January 15, 2001,
Lynching labour force
China's renewed interest in India
CHALLENGES BEFORE FARMERS
Cut off the “noes”
“Doctors should not
go on strike”
Seshan vs Gill: persuasion
Lynching labour force
WEST BENGAL politics has always had a swathe of red, meaning a strong communist presence. Now the labour scene threatens to acquire a streak of an red, blood red. The burning alive of two top managers of a rickety jute mill on Saturday is set to damage whatever prospects remained of industrial revival, not to talk of an injection of investment. The workforce in the state has always induced fear by its militancy. After all, it was here that the coercive protest form of gherao was born in the late sixties and with the then Labour Minister acting as the midwife. Steep economic decline and the cooling off of the post-Independence ardour brought the temperature down to a great extent. This was a confidence-building measure. Now in one blinding moment the process has been reversed. Anti-communists will use it to attack the state government; anti-Bengal patriots (yes, there exists such a tribe) will let go a dirge about the brutalisation of a whole people, and academics will offer arcane analysis. The few remaining industrialists, lion-hearted no doubt, will look over their shoulders and think of packing their bags. Reports trickling from the state capital show that the rotting underbelly of the jute industry has suddenly burst, as it were, and the stench is overpowering. The jute mill in Baranagar, the scene of the ghastly triple murder, reopened only two months back after remaining closed for eight months. Obviously the management had problems and the workers who had faced hardship. It was a combustible combination for a confrontation. This background and not the suspension of two workers set the short fuse. After all, the remaining 3000 men must have been conscious of their own interests in these days of declining employment. One newspaper says that the management was talking to the representatives of the employees when sharp words came to be exchanged and the workers who had collected outside the office became restive. What made the general manager fire a shot and kill a worker is not clear, but it was a rank foolish act that provoked the mob fury. If the two top men were thoughtless, the workers turned out to be heartless. Killing is too brutal to enter the modernising area of trade union movement. One INTUC leader has passed on the entire blame on the victims who were murdered after being mercilessly thrashed. As though they invited this fate.
The jute industry is the sickliest for some three decades now. Its products have a menacing alternative, polythene bag which has captured the cement packing business. Some states move foodgrains in the more modern bag. There has been virtually no modernisation since the owners have diverted the money to set up other units or simply eaten away the surplus. The Central government’s policies have been openly tilted against the jute industry, as a study by a veteran journalist proved. The cotton textile mills destroyed the handloom and the man-made fibre destroyed the
cotton textile mills. Now polythene is poised to devour the jute sector. Many of the mills are ruins of a once flourishing money-spinner. Many are run on lease, with the management unwilling or unable to renovate them. Then there is the pre-Independence curse called badli workers. They are daily wagers under the control of labour contractors. Trade unions have nothing to do with them. Anyway, unionism among all jute workers is a skeleton of the former self, what with many units closed down and the remaining in the grip of a terminal illness. The shocking lynching should make the labour leaders, political bosses and the state government campaign to banish violence from all collective activities. But they would not do it, and Kolkata cannot revert back to its old image of a city of interminable processions, as Nehru said. It had at that time a thriving industrial base and the labour activism ensured its vibrancy. Now the economy is gasping for breath and even a minor disturbance will hasten its end. US envoy Richard Celeste is not the first to find the atmosphere extremely inhospitable for capital.
China's renewed interest in India
THE ongoing nine-day visit to India by Chinese leader Li Peng, the number two in his country’s ruling hierarchy, and his desire to cooperate in areas of common concern confirms that the Communist giant is serious about opening a new chapter of relations with New Delhi. He has specifically mentioned the menace of terrorism, the common threat for both countries. This is believed to be the first time when China has categorically expressed its willingness to cooperate with India in tackling a problem having international dimensions. Beijing is wasting enormous funds and energy on containing terrorism in its Xinjiang province whereas New Delhi is fighting to eliminate the monster in Jammu and Kashmir. It is the rising wave of religious extremism which is basically responsible for the growth of terrorism assuming alarming proportions, and India and China should not have any differences of perception on this score. But there may be varying opinion on the main source of its sustenance. India has conclusive evidence in support of its claim that its belligerent neighbour, Pakistan, has been aiding and abetting terrorism on this side of the border, and the situation has taken the shape of a proxy war. Of course, the forces behind the conspiracy to bleed India white by promoting the spread of this scourge include the resourceful Saudi fugitive in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, the Taliban regime and certain religious extremist formations elsewhere. But New Delhi is certain that the problem can be handled easily and effectively if Islamabad stops playing its highly irresponsible role. Obviously, China might not be looking at the whole issue from this angle. But it will have to study dispassionately the dirty game Pakistan has been playing, officially and unofficially, to draw sadistic pleasure from the crisis in India. Only then can any bilateral engagement in the crucial area be taken to its logical conclusion. However, India must respect the Chinese sentiments and respond positively like a mature and confident nation. The two neighbours should not find any difficulty in coming together at the conceptual level, and joining the international drive against the universally accepted enemy of peace. Once there is an understanding on beginning their collaborative efforts to meet the common threat, India can expect immediate cooperation from Beijing at the United Nations where New Delhi is endeavouring for a global anti-terrorism convention.
There is another area where China wants India to launch a joint crusade. It is the looming threat of hegemonism, specially through the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which Beijing is going to join soon owing to its economic compulsions. There are certain provisions in the WTO, particularly those relating to tariffs and imports, which need to be renegotiated to protect the interests of developing economies. It is in the interest of both Asian giants to use all their might to ensure that there is no deviation from the path of creating a multipolar world. This is not impossible once they have identified common meeting points, keeping their border disputes aside. There are people, particularly those in trade and industry circles, who may prefer the problem of dumping of cheap Chinese goods to be resolved on a priority basis. This is all right, but the opportunity that has come with the visit of Mr Peng should not go waste. India has, however, to tread very cautiously to avoid getting caught in any trap since the Chinese are known to be shrewd operators in the intricate world of global diplomacy.
CHALLENGES BEFORE FARMERS
ABOUT 30 crores of our population is underfed or malnourished. But farmers found it difficult to sell their produce during the last paddy season. The national planners have set a target of 4 per cent annual growth rate (against the current rate of less than 3%) for agricultural production. Should researchers work for developing technologies which help the nation produce more food to meet the national target or keep the problems of farmers and other issues relating to the environment and sustainability in view and restrict food production in Punjab?
Under such situations what should technologists do and what should farmers grow? I firmly believe that in spite of “high-yielding production technology”, farmers would not have invested in land development, creation of irrigation facilities, mechanisation, and the use of inputs if they were not assured of adequate support price and marketing. Whereas I do not support any inefficient operations, I must state that the Food Corporation of India played a very important role in assuring the minimum support price to farmers. For the past 15 years or so, we have been discussing about the diversification of Punjab agriculture with a view to shifting some area from rice to other crops. Unless the Government of India ensures remunerative price and assured marketing, alternatives may not be acceptable to the farmers.
The last paddy marketing season has brought into focus a number of problems faced by the Punjab farmers. We are saddled with huge buffer stocks of foodgrains. Against the buffer stock requirements of 24.3 million tonnes on July 1, 2000, the total stocks were 42 million tonnes. If the present rate of lifting of foodgrains is maintained over the coming few months and wheat production next year is of the same magnitude as last year, then over the next five months the country may end up with a buffer stock of over 60 million tonnes of foodgrains, the holding cost of which would exceed Rs 18,000 crore per year. Is it necessary that the country should maintain such huge stocks?
A similar situation arose during the kharif season of 1985 and the farmers experienced serious difficulties in selling their paddy to the FCI and other procurement agencies. Realising the seriousness of the problem, the Punjab government appointed a committee under the chairmanship of Dr S.S. Johl to study the scope of diversification of agriculture in Punjab. This committee made useful recommendations in May, 1986, but no progress has been made in this direction during the past 14 years due to various reasons. The committee had recommended that the area under rice should be restricted to 12 lakh ha. Instead, it has increased to 26 lakh ha. One of the main reasons for this increase was the severe drought in 1987 following this report. The assured remunerative price for paddy attracted the farmers to produce more.
In 1950-51 the net irrigated area in the country was about 21 million ha which increased to 53 million ha in 1996-97. As a result of expansion in the irrigated area, particularly through ground water development which ensures irrigation at the critical stages of growth, coupled with the adoption of improved production-protection technologies in the irrigated areas as well as the adoption of improved rainfed farming techniques in the unirrigated areas, the security and stability of production is much better now than in the early sixties. As such, the chances of reduction in foodgrain production due to monsoon failures have diminished. It appears that the buffer stocks of 25 million tonnes (adjusted from time to time for the growth of population) should be sufficient to meet the needs of the public distribution system.
It is very expensive for the government to procure all the rice and wheat, but if the procurement policy is withdrawn the prices will crash and the farmers will suffer. Under these circumstances what should the farmers do? There are no simple answers to this vexing question. It is often suggested that there should be diversification of Punjab agriculture from the present rice-wheat system. Diversification is generally aimed at increasing the variety of farm products with a view to bringing a shift from the prevailing production pattern. Commercially, the decision of a farmer to go in for a particular crop or farm enterprise or a combination thereof is primarily based on the relative profitability of different enterprises, which in turn depends on price, productivity levels and facilities for marketing. Thus the cropping pattern prevailing at a point of time is a reflection of the farmer’s decision as dictated by the available technology, the market situation, the availability of inputs and access to production resources. The kharif crops which can replace rice are maize, groundnut, soyabean, fodder and pulses. Given the current production technology and the prevailing relative prices, no crop can compete with rice and wheat in rotation. Fruits and vegetables are perishable in nature and we neither have the necessary infrastructure nor the assured marketing mechanism to promote their cultivation in the state on a large scale. Potato growers suffered badly last year. The price of cauliflower during February, 2000, did not even cover the cost of cultivation.
Punjab is an agriculturally surplus state. But we are locationally disadvantaged, being landlocked in one corner of the country. This results in substantially high transport and handling costs and deterioration inequality for shipment purposes. We must not only aim at satisfying the requirements of the country but should also become competitive with other countries in terms of price and quality in the global market place.
During sixties when the food situation in the country became very grim, emphasis was laid on increasing wheat and rice production in Punjab by development and dissemination of agro-technologies (setting up of PAU, training of scientists and extension workers), development of infrastructure (roads, markets, irrigation facilities), and the supply of inputs (new seeds, fertilisers, credit), and assured procurement of foodgrains at remunerative prices. These efforts resulted in a quantum jump in food production, popularly known as the Green Revolution which make the country self-sufficient in foodgrains in terms of actual demand and supply. The productivity of wheat and rice was 1.244 t/ha and 1.009 t/ha in 1960-61, which increased to 4.694 t/ha and 3.347 t/ha in 1999-2000, respectively. The cropping intensity increased from 126 per cent in 1960-61 to 186 per cent in 1999-2000. Consequently, the net sown area of a farmer increased, which could not have been possible in the absence of short-duration varieties developed by PAU which fitted in the double-cropping system.
For providing incentive signals to farmers for increasing foodgrains production, the minimum support price (MSP) and the procurement policy were introduced in 1965-66. During the initial years of the Green Revolution era, the Punjab farmers were able to earn better farm incomes as a result of increased productivity (through new farm technology) and remunerative prices. The increased incomes encouraged the farmers to go in for investment in agriculture. Simultaneously, the state and central governments also took several steps for increased public investment in the agricultural sector. Consequently, both public and private investment in agriculture received a boost during this period, but it was primarily aimed at maximising foodgrain production. The extent of private investment in agriculture can be judged from the fact that the number of tractors and tubewells in the state increased from 0.41 and 1.92 lakh in 1970-71 to 3.75 and 9.37 lakh, respectively, in 1998-99. In 1970-71, about 7 lakh ha land in Punjab was lying barren due to the problems of salinity and alkalinity. Large-scale adoption of reclamation technology (developed by PAU) by Punjab farmers resulted in bringing about 6 lakh ha of these lands under rice-wheat rotation.
Upto the early 1990s, the terms of trade were unfavourable for agriculture and it was taxed indirectly to the extent of 22-31 per cent according to different estimates. However, with the assured MSP, high yields and high cropping intensity, the gross income of a farmer was pegged at a certain level. Thus the multiple effects of increased cropping intensity, crop productivity accompanied by an assured MSP of paddy and wheat led to an improvement in the economic condition of farmers.
Punjab is a land of small farmers and about two-thirds of the population depends on agriculture. The number of cultivators has increased from 16.7 lakh in 1970-71 to 19.2 lakh in 1990-91. Similarly, the number of landless agricultural labour has increased from 7.9 to 14.5 lakh during this period. Out of a total of about 12 lakh operational land-holdings, 73 per cent are smaller than 4 ha which cover a 33 per cent area of the state. Although per hectare productivity has increased since the 1970s, per farm family income has decreased due to the subdivision of land-holdings and the rising cost of cultivation. The family income of about 50 per cent farmers is lower than the income at the lowest pay scale for an unskilled worker. These farmers do not have any cushion to face economic hardships. As such, they do not have appreciable surplus. But if their produce is not procured at the MSP, their income will decrease drastically leading to serious difficulties for them.
Although the national policy demands an increase in food production, for reasons of sustainability and environmental quality, Punjab must reduce the area under rice by about 25 lakh acres. Soil and water are the two critical resources for production in agriculture, over-exploitation of which will cause serious problems for the state. If the present trends continue, about two lakh tubewells currently falling in the grey areas will need to be replaced with submersible pumps during the next 15 years at a tremendous cost which many small farmers cannot afford. The electric power required to pump the same amount of water will also increase. Some parts of south-western districts of Punjab are facing waterlogging and salinisation problems. These issues have raised serious questions about the sustainability of rice production in the state. No policies should be implemented which encourage tendencies for wasteful and inefficient use of ground and surface water.
To achieve this objective, assured price and marketing should be employed as an incentive to promote these crops, particularly oilseeds, and Punjab can grow these. Shifting of some area from rice to other crops is essential from the point of view of maintaining water balance, improving soil health, controlling weeds and enhancing the environmental quality. But at present the choices are limited. One option is to increase the area under oilseed crops like soyabean, sunflower, groundnut and mustard. Farmers will adopt these crops only if returns are assured. We imported 6.2 million tonnes of edible oil worth Rs 15,573 crore during 1998-2000. This depressed the domestic prices of oilseed crops, adversely affecting the economic condition of small and marginal farmers in the unirrigated areas who grow these crops for their livelihood. Unless the long-term profitability of oilseed crops is assured, it will not be possible to convince the farmers for shifting some area from rice to these crops. Although the minimum support prices for some oilseed crops are announced every year, adequate arrangements are not made for an assured procurement of oilseeds at these prices as is being done in the case of paddy and wheat. An appropriate policy decision in this regard can lead to an increase in the area under soyabean, groundnut, sunflower and some other oilseed crops in Punjab. This will also help in reducing the imports of edible oils.
(To be concluded)
Cut off the “noes”
IT is a two-letter word but more powerful than “powerful”. Mothers use it to dominate the impish kid. The husband uses it to signal that he is the boss in the house. The better half uses it to pay him in the same coin. Have you guessed it? The word is “No”.
Amazingly, the more the number of noes we use the greater the chances of becoming a negative personality. “No” is grating. “Yes” is a lubricant of human relationships.
What a horrible word? The word called “no” it is no good. It spoils everything.
I watch myself and an astonished and distressed at my discoveries. When children ask for something or want me to help or play with them, my most frequent answer is “No.”
Like the vast majority of parents I lied regularly to myself and to the children. The reason for all this lying was laziness both of the mind and the body.
When a demand is made I do not even look up from the newspaper I am reading. The word comes unbidden to my lips; the automatic defence mechanism coming into action immediately “No,” I say.
There is a slow tide of anger rising in the sluggish body slumped in the armchair. My somnolent “carcass” does not wish to be disturbed. I give the reason. I can give a dozen reasons. “Well. I’m reading.” Even as I say these things I become more angry within myself as I recognise what an unprincipled liar I am in the cause of laziness.
My children, being no less intelligent than I, systematically dispose of my excuses stripping the few rags of reason from them.
I fall back on the most degrading weapon of parenthood. Authority without honesty. I yell: “I’ve told you I can’t take you. Now go out and play.” Innocent eyes look at me sadly: “I wish you could take us”, they say, and drift out into the street. I crouch over the newspaper for whose sake I have spurned the lively company of my grandchildren. There is a guilty anger in me which will make me even nastier to know for the rest of the day.
I tell myself I had a good reason. I always have a good reason. But it was a lie and it is usually a lie.
As it happens with most parents, the word “no” is out of my mouth before the child has finished his request for a little of his father’s time or companionship.
The “no” pops out of my mouth from sheer force of habit, and when they understandably ask “Why not?” I conjure up a quick reason for refusal, so as to justify myself, to myself mainly, but also to them.
The principal cause of our refusals, our noes, is laziness of mind and body, we are like cows in a field in our reluctance to depart from habit and routine. We cherish our incipient paunches in the depths of armchairs and build up resentments against all who come to disturb us.
“Doctors should not go on strike”
INTERNATIONAL renowned Prof Pradeep Kumar Dave’s association with AIIMS spans more than four decades. Appointed director in 1996, Prof Dave joined as an undergraduate student way back in 1956. He became a faculty member in 1968 and three years later went to Edinburgh on a Commonwealth scholarship for training in spinal surgery. He became a Professor in 1984 and the Medical Superintendent in 1992. Professor Dave has a deep commitment to patient care. He begins his day at 5 AM and feels that his time management has improved since he was entrusted the charge of the institute. His expertise in spinal surgeries and joint replacement is well known. A surgeon to the President of India, he has been advising Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajapayee and his predecessors. The 61-year-old Professor Dave has a cheerful disposition and plans to work as consultant after his retirement this June. He describes AIIMS as one of the finest medical universities not only in India but the world. He firmly believes that its level of professionalism and commitment is unmatched. His interests are reading short stories, fiction and listening to music, including ghazals, bhajans and Gurbani. Professor Dave talked to
Tripti Nath about a whole range of issues, including new projects, the controversy around Union Power Minister P R Kumaramangalam’s death, disposal of bio-medical waste, grievances of doctors, flash strikes, the research in Ayurvedic drugs and existing bed capacity of the hospital. Excerpts from the interview. Q. There has been an alarming increase in the number of AIDS cases and HIV infections. What is AIIMS doing to ensure that such patients are not discriminated against? A. There is a WHO policy which spells out that AIDS patients cannot be discriminated against. They have to be treated just like any other patient. We have special beds for such patients and they are treated in the skin ward. Q. Will the addition of new hospitals in Delhi reduce the burden on AIIMS? A. Definitely. Some more well-equipped hospitals will take the burden off AIIMS. About 18 lakh patients come to AIIMS every year from different parts of the country. The number has been steadily rising. PGI, Chandigarh, and AIIMS draw a large number of patients. Q. What steps are being taken to devise an effective way to dispose of bio-medical waste? A survey done by the Delhi Pollution Control Board and Srishti found that AIIMS was burning waste at 400 degrees Celsius. A. We have absolutely modern waste
disposal facilities which are quite adequate. We were burning waste at 650 degrees Celsius and have now increased the temperature to the prescribed norm of 900 degrees Celsius. When the inspectors come, they switch on the incinerators suddenly. They don’t have patience. It takes a while for the incinerator to reach that temperature. Q. Do you think the Essential Services Maintenance Act should be invoked when doctors go on strike. In the last three years, AIIMS doctors have gone on strike thrice. A. Not really. Sometimes, the doctors go on a flash strike. I think it is not right. Doctors fall in the category of essential services. The way to prevent strikes is to look at their genuine grievances. Q. Senior doctors had expressed resentment over the government’s rejection of Bakshi Committee recommendations regarding their wage structure. Your comment. A. The case is sub judice. I think the doctors should be paid well and treated with dignity. Q. Have the allegations levelled by P R Kumaramangalam’s widow that she was denied access to his reports and the controversy on the diagnosis affected the credibility of AIIMS? A. There was no difference of opinion. When non-Hodgkins lymphoma spreads to the bones, it is called acute myeloid leukaemia. We stand by our diagnosis and got it confirmed from a very senior haematologist in Delhi and renowned sources abroad. Let Kumaramangalam lie in peace. Why do you want to rake up this issue now? We gave his family the resume of his condition and sent the whole case sheet when she asked for it. Q. What progress has been made on the projects announced on the annual day of AIIMS in September? What is being done to construct hostels and residential quarters. A.Work on the trauma centre and dental college is in progress. The OPD screening centre will start this year. As soon as jhuggi clusters are cleared, we will have more space to plan these centres. Of the 4000 jhuggis, 3000 have already been cleared and people living there have been rehabilitated in Molar Bund in South Delhi. This will make way for land for hostels and residential quarters. Q.What is the total bed capacity of AIIMS? A. The institute certainly faces the problem of lack of beds. Unless there is space and more funds, we cannot make a hospital which is burgeoning. But the present patient-bed ratio certainly necessitates augmentation of the bed capacity. We have 1600 beds available for 5000 patients that come to AIIMS everyday. Q. What is the Institute doing to integrate alternative system of medicine in its module? A.The integration has to be done in a very scientific manner. Our Pharmacology department is engaged in research on Ayurvedic drugs. We will not hesitate to incorporate these drugs in our treatment schedule. Unless there is a scientific research on Ayurvedic drugs about their pharmacological content, you cannot prescribe them. The department of Physiology offers Yoga and the chief of Cancer hospital uses alternative system of medicine.
The 61-year-old Professor Dave has a cheerful disposition and plans to work as consultant after his retirement this June. He describes AIIMS as one of the finest medical universities not only in India but the world. He firmly believes that its level of professionalism and commitment is unmatched. His interests are reading short stories, fiction and listening to music, including ghazals, bhajans and Gurbani.
Professor Dave talked to Tripti Nath about a whole range of issues, including new projects, the controversy around Union Power Minister P R Kumaramangalam’s death, disposal of bio-medical waste, grievances of doctors, flash strikes, the research in Ayurvedic drugs and existing bed capacity of the hospital.
Excerpts from the interview.
Q. There has been an alarming increase in the number of AIDS cases and HIV infections. What is AIIMS doing to ensure that such patients are not discriminated against?
A. There is a WHO policy which spells out that AIDS patients cannot be discriminated against. They have to be treated just like any other patient. We have special beds for such patients and they are treated in the skin ward.
Q. Will the addition of new hospitals in Delhi reduce the burden on AIIMS?
A. Definitely. Some more well-equipped hospitals will take the burden off AIIMS. About 18 lakh patients come to AIIMS every year from different parts of the country. The number has been steadily rising. PGI, Chandigarh, and AIIMS draw a large number of patients.
Q. What steps are being taken to devise an effective way to dispose of bio-medical waste? A survey done by the Delhi Pollution Control Board and Srishti found that AIIMS was burning waste at 400 degrees Celsius.
A. We have absolutely modern waste disposal facilities which are quite adequate. We were burning waste at 650 degrees Celsius and have now increased the temperature to the prescribed norm of 900 degrees Celsius. When the inspectors come, they switch on the incinerators suddenly. They don’t have patience. It takes a while for the incinerator to reach that temperature.
Q. Do you think the Essential Services Maintenance Act should be invoked when doctors go on strike. In the last three years, AIIMS doctors have gone on strike thrice.
A. Not really. Sometimes, the doctors go on a flash strike. I think it is not right. Doctors fall in the category of essential services. The way to prevent strikes is to look at their genuine grievances.
Q. Senior doctors had expressed resentment over the government’s rejection of Bakshi Committee recommendations regarding their wage structure. Your comment.
A. The case is sub judice. I think the doctors should be paid well and treated with dignity.
Q. Have the allegations levelled by P R Kumaramangalam’s widow that she was denied access to his reports and the controversy on the diagnosis affected the credibility of AIIMS?
A. There was no difference of opinion. When non-Hodgkins lymphoma spreads to the bones, it is called acute myeloid leukaemia. We stand by our diagnosis and got it confirmed from a very senior haematologist in Delhi and renowned sources abroad. Let Kumaramangalam lie in peace. Why do you want to rake up this issue now? We gave his family the resume of his condition and sent the whole case sheet when she asked for it.
Q. What progress has been made on the projects announced on the annual day of AIIMS in September? What is being done to construct hostels and residential quarters.
A.Work on the trauma centre and dental college is in progress. The OPD screening centre will start this year. As soon as jhuggi clusters are cleared, we will have more space to plan these centres. Of the 4000 jhuggis, 3000 have already been cleared and people living there have been rehabilitated in Molar Bund in South Delhi. This will make way for land for hostels and residential quarters.
Q.What is the total bed capacity of AIIMS?
A. The institute certainly faces the problem of lack of beds. Unless there is space and more funds, we cannot make a hospital which is burgeoning. But the present patient-bed ratio certainly necessitates augmentation of the bed capacity. We have 1600 beds available for 5000 patients that come to AIIMS everyday.
Q. What is the Institute doing to integrate alternative system of medicine in its module?
A.The integration has to be done in a very scientific manner. Our Pharmacology department is engaged in research on Ayurvedic drugs. We will not hesitate to incorporate these drugs in our treatment schedule. Unless there is a scientific research on Ayurvedic drugs about their pharmacological content, you cannot prescribe them. The department of Physiology offers Yoga and the chief of Cancer hospital uses alternative system of medicine.
Seshan vs Gill: persuasion
SEVEN years after a petulant Election Commission of India went to court against the central government over the seemingly intractable issue of disciplinary jurisdiction over government servants on election duty, it has won an important victory in a wholly unexpected but welcome manner — a settlement between the parties.
The disciplinary functions of the Election Commission, says the settlement (which shall govern all future elections), over officers, staff and police deputed to perform election duties shall extend to — (a) suspending any officer, official or police personnel for insubordination or dereliction of duty; (b) substituting any officer, official or police personnel by another such person, and returning the substituted individual to the cadre to which he belongs with appropriate report on his conduct; and (c) recommending disciplinary action against any officer, official or police personnel for any act of insubordination or dereliction of duty while on election duty.
Such recommendation shall be promptly acted upon by the disciplinary authority and action taken will be communicated to the Election Commission within a period of 6 months from the date of its recommendation.
Translating the settlement into government instructions issued by the Ministry of Personnel, the government of India has requested State governments that they too ‘‘may follow the terms of settlement above mentioned in the case of officials deputed for election duties by the State governments.’’
The request carries out the last, clause (d) of the settlement whereby the government of India undertook to advise State government accordingly, ‘‘since a large number of election officials are under their administrative control.’’
Disposing of the Election Commission’s writ petition, filed in 1993, in terms of the settlement, a three-member Bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice S.P. Bharucha noted that while the States of Tripura, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Mizoram have accepted the settlement in toto, all other States have ‘‘some reservation, either in respect of one or the other term (of the settlement) or altogether.’’
As against the disagreeing States, said the court, ‘‘the writ petition is allowed to be withdrawn and the issue is left open to be agitated in appropriate proceedings, if (and when) raised.’’
It is obvious, therefore, that the settlement does not amount to a declaration of law within the meaning of Article 141 of the Constitution. Equally obviously, however, it binds the central government till it is superseded either by such declaration of law or by another settlement (in court).
The ‘‘implication’’ of the settlement, say the instructions issued by the government of India, and the disposal of the writ petition in terms thereof is that the Election Commission can exercise the stated powers (including the power of suspension) in respect of any officer, official or police personnel ‘‘working under the central government or public sector undertaking or an autonomous body fully or substantially financed by the (central) government’’.
It is clarified, the instructions go on to say, that it is not necessary to amend the service rules to enable the Election Commission to exercise these powers since they are derived from the provisions of Section 13CC of the 1950 Representation of the People Act and Section 28A of the 1951 Act bearing the same name.
Being statutory in nature, these provisions have overriding effect over disciplinary rules. In case, however, there are any conflicting provisions in an Act governing disciplinary action, the same (say the instructions) would have to be amended suitably in accordance with the settlement between the government of India and the Election Commission.
A ‘‘legal fight in the Supreme Court,’’ Chief Election Commissioner M.S. Gill had written to the Prime Minister last year on May 29, ‘‘between the Government and the Election Commission of India, is not the most appropriate method of carrying forward the Constitution.’’
‘‘Constitutions do not work by high organs of the State maintaining mutual hostilities,’’ Gill told me a week later on June 8, explaining his letter to the Prime Minister. ‘‘They work, in fact, by these organs being in constant dialogue and interaction without any of them giving up their independence. In the end, our independence is judged by the correctness of our decisions.’’
A more felicitous formulation would be difficult to find in constitutional history and I took the liberty of reproducing these words in this column on June 12, writing on the subject.
‘‘Words (I said) which deserve to be inscribed outside every office and courthouse in the country, even though, on first principles, I am not quite sure whether the EC ought to have the power to discipline and punish those who are not its employees except by fiction of law. However, common legal fictions might be, they are fictions after all.’’
The ‘‘fiction’’ referred to is the fiction of ‘‘deemed deputation’’ (with the Election Commission) of officials on election duty, created by Sections 13CC and 28A of the twin Representation of the People Acts.
The period of deemed deputation is the period commencing from the date of the notification calling for an election and ending with the date of declaration of the election results.
During this period, all officials on election duty are statutorily ‘‘subject to the control, superintendence and discipline of the Election Commission’’.
Both Sections 13CC and 28A were legislatively incorporated by amendment with effect from March 15, 1989.
Piloting the amending Bill in the Rajya Sabha, the then Union Minister for Law and Justice said on December 20, 1988:
‘‘There are two propositions. Either at the time (of elections, the state machinery) should be under the Chief Minister or it should be under the Election Commission. Now you see, Sir, that they want that it should not come under the Election Commission, but under the Chief Minister, who is himself contesting the election at that time. Where is the fairness? Fairness lies in saying, when we say, with one voice, ‘Yes. The machinery should be under the Election Commission, whether it is your machinery or our machinery.’ Now, that is not the position in the States.’’
For a member of the political class, and as an expression of intent, that is an extraordinarily frank statement to make and it is a pleasant surprise that it was made by none other than the ubiquitous H.R. Bhardwaj.
That was two years before, however, a self-proclaimed messiah called T.N. Seshan became the Chief Election Commissioner and, ensconced beyond fear of removal in Nirvachan Sadan for six years, declared war on the government of India, the political class, and all persons and institutions (except the judiciary) who did not toe his line. And toe it completely.
What had already been accepted by Parliament, therefore, became suddenly unacceptable and, for the first time perhaps in Indian political history, the government of India refused to implement — and for good reason — a statutory mandate it had itself chosen to enact into law.
That Gill has accomplished by persuasion, what Seshan failed to achieve through coercion, confirms that in stable democratic societies governed by the rule of law principled moderation is a more effective instrument of change than transient populism spurred by personal ambition.
(PS — With Hashim Qureshi withdrawing his petition before the Delhi High Court, and preferring to rush to Kashmir though in captivity, my promise last week to write a second piece on double jeopardy has been rendered redundant).
Man as an image of God possesses within him that all-accomplishing power of will. To discover through right meditation, how to be in harmony with the Divine Will is man's highest obligation.
— Paramahansa Yogananda, The Law of Success
The senses are the prime motive force for the mind and the illusion it suffers from. The five Elements have each a characteristic that affects and attracts one of the five senses: Sound (ether) which fascinates the mind through the ear;
Touch (Air) which draws the mind to itself through the skin;
Form (Fire) which manipulates the mind in its favout through the eye;
Taste (water) which enslaves the mind through the tongue and
Smell (earth) which attracts the mind through the nose.
Contact with the external world is maintained by the senses for the sake of these experiences — which yield joy or grief. In order to escape being tossed about on the waves of joy and grief, one should cultivate unconcern (upeksha), an attitude of welcoming either as a sign of grace.
— Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. VI, chapter 21
We should take care not to make the intellect our God; it has of course, powerful muscles, but no personality.
— Albert Enstein, Out of My Later Life
Divine Will is the power that moves the cosmos and everything in it. It was God's will that hurdles the stars into space. It is His Will that holds the planets in their orbits and that directs the cycle of birth, growth and decay in all forms of life.
Divine Will has no boundaries; it works through laws known and unknown, natural and seemingly miraculous. it can change the course of destiny, wake the dead, cast mountains into the sea, and create new solar systems.
Everybody is under the Hukam of the Lord;
There is none outside it.
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