Sunday, November 5, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Wanted long-term defence planning
Elite indifferent to national security
Even 53 years after independence there is no clear understanding among our leaders, our political class, our bureaucracy, business establishment and intellectuals about the nature of the security problem India faces.



By Harihar Swarup
The man who will replace Jyoti Basu
yoti Babu is Jyoti Babu and it will be difficult to fill the void when he steps down on Monday (November 6) as West Bengal’s Chief Minister to make way for his deputy, Buddhadev Bhattacharya”, say senior CPM leaders.



Barnala does it the Punjabi way
R Surjit Singh Barnala apparently wants to assert his Punjabi identity while taking over as the first Governor of the new State of Uttaranchal. According to available indications, he intends to drive down from Chandigarh to Dehra Dun via Paonta Sahib. 



Crime and politics
November 4, 2000
Cricket jurisprudence
November 3, 2000
Bold indictment
November 2, 2000
Azhar, Ajay and avarice
November 1, 2000
Contest, no challenge 
October 31, 2000
Kanishka: end of a long wait
October 30, 2000
Do we deserve this police?
October 29, 2000
Who is afraid of poll?
October 28, 2000
Change of guard in UP
October 26, 2000
Historic handshake
October 25, 2000
Left out in the cold
October 24, 2000

Indian secularism in peril
By Abu Abraham
HEN two elephants fight, so goes the saying, it’s the grass that perishes. So when the Pope periodically reminds us that the new millennium is for him to “harvest”, the RSS ideologues equally often tell us that the minorities had better take steps to “Indianise” themselves if they want to be acceptable to the majority community. Top


Wanted long-term defence planning
Elite indifferent to national security

Even 53 years after independence there is no clear understanding among our leaders, our political class, our bureaucracy, business establishment and intellectuals about the nature of the security problem India faces. This is illustrated by the fact that though India has declared itself a state with nuclear weapons and the National Security Advisory Board's nuclear doctrine has been publicised, there has been no significant debate on this vital security issue in the country among the political parties and in Parliament. So is the case with the Kargil Review Committee's report. This is the situation after this country has fought five wars. The problem with our country is not the Gandhian approach and values but our centuries old indifference to who rules us.

Mr Altaf Gauhar an eminent Pakistani columnist, who was Information Adviser to General Ayub Khan, wrote a series of articles in the Pakistani daily Nation in September and October, 1999, after the Kargil war under the title "Four wars and one assumption". He argued that Pakistan started all the four wars under one assumption which was articulated by General Ayub Khan. The latter genuinely believed "as a general rule Hindu morale would not stand more than a couple of hard blows at the right time and place."

Today Pakistani generals write about bleeding India through a thousand cuts. They have been talking about fatigue setting in the Indian Army because of its continuous deployment in counter-terrorist operations and its declining efficiency as a fighting force in consequence. Lieut-General Javed Nasir, the former head of the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), wrote in early 1999 that "the Indian Army is incapable of undertaking any conventional operations at present, what to talk of enlarging conventional conflict." It was this mindset which led to the Kargil adventure.

The Kargil Review Committee report confirms the 1987 nuclear threat officially conveyed to India through Ambassador S.K. Singh, posted in Islamabad and of fears of a possible Pakistani nuclear strike in 1990. Yet the country's media, academia and Parliament have not bothered to discuss the nuclear dimension of the security issue. It would appear that one of the most difficult challenges to its security India faces is the general indifference to security on the part of the elite.

The Kargil Review Committee has recommended that the National Security Council, the senior bureaucracy servicing it and the service chiefs need to be continually sensitised to assessed intelligence pertaining to national, regional and international security issues and, therefore, there should be periodic intelligence briefings to the Cabinet Committee on Security with all supporting staff in attendance. There is reluctance both on the part of politicians and bureaucracy to devote time and effort for the purpose.

It is considered adequate if people are briefed when the need for it arises. This attitude is similar to the one exhibited by some political leaders who raised the question about the threat that developed in 1998 that necessitated the nuclear tests. In this approach there is a deplorable lack of understanding that the best way of tackling a threat is to anticipate it well in advance and be well prepared to meet it. Starting preparations to counter a threat after it has materialised is the surest way of inviting disaster.

This indifference to carry out regular periodic assessment of security threats on the part of our political class and bureaucracy and communicate it to the nation is at the root of the overall insensitivity of our media, academia, parliamentarians and the public at large to problems of national security.

This Indian mindset is not a secret from our adversaries. Therefore, they cannot be blamed if they attempt to exploit this weakness of ours. When I refer to bureaucracy, it includes the uniformed community as well.

This tradition of not anticipating the threat in advance and not being prepared to meet it and to attempt to counter it after it had assumed serious proportions is what Air Commodore Jasjit Singh calls the Panipat syndrome. The rulers of Delhi waited till the enemy advanced to Panipat and then went out and gave battle. It would seem that the political and bureaucratic class of independent India had not drawn any lesson from the three battles of Panipat, let alone the more recent wars of 1948, 1965 and 1971.

Yet another serious challenge this country faces to its security is the tendency of our political class and the media to a certain extent to politicise issues of national security in a partisan manner. In a mature democracy basic issues of national security are kept above party politics.

One can understand our Prime Ministers' keeping the development of nuclear weapons a closely guarded secret, not shareable even with their own senior cabinet colleagues. However, when the tests were conducted in May, 1998, it was obvious to every well-informed person, while the credit for taking the decision to test should go to the ruling coalition, it could not have developed the weapons in the 53 days it was in office. That credit should go to those parties which provided the previous Prime Ministers. If only the ruling coalition had displayed enough grace to invite those former Prime Ministers to be present while making the announcement, the nuclear issue would not have created the controversy it did.

This politicisation reached its peak during the Kargil conflict and continues to this day with adverse consequences to our national security. During the earlier wars in 1948, 1962, 1965 and 1971 there were failures of intelligence, assessment of intelligence as well as in policies. There was criticism of the government of the day by the opposition. Very rarely the criticism was directed against the Army and individual officers though various known accounts of the campaigns do reveal serious mistakes including the dissolution of the 4th Indian Division at Sela-Bomdila without joining battle. Yet very rarely one saw the kind of campaign that is now being carried on in certain quarters.

In a democracy the conduct of defence in terms of policy, management and procurement must be subject to criticism. But the degree of personalisation of criticism now being generated cannot be termed as constructive. This, it would appear, is attributable to the politicisation of national security as part of extremely partisan politics. Many of those in the media are committed political activists and therefore their political commitment colours their reporting and comments.

Transparency is the best policy and strategy. Unfortunately this is yet to be fully appreciated as is evident from the counter-productive government security deletions in the Kargil report and holding back the appendices and annexures. Many of them were published documents in this country and in Pakistan.

The NDA Government began with a proclaimed commitment to national security of a much higher order than its predecessors and established a National Security Council, a National Security Advisory Board and a Strategic Planning Group in 1998. A new beginning was made and there was a break with tradition in first setting up a Kargil Review Committee and then publishing its report. Then came the Group of Ministers to revamp the entire national security framework as recommended by the Kargil Review Committee. The four task forces set up by the Government have completed their work and submitted their reports promptly. It is expected that the Group of Ministers will act equally promptly and come up with their recommendations. Hopefully, the country is likely to witness a progressive revamping of the national security framework for the first time since independence. That is encouraging news.

But while the structures may get reformed and updated, the problem of attitudinal change towards national security is beyond the scope of this Group of Ministers. That is a matter for the political leadership at the highest level. The media has commented that the National Security Council set up in 1998 had hardly met. The NSC and Cabinet Committee on National Security (CCNS) has with one exception the same composition in terms of five Cabinet Ministers, including the Prime Minister. The Secretariat for CCNS is the Cabinet Secretariat while for the NSC it is the NSC secretariat.

The two bodies have, however, totally different roles. The CCNS is a decision-making body which has to focus on current security problems. It has also to approve decisions on current equipment procurement. The NSC has an advisory and deliberating role to develop long-term perspectives and to direct the ministries to come up with their policies and recommendations to the CCNS and to monitor the implementation. Because of this role, the Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission is also a member of the NSC. In order to play this role effectively it needs long-term as well as current intelligence assessments. Its deliberations and advice on long-term policies will have to be based on such assessments.

It would appear from the reports that the NSC has not met, that in this country, without a tradition of strategic thinking and without much interest in national security on the part of our political class it has not been found easy to get over the inertia and switch to a culture of anticipatory planning for national security. There are many reasons for it. Our intelligence agencies have not been equipped and oriented towards long-term intelligence forecasting. Our foreign service is mostly geared to react to immediate events. Policy planning has never taken off in that ministry.

The Joint Intelligence Committee and long-term intelligence assessments have never been given due importance because of the lack of interest in anticipatory security planning. The chiefs of staff, being operational commanders, do not have adequate time for long-term thinking. The Ministry of Defence has burdened itself with house-keeping functions of the armed forces which are best left to them and has not been conditioned and trained to think through long-term international and national security issues. Therefore, there is not sufficient awareness in the Government that the country is not equipped to plan a long-term national security policy. At best it is equipped only to carry out short-term and current national security management. This is a crucial challenge to Indian security. Because of this lacuna the National Security Council has not been able to function since it was formally set up two years ago.

The tragedy is that even the nature of the illness has not been diagnosed. Only the symptoms are being treated. That, by itself, no doubt, is to be welcomed but that will not produce a permanent cure. The situation is likely to become further complicated with the new role we have envisaged for India as a state with nuclear weapons, an emerging economic power on a high-growth trajectory, a strategic partner of major powers, a global player, an aspiring permanent member of the Security Council and increasingly democratising and federalising its polity. We are to achieve all these objectives as an open society.

There is inadequate realisation in this country that achieving these aims will amount to a major alteration of the status quo in Asia and the world and, therefore, there will be a lot of resistance to it from both within and outside the country and the interaction of forces hostile to such development within and outside the country. In conceptual terms steering India towards the goals outlined above smoothly and safely with minimum damage is the basic security challenge to India. If that task is to be successfully tackled, there has to be a long term coherent thinking on the risks and threats we are likely to face and long-term planning to deal with them.

The Indian leadership accepted the need for nuclear deterrence in the early 1980s when Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi initiated the nuclear weapons programme in response to Pakistan-China nuclear proliferation axis which had the tacit acquiescence of the USA. India declared itself a nuclear weapons state after the "Shakti" tests in 1998. The National Security Advisory Board has come out with a draft nuclear doctrine. In my view, understandably because I was the convener of the Board, the doctrine is the most logical, most restrained and most economical. But it is only a draft doctrine. Strategies, policies, targeting plans, command and control all need to be worked out. It is not enough if the country has nuclear weapons. It should be able to project credible deterrence. Deterrence involves some aspects of transparency and others of opacity. Therefore, there is an urgent need to work out a correct mix. A partially visible command and control structure is an essential ingredient of deterrence. Demonstration of capabilities of vectors is yet another. A robust and secure C4-I system is the third. A clearly ordained political and military succession is fourth. A demonstrated involvement of political leadership in command and control exercise is fifth and so on. Not only should these issues be addressed, they should also be seen to be addressed.

If we take him at his word, General Musharraf agrees with our Prime Minister that there is no significant risk of nuclear weapons being used in a war between the two countries. Logically, he follows that perception with the proposition that even large-scale conventional wars are unlikely. Our recent preparedness should reinforce him in that perception. We should continue our efforts to dissuade him from thinking about a large-scale conventional war by having a visible dissuasive capability. However General Musharraf does not rule out proxy wars. In April, 1999, he predicted that while nuclear and conventional wars were unlikely the probability of proxy wars was on the rise. He was in a position to assert it most knowledgeably since at that time, his mercenaries where infiltrating the Kargil heights. His attempt at 'salami slicing' in Kargil ended in disaster.

Therefore, India should be prepared to face proxy wars in future as it has been doing for the past 17 years. As of today, the proxy war is being fought by India on the basis of ad hoc improvisation. Surely, there is scope for a comprehensive and integrated strategy against the proxy war waged against this country. Counter-terrorism needs societal mobilisation and effective intelligence effort. Various steps in counter-offensive operations will have to be thought through — the most important being in the field of information campaign.

Those who wage the proxy war against this country take advantage of our weaknesses. The fault lines in our society are exploited. Our borders have been porous. Drugs, man-portable arms, terrorists, fake currency and illegal immigrants are able to pass through. Our sea shores are not always effectively guarded. Seven tons of high explosives could be landed on the Maharashtra coast in one instance. Our air space too was violated with impunity when arms were dropped at Purulia.

This country has contributed the term politician-bureaucracy-organised crime nexus to the political lexicon. Political-cum-bureaucratic corruption is rampant in the country because of the role money and muscle power plays in elections. Corruption at lower levels cannot be tackled when there is corruption at higher levels. A corrupt and misgoverned polity is highly vulnerable from the point of view of national security.

Those who look away, for a consideration, from legitimate law enforcement, and politicians who shield organised crime barons in exchange for large sums of black money to fund party coffers to contest elections may not realise that their corruption amounts to treason and endangers national security. It is the duty of the state and the government to create that awareness.

As Indian economic development accelerates, one must anticipate the adversaries of India to target this and one of the ways in which this can be done is by subjecting the country's economic symbols to terrorist attacks as happened in Mumbai in March, 1993. Mumbai recovered in a remarkably short time. But imagine the consequences and impact of such attacks simultaneously carried out in a number of cities. That would hit business confidence of foreign investors. Our long-term anticipatory planning for national security must take this into account and our business community should be sensitised to this and their support should be mobilised to deal with this threat.

The present Home Minister promised to bring out a White Paper on the activities of the Inter Services Intelligence of Pakistan in this country. That was a welcome move and would have helped to sensitise our population to the threats of proxy war, terrorism and subversion they face. It would have contributed to societal mobilisation. But for reasons that are not clear or cannot be logically inferred the publication of that White Paper has not happened. It is alleged that this publication would expose the sources of our intelligence agencies. It does not speak highly of our drafting and communicating skills if a White Paper on the activities of the ISI in this country cannot be published without revealing the sources.

If we are able to initiate the process of long-range future-oriented assessment of threats and challenges to our national security what will be the areas of our concern? The foremost concern should be the security of our communications and the transactions in our economic institutions. Unfortunately there is not sufficient awareness about the need to protect our communications through encoding. Instead, some vested interests are attempting to delay and derail efforts to increase the carrying capacity, the band width for telephonic and computer communications.

Arising out of these challenges is the issue of India preparing to meet them in terms of next generation weaponry which will incorporate information technology, microelectronics and sophisticated sensors. Today's defence production establishments under the Ministry of Defence are incapable of producing the next generation weaponry and equipment. The private sector in India is today far ahead of defence production establishments in capabilities in these areas. Therefore, planning to involve the private sector in such defence production should start right now.

Till now security planners in India were attempting to carry out their tasks on the basis of past experience or what they learnt from the industralised countries. Often there was a time lag in absorbing the experience of industrialised countries after analysing what would be applicable to our security environment. Our understanding of national security was not future oriented. Even in the rest of the world where countries have a strategic tradition the common saying till recently used to be that generals were used to preparing to fight the last war. It is no longer possible to deal with the problems of national security on the basis of past experience only, though that experience is very valuable as a learning process.

Today's national security challenges call for thinking ahead to anticipate which state and non-state actors entertain hostile intentions towards our state, our society and our value system and what they are likely to do and to devise ways and means of checking them. Therefore it needs future oriented research into international, national, political, social, economic and technological developments to keep abreast with the thinking of potentially hostile state and non-state actors. That is why in other countries national defence universities have been established and scholarly research is carried out to enable the national security establishment to keep a step ahead of the potential adversaries.

Unfortunately the recognition that national security today calls for high intellectual inputs and is not a routine bureaucratic management exercise by both people in uniform and civilians is yet to develop in this country. That raises further questions of training, periodic refresher courses, updating of knowledge and information of officers in the Defence and intelligence services and the civil servants. The present culture of generalism has become outdated and counter-productive.

It is often argued that this country should not be spending money on armaments and national security effort before tackling poverty. Some others are of the view that since our poor have no stake in this country, society and polity and since our politicians have to reflect the views of the constituency of the poor they are indifferent to national security. It is estimated that in this country some 30 per cent of the people are below the poverty line and 70 per cent are above it. One would, therefore, expect that 70 per-cent should have a stake in national security and they should be on guard that external as well as internal hostile forces do not disrupt our economic development. Secondly, if adequate resources have not been applied on the ground on education, health, water supply, housing and job creation, it is not due to disproportionate diversion of resources to national security but due to the fact that, according to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, only 15 paise out of every rupee spent reaches the poor. The rest is siphoned off by the politician-bureaucracy-organised crime combine, which I have already termed as one of the major threats to national security. Therefore, those who overlook this diversion of resources meant for poverty alleviation and provision of basic needs through corruption and ask the country to reduce its national security preparedness are only helping the continuous robbing of the poor.

The Cabinet Secretariat resolution No 281/29.6.98/TS dated 16th April 1999 stated "The Central Government recognises that national security management requires integrated thinking and coordinated application of the political, military, diplomatic, scientific and technological resources of the state to protect and promote national security goals and objectives. National security in the context of the nation, needs to be viewed not only in military terms but also in terms of internal security, economic security, technological strength and foreign policy. The role of the council is to advise the Central Government on the said matters."

If the National Security Council is not able to fulfil the role prescribed for it, that becomes a challenge to national security. Therefore, it is necessary to analyse why it has not been able to fulfil that role and what could be done to ensure that the NSC plays that role.

The NSC and the Cabinet Committee on National Security have two distinct and complementary roles. The NSC has to look to the future. According to the Cabinet resolution the NSC is to cover external security, security threats involving atomic energy, space and high technology, trends in the world economy and economic security threats, internal security, patterns of alienation emerging in the country, especially those with a social, communal or religious dimension, transborder crimes and intelligence coordination and tasking.

This task of the NSC cannot be carried out without a dedicated staff which will have adequate expertise and will be able to develop holistic future-oriented perspectives and submit them for deliberations of the NSC. In the light of those deliberations the NSC will advise different ministries and organisations to come up with their policy recommendations. Those in turn will be considered by the Cabinet Committee for National Security and decisions taken thereon. Unfortunately, this has not happened and the NSC has not functioned at all in the absence of a fully-developed staff support. The present NSC staff was the old JIC staff with some marginal additions. That staff has to discharge its earlier function as the intelligence assessing body at a time when failure of the assessment process has been under intense criticism. Further the same staff provided secretarial support to the National Security Advisory Board, the Kargil Review Committee and the four task forces set up to review defence management, intelligence, border management and internal security. It is quite obvious that adequate thought has not been given to developing an appropriate staff for the National Security Council to function effectively. It is, therefore, not surprising that the council has not been functional.

The task cannot be performed by the ministries offering their inputs and their being coordinated. The ministries are focussed on the present and are not equipped to undertake a holistic long-term view of various security issues. The generalist system of civil service in this country inhibits the civil servants from acquiring the required expertise in most of the ministries. The country has not developed the culture of contract research and our civil servants are not used to sharing information which is necessary to have successful contract research. In fact information handling is an area of grave weakness with our civil services. They are reluctant even to share the time of the day.

It is understandable that for a country where the political class and the bureaucracy, including the uniformed one, have not developed adequate familiarity with the total concept of national security, as is evident from the NSC being formed only 52 years after independence, there will be teething troubles, various infantile ailments and adolescent problems in the development of the NSC and its full effective functioning. What is worrying and of concern is that it has not even let out its first cry since its birth.

President Truman talked of the buck stopping in his office. In our system the buck stops with the Prime Minister. Therefore, the responsibility for the present unsatisfactory situation of casual approach to national security vests with the Prime Minister and his immediate advisers in matters of national security. I am not saying it in a spirit of criticism. I am aware that the last two years have seen many steps forward in this area including the setting up of the NSC.

In my view it is difficult to do justice to the responsibilites of the offices of the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister and of the National Security Adviser. However, I shall not press that point any further. Whether the Chief of a Government can have his utmost confidence in one or more persons is a matter no one from outside can prescribe. It has to be left to him though my preference is clear. If he chooses to have only one person to man both posts then the work has to be organised in such a way and structure and processes of the NSC should be so devised as to ensure smooth functioning of the National Security Council. There are very well-tried organisational principles to deal with the problem. Today there is a well-established and adequately staffed Prime Minister's Office. But there is no adequately staffed National Security Council office under the NSA. The present NSC, the old JIC is part of the Cabinet Secretariat. Let its old name be revived and let it focus more effectively and exclusively on intelligence assessment. That is a full time and enormously burdensome responsibility. The NSA requires independent dedicated staff to activate the NSC.

The NSC must have a regular time-table to meet on a prescribed day in a fortnight at the initial stage and once a week a little later. The members of the NSC will arrange their tour programmes keeping that regular meeting in view. The NSC should have comprehensive intelligence briefing in each meeting to be followed by a discussion. The Chief of Staff and intelligence chiefs and the secretaries concerned should attend these meetings.

These discussions should be free for all ministers and officials and should not follow the Cabinet procedure where the official speaks only when spoken to. It is quite possible that the discussion that follows would generate perspectives for studies, sensitise the NSC to anticipate future situations and promote more intensive interaction at the top levels of the bureaucracy. At the initial stage with a staff which is new and still to acquire expertise, it may be necessary to set up task forces to come up with studies on various issues. In this respect the recent experiment of setting up task forces is a valuable one. In about two to three years time a reasonably well-trained staff will be in place. Simultaneously a number of autonomous think-tanks have to be encouraged and research in universities on national security issues should be supported. One of the problems we have is the national security management is not looked upon as a long-term issue in which the capabilities have to be developed over a period of time. Each Cabinet looks upon it as an issue limited to its term of office. The NSC or the Prime Minister should hold regular periodic meetings once in three or four months to brief other parties in Parliament and keep them informed through regular supply of literature. The NSC secretariat should also ensure that when major policy statements are made they are made available to all political leaders and bureaucrats and they should be informed that was the Government's policy and no pronouncements should be made in an ad hoc and off-the-cuff manner. Therefore, a lot more attention has to be paid to the information policy of the Government on matters related to national security.

This is the right moment to start the effort to make the NSC to work. Thanks mostly to efforts of this Government, India is entering an era in which it is called upon to play a global role and is poised to enter into a high-growth trajectory. Therefore, it is the responsibility of this Government to lay strong foundations for a national security planning structure and to start training cadres who will later on man the posts in that structure. The present cadre of generalist civil servants cannot do it.

The development of the awareness to initiate these tasks constitute the core challenge to our national security. The present stop-go attitude of casual approach to it in normal times and finger-pointing at the time of crisis, has got to change by leadership efforts.

Bringing about these attitudinal changes, setting up an appropriate national security planning structure and organising the training of cadres are more difficult tasks than testing nuclear weapons in May, 1998. There is no point in just listing our various security challenges if the country continues to lack the mechanism to assess the long-term implications of each one of those and to plan our responses to them.

These vital challenges of bringing about attitudinal changes towards our national security and taking steps to get the NSC working have been neglected too long. The country cannot afford to continue this way much longer without paying a high cost. Let me hope that the leadership will pay immediate attention to these basic challenges.


The man who will replace Jyoti Basu
By Harihar Swarup

“Jyoti Babu is Jyoti Babu and it will be difficult to fill the void when he steps down on Monday (November 6) as West Bengal’s Chief Minister to make way for his deputy, Buddhadev Bhattacharya”, say senior CPM leaders. Had the octogenarian Marxist leader completed one more year in office, he would have completed a quarter of a century as the number one man in the red bastion. Nevertheless, he created a record of sorts— applauded as the longest serving Chief Minister of any State of India.

Jyoti Babu has himself groomed Bhattacharya to take over from him as the Chief Minister. Years of rigorous tutelage enabled the new incumbent to step into the shoes of his mentor but the shoes are still much bigger for him. The outgoing Chief Minister has given a certificate to his successor: ”Buddha is neither a new entrant nor a child. He is a politician from his childhood days and has gradually built himself up through student and youth movement. He will be able to run the government well”.

Buddha’s acumen will be put to test in the coming Assembly elections and he is expected to return his party to victory and preserve the 24-year Marxist rule in the State. Jyoti Babu says that his successor would lead from the front in the Assembly elections and “ we will all help him”. But without Jyoti Babu the red bastion may face a potential threat from Mamata Banerjee and her allies.

There has been some stark similarities and also contrasts in the career graphs of Jyoti Babu and Buddhadev. Basu held the post of Deputy Chief Minister in the United Front Ministry led by the elderly Ajoy Mukherjee of the Bangla Congress three decades back. Basu was then 54 and Buddha, now holding the Deputy Chief Minister's post , is also of the same age. There has also been striking dissimilarity in the career graph of the two leaders. The late sixties were marked by political turbulence which saw a split in the CPM and an unknown place — Maxalbari — triggered off the “Naxalite movement”. Jyoti Babu’s term as Deputy Chief Minister did not go off smoothly while Buddhadev’s short term as the number two in the government was successful.

Both Jyoti Babu and Buddha, as he is fondly called, are products of Calcutta’s renowned Presidency College. While Basu graduated with honours in English Literature in the early thirties, his deputy was a post-graduate student of Bangla literature in the mid-sixties. He could not obtain his master's degree because of his active involvement in students politics.

Though the 54-year-old Buddha may not have the towering personality of Jyoti Babu, he is known to be incorruptible. He never bestows undue favours on anybody and is noted for his frank speaking . His habit of calling a spade a spade is often mistaken as arrogance; so much so that many in his own party call him ill-tempered. But he is, in fact, suave and cultured, has literary interests and feels more at home in the company of writers, poets and intellectuals. He has authored several plays, composed poems and has translated Russian writer Mayakovshy’s works into Bangla. One of his much acclaimed play is “Dushamay” (bad times) which, incidentally, he wrote when he resigned from the Basu Government in the mid-nineties and was briefly out of the government. That was really a bad time for him.

Buddhadev’s uncle, Sukant Bhattacharya, was a revolutionary poet of Bengal, who died at an young age but left a lasting imprint on the nephew. But Buddha’s real political guru was Pramode Dasgupta, known to be one of the founding father of the Communist movement in India. Beginning his career as a National Secretary of the Students Federation of India, affiliated to the CPM, Buddha became the Federation’s National Secretary and within a short span, in 1964, became a full-time party member. Rising rapidly in the hierarchy he became a permanent invitee to the party’s supreme policy making body, the Central Committee.

Having led the Left Front to victory for the fifth time in 1996, Jyoti Basu showed reluctance to carry on the responsibility of governing the state and, in an effort to shed some of his burden, he handed over the charge of the Police Department to Buddhadev. It was then made out in CPM circles that the party had overused Jyoti Babu and he needed rest. The long strenuous years started telling on his health.

A positive indication that the aging Chief Minister has been grooming Buddha as his successor came in mid-1977 when the party’s secretariat of West Bengal nominated the young minister as acting Chief Minister in the absence of Jyoti Basu who had proceeded on a 24-day visit of the UK and South Africa. This was, for the first time, and, significantly, the party headquarters announced this arrangement and not the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister goes to London practically every year but never before any minister was designated as acting Chief Minister.

November 26, last year, was an important day in the life of Buddhadev. The ruling Left Front committee met to elect him as Deputy Chief Minister setting aside the claims of five other aspirants. When certain objections were raised by the Front’s constituents with the plea to the CPM leadership not to impose Buddha unilaterally, Basu reportedly told his allies: “ Tell your partymen that it is a request from me”.


Barnala does it the Punjabi way

MR Surjit Singh Barnala apparently wants to assert his Punjabi identity while taking over as the first Governor of the new State of Uttaranchal.

According to available indications, he intends to drive down from Chandigarh to Dehra Dun via Paonta Sahib. On the morning of November 8, a ‘path’ will be organised at the historic Paonta Sahib Gurdwara and after the religious ceremony on the border of Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, which will become Uttaranchal on the midnight of November 8 and 9, he will drive to Dehra Dun where his swearing-in will take place on the midnight of Wednesday.

The Canal Rest House at Dehra Dun is being readied as the temporary Raj Bhavan from where the new Governor will start functioning from the morning of November 9. Mr Barnala will later shift to a heritage building, the Rangers’ College in the heart of the city, which is being readied at a cost of Rs 50 lakh. The Uttaranchal Raj Bhavan would be one of the most beautiful and picture card building in the area.

Barnala’s appointment as the first Governor of Uttaranchal has gone down well with the people of the region especially the Sikhs living in the Terai area.

Bureaucracy claims the bureaucrat

Union Economic Affairs Secretary E A S Sarma dismissed as “minor” the frequent transfer of senior bureaucrats from one ministry/department to another. If that is so why did he put in his papers seeking premature retirement? Well, Sarma says he has been thinking about this for the last three or four months. “I have analysed it (my seeking premature retirement) and reached the conclusion that continuing any longer will be unfair to the government. I want to get into academics, do some writing and work on the Internet. I am pretty good on the net and have been one of the first VSNL subscribers,” Sarma said as a matter of fact. Did he have any remorse? The answer was an unequivocal no as “I have done a variety of jobs spread over 36 years.”

Clearly, Sarma has a mind of his own and wants to retreat to Visakhapatnam where he has a house and spend time with his wife who is a teacher. In 1995, while in Andhra Pradesh as a ranking bureaucrat dealing with power, he had serious differences of opinion with present Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and his then Chief Minister father-in-law the late N.T. Rama Rao. He made it clear to the two Telegu Desam leaders that he cannot go along with their power project proposals as it would be detrimental to public interest. He remained unbudging and consequently had to proceed on leave. After being in the doghouse for some time, Sarma bounced back and served as Secretary in the Ministries of Power, Expenditure and Economic Affairs.

Is Wright right for Indian cricket?

It will be interesting to see whether the Indians will get a chance in the near future to say “Yehi hai Wright choice baby” again.

The decision of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to appoint New Zealand’s John Wright as the next cricket coach of the country would be followed very closely by the innumerable Indian fans who are already feeling jilted by the emerging facts about “match fixing” by some of their icons. Besides Wright himself would have a load of work on his hands once he takes over the hot seat.

Not only is the morale of the Indian cricket team and their fans at the lowest following the shocking disclosure of the involvement of cricketing heroes in “match-fixing”, but the present team’s performance has been exasperating. Bad days are here for the cricket team.

Among the job on hand for Wright would be to not only improve the fitness of the team but also to give a pep talk to the players to boost their sagging morale and get them out of the match-fixing episode. However, the most difficult aspect would be to restore the lost respect for the ‘team’, which it enjoyed till very recently.

Now every loss, specially after a few good performances, is viewed as a possible “fixed” match. It is a stigma which would be very hard for the team to shake off for some time now.

But then a lot would also depend on the attitude of the Indian team itself. It has portrayed to be very strong on occasions and extremely brittle on others. The team has a number of youngsters, who if moulded could become the main stay of the Indian team during its campaign in the next World Cup.

One only hopes that Wright emerges as the right choice for India.

Cyber Divali

Sad that the festival of lights is over. Don’t lose heart. You just have to click a mouse to relive the moments again. Indiagames has launched a month-long special Cyber Divali festival from October 20 to November 20. For those averse to loud sound of crackers, one has to only lower the volume and see Gullu burst fireworks in the “Dhoom Dhadaaka” game section. If you are more interested in money, they go to the Dhan Varsha section and collect coins being showered by Goddess Lakshmi from the heaven.

If you have a sweet tooth, then go to the Mix Mithai section, pick up sweets and place them in the correct slots in the box and complete the box as fast as possible. If you are more fond of chocolates, then try spraying chocolate chips in a biscuit and fill them up in a box.

Betting on cricketing probes

The inquiry reports into the cricket match-fixing — by the Justice Chandrachud Commission and the CBI — has given grist to the betting mill. While the Chandrachud Commission virtually exonerated the players, the CBI has damned several of the icons. Now which of the reports is correct? Any bets!

(Contributed by TRR, T.V. Lakshminarayan, Girija Shankar Kaura, R. Suryamurthy and P.N. Andley)


Indian secularism in peril
By Abu Abraham

WHEN two elephants fight, so goes the saying, it’s the grass that perishes. So when the Pope periodically reminds us that the new millennium is for him to “harvest”, the RSS ideologues equally often tell us that the minorities had better take steps to “Indianise” themselves if they want to be acceptable to the majority community. This is gross interference from both sides in the lives of millions of Indians who would like to be left alone to pursue their lives or forms of worship in their own chosen ways.

Religious arrogance is the worst of all arrogance. Also the most irrational. Why should the religion into which one is born be always the sweetest and the purest and the best? We would be living in a better world if parents did not impose their religions on their children but left them to choose whatever they liked when they grew up. The idea would seem preposterous if you suggest it to an average religious person. We have all been conditioned by the religion we inherit.

It is not only the “Semitic” religions that have seeds of intolerance in them. Every religion preaches that theirs is the true path. If the Pope says only through Christ one can reach heaven, we should ask him — where did people go when they died, those who lived before Christ was born. Hindu tolerance is only seen through their philosophies; the social oppression that they perpetrated on their own fellow beings for centuries is horrific. Even Buddhists cannot escape the charge of oppression, historically, though theirs seems like a gentle religion. Buddhism has one merit in my view over other religions, that is that they don’t believe in God. It has been described as “divine atheism”. But Buddhists have been guilty in the past of much bloodshed.

To bring up (as the RSS chieftains are doing) religious differences at a time and age when we should all be thinking of our heritage as a synthesis of religion and culture is a dispiriting phenomenon of present-day India. All the major religions of the world have their origin in Asia, and that alone provides a philosophical framework through which religions in India can come together. There is reason to think that in the past religions ‘interacted’ with each other. Christianity for example has been influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism. So scholars say. Christ is believed to have spent his early youth in India, that is why there is no reference in the gospel about what he did after the age of twelve and before he was about thirty. He must have been wandering in India and learning yoga and the teachings of the Buddha! In any case Christianity and Islam have a legitimacy and a character and philosophy of their own. They do not need the advice of any Hindu bigot on how to evolve themselves in their spiritual and cultural life.

What Sudarshan and his friends are doing is to alienate the minorities, and to divide society. They may succeed in this but they will lose political power, which is after all what the RSS wants. Hindu Rashtra is already fading into the distance. The common Indian cannot relate it to modern times.

What makes India a unique place and a great society is precisely what Sudarshan cannot stomach. But there are powerful voices being raised against the current attempt of fundamentalists, who, fed on mythical history want to create a uniform society whose culture and ethos is “Hindu”.

Among those who have clearly defined a secular vision of India is Amartya Sen. In an article in the New York Times he argued: “Secularism is in fact a part of a more comprehensive idea — that of India as an integrally pluralistic country, made up of different religious beliefs, distinct language groups, divergent social practices. Secularism is one aspect — a very important one — of the recognition of that larger idea of heterogeneous identity. Given the diversity and contrast within India, there is not, in the comprehensive politics of the country, much alternative to secularism as an essential part of overall pluralism”.

Amartya Sen might say — and I shall agree with him — that it is the RSS that needs Indianisation.

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