Thursday, December 28, 2000,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Red Fort and “red alert”
HE faces of the security agencies that had turned dark red following the Red Fort intrusion can shed their colour slightly after the killing of one of the militants involved and the arrest of another on Tuesday. The delay of every hour in solving the case was adding to their discomfiture.

Shares of gloom
HARE prices are plunging in all stock markets in India. And every sector — be it information technology (IT), pharmaceuticals, cement, fast-moving consumer goods or banks — is in trouble. This is garishly highlighted by the woes of Infosys Technology, the Bangalore-based software giant. On one day this year, the price of its share with a face value of Rs 10 soared to Rs 13,812.90 but today it is available for Rs 5,575 or at about 60 per cent lower.


PM’s birthday gift
December 27, 2000
Mounting peace pressure
December 26, 2000
Red Fort breached
December 25, 2000
Hijacking regulation of metabolism
December 24, 2000
Slap and Samba case
December 23, 2000
It’s now R-Day ceasefire
December 22, 2000
A rotting scandal
December 21, 2000
Hell called Pak jails
December 20, 2000
Positive pointers
December 19, 2000
Reforms talk again
December 18, 2000



Time to become globally competitive
by K. Vaidyanathan
FEW years ago, when the imports registered a sudden spurt in the month following the reduction in import duties on raw materials, the then Finance Minister euphorically claimed the success of his policy till it was discovered that the cost of aircraft imported earlier by Indian Airlines had been booked during the relevant month.


First woman Foreign Secretary
T most of the dos on the evening of December 23, the one name that cropped up constantly was that of Chokila Iyer. Chokila who, the hoi polloi wondered. Prompt came the answer that “Choki” as she is known in the high profile world of diplomacy, has broken the male hegemony in the imposing South Block in New Delhi housing the Ministry of External Affairs.


Merging land acquisition with rehabilitation
HERE could not be a more appropriate time for pressing for a national rehabilitation and resettlement policy for the thousands of people displaced by construction of dams and other big development projects than now.


Similarity in science & religion
by Dr Manmohan Gupta
OR most of us science and religion have hardly anything in common; rather they sharply come into conflict with each other. For a non-believer (atheist) religion is nothing but a bundle of rituals and dogmas rooted in irrationality and obscurantism. Even a believer most of the time is not sure why he should believe in religion and what his belief stands for.




Red Fort and “red alert” 

THE faces of the security agencies that had turned dark red following the Red Fort intrusion can shed their colour slightly after the killing of one of the militants involved and the arrest of another on Tuesday. The delay of every hour in solving the case was adding to their discomfiture. Through this "success" the message that gets conveyed loud and clear is that the security forces may not be in a position to prevent crime but are at least able to hit back effectively. This delayed (re)action has been the bane of the security agencies all along. Remember what happened in the Beant Singh assassination case? The police could not prevent the explosion in one of the most fortified areas of the State but underwent a metamorphosis as soon as the Chief Minister of Punjab was blown to pieces. In a matter of days, it said it had all the clues and almost all the criminals. One wonders why it is not able to ferret out such widespread conspiracies before the criminals strike. Perhaps it is because the security agencies have become used to reacting to a situation rather than pre-empting it. If basic safety norms can be given the go-by in as central a place as the Red Fort, can one call any other place secure? Now that the worst has happened, everybody is talking about why and how it happened. Experts tell us that there are too many agencies lording over the places where civilians and army units co-exist. Does that mean that it is impossible to take care of every place where such an intermingling takes place? The point is that given the unstable situation almost throughout the country following the outbreak of foreign-sponsored terrorism and other brands of violence, the loopholes should have been identified long ago and adequately plugged. The irony is that while all the focus is now on the Red Fort, other areas still continue to function as if nothing has happened. In a telling commentary, the crew of a TV channel drove its vehicle right onto the tarmac of an airport! The message is embarrassingly obvious that nothing much has changed elsewhere.

Whenever a sensational incident takes place, the security agencies are under pressure to apprehend the culprits. In their anxiety to show results, they have occasionally picked up and even killed innocent people. Many a time, the secret tumbles out, with all the resultant hue and cry. Since this has happened far too often in the recent past, the police credibility is not very high. That is why loopholes are being found even in Tuesday's killing of Abu Shamal, one of the six Lashkar-e-Toiba militants said to be responsible for Friday's attack inside the Red Fort. One hopes that they got the right men, but there are several unexplained holes in the police version. The investigation will have to be foolproof if the evidence is to stand scrutiny in a court of law. The police should come out with more details to ensure that the public believes in it rather than in the rumour mill that is furiously churning out half-truths, apparently at the bidding of inimical agencies.

In a country as large as India, it is almost impossible to provide foolproof security everywhere all the time. The challenge posed by anti-national elements can be met only with the help of a well-oiled intelligence machinery. The term "pro-active" made famous by the Union Home Minister in the context of Jammu and Kashmir should be the hallmark of the day-to-day functioning of the security agencies wherever these are posted. And this should be visible in the deeds, not at Press conferences. Take the term "red alert". It has come to be derided as some kind of a joke. And to say that raids were conducted at "known hideouts" of militants is yet another travesty. Fifty years of tackling mindless violence should have been enough to prepare the country for the fact that there are no "peace stations". Whatever seems to be the most idyllic locale will be the first one to be targeted by the enemies. The answer to the Red Fort type embarrassments does not lie in closing such areas for the civilians. What is required is the shedding of the sense of complacency that takes grip whenever a place is free from incidents for a certain time period. 


Shares of gloom 

SHARE prices are plunging in all stock markets in India. And every sector — be it information technology (IT), pharmaceuticals, cement, fast-moving consumer goods or banks — is in trouble. This is garishly highlighted by the woes of Infosys Technology, the Bangalore-based software giant. On one day this year, the price of its share with a face value of Rs 10 soared to Rs 13,812.90 but today it is available for Rs 5,575 or at about 60 per cent lower. This is more or less true of all IT scrips. Many traders fear that there may be selling pressure because of two reasons. The three-year lock-in period of lakhs of shares gifted to employees of these organisations will end early next year, permitting the staff to convert paper money into hard cash. That will swell the supply and in the ultra sensitive market this will push down their value. More importantly, one unnamed US analyst has predicted a sharp downturn in values and has recommended that foreign funds should stop hoarding these shares and take a “neutral position”, which is as good as asking them to unload them. In recent days there has been heavy trading leading to losses, mostly by foreign institutional investors (FIIs). True, at this time of the year FIIs cash their assets, go on a holiday before relocating the funds. Even so it has been a hectic season for all of them. What is also unusual is the behaviour of the stock markets despite a smart recovery in both Nasdaq and Tokyo exchanges. In these days of globalisation there is often synchronised movement of indices. On Tuesday there was also the fear that half a dozen leading brokers were facing a payment crisis, meaning that they did not have adequate funds to meet their obligations. That would have created a major dislocation, causing a chain reaction.

Future holds little promise either. There are several indications that the US economy is inching towards a recession. All point to a drop in annual growth rate from the present 5 per cent to 3 per cent or even less. Unlike in the past, a slowdown in the biggest economy will cast its shadow across that of this country. Capital flows and FII funds will shrink; exports will hit a roadblock; and demand for computer software will lose some of the present momentum. Not a propitious combination. If the Dow Jones and Nasdaq too dip, stock prices here too will take a beating. The present grim sentiments may well be a precursor. The 1997 crisis in South and South-East Asia did not affect India that severely simply because it had not integrated with the global economy that well. Now it is different. There will be intense competition to sell goods abroad even as the world economy witnesses a fall in demand. Even in 1997 a devalued currency in the countries hit hard posed a grave problem, bringing down exports by about 3.5 per cent, compared to the more than 15 per cent growth in earlier years. Since stock markets are akin to gambling joints, even a hint of trouble anywhere sets off the alarm bell.

The root cause of the stock market convulsions lies elsewhere. The retail investor, the proverbial small man, has firmly turned his back on it. Actually he has no faith in its operations and has no inclination to take risks. The simulated fizz of the early nineties and now of the IT stocks has left him bitter and a loser. And all hopes of a change of heart in him are so much daydream. And figures compiled by a Delhi-based research organisation tell it all. During the market frenzy of 1992-93, as many as 80.4 million small investors poured in several thousand crores of rupees to impart a healthy upward push to prices. In 1999-2000, this number plunged to a measly 1.9 million and until September-end this year it was only 0.63 million. This is so despite more companies entering the market. Last year there were 38 issues mobilising Rs 2,237 crore; this year there have been 128 new offers collecting Rs 3,054 crore. Where has the small man gone? To mutual funds and to banks which offer both security and an assured return. Mutual funds cornered as much as Rs 14,776 crore net, that is after paying those who retired their shares, in the first 11 months of the year. The stock markets have helped raise only Rs 3,000 crore. Banks have recorded fresh deposits of Rs 142,202 crore, much of it by big companies and on a temporary basis. With the real investor fleeing the stock market, no wonder the speculator rules it.


Time to become globally competitive
by K. Vaidyanathan

A FEW years ago, when the imports registered a sudden spurt in the month following the reduction in import duties on raw materials, the then Finance Minister euphorically claimed the success of his policy till it was discovered that the cost of aircraft imported earlier by Indian Airlines had been booked during the relevant month. Barring such faux pas, the official export-import figures for April-September 2000, issued by the Commerce Ministry show non-oil imports during the period at $ 17684 million, thereby registering a decline over the corresponding figures of the previous year. While a decrease may be consistent with the economic slowdown and the lack of demand for manufactured products and the Chinese presence co-existing with other exogenous sources cannot be disputed, where is the deluge?

The alleged inundation of the Indian market with imported goods, whether of Chinese origin or otherwise, was a part of a well-orchestrated multi-pronged disinformation campaign aimed at moulding public opinion and influencing an early governmental decision on de-reservation of items meant for exclusive manufacture by the SSI sector.

The sector-wise break-up of exports lays low tall claims about the absence of quality, diseconomies of small scale and non-exportability of goods produced by the SSI sector (which claims the constituted part of the campaign). Reservation is inconsistent with the reforms process but almost unconditional de-reservation gives rise to apprehensions. For almost two decades, some of the European countries, especially Italy, have been trying to dispose of their second hand machinery in the garment industry. Acquisition of a brand name is another source of outflow of funds. Considering the divisibility of operations in the manufacturing process of now de-reserved items, any enterprising large-scale unit could have profitably achieved “vertical integration of horizontally spaced units based on the Italian model”. But, then, the Indian industry has always been found wanting in enterprise.

The objective of dereservation having been achieved, the ghost of Chinese dragon is being kept alive by allusion to the potential threat in the wake of China joining the WTO and the abolition of QRs (quantitative restrictions) in 2001. The relatively low cost of the Chinese bureaucracy is applauded, and while the government is being asked to introduce anti-dumping measures against China and to down-size the Indian bureaucracy, what is the Indian industry doing? Precisely what they have been doing for the past 10 years — precious little!

Aware of the fact that the statistics pertaining to imports (from Nepal) would belie the claim, the industry sought an alibi by alleging large-scale illegal traffic of goods through the India-China border. Assuming that the border is like a semi-porous membrane permitting unchecked one-way flow of goods of such magnitude as to affect the “great” Indian market, why would the Chinese be interested in acquiring the Indian rupee? Even a malicious idle speculation like propping up insurgency operations as a motive sounds ridiculous.

The Finance Minister called it a law and order problem. Perfunctionary raids conducted through the Home Ministry at the behest of the industry revealed that a few enterprising unscrupulous Indian businessmen have been guilty of under-invoicing. But, then, which Indian importer has not been accused or found guilty of under-invoicing? Again the presence of Chinese goods has always been there in the Indian market. In fact, one Indian industrial house had earlier collapsed because they had made the mistake of setting up a unit for indigenous manufacture of button cells. (C.L. Anand of Toshiba fame).

There has been a rampant parallel market in HDPE granules. Finished woven sacks are purchased in bulk through tenders. The “deluge” has affected black marketeers more than the manufacturers. The total seasonal demand for acrylic yarn in the Indian market is of an insignificant value in relation to the total volume of trade. What Nepal is doing is what we propose to do in our EPZs. Even if the entire imports from Nepal are reckoned to be under- invoiced the impact would be a few hundreds of crores of rupees, which is a mere trickle, not a deluge.

The government, instead of tightening up its enforcement belt, imposes ridiculous unimplementable conditions like the BIS standards for imported goods and the insistence of the marking of MRP on each item. Which Indian customer is not an accessory to the evasion of tax? Another dimension is now added to the problem. The Chinese goods are alleged to be sold under Indian brand names. These diversionary tactics do not detract from the fact that the Indian industry has miserably failed to upgrade its technology, improve production, both quantitatively and qualitatively, to combat competition in the domestic as well as international markets.

The industrial slowdown was felt sectorally as far back as October, 1999. Yet the industry’s think-tank led the country to believe that the slowdown was inconsistent with the reforms process, and sought to substantiate their claim by shifting the reference year. When the non-event of the year, the RBI’s mid-year economic review, confirmed the fact of slowdown, the industry seemed to wake up to the fact and advocated implementation of various measures which included irrelevant demands like privatisation of airports and seaports. They sought to increase the market demand for cars through legislation and withdrawal of administered oil price mechanism. No thought was spared for the impending pile up of NPAs — no concrete suggestion was forthcoming to ensure continued running of industrial units. This kind of approach tends to overshadow Emperor Nero’s performance. Had the industry concentrated on expanding its overseas market, the lack of domestic demand would not have resulted in slowdown or in a perennial fall in the value of the Indian rupee.

During the last decade of reforms the Indian industry has been spending its energies on trying to tell the government how to run the economy instead of concentrating on what it is supposed to do — run the wheels of production.

When the reforms process was set in motion, the then government had no option. With low incomes and consequential low capital formation, and with non-existent of forex reserves, the facilitation of FDI seemed to be a welcome step. Understandably, the inflow of FDI was restricted to areas where ready reconvertibility was assured and to industries which required no gestation. Instead of bemoaning the slow pace of reforms as the cause of low levels of FDI, the industry should have welcomed equity participation in the existing old economy enterprises, gone in for expansion with the upgradation in technology and sought out new markets. The industry preferred to insulate itself and lead a cocooned existence by seeking legislative amendments to enable the companies to buy back their own shares. On the export front, the industry had felt secure with bilateral rupee trade with East European countries and had at no time explored or established other overseas markets. Even the collapse of the Soviet bloc did not spur the Indian industries to seek new outlets.

The emphasis was on the “great” Indian market rather than investment opportunities. It was no wonder that the thrust of FDI was towards durable consumer goods based on screw-driver technology. The commitment given by FDI in regard to buy-back exports or indigenisation was never to be fulfilled, for everyone expected to exploit the “great” Indian market.

With low per-capita income levels, skewed distribution of incomes, a stagnant consumption pattern, the aggregate demand in the “great” Indian market was not expected to be infinite. It is not surprising that both the Indian industry and the FDI entrants find themselves facing the unpleasant consequence of the onset of recession. Are the FDI entrants really affected?

A benign gesture from the government allowed the telecom operators to renege on their commitment. The possibility that the extent and magnitude of FDI is greatly exaggerated cannot be ruled out. If individual instances are taken into account, the imported plant and machinery have been highly over-priced, and the slow rate of indigenisation indicates an in-built profit margin on the imports, especially in the industries involving SKD and CKD kits. There has been no value-engineering study undertaken to verify whether the components of SKD/CKD packs could have been produced at a cheaper cost by indigenous sources. The Indian industry has not been a passive bystander but an active accessory to this unscrupulous exploitation.

Again, it was at the Indian industry’s insistence that the then government rushed in to join the WTO. The industry’s campaign then was focused on the prospect of access to overseas markets in 130 countries. Export efforts have at no point of time been in keeping with the promises made by the industry. On the other hand, the industry’s spokespersons continue to talk of the possibilities of hundreds of millions of dollar trade surplus with the USA, urged by the industry, the lowering tariff barriers as a part of WTO obligations have increased the presence of exogenous sources in the Indian market with the industry ill-equipped to combat competition.

“Withdraw subsidies to agriculture” is the battle cry of the Indian industry, which advocates free market mechanism to determine the prices of agricultural commodities, seemingly unaware of the fact that the seasonal supply and withdrawal of subsidies would render Indian agriculture unviable where the existing levels of per capita income is less than that of a domestic servant in the urban areas. Adding insult to injury, intellectuals in their airconditioned ivory towers advise Indian agriculture to change the cropping pattern to improve viability. The potato crop in Punjab during the late 1970s, the tomato crop in Karnataka in 1998-99 and the onion crop in Maharashtra this year and the annual plight of sugarcane growers are probably not worth consideration. If Indian agriculture continues to stagnate it is essentially because the Indian industry has failed to support agriculture by increasing the scope and extent of agro-based industries. Instead, industry is more actively associated with the import and marketing of almonds, fruits and even potato chips. The advocacy to allow the import of foodgrains has already been there.

The emergence of dual economies and inequal income distributions are sought to be explained away by the shortcomings in the development of infrastructure. Indira Gandhi’s much vaunted constitutional amendments are scoffed at as a measure towards equitable distribution of poverty. The think-tank maintains that the extent of the impact of globalisation would determine the income levels. The emergence of regional interests and unscrupulous political elements have already contributed to the fragmentation and instability in governance. Unless industry ensures a geographic spread to profitably exploit the local factor endowments, political instability and the consequent law and order problem would effectively undermine the very existence of the political economy. Industry has voluntarily and wantonly abdicated its responsibility in the nation-building process.

The importance of infrastructure development cannot be denied. It is unfortunate that the withdrawals of subsidies to agriculture, divestment and the issue of bonds by commercial banks are being advocated as the means of financing infrastructure development. One fundamental question which has not yet been answered is, “How does the SBI propose to redeem its bonds? Again it is for industry to ensure adequate export earnings to honour the repayment commitments of the Indian economy.

The new economy cannot provide jobs to accommodate the multitudes. It can only help ease under-employment and unemployment in the old economy. The IT revolution is not an indication of industrial growth but of the service industry which suits the Indian scenario in view of the low levels of investment and export potential. India’s future does not lie in retailing imported goods but in catering to the retail markets abroad.

The government and the bureaucracy may be convenient scapegoats. Unless industry owns up its responsibilities, upgrades technology, becomes globally competitive and ensures trade surpluses by exploiting indigenous factor endowments, its future is bleak. 


First woman Foreign Secretary

AT most of the dos on the evening of December 23, the one name that cropped up constantly was that of Chokila Iyer. Chokila who, the hoi polloi wondered. Prompt came the answer that “Choki” as she is known in the high profile world of diplomacy, has broken the male hegemony in the imposing South Block in New Delhi housing the Ministry of External Affairs.

To Ms Chokila Iyer, a Sikkimese, goes the rare distinction of being elevated as the country’s first woman Foreign Secretary. The announcement was received with an element of bewilderment within and outside the portals of power. At the same time the mandarins in the Foreign Office felt that Chokila’s appointment as Foreign Secretary was the best thing that could happen to them for a long, long time. “It is a small but firm step forward which has opened the door for women career diplomats to aspire for the top job,” noted Ms Chokila Iyer’s junior colleagues going beyond gender barriers genuinely.

What is somewhat perplexing is that hardly any woman officer in the Indian Foreign Service has even reached the level of Secretary. With Ms Chokila Iyer succeeding Mr Lalit Mansingh, it is widely believed that the Atal Behari Vajpayee government has avoided a lot of resentment and heartburning by sticking to the criterion of seniority.

Ms Chokila Iyer has got the nod from the political leadership as she has a longer stint of at least 15 months as Foreign Secretary compared to her three colleagues from the 1964 batch who retire between June and November, 2001. She will attain the age of superannuation in June, 2002. She may not have done those big star postings either in Washington, Moscow, London or in India’s neighbourhood. Amazingly, she has few detractors in the MEA. She is described by one and all as an “extremely fine human being who is sensitive with a sound understanding and highly practical approach. She will not be found wanting in discharging her duties and responsibilities as the Foreign Secretary,” is the general comment.

Spanish being her language, Ms Chokila Iyer is at present India’s Ambassador to Ireland. She has also served as India’s High Commissioner in Seychelles and Ambassador to Mexico besides doing a stint at the headquarters as Additional Secretary (Passports, Visas and Africa). Her husband is from a different service and the couple has a daughter. Three cheers, Choki!

Effective diplomat

THE appointment of amiable Lalit Mansingh as India’s Ambassador to the USA was not entirely unexpected. With the Ministry of External Affairs and the Prime Minister’s Office jostling for their candidates, the NDA’s top political leadership zeroed in on Mr Lalit Mansingh to strike a balance. Though it is widely perceived that foreign policy initiatives are being dictated by the PMO, Mr Mansingh has interacted effectively with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, other ministers, the PMO, the Group of Ministers and the Committee of Secretaries.

Authoritative sources maintain that the affable diplomat in Mr Mansingh with a ready smile has held his own on behalf of the MEA in New Delhi. Discriminating observers maintain that he “is an effective career diplomat and has dealt well with the USA and India’s neighbours.” Mr Mansingh is the topper of the 1963 batch of the Indian Foreign Service and served as the Deputy Chief of Mission in Washington. He has done stints in Afghanistan and Brussels.

Before becoming Foreign Secretary, Mr Lalit Mansingh was India’s High Commissioner in London, and prior to that Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. Mr Mansingh, who would have retired in the normal course in April 2001, is expected to take up his new assignment in Washington early with the Republican regime of Mr George Bush, slated to enter the White House on January 20 next year. He replaces Mr Naresh Chandra, who has had an unusually extended tenure in Washington.

Anand the icon

IN a country devoid of non-cricketing sport heroes, barring the odd Leander Paes or Karnam Malleswari, Vishwanathan Anand's feat in the volatile world of chess dominated by temperamental players comes as a whiff of fresh air as the year comes to an end. And it is not the Indian sports system which has produced these ‘‘lone rangers’’ but the will and the determination of the individuals concerned.

Now that Anand has reached the pinnacle of glory in a game dominated by Russians, the governments, both at the Centre and in the states, will fall over each other in an effort to "claim" him as their own as it happened in the case of Malleswari earlier this year or Leander Paes after his bronze medal effort in the Atlanta Olympics four years ago. By doing so, the governments will think they have done their part in ‘‘promoting’’ sports and wait till the next champion comes forward.

A lot has been said about a national sports policy. But it seems nothing works in a country where sportsmen are often treated worse than a class IV emp-loyee barring, of course, the superstars who reach the top with their own individual efforts. Only the parents of Anand, or Paes, or Malleswari can explain their sacrifices and the pain as their offspring made the hard climb to the top.

Often described as the nicest chess player excelling amidst a cut-throat competition at the international level, Anand has over the years played and conquered the best in the world, most of whom being the products of the Russian system where chess is a way of life. For the average sportsperson in India, Anand could well be the icon to emulate.


Merging land acquisition with rehabilitation

THERE could not be a more appropriate time for pressing for a national rehabilitation and resettlement policy for the thousands of people displaced by construction of dams and other big development projects than now. The Supreme Court has gone ahead and given the green signal for the construction of a 90 metres high Sardar Sarovar dam that would only enhance the number of poor people who will be forced to leave their traditional homes to eke out life in unknown, new surroundings. The higher the dam the larger the displacement.

Since 1986 there has been a lot of talk but very little action on formulating and pushing through a national rehabilitation and resettlement policy. According to Mr S.R. Hiremath, convenor of the Jan Vikas Andolan and President of the National Committee for Protection of Natural Resources (NCPNR), 2.13 crore people have been displaced since Independence. Mr Rabi Ray, former Lok Sabha Speaker, however, puts the number at 1.5 crore. Whatever the correct figure, the numbers are colossal. Seventyfive per cent of those dispossessed/displaced were not rehabilitated in the true sense of the word. Land was only given to those who owned land. The landless were given some monetary compensation which, for lack of knowledge on how to invest it, they blew up. Most of these people have settled in urban slums and have become destitute.

In some areas of UP and Orissa where the Singrauli power plant and the Hirakud dam have come up people have been displaced three and four times. All this has been documented by voluntary groups. But strangely enough we still don’t have a national rehabilitation and resettlement policy. Now voluntary groups working on people’s rights and displacement issues have found out that there was a move to sneak through a Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill without the complementary R&R policy.

The NCPNR has been campaigning actively for combining the Land Acquisition Act and the National Rehabilitation and Resettlement Policy of the government into one bill — called the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2000. This to ensure that even while the government takes away precious land of the people with one hand it gives a well thought out rehabilitation package with the other.

It was quite by accident that the NCPNR got to know that the group of ministers, headed by Mr K.C. Pant were quietly trying to push through only the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Bill without incorporating the rehabilitation aspects. This meant the government was reneging on its promise to voluntary organisations to merge the two issues of acquisition and rehabilitation after the national consultation in January, 1999. — (Grassroots)

Early prediction of schizophrenia

A NEW study in the UK has shown that brain imaging can help in early diagnosis of schizophrenia.

The study by Dr Tonmoy Sharma at the Institute of Psychiatry, which is a part of King’s College, London, found that substantial brain changes in schizophrenia are present at the earliest stages of the illness, implying that these changes precede the appearance of psychotic symptoms. The findings suggest a role for brain imaging in pinpointing warning signs of the illness, and even preventing its development. Sharma performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) on 68 participants, including 37 people experiencing their first episode of psychosis and a group of healthy volunteers.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans identified differences in the structure of key regions such as the temporalobe, between the healthy volunteers and those experiencing psychosis, according to the study which has been published in the American Journal Psychiatry.

Human cost of mines

“LANDMINES of Sri Lanka — The Human Cost”, a gripping news story focussing on landmines in the war-torn Jaffna Peninsula in Northern Sri Lanka, has won for Sri Lankan television journalist Menelle Fernandez of Maharaja Television (MTV) a silver medal at the prestigious United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) Millennium Awards. The award is reserved for investigative, risk-taking journalism that is unbiased in its reporting.

The award-winning feature also includes the de-mining programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and presents a graphic picture of what landmines have done to both civilians and the armed forces.

The film focuses on the work of community mine surveyors, mine awareness programmes in schools, victims of anti-personnel mines and the Jaipur foot programme which provides artificial feet to victims who have lost feet as a result of explosions of mines.

Each year the UNCA hosts this event to reward excellence in journalism. The competition is intense with UNCA receiving entries in 14 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, Russian, Spanish and English. Entries come from television, print and radio programmes. — (WFS)


Similarity in science & religion
by Dr Manmohan Gupta

FOR most of us science and religion have hardly anything in common; rather they sharply come into conflict with each other. For a non-believer (atheist) religion is nothing but a bundle of rituals and dogmas rooted in irrationality and obscurantism. Even a believer most of the time is not sure why he should believe in religion and what his belief stands for.

Similarly the common perception about science is that it is based on 'rational' principles with ever-increasing frontiers of its activity and everything in the universe ultimately falling in its ambit. This perception, however, limits the meaning of 'rational' and consequently the limits imposed on 'rational' theories in answering questions.

The above view about science as well as religion perhaps is not appropriate as this is borne out of a misunderstanding about both science and religion.

At the root of the popular view about science is the impact the marvellous technological achievements of science have on the human mind. This is particularly true in the case of the last century wherein mind-boggling developments took place on the technological front. For example, one is overawed by the sight of more than hundred storey buildings, by an undersea tunnel or by a bridge which may be as long as 10 km etc. Landing of man on moon as well as developments in space research have impressed all of us. Technical developments in the medical field have reached a level where one can be kept 'alive' as long as one desires with the help of machines, if the attendant cost could be borne. However, the most impressive and the most pervasive developments have taken place in the field of communications and computers. At the click of the mouse, the entire world is before us through the Internet. These dazzling achievements impress us so much that we start thinking that there is nothing in the world which is outside the scope of technology.

However, to understand this, one has to go deep and understand the principles which govern technology. In this regard one should note that today's technology is a consequence of yesterday's scientific developments. In fact scientific developments take place several decades before they are absorbed in technology. An important example in this regard is that of nuclear energy or the nuclear bomb. The basic principle of nuclear energy was discovered by Einstein in 1905 whereas the first nuclear bomb could be made only in 1945. The important point is that technology necessarily flows from basic or fundamental science. The limitations or the capabilities of technology are necessarily embedded in the underlying scientific principles.

To a serious science reader the developments which have taken place in pure science are far more impressive than the technological achievements. For example, in the middle of the last century, scientists developed a theory called QED (Quantum Electrodynamics) which describes the interaction of charged particles among themselves. The predictions of the theory agree with experimental measurements up to 11 decimal places. Similarly, scientists are able to detect and experiment with a particle called neutrino which can pass through our earth or even the sun without interacting.

This level of achievements has yet to take place in technology. Therefore, to understand the limitations as well the capabilities of technology, one has to go deep into the structure of the scientific theories. In this connection, extremely fundamental work has been done by Godel, one of the greatest logicians of the 20th century. Popularly stated, Godel's work can be expressed as 'the content of a logical theory cannot be more than the assumptions of the theory'.

This was the most startling work regarding the limitations of the scientific method or theories. This implies that the great theories of physics simply restate the experimental facts in an abstract manner within a logical framework. This has several consequences on scientific theories even from the popular point of view. For example, scientific theories are just mathematical models and it is meaningless to ask whether these correspond to reality or truth. All that one can ask is whether their predictions are in agreement with observations or not.

Simply stated, scientific theories never answer questions. They just push the questions deeper and deeper or to a more and more abstract level. Therefore, the crux of scientific theories can be stated as 'we observe, repeat the observations, believe in those observations and the consequent logical theories'. So, scientific theories are logical statements about the observable part of the universe. There are no restrictions imposed by scientific and logical theories when we talk about things which are beyond the realm of 'scientific observations'.

Coming across a bewildering variety of faiths and religions, at times contradicting one another, one wonders whether there is any underlying coherence or not. Just as to understand the limitations of technology, one has to understand the underlying principles of science, similarly one has to find the underlying principles of religion in the form of spiritualism. A deeper study of spiritualism removes several popular misgivings about religion. Let us consider the case of Hinduism where one finds a large number of sects, faiths, dogmas etc. Just as a deeper peep into technology and science reveals a picture different from the one in popular perception, a deeper look at Hinduism brings forth interesting facts which are abstract and applicable to all times and are relevant to mankind in general. If one reads the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most sacred books of Hinduism, one comes across deep spiritual truths far from dogmas, rituals etc. The Bhagavad Gita is known for the philosophy of 'Karma', rebirth etc. However, there are other 'truths' which are perhaps equally important. For example, in the second chapter (shlokas 62-63) the Lord, while discussing the nature of the mind and physical senses, tells Arjuna:

"Man dwelling on sense objects develops attachment with them, from attachment spring desires, from desires (unfulfilled) ensues anger. From anger arises passion, from passion confusion of memory and from confusion of memory loss of reason, and from loss of reason one goes to complete ruin."

Similarly, in another shloka in the same chapter, the Lord tells Arjuna, "Turbulent by nature, the senses even of a wise man, who is practising self-control, forcibly carry away his mind."

A dispassionate analysis of these shlokas brings forth the fact that there is no truth behind popular dogmas. These shlokas do not mention anything which is remotely connected with dogmas, rituals etc. Rather they lay emphasis on reason or restraining senses through reason. One cannot go into the details of the philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita here. One can only state that what is expounded in this text is not even remotely followed in Hinduism.

This is true in general of all religions. The religions, or sects in general, do not follow what their founders or the sacred texts emphasise.

Interestingly, there appears to be a lot of similarity between science and religion. Just as the true meaning and limitations of science are clouded by technology which has popular appeal, the deeper meaning of religion as revealed by the underlying spiritualism is clouded by religion's outward expression in the popular mind. At a deeper level, just as in the case of science we observe and then believe; in the case of spiritualism, we believe and then observe. Viewing science and spiritualism in this manner, one can conclude that there may not be convergence, but certainly there is no divergence. Rather they are complementary to each other.

The writer is Professor in Department of Physics, Panjab University, Chandigarh.



The wise men of antiquity when they wished to make the whole world peaceful and happy, first put their own states into proper order. Before putting their states into proper order they regulated their own families. Before regulating their own families they regulated themselves. Before regulating themselves they tried to be sincere in their thoughts.


Fine words and an insinuating are seldom associated with true virtue.


He who requires much from himself and little from others, will keep himself from being the object of resentment.


To go beyond is as wrong as to fall short.


The parents' age must be remembered both for joy and anxiety.


The real fault is to have faults and not to amend them.


Straightforwardness without the rules of propriety becomes rudeness.


What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.


Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly.


By nature, men are nearly alike, by practice, they get to be wide apart.


There are cases in which the blade springs but the plant does not go on to flower; there are cases where it flowers, but no fruit is subsequently produced.


The wise find pleasure in water; the virtuous find pleasure in hills. The wise are active; the virtuous are tranquil. The wise are joyful; the virtuous are long-lived.


When you know a thing, to hold that you know it, and when you do not know a thing, to allow that you do not know it: this is knowledge.

— Confucius, Analects, tr. James Legge


When desire dies, fear is born.

— Baltasar Gracian, The Art Wordly Wisdom.

If a man ought to desire anything, it is freedom from being born again. This will come of it sown accord if you hope to get complete desirelessness.


There is no glorious heritage for man here in this world like desirelessness. There is nothing similar to it in the other world.


The state of pure self is the state of desirelessness. This will occur from securing a true knowledge of reality.


Men are said to have achieved their freedom when they destroy the bonds of desire. No others can be considered to have achieved such freedom.

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