Thursday, March 15, 2001,
Chandigarh, India



Budget with an eye on elections

THE leading industrialists of India have given nine marks out of ten to the Union Finance Minister for his budget which, they think, is likely to boost the country's economy and release the undercurrents of growth. They are happy over reduction in surcharges, availability of cheap credit, lowering of excise duties on motorised vehicles, soft drinks and raising of import duties to check dumping. They praise the initiative taken by the government in privatisation of some profit-making PSUs (the case of Balco).

However, the track record of our industrialists in the past 50 years or so has been dismal. They have thrived not on their entrepreneurship or on the quality of the goods they have produced, but by manufacturing poor quality goods on a restrictive scale. They have worked behind high tariff walls and a ban on imports. For decades they have enjoyed the fruits of a seller's market.

Now with the entry of foreign entrepreneurs with their own brands of goods and technology, our men have turned themselves into compradors and have entered into collaboration with them. While the foreigners produce, our men earn their commission. The truth is that our industrialists do not have the risk-taking courage of an entrepreneur.


The Union budget should primarily correct imbalances in various segments of the country's economy and give it the right direction to create employment, decrease poverty and improve the quality of life of the people. There is no effort to tackle important issues of agricultural surpluses and population growth. It is a rich man's budget behind which one can clearly hear the sound of approaching election drums.

V. P. SHARMA, Chandigarh

Highway blues

I happen to travel frequently between Chandigarh and Patiala and Chandigarh and Ludhiana. I have noticed that the highway from Chandigarh to Patiala is too narrow for the heavy traffic. The road berms are poorly maintained.

The Excise and Taxation Department has raised a barrier near Banur, where trucks are parked on the road, blocking the narrow passage. No thought was given by the authorities to widening the stretch so as to accommodate the trucks before putting up the barrier.

Encroachments have grown on both sides of the road at Banur, which add to traffic problems and cause accidents.

All buses from Chandigarh to Patiala and beyond are required to enter Rajpura city, because a Minister has so ordered to please the residents of Rajpura. If it adds to the traffic problems of the city and results in wastage of fuel and time, it is nobody's concern.

The road from Gagan Chowk in Rajpura towards Chandigarh needs to be widened to cope with the traffic, but the authorities have not even bothered to level the road berms, which are six inches to one foot below the road level.

The road between Chandigarh and Ludhiana has been widened, but the absence of an overbridge at the Morinda railway crossing causes traffic jams.

Encroachments have been allowed to grow on the sides of the road at Morinda and Samrala towns.


Time for action

Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Mr Girish Chandra Saxena, have both made statements that India will not give up its territory, and that the terrorists will be punished if they try to damage India.

India has already given up territory, including more than half of Kashmir. We show the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in our maps, but have never made even a statement to press our claim to it. Pakistani soldiers and murderers in the guise of Islamic terrorists infiltrate into India and kill our armed forces and civilians.

So both the requirements for action specified by Mr Vajpayee and Mr Saxena have been fulfilled. Will they decisively act against the enemy now?

Pinakin Patel, Baroda

Census operation

Sector 39, Samrala Road, Urban Estate, Ludhiana, has been left out of the census operation. Since a large chuck of population had been ignored, we contacted the notified telephone number (1600114949) but we were asked to contact another telephone number. The person on that phone gave another number and the chain continued till we were frustrated enough to stop the exercise after making about 12 calls. This area comprises about 3000 houses and has been kept out of this exercise, even after we had reminded the authorities concerned. This puts a question mark on the reliability of the data being collected.


Talibanising Pakistan

With backing from the ISI, Pakistan displaced other regional interest-groups in ingratiating itself with the Taliban when the latter took control of Kabul and most of Afghanistan. Pakistan had hoped that Afghanistan would remain under its tutelage. What we are witnessing now after about six years is a bizarre turn of events with Pakistan itself becoming increasingly Talibanised. Many retired and serving officers of Pakistan's defence and civil services are now openly subscribing to the Taliban's fundamentalist views.

Pakistan is now flooded by several thousand Afghan refugees fleeing the oppression of a fundamentalist regime compounded by famine and drought. If Pakistan is also Talibanised, the exodus will head further east into India. The resultant refugee problem will strain our economy a lot more than the Orissa and Gujarat catastrophes put together.

Containing the Taliban now should be the foremost concern of the international community.


Eradicating TB

The box item "75 years ago" carried regularly in your editorial page is always interesting and gives the reader a tiny peep into the times gone by. Most of the news items reproduced are of historical value which may evoke nostalgia, but some of these also give you a jolt, and provide food for thought.

The issue of March 6, reproduced a report about a conference held in Lahore regarding prevention of tuberculosis and the need to create awareness about various aspects of the disease.

But strangely and sadly enough, even after a lapse of 75 years, we are nowhere near the goal of controlling this dreaded disease, let alone eradicating it. As of today, we have the dubious distinction of having the largest number of T.B. patients in the world. Besides, it is believed, that with the spread of H.I.V./AIDS, the incidence of tuberculosis might assume alarming proportions. Conferences continue to be held, resolutions continue to be passed, efforts continue to be made for its prevention, yet the disease continues its march, unhindered and unhampered.

It is time for our social scientists, planners and others to introspect, identify the stumbling blocks and come out with a strategy to rid the nation of this affliction.

M.K. BAJAJ, YamunanagarTop

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