepted by the government and the government’s replies accepted by the committees has been between 70 to 75 per cent.

On the other had, the pooled percentage of replies not accepted by the committees and recommendations pending with the government has been over the years between 30 to 25 per cent.

Because of the deadline that exists for the consideration and approval of various issues, particularly in the case of demands for grants and legislation, compromise solutions are tried to be achieved. In a few cases the majority recommendation goes as the approved draft for the final consideration of the full House.

Pluses and minuses

The standing committees of Parliament, apart from consideration of demands for grants, for which they were initially constituted, have expanded their ambit into examination of several other activities and functions relating to ministries. Some of these tasks are such that the House itself could not have taken them up. These include:

1) Close examination of the working of departments; 2) Detailed review of policies and programmes; 3) Close scrutiny of the Bills referred by the Speaker. 4) In-depth review of the annual reports of ministries; 5) Receiving representations from public and non-official organisations; 6) Get reports from the government on all issues before them; 7) Undertake visits to different places relating to matters under their consideration; 8) Give personal hearing to representatives of non-official organisations; 9) Call official and non-official functionaries to get clarifications and hear their views; 10) Review of action taken by the government on their recommendations;

The standing committees have these advantages over the full House which, by its very size and insufficient time before its disposal, could not be expected to do justice to all these tasks to the same extent.

The standing committee meetings being in-camera, officials have been more forthcoming in giving their views and members are generally more objective in giving their views on various issues before them.

However, there could still be some improvements that could be made to make the functioning the standing committees more effective and efficient.

Firstly, the secretariat of the standing committees could be strengthened with some non-official experts in each field attached to them. It is not always that the members get the full information they need in official briefings.

Secondly, several of the committees meet only once in a day, either in the forenoon or afternoon. The members could meet for a full day instead of rushing back to their constituencies. That would save on costs and also help in getting down to detailed examination of the subjects before them.

Thirdly, the respective political parties should establish coordination with all their members even other than the members of the standing committees so as to raise issues of their interest for a more comprehensive discussion. Merely leaving to individual members of the standing committees to do the exercise all by themselves on all issues pertaining to the ministries would be limiting the topics that come up for scrutiny.

Fourthly, these committees being small are amenable to the influence of powerful lobbies that might be able to get across to them their views. The views of weaker sections should also be received by reaching out to them.

A detailed examination of the reports that have been submitted by the standing committees will show their strengths and weaknesses. This requires case studies to be undertaken. Mr David Cushman Coyale in his study on the US Constitution had observed: “The floor is the market place but the goods that come are manufactured elsewhere, mainly in the committees and lobbies.” After the constitution of the standing committees, this dictum has become so true in the case of Indian Parliament as well. The Press and public also should take more seriously the discussions in the standing committees. The Press is barred from covering discussions of the standing committees but is not barred from raising public discussion on the issues before the committees.

A veteran journalist, the author is a former Political Editor of The Financial Express.


Evolution of the committee system

TO make parliamentary activity more effective and to make the Executive more accountable to the Legislature, a beginning was made in the Eighth Lok Sabha in 1989 by setting up three department-related Subject Committees, one each on agriculture; science and technology; and environment and forests.

In the 10th Lok Sabha the matter was considered by the General Purposes Committee and the Rules Committees of both the Houses at length and a consensus was arrived at that a full-fledged system of departmentally related parliamentary standing committees be created, covering under their jurisdiction all ministries/departments of the Government of India.

The Third Report of the Rules Committee, adopted by the Lok Sabha on March 29, 1993, paved the way for setting up 17 departmentally related standing committees covering under their jurisdiction all ministries/departments of the Union Government.

The earlier three subject committees have been replaced by these standing committees.

The new committee system was inaugurated by the Vice-President and the Chairman, Rajya Sabha, Mr K.R. Narayanan, on March 31, 1993. The committees were constituted soon after and started functioning immediately. It was a historical landmark in the evolution of the committee system in our Parliament.

Each of these standing committees consists of not more than 45 members — 30 to be nominated by the Speaker from amongst the Members of the Lok Sabha and 15 to be nominated by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha , from amongst the Members of the Rajya Sabha.

The term of the members of these committees is not to exceed one year.

The functions of these committees broadly include:

(a) Consideration of demands for grants.

(b) Examination of Bills referred to by the Chairman, Rajya Sabha, or the Speaker, Lok Sabha, as the case may be.

(c) Consideration of annual reports.

(d) Consideration of national basic long-term policy documents presented to the House and referred to the Committee by the Chairman or the Speaker, as the case might be.

The biggest achievement of these standing committees would be that the demands for grants of most of the Ministries/Departments of the Government are scrutinised by at least 45 Members of Parliament. It ensures greater participation of members in deliberating the policies and programmes, plans, projects, the underlining philosophies and their implementation by the government. Previously, because of paucity of time, Parliament was able to scrutinise the demands for grants of only a few ministries each year.

Now, after the general discussion on the Budget is over, the Lok Sabha adjourns for a fixed period and the committees consider the demands for grants during this recess. The demands are thereafter considered by the Lok Sabha in the light of the reports of these committees. The House might confine itself to discussing specific points/recommendations made by the committees and, thus, might be able to discuss the demands of larger number of ministries/departments before the same are voted.

The system is the latest innovation in the ever-evolving process of Parliamentary surveillance over the Executive to ensure its accountability to the common man. The underlying refrain of the examination by these committees is not to duplicate the functions being undertaken by the existing Parliamentary committees and other institutions performing audit, investigative functions, etc. In fact, these committees go into the basic issues which are affecting the very basis of the functioning of a particular ministry or a department. The committees examine the philosophy on which a particular ministry/department’s entire functioning hinges upon. These committees assess a broad policy which a ministry is following in the direction of achieving this philosophy.

The newly constituted departmentally related standing committee system is a path-breaking endeavour of Parliamentary surveillance over administration. With the emphasis on long-term plans, policies and the philosophies guiding the working of the Executive, these committees are proposed to be in a very privileged position to provide necessary direction, guidance and input for broad policy formulations and in achievement of the long-term national perspective by the Executive.


The disillusioned Mohajir
by Harihar Swarup

IN an interview for a government job in Karachi a young man was summarily turned away. The reason: the interviewers discovered that he was a Mohajir. He protested: “I have been duly called and I fulfil all the requirements”. The protest was ignored and as the young man was being elbowed out, he yelled: “I will just now telephone Altaf Bhai”. The guards almost froze; there was a flurry of activities and the young man was ushered in. The stern looking interviewers asked him to identify an object which has wings, flies high and lands at a place resembling a long, straight road. “ It is a very simple question. The object is an aircraft”, replied the young man. “But you have not described the type of aircraft; is it a Boeing, an Air Bus or a transport plane”, one of the interviewers said and rejected the young man for the job. The incident was narrated by a Pakistani journalist, a Mohajir himself, to bring home two points — the hold of self exiled MQM leader Altaf Hussain in Sindh province and the magnitude of discrimination against migrants from India.

Altaf has been saying for years that the edifice of the two-nation theory has already crumbled with the blanket ban imposed by Pakistan on Indian Muslims to migrate to the promised land after 1951. The theory is only a farce because Pakistan was created not for the Muslims living as minorities in certain Indian states but for those belonging to Muslim majority provinces such as Punjab, NWFP, Baluchistan and Sindh. He virtually threw a bombshell last week when he declared in London: “The division of the Indian sub-continent was the biggest blunder in the history of mankind”. Coming from the leader of about 20 million Mohajirs , these words reflect the stark reality in present day Pakistan. Altaf Hussain has himself suffered gross discrimination in Pakistan and indignity after indignity turned him into a rebel and he took up cudgels against Punjabi domination. His speech at Action Town Hall in London was culmination of the disillusionment not only in migrants from India but other non-Punjabi segments in Pakistan.

Altaf’s warning to Pakistani rulers is : “We didn’t want to hear the truth in 1971 and Pakistan broke. If you treat us like slaves, a time will come when we will get independence and you will be without slaves”. In an open letter to “Sindhi brethren”, early this year the MQM supremo declared the Punjabi establishment created its own hegemony over Sindh but the fact remains that “Sindh has been sustaining the burden of Pakistan for the last 52 years. The province has been generating 70 per cent of the total Pakistan revenues. What Sindh is getting in return?”.

The word “Mohajir” has Arabic origin and it means one who takes “panah” (shelter) and the expression was coined and given currency by Altaf Hussain himself. He says that the “Mohajirs” have acquired the status of a “quam” like the “Punjabis” and the “Sindhis”. Now constituting over 20 million-strong community, Mohajirs were refugees who left India for the promised homeland in 1947.

Unlike India, the refugees, hailing from UP, Bihar and the erstwhile state of Hyderabad could not be assimilated in Pakistan and they and their descendants are still considered outsiders by the local people. The “Mohajirs”, according to MQM, were being discriminated against in matter of education, employment, representation in local bodies and the federal government. Altaf Hussain has emerged as the unquestioned leader of Mohajirs, constituting 50 per cent of the population of southern Sindh province; his word is law in Karachi and Hyderabad; a directive from London can bring life in two major cities of Pakistan to a grinding halt.

Now 47, Altaf Bhai has taken a vow not to marry. “I have been already married to MQM”, he asserts. Men and women of all ages call him “Peer Sahib”; literally worship him. Altaf had lived in a moderate house in a middle class locality — Azizabad — in Karachi which is now the headquarters of the MQM. Both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had visited Altaf’s house seeking his help. While Benazir sought his support in the election which made her the Prime Minister for the first term in 1988, Nawaz Sharif once pleaded with him to help in organising a rally in Karachi. The rally was, of course, a thundering success. Visiting heads of state, diplomats and top leaders called on Altaf Bhai at his house number 90 till circumstances forced him to flee Pakistan.

Altaf was born in Karachi and his parents were migrants from Agra. His father was an employee of the East Indian Railways during the British raj and posted as station master at Agra Cantt. A hundred per cent Mohajir, Altaf grew in middle class surroundings in Pakistan and emerged, possibly, as the first non-aristocrat politician of the country. The seeds of the MQM were sown in Jamait Islami and Karachi University where the Mohajirs were subjected to blatant discrimination. The local activists in Jamait used to thrash the migrants from UP, Bihar and other parts of the country and subject them to indignities. “Yeh panahgir hain”(shelter seekers), the locals would taunt. Altaf himself was the victim of the double standard when he was rejected after having qualified for the pharmacy course.

Initially a protective squad of Mohajir young men, drawn from Jamait and Karachi University, was formed with the avowed objective of warding off attacks from local activists. The clashes became a regular feature and a section broke away from Jamait to form the All-Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation (APMSO).The moving spirit behind the APMSO was Altaf and a chunk of the set up comprised students whose parents hailed from undivided India.

The APMSO did not make much headway and it was banned in 1981.But the foundation of MQM was laid. The organisation gained strength as the discrimination against Mohajirs increased. Since 1987 when the MQM contested election for the first time, the organisation has emerged as a powerful political force, holding complete sway over Hyderabad and Karachi towns. Altaf is the unquestioned leader of the MQM and his writ runs like an edic in the southern province of Sindh.


Laloo finally on the net

RASHTRIYA Janata Dal supremo and former Bihar Chief Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav is finally on the net. The RJD supremo, who till the other day maintained that Information Technology and computerisation was not meant for Bihar, has got an e-mail address.

Organisers of the Internet 2000 here were surprised when Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi accompanied by her husband visited the various stalls. It, however, took a unique website to capture Laloo’s attention. is available in 11 Indian languages, including Hindi and Punjabi. Laloo was told that he can e-mail, chat, search, and communicate in Hindi language. Considering the fact that his daughter Misa is married to an IT professional, the maverick politician took little time in opening an e-mail address.

Sevak or Swyamsevak

For long stung by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s felicity with words, the Left has not given up the task of turning tables. This time the score seems 1-0 in the Left’s favour. Anticipating the controversy over his remarks of being a life-long ‘Swyamsevak’ at a VHP function in the USA, the Prime Minister later clarified that he was the nation’s Swyamsevak and nothing else. But is one a ‘sevak’ of the nation or a ‘Swyamsevak,’ Left leaders ask. ‘Swyam’ in ‘Swyamsevak’ has a particular meaning, a particular connotation, emphasises Mr A B Bardhan, senior leader of the CPI. ‘‘Mr Vajpayee was, is and will always remain a Swyamsevak,’’ he asserts.

IT industry prefers Krishna to Mahajan

The ongoing Internet Fair in the Capital, one of the biggest of its kind in Asia, has thrown up a controversy of a different kind. There has been much speculation about the absence of Information Technology Minister Pramod Mahajan at the inauguration of the fair. Was he ignored by the industry?

The organisers have maintained that Mahajan was not ignored and it was a problem of protocol that was responsible for the Minister’s absence. The IT industry was keen to have Karnataka Chief Minister S.M. Krishna as the chief guest. As the hub of IT activity in the country, it was only natural that a representative from Bangalore should have been called.

Another Gandhi makes news

Yet another member from the Nehru-Gandhi family is all set to hog the limelight. Feroze Varun Gandhi is in the news for a different reason. His foray into public life is not as a politician, but, hold your breath, a writer. Feroze has written a book ‘‘The Otherness of Self’’. The book is scheduled for release on October 10 at the Rock Garden in India International Centre.

His mother and Union Minister Maneka Gandhi is very proud of Feroze’s achievement. She is busy extending invitations to friends. Knowing the personality involved, the gathering is bound to be one of who’s who in the capital. After all yet another star is born.

IB lives up to its name

The Intelligence Bureau (IB) believes in living up to its reputation. There is a veil of secrecy in everything that it does.

IB, which hosted a three-day conference of the Directors General of Police here at the Vigyan Bhavan last week, acted in an ‘unintelligent’ manner while inviting the media for the inaugural ceremony.

The IB ignored several beat correspondents of prominent dailies and in its inimitable manner called only a few mediapersons.

The Director, Public Relations (Home) in the Press Information Bureau, who coordinates media coverage for such conferences, was not aware of the select invitation extended to the press.

As if to add insult to injury, the IB insisted that the DPR (Home) and the Information Officer in-charge of the Ministry secure a media card to enter the conference hall. In this case at least the Intelligence Bureau did not live up to its name.

Left sees red

The Left is red with the media. Its charge being that the newspapers seem to be siding with the NDA government in its globalisation drive and pro-market stance and are ignoring the other side of the picture. While going gaga over the visit of IT baron Bill Gates to India, the Indian media did not report about the protests he faced in Australia where he went to see the Olympics, the Left leaders said at a convention recently.

They also seem to be taking no cognisance of happenings in Yugoslavia where workers are asserting their rights. And to the praise lavished by the media on Vajpayee’s US visit, the Left leaders said that India virtually bent on its knees before the superpower. Gone are the days, they said, when India was the natural leader of the third world. While earlier it was looked up to, now it is chasing other countries, the leaders contended. Seems the foreign policies of the Congress have finally found endorsement from the Left.

(Contributed by T.V. Lakshminarayan, Prashant Sood, S. Satyanarayanan and P.N. Andley)


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