Friday, January 19, 2001,
Chandigarh, India



Managing a messy polity

MR Hari Jaisingh’s article “Managing a messy polity: professional competence holds the key” (Frankly Speaking, Jan 12) is illustrative of Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee’s frustration on several occasions over his inability to change the way the Indian government functions. He is known to be unhappy with the way the economic liberalisation programmes have been frustrated by a succession of legal and procedural road blocks. He has left no one in doubt that he considers the bureaucracy to be insensitive to the needs of the public and not sufficiently management oriented. It is, of course, difficult to doubt the sincerity of his desire to improve the administration, speed up decision-making and make officials more responsible to national priorities and sensitive to the public needs. But how to achieve this goal?

A desirable management culture and work ethics can be neither imposed by administrative fiats nor imported from abroad. They have to evolve within a given socio-economic and political milieu and the changes that take place in socio-economic relations and impinge on different segments of population and sectional and class interests.



Volcano: Indian polity is “resting” on a volcano which may burst any moment. At least 104.06 million Indians are suffering from major diseases like malaria, leprosy, TB, according to a renowned medical expert. India’s infant mortality rate is 80 per 1000 against China’s (35), Philippines (45) USA (9.1), UK (9), Sweden (5), and Japan (5) with 1.5 million children’s death every year due to diarrhoea. Statistics provided by the Institute of Psychological and Educational Research (IPER) based on Times International show India heads the list of Asian countries having child labour ranging between 73 and 115 million. A recent UNICEF study estimates the number of undernourished Indian children below 5 years at over 75 million. According to the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCEAR), 39 per cent of the rural population in India are living below the poverty line. It is 55 per cent in Orissa and 51 per cent in West Bengal. Even in prosperous Punjab and Haryana 32 and 27 per cent people in rural pockets live below the poverty line.


Colonial mindset: The colonial mindset that is still lingering in the nation’s bureaucratic setup needs to be changed thoroughly. We must not overlook the Indian realities. The author rightly questions: “Why this poor house-keeping? Is this because of the faulty training of those who join the IAS and allied civil services? Or, is it because they get sucked into the decadent system despite their idealism and principles and become part of the drift?”

The mental bankruptcy in India is the result of prevalent colonial mindset. Corruption is at the root of every Indian problem.

Bijhari (Hamirpur)

Credibility loss: Patchwork and adhocist measures that go in the name of our politico-economic policy have only led to loss of our credibility on the international front. Despite half a century of our freedom, we have failed to awaken the masses even to elect their own rulers. People, naturally continue to suffer under political whimsicalities and waywardness.




Kumbh mela

Under such captions as ‘A sea of people’ and ‘The confluence of the human and divine’ published in several newspapers, graphic descriptions have been given of the mythical, romantic and symbolic significance of the Maha Kumbh Mela, at Allahabad (Prayg).

I had a peculiar, but equally symbolic experience of the Kumbh held in 1953 on the banks of the Ganga at Allahabad, where I happened to be the military Station Commander of this ancient city. In those days the army was invariably called in for making all the administrative arrangements for the Kumbh. My residence was seven miles away from the Allahabad Fort, which is said to be located on the confluence point of the Triveni, ie, the Ganga, Yamuna and the Saraswati.

I was fast asleep, when at 02 am, my phone rang with the Fort Commander at the other end. He seemed very agitated while informing me that, four sadhus in saffron, had come to the Fort wanting permission to enter it with a banian tree branch which they were carrying. As the Fort was a security area, I was rather perturbed at such a request. In any case I asked him as to why this could not be done in daylight hours. He informed me that, according to the sadhus, it was essential that they get with the tree branch before sunrise, that is, before the crowd would come in. I told the Fort Commander that, under no circumstances I could give permission for them to enter the Fort till further investigations were made in the morning, and left it at that.

At 09 am next morning, I was summoned on the phone by the GOC-in-C Eastern Command at Ranchi. He appeared to be rattling with fury, as he ordered me to place myself under house arrest. When I asked on what grounds, I was told that I had committed a grave indiscretion, by interfering in a century old religious tradition of the Kumbh. A court of enquiry was ordered. To say the least, I was completely taken by surprise and baffled.

The truth gradually began to emerge. The sorry went that, at the site of the Triveni in a particular area of the Fort, there exists an old banian tree, whose roots is said to have originated from the religious holy tree of trees at Bodh Gaya. This tree is supposed to remain evergreen and young, and thus is of great religious significance to the devotees of the Kumbh, who came in thousands to pay their reverence to this tree, which is known as the ‘Akshiabad’, meaning everlastingly fresh.

It appears that, every 12 years on this occasion, in the dark hours of the night, it was customary for a new sapling to be grafted on the dry stump of an old tree located at the holy spot, so as to give it an appearance of it being ever lasting, young and fresh. In my total ignorance, in not allowing this to happen, my crime was that, I had destroyed the legend of the ‘Akshiabad’ and the religious belief that went with it.

I pleaded not guilty to the charge, but nevertheless was censured for my indiscretion. I wonder, if even after 48 years, the legend of the ‘Akshiabad’ still exists at the Kumbh, in its everlasting freshness.




Lottery tickets

Indians who get letters from overseas organisations for purchase of lottery tickets with alluring prizes should ignore them. On referring the matter to authorities, both Reserve Bank of India and Home Ministry of Government of India have pointed out that remittance for purchase of lottery tickets is a violation of Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA). It is prohibited under entry no 3 of schedule 1 of Foreign Exchange Management (current Account Transactions) Rules 2000. The Directorate of Enforcement is authorised to look into such violations.

Reserve Bank of India and Union Finance Ministry have a duty to advise the public, which is unaware of this, through the Press, All India Radio and TV that they should not remit abroad amount either through cash, credit card or any other means for purchase of lottery tickets, as it constitutes a punishable offence.




Facility for phone subscribers

In view of the great rush of telephone subscribers at the counters, the Telecom Department, Ambala started collection of telephone bills through branches of Uco Bank since the start of the current financial year, which has eased the problem of the public in general and the Senior Citizens in particular, to some extent.

But as the long queues of depositors of telephone bills still persist at the counters and there is an ever increasing demand of new phone connections, the Telecom Department (VSNL) should allow the telecom subscribers to deposit their phone bills in any of the Nationalised Banks.

President, Senior Citizens’ Council



PSEB clarifies

Please refer to the news item under the heading “PSEB drops 24 hours supply scheme” published in The Tribune (Jan 10).

In this regard, I have to say that my views published in the last paragraph have been misquoted due to some misunderstanding by the correspondent concerned which has created unwarranted controversy. It has also created misgivings amongst the minds of readers, when sincere endeavours to streamline the organisation are being made.

We in the board are quite aware of our responsibility to raise the standard of living of our rural brethren by providing them uninterrupted power supply and a modified scheme has been introduced which shall not only be less expensive but also help the board in reducing system losses in rural network. Under this new scheme, about 3000 more villages are likely to be connected to continuous electricity supply before the onset of the coming rainy season. The remaining villages shall be connected with 24 hours supply in a time span of about 2 to 3 years.

Chairman, PSEB

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