Wednesday, November 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


A presidential visit indeed
E is no President Clinton, but World Bank president James Wolfensohn is receiving the same reverential treatment in official circles, both at the Centre and in the states.

DD big fish in CBI net 
everberations from the cricket earthquake continue to travel farther and farther. After cricketers, cricket administrators, bookies and others of their ilk, it is now the turn of Doordarshan officials to face the CBI onslaught.

The return of V.P. Singh?
hat is common between former Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh and a newly-wed bride? They invariably end up saying "no" when they actually mean to say "yes".


How public funds are wasted

by Joginder Singh
Welfare state, like ours, is expected to look after the needs of the common man rather than the burgeoning bureaucracy. More than 70 per cent petrol is used on the government account. 



Mass murder of trees
November 14, 2000
Ganga-Mekong initiative
November 13, 2000
Is it dictated by public attitude?
November 12, 2000
Law of arrests
November 11, 2000
US election drama
November 10, 2000
Making same ends meet
November 9, 2000
Congress elections 
November 8, 2000
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

Can India tackle two fronts simultaneously?
by Pritam Bhullar
HE Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, said on October 29 that there was no evidence of incursion by the Chinese into Arunachal Pradesh and that there was no cause for concern.


Lingering spring in autumn
by Rajnish Wattas
ELLOW is the flavour of the season, as far as nature’s splash in the city is concerned. Autumn is traditionally considered “a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” by western poets; but that’s not true for our north Indian plains.


Child killers fight for right to privacy
From Clare Dyer in London
N JUST a few months, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, the two young men who killed the toddler James Bulger, will slip out of the secure units in the north of England which have been their homes for the past eight years.

How Singapore looks at India
By T. R. Ramachandran
Notwithstanding the inexplicable hiatus in the relationship between India and Singapore for nearly three decades, New Delhi is still to get its act together in playing a pro-active role in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.




A presidential visit indeed

HE is no President Clinton, but World Bank president James Wolfensohn is receiving the same reverential treatment in official circles, both at the Centre and in the states. Suitably impressed, he has gently patted India for its good economic growth rate of 6 per cent and success in poverty alleviation schemes. As an icing on this cake, he has offered to increase bank lending to $ 4 billion from next year, up from $ 3 billion now. A gratified government made bold to complain against the bank directly dealing with the states. Apparently peeved at the loss of authority that this implies, the Centre has trotted out some limp reasons for its protest. Since repayment in dollars is its business, it would be better if the loans are routed through it. Further, poor states like UP, Bihar and Orissa will not be able to tap the bank for funds, and thus the existing regional disparity in development will get aggravated. But then the counter-contention is that the Centre can always help the poorly developed states to draw up plans to fight poverty and build social infrastructure like schools and hospitals and encourage them to seek World Bank financing. Actually it is more a matter of prestige. For instance, Andhra Pradesh has been getting big loans to reform its electricity board and now Karnataka will receive $ 2.4 billion. Haryana took a similar loan. In all this, the Centre stands sidelined without a role and hence without a say. It does not like this situation and has gone to the bank president grumbling. The praise for economic development is genuine, although Mr Wolfensohn did express unhappiness at the revised and lower rate for the current year. But the poverty figures are based on the hotly contested National Sample Survey findings of 27 per cent being below poverty line. Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha informed the visiting dignatory that everything was honky dory. Inflation is low (at more than 6 per cent?), there is no pressure on foreign exchange reserve, although the very high crude price is a cause for worry and there has been some success on reducing poverty. The World Bank lays much stress on the last point and low interest, long-term assistance is available for this purpose. As the bank chief has pointed out, India has been receiving help despite the sanctions after the Pokhran blasts simply because such money was shown as humanitarian aid.

The Planning Commission too made a “presentation” which is nothing but producing a full report on the progress made so far. The percentage of the poor in the population is an improvement on the past, but a disappointment when viewed against the target. By now it should have been 16.5 per cent. Then the plan panel did a surprising thing. It compared this country’s social indices with those of China and found the picture gloomy. Infant mortality rate in India is 72 per one thousand births (China’s 31), population growth 1.74 per cent (China’s 1 per cent), female literacy 50 per cent (80 per cent in China). The data on female literacy is questionable as women in the traditional Hindi belt are normally illiterate. However, China’s success in the social sector is remarkable. The system of government has helped and also the initial priority. Long before it hit the economic reforms road, it rooted out poverty and illiteracy among men. And that is the springboard for the eye-popping success and also the admiring words of Prof Amartya Sen.


DD big fish in CBI net 

Reverberations from the cricket earthquake continue to travel farther and farther. After cricketers, cricket administrators, bookies and others of their ilk, it is now the turn of Doordarshan officials to face the CBI onslaught. While the list of those whose premises were raided in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, Bangalore and Lucknow on Monday included big names like former International Cricket Council president Jagmohan Dalmiya, WorldTel TV production house manager Mascarenhas and a former acting chief of the Prasar Bharati, Mr K.S. Sarma, there were also 17 Doordarshan officials in it. They allegedly committed several irregularities in awarding the telecast rights for some top sports events during 1997-98. The five FIRs registered by the CBI not only refer to cricket tournaments but also to tennis events like the French Open and the Wimbledon in 1997. Cries of indignation and allegations of witch-hunt are but natural, but the fact remains that Doordarshan too had become a den of corruption. There are allegations that nothing happened in the headquarters of the national TV network without underhand dealings, giving a new connotation to the name of the building, Mandi House. There were —and perhaps are — some officials who just cannot work till their oversized palms are adequately greased. It was not too long ago that a senior DD official was caught sleeping on a soft and smooth mattress stuffed with crores of rupees in currency notes. The recent CBI report corroborates such corruption. It has alleged that Doordarshan's manner of giving telecast rights alone could have caused financial losses to the government to the tune of Rs 30 crore.

Now that the dirt has hit the fan, there is need for going the whole hog and enquiring into every aspect of the scandal. The alarming thing is that the deeper one digs, the stronger the stench of corruption. Big names are involved; big money too. That is why some apprehend that there may be an attempt to bog down the entire enquiry. This may not be done directly, because courts are taking an active interest in the matter. However, indirect tactics may very well be employed which may send the probe off the tangent. It is now for the sleuths to ensure that this does not happen. Evidence they collect also has to be conclusive enough to stand judicial scrutiny. Their track record in this regard has been less than glorious. The investigating agency must also guard against rushing to the Press with juicy details about various raids that it conducts. Its aim is to bring the culprits to book and not to make a show of it. While presenting its report on match-fixing indicting five cricketers and highlighting the involvement of the booking and betting syndicates, it had conceded to some extent that it might not be possible to prosecute many of them. Such frustrating shortcomings should be removed while bringing Doordarshan and other officials to book. The premier investigative agency cannot depend on hearsay. The nation waits for the emergence of concrete facts and eventual conviction. 


The return of V.P. Singh?

What is common between former Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh and a newly-wed bride? They invariably end up saying "no" when they actually mean to say "yes". The former Raja of Manda is in the news again for precisely the same reason which helped him in the past to remain in the limelight. He has shot down rumours of his return to active politics in typical "VP style". Reacting to media speculation about his return he has been quoted as having said that "na political party banayenge na join karenge" (neither will I form a political party nor join one). Those who have worked with him or have watched his rise to the top should have no problem in acknowledging that Mr V. P. Singh would win the title of the "most complete politician" by a kilometre. His friends affectionately call him the Houdini of Indian politics, because he creates the illusion of escaping from the hurly burly of "dirty politics" without actually leaving the stage. At what point of time and for what duration, after he became Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1980, has he ever cut himself totally off from the political developments in the country? History will not remember him as a crony of Sanjay Gandhi which helped him became Chief Minister of UP. He will also not be remembered for having invented Phoolan Devi the dacoit, during his term as Chief Minister. Nor for having professed undying loyalty to Rajiv Gandhi when he shifted to the Centre. He would be remembered for blasting Rajiv Gandhi's image as the original "Mr Clean" of Indian politics to smithereens with the Bofors gun. He would be remembered for having accomplished the seemingly impossible task of making the two extremes of Indian politics meet in 1989 for replacing Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister. Neither the Bharatiya Janata Party nor the Left parties can today explain with clarity the factors which forced them to be seen on the same side of the political divide - and that side was represented by Mr V. P. Singh with an unclear majority in the Lok Sabha. But he will not be held accountable for reneging on the poll promise of completing the Bofors enquiry within 15 days.

Mr V. P. Singh has been quoted as having said that he will not form a political party or join one. This is exactly what he had said when he parted company with Rajiv Gandhi and floated his own non-political Manch for creating awareness among the people about the dirty goings-on in the corridors of power. But he ended up becoming Prime Minister. A spell of ill-health forced him to first re-invent himself as a poet and then as a painter. But he never withdrew from public gaze. Now he is talking about conditions being ripe for starting a mass movement for the rights of the underclass. But active politics is a big "no" in his current jargon. It must be remembered that he is the real Mandal messiah and the Laloo Yadavs, the Mulayam Singh Yadavs and the Mayawatis have merely occupied the political space created by him. And if the former Raja of Manda decides to launch a mass movement a sizeable chunk of the Mandal flock currently in different camps may decide to follow their original messiah. Oh yes, Mr V. P. Singh is not interested in active politics although he would like to see the idea of reviving the third front strike roots. However, he should not forget that now he is not the only leader professing disinterest in an active political role. He has the venerable Mr Jyoti Basu for company. When the moment of reckoning arrives one of them may try to correct a historical blunder his party made by not letting him become Prime Minister. The other may again find himself playing the role of a reluctant political groom, who was forced into a political matrimony he was never interested in 1989. The only difference is that in the case of Mr Basu his being an "honourable man" has never been an issue. However, both his friends and foes will have to take Mr V. P. Singh for his word that this time his intention of not joining active politics is indeed "honourable". If he sticks to the decision, it would be the equivalent of a miracle in Indian politics.


How public funds are wasted

by Joginder Singh

A Welfare state, like ours, is expected to look after the needs of the common man rather than the burgeoning bureaucracy. More than 70 per cent petrol is used on the government account. The petrol import bill is going to cost Rs 81,000 crore this year. It is no wonder that state governments keep on becoming broke. According to one state government calculation, the cost of running one government vehicle every month comes to Rs 32,000 or Rs 3.72 lakh per annum.

Break-up wise, some items roughly cost as under. The salary of the driver is approximately Rs 7000 per month. Overtime, travelling allowance and daily allowance is Rs 20,000 per year. Rs 1000 or more per annum goes in for the uniform, very rarely worn. Petrol expenditure can be upto Rs 9000 per month. The minimum service and maintenance of the car will be Rs 8000 per annum.

However, an officer of the Revenue Department told me that the figure is very much off the mark. The government follows the policy of a farmer willing to give the jaggery or gur, but not a single stem of sugarcane. The old model cars provided and approved for use by the government are mechanic-friendly. On some government cars, as much as Rs 1 lakh per annum is spent to keep them in running condition. It is easier under the rules to spend Rs 3 lakh on repairs rather than to buy a new car within the same amount. Moreover, the cars approved for government departments are fuel guzzlers and are no match for the fuel-efficient vehicles available in the market. It is not known why the old model vehicles, which are purchased only by the government, have not been discarded in favour of the more efficient and almost “no repair required vehicles”. The reasons are not far to seek. They lie either in the kickbacks, or political clout, pressure or money offered to ensure that these models have a monopoly in the government. The vehicles on the approved list do not have even 1 per cent market outside the government. The reasons for inefficiency and delay in responding to the changing environment are too thin. The wheels within the wheels in the government make sure that vested interests are suitably camouflaged and protected.

Currently 80 per cent officials working in the Central or state secretariats or at divisional levels are not required to move in the field. Strictly speaking, their cars and drivers remain almost idle. It also gives scope for the misuse of government vehicles by the officials’ wives and other members of the family as well as for dropping and picking up children from the school. The expenditure on government vehicles, despite protestations and economy orders, is ever increasing. There is a revenue crunch in most states. Some of them are following the policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul, resulting in fewer or no funds for development. Sometimes even the payment of wages to the employees are delayed.

The only solution seems to be just withdrawing the vehicles and auctioning them off. As long as the vehicles are kept in reserve to be used in an “emergency” situation, they will continue to be used without an emergency. Almost all state governments and the Central government maintain a fleet of vehicles for their bureaucrats. The importance of an officer is judged by the size of an official “empire” at his beck and call. One accepted indicator is the perk, including the perk of summoning or hiring vehicles. After the initial drive for economy is announced, those charged with implementing it become more accommodating and sedate. Despite the training imparted to the bureaucrats to treat the government as one and implement all orders faithfully, in the interest of the nation, nobody is serious about implementing any economy orders.

There has been a tall talk of zero tolerance of corruption and terrorism, but there has been no mention of zero wastage in the government. There is a sea difference between what is pronounced and what is done on the ground. The country is in dire need of Churchills, and not Chamberlains, who buy off peace. It does not help the country in regaining glory and prosperity. One of the biggest problems which any government faces is that of coordination. There are too many people and too many departments doing the same work but from their own point of view. A Home Ministry official will look at the problems facing the country from a purely law and order point of view. A Social Welfare official will see everything from the sociological angle. In fact, the Delhi High Court had to point it out that government departments should coordinate before submitting anything to the court so that a clear and coordinated picture is available. Everybody has become so specialised that the generalist approach like the one in medicine is totally missing.

Some people in our country, like in China are experts in making fakes whether it is textiles or medicine or machinery or other goods. All 30 per cent sales in China are reported to be of counterfeit goods. One international brand shoe company reportedly loses $ 70 million every year in look-alike shoes sales which are passed off as its products.

According to one estimate, counterfeit goods sold in our country are responsible for a loss of Rs 17,000 crore. The loss of indirect taxes and excise accounts for nearly Rs 700 crore. In the quest of materialism it is the ethics and uprightness which is the victim. It is most often forgotten that all achievements are the results of disciplined pursuit of priorities and highly organised and focused hard work. Tenets of society and religious values have a role to play. Profit motive, of course, is there but it should not be at the cost of betrayal of trust which society reposes. More than 15 lakh cases of dishonoured cheques involving an amount of over Rs 40,000 crore are pending in courts in our country. More than one lakh of these cases, involving a sum of over Rs 5000 crore, are pending in Mumbai alone.

For any improvement and a better society we have to be vocal in pointing out the deficiencies. Even a child has to cry to tell his or her mother about the need for food or milk. The only problem is that most of us feel that it is the other person’s problem, and we need not trouble ourselves by raking up the issues. Even after 53 years of independence we have imported Indian currency for the face value of Rs 1,00,000 crore from 1997 to 1999. It has been done to bridge the gap between demand and supply. Despite the problems facing the country the all-burgeoning bureaucracy remains not only protected but also complacent. Ordering the demolition of 64 under-construction apartments on the government-encroached land, on public interest litigation, the High Court of Delhi recently observed; “forgery and fabrication of the documents stare in the face of the records. Any sympathetic consideration by the court in this murky deal will encourage the builders to violate the law and acquire more public land through underhand and illegal means. We have no hesitation in ordering the demolition of the entire structure.”

The court also ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe fraud, manipulations and tampering of the records indulged in by certain officials of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi in giving approval to the construction and in facilitating construction. This action is bound to net the land mafia and considerably reduce its activities, especially in big towns all over the country. In fact, if you change the name of the place and the builders, you notice the same story being repeated all over the country.

The only solution lies in giving an unhindered right to information to the public as announced on October 10, 1998, by a former Union Urban Affairs Minister. According to it, any citizen, including those unconnected with particular cases, could demand the inspection of any documents or files from the Urban Development Ministry by merely filing a simple application with a fee of Rs 5. Only those files were to be restricted on which a decision had yet to be taken or the cases under vigilance inquiry. The copying charges for the files were Rs 2 per page. This single action for transparency led to frenzy in the bureaucracy, which felt that it would be the end of its power. It also caused panic in the dishonest politicians and corrupt bureaucrats, who felt that their capacity to convert the government sanctions and approvals into cash would be seriously jeopardised.

The Prime Minister felt that such a decision should be taken for the entire government and not for one ministry. Even after two years, the matter remains where it was. The government continues to be opaque as ever. The people go on groaning, and the goodies of life continue to be for the bureaucrats and the political masters. It is time to rise above the machinations and get going with governance, so that the poorest of the poor feels proud that he is living in a country which genuinely cares for him. Will it happen in our life-time? Or must we go on suffering so that a few could continue plundering?
— The writer, a retired IPS officer, is a former Director of the CBI.



Can India tackle two fronts simultaneously?
by Pritam Bhullar

THE Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, said on October 29 that there was no evidence of incursion by the Chinese into Arunachal Pradesh and that there was no cause for concern. He was responding to Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Mukut-Mithi’s recent statement on intrusions by the Chinese along at least four sectors of Tawang, Taksin, the Dibang valley and Maja. Clarifying his statement, Mr Mithi further said that there had been “Chinese movement and not intrusion into our territory”.

Even Mr Mithi’s clarification that it is Chinese movement and not intrusion into the Indian territory raises a pertinent question. Should we take this movement into our territory lightly? Certainly not, if we are conscious of our security. Mr Mithi has also said that the Chinese graziers were accompanied by uniformed men. Surely, this cannot be without purpose.

We are in the habit of playing down the incidents against us by the Chinese and exaggerating them when Pakistan does something on our borders. We sincerely hope that Mr Fernandes, as is our wont, is not playing down the Chinese “movements” into our territory. To bring home what has been said here, one needs to go back to the 1962 Chinese debacle.

It was in April, 1961, that Army Headquarters sent a note to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) stating, among other things, that if China tried a strong incursion, the Indian Army would not be able to hold. Contrary to the general feeling at Army Headquarters that the note would evoke a positive response from the MoD and the government, it came back after having been seen by the Defence Secretary, the Defence Minister and the Prime Minister and without any remarks.

The then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the then Defence Minister Krishna Menon, were absolutely sure that China would not attack India. So much so that Krishna Menon was making bold statements in and outside Parliament that China would not attack India under any circumstances and if China did so, it would get a befitting reply. These statements, apart from misleading the public, were making the Army top brass, who knew the reality, nervous.

In July, 1962, Gen K.S. Thimayya, the then Army Chief, said: “Whereas in the case of Pakistan, I have considered the possibility of a total war, I am afraid, I cannot do so in regard to China. I cannot even as a soldier envisage India taking on China in an open conflict on its own. It must be left to the politicians and diplomats to ensure our security.”

We were lucky in the 1965 and 1971 wars against Pakistan because China did not pose any threat to us during these wars. Granted that we are better prepared today as compared to what we were in 1962. But, then, there is a palpable nexus between Pakistan and China. And in the case of any future war against China, we would not be able to thin out our forces from our border with Pakistan.

That we cannot take on both China and Pakistan at the same time cannot be denied by any right thinking person. Leave that alone, even to take on China in a full-fledged war may not be possible in present situation, given the fact that Pakistan will take full advantage of such a development.

Granted that “border talks are being held from time to time to sort out the problems”, as Mr Fernandes said on October 29. But things cannot be left there and we need to take an objective and overall view of the Sino-Indian relationship.

Admittedly, with Tibet providing a buffer between India and China, India’s border was very secure until 1950. But with the annexation of Tibet in October, 1950, Chinese forces came to India’s border for the first time in history and this also opened a land-corridor between China and Pakistan. No wonder then that Sardar Patel said at that time: “For the first time after centuries, India’s defence has to concentrate itself on two fronts simultaneously.” And this was the beginning of our troubles which have proliferated over the years.

China’s expansionist policy can be gauged from the fact that its maps are showing Arunachal Pradesh, Spratlys, Paracels, Senkakus and Taiwan as Chinese territory, and Sikkim as an independent state.

Having annexed one-fifth of the original state of Jammu and Kashmir, China is now staking its claim to much of the South China Sea. Not only that, by helping Pakistan and Iran in their naval plans and by constructing naval facilities in Myanmar, China is gaining a commanding position over the trade routes from West Asia to East Asia via the Indian Ocean.

Against this background, we cannot take Chinese escapades into our territory lightly. Nor should India be caught napping as it happened in 1962, especially when we know that in 1962 too, Chinese first started encroachments on Indian territory which developed into an open aggression.

This is not to say that we should be unduly alarmed by the Arunachal Pradesh incidents, but at the same time we should not ignore them. What we need to do is to analyse them with the benefit of hindsight so that they are not lost sight of in the developing Sino-Indian situation.

Finally, we should remember that a contingency can arise in which both our borders with Pakistan and China may have to be tackled simultaneously. India must, therefore, be fully prepared to face such a contingency with proper planning, preparation and full confidence. But this can only be done if the political mindset in India undergoes a change. Otherwise, what General Thimayya said in 1962, “I cannot even as a soldier envisage India taking on China in an open conflict on its own”, will still hold good.


Lingering spring in autumn
by Rajnish Wattas

YELLOW is the flavour of the season, as far as nature’s splash in the city is concerned. Autumn is traditionally considered “a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” by western poets; but that’s not true for our north Indian plains. In fact, this is the time when one gets the much-needed respite from arduous weather; first the scorching sun and then the torrential rains. This is the time when the sun is mellow and its sting does not singe; and the sticky humidity is over. The day is pleasant and the night gently nippy. It’s time to sit in the verandah and savour the gentle, slowed down, rhapsody of nature.

And that’s what I do every morning, savouring my morning cup of tea and relishing the changed colours and hues of the landscape all around. Right in front of our garden is a tree with its canopy sprinkled with dainty yellow flowers. And just a few days back, it hardly inspired any attention with its rather ordinary looking foliage. This is the magic of the koelreuteria tree; that when every one thinks that the “spring ball” is over — it springs back a beautiful surprise! In fact, so happily is the tree laden with blossoms that it merrily showers down quite many on the grass beneath, making the lawn look like a carpet of yellow dots woven into the grass. It has my “manicured-lawn-obsessed” wife screaming at the poor mali to weed them out, till we notice the real mischief maker! And soon these yellow flowers will turn into copper-red pods.

But it’s not the koelreuteria tree alone which is in bloom. There are others too that have donned yellow robes. The kassod tree planted along Chandigarh’s Madhya Marg is also in bloom, with its feathery leaves and tiny yellow flowers. Another less “show-and-tell” tree in bloom with yellow flowers is the Australian kikkar, which can be seen, among many other places, along the road in front of the Press Club in Sector 27. Perhaps they are pressing hard for attention!

Besides the trees, the shrubs too seem to have got into the “yellow” mood. Take for instance the golden bells planted along Leisure Valley, in the stretch in front of the Museum complex, who seem to be playing an autumn sonata of their own. Then there is the small tree-like shrub called cassia glauca, with feathery leaves and a riot of yellow flowers dangling in grape-like bunches. One can notice them along the road dividing Sector 8 and 5 in the city. And I should not forget the good old pili kaner — almost a small tree — with its slender leaves and petite yellow blossoms.

Enough of “yellow tales” some of you may say now! But autumn is also a symphony of other colours in the landscape. Who can miss the enchanting beauty of the Maxican silk cotton tree in bloom these days. This magnificently beautiful tree with its light green stem and a thin foliage sprouts pinkish flowers all over its canopy. Of all the places, I noticed them in the grim surroundings of the PGI! Perhaps they are doing their bit of ushering in some beauty and cheer in the otherwise sombre settings. Happily enough, one can also notice them in more colourful surrounding of the College of Art campus. I am sure it inspires many a budding artist to pick up his paints and brushes.

But who can match the divine artistry of nature? There is a lingering spring in the city’s landscape even when it is autumn. Some flowering trees, which come into bloom only then; are still tenaciously holding on to their fading blossoms. Take for instance some specimens of jacranda and gulmohar; which are still clinging on to their spring time finery; perhaps in a vain hope that they can defy the march of time. And, just like us — who never like to be in the autumn of our lives.


Child killers fight for right to privacy
From Clare Dyer in London

IN JUST a few months, Robert Thompson and Jon Venables, the two young men who killed the toddler James Bulger, will slip out of the secure units in the north of England which have been their homes for the past eight years. They will begin new lives in different parts of the country with new identities and carefully manufactured histories designed to obliterate all traces of the past.

The photographs of their 10-year-old selves, endlessly recycled in the media’s iconography of evil, bear little resemblance to the stocky 18-year-olds they have become. But will the edifice built to protect them from exposure to the mob hold up? Ralph Bulger, James’s father, has vowed to hunt them down, and the tabloid newspapers which called for them to be locked up for life are not going to forget them.

“Recent experience tells us that if they were to be named and shamed by the media it would put them, and anyone else who resembles them, at grave risk of vigilante attacks,” said Rob Allen, Director of Research at Nacro, the National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders.

Lawyers for Robert Thompson and Jon Venables will ask the High Court to impose a “Mary Bell” order — a permanent injunction banning the media from revealing the slightest detail of their new lives, names or whereabouts.

The pair could be released as early as February, and the construction of their new life stories has already begun. If they succeed, they will live out the rest of their lives under a shroud of secrecy, their true identities hidden from all but a handful of people.

“If Thompson and Venables win, the effect will be to prohibit anyone from naming them or photographing them,” says Martin Partington, a solicitor for Trinity Mirror, one of the newspaper groups fighting the injunction. “They will effectively become non-people.”

No criminal leaving custody has had such protection before. The blanket ban protecting Mary Bell, jailed aged 11 in 1968 for the murder of two small children and released 12 years later, was actually granted to safeguard her daughter, who was made a ward of court and is still under 18. There is no precedent in English law for a court to grant such a ban to protect an adult. Indeed, it seemed questionable whether there was any mechanism for doing it — at least until last month, when the Human Rights Act came into force.

The act made the European Convention on Human Rights part of English law, creating for the first time a right of privacy enforceable in the courts. But the convention also enshrines a right to freedom of expression.

Lawyers have been keenly awaiting the first big test case to see how the English courts would deal with the clash between the right of privacy and the media’s right to inform the public. Few foresaw that the first beneficiaries would be not pop stars or politicians but child killers.

Since their trial in 1993, Thompson and Venables have been protected by an injunction imposed by the trial judge, Mr Justice Morland, banning the media from publishing their whereabouts or any details of their daily lives. Last July, as their 18th birthdays loomed, four newspaper groups went to the High Court to clarify what would happen to that injunction when the pair came of age. Would it automatically lapse?

The President of the High Court’s family division, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, ruled that the injunction should stay in place. The case is seen as so important for the penal system and the protection of young offenders that separate legal teams will represent Britain’s Home Office, the Attorney-General and the official solicitor, as well as Thompson, Venables and the newspapers.

In deciding cases that raise human rights issues, English courts have to take account of case law from the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, though they need not follow it slavishly. Judgments from Strasbourg show that the court rates privacy as an important right, but puts the right to free speech higher, as an essential safeguard in a democratic society.

Senior judges in England, however, have been keen to carve out a right of privacy since the case of actor Gorden Kaye, who was ambushed in his hospital bed by a newspaper reporter and photographer while still heavily sedated after an accident. In that case, the judges reluctantly decided there was nothing they could do. Now there is something they can do and Thompson and Venables may be the first to reap the benefit.

Apart from the right to privacy, the European Convention on Human Rights expressly allows limits on freedom of expression to prevent “the disclosure of information received in confidence”. The English courts have in recent years begun to impose a duty of confidence on snoopers who obtain information by unethical means, such as trespass, listening devices or long-lens cameras.

In addition to these arguments, Venables’ QC, Edward Fitzgerald, produced a novel suggestion at the July hearing that the injunction could be justified to protect the statutory right of offenders to rehabilitation. Dame Elizabeth, who will preside over this week’s hearing, described that as “a most interesting question which has not yet been addressed by any court to my knowledge”.

Should Thompson and Venables win, the way could be open for those other British icons of evil, convicted murderers Myra Hindley and Rosemary West, if they ever regain their freedom, to disappear from sight.

Partington says: “The Thompson and Venables case could make new law because there has never been a situation where people have effectively asked a court to sanction them not to be people any more. It’s quite a dangerous precedent. If juveniles who commit serious crimes and are not released till they are adults are given anonymity, why shouldn’t everyone have it?”

The Strasbourg court has not had to rule on many clashes between the rights of privacy and freedom of expression. The closest to Thompson and Venables’ case may be Z v Finland, in which the court held that the right to privacy of a woman with HIV was violated when her name, linked with the infection, was mentioned in a court judgment passed to the press. Her lawyers had argued that the revelation had dramatically affected her private and family life by exposing her to opprobrium and the risk of ostracism.

In Thompson and Venables’ case, exposure could not only endanger their chances of rehabilitation and a normal life; it could put their lives at risk from revenge attacks. But protecting them may not be so simple. The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act will oblige them to reveal their murder conviction to any prospective employer.

And in the internet age, is it even possible to become a non-person? A High Court injunction would ban the media in England and Wales from blowing their cover. Separate injunctions could cover Scotland and Northern Ireland. But there would be nothing to stop anonymous postings on foreign websites, or stories in any of the thousands of foreign newspapers whose online editions are freely accessible to readers in the UK.

Judges in the case of conjoined twins Jodie and Mary allowed the press to reveal that their parents came from Gozo after learning that the information was freely available on the internet.

Whatever the outcome, the Thompson and Venables case could go all the way to Britain’s House of Lords. Lord Bingham, now the senior law lord, revealed his views in a lecture four years ago. He believed the law should protect personal privacy, but “the right must be narrowly drawn, to give full effect to the right of free speech and the public’s right to know”.

He concluded, however: “I think it almost inevitable that cases will arise in which the need to give relief is obvious and pressing; and when such cases do arise, I do not think the courts will be found wanting.” — By arrangement with The Guardian


How Singapore looks at India
By T. R. Ramachandran

Notwithstanding the inexplicable hiatus in the relationship between India and Singapore for nearly three decades, New Delhi is still to get its act together in playing a pro-active role in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) region. It has to put in place expeditiously a focused Indo-Singapore and India-Asean policy rather than merely taking recourse to diplomatese. That is what Singapore wants in the political and economic spheres. The leadership of the dynamic city state — President S R Nathan, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and senior minister Lee Kuan Yew — did not hedge in conveying to President K R Narayanan during his four-day state visit to that country which concluded on Monday that India’s engagement in the ASEAN region must be galvanised. Singapore has its own compulsions of looking to India because of the huge market that this country offers. It has endeavoured to play its part in trying to wake up a power in Asia to get actively involved in the fast changing dynamics of this continent and unleash its vast potential.

Though India maintains that its “Look East” initiative outlined by former Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao in 1994 is an important strand of its foreign policy, New Delhi has been loquacious in giving it a decisive orientation. There is criticism against decision makers for their myopic vision. Experts are emphatic that India should have made its presence felt during the 1997-98 economic meltdown in South-East Asia. The overbearing view is that economic strategies get tipped over into politics, thus putting the brakes on such partnerships. Japan and China on the other hand have capitalised in maximising their exposure with Singapore while India got relegated to the background. Singapore has necessarily to focus on commerce and trade for its own survival as well as maintaining one of the highest standards of living in the Asia-Pacific region. It is apparent Singapore is having problems with investments in China and is actively scouting for other markets. That is how India fits into their scheme of things subject to New Delhi speeding up the reforms process.

Immediately after separating from Malaysia, Singapore sought assistance and guidance from India on various matters encompassing framing of its Constitution and the structuring of its government. The initial promise was followed by a long spell of inaction in Indo-Singapore bilateral relations. It is only since the mid-nineties that the ties between the two countries have started to look up and a new synergy is now emerging, thanks to India’s pre-eminence in the information technology sector.

India is feeling ill at ease at having been left out of the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) and the Asia-Pacific European Community (APEC). The poser in the corridors of power in the National Capital is how can India not figure in any Asia grouping. India is lobbying through Singapore and other friendly countries to gain entry into ASEM and APEC but that is unlikely to materialise in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, New Delhi is of the opinion that India cannot be kept out of these two Asian groupings for long. Considering the opposition to India from certain quarters, ASEM has decided to evolve the criteria for granting membership. Similarly, there are many countries interested in joining the APEC which has slapped a decade long moratorium on inducting new members. Barring the imponderables, the door is firmly shut on India at present in respect of ASEM and APEC.

However, Singapore is keen that India participates in the deliberations held immediately after the ASEAN summit. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong told mediapersons accompanying Mr Narayanan that Singapore would be discussing this issue later this month with the partners of ASEAN skillfully without being aggressive as there has to be a consensus. Should this materialise in making the grouping ASEAN plus four, then India will be part of the league along with China, Japan and South Korea.

Singapore has its strategic concerns in the region and feels there is need to strengthen cooperation with India in defence for stability. ASEAN strategic experts are worried about a possible disintegration of Indonesia because of the turmoil in the Aceh province which enjoys major oil reserves. In a severe blow to the peace process in Indonesia’s war-torn Aceh province, rebels decided not to attend the next round of peace talks in Switzerland until the recent escalation of violence stopped. The members of the ASEAN grouping are also worried that the strife in Aceh with no solution in sight might encourage secessionist movements. From a regional perspective, these are extremely disturbing trends as ASEAN has been free of such disturbances. If the situation in Ache province becomes irretrievable for Indonesia, it will have an adverse impact on the political, economic and social fabric of the ASEAN region. Another aspect that is making its presence felt in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia are the activities of conservative Islamic groups. Though these groups have carved out a political base for themselves, there is nothing to suggest that Islamic fundamentalism is rearing its head in the region.

The navies of India and Singapore hold joint exercises annually and think tanks in the city state are convinced that New Delhi should be involved in ensuring peace and calm in the ASEAN region. India which has faced problems of insurgency and cross-border terrorism can assist the ASEAN grouping in dealing with such machinations. Some Singaporean think tanks went to the extent of suggesting that India which has been involved with the United Nations peacekeeping operations for nearly 50 years can play a pivotal role as a balancing and stabilising factor in the region. The ball is clearly in India’s court. 



I long to be as Thou art.

I want the world to see Thy glory in my life.

Take full possession of my heart.

See, I kneel at Thy feet, and again

I renew my view.

I am all Thine own.

I am all Tine own.

Teach me day by day to detect

the very appearance of evil,

Make me sensitive to sin.

So many this mark of Whiteness grow fairer

From all spirit of self-righteousness deliver me.

May I never praise self or put self forward.

Deliver me from all evil.

—Charlotte Skinner,

The Marks of the Master, Chapter XX


My merciful Lord,

Pray hear my petition;

I am drifting in the world's stormy sea,

Rescue me if it be Thy will.

No one in this world is mine,

Thou alone art truly my own.

Father, mother, son kinsman, all

Are companions for their own ends.

Listen to Mira's prayer, O beloved:

If it be thy will, unite her to Thy feet.

— Mira Bai,

"Tum suno dyal Mahari Arji".


There are three truths which are absolute, and which cannot be lost, but yet may remain silent for lack of speech.

The soul of man is immortal, and its future is the future of a thing whose growth and splendour have no limit.

The Principle which gives life dwells in us, and without us, is undying and eternally beneficent, is not heard or seen or smelt, but is perceived by the man who desires perception.

Each man is his own absolute law-giver, the dispenser of glory or gloom to himself; the decreer of his life, his reward, his punishment.

These truths which are as great as is life itself, are simple as the simplest mind of man. Feed the hungry with them.

— Idyll of the White Lotus Cited in C.W. Leadbeater,

After Death — What?


So long as three gunas, namely sattva,

rajas and tamas affect a person internally,

such a person thinking of his identity as different from God,

Is led to evil ways.

Every moment he offers worship

to lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride...

— Sant Ravidas, Vani 17

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
120 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |