Monday, January 22, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Ayodhya — blowing cold
T is not a violent attack of reasonableness that has made the VHP and its creation, Dharam sansad, to hold back its threatened deadline for building the Ram Mandir. But it is a combination of several compulsions.

The changeover in USA
INALLY, Mr George W. Bush has taken over as the 43rd President of the USA, the most powerful nation today, economically and otherwise. 


Appointment of judges
Quota or merit as the criterion?
by S.S. Sodhi
WANT the best on the Bench,” said Chief Justice Gajendragadkar, speaking at a High Court Bar Association function in Chandigarh. He went on to add: “It is of no consequence to me if he is from the Bar or Service.” 


January 21
, 2001
It pays to act tough
January 20
, 2001
MP as a tenure job
January 19
, 2001
An avoidable controversy 
January 18, 2001
Panchayat polls in J&K
January 17, 2001
Signals from Maghi mela
January 16, 2001
Lynching labour force
January 15, 2001
The Clinton Years
January 14
, 2001
The passport tangle
January 13
, 2001
Sugar melts in PDS
January 12
, 2001
Maruti in third gear
January 11
, 2001


A close look at power grid collapse
by G.K. Pandey
HE heat of the moment, any experienced person will tell you, is not the best time to come to any conclusions. So, don’t be taken in by Power Minister Suresh Prabhu when he tells you, as he did just a few days ago, that punitive action will be taken against those responsible for the complete collapse of the Northern Grid for close to 16 hours all over the North, and even upto 48 hours for large parts of Uttar Padesh.


by Anupam Gupta
Gulshan Kumar’s murder: the coloniser’s mind at play

ESS than three weeks after a grave judicial setback in the Gulshan Kumar murder case — the case that rocked Bollywood and established Bombay as the Sicily of India — the Mumbai police received a shot in the arm with the arrest last fortnight of Abdul Rauf Daud Merchant, a hitman of the Chhota Shakeel faction of the Dawood Ibrahim gang and the alleged assassin of the king of audio cassettes.


People will turn to the Congress
ONGRESS spokesperson and youthful leader from Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan observes that the Congress will reposition itself on economic reforms as the party has learnt from its past mistakes. He acknowledges that the Congress is weak in both Tamil Nadu and West Bengal where assembly elections are round the corner.




Ayodhya — blowing cold

IT is not a violent attack of reasonableness that has made the VHP and its creation, Dharam sansad, to hold back its threatened deadline for building the Ram Mandir. But it is a combination of several compulsions. The RSS brought relentless pressure on the VHP to keep the issue vague and not precipitate matters. That would gravely unsettle the Vajpayee government and trigger an unpredictable chain reaction. RSS spokesman M. G. Vaidya went to the extent of trotting out astrological theories like chatur maas and inauspicious periods to come out with next Shivratri as the earliest time to decide on the temple. That left an impression that the dharam sansad would threaten to begin construction on that date and would make a clear declaration at Allahabad. It did not happen that way. Now the VHP, speaking through the medium of the sansad, has merely asked all authorities to clear obstacles in the way of building a temple. There is a world of difference between the two. The previous stand suggested that it would go ahead whether or not the court cleared the way, whether or not there was an agreement with the Muslims and whether or not the government handed over the land. Now it has petitioned the Centre to make available the land for the temple. Apart from giving a year-long reprieve, the VHP has also taken the risk of reviving its agitation with a non-BJP government in office in UP or knocking at the doors of power. Its alternative plan of organising jap (recitation of Ram’s name) and tap (penance) or even driving a chetna (awareness) rath is no alternative to the frenzy a temple coming up will generate. But it had no options.

The pressure from the RSS, the mother of the Sangh Parivar, was less life threatening than the roar of disapproval from the sant sansad. This is a powerful religious organisation and includes the four Shankaracharyas of the five mutts, all dharmacharyas of the 13 akharas and others. They have a following in millions and are already in the arena to build a temple at Ayodhya. Their model is a replica of the famous Angkor Vat temple in Cambodia built by Indian architects, engineers and masons in medieval times. This sansad too claims it can raise funds (it can) and other resources to come up with a temple that will attest to the universal reverence that Ram commands. This sant sansad came into existence when Mr Chandrashekhar was Prime Minister. He encouraged Chandra Swami to clip the wings of the VHP and as an offshoot of that failed attempt was born this rival religious organisation. It is apolitical but enjoys great prestige in political circles. The Shankaracharyas are no pushovers nor are the dharmacharyas. They symbolise Hindu religion and its tolerant face for most. It will prove to be a losing game if the VHP, with its strong point being an emotional appeal in the name of Ram, were to confront the sant sansad whose appeal is intensely religious in the Hindi belt. This is the reason why the VHP is treading cautiously. It must now be hoping that the government uses the one-year interregnum to evolve a peaceful settlement. Actually it is not all that difficult. It should give three months to the VHP and its hotheads to plead the Muslim cause and ask the Muslims to plead the mandir cause. If there is a face-saving formula, which normally comes out of such efforts, the obstacles could be removed by Mahashivratri Day, 2002.


The changeover in USA

FINALLY, Mr George W. Bush has taken over as the 43rd President of the USA, the most powerful nation today, economically and otherwise. Being the sole surviving super power, it has enormous responsibilities towards the world. Thus it was obvious why people throughout the globe were glued to their television or transistor sets, listening to what the new CEO of the USA said during his inaugural address. His success or failure will be judged by his performance both at the domestic and international levels. For the people of his country, he is going to concentrate on five priority areas: social security, education, health care, a big reduction in tax rates and a national missile defence (NMD) scheme. All this is possible if the USA's economic health remains as robust as he has inherited. So, he may avoid taking any step that proves the proverbial spoke in the wheel of the economy. The $1.6 trillion cut in tax rates — personal and corporate — he has announced has been described as "less dangerous" today when the economy is wobbling. According to one estimate, the USA's economic growth rate is not more than 3 per cent against an earlier calculation of 5 per cent. Yet it is not an alarming situation in the case of a huge economy as that of America. The corporate world is happy that perhaps for the first time in US history its CEO is armed with an MBA degree from Harvard. The new President has another advantage: he is likely to be helped by officials who were there when his father, the senior Bush, occupied the White House before President Clinton had taken over. Mr George W. Bush comes to the White House with a good reputation as Governor of Texas, where he demonstrated his administrative skills.

Since the Bush administration's policy initiatives are likely to be influenced by economic calculations, it cannot afford to practise "political isolationism" which was feared by India when Vice-President Al Gore was declared a loser in the presidential race. In fact, India can take comfort from some of the new US moves already known. Secretary of State Gen Colin Powell has done away with the arrangement of having special coordinators and special envoys introduced by President Clinton. Hence little chance of a special Kashmir envoy, as it was there in the air earlier. The remaining sanctions against India, unjustifiably imposed after the Pokhran-II nuclear tests, may go anytime now, as General Powell believes that such punitive measures should have a "sunset clause", designed to become redundant after a certain period. However, India has to watch keenly as to what extent the Bush administration goes in putting pressure on Pakistan to shun its destructive policy of promoting cross-border terrorism, preventing the return of normalcy to Kashmir, one of the three trouble spots where peace efforts are on with the USA taking special interest. The Clinton administration's concentration on the task of eliminating the scourge of terrorism from the face of the globe, one hopes, will not be abandoned with the change of dispensation in Washington. There is another worrying factor in the case of India. Mr Bush's plan to make the NMD scheme as one of his priorities may have its impact on South Asia, as also elsewhere. China, it is believed, will increase its defence budget substantially to acquire more ballistic missiles. India cannot sit idle. It will have to respond accordingly. However, a fresh arms race in the region will not be a welcome development.


Appointment of judges
Quota or merit as the criterion?
by S.S. Sodhi

“I WANT the best on the Bench,” said Chief Justice Gajendragadkar, speaking at a High Court Bar Association function in Chandigarh. He went on to add: “It is of no consequence to me if he is from the Bar or Service.” These remarks were made in the context of the representation of the members of the Punjab Civil Service (Judicial) for a quota to be fixed for them for appointment as judges of the High Court. This was way back in 1964. How different is the situation today?

In the matter of appointment of judges of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana quotas are very much the order of the day. There is not only a quota for members of the judicial service and the Bar but also for the states of Punjab and Haryana. Added to this are increasing demands for appointment of women and from the reserved categories. In this scheme of things, one wonders where does merit figure?

If there are, as we now have, quotas to be fulfilled, the assessment of merit has inevitably to be restricted to among those belonging to each particular quota group. In other words, for appointments from the Bar, the appointment of judges from the Haryana quota would have to be confined to consideration of only such lawyers as belong to that state. Similarly, for the appointment of judges from the Punjab quota only lawyers from Punjab would fall within the range of consideration.

Ironically, the anomaly inherent in this situation stems from the very rationale for such quotas, namely that the High Court at Chandigarh is the common High Court for the states of Punjab and Haryana as also, of course, for the Union Territory of Chandigarh. Being a common High Court it is in the fitness of things that there should be a fair representation of judges from both Punjab and Haryana, with women and members belonging to the reserved categories also being represented on the Bench.

The problem here is created by the fact that there is a common set of lawyers constituting the Bar of the High Court. As we know, the Bar is no respecter of territorial boundaries or of any categories for those it throws up as its leading lawyers. If the stature and image of the High Court is to be maintained and upheld the selection of judges cannot but be from the best among them. When vacancies on the Bench are to be filled, those meriting consideration for appointment may or may not be there as per the relative proportion of the respective quotas for Punjab and Haryana. Herein lies the rub. When faced with such a situation what should prevail: merit or quota?

This dilemma arises more in the case of appointments from the Bar, as for members of the judicial service the determining factors of merit are known and measurable — namely, seniority and record of service. It is when the selection has to be made from among the members of the Bar that the problem really manifests itself. By the very nature of things the parameters of their respective merit are significantly different.

Whatever be the yardsticks of merit, if in appointments from the Bar, the quota system is allowed to prevail over merit, what would inevitably follow is damage to the judiciary. To fulfil a particular quota it could mean a second or even a third-rung lawyer being appointed judge at the expense of one who really deserves elevation to the Bench. This in turn cannot but result in long-term adverse consequences for the High Court. Such an appointment would not only bring down the image of the court but also the quality of justice dispensed. It would, at the same time, lower the standard for subsequent appointments to the Bench. The benchmark of caliber and ability would inevitably thereafter stand brought down to the level of such an appointee. Not only this, to figure as junior colleagues of such an appointee could deter worthier candidates from later coming on to the Bench. This is known to have happened in the past.

How rightly it has been said: “The stresses of the position and the exercise of power accentuate deficiencies and strengths. A stupid person may become arbitrary as a judge, a weak one vacillating and an insecure one tyrannical. By the same token the judicial experience may enable an intelligent person to become wiser, a strong one more sensitive.”

The other pertinent issue concerns the criteria for determining whether a member of the Bar belongs to Punjab or Haryana. Is it dependent upon where one owns immovable property or is domiciled in? What if one owns no property in Punjab or Haryana, or has it in both states? Which state should one be treated as belonging to?

If domicile is what counts, where would lawyers settled in Chandigarh and practising at the High Court figure? They, in fact, constitute the most important and relevant group for the selection of candidates for the Bench. It has been heard to be said that it would depend on where they came from. There are, however, many lawyers who were born in Chandigarh and have never lived anywhere else. After all, it was almost 50 years ago that the High Court came to be established in Chandigarh. There are also many who had migrated to India from territories now forming part of Pakistan. There are then others who now permanently reside in Chandigarh. Doesn’t it stand to reason that with Chandigarh being the capital of both Punjab and Haryana, lawyers practising at the High Court and permanently settled in the city be deemed to be eligible for consideration for appointment as judges of the High Court in the quota of both Punjab and Haryana? The point is: do the powers that be see it that way? Apparently not, as they tend to brand some lawyers as falling in the Punjab quota and others in that of Haryana. Resultantly, some deserving elevation to the Bench are ruled out of consideration on the plea that they do not fall within the quota that has the vacancies and in their place, second or even third-rung lawyers are instead proposed to be appointed as judges merely because they are said to belong to the relevant quota.

It deserves mention here that though the High Court of Guwahati is the common High Court for seven states, there is no quota for any of these states in the matter of appointment of judges.

Seen in the context of justice — social, economic and political — that is enshrined in our Constitution, the very concept of quotas for appointments to the Bench cannot but be looked upon as an abhorrent aberration. The justice that the Constitution envisages is that administered by the best and none else.

In the second judges case, while dealing with the appointment of judges, a former Chief Justice of India, Justice A.M. Ahmadi, so rightly said: “Judges being the central figures where the administration of justice is concerned, there can be no doubt that great care must be taken in the choice of personnel for judgeship. The method of judicial appointments would have a great deal of bearing on the quality of the judiciary and its composition. The method of appointment must ensure that the most qualified candidate secures appointment.”

There is then the observation of Justice S.R. Pandian: “An erroneous appointment of an unsuitable person is bound to produce irreparable damage to the faith of the community in the administration of justice and to inflict serious injury to the public interest.”

The quality of judges on the Bench has a direct bearing on the role of the judiciary under the Constitution which, as Justice Kuldip Singh has put it, “is a pious trust reposed by the people. The Constitution and the democratic polity thereunder shall not survive, the day the judiciary fails to justify the said trust. If the judiciary fails, the Constitution fails and the people might opt for some other alternative.”

As is well known, the High Court at Chandigarh is under a crippling burden of long-pending and mounting arrears of cases. Such pendency is, in fact, being prolonged day by day. Very few, if any, of the cases admitted to hearing are being finally disposed of. The situation is such that the delay in the disposal of cases often makes even a successful litigant feel the loser. What is more, for most types of litigation the High Court is virtually the final court. Further, it is the High Court which has exclusive control over the subordinate judiciary.

To cope with such a situation and also to ensure that it does not perpetuate itself, there is no option but to adhere to the dictum of Chief Justice Gajendragadkar that none but the best be appointed judges of the High Court. Public interest too renders it imperative that only those who on their own merit deserve elevation to the Bench be appointed and not any others on considerations of quota.

— The writer is a former Chief Justice of the High Court of Allahabad.


A close look at power grid collapse
by G.K. Pandey

THE heat of the moment, any experienced person will tell you, is not the best time to come to any conclusions. So, don’t be taken in by Power Minister Suresh Prabhu when he tells you, as he did just a few days ago, that punitive action will be taken against those responsible for the complete collapse of the Northern Grid for close to 16 hours all over the North, and even upto 48 hours for large parts of Uttar Padesh. Mr Prabhu made these statements in the heat of the moment and chances are that if you review matters a month from now, you’ll find things exactly where they were: the power plants will continue to remain defaulters, as will the state electricity boards.

And why blame Mr Prabhu alone? He is not the first minister to do nothing. Even the late Rangarajan Kumaramangalam, who was considered a very dynamic minister, found that he could do nothing. A point brought out quite poignantly when the Eastern Grid collapsed in the middle of last year. When an enquiry was held by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission it found exactly the same problems that caused the Northern Grid to collapse. The Farakka power station was supplying much less power than it had committed to supply to the grid; the state electricity boards had disconnected their frequency relays that cut them off from the grid the moment they started drawing such excessive supply of power that the grid frequency dipped to alarming levels. This, even a rookie reporter covering the power sector beat will tell you, is such a common phenomenon, but no Power Minister has been able to do anything.

So why blame the Power Minister when, a month from now, we’ll find that the number of state electricity boards that have disconnected their underfrequency relays will be the same when we find that the number of power generators without free governors (that cut off power supplies from them when they produce so much excess power that the grid frequency rises to alarm levels) is much the same as today.

In the case of the Northern Grid, the CEA enquiry report has pointed out the problems. It has said the power grid was responsible for the crisis since it is in charge of managing the grid. It has pointed out that most of the state electricity boards had disconnected their underfrequency relays, and that some of the power generators didn’t have free governors!

And an interim report by the powergrid, the day after the collapse, made it clear that the UP government’s Anpara Thermal Power Station and the NTPC’s Singrauli station did not cut down power production to the levels they were instructed to by powergrid. This aggravated the grid instability and led to its ultimate collapse.

Change the names and the dates, and you could be reading the report into the collapse of the Eastern Grid. Or indeed the report of any of the eight or nine such grid collapses over the past decade.

The basic problem here, as ministers such as Rangarajan discovered, and Prabhu is in the process of doing the same, is that since it is a state subject, the role of the Centre is at best peripheral. States come to the Centre when they need funds, or perhaps a counter-guarantee, and once they get that, they give two hoots about what the Centre has to say. So, unless some kind of a consensus is hammered out at the National Development Council, I don’t see too much happening on this front, never mind the fulminations of Central ministers and bureaucrats.

And that doesn’t look like it is going to happen in a hurry for one very simple reason. It’ll cost the states too much to install the necessary systems like free governors. And until the states are in a position to begin cutting the huge losses they incur on account of theft (it is around a third or more of the total generation, the only way they can keep drawing excess power is to keep their underfrequency relays disconnected! Now the CERC has come up with some kind of a grid code with strict penalties. But I’d like to see some of these penalties being imposed and paid before I’m convinced that it’s working. Right now, I think the grid code is just an elaborate intellectual exercise (and a good one) by CERC experts.

I don’t wish to begin a lengthy dissertation on the bankruptcy of the state electricity boards, but just one number summarises, the extent of the problem. This year, according to the Economic Survey, the SEBs will have a combined loss of Rs 22,000 crore, as compared to just around Rs 4,000 crore a decade ago. If, for instance, they were able to wipe out these losses (why they can’t, as I said, is a long story) this year alone, India would be able to set up 5,000 MW of new power stations, or a large transmission network which would take care of a large part of the problem of grid failures.

Sadly, the power sector’s problems don’t stop here either. And that’s also why Mr Suresh Prabhu won’t be able to take any action for the grid’s collapse. Everyone is to blame. And I’m not even talking of the SEBs, or the power producers like Anpara and Singrauli. In Delhi, for instance, it is well-known that the state government has not cleared power plants like those in Bawana for over a decade. It is equally well known that due to completely erroneous projections, supplies of natural gas in the country have fallen far below targets. Naturally, the gas-based power plants which were to supply power have been unable to do so. In Delhi, for instance, the gas turbine units received just a little over half the gas they needed, so they couldn’t be started up when the grid collapsed.

The case of the Panipat refinery and its power plants are well-known to the residents of the area, but a few points bear repetition. It has been well over two years since the Indian Oil Corporation decided to set up a power plant along with its refinery, but the state government is yet to approve the power purchase agreement. And this is despite various meetings chaired by even the Chief Minister. It would, of course, be naive to lay the blame entirely on the state’s politicians and bureaucrats. It is not too clear to me why Indian Oil didn’t plan on the power plant when it began work on the refinery project a decade ago, since power plants and refinery projects have such tremendous synergy in terms of byproducts.

Some time ago one newspaper reported how Northern Railways had organised a “hawan” at one of its locations to ward off the bad luck that had been plaguing it for a very long time in terms of tracks failing, sheds falling and so on. Even at the risk of being branded facetious, or cynical, it may not be out of place to consider such “solutions” for the power sector as well — may be, God can help, even if Mr Prabhu is helpless! Of course, if you’re a non-believer, you may want to wait a while to see if the railways “hawan” helps reduce the number of accidents first.


Gulshan Kumar’s murder: the coloniser’s mind at play
by Anupam Gupta

LESS than three weeks after a grave judicial setback in the Gulshan Kumar murder case — the case that rocked Bollywood and established Bombay as the Sicily of India — the Mumbai police received a shot in the arm with the arrest last fortnight of Abdul Rauf Daud Merchant, a hitman of the Chhota Shakeel faction of the Dawood Ibrahim gang and the alleged assassin of the king of audio cassettes.

Arrested in Calcutta — now Kolkata — and faced with a production warrant from a Mumbai magistrate, Abdul Rauf is likely to throw much needed light on the mysterious involvement of popular music director Nadeem Akhtar, suspected to be the man behind the conspiracy to murder Gulshan Kumar.

The first half of the hyphenated duo of Nadeem-Shravan which took the youthful music world by storm in the 1990s, Nadeem slipped out of India in 1997 sometime before Gulshan Kumar was gunned down outside a Mumbai temple on August 12.

As the authorities in India prepared to take out extradition proceedings and invoked an Interpol alert, he was picked up by Scotland Yard in the early morning of September 17 and produced before a Bow Street magistrate, who released him on bail with stiff conditions.

It was a case of contract killing, Mumbai police commissioner R.H. Mendonca told a press conference on August 31, 1997. Nadeem feltthreatened by Gulshan Kumar’s rapidly rising sway over the music industry and felt that he was intentionally trying to ruin Nadeem’s career. He accordingly got in touch with underworld don and Dawood Ibrahim’s lieutenant Abu Salem in Dubai, paying about Rs 40 lakh for the foul deed.

It was a press conference that was to prove costly. For amongst the important reasons that led the British High Court last month to “discharge” Nadeem under the Extradition Act and refuse to return him to India was Mendonca’s statement that “Nadeem hired Abu Salem’s gang to eliminate Kumar (and that the police) have ample evidence to prove Nadeem’s involvement.”

“There was no legally admissible material available to the Mumbai police commissioner,” ruled the Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench in London on December 21, to warrant that statement. “This Court is placed on inquiry as to what motive there could have been for such an unsubstantiated statement. Indeed, even if grounds existed for such a belief, the making of such a statement would raise questions about its underlying motive.”

That might sound baffling to Indian ears. How and why a mere press conference should be accorded such importance, and viewed so suspiciously, as to vitiate a request for extradition made by one sovereign state to another is rather difficult to comprehend. Whether police officials, in their interaction with the media, are bound by the rules of evidence, and bound as strictly as trial judges hearing criminal cases is a question that surely admits of more than one answer.

But that is not the only disturbing aspect of the verdict, allowing Nadeem’s petition for habeas corpus and setting aside the finding of the metropolitan stipendiary magistrate at Bow Street that there was “sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case” against him for purposes of extradition.

The background material to which they had been referred, ruled Lord Justice Christopher Rose for himself and Justice George Newman, “does not establish (Nadeem’s contention) that every Muslim on trial in Mumbai, at the suit of a prosecution instigated by the Mumbai police, is at risk of being prejudiced by reason of his religion....”

That is with reference to Section 6 of the English Extradition Act of 1989, which provides that a person sought to be extradited shall not be returned if it appears that, if returned, he might be prejudiced at his trial or punished, detained or restricted in his personal liberty by reason of his religion.

From music director Nadeem Akhtar to former cricket captain Mohd Azharuddin, the plea of religious persecution is being increasingly employed in criminal cases as part of a strategy of protestation of innocence aimed as much at the public as at the law.

Transparently baseless and diversionary, it is well that the plea has been scotched in London in Nadeem’s case. Whatever be the other faults of the criminal justice system in India, religious persecution is not one of them.

And yet, reading minutely between the lines, it appears that the strategy has nonetheless succeeded in influencing the court into taking a very dim view of the Mumbai police and discharging Nadeem on other grounds.

The “cumulative effect” of all the circumstances, ruled Lord Justice Rose on December 21, “causes us to infer that the accusation of murder and conspiracy made against (Nadeem) is not made in good faith and in the interests of justice.”

“(W)e are also satisfied,” said the court, “that it would not be fair, and would be unjust, to return the applicant, because of the appearance of misbehaviour by the (Mumbai) police in pursuing their inquiries and the significant risk that the activities surrounding that misbehaviour have so tainted the evidence as to render a fair trial (in India) impossible.”

It would be dishonest to construe this as anything less than a stinging indictment of the Mumbai police, at a time when it is seriously engaged in rescuing Bollywood from its own misdeeds, if not of the Indian criminal justice system as a whole.

The only basis for this indictment, apart from Mendonca’s press conference of August 31, 1997, is the court’s strong conviction that the confession of accused-turned-approver Mohd Ali Sheikh, who had named Nadeem, was not actually his own confession but “the construct of another, placed above his signature after this been obtained from him on a blank sheet of paper”.

The finding would not be difficult of acceptance were it not for the fact that the confession was made before a judicial magistrate in Mumbai, after seemingly elaborate compliance with the safeguards enshrined in the Criminal Procedure Code for the purpose. Seemingly, for I do not have the evidence before me and would not wish to make the mistake of substituting, at first impression, one strong conviction for another.

But the impression that I have gathered is fully consistent with the finding recorded by the metropolitan stipendiary magistrate at Bow Street, upon a careful examination of the entire evidentiary record relating to the confession and the making of it.

“I find it impossible to say,” ruled the magistrate in 1999, that the judicial proceedings in Mumbai “were not conducted other than in a completely fair and exemplary manner.”

In this state of divergence of opinion between the committing magistrate under the Extradition Act and the High Court at London, the strictures passed by the latter against the Mumbai police appear not only odd but totally out of place.

Reading minutely between the lines (as I said before), a certain moral and intellectual superciliousness underlies the December 21 verdict.

A superciliousness that goes with an insulated imperial approach that can never be satisfied with the “quality” of justice in the colonies or former colonies.

I hate to say this for fear of being dubbed a “nationalist”, but I would be lying to you, and to myself, if I were to put it any other way.


People will turn to the Congress

CONGRESS spokesperson and youthful leader from Maharashtra Prithviraj Chavan observes that the Congress will reposition itself on economic reforms as the party has learnt from its past mistakes. He acknowledges that the Congress is weak in both Tamil Nadu and West Bengal where assembly elections are round the corner. He firmly believes that Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s credibility has suffered on the Ayodhya issue and people are beginning to see through BJP’s opportunistic and divisive agenda of staying in power at the Centre. He was emphatic in an interview with Prashant Sood that there was consensus about Sonia Gandhi leading the party and dismissed suggestions that she is a prisoner in the hands of a coterie around her. An engineer, the 52-year-old Chavan was forthright in saying that the Congress has a long way to go but it “will emerge stronger and better.”

Excerpts from the interview.

Q. What are the prospects of the Congress in the forthcoming Assembly elections?

A. The Congress has recently gone through the process of organisational elections in which many new and young partymen have been elected to state, district and village bodies. The party is going to focus on the problems of traditional Congress supporters, including the poor, downtrodden and women. It will also reposition itself on economic reforms with a refocused economic package.

Q. Is the party desperately trying to revive its traditional support base?

A. Not necessarily. In its introspection after the 1999 elections, there definitely was a question about reforms. These were perceived as being for the rich and not for the poor and the traditional support base of the party was not backing them wholeheartedly. Reforms have an indirect connection with the poor sections and the way to remove poverty is higher growth rate. But growth has to be equally distributed among all the sections.

Q. Are economic issues in one sense more relevant to general elections than Assembly polls?

A. People everywhere want basic needs like electricity, water and food to be met. There will, no doubt, be local issues in every state like drought and farmers problems. In some places like West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, we are very weak. We are not saying we will win the elections but we will keep the party flag flying. The Congress is the only all-India party in the country which got the largest number of votes in the last general elections. At the same time the communal agenda of the BJP will be exposed. In the last Lok Sabha session, the party successfully exposed the dual or double face of the BJP. Our focus on the resignation of three ministers caused panic in the BJP and forced the Prime Minister to make statements that he was compelled to retract later. His credibility has suffered. We are not trying to make political capital out of it but there will be no compromise on the issue of secularism. The BJP has tried to gain votes by communalising conflicts. We do not want the divisive agenda to succeed.

Q. Do you think all this will help the party?

A. Yes, this will. People will ultimately see the consistency of the Congress policies. They have seen the real face of the BJP and its opportunistism to continue in power. Our intention was not to create tension among the BJP allies but that has happened as you cannot fool all the people all the time.

Q. The rank and file is feeling alienated because the signals from the very top have failed to enthuse them?

A. Unlike the fifties when people in politics were mostly from the landed gentry and devoted all their time and energy to this avocation, today’s politicians can devote only part of their time. So, the polity we are looking at in the 21st century cannot be the same as in the pre-independence era. Today we are looking to the youth who watch television and read a lot. The emphasis has to be less on an agitational approach like bandh and gherao and more on intellectual appeal. In the past, mass contact was through rallies. Today it is being increasingly done through the media. The present time cannot be compared to that of Jawaharlal Nehru.

Q. But isn’t the Congress less popular among the educated youth as compared to the BJP, going by some opinion polls?

A. I don’t agree with that. The BJP had less percentage of votes than the Congress in the last election. There is also the anti-incumbency factor and the Congress having been in power for very long, might have suffered on that score. But people have seen the BJP and everywhere the party has ruled people have been disillusioned. The BJP came to power at the Centre only with unprincipled alliances and it had to pay a price for that in terms of not having state governments. I am not saying that people are very excited by the Congress. We have to go a long way but the Congress would come off better.

Q. Is Mrs Gandhi a prisoner in the hands of a coterie around her most of whom lack the requisite mass base?

A. There is nothing called a coterie. Every leader has a close group of advisers. They may be close due to geographical reasons or they could be office-bearers. Some leaders depend a little more on advisers but that’s not the case with Mrs Gandhi. She is more democratic than many leaders and has many committees to elicit opinion. Often we are criticised for having a large number of committees.




Sound is the first manifestation of the Absolute.... Music is Nada Yoga. The various musical notes have their own corresponding Nadis or subtle channels in the Kundalini Chakras; and music vibrates these Nadis, purifies them and awakens the psychic and spiritual power dormant in them. Purification of Nadis not only ensures peace and happiness of mind, but goes a long way in Yoga Sadhana and helps the aspirant to reach the goal of life very easily.

— Swami Shivananda, Bliss Divine, chapter 43.


The musician is very close to mysticism, far closer than the philosopher. In fact the music comes closest as far as expressing the truth is concerned because music is meaningful without any words.... The great music is that creates a synchronicity between you and itself, when your heart starts resonating in the same way, when you start pulsating in the same way.

In China they have the saying: "When the musician becomes perfect the throws away his instruments" — because they are no more needed. He can close his eyes, there and always there. And when the archer becomes perfect he throws away his bow and his arrows....

Real music helps you to transcend your biology, your physiology, your psychology. Real music takes you to the world of the beyond — what Buddha calls the farther shore, even beyond the beyond.

— Osho, Philosophia Ultima.


Music must rank as the highest of the fine arts — as the one which more than any other, ministers to human welfare.

— Herbert Spencer, "On the Origin and Function of Music".


Born of forms, rooted in forms

Feeding on forms, every changing its forms

Itself formless, the ego-ghost

—takes to its heel on enquiry.

— Sri Ramana Maharishi, Sat-Darshanam (Forty verses on Reality), 25-28.

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