Thursday, November 16, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E



Sell-off plan in mid-air
S a former investigative journalist, it comes naturally to Mr Arun Shourie to inject a dose of sensation in his official pronouncements. 

Birth of Jharkhand
HE BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, which had failed to capture power in undivided Bihar, has finally succeeded in installing its government in the tribal-dominated part now called Jharkhand. 

Reforming education
UMAN Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi is out to revolutionise education. Knowing the political line he has been plugging all along, one can be sure what direction that the education revolution will take, even if several suggestions appear to be innocuous on the surface.


Bold initiatives called for
by P. C. Dogra
T this point of time in the decade-old insurgency in the Kashmir valley a situation has come where the people just want peace, nothing more.



A presidential visit indeed
November 15, 2000
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
  Friends of India
HILE the world is yet to know who would be the next President of the United States of America, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has assumed an additional role, having been elected to the Senate from New York.


Harmonising faith with reason
by Asghar Ali Engineer
ELIGION is a great spiritual force and a vital necessity for human beings. Without religion there will be a vacuum, not only of values but also of felt emotions. A meaningful human life is possible only if reason is supplemented by faith in values and spirituality. 


With your heart in your mouth
ARENTS faced with the hair-tearing task of instilling in their children the importance of regular toothbrushing could probably do with a house call from Dr Efthymios Deliargyris.




Sell-off plan in mid-air

AS a former investigative journalist, it comes naturally to Mr Arun Shourie to inject a dose of sensation in his official pronouncements. This streak was evident on Tuesday when he set a March deadline to sell off 40 per cent of equity in Air-India and Indian Airlines. This optimism appealed to the media and every newspaper prominently flashed this bit of soothing information. But the Minister has kept for himself an escape route. He made this conditional on the absence of “unexpected roadblocks”. For good measure he listed two old roadblocks and erected a few more, the combined effect of which will be to postpone the completion of the disinvestment process by the middle of the next calendar year. Incidentally, that is the timeframe the global adviser, JM Morgan Stanlay, has set and the Civil Aviation Ministry is comfortable with. The two obstacles are the bitter wrangling between the Minister in-charge and the managing director of the A-I and the difficulty in the path of hiving off the Hotel Corporation of India from the parent A-I. His own contribution is to seek clearance for the transfer of Indian Airlines management. He wants the Intelligence Bureau and the Chief Vigilance Commission to look into the security angle and has also requested the CAG to do an economic and social audit and report its findings to Parliament. All these cannot be done simultaneously but in a sequence and it will take time. But the biggest headache is the extent of freedom the bidders will receive, particularly for a stake in the domestic airline. There will be no hassle about the business plans and technical bids for rehabilitation but access to data rooms, which contain all trade secrets, has to be restricted. IA officials fear that domestic competitors, who are barred from bidding, will put up a dummy to steal its secrets and kill its business. It will take the wisdom of a Solomon to solve this one riddle.

There are some big names among the suitors of Air-India. The Tatas are there in the company of Singapore Airlines, the Hindujas are there with the SkyTeam (Air France and Emirates Airways), L.N.Mittal (of the Ispat group) is there as is Kotak Mahindra in the company of British Airways and Australia’s Qantas. The surprise bidder is the Indian Pilot Guild, which hopes to raise the necessary capital of Rs 1000 crore through subscriptions from the 26,000 employees. Mr Shourie is scornful of media speculation that the international carrier is worth Rs 24,000 crore but has not dismissed reports that IA is likely to fetch a good price because of its promise and performance. It is making good money on its foreign routes and it exercises only about 40 per cent of its landing rights, meaning with more flights it can boost its profit. Other disinvestment plans are unlikely to hatch very soon. The cash cow called the HPCL (Hindustan Petrochemicals Corporation Ltd) has two bidders. IOC with the Soros Group as partner is one of them but being a public sector undertaking, it has little chance of getting the nod. The second is Reliance, a giant in this line of business, with an undervalued bid, as befits a one-buyer auction. The sale of MTNL and VSNL has run into trouble over pricing and timing. And going by the statement of junior Minister Tapan Sikdar, there are sharp differences in the Cabinet on this. Maruti Udyog has got the clearance for sale but the ongoing strike has upset all plans. Disinvestment is good but dicey. And the simulated enthusiasm of Mr Shourie is no antidote to the viral fever of ideological and opportunistic opposition. 


Birth of Jharkhand

THE BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, which had failed to capture power in undivided Bihar, has finally succeeded in installing its government in the tribal-dominated part now called Jharkhand. Since in a democracy government formation is purely a numbers game, it was obvious that the BJP, with the maximum number of MLAs (32) on its side, would be the major gainer. On the face of it, the NDA ministry headed by Mr Babulal Marandi, with the support of 45 MLAs in a House of 81, seems to have enough strength to last its full term. But it may not be so. Of course, if there was any threat to his ministry from JMM chief Shibu Soren, it has nearly disappeared , and Mr Marandi has to thank the Congress for it. Mr Soren is terribly unhappy with the BJP leadership as he has failed to get his pound of flesh for his party’s support to the short-lived Nitish Kumar ministry in Bihar. He should not be expected to sit idle and watch the happenings in Ranchi. His entire strategy against the Marandi ministry was based on the Congress support, which has been denied. It is after a long time the Congress has taken a politically correct decision. It has done so with an eye on the emerging scenario in Bihar, and it may be a gainer in the long turn. Mr Soren will keep sulking because he had perhaps taken it for granted that in the event of the Jharkhand dream becoming a reality, he would be the natural choice for Chief Ministership. Now the realisation should have dawned on him that in politics nothing comes naturally, and friends become foes when there is a clash of interests.

But this does not mean that Mr Marandi will have a smooth sailing. He has enemies within his party. They will not allow him peaceful governance. Mr Karia Munda, who is a far more experienced tribal leader than Mr Marandi, is unlikely to take things lying down. He has openly shown his displeasure by staying away from the BJP Legislature Party meeting convened to elect its leader. He has lost the race for Chief Ministership because of his association with Mr Govindacharya, now a discredited BJP strategist. Mr Munda might have already started working on a destabilising scheme. He has a dynamite easily available. The tribals, numbering 60 lakhs in a state with a 2.18 crore population, have begun raising their demand that in their areas they would like to have their own panchayati system. This, in a way, means an autonomous kind of administration. The newly-established Jharkhand government cannot afford to agree to this arrangement. Going by the expectations of the tribals, confrontation is unavoidable. The tribals will also insist on the discontinuance of mining activity in certain areas where the forest cover is disappearing fast. They may get the support of environmentalists also. The Marandi ministry will find itself in a Catch-22 situation. It will not be wise for it to ignore a tribal grievance in a state created to improve the living condition of the Adivasis. But it also cannot afford to deviate from the path of economic growth. How Mr Marandi manages the tricky situation will be watched by one and all. 


Reforming education

HUMAN Resource Development Minister Murli Manohar Joshi is out to revolutionise education. Knowing the political line he has been plugging all along, one can be sure what direction that the education revolution will take, even if several suggestions appear to be innocuous on the surface. He wants to introduce compulsory subjects like “panchayati raj”, “India’s common cultural heritage” and “India’s struggle for freedom, social, political developments and challenges in post-Independence India”. If all goes well, he would even like to introduce Sanskrit as a compulsory subject. What it will do to the already heavy workload of school students is obvious. This at a time when experts are unanimous that the syllabus should be sharp and lean! While the world over the tendency is to develop scientific temper, the good doctor wants to go in for “spiritual quotient”, whatever that means. Dr Joshi has many more far-reaching changes up his sleeve. He wants to replace the prevailing annual examination system in schools and replace it with a continuous evaluation and gradation system up to Class XII. The avowed aim is to remove the stress laid on cramming and bridge the gap between municipal schools and public schools. The idea is good in principle but can be a nightmare in practice. It presupposes the existence of a workforce of committed government teachers devoted to work only for the good of the students. In reality, there are not even enough teachers, leave alone good teachers. Till now, the failure of an excessive number of students at least draws attention towards the shortcomings of a particular teacher. Once he or she gets a chance to elevate students to the next class, he will have even lesser need to work hard. Given the kind of education system that we have had (suffered?) all these years, it would be futile to bring about such a radical change before having all the prerequisites in place. Rather, it may prove to be a mistake.

The new curriculum may come into force from the 2002-2003 academic session. Apprehensions of saffronisation of education have alarmed even allies of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The fear is all the more among Opposition parties. In these circumstances, it is not clear how Dr Joshi will be able to implement the suggested reforms. After all, education is a State subject and there are many States, which will brook no interference in the matter. An unfortunate consequence that may accrue is that even some well-meaning and positive reforms may get bogged down because of the controversy. The semester system in secondary classes, vocational education, health education, physical education and national-level tests for jobs are some of the measures that can bring about improvement. 


Bold initiatives called for
by P. C. Dogra

AT this point of time in the decade-old insurgency in the Kashmir valley a situation has come where the people just want peace, nothing more. Believe me when I say that there is no clamour either for merger with Pakistan, even though not difficult to believe for an independent Kashmir. Not that there has been a change of heart. But these are harsh ground realities.

There are quite a few reasons for this kind of thinking dawning on the Kashmiris. Firstly, they have seen the cruelest form of violence perpetrated on the peace-loving people both by militants and security forces. It may not be an exaggeration to say that at least one member from each family has been killed either by security forces or by militants. Enough is enough. They want no more. The valley has been held hostage to the gun. People find the Kashmir leadership obsessed with getting more and more power and more and more wealth.

Secondly, this period of secessionism has done one good thing to the Kashmiris — the opening up of the market for Kashmiri goods throughout the country. Violence in the valley made the Kashmiri traders look up to the alternative openings. The whole of India was open to them. They have spread out to the main markets throughout the country and have established their trading network as far as Hyderabad, Cochin, Bombay and Calcutta. Kashmiri traders are decidedly better off than they were before the eruption of militancy. Obviously, when people become prosperous, they want peace to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

Thirdly, none of the hardcore militants operating in the valley is of Kashmiri origin. They have no emotional links with these mercenaries. They hate their violent acts because before these foreign terrorists carry out their action they have already planned their exit. They escape in good time. In the following cordon and search operation, innocent people get picket up and harassed by the security forces. It may also be true that the memories of the 1947 Afridi tribal invasion have started haunting them. It also needs to be noticed that the people residing in the Pak-occupied Kashmir are ethnically not of Kashmiri origin. They are Punjabis with no emotional links with Kashmiris.

Fourthly, Muslims of Kashmir are most progressive. During my posting in the valley, I was surprised to know that cow slaughter was not very prevalent there and that not many Muslims were used to beef eating. They prefer goat meat. Foreign jehadis are wanting to Talibanise the culture of the valley. That is being resisted interestingly by the Kashmiri girls also. The valley’s culture has been influenced by Hindu seers, Buddhism and Sufi saints. Buddhist sculpture is patently manifest on the oldest mosque in the downtown of Srinagar. It is the most respected mosque where the prayers are led by Mirwaiz himself. Kashmiri language is a mixture of Sanskrit and Persian.

Lastly, after the visit of Mr Clinton to India, the people of Kashmir have understood the futility of the armed struggle being carried by Pakistan-based mercenaries. Moreover, the prevailing situation in Pakistan — where different ethnic groups are pretty sore about the maltreatment meted out to them by the Pakistani bureaucracy and the army totally dominated by the Punjabis and the danger of Pakistan breaking up looming large — will not inspire any Kashmiri to opt for Pakistan.

People generally bear with the cordon and search operations after the strikes by militants as they believe that it is a necessary evil. But they dread the special task force of the state and the surrendered militants who have been appointed Special Police Officers. It is generally complained that they catch the innocent boys and threaten their liquidation unless a certain amount of money is given to them. The situation is similar to the one as it was in Punjab after 1992. The Punjab Police lost a lot of goodwill it had earned while fighting terrorism as we could not control the extortionists in the police and bring them to book. Surrendered militants are being paid a paltry sum and that too not regularly. However, they have been given one weapon presumably for their self-protection which they are using for harassing the innocent and extorting money. This must be prevented.

The situation in Srinagar has changed so much that people welcome the establishment of bunkers by security personnel as it provides them the feeling of security. It is on record that as and when a particular bunker is removed, the people of the area make fervent appeals against it. Reports from the Kashmiris with whom I have been interacting say that people are willing to come out against foreign mercenaries if the security forces can give the assurance that they will not be harmed by the jehadis.

One quite interesting development is that Kashmiris hate the All-Party Hurriyat Conference. They hold this conglomerate responsible for the continuing violence in the state and the killing of their kith and kin, with no solution in sight. They hold them also responsible for sabotaging the ceasefire by the Hizbul Mujahideen as in this move people had seen a ray of hope for normalising the situation in the state. Feeling the pulse of the people, the APHC has also changed its stance as it is no longer insisting on the participation of Pakistan in the talks at the initial stage. Abdul Ghani Lone’s remarks at the convention of his party, where he had equated Pakistan with India, and the most recent statement of Abdul Ghani Bhat, Chairman of the APHC, that despite relentless efforts and sacrifices, nothing will change unless a realistic approach is adopted, reveals the convulsions taking place in this conglomerate.

I would request those people who do not share my perception of the situation to have a flashback to the circumstances prevailing in the years 1989 and 1990. The valley was reverberating with the slogans of azadi (independence). I was then posted as Inspector-General of the BSF, Srinagar. Lakhs of Kashmiris would converge on the streets of Srinagar and in one voice cry for independence. There used to be one continuous stream of people from the country-side in whatever transport they could manage to get, all heading for Srinagar. Then it was a home-grown movement for the freedom of Kashmir. I saw the demonstration in the streets of Srinagar raising slogans for what they called Nizam-e-Mustafa. That is past now. In the early eighties, the Punjab Police was also presumed to be allied with terrorists. The same Punjab Police rose from the ashes, grappled with terrorism, suffered innumerable losses. We lost hundreds of policemen, and their families were wiped out. But the Punjab Police came on top and brought peace to the state. Similarly placed is the J & K Police. It has really emerged as the most nationalist, dedicated and totally committed to wiping out the menace of terrorism from the valley. Time has come to totally trust the J & K Police, build up their morale, equip them with better weapons, provide security to their families, be indulgent about incentives by way of promotion and monetary rewards to them.

It is not in the interest of national security to keep our Army engaged for such a long period in counter-insurgency duties. In such Army operations, along with the militants, local people also get sucked in and the Army tends to lose their goodwill, which causes a great damage to the Army operations against the enemy at the time of war. As per media reports, the Indian Army is getting tired of its prolonged commitment to the anti-insurgency operations in the valley. Even Army Generals have called for a political solution to the Kashmir problem. We should take a bold decision now. The Army should be strengthened at the border. Counter-insurgency operations should be entrusted to the paramilitary forces and the J & K Police. Of course, the Army should be available to give the requisite fire-power to fight the entrenched jehadis.

The best way to win over the people of Kashmir is to protect their human rights. The decision of the Chief Minister of J & K to order a judicial enquiry into the Pathribal killings and now in the Chittisinghpora massacre is a very laudable step. The alienation of the people must be addressed immediately and positively. We should take some bold political decisions.

Since 1989 I have seen that there is no sound and steady Kashmir policy. We lack vision. If there are more killings, the Government of India inducts more security forces. When the security forces start having an upper hand, we gloat over it and lapse into complacency to be woken up when the killings take place again. On the other hand, Pakistan has a well-formulated Kashmir doctrine. When Operation Gibralter, initiated by President Ayub Khan, failed because the Kashmiris did not respond to the call for jehad and did not welcome the infiltrating Razakars, President Zia launched Operation Topac for creating home-grown insurgency by luring the Kashmiri youth across the Line of Control, training them and sending them back to the valley to fight for “the cause of jehad”.

Dr Abdullah is a great patriot. Unfortunately, his government is perceived to be very corrupt and inefficient. There is total nepotism and the government is not responsive to the aspirations of the masses. Kashmiris say we want deliverance (nijat) both from militancy and the corrupt government. It is a hard fact. Something drastic needs to be done to wipe off this impression. A massive mass contact programme should be launched. The forthcoming panchayat elections provide a good opportunity to the Farooq Abdullah government.

As mentioned earlier, we have got a historic opportunity to steer the valley away from militancy and bring the Kashmiris back into the national mainstream. Let us not disappoint the people of Kashmir and the nation. If we fail this time, we may lose Kashmir. Media reports suggest that Pakistani dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf is fast losing popularity. He may embark on some misadventure to retrieve his lost sheen. Since the days of General Zia the Pakistan army has been totally jehadi. They have to keep the issue of Kashmir alive to sustain them. Bold economic, political and administrative steps are called for.

— The writer, a former Director-General, Punjab Police, has been Inspector-General, BSF, Jammu; IG, BSF, Srinagar; and Additional Director-General, BSF, J & K.


Friends of India

WHILE the world is yet to know who would be the next President of the United States of America, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has assumed an additional role, having been elected to the Senate from New York.

It is particularly good news for this country as the Clintons are seen to be friends of India. In fact, the Democrats have always displayed better understanding of India's interests than the Republicans. Can this country ever forget the infamous "Nixon tilt" against us during the Republican's presidency, especially at the time of the 1971 war with Pakistan?

Historically, India warms up to the Democrats better and one notes with satisfaction that there have been some American Indians who have made it to the Senate as Democratic candidates.

It is still fresh in memory how Mr Clinton and his daughter charmed the whole of India during their March visit.

No wonder, many in the country rejoiced over Mrs Hillary Clinton's election to the Senate and her feat in being the first ever Presidential spouse to do so.

New York perhaps spells good augury for this country as its previous Senator was another India friend, Mr. Daniel Patrick Moynihan. He was the US Ambassador in the 1970's and had always displayed excellent understanding of New Delhi's interests. Mr Moynihan has consistently supported India's case for being a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

With her right vibes towards the people of India, Mrs Clinton, 53, can be expected to carry on the Moynihan tradition. New Delhi will watch her performance with more than usual interest.

Swami of Uttaranchal

After a long time one hears of a person heading a state government who has the image of being incorruptible. With a political career spanning over half a century, he has never been charged with involvement in any shaddy deal. Something unbelievable, a rare quality indeed today. But this is true about the first Chief Minister of Uttaranchal, Mr Nityanand Swami.

The 73-year-old leader has, no doubt, got the challenging responsibility mainly because the frontline contenders — those who have their roots in the erstwhile hills of UP and fought for the carving out of the new state — did not allow a consensus to emerge for the leader of the 23-member BJP Legislature Party. But that is no disqualification. There is also no harm if his ancestors originally came from today's Haryana or Sindh, a province of Pakistan.

It is immaterial if Mr Nityanand Swami is not very popular among the masses. People in general have a tendency to start liking a person who honestly attends to their grievances; who demonstrates the capacity to transform their economic life. Mr Swami can silence his detractors within his party and elsewhere by quietly concentrating on this aspect. He will begin to rule over the hearts of the people if he acquires the image of a nation-builder. It is not an easy task, but not impossible to achieve.

One has to have the necessary commitment and perseverance to be a relentless fighter for the economic well-being of the masses. The fruits of such an endeavour will definitely be sweat. The Uttaranchal Chief Minister appears to be a fighter of this variety. One gets this impression from the fact that he had the courage to contest every election to enter the UP Assembly since 1953 though success came his way after 16 long years. He also had to suffer expulsion from the then Jana Sangh because of his acquaintance with Kamalapati Tripathi, the late Congress leader. His party bosses, however, soon realised that they were unfair to this former RSS Pracharak and allowed him to come back home — into the Sangh Parivar.

These days nobody takes seriously the promises of our politicians. Thus Mr Swami's assurances with regard to the hydroelectric power potential of his state and other areas of his priority are meaningless for the ordinary people. But if he manages to convince the Central BJP leadership that the state must build its capital either at Gairsain or any other place in the hills of Kumaon or Garhwal, people will believe that they have got the ruler they deserve.

Marxists’ miseries

Misery continues to dog the CPM. Close on the heels of its derecognition as a national party, comes the report that the party has been asked to vacate the 14 Ashoka Road bungalow in Lutyens' Delhi. It had served as the party headquarters for a number of years before it moved to AK Gopalan Bhavan.

The bungalow, whose last occupant was expelled party rebel Saifuddin Choudhury, now serves as the party guest house. Party organs - People's Democracy and Lok Leher - also have their offices in the bungalow.

One does not know if the Marxists can afford to be sentimental, but the bungalow has an emotive aspect about it as it was from here the late EMS Namboodiripad functioned as General Secretary for long years.

The Union Urban Development Ministry has also served notices, asking the party to vacate another bungalow, 8 Teen Murti Lane, where its General Secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet is staying. He cannot retain the bungalow any longer as the party has lost its national status, the Marxists have been curtly told.

It was allotted to Mr E. Balanandan as party Rajya Sabha member. With his term being over, he can retain it no longer.

The housing woes of the Marxists began with Urban Development Minister Jagmohan's efforts to bring order to the whole system of allotment of houses, long dogged by "irregularities".

Misfortune never comes alone, the saying goes. Whether the rational Marxists believe in it or not, they are certainly experiencing it.


Harmonising faith with reason
by Asghar Ali Engineer

RELIGION is a great spiritual force and a vital necessity for human beings. Without religion there will be a vacuum, not only of values but also of felt emotions. A meaningful human life is possible only if reason is supplemented by faith in values and spirituality. Reason is an important tool but not the goal. Reason enables us to judge, to chalk out strategies, to examine the empirical data and to accept or to reject it. However, it cannot fix goals, nor can it decide the ultimate destination. Values are intuitive and make life meaningful. Faith in values is as important as reason for critical examination.

The crisis of modern life is that we have created an imbalance by worshipping reason and devaluing values. In medieval ages reason was devalued and faith in dogmas was encouraged. Blind faith was accepted as final and immutable. Hence, in the 'age of reason' there was a revolt against blind faith and faith came to be devalued and reason replaced faith. This too created an imbalance.

What is needed is a balance between faith and reason. Both have their limitations and these limitations must be recognised. But we always extend recognition to one at the cost of the other. While the faithful deride reason, the rationalists frown at faith. Let us not worship either reason or faith which we often do. Also in modern times the emphasis is on successful life rather than on meaningful life. Our energy is concentrated on achieving success, even if we have to nudge out fellow human beings. Achievers are applauded in our modern world. Those who prefer a meaningful life are either looked down upon or are just ignored in this globalised and glamorised world of success.

It is also important to stress that religious divines, priests and gurus, themselves are caught in the vicious circle of material success. They talk of a meaningful life but themselves prefer to compete for a successful life and hence end up accumulating wealth. In fact some of the so-called religious people are wealthier than some businessmen. They are as guilty of ignoring a value-based life as others. In fact these are the people who devalue religion and faith in spiritualism.

As there are scandals in business, there are scandals in religious establishments. These religious gurus and priests promote superstition and miracles and thus religion comes to represent unreason. Thus the faithful have to be cautious in accepting instant but fake spiritual remedies.

It should also be noted that religion is being misused by politicians as well. They incite religious passions to create their own vote-banks. Ambitious religious leaders support such politicians. It thus appears to many devotees that their religion is true and that of others is false. The feeling of otherness is not created by religion but by vested interests. It should be understood that the value systems of all religions are complementary to one another. Indic religions like Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism lay stress on values like non-violence and compassion and Semitic religions like Christianity and Islam lay emphasis on love, justice and equality. All these values, it should be noted, are complementary to one another. Those who promote confrontation between different religious traditions are not religious persons.

These vested interests destroy the religious spirit by emphasising rituals at the cost of values. It is not our contention that rituals are not an essential part of religion; they are. But they are symbolic of the value system. These rituals are unique to each religion and add richness to our spiritual and cultural life. But the priesthood decontextualises the rituals and uses them to promote superstitious beliefs.

If we do not decode the meaning of these rituals we cannot understand their significance and would either perform them to ward off social pressures or consider them ends in themselves and get lost in their jugglery. A ritual should be considered a means to an end rather than an end in itself. Thus it will be seen that a true religious life is ultimately a value-based life. We often prefer rituals to values because performance of rituals requires no sacrifice on the part of the devotee whereas to lead a value-based life one needs to make sacrifices for others.

Thus a truly religious life requires a balance between faith and reason on one hand, and rituals and values on the other. Neither reason can be sacrificed for the sake of faith nor values for the sake of rituals. While faith is necessary for inner peace and certitude, reason is necessary for processing and critically examining external sensory data. Both faith and intellect are gifts of God.

As most of the people are not able to use their intellect creatively, they fall prey to blind faith and dogmas. And those who absolutise reason ultimately end up using it as a tool to promote their own selfish ends. Similarly those who absolutise rituals lose the very meaning of what they stand for. Only values like compassion, sensitivity to others' suffering, equality, justice, benevolence and truth are absolute; everything else is relative. Human intellect should be at the service of these values — how to promote them and how to minimise suffering in life.

Also, there is great need in the modern world to develop complementarity between science and values. Science without values can be simply monstrous. Science tempered with basic values can be a great boon for humanity. Science devoid of values can produce nuclear bombs and science tempered with values can remove suffering from earth. Science in the modern world has proved to be more of a curse for humanity than a boon because it has developed without values. It has great potential to become a great boon if only we work out a creative synthesis of the two. Material development should go hand in hand with spiritual development. That alone will make our life meaningful, not merely successful.


With your heart in your mouth

PARENTS faced with the hair-tearing task of instilling in their children the importance of regular toothbrushing could probably do with a house call from Dr Efthymios Deliargyris.

Where previously they would have had to resort to dark mutterings about the perils of dental neglect — scare tactics along the lines of “all your teeth will fall out” — Deliargyris, a cardiologist at the University of North Carolina, has come up with a rather more convincing threat. According to a study he presented to the American Heart Association’s annual meeting at the weekend, gum disease could be a significant contributory factor in a large proportion of heart attacks.

The most common afflictions always seem the most baffling to medical researchers: just look at the common cold. In the case of heart attacks, one third of all instances of the country’s biggest killer remain unexplained by the conventional risk factors of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking.

Deliargyris may be edging towards a solution to the mystery. In his study, periodontal disease — the official term for advanced gum disease, as opposed to the less serious gingivitis — was found in 85 per cent of subjects who had suffered heart attacks, compared with 29 per cent of those who had not. The 85 per cent in question also displayed abnormally high levels in their bloodstream of a protein, CRP, which is associated with both conditions.

Alarming stuff. And yet the finding is only a small part of a growing body of evidence suggesting that this most common of ailments — gum disease affects around 10 per cent of the population to a serious degree, and many others less acutely — could be implicated in a wide range of conditions, from pneumonia to premature birth.

The mouth is awash with bacteria at the best of times, but most of them are beneficial. Problems only arise when destructive bacteria — plaque — are allowed to build up, leading to sore and bleeding gums, bad breath and loose teeth. Swollen and torn gums provide the bacteria with an easy entry point into the bloodstream, where they can trigger an inflammatory response in the arteries associated with heart attacks. (Guardian)

Virtual tourism

India will open its doors to virtual tourism next year with the launch of a new set of CD-roms, a senior Indian government official has said.

The CD-roms will back a new portal due to start by the end of the year with the address The moves are a part of a new plan to rope in cyber-technology from Bangalore to advance tourism in India.

Touch screens will be set up at information booths at airports, hotels and other venues to give tourists information in several languages, Atul Sinha, India’s director general of tourism, told media persons at the world travel market exhibition being held in London.

“We’re going to build a huge database for our portal that should give tourists all the information they need. We realize that the days of brochures and pamphlets will soon be over,” Sinha said.

Tourists will get to see some of India’s famous sites before they step into the country. The virtual reality CD-roms will take tourists at first through four Indian destinations — the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Khajuraho temples in Madhya Pradesh, the sun temple of Konark in Orissa and the Hampi ruins in Karnataka. Plans are also afoot to develop many other destinations in India, Sinha said.

The Indian tourism department is experimenting with new measures that could make the use of guides a thing of the past. A new computer-aided guidance system will be set up at Red Fort in Delhi as an experiment. These virtual guides may appear at other locations later. It will also set up video conferencing facilities between New Delhi and other tourism centres to help tour agents and operators liaise with one another. (IANS)

£ 100,000 Tagore

A portrait of a Bengali woman painted by India’s Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore is being offered for sale on the London art market for a record 100,000 pounds.

Tagore was the first Asian and so far only Indian to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. But in later life, after the age of 60, he also took up painting and calligraphic drawings.

The 100,000-pound portrait is from a collection of an estimated 30 paintings that were brought over to Britain by Tagore in 1930 and exhibited in British cities. An English couple from the north of England who befriended Tagore retained most of them. Their descendants have been selling off the collection through an Indian art dealer, Indar Pasricha, who has a gallery on London’s Connaught Street, close to Marble Arch.

Pasricha is a past supporter of the annual Asian Art week in London that has this week highlighted Indian paintings, sculptures, fabrics and jewelry in the heart of the British capital. Speaking of Tagore’s work, Pasricha told India Abroad News Service: “The collection belongs to this Quaker family with whom Tagore stayed. A gentleman connected to the family brought me two or three paintings and we bought them; then he’s been coming ever so often bringing more and more paintings.” (IANS)



Live in that state, O man!

Live in that state,

The state that Lord ordains...


You may be a beggar if He wills

Or be a king if He wills,

Do not grumble O man!

Live in that state O man.


Bear no pride when fortune favours,

Bear no sorrow when misfortune comes,

Cheerfully bear all the sufferings,

Live in that state O man!


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Let breath be the rhythm

This is the way to live,

Live in that state O man!

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That man who in the midst of grief is free from grieving,

And free from fear, and free from the snare of delight,

Nor is covetous of gold that he knows to be dust,

Who is neither a backbiter nor a flatterer,

Nor has greed in his heart, nor vanity,

nor any wordly attachment,

Who remains at his centre unmoved by good and ill fortune,

Who is indifferent to the world's praise and blame

And discards every wishful fantasy

Accepting his lot in a disinterested fashion,

Nor worked upon by lust or by wrath

In such a man God dwelleth....

— Guru Tegh Bahadur,
Rag Sorath.
Sri Guru Granth Sahib, page 633.


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— The Holy Quran, 4:1


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If you live in imitation, you live wrongly.

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And that is not to be yourself.

And to me there is only one virtue -

And that is to be yourself.

— The Rajneesh Bible,
Vol. 2, Discourse 13

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