Thursday, December 7, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Enron’s power burden
COMBINATION of gullibility and stupidity has made power from Enron’s Dabhol plant the costliest in the world. Right now the Maharashtra State Electricity Board is paying more than Rs 7 a unit it buys from the company.

Cricketers fixed
FTER an endless stream of rumours, insinuations, allegations and false leads, the denouement is here. The mighty Board of Control for Cricket in India has passed a “life sentence” on Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Sharma and five-year terms on Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar and physiotherapist Ali Irani.

Unfreezing Tibetan cause
T is too early to expect much from the contacts established between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities, but any development that helps a right cause is welcome. No one knows what actually transpired between Chinese officials and the Tibetan leader's elder brother, who recently visited Beijing in accordance with the wishes of those in occupation of his homeland.


All aboard peace wagon
December 6, 2000
Resignation gesture
December 5, 2000
Death at 70 kmph 
December 4, 2000
Security Council reform: The long wait continues
December 3, 2000
Tasks ahead for Talwandi
December 2, 2000
Towards Baghdad again
December 1, 2000
Peace demands determination
November 30, 2000
Attack on farm science 
November 29, 2000
Peace offensive
November 28, 2000
Political crisis in Himachal 
November 27, 2000

Pakistan’s limited response
by Inder Malhotra
AKISTAN took a whole week to respond to Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee’s initiative of the Ramzan ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir, and there is no doubt that the mildly positive response it has produced was because of intense international pressure, led by the United States of America.

The long-term implications
by G. Parthasarathy
ITH immediate effect the Pakistan armed forces deployed on the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir will observe maximum restraint in order to strengthen and stabilise the ceasefire”, said Pakistan’s soft-spoken and sophisticated Foreign Secretary Inam-ul-Haq while responding to New Delhi’s announcement of a unilateral cessation of offensive operations in Jammu and Kashmir.


Women lose out to mithuns
HE folklife in the countryside of Arunachal Pradesh centres around mithun and women. A rich man in a village is he who acquires as many mithuns — a stout animal that shares features of a wild buffalo and a mountain Yak — and wives as he can afford.


The rising force of ethics
by Pushpa M. Bhargava
RADITIONALLY our society has laid emphasis on morality and law. Today, however, the concern has shifted to human rights and ethics. While ethics are closely related to human rights, these are neither morality nor law, just as morality and law are not the same.



Enron’s power burden 

A COMBINATION of gullibility and stupidity has made power from Enron’s Dabhol plant the costliest in the world. Right now the Maharashtra State Electricity Board is paying more than Rs 7 a unit it buys from the company. At this rate the board will become bankrupt very soon, if it is not already so. What is more, its losses will mount when the second phase of the plant goes on stream in the middle of next year. If the board buys all the power generated at Dabhol, as it has undertaken to do, the tariff might come down but still it will remain the costliest in the country. The power purchase agreement signed in 1991 made it mandatory for the board to buy every unit of power generated there. There was logic in this. Maharashtra, the most industrialised state faced a power shortage and it wanted all the electricity for itself. Two, at that time the tariff was competitive, less than Rs 2 a unit. These seeming advantages and the glamour of housing a US-owned mega project blinded the negotiators to several clauses which have tilted the deal dangerously against the board. Apart from the purchase guarantee, Enron will be paid its capital cost which remains fixed during the duration of the agreement. This is at variance with the global practice in which this cost tapers off as the company pays off the project debts. In addition the board pays a fuel charge, the international price of liquefied natural gas which is the basic source of energy. Finally, the tariff is calculated in the US currency. With the oil prices going through the roof and the rupee on a steady slide, the per unit cost has zoomed over the years. But what has wrecked the balance sheet of the board is a ruling by the state electricity regulatory commission which forces it to transmit the cheaper power first and resort to the super costly Dabhol energy the last. Thus the board can buy only half of the power but pick up the tab of the entire capital cost. The latter, which represents the tariff for the unbought units, comes to a whooping Rs 95 crore every month. Or Rs 1140 crore every year. All this for the first phase and when the second phase is switched on the undeserved annual payout will touch Rs 2000 crore.

The state government is furious. It has blamed the previous Shiv Sena-BJP government for setting up a permanent trap for the board. It has suggested to the Centre two cures. One, the Centre can take over the mess and do whatever it wants with the power. Two, it can scratch the power purchase agreement for the next phase and delete all those crippling commitments. The Centre with the BJP heading the alliance and the Shiv Sena’s Suresh Prabhu in charge of power laughs at the suggestions thinking it is a cheap political gimmick to malign the two parties. It also believes that the agreement cannot be reworked without provoking both legal and international complications. Nonsense, says a columnist. Pakistan has done it; so have Indonesia and Turkey on the ground that there were unjust conditions quite contrary to sound commercial principles. Another expert, who gained all his knowledge and experience of power-related laws and practice by fighting Enron for a decade, quotes Indian rules to advocate a total revision of the original and the 1996 agreements. If the company is running away with super profits, a part of it will come back the country by way of corporate taxes, yes? No, the holding company of the Indian subsidiary is registered in Mauritius and the pact against double taxation allows it to retain all its money. Why not buy out the company then? It will happily sell its shares provided the state pays a compensation of upwards of Rs 25,000 crore. Its investment is less than one-third of this amount. The media is ambivalent lest ugly publicity drives away investors in this vital infrastructure. It stoically closes its eyes to the MSP (a fixed tariff) with periodic increases (variable costs) and guaranteed procurement (commitment to buy all power) in this sector. Everyone thought these are dirty words and concepts? Think again!


Cricketers fixed

AFTER an endless stream of rumours, insinuations, allegations and false leads, the denouement is here. The mighty Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has passed a “life sentence” on Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Sharma and five-year terms on Ajay Jadeja, Manoj Prabhakar and physiotherapist Ali Irani. The BCCI wants to project it as a tough decision but there was so much speculation and so many deliberate leaks that now that it is actually here, it does not appear to be so harsh. Loss of face and ignominy are of course there. But since the public was made to believe that the cricketing records of the tainted players will be erased and Arjuna awards will be snatched, those baying for their blood are not fully satisfied. But then, there are so many different opinions on the issue. In fact, as it happens in the case of a match strategy also, no two persons agree, in this case, on the quantum of punishment that should have been handed out. Some think that this is the serving of the right desserts. Others consider it no more than a mild rap on the knuckles. After all, they point out, what is a life ban to a 38-year-old Azharuddin at the end of his tether? However, the denial of benefit matches and the board’s contribution to the players’ fund does mean considerable loss. The irony of it all is that Manoj Prabhakar, the man who went after the tainted players with missionary zeal, finds himself in the same boat as Jadeja. At the same time, Kapil Dev, whom he tried to project as the biggest villain, is nowhere near the precipice. All this while, so much dirt has been flying thick and fast that one does not know whom to believe and whom not to. It is all a question of which investigating agency one depends on. If one swore by the CBI report, wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia should figure in the rogues gallery. But since BCCI investigator Madhavan does not agree, he stands exonerated. Newspapers were full of reports about currency notes tumbling out of the locker of a former Indian captain. But he is nowhere in the picture now. As in love and war, truth appears to be the first casualty in an investigation also.

It is a sad commentary on the legal system that despite taking the country for a ride, the tainted cricketers and bookies may go virtually scot-free. Under the circumstances, the punishment meted out by the BCCI is perhaps the maximum as well as the minimum that might come their way. Here is hoping that the ban order will deter future cricketers from going astray. The reputation of cricket in general and Indian cricket in particular is in the pits and it will be quite some time before respectability is restored to the game. The disillusionment with the so-called gentlemen’s game may push youngsters to other less glamorous and less lucrative sports, which had been languishing all along. But so strong is the lure of the lucre that the suspicion of match-fixing may linger in those games as well. The unfortunate aspect is that the malaise runs very deep. Manoj Prabhakar has muddied the waters still further by alleging that though he hobnobbed with bookies only to expose the truth and that too after his international career was over, he was introduced to a bookie by a board member. Don’t believe him? But nobody believed him when he made the allegations about match-fixing either.


Unfreezing Tibetan cause

IT is too early to expect much from the contacts established between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities, but any development that helps a right cause is welcome. No one knows what actually transpired between Chinese officials and the Tibetan leader's elder brother, who recently visited Beijing in accordance with the wishes of those in occupation of his homeland. Nor has the Dalai Lama disclosed the contents of the "message" he has received from the other side. There is also no response from the Chinese with regard to the idea of sending a delegation of Tibetans to Beijing for initiating a person-to-person dialogue despite reminders from the Tibetan headquarters in Dharamsala. Yet there are reasons for optimism on the vexed Tibetan autonomy issue. The Chinese have not denied the indirect exchange of views between them and the Dalai Lama, which shows that something positive is going on between the two sides. This inference can also be drawn from the declaration of a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman on Tuesday — a day after the Dalai Lama disclosed his brother's visit to Beijing — that China is anxious to contact the Tibetan spiritual and temporal leader and that " the channels are clear" for the purpose. The Dalai Lama too is exhibiting signs of achieving success in initiating a process of dialogue. This is clear from his address to media persons on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his assumption of the Tibetan temporal leadership. In fact, he is no longer interested in any role other than his religious duties. He wants to be known as the last Dalai Lama. He is past 60 and, therefore, might be too anxious to ensure the realisation of the Tibetan dream in an honourable way before he and the others of his generation fade into history.

The Dalai Lama is a rare visionary as well as a pragmatic thinker. He must have closely studied the truth that since 1950, when China captured Tibet, eliminating the 2000-year-old buffer between that country and India, the world scenario has undergone a sea-change. China did not command much respect in influential capitals at that time. The situation continued to remain as such for a long time before the West, especially the USA, began to see virtues in the behaviour of the surviving communist giant. It was believed that besides strategic and diplomatic advantages, closeness to Beijing also offered enormous opportunities for economic gains. Gradually, the West as also the rest of the world developed an indifferent attitude vis-a-vis the lost Shangri-La, once idealised by Franc Capra in his celebrated film, "Lost Horizon". The Chinese aggressiveness reflects all this whenever the Tibetan issue is raised at any forum. China today is known for the concept of "one nation, two systems". It has treated Tibet as a troubling sore which it wants to get cured somehow. One hopes the channel that has been opened linking Beijing and the Dalai Lama's headquarters may help find some remedy to heal the wound as well as honour the Tibetan aspirations in the foreseeable future.


Pakistan’s limited
by Inder Malhotra

PAKISTAN took a whole week to respond to Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee’s initiative of the Ramzan ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir, and there is no doubt that the mildly positive response it has produced was because of intense international pressure, led by the United States of America. To a limited extent domestic pressures may also have influenced Islamabad’s decision to move away from its initial reaction that New Delhi’s initiative was a “ploy to impose a military solution”. There are voices of sanity in the neighbouring country because many Pakistanis are worried by the endless enmity with India and even more by the looming prospect of Pakistan’s own Talibanisation if the jihadi cult unleashed by Islamic fundamentalists remains unchecked.

And yet, all that the Musharraf regime has offered is the promise that its armed forces would exercise ‘maximum restraint’ along the Line of Control (LoC). It has taken care formally to convey to New Delhi that orders to this effect have already been issued. Even this is wrapped in many ifs and buts and subject to numerous conditions. It is difficult to blame those who believe that there is hardly any change in Pakistan’s Kashmir policy that has unfolded itself in blood and gore in the sensitive Indian state for nearly 11 years.

Some of the Pakistani demands, such as that for tripartite talks between India, Pakistan and Kashmir’s All-Party Hurriyat Conference as representatives of the Kashmiris, are clearly and utterly unacceptable. Interestingly, Islamabad wants these tripartite talks to be held immediately after the end of the holy month of Ramzan. Let this be treated as its rhetorical excess. Even more unrealistic is the Pakistani demand — rooted in its unending quest for third party intervention in a bilateral issue — for an active and extended role for the U N observers in “monitoring” the ceasefire. Its demand for making the ceasefire permanent, voiced earlier by several organisations in Jammu and Kashmir, is understandable. But for Islamabad to couch it in deliberately offensive language — asking this country to “end the policy of repression and violence” — is hardly calculated to create an atmosphere conducive to a long-awaited opening for a peaceful settlement of the Kashmir issue.

Despite all that the Vajpayee government has done well not to brush aside Islamabad’s latest move but to tell it in a friendly manner that future developments in Kashmir will depend not on Islamabad’s words but on its deeds. Kargil disrupted the India-Pakistan dialogue that had taken a very hopeful turn at Lahore only four months earlier. There is no reason why this dialogue should not be resumed at the earliest possible opportunity. But that opportunity can arise only if Pakistan’s consistent and persistent support to cross-border terrorism is, at the very least, reduced substantially. Both the Home Minister, Mr L.K. Advani, and the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, have made it clear that the key to the path of peace is the stoppage of infiltration of well-trained, well-armed and heavily indoctrinated “jihadis” into Kashmir.

To be sure, Pakistan will never admit to sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir and will stick to its standard pretence that it is giving the “Kashmiri freedom-fighters” only “moral, political and diplomatic support”. Training camps for terrorists openly functioning in Pakistan and bombastic declarations by Islamic fundamentalist organisations, including those declared to be terrorist by the USA, ought to make Pakistani rulers blush. But this can be allowed to pass. What matters is that Pakistan, which wants to “test Indian sincerity”, should prove its own by starting with a perceptible reduction in cross-border terrorism and eventually ending it completely. If this step in the right direction is taken, all appropriate Indian reciprocal gestures such as the release of Kashmiri separatist leaders and a reduction in the deployment of security forces will follow. For the sentiment for peace, based on a mutually acceptable settlement, on both sides of the subcontinental divide is strong. More importantly, the Kashmiri people are sick and tired of mindless violence that had devoured virtually a whole generation of youngsters. Even militant organisations, including the Pakistan-based leadership of the Hizbul Mujahideen, appear to be sensitive to this powerful Kashmiri sentiment. While starting a phased winding down of the process of infiltration and terrorism, Pakistan does not have to make any public announcement. Its deeds will speak louder than words. There can be no better barometer of Pakistani intentions than the ground situation in the once happy valley, now ravaged by the decade-long proxy war, that is always visible to the naked eye.

India watchers in Islamabad must have noticed that Mr Vajpayee and his colleagues have persisted with the ceasefire in spite of some horrific outrages by those among the militants who have a vested interest in disrupting the expected progress towards peace. Surely, it is within the power of their Pakistani mentors, the ISI or whoever, to restrain the wild men. The horrible slaughter of five children in an Udhampur village is the work of these despicable men.

If the desired and desirable atmosphere is created, New Delhi should lose no time to resume the ruptured India-Pakistan dialogue. The parallel talks with Kashmiri militant groups can begin even earlier. Whether at some stage these two separate streams can join each other and lead to the tripartite talks will depend on the progress made and cannot be dictated in advance. Moreover, while the Hurriyat is surely one of the major partners in the dialogue between New Delhi and Kashmiri militants, it cannot claim to be their sole spokesman. Above all, political leaders of all hues — Dr Frooq Abdullah, Prof Soz Ahmed Soz, Mufti Sayeed and so on — must have an equal say in the discussions.

Astute observers of the political scene in this country have noted that opposition parties, notably the Congress, are more supportive of the Ramzan initiative than sections of the BJP, Mr Vajpayee’s own party. The Prime Minister needs to attend to this state of affairs. If it becomes possible to extend the ceasefire beyond Id, it would be time for all-party consultations on policy on Kashmir and towards Pakistan to begin. Meanwhile, the track-II diplomacy between this country and Pakistan should continue to be as brisk as it has lately been, with at least two former Foreign Secretaries of this country taking an active part in it.

Let us not be overoptimistic. Let us assume that the ceasefire during the holy month would not produce the desired results. This would be disappointing but no cause for despair because peace-making with Pakistan is the task of Sisyphus, he being the mythical Greek condemned to push a heavy rock up the hill and to try again when it inevitably rolled down.

In terms of impact on international opinion, the initiative has already yielded excellent results. Nothing underscores this more effectively than the interview to a New Delhi newspaper by Lord Avebury, habitual India-baiter in the British House of Lords, who had been pillorying India over Kashmir so persistently that a grateful Pakistan had conferred on him its highest civilian award, Nishan-e-Haider.

Now the same Lord Avebury has sharply criticised (General) Musharraf’s unheeded export of terrorism to the valley, the termination of which is India’s core demand. No less significantly, he has also brought into the open what has been Kashmir’s worst-kept secret. Over the years many separatist leaders there have enriched themselves vastly by unabashedly receiving huge sums of money from Pakistan and other dubious sources.

Successive governments in New Delhi have been fully aware of these terrible transactions. In any case, the palatial houses built by these leaders and their lavish lifestyles cannot be hidden from public view. Children of most of these gentlemen, who were impecunious at the start of the proxy war, are receiving costly education in the USA. Lord Avebury, of all people, has asked for an independent enquiry into the financial affairs of these Kashmiri leaders. Let not the present government in New Delhi shy away from this overdue duty. The process of accountability may indeed hasten the negotiations for peace.

The writer is a well-known political commentator.


The long-term implications
by G. Parthasarathy

“WITH immediate effect the Pakistan armed forces deployed on the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir will observe maximum restraint in order to strengthen and stabilise the ceasefire”, said Pakistan’s soft-spoken and sophisticated Foreign Secretary Inam-ul-Haq while responding to New Delhi’s announcement of a unilateral cessation of offensive operations in Jammu and Kashmir. The Natural questions that arise are whether this signals a halt to Islamabad’s support for cross-border terrorism and whether there has really been any change in the policies of the military-intelligence establishment that has largely shaped that country’s agenda on issues like relations with India and Afghanistan. It is imperative that there should be no illusions in understanding and analysing these developments. Long-term national objectives of countries do not change overnight. We should never forget that over the last 20 years the Pakistan military establishment and the ISI have spared no effort to undermine the secular and pluralistic basis of our national life, whether it is in Punjab or Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan is today going through a series of crises in its national life. It can no longer expect Western countries, particularly the USA, to bail it out of its endless economic woes, especially with its low-level of savings and investment. Unemployment is rising steadily as the rate of economic growth declines and population increases at around 2.7 per cent annually. Foreign investors are wary of entering Pakistan because of growing ethnic and sectarian violence and an uncertain and unpredictable business environment. Resentment against Punjabi military domination is getting increasingly manifested in Sindh, Baluchistan and even North-West Frontier Province. The army is seen as being inefficient and incapable of delivering the goods. Finally, the unexpected display of unity by three mainstream political parties—the Pakistan Muslim League, the PPP and the Awami National Party led by Mr Asfandyar Wali Khan — has substantially isolated the military regime within the country.

The Musharraf regime has also found that its enthusiasm for “jihad” has few takers in the world. The world community now realises that the ISI has developed a mutually reinforcing nexus with jihadi groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the Harkat-ul- Mujahideen and other fundamentalist organisations both within and outside Pakistan. This nexus has led to the Pakistani military establishment lending direct support to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Over 2000 regulars from the Pakistan army are today fighting alongside the jihadis from Chechnya and the Arabs linked to Osama bin Laden in military operations against Ahmed Shah Masood and his allies in Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance. These developments have brought together countries ranging from Iran and China to the USA, Russia and Central Asian republics to fight the menace of Islamic extremism spearheaded by the Taliban and their ISI backers. Both the Taliban and Pakistan now not only face the prospect of further sanctions by the United Nations Security Council but also of strong military measures against them from outside. It is amusing that in these circumstances, a person as sophisticated and knowledgeable as Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar should assert to an Indian newspaper that New Delhi should not meddle in the affairs of Afghanistan!

President Clinton had made it clear that respect for the sanctity of the Line of Control is a crucial element for peace and security in the subcontinent. After having subverted the chances of promoting peace following the offer of a ceasefire by the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen in July, Islamabad initially spared no effort to debunk and denigrate the offer of suspension of offensive operations during Ramzan by Prime Minister Vajpayee. But, apart from his country’s economic and political vulnerability and growing international isolation, General Musharraf has to contend with the fact that people in Kashmir now strongly favour an end to the violence that has traumatised them over the past decade. It is this prevailing sentiment that has forced groups like the Hurriyat and sections of the Hizb to respond positively to New Delhi’s initiative. General Musharraf and the Pakistani army establishment know that the continuing advocacy of “jihad” in the prevailing environment will be highly counterproductive.

No government in Pakistan will acknowledge openly that it is calling a halt to the activities of the jihadi groups that have been supported and sustained by the ISI over the last decade or more. Mr Inam-ul-Haq’s statement, however, appears to indicate that for the present Pakistan will exercise a measure of restraint in its support for cross-border terrorism. New Delhi will, however, have to determine the level of Pakistani support for such terrorism by the actual situation on the ground. For over a year India’s actions have served to marginalise, isolate and contain Pakistan both regionally and internationally. This effort will have to be pursued relentlessly till it is clearly established that the enthusiasm of the Pakistani military establishment for "jihad" in Kashmir and elsewhere has ended. Decisions even on issues like bilateral cricketing contacts will have to be determined by the extent to which Pakistan ceases its support for cross-border terrorism. There is no joy for any right-thinking Indian in seeing his cricketing idols perform in Pakistan when Indian soldiers and innocent citizens are being killed by terrorists armed and trained by the colleagues of the Chairman of Pakistan’s Cricket Board.

Among the factors that have enabled India to take the moral high ground recently have been decisions to allow Hurriyat leaders to travel to Pakistan and to the OIC Summit in Qatar. Not surprisingly, the Hurriyat has endorsed Pakistan’s call for a tripartite dialogue involving its participation along with India and Pakistan. This is because of the claims of the Hurriyat leadership to be the sole representative of the Kashmiri people. While it is imperative that New Delhi keeps its channels of communication with the Hurriyat open, there can be no question of talking to the Hurriyat alone on issues pertaining to Kashmir. It is important to open regular channels of communication with all sections of opinion in Kashmir representing the people in Jammu, the Kashmir valley and Ladakh. Political leaders like Mr Chaman Lal Gupta, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, Mr Saifuddin Soz, Dr Karan Singh and Dr Farooq Abdullah should have no less a role in evolving new thinking on Kashmir as Mr Abdul Ghani Bhatt or any of his associates. Likewise, it is important to get leaders of the JKLF, persons like former PoK “Prime Minister” Abdul Qayum Khan and leaders from the Northern areas to visit Jammu and Kashmir. These contacts should necessarily be maintained at high political levels, through specially designated political leaders who enjoy the trust and confidence of all Kashmiris. It should be made clear that New Delhi would move ahead on issues of autonomy in J &K only when Kashmiri leaders persuade the government in Pakistan to grant identical autonomy to people in PoK and the Northern areas.

People in Kashmir naturally expect a peace dividend from the ceasefire. New Delhi should respond to Kashmiri aspirations to travel across the Line of Control by agreeing to reopen the Muzaffarabad –Srinagar bus route for Kashmiris wishing to visit friends and relatives across the Line of Control, provided Pakistan ends all support to cross-border terrorism. We could even agree at a future date to Pakistani tourists visiting Kashmir in return for our tourists being allowed to visit Gilgit and Skardu. It could be argued that in the right environment, Kashmir could be the bridge linking rather than dividing India and Pakistan.

It is now time to take bold initiatives to reap the dividends of the recent developments, even as we deal strongly with all those who advocate and promote violence in Kashmir. The pressure on Pakistan to adopt the path of peace and reason has to continue. Pakistan should be made to realise that the national strategic costs of supporting "jihad" and promoting violence in Kashmir will far outweigh any benefit it can hope to derive from pursuing such a path.

The writer is a former High Commissioner of India to Pakistan.


Women lose out to mithuns

THE folklife in the countryside of Arunachal Pradesh centres around mithun and women. A rich man in a village is he who acquires as many mithuns — a stout animal that shares features of a wild buffalo and a mountain Yak — and wives as he can afford.

The power and status of a man, to a great extent, is determined by the way the acquisition of women and mithun takes place. There seems to be a cruel competition between a mithun (Senyi) and a woman/girl (Benyi) — said to be the mythical sisters in Abo-tani lores known to most of the tribes in Arunachal Pradesh — to outwit each other, even though, ironically, both eventually submit to the perverse whims of man.

It’s a complex social system that defines the status, functions and relations between men and women. “Polygamy, child marriage, forced marriage, levirate and widow marriage are the manifestation of this age-old social system practised by almost all the major tribes in Arunachal Pradesh,” said Kata Rangmo, who impassionately documented the customary practices of the Nyishi community, which he belongs to, for his M.Phil works.

Early this year, Kata went to his village, Watte, for field studies. He asked Tara Taku, the village chief to explain why does a man need more than one wife. Taku cackled: “It is good to bring more wives in exchange for mithuns which may die due to sickness. It is easier to maintain wives than so many animals.” Moreover, these wives will produce more crops and help him become rich.

Like commodities, women and mithuns are freely exchanged in the villages. Kata narrated a case: Tayom, a poor man, borrowed a mithun from his neighbour, Richo, to perform a sacrifice-ritual when the former’s wife fell ill. She recovered thereafter. However, years later, when Tayom failed to return the mithun as he had promised, Richo claimed his sister as wife in exchange of the beast. The latter also proposed to give two more mithuns as ‘bride price’ to Tayom. Richo, who already had four children from his first wife, acquired another woman, in exchange of the mithuns. (Grassroots)

Unisex toilets

A British headteacher is to ask education officials to reconsider their veto on unisex toilets in his mixed secondary school.

The toilets, 19 cubicles with brick dividing walls and floor-to-ceiling doors, have been installed at a cost of $50,000 at the school in Manchester, in the north of England. They are, however, used only by girls at the moment because the Department for Education and Employment for England and Wales (DfEE) says they violate the regulation that pupils aged over eight must not wash their hands together.

“The time is not right for the introduction of unisex toilets in schools,’’ said a letter from the DfEE to the headteacher, John Peckham. “Concerns have been raised on religious grounds. Also many children welcome privacy when using toilets and washing facilities.’’

Mr Peckham said that he was disappointed by the department’s response to a scheme designed in part to beat bullying.

“The school has asked the DfEE to be allowed to operate the toilets for six months as an experiment,’’ he added. ``Parents’ and pupils’ reactions would be recorded, along with any incidents of bullying or vandalism. The school felt the results would be of interest to other schools facing similar problems.’’ (Guardian)

Amla lessens stress

Amla has been found to be clinically effective against stress-related pathological disorders by affecting the amount of oxidative free radicals.

Several stress-related disorders, including aging, are related to the accumulation of oxidative free radicals in different tissues. This accumulation may result from either increased generation of free radicals or reduced free radical scavenging.

Scientists from Calcutta’s Drug Research and Development Centre and Banaras Hindu University worked on rats and studied the antistress activity of Emblica officinalis or amla. They found amla to be having anti-stress activity which was partly due to its tendency to normalise stress-induced perturbations in oxidative free radical scavenging activity.

The tannoids-emblicanin A, emblicanin B-present in amla fruits enhance the concentrations of the antioxidant enzymes-superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase ((GPX) — thereby reducing lipid peroxidation. The process of peroxidation results in toxic products which damage cell membranes and proteins and break DNA strands.

Reporting their findings in Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, the scientists concluded that amla fruits may be effective in stress-induced pathological states due to their effects on oxidative free radical scavenging enzymes. (PTI)


The rising force of ethics
by Pushpa M. Bhargava

TRADITIONALLY our society has laid emphasis on morality and law. Today, however, the concern has shifted to human rights and ethics. While ethics are closely related to human rights, these are neither morality nor law, just as morality and law are not the same.

For example, in our country today if a boy and a girl who have come of age and are not related to each other live together by mutual consent, without getting married, it may be considered immoral but it would neither be unethical nor illegal. At times, at some places in our recent history, consumption of alcohol has been illegal, even though it is neither immoral nor unethical. During the cold war, transfer of scientific information between the scientists of the two blocks was illegal but it was neither unethical nor immoral. On the other hand, the recent introduction by Monsanto of its genetically engineered Bt Cotton in our country, particularly the way it was done, was surely unethical, illegal and immoral.

To have one's name on a scientific paper simply because one heads an institution or a department and has provided facilities, is surely not illegal but, I believe, is both immoral and unethical. And all through the history of the world, we have had many unethical laws! The reason for these differences between ethics, morality and law is that ethics are derived logically from universal in-built human sensitivities and the sum total of human knowledge at a given time, while morality indicates the way society has developed through the ages. So ethics are rooted in genetics while morality is rooted in history and derives its sustenance from politics. Something that may be considered ethical under certain circumstance or in a particular situation at a given time or place, may be unethical under a different set of circumstances or at a different time or place.

Two years ago a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Carleton Gajdusek, was imprisoned in the United States as he had contravened the law of the country. What he did would not be considered immoral or unethical in many countries. Normally, he would have been sentenced to imprisonment for over 60 years but he was released last year because of the moral pressure brought about by a large number of scientists and others from around the world.

In the 1860s, a bright, inquisitive and young technician called Miescher, working in the laboratory of the famous physiological chemist, Hoppe-Seyler, in Germany, discovered what we know today as DNA. Miescher had isolated it from pus cells on discarded bandages. When he brought this discovery which, in a way, laid the foundations of modern molecular biology and genetics, to the notice of his mentor, Prof Dr Hoppe-Seyler, the professor dismissed the discovery in the typical authoritarian tradition that dominated science at that time, specially in Germany. No one then called this act of the professor unethical, as it would have been today when, as a consequence of worldwide emphasis on democratisation, the right to question and to be listened to is becoming increasingly respectable.

Historically, till the last century — perhaps till the end of the last World War — society rarely used the term 'ethics' or ethical', even though one talked constantly of things immoral or illegal. Curtailment of the freedom of expression or of the right to education were, for example, never considered to be ethical issues. In a hierarchical world-society where laws served the interests of the powerful and the privileged, and where basic human rights were denied to a vast proportion of the people, questions of ethics were rarely raised. In a feudal society as ours has been (and continues to be!), where it is for the powerful to order and for the powerless to execute it, the question whether the order is ethical or not does not arise.

Following democratisation of our society, partly through the disappearance of colonialism and recognition of basic human rights as enunciated in the U N Charter of Human Rights, a door has been opened to allow the entry of ethics into our value system, leading to a situation where ethics become more important than law or morality.

Take, for example, the world of science till just 50 years ago. Perhaps the only occasion till then when one did think of ethics in respect of science was when one looked at the extremely rare cases of plagiarism as in the case of the midwife Toad in Europe in the last century, which has been documented by Arthur Koestler in his book by the same name. Today, there are a host of ethical issues involved in not only doing science but also in administering, assessing, communicating and using science.

Plagiarism in science which was rare earlier but is far more common today, is not taken very seriously all over the world (except, perhaps, in our country) where a significant amount of scientific work is done. Society today permits discussion on giving credit for a discovery and, if the credit is wrongly given, there are many ways of challenging it. This surely did not happen in the past. A few hours after Alexander Grahm Bell filed his application for a patent for his new discovery, the telephone, another person by the name of Elisha Grey came to the same patent office and filed a similar application, unaware of the work of Bell. Ethically speaking, the credit for the discovery of the telephone should have been shared by Bell and Grey but this did not happen. Today, sharing of credit is common. Thus, in the second half of the last century, a vast majority of Nobel Prizes were shared, unlike in the first half of that century.

In administering science today, ethical issues arise in respect of distribution of money and resources, in making appointments, in writing reports, and in interacting with the Government on the one hand and with the various sectors of society on the other. Important ethical issues arise in respect of legislation that relate to science. With the passage of time, more and more pieces of legislation have related to scientific and technological matters — be it genetic engineering, or the disposal of hospital waste, or the patent laws, or the protection of farmers' rights in respect of new crop varieties.

In assessing science in today's world, ethical questions arise in respect of objectivity and fairplay, as science has become a source of power, prestige and money, thus prone to all kinds of political and other pressures.

In fact, today, discussion of ethics in science has become important and finds a place of honour in many leading scientific journals. Thus, virtually every issue of the most famous generalised journals such as Nature or Science, or many of the well-known specialised journals such as The Lancet, British Medical Journal, New England Journal of Medicine and Human Reproduction, carry write-ups relating to ethics in science.

Till the first quarter of the 20th century, the rate of progress in science and technology was slow and was compatible with the rate of social change. Therefore, there was no difficulty in the societal assimilation of the scientific and technological advances of that time. Thus, the discovery of radioactivity or X-rays, and their wide application at the beginning of the last century, did not raise a hue and cry in spite of their inherent dangers. Today, the difference between the rate of scientific and technological change and the rate of social change in which there is real assimilation of the scientific and technological discoveries of the time, has become wide and continues to increase as time passes. This situation has created an ideal environment for the exploitation of society by the scientist and the technologist. That is why ethics of science has assumed such significance today.

In fact, an interesting situation obtains today where one can use the extent to which ethical considerations dominate a country's science, as a measure of the extent to which it is committed in practice to basic human rights. I have no doubt that, given this background, the role of ethics as a determinant of the quality and quantity of a country's scientific endeavour would surely increase, as age, position, money, circumstances of birth and the like are replaced by knowledge, ability, commitment, reason, justice and fairplay as the sources of power and influence.



Brahma Nirvana? Why seekest it thou afar? Not in a jungle, not on a mountain top is thy mukti (salvation), not in telling the beads nor in ringing thy temple-bells is thy salvation, O son of the Soul! Krishna tended the cows; the Pandavas tilled the soil: there too is the Tressure thou seekest: thy mukti is in .... service.

—Sadhu T.L. Vaswani, Gita: Meditations, vol I


He is the creator and controller

Our kith and kin;

He knows all the domains

All the places and origins.

All the enlightened souls

Attain immortal bliss in Him

And they reach the loftiest goal,

The ultimate salvation


I now realise the presence of the Almighty Lord,

the Universal entity,

the one who is self illuminated and radiant like the sun.

He is beyond all darkness;

With this realisation, now I fear not even death.

I proclaim this is the path,

The only path to salvation,

To the goal of life, the eternal bliss.

—Yajur Veda, 31:10,18.


For a seeker of peace it is essential that he should make the world his friend and should harbour envy for none. He should keep an attitude of indifference towards sinners. Having conquered his senses and self he should give up all possessions. He should be all calm and contented. Once when he has discarded pride, arrogance and vanity with all offshoots - what cares and worries should he have! There is no way to liberation excepting the denial of the Self. Once when he has realised his Self, sorrow and attachment take to their heels. Vairagya takes the possession of his mind and here begins the true quest of Lord which is the way to blessedness.

For a seeker of eternal peace the mastery over senses is indispensable. He should take to physical, mental and spiritual Tapa (penances). He should not take pride over his victory.

Day and night he should keep himself engaged in the remembrance of the Lord. He must merge himself completely in God. This alone is the process, this alone is the path to the Eternal Bliss.

—Devarishi Narada, from Kalyan Kalpataru, Vol. I, No 12 December 1934

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 |