The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, March 18, 2001

Blood-stained Punjab revisited
Review by Gobind Thukral

Time: the time of your life
Review by M.L. Sharma

Ills of correspondence course
Review by Minakshi Chaudhary

Ban the land mines that kill
Review by N.K. Pant


Super cyclone lashes again, in this book
Review by Padam Ahlawat

The Orissa Tragedy: A Cyclone’s Year of Calamity by Ruben Banerjee. The India Today Group, New Delhi. Pages 198. Rs 225

THE Orissa cyclone of October, 1999, devasted several costal districts and claimed 8500 lives. It flattened all houses, barring a few pucca ones. Telephone and electric poles were uprooted and even railway lines were twisted as if they were made of ropes.

In its wake the cyclone brought 30 feet high tidal waves, bringing rain and floods. The people had nowhere to go except perch themselves on rooftops or cling to coconut trees for two days. There was no relief from the rain and no dry ground to stand on.

The cyclone and the recent earthquake in Gujarat have exposed the state government’s failure to promptly and adequately respond to calamities. The people were left to fend for themselves. The governments’ apathy to rush to the aid of the grief-stricken people was evident in both cases. The international and national aid that poured in for the earthquake victims was not evident on the same scale in Orissa.

Ruben Banerjee, a journalist based at Bhubaneswar, brings out this illustrated volume on that tragedy, which he himself experienced in Bhubaneswar.

Earthquake is more devastating in its effect and totally unpredictable. Cyclone, on the other hand, is predictable and its course can be charted out. Its build-up can be seen from satellite photographs and its direction and speed can also be known. Consequently it is known where and when it would strike. The Orissa cyclone had been detected on October 25, four days before it struck. It was building up and early warnings were issued. By October 28 it had grown stronger and moved towards the Orissa coast. The Union Cabinet Secretary called the Orrisa chief secretary on October 28 to warn him of the impending disaster.

Tantriks and the supernatural had failed to save Orissa from the cyclone which had struck 12 days earlier. Girdhar Gamang, Orissa Chief Minister, hoped that prayers and havans would deflect the cyclone away from Orrisa. So he spent his time with the tantriks who assured the credulous Chief Minister that the cyclone would weaken or be deflected.

Nobody in the state secretariat had an Internet connection. The Balasore district collector, an engineering graduate, was constantly downloading the latest on the cyclone from the US Navy website, which he sent to the chief secretary.

Without any clear direction from the political leadership, the state administration was clueless. All that the bureaucracy did was to alert the coastal districts that lay on the cyclone path. Strangely, however, no warning was given to Khurdah district which also lay on the cyclone path and in which the state capital was located.

As radio and television continued to flash cyclone warnings, it had begun to drizzle in Bhubaneswar. By the afternoon of October 29 it was pouring down and a violent storm was raging. Soon the roads were blocked by uprooted trees and electric poles. The Secretariat rooms were flooded as rain came through broken window.

By night the bureaucrats were trapped in the secretariat without electricity and without any communication link. The police wireless too went dead.

No arrangements had been made for such an eventuality at the secretariat. The state’s nerve centre had been cut off from the rest of the state.

The districts far away from the sea and consequently would escape the cyclone were not given any instructions to provide rescue and relief to the cyclone affected districts. All that the bureaucracy could come up with was to call for Army help. The once fabled steel frame, it seemed, was now more of a wax frame. The state has all the resources that an Army has. They have engineers, police, revenue and administrative staff. What they lacked was the will.

Bhubaneswar, however, lay 100 km away from the coast and was at the periphery of the cyclone. After 24 hours of rain, the coastal districts were battered by howling winds blowing at 200 km an hour. Winds brought in 30-feet-high waves which swept away everything in its path for 20 km inland. Those who had climbed to roofs or trees were swept away along with the houses and trees. Only a few in cyclone shelters or pucca school buildings escaped. Orissa had only 23 cyclone shelters compared to 200 along the Andhra coast.

Arti Kandi, 13, saved herself by clinging on to a coconut tree and saw her family being swept away. Erasma was the worst hit and over 7000 died there. For the next two days Arti could not climb down as 20 feet of water lay beneath. On the third day, when the water level subsided, she climbed down. There was no relief for her even on the third day.

The relief commissioner was himself stranded in Bhubaneswar, while not one of his 270-strong staff reported for duty. The DG of police did not report for a whole day. Yet there were some common people who displayed remarkable courage. On a small crucial bridge, a lone railway gangmen kept his vigil. He refused to desert his post despite the terrible storm until the wind swept him and smashed him against a concrete pole.

Even after a week the government was conspicuous by its absence. There was no relief for people in Erasma. The Jaipur collector could not reach his district. The Kendrapara collector refused to leave his residence. One IAS officer, S.K. Jha, did organise relief and medical teams.

Relief and help arrived from outside. There were cases of looting and in one case a consignment of blankets vanished from the airport. The Army helped rescue and relief operations in Erasma.

In the long-term reconstruction and financial aid, it was the government that took a leading role. A sum of Rs 271 crore was distributed for house building, while about Rs 34 crore was given as ex gratia. The government rebuilt schools, roads, hospitals and would build two lakh houses, while all the NGOs would construct only 5000 houses.

The recent earthquake in Gujarat is a repeat of the Orissa tragedy. The cover photograph shows a massive uprooted tree in front of which stands an old emaciated man looking pleadingly.


Allan Sealy-ed is this bestseller
Review by Manju Jaidka

Hero: A Fable by I. Allan Sealy. Viking, New Delhi. Pages 248. Rs 125.

IN 1988, when I. Allan Sealy’s "The Trotter-Nama" was published, critics were unanimous in hailing it as the year’s best Indian novel in English. London Magazine praised its effusiveness, calling it an extravaganza and the Chicago Tribune described it as richly imaginative. The general agreement was that there were few parallels to the book. Sealy was compared with Hogarth and Joyce. He was accepted as a leading Indo-Anglian writer.

This reputation did not wane through the years. Ten years later, with the publication of "Everest Hotel: A Calendar", a novel shortlisted for the Booker which ultimately got him the Crossword Prize, we heard of Allan Sealy again. Once again critics were univocal in their opinion. The noted critic Shama Futehally described the novel as "iridescent". Khushwant Singh called it one of the best books of the year.

The fact remains, however, that much of Allan Sealy’s reputation has been limited to India. Critics abroad have not been as enthusiastic as their Indian counterparts. In a preface to the 1999 IndiaInk edition of his "Trotter-Nama", Sealy recalls that his book was "published abroad but its reputation was made at home….Where the foreign reader was quite baffled, the local reader was delighted. Indian critics rescued what the foreign press had ignored or written off."

"Everest Hotel", too, which received very warm reviews in India, was for a long time virtually ignored by reviewers abroad and by literary portals like Now, however, it is being translated into other languages.

Not exactly one of midnight’s children, born in post-independence India exactly half a century ago, Allan Sealy grew up in Lucknow, graduated from Delhi University, and later studied and worked in the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Something of a globe-trotter, frequently on the move, he has a home in Dehra Dun where he stays in between his travels.

"The Trotter-Nama: A Chronicle" was Allan Sealy’s first successful book. Dedicating it to "the other Anglo-Indians," his professed intention was to write a comic epic in prose of the minority community in India to which he belongs. For the background to this novel he draws upon his knowledge of Lucknow. A book that declares its debt to Laurence Sterne, it is often seen as inspired by G.V. Desani and Salman Rushdie, using their mock-epic style, combining history with fantasy, the real with the imaginary. When it first appeared its success in India was astonishing and it soon went out of print.

Viewing the novel form as one alien to the Indian ethos, Sealy tries to give it an indigenous appeal. "Trotter-Nama" has a sprawling, ambitious structure, spanning two centuries, two cultures and seven generations. It brings together a vast variety of characters in diverse situations ranging from the ludic to the somber, the amusing to the pathetic, celebrating the infinite richness of human existence against a backdrop that is undeniably Indian. The narrative cuts across time, crosses social and cultural boundaries and traces the lives of characters that are very contemporary, very hybrid.

"Everest Hotel: A Calendar" is stylistically perhaps his finest to date. The story is told entirely in the present tense, suspended in time, precipitously hanging in a here-and-now, with neither before nor after. It seems to move with the cyclical motion of the natural world, gradually bringing to life the fictional world. Subtitled "A Calendar" this sensitively crafted book tries to link the world of nature with that of human aspirations.

The story weaves in and out through summer, winter, autumn and spring, drawing the reader’s attention to little noticed, minute events of the natural world, pausing for a while to look at life again, at the many landmarks and cross roads that come our way, at choices one is required to make, and at the need to simply move on, like the seasons.

"Hero: A Fable", is again mock heroic in tone, reminiscent of G. V. Desani’s "All About M. Hatterr". Bolder than the first book in its linguistic experiments, it toys with its medium, playfully twisting it out of shape. The English language comes to acquire a very local, very Indian flavour, bringing slang and colloquialism into the written text. The narration has a sardonic, often scathing, kind of humour. The backdrop is again the vast Indian subcontinent teeming with its people and their problems. This time Sealy finds his source of inspiration in the Indian "masala movie".

The eponymous Hero of the book is a filmstar-turned-politician, a character familiar enough on the Indian political scene. A villain called Nero is the hero’s side-kick; there is a biographer called Zero, a heroine called U.D. Cologne, and a cabaret artiste called Flora Fountain. It is not hard to spot the laughter underlying these names which have local and humorous connotations.

The main protagonist of the novel is a South Indian movie star who relocates himself from Bombay to Delhi, gets himself a pair of dark glasses, and becomes a politician. He gets his taste of authority in the crazy corridors of power with all the rampant games of intrigue. Pitted against him is a villain from North India, Nero (born out of wedlock and vindictively christened Anirodh by his father), who follows the hero around, looking for an appropriate moment to gun him down.

The story is told by Zero, who has sacrificed his career, his ambitions, and even his mistress. He is now writing the ultimate script, "Star", for Hero:

"Star camera, which has come over to follow Hero’s back downhill, turns about and zooms in on Nero’s face. There are beads of sweat on his forehead. He puts his dark glasses back on and looks steadily after the departing figure. Camera moves still closer till Hero is a pair of tiny dwindling homunculii reflected in Nero’s smuggled Ray-Ban."

The narrative unfolds in a style that can best be called filmi, complete with Entrance, Intermission and Exit. The description of a physical combat includes a thain, dhish, dhish; echoes figure as bhooan, bhooan; there are ‘dilaags’ quoted from "flims"; there is action, combat, chase, rape, cliffhanger action, and whatever makes a good Bollywood film.

"Hero" claims to be a fable and there is no doubt that it has fabular elements as the story leaps from the real world into the fantastic. But it is a novel on which it is hard to pin a generic label. It may be taken as a genial satire in the way it good-naturedly critiques the socio-cultural milieu of India, or it may be called a spoof on the film industry. Or it may be taken as a narrative in the picaresque tradition, with the protagonist moving from one comic situation to another. Closer home, we may pin the behroopia tradition tag on it as the characters flit in and out of diverse situations, changing roles from time to time, donning different masks and changing their personas.

The prose style remains, for the most part, idiosyncratic and the reader is required to cooperate with its whimsicalities. The message being passed on to the reader is a tongue-in-cheek one, an invitation to play the game with the narrator and enjoy it, too. The novel has something that is missing in "Everest Hotel": a sense of fun of the desi variety which surfaces in Sealy’s carnivalesque world, his comic descriptions, his linguistic frolics, and in the proper nouns he uses. For example, names like "Golgappa Sahab" and titles of serials and films: "Aag, Aansoo, aur Sughandhit Sten Gun", "Anandmayee Sati", "Zameen, Aasman Aur Sarson ka Beej", and the like.

Reading "Hero" today it is hard to suppress a chuckle. However, the text and its narration makes certain demands on the reader, requiring one’s active participation, a willing suspension of disbelief and a preparedness to go along with the story. Sure, there are absurd elements, but that is part of the game. Don’t we have them in our masala movies, too?

(As a digression, it is possible to cite the recent Bharat Shah film in English, "Snip", with VJs Sophiya Haque and Nikhil Chengappa in the cast, which is in a similar vein — the same filmi masala, the same satirical dig at a film personality of yesteryears.)

Sealy has authored other works, too, some short fiction and a travelogue called "From Yukon to Yucatan: A Western Journey", which he describes (in a personal note to this reviewer) as "a journey down the spine of North America from top to bottom, looking incidentally at what is western in me (and them)". He has recently finished writing a novel, using the form of a puppet play, located in New Delhi and St Petersburg which, he says, is "about love and loss". This shift to a foreign locale is a departure from his earlier novels which have confined themselves to an Indian backdrop.

It is possible to place Allan Sealy in a literary tradition which includes writers like G.V. Desani, Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy, moving away from the self-conscious narrative style of earlier Indo-Anglian writers, towards greater freedom and spontaneity, thus proving to the world that Indian writing in English has finally come of age. Often Sealy is seen as influenced by Rushdie. But Sealy’s "Trotter-Nama" was already knocking at the doors of publishers when Rushdie’s "Midnight’s Children" came out. On at least one occasion, when the similarities between the two books were pointed out, Sealy denied any "influence", saying that he and Rushdie were simply "two writers responding to the same historical moment. They have read the same book, but the book is India. India is dictating, the country is doing the ‘thinking’. We do not write but are written."

Despite the lack of hype and other public relations paraphernalia, recognition has come to the author in the form of prestigious awards. Sealy is the recipient of the Commonwealth Fiction Prize, the Sahitya Akademi Award, and the Crossword Book Award. In India he is recognised as a major talent among contemporary writers in English. Abroad he is less celebrated than some of his better known but less talented contemporaries. Perhaps the reasons may be found somewhere in the marketing politics and promotional sales of publishing houses.


Singapore, not sinning but sinned against
Review by Deepika Gurdev

Singapore: The Air-Conditioned Nation: Essays on the Politics of Comfort and Control 1990-2000 by Cherian George. Landmark Books, Singapore. Pages 223. Singapore $ 20.50.

WHEN one of my favourite columnists bid adieu to The Straits Times (Singapore’s leading newspaper), I suffered a severe withdrawal symptom because it was hard to come to terms with the fact that the insight and clarity that journalist Cherian George offered on everyday issues would now be hard to come by. Therefore, like several others, I was more than thrilled when the author, who is now pursuing a doctorate at Stanford, was back in town to launch his "Singapore: The Air-Conditioned Nation".

Readers who have followed George’s insightful commentaries on Singapore’s politics would welcome this significant addition to the island nation’s contemporary history. Others who have never read or heard of him are bound to enjoy this brilliantly researched and thought-provoking book which analyses the very nature of the Singapore system and the dynamics that have played a crucial role in shaping it. While it is hard to agree with all of his views on politics and nation-building, a fair bit of which border on scepticism, it is hard to put down the book as the style is distinctively engaging.

The book comprises 25 cogently woven essays that begin with "Climate control: politics under the new guard" and end with "A place in the sun: race and national identity." The essays arranged by themes draw upon columns which were written during his 10-year-stint as a journalist with The Straits Times.

However, this is not just a simple rehash of those articles. The author has done a lot of research to categorise all ideas and developments into clearly demarcated themes. The essays are wideranging in their concerns from the ruling People’s Action Party government’s "new guard" leadership to opposition leaders to cultural policy and something that absolutely refuses to go away from the news: the foreign talent debate.

The book, however, is not intended to be a comprehensive review of governmental policies; rather it "is a book for every thinking Singaporean" or for every other reader who wants to know about the contemporary developments in Singapore. This book does fill a vacuum as it falls perfectly somewhere between the academic and historical writing by reaching out to the common reader in a style that blends the best of journalism and academia.

The core of the author’s argument is the comfort that has been achieved through subtle controls. He talks at length about air-conditioning. "Air-conditioning is a selfish technology: One of its paradoxes is that its net effect is an increase in heat. As a prodigious consumer of energy — it accounts for one-third of Singapore’s electricity use — it contributes significantly to global warming. Furthermore, at the micro level, it works basically by transferring heat from inside the building to the outside."

Drawing parallels between the regular servicing required to keep air-conditioning going, he explains how Singapore’s development model follows a similar "total systems approach to economic management. It is highly infrastructure-intensive and demands fine planning and constant management," he adds.

The author also addresses other issues that have been closest to his heart. They range from political openness, civil society and national identity. But George carefully steers away from knocking out Singapore just because everybody does. Growing up in Singapore has its advantages and it shows in his work.

Despite all the loudly proclaimed T-shirt claims about Singapore being "a fine city", the air-conditioned nation does have its moments of warmth and a larger than life hint of reality than most writers choose to tell their readers. George manages to capture some of those. He admits that living out of Singapore "highlighted some of the things I took for granted". One of which is a fairly extensive analysis of homegrown Sintercom in "Dot-Community: In search of an oasis in cyberspace". Sintercom happens to be an excellent case study of a local citizen initiative in a global, technological age.

Maintained by 20-odd volunteers based in Singapore, Asia, Europe and North America, it was a pioneering Internet venture that also showed the quiet evolution of a civil society. As the author succinctly puts it, "capitalism can seduce and governments can coerce, but in the end, people pick the way forward".

Many writing about Singapore miss these finer details that make "Singapore: The Air-Conditioned Nation" stand out. They get all taken over and hung up on things like gum control or what has been lost in the planners’ zeal to turn what was a colourful but multicultural mosaic into a combination of Woodfield and Epcot. Forget what it was. Give it up. It is what it is and it works.

I can vouch for the fact that there is no easier place in Asia to visit or to live in. The vegetable seller in the nearest wet market is my best friend, my neighbour readily offers me a lift to the bus stop, I know at least half the people who live in my block and I hope one day, not too far away, my daughter will help me learn a little bit of Mandarin.

Because I like Singapore. The air is breathable, the traffic tolerable, the dining admirable and the shopping unavoidable. The air-conditioning does irks me sometimes but in the office I switch it off and at home we stick to fans — plain and simple. So as George tells us, life in Singapore is all about choices, choices that every Singaporean or everyone who chooses to visit and live here can make. And contrary to popular belief — air-conditioners are not part of government policy.

Of course, change is ongoing. Which isn’t unique to Singapore at all. It is what one would call work in progress.


Poet in Germany obsessed with mother tongue
Review by R.P. Chaddah

My Mother’s Way of Wearing a Saree: Poems by Sujata Bhatt. Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 108. Rs 150.

IN the last decade of the 20th century a number of women of Indian origin settled abroad have taken to diaspora writing. The expatriate Indian poets who regularly come out with their collections of poems are Uma Parmeshwaran (Canada); Chitra Divakarani, Ketu Katrak, Panna Naik (USA), Melanie Silgardo, Ketaki Kushiari Dyson, Debjani Chatterjee (UK) and Sujata Bhatt (Germany).

That many of the new poets were born after 1947 means that Indian English poetry is likely to develop in unexpected ways. A case in point is Vikram Seth’s use of humour and his use of traditional poetics as a defence against what he sees as the self-destructive introspection of romanticism and modernism.

Sujata Bhatt (b 1956) in Ahmedabad studied in the USA where her family settled when she was just 12. She now lives in Germany with her poet-husband Michael Augustin and daughter, and the book is for "Michael and Jenny Mira". Her first collection of poems "Brunizem" (1988) won for her the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. She has since published three collections of poems. Bhatt is the only poet of Indian origin to make it to the Harvill Book of the 20th century poetry edited by Michael Schmidt and published in Great Britain in 1999.

The blurbs and the biographical notes tend to stress Bhatt’s multiculturism and bilingualism. She writes of the anguish of immigrants when they start to lose their first language. Her use of Gujarati, German and Sanskrit in the oeuvre of her work does attract unkind remarks from the literati and lovers of poetry.

The book under review contains more than 50 poems divided into five segments. Over the years, a number of these poems have been commissioned and broadcast on the BBC world service, BBC Radio Drama, the universal Declaration of Human Rights (Voice of the Unwanted Girl), and for an exhibition of sculpture in Germany.

In other poems she opens windows to real and imagined land — and cityscapes. Shards of memory, history, language and love continue to be the poet’s common themes. She finds contradictions in her past and present and confronts them in mythic landscapes, but India — past and present—remains a necessary obsession. Her reading of Indian English poetry comes out loud and clear in her poem "A memory from Marathi". The poems remind us of Nissim Ezekiel’s poem "Night of the scorpion". The only difference — in Bhatt’s poem it is the snake which is killed by her father in the dead of night when a "three-year-old gets thirty and father encounters the snake near the kitchen". "The dream", "A swimmer", "The snake catcher", etc. speak of her fascination for snakes.

"The Virologist" talks of a typical son, the poet’s father, who obeying his mother goes to take a bath in the Ganga almost reluctantly.

"Stepping into the holy river did not make him feel pure/there must be something more/he was certain."

"History is a broken narrative" is a poem about language. "Where you make your language when you change it." Further on, she says, "It will give you time — time to gather up the fallen pieces of your language."

"The hole in the wind" appears to be Bhatt’s macabre modern version of Coleridge’s "Ancient Mariner".

"For seven days the storm kept us thirsty and I watched two sailors below/feast on their dead mates. Their pockets/were still full of human flesh....."

Something quite discernible has come to the notice of this reviewer and that is Bhatt feels shy of conclusions to most of her poetic sallies, which was never the norm till her second collection of poems "Monkey shadows" (1991).

"White Asparagus" from this selection has been given the status of the only successful erotic poem in Indian writing in English. In the poem, the poet moves between objective and subjective feelings in ways that catch both the singularity of the object and the fascination it inspires. Bhatt gives expression to the thoughts of a pregnant woman and her strong desire to indulge in sexual peccadillos et al.

Bhatt’s poetry is one of sharp contrasts: single figure in foreign landscapes moving between yearning, memory and disappointment, listening and watching everything intently with a witty attention. She excels in intensity of her thoughts, strength of her feelings and a certain simplicity of her expression.


Making a film is different from making a meal
Review by Manmant Singh Sethi

Passionate Meals: The New Indian Cuisine for Fearless Cooks and Adventurous Eaters by Ismail Merchant. Penguin Books, New Delhi. Pages 312 including Index. Rs 395.

THE best way, maybe also the only way, to review a cookbook is to try out some of the dishes it carefully lists as being delicious and mouth-watering. This book just goes a lot further and calls them "passionate meals".

Since Ismail Merchant, known better for things other than cooking, decided to write a book on cooking, I as a normal male connoisseur of good food, had all the right to try out some of these passionate meals on the kitchen board. Some of these experiments in the kitchen worked but as it turned out, most did not. Either Mr Merchant was talking about the meals turning out passionate or the necessary mental ingredient required to cook these!

But then the author had forewarned the reader that these meals were for fearless cooks and adventurous eaters. "I consider myself qualified to write a book for fearless cooks not only because I am self taught but also because I disobey all conventions and laws of cooking, preferring to improvise and make new discoveries all the time," says Mr Merchant. But after having said that Mr Merchant goes ahead and lists recipes which end up looking, smelling and tasting like all normal Indian food with those particular ingredients in those particular quantities.

After one has glanced through the first few recipes of meethi and namkeen lassi, minted Vodka tonic, beer and lemon, one comes to the recipe for setting curd and opposite that page is the one which tells how to make garam masala, and then it strikes you that Mr Merchant is clearly addressing an audience which is largely non-Indian. Telling an Indian how to set curd is like insulting him. And this is true of both North and South India.

Once this realisation dawns on that the reader is a non-Indian, a large number of recipes like that of vada raita, kheere ka raita, bundi raita, pakoras, masoor dal shorba (soup), baigan bharta, hare matter ki curry, matter paneer, bhindi, etc in a book you bought for Rs 395 seem unjustified.

At times, I found that the recipe was too brief to facilitate cooking without having to imagine how much of what goes in, while at times there were some exotic, I must say, some very exotic ingredients which my bhaji wallah had not even heard of not to talk of procuring them.

Then there is this whole section which deals with potatoes and the various kinds of food one can prepare with them. But after the glowing introduction to this section again the author lists dishes like jeera aloo, aloo ki tikki and gobi aloo as the passionate meals made of aloo.

The section on pulses is again a list of the routine dals an average Indian home cooks all the time. But one does experiment with the besan wallah channa dish and that too ends up as being a gooey mixture of channa and besan.

The book certainly fares much better in the second half which deals with the cooking of chicken, meat and fish. Here one feels like experimenting with some of the dishes listed and some of them have a distinctively different but welcome flavour to them. Consider for example, chicken liver baked in spicy yogurt, this was a dish which did turn out rather well.

But then these lists of recipes which are much richer than the vegetarian ones have their own set of problems. Most of the dishes are baked and not cooked on fire which is the traditional way of Indian cooking and, considering that many middle class Indians still consider a microwave oven a luxury, most of the recipes turn useless since the writer does not suggest an alternative method of cooking. Then there are some strange ingredients like rosemary leaves, parsley flakes, dijon mustard, etc. which might be almost impossible to procure here.

The basic oil which Mr Merchant uses for cooking is olive oil. Only when there is any meal which requires deep-frying does he list vegetable oil. Olive oil? Chances are that these very passionate meals might also turn out be very expensive meals.

The list of recipes on sweets has the regular gajar ka halwa, sooji ka halwa, feerni, seviyaan, kheer shrikhund and some fruity chilled mixtures.

The book, which looks very beautiful, is organised even better with a general introduction in the beginning followed by a brief introduction before every section. Also interesting are the anecdotes and experiences which the author relates every now and then about the various movie shoots. And like any other professional cook book, the author has the very essential element of the index in it.

But all said and cooked, this experiment of a producer-director of films turned cook would look best in the drawing room rather than the kitchen because I can assure you there is nothing in there which you already did not know.


Blood-stained Punjab revisited
Review by Gobind Thukral

Terrorism in Punjab by Satya Pal Dang. Gyan Publishing House, New Delhi. Pages 561. Rs 700

FOR more than five decades, veteran trade union leader Satya Pal Dang has been in the forefront of the Left movement. He along with his equally active wife Vimla has fought bravely to establish proletarian rule and bring justice to the people. They have lived like fakirs in the Chheharta area of Amritsar.

Respected for his commitment, this veteran communist leader has also been a serious commentator on important events. He has not only opposed the Khalistani militant movement in Punjab, but wrote extensively in newspapers and has now come out with a compilation of his articles from various Hindi and English language newspapers. There is also an introduction by a senior journalist, V.D. Chopra. This is essentially a book by a Marxist leader who has never rested on his oars. It has all the advantages or disadvantages of the views of a committed Left leader who has been lavish in his appreciation or blunt in criticism.

Mr Chopra’s introduction dealing with the historical roots of terrorism in Punjab and Kashmir moves on a trodden path. As in Kargil, Chopra builds up a case of an imperialist conspiracy in both the states. But he fails to answer one fundamental question:the imperialists never wished to have peace in Punjab, but by and large peace has been established. Have these imperialist forces been defeated squarely or have they withdrawn or has there been any deal with this "foreign hand"? One expected some credible and convincing answer. Mr Dang also talks repeatedly of what he says "the main common factor is the imperial conspiracy against India". Well, he may be right. But he needs to build a strong case to prove the point.

The book is essentially a collection of Mr Dang’s articles upto 1994. Though published in May, 2000, there is no updating and at times the information is sketchy. He has added a concluding chapter and an article — "We are Punjabis but Indians too" — which he wrote in October, 1998. Take the case of profiles of the Akali leaders. The author provides some details about Longowal, Badal, Tohra, Balwant Singh, Simranjit Singh Mann et al. The account is thin. There is no mention of the death of Longowal or Balwant Singh at the hands of the militants. Mr Dang’s party colleagues have described them as martyrs.

These profiles were written in March, 1983. At best the description is partisan and does not go beyond what is often talked about and seldom understood.

In the same way while presenting a balanced assessment and analysis of the then Punjab police chief K.P.S. Gill, Mr Dang in one or two places showers restrained praise with which not many in his party or in the Left movement would agree. Broadly speaking, the assessment of the role of the late Beant Singh and former supercop Julio Riberio are well done.

The book is divided into several chapters. It provides coherence to the book. Mr Dang has touched upon many facets of militancy in Punjab. There is a good deal of discussion on the nature of politics in the country and the state and its communalisation over a long period. There is also a long chapter on the rise of terrorism — the objective and subjective reasons. Wrong, opportunistic and adventurist policies of the Centre and the Congress and Akali politicians are very well detailed. A surprising element is the near absence of the economic causes that too were at the root of violence in the state. There is also much emphasis on the role of the police in curbing terrorism.

While discussing the lessons of Punjab for Kashmir, Mr Dang says: "First Riberio and then Gill motivated the police and Beant Singh removed the fear that Manochahal or Mann could come to power.....A similar policy in relation to the Kashmir police is needed," he concludes. "In Punjab Mann nearly came to power when he captured a majority of the Lok Sabha seats. An Assembly election immediately could have got him power in the state."

And how simple is the fight against terrorism in the valley! The police there is highly motivated and is making huge sacrifices. What is the result?

Again, Beant Singh came to power through sheer chicanery. That was a rigged and sham election, the worst in the history of Punjab. He could gain legitimacy only later. Mr Dang at one time (perhaps in 1988) had opposed the holding of the election when some academics and researchers had issued a public appeal, yet when such a sham election which was boycotted by the Akalis was stage-managed, a committed democrat like Mr Dang spares it the kind of criticism it deserves.

"The ugly face of terrorism" is a well documented chapter wherein Mr Dang lists the gory events in great detail and how brave people fought back. He repeatedly pays compliments to the patriotism of the Sikhs while lashing out at the Akalis with whom he and his party once shared power. For those in the profession and those who closely monitor the media in Punjab, three articles on the role of media are honest comments. The author has not spared the official media, Doordarshan and AIR, but has shied away from naming names of newspapers except the Hind Samachar group and the leading Punjabi daily Ajit. In any case, while one particular newspaper gets a little more than what it deserved in terms of praise another gets a little more of bashing. Nevertheless, the comments are in order. It is time Mr Dang wrote more dispassionately on the role of the media. A section of the press did play with fire.

Mr Dang’s articles on subjects like law, police and human rights offer an insight into how the judiciary and the police either buckled under pressure or perpetrated violence and injustice. This is notwithstanding a certain degree of softness towards the police. This strong arm of the state proved to be the most ruthless during the fight against the militants and it is now so well-known. How many innocents fell to the capricious misdeeds of the trigger happy or greedy police officers is also now known. One fails to understand why an official like Ajit Singh Sandhu should get a word of praise. A frustrated Sandhu committed suicide, but his gory deeds were well documented by many journalists.

Another chapter on the role of Left parties like CPI, CPM and groups of Naxalities too is detailed and gets well deserved mention. Much could be forgotten and lost but for the writings of authors like Mr Dang.

In the same way, the author’s last chapter, "Following correct policies" deals with how the battle was won. He may have many critics but his assessment cannot be ignored. In fact, this issue deserves much more attention and debate. Mr Dang also warns that if the outstanding political issues are not sorted out, militancy could stage a come back. Here Mr Badal’s misrule can just provide fuel to the militant fire. This also needs an open debate.

Mr Dang deserves appreciation for having brought out a compendium of articles grouped in several subjects. But he himself admits that the senseless violence for 12 long years which claimed thousands of innocent lives in Punjab needs a more serious debate. A more serious study of the roots of violence, the politics behind it, the path of development that has sharpened contradictions and heaped injustice on the people should be more dispassionately studied by scholars and politicians. That would be a great service to the cause of peace. This kind of effort can make people more vigilant.


Time: the time of your life
Review by M.L. Sharma

Timelessness—the Serenade of Bliss by Surinder Singh. Platinum Publications, Chandigarh. Pages 200+xvi. Rs 200.

"Time does not flow any more than

Space flows. It is we who are flowing,

Wanderers in a four-dimensional universe......

In nature all is given; for her the past and the

Future do not exist; she is the eternal present;

She has no limits either of space or of time"

— Quoted by P.D. Ouspensky in Tertium Organum.

"TIMELESSNESS" is like the Holy Grail which the intellectual world is moving to grasp and penetrate. New physics has appeared on the world scene and scientists like Fritjof Capra are relating the findings of new physics with spiritual knowledge, especially Zen and Taoism (pronounced Daoism). Ouspensky in his celebrated works, "In Search of the Miraculous", "Tertium Organum" and "A Model of Universe", has gone very deep discussing all aspects of space, time and infinity or timelessness.

Ouspensky says what is perfectly perceived is space and what is imperfectly perceived is time and that time is the fourth dimension and there is a space-time continuum. Surinder Singh, who has to his credit about a dozen books, has joined the fray but his field of discussion is quite different from the scientific quest — spiritualism. Dr Sampooran Singh is the only contributor who has stuck to his guns and follows a scientific approach. Others revel in literature and philosophy but, of course, with a stamp of scholarship.

Divided into three parts with 30 essays and 29 poems, the book reproduces the views of enlightened thinkers about time — present, past and future. In order to make the discussion lively, the writers have taken different perspectives to express their experiences.

While in "Towards the starlit dome", the writing is in a dialogue form, the book asked scholars to express their experience and thoughts in any style and diction.

The editor starts the discussion with the words "Know thyself" and "Nothing more". "To me," he says, "these four words seem to convey a complete message to humanity to understand its true nature and path leading to that elusive and unknowable "Ultimate reality" or at least a fraction of it, which "mankind has been strenuously exerting to find for thousands, millions or more of man years".

In his earlier work, he had explained what he wants to reaffirm here — namely, science and spirituality are not antagonistic but complementary, they are a single dynamic web of the wholeness of life. The universal core which all great religions preach is the symbiosis of science and spirituality. The late Prof P.D. Shastri, Prof D.S. Maini, Dr Sampooran Singh and other writers have shed light on all shades of time.

Prof P.D. Shastri in a scholarly way and quoting from Shakespeare, advocates the principle of "A battle to the last", which principle he followed till his end. Joginder Singh and G.S. Bhatia "Arif" lay stress on living in the present with firm faith in God. The essay self-surrender — "The key to timeless bliss" — by Surinder Singh who retired as a Judge, is a masterly exposition of the oriental thought, especially self-surrender and love. Prof D.S. Maini’s concluding remarks in his essay are: "Now only to live in the present is to live, like a hedonist, in a pleasurable illusion, to live only in the past is to live on faded dreams, and to live in the future is to become an isolate, an alien to one’s reality. So to remain authentically alive is to live simultaneously in the three-dimensional time."

Prof S.L. Sharma holds the view that the best way to utilise one’s time is to dedicate it to the service of humanity, the service of the poor and the deprived.

Dr Sampooran Singh goes on to discuss all aspects of existence, religion, love and eternity and synthesises scientific knowledge with Indian spirituality. In telling sentences he expresses his views: "The meaning or aim of human life is to make a quantum jump from symbolic-dualistic frame of reference to non-symbolic, non-dualistic, non-conceptual frame of reference of mind spectrum. It implies a paradigm shift from isolation to relationship, or from knowledge (information gathering) to intuition and spontaneity. Peace and love can be found only in action, which is relationship."

He quotes Capra to support his point that the mental concepts limit natural process. One should have an undifferential, unlimited outlook and move towards integration and unity rather than multiplicity and dualism. Physics and metaphysics go hand in hand.

In his essay, Prof Tanjeet Singh, quoting from the Gurbani, "Thith war na Jogi jane, rut mah na koe", gives a religious answer. For a true yogi, the vagaries of time lose significance and the ups and downs of life become immaterial.... The true master has been, is now and will ever be with us, as is clear from the first bymn of Japji Sahib."

Surinder Singh implies divinity by word timelessness and he expresses his creed of divine love in the following poetic lines: "My religion, O lord/ Is to pray to thee/When creeping like a caterpillar/I come to thy abode/To plead for mercy/For the sins galore, past and present/To permit me a peep, just a peep/Into thy golden mansion."

S.S. Bhatti lays stress on creativity or what he calls contemplative, proactive creativity which is a progressional extension of the human person into the entire universe. Tejambra quotes extensively from scriptures and is content with the belief that in order to get out of the binding shackles of time, we should aspire to realise our true identity in this life. He says: "Events do not take place in the space or in time but in the space-time continuum, every event being a universal situation and not an isolated occurrence. All events are factors in four-dimensional reality, of which the three-dimensional reality is like a shadow cast by the real substance. The universe perceived by us is infinite." B.S. Tyagi underscores the need for meditation to conquer time.

Madhav Kaushik quotes from his ghazal the following lines to substantiate his theses:

Kalam sar ho, ya zaban ko tarash de duniya

Kisi bhi haal mein neechi nigah mat karna

Nahin to waqt bhi samjhega aapko buzdil

Jalega jism magar rooh se aah mat karna.

He believes in sticking to the truth in all circumstances.

R.D. Sharma "Taseer" expresses his views in a quatrain (rubbai):

Koi lamah, koi sayat, nahin milne wali,

Aaj ke baad ye mohlat nahin milne wali

Aao is lamhe ko tareekh bana dein, ae dost

Waqt se aur ijazat nahin milne wali.

He lays stress on the value of time and urges others to make the most of the present moment and make it a historical event.

Prof Nirmal Datt has a message of non-dualism: "Mystics and materialists need not fight. In the greatest harmony of life the Buddha and Omar Khayyam are next door neighbours.... They co-exist, cooperate, embrace each other and celebrate existence..... The Buddha smells the soil of the earth and Omar Khayyam tastes the vastness of the sky. Let us enjoy time like the one and master it like the other."

This is essentially a "faith development" book like M. Scott Peck’s "The Road Less Travelled" wherein he advocates the principle: "Do not seek understanding that you might have faith; seek faith that you might understand."

The whole subject matter of the book can be summed up in the words of Mikhail Naimy: "Love integrates. Hatred disintegrates... Love is peace athrob with melodies of life. Hatred is war agog with fiendish blasts of death. Which would you: love and be at everlasting peace? Or hate and be at everlasting war? The whole earth is alive in you. The heavens and their hosts are alive in you. So love the earth and all her sucklings if you were to love yourselves."

With a variety of poems and wise sayings culled from the eastern and western sources, the book is an anthology of prose and verse. Major-Gen Jaswant Singh has described the book as an anthology of deep thoughts, a bouquet of flowers and a garden of variegated fruit trees.

The discussion on the main theme of the book relating to time, however, seems to be an inconclusive debate. When time is a mental category, it is evident that there is eternity. The Kantian dictum "Moral law within and starry firmament up above" best sums up the whole philosophical approach of the East and the West.


Ills of correspondence course
Review by Minakshi Chaudhary

Distance Education in the Twentyfirst Century by Aruna Goel and S.L. Goel. Deep and Deep Publications, New Delhi. Pages 279. Rs 550.

A growing population and the inability of the formal system of education to cater to the demands of millions of students for higher education have resulted in a phenomenal growth of open universities and distance education system all over the world, including India.

Since the establishment of the first open university in the UK in 1969, there has been a steep rise in such institutions. According to data, there are 1026 institutions in more than 100 countries offering 31,752 courses. India has eight open universities and 50 distance education institutions which offer both general and special courses.

Distance education is all the more important for a country like India. Our formal education system is not in a position to meet the demands and challenges of the future. Besides, the distance education system is required to reach out to millions of poor and under-privileged people who have no access to the formal system due to a variety of reasons.

A well-designed, professionally managed system of distance education can fulfil these requirements. But the question is: can we do it?

Opening through the skies has thrown up many opportunities and challenges. Universities have started offering degrees on line. Distance education has acquired a new dimension in the present-day e-world of ours. Are our universities and centres of distance education equipped to meet the challenges?

The book under review examines the status and role of distance education in India and tries to visualise its future.

The authors feel that our present system is not equipped to deliver the goods. They have listed many limitations, both external and internal, which make distance education a mismanaged affair.

The authors point out that leaving aside two or three open universities, other institutions are good for nothing. The book is an attempt at analysing the causes for such a situation and suggest solutions. It tries to answer questions such as: why distance education institutions are not adopting standard practices to maintain quality of education? Why are we creating a bad image of the system? Why are we diluting the quality of higher education?

It is not easy to find answers to questions such as these. They cover the entire sphere of our socio-cultured activity. But an attempt has been made to analyse the ills of our present system.

The book is divided into 11 chapters. The first two chapters focus on the nature, scope and challenges of higher education and distance education respectively. These chapters highlight the problems in these areas.

The next two chapters analyse the instructional material given to students. Three chapters are on personal contact programmes, student assignments and student support services. There are three chapters dealing with financial administration, organisation and management of the distance education system. The last chapter lists recommendations to improve the system in the 21st century.

The economics and politics of distance education are discussed by the authors in detail.

The management of distance education is much more difficult than the formal university system. It needs specialised knowledge and competence in a variety of fields. Our present system does not have the competence to meet the challenges. One of the needs today is to diversify distance education to new areas. It should not remain confined to traditional areas and it should not stop at providing printed learning material alone. It has been brought out very clearly in the book that at present the study material and the student support activities are far below the standards.

The authors have emphasised the need to diversify and expand the areas covered under the distance education. It should focus on development of entrepreneural skills. The example of open learning programme in entrepreneural (OLPE) being implemented in Karnataka has been given to stress the point.

The importance of education as a means of development cannot be underestimated. In fact, education enables a person to compete in this complex world of today. But formal and informal systems of higher learning must impart the best education. But quality is the first casualty in the country today. Institutions of higher learning have become the breeding ground of party politics and are marked by mediocrity. Distance education is the poor cousin of mainstream formal education. Second grade treatment is meted out to the institutions of distance education. The students are treated as second best.

The authors have expressed concern about such a situation. They point out that the new millennium is the time for optimising the inherent potentialities of the fast growing information technology, scientific development, general education, professional growth and administrative competence through distance education and usher in an era of socio-economic development to equip India to face the new millennium with courage and determination.

At the same time they feel that unless some corrective measures are taken, we may not be in a position to meet the challenge. They have identified lack of professionalism, motivation and training among the persons associated with the distance education system, lack of clarity, even knowledge, among the personnel responsible for delivering distance education, monopoly of vested interests and politics, expansion and diversification without any rationale as some of the problems of distance education.

In addition it is necessary to give more powers to the Distance Education Council (DEC) and set up a networking of open universities and distance education institutions and to use new technology.

The authors have also highlighted the dangers of commercialisation of the distance education system. In order to be self-sufficient in financial matters these institutions demand very high fees. But they do not improve the quality of reading material etc. This defeats the basic idea of providing quality education to the disadvantaged groups.

Expanding demand, more enrolment, ill-managed student support system, outdated study material, non-professional contact programmes and the greed to make distance education institutions "milch cows" for generating funds are some of the crucial areas of concern, according to the authors.

The authors recommend that the Distance Education Council set up in 1992 to promote coordination and setting uniform standards throughout the country should not be an appendage of IGNOU and it should be an independent body properly empowered to handle distance education. The faculty of distance education institutes should be motivated by way of a training programme to take up the challenges of distance education in the new century. Student-centred and learner-friendly material should be produced and more effective control over the resources should be exercised in order to make distance education institutions really productive.

To provide a road map for an expanding field such as distance education is not an easy task. The authors have attempted to examine, diagnose and prescribe in one volume the complex subject of distance education. The book brings out the most serious ills affecting distance education institutions in India and suggests measures to meet the challenges.

We must realise that the future of education lies more with distance education system than formal educational institutions. The book is a welcome attempt to analyse the present system. It also offers some very practical and valuable suggestions.The bottom line is we should take distance education seriously.


Ban the land mines that kill
Review by N.K. Pant

Landmines in South Asia: Lurking dangers by Suba Chandran D. Mallika Joseph A. Landmine Monitor, New Delhi. Pages 126. Price not mentioned.

THE cold war era has been a mute witness to the loss of countless civilian lives and limbs by indiscriminate use of landmines in different parts of our strife-torn globe. Even in this unipolar world, these killer devices deployed by the state and non-state actors (NSAs) in border clashes, acts of terrorism and militancy continue to butcher and maim human beings in terribly large numbers. The South Asian region where state-sponsored terrorism and militant movements of various kinds are being waged, has not been fortunate enough to escape the horrifying effects of anti-personnel land mines.

Suba Chandran and Mallika Joseph of the New Delhi-based Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies through their recently published book, "Lethal Fields — Landmines and IEDs in South Asia", have done yeoman service in bringing out the grave dangers to human life looming large in our region.

Incidentally, the book is the result of an in-depth study undertaken by the authors for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). If the purpose of the study, funded by the Landmine Monitor, an initiative of the ICBL, was to put the problem of landmines in the region in the right perspective by identifying the fiendish operators and their modus operandi, the authors seem to have been successful in their noble aim.

The book which contains a brief narrative on the militant groups operating in Kashmir, north-eastern India and Sri Lanka, classifies the NSAs that are using mines and IEDs in South Asia into three categories — militants, naxalities and irregular groups. Naxalite — groups like the PWG in Andhra Pradesh, Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in Bihar and Maoists waging war in parts of Nepal also figure in the description. There is evidence of some sort of nexus among these diverse groups.

IEDs basically include some type of explosive with shrapnel packed in containers together with fuses and detonators. Even a small amount of explosive can cause a in explosion capable of throwing a jeep up to 50 feet in the air or completely destroying a bridge. Despite the security forces being the primary targets, there has been significant collateral damage to civilians in the vicinity of the blast. Among all military explosives, RDX is the most used material in India and happens to be the ultimate killer explosive available to militants. IED is closer to the landmine in its technology, detonation and damage caused by other device in the family of military ordnance.

In India, landmines and IEDs have found wide application by the armed groups in their acts. The militants with the active help from the ISI are using anti-personnel mines against human beings and anti-tank mines against vehicles in Jammu and Kashmir. The mines are usually planted at night and exploded at day-break when security convoys start moving. During the last days of the Kargil conflict, retreating Pakistani forces had resorted to indiscriminate laying of mines causing causalities to the advancing Indian soldiers. Militants in Jammu and Kashmir have had a liberal supply of landmines manufactured by Pakistan ordnance factories.

In Andhra Pradesh, till the end of 1999, 178 policeman have been killed and another 224 injured by landmines planted by PWG terrorists. In March, 2000, they killed state Law Minister Madhav Reddy in a landmine blast. The devices employed by the PWG are usually explosives assembled by the terrorists themselves to work as mines. The group has also extended its area of operation to south Madhya Pradesh and Orissa where IEDs have liberally been used to cause dath and terror.

Apart from NSAs, hitherto unknown irregular groups have also sporadically resorted to the use of IEDs with deadly RDX as explosive. The devices have been detonated with the help of complex electronic timers with telling effect causing widespread damage to lives and property. The series of blasts in Mumbai in 1993 followed by similar acts in Coimbatore in 1998 are the instances involving well-organised mafia gangs with the active connivance of the Pakistani ISI. Use of RDX in lieu of gelatin, feel the authors, transforms the issue from just being a law and order problem to one of sponsored terrorism.

The book also carries a countrywise report on the stand taken by governments in the South Asian region on the Mine Ban Treaty and Amended Protocol II of Convention on certain Conventional Weapons (CCW). As regards India, it voted in favour of the 1966 UN General Assembly resolution urging states to vigorously pursue the international agreement banning anti-personnel mines. But it has been among the small number of nations to abstain on the pro-Mine Ban Treaty resolutions.

India produces two types of anti personnel landmines — M16A 1 bounding fragmentation mine and APNM M-14 pressure-initiated blast mine. However, in the light of enlightened world opinion, stockpiles of M-14 are being converted to make it detectable. The authors’ rough estimate puts Indian stockpile of mines between four to five million pieces.

Pakistan, according to the book, has been one of the stronger advocates internationally of the continued possession and use of anti-personnel landmines and hence has not signed the Mine Ban Treaty. The country produces six types of anti-personnel mines and has earned a sizable foreign exchange by their export. The country is believed to have a stockpile of six million mines.

Sri Lanka citing security considerations due to the ongoing conflict with the LTTE, has not signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. Both the LTTE and the Sri Lankan armed forces extensively use landmines. While the Tamil Tigers produce their own mine called "Jony", Sri Lanka imports its entire requirement. The use of these devices is largely confined to the northern and eastern regions of the island nation where the government forces and the LTTE are locked in a do-or-die armed conflict.

Bangladesh was curiously the first country in South Asia to sign and ratify the Mine Ban Treaty despite the fact that there are mines along its border with Myanmar planted by the Myanmarese army to put an end to cross border guerrilla activities. However, the country which never produced and exported mines, has a stockpile possibly for training and contingencies.

Nepal has not signed the UN Treaty though the government appears to support the ban. The reluctance to sign may be due to the increased mayhem caused by Maoist insurgents. On the other hand, Bhutan does not produce and use anti-personnel mines but has not signed the Mine Ban Treaty or the Amended Protocol of CCW. In the South Asian region, the Maldives was the second country to have signed and ratified the treaty. Since, this tiny island country has no army, it has obviously no requirement for landmines.

Strangely, unlike in the West, enlightenment has not dawned on the South Asian region on the harshness and extremity of the dangers posed by landmines.

Suba Chandran and Mallika Joseph deserve praise for brilliantly analysing the subject and focusing on the severity of the problem in conflict areas where landmines, IEDs and booby traps regularly kill and injure not only security personnel but a large number of civilians. In Jammu and Kashmir alone landmines have caused death to 889 civilians and severe injuries to 7798 persons.

The book should prove to be a great help in rousing public conscience in favour of banning all anti-personnel mines in our region. Time has finally arrived for the human rights groups in the subcontinent to pressurise their respective governments not only to sign and ratify the Mine Ban Treaty but also sincerely abide by its provisions.