Women writers in Hindi on
top and soaring
Review by Satya Pal Sehgal
late, many novels in Hindi written by women have attracted
popular attention. From the celebrated Krishna Sobti to the
younger ones like Alka Saravagi and Jaya Jadvani. Even a limited
acquaintance with these works would reveal that novel writing in
Hindi by women has come of age. In the sense that not only the
number of significant women novelists has increased but also the
range of subjects they deal with. And, of course, with deftness
which have received immediate attention and respect. Readers of
these columns must be informed about by Matrai Pushpa’s "Chak",
Chitra Moudgal’s "Awan", Jay Jadvani’s "Tatmasi",
Geetanjali Shri’s "Hamara shehar us baras", Prabha
Khatan’s "Peeli andhi", Mridula Garg’s "Vanshaj",
novels which have appeared lately.
For an extended
study, I have taken up "Samay sargam" by Krishna Sobti
(Rajkamal, Delhi) and "Kali-katha: via bypas" by Alka
Saravagi (Aadhar Prakashan, Punchkula). "Samay Sargam"
is not only a novel by a women who has commanded the most
respect beyond the borders of Hindi, but also provides a text
which cries out for evaluated because of its many merits. Alka
Saravagi’s "Kali-katha" was an instant hit and the
phenomenon and the novel which generated it must be analysed.
sargam" is a novel about aging people. Or is it just about
Aranaya and Ishan who see the other bank of the river! Is it an
autobiographical novel? In any case, "Samay Sargam" is
almost a unique text in Hindi novel as it studies characters who
feel that their time has come, that it is almost the end of the
road. The novel does not reach classic heights, though the
subject has the potential. However, look at the text as an
attempt to confront the subject which is not mere
"fiction" but life itself. That makes us realise the
accomplishment of the writer better. Interestingly, another
novel, "Antim Aranya" by Nirmal Verma, published this
year, also focuses on death. A comparative study of the two may
be illuminating. Comparison between the two is stark in courage,
intellectual distancing, objectivity and world view they apply
to understand the ultimate.
As the title of
the novel by Sobti suggests, there is a melody and rhythm
throughout. And it is not by accident that Aranaya, the
protagonist, also loves music. She is just not a lady getting
old, though as a close reading of the novel reveals, this is
more of an apprehension. She struggles and her struggle is
basically against this apprehension. Otherwise, she handles her
routine quite efficiently, without self-pity. And she is single
and alone! That is what is peculiar about her! Peculiar about
Hindi novel as well! A woman in search of her identity outside
the family fold getting old! No remorse for her. Except, perhaps
her own body.
There are these
lengthy discussions with Ishan on the virtue of family. And she
is not an anarchist! She values relationships. But she cannot be
over-appreciative of the protection the family provides if it
saps her confidence in her own self.
In fact, this
central character of the novel has a perceptible social
consciousness. Through her, the novel tries to relate itself to
current history without indulging in social analysis. It
proceeds chiefly with the friendly interactions Aranaya amd
Ishan have. Interactions of two lonely, single, conscious
beings. Aranaya brings in a social tinge, she acts so that the
"idea" in the novel is located in the civil, social
life rather than the spiritual. One may say that the novelist is
definitely conscious of the"’message" and visualises
novel as a medium for that.
that, the novel does not end when the end comes. Sobti adds an
epilogue, an appendix to the novel, it is part of the story-line
but having an independent title "Yah dharati". This
particular chapter of three pages coming at the very end of the
book discusses Kashmir, human rights and the hegemony of
superpowers. And of course environment. And the very last line
of the chapter is — "Nuclear weapons ! Never !
Is this chapter
an attempt to create an "alienation" effect as German
playwright Bretolt Brecht perceived and practiced in his plays?
So that the audience, in this case readers, come out of the
story and face the concreteness of history without illusions,
there and then ! Frankly speaking, the "attempt" looks
quite weak artistically. However, this is in consonance with the
intrinsic attempt of the novelist, that is to create a text for
the coming generations as attempted by Kumar Vikal in his famous
poem "Dhara samaparan" ("Nirupama Dult mein bahut
Chapter 20 of
"‘Samay sargam" carries a letter from a Yugoslav
soldier from his death bed to his unborn son! And he wishes him
a life full of strength and love! A world plentyful. As such
Krishna Sobti’s characters face their destiny positively and
in a varied manner. And the novel also retains the unique magic
touch of Sobti’s pen, though the treatment of language is
unlike Sobti’s. It is Sanskritised. Philosophical expressions
in the novel are a little obscure. The shift in language style
needs explanation. Interestingly, the language of Hindi writers
tend to be Sanskaritsed whenever they turn philosphical! Has
stereotype taken over Sobti?
Almost 30 years
younger there Sobti, Alka Saravagi belongs to the so-called
post-modern times in Hindi fiction. This periodisation is
entirely arbitrary. In fact, the debate over post-modernity has
never fully developed in Hindi criticism. As far as literary
output goes, changes in forms of narrative are quite evident.
New Hindi fiction presents many examples and Alka Saravagi’s
novel "Kali-katha" is one such. It is precisely the
presence of sutradhar in her case. A few more strategies
which keep on breaking the linear growth of the novel to develop
a novelistic form quite different to the most of the modernistic
realistic tradition have seen in last 50 years.
characterising of the form of her novel apart, Saravagi does
attract the reader’s attention for it. However, such
innovative, new forms are not exclusive to Saravagi and are a
trend. May be Saravagi has done it better than others or she
appears more authentic as a whole, including the form.
Discerning readers may raise the question of originality and
point towards foreign sources. That would be unfair for a few
reasons. In an interview given to literary monthly
"Hans" Saravagi said she has not read much, including
some classic Hindi novels! That she is part of an emerging trend
would be a better explanation. And that trend owes itself to
changed history. Worldwide. Rightly or wrongly.
It is the
content of the novel and novelist’s sobriety and maturity in
dealing with her theme and also her capacity to throw
possibilities for future which are the possible reasons for her
success. That her novel suits the temper of established
criticism in Hindi is another matter. The novel which revolves
around the Marwari settlers in Calcutta, may not be an
exhaustive study of the Marwari diaspora, but it definitely
provides an understanding hitherto unavailable to general Hindi
readers. Even the protagonist of the novel, Kishore Babu, wants
one. He wants to knowwhether the Marwaris really betrayed the
cause of independence, helped the Englishmen annexe and India
rule over it? Are they really a community doomed to cultural
"exclusivity" and "backwardness’? Why did they
leave Rajputana for far off Bangal and Assam, never leaving
Marwar behind, even for a moment, mentally? What does success in
trade mean to them? Precisely, it is the "humane"
which Kishore Babu, now at the fag end of his life, is looking
for in the story, beginning from his great-great-grandfather.
It is here the
basic contribution of the novel lies. Saravagi has succeeded in
portraying the lows and highs of the Marwaris, through the
family of Kishore Babu and his ancestors on a
"humanistic" plane. As she herself belongs to the
community, she has an insider’s view of the
"dynamics" of the community and a reasonable
detachment as well. Her observations are sharp and she can
provide enough realistic details, necessary for a novel which
revels in the past. And she has the felicity of the language as
well. A language amply suited to the task before her. The great
cultural hubbub of Calcutta, the great literary past of Bengal
does not inhibit her writing. In a way, her novel in Hindi
establishes in a subtle manner the exclusivity of the Marwaris
in Calcutta. Calcutta, as the Bengalis would love to remember,
may be missing here. Calcutta is here as the Marwaris live it
— always attached to "des" - - the Rajputana, Marwar.
Incidentally, the ancestors of Kishore Babu belong to Bhiwani
city, which is at present part of Haryana bordering Rajasthan.
The novel is about Bhiwani as well, because here lies the root,
the havali, which the great-grandfather of Kishore Babu
dreamt of while leaving for Calcutta in the 19th century.
is also the story of the protagonist Kishore Babu, who after a
bypass surgery has lapsed into that zone of darkness and light
for which mental asylums are thought to be the last refuge. In
this overt break-up of the personality emerges a past which
looks for synthesis and validity. A guilt and a rage which needs
to be finally washed off. Through him, the socio-political
history of the prepartition and post-partition Calcutta takes
shape. Kishore Babu did participate in the freedom movement in
his own way but could never fully resolve the dichotomy between
"self" and the "other". He also fails to
reconcile the dichotomy between "tradition" and
"modernity" and "ideal" and
"practical". His friend Amolak did. That is why he
surfaces again at the end of the novel after being killed in
Babri Maszid demolition riots. So Amolak is the conscience of
the story who haunts Kishore Babu. He is a staunch Gandhian.
Babu’s personal saga, this novel too turns into a novel of
"messages". Hindi fiction has predominately used novel
as an explicit carrier of "messages". Saravagi has
done it with a "purpose" and she might be fully aware
of the debate between "purpose" and "art".
It appears she has taken a conscious decision in favour of
"purpose", and . That decision has become her virtue
rather than a weakness as it happens in the case of other
story-tellers. For a first novel, she shows a distinct sense of
proportion and the novel is almost without a blemish, if one
does not disagree with the fundamental of this stream of the
What the novel does best is
that it presents the possibilities of a young women fiction
writer on a grand scale. Look at this. The central character of
her novel is a male. In fact, the entire novel is crowded by
male characters. Never for a moment we doubt or underestimate
her capacity to depict male characters. For once, this is not a
woman-centric novel as coming from a woman writer. Though its
feminist reading is possible, the novel is not a very good
example of that. On the contrary, it provides the readers with
an opportunity to learn that there are accomplished woman
writers around who are not gender-specific.
Off the shelf
The much maligned philosopher
V. N. Datta
Russell, the Nobel Prize winning philosopher, was indeed one
of the greatest minds of the 20th century. His appeal was
universal. He was an original thinker known and respected for
his power of analysis. His erudition was amazing, his crticism
solid and his intellect for analysing fundamental questions of
life and knowledge piercing and lucid. He remained all his
life a highly controversial figure on some issues such as war
and peace, morals and marriage, and the problem relating to
metapolysis, but he never deviated from his strong beliefs.
He was firmly
committed to the scientific spirit of enquiry and humanistic
ideals, to which he attached total importance. As a
philosopher his contribution was outstanding and I can think
of no other philosopher who exercised such a profound
influence on the thinking of the intelligentsia of his time as
under review is "Bertrand Russell, 1921-70: The Ghost of
Madness" by Ray Monk (Jonathan Cape, pages 574, £ 25).
This is the second of Monk’s two-volume biography of Russell
and is a sequel to the first which was reviewed in The Tribune
and which ended with World War I, Russell’s pacifist role,
and the termination of his prestigious Trinity College,
Cambridge, Fellowship that led to his migration to the USA.
World War I also marked the point when Russell abandoned doing
serious work on mathematical logic.
Ray Monk is a
well-known philosopher, who had established a reputation as a
highly competent and versatile biographer after his study
"Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius". Monk
confesses that he had no difficulty in writing a straight
forward biography of Wittgenstein because his subject had no
guile and indulged in no trickery. All that he had to do was
to sit back and make Wittgenstein speak. But that was not the
case with Russell who was a very complex person ridden by
fear, arrogance, self-righteousness, vanity and other
weaknesses to which flesh is heir to.
with his highly sensitive and sympathetic portrait of
Wittgenstein, this work casts Russell in the most unfavourable
light, generating hardly any admiration for him either as a
philosopher or a man, though Monk acknowledges reluctantly
that Russell had placed mathematics on a logical foundation
and this attempt enormously helped shape the tradition of
analytical philosophy as well as spawning the discipline of
mathematical logic. But Russell’s interests were wider and
extended far beyond the English academia. Monk gives an
overall impression that Russell was flippant in what he
thought and said.
It must be
acknowledged that throughout his life Russell was a firm
believer in liberalism and parliamentary democracy. The
extreme type of communism which represented appalling
despotism and terror of Lenin and Stalin repelled him and he
propagated ideals of moderate socialism. According to him, the
marxist interpretation of history which regarded human action
as determined primarily by class interests was untrue and
He wrote that
the view that "dialectical materialism governs human
history independent of human volition is mere mythology".
He emphasised that truth was one thing but official truth was
another. He accused the nation of "double think" and
"double-talk", which had become a habit with some of
the leading intellectuals and politicians of his time. To
Russell nothing was a worse curse to humankind than poverty
which he wanted to be eliminated at any cost. He opposed
vehemently the suppression of truth and the spread of
falsehood by means of the public agency.
Monk, one of the favourite themes of Russell was to make a
distinction between wisdom and knowledge. Russell regarded
philosophy as the queen of sciences because it gives wisdom
which fortifies man’s capacity to take cognisance of all
factors in a problem and to give each its due weight and
thereby enable him to arrive at his own independent
conclusion. Such a temper fosters a spirit of freedom from
personal prejudices and predilections.
Like a police
prosecutor, Monk investigates Russell’s motives and
apportions blame on him on a number of counts. The first
charge is that in frittering away his time and energy in
journalism and pamphleteering, Russell gave up creative work
for which he possessed outstanding intellectual gifts. Monk
emphasises that Russell’s later attempts to re-enter
academia and make his mark evoked a cold reception. Monk
points out that Russell’s journalism covered a wide field,
touched on a variety of themes and was more popular than his
masterpiece "Principia Mathematic". Monk condemns
his journalism as "superficial, trite, naive, trivial and
second charge is that Russell, a thrice-divorced husband,
treated his wives cruelly and neglected his children and
grandchildren. He blames Russell for the nervous breakdown of
his son John who become a schizophrenic and the unhappiness of
John’s daughter. Monk passes no judgement on the antics of
his wives and the unstable behaviour of John and his wife. He
also ignores the enduring love for Russell of his daughter
Kate and her children and his first wife Alys.
Monk does not
tell us why Russell took to journalism. It was for the
propagation of public causes for which he needed money. He had
realised that the cause of peace in the world torn by
conflicts was of fundamental importance, and in this education
was the most powerful weapon. That is why he founded a school
which he had to finance by writing articles and giving
lectures in the USA. Despite financial strain, Russell and his
wife Dora managed to run the school until the 1930s.
school, Russell devised innovative methods of teaching by
using the latest psychological theories while ignoring his own
miseries such as disruption of his marriage. He knew that he
could not earn a living from logical analysis.
When he was
young Russell had given away quite a substantial amount of
money to the budding London School of Economics, founded by
the Webbs. It seems that in this highly provocative study Monk’s
attempt throughout is to fault Russell, and the main reason
for this virulent indictment is that Russell gave up the study
of philosophy and indulged in frivolous journalism which did
no good to him or to society. But Russell needed money. Asked
why he had written a short essay for Glamour, a popular
advertising magazine, he said, "I did it for £ 50."
charitable to Russell, it may be said that he gave up
philosophy because of Wittgenstein’s severe criticism of his
own intellectual self-confidence. Russell realised that he
could no longer make any original contribution to philosophy.
One could admire this attitude as a sincere example of
intellectual honesty which only a few are capable of showing.
He told Virginia Woolf: "The brain becomes rigid at
Russell’s great qualities of mind and sensitivity. Russell
had an artist’s mind and said simple things which clever
people could not say and simplified profound and abstruse
problems of philosophy with utmost lucidity. It seems that he
seldom wrote anything he did not enjoy writing. Monk finds it
absolutely ridiculous and dishonest on Russell’s part to
preach day in and day out the gospel of love and tolerance but
act in practice just the opposite. There was a wide gap
between what he said and what he did.
says anything on Russell as an intellectual of his age
distinguished for his quick grasp of problems he was trying to
resolve, his detached way of looking at the universe, and his
trenchant criticism of cant and hypocracy which he saw in the
conduct of human affairs. In his analysis of human problems he
made a remarkable use of irony and contradiction in arriving
at startlingly new generalisations.
In the decade
following 1945 when dark clouds of nuclear war threatened
world peace, Russell sent telegrams to world leaders appealing
for peace and disarmament. This initiative was greatly
commended by Nikita Khruschev, John F. Kennedy, Jawaharlal
Nehru and Zhou Enlai and others but, strangely enough, Monk
calls that efforts on Russell’s part as funny and
eyes, Russell never did anything right. In his old age Russell
was no longer a pacifist. He supported a nuclear attack on the
Soviet Union to prevent it from developing the bomb. He wrote,
"Communism must be wiped out, and world government must
This work is disturbingly
biased but it still brings out Monk’s qualities as a writer
of exquisite prose.
Roots of corruption in
Review by Randeep Wadehra
Professional edited by S. Subramanian. Associ-ation for
Advancement of Police Security Sciences, Hyderabad. Rs 125.
me start this piece with a heartening news. We all talk of
corruption. We beat our breasts in the drawing room, the club
room and, well, even on the street, telling anyone who cares to
listen how corruption is eating into the very vitals of our
society and how the polity has gone to the dogs, literally as
well as metaphorically. When it comes to positive action to stem
the rot, well, we sagely point out that it is beyond us.
That there is
really no need to soil one’s hands while fighting corruption
has been proved by the publishers of this book. It dwells on
such burning topics as "Corrupt judge — trapped and
convicted" by S. Krishnamurthy, an expert on court martial
and disciplinary inquiries; "Strategies to deal with
corruption in organisations" by C.V. Narasimhan, a retired
IPS officer; "Ethics in organisations" by C.L.
Ramakrishnan, a retired IPS officer; "Basic concepts of
vigilance" by K. Madhavan, a former joint director of the
CBI; "Liberalisation of regime and vigilance" by
former CBI Director Joginder Singh and several other equally
qualified and experienced professionals.
One is looking
forward to the documented expose on our politicians, cricketers,
film stars and other icons in the subsequent issues of this well
produced professional journal. At an annual subscription of Rs
500, this is an invaluable addition to your reading material
for, it impels you to think about the ways and means of
cleansing the system. I hope you share the optimism of the
journal’s editor that it is still not too late to bring back
the fragrance of honesty and uprightness in our society. At
least I do.
« « «
Work Culture by Jai B.P. Sinha. Sage, New Delhi. Pages 260. Rs
One of the
pearls of corporate wisdom is to cultivate employee loyalty.
This can be done by winning over their trust. This trust is
essentially built on the bedrock of transparent corporate
policies wherein the worker has a sense of participation in the
running of the organisation’s affairs. The environment in
which a person works determines an organisation’s work
culture, which is an important ingredient of the larger social
Sinha, social culture is the totality of assumptions, beliefs
and values acquired and held by a majority of people in a
geographical area for the purpose of adapting to the
ever-changing environment and developing an identity in order to
maintain continuity in the core areas of lifestyle. Thus their
desire to maintain continuity and to adapt to external demands
is reflected through social systems, institutions, physical
artifacts and popular behaviour.
It is within
the above parametres that work culture is defined in an
organisation. Technology, corporate assets and human resources
combine to establish goals, delegate roles and set off the
corporate dynamics to give birth to its work culture.
It should not
come as a surprise that every organisation has its unique work
ethos and culture, which is normally impossible to replicate.
Yet it is possible to define in lucid terms, to quote the MOW
team, "the degree of general importance that working has in
the life of an individual at any given point of time."
importance, says Sinha, is understood at two levels of concepts.
The base-level concepts are commitment, participation and
knowledge, which form the primary psychological base, consisting
of effect (emotions and feeling), action and cognition.
Commitment and participation combine to give rise to
involvement. Commitment and knowledge determine the degree of
one’s interest in work. Participation and knowledge influence
the extent of one’s engagement in work. Therefore involvement,
interest and engagement form the second level concepts which
determine the importance of work.
culture is a concept different from work culture. It includes
factors as divergent as organisational mission, philosophy,
goals, objectives, systems, technology, managerial practices and
relationships. Employee beliefs and values regarding work are
also factored in. Ideally, these factors when properly harnessed
result in qualitatively and quantitatively optimum productivity.
However, it should be noted that when employees begin to
maximise their personal or sectional gains, or meet their
socio-personal obligations without caring to perform well or
strive to achieve corporate goals, it becomes a case of non-work
Based on the
above premises, Sinha asserts, "Work is not intrinsically
valued in India. There exists a culture of aram, which
roughly means rest and relaxation without [being] preceded by
hard and exhausting work. Although there are large regional
variations, it is not infrequent to find a large number of
people sitting here and there and doing nothing. Even those who
are employed often come late to office and leave early unless
they are forced to be punctual..."
contrasted this with the social culture prevailing in Japan. He
further points out that there is need for triggering off the
process of building a work-centric culture. This is possible by
taking into consideration the following sets of interrelated
Indian cultural influences;
policy decisions, new economic arrangements, the changing
industrial scenario, globalisation of the market and other
strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities; and
available perspectives on culture building in the
Of course, the
quality of leadership plays a decisive role in culture building.
M.N. Srinivas talks of vertical solidarity. Schein avers, "Organisational
cultures are created by leaders, and one of the most decisive
functions of leadership may well be the creation, the management
and — if and when that becomes necessary — destruction of
Indian perspective, Sinha points out that here an effective
leader has, first of all, to be nurturant who cares for his
subordinates, shows them affection, helps them grow and gain
experience and expertise, and takes interest in their
well-being. The leader allows his subordinates to cultivate a
personalised relationship with him, and to depend on him for
guidance, direction and emotional support. However, his
nurturance is "contingent on his subordinates putting in
hard and sincere work. He himself is a role model...."
It is true that
despite all the hype of India being an IT superpower, we as a
nation have yet to evolve a reasonably identifiable work ethics,
let alone a full-fledged work-conducive social culture.
organisations, even in the private sector, are running on
colonial style work principles — you have to visit our tea
estates to witness this. Then there are organisations that are
part American and part British in character — the boss would
like his workers to work in an informal environment but expects
them to treat him as an overlord! The Japanese style
work-culture wherein the decision making process and
communication is a two-way traffic, is yet to strike roots here.
is an invaluable addition to the growing literature on the
current management-related problems. It provides us with case
studies backed by figures. Most importantly, it gives both
employers and employees plenty of food for thought and a
benchmark for self-assessment.
In an age when
there is a dire need for global managers capable of working in
cross-cultural environments, Indian corporations can ill-afford
to have outdated managerial practices and an archaic work
culture. As for social culture, our ruling elite will have to
update its worldview, but that is wishful thinking at least in
the foreseeable future.
« « «
and Conservation by Ashish Kothari. Sage, New Delhi. Pages 505.
habitat is threatened with extinction. Everyday countless
species of flora and fauna get wiped out, with no hope of
regeneration despite all the talk of cloning and other
regenerative techniques. Biodiversity might well become a mere
word in the lexicon of hapless environmentalists, unless
something drastic is done to stem the rot.
This is being
increasingly realised around the world. Conservation is becoming
the mantra of people and organisations around the world. UNESCO’s
Man and Biosphere [MAB] programme aims at improving scientific
understanding of natural and social processes relating to man’s
interaction with his environment.
It aims at
achieving this improvement by providing information useful to
decision-making on resource use, promoting conservation of
genetic diversity as an integral part of land management,
enjoining the efforts of scientists, policy makers and local
people in problem solving ventures, mobilising resources for
field activities and strengthening of regional cooperative
There is a
growing global emphasis on community based conservation (CBC).
There are several reasons for this. In developing countries like
India over two-thirds of protected areas have human habitation
resulting in human activities apart from tourism. This daily
interaction of local communities with this species sought to be
conserved does pose special problems which defy easy solutions.
For example, when exclusive zones — free of human presence —
were sought to be created, there was violent resistance from
those who would be either evicted from such areas or would be
deprived of the economic benefits that sustained their survival.
It is true that
outside the protected areas too there is significant wildlife
that needs conservation. To avoid conflict, CBC would be ideal.
This becomes all the more imperative since the various
governmental agencies are unable to perform the task of
conservation due to various constraints. In order to garner
political support it is essential that CBC succeeds, for the
politician always sides with the majority. A strong CBC-driven
public opinion will force political parties to give conservation
On the other
hand, the tendency to separate human activities from
conservation processes should be checked. In fact the common man
should be made aware of the effect that his various activities
have on our bio-wealth. This would make him demand more
eco-friendly products and services. Once CBC gains momentum, the
costs relating to conservation will dramatically go down as
there would be no need for spending on large-scale vigilance.
contributions in the form of labour, material and services will
obviate the need for maintaining a large conservation-related
presents a regional as well as global overview of the need for
CBC and various conceptual and practical issues facing it. It
gives country profiles of CBC in India, Mangolia, Nepal,
Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. It highlights the factors
that either hinder or assist CBC.
It then goes on
to explore a range of issues which are gradually confronting CBC
— namely, the importance of institutional structures, the
relevance of traditional and local knowledge, the legal and
policy frameworks, the gender and other equity issues, as well
as the issue of benefit sharing.
Carrying relevant case studies,
statistics and maps, this book is indispensable for the
conservationist and the layman alike.
High linguistics in local
Review by Jaspal Singh
SINGH ARSHI Singh
Arshi, the "seniormost" university professor of
Punjabi at Patiala, is also easily the most prolific literary
critic. Although he has tried his hand at every genre of
literature, he has made a mark only as a critic.
Till now he has
contributed 10 volumes to this particular field but "Sahit
Smeekhia", "Sidhant ate Vishleshan", "Smeekhia
Drishtian", "Pachhmi Kaav Shastar" and the latest
"Sidhant-Chintan: Astitva ton Virachna tak" have been
the most talked about in literary circles.
He has worked
really hard with a sense of commitment to complete this arduous
work keeping in view the needs of his students.
The sheer range
of his study is breath taking to ordinary mortals. The present
volume, "Sidhant-chitan: Astitva on Virachna tak",
(perspective of literary theory: from existence to
deconstruction), arsi publishers, Delhi, covers the entire range
of modern critical thought which even seasoned scholars cannot
easily grapple with.
chapters in this book deal with "Existentialism",
"Marxism", "Russian formalism", "New
American criticism", Psychoanalysis",
"Stylistics", "Semiotics", "systems
theory", "orientalism", "feminism",
"post-structuralism", "postmodernism", and
"deconstruction" — a mind-boggling intellectual
recipe indeed! It needs the nerve of an Arshi to touch this high
explosive and with such exemplary daring.
the author says, begins with man not with nature as most of
schools of thought do. an as "being" is diffused in
the entire expose of existence. Thought, action and realisation
are the properties which ":being" is invested with.
But the "being" in order "to be" must
Kierkegaard, Martin heidegger and jaan Paul Sartre are the main
thinkers to propound these ideas Sartre says, "Existence
precedes essence", therefore the march of "being"
from being-in-itself to being-for-itself has to be understood in
relation to such concepts as "choice",
"finitude", "guilt", "action",
"anguish" and "death".
Detoyevski, Kafka, Sartre, Camus, Samuel Beckett and so on were
influenced by existentialist thought.
according to Arshi, is the product of the ideas of Karl Marx,
Engels, V.I Lenin and Joseph Stalin. Dialectical materialism and
historical materialism are the basis of Marxism. The concept of
ideology as "false consciousness" is elaborated as a
set of ideas and institutions that legitimise the hegemony of a
particular class in a given social system.
defines surplus value — a central Marxism concept — as the
difference between wages and the price of commodity, which
according to him, was a concept borrowed by Marx from Adam
Smith, Malthus and David Ricardo. This obviously is a
misrepresentation of this concept for which Marx devoted three
volumes to study it in all its ramifications in the capitalist
mode of production. The classical economists had an entirely
different idea of exploitation under the capitalist system.
Marxian literary theory by people like Ernest Fischer, Ralph
Fox, Cristopher Candwell, George Lukacs, Pierre Macherey, Lucien
Goldman and Fredric Jameson has been briefly commented on. But
seminal thinkers like Plekhanov, Gramsci and Mao Zedong have not
been given the space they deserve in the Marxist critical
theory, nor do the neo-Marxists of Western Europe.
formulism, Arshi says, came into being in 1914 and it held its
sway till 1930. Two 19th century Russian thinkers, Alexander
Potebnya and Alexander Vaselosky, influenced the formalists.
Both thinkers held that the study of literature is basically
study of the literary language deployed by the author and
secondly, the poetic language has to be differentiated from
practical scientific language or from referential prose.
dimension to this perception was added by the later formalists
who concentrated more on the poetic image that mediates between
the material world and the aesthetic creation by imposing
another level of signification on it. The traditional dichotomy
of "form" and "content" was rejected by the
Formalists since they believed that "form is content".
also grappled with narrative techniques used in textual
structures of the literary compositions. Shklovsky, Tomashvsky,
Tynjanov, Eichenbaum and others associated with the "Opajaz
group, "really held their sway in Russian literary circles
in the early days of the Soviet Union before being officially
snubbed by the powers that be.
criticism, though it has its roots in the early 20th century
critical ideas made its mark as a powerful literary movement by
the end of first half of the century. By this time all major
statements of this school had appeared. Ezra Pound, T.S. Elliot,
I.A. Richard, William Empson, John Ransom, Cleanth Brooks, R.P.
Blackmur, Theodore Greene, Allen Tate and other members of the
"Fugitive Group" had propounded their major postulates
during this period.
The new critics
concentrated on text, "texture and structure of the
literary composition without any reference to the biographical
aspect of the author. Allen Tate particularly dealt with the
romantic tension in poetry" that helps in the realisation
of meaning in a poem which was considered to be autonomous
organic structure of images and paradoxes that could be
deciphered only through a "close reading".
criticism is based on Frendian psychology and its later
development at the hands of Alfred Adler, C.G. Jung and other
neo-Freudians like Karen Horney, Eric Fromm, Ernest Jones and
even Jacques Lecan who added a new dimension to it by drawing
some inspiration from the linguists like Saussure and Jakobson.
as a method of literary criticism was mainly based on Saussurian
linguistics, Geslalt philosophy, Marxian dialectics and Freudian
psychology. The brilliant application of this method by Clande
levistrauss in anthropology added to its prestige as a method of
analysis for folk-forms and literary compositions.
held its sway in the sixties and seventies of the 20th century
in the wester world of intellection. Structuralists also
borrowed from the Russian Formalists, particularly from V. Propp,
the ideas of "Opojaz Group" and the "Pragve
Circles of Linguistics", College de France and Ecole des
Hautes Etudes became the main centres of structuralist studies
since people like levi-strauss, greimas, Benveniste, Roland
Barthes, Lacan, Foncault, Althusser, Kristiva and other members
of the "Tel Quel" group were mainly concentrated in
these centres in France.
structuralists every literary or cultural text is an organised
whole of different units and elements that constitute a network
of relations and is always in a state of flux and
transformation. Thematics is the way of studying literary texts
by unlocking thematic units which comprise them. Critics like
Georges Poulet and Engene Falk are its main exponents. Folk has
used "component motif" and "leitmotif" to
denote the repetitive occurance of certain thematic images and
patterns in the text.
intimately linked with linguistics. It is a linguistic study of
texts at the level of phoneme, morpheme and syntax, so that the
process of realisation of meaning is understood by decoding the
linguistic strategies used in the discourse. Charles Bally is
the main critic to initiate this kind of analysis. Concepts like
"norm" and "deviation" in the use of
language, "foregrounding" and "backgrounding"
certain aspects in the narrative structure and laying bare
syntactical devices in the textual discourse are some of the
analytical tools applied by the stylisticians.
Leo Spitzer, Erich Auerbach, Damaso Alonso and Stephan Ullmann
are some other practitioners of this method in literary
another modern school of literary criticism. It is based on the
ideas of Fardinand de Saussure, the father of modern
linguistics. Two American philosophers, C.S. Peirce and Charles
Morries, added a positivistic dimension to this science.
Semiotics is defined as the study of signs, including languages,
folk forms, beliefs, films, kinesic movements, including dance,
painting sculpture and musical patterns etc. In short everything
that can send out a message is the subject matter of semiotics.
Umbert Eco, Thomas Sebeok, Yuri Lotman, H.S. Gill, Todorov,
Michael Riffaterre and so on are the main semioticians. They
have analysed dozens of "texts", both literary and
cultural, and have come out with exciting results.
Theory has also been one of the most modern literary fads. This
perspective has been used both in social and physical sciences,
particularly in bio-sciences. Its founder, Ludwig von
Bertalanffy, was an Austrian biologist and philosopher.
In the field of
language Sanssure was perhaps the first thinker who defined
language as a system of signs which express ideas. Literature as
a system has been analysed by people like Clando Guillan and
Orientalism has been a very fashionable term. A number of Asian
scholars living in the West are very active in this field.
Mention may be made of Edward said, Homi Bhaba, Gayatri
Chakravorty and Ijaz Ahmed. All of them are trying to prove that
the westerns treat the natives of the Third World as infants and
children, sometimes they even treat them with "love"
people of the Third World buy these gimmicks and start behaving
like obedient "sons". The subaltern consciousness
vis-a-vis the western overall hegemony has paved the way for an
eastern point of view.
Since most of
the Third World intellectuals are western trained, they still
try to impose a western perspective as universally relevant to
all times and places.
The creation of
"orient" by western scholars has been a systematic
epistemological ploy to tame the "wild" East.
criticism views the literary texts from the women angle. The use
of language in respect of women by male writers is not the same
as in the case of men. Nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronounce and
syntactic structures describing the female display a kind of
male prejudice and an overall male hegemony in the patriarchal
order of society. Simone de Beauvoir’s "The second
sex" is probably the first text to raise the problem of
famine treatment in writing. Later on, Mary Ellmann, Toril Moi,
Luce Irigaray, Elaine Showalter and so on analysed the texts
from a femine angle treating the women as a separate oppressed
class of society.
post-Structuralism, post modernism and deconstruction have many
things in common. Most of the structuralist thinkers like
Michael Foucault, Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida are
presented as post-structuralists and post-modernists as well.
Jurgen Habermas, Jean Francois Lyotard and Fredric Jameson have
been rightly included in the category of post modernists.
Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man are presented as the main
exponents of deconstruction. Hence the last three chapters
overlap one another. There are certain errors in names when they
are spelled in Punjabi. Most of the names being of French and
East European origin, create a problem of pronunciation for an
Derrida’s "grammatology" has nothing to do with
grammar. It deals with the study of the writing process and the
problems of phonocentrism" and "kogocentrism" —
that is the problem of the spoken word and its written version
where it is devoid of all articulatory strategies of
on part of the author is that his treatment of Roland Barther, a
seminal structuralist and post-structuralist thinker, is
inadequate. A lot of work on semiotics has been done at Patiala
and JNU under the guidance of H.S. Gill, which strangely does
not find a mention anywhere in the book. Incidentally his work
has been globally acclaimed and Gill has contributed brilliant
articles to world famous encyclopedias and was recently invited
by college de France to deliver a series of lectures on such
minor lapses, which the author can do away with in the second
edition, this attempt by all means is singular and is immensely
useful to students, scholars, and teachers of literature.
It is for the first time that
such a comprehensive work on such complex theories in the field
of critics thought has appeared in Punjabi. Well done!
and official bragging
Review by Kuldip Kalia
at the Grassroots the Shades and Shadows edited by N.
Narayanasamy, M.P. Boraian and M.A. Jeyaraju. Concept
Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 198. Rs 275.
is a global phenomenon, Indra Gandhi said. The principles,
values and the so-called morality stand relegated to the
background. Money has become the fundamental and dominant
aspect of life and its vulgar display ensures a respectable
status in society. Nobody bothers to know the means adopted
for amazing the wealth. The nexus between dishonest officers
and corrupt politicians makes a mockery of plans, policies and
schemes. In a nutshell, it is the personal interest and not
national interest which matters the most. Even a compromise
with national security cannot be ruled out.
under review expresses concern about rampant corruption; tries
to trace its roots; highlights its causes and explains the
consequences of corruption on administration, economy, the
political system and the moral of the people. Also it examines
in detail the effectiveness of the existing programmes and
policies to contain corruption. Above all the strategies
planned to eliminate corruption at the grassroots are
discussed in a comprehensive manner.
Gunner Mydran want us to believe that corruption, besides its
negative effects, has some advantage too. Truly speaking it
ensures that the file moves as and when the palm right is
greased. So it increases economic efficiency. In this context,
why forget Nehru? Once a Congressmen went to him against the
Chief Minister of Kerala for indulging in corrupt practices.
Nehru asked what is the amount?When said, Rs 1 lakh? "Oh
no! Please go home, Rs 1 lakh is not corruption."
Similarly when a minister, Parampally Govinda Menon, was
charged with having taken Rs 5 crore, Menon had said "I
have taken 5 paisa on average from each voter in my
constituency. Is that corruption?
such a complex phenomenon that one may call it bribery,
nepotism, misappropriation of resources, giving or receiving
gifts, cheating, fraud, dishonesty, embezzlement, commission,
scam or kickback. It is therefore, difficult to define
corruption in fixed words or terms but one thing is certain
that whenever there is any deviation from the code of conduct,
by and large, it amounts to a corrupt practice.
salary and power without accountability are said to be the
reasons for corruption. It continues to grow and enters
everywhere. Even then it is not a casual or haphazard
activity. It is being practised in a systematic nd organised
manner. However it never operates independently or in
isolation. Thus there is always a strong chain and there is
hardly any chance of its being broken.
introduction of panchayat raj it has really come down to the
grass roots level and thereby forming a long chain from
Parliament to panchayats. In fact it has been woven into the
"wrap and weft" of the rural fabric. District
collectors, taluk office, police stations, government
hospital, courts and, above all, local politicians are said to
be hotbeds of corruption. Even schools in villages are not
running properly the mid-day meal to children does not reach
and, medicines which are to be distributed free at primary
health centres are sold to uninformed patients. The most
fertile areas of corruption are public works, including
construction of roads and bridges or sewerage etc.
has deteriorated to such an extent that price tags for a
posting of a particular PHC is Rs 1 lakh. This was revealed
when the doctors were asked to explain the reason for their
corrupt practices. This shows how corruption distorts the
welfare goals and even marginalises the development process.
So much so
the definition of a good officer has changed. Now a good
officer is one who never asks more than the prevailing rate of
bribe. The most famous julie in the corridors of the power is:
"Somebody made a complaint against a corrupt official,
then the officer with whom he had lodged a complaint asked him
the amount he would shell out for taking action against the
corporations entered the country by paying a bribe or
promising a kickback. The deputy secretary or the secretary
who prepares notes in their favours is alleged to have been
promised a lucrative job. Even the judiciary is not out of the
vicious circle created by corruption. Charges against some
judges were made, enquired into and finally they were found
guilty but nothing was done therefore. Moreover judges take
two to three years to pronounce judgement after arguments are
closed. This can in no way be termed as being morally up
right. They feel comfortable punishing a pickpocketers but
when it comes to a company polluting environment, the pace is
cultural values are eroded. Whosoever wins or comes out
victorious is called "Sikandar" irrespective of the
means or ways the adopted. Not only this, the conceptual
values are down to the level that "taking" bribe is
corruption and not "giving it". There can be a
difference of opinion on the causes, and consequences and the
dimensions of corruption but one thing is certain: the worst
affected are the poor and villager.
All the same,
it is an undesirable fact that there is hardly any sphere,
class or category which is "untouchable" for corrupt
practices. It is an irony that the poor have to borrow money
at much higher rate to make an advance payment of bribe. There
are instances where the benefits or gains were marginalised
because of hefty payment made to the brokers. In fact there is
a degree for tolerance of corruption.
committees and commissions, like the Santhanam Committee, the
Administrative Reforms Commission, the Vohra Committee have
dealt with the deadly problem of corrupt practices and
highlighted the nexus between the criminals, bureaucrats and
system itself is said to be the root cause of corruption and
there is a demand for its overhauling. The decline of moral
standards, excessive intervention, criminalisation of politics
or the politicisation of criminals were the other factors.
Even the so-called LPG (liberalisation, privatisation and
globalisation) is said to have opened the floodgates of
However there is reason to
believe that transparency in dealing, committed leadership,
public involvement, ensuring accountability and a sense of
belonging can be helpful to a greater extent in combating and
curbing corruption. Corruption has "poisoned our polity
and polluted our society" to an extent that even a honest
person expects a word of appreciation when he does so,
perhaps, forgetting the basic norm of society to which he
belongs. It is rightly said, "corruption flourishes
amidst poverty and the corrupt grow rich."
the coloured feel frustrated
Review by Jaswant Kaur
Britain by Harish Malhotra. Kafle Prakashan, Chandigarh.Pages
156. Rs 80.
author of the book is a journalist of Indian origin, resident
in Britain. He completed his graduation from DAVcollege,
Jullundur and has a masters degree in race and ethnic studies
from Warwick University, London.he is committed to fight
against any injustice anywhere.
contains 11 chapters which throw light on the various aspects
of racism in British society. He describes how the word race
originated and how was it used differently in different
countries. He quotes from various books to prove his point. He
starts with race and racism and concludes with the various
effects of this discrimination which the Indians living
inBritain have to face. He has also come up with some
recommendations to arrive at a solution.
deeply involved in Britain not only because it ruled over
India but because Indians live in Britain who have to
constantly face racial injustice. They are deprived of basic
rights which an ordinary man enjoys in ordinary circumstances.
says that the word race in the 17th and 18th centuries was
used in English primarily in the sense of lineage or line of
descent. It was only in the late 18th and 19th centuries. It
was used to refer to discrete categories of people, defined
according to their physical characterists such as skin colour,
cranial capacity, facial angle, etc.
described as a theory in which one part of society, generally
a majority, claims itself to be superior to the other groups
which is a minority. Thus racism is closely related to
political power. The so called superior group deprives the
minority group of certain privileges which the majority
enjoys. It exercises power over the other and makes them dance
to its tune. It thinks that discriminatory relations between
groups are morally and scientifically justifiable.
Britain is a
racist society. It comprises of two groups — whites and
blacks. The white group consists of the Indigenous whites and
the black group represents Asians and African-Caribbean people
who have migrated to England. The whites being in majority
consider themselves superior to the blacks who are lesser in
colour skin of Asians and Afro-Caribbean people is used to
distinguish them from the Indigenous whites. The black colour
has been traditionally used to symbolise bad and wicked as
well as dismal and unlucky whereas white is considered to mean
a fortunate, favourable and of pure, open candid behaviour.
Blackness stands for death, mourning, evil, sin and danger and
the white colour for purity, virginity, innocence and perfect
Asians and Afro-Caribbean people with dark coloured skin
migrated to England, the old and traditional word black was
used for them. They are considered bad for British society and
are thus dominated by the local whites.
At the end of
World War II in which Britain had lost many people, its
economy started declining. The major part of population
consisted of old men and women. In order to meet the
increasing demand for skilled and unskilled labour the
government started importing cheap labour from Commonwealth
countries. The prevailing unfavorable conditions in the form
of unemployment, falling standard of living. Over population
and political unrest forced many people from the West Indies.
India and Pakistan to migrate to England and settle therefore
better living conditions.
migrants in the 1950s and 1960s were mostly young and single.
They intended to return to their native land after earning
enough money which could help them to live happily. But
further deterioration of the economy in their own countries
forced them to change their mind. Many of the permanent
settlers had children born in Britain and rest of them have
brought their families from their native land to settle there.
At the end of
this period, the British economy started sliding and had to
face problems of unemployment and a law standard of living.
The whites started blaming the blacks for their unhappy
condition. As such the British government passed many acts
like the Commonwealth Immigration Act 1962. The Commonwealth
immigrants act 1968, the Immigration Act of 1971 and the
British Nationality Act of 1981, etc. These acts further
worsened the condition of the black immigrants. These Acts
were passed in order to restrict the migration of more Asians
and Afro-Carribbean people. These Acts were firmly established
the racial line.
Immigration Act of 1971 curtailed the right to family unity of
those who were already settled there. Certain categories of
children who were born in Britain was deprived of citizenship
when the Act of 1981 came into force.
So even the
law-making machinery is not free from racial discrimination.
In fact it helps in propagating it. Not only this, the police
force is also not free from it.
has given many examples which prove that the police has done
injustice to the blacks and thus motivating the whites to have
to superior command over them. The police has proved to be
defenders and protectors of racists. It regards black people
as a potential threat to public law and order.
has referred to several incidents when Black people are
stopped on the streets and reached but are often not told the
reason for it. Cases of arrest without any crime have
increased progressively over a number of years in the case of
example of racial discrimination is that of the media which
promotes the activities of the police has developed a close
liaison with the press which helps in building up a wider
support base for these practices. Thus journalism has
developed as a parallel to the police’s own suspicions and
operations against black people.
processing of complaints budget by the blocks against the
police with the police complaints Authority are subject to
undue delay because the system relics on the police to
investigate the matter, which results in equivocal findings
and even if complaints are upheld, no disciplinary action is
taken against the concerned policemen.
of elderly black people is worse. The effect of immigration,
insecurity of a new environment are the problems which arise
because their relatives and friends are likely to be oversees.
These elderly people face the problems of low income, poor
housing, poor health and mobility and in addition they have to
face racial discrimination which increase their sense of
elderly people are taken care of better than the blacks. Many
of the elderly black people are not aware of the old age
pension scheme, supplementary benefits, phone helps, etc. Even
if they know, they are not provided with sufficient help.
Elderly white people have their separate homes and other
facilities but if the same facilities are given to the black
elderly. They protest against this gesture.
elderly are given a home to environment whereas in the case of
the blacks it is the opposite. They are not even given food
they like to have. In most of the cases the workers do not
even understand their language.
says that children face racial discrimination in schools.
Parents who encourage their children and admit them in various
schools so that they became independent, find that their
children are labelled as "naughty",
"disruptive" "bad". The teachers humiliate
the child in the class or in front of the whole school and
make an issue of a trivial incident. As a result, the child
loses its confidence and self-respect.
In order to
regain his self-coincidence and self-respected the child join
peer non-groups indulges in wrong practices. Some of them are
expelled from the school because of the incapacity of school
teachers to understand them. The permanently excluded students
are not provided with any kind of educational facilities which
make them to loiter aimlessly feeling neglected, and
resentment starts building up in their mind. the white
students, however, are specially cared for by the teachers.
another area where racial discrimination prevails. The author
has referred to a report called "Inequalities in
Health" which showed a big difference in the health
status-between people doing manual jobs and people in
professional jobs. The health problems are more in manual jobs
as compared to the professional ones. Most of the people
employed in manual jobs are blacks and are not even provided
proper health facilities. Racism operates to keep black people
in worst jobs and housing.
Britain is an attack on basic human rights. It promotes a
feeling of hatred and disrespect for the other group of
people. Living in the same country is against basic human
rights which all human beings should enjoy. It is prejudicial
in nature and causes injustice to one group and simultaneously
placing the other group in an unfair superior condition.
order and its institution need to be changed so that every
human being can enjoy his or her life freely without any
Life is meant for loving,
caring and respecting the people who form your surroundings.
It should not be wasted by the state excising unfair
advantage, hatred and disrespect for others.
Need for new, reinvented
This is an
extract from "Reviewing the Constitution" edited by
Subhash C. Kashyap, D. D. Khanna and Gert W. Kheck.
representative democracy and parliamentary institutions have
endured in India for five decades is a great tribute to their
strength and resilience. There has, however, been in recent
years some thinking and debate about the decline of
Parliament, devaluation of Parliamentary authority, falling
standards of debate, deterioration in the conduct and quality
of members, poor levels of participation and the like. A
degree of cynicism towards parliamentary institutions and an
erosion in the respect for normal parliamentary processes and
the parliamentarians presents a disturbing scenario. Very
little effort seems to have been made to examine and analyse
what really plagues Parliament or to find out the reasons for
the erosion of the traditional authority, high esteem and
pristine glory of the institution of Parliament.
past nearly 50 years, the structure and functions of
Parliament had developed under the shadow of the Fabian
slogans of democratic socialism, economic democracy and
distributive justice. The information explosion, technological
revolution, growing magnitude and complexities of modern
administration and the concept of welfare state cast upon
Parliament vastly extended responsibilities of social
engineering through legislation and of managing the lives of
the citizen from the cradle to the cremation or burial ground.
Inadequacy of time, information and expertise with Parliament
resulted in poor quality legislation and unsatisfactory
parliamentary surveillance over administration. As B.K. Nehru
once said, during the entire period of nearly 200 years of
their rule in India, the British colonial rulers passed only
some 400 laws while in the first 40 years, Parliament had
passed nearly 4000 laws. The big difference was that the 400
laws were obeyed or had to be obeyed while the 4000 pieces of
legislation were not obeyed. Those to whom many of these laws
relate did not even know or understand them.
has been made to develop the essential prerequisites for the
success of parliamentary polity — discipline, character,
high sense of public morality, an ideologically oriented
two-party system and willingness to hear and accommodate
situation where the government lacked a comfortable majority
of its own and the opposition was too weak to emerge as an
alternative, the options were very limited and Parliament was
bound to remain less effective. This is what happened during
the 1989-1999 decade. Members irrespective of their party
affiliations had themselves become a new caste and part of the
establishment and co-sharers in the spoils. Politics and
membership of Parliament had emerged as a whole-time, highly
lucrative, hereditary profession. Following the changed
composition of the successive Houses, there was faster
devaluation of old values and an increase in disorders and
pandemonia on the floor during the zero hour and at other
times. There was general apathy among members, Ministers and
the public at large towards the work of Parliament.
Absenteeism among members had assumed alarming proportions and
defections for money and office were a common phenomenon.
archaic practices and time-consuming procedures most
unsuitable for present-day needs have continued. The
legitimacy of government and of representative institutions
under the system was inextricably linked to free and fair
elections and to the system being able to bring to power
persons who truly represented the people’s will and had the
necessary abilities to govern. Recent efforts notwithstanding,
due to the role of mafia gangs, muscle power and money power,
free and fair elections continued to be difficult in some
parts of the country, thereby affecting the representative
credentials of our elected members. Therefore, it would be
necessary to reform the electoral system and the party system
before parliamentary reforms could be thought of.
urgent remedial action seem imperative for making
parliamentary institutions and processes effective and potent
instruments of ensuring sustainable economic growth, so vital
for the success of the new economic policy. The role
expectation of Parliament is linked with the role perception
of the state. Economic reforms should lead to cutting back on
government involvement and drastic reduction in the role of
the state in the economy. This should naturally get reflected
in the reduced role for Parliament and its committees. Also
their processes, control mechanisms, debating and
decision-making procedures would have to be revamped and made
faster. Floor management techniques would have to be
professionalised at the level of whips, parliamentary
officials and presiding officers.
Parliament, it is of the utmost importance to constantly
review and refurbish its structural-functional requirements
and, from time to time to consider renewing and reforming the
entire gamut of its operational procedures to guard against
putrefication and decay. The case for reforming Parliament is
unexceptionable and, in a sense, has always been so. The real
question is of how much and what to change to strengthen and
improve the system. We have to be clear about the precise
need, the direction and the extent of the reforms that would
be desirable at present. It is obvious that mere first-aid and
trifling cosmetic adjustments would not any more be enough.
What is needed is a fullscale review. We have to be prepared
for fundamental institutional — structural, functional,
procedural and organisational — changes. The overriding
guiding norm and purpose of all parliamentary reforms should
be to make both the government and Parliament more effective
to meet the challenges of the times and the changing national
needs in the context of the objective of faster economic
Parliament and the government should be collectively concerned
with concurrent and contemporaneous monitoring and evaluation
as also the implementation of economic reforms, scrutiny of
the overall performance of the economic targets, achievements,
shortfalls, etc. Some serious thinking is called for in the
matter of reforming the budget procedure in Parliament and
bringing it closer to the needs and compulsions of the new
situation. The number of occasions on which voting by division
may be needed during a budget session is very large. Also, a
defeat of any demand for grant is deemed to be an expression
of lack of confidence in the government. There is every
possibility of a division being asked for more often only to
embarrass the government. It would be unrealistic to expect
all the members to be present all the time throughout the
session. It would, therefore, be wise to reduce to the barest
minimum the number of days on which voting by division is
considered imminent. Also, the time may be fixed by agreement
and announced in advance with appropriate whips issued and
attendance ensured otherwise.
cost of parliamentary democracy has been skyrocketing. During
the last five decades it has gone up by over 100 times. Also,
the figures of the cost on Parliament seem fudged inasmuch as
much of the expenditure is shown under other heads.
often raised is that of salaries, allowances, amenities,
facilities, etc., extended to the members. While for some,
entering Parliament involves a financial sacrifice, for many
others it provides much sought for rewards and benefits. There
are two extreme views on whether the members are heavily
pampered and overpaid or they are misunderstood and grossly
underpaid. Much can be said on either side. According to one
guess, if every member is paid Rs 1,00,000 to Rs 2,00,000 a
month in cash and all perks and direct and indirect financial
benefits from the state are withdrawn, the public exchequer
would be a gainer. This would imply that at present, a member
on an average gets in cash or in kind not less than Rs 1 lakh
a month. If the state legislators are included, the total
number comes to above 4000. Besides, we have Ministers,
chairmen of boards, public undertakings, etc., and politicians
occupying innumerable offices with Minister’s status at the
state and Union levels, each one costing 10 to 50 times the
cost of an MP. All this put together makes the cost of
maintaining our huge army of whole-time professional
politicians very heavy and hardly commensurate with the
returns to society. While stressing the need for cutting down
the administrative expenditure, we have to think of cutting
down the staggering cost of democracy as well. There is need
to drastically slash parliamentary spending under various
heads. Even if the resultant economy in the context of the
overall national budget may not seem very large, the
psychological impact is bound to be massive. Strictest
self-control is also necessary because parliamentary budget,
by convention, is not questioned or debated.
A strict limit needs to be
placed on the number of Ministers and equivalent posts, both
at the Union level and in the States. In countries like the
UK, the number and names of departments are fixed. Ministers
may change but not the departments. In India, on the other
hand, departments are created, merged or split from time to
time to suit the whims of the Prime Minister or the changes in
the Ministers in charge. This causes confusion, instability,
uncertainty and wasteful expenditure.