Sunday, February 18, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Who will protect our protectors in khakhi?
By Prem Kumar
HERE is nothing funny about a reliable national paper reporting that the “security forces have taken over control of the police control room.” Police control rooms now need protection. 

Transfer has become a profitable industry
By Joginder Singh
HERE was a time when corruption was hidden behind the doors and curtains. To be considered even having a stain on the reputation was a mental torture. One could count the persons of doubtful integrity on one’s fingertips.

United Nations for the new millennium
By Rakshat Puri
UCH has been said during the last few weeks about the UN and people’s participation. A recent issue of the weekly newsletter published by the UN office in New Delhi dwelt on a number of sectors in which endeavours have been and are being made to persuade persons to participate in UN activities.


Benazir may be right 
February 17
, 2001
Budget bit by bit 
February 16
, 2001
Signals from Majitha
February 15
, 2001
Ayodhya will not go away
February 1
4, 2001
No saving grace this
February 1
3, 2001
More militant killings
February 1
2, 2001
Women in command
February 11
, 2001
Crisis time for Congress
February 10
, 2001
Police brutality
February 9
, 2001
Privatising the government! 
February 8
, 2001
Invitation to disaster
February 7
, 2001
Fresh signals from Kashmir 
February 6
, 2001

Menace called bureaucracy
By Shyam Ratna Gupta
DDRESSING the annual meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry at the end of 2000 in New Delhi, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee conceded candidly that there was need for a cut in the staff of government departments by at least 10 per cent by 2004.

Are you from the land of Kamasutra?
By Sonoo Singh
TRANGE are the ties that bind me to my fellow-country men (even those I do not know) while living in a foreign land. Of course, while in the UK, it is rather unlikely that you won’t see a turban-wallah crossing the road or an Asian woman crushed along side on the oppressively crowded tube or even a sari-clad masi serving you the daily dose of croissant and cappuccino.


Prabhu's blessings over Haryana
HE power sector reforms in Haryana which had taken a backseat, is back on the rails. If the state Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, is to be believed, the effort has required divine intervention — well almost.

  • Haryana first

  • Reddy at it again

  • Angry Angre

  • PMK vs DMK

  • Rajnikant in demand

  • Naik's Budget


By Harihar Swarup
The man who ushered in telecom revolution
O to remote areas and you will come across bright yellow STD\PCO boxes. Put through a call anywhere you like; within seconds you will be speaking to a desired destination or person. In small towns almost every street has an STD\ISD booth and the government has ambitious plan to carry forward the telecommunication revolution. 


By Humra Quraishi
Relief material continues to pour in

ELIEF material for the Gujarat quake-hit is continuing to come in from several countries. In fact on February 20 evening the French Embassy is arranging for “An Evening Of Solidarity Towards Gujarat” to collect for the quake victims. The French ambassador to India, Mr Bernard de Montterrand, is hosting an evening complete with music recitals by Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan and Ayaan Bangesh and Anoushka Shankar. 

  • ‘Best of Faiz’

  • Italian foodTop


Who will protect our protectors in khakhi?
By Prem Kumar

THERE is nothing funny about a reliable national paper reporting that the “security forces have taken over control of the police control room.” Police control rooms now need protection. This was at Srinagar after an attack by militants that led to a 13-hour gun battle resulting in the death of eight policemen and two suspected militants. Two militants had escaped.

That the militants were said to be a suicide squad is immaterial. After all, they killed many more persons than themselves. It is interesting that a senior police officer said that it made no difference and that the police morale was very high. Sure it does not make a difference, but to whom? The officer said that the police would carry on its fight against militants.

Who is carrying on the fight any way? Day after day after day, there are attacks by militants against the police — camps of security forces, police vehicles, pickets, headquarters and what not. Sometimes they are suicide attackers, at others just attackers. Generally, rather always, there are police casualties. The gun battles do not deter them from repeating attacks. The police morale, however, remains high, to quote the seniors. But is it really so?

The idea is not to depress the readers by referring to what goes on in Kashmir. The idea is not even to talk about Kashmir. What goes on there is for experts and analysts to understand. Who is waging the war? Or battle? Who is suffering the consequences? Who is ceasing fire? Who are dubbed as suicide squads? Who are actually committing suicide? These are matters best left to experts and not-so-experts sitting in governmental offices and TV studios. Who are ordinary mortals to comment on them?

Our objective in writing this is to recognise the sacrifice of those police and forces men who have been killed, are being killed or are going to be killed. The idea is to think about them and to care for them and to keep in mind all those who live to face these circumstances. One must talk about their morale and state of mind even otherwise. This could be anywhere in the country.

A Central Reserve Police Force jawan killed two colleagues and tried to kill himself in Kolkata the other day. There have been several cases of jawans attempting suicide in different parts of the country or going on an occasional shooting spree in a state of tension or depression. There may be several other cases of tension and depression that go unreported. Fighting militancy may or may not have anything to do with such jawans. Is there a need to know more about this phenomenon and to do something about it? A need to study the problem of stress among security men of different forces and to solve it? Such a need should be felt in a well-governed nation.

We know of an officer with a difference — Mr Gautam Kaul — who was Additional Director-General of the CRPF (now Director-General of the Indo Tibetan Border Police) who had studied the problem of stress among men of his force. He produced a revealing and useful report reflecting the seriousness of the problem. We have not heard about a follow-up.

A lot depends on the leadership of a force. It just so happens that leadership qualities in most fields of life in our country are a rare commodity. Maybe, leaders have their own problems, their own stresses and strains. A single good soul among them cannot do much to solve the problem. The system must pay attention to the problem and have a mechanism to solve it.

We have a variety of security forces — the police, armed police, Rapid Action Force, Border Security Force, Rashtriya Rifles, National Reserve Battalions, Central Industrial Security Force, CRPF, ITBP, NSG, SPG, and a host of intelligence agencies to coordinate with them. Each one has its role defined. The problem arises when the roles get mixed up or they get assignments out of their role, something for which they were neither trained nor equipped. How many of them can deal with terrorists and insurgents, how many with mobs? How do they get killed again and again in similar situations? And is that situation analysed for learning future lessons?

I know that the government is alert and wakes up whenever there is anything big. It is active and also acts on such occasions. Committees are formed, inquiries are ordered, reports are submitted, studied and discussed. More committees are formed. Then it is time to go to sleep again and wait for the next big thing to happen. What is there in the death of a few of our own people?

Every time police or paramilitary men are killed there are statements of sympathy, there are proper funerals and there is compensation to the families. The ‘martyrs’ are also remembered on a particular day in the year. But what is done to prevent such deaths?

In many countries a single such death would cause a commotion. In our country, even hundreds of such deaths do not have required impact, possibly because they occur in instalments.

The reaction and response do not go beyond formal condolences and newspaper headlines. How many of those who matter think of this problem as a matter of life and death for the nation? In the absence of such a thought it remains a matter of death and death for these protectors of the nation.


Transfer has become a profitable industry
By Joginder Singh

THERE was a time when corruption was hidden behind the doors and curtains. To be considered even having a stain on the reputation was a mental torture. One could count the persons of doubtful integrity on one’s fingertips. Now all finger and toe-tips would be insufficient for this exercise. Lord Krishna says in Gita that people follow the leader no matter where he leads them. It was for this reason that the scriptures had prescribed high standard for those who ruled. Ancient Kings and Emperors have been replaced in the democracy by the prime minister, chief ministers, ministers and others occupying public offices. Kautilya said in Arthsastra: “In the happiness of subjects lies the King’s happiness, in their welfare, his welfare; what pleases himself the king shall not consider as good, but whatever pleases his subjects, the king shall consider good”. The duties of king were prescribed: “To punish the wicked, to honour (protect) the good, to enrich the treasury (exchequer) by just methods, to be impartial towards the litigants and to defend the kingdom.”

What Kautilya prescribed was the ideal, which probably could not have been achieved in his time. In the vast polity, which India is, all political leaders irrespective of the party or parties had to compromise from the beginning. With a few exceptions, no minister has fitted all qualifications prescribed as under by Kautilya. “A native (citizen), having good family background, pure in character, endowed with excellent conduct, influential, well-trained in arts, possessed of foresight, wise, of strong memory, bold, eloquent, skilful, intelligent, full of devotion, endowed with strength, health and bravery, free from procrastination and fickle-mindedness, unexcited, affectionate and free from hatred and enmity is, qualified to be appointed as Amatya (Minister)”.

For the past 50 years, we as a nation have been fighting with scandals. Right from the time of Nehru, who was both an idealist and a missionary, the country has been facing one scandal or the other. We, as independent Nation, opened our account with the LIC scandal involving Mundhras, then graduated to the jeep scandal during Nehru’s time. We also had Das Commission at that time looking into the conduct of late Sardar Partap Singh Kairon. In all fairness, it must be said that neither Nehru nor Kairon were personally involved. After Nehru’s death, there had been a progressive increase in deterioration of public probity. To recall briefly, we had the rags import scandal, in 1970s in which almost new clothes were imported in the name of converting them to shoddy yarn for hosiery industry. It was followed by sugar import scandal involving the State Trading Corporation beef tallow import scandal. The years that followed surpassed the immediate three decades of post independence, with HDW submarine, Bofors, airbus industries, housing allotment, gas agencies and petroleum allotment and the famous Telecommuni-cation scandal to recount only a few. States also did not lag behind with Bihar topping with fodder scam, bitumen scams and medical scams.

In this climate even those in the private sector did not lag behind with Harshad Mehta leading with a rough tally of Rs 8200 crore, followed closely by CRB scandal of Rs 1032 crore. There plunder was possible due to connivance or indifference or contributory negligence of those charged with the duty to prevent the public being taken for a ride. It was for the first time that an allegation had been made by a private individual of having paid crores of currency to the then Prime Minister.

We have moved far away from the prescription given by Kautilya. No single individual can be faulted for this and no single cause can be held responsible for this.

It is the general tendency of tolerance by everyone on whatever is going on. When I joined service in 1961, it was taken for granted that honesty was not only the in thing, but was the only thing. The elected representatives would once in a while make some recommendations. It was open to the officials to reject the same without inviting the wrath of the day. I recall only one instance of the then Chief Minister of Karnataka getting annoyed with an all-India services officer. He told his secretary to have that particular officer dismissed from service immediately. The secretary told him: “Sir it cannot be done”. The Chief Minister said: “You are saying so because you are one of them and you want to help. I will tell the Chief Secretary myself, if you are that helpless”. The Chief Secretary told him: “Sir, under the all-India services rules, first charges will have to be framed against the officer. Then after a properly conducted inquiry, the matter will have to be referred to the Home Minister. They will take a view and then refer the matter to the Union Public Service Commission. After the advice of the Commission is received, only then will some Presidential order be passed. The officer is upright. How can I frame charges against him on the ground that the Chief Minister is annoyed? You would then be cited as a witness and the officer will have every right to cross-examine you. I will have to give specific grounds for taking action”. The CM left the matter there and the concerned officer retired as a Governor of a state.

Now transfer has become a profitable industry. In one state, the Chief Minister transferred 144 IPS and 102 other officers within 15 days of his assuming office. Of course, the Chief Minister did not know even 20 per cent of them personally. It was the annoyance of the local satraps that precipitated those transfers.

Many local leaders with clout not only threaten to transfer officials, they also have a fee for allowing officials to stay put. Most officers compromise, either for enriching themselves or in the interest of the education of their children. Those who can, move out of the states to the Centre, where transfers are done generally as per the norms. Only the inconvenient ones are shunted out.

The problem of corruption control is not impossible to solve, if there is a will and the political compulsions are kept under a reasonable check. More than that we need to pay our rulers including the ministers and MPs well so that they do not resort to selling their telephone or gas coupons to make extra buck. At present the central minister and state ministers get less salary than that of a deputy secretary to the government. But the hidden perks like the free car, gardeners and spacious bungalows cost lakhs, along with a lavish entertainment allowance. Let a minister be paid 2 lakh a month and the MP about a lakh. This should be the total sum and no more. The government should not foot any bill either of telephone or electricity. As most of our politicians are full-time, not having any independent source of income, it is worthwhile to pay them more, so that there is no justification whatsoever for them to barter away their influence for a few pieces of silver.

It should not so happen that the elected representative get both, higher salaries and perks from the corporations under their control. It is generally seen that apart from the official vehicle earmarked for a minister or a secretary, half a dozen extra vehicles are requisitioned from either the attached or subordinate offices. It is because the officials heading those organisations want no problem. The government system is such that there is no accountability in the higher echelons. The boss does not have to give any reasons or justify his inefficiency. It appears that the rules and laws are made for field organisations and not for those who make them. The present Central government should set an example by introducing accountability at all levels. It should not encourage sycophants to get away by telling only those things, which men in power want to listen.

— The writer is former Director, CBI.


United Nations for the new millennium
By Rakshat Puri

MUCH has been said during the last few weeks about the UN and people’s participation. A recent issue of the weekly newsletter published by the UN office in New Delhi dwelt on a number of sectors in which endeavours have been and are being made to persuade persons to participate in UN activities.

In the FAO-related programmes, for example, “participation by rural people in the institutions that govern their lives is a basic human right”. Similarly, there are the total literacy campaign of the National Literacy Mission; the project on cultural heritage and promotion of understanding in Punjab; project relating to HIV/AIDS; the project relating to drug control; and to promotion of respect for human rights. All this is, of course, a welcome activity.

But everything considered, these are fringe areas, as it were. People’s participation in the core areas of policy decisions and political discussions that take place in the UN is much more necessary. The UN through its policy decisions and political discussions governs the lives of people and societies everywhere — and peoples’ participation in these, by the UN’s own suggestion, “is a basic human right”. The UN policy decisions which follow political debate take place in the General Assembly and the Security Council. But in the General Assembly and in the Security Council only governments of member-countries are directly represented. The world’s peoples are not represented in a similar, direct way.

It is difficult to accept that the governments — to some extent even democratically elected governments — that represent the nations in the UN General Assembly and the Security Council are really representative of those who constitute those nations. In democratically elected governments, only the majorities that voted the parties which form government might seem represented. Even they may disagree with their government’s approach and attitude in the UN. In this situation, it seems necessary that the views of people be heard in the UN from their own directly-elected representative.

Does anyone in and outside the UN expect seriously, the military dictatorships or authoritarian regimes in countries such as China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Libya and other such member-states to be mindful of the ends for which “we the people of the United Nations” constituted the organisation? In Chinese-occupied Tibet, in restive “Chinese” Turkistan, in the Falun Gong organisation, and possibly other Chinese groups and China-ruled territories, people would have relevant answers to this question. In Pakistan, people who are suffering at the hands of a combination of military dictatorship and “Islamic” fundamentalist groups would have much to say about “faith in basic human rights”.

In the discussion and debate for policy and action, the General Assembly may

— subject to any restricting provision elsewhere — recommend in accordance with Article 14 “measures for the peaceful adjustment of any situation, regardless of origin, which it deems likely to impair the general welfare or friendly relations among nations, including situations resulting from a violation of the provisions of the present Charter setting forth the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations”. And, says Article 24, “in order to ensure prompt and effective action by the United Nations, its Members confer on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and agree that in carrying out its duties under this responsibility the Security Council acts on their behalf”.

The Security Council has five permanent members each of which enjoys veto power to neutralise any decision. India discovered this the hard way when the Nehru government complained to the UN about Pakistan’s invasion of Jammu-Kashmir in the garb of “Pashtun raiders”. The issue was never discussed or debated on its merits. That “tradition” has continued. The Preamble to the Charter has been reduced to a piece of worthless paper scribbled over with inconsequential observations. Is there any way of giving to the United Nations urgent contemporary relevance and democratic accent? — Any way of giving it popular participatory significance?

There is a way — but that way would require a courageous overhaul of the organisation’s constitution, a bold introduction of major constitutional reforms in the face of unwilling member-governments with vested interest in the status quo. A chamber of governments already exists. Why not also a chamber of people’s representatives, directly elected under UN supervision, from constituencies delimited by UN agencies? This, in all member-countries of the United Nations without exception — in China, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and every other member-country, with the government and other authorities disallowed to interfere. How many member-governments would have the nerve to allow their people a genuinely free election campaign and UN-supervised voting in UN-delimited constituencies?

Another aspect of the Organisation’s constitutional overhaul would have to do with the Security Council. Why should there be permanent and non-permanent members of the Council? Why should any Council member have right of veto? Why should the Security Council not be elected for a fixed term, and be responsible to a bicameral General Assembly? There should be many related aspects to think over and discuss.

A re-hauling of the UN constitution to bring about these and other changes in this context has long been overdue.

In the half-century gone since the UN Charter came into force, the situation in and among nations has changed beyond recognition. In today’s circumstances it is imperative that people participate in a second UN chamber through their own directly elected representatives in the organisation’s debates and procedures.

Is there any alternative to an additional, people’s chamber in the United Nations? The new millennium provides a propitious starting point. — Asia Features


Menace called bureaucracy
By Shyam Ratna Gupta

ADDRESSING the annual meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) at the end of 2000 in New Delhi, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee conceded candidly that there was need for a cut in the staff of government departments by at least 10 per cent by 2004. He added that “the size of the bureaucracy” was “larger than it should be” and outlined the broad parameters of a voluntary retirement scheme (VRS) for government officials of all ranks in New Delhi.

The bureaucratic “pyramid” from Secretary-General/Principal Secretary down to Upper Division and Lower Division Clerks and Assistants—often derided as “super babus” and “babus”—clutters the governing apparatus. These bureaucrats, with notable but rare exceptions, look after their own needs, perks and comforts rather than of the taxpayers whom they should serve. More often than not they boss over them, assuming supercilious airs and exhibiting superior attitude towards all those who approach them. The Gandhian dictum of service to the people is hardly, if ever, remembered or translated into action.

While the Prime Minister has accurately diagnosed the malaise from which the government departments suffer, it is imperative that the procedures and service ethos should now be streamlined and reformed for the welfare of the people. Soon after Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, had realised the need for reform of the administrative system in the Central Secretariat of the Government of India.

An expert, Paul Appleby, was invited to study and recommend reform of the system, which paved the way for creation of the Organisation of Methods (O & M) Division in the 1950s. But this well-meaning reform plan fell on infertile and inhospitable ground because it was to be grafted on an alien administrative structure and was to be implemented by precisely those it sought to displace and “educate” in the principles of good, Gandhian system of governance.

Nehru, the darling of the masses, almost single-handedly covered up the shortcomings and lapses of his officials by his ardent desire for public good whenever he could do so. He was always accessible and attended to his correspondence himself rather than pass on the burden to a worthy official, a glorified “babu” adept at doling out negative responses to all the people, young and old, and taking shelter behind the curtain of officialdom. Nehru disfavoured the outmoded practice of officious “chaprasis” and argued that officers should carry their own files from one desk to another and, at one stage, stopped recruitment of peons. But he was persuaded to withdraw this order because illiterate and semi-illiterate persons had also to be provided with employment in government offices. In the 1950s, the O & M Division was disbanded and its “alien” charts and “proformas” were withdrawn, thanks to the burgeoning bureaucracy.

Once in a while, Nehru did defy the bureaucratic niceties; for instance, when he was the honoured Chief Guest to inaugurate the Bokaro Dam, he climbed down from the dias and called out a Santhal woman from the crowd of thousands to take his place to press the lever to release water from the dam. All the same, he was a “captive” of the bureaucracy he had inherited from the British imperialists.

In June, 1964, Lal Bahadur Shastri, who succeeded Nehru, once while trying to get through to senior bureaucrats, was told that the “great, busy” officials could not be reached because they were “in a meeting”— a response almost every citizen is greeted with when he calls to speak to some one to give vent to his grievances.

Shastri issued orders that the meetings, usually over cups of tea accompanied by banter and badinage, should be held between 2.30 pm and 5.30 pm, and these officers, whatever their rank or office, should respond to calls on them personally.

This “ban” on “meetings” and insistence that files should not be kept pending for more than one week at any desk, were respected for a while, though hardened bureaucrats scoffed at these measures. After Shastri’s untimely death on 10 January, 1966, they went back to their “meetings” and lethargic ways.

Since then, bureaucracy has continued to pursue its own ways unmindful of the decorum, discipline or dedication to work and welfare. During these 35 years, bureaucracy has multiplied many times, an illustration of the “law” that work increases in proportion to the work force. Today, all government offices are proliferating in the huge half-a-dozen bhavans, each with 500-600 rooms in multi-storeyed buildings dotting the Central Vista.

It is now time, as the Prime Minister indicated, to prune the staff and level the bureaucratic pyramid, not only to reduce the burden of the public exchequer but also to tone up the efficiency of the officialdom. A suggestion that comes to mind is to insist that all government officials should receive telephone calls themselves and not via their personal staff, especially as there is now the mobile-phone system in operation. Similarly, ministers should be directly available to people, since they are, in the Gandhian language, “public servants,” not “masters.” Over a period of time it should be possible gradually to combat the malaise in the national structure if the wrongdoers know that their voices of intrigue and subterfuge could be heard in the corridors of power.

Finally, it is imperative to democratise the governing apparatus and bring it closer to people. Progressively, ethics of governance, business and commercial morality and concern for people all over the world should dawn on us

E&OE: Supporting staff and ministers’ personal staff positions vary. A sketch map of the “bureaucratic pyramid” in New Delhi with non-gazetted supporting staff:

Lower Division Clerk (LDC).

Upper Division Clerk (UDC).

Assistant (non-gazetted staff).

Section Officer (and LDC/UDC).

Under Secretary (Assistant and UDC and Stenographer).

Deputy Secretary (PA or Steno and Assistant/UDC).

Joint Secretary (PA/Assistant/UDC and LDC).

Additional Secretary (PS/PA/Assistant/UDC and LDC).

Special Secretary (as with Additional Secretary).

Secretary (PS/ PA/ Section Officer/ Assistant/ UDC).

Principal Secretary or Secretary-General (five or six supporting staff members).

Minister’s “personal” office (two or three officials) and ministerial officials (two or three officers).

Note 1: The sketch map does not include Class IV officials— the ubiquitous, helpful peons who carry “files” from one desk to another and serve their “masters” faithfully. They are the notable symbols of “employment-oriented approach” of the government.

Note 2: Minister’s personal staff — five to seven members of various categories and calibres — differs from time to time.

— The writer, a retired Indian Information Service and Indian Foreign Service official, has served as a civilian officer in British and Independent India.


Are you from the land of Kamasutra?
By Sonoo Singh

STRANGE are the ties that bind me to my fellow-country men (even those I do not know) while living in a foreign land. Of course, while in the UK, it is rather unlikely that you won’t see a turban-wallah crossing the road or an Asian woman crushed along side on the oppressively crowded tube or even a sari-clad masi serving you the daily dose of croissant and cappuccino.

So while I sip my cappuccino and listen to the Sunrise Radio, an Asian radio station, I sway to the latest Sonu Nigam hits and listen to aunties and uncles making requests for their favourite Amitabh Bachchan songs and their pledges for helping the victims of the Gujarat earthquake.

And I share that Auntyji’s grief for the tragedy that has hit my country —remember the time when after hearing the news about the earthquake rang up my parents, first thing in the morning, and even asked about distant cousins and far-away relatives. At the same time I also share the Uncleji’s choice of music request at that point, Pankaj Udhas’ “Chitthi Ayee Hai”. The awful longing to be at home does not allow me to finish off my crispy croissant.

I had to get up and wander around the streets of Soho in search of one of those numerous Indian volunteers collecting money to help those hit by the earthquake. Yes, these days such volunteers can be seen everywhere. Even old women, struck by arthritis, can be seen sitting on chair right in the middle of big shopping centres, waving their placards asking for help and money for Gujarat.

I haven’t had a croissant and cappuccino for a long time now, guess I like to put that money in one of the many boxes saying ‘Help Gujarat’. Both, the woman collecting donation and I smile at each other and I know that home is not too far away.


Are you from the land of Kamasutra and do you have a dodgy passport? And by the way what language do you think in?

My passport is due to expire next month. For me the ouster of Peter Mandelson, the former Northern Ireland secretary, over the controversy involving his involvement with one of the Hinduja brothers’ passport, could not have come at a more inappropriate time.

Yes, my brown skin in some way unites me to Srichand Hinduja, the one whose passport application led to Mandelson’s downfall, but I sure do not feel his distress when the media is assaulting both him and ousted minister.

Recently, a Liberal Democrat while talking on the radio said that most persons now assume that all Asians have dodgy passport.

I do not have a Mandelson lobbying for my permanent settlement in the country, but then I cannot escape the sniggers that follow when I say that it is time for me to apply for permanent settlement in the UK.

No, I do not have a dodgy passport. Interestingly, this discussion eventually leads to Kamasutra! Anyone straight from the land of Kumbh mela, where hundreds of ascetics roam around without a shred of cloth on them and without anyone raising an eyebrow, has to be all knowledgeable about Kamasutra.

The Kumbh was given an extensive coverage by the entire British national Press and even some fashion magazines carried some extravagant pictures of the mela. Of course the TV had a large audience glued to the sets to watch this “exotic phenomena.”

This was later followed with the broadcast of the erotic film Kamasutra and just last week Sanjiv Bhaskar, a well-known Indian comedian in the UK, presented a programme ‘Position Impossible’ on Channel 4, to trace the roots of the Kamasutra. Sanjiv did not seem to get too far with the tracing of the roots business, and I am none the wiser. Though it was fascinating to watch that finally someone was talking about it as being something more than just that “dirty book”.

Still get stumped when an Englishman asks me, “So you have come here all the way from the land of Kamasutra? I have the book with me, I know. But can you remember all those positions?

“And by the way, you speak good English, but what language do you think in?”


Remember, a couple of years ago when all of us rushed along to temples to offer Lord Ganesha milk, since there were reports of him actually drinking it? Now, a couple of weeks ago, an Asian woman in the UK reported the appearance of Krishna’s first cousin, Lord Neminath, in a carton of Philadelphia’s cream cheese brand.

The woman is reported to have said that she saw the Lord’s face “screaming” at her when she saw Lord Neminath in the cream cheese.

The woman’s only regret was that she squashed the Lord’s nose when she was peeling off the foil!

And no she did not eat the cheese. It was later to be immersed in the water somewhere. The holy Thames?


Till some time ago, an interesting debate led the news headline. The BBC Director-General, Greg Dyke described the corporation as “hideously white” in a radio interview, pointing towards the fact that not many brown or black skinned were represented within the BBC.

This has led a coalition of Black and Asian print journalists into launching a media internship programme, which will aim at boosting recruitment from the ethnic minorities.

The coalition, called the Creative Collective, has secured £10,000 from the Freedom Forum in Washington for three-month internships. These paid internships will be offered on national and local newspapers and magazines.

Recruitment has already started and the scheme, which has already secured the support of some high-profile journalists and media owners, will be launched in July.

Any applicants?


Prabhu's blessings over Haryana

THE power sector reforms in Haryana which had taken a backseat, is back on the rails. If the state Chief Minister, Mr Om Prakash Chautala, is to be believed, the effort has required divine intervention — well almost.

‘‘Prabhu ke kripa se the power sector of Haryana is looking up’’, Mr Chautala said. It later dawned that the Chief Minister was not invoking the blessings of the Almighty but was in fact heaping praises on the Union Power Minister, Mr Suresh Prabhu.

Haryana first

While papa Chautala can take pride in putting the power sector reforms back on the track, his sons, Ajay and Abhay, too have been doing quite well for themselves. Mr Ajay Chautala has been accorded the pride of place in question hour in the Lok Sabha He will shoot off the first question to the Home Minister, Mr L.K.Advani. The multi-point starred question deals with the problem in Kashmir and details about the ceasefire there.

The other achievements for the brothers has been that Ajay has been elected President of the Table Tennis Federation of India while his younger brother, Abhay, has bagged the prestigious post of President in the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation.

Reddy at it again

Mr S Jaipal Reddy, who had been long the spokesman of the Janata Dal, has become an instant hit in his new avtar as chief spokesman of the Congress. He got an instant applause and cheer from newspersons even before AICC media department Chairperson Ambika Soni formally introduced Mr Reddy to the media. Jaipal, who is loved by the media for his ‘‘off the record’’ juicy and newsy comments, struck an instant rapport with the media saying: ‘‘I shall be at your service round the clock. Of course I will speak on record.’’

On day one as Congress spokesman, Mr Reddy lived up to to the expectations of the media — as a man with a good sense of humour. Asked by a correspondent to list the problems confronted by Mr Vajpayee, Mr Reddy in his inimitable style said: ‘Rright knee, left knee and adva(knee).’’

Angry Angre

Mr Sambhaji Rao C.Angre, who was appointed executor of the will by the late Rajmata Vijayraje Scindia, has known all the leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, including Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, for many decades. It is no great surprise as Mr Angre, who is popularly known as Sardar Angre, worked as a personal assistant to the Rajmata for at least 35 years. Mr Vajpayee who grew up in Gwalior has been known to Sardar Angre from his childhood.

The other day talking to newspersons, the Sardar lamented that even the BJP Ministers were no different to Congress Ministers as they were leading a life of luxury while the country was suffering from poverty and untold miseries. ‘‘Imagine, while Gujarat is reeling under the devastation caused by an earthquake, the BJP President, Mr Bangaru Laxman, is holding rallies and is allowing himself to be crowned,’’ Sardar Angre said in an angry tone. ‘‘I have written to Laxman to stop this drama and attend to the miseries of the people,’’ he said.


The resignation of PMK ministers from the Vajpayee Cabinet has queered the pitch of the war of words between the DMK and PMK in Tamil Nadu which is now witnessing high-pitched verbal battles in view of the coming Assembly elections. PMK leaders, who have already put their election-fighting machinery in top gear, accuse the DMK of showing its ‘‘overbearing attitude’’ even in the case of Ministers' resignation which were lying with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for some days.

Since the resignations were accepted after senior DMK leader Murasoli Maran met the Prime Minister, the PMK leaders allege that the DMK had a role in it. They say that the DMK threatened to pull out of the NDA if the resignation of the PMK Ministers were not accepted immediately. Though it was denied that Mr Maran's meeting with the Prime Minister had any link with the Ministers' resignation, the PMK is not willing to see it as mere coincidence.

Rajnikant in demand

With political battlelines being drawn in Tamil Nadu for the coming Assembly elections, both camps led by the AIADMK and the DMK are trying to woo popular cine star Rajnikant to their side. Last time, Rajnikant was with the DMK so was the renowned media star Cho Ramaswamy of Tughlak fame, who was brought into the Rajya Sabha by none other than the NDA Government as a nominated member.

While sources maintain that Cho has already distanced himself from the DMK, Rajnikant is still an open bet and both camps are using all channels to bring the celluloid star on their side.

Naik's Budget

Petroleum Minister Ram Naik, who lords over budgets worth thousands of crore of rupees of oil PSUs, has a knack to evade uncomfortable questions.

The Minister, when asked about the Union Budget the other day, retorted that the Budget allocation for his Ministry was in fact the lowest. He gets only Rs 9 crore and a staff of 325. Now that is not saying much.

— Contributed by Satish Misra, T.V.Lakshminarayan, Prashant Sood, S.Satyanarayan, Gaurav Choudhury and P.N. Andley)Top



The man who ushered in telecom revolution
By Harihar Swarup

GO to remote areas and you will come across bright yellow STD\PCO boxes. Put through a call anywhere you like; within seconds you will be speaking to a desired destination or person. In small towns almost every street has an STD\ISD booth and the government has ambitious plan to carry forward the telecommunication revolution. To begin with, the booths are proposed to be converted into a one-stop information site — courtesy net.

Compare the stride in communication technology to the situation obtaining in the late seventies or even the early eighties when telephones were symbol of status; getting one meant waiting for a period that could easily stretch into years. Also the black, weighty instruments were erratic and one had to struggle to put through even local calls. Booking trunk calls and waiting for them to mature was virtually a nightmare. Then landed on the scene an India-born prodigy, Sam Pitroda, who had established himself as a telecom pioneer in America. He decided to return to his motherland in the hope of turning the country around.

Love for the motherland is common sentiment among most of Indians thriving and living in alien land but few muster up courage to live up to their conviction. Sam was not one of them. He pushed his belief in his motherland with missionary zeal, caught the imagination of the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and ushered in a communication revolution in India.

Sam Pitroda, who was virtually hounded out of out India by the ungrateful regime which succeeded Rajiv Gandhi, is returning to the motherland for the second time to help strengthen the Railways, the country’s lifeline. He will head a three-member advisory committee to initiate a comprehensive process of modernisation of the Railways and for launching a new initiative for resource mobilisation. Sam’s exit more than a decade ago was marked by sharp differences with an over-ambitious Communication Minister of that time.

Years later, Sam was reported as saying that the telecommunication business was plagued by rampant corruption. A man of his vision and commitment, evidently, could not have co-existed with depraved political masters and a degenerated bureaucracy. When someone asked his views about the working of the Telecom (Communication) Ministry, his two-word reply was: ‘‘Scrap it’’. Disappointed Sam returned to his adopted home — the shores of the great lakes in the USA. Later he became Chairman and CEO of WorldTel.

Among his decade-long achievements in India was setting up of a scientific society which has come to be known as C-Dot (Centre for the Development of Telematics). This government supported institution was vested with total authority and flexibility. C-Dot managed to attract the best of Indian talents and indigenously produced telecom switches which were the exclusive preserve of multinational giants. The institution was virtually destroyed after Sam left and it became a part of the government department.

Sam says the WorldTel’s experience in India has taught the organisation many lessons, main among them was the fact that material for the implementation of a telecommunication system had to be locally made. This would help in creation of jobs but, firstly, this whole complex operation needed commitment from the government. He holds the view that the key to linking IT and development, with specific reference to India, is to set concrete goals.

The telecom genius has a dream — make the world literate with the help of the Internet in five years. ‘‘The Internet can be a huge help in bringing about quality of life changes in India,’’ he told a meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council. ‘‘If India needed water pumps, for instance, with the use of the Internet, pumps could quickly be installed”.

Also Sam’s emphasis has always been on setting a single-point programme to achieve a specific objective like ensuring availability of water or implementing literacy projects. According to him information and communication technology was a different concept in India. While in the West there was no connection between improved quality of life and IT, in India the two were deeply connected.

Sam’s original name is Satyam Pitroda. Americans had difficulty in pronouncing the Sanskrit name so they started calling him ‘‘Sam’’; Satyam became Sam. He graduated in physics in India and migrated to the USA as far back as 1964 and joined GTE Corporation in Chicago. He developed and patented there more than 50 products, including NOVEL switching system. Later, he formed a company named Wescom Switching with two colleagues. He sold Wescom to Rockwell International and in 1980 and secured a personal fortune. He then returned to his homeland as Telecom Adviser to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

India is indebted to this charismatic professional for its telecom revolution. Railways can now look forward to a giant leap forward under Satyam’s leadership.Top


Relief material continues to pour in
By Humra Quraishi

RELIEF material for the Gujarat quake-hit is continuing to come in from several countries. In fact on February 20 evening the French Embassy is arranging for “An Evening Of Solidarity Towards Gujarat” to collect for the quake victims. The French ambassador to India, Mr Bernard de Montterrand, is hosting an evening complete with music recitals by Pandit Ravi Shankar, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Amaan and Ayaan Bangesh and Anoushka Shankar. There will also be auctions/sales of artistic works, tambola sessions where several well known French companies have contributed heavily in the form of gifts. And perhaps the best aspect is that the proceeds from the sales and entry tickets (Rs 2000 per person to be collected from the Embassy itself) will be handed over to NGOs like SEWA and Drapana Academy and not to any of those government agencies. And there is heavy aid coming from the Gulf countries too. Libya’s ambassador to India, Dr Nuri El- Fituri Al-Madani, told me that besides the majority of countries giving cash donations, Qatar has provided for the mobile hospitals running in Bhuj, Saudi Arabia has supplied 1200 tents, UAE has provided several thousand blankets, together with hundreds of knitting machines and tents worth Rs 1.6 million, six plane loads of medical equipment have already come from Libya and together with them the chief of the Red Cross in Libya also landed to help in relief operations .....Before I move ahead I must mention that suddenly there seems to be much interaction between the MEA and the Arab countries and the latest focus will be King of Morroco’s visit to India — starting on February 23. More details in next week’s column .

‘Best of Faiz’

79-year-old writer poet and former vice-chancellor of Hyderabad University, Professor Shiv K. Kumar, has that old world charm about him that’s rare to find in today’s milieu and so when he telephoned that his latest book, “Best Of Faiz” (UBS), —translation of Faiz’s poetry into English and Devnagari (in the Roman script) — would be released by the Vice-President of India. Mr Krishan Kant, on February 13, I spontaneously agreed to attend the function. Little realising that being late by a few minutes would take me back to the inflexible discipline of bygone schooldays, where one was made to wait outside the gates and nowhere near the venue hall for being slightly late! A pity that even the basic courtesy seems lacking in today’s setup, especially in places where one hadn’t given up hope, as yet. Anyway, the next day I did manage to meet Professor Kumar for over half an hour, for a radio interview where he recited not only the best of Faiz but even the best and worst of his own life and times which perhaps prodded him to write on “I have gone through pain — several failed relationships, a divorce, a litigation yet each setback strengthened me ..and writing has been therapeutic.” And to Prof Kumar’s credit are four novels, several collections of poems, short stories, plays and this year he has been honoured with the Padma Bhushan for Literature. And though I am tempted to quote at least some lines from this book ‘The Best Of Faiz’ but as always space constraints begin to haunt. However, let me turn a trifle thick-skinned and share with you these lines from Faiz’s poem titled — ‘Speak Up’ — “Speak up for your lips are not sealed/And your words are still your own/This upright body is yours/speak while your soul is still your own...Speak up now, for time’s running out/before your body and mind fade away/tell us, for truth is not yet dead....”

Or, these lines from another poem of his titled “Hold On, Restless Heart”. Let the frenzy of your lovers swell ever so high/let your taverns for once be real/Soon will be the supremacy of goods and chatted be over/as also the heavy burden of cares/even if the chains keep on clanking forever ..”

Italian food

The Italian Cultural Centre has flown down a group of 15 artists and chefs to give performances in the traditional Renaissance regalia followed by dinner with a special menu. And on the afternoon of February 15 the Italian ambassador to India, Benedetto Amari hosted a special lunch at Maurya’s rooftop restaurant. A lunch complete with dances and music (together with those special musical instruments) and food from that era. There were also readings, which in turn were complete with details of which dish consisted of what particular ingredients and when it was to be partaken of.

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