Monday, April 2, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Era of open trade
NDIA entered the brave new world of free and unrestricted trade with fear in its heart and a prayer on its lips. Economic newspapers greeted the news as though India has shed its last shackles.

Looters, not law-enforcers!
HEN those duty-bound to protect the interests of the country indulge in looting it, one can imagine about its fate. India has any number of "rakshaks" who have become "bhakshaks", but those currently in the news are top officials of the Central Board of Excise and Customs whose unholy activities have come to light when the nation is still in the process of recovering from the jolt received from the expose.


Lessons from Gujarat quake
Coping with the problem of rehabilitation
B.R. Lall
HE earthquake that destroyed all types of buildings and rendered lakhs of people homeless and workless in Bhuj district of Gujarat was unparalleled. The toll of human life was no small. The crisis has caused a serious disequilibrium in society, leading to a state of emotional turmoil.





The Little Buddha on my shelf
Akshaya Kumar
HEN all else is banished from my room, the Little Buddha remains steadfastly planted on my poetry shelf. He continually threatens my public postures of being an iconoclast. Iconoclasm looks so perfunctory when it comes to the Buddha.


Anupam Gupta
Anandgarh verdict: No bliss for Punjab this
T was a battle of space, fought within the mind,” Le Corbusier wrote of the designing of Chandigarh. “Chandigarh is not a city of lords, princes or kings confined within walls, crowded in by neighbours. It was a matter of occupying the plain.”


Central Sikh League


"Contraceptive bikini" could be shape of things to come
A “contraceptive bikini”, a vaccine against pregnancy and hormone gels could be among the family planning methods available in future. The futuristic forecasts have been made by experts at the family planning charity Marie Stopes International.

  • ‘Nurse stole urinating drug to lose weight’

  • Women with no names

  • Italian government threatens to silence Vatican radio




Era of open trade

INDIA entered the brave new world of free and unrestricted trade with fear in its heart and a prayer on its lips. Economic newspapers greeted the news as though India has shed its last shackles. Commerce and Industry Minister Murasoli Maran was full of hope and assurance. And with very ambitious plans to do a China in India within this decade. The most prominent feature is the dismantling of the physical curbs on the last 715 items, including 147 relating to agriculture, animal products and liquor and other beverages. Mechanised poulty and dairy farms of huge size and heavy subsidy in the West, particularly in the USA, pose a direct and potent threat to India’s rural economy. Wheat and rice growers will be shielded by an administrative decision to canalise their import through state trading companies. And the increased import duty will also help. Mr Maran has proposed two protectionist measures. He will subject all processed food items and meat and poultry to a series of surveillance tests at the point of entry. Two, if there is a surge in imports, he will re-impose the old curbs, apart from increasing the tariff. There are two difficulties. The existing facilities at ports and airports are rudimentary. Two, putting in place the old restrictions can only be a temporary step and hence will not solve the problem.

Of late, the farming community has been greatly agitated over the grim prospects of open trade if grains, dairy products and chicken flood the Indian market. It was not irrational panic but reasoned reaction. Only last week, a big American poultry owner came to Delhi with what a junior reporter described as “a luscious pair of American legs”. She was referring to chicken legs that could cost, even with 100 per cent import duty, a third of the Indian stuff. This is a danger zone and only a firm preference for the taste of Indian meat and chicken can save the day for the humble farm owners. The new policy concentrates on the agricultural sector. Agri-exports will be treated on a par with other exports, and the government will set up agricultural export zones (AEZ) on the lines of special economic zones. It will also compile the latest information on prices and demand and do some marketing to help Indian export of foodgrains and other products. Another novel idea is to develop regional product export zones like apples from Himachal Pradesh and alfanso mangoes from Konkan. On theory this is fine but lack of infrastructure makes this sound hallow. Thanks to an all-round fear, agriculture has found a place in the exim policy, something denied to it all these years. 


Looters, not law-enforcers!

WHEN those duty-bound to protect the interests of the country indulge in looting it, one can imagine about its fate. India has any number of "rakshaks" who have become "bhakshaks", but those currently in the news are top officials of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) whose unholy activities have come to light when the nation is still in the process of recovering from the jolt received from the expose. They have been looting the country for a long time as part of wide-spread smuggling networks. Their operations would have remained unexposed but for reports which began to appear in the media in trickles for the past few weeks. According to the CBI, which conducted raids at the CBEC officials' residences and other places, these guilty government servants numbering 49 have been well-entrenched at various levels in the board. In fact, they constitute its Who's Who — Deputy Commissioners, Joint Commissioners, Additional Commissioners, et al. Surprisingly, the leader of these elements is none other than CBEC chief B. P. Verma himself, who has earned the dubious distinction of being the first person in his position having been booked for his involvement in shady operations. His wife and son, besides his OSD and personal staff, have also been found involved in what was going on at Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport and other airports. Their activities could be uncovered after it was learnt that Mr Verma, who had been showing special favours to a Chennai-based company, was paid a “huge bribe” through his son in a Delhi hotel, and that the CBEC's other senior officials, including its Additional Commissioner V.K. Khushwaha, had been helping an Uzbekistan-based smuggling mafia.

These officials must be getting their "rewards" from many smuggling networks which may be known in the days to come. But the Uzbek national-led operation involving certain Afghan nationals seems to have its bearing on India's security. One report has it that smuggler Olga Kozireva of Uzbekistan had been off and on visiting Pakistan and may have links with the ISI. If this is finally established, the revelations may help cut at least one supply route of the ISI agents engaged in subversive activities in this country. Customs and excise officials are known for making easy money by misusing their position. According to an economic expert, the fiscal deficit shown in the Union Budget can be reduced considerably if the entire bribe money from these officials is recovered. This, however, does not lie in the realm of possibility. But it is definitely possible to scale down their loot if the guilty in the CBI net are given exemplary punishment. 


Lessons from Gujarat quake
Coping with the problem of rehabilitation
B.R. Lall

THE earthquake that destroyed all types of buildings and rendered lakhs of people homeless and workless in Bhuj district of Gujarat was unparalleled. The toll of human life was no small. The crisis has caused a serious disequilibrium in society, leading to a state of emotional turmoil. Under such circumstances people become cynics in their views and approach to life and work. The rich have migrated to safer places. The others who have lost their houses have also lost the will to work. It is also a fact that in some of the rural areas, rations enough to last two to six months have been stored so long as these people had enough to fill their bellies, they are not bothered about work. The fact remains that they have yet to get over the emotional trauma of having witnessed such a large-scale devastation or the loss of their nears and dears.

In view of all this, the nation’s first priority has to be food and medicine, and then clothing and bedding which have been taken care of. A roof over their head is the next priority.

People were provided with tents of tarpaulin immediately. But with the onslaught of summer, which brings high velocity winds, tents may not remain intact. Already during the day with temperatures over 40°C in Rahpar, life in tents is becoming difficult. In the coming weeks the winds may cause collapse of the tents. Therefore, efforts to provide roof to the people need be commenced right now and on top priority.

Problems in rural and urban areas are a little different. In rural areas demands of life are low. Moreover, with fresh crops, the economy will get revived and so will life. The government has to plan in advance for the marketing of agricultural produce as the market system, mandis, etc, need to be revived. Either efforts should be made to revive them, or alternative strategies be drawn in advance so that crops do not get destroyed in the open, or the farmer may not have to resort to distress sale. Even normally the farmer has no holding capacity or storage space. To revive the market in urban areas immediately, the state may build some temporary structures so that economic activity gets going. Traders and industrialists may be able to catch up with the reins of their business, but building a house is beyond their means. Problems are immense, as now they cannot find land nor money for construction. Their old sites are full of rubble which they cannot remove immediately. The Army and the state machinery are likely to remain busy with the demolition of dangerous buildings and may not free the sites for some more time. But in any case, the state may like well laid-out towns to be rebuilt and as such may not permit haphazard growth. But planning in detail is bound to take long.

The priority areas are the markets, the schools and thereafter a roof over the head of the people. For permanent construction lots of thought will have to flow. The causes of the collapse of a house will have to be found out and analysed, and preventive and curative steps to be taken. Then detailed plans for each city will have to be made before any regular concrete-based construction can be taken up either at an old site or a new site. By now the various reasons being identified are that foundations were not proper in this sandy area where bearing capacity (the capacity to hold the structure firmly) of the earth is very low. So all buildings should have specially designed foundations, going deep to rest on hard rocks below, or some other engineering precautions should be taken. The construction should be on beams and columns instead of weight being shouldered by walls so that the walls do not collapse. It has been borne out by the pattern of collapse of buildings that walls caused the maximum damage, and where stone had been used, the collapse was faster. On seeing such walls, my Chief Engineer colleague, Mr P.C. Gupta, immediately remarked that rubble stone masonry having big boulders has to cave in as the earthquake imparts motion and the stone with very little adhesive on its sides in proportion to its size and weight, disengages itself easily from the adhesive. Once it is loose, a stone under its sheer weight gathers tremendous momentum. Once one stone is out, the whole wall collapses, as others rest on it. This is not so in the case of bricks. If a brick were to get loose, it does not roll down. Even if one brick comes out, the level surface of bricks and their interwoven patterns prevent other bricks from slipping or coming out.

For constructing regular buildings, research into the question of foundations, the walls and the super structure is very necessary. All that can take a year or two. Before that no regular building need be allowed, as a collapsing building threatens other structures adjacent to it, which may brave the quake on their own but will surely collapse under the sympathetic shock or push from an adjacent crumbling structure.

But the unfortunate victims of the Gujarat tragedy cannot be expected to wait indefinitely. The crisis caused by the earthquake is over two months old. Plans for the construction of structures which are quake-resistant, fire-proof, heat-proof, have pucca flooring, are termite-proof, have electricity connection and are also cost-effective need to be launched soon.

Voluntary agencies and government departments have come up with ideas of various types of structures. The structures based on bamboo are temporary in nature. Their life theoretically, may be five years, but termites will take the toll. Finally, it is no better than a tent. Another popular structure is based on an angle iron frame with ACC or CGI sheet roofing and walls of board. Such structures have come up at Bhachau, but offer no comfort without electricity, insulation and pucca flooring. Others based on synthetic structures are much too costly.

This writer has evolved a model based on his observations in the north-east, which is also a quake-prone area. The building has solid re-inforced concrete foundations with square steel tubular columns embedded into it, mounted with trusses welded with steel plates at the ends, which are securely held by nuts and bolts. At the top, the covering is of ACC sheets with a sarkanda thatch so as to beat the heat. The walls consist of half an inch thick Bison Board composed of cement and wooden particles, which do no heat up much. The structure has been duly electrified. As models, such structures are being put up in 19 villages of the Rahpar area in Kutch district which Haryana has adopted. The structures being raised are designed as multipurpose ones to serve as community centres, schools, panchayat ghars or even places for community living in the wake of an earthquake threat as the structures are quake-resistant.

One structure provides a covered area of 2000 square feet, consisting of four rooms of 24x16 ft each with a 5 ft wide verandah in front. Each unit of 2000 sq ft is supposed to cost not more than Rs 2 lakh. So the cost per square feet of the plinth area will be less than Rs 100, which is the lowest in the case of all structures based on wood or any sort of prefabs or semi-prefabs costing between Rs 200 and Rs 350 per sq ft.

The advantages this model offers are:

a) Being light weight and firmly held in a re-inforced concrete ring beam, it is earthquake-resistant. Also its foundations will hold in securely in the face of high velocity winds.

b) The life of the structure is easily between three and five decades. Life of walls, however, may be a little lower. Based on an expanded metal jali, the life of walls will also match the life of the structure. But even this will last 10 to 20 years though the manufacturers claim more.

c) It is based on a nut-bolt technology and, as such, can be dismantled, transported and re-erected easily. The only loss would be of the concrete in the foundations.

d) It is just like a regular house with pucca flooring protected from rains, winds, heat and fire.

e) It is secure and can be locked.

A house covering an area of 336 sft has been designed primarily for rural areas. It consists of a big room of 120 sft, a smaller room of 80 sft, a kitchen of 40 sft and a running verandah in front. With dimensions of 21x16 ft, the cost of construction of the house will be only Rs 33,600 or Rs 34,000. No baths or latrines have been provided as these are not the requirements in rural areas. For urban areas the necessary modifications can be made. The area of a house can be easily increased or decreased. If smaller accommodation is required, it can be just a single room of 16’x10’, costing just Rs 16,000 or a one-room tenement covering 120 sft. With a kitchen of 40’ and a verandah of 48 ft adding upto 208 sft, the cost comes to Rs 21,000. Any of the alternatives can be adopted.

During my detailed visits to Rahpar and Bhachau towns I found that all houses supported by stone walls but without beams and columns of concrete had invariably got flattened and that too completely. Brick structures had partially survived. Frame structure were very limited and these too had stone walls mostly. Even if their roof slab was intact, they were not worth living in. Some of the houses were supported partly on properly framed structures and partly the walls shouldered the weight. The framed structures by and large stood quake impact unless a wall fell on a beam or a column, or the neighbours’ house, who used only stones either in cement or even in mudmortar, took its toll.

The first lesson is that it is not only your house which should conform to the established standards but also of your neighbour on either side. Otherwise you may be in for a sympathetic fall to the house of the neighbour. But no one can force one’s neighbour to adopt a particular standard in constructing his house. This is where the role of the law comes in. The law has to ensure that no substandard construction takes place. Nobody can be allowed such liberty. The laws need be enacted and enforced strictly on individual house owners. The builders who build for profit have to be subjected to more rigorous laws. Till the time such laws are enacted, no pucca structure using heavy materials should be allowed to come up.

The most serious matter to be considered is why a Bhachau structure sank directly into the earth. First of all, it should be noted that soil consists of loose earth, and its bearing capacity is low. A building can rest on piles or big footings of columns with a raft so that it does not sink straight. Even in the case of the collapse of housing complexes in Ahmedabad, the condition of the foundations was the worst. An earthquake shakes the foundations initially, and the other parts of a house suffer as a consequence.

Walls come next to the foundations. Wherever big and irregular blocks of any material were used, they rolled fast, as they got loosened easily and gathered momentum. The walls comprise of so many units and their load is very heavy. A stone wall is much heavier than that of bricks. It will be instructive to have a rough idea, how much a house weighs and how much of it is the weight of bricks alone. In a flat of a housing society measuring 1200 sft, which is the general average, its walls alone will have a load of 84,000 kg — the walls alone weigh 84 tonnes.

The simple calculations are that one square ft of a 9” thick wall will take 11 bricks which weigh 35 kg. In a room of the size of 15’x12’ two walls will be full and other two can be taken at half, as these may be common to other rooms as well. Taking three-fourth of the wall area of 540 sft and assuming the wall height of 10 ft the surface area of walls for this room is 405 sft. The total brick weight will be 405x35=14175 kg, or the weight of the walls per square ft of the covered area would be 78.75 kg. After leaving out for windows and doors, it rounds off to a net average weight of 70 kg, per square ft of the covered area in a building.

Slabs, which constitute the second heaviest component, weighs 27 tonnes for 4” thickness for a 1200 sft area. Flooring is only 2” thick and may consist of 7 tonnes. Walls thus constitute more than 70 per cent of the weight of a house, even if these are non-load-bearing, and by themselves serve no purpose except for providing a thick veil. Walls, it would appear, are the bigget culprit whose flab needs to be cut, as in a multistoried structure, nothing substantial can be done to the slab whereas it is possible to cut down drastically the weight of the walls. It may be mentioned here that the weight taken is of bricks only, leaving out the plaster which will also not be insignificant.

The following conclusion can be easily drawn:

a) There is need to strengthen the foundations for which enough literature exists. Only the law needs be enacted and the provisions followed and enfoced.

b) Big boulders or big-size bricks or blocks would disengage themselves easily from plaster, disintegrate and create a gap in a larger area, gathering momentum leading to a havoc. So the technologies being practised and advocated so far for reducing the adhesive — cement on ends should be discarded. Perhaps this was the reason why our forefathers used small-size bricks, as these provide greater stability, are low on momentum stick firmly on all sides and are more quake-resistant.

c) Can the load of walls be reduced?

The answer is a definite yes. It may appear surprising but the load of bricks in walls can altogether be eliminated. The walls should weigh only as much as the plaster on them.

I have come to this conclusion on the basis of my experience with Assam-type structures in the North-east and other experiments. Wherever there is no column, say for a partition in the bathroom etc, a small column of an appropriate size and thickness can be raised, or a steel column can serve the purpose. This jali is plastered for a thickness of .5” on each side, to a total thickness of 1” including both sides. It will enough strength to stand as a wall. The gauge and the thickness can, however, vary.

Cost-wise also such a structure is preferable. It will carry practically no load. Besides, it is also important ecologically, as it will save society from the pollution which brick-kilns cause. It will help conserve the precious clay for agricultural purposes.

— The writer, a senior IPS officer, is the Chairman-cum-Managing Director of the Haryana Police Housing Corporation. His views are entirely personal.


The Little Buddha on my shelf
Akshaya Kumar

WHEN all else is banished from my room, the Little Buddha remains steadfastly planted on my poetry shelf. He continually threatens my public postures of being an iconoclast. Iconoclasm looks so perfunctory when it comes to the Buddha. “What do you gain by destroying a proclaimed self-annihilator?” I ask myself. Politics is pre-empted if the rival is an absolute dispossessor. The rival becomes your guru, and you his unconditional convert. The historic Buddha undid the dreaded dacoit Angulimal who bewitched by his self-defying courage laid down his arms, and later went on to become one of his most passionate disciples. The Little Buddha on the shelf has warded me off from my repeated attempts to dislodge him in much the same manner.

Why should a silent innocuous Buddha icon disarm me so nonchalantly? What really is there in it to behold me? What makes me surrender before a frozen short statue? Is it faith or love for the Oriental exotica? Had it been faith alone, I would have much preferred a calendar photo of Ganesh, Lakshmi or Shiva — the well-known deities of cannonical Hindu pantheon. Had it been just a matter of showcasing antiques alone, I would have flaunted costlier or rarer pieces. Remember, show-pieces have limited life-spans. My Little Buddha has been with me for more than 20 years now. And it shows no signs of aging.

As I stare into it, I am awestruck by its unrelenting liveliness. Art and persona mix so indissolubly in it that it becomes a living being, nay, the Buddha himself. I cannot think of a historic Buddha different from the icon I have on my shelf. I am not an art-historian to speculate on its exact pedigree that whether it is from the Gandhara school of art or an imitation of an indigenous primitive Buddha, all I know is that it enamours the beholder as no other icon probably does. With its perfectly humanistic features, it has an unmistakable aura to spellbound the spectator. There is nothing intimidating about it. There are no 10 or 12 arms, no dragon under his feet, no cobra around his neck, no lion or horse as his official vahana.

It is refreshingly new each time I see it. Never does it tire. Energy emanates ceaselessly as though icon is a mini-lamp of an unflickering flame unto itself. My Little Buddha in the black metal has radiance which even gold cannot yield. The Buddha exceeds the medium of its representation. For the beauty lies not in the medium, but in the truth of the image that it seeks to mould itself into. More than the medium, the truth is the substance of the Buddha’s icons. I am reminded of Aurobindo who says, “Here spirit carried the form, while in western art, form carries whatever they think is spirit.”

His beaming inward smile is inimitable for it is not just a gesture of easy happiness. It is a smile of the one who has known what dukkha is. It is smile far more enigmatic than the much hyped thousand dollar smile of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. How many warrior kings did Mona Lisa win over? His face is pensive as it is playful, compassionate as it is indifferent, turbulent as it is calm. This face may not have launched a thousand ships, it has definitely becalmed the most violent of passions of our history over the centuries. His half-shut eyes should not be mistaken for his being sleepy or forgetful.

Those who have insight never stare with eyes blatantly open. His posture of an immaculate yogi in meditation, with body, head and neck in perfect equipoise bustles with unprecedented dynamism. It is not one of those Madame Tussad’s chosen wax models, which always invite the comparison between the original and the imitated. Reality of an icon lies in its internal harmony. More than just physical proximity with the imitated object, the merit of an icon lies in the spiritual vibes that it enthralls its viewer with.

When a handful of fanatics were hell bent on demolishing the Bamiyan Buddhas I approached my Little Buddha apologetically for not being able to prevent their black deed. I prayed for thee. I picked up a collection of poems from the shelf in anguish. A poem read: “Buddha acquires a place on the mantlepiece/ of Time. A chiselled reminder of the fact/that caprice cannot survive the moment./ You are moulded by all that precedes/ and all that follows... “ “(The Stone Buddha” by Shuja Nawaz, a Pakistani poet in English). The Buddha, I am convinced, has already reached the indestructible realm of poetry. Can the Taliban ever destroy this poetry?


Anandgarh verdict: No bliss for Punjab this
Anupam Gupta

“IT was a battle of space, fought within the mind,” Le Corbusier wrote of the designing of Chandigarh. “Chandigarh is not a city of lords, princes or kings confined within walls, crowded in by neighbours. It was a matter of occupying the plain.”

Read properly and between the lines, last week’s judgement of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, quashing the notifications acquiring land for the proposed town of Anandgarh on Chandigarh’s periphery, is a valiant continuation of the battle that Le Corbusier launched.

Behind the overstretched rhetoric of the judgement cited by all newspapers — “(Man) cannot raise multi-storeyed monsters of cement and steel at every place” and the “Courts cannot allow the time taken in complying with (statutory) provisions to become the graveyard of good laws or people’s rights” — lies a judicious sense of alarm at the monumental bureaucratic encroachment upon the vision and resources of Chandigarh that the idea of Anandgarh represents.

Even from the purely architectural point of view, there is an element of historical justice, or inevitability, in the High Court becoming the centre of resistance to contrived urbanisation on the city’s periphery, threatening to subvert the pristine insularity of its original character.

It was after all the High Court which was the first of the three buildings in the Capital Complex — the Assembly, the Secretariat, and the High Court — to be completed during the construction of Chandigarh.

Described by Norma Evenson as the “strongest architectural statement of which the architect was capable”, the Capital Complex marked the culmination of Le Corbusier’s conception of monumentality.

“Disciplined by climate, poverty, and primitive technology,” writes Evenson in her work on Chandigarh, “the buildings of the Capital Complex rise from the earth, massive sculptural forms of rough concrete, uncompromisingly asserting their presence against the vast sweep of plain and the distant mountains. Battered by rains and dust storms, these structures have been labriously built by the toil of many men. They have been built to last.”

“As India herself stood alone and threatened (she continues) when the city was planned, so the capital structures (in Chandigarh) stand within a hostile world. A timid statement in this setting would be overwhelmed. These are not comfortable buildings nor do they stand in a comfortable place. Nor do they speak of a comfortable life or of life taken for granted, but of life maintained with effort in an uncertain world.”

The March 28 verdict of the High Court is one such effort and is best understood as such.

Uncompromisingly asserting its presence against a sweep of vested interests, bureaucratic and political, the High Court has sought to protect Chandigarh from being swallowed up by a hostile and marauding provincial world acting recklessly of the law. A timid statement in this setting, anything less than quashing, would have been absolutely of no consequence, even if the rhetoric exceeds at times the boundaries of justicability.

It is unfortunate, in fact, that the eloquence of the verdict has tended to overshadow, or obscure, its essential legal premise which constitutes a major step forward in the jurisprudence of urbanisation.

That premise is the centrality, and indispensability, of expert decision-making in all matters relating to urban planning and development including the establishment of new towns.

The principal legal instrument identified by the High Court in the Punjab context for expert “multi-disciplinary consideration” of related issues is a body scarcely noticed by anyone before — the Punjab Regional and Town Planning and Development Board set up under a Punjab Act of 1995 bearing the same long, and somewhat cumbersome, title.

Headed by the Chief Minister, with the Minister for Housing and Urban Development seconding as the vice-chairman, the Board appears, at first glance, to be loaded with bureaucrats (or secretaries) appointed ex officio.

Closely read, however, it is clear that the High Court has so read the statute, and its provisions prescribing the composition, powers and functions of the Board, as to shift the balance of decision-making to the Board’s non-official members or experts in housing, engineering and regional and town planning who are otherwise negligible in number.

The repeated emphasis in the judgement on the Board’s competence to “associate experts” other than members who are experts themselves is a step in the same direction of transforming, by interpretation, a body which is predominantly bureaucratic to one which is, or ought to be, essentially technocratic.

The State government and other agencies, says the High Court with gentle preemptoriness, “have to act on the advice and under the guidance of the Board in all matters relating to urban planning and development”, including, in particular, the establishment of a new town and selection of a site for the same.

Even the power to “give a name to the site” vests, says the High Court, in the Board (and not the government).

The function of the Board, it says further, detailing the procedure for selection of a new town site under Section 56 of the Act, “is not merely consultative or purely advisory. It is almost adjudicatory.” Knowing fully well that adjudicatory functions cannot, in principle, be delegated and must be exercised independently without diktat from any other or superior authority.

All this would be wholly academic and practically worthless if the final opinion or recommendation of the Board, after exhausting the statutory procedure, were not binding on the government.

Or if either the Board’s or the government’s decision were beyond legal scrutiny.

It is here that, in a succinct paragraph, the High Court takes a quantum leap.

“Let us assume that the government has the right to disagree with the Board (it says). Can it do so arbitrarily? Without assigning any reason? We think not. Take, for instance, a case where the Board opines that the site is earthquake prone. It is not suitable for a new city. Surely, the government shall not be able to overrule the Board without assigning any reason. If it does so, the action shall be a foolproof formula for failure. It can be challenged as being arbitrary. The court has the power to prevent such a course of action. It shall not fail to call foul.”

To argue, in the face of this paragraph, that the High Court has detected only a procedural snag in the Anandgarh project, as the Punjab government (going by newspaper reports) appears to be doing, would be an exercise in self-deception.

The words quoted above lay the foundation for a substantive judicial intervention in matters of urban planning and development, including (in particular) the establishment of new towns.

That, you would say and not wrongly perhaps, is a dangerous blurring of the line dividing judicial and executive functions.

But that, the High Court would answer and not wrongly again, is the only way the danger lurking on Chandigarh’s periphery can be beaten back. More on Anandgarh and periphery control next week.



Central Sikh League

BABA Gurdit Singh of the Kamagatamaru fame, President-elect of the Punjab Central League, which holds its 5th Session at Lahore, arrived here from Amritsar yesterday at 3 p.m. and was cordially received at the Railway Station by the members of the Reception Committee and other leading Akalis. He was then taken in procession through the main bazars of the city and Anarkali. The procession was accompanied by a large number of Akalis and termined at about 6.30 p.m. at the Bradlough Hall where the conference is to be held.

The conference holds its sittings today, when the Chairman of the Reception Committee and the President delivered their respective addresses. A large number of Akalis have come from outstation to attend the conference.


"Contraceptive bikini" could be shape
of things to come

A “contraceptive bikini”, a vaccine against pregnancy and hormone gels could be among the family planning methods available in future.

The futuristic forecasts have been made by experts at the family planning charity Marie Stopes International (MSI).

The charity celebrated the 80th anniversary of the opening of the UK’s first birth control clinic by its founder, Dr Marie Stopes.

The clinic on London’s Holloway Road opened in 1921 and was the first to offer British women contraceptive advice. To mark the 80th anniversary of the first clinic, MSI has asked its experts to predict the “ideal contraceptive” of the future.

By 2010, they say new methods will include:

The bisexual bikini: A Japanese company is developing a pair of latex underpants with a built-in condom facility, to be used by men or women for the ultimate in protected sex.

Gels and sprays: Within the next 10 years scientists hope to have developed aerosol sprays and gels containing hormones that will prevent pregnancy.

Pills of the future: Researchers in the USA are developing a new contraceptive pill called Seasonale which will mean women have just four periods a year and take the pills for 84 days, rather than the week cycles at present.

Natural methods could include an electronic device that when held to the ear gauges hormone levels and would tell when a woman is ovulating.

In the “far distant future”, family planning could include an injection that immunises women against pregnancy by interfering with the antigens needed for a sperm to attach itself to an egg. Observer

‘Nurse stole urinating drug to lose weight’

A Japanese nurse allegedly stole 5,000 doses of a urinating drug from work to help her lose weight.

Furukawa municipal hospital officials didn’t call the police because the nurse was certified as mentally ill at the time.

Taken even in small doses the Lasix drug makes the recipient want to urinate.

The nurse has since resigned from her position at the hospital and her family have paid back the money for the medicine.

The Mainichi Daily News said it has only just learned about the incident which happened in late 1997.

Women with no names

Women are hearing the brunt of the Maharashtra government’s new population policy. Now adherence to the two-child norm determines access to social security schemes like housing, rations, capital support for income generation and finance for cattle. The new policy is stated to be target-free; but in actual fact, family planning targets have been doubled. And women are the focus.

“Women with identification numbers taped to their foreheads lie on their sides like spoons stacked together, waiting their turn to be sterilised,” says a horrified observer. WFS

Italian government threatens to silence Vatican radio

The Italian government is threatening to silence the Vatican’s radio station.

Environment Minister Willer Bordon says he’ll cut off its power supply unless it reduces the electromagnetic emissions from its antennae.

Three directors of Vatican Radio face trial on charges of creating electromagnetic pollution. The Vatican has so far refused to recognise the jurisdiction of Italian courts over its transmitters.

The radio station has 58 antennae emitting between 100,000 and 600,000 watts.

People in north Rome complain they hear hymns from Vatican Radio humming through their fridges and phones.

They also claim the emissions are causing leukaemia in children and tumours in adults. The Vatican denies there’s a link between the electromagnetic waves from its antennae and leukaemia or other cancers.



You talk when you cease to be at peacewith your thoughts;

And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.

And in much of your talking, thinking is half-murdered.

For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.


There are those among you

who seek the talkative through fear of being alone.

The silence of aloneness reveals to their eyes their naked selves and they would escape.

And there are those who talk, and without knowledge or forethought reveal a Truth which they themselves do not understand.

And there are those who have the Truth within them,

but they tell it not in words.

In the bosom of such as these the spirit dwells in rhythmic silence.

— Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet


If you seek to play the game of love, enter my path with your head upon your palm.

Once your set your foot on this path,

Offer your head and do not flinch.

— Sri Guru Nanak Dev, Adi Granth, P.1412


How often does a man ruin his disciples by remaining always with them! When men are once trained, it is essential that their leader leaves them; for without his absence they cannot develop themselves.


This idea of man-worship exists in nucleus in India, but it has never been expanded. You may develop it. Make poetry, make art of it. Establish the worship of the feet of beggars as you had it in Medieval Europe. Make man-worshippers.


Western languages declare that man is a body and has a soul;

Eastern languages declare that he is a soul and has a body.

— The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. II, Sayings and Utterances

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