Monday, January 15, 2001,
Chandigarh, India



Taming the police force

THIS refers to the editorial “Custodial violations” (December 12). Everybody seems helpless before the “might” of the police. The common man’s outcry, the media’s comments, the Law Commission’s observations, the judiciary’s strictures all have been of no avail.

What makes them so powerful? Are they answerable to nobody? Aren’t the political rulers their superiors? Why are the superiors unable to control them? These and many more such questions remain unanswered.

The Prime Minister has given a call for a change in the mindset of the bureaucracy to get over the problem of tardy implementation of reforms. No sermons or appeals can work on our ill-performing bureaucracy or the police force. The political leadership must assert itself and issue directions instead of appeals. Those disobeying the instructions or creating hurdles in the path of their implementation should be promptly and severely dealt with.

The police should be divested of all draconian powers of arrest and interrogation. Directions should be given to the police to consider all Indians as law-abiding citizens. 


Nobody should be taken to a police station unless accompanied by two respectable persons of his village, locality or town. His interrogation should be conducted only during day time and in the presence of two respectable citizens. Nobody should be detained at the police station during the night. The law about police remand should be changed.

Drastic situations call for drastic measures. It is time these suggestions or even more drastic ones were put into practice to tame the police force.


Needless row

“Screening of ‘Sant Valmiki’ restrained” (Tribune Dec. 21) is an example of how people with vested interests but little knowledge react without analysing the subject. It has been reported that the screening of the film was stopped because some ‘Valmiki-followers’ objected to the word ‘Daku’ being used with the name of Maharshi Valmiki. This is not the first time that such needless controversy has been raised by self-styled followers of the Maharshi. These elements do not realise that the real greatness of Maharshi Valmiki, lies in the fact that he had transformed himself into a saint from a ‘Daku’, simply by chanting ‘Ram Ram’.

If a saintly person becomes a great saint, it is not a big thing, but if a dacoit becomes a Maharshi, it signifies the greatness of the person. In any case, historical facts will not change, no matter how much dust is raised over them. Such needless protests will only vitiate the environment and belittle Maharshi Valmiki.


Judicial activism

This refers to the report “Don’t shut door to layman: CJI” (Tribune, Dec. 28). Every right thinking citizen will appreciate judicial activism even if the judiciary starts playing the role of the legislature or the executive. But the “courts must act with caution and proper restraint”, as advised by the Chief Justice of India.

The Chief Justice of India should issue a directive to all judges of Supreme Court and High Courts that before issuing an order of legislative nature, they should obtain expert advice on its feasibility and the minimum time required for its compliance so that it does not become a source of harassment to the common man.

In 1991, the Punjab and Haryana High Court ordered that all owners of motor vehicles should obtain a “Pollution under control” certificate (PUC) within 15 days. This resulted in chaos and owners of cars and two wheelers were out on Chandigarh roads to obtain the certificate. Very little work was done in the offices. The deadline had to be extended. A responsible resident collected data regarding the number of vehicles in Chandigarh, the number of authorised checking centres and showed that it would take about three months to comply with the court’s order.

In September, 2000, the same court issued an order making it mandatory for all four wheelers to be equipped with seat belts for all occupants without realising that old vehicles, including the Maruti 800, have no provision for fixing seat belts. Even the latest model of Maruti 800 does not have provision for fixing seat belts in the rear seats.

Moreover, the owners of most of the old cars are senior citizens. They seldom drive beyond 30-40 kmph and do not need seat belts, nor can they afford to buy the new luxury cars equipped with belts in all seats. The policeman would not listen to any such plea and challan the vehicle and impound the driving licence or the registration certificate of the vehicle.

Since the ruling does not affect our political masters or their progeny, they will not approach the Supreme Court for cancellation or modification of the order. They react only when a ruling affects their vote banks.


Power sector reforms

The performance of electricity boards and the Central Government’s power utilities has come under scrutiny after the recent grid collapse. Reports reveal that the failure was due to the lack of coordination among various organisations. There has been a multiplicity of organisations due to the so-called power sector reforms.

It is time to review the progress of reforms made during the last decade under World Bank guidance. Delhi was the seventh state to unbundle the electricity board after Orissa, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Rajasthan. More than a dozen states have set up state regulatory commissions as a first step towards privatisation of the SEBs. After Andhra Pradesh, Haryana has now given a jolt to domestic consumers. In Andhra Pradesh the highest domestic tarrif is above Rs 7 per unit and in Haryana it has been hiked to Rs 4.25 per unit. The agriculture sector has been spared for the time being, despite pressure from the World Bank.

In Orissa, the private company is yet to restore the supply to 800 villages affected by last year’s cyclone. In Karnataka, administrative charges have increased manyfold due to the multiplicity of organisations.

The fast track Enron project is giving shocks to Maharashtra because of the high cost of power being pumped into the state grid. Because of its poor financial position, the state government has decided to stop paying the Dobhal Power Corporation and cancel Enron’s permission to launch phase-II of the project.

There will be a slippage of 19000 MW in the Ninth Plan as the private sector has failed to start projects which were given to it with several financial benefits. It seems the private sector is now more interested in acquiring the assets of the SEBs at depreciated value.

The World Bank aided reform process needs to be halted and internal reforms pursued vigorously in the interest of the state and the consumers.




Manufacturing of LCA

This has reference to the letter ‘India’s LCA’, by Mr Rahul Jain. The normal time for the development of a major weapon system such as an aircraft, tank or a naval vessel is 10 to 12 years. In such cases most of the systems and sub-assemblies are developed ‘in-house’ which is not the case with the LCA where most of the systems, besides the F404-GeF2J3 engine from the USA, are imported. The foreign exchange component of the amount spent so far on the LCA will reveal the actual imported content.

As per the DRDO’s own time plot, the LCA was to fly in 1991. Sanctions by the USA came into effect only in 1998. To contend that only about 10 countries in the world manufacture fighter aircraft and therefore, for India it is singular achievement is almost like saying that Nepal, Sri Lanka, Iceland etc have not been able to do so, while we have done it.

Mr Jain is wrong when he says that the LCA is the first fighter aircraft developed by India. The first fighter aircraft developed by India in the 1950-60s was the HF-24, (Marut). At that time a German engineer, Mr Tank, worked in the HAL. He was an airframe expert who had worked on the designing of German fighter planes during the Second World War. Had we picked up an engineer (from Germany) also for an engine we would have had an indigenously developed fighter plane of world class (air frame and engine) back in the seventies, if not earlier.

If and when the LCA is finally delivered to the IAF it will be 20 years too late.

Lt. Gen. HARWANT SINGH (retd).

Indians’ patience

Most of us will agree with Mr V.N. Dutta that India’s partition was the result of the failure of Indian statesmanship (Tribune Dec. 30). As early as 1920, Jinnah had rejected satyagraha as a possible means to attain freedom and the Congress and the Muslim League had begun drifting apart. The Congress projected Nehru as the future Prime Minister while the League wanted Jinnah. Since by 1945, we already had two Prime Ministers, so we had to have two countries. We were ready to be fooled; the Britishers gladly obliged. These two men who were responsible for half a million casualties and the migration of about 12 million people are remembered as “builder of modern India” and “Qaid-e-Azam”.

It has truly been started by Mr Dutta that “Our greatest failure lies in the mode of governance.” Churchill had forecast just as much on Feb. 11, 1935 when he described the Imperial Government as “incomparably the best government that India has ever seen, or ever will see”. Our politicians and bureaucrats have worked overtime to prove Churchill right. Dr Radhakrishnan shocked and annoyed India’s politicians by stating: “Patience of the people is not inexhaustible.” For once he was wrong. We are patient to the extent of being cowards and vote the corrupt and the criminal to power for the favour of a crumb or for the fear of a bullet.


ISI and India

EVERY sensible Indian is fed-up with reports that all disruptions anywhere in the country were engineered by the ISI in Pakistan. When there were anti-India disturbances in Nepal, these were attributed to the ISI A few days ago, the BJP Vice-President said that violence in Ranchi (Jharkhand) was the creation of the ISI. In the north-eastern states, again the ISI is held responsible for the violence. Disturbances in other parts of India such as Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, etc, were also attributed to the ISI.

I fail to understand how a small country like Pakistan, through its ISI has been able to ferment trouble anywhere and everywhere in a vast country like India. Such hue and cry does not help India in any way. Rather the world mocks at the helplessness of the Indian Government. The activities of the ISI have been going on in India for many years and the Government has not been able to curb this monster. Time has come now to deal with it ruthlessly. At the same time, the media should not attribute everything and anything to the ISI.



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