Monday, April 9, 2001,
Chandigarh, India

E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


Tau Devi Lal
EVI Lal was truly the tau of Haryana and fittingly the political leadership and the farming community of the state went to Delhi to attend his funeral.

Judicial tehelka in Pakistan
N Pakistan even judicial verdicts have political overtones. The one pronounced by the Supreme Court, setting aside the conviction of Ms Benazir Bhutto and Mr Asif Ali Zardari in corruption cases, too is not above the taint of being influenced by recent developments.


Kashmir talks with a difference
“Ceasefire” has to have teeth
Pran Chopra
HALF-way through the three-month “ceasefire” announced by Prime Minister Vajpayee at the end of February, the Government of India has offered a basis on which both sides can hold fire for much longer while talks proceed for something more lasting.




Poor logic: the buck stops at us all
Amar Chandel
GOD, it is said, loves the poor. Our leaders too are gods - at least demi-gods. So, they too adore the poor. Whatever they do is for the sake of the poor - even robbing them.


P. R. Mishra — requiem for a pioneer
P.H. Vaishnav
ISHRA, the father of the Sukhomajri experiment of eco-friendly silvipastural development through community involvement died last fortnight in his native village in Palamau district.

Hypocrisy is our great national vice
Abu Abraham

former Editor of Punch, William Davis, once told me a story he had picked up in Mumbai. A senior politician was seen at a party drinking Scotch. When someone asked whether it was proper, the man replied: “I’m doing it in my personal capacity”.


Wearing of Khadi dress made compulsory


Protein-rich maize to be available
ITH the Indian Council of Agricultural Research deciding to entrust indigenous seed companies with the task of multiplying “parent” lines for the Quality Protein Maize hybrids, farmers will be able to grow the maize by the next Rabi season.

  • Solar power in the Sunderbans




Tau Devi Lal

DEVI Lal was truly the tau of Haryana and fittingly the political leadership and the farming community of the state went to Delhi to attend his funeral. He was the last authentic regional leader who also partially succeeded in making an impact at the national level. There were many pretenders like Govind Narain Singh and Karpoori Thakur who quietly merged into the footnotes of history. He was cast in the mould of the titans produced by the freedom movement who dominated the initial years of independence in every state. In this respect he was really the last link in the now broken chain of state-level leaders who symbolised the sentiments of their states without weakening the federal structure. Today’s corps of young and asserting regional satraps sustain the Centre and to that extent are not helping the concept of a strong federation. Given the complex polity, it is difficult to think of both being strong simultaneously.

Devi Lal fought many battles in his long career. Nothing was so rewarding as the one he launched in the mid-eighties to set the stage for his remarkable comeback in the 1987 election. It was a revenge bout; he was cheated of his due five years earlier by Governor G.D. Tapase who hurriedly installed Mr Bhajan Lal as Chief Minister. That rankled, made people angry and created the atmosphere for the Haryana bachao agitation. The 1987 victory was his while that of 1977 was a verdict against emergency. Many called him a Jat leader and compared him to Charan Singh. The latter came from a huge state with several years of Congress leadership behind him. The size of Haryana was bound to impinge on Devi Lal’s clout. That he still wielded so much power is a tribute to him.

More than what he did in Haryana, Devi Lal will be remembered for what he did during two momentous years in New Delhi. He secured the uncontested election of Mr V.P. Singh as Prime Minister and within months toppled him and installed Mr Chandra Shekhar in his place with himself as his deputy. He was greatly helped by the BJP’s withdrawal of support to the V.P. Singh government as an angry reaction to the arrest of Mr L.K. Advani in Samastipur. Mr Devi Lal also contributed his mite to the implementation of the Mandal Commission report in 1990, which many thought was an attempt by Mr V.P. Singh to take the sting out of a kisan rally he organised a few days later. Many claim to be a kisan leader; in his case kisans claimed him as their leader. 


Judicial tehelka in Pakistan

IN Pakistan even judicial verdicts have political overtones. The one pronounced by the Supreme Court, setting aside the conviction of Ms Benazir Bhutto and Mr Asif Ali Zardari in corruption cases, too is not above the taint of being influenced by recent developments. The verdict against Ms Bhutto and her husband was influenced by the Nawaz Sharif factor and the one ordering retrial was, perhaps, fine-tuned in the ante-room of Chief Executive Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan gives the impression of being a soft state to objective observers because of the tendency of its ruling elite to abuse even the judiciary for settling political scores. General Zia-ul-Haq was responsible for the hanging of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. A pliable judiciary merely helped the military dictator in doing what he in any case might have done. Mr Nawaz Sharif, of course, went berserk in the matter of sacking judges unwilling to give him reprieve in the corruption cases pending against him. His was a unique case of a Prime Minister virtually sacking the President, the troublesome judges and even the army chief. However, before dismissing army chiefs became a habit with him, he ended up receiving a heavy dose of the same medicine from the "sacked" General Musharraf. He was quietly removed from office. However, like most tyrants the self-appointed Chief Executive also made pious noises about restoring democracy and civil rule in Pakistan. He now behaves like Generals Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Zia.

It would be naive not to see the hand of General Musharraf in the judicial reprieve granted to Ms Bhutto and her husband. It would be instructive to follow the sequence of events for understanding his long-term gameplan. He began by putting Mr Nawaz Sharif in jail on charges of corruption. Ms Bhutto would have met the same fate had she made the mistake of returning after the ouster of Mr Nawaz Sharif. The tapes which revealed that the verdict against her and her husband was fixed by the judge at the behest of Mian Nawaz Sharif may never have seen the light had the Pakistan People's Party chief been within nabbing distance. Her absence from Pakistan forced the General to revise his strategy for staying in power. The first part was to grab Mr Nawaz Sharif's ill-gotten wealth and pack him off into permanent exile in Saudi Arabia. However, he knows that like General Zia he too would have to create a facade of restoring civilian rule. Hence the reprieve to Ms Bhutto through the highest court of the land. The verdict has paved the way for her return to Pakistan. But will she play ball with the military dictator, to whom she is expected to be beholden for the unexpected turn of events?


Kashmir talks with a difference
“Ceasefire” has to have teeth
Pran Chopra

HALF-way through the three-month “ceasefire” announced by Prime Minister Vajpayee at the end of February, the Government of India has offered a basis on which both sides can hold fire for much longer while talks proceed for something more lasting. That is the crux of the long and formal statement issued by the Government of India on the evening of April 5.

As expected, the first responses to the offer have been largely negative. Similar initiatives about Kashmir have yielded so little so often in the past that hope of something dramatic now is faint. And it can evaporate altogether if too much is expected too soon in a situation in which, learning from past failures, both sides may prefer — as they should — to take only one step at a time. But this time there are some changes too which should not be overlooked. They can make a difference if they are given a chance.

Take the first change. In inviting “a political dialogue with all sections of the peace-loving people of the state (of Jammu and Kashmir)”, the government has specifically included “those who are currently outside it”. This could mean something as little as inviting Kashmiris, whether Hindus or Muslims, who used to live in the State but had to migrate “outside” because of the militancy. But it could also mean two more things, which would widen the participation of “the State” in the “political dialogue”.

The phrase could cover separatists who migrated from the State because of their opposition to the State’s accession to India. At the minimum this could mean those who are now “outside” both India and Pakistan. More hopefully it could mean those who belong to the State but are now in Pakistan, including those parts of “the State” which are under the occupation of Pakistan. Two facts should be recalled in this context.

First, when Abdul Majid Dar, a senior leader of the Hizbul Mujahideen who has lately been living on the Indian side of the State, announced a unilateral ceasefire in the last week of July, he was hailed by the people of the Kashmir valley, including those elements of the Hizb who like him have been living in the valley for some time past. On the other hand he was denounced by those Kashmiri elements of the Hizb who live in Pakistan and are possibly controlled by it, and they ultimately succeeded in scuttling Majid Dar’s move. Ever since then it has appeared likely that there are Kashmiris living in Pakistan and in the Pakistan controlled parts of “the State” who would support a move like Majid Dar’s if they were free to do so, or if it were floated by New Delhi itself as a step towards a wider and more purposeful dialogue.

Second, it was with an eye on them that some weeks ago a former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Ghulam Mohammad Shah, once an estranged relative of the present Chief Minister, Mr Farooq Abdullah, invited the more prominent among them to a conference in Jammu. The conference collapsed because the Government of India declined to give visas to them. That was a mistake. But it is quite possible that they would get visas if they agreed to come for talks initiated by the Government of India, and not by a one-time opponent of Farooq Abdullah, who for years has been the strongest Kashmiri supporter of the State’s accession to India.

New Delhi should have every reason to be glad if people from across the Line of Control also responded to its invitation to talks. Whatever be the mindset with which they came, India should explore their choices too. Those in official positions in PoK might not be allowed by Pakistan to come, but non-official individuals and organisations might find it easier. For this reason it is good that the invitation has cast its net wide and has addressed all “peace-loving people of the State” and all kinds of organisations “from all the regions of the State”, including “political parties, non-government organisations, trade unions and social and religious bodies”.

The first reaction of the Hurriyat’s present President, Abdul Ghai Bhatt, has been that India must first allow the Hurriyat to send a team of its own choice to Pakistan. Such a visit might have been easier for New Delhi to accept it, with the assistance of some members of the Hurriyat, had Pakistan not insisted on its interpretation that the team would be visiting Pakistan at the invitation of Pakistan and as a mediator between India and Pakistan in a tripartite process. Such an interpretation is totally unacceptable to India, and if the Hurriyat were to insist on its acceptance by India as a condition for agreeing to a dialogue with New Delhi then it will simply have to exclude itself from proposed dialogue. India also cannot accept Abdul Ghani Lone’s position, recently stated publicly, that the Hurriyat alone can represent Kashmir.

But here also there are two facts which are less discouraging. First, while complaining that the Hurriyat had not been “informed” of the proposed talks, Lone is also reported to have added that if steps were taken in that direction, presumably meaning that if the Hurriyat were formally informed of the talks and invited to them, “ we will give a positive response.” This “step” is a simple one and New Delhi should take it, and soon.

Second, there is nothing in the Indian statement of April 5 which would prevent the Hurriyat from asking for a visit to Pakistan in the course of the talks, or even at the beginning if it so desired. Since the Government of India has said that there should be no talks, then Hurriyat can lay down prior acceptance of the proposed visition as a condition for the talks to begin. The agenda proposed for the talks, “Peace, and how it might be attained”, and “all aspects bearing on this theme” is too broad, inclusive, and flexible for anyone either to insist on the inclusion of any proposition in the talks or to insist on its exclusion.

The tone about Pakistan is more nuanced in this Indian statement than in some earlier ones, though the substance remains the same. India acknowledges that Pakistan has been proposing talks, and India “reaffirms its faith in such a dialogue” (though it would be hard for India to substantiate the sentence in the statement that there have been “frequently repeated requests from Pakistan that they are eager for a dialogue with India on J & K”. There have been “demands” from Pakistan in plenty. But “frequently repeated requests”?). In any case the old conditions for talks with Pakistan remain in place, that is insistence on its “curbing cross-border terrorism and putting an end to ....vicious anti-Indian propaganda”, and it is clear from this new initiative that for the time being at any rate India is going to concentrate harder on talks with J & K than with Pakistan.

The statement also makes a clear effort to end the confusion which has existed in the media and in the public mind about the phrase “ceasefire”, which has been used both frequently and wrongly. More accurate, though cumbersome, is the phrase India has consistently used in and since its own first announcement of a “ceasefire”, namely “non-initiation” of any action by the security forces on their own. What that means precisely is that the security forces will not begin any action unless forced to retaliate against any hostile action by the militants. Unfortunately, after the misleading phrase came to be used by senior ranks in the armed forces too, even retaliatory action became slack. This made the militants bolder and they carried out some daring raids in the course of March and earlier.

More recently the confusion was cleared and retaliatory actions by the security forces were resumed. But because they had not been undertaken for some time, when they were they looked harsher than they were, and were resented more than when they used to be more customary. This made it easier for the separatists to work up public demonstrations, until the mood for peace generated in the public by and since Majid Dar’s first announcement of a “ceasefire” began to look all but dead, and in the rest of India too opposition to the whole peace process became more vocal and widespread.

In more recent days retaliatory actions have been as frequent as the provocation for them has been, and have also become more effective, and now the government’s statement has made the issue more bluntly clear. It says “the security forces have been directed to vigorously conduct operations against those who disturb the peace and victimise the innocent people of J & K, while at the same time ensuring that the population at large is spared undue hardships and harassment.”

All this is as it should be. But the government’s efforts have yet to regain the credibility they had when, just under a year ago, the government responded correctly and quickly to the initiative taken by Majid Dar. There are two main reasons for this decline. The first and more serious one is that some of the government’s decisions have been patently wrong, as two examples will show. First, the brusque and almost insulting manner in which the Government of India rejected the “autonomy report” presented to it by Farooq Abdullah. The point is not whether the report demanded more autonomy than it should have or more than the Union government could have conceded. The point is that instead of discussing the demand and explaining to the state’s Chief Minister how far it could be conceded and why not more, the report was summarily thrown out.

Second, refusal of passports to those whom the Hurriyat wanted to send to Pakistan, and refusal of visas to those invited by Mr GM Shah for the conference proposed by him.

Again, the point is not whether the passports or the visas should have been denied or not. But the delays, the confusion and a distinct lack of courtesy with which such decisions should be taken. Such delays and ineptitude took a heavy toll when New Delhi delayed its response to the Hurriyat’s demand that the government should clarify whether the talks proposed by the Prime Minister last summer would be within or outside the Constitution. The clarification the Prime Minister did ultimately give in the Lok Sabha was eminently sensible, sincere and convincing. But the time it took to come became an opportunity for Pakistan and its supporters in India to foul up the air irretrievably.

To recall these incidents is exercise enough for pointing out what should be done or not if the new initiative by the government is to yield what the government expects it to.


Poor logic: the buck stops at us all
Amar Chandel

GOD, it is said, loves the poor. Our leaders too are gods - at least demi-gods. So, they too adore the poor. Whatever they do is for the sake of the poor - even robbing them. Just hear the speeches of some of those worthies who have siphoned off crores out of taxpayers’ money and you will know how much their heart bleeds for the downtrodden.

They not only devote themselves to the service of the poor, they also exhort others to do so. If they rise in support of those who sell white paint and urea as milk, they do so because they do not want to punish “poor” milkmen. If they resist court orders against those who are killing hundreds of people by running polluting industries in residential areas, it is because they do not want to deprive “poor” industrialists of their livelihood.

So strong is their urge to serve the lowest of the lowly that every attempt is made to ensure that the majority remains in that wretched condition. After all, if there are no poor, whom will they serve?

Wallowing in poverty has been made out to be some kind of a virtue. If you are below poverty line, you are issued a complimentary certificate of merit that you are honest, hard working and sincere. So why do you want to go up? Be warned! Anyone who makes money is an exploiter. Bask in your misery, my dear friend. Let the circle of the rich remain an exclusive club.

This topsy-turvy logic provides the politicians with an opportunity to wash their hands off the responsibility of improving the lot of the Indians. Whatever basic facility is denied to them is conveniently labelled as a luxury. A prominent Bihari leader was once asked why his state had no roads. His classic retort was that the “poor” people of his State did not need such “elitist luxuries”. Yes, you heard it right. That is what he said. It was no mofussil leader, but a close associate of that messiah of the poor, Laloo Yadav, called Ramai Ram.

You may dismiss his comment as the fulmination of a regional leader. But our central leaders figure no better. Good education, uninterrupted water and power supplies have all been called luxuries by our netas. The other day, a former Union Minister called Delhi a pampered city. Why? Because it demands water supply round the clock even in summer!

To that extent, quality has been converted into a luxury also. If you make a superior product and sell it at a little higher price, you are either elitist or a promoter of consumerism. If the government agencies were providing quality products or services at a cheaper rate, this allegation would have been justified to some extent. But look at what they are doing. Just analyse the quality of foodgrains supplied through ration shops and other everyday items through the so-called fair price shops.

Many of these are barely fit for human consumption. Try raising your voice against this exploitation and you will be made to appreciate that beggars cannot be choosers. So, in what way do the poor gain? Ask the FCI. Its godowns are full; so what if millions of people still go hungry. It may not help the people get two square meals, but it is providing employment and fat salaries to thousands of employees. That is poverty alleviation too, isn’t it?

It is not the government alone that perpetuates poverty and even feels proud of it. Our industrialists too make merry while the populace suffers. For close to half a century they enjoyed a protectionist environment. Foreign goods were shooed away. Were the benefits passed to the public?

You must be joking. Only the industrialists got richer and richer at the cost of the consumers. All that they did was to make goods that were one-fourth the quality of the international ones and sell these to hapless consumers at one-half the world prices. No names taken but just recall the kind of scooters and cars that were palmed off to the unwary public. The common man had two choices: take it or leave it!

So deep was the “concern” of the government and the industrialists for the public at a time when the waiting list for scooters extended to 10 years that when a leading manufacturer tried to increase production, he was threatened with arrest. It is this kind of warped sense of patriotism that has sustained poverty.

Now that artificial barriers are being lifted, there is a self-righteous chorus of indignation that the “flood” will wipe out the indigenous industry. In reality, this is nothing but an attempt at promoting self-interest. Working in a competitive atmosphere will actually increase efficiency, ensure better service and improve the quality of goods. The only downside would be that the industrialists would not be able to make the filthy profits that they once did, and shared the booty with their equally fat politician friends under the table for ensuring that government policies were tailored to help them make even more money.

Fifty years of pseudo-sympathy for wrong causes has made the public also an accomplice in this deep-rooted conspiracy of keeping the nation in the pits. Individually, we are wonderful people, but once we organise ourselves into any group, we thrive on lethargy, inefficiency, dishonesty and corruption. Not too long ago, the Fifth Pay Commission had recommended that the staff strength in government offices should be reduced and the salaries of the rest of the staff should be increased.

We managed to get the raise but the cut in the number of posts was collectively scuttled. We want two-day weekends without working honestly on the other five days. We have to have a sarkari chhutti on the birth and death anniversaries of every leader worth the name. We want the railways to provide efficient service, without us buying tickets. We crib that the local bus service is inadequate and underline this fact by burning a few buses. It would seem that the national property belongs to the leaders and not to us. Small wonder that the self-serving politicians polish off the cake, while we fight over the crumbs.

The biggest contribution we make is by way of electing the very same leaders time and again who have an immaculate record of bleeding us white whenever they come to power. It is scary to note that all those who were involved in one major scam or the other are back in reckoning as kingmakers, if not as kings themselves. To that extent, it is wrong to blame either the politicians or the industrialists for our misfortune. We are ourselves responsible for our wretched condition. Unless there is a nationwide resolve to tear off the “poor us” tag, there will always be people who will exploit this sense of helplessness. 


P. R. Mishra — requiem for a pioneer
P.H. Vaishnav

MISHRA, the father of the Sukhomajri experiment of eco-friendly silvipastural development through community involvement died last fortnight in his native village in Palamau district. He did not receive much attention, let alone acclaim, for his innovative and self-sustaining programme of Hill Resource Management in the Shivalik hills. Hailing from a village in Palamau district of Bihar (now Jharkhand), Mishra combined an excellent background in forest management in Bihar as well as agriculture after he joined the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, whose Regional Research Centre in Soil Conservation at Chandigarh, he headed.

The Sukhomajri kind of experiment addresses itself to the denuded hills and their desperate people struggling to eke out a bare subsistence from Haryana’s forest-owned land. Not all the policing by the Forest Department for the last 70 years succeeded in its effort at the nurture of forests for want of a community supported conservation through the sharing of its benefits. For want of green cover, year after year heavy rain scoured the hill slopes, drastically reducing soil productivity. On the other hand, in the winter there was no way of harvesting such an abundant flow of water for providing irrigation to agriculture. Mishra persuaded the communities to form Hill Resource Management Societies for a voluntary adoption of what he called ‘social fencing’. The people, therefore, voluntarily gave up grazing their cattle on the hill slopes. The results were striking. Each year saw a rapid increase in the green cover initially in the way of a rich harvest of fodder, which at the same time made the flow of water much gentler. With such demonstrated increase not only in the production of bio-mass but also increased soil productivity, there was ample to go around both for the forest department and for the people to share. Informally, sympathetic forest officers blessed this sharing system to the great relief of the people from any corruption at lower level while ensuring that government revenues increase. After many years of demonstrated success, the Haryana Forest Department was moved to formalise what was already being practised through its Joint Forest Management policy. In time, the community became so strong a supporter of the system that through their cooperation the green cover increased phenomenally and helped the growth of trees and their survival. The Hill Resource Management Societies of the community were able to pay sales tax and even income tax on their increased income, get fodder for their cattle while leaving enough for the Forest Department for commercial exploitation. Over the years, the harvest of katha trees (catechu) provided handsome returns. In an altogether different context, a judgement of the Supreme Court arising out of a case in Karnataka has banned harvesting, whether by the community or by the Forest Department. Review petitions have been filed by various state forest departments and one may hope that a distinction will be drawn between exploitation and sharing the usufruct from sustainable forest development.

After retirement, Mishra went back to his village in his state and applied the sharing principle with extraordinary success. In Bihar, the owners, even of large tracts of land were loath to admit recorded tenants on their lands from fear of losing them. The tenants had no incentive to make improvements and raise productivity. Neither the land owners nor the landless benefited. People took to cutting forest trees to make a living and in the process denuding the rich forest to a point where it became uneconomical for them to transport wood and timber from these ever-receding forests. Some people started cultivating paddy in this undulating land which aggravated damage to the soil. Mishra’s system was simple. He persuaded the landless labourers and the land owners to come to an agreement by which improved and inexpensive technology of water harvesting and conservation and an appropriate cropping pattern were adopted again on a sharing basis. One third was guaranteed to the owners, one third to the labourers and one third to the Village Development Fund. The remaining 1 per cent went to the Kalyan Kosh (Welfare Fund). The Village Development Fund thus helped further plough-back making more and more land owners and tenants interested in arriving at such agreements. As in Sukhomajri, social forestry such as bamboo and timber cultivation as also fruits and vegetables made for marked prosperity and social tensions between the landlords and landless labourers eased. Mishra’s experiment was a combination of the Trusteeship principle of Gandhiji and Vinoba Bhave’s Bhoodan around the mutual interest of the classes seen earlier as antagonistic through a just satisfaction of the needs of both and the long term nurture of environment. It was thus a marvellous example not only of the application of proper technology but of real economic democracy. There are of course dangers and difficulties. Marketing of increased produce poses its own challenge and the dormant greed among land owners may at some stage make them want more than their one third share. Timely harvesting of timber and bamboo raised through this effort again needs prompt permission from the Forest Department for cutting these trees. Till the time of this writing, Patna and Ranchi have yet to show a sense of urgency in responding to the situation.

In the meanwhile, Mishra’s ingenuity, his freshness of mind and dedication have planted an idea in the mind of the community and at an individual level among many forest and civil administrator. Like all exceptional men, Mishra also has not left some one like him to succeed him but some institutionalisation has been achieved. Let us hope that his successors are able to counter emerging challenges and capitalise on its success so that the movement endures even after he is gone.


Hypocrisy is our great national vice
Abu Abraham

A former Editor of Punch, William Davis, once told me a story he had picked up in Mumbai. A senior politician was seen at a party drinking Scotch. When someone asked whether it was proper, the man replied: “I’m doing it in my personal capacity”.

The Tehelka story is similar. Caught on camera accepting bribes, the ready defence is “I took it for the party fund”. From that simple denial with the hurt face of innocence, they go on to proclaim their commitment to the “national interest”. If the quality is good and the price is reasonable it is in the national interest, any stupid arms dealer should know that.

Arms dealers, middlemen, retired service officers, they all have the nation’s interest at heart. And why shouldn’t they be milling around the party headquarters or the Defence Minister’s residence? They are only trying to enforce transparency and establish democratic norms.

Hypocrisy is our great national vice. Corruption is rampant, but hypocrisy beats all other vices. In our self-righteousness we are next to none. Our spirituality and our moral strength cover all our sins. Spirituality is everywhere.

Our newspapers and magazines have regular columns appealing to the dormant spirituality in us. Temples are sprouting up all over the place. Godmen incarnate themselves and thousands gather to listen to the pearls of wisdom coming from their mouths. Yet when elections come around they vote for charlatans and scoundrels if they are of the right religion and caste. Holiness is all.

There is no political ideology left in our national life. We discover a leader, wrap him in spiritual clothes and assume he can do no wrong. There’s no detachment or objectivity in our assessment of our leaders. Some are born heroes, some achieve heroism, and some have heroism thrust upon them.

After Kargil, George Fernandes became virtually infallible. All the greater therefore was the shock of seeing what has been going on in his house. Being in charge of the Defence Ministry, he was not under public scrutiny. He had more money at his disposal than he could make use of. “When it comes to the nation’s security, no expense is too much”, so goes the famous dictum.

It’s always arguable whether more expenditure on arms can lead to greater security or stability. A situation of unchecked and open-ended spending can only strengthen those very forces of destabilisation our nation is supposed to be fighting.

What Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex in the USA can be equally dangerous in developing countries which are today facing the brunt of the world’s arms race that costs the peoples of the world over $ 1000 billion annually.

“Mass poverty can lead to war. Where hunger rules, peace has no firm footing” writes Willy Brandt, former German Chancellor, in his book, Arms and Hunger, published in 1985.

Among the horrendous statistics he gave were these: The money a modern tank costs would be enough to provide 1,000 classrooms for 30,000 schoolchildren, the price of a fighter plane would equip 40,000 village pharmacies, and the price of a nuclear submarine is the equivalent to the education budgets of 23 developing countries with 160 million children of school age.

Until the 80s India used to be among the leaders of the disarmament movement. Today, we don’t hear a squeak from our representatives in the world organisations or from our leaders at home. We have lost our ideals, we have compromised ourselves. All we have to offer the world’s is hypocrisy and self-righteousness.


Wearing of Khadi dress made compulsory

Delhi: The students and teachers of the Prem Mahavidyala, on the Prem Mahavidyala, on the occasion of the visit of Mrs Sarojini Naidu, passed a resolution requesting the Secretary to make the Khadi dress compulsory during school hours. The Executive Committee of the Prem Mahavidyala in its meeting held on 28th March passed the following resolution on the motion of Lala Shanker Lal of Delhi: The Executive Committee of the Prem Mahavidyala congratulates the students and teachers of the Prem Mahavidyala for requesting the Secretary to make the Khadi dress compulsory during vidyala hours and as desired by them directs that no student or teacher shall attend the Vidyala in any other dress except that of handspun and hand-woven Khadi.


Protein-rich maize to be available

WITH the Indian Council of Agricultural Research deciding to entrust indigenous seed companies with the task of multiplying “parent” lines for the Quality Protein Maize (QPM) hybrids, farmers will be able to grow the maize by the next Rabi season.

“The plant material is very precious at this stage and we are trying to identify a few indigenous seed companies to increase the quantity of parents which are needed to make hybrids,” Dr N.N. Singh, project director at the directorate of maize research, says.

Later, other seed companies can also purchase the material. Hybrids would first be grown in Bihar.

Enough seeds of the parents are to be first created before hybrid seeds are made available to farmers. However, by the next rabi season, the maize, rich in quality protein will be in the fields, Singh said.

The potential of QPM to meet the problem of malnutrition is so high that Nobel laureate Norman F. Borlaug is in India on a special mission to popularise its cultivation, he said.

The improved maize holds significance for India where it is regarded as a poor man’s cereal. The traditional maize, which has 9-12 per cent protein, is deficient in two essential amino acids — Lysine and Tryptophan. Due to this, it is regarded as having low biological value, Singh said.

The QPM, developed by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, is the outcome of years of efforts to improve the biological value of maize varieties. PTI

Solar power in the Sunderbans

Fifty years after Independence, the 22,000 strong populace of remote Mausuni island in riverline Sunderbans in Bengal have seen the light of day — literally — courtesy solar power.

Solar power has brought about a sea change in the lives of the people on the islands in riverine Sunderbans where the river Ganga meets the sea. Frequent floods, lack of a proper communication system, abysmal healthcare, river pirates and prowling Bengal tigers are some of the realities that people in this part of southern West Bengal have to reckon with.

For the first time the people of Mausuni have seen their homes getting lighted up and even a few fans switched on. Till now only a privileged few who could afford generators had this great fortune. Young students are ecstatic that they would not have to read and write under kerosene lamps any more. Householders are happy that they do not have to walk miles just to buy the kerosene.

The 50 kw Mausuni plant, a state government undertaking, is projected as the largest in the country. The renewable energy department is exploring the potential of solar power for rural electrification in a big way in the state. Being eco-friendly and cost-effective, solar power is ideal for India with its ample supply of sun, say environmentalists and planners. WFS



Guru hath given the lamp of wisdom

And hath kindled the wick,

Enabling me to practice devotion to God.

He hath terminated the cycle of birth and death for me, sayeth Ravidas.


—Sant Ravidas, Vani, 14

Pure-hearted is my Master, the bestower of bliss;

He has taken hold of my hand, he has redeemed me.

How to count his virtues and realise his reach?

Bereft of understanding, I can know him not.

—Tulsi Sahib of Hathras, Tulsi main ati neech nikamma


Without service to the Master, it is not possible to give devotion to the Lord. Nor can the mind reap the fruits of concentration. Man becomes eligible to get a human body in his next birth by service and devotion to the Master. Those who serve the Master are invariably sustained by Him at the time of their death, while those who do not serve the Master, waste their life in vain.

—Maharaj Sawan Singh, Philosophy of the Masters, Series One, chapter one.


A master is pregnant with God. That is why in the East we call the Guru God himself..... A Guru is a ripe fruit just waiting to fall, heavy. If you are ready to receive, he can fall into you... When a disciple with total trust bows down at the feet of his Master, something is happening which is not visible to the eyes... If you become aware you can see it also, the aura of the Master, his rainbow, pouring himself down into the disciple..... If you ask me what a Guru is, I will tell you that a Guru is the address of God.

—Osho, Tantra: The Supreme Understanding

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