Saturday, November 18, 2000,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


This is no reform
n one of the most hesitant moves, the government formally decided on a few cosmetic changes in the equity structure of nationalised banks.

Politics and sports
PINIONS may differ vastly on the advisability of the decision of the Union Government to deny permission to the Indian cricket team to tour Pakistan next year. 


Foreign Policy initiatives
India as a global player
by M.S.N. Menon
ET there be no hesitation in proclaiming it — India has taken the first steps to be a global player. Evidence in this regard is growing.



Sonia’s victory
November 17, 2000
Sell-off plan in mid-air
November 16, 2000
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

Importance of being Yasser Arafat
by Darshan Singh Maini
ISTORY often throws up some obscure person in certain extreme situations involving a country, a nation, a race or a minority, and he or she becomes sometimes instantly, and, more frequently, over a period of time, a figure taller than life, acting beyond the known potentials and parameters of the personality in question.


What Sonia should do
By Tavleen Singh
T a chance meeting with Sonia Gandhi, recently, I discovered from the horse’s mouth, as it were, why she decided to enter politics. 


Theory to discredit Muhajirs
he whole world knows that the MQM (Muttahida Quami Mahaz, earlier called the Mujahir Quami Movement), with Mr Altaf Hussain as its leader, represents the aspirations of the people who migrated to Pakistan from the Hindi-speaking areas of India.


The Blue Book and the honeybees 
HE plane with Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister, on board had landed at the Air Force Station, Pathankot. 




This is no reform

In one of the most hesitant moves, the government formally decided on a few cosmetic changes in the equity structure of nationalised banks. As it often does, the Cabinet approval is being sold as a radical and bold economic reform which will add several inches to this country’s stature as a liberaliser. Nothing of the sort will happen; what will happen is a strengthening of the impression that the government is groping in the dark on how to integrate the policy changes in several sectors. Also, a new and bitter confrontation with bank employees who went on a one-day token strike and paralysed the services barely 24 hours earlier. If the government wants to assert its determination to proceed with its already announced policy, it has partly succeeded. But the contents of the new perspective will leave even no-changers cold. Here is what will not happen. The government will reduce its share- holding from the present 51 per cent or more to 33 per cent. The minimum holding is a statutory requirement and came into existence in 1994 to silence critics within the Congress and in Parliament who were frightened at the reforms and wanted a legal Lakshman rekha to ensure continued government control. This clause is to be dropped but government control will continue despite the lower capital. With 67 per cent equity available to the public, there is a real threat of somebody cornering stocks and ganging up with other big share-holders and take over the management. That will not happen since the new law will strip all share-holders of their voting rights except for a humiliating 1 per cent whatever be their investment. This is unacceptable in terms of corporate morality but quite expected of this government. It hopes for brisk purchases by foreign funds despite restricting their total holding to 20 per cent. Banks do not spell super profits and are part of the staid segment of the market. The smart rise in the prices of bank shares on Thursday was more a welcome to the Cabinet clearance than the start of a sustained rally. The government wants to hold on to its present right to nominate two directors, sack the board of directors and nominate the chairman and managing director. Parliament will still supervise the working of banks but share-holders will have the unique privilege of attending the annual general meetings and formally approving the annual accounts. At one time a previous government toyed with the idea of non-voting share-holders; now they have arrived. This is reform, the NDA style.

There is another grey area. These changes do not apply to the biggest state-owned one, the State Bank of India. Is it because it was once known as the Imperial Bank of India? Imperial indeed! A Financial Regulatory Authority will take its bow in due course and it will perform the duties of a banking ICU (intensive care unit). Hopefully it will monitor the health of all nationalised banks and if the scanners sound the alarm, it will take over the management and bring the erring institution under its control, which means under unabashed government control. The government’s readiness to bring down its involvement with loosening its control is advertised as a grand gesture to raise capital from the share market. There are two curious aspects to it. Banks are not, as a rule, starved of funds; many of them have parked their surplus in government bonds which are not the first choise of a prudent investor. Two, it would have been better to convert the banks into companies by the government treating itself as a minority share-holder before asking the banks to enter the market in a big way. That would have lifted the prices steeply. Some gent in the bureaucracy or close to it is smiling smugly right now. He is the prospective director of one of the nationalised banks. Until now he could lord it over only one bank and now he can adorn the board of two and recommend the case of all those loan-seekers who add to the NPA (non-performing assets, which in plain language are bad debts).

If the reforms are somewhat illusory, the coming skirmish with the employees is very real. An old decision is being confirmed in a new context and it is not auspicious. Most banks have come out with their voluntary retirement schemes (VRS) and the initial indications suggest a decent response. All banks are overstaffed and it will boost their health to shed the flab. To wade into the old controversy is to revive it and this will become an issue in accepting or rejecting the VRS. The proposed changes do not affect their interests in any menacing way but it hurts their sense of self-esteem. Bank employees are a united lot as are those in the insurance sector. It would have been prudent to take them on at a later date, particularly since the reforms barely touch the surface. A more imaginative path would have been for the government to induct employee-directors, lean on the bank boards to adopt a resolution favouring the partial sell-off and then push through the changes. But then it is not the way this government functions. Even now it is not very late. The government should reactivate its hotline with the trade unions, assure them of safeguarding their interests, redraft the suggestions to grant real authority to the managements of banks and set up a body to keep an eye on the working of all banks after withdrawing itself from the arena for good. The present policy of giving up only to retain all is not very wise or workable. 


Politics and sports

OPINIONS may differ vastly on the advisability of the decision of the Union Government to deny permission to the Indian cricket team to tour Pakistan next year. For instance, Shiv Sena men will be more than happy at the “tough posture”. At the same time lovers of the game will be disheartened that a Test tour of the neighbouring country after a gap of 12 years will not materialise. The Indian team was scheduled to play three Test matches and five one-day internationals in Pakistan in January-February. But one thing is for sure. The timing of the announcement is not appropriate at all. The government has taken this extreme step because the “hostile propaganda and the constant calls for ‘jehad’ against India by the establishment as well as extremist groups, had created an environment in that country where a regular tour of Pakistan, at this stage, by the Indian cricket team was inappropriate”. But such friction has been going on ever since Pakistan came into existence. Same is the case with its mischief in Kashmir. That too is as old as the mountains. Waking up to its perfidy all of a sudden and trying to counter it - or to show one’s anger - by banning a cricket tour is hardly justified. That may have seemed like a befitting reaction if Pakistan had happened to commit a sudden act of exceptional aggression. India pulled out of the Sahara Cup series in Toronto in the wake of the Kargil conflict. But a similar decision coming at this juncture may not go down too well either with the lovers of the game or neutral observers. Since it comes immediately after the induction of the firebrand Ms Uma Bharati into the Ministry, it might even be seen as a part of the hidden Hindutva agenda. From the sports point of view, the alarming thing is that the team is rebuilding itself now after being battered by the match-fixing ram. The ban will rob it of valuable competition. In typical over-reaction, the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Lieut-Gen Tauqir Zia, has threatened to boycott all matches with India even in offshore, tri-nations and one-dayers. The three-nation series to be held in Sharjah in April, in which India, Pakistan and New Zealand are to take part, may be affected.

The question that needs to be asked is whether the breaking of cricket ties with Pakistan help in improving relations with that country or set things right in Kashmir in any way. All that it will do is to bring about more bad blood. There may have been many tense moments in the cricket grounds when the traditional rivals met but all this was a sort of a safety valve, which helped release some pent-up tension. If Pakistani crowds are rowdy and hostile while India is playing there, the Indian record is none too blemishless. Sports even acts as Track-II diplomacy. “Ping-pong diplomacy” was very much on even when relations with China were extremely strained. And as the former Sports Minister, Mr Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, has also said, it is odd to cut off cricket visits alone. There are other games as well. Will the decision be applicable to polo and hockey etc also? If it is, then there is going to be no end to it. There are visits by artists, writers, journalists, social workers and human rights activists. Will a lid be placed on these too? Indeed, there have been many instances of nations pulling out of international meets for reasons other than sports. But these have been aberrations, which have never been liked or encouraged. Why India should expand the list is not clear. Are there some authentic reports that Indian cricketers may come to harm while touring Pakistan? If so, the government must take the country into confidence. Incidentally, Pakistan has a track record of reciprocating all such “unfriendly gestures” with interest. India needs to be prepared for Pakistani doors being slammed on many categories of visitors from this country, particularly sportsmen belonging to other disciplines.


Foreign Policy initiatives
India as a global player
by M.S.N. Menon

LET there be no hesitation in proclaiming it — India has taken the first steps to be a global player. Evidence in this regard is growing. The decision to set up a major military command in the Andaman and Nicobar islands is one. And the declaration of the Mekong-Ganga Project is another.

These are major initiatives of the BJP government to break the spell of paralysis in India’s foreign policy. They constitute a significant departure from the traditional policy of in-activism of the Congress party.

The decision to set up a military command in the Andaman and Nicobar islands (Britain wanted to retain these islands because of their strategic value, and Indonesia wanted to annex them) is to be seen against India’s strategic partnership with South Africa, Oman and Qatar. It reflects the growing maritime responsibility of India as a regional power. But there is also an undeclared purpose: to counter the ambitions of China to establish its presence in the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Or, is it that the USA wants India to be a regional cop?

But the Mekong-Ganga Project is an altogether different thing. Its potential is incalculable at present. It is a typical BJP project inspired by the RSS. No one can miss the Buddhist angle in this project —a subject close to the heart of the RSS in its new avatar. (Our media, especially the two so-called “leading” national dailies, missed these two major national events amidst their preoccupation with the prattles of the US election!

India’s links with South East Asia are civilisational. They go back to the BC’s. There are references to China, Java and Sumatra in Valmiki’s Ramayana. It was said that Ravana could have hidden Sita in any of these places. Yet, three centuries of colonialism and half a century of cold war have snapped all ties between India and this region.

India’s maritime historian, Vice-Admiral I.K. Gangadharan (“A Maritime History of India”), traces India’s inter-action with the Indian Ocean rim states back to 1000 BC.

Indonesian scholar O. Abdul Rachman writes: “From their birth place in India, the great religions of Hinduism and Buddhism found their way to Indonesia, where they mingled with the indigenous belief systems to become an enduring and integral component of Indonesian culture.” He adds: Islam also arrived in Indonesia by way of the Indian sub-continent. “(We thought it came from Arabia.)

There is a deep attachment to India among the peoples of the region. That we have not been able to reciprocate it in equal measure (I will not say “exploit” it) is another matter. For this, India cannot take the full blame. However, it is time now to rectify the distortions.

Of the four civilisations — Indian, Chinese, Islamic and European — the Indian is more profound. Yet a sizeable section of the Indian population still looks to Europe and the West for inspiration. This is a matter of shame to the rest. Large number of Asians still look to India. In his book “Discovery of India” Nehru quotes from a letter by a Thai student at Shantiniketan, addressed to him. In it, the young man writes: “I always consider myself exceptionally fortunate in being able to come to this great and ancient land of Aryavarta and pay my humble homage at the feet of grandmother India, in whose affectionate arms my mother country was so lovingly brought up.”

Please allow me to quote an equally sentimental statement by no less a person than President Sukarno of Indonesia (Hindu, 4.1.1946). He writes: “In the veins of everyone of my people flows the blood of Indian ancestors and the culture we possess is steeped through and through with Indian influences. Two thousand years ago, people from your country came to Jawadwipa and Suvarnadwipa in the spirit of brotherly love. They gave the initiative to found powerful kingdoms such as those of Sri Vijaya, Mataram and Mujapahit. We then learned to worship those very gods that you now worship still and we fashioned a culture that even today is largely identical with your own.” India never went out to conquer which is why only India is held in esteem and affection by people who share the Indian heritage with us. “Is there any wonder then that his daughter, Meghawati, now Vice-President, treats India as her second home?

Although Nehru was greatly interested in South Asia (he had almost brotherly relations with U Nu and U Thant of Burma), India was definitely west-oriented. Colonialism had shaped its mindset. It was P.V. Narasimha Rao who tried to break it. He established relations with Israel and called upon the country to “Look East” at a time when our gaze was fixed on the west. But he was embroiled in so many scandals (for which he can never be excused) that he hardly had time to carry forward his initiatives.

The Andaman Command occupies one of the most stratetic regions of the world — the Malaca Strait — the world’s largest business artery. It is almost a stone throw away from the farthest point of India. More trade passes through the Malaca Strait than through the Suez or Panama canal.

The Andaman chain has 300 uninhabited islands, which are being used by smugglers, gun runners and the narcotic mafia. There is piracy in the open seas. Our navy is too small to combat these crimes.

At present the Andaman base is under a Vice-Admiral. There is a brigade of the army, with an amphibious unit for sea-borne operations, and an IAF helicopter unit in the Nicobar island.

The present decision will mean a greater force level of all the three services, and the command will be rotated among the three services. The main idea is to keep China out of the Bay of Bengal.

The Vientiane Declaration of India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia, all with a Buddhist linkage going back to the very ancient times, is of far reaching significance. This is an effort to revive the ancient links. The Buddhist angle is easy to work on, for India is as much a Buddhist country as it is Hindu.

Of course, the declared objectives are rather mundane. For example, cooperation in tourism, culture, education, transport and communication. No doubt, Buddhist tourism is of utmost importance.

Remember, this is an asset — an eternal asset. It is not to be looked at in terms of the dollars it will bring, but in terms of the goodwill it can generate.

Japan has made a major contribution to the revival of the Nalanda University. This should be made into a world centre for the study of Buddhism and Buddhist countries. But it should be a Central institution.

Needless to say, there is need for caution, for the idea is not to disturb existing relations. For example, with China and within ASEAN.

The visit of General Maung Aye, the second most powerful man in the Myanmar East, at this time is a major development, the significance of junta which is yet to be appreciated here in India. Obviously, the Vajpayee government has given up the policy of support to Aung San Suu Kyi. This is not because India is less supportive of democracy, but because Mynmar has to be saved from becoming a province of China. The military junta itself is divided on this issue. Some are alarmed at the Chinese penetration. The Indian connection throws up an alternative.

One of the engagements of Gen. Maung was to visit the Bodh Gaya, which shows clearly the natural link with India. And millions of Myanmarese are waiting to follow his example.

The Vajpayee government has done well. It deserves praise. But if the scheme is to be successful, a new department has to be created under a dynamic Minister of State, with a sense of mission. Sense of Mission — that is the watchword.Top



Importance of being Yasser Arafat
by Darshan Singh Maini

HISTORY often throws up some obscure person in certain extreme situations involving a country, a nation, a race or a minority, and he or she becomes sometimes instantly, and, more frequently, over a period of time, a figure taller than life, acting beyond the known potentials and parameters of the personality in question. What propels such a person onto the national or world stage then becomes an intriguing and even fascinating phenomenon which cannot be fully accounted for in terms of experience or reason, since it carried a whole lot of facts and fanciful ingredients, of transparencies and ambiguities. At some point of the argument, the discourse begins to be shaped in the idiom of the theologians and religious thinkers, of socio-psychologists and socio-anthropologists. That is to say, it becomes a complex inquiry, and draws the engaged mind into an extended inquiry ranging over many a premise or presumption. This is because, the mysteries of personality per se and the dialectics of history intersect at a level below the line of our vision. Whether he is styled as the instrument of history, or as a freak phenomenon, as a kind of “saviour” or as a providential accident, depends a great deal on the state of a people’s consciousness which, in the first instance, has created the moment for that person to emerge as their man of destiny.

When, therefore, one examines the case-history of the phenomenon called Yasser Arafat who today, without a full-fledged, well-defined state (sporting only the title of the Palestinian Authority) counts among the tallest state and government heads in the world, and is greeted by a large number of countries with the courtesies, ceremonies, parades, palatial banquets, protocols and press-conferences associated with the visits of the royalty, of the Presidential dignitaries, one is both puzzled and amazed to see something extraordinary happening, something that again returns us to the problematics of personality. For Arafat, it appears, has plucked place and opinion out of the wood, as it were, a voice risen from the sands of the Arabian countries to claim compulsive attention. And yet he never quite looks the part he plays so well.

As we all know, his origins and his early training as an engineer could hardly make him a candidate for the Palestinian Presidency, or, indeed, for any kind of political idolisation. And yet this stocky, puckish, shrewd person sporting a salt-and-pepper stubble on a heavy face and jowl and his ubiquitous military fatigues topped with the checkered head-gear a la street Arabs would, otherwise, strike any stranger as a typical merchant dealing in the fabulous fruit of those lands — from figs and dates and kishmish to the lush oranges, grapes and melons of the Biblical Lebanon, or of the Babylonian orchards, or of the fabled Baghdad washed by the river, Tigris, and celebrated in song and story for generations. No, Yasser Arafat has simply pulled himself up from his boot-straps, as it were, toiled and toiled for over three decades to reach the heights where today he sups and dines with the likes of President Clinton, a felt presence, an acknowledged authority. And he moves with “royal” ease amongst the monarchs and potentates as “to the manor born”! That’s the miracle the man has wrought where he now controls not only the hearts of the volatile Arab youth, but also the fate of the entire Arab world in a manner. That, in sum, is the importance of being Yasser Arafat.

Clearly, my aim in this piece is not to go into the long, tangled and tormented history of the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab wars and conflict since 1947 ( so painfully reminiscent of Indo-Pak imbroglio over Kashmir), but to seek some clues to the personality of a person who has no charismatic qualities as such, but who, nonetheless, has managed to stay strong and vibrant in the midst of an unending crisis. I also do not wish to go into the causes of this conflict, or into the rights and wrongs of the case in question, for both parties have a strong case, and both are culpable, each in its own way. And since the issue has become hopelessly emotive and intractable, beyond the call of reason, as it were, the Clinton way (despite the heavy American tilt in favour of Israel) is perhaps the only little lamp still flickering in the awful darkness ahead. Now that the Palestinian streets in the latest Intfada are on fire, and the killings and shootings and lynchings have complexified the conflict so wantonly, one can only pray for peace, for peace, as we know, does not break out suddenly as does a wasteful war. The bloody October is already another frightening date in this calendar of conflict. The millennium homo politicus remains still mired in ideological swamps and religious miasmas. That’s perhaps his fate, and his tragedy.

One thing is now clear enough. The Israelis can no longer postpone the creation of the long-cherished independent state of Palestine, for its dilatory policy — a mix of armed might and apparent reasonableness under duress — has at last come a cropper. International opinion which found an eloquent and loud expression at the UN Security Council meetings with the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, as an insightful, “honest-brother”, seems destined to force American hands, and secure for Arafat and his exiled, barricaded and trapped people their rightful due, though how the vexing question of Jerusalem would now be solved is still an issue fraught with ominous overtones.

To talk, then, of this bloody conflict which rouses atavistic impulses on both sides, is to talk of Yasser Arafat once again. The two narratives have come to acquire the same locus. Whilst the Israeli Prime Ministers come and go, show hawkish or moderate faces in the unending comfabulations year after year, the Palestinian leader remains rooted like a sentinel even with the ruinous Jehadi extremist groups like Hizbul and Hamas breathing down his neck. But will the history now shaping before his bewildered eyes permit him to remain an unquestioned supremo depends on many an imponderable in this equation. Will his spirit be equal to the challenge is the ultimate test of his personality? And it’s the personality’s energies whose kinetics may bring him out on to the top, or whose expense in friction and attrition may toll the bell for him! The distance between Camp David and the sea-resort of Sherm-el-Sheikh was still a matter of time and opportunity, but the distance between the Egyptian resort and the next rendezvous may be a flight from nowhere to nowhere!

I haven’t taken up the Arafat-New Delhi relations marked by warmth and trust for long, or touched upon the new Indo-US understanding of interests and mutualities with its bearing upon the Indo-Israeli relations which, of late, have acquired fresh and encouraging dimensions. For the compulsions of diplomacy and national interests can always cause surprises even amidst vision statements and common sentiments. Still the Arafat factor (which involves our historical ties with the Arab lands, besides our new trade and oil interests) would not, I think, lose its relevance or importance where India is concerned. It has a certain certrality which would hold the balance even in very difficult times.


What Sonia should do
By Tavleen Singh

AT a chance meeting with Sonia Gandhi, recently, I discovered from the horse’s mouth, as it were, why she decided to enter politics. Since, despite the two or three interviews she has given, this is something ordinary Indians continue to puzzle over I am reporting the conversation we had. It was at the Prime Minister’s lunch for the Russian President, Mr Vladimir Putin, that we met. The lunch was a large, glittering affair attended by several Cabinet Ministers, Chief Ministers, businessmen and a few sundry hacks like me. Since my views on an Italian Prime Minister for India are well known (totally against for those who may not remember) I am not among those privileged journalists who are invited to 10 Janpath for tea and sympathy. And, whenever Sonia has spotted me at other glittering events or at her occasional press conference I have been given the frosty treatment. So, I was more than slightly surprised when she signalled me to come and talk to her.

She was standing with Delhi’s Chief Minister, Mrs Sheila Dixit, and the new convert to Congress ranks, Ms Renuka Chaudhuri, MP, formerly of the Telugu Desam. Sonia’s opening words to me were: “Come and talk to me since you hate me more than anyone else”. To which I replied that I had no personal hatred for her only for her politics and for the fact that she was in politics at all. My reasons, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with them, are simple: I believe that it is a terrible humiliation for a country of a thousand million people not to be able to find one of their own to lead it. I also believe that Indians still suffer from a post-colonial complex and are inclined to be overawed by people with white skins. A white-skinned, Italian-born Prime Minister would, in my humble opinion, only heighten this inferiority complex.

To come back, though, to my conversation with Sonia, in answer to my question she said: “I did it because I think the BJP is a monster — I know you do not think it is but I do — and I felt it was growing and I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing”. Fair enough but Sonia’s tragedy is that she appears not to understand that she could be one of the reasons why people have turned towards the BJP in the first place. The fact that the Congress, under her leadership, did worse in the last general election than ever before should have told her something but she has chosen not to listen.

Then there is the sycophant problem. Congress culture, as created by the other Mrs Gandhi, ensures that the leader is always surrounded by sycophants. Indira Gandhi knew that it was she and not the party that won elections so she disapproved of people in her inner circle telling her what she did not want to hear. Anyone who talked too much was instantly consigned to outer circles and eventually oblivion so that the inner circle consisted entirely of devotees. It was a system that worked well for her because, as I said, she knew that without her the party was almost nothing.

Since she led it for a very, very long time sycophancy became endemic and the only Congress “leaders” who survived were those who showed no signs of dissidence and no ability to win votes without Mrs Gandhi’s support.

By the time she had finished with the Congress about the only man who could win a whole state — even without her — was Sharad Pawar and he was quickly dumped when he showed signs of being aware of this. For the rest we had mainly small-time politicians rising to the top not because of their political skills but because of their skills in sycophancy. Rajiv Gandhi tried, in his early months as Prime Minister, to change this by hitting out at power brokers and time-servers in his famous speech at that AICC (All-India Congress Committee) meeting in Mumbai, but he quickly gave up.

It surprised nobody then, that after his terrible assassination, the Congress Working Committee unanimously begged Sonia Gandhi to become President. She was at the time not just a foreigner but also only a housewife who had shown no interest in political matters even as the Prime Minister’s wife. But, so-called “big” Congress leaders like Arjun Singh openly stated that she had more political experience than they did and was more worthy of being leader. She wisely refused then but kept in close touch with Congress politicians and emerged as the main power centre even when Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao was Prime Minister. By the time we got to the stage when Mr Sitaram Kesri was party President everyone in Delhi knew that he, poor thing, was just a paper leader and that real power resided in 10 Janpath.

Everyone also knew that 10 Janpath was where the sycophants went on a daily basis to bet Sonia to ‘come and lead us’. So, in 1997 she graciously accepted to campaign for the party and since then she has gone from not just wanting to be party President but to making it clear that she would also like to be Prime Minister when the Congress next gets its chance.

This, alas, is where the problem lies. If she had a few non-sycophants in her inner circle her own party men would tell her that she is not acceptable as Prime Minister to a very large section of India. And, it isn’t just those troublesome, urban middle-classes who have qualms but even semi-literate villagers are not sure whether a Memsahib is really what they want as their leader. The problem is nobody has the courage to tell Sonia this. They tell everyone else, mind you, even the most sycophantic of her loyalists rarely hesitate to admit to passing hacks that her foreignness is a problem and that if she would only make it clear that she wants only to be Congress President the party would immediately become more popular.

She is, as of last week, the Congress Party’s elected President. If she wants to defeat the “monster” of the BJP all she needs to do is make it clear that her interest lies not in power for herself but in strengthening the party to take on the BJP. She could then concentrate on building up the party’s organisation that has been seriously weakened by all these years of sycophancy.

Instead of sycophants and scum rising to the top you would get real leaders. And, Sonia, instead of being whispered about behind her back might find real respect if not reverence. As for the BJP it might begin, finally, to be seriously worried about the Congress Party. As long as Sonia Gandhi is the alternative to Atal Behari Vajpayee the “monster” will continue to grow.


Theory to discredit Muhajirs

The whole world knows that the MQM (Muttahida Quami Mahaz, earlier called the Mujahir Quami Movement), with Mr Altaf Hussain as its leader, represents the aspirations of the people who migrated to Pakistan from the Hindi-speaking areas of India. These migrants called Muhajirs speak Urdu and have not been absorbed in the cultural stream of the land of their adoption.

A new theory being propagated in Pakistan may make their life more difficult. Mr Hussain is being seen as an agent of India's intelligence agency RAW. It is seriously believed that the MQM has dangerous connections. The theory appears to be part of a scheme to discredit the Muhajirs in the eyes of their compatriots.

In his article carried in The Nation of November 2, A. Saddique says: "One has to go back a little to trace Altaf Hussain's Indian connections. There is incriminating evidence that RAW managed to cultivate Altaf Hussain through Indian diplomats a decade back. Since then he had been pursuing ever-changing stance in Pakistan's politics. His fresh Pakistan bashing tirade is manifestation of a fresh line given by RAW. Whenever the Government of Pakistan took strict measures to curb the MQM's anti-state activities, a large number of MQM terrorists took refuge in India as many of them were indoctrinated and trained for infiltration into Karachi by New Delhi."

Someone has rightly said when you want to kill a dog, give it a bad name.

Questionable claims on IT front

General Pervez Musharraf-led military regime has been hyper-active on the information technology front for some time. Its PR experts have been working overtime to publicise that Pakistan is emerging as one of the significant participants in the global IT revolution. But the reality is altogether different. The comments of Rizwan Qazi, an economic expert, are revealing:

"The claims of a government which has not so far been able to compile the data of software and other IT-related exports from the country seem to be nothing but a farce. So far so, the Minister of Science and Technology is claiming a software export worth $ 40 million. The Pakistan Software House Association (Pasha) has not given any detail in this regard, may be, it is concealing business secrets."

Rizwan's arguments are: "Since software is not being exported traditionally, it could not be guessed from the foreign exchange remittance, opening of Letters of Credit and supplies made with the approval of the State Bank of Pakistan or from the record of ports. Therefore, nobody can say a word about the exact volume of the software exports from our country.

"A Pakistani-American based in California believes that the exact volume of the software exports from Pakistan is not less than $ 400 million, but this money has not been transmitted to Pakistan. He said that currently the majority of the US-based software development companies, which have opened their off-shore software development facilities in Pakistan, are only transmitting the amounts equivalent to the operational cost of a company. In this way, only 20 to 30 per cent of the actual return against these softwares is being transmitted to homeland."

Amar Kot or Umerkot

It is not only India where we have controversies over the names of cities. Pakistan too has its quota. After all, it has been a part of undivided India. One of Sindh province's popular towns is officially known as Umerkot whereas Hindus call it Amar Kot.

The town has a history going back to the days of yore. Nowadays the controversy over the name has got buried. The reason: the town is in the news for having been deprived of its district status. Its status has been reduced to a subdivision of Mirpurkhas district. Umerkot-walas, whether Hindus or Muslims, are upset. They are up in arms against the humiliating decision of the Sindh authorities.

Members of the Umerkot District Bar Association, activists of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, leaders of the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz, the PPP (SB) and the JUI are among those who have come out into the open to oppose the downgrading of their district by the military authorities.

One does not know the crime of the former district town to deserve this kind of treatment. A newspaper report says the town finds elaborate mention in the verses of a great Sindh poet, Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai.

The ancient fort of Umer or Amar attracts a large number of tourists from far and near. It is this place where the beauty of the day, Marai, was kept in captivity after her abduction by Umer/Amar.
— Syed Nooruzzaman


The Blue Book and the honeybees 

THE plane with Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister, on board had landed at the Air Force Station, Pathankot. Within minutes, she would be airborne again, in an MI-8 helicopter for the final leg of her journey to the district headquarters at Gurdaspur, where she was to address a public meeting. The 38-km distance between the two stations, as the crow flew, was to take less than 15 minutes.

At Gurdaspur, no stone had been left unturned to ensure perfect arrangements. It was the summer of 1983, the month of June to be exact. Terrorism in Punjab had acquired menacing proportions, DIG Atwal having been gunned down in Amritsar only a couple of months back. I was the district police chief then, in Gurdaspur. The DIG of the range had descended down there from Jalandhar, and the DG Police of the state, from Chandigarh. They had to, for that is what the Blue Book said. The intelligence wing chief was there, too.

The Blue Book is the “bible” for the police officers all over the country on matters concerning the safety and protection of the person of the Prime Minister. It is called the Blue Book as the colour of its cover pages is blue. The instructions contained therein are supposed to be exhaustive and mandatory. The book is a secret document to be kept in the personal custody of the authorised officers only.

We had gone through the Blue Book, cover to cover, over and over again. All the instructions contained therein were meticulously followed. Elaborate security arrangements had been chalked out, rehearsed and put into practice. The public meeting place was carefully chosen, to be on the open grounds of the local Government College, away from high-rise buildings. A make-shift heliped was H-marked, a safe distance behind the rostrum. The Public Relations Department had arranged a group of singers and artistes to keep the crowd entertained till the PM came.

The arrangements were perfect! At least, that is what we thought till we noticed a swarm of honeybees around the rostrum from where the PM had to address the meeting. They were countless. The number was increasing with each passing moment. Somebody, it appeared, had disturbed them in the beehive on a banyan tree nearby. Or, may be, the notes from an assortment of musical instruments were too jarring for the bees to keep resting in their beehive! Be that as it may, we could never ascertain the real reason for the bees to leave their place of abode at such a critical moment.

Police officers showed nervousness and tension on their face. They were at their wits’ end, so to say. There were no instructions in the Blue Book on how to shoo away a swarm of honeybees. We had with us less than 15 minutes to tackle the problem before the PM arrived. Somebody suggested to us to burn cow-dung cakes so that fumes could drive them away. The same were arranged with dispatch and burnt. This, however, had no effect on the presence of the bees. If anything, they spread over a wider area.

Time was running out. With the bees all around, the PM could not have been allowed even to disembark from the helicopter. There was no question, therefore, of her being taken to the rostrum to address the people.

Just then, an old man walked up to us and advised us to do nothing and keep quiet. He said that undisturbed, the bees would disappear. We did just that. We douched the burning cowdung cakes, all music was stopped; the movement of the people all around was stopped, too.

The result was miraculous and quick. Within minutes, the bees disappeared; probably they were back in their beehive. We heaved a sigh of relief. Danger had been warded off just in the nick of time!



Stand firm and erect;

Build this body strong like a rock

And strengthen it to perform your duties

And fulfil your responsibilities;

You will surely live, strong and sturdy

A hundred autumns,

Gaining prosperity and riches,

Warding off all evil.

— Atharva Veda, 2.13.3, 4


Have faith, for thou art invincible

And possesses the strength

of an unconquerable hero.

— Yajur Veda, 5.5


Thy mind goes for away

To all that occurred in the past

And will occur in future.

Call it back to thyself

So that it may remain under thy control.

— Rig Veda, 10.58.12


Life means activity. Where activity has ended death has entered. In active life alone we can progress or deteriorate. A stagnant pool of water decays and soon gets putrefied; while the flowing water of a river ever keeps itself fresh, pure and clean. Life, being dynamic, it cannot, even for a moment, cease to function. Complete cessation from activities is impossible so long as life exists.

— Swami Chinmayananda,
The Holy Geeta


We must live in the now to follow the path to enlightenment. In the lower realms of mind, where time and space seem very real, we are worried about the past or concerned about the future. These two intermingle and limit conscious awareness.... Living in the future overactivates the intellect, the emotion and the desires. past and future are equally unreal and a hindrance to spiritual unfoldment. A person functioning in the now is in control of his own mind.... He is performing every task with his fullest attention, and the rewards are to be seen equally in the quality of his work and the radiance of his face.

—Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami,
Merging with Siva:
Hinduism's Contemporary Metaphysics, chapter I, lesson 5

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 |