Friday, December 8, 2000,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Sharpening a controversy
T will remain a mystery why Prime Minister Vajpayee donned the mantle of an Ayodhya sainik, particularly on such an emotional day as December 6. Until now he has studiedly kept himself out of the theme, leaving it to the VHP hotheads to keep the issue alive.

Towards another front
ECEMBER 10 has acquired significance not because veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu will be accorded a grand reception in Calcutta on that day. 


Of power and corruption
Problem of missing political will
By Hari Jaisingh
ower corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Power and corruption have indeed gone hand in hand here for the past few decades.


Enron’s power burden
December 7, 2000
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


New DGP: daunting task ahead
R M. S. Malik, an IPS officer of the 1969 batch, who has taken over as the Director-General of the Haryana Police after the inglorious exit of Mr S.P.S. Rathore after an Ambala court took cognisance of the CBI charge-sheet against him in the Ruchika molestation case on December 5, is the son of the soil in the true sense of its term.

  • Mamata’s politics

  • Sawal Kher ka


Vajpayee’s new knee
By Bimal Bhatia
OW that Prime Minister Vajpayee has his knee mended, let me tell you about how agile he was the first time I saw him on a running train. The PM’s troublesome knee has been the butt of worldwide speculation and concern recently.


Male-female ratio
n less than five years 24 per cent of Haryanvi males of marriageable age will not be able to find a bride.

  • Internet for the road

  • Body fever


Man in White House: myths & realities
By M.S.N. Menon
HE most powerful man on earth — that is the American President. Is there any wonder then that the world was watching with bated breath the outcome of the American presidential election?




Sharpening a controversy

IT will remain a mystery why Prime Minister Vajpayee donned the mantle of an Ayodhya sainik, particularly on such an emotional day as December 6. Until now he has studiedly kept himself out of the theme, leaving it to the VHP hotheads to keep the issue alive. Last year he did defend his ministerial colleagues and rejected the demand for their resignation but was scrupulously neutral on the temple question. On Wednesday he changed all that. He described the demand for building a Ram mandir as a reflection of national yearnings and lamented that the task remained unfinished. This places him in the same category as the BJP hardliners on this explosive controversy. This statement indirectly supports the demolition of the Babri Masjid eight years ago. It is extraordinary for the Prime Minister to strike such a posture and simply unbelievable for Mr Vajpayee to do this. He represents the emergent liberal face of the BJP and it is this modern and moderate attitude that has propelled him to the top of the political heap and helped the alliance to acquire a degree of solidity. This has now come under question. The TDP has protested against his statement, distancing itself from his sentiments. The Samata Party has followed suit. In the days to come the Trinamool Congress will be forced to stand up and be counted. Muslims form a sizeable chunk of voters in West Bengal and Ms Mamata Banerjee cannot afford to lose them to the Left Front in the Assembly elections next year. And the projection of the mandir issue as the manifestation of nationalist feelings is not designed to keep the minorities happy. There will be disquiet among the Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu which are comfortable with language nationalism but reject communal colouring of politics. True, no party will leave the alliance or break it but an open show of difference on so potent an issue as Ram mandir will intensify misgivings among the allies. Nor can the Prime Minister assuage this feeling by recanting his statement without annoying the Sangh parivar. So why did he elevate the contentious matter as a national movement?

It is too simplistic to link his dramatic change of policy with the coming election in UP. The electorate in that state sways to caste affiliations and not communal posturing. And the BJP has made its choice by packing the top government and party leadership with upper caste men and keeping out OBC and dalit people. Anyway other castes are solidly with the Samajwadi Party or the BSP and the revival of ultra Hinduism will not attract them to the BJP fold. This is evident from the poor response to “Shaurya divas” on Wednesday for which the VHP has given a call. Even VHP volunteers were less in number and even less in enthusiasm to reach Ayodhya. It is therefore possible that Mr Vajpayee is under pressure from the RSS to occasionally own up his roots as he did in New York when he proclaimed that he was a “swayamsevak” during his visit to the USA. Speculation is that it is the price he has to pay for the support of the Sangh parivar for his economic reforms. This is the charitable interpretation. The less charitable is that he finds his hold on the party weakening and a bit of communal chauvinism is his antidote. It is all so sad. With the BJP in the saddle and with Mr Vajpayee at the helm there was a distinct chance of the communalisation of politics being watered down, if not reversed. At least that was the hope. A sectarian stance does not go with ruling a country as diverse as India. This has been the experience of the Dravidian parties. And an early divorce between religion and politics is a sorely felt need. It is this that has received a knock in the head. And to think that Mr Vajpayee has dealt it is simply stunning. 


Towards another front

DECEMBER 10 has acquired significance not because veteran Marxist leader Jyoti Basu will be accorded a grand reception in Calcutta on that day. Most people are anxiously waiting for the occasion because it is expected to give birth to a new political formation to be called the Third Front. Mr Basu has emerged as the obvious choice to play the leading role. If everything goes as publicised, Mr V. P. Singh, Mr I. K. Gujral, Mr Chandra Shekhar and Mr Deve Gowda, all former Prime Ministers, and certain regional chieftains like Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav and Mr Prafulla Kumar Mahanta will declare on that day their willingness to work together for the fruition of the idea — not a new one, though — under the guidance of Mr Basu. The CPI has also given its nod. The formulation is aimed at bringing on one platform all such political forces as can associate themselves neither with the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) headed by the BJP nor with the Congress. They paint the BJP with a communal and divisive brush and dissociate themselves with the Congress because of its “anti-people” policies during its rule at the Centre. But the focus of the Third Front move seems to be on anti-BJPism, which reflects a negative approach. In any case, this is not meaningful politics.

Mr Basu, who has vowed to spend all his time and energy on giving an encouraging shape to the new experiment despite his failing health, appears to be banking on regional parties. These parties have come up by opposing the Congress, which has ruled the country for the longest period. Now that the Congress has ceased to be what it was till the days of Indira Gandhi, certain regional political formations have adopted the oppositional role vis-a-vis the BJP. Thus it is primarily the oppositional role that suits the regional parties and this may be a problem for the front. Then they have their own agenda to pursue which cannot match with that of the CPM or other left organisations. The parties like Mr Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Party and Mr Laloo Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal go according to their caste-based calculations, whereas no left movement should ever think of supporting such a scheme of things. This shows that there are going to be inbuilt contradictions in the planned Third Front which may work as a spoke in its wheel. Of course, a pro-poor programme of action could be more suitable for it and provide a powerful thrust to the call for the unity of the forces opposed to the way the Central government is being run by the NDA. The poor of India today appear to be in serious trouble as the fruits of the new economic policy are yet to reach the masses living in the country’s villages and slums. But how attractive such a course will be in electoral terms is difficult to say at this stage. Mr Basu, being a towering Left leader, might be knowing it better. That may be the reason why these days he mostly talks of fighting only the BJP for what it represents — perhaps communalism in his view. After all, the success of any political movement depends on its performance in the elctoral arena. 


Of power and corruption
Problem of missing political will
By Hari Jaisingh

Power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Power and corruption have indeed gone hand in hand here for the past few decades.

Of course, it has become fashionable these days to talk of the cancer of corruption which is eating into the vitals of this nation. This is all right. But, more than the genuine concern about the problem, what is required is a concrete plan of action which will plug the existing loopholes and make it difficult for those in authority to get away with their ill-gotten wealth.

The moot point, however, is: does anyone care to go deep into the problem and suggest steps to curb corrupt practices in a systematic manner? The answer to this question is a simple "no".

Studies have surely examined the visible and invisible links between the ruling clique and blackmoney operations. Even the Santhanam Committee examined the magnitude of the politico-bureaucratic corruption in the mid-sixties. The net result of all these half-hearted efforts has virtually been zero. The range and dimension of corruption have increased manifold now. In fact, mafia gangs are more powerful today than are the custodians of socio-economic morality.

There are wheels within wheels and, therefore, on the surface it becomes difficult to know who works for whom and for what purpose. In any case, the real beneficiaries in the present state of drift are smugglers, criminals, anti-social elements, a set of politicians and bureaucrats as well as unscrupulous traders and businessmen.

Why is it so? There are several contributory factors which have prompted international agencies to include India among the few most corrupt countries. What can be more shameful than this harsh reality? Does it prick the conscience of our rulers? Are they worried about the problem? My simple answer will again be "no".

What is wrong where? This question will require an indepth study. Perhaps some public-spirited academic institutions will take the initiative and examine this question of corruption phenomenon afresh and suggest remedial measures.

It will, however, be wrong to expect the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, Mr N. Vittal, to do the job single-handed. At best, he can raise his voices of protest and bring the problem into public focus.

As it is, the powers of the CVC are proposed to be cut drastically so that the post virtually becomes toothless. What is surprising is that the suggestions in this regard have come from a group of parliamentarians who were supposed to examine the proposed legislation in this connection.

Does this not mean that our parliamentarians and political masters do not want a single agency to become the watchdog of the apparatus being weakened by corruption in administration Obviously, yes. This reflects poorly on our people's representatives and the ruling elite. What can be more shameful than this!

Since corruption today is a sordid fact of life, it has to be tackled firmly and decisively. It is equally vital to remember that corruption and black money power cannot be eliminated overnight. The battle against the twin evils will be a long-drawn affair. The moot point is: does the Indian leadership possess the requisite political will to launch a cleansing operation?

Over a period of time the political system has been tampered with, and it has so developed that it works at all levels only for the benefit of those at the helm. In this permissive atmosphere everyone wishes to look after oneself oblivious of the public good.

What we see in the name of governance today is nothing but naked arrogance of power among large sections of Ministers, bureaucrats and police officers. They see their positions of authority as a means of gaining at the cost of the public exchequer. They do not even hesitate to silence the voice of dissent in the pursuit of personal gains.

The Ruchika molestation case, which points an accusing finger at DGP S.P. S. Rathore, is a classic example of how the custodians of law are become law-breakers. The Rathores of today think that they can do anything and get away with it.

The police lathi is, however, meant to protect innocent citizens. It is not supposed to become an instrument to serve political masters and mafia groups. How can we restore the people's confidence in the system if power-hungry leaders and their collaborators manipulate things to their advantage?

It is a pity that citizens hardly realise how the system is being misused by rulers in the name of democracy. In fact, they are taken for granted. They are used during election time and subsequently the rulers and their cronies tend to become a law unto themselves. I am saying this more in anguish than in anger.

The time has come for enlightened citizens to reflect on the distortions in the polity and suggest remedial steps. Indeed, the ruling elite ought to remember that democracy is of the people, by the people and for the people, and not of the rulers, by the rulers and for the rulers.

How do we face the challenge? A simple answer will be to make the rulers at all levels accountable for their deeds and misdeeds. For this purpose we must give up the present soft approach.

What is disquieting is that ordinary citizens blame their fate for the sufferings inflicted on them by the powers that be. We do not show even elementary guts to stop the drift.

We all know how men, matters and issues are manipulated to the disadvantage of citizens. We all talk about transparency, but where is transparency? We all talk about accountability, but where is accountability? Instead of addressing ourselves to the basic questions, we find the nexus among criminals, bureaucrats, politicians and other vested interests getting strengthened.

I am, of course, very optimistic about the future of this nation. I do not belong to the category of pessimists who decry the nation without prodding the process of justice, fairplay and the people's right to information.

Instead of indulging in a shadow-boxing against corruption, Indian rulers would do well to take a few concrete steps to strike at the root of the problem. The tendency so far has been to talk big and do little. Political and social leaders do not practise what they preach. On the contrary, they do precisely the opposite of what they preach.

Looking at the magnitude of the problem, even small steps can help in fighting corrupt practices.

First, the new mantra ought to be less secrecy and more openness. Secretiveness is conducive to the atmosphere of intrigues and breed corrupt practices.

Second, the sluice gates of misinformation and disinformation need to be identified, exposed and shut.

Third, equally crucial is the simplification of procedures and less of control mechanism.

Fourth, it is necessary to reorient the administrative structure and revamp the colonial rules with a view to helping honest citizens.

Fifth, the right to information must be part of the citizen's fundamental rights. This can bring about a qualitative improvement in the present sinking state of affairs.

Sixth, administrative and electoral reforms have to be initiated with a sense of urgency. They actually hold the key to building a comparatively cleaner polity.

Seventh, there cannot be two sets of rules — one for the poor and the other for the rich and influence-wielders.

Eighth, the right attitude and the right type of persons in key and sensitive areas of public affairs and the right dose of political will can help break the existing unholy nexus.

Ninth, the corrupt must be made to realise that they cannot get away with their ill-gotten wealth. Public money cannot be diverted for private gains.

Ten, a free and responsible press can help generate public awareness and ensure accountability by public men. Equally vital is the assertiveness on the part of enlightened citizens. Democracy, after all, is a potent weapon to fight against corruption. It is for the people to mount pressures on the rulers. The media can certainly help the process. 


New DGP: daunting task ahead

MR M. S. Malik, an IPS officer of the 1969 batch, who has taken over as the Director-General of the Haryana Police after the inglorious exit of Mr S.P.S. Rathore after an Ambala court took cognisance of the CBI charge-sheet against him in the Ruchika molestation case on December 5, is the son of the soil in the true sense of its term.

He is the first Jat belonging to Haryana to head the State Police in its existence of 34 years. Mr R.K. Hooda, a former Director-General of Haryana Police, was brought from Rajasthan in the early nineties by the Janata Dal government, an earlier incarnation of the Indian National Lok Dal, the present ruling party in the state.

Mr Malik faces the daunting task of leading a demoralised and highly politicalised police force, which, many feel, also needs to be disciplined. He has a number of advantages. He has a grip over a sizeable section of the force, which owes him personal loyalty. Right from the days he was the Superintendent of Police, Mr Malik had been considered the leader of a strong lobby of officers and lower ranks, cutting across the caste-lines. The lower ranks of the Haryana Police are dominated by the Jats. Since Mr Malik himself belongs to the community, he is likely to command their respect and loyalty.

Many of his colleagues feel that now Mr Malik will have to act as the leader of the entire force and not of a particular lobby. There is bound to be some heart-burning among his colleagues. He is the junior most officer in the rank of Director-General. The Government will have to devise means to accommodate the claims of the others because, according to a judgement of the Central Administrative Tribunal in the Nirmal Singh case, the other Director-General rank officers will have to be given posts independent of Mr Malik.

Mamata’s politics

The thought of resignation must make the ordinary minister tremble, but not the firebrand Trinamool Congress leader, Ms. Mamata Banerjee. Indeed, she seems to have made the threat of resignation into an “artless art” of political bargaining and gamesmanship. She has traversed a considerable political distance from her short stint in the P.V. Narasimha Rao ministry in mid-1991. Everyone applauded her when she resigned as a junior minister looking after Human Resource Development, declaring that she would rather go to West Bengal to strengthen the Congress party.

But people see her actions differently in the days of coalition politics. She has resigned twice in the past three months only to emerge, phoneix-like, from the ashes of her resignation. Politically and morally stronger, she and her supporters would like to believe. Cornered by her opponents, especially the left parties, over last week’s gruesome rail accident in Punjab, Mamata took the high moral ground to resign, owning “moral responsibility”. Her resignation certainly served to take the sting out of the Marxist onslaught on her. That it came a good 48 hours after the accident only to be rejected by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is another matter.

In September last she had given a big jolt to the Central coalition when the NDA government decided to hike the petroleum prices. Though she was a party to the Cabinet decision, Mamata took the plea that the Trinamool Congress was not consulted and resigned. She extracted a partial rollback of the prices for withdrawing her resignation at the request of the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee. This served to refurbish her pro-poor image.

So, Mamata stays. For how long is a question that will continue to engage observers as the Assembly elections draw closer.

Sawal Kher ka

So, Anupam Kher is going to be out of the much publicised “Sawaal Dus Crore Ka” (SDCK) show on Zee TV. From episode one, It was clear that the show lacked something vital that grips the interest of the viewers. A versatile artist, Kher was handpicked by Zee to take on Star TV’s “Kaun Banega Crorepati”, superbly anchored by the one and only Amitabh Bachchan. Much was expected from Kher with his uncanny knack of easily relating himself to the common man. Somehow, the show fell flat on the very first episode. Discerning viewers could see that Kher and the show’s glamorous co-anchor Manisha Koirala were not clicking at all.

The very structure of the programme and the way the rules were framed left the viewers confused. It was pathetic to see the pair trying to work up excitement with remarks and comments which were rather inane. The comparison with the nail-biting suspense generated in his inimitable style by the Big B on KBC was inevitable.

Zee has confirmed reports that Kher is being replaced by Ashutosh Rana, whose films include “Dushman” and “Zakhm”. However, Manisha will continue. Reacting to the sudden development, Kher termed Zee’s decision as “unprofessional” and said there should be “collective blame taking” if the programme had failed. “Why make one person a scapegoat?” An exacting media with feedback from viewers has given its verdict, saying SDCK is “no show”.

Kher is too much of a professional not to admit it and there is clear acknowledgement of the show’s failure in his comments on Zee’s decision.

During the six weeks it has been on the air, SDCK has failed to find a place among the top 20 programmes each week. Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating of it. None realises this better than Kher, the consummate professional artist. Bad luck, Anupam. Better luck next time.


Vajpayee’s new knee
By Bimal Bhatia

NOW that Prime Minister Vajpayee has his knee mended, let me tell you about how agile he was the first time I saw him on a running train. The PM’s troublesome knee has been the butt of worldwide speculation and concern recently. Surely, his unsteady approach towards the podium in the UN millennium summit adequately unnerved his advisers and put his many admirers like me on the edge.

It was the summer of 1973 or 1974, the year isn’t important as you will see. On the speeding train Mr Vajpayee manoeuvred himself past us without a trace of effort, even as we two young army officers found it difficult to stand in a stable mode. A young gunner, I was posted in J&K and our occasional home leave had us travelling on the Chandigarh-Jammu section. Trains those days didn’t have the “luxurious” air-conditioned coaches, and first class travel was good enough for us in the Army and even the political class, in some cases.

Bound for Jammu, the train sped past those sundry stations you found on this route. The rail line had recently been extended from Pathankot to Jammu and there were not many takers for this route barring army transients like me or an odd army man’s family moving up to join him for the summer break. Reservations on the train hardly mattered because you could pick and choose the cabin and berth. Coolies were not known to ask you the berth number — they just stacked your luggage, which included a bulky hold-all, in the most easily accessible four-seater or coupe.

It being a new track the driver let the full steam work on the engine. And that’s how we went, swaying from side to side. Mothers didn’t have to rock their babies to sleep. The waiter split most of the contents of your lunch while handing you the tray. Suitcases initially placed under your berth inched slowly towards the opposite side and then moved back again.

Syed Amin Shah, my course-mate from the IMA, spotted me on the train just as we left Pathankot. Exchanging notes about the misplaced years in between, we decided to move out and enjoy a cigarette. That’s where we stood, by the open door in the galloping train, with the fresh air blowing into our faces and burning out our fags doubly quick. Admittedly it was a blight difficult to remain steadfast as the train continued to rock us furiously in all the three planes.

“Do you know that the gentleman in white dhoti in the adjoining cabin is Atal Behari Vajpayee,” disclosed Shah. Just then Mr Vajpayee emerged in the corridor and, holding his dhoti up to his knees, walked effortlessly past us, right into the loo. Little did we know at that time that this man would later lead our nation and put CEO Musharraf knee-deep in international isolation. Here’s wishing the PM good health and a long innings.


Male-female ratio

In less than five years 24 per cent of Haryanvi males of marriageable age will not be able to find a bride.

This disturbing fact emerges from the latest census now underway. The trends indicate that the male-female ratio for Haryana in the age group of 15 to 19 years has come down to 756 females for every 1000 males. As against this the overall male-female ratio in 1991 stood at 865 females for every 1000 males.

The Director, Census, Haryana, Mr Sunil Gulati, says that although even the overall male-female ratio for Haryana was much below the national average, the trends for the younger age group was very disturbing.

Elders and match-makers, however, say that although the figure is reflected in official records only now, the changing societal trends in the State over the past few years clearly indicated that situation was getting more and more alarming everyday. The average age of marriage has gone up considerably. The number of bachelors especially in the rural areas has also risen sharply over the past few years.

They say that despite these disturbing indications successive governments had failed to implement the ban on female foeticide and sex determination tests. Inquiries reveal that despite the legal ban, ultrasound machines in Haryana are being used mainly for these very tests. The situation has come to such a pass that unemployed youths are providing the facility at peoples’ doorsteps. They buy reconditioned ultrasound machines and carry these in Marutis all over the State.

Another alarming trend emerging from the census is that the male-female ratio for the upper castes and upper middle classes is much lower compared to the ratio for the lower castes and the economically weaker sections. This means that a higher level of education and income is unfortunately resulting in higher rate of female foeticide. Officials say this also points to complete failure of the family planning campaigns.

Social activists say the continuing fall in the ratio has led to resurrection of the exchange system under which the boy’s family is required to arrange for the marriage of one of his female relatives to a male relative of the prospective bride. The system was in vogue in rural Haryana decades ago, but it has recently begun to stage a comeback.

What now worries social activists is that the crime against women is bound to rise sharply in the next five years or so. Such crime has already shown an upward trend, but the graph is certain to shoot up in the next five years.

Although senior police officers The Tribune spoke to agreed with the assessment, inquiries reveal that the government is yet to wake up to the situation. There are no concrete plans yet to curb crime against women especially in the light of the latest census results. — Raman Mohan

Internet for the road

Drivers of Mercedes cars will soon be able to access tailor-made Internet services while on the road, including early warnings of speed traps, Mercedes maker, Daimlerchrysler, says.

The company said it would team up with Europe’s biggest Internet service provider T-Online to build a portal next year offering speed-loving German drivers navigation, traffic information and entertainment on and off the road.

Those accessing the portal from a special terminal fixed to their car dashboard will be able to locate a nearby restaurant, order flowers and find a hotel, the two companies said.

They said the portal’s traffic information will alert drivers to radar speed traps on the road ahead on top of giving them early warnings of jams and accidents.

Juergen Hubbert, Daimler Chrysler board member in charge of the group’s Mercedes-Benz and Smart cars told a news conference the 20 million euro venture would start by targeting customers in German-speaking countries.

The site will go live by mid-2001, transmitted over a high speed UMTS mobile data network, and will be extended to Daimler’s Smart car brand and other brands over time.

Drivers will be able to link to the Mercedes-Benz homepage which will also offer accessories, insurance and financial services. Hubbert said the joint venture, which still has no name, will post revenues of about two to three million euros ($1.8-2.7 million) in its first business year, rising to about 10 million in the second year and about 20 million in the third year. He gave no details of how the revenue would be obtained. (Reuters)

Body fever

Physicians could avoid measuring armpit fever by a thermometer as it varies sharply when compared with the oral temperature, warns a study published in the recent issue of the Indian Journal of Physicians.

“A measurement of body temperature used to differ when a thermometer is used in armpit and taken orally in patients,” Dr Virendra Singh, associate professor of medicine at the SMS medical hospital and college in Jaipur, says.

The variation could range from 1 to 3.4 degree fahrenheit when compared between armpit and oral body temperatures in patients, Singh, who led the research team, said. — PTI


Man in White House: myths & realities
By M.S.N. Menon

THE most powerful man on earth — that is the American President. Is there any wonder then that the world was watching with bated breath the outcome of the American presidential election?

“Even in prayer,” writes U.E. Baughman, a former secret service chief, “a secret service agent is not allowed to bow his head when he is guarding the President of the United States.”

After all these, President Kennedy was shot dead and there is no clue yet about who did it! For the American secret service, its failure was like a fall from the Empire State Building. But the American myths continue.

America is in need of these myths and legends. It is a young nation with little of history and even less of civilisation (unless you call its consumer society a civilisation!) to bolster up its image among the peoples of the world. Alas, the image is blotched by the recent developments! What went wrong?

Americans are serious about their governments. But they show little interest in voting. How is one to explain this anomaly? American academics say, high voting turnout is a distress signal, a sign of social and economic unrest. As there was no distress, the turnout was low.

There is another reason. It is the changing composition of the rich and poor. The rich are growing in numbers. This is called in Europe and England as the “50 per cent impasse”. The two parties — Republicans and Democrats — are today evenly divided. The “haves” are more widespread. The “Frorida affair” is a different story.

America is the great empire of our times. It seeks order in the world. This was not what the Founding Fathers expected. They were highly suspicious of big governments, and feared that the ambitious men among them would use the state to advance their interests. So, what did they do? They made “ambition pit against ambition.”

The two chambers of the Congress — the Senate and the House of Representatives — and the presidency — they are pitted against each other. And there is the Supreme Court, which keeps an eye on all the three. There are other devices. For example, elections are held for these institutions at different intervals, each by a different constituency — house members by the people directly, Senators by state legislators and the President by an electoral college. The system is working pretty much the same way it was established.

Americans are happy that the presidency and the Congress are controlled by different parties. This is a powerful check on each other. The idea is to prevent the tyranny of a President or a party. The US Bill of Rights is a unique legislative instrument. It is designed to prevent tyranny.

America rarely puts up distinguished men for the presidency. It looks for other qualifications in a President. For example, ability to communicate. Reagan and Clinton are great communicators. Above all, the President must have the ability to win the confidence of the Congress. And he must be able to manage a coalition of interests. Roosevelt was a master at this game. Carter was a complete failure.

The two-party system provides a clear alternative to the Americans. It is said, there is not much difference between the two. This is not true. They differ widely on domestic issues. For example, Republicans are for laissez-faire, while the Democrats have opted for welfare. But on foreign policy, there is near unanimity.

Each party reflects the varied interests of its constituents. Obviously, the parties have been able to satisfy the expectations of their supporters, which is why there is no plethora of small parties in the USA as in India.

The Republicans and Democrats are in fact coalitions. A former Speaker of the House had said that if the principle of proportional representation had been applied, the Democrats would be representing five major interest groups while the Republicans about three or four.

Americans are reconciled to the fact that a democracy cannot work efficiently. And they have added to the problem by their unique moral stance. America was the only Protestant sectarian country in the world. In other countries, particularly Catholic, Lutheran and Anglican, people generally assume that human nature and institutions are inherently imperfect and corrupt. The Americans expect their Presidents to be above human failings. Which is why there was a move to impeach Richard Nixon (his case was perjury) and, of late, Bill Clinton (moral turpitude.) In fact, according to William Bennet, author of the “Death of an Outrage”, the impeachment move in the Lewinsky case was not about one man’s depravity, but an indictment of the entire culture of America, which had gone permissive. In any other European country, there would be hardly any “outrage.”

To give another instance of moral stance, the Republicans say that abortion is murder, while the Democrats say it is a woman’s right.

Thus Christian America continues to adhere to moralism in some ways. But in business, it is a free for all. There is no morality here.

In America, the individual is responsible for his acts. Freedom and responsibility go together. That is why institutions are not expected to intrude into the life of the individual. Americans are expected to obey their conscience. This leads to moralism, which makes it more difficult to govern America. It is a volatile society. So many issues become moral tests. Slavery was a moral issue. Other nations simply freed the slaves. But America fought a war over it.

This also explains why character has become so important in America. In Britain and France, the character of a President is hardly examined. This does not mean that one can behave outrageously. They cannot. Ministers have resigned for moral turpitude in both Britain and France. In fact, in Britain a public official is supposed to be a “gentleman.”

But America, which believes in individualism, places no such trust in an individual American. Americans condemn any deviant behaviour as “un-American”. The jury system — that is trial by peers — is a powerful institution in America.

Americans are basically lawless. They want minimum laws. This is reflected in the very high crime rates, as also in the pervasive disobedience of laws.

Economic conditions do influence American behaviour. But they are happy if prices are kept low and no fresh taxes are imposed. An average American is ignorant of the world outside America. And yet America is the supreme power of the world. A more tragic situation cannot be imagined!

Democracy is a very inefficient system. Churchill called it the worst form of government. But there is no better one around. Which is why America has gone for the least government.



O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (against evil).

For a certain number of days; but whoever among you is sick or on a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days; and those who are able to do it may effect a redemption by feeding a poor man; so whoever does good spontaneously it is better for him; and that you fast is better for you if you know.

The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was revealed, a guidance to men and clear proofs of the guidance and the distinction; therefore whoever of you is present in the month he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or upon a journey, then (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days;

Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire for you difficulty, and (he desires) that you should complete the number and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks.

— The Holy Quran, Part II,
chapter II, section 23, 183-185.


Whoever does good, it is for his own soul,

and whosoever does evil,

it is against it;

and your Lord is not in the least unjust to the servants.
—The Holy Quran, Part XXIV,
chapter XLI, section 6, 46


The charitable deeds of this birth will bless the soul to attain greater wisdom and a perfect physical body in the next life.
—Atharva Veda, 5.1.2


O soul blazing like the sun after cremation, having reached the fire and the earth for rebirth, and residing in the belly of thy mother, thou art born again.
—Yajur Veda, 12.38


As a man casting off worn out garments puts on new ones, so the embodied, casting off worn out bodies enters into others that are new.
—The Bhagavad Gita, 2.22

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