Wednesday, November 8, 2000,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E



Congress elections 
ntil their collapse in the late eighties and early nineties communist-ruled countries took pride in electing their Presidents with a 97 per cent majority or more. Everyone thought that the craving for near total support is history. 

A law and order challenge
mmediately after taking over as UP's Chief Minister on October 28 Mr Rajnath Singh had declared that law and order was his "top priority". In his overenthusiasm he promised to show results within 15 days.

NTPC is 25
ORMALLY, you don’t come across public sector giants with an arresting gait, but there are exceptions. The National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), which celebrated its silver jubilee on Tuesday, is one such.



Kashmir cries for sanity
November 7, 2000
Go, Governor, go
November 6, 2000
Wanted long-term defence planning
November 5, 2000
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




by Inder Malhotra
Casual response to worsening crisis
RECENT events in Kashmir ought to have been a cause for deep concern, indeed alarm. But, tragically, there isn’t a sign of worry among those in authority. 

by P.K. Ravindranath
Political churning in Maharashtra
OLITICS creates strange bedfellows and some of the main players would not hesitate to go to bed with anyone under any circumstances.


by V. N. Kakar
But this is my pocket
ILNI is one of the most beautiful parts of marriages in Northern India, particularly in Punjab. It takes place just a little before jaimala (exchange of garlands between the bride and the bridegroom) and marks the beginning of a new relationship between families, a relationship that is cemented as time goes on and makes its own contribution to the growth of the society in which we all live.


From N. Rajan in Bhopal
MP no longer “forest state”

ITH the formation of the new Chhattisgarh state, Madhya Pradesh has ceased to be the “forest state” that it has hitherto been. Madhya Pradesh had 1,54, 500 sq km of forests and the Chhattisgarh region accounted for 59,200 sq km of the total forest land of undivided Madhya Pradesh.

From N. Rajan in Raipur
Jogi faces formidable task

R AJIT JOGI has won the race for the Chief Minister’s post of the newly created Chhattisgarh State, thanks to Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s firm support.




Congress elections 

Until their collapse in the late eighties and early nineties communist-ruled countries took pride in electing their Presidents with a 97 per cent majority or more. Everyone thought that the craving for near total support is history. No, it exists and in the oldest political party in the country, namely the Congress. The handlers of Mrs Sonia Gandhi want to ensure that her challenger does not get any vote. In Patna on Monday, Mr Jitendra Prasada was denied access to the PCC headquarters through the crudest method — locking up the rooms and the garden where a statue of Indira Gandhi stands. Only one PCC delegate came to see him; either he did not know that the party is boycotting the rival claimant to the presidency or is a rare soul ready to openly register his opposition to the coterie. Patna is no exception. It happened in Jaipur, in Bangalore and in Chennai. This cannot be spontaneous in a party that is faction-ridden and notorious for acts of indiscipline. True, a section of Congressmen genuinely support Mrs Gandhi and conversely oppose Mr Jitendra Prasada. But surely there are so many other ways of showing their preference than avoiding him as though he is a carrier of the AIDS virus. It is all so sad in a party that incessantly talks of inner-party democracy and swears by its faith in elections. Many of her so-called advisers are not old enough to remember two great presidential battles in that party, but surely they can read history. In 1938 Gandhi backed Pattabhi Sitaramayya against Subhas Chandra Bose and Bose won. It is a different matter that he had to resign when all senior leaders refused to join his working committee. Ten years later Nehru’s candidate. J.B. Kripalani, tasted defeat at the hands of Purshottam Das Tandon who was the nominee of Sardar Patel and Nehru again refused to join the CWC. Tandon quit after a few months. Despite Gandhi and Nehru canvassing for votes, there was no effort at muzzling the opposition and the campaign was more vigorous than the one for Lok Sabha seats these days. Mrs Gandhi’s personal appeal to the 8000-odd delegates may evoke sympathy but will not strengthen the political roots of the party.

Interestingly, one newspaper has raised the question whether the Congress is defunct. Mr Salman Khurshid expectedly says no and wistfully remembers the long years when it held power. He is confident that it will stage a come-back simply because there is no viable and lasting alternative. But the fact is that his party is in the danger of losing its position as a viable and lasting alternative. It heads the government in four states and is the main opposition in some more. As a political scientist points out, it wins the largest number of votes of the adivasis, dalits and the poor but hardly ever articulates their demands or fights for them. In states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and the North East, it exists in its breakaway factions. There is thus a nationwide base and the Congress is the most easily recognisable party. If its present ills should not become permanent disabilities, it should stir itself up, go back to the days of rumbustious internal debate and disagreement and revive the mass plank. It still has a big role to play in the country’s democratic scheme of things. 


A law and order challenge

Immediately after taking over as UP's Chief Minister on October 28 Mr Rajnath Singh had declared that law and order was his "top priority". In his overenthusiasm he promised to show results within 15 days. Now it has been established yet again that law and order is, of course, the biggest problem in UP, and his claim has been proved hollow. Within 10 days of the much publicised declaration, the state administration has been jolted by two major incidents — one claiming 11 lives in sectarian clashes and the other the murder of a BJP MLA, Mr Nirbhay Pal Singh. The way people belonging to two Muslim sects — Sunni and Shia — attacked one another's shops and houses in Azamgarh district's Mubarakpur town on Sunday night showed that preparations had been going on for a long time for a showdown. Surprisingly, the police got no wind of it, not even after Mr Rajnath Singh vowed to wage a war against anti-social elements. The town had witnessed sectarian killings —though not on this scale — last January also. The group that had suffered heavily, it seems, had been looking for an opportunity to strike back. According to one report, the killing of Shia religious leader Agha Syed Mehdi in Kashmir the other day ignited the tinder box in Mubarakpur. The police was taken aback by the virulence of violence which continued for hours together. The situation has been officially described as under control with a curfew in force, but people continue to doubt the capacity of the administration to protect their lives and property.

The Chief Minister has announced that he believes in action and hence there would be no judicial enquiry into the circumstances leading to the sectarian flareup. But the killings, he has admitted, were "pre-planned" and those found involved will not be spared. What will ultimately happen will be known in the days to come. But today he owes an explanation to the people why after the killing of Agha Mehdi by Sunni militants the police was not alerted and utmost vigil not maintained in the areas where the Shias and the Sunnis have a history of fighting among themselves on the slightest provocation? While the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party leaders who have demanded Mr Rajnath Singh's resignation are not justified in doing so, their worry is quite understandable that a government which is unable to protect the lives of even legislators cannot be expected to ensure the safety of the lives of ordinary people. The BJP MLA, who represented Saharanpur district's Sarsawa constituency, lived near a police station. But his killers not only accomplished their dirty task with much ease but also looted the legislator's house and took away the gun he had for self-protection. This also appears to be a pre-planned murder. If Mr Rajnath Singh wants to prove that he is really serious about his "top priority" — improving the law and order situation — he will have to give exemplary punishment to the police officials who have so miserably failed to perform their duty. 


NTPC is 25

NORMALLY, you don’t come across public sector giants with an arresting gait, but there are exceptions. The National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), which celebrated its silver jubilee on Tuesday, is one such. It has not had to blow its own trumpet to prove that it is in the pink of health. Reputed independent agencies, both Indian and foreign, have done that for it. Datamonitor of the United Kingdom has ranked it as the second most efficient thermal power corporation in the world in terms of capacity. And in terms of generation it is the sixth largest. The World Bank, which is rather conservative in assessing performance, has this to say: “The National Thermal Power Corporation is a mature utility and has demonstrated that it can achieve technical performance parameters comparable with those achieved elsewhere in the world.” Since “elsewhere” in the present context means the developed world, that is high praise indeed. Such encomiums would have been something to be proud of even in the best of times. But for the NTPC it is actually the worst of times. It has been done in by unpaid dues. Over the years, it has accumulated outstandings of a staggering Rs 150,000 crore. State electricity boards are the culprits and among the major defaulters are Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Kerala, Haryana, Gridco in Orissa and the DVC. Its desperation shows. It is even trying to take over plants as against dues and bonds to settle the dues. Still, the corporation is not in a position to do much about the perennial problem because political factors immediately come into play. The “neta” class is also always keen to milk the corporation, now that it has started showing some net profit (this year, it made Rs 2,815.73 crore after taxes).

The non-payment does not only mean depriving a performing company of its dues. If the NTPC is in working order, it can become a force of change. Despite all odds, it provides the cheapest power in the country at an average rate of 145 paise per unit. Power shortage in the country is alarming and it is planning to add 20,000 MW in the 10th and 11th Plans. That will be a quantum jump, considering that at present the installed capacity is only 19,435 MW. Such massive enhancement requires proportionately heavy investment as well. But with most of its money locked up as unpaid bills it is in a quandary. Ensuring that it can produce electricity without fouling the atmosphere also requires installation of expensive gadgets. That mission is also floundering because of fund shortage. The real loser is not the NTPC but the country as a whole.


Casual response to worsening crisis
by Inder Malhotra

RECENT events in Kashmir ought to have been a cause for deep concern, indeed alarm. But, tragically, there isn’t a sign of worry among those in authority. Others — in politics, the bureaucracy and the media — whose job it is to blow the whistle when things are going wrong seem equally nonchalant. Evidently, the highly destructive, and at times macabre, proxy war in the most sensitive state is viewed as “routine” and handled most casually.

This unfortunately does not detract at all from the grave import and grim consequences of what has been going on, especially in the background of the attempted talks with the Hizbul Mujahideen and other militant groups that had proved to be stillborn. There is no need to go back several months. Last week’s tally of terror is horrendous enough.

The diabolical murder of Kashmir’s most respected Shia leader, Agha Syed Mehdi, is a case in point. Some are bound to argue that his death, along with five of his associates, could have been accidental inasmuch as the landmine or improvised explosive device (IED) planted on a public highway could have blown up any other vehicle. The argument is specious because someone had to detonate the landmine. The dastardly killers did so only when Agha Medhi’s car reached the spot. He was clearly the target. What happened amidst the outpouring of grief for the slain leader gives away the game of the marauding murderers and their patrons on the other side of the Line of Control.

In the first place, it is no secret, certainly not to the ISI of Pakistan that masterminds the proxy war, that Kashmir’s Shia minority is even less in sympathy with the Pakistani game plan than other sections of the valley’s population. A “message” to this minority was therefore needed. That it may have boomeranged is a different matter. It is noteworthy that during the Agha’s funeral — attended by an unprecedented crowd, representing almost the entire political spectrum, including all the top leaders of the All-Party Hurriyat Conference — slogans against Pakistan were raised. Even so, the turbulence that accompanied the trauma showed that the Pakistani promoters of militancy might have succeeded, at least for the present, in exporting to Kashmir the virulent Shia-Sunni conflict that has wrought havoc within Pakistan itself. That at least one stabbing and several incidents of arson took place in areas under curfew bespeaks of the state government’s utter inability to enforce the law. In fact, the office of Senior Superintendent of Police at Badgam, the Agha’s town, was also attacked.

Even as Agha Mehdi’s remains were being laid to rest there were as many as seven separate encounters between the security forces and militants in districts as far apart as Kupwara, Doda, Rajouri, Anantnag and so on. In these 25 militants, eight security personnel and 11 civilians were killed. In addition, a powerful bomb “tore apart” a barrack inside the police training college at Sheeri in Baramula district, killing four policemen and injuring 23. An encounter at Batpora in Badgam district had been going on for the fourth day at the time of writing.

During the next 24 hours there was a similar spate of encounters and incidents, the most serious being the suicide attack on an Army camp in Handwara. Before the attackers’ bid could be defeated, one JCO and three soldiers were dead. So of course were the suicide bombers, identified by the military authorities as belonging to Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Army and Rashtriya Rifles spokesmen have been stating frankly that all encounters with the militants — many of them freshly inducted into the valley despite the vigilance of the security forces — have been “fierce”, even “extremely fierce”. Behind this admission lies an ominous fact that is known but seldom articulated publicly.

The merchants of terror that are being infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir of late are all being trained to the level of an infantry soldier, are equipped accordingly and are paid the infantry soldier's salary. The only thing they are denied is the uniform of the Pakistani infantry. No wonder then that the rate of casualties among the security forces has gone up. The arms caches being recovered from the militants who are killed are bigger than in the past. For all practical purposes, what the security forces face in the proxy war in Kashmir are regular Pakistani troops. However, Islamabad is maintaining the pretence that General Musharraf’s government has nothing to do with the men and material being poured into Kashmir. According to it, they are jehadist volunteers being trained and equipped by Islamist groups that are richly financed and in a position to buy most sophisticated weapons. Leaders of these groups enjoy tremendous political clout and have close links with the army at the highest echelons.

The Pakistani military regime is getting away with all this because even those who deplore the “violence” in Jammu and Kashmir are not prepared to do anything about terrorism there, emanating from Pakistan. This regrettably remains the position despite the decision of the Indo-US Joint Working Group to enhance cooperation in countering terrorism. The USA is apparently prepared to give this country “intelligence information” on the subject —something which has been criticised in Pakistan — but little beyond that. No one should expect America to declare Pakistan a terrorist state. But within the Clinton administration during recent weeks there was a serious move to declare the Lashkar-e-Toiba a “terrorist organisation”. However, this could not be done, evidently because of opposition within the decision-making structures. Now this matter cannot even be considered until the new administration has settled down by early next summer.

However, to save Kashmir is our responsibility, not that of the international community though it would help if foreign friends would take an objective view of the realities on the ground and speak up accordingly. We ought to be functioning effectively, energetically and systematically. That, alas, is far from being the case. A strange mindset seems to prevail in both North Block and South Block. The thinking seems to be that the Army should be confronting and containing the militants and the Foreign Office keeping at bay any third party mediation. Beyond that nothing is being done. Some track-two efforts to establish contact with militant groups, like the official talks with the Hizb, have drawn a blank.

The lack of coordination between the Central and the state governments has aggravated the awful mess that had already been made over the Chittisinghpora massacre on the first day of President Clinton’s visit to India earlier this year. To reach the common people of Kashmir, who are clearly fed up with the gun culture, seems to be nobody’s business.

Of late, Mr K. Subrahmanyam, eminent strategist and convener of the National Security Advisory Board, has been raising embarrassing questions about the management of national security affairs in the world’s largest democracy, which is also a nuclear weapon power and hopes to be a permanent member of the UN Security Council. As he and several others have mentioned, the National Security Council, appointed more than a year ago, has not met even once. When the first ever meeting between the Strategic Planning Group, the second tier in the NSC, and the Advisory Board took place, some of the senior secretaries on the SPG chose to absent themselves.

Under these circumstances, it should be no surprise that no one had thought of, leave alone attempted, a thorough and long-term estimate of what Pakistan might try to do in Kashmir in years to come. This is one hell of a way to fight a proxy war, especially at a time when the Pakistani military regime is able to ratchet it up when it likes, while moaning and groaning at the same time that New Delhi refuses to talk to it.


Political churning in Maharashtra
by P.K. Ravindranath

POLITICS creates strange bedfellows and some of the main players would not hesitate to go to bed with anyone under any circumstances. It was bad enough for the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Mr Sharad Pawar, to wean away a top Shiv Sena leader like Mr Chhagan Bhujbal into the Congress.

Mr Bhujbal had by then become a liability for the Shiv Sena, which even in 1991 was not considered to be any paragon of virtues, much less moral scruples. His emergence in the Congress that year was resented by many in that party, but under Mr Sharad Pawar’s wings, he flourished and soon became the Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra.

He indulged in street-play theatrics to grab attention, but could not go any further to break the Shiv Sena. In fact, despite his vituperative campaigns against the Sena, that party in association with the Bharatiya Janata Party, came to power in 1995 and ruled the state for its full term. Despite the fact that the coalition government led by Mr Manohar Joshi soon got stuck in the mire of corruption, non-performance and misgovernance, it did manage to survive in office.

In the meantime, the Congress split with Mr Sharad Pawar being expelled from the party and forced to set up his own outfit, the Nationalist Congress Party, with its principal base in Maharashtra. It is a mere technicality that enabled that party to get recognition as a national party from the Election Commission. The CPM, with a much broader base, failed to qualify when it failed to get a single member elected from distant Andaman Islands, which the NCP did.

Mr Sharad Pawar invited expulsion from the Congress for raising the issue of the foreign nationality of Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Tagged on to this crucial issue was the question of dynastic succession to the highest posts of leadership within the party.

When the NCP was formed just two months before the elections to the Maharashtra Legislative Assembly in October, 1999, Mr Chhagan Bhujbal became an important factor despite rumblings from other Pawar supporters. When a coalition was patched up with the Congress by vested interests in the state and manoeuvrers in the sugar lobby, Mr Chhagan Bhujbal became the Deputy Chief Minister.

The uneasy coalition has survived for a year, despite several tensions and differences, thanks mainly to the adroit and sagacious leadership of Mr Vilasrao Deshmukh. In making the coalition work, he even invited the suspicious and open taunts of his own partymen that he is a greater camp follower of Mr Sharad Pawar than Mr Bhujbal.

Just when everything was going fine and the coalition government had celebrated its first anniversary in office the state BJP let loose a string of allegations against the Chief Minister for his alleged involvement in the tampering of reservation of certain plots in Pune under development plans.

The NCP has caught on to the BJP’s plans to destabilise the state government on a vital issue. Mr Chhagan Bhujbal has ordered a CID probe into the charges against the Chief Minister. Mr Bhujbal told a Press conference that the probe was instituted due to the deluge of complaints about the “role of some middlemen in tampering with the reservations”.

The question that perplexes political observers in the state is whether the inquiry is the result of an understanding between the BJP and the NCP. If the coalition government fails, the alternative could be an NCP-BJP coalition ministry in the state. The BJP has, in the last one year, come to realise that its alliance with the Shiv Sena was a mistake and that if it is to share power in Maharashtra, it might as well be with a more mature and responsible political party.

The NCP has never been averse to a link-up with the BJP, if it breaks off totally with the Shiv Sena. The Congress may rave and rant if it is dislodged from power in the state, and flaunt the “secret” understanding between the NCP and the BJP. Mr Sharad Pawar has had no compunctions in running a coalition government along with BJP ministers as far back as 1977, with the full backing of the then Janata Party government in New Delhi.

The experience in leading a diverse group of coalition partners for two full years has emboldened him to repeat it at the national level, whenever the opportunity arises. The Maharashtra situation is now ripe for him to blow the whistle.

He knows that the Congress is a total shambles and that it cannot be expected to be a force with any strength at the Centre, in the foreseeable future. The issues he had first raised within that party have found worthier exponents with far greater political credibility. May be, Mr Jitendra Prasad does not have the same kind of grassroot backing that Mr Pawar has in Maharashtra, but no one would question his sincerity.

The credibility of the issues Mr Sharad Pawar raised in the Congress — dynastic rule and sycophancy — has already swamped his own NCP. Mr Bhujbal is seeking to establish his supremacy within the party, by packing the executive committee of the Maharashtra Pradesh NCP with his own favourites.

Mr Bhujbal has nominated his son, Mr Samir, as the General Secretary of the newly constituted Executive Committee of the Mumbai NCP. His other son, Mr Pankaj, is General Secretary of the youth wing of the party. There are a number of other persons who have been included in the 25-member executive, whose loyalties to Mr Pawar are suspect.

It is evident that Mr Bhujbal is seeking to consolidate his own strength within the NCP. Just two months ago, he got an old-time loyalist colleague of Mr Pawar, Mr R.T. Kadam, removed as the President of the city unit of the NCP, to be replaced by Mr Chandrakant Tripathy, a political adventurer who had earlier hopped in and out of other parties, including the Janata Dal and the Samajwadi Party. The question that arose with the induction of Mr Tripathy was whether it was right to replace a Maharashtrian with a migrant from Uttar Pradesh who had little following among the local people.

The NCP leadership does not seem to have learnt any lessons from the recent trends among the politically conscious groups in the state. In the elections to the Municipal Corporation of Kolhapur, the voters rejected all nominees of political parties and went about electing 62 independent candidates out of those who contested for the 72 seats. The NCP won one seat, the BJP one and the Shiv Sena six.

If the voters of Kolhapur could put political parties in their place, it is a fair guess that the enlightened voters of principal cities could act more decisively. Kolhapur, it must be mentioned, is a principal sugar producing centre and has been a Nationalist Congress Party stronghold.

The Chief Minister has made it clear that he had been kept in the dark about the inquiry by the CID and the Anti-Corruption Bureau into the Pune land deals. In fact, the Chief Minister has filed a defamation suit claiming damages of Rs 100 crore against the BJP spokesman, Mr Atul Bhatkalkar, who publicly charged the former with making Rs 50 crore on the land deal through changes in development ruler in an illegal manner.

The case is pending in a court.

The Pune Municipal Corporation, controlled by the BJP, has protested against the land conversion. The BJP has been quick to respond to Mr Bhujbal’s order for a CID probe, saying it has vindicated the BJP stand.

With sweeping changes anticipated at the all-India level, with the ferment inside the Congress and the significant decisions by the CMP at Thiruvananthapuram, can the NCP be left far behind in the political churning on in the country?


But this is my pocket
by V. N. Kakar

MILNI is one of the most beautiful parts of marriages in Northern India, particularly in Punjab. It takes place just a little before jaimala (exchange of garlands between the bride and the bridegroom) and marks the beginning of a new relationship between families, a relationship that is cemented as time goes on and makes its own contribution to the growth of the society in which we all live.

As the barat reaches the bride’s place, the bridegroom riding a horse or a mare — his father, mother, grandfathers, grandmothers, sisters, brothers, countless aunts and uncles and friends dancing the bhangra ahead of him, in gay abundance, to the accompaniment of loud music from masterji’s glorious band, it is received by the bride’s party, equally strong, at the entrance of the pandal or hall where the rest of the ceremonies, including the all-important dinner, have to be gone through.

In bhangra, there is no such thing as enough is enough. But just as there is a time for love and a time for war, the time comes when the bridegroom’s father comes forward to control the situation, after controlling himself.

The purohit takes over. He starts reciting mantras which nobody bothers to understand but which put a stop to everything else, except non-stop chirping by women. The purohit then calls upon the boy’s and the girl’s fathers to come forward for milni. They put garlands around each other’s necks and embrace like ardent lovers, facing the cameras which click dutifully. The girl’s father then takes out from his pocket a beautiful envelope containing the milni money and slips it into the pocket of the boy’s father. Simultaneously, he takes out another crisp note, circulates it around the boy’s father’s head as “sirwarna” and then passes it on to the band-master. The boy’s father does the same to him. Then comes the turn of grandfathers, uncles and all that. They follow suit.

On the 19th of August, my grand-daughter, Namita’s marriage to Ritesh, son of a high government officer, took place in Shimla. Even though I am quite an experienced milni man, all concerned thought it necessary to din into my ears what I had to do while having my milni with Ritesh’s grandfather. And I did it competently till the moment for sirwarna came. My daughter Renu, Namita’s mother, had made it quite clear to me that while the milni envelope was in the upper pocket of my coat, the sirwarna currency note was in the pocket just below.

I had never before seen Ritesh’s grandfather. But the two of us got locked up so terribly that while Ritesh’s grandfather did my sirwarna, I failed to do his sirwarna. I searched for the sirwarna currency note in the coat-pocket intended for it, but it was not there. I delved into every nook and corner of the pocket, scratched it, almost tearing its inside linen. The note was just not there. Still locked, and feeling somewhat uneasy, Ritesh’s grandfather asked me, “Bhai sahib, what are you doing?”

“Searching the sirwarna note,” I blurted out truthfully. “But why in my coat-pocket?’ asked the gentleman. It was only then that I realised that my hand had let me down badly and instead of my pocket, it had slipped into Ritesh’s grandfather’s pocket. Of course, it made amends quickly. But I shall never forget the immense embarrassment the darned thing imposed on me.


MP no longer “forest state”
From N. Rajan in Bhopal

WITH the formation of the new Chhattisgarh state, Madhya Pradesh has ceased to be the “forest state” that it has hitherto been. Madhya Pradesh had 1,54, 500 sq km of forests and the Chhattisgarh region accounted for 59,200 sq km of the total forest land of undivided Madhya Pradesh. Now the forest cover in Madhya Pradesh will be 30 per cent of the total geographical area of the State (3,08,000 sq km).

In Chhattisgarh forests will account for 44 per cent of the total geographical area of the State (1,35,000 sq km). Bastar, Kanker and Dantewada districts have rich sal forests. Bilaspur, Raigarh, Rajnandgaon and Surguja districts too have thick forests.

The picture is rather grim in residuary Madhya Pradesh. The Malwa region has almost been denuded of forest cover. Jhabua and Dhar districts have been turned into wasteland. Only the Mahakaushal region retains forest cover. Mandla, Seoni, Balaghat, Chhindwara and Jabalpur districts have thick forests though the forest marauders in Jabalpur and Balaghat districts are active. Forests have been conserved in parts of Vindhya Pradesh region too.

But during the course of the past 12 years, the forest area in Madhya Pradesh has shrunk from 37 per cent to 31 per cent. This was admitted by the Forest Minister, Mr Harvansh Singh, in the State Assembly.

What is distressing, however, is illegal mining is going on uninterrupted in the reserved forests in Shivpuri and Panna districts. Sandstone is being mined in Shivpuri reserved forests on a large scale. Sandstones are sent to Uttar Pradesh and adjoining areas. The mining mafia enjoys political patronage. Thousands of trees in Shivpuri and Panna districts have been axed to facilitate the illegal mining. But no action has so far been taken to curb this menace. The Madhya Pradesh Government will have to take stringent measures to put an end to decimation of forests.

Interestingly after bifurcation, Madhya Pradesh will not lose its status as the “Tiger State”. The 1997 census puts the number of tigers at 926. The figures of the 1999 census have not been released by the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment so far. But according to reliable sources, 951 tigers were counted in the 1999 census.

Now, after the formation of the Chhattisgarh state, the tiger population has come down to 850. Even then Madhya Pradesh will have the largest number of tigers.

Before bifurcation, Madhya Pradesh had 11 national parks and 35 sanctuaries in the State. Three national parks and 10 sanctuaries will be located in Chhattisgarh state. But Madhya Pradesh will have eight national parks and 25 sanctuaries after bifurcation.

The world famous Kanha National Park is located in Madhya Pradesh. Kanha National Park is the habitat of about 103 tigers. Bandhavgarh National Park, also in Madhya Pradesh, has about 40 tigers. Kanha National Park has several species of wildlife including bison and swamp deer (Barasingha). Madhav National Park in Shivpuri is a major attraction of tourists. But then it must be stated that about 50 per cent of the total tiger population live outside national parks and sanctuaries.

Poachers are active outside national parks and sanctuaries. Tiger bones are very much in demand in China and Taiwan. The bones of a single tiger fetch a price of Rs 20 lakh and the skin of one tiger is illegally sold at Rs 6 lakh. Hence poachers with international ramifications are active in Madhya Pradesh. Though a tiger cell was formed in 1994 to apprehend poachers, it has remained paralysed. — IPA


Jogi faces formidable task
From N. Rajan in Raipur

MR AJIT JOGI has won the race for the Chief Minister’s post of the newly created Chhattisgarh State, thanks to Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s firm support. But whether he will be able to win the bigger battle of providing a stable and trouble-free Government, time alone can tell.

Mr Jogi faces a formidable challenge from the Shukla brothers, especially Mr V.C. Shukla, who continues to nurse the grievance that his claim for the post did not find acceptance by the party high command. Coming days will, therefore, be a testing time for Mr Jogi, and strain his political acumen to the maximum.

A bureaucrat-turned-politician, Mr Jogi had been assured of backing by the top party leadership, when about a month ago, the high command of the party decided to sponsor his candidature for the post of Chief Minister.

Four weeks back, Ms Prabha Rau, AICC representative and in charge of the Madhya Pradesh Congress, prepared the ground for the elevation of Mr Ajit Jogi by making a public statement that the new state should be headed by a tribal leader. She was on a tour of Chhattisgarh region.

It is true that there were other tribal leaders who were aspirants for the top post. One of them was Mr Arvind Netam, who is a veteran tribal leader from Kanker and a Minister at the Centre for a long time. He was called to New Delhi for consultations, but the fact that he was in the BJP for a brief period before he returned to the parent organisation became a negative point against him. Mr Ajit Jogi’s supporters cleverly projected this factor to tarnish his image.

Meanwhile, Mr Ajit Jogi contacted Congress legislators from Chhattisgarh region while the Assembly was in session in Bhopal on October 18 and presented himself as the nominee of Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

Two more aspirants for the chief ministership of Chhattisgarh were Mr V.C. Shukla and Mr Motilal Vora. But then the Chief Minister, Mr Digvijay Singh, was expected to play a key role in resolving the issue. As many as 30 out of 40 Congress MLAs owed allegiance to Mr Digvijay Singh. Mr V.C. Shukla had about a dozen supporters.

The Congress high command was of course not in favour of a contest for the post of Chief Minister. The party bosses, therefore, sent Mr Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ms Prabha Rau as observers. They were also expected to name the consensus candidate.

A message was conveyed to Mr Digvijay Singh that he should throw his weight in favour of Mr Ajit Jogi with whom he had no cordial relations. Mr Digvijay Singh had no option but to tell his supporters to support Mr Ajit Jogi. Mr Digvijay Singh also assured his supporters that they would be given adequate representation in the new Cabinet.

Mr Ajit Jogi has to face multi-dimensional problems. The new Assembly will have 90 members and the BJP and other minor parties have a strength of 42 members. The Congress will have only a narrow majority. — IPA



Do you love your fellow men? Where should you go to seek for God -- are not all the poor, the miserable, the week, Gods? Why not worship them first? Why go to dig a well on the shores of the Ganga? Believe in the omnipotent power of love..... My son, I believe in God, and I believe in man. I believe in helping the miserable. I believe in going even to hell to save others.


The real spiritual man is broad everywhere. His love forces him to be so. Those to whom religion is a trade are forced to become narrow and mischievous by their introduction into religion of the competitive, fighting, and selfish methods of the world.


Fear is the greatest sin my religion teaches... I will die a thousand deaths rather than lead a jelly-fish existence and yield to every requirement of this foolish world... I have no time to be sweet to the world, and every attempt at sweetness makes me a hypocrite.... Liberty, Mukti is all my religion, and everything that tries to curb it, I will avoid by fight or flight.


Love makes no distinction between man and man, between an Aryan and a Mlechchha, a Brahman and a pariah, nor even between a man and a woman. Love makes the universe as one's own home.


Each work has to pass through these stages — ridicule, opposition and then acceptance. Each man who thinks ahead of his time is sure to be misunderstood.

My child, what I want is muscles of iron and nerves of steel, inside which dwells a mind of the same material as that of which the thunderbolt is made.


Renunciation —non-resistance-non-destructiveness-are the ideals to be attained through less and less worldliness, less and less resistance, less and less destructiveness. Keep the ideal in view and work towards it. None can live in this world without resistance, without destruction, without desire. The world has not come to that state yet when the ideal can be realised in society.

—From Swami Vivekananda's Epistles, XXI, XXVI, XXXII, XXXVIII, XIVII, LXVIII, LXXIII. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. V.


Pasting is a natural method of healing. When animals or savages are sick, they fast. The bodily machinery thus an opportunity to cleanse itself and to obtain a much-needed rest. Most diseases can be cured by judicious fasting. Unless one has a weak heart, regular short fasts have been recommended by the yogis as an excellent health measure.

—Paramahansa Yogananda, Man's Eternal Quest: "Healing by God's Unlimited Power"

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