Monday, October 2, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E



Sulking stars and others
JUST about the time when Mrs Sushma Swaraj learnt to smile again, Ms Mamata Banerjee threw a tantrum, spoiling the atmosphere at the Cabinet expansion in the Capital.

Handle terrorism firmly
ince India and the USA are two major targets of international terrorism, it is reassuring to see them increasingly cooperate with each other to tackle this menace.


Gandhi’s non-violence
How relevant is it today?
by Jai Narain Sharma
HO could ever imagine on that auspicious day, October 2, 1869, that the male child born in a Bania family at Porbandar in the Kathiawad peninsula would, in the years to come, grow to the fullest stature of human personality to guide the destiny of India intelligently and actively during the days of the freedom movement and to leave behind a name to be cherished?

World Bank’s concern over S. Asian conflicts
by S. Sethuraman
AS a region, South Asia was the fastest growing developing region in 1999 with 5.4 per cent, though entrenched poverty remains the greatest challenge.


A catalyst for responsive governance
October 1, 2000
Putin brews double visit
September 30, 2000
One more “patent” victory
September 29, 2000
End of Olympic road
September 28, 2000
Putin as Russian President
September 27, 2000
Hapless growers
September 26, 2000
Between India & USA
September 25, 2000
Problems of plenty hurt farmers’ interest
September 24, 2000
India quits Sierra Leone
September 23, 2000
Vajpayee's U.S. Yatra
September 22, 2000
Beyond Malleswari’s
September 21, 2000


A dream
by J.L. Gupta
gnorance is a great bliss. For years I was smoking. I thought it was the most innocent pleasure. Despite the fact that every year the Finance Minister used to enhance the tax or duty on cigarettes. However, the price had never interferred with the pleasure. At least till October 10, 1996. That fateful morning my gracious and kind wife had suddenly announced that cigarettes had become very expensive. Almost prohibitive.



Anupam Gupta
Law bites, even if it bites only has-beens
THE law will take its course,” was Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao’s great boast as Prime Minister, behind which lay a cynically consummate strategy of prosecution of political rivals and their delegitimisation under colour of judicial morality.


by Humra Quraishi
Non-stop German festivities
HE Germans have arrived! No, not to be taken amiss. Even though we may be moving backwards but the Germans have definitely moved ahead, from those dark days of the 1940s.





Sulking stars and others

JUST about the time when Mrs Sushma Swaraj learnt to smile again, Ms Mamata Banerjee threw a tantrum, spoiling the atmosphere at the Cabinet expansion in the Capital. Most other allies are not overly pleased and demonstrated their feelings by boycotting the function. But none made threatening noises as the mighty madam from West Bengal did. The DMK is upset that the party leadership was not consulted before one of its nominees, Mr A.Raja, was shifted to a new Ministry. The Shiv Sena is only partly mollified at the allotment of the prestigeous Power Ministry to its member Mr Suresh Prabhu. (There are rumours that big names in the petroleum and chemicals sector worked for his ouster, irritated at his policies and the way he was pursuing them.) True, he is the favourite of Mr Bal Thackeray who would have felt fully vindicated if former Chief Minister Manohar Joshi had moved into a more powerful Ministry from the steadily shrinking Heavy Industry. Part of the disenchantment of the allies stems from their total exclusion from the exercise. All six entrants are from the BJP and some heavyweights have not found favour. Delhi’s Mr V.K.Malhotra is again out though he is both a disciplined leader and a former Chief Executive Councillor of the sixties vantage, equivalent to being Chief Minister. What is more, he took on Mr Manmohan Singh and carried the day in the South Delhi constituency. Once again his claim has been ignored and another former Delhi Chief Minister has got the nod. Ms Swaraj owes her luck to the sympathy and strenuous efforts of Home Minister Advani who pressed her case with considerable vigour and made the Prime Minister yield. The induction of Mr Venkaiah Naidu represents a role reversal. Mr Advani wanted him out of the government, saying he was doing a good job as party spokesman. But BJP president Bangaru Laxman, a fellow Andhrite, wanted him out of the party and the Prime Minister obliged him. Mr Naidu’s portfolio, Rural Development, throws the spotlight on Mr Sundarlal Patwa, who is critically ill.

The Prime Minister hopes that he and his trouble-shooter Mr Fernandes will be able to persuade Ms Banerjee to take back her resignation and remain in the Cabinet. But she may not as she faces three genuine and one grave problems because of the increase in the prices of petroleum products. It will hit the poor people who are additionally hard hit by the worst flood in several years. Two, fierce opposition will help her counter the campaign the CPM-led front is sure to launch against the additional burden. Three, railway officials have told her that the 17 per cent hike in diesel cost will mean an extra expenditure of nearly Rs 500 crore and that, in turn, would mean a sharp deterioration in railway finances or higher passenger fares. The Railway Minister wants to project a pro-poor image of herself and will not agree to any of the suggestions. But her biggest headache is the Centre’s lukewarm response to her latest appeal for flood relief. As a Minister a big part of the popular anger over their present or future suffering will fall on her and her party and she has to duck it and resignation suggests itself as the only way out. Additionally, she wants to devote all her time and energy to whip her supporters into shape to confront the well-oiled election machinery of the CPM in the coming Assembly election. She had discussed this with Mr Advani and tentatively fixed an October date. She has now advanced it by a week or two. She does not have much time; she realises that she has failed to win over the Muslim vote and her alliance with the BJP is the cause. Also, she is eyeing a tie-up with the Congress and this chance has brightened after Mr Pranab Mukherjee’s nomination as the state party chief. All this makes a powerful case for her dissociation with the central government which, however, faces no threat as her party’s nine MPs will not vote against it. What she does on Wednesday when the three-day ultimatum expires will be interesting to watch.


Handle terrorism firmly

Since India and the USA are two major targets of international terrorism, it is reassuring to see them increasingly cooperate with each other to tackle this menace. At the Joint Working Group (JWG) meeting on counter-terrorism in New Delhi the other day, the two countries agreed on a number of steps to be taken collectively to provide a definite thrust to the task of preventing any further spread of terrorism in South Asia. If this task is pursued with the requisite seriousness, it should be possible to bring various terrorist groups under tremendous pressure and finally make them run for cover. The cult of terrorism must be handled firmly and decisively.

There has of late been a geographical shift in the activities of terrorists towards South Asia. Afghanistan under the Taliban has become the "primary swamp of terrorism", harbouring militants from the region as also from other part of the world. The Taliban, as is now known, has been providing logistic support to the militants in Kashmir and to a number of terrorist organisations in Central Asia, including Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Even Egypt and Algeria are facing problems because of their activities. This factual position was well-presented before the International Relations Committee of the US Congress by Mr Michael A. Sheehan, Ambassador and US Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism. He headed the American team for the two-day parleys in New Delhi. The fact that the Indo-American meeting has taken place within a few days of Mr Vajpayee's return from the USA shows the seriousness with which the two countries have decided to tackle this problem.

Containing terrorism, however, is not an easy task. It requires well-coordinated and determined efforts on the part of the international community. The spread of terrorism is actually directly linked with the clandestine supply of arms and drug-trafficking. There is also the problem of religious fanaticism because of the misinterpretation of the Islamic concept of jehad. This has inducted a new element of fanaticism in the spread of terrorism. And religious fanaticism, especially of the Taliban variety, cannot be countered on paper. It requires an effective plan of action and coordinated efforts to eliminate terrorist training camps and seal the numerous channels of funding.

India has been trying hard to draw the attention of the international community to the menace of trans-border terrorism. It has often pointed an accusing finger at Islamabad, but not quite successfully. Ironically, it was American support which had at one stage emboldened Pakistan to spread its nefarious activities with a view to grabbing Kashmir by hook or by crook. Today, there is a distinct change in the US attitude. It seems to be fully realising the big danger posed by the terrorist menace to civilised norms and democratic and secular values of the free world. If India and the USA coordinate their efforts honestly and stand firm, the problem can be contained effectively. Much will depend on how far the US administration is prepared to go to discipline the military regime in Islamabad. This will require a drastic revision of the USA's strategic calculations. It must come out of its cold war mindset and respond sincerely to Prime Minister Vajpayee's declaration that India and the USA are "natural allies", notwithstanding the new Russian factor vis-a-vis Pakistan. India's sentimental declaration will now be tested on the touchstone of the US willingness to go along with this country for curbing terrorism in South Asia and beyond.


Gandhi’s non-violence
How relevant is it today?
by Jai Narain Sharma

WHO could ever imagine on that auspicious day, October 2, 1869, that the male child born in a Bania family at Porbandar in the Kathiawad peninsula would, in the years to come, grow to the fullest stature of human personality to guide the destiny of India intelligently and actively during the days of the freedom movement and to leave behind a name to be cherished? This child was none other than Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, popularly known as Mahatma Gandhi.

For two generations, from Uttamchand Gandhi, the grandfather of Mohandas, the Gandhis had been the Diwans in many Kathiawad princely states, which were under the suzerainty of the British. Karamchand Gandhi, the father of Mohandas, was the Diwan of Porbandar, Rajkot and Venkaner princely states at different periods. Mohandas was the youngest son of Karamchand Gandhi. Destiny willed that this son of a Diwan should advocate a popular government in the Indian princely states.

Most British politicians, civil servants and journalists tended to view Gandhi primarily as an astute politician determined to destroy the British Raj. As late as February, 1947, Lord Wavell, the last but one Viceroy, in a letter to King George VI, described Gandhi as “a most inveterate enemy of the British”. It was not easy for the guardians of the British Raj to see the intellectual and moral roots of the struggle for political liberation under Gandhi’s leadership. They failed to see that this struggle was directed not against Britain or the British people, but against British imperialism. They failed to appreciate what was most important from Gandhi’s standpoint — the non-violent basis of the struggle. Indeed, they doubted whether it could remain non-violent, and in any case they saw no particular virtue in being evicted from India non-violently.

Gandhi’s nationalism was no narrow creed. As far back as 1924, in his presidential address to the Belgaum Congress, he said: “The better mind of the world desires today not absolutely independent states, warring against one another, but a federation of friendly inter-dependent states”. He even envisaged the retention of the British connection after India attained Independence “on perfectly honourable and absolutely equal terms,” thus forecasting the conversion of the British Commonwealth from a white man’s club into the multi-racial Commonwealth of today. Twenty years after Gandhi’s death, British historian Arnold Toynbee aptly described Gandhi “as much a benefactor of Britain as of his own country. He made it impossible for us to go on ruling India, but at the same time he made it possible for us to abdicate without rancour and without dishonour.”

Gandhi devoted the best part of his life to one crucial problem: how to perfect and extend ahimsa (non-violence) in human relationships. For him, the validity of non-violence was independent of his own success or failure. His criticisms of Western materialism and militarism in Hind Swaraj were made five years before the outbreak of World War-I, when Europe was at the zenith of its prestige and power. These criticisms might have appeared quixotic years ago, but today, as the world trembles on the brink of a third world war, they seem prophetic.

By spurning material progress at the cost of moral values, and by irrevocably renouncing violence, Gandhi took a line in direct opposition to the two dominant ideologies of the twentieth century, capitalism and communism. He visualised and worked for a society which would provide for the essential needs of the community (and no more), and in which the decentralisation of economic and political structures would minimise the incentives for exploitation within and conflict without. Such a society could, he believed, dispense with the coercive apparatus of the modern state, and depend upon non-violent techniques not only to maintain order but also to protect itself against external aggression.

It is difficult to say whether Gandhi’s dream will come true. Nations, like individuals, are tempted to continue along the beaten path, even though it may end in a blind alley. Gandhi knew the difficulties of translating his non-violent dream into a reality. But he refused to compromise on what he held to be the fundamentals. To the last he affirmed that even good ends do not justify dubious means; that our real enemies are our own fears, greed and egotisms; that we must change ourselves before we can change others; that the laws of the family, of truth and love and charity are applicable to groups, communities and nations; and above all, that “non-violence is the law of our species, as violence is the law of the brute. ” To those who are charged with the destinies of nations, all this may sound a very desirable but distant ideal. Yet, in the thermo-nuclear age, if human civilisation is not to disintegrate into a mass of torn flesh and molten metal, the premises of Gandhi have an immediate relevance.

The world is swept by the wind of violence. This storm which ravages the harvest of our civilisation did not break out from a clear sky. Centuries of brutal national pride, whetted by the idolatrous ideology of several religions and crowned by a century of inhuman industrialism, rapacious plutocracy and a materialistic system of economics where the soul perishes, stifled to death, were bound to culminate in these dark struggles in which the treasures of West succumbed. It is not enough to say that all this was inevitable. Each people kill the other in the name of the same principles, which hid the same covetousness and Cainish instincts. All — be they nationalist, fascists, communists, members of the oppressed classes and members of the oppressing classes — claim that they have the right to use force while refusing this right to others. In the past might dominated right. Today things are far worse. Might is right. Might has devoured right.

Prof J.D. Sethi has termed this phenomenon as International Economic Darwinism, which is a set of relations between nations and people on the principle of survival of the fittest except that nations or peoples do not disappear, only because it is neither in the interest of the fittest nor in their power to make the unfit completely disappear. They are obliged to make the least fit survive but only marginally or as destitutes living in ghettos.’ Modern Darwinism, showing that under all assumptions made so far, no matter how the present order is recorded, will allow the weaker and more unfit to survive but as dependents.

The peace of the world is far off. We have no illusions. We have seen, abundantly, during the course of the last century, the hypocrisy, cowardice and cruelty of mankind. “But this does not prevent us from loving mankind,” asserts Romain Rolland, a French biographer of Mahatma Gandhi. “For even among the worst there is a nescio quid Dei. We know the material ties that weigh on the world today, the crushing determinism of economic conditions which hem it in; we know that centuries of passion and systematised terror have built a crust about our souls which the light cannot pierce. But we also know what miracles the spirit can work.”

The true characteristic of faith is not to deny the hostility of the world, but to recognise it and to believe in spite of it! Faith is a battle. And our non-violence is the most desperate battle. The way to peace is not through weakness. We do not fight violence so much as weakness. Nothing is worthwhile unless it is strong — neither good nor evil. Absolute evil is better than emasculated goodness. Moaning pacifism is the death-knell of peace; it is cowardice and lack of faith. Let those who do not believe, who fear, withdraw. The way to peace passes through self-sacrifice.

The writer is Chairman, Department of Gandhian Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh.


Yogi’s influence on Gandhi

THE all-time spiritual classic, “Autobiography of a Yogi”, which was recently selected as one of the 100 best spiritual books, is authored by the spiritual giant, Paramahansa Yogananda he once said, “A group of young men whom I had known in college approached me during World War-I and urged me to lead a revolutionary movement. I declined with these words: ‘Killing our English brothers cannot accomplish any good for India. Her freedom will not come through bullets, but through spiritual force’... Abandoning their belief in violence, several of them joined Gandhiji’s ideal political movement. In the end, they saw India’s victory in a ‘war’ won by peaceful means.”

Some 30 years before Indian Independence, Paramahansa Yogananda — one of the great saints of modern India — had predicted that India would free itself from the yoke of foreign rule through non-violent means.

Yoganandaji and Mahatma Gandhi had deep love and respect for each other. Gandhiji paid a visit in 1925 to Paramahansaji’s ashram and school for boys in Ranchi, the Yogoda Satsanga ashram and Brahmacharya Vidyalaya. “This institution,” the Mahatma wrote in the guest book there, “has deeply impressed my mind.”

In 1935, Yoganandaji visited Gandhiji’s ashram in Wardha. While a guest there, he initiated the “father” of the nation and several of his followers in the liberating yogic science of Kriya Yoga at Gandhiji’s request. The keen intelligence of the Mahatma had gauged the necessity of controlling and ultimately freeing oneself from limited human perceptions by practising a scientific method of life energy control, the practice of which leads one to the highest states of consciousness.

Yoganandaji’s love for Gandhiji found a tangible outward expression on August 20, 1950, when the former dedicated the Mahatma Gandhi World Peace Memorial at the Self-Realisation Fellowship Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades, California. “Alone among great leaders,” said Paramahansaji, “Gandhiji has offered a practical non-violent alternative to armed might. The non-violent voice of Gandhiji appeals to man’s highest consciousness. Let nations ally themselves no longer with death, but with life; not with destruction, but with construction; not hate, but with the creative miracles of love.”

During the dedication, a portion of Gandhiji’s ashes, encased in a brass and silver coffer, was enshrined in a thousand-year-old stone sacrophagus. The ashes had been sent to Yoganandaji by an old friend, Dr V.M. Nawle, a publisher and journalist from Pune, who knew of the deep spiritual bond between the two great men. Following the dedication of the memorial, Dr Nawle wrote: “Regarding Gandhi ashes, I may say that (they) are scattered and thrown in almost all the important rivers and seas, and nothing is given outside India except the remains which I have sent you after a great ordeal... You make India and the whole world shy, as you are the first in erecting a Gandhi Memorial. You are the only one in the whole world who received Gandhi ashes outside India.”

In “The Divine Romance,” another fascinating book, Paramahansaji says, “Gandhi does not wear the loincloth for publicity or effect, but because millions in India cannot afford to wear more.


World Bank’s concern over S. Asian conflicts
by S. Sethuraman

AS a region, South Asia was the fastest growing developing region in 1999 with 5.4 per cent, though entrenched poverty remains the greatest challenge. The World Bank says “conflict situations” are diverting public resources from poverty alleviation and human resource development.

The region’s striking growth performance is spurred by the over 6 per cent growth in India with its “expanding commitment” to a broad range of reforms at the national level and in some key state, as well as rising business confidence, the Bank says.

In its annual report, the World Bank referred to Indo-Pakistan tensions over Kashmir commanding large defence expenditures and the G-7 sanctions following the nuclear weapon tests in India and Pakistan in 1998.

Pakistan’s economy slowed down to 3.1 per cent, the weak performance reflecting political uncertainties following the military coup, serious balance of payments difficulties as well as weak external markets. As against a commitment of 1.8 billion dollars to India in the fiscal year ending June, 2000, Pakistan received no new World Bank loan/credit approvals.

Notwithstanding its projection of the grim realities in South Asia, home to 40 per cent of world’s poor — 500 million people living no less than a dollar a day — and the highest illiteracy rate and other social deprivations, the Bank’s lending to the region has slowed down.

India’s servicing of debt on past loans has been exceeding annual disbursements resulting in net transfers to the Bank (450 million dollars in fiscal 2000 and 2.5 billion over a five-year period). For the region as a whole, it was negative net transfer in fiscal 2000.

While recording Bangladesh’s healthy growth at 5.2 per cent last year, the Bank said political strikes were costing the economy an estimated $ 60 million for each day lost.

The upheavals in the region, including the escalation in the civil conflict in Sri Lanka and political instability in Nepal, limit South Asia’s ability to attract foreign investment critical to growth and poverty reduction South Asia gets a mere 1 per cent of the total capital market flows to developing countries.

The Bank’s new commitments to India are focussed on building partnerships with reforming states. After Andhra Pradesh, where in 1998 the Bank extended its first loan for economic restructuring at the state level, Uttar Pradesh has been extended half a dozen approvals totalling some $ 700 million during fiscal 2000. Power sector restructuring and fiscal reforms and public sector restructuring projects are covered in the promised assistance. The Bank is already appraising economic reform loans for Karnataka.

The Bank says India’s large deficits at the central and state levels have obstructed poverty reduction by putting macro-economic stability at risk, diverting financing from the private sector, and limiting state spending on health, education and infrastructure.

The World Bank Group’s (Bank and IDA) global commitments sharply declined to $ 15.3 billion in fiscal 2000 from 29 billion in 1999 while disbursements also fell to 18.5 billion from 24 billion in the previous year. The Bank attributes the lower lending volume to the recovery of global financial markets from the 1997-98 Asian crisis and to the reduced demand for Bank funds.

From an average of $ 21 billion in the decade till 1997, total lending had risen to $ 28-29 billion in the next two years in the after-math of the Asian financial crisis before declining to $ 15.3 billion in fiscal 2000.

The Bank concludes that the recovery in global trade and the firming of commodity prices would permit more “self-financing” of development by different countries. The countries which rely heavily on trade and attract more foreign direct investment are most likely to sustain growth.

This is obvious but the Bank admits that Africa’s progress cannot keep pace with its poverty in a continent ravaged by conflicts and AIDS. Even in recovering East Asia, the Bank says the overhang of domestic bad debt clouds the picture. The crisis-hit countries are yet to accomplish restructuring of banks and corporations to restore their financial viability. Job losses and lower real wages have increased economic insecurity in some countries.

The East Asian miracle is now a thing of the past as “long-term prospects hinge on unleashing new productivity-induced growth, which depends on effective regulation and governance and prudent macro-economic management”.

Of the $ 3 billion committed in fiscal 2000 for East Asia and the Pacific, China accounted for $ 1.7 billion. Unlike India, China had positive net transfer of $ 476 million in the year but Indonesia continued to suffer from negative transfers to talling $ 4.5 billion in five years ending 2000. Commitments to Africa were worth $ 2.2. billion, almost in IDA soft credits, half of which went to sub-Saharan Africa.

The Bank’s strategy has undergone significant shifts (which also explains the lower lending) with greater attention to smaller-sized operations in social sectors instead of large infrastructure projects where, it contends, the private sector is assuming a growing role. Selectivity and aid effectiveness are the criteria.


A dream
by J.L. Gupta

Ignorance is a great bliss. For years I was smoking. I thought it was the most innocent pleasure. Despite the fact that every year the Finance Minister used to enhance the tax or duty on cigarettes. However, the price had never interferred with the pleasure. At least till October 10, 1996. That fateful morning my gracious and kind wife had suddenly announced that cigarettes had become very expensive. Almost prohibitive. I must stop smoking. And I had. Without any ado.

However, my wife’s sense of success was short-lived. I had taken to tea. In good measure. A litre every morning. And it has been great. Very satisfying. It has been going on for the last few years.

Come September. The morning paper of the 30th announced the government’s decision to raise the price of petroleum products. Also gas. And my wife immediately ordered the stoppage of my tea. Boiling water four times every day, in substantial quantity, is prohibitive. It cannot continue. Plain “nimboo paani”. With honey. Healthy for the person and good for the purse. Saves the body from the ill effects of tanin and reduces the burden. No argument. No plea. The order was not subject to any appeal or review. It was final. It was put into operation with immediate effect.

I tried to tell her that with the raise in the price, another instalment of DA would soon be sanctioned. She would be duly compensated. There was no reason to enforce “prohibition” against my morning tea. She did not relent. And, much against my wishes, I have been forced to do without my morning “cups”.

I was angry. Miserable. I did not know what to do. I look around. We have the ONGC, the Oil and Natural Gas Commission. It talks of Bombay High. The oil exploration. The oil refineries being set up. Through every nook and corner of the country. Barrels and barrels of crude oil. Lots of gas. In fact, the commission gasses about the gas every day.

Yet, we import. At a very heavy price. And the bill is rising every year. It is a heavy burden. Thus, the periodic price rise.

Why do we spend so much? Can we not reduce consumption? Is there no way to lessen the burden? I imagine simple solutions. Why do we not make it difficult for everyone to waste? Or encourage everyone to save? Can we not control consumption? At all levels. How? I was restless. Unable to sleep. After sometime Ms Calm Sleep dawned. And I dreamt.

What? The government has decided to lead by example. It has decided to do away with government cars. Except in a few cases where it is unavoidable for reasons of security, everyone shall surrender the official vehicle. The ministers, the judges and all the bureaucrats. Instead, there shall be good airconditioned coaches. As in the advanced West. To pick up everyone in the morning. From everywhere. Drop them back in the evening. If someone is forced to remain in office after the normal working hours, he can be dropped in a car. Similarly, for those going on tours, the use of public transport system shall be imperative. A car could be provided for local use, if necessary.

And more than that, I saw that the things had vastly improved. The local and public transport systems had changed beyond recognition. Even the roads and other facilities had improved. While cruising along a multi-lane highway in a dreamland, I was suddenly awakened by the telephone ring. To find myself in the sweaty bed. There was no electricity. The fan was off.

With that the new day began. No tea. No airconditioned coaches. But shall the dream become a reality? Ever? If yes, it would surely mean some inconvenience to some people. For some time. But in the long run, it must prove useful. It would reduce the consumption. Substantially. More than that, it would improve the local and public transport systems. Still further, the presence of senior people in the vehicles would check the prevailing malpractices. Like the conductors not issuing tickets despite collecting money from the passengers. Ultimately, the government’s revenue would improve. The valuable and scarce foreign exchange shall be saved. And I might begin to get my mugs of good tea.

Shall I? Or would it remain only a dream? Let us all wait and see.


Law bites, even if it bites only has-beens
Anupam Gupta

THE law will take its course,” was Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao’s great boast as Prime Minister, behind which lay a cynically consummate strategy of prosecution of political rivals and their delegitimisation under colour of judicial morality. The boast devoured its author last week on September 29 as Rao came out of Special Judge Ajit Bharihoke’s makeshift court at Vigyan Bhavan complex in New Delhi, a crestfallen criminal convict awaiting sentence.

Convicting a former Prime Minister is, of course, quite a different proposition than convicting a Prime Minister in office and one must not get carried away by the judicial courage in delivering what is, in the ultimate analysis, a politically safe verdict.

Disliked and disliked immensely by two of India’s most important Prime Ministers-in-waiting — L.K. Advani on the one hand, and Sonia Gandhi on the other — and hobbling helplessly against age, Rao has perhaps the least viable political future amongst the star-studded gallery of accused in the JMM case. If at all he has any future.

It would be naive, therefore, to trace in Judge Bharihoke’s verdict, as the Press and public opinion would now be inclined to do, that quality of personal courage which lay behind, say, Allahabad High Court Judge Jagmohan Lal Sinha’s judgement against Indira Gandhi in 1975, a judgement which, for all its legal fallibility, remains unparalleled till date as a symbol of judicial courage and independence.

But to place the September 29 JMM verdict in context is not to rob it of its value or to deny credit where it is due.

The “rule of law hangs limp or barks but never bites,” Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer complained in 1978, a perception shared by many, if not most. The JMM verdict does surely bite, and bites pretty sharply, even if it bites only a has-been.

The degeneration of India’s political class is one of the most paradoxical manifestations of its success as a democracy. And the JMM case, a case of a Prime Minister outrightly bribing or purchasing MPs for defeating a no-confidence motion in Parliament, one of the most dramatic illustrations that history can provide of that degeneration.

Had the verdict gone the other way, had Mr Narasimha Rao too been acquitted despite the testimony of JMM MP-turned-approver Shailendra Mahato and the corroborative recovery of the bribe money from a South Delhi bank, where it had been so blithely deposited (India’s politicians are dishonest in a remarkably honest way), the country’s criminal justice system would have disgraced itself for good.

The testimony and the recovery (or proof of deposit) added upto a mountain of evidence which no judge could afford to wink at except at the cost of his own fair name.

Faced with such evidence, Judge Bharihoke could have acquitted Narasimha Rao only at the risk of convicting himself permanently in the court of history.

Every judge who judges is judged by his own judgement. Difficult though this dialectic is oftentimes to understand, especially by the practitioners of judicial power, it is an ineluctable part of the struggle for truth and justice.

That the former Prime Minister was only a bribe-giver and not the bribe-taker, and that the prosecution of the bribe-takers, a wholly disreputable lot, was quashed by the Supreme Court by a majority decision in 1998 for reason of their constitutional immunity under Article 105 (2) — a decision which I believe was absolutely correct despite the barrage of criticism that it continues to attract — must surely add to the historic irony of Mr Rao’s conviction.

As the wily author of the hawala prosecutions, the credit for which was rather unfairly (between him and the court) taken by the Supreme Court, prosecutions which he devised and initiated ostensibly under judicial pressure but actually in pursuit of electoral triumph and a second term in office, the former Prime Minister will find it impossible to mentally reconcile with his own conviction in the JMM case even as all the accused in the hawala case, or almost all of them, stand discharged.

“In 1996, a few months before the general election,” editor Vir Sanghvi wrote in The Hindustan Times yesterday on October 1, (and I cannot improve upon him), “Rao sensed that public anger against corruption had reached such levels that the electorate would cheer at the sight of politicians being escorted to Tihar in handcuffs. Accordingly, he dusted off the old hawala case, investigations into which had been proceeding at a stately pace.”

If Rao, said Sanghvi, did really engage in some serious reflection as he heard Bharihoke pronounce his verdict, he may have recognised that his present predicament was almost entirely a consequence of his own hawala conspiracy. Till hawala, no one had dared charge politicians with corruption. Even judges were reluctant to pass verdicts against political leaders. But hawala changed all the rules.

“Rao had been right about one thing. The public did thrill to the sight of politicians in handcuffs. Like the crowds around the guillotine during the French revolution, they wanted more blood and more heads.

“But the head they wanted the most was Narasimha Rao’s.”

He who lives by the judicial sword, one is tempted to add, will perish by that sword.


Non-stop German festivities
Humra Quraishi

THE Germans have arrived! No, not to be taken amiss. Even though we may be moving backwards but the Germans have definitely moved ahead, from those dark days of the 1940s. On September 30 the German Festival in India began here, with the inaugural event - Bavarian State Ballet - “the curtain raiser to the non-stop festivities spanning the next six months...” Though the list of these festivities is right here, in front of me, but how do I manage to overcome the space constraints and list out the events. Okay, let me give it a try - a photo exhibition on ‘New Architecture in Berlin’, an exhibition on contemporary arts and crafts from Germany and another on the medieval art from Germany, seminars and symposiums on Indo-German relations and viewpoints vis-a-vis foreign policy, regional security, economic ties, intercultural relations etc. I could go on and on but let me sum up by saying that they have taken care to reach out (to us) with Germany’s very best. Thankfully they are not confining these events/activities to just the metropolitans, but taking them to 26 of our cities and towns.

Cabinet Secretary and his poetic flow
The month will see some major changes taking place in the bureaucratic set-up at the Centre. For a starter of sorts, is the announcement of the new Cabinet Secretary. Along the expected lines he is Mr T.R. Prasad, a 1963 batch IAS from the Andhra Pradesh cadre, said to be one of the favourites of Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu.

No definite news of what lies in store for the outgoing Cabinet Secretary Prabhat Kumar. If nothing else he could bank on his poetic flow and at long last get his poetry collection published. Though Kumar has been writing poetry even before he joined the administrative service but till date hasn’t had them published. “I must have written over two thousand poems. In fact, I wrote one of my earliest poems when I was 20 years old, whilst I was holidaying in Nainital... “And today he renders those lines with much intensity although over four decades have passed “...yeh udasi ka alam/yeh sitaron ka khahar/oos par soti hue biti ratein/yeh tanha se, paraishan se, bechain se darrakht/yeh bahti hue sateh/geet yeh manuhaar ke/bheegai hua saahil/har kaam par roshan/wohi chaide hua naghme/har taar par jhankaar/bojhil sanse...”

And though I am tempted to but I simply hate to translate poetic lines, for somewhere along the way the very essence gets lost. And since these lines are in Hindustani, so I am sure all of you can comprehend their sheer intensity, their very reach. And he has broken a trend of sorts — the impression that romance/romantic poetry doesn’t really fit with the image of the bureaucrat lies broken. His lines could be a starter of sorts for those of you (bureaucrats) who want to come out in the open and release a romantic verse or two. Why not? It will get you closer to human beings.

More news from the so-called culture sphere
Foremost, I think one of the true lovers of art/culture in the city is the former President of India, Mr R. Venkataraman. Often I see him quietly (that is, without the apparent presence of those security bandobasts protecting VVIP limbs) entering the main auditoriums of IIC and IHC and after viewing the performance making a quieter exit. Last Monday at Kaushalya Reddy’s kuchipudi dance programme at the IIC one wouldn’t have even known that this former President was sitting in the audience if they hadn’t mentioned.

Then, Muzaffar Ali is said to be making a film on the life and times of Begum Akhtar. Anyway, I have already written enough on her but just this additional bit — two well known writers of the capital are even penning books on her. Lets see how much they manage to unearth. Muzaffar, on his part, is coming down from Lucknow to attend the programme lined up for October 6. In fact, I last met him about a month back(at Deepmala Mohan’s rendering of folk songs) and he was nursing a fractured elbow. Enquiries brought forth that he was driving and the car turned turtle. Sure that only little Marutis can commit such blunders, I committed a blunder of sorts when I quipped “You must be driving a Maruti!” He glared and muttered “No I drive a Mercedes!”.

Gandhi award to Dr Pusztai
And on this Gandhi Jayanti Day, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology and the International Forum for Food and Agriculture are giving the Gandhi Award to Dr Arpad Pusztai, Professor Emeritus, Rowett Research Institution, UK, “for upholding the tradition of truth and non-violence in Science!”

Together with this award presentation there stand arranged, at the IIC, a series of lectures on ‘rejuvenating the tradition of non-violence in food production”. Food for thought!Top



Aum, may He protect us.

May He be pleased with us.

May we work together with vigour.

May our studies illumine us.

May we have no contention or hostility

between us.

Aum, peace, peace, peace.
—Krishna Yajurveda, Taittiriiya Upanishad, 2. 1. 1.


Today, at the beginning of this sacrifice, we fervently pray for protection to the Supreme Being. He is the ruler of speech. May our minds rest in Him. He is the source of all benevolence and well-being. All His actions are excellent. May He accept all the fruits or our sacrifices and protect us always.
—Rig Veda, 10. 81. 7.


I salute that divine being who is described in all the Vedas; Whom Gods such as Brahma, Varuna, Indira and Rudra praise all the time; Whom a yogi sitting in meditation realizes in his own heart, Whose limit cannot be seen by anybody.
—Shrimad Bhagavatam, XII. 13. 1.


Ever since, O Lord, I took refuge at Thy feet

I have not worshipped any other God!

Ram and Rahim: the Puranas and the Koran call Thee,

The Vedas, the smritis and also the Shastras

Have multifarious names for Thee who art one!

But O Lord, I have faith in none besides Thee….

After leaving all other doors, Lord,

I have come to Thy door!

O make me Thine, since once

Thou didst call me Thine Own:

I Gobind, who am but Thy humblest servant.
—Guru Gobind Singh, Ramavatar, Epilogue.


The scripture moveth us, In sundry places to acknowledge and confess our manifold sins and wickedness.
—Morning prayer, Minister's opening words


As the baggage is to an army, so is riches to virtue. It cannot be spared nor left behind, but hindereth the March…
—Bacon, Of Riches


As the riches grow, care follows, and a thrist

For more and more.
—Horace, Odes, III, 16

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