policy today: the
Review by Surinder S.
Reservations: The Indian Experience on Affirmative Action by
Sagar Preet Hooda. Rawat Publications, Jaipur. Pages 236. Rs
and democracy have come to be accepted as desirable values all
over the world. This, despite the fact that there is perhaps
no society in the world today which can be regarded as
practising equality in a substantive sense of the term.
Similarly, outside the western world, there are not many
countries where democratic polities has flourished.
Notwithstanding this obvious gap between cherished values and
actual practice, "social equality" remains one of
the most powerful political ideas of our times.
formally granting equal political status to their citizens in
the form of universal adult franchise, democratic
nation-states have invariably initiated programmes and
policies that would empower those categories of people who
have been historically discriminated against. These policies
are supposed to bring them at par with the rest and enable
them to participate in the social and political life of the
nation. Such initiatives have been called by different names
in different countries — affirmative action,
protective/positive discrimination or, as in case of India,
society has historically had some of the most complicated
structures of social inequality. The caste system not only
provided differential status and authority to different groups
of people but it also worked out an elaborate system of ideas
and norms that gave moral legitimacy to the practice of
inequality in virtually every sphere of life.
various social and religious movements had quite consistently
been challenging the system of caste hierarchy, it was only
during the British colonial period that state-sponsored
programmes in the form of "reservations" were
initiated to empower the disadvantaged caste groups. The
post-independence Indian State has not only continued the
reservation policy but has in fact expanded it.
reserving seats for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
in educational institutions, government jobs and elected
bodies, the independent Indian state has extended the policy
of reservations to other categories of the disadvantaged
people as well. The obvious examples of this are the
introduction of job reservations for the socially and
educationally backward classes, (also known as Other Backward
Classes or OBCs) and, in a limited sense, for women in elected
bodies at the local level.
nature of their social oppression and marginalised status,
there had been, by and large, a consensus on the special
provisions provided for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes in the Indian Constitution, at least during the early
years of independence. However, the introduction of
reservations for OBCs, particularly the acceptance of the
recommendations of the Mandal Commission in 1990 by the
central government of India generated a lot of controversy.
Unlike the reservations for the Scheduled Castes, the new
policy did not find many supporters from amongst those who
were not going to directly benefit from the recommendations of
the Mandal Commission. This obviously generated passions and
led to a massive mobilisations of "upper" castes
across the country. The very idea of reservations became a
this background, Sagar Preet Hooda’s book provides an
exhaustive review of the issues and anxieties generated by the
Mandal Commission Report. He rightly points out that much of
the available literature on the subject focuses on
reservations for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The contentions on reservation policy, however, arose when it
was extended to the OBCs. But there were hardly any empirical
studies available that focused on the specific issues emerging
out of the introduction of reservations for the OBCs.
his sample from two districts of Haryana (Rohtak and Karnal),
covering both rural and urban segments of the population. For
getting a comparative picture, he divided his respondents into
two categories on the basis of their caste — the backward
castes and the forward castes. He interviewed a total of 320
persons, equally divided between the backward and the forward
castes (none of his respondents were from the ex-untouchable
or Scheduled Castes).
documented their social and economic status, the author
questioned them on their awareness level regarding statutory
privileges and their attitude towards the policy of
reservations in general and those for the OBCs in particular.
Did they perceive reservations as a potential source of upward
mobility for the backwards? Did they attribute the improvement
in their economic and political status to reservation?
One of the
interesting, and perhaps also obvious, findings of the study
was that caste turned out to be the most crucial factor that
determined the attitude towards reservation. Though
urban/rural residence and education influenced their response
to different questions, caste was the most important variable
as regards their attitude towads reservation. Respondents from
the backward castes viewed reservation favourably, while those
from the "upper castes" decried them. "There
was", as he puts it, "a negative association between
caste status and preference for reservation."
continued to be an important indicator of backwardness in the
sense that those from the traditionally backward castes were
invariably also the ones who owned fewer assets and were
educationally backward, there had been discernible changes in
the values of caste system. While many amongst the upper caste
still saw caste as a source of status, those from the
lower/backward castes did not really worry too much about
their position in the traditional ritual hierarchy. In fact,
as a consequence of the reservation policy,
"backwardness" had acquired a degree of
instrumentality. There are several instances from different
parts of the country where the upper castes have demanded that
they be declared "backward" so that they could also
reap the benefits of the reservation policy.
competition for backwardness also pointed to the fact that
reservations were popularly viewed as a potential source of
upward social mobility. This, according to Hooda, was directly
linked to the emergence of the government sector as an
important source of employment during the post-independence
period. Working in a bureaucratic position in the government
sector not only gave employment to its occupant, but also a
source of influence and power.
It is rather
interesting to note that a large majority of his respondents,
both from the backward (78 per cent) and from the forward
castes (67.5 per cent) reported that their caste was
under-represented in the government sector and professions.
This obviously reflects a kind of "hunger" for
government jobs among the two sets of castes. However, in
terms of their expectations and rewards from such jobs, their
perceptions differed. While for a majority of the backward
caste respondents, government jobs offered an assured source
of "livelihood", the forward castes viewed them
primarily as a source of "power and status". When
asked whether a higher representation in the government jobs
enhanced their caste status, a majority of the respondents
from both the categories responded positively.
perceptions are not simply a matter of attitudes or certain
psychological orientations of different caste categories. As
Hooda convincingly argues, they have also unleashed some new
political processes in the state of Haryana and have given
rise to a fresh caste consolidation. For example, the Jats who
are a land-owning dominant caste in Haryana and would not
normally regard them to be inferior to anyone have been
demanding OBC status. They, as a caste group, are not only
economically well off but have also been a politically
dominant group at the village as well as at the state level.
Reservations for them are a useful medium of further
consolidating their position in the region by strengthening
their hold over the bureaucracy as well, where they feel they
have been comparatively less represented.
giving reservation benefits to Jats could have many
far-reaching consequences. Apart from further strengthening
their hold in the region, such a policy has the potential of
sabotaging the very idea of reservations. If the Jats are
included in the list of OBC, they are likely to take away most
of the jobs reserved for the backward castes, leaving the rest
of the backward castes with nothing!
Thus, "instead of being
used for humanitarian and egalitarian purposes", Hooda
concludes that the policy of reservation could be manipulated
for, what he calls "retention of status" and
"dominance" either by the privileged among the
Scheduled Castes or by the relatively better off (such as the
Jats) among the "backward castes". This, however,
does not mean that Hooda wants the policy of reservation to be
scrapped. The need, according him, is to make necessary amends
so that such an "inversion of reservation" does not
continue. One could not perhaps agree more with Hooda!
out: It started as medicine
Review by Surjit Hans
of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture by
Rebecca L. Sprang. Harvard University Press, Harvard. Pages
325. £ 23.50
or remedy that has the property of restoring lost strength to
sickly or tired individual." The 1708 dictionary.
or Houses of Health owe their 1766 institution in this capital
are tasty sauces to titillate your brand potato. Here the
effete find healthy chests." 1773.
(1751-1772) listed restaurant as a medical term. By the 1820s,
however, the restaurants of the French capital closely
resembled those with which we are familiar today. The
restaurant had become a true cultural institution, among the
most familiar and distinctive of Parisian landmarks.
in 1790 — a year after the French Revolution — Louis XVI
took the epithet "Restorer (Restauranteur) of French
In the 19th
century English and American tourists were among the first to
assume that the French "national character" revealed
itself in restaurant dining rooms.
In the early
18th century Paris was home to thousands of retail food and
drink merchants, all organised by monarchical decrees into 25
per se, never formed a legal guild; their statutes did not
exist, they had no patron saint and no meeting hall.
writing in 1786 described the first restaurant "as the
product of our modern way of life".
cookery fascinated many of the 18th century’s most prominent
thinkers. Voltaire claimed that in "every known
language" the word "taste" was used both
literally for the physical gustatory sensation and
metaphorically for the awareness of beauty.
(Roze’s) genius lay in his realisation that expanding
discourse of cuisine — the curious product of mechanistic
physiology, physiocratic emphasis on agriculture and belief in
the beneficial effects of luxury — called for and could
support a new institution.
Health was a
shared goal of Enlightenment culture. The pursuit of health
united bourgeois and aristocratic Parisians, though it never
encompassed the "people". According to medical and
culinary literature, good health found its base not in rigid
social diversions but in more mutable, expansive cultural
markers. Voltaire confessed:"Idrink moderately, and find
people who eat without drinking, or knowing what they are
eating, very strange."
"Almanach douphin"(almanac) indicated a hotel’s
range of room prices to be a distant ancestor of guides such
as Michelin alongwith a star-giving mentality which was not
only contemporary but part and parcel of the development of
Placed at the
intersection of medicine and diet, restaurants marketed not
just health but taste and sensibility as well. The restaurants
of the 1760s and the 1770s combined forward looking science
with conservative, pastoral impulses.
confectioner in 1779 produced sugar sculptures of the figure
of immorality led by Rousseau, Voltaire, composer Rameau and
"antiquity’s wisemen and poets". The first
restaurateur took the icons of high enlightenment culture and
presented them in edible fashion.
contemporary business advice — "Oh, you wanted to
economise!You shouldn’t be in the restaurant business."
Mirrors decorated the largest dining room, a thermometer and
an expensive clock filled the little remaining wall space...
landscape paintings... every room evoked the sentiment of
nature, its beauty and its scientific management.
From its menu
and its Latin street sign to its comfortably furnished saloons
and the cooking utensils hidden in the kitchen, everything
about the restaurant bespoke delicacy, even as it promised to
restore its clients to a more robust state of health.
restaurants’ effete clientele required a host of attention
unheard of at an inn-keeper or cook’s table d’hote (host’s
table) and those new modes of interaction would long outlive
the fashionable ill-health that originally provoked them.
hours of sexual union, meal times had always been a marker of
place in the social order. "Artisans dine at 9.00 in the
morning, provincials at noon, Parisians at 2 in the afternoon,
businessmen at 2.30, and nobles at 3". The restaurant
made it possible to differentiate one’s meal time and
oneself still further. Or do so without regard to the habits
of one’s family and relations.
restauranteur invited his guest to sit at his or her own table,
to consult his or her own needs and desires, to
concentrate on that most fleeting and difficult to
universalise sense: taste.
A table d’hote
offered little individual choice. Asausage-maker’s wares
were all visible. The restaurant separated the kitchen from
the dining room, left foods hidden in the former unless
specifically called for in the latter, and the menu made
standardised transaction possible.
change came in the addition of "cabinets" or private
rooms, each furnished with a small table, a mirror and chairs.
Better suited to confidential tete-a-tete than expansive
sociability, the restauranteur’s new spaces emphasised the
private, the intimate, and the potentially secret.
read newspapers, and thought about the world around them;
restaurant customers read the menu, and thought about their
own bodies. By definition, restaurants did not pose a possible
threat to public order; instead they remedied private,
needs and "private" desires dominated the mythology
and rhetoric of the restaurant; they were what separated the
restaurant from other forms of public eating.
In the case
both of food and women, attractively disguised temptation
provoked desires unrelated to needs. Appetites, sexual or
alimentary, were too quickly roused and the senses too easily
deceived. The consumption of curative bouillon shaded quickly
into a scene of seduction.
for an 18th century studied as the area in which public sphere
and public opinion coalesced, yet too "public" for
the 19th century troped as the "golden age of private
life", the restaurant was nearly invisible for the
purposes of most historians.
Much as a
menu purported to be window into the kitchen, even as it
obscured the reality of the other world, so the cabinet door
marked a threshold across which only a few would cross.
As a space of
permanent carnival, restaurants were part of the status quo.
Theatres were closely policed, brothels were often reorganised,
and public balls were made to contribute a percentage of their
profits to relief for the poor, but restaurant cabinets,
though presenting at least as great a threat to public
morality, were protected by law.
convivality was that of lawful bacchanalia, not illicit
conspiracy; the liberate found at a restaurant table
came from drunkenness, gourmandising and bawdy revelry, not
from political freedoms and republican brotherhood.
In 1843 a
journalist called modern life deceptive, specious and "as
illusory as a restaurant beefsteak".
aftermath of the Revolution, the restaurant became a
depoliticised space, the use of taste as a marker of
specifically social distinction would become more muted,
hidden in the promise and the conceit of gustatory universals.
A staple of
restaurant life was the man outside, but the man outside was a
necessary part of restaurant life.
of the table were tangled early with the anthroplogy of the
royal meal, couvert to which hundreds were routinely
admitted. Admission was open to any properly dressed
individual, but in the 1780s, those too threadbare or too busy
might enjoy the same pleasure in the wax museum which offered
a popular, life like reproduction.
sage of the gourmets in the century to come, staged a
burlesque of the royal meal in 1783. Invitation to the meal
took the form of ornate burial announcements and it was
gossiped that a black-draped coffin had served as the table’s
macabre centre piece.
at Grimod’s supper, and the published attention the meal
received, implied that everybody had the right to eat in grand
couvert, that anybody’s dinner was worth observing, that
all could be king.
On July 13,
1790, over 2000 spectators "attracted by the novelty of
the scene" watched as the members of the National
Assembly shared a "patriotic meal in an
amphitheatre" — thus the grand couvert expanded
if not to all the people, then at least to their
representatives. On another happy occasion, the poor of Paris
(by one account as many as 5000) were admitted and allowed to
partake of the leftovers.
notion was that true revolution necessitated a complete
upheaval in every aspect of existence — eating habits and
meal times included.
In the decade
on the Revolution, all these tables had specifically political
import. The sorts of questions that pre-occupied the
revolutionaries — debates about fairness and equity,
questions about finance and food, problems of fraternity and
Frenchness — could be (and were) easily mapped onto the
development and circulation of new models of table-based
sociability, new arguments about the association of taste with
virtue, new notions of the relation of individual appetite to
social cohesion, all marked a profound interrogation of the
meaning, function and status of the shared meal.
The table, a
site of frugal repast or decadent feast, became a material and
In its penal
code of 1791, the Constituent Assembly attempted to legislate
the restaurant and the table, unlike the shop or theatre, out
of the market place and into the realm of civic virtue.
More than one
revolutionary demanded that bakers stop preparing their
typical range of breadstuff and combine brown, white and rye
flours together to make one single "Bread of
political regime of the Consulate (1799-1804) dealt them all a
final blow as it officially "freed all citizens of the
formal regulations with which they have been burdened during
the transition from monarchy to republic." Freedom of
gourmand, nothing was sacred except dinner. Grimod’s "Almanach"
compared women to food and found the former sadly lacking; he
wrote of the innocent charms of little robins, only to
encourage eating them; he commented not at all on Napoleon’s
many conquests but marveled at the wonderful new sugar
"artillery" invented by a candy shop.
Grimod’s newly specific
criteria produced a picture of Paris purged of the momentous
events of the 1790s, and the Revolution’s political
understanding of the table.
mountain to repair the soul
Review by Manju Jaidka
Mountain by Gao Xingjian and translated by Mabel Lee.
HarperCollins, New York. Pages 510. $13.95.
WILL arise and go
now, and go to Innisfree…," said an Irish writer once
upon a time. Today, however, you and I are not talking about
the Irish writer but a Chinese one. A Chinese writer who one
day decided to rise and go — not to Innisfree but to
Lingshan. Lingshan, or Soul Mountain, wherever that may be.
that? You say you don’t know the author? Doesn’t matter.
Not many outside China knew Gao Xingjian before he got the
Nobel Prize a few months ago. Not many knew him as the author
of "Soul Mountain", the book based on his own
experiences. So you are not the only one unaware of the
existence of the 60-year-old novelist, playwright and artist
who wrote in secret during the Cultural Revolution in China,
who published several of his works during the 1980s, who made
his debut as a playwright in 1982 with the highly successful
but controversial (and later banned) "Absolute
Signal". He was controversial because of his
counter-revolutionary activities and would have been arrested
and sent to prison. So he fled China in 1987 and has lived the
life of an exile in Paris since then. These are facts that
have come to light after the Nobel Prize was awarded to him.
have been any other ordinary mortal, enacting his routine role
in this casual comedy which is the world, had circumstances
not shown him the road to "Soul Mountain". In the
year 1983, a wrong diagnosis informed Gao that he suffered
from lung cancer and that his days were numbered. He spent six
weeks as a marked man, and then, prepared for the worst, went
in for another examination which — incredible as it may
sound — declared him completely healthy. Having won a
reprieve from death, the writer then turned to examine life
anew, to study its nuances and discover its goodness and
beauty. "How should I change this life," he asks,
"for which I just won a reprieve?" His search took
him to the long and winding road, along the meandering Yangtze
river, to Soul Mountain, a destination arbitrarily chosen at
the suggestion of a fellow traveller.
this author on his trek. We take a walk in cloud country. Our
movements are slow and exploratory as we go through the hazy,
misty, partially defined country. Through floating, diaphanous
gossamer cobwebs in their myriad hues, pushing aside stray
brambles in our path, walking tentatively through a terrain
that is unknown yet familiar. Unknown because it seems so new,
so different. And familiar because of the recognisable human
traits we encounter in characters we meet as we go along, in
the games they play all the time, and in the inevitable
sameness of all human experience. These characters are not
named: transcending all specificities, they simply appear as
"I", "you" or "he" — all
representing different aspects of you and me, different
aspects of the essential human condition.
to Lingshan is in itself a retreat. It is an escape from the
hue and cry of the world which remains caught up in the rat
race of desire, in the lust for more and still more. As you
pick your way to Soul Mountain, as you leave the noise and
bustle and cacophony behind you, your ears get attuned to
another music. Is it the still, sad music of humanity? Or is
it the music of those lost days of innocence — a harmony
that has been crowded out of your sensibilities by harsher
sounds? What you hear are the haunting, echoing, reverberating
notes that take you back, back, back in time. Back to the
past, to childhood days of yore, to the echoing green of
blamelessness, to a time when evil has not yet made its
presence felt. When suffering is still unknown. When there is
hope. Promise. Redemption.
If this world
seems different from the one we have outgrown, it is only
because ours is now an adult sensibility that flows back in
time to claim what would have normally been an irretrievable
experience. To claim and treasure it for evermore. Of course,
there are lapses: "I must return to the smoke and fire of
the human world to search for sunlight, warmth, happiness, and
to search for human society to rekindle the noisiness, even if
anxiety is regenerated, for that is in fact the human
world." But the journey must continue.
Mountain" has this nostalgia about it. It has the desire
to cherish all that is worthwhile in this constantly dying,
ephemeral world. Death, they say is the mother of all beauty.
It is this element of mortality in life, this fleetingness of
all that lives and breathes, that makes you wish to grasp and
perpetuate the riches of the world. Lingshan conjures up a
universe which hovers uncertainly between the real and the
surreal, where there is no before and no after. It is all one
continuous, nebulous present. A present that you and I, as
readers and participants in the story, wander through:
it be better to go along the main road? It will take longer
travelling by the main road? After making some detours you
will understand in your heart? Once you understand in your
heart you will find it as soon as you look for it? The
important thing is to be sincere of heart? If your heart is
sincere then your wish will be granted?"
are to be swallowed like bitter medicine. Others to be
savoured like old wine. "Soul Mountain" is certainly
not a novel that one can take in a hurry. It has to be
lingered on. It has to be taken in small doses. Small,
deliberate, delicious doses. Every page is an experience.
Every line gives us food for thought. Take it or leave it.
confronts you with an overwhelming question: If you were given
a second chance, a new lease of time, allowed to live your
life all over again, what would you do? Gao gives you the
answer. You would turn to Soul Mountain, to Lingshan. On the
way you may, perhaps, encounter another lonely wayfarer and
recognise in her your soulmate. You approach her. But she is
hesitant. For she has closed herself to the world. Closed
herself like fingers. But you draw her out. You spin yarns to
stem the tide of loneliness. You tell her stories. And then
those fingers unclench. The two of you would walk the rest of
the distance together. Together to Soul Mountain. "When a
man and woman are together" ... "The world no longer
Where are you
going and what are you seeking? Are you awake or do you sleep?
Is it a real country or is it just your imagination? It no
longer seems to matter. For this is Lingshan and you shall
finally have some peace here. Peace that comes dropping slow,
dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket
sings. There midnight is all a glimmer and noon a purple glow.
And the evening full of the linnet’s wings.
The luminous mist rises over
Lingshan. "Soul Mountain".
cut to reduce democratic deficit
Review by Ujjwal Kumar
the Constitution? edited by Subhash C.Kashyap, D.D.Khanna and
Gert W.Kueck. Shipra Publications, Delhi. Pages viii+408. Rs
contexts and frames of reference within which the National
Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution was set
up, holds ominous portends for the working of a democratic
polity. The first set of consultation papers issued by the
Commission have done nothing to assuage the misgivings this
exercise has widely generated. One must remember that the
Constitution of India was the outcome of a long struggle for
equality and popular sovereignty, the two key elements of
democracy. Its contents reflect the struggles which were waged
at various layers of oppression and exploitation around issues
of caste, class, gender, etc.
Constitution reflected the changed contexts in which Indian
democracy was unfolding, it also marked out the trajectory
along which social and economic change had to be ushered in.
Both as a document reflecting change, and as an instrument of
change, the Constitution is significant as a living document,
as an embodiment of the aims and aspirations of the people in
whom sovereignty rests.
It must be
emphasised then that the Constitution can never be assumed to
be an inert document. It is rather animate, living, dynamic
and historical. The manner in which this dynamism has
unfolded, the principles of change the Constitution enshrines,
the means by which these changes are sought to be brought
about, have frequently been subjected to a critical
examination by academics as well as activists. These
criticisms have almost always focussed on the socio- political
and economic biases of the Constitution, which in turn
manifest the dominant socio- political and economic forces of
the historical context within which the Constitution took
book, a collection of papers presented at a seminar held in
December, 1999, at the India International Centre in
collaboration with Rashtriya Jagriti Sansthan and the German
Konrad Adenauer Foundation, enjoins the reader to see the
review as a response to "the persistent pressures and
persuasion of the emerging civil society". The
significance of the book lies in the fact that much of the
sentiments expressed in the papers regarding the maladies in
constitutional governance, and the possible means of
rectification, resonate in some of the consultation papers
produced by the Commission in January, 2001.
introductory chapter by Subhash Kashyap, himself a member of
the Commission, builds a compelling case for review. Kashyap
points out that the present review should be seen as part of a
process of scrutiny and debate the Constitution has
continually been subjected to, right from the time of the
Constituent Assembly. Certain "areas of concern" are
identified by him as the "most crisis-prone" like
Centre-state relations, misuse of Article 356, relationship
between fundamental rights and Directive Principles,
legislature- executive- judiciary interface, appointment of
Judges, electoral law and Election Commission, etc. These
crisis-ridden areas could be alleviated, the author suggests,
by taking an "integrated approach" to reforms —
that is, a blend of parliamentary, political party, electoral,
judicial, economic and political reforms.
linking almost all chapters in the book is an overwhelming
concern with political instability. The remedies offered vary
from electoral reforms to a change in the manner in which
representatives are elected, to measures assuring that
representative bodies, once elected, are not dissolved before
the expiry of their term.
the "nature and extent of the review", former
President R.Venkataraman laments that minority governments
which have ruled the Centre in frequent succession, have not
been able to provide a stable administration catering to the
"good life" of the people. The proliferation of
small parties, often with regional biases have, he suggests,
brought "parochial" interests to the fore, to the
detriment of national interest and political stability.
Justice J.S.Verma too focusses on "political
instability" and "frequent elections" caused by
"waning public morality", "absence of issue-
based politics" distinguishing one party from the other,
and the "predominance of personal interest over public
Venkataraman change in the electoral system and derecognition
of more than two political parties constitute two
"indispensable" reforms assuring stability. Justice
Verma feels that while the basic structure of the Constitution
does not require any rethinking, some of the tools provided by
it need to be "sharpened". Among other measures, he
proposes especially the inclusion of "certain provisions
in the Constitution which would ensure life of the Lok Sabha
and the Vidhan Sabha for a fixed term" and "a vote
of confidence providing also for an alternative government to
replace the one voted out of power to prevent a vacuum".
The latter, a "constructive vote of confidence", a
feature of German Basic Law, keeps figuring in other
suggestions for reform as well, including those suggested by
Subhash Kashyap in the introductory chapter.
Narayan, however, while agreeing that the constitutional
framework and rules had proved inadequate in checking the
abuse of power, does not favour a fixed terms of Parliament as
a possible remedy for political instability. The latter, to
Narayan, was more likely to become the "stability of the
graveyard" and "no substitute to good governance,
accountability and people’s empowerment".
Karan Singh and U.C.Agarwal, the question of review involves
reflecting on the democratic values which the Constitution
upholds. A commitment to the values of good citizenship,
"awareness of the duties of citizens", responsible,
moral and ethically justifiable actions, was needed, they
feel, to purify Indian democracy.
contribution "Legal complexities and judicial
reforms" concerns itself with judicial reforms and the
manner in which the judiciary could be made responsive and
accountable to the people.
C.Umbach’s "Fifty years of German Basic Law" talks
of the "roots, experiences and impact" of the
constitutional law in Germany. Some features of the latter
have been cited also by other contributors, including James
Manor, for emulation in electoral reforms in India, to ensure
true representation and stability. Manor, however, is quick to
point out that some of the reasons cited for reforms —
namely, corruption, overbearing bureaucracy, and ethical and
moral grandeur among the political leadership, cannot be met
by such measures alone.
in an overview of the party system in India, points out the
limits of electoral reforms which seek stability through
edging out regional parties. He points out that most of these
so-called regional parties are not "transitory", but
have strong historical roots and considerable popular and
political credibility. These parties cannot then be simply
wished away, and would demand a major role to play in national
Takenaka in a comparison of political parties in India and
Japan, believes that in such a scenario, a
"hegemonic" party can play a stabilising role by
forging "organisational bridges" between the diverse
interests articulated by a wide range of political parties.
Yadav in turn makes a plea for a democratic grounding of the
review of the Constitution, asserting that much of the anxiety
and agenda of electoral reform emanates from middle class
concerns and perspective on what constitutes electoral reforms
and why they were needed. Analysing the various proposals for
electoral reforms as they have emanated from various bodies
like the Law Commission, the Indrajit Gupta Committee and the
Election Commission, Yadav points out that ultimately the test
of effective reform lies in the extent to which it is able to
make the mechanism of election an effective instrument of the
democratic will of the people, especially those who have been
left out of the democratic process.
of inclusion and empowerment is best achieved, according to
K.C.Sivaramakrishnan and Ajay K.Mehra, by taking into account
the crucial role of decentralisation, the "substate level
governments" as Sivaramakrishnan calls it and
"multi- level governance" in Mehra’s terminology.
French perspective" is provided by Emmanuel
Balayer-Bouchet, who outlines the nature of decentralisation
in France. He points out that a three-tier vertical structure
at the national level and a "horizontal hierarchy"
between state and territorial units, the distribution of
responsibilities between the state and local governments
through "decentralisation laws", give the local
governments greater autonomy in decision making and generally
make for coordinated and responsible governance.
cannot but agree with some of the sentiments expressed by the
contributors pertaining to the need to ensure responsiveness
and accountability at various layers of governance, one cannot
also escape a feeling of apprehension at the manner in which a
case for "stability" is made out. Any preoccupation
with this nebulous notion, made contingent on an equally
abstract "national interest", and a conception of
diversities as necessarily antagonistic to the latter, will
prepare the grounds not only for a stability of the
"graveyard" as one of the contributors terms it, but
also a stability flourishing on totalising, "monstrous
lies", where criticism, dissent, and consent will not
only be silenced, but they would become irrelevant.
The concern therefore, with
reforming the election process so as to make governments more
stable, reeks of desperate attempts by the ruling classes to
hold on to power which is giving way in the face of a
"democratic upsurge". With such reforms, the
democratic deficit which informs representative democracies
will become so grotesque that the latter will find it tedious
even to keep in place its slipping mask of democracy.
passion for herbal potions,
Review by Deepika Gurdev
Unusual : The Triumph of Anita Roddick, The Body Shop by
Thorsons. Pages 287. Singapore $29.77.
business of business should not just be about money, it
should be about responsibility. It should be about public
good, not private greed."
mantra was: make the past into a prologue for the
got to be hungry — for ideas, to make things happen and
to see your vision made into reality."
a woman can decide who gets the last toffee, a
four-year-old or a six-year-old, she can negotiate any
contract in the world."
only thing that matters is how you touch people."
are only 3 billion women who don’t look like supermodels
and only 8 who do. Know your mind, love your body."
shouldn’t women make good coaches? We were brought up to
listen, to nurture, to observe."
Body Shop’ recognised long ago that politics is too
important to leave to politicians."
would rather be measured by how I treat the weaker and
frailer communities I trade with than by how big my
profits are. And if all of us in business committed
ourselves to this, big things could really happen. In that
sense, if in no other, small is beautiful."
downside of being socially responsible in any area is that
the public and the media tend to place you on a pedestal
from where you have nowhere to go but down.
human and measure success differently."
you aim for perfection, you discover it is a moving
The Body Shop
is the politics of consciousness, consciousness about bodies,
minds, communities they trade with and consciousness about
products. It is about creating awareness, empowering,
enabling, building confidence, trust, mutual understanding and
a whole lot more. It is about the redefinition of the very
nature of business: "Business As Unusual".
And if you
have been more than adequately fired by the opening quotes
that I have presented in the review then you are right: this
is just the book for you. In fact, even before I started the
review I have been addicted to The Body Shop, its philosophy
and a doll named Ruby.
with Ruby. Ruby, the generously endowed doll was supposed to
remind women and men worldwide that real beauty is about
confidence, inner radiance, character, curiosity, imagination,
humour and charm and not the circumference of the thighs or
the perfection of the waist or the beauty of the eyes. It was
supposed to take on the tyranny of the beauty business which
for years had been telling people that the secret of eternal
youth appeared at the end of the jar of a so-called whitening
cream. The generously, proportioned doll made its debut in
"Full Voice" in 1998. When I first saw her on the
covers I was impressed with the serious fun of it all.
But just look
what happened. In the USA, toy company Mattel threatened to
sue "The Body Shop" because it was up against the
perfectionist myth of the Barbie Doll. Imagine, a doll taking
on a doll, well that’s the colour of business. But for all
those who watched the Ruby drama unfold, the entire debate
about Ruby was a debate about being a whole person, about
shattering myths about the beauty business, it was clearly
about body, soul, spirit and character.
And all this
happened thanks to the vision of Anita Roddick — one of the
world’s most outspoken, controversial and successful
business women who has many guises. These range from outspoken
political activist, worldwide traveller, grandmother who has
created a company with attitude which is known around the
world for both its products and its principles.
At 58, the
founder and chairman of The Body Shop skin-care and cosmetics
chain is used to talking — and doing — big. Her
24-year-old global business empire may sell sweet-smelling
concoctions of tea tree oil cleansers, strawberry shampoos and
peppermint foot lotions. But, mixed into every plastic bottle
is a good dose of belligerence that borders on revolution and
change. Her products are not tested on animals. Ingredients
are sourced from pre-industrial communities. They do not give
you a paper bag unless you really need one. And, please, bring
that bottle back for recycling.
With a single
purchase, you would have made a stand for animal rights, Third
World debt, planet Earth, and plain human decency — just a
few of the things close to Roddick’s heart. The rise of her
first shop in 1976 to the present 1,700-store juggernaut
spread over 48 countries is traced in her semi-management,
semi-autobiographical book "Business As Unusual"
which turns the tables on the way that society looks at
business and stresses the need for greater corporate
responsibility and accountability.
Roddick fervently believes that companies should be more than
simply profitable: they "must actively do good" in
the environment and for labour, serving as "incubators of
the human spirit." Roddick leads by example and
definitely puts her money where her mouth is by making The
Body Shop one of the first companies to integrate recycling
into its daily operations, and committing time and money to
various environmental causes.
charts the progress of Roddick and her company through the
last decade. It also looks at the parallel growth of vigilante
consumerism and predicts how businesses can evolve in the new
millennium. Roddick argues that waves of public consciousness
are steadily forcing corporations to re-evaluate their
actions. By expanding the concept of the entrepreneur and the
language of business and business ethics, we can compel the
corporate world to change.
That does not
mean this book is all about sugar-coated successes. On the
contrary, Roddick unravels her trials and tribulations, in
equal breath. And with all forthrightness that readers must
expect of her, she faces up to her failures and talks at
length of projects that just did not take off. She admits she
misjudged the American market and almost fought a losing
battle there. And not all projects with indigenous people
worked to a T. There are painful frustrations with an
experiment with hemp that shot Roddick and The Body Shop into
the limelight with accusations of her cashing in on
But The Body
Shop withstood that and a lot, lot more. There is the
successful court challenge to the BBC and ABC documentaries
that nearly destroyed her company by suggesting that, contrary
to her claims, her products were tested on animals.
Not one to
speak in half-measures, Roddick is a forceful, all-or-nothing
communicator and this book speaks volumes about her
forthrightness and the company she created with sheer honesty,
dignity and belief. It is estimated that The Body Shop sold a
product every 0.4 seconds with over 86 million customers
visiting stores worldwide to sample the current range of over
400 products and over 400 accessories. That sure is something
to talk about and ample proof that the secret to eternal youth
is not in that illusive jar of whitening cream.
More on the
repository of wit, Anita Roddick was a former English and
history teacher. The smartest thing she has done in her
career, she muses, was never to have diminished her sense of
self. "I’ve never been cajoled into being someone I’m
not. I’ve always spoken up. If I wanted to be quiet, I would
have opened up a library."
Italian immigrants in the English seaside town of
Littlehampton, her unquenchable sense of outrage started at
age 10 when she picked up a book about the Holocaust. At 11,
she was handing out tea to tramps on the streets. And at 12,
she attended her first protest march.
In 1976, she
set up the first Body Shop in Brighton selling 25 hand-mixed
products simply as a means to support her family. There has
been no looking back since. She would love to cripple
the power of transnational corporations, and overthrow the
world economic system. Last November, braving tear gas,
truncheons and rubber bullets, she funded and protested in
Seattle, in Washington, against the World Trade Organisation.
Her one unfulfilled ambition is to star in a Pedro Almodovar
movie, opposite Spanish heartthrob Antonio Banderas.
Set to reap in $58 million
(Singapore dollars) worldwide this year, the chain has made
her one of the richest women in Britain. But, no, she has not
allowed it to corrode her spirit. She has set up foundations,
charities and symposiums which help anyone from AIDS-stricken
kids to the unemployed. She spends four months a year
travelling and sourcing for new Body Shop products.
from socialism to free trade
Review by Jai Narain
Equity and the IMF: An Economist’s World by Arjun Sengupta.
Har Anand, New Delhi. Pages 320. Rs 495 .
economics is bad politics" as the saying goes, is
erroneously conceived. Some spontaneous adverse responses may
emerge as misplaced reactions to a good policy regime that may
be aimed at long-term structural corrections of the growth
path as well as the developmental course of the economy. These
policy alternatives are like a minor, and sometimes major,
surgery that may be painful for a while. Yet if these pains
persist too long and turn out to be too severe, a
well-intended surgical operation may end a disaster. An
effective and rational economic policy regime entails a
sensitive balancing process and amounts to walking a tight
rope of trade-offs between economic logic and political
sensitivities of the affected sections of society.
Characteristically, in the context of political economy if
good economy is not viewed as good politics, it is no
economics at all. It is the violation of logical
politico-economic parameters that generate antipathy to the
of India’s development policy over the past 50 years is a
unique illustration of change with continuity. This vast
country has had many problems, their nature has varied from
region to region and their effects have been different on
different social and economic groups within the population.
And all of these have changed with changing times. The
specific policies adopted by different governments at both the
Centre and in the states have also been varied. They have been
influenced by the varying strengths of different interest
groups, and also by the political dominance of the of
It is easy to
get bogged down in details and lose sight of the very
significant element of uniformity in the basic character of
these problems of development, and the element of continuity
in India’s development policy that has centred on a general
consensus on the objectives of development. This book
"Reforms, Equity and the IMF: An Economist’s
World" by Arjun Sengupta, our leading economist, makes an
attempt to identify that element of continuity and trace it
broadly through all the changes in India’s development
policy in the past 50 years.
of independent India, both during the national movement and
when formulating national policies after it, always associated
political freedom with economic freedom, which went much
beyond raising the growth rate of the gross national product
(GNP). For the nation as a whole, it meant the freedom to
follow its own policies without in any way compromising its
sovereignty. For individuals who constituted the nation, it
meant gaining control over their destiny. This is how Gandhi
defined his concept of swaraj "which would restore ‘the
poorest and weakest man’ in the country to control over his
own life and destiny’. The contemporary equivalent of this
concept of ‘swaraj’ is ‘empowerment’ or ‘enhancement
of capabilities’, a concept which is much broader than
higher per capita income. The lack of ‘swaraj’ meant more
than lack of purchasing power or income — it included lack
of education and skills, health and nutrition, physical and
financial assets, all of which are considered essential
requirements for any individual to lead a full life."
however, differences among the shapers of independent India
about the approach to achieving swaraj. Nehru, who led the
country during the first three Five Year Plans, put the
imprint of his vision of India’s swaraj not only on our
foreign policy, but also on our process of development. That
vision consisted mainly of three elements: (a) modernisation
of the economy; (b) self-reliance; and (c) socialism or, more
correctly a socialist pattern of society with equity and
Gandhi, who was Prime Minister for almost 17 years, followed
the same vision, but adjusted the policies to changes in the
objective conditions of the economy. The principal elements of
this approach became so deeply rooted in our development
process that, even in the brief period for which she was not a
leader of the government, there was practically no change in
the basic tenets of policy. When she came back to power in the
early 1980s, she set out to reformulate the policies
consistent with gradual liberalisation without being deflected
from the mainstream of the approach to development. Rajiv
Gandhi pursued these changes further.
surgical operation of the economy began in the middle of 1991.
At that time the economy was on the death bed, virtually at
the verge of financial disaster threatened by precarious
balance of payment and current account deficit as well as huge
monetised budget deficit. The foreign exchange was not enough
to meet import needs for a few weeks. As a result gold had
been mortgaged to the Bank of England in order to save the
country from defaulting on international debt repayments that
had fallen due. Without restructuring of economic policy,
there was perhaps no alternative available to stem the drift.
In favour of
a new economic policy it was suggested that there was no use
being out of step with the given socio-economic conditions in
India and global developments. It was argued that official
policy in India had in the past imposed stringent austerity
standards. The upper and middle classes in India suffered, in
particular more deprivation than middle classes in any other
Third World country. Liberalisation policy, beginning in the
mid-seventies and gaining strength in the eighties had,
therefore, to be developed into a structural adjustment
programme, which stipulated that not only by putting pressure
on those who had money and means to satisfy their consumption
needs in terms of global standards but by satisfying their
demands in the market, growth could be stimulated and
accelerated. This line of reasoning is followed by the
promoters of new economic policy. They also promised that they
would find some bypasses to alleviate the conditions of those,
the majority of Indian people living below the subsistence
important to appreciate the full implication of the new
realities of globalisation today. Nation states have lost a
substantial amount of economic, and through that, political
sovereignty. They have to accept severe constraints on making
their economic policies, expanding money supply, incurring
fiscal deficits, determining interest rates or exchange rates,
controlling domestic prices, restricting industrial activities
besides their reduced ability to control international trade
and capital flows. The effectiveness of any policy would
depend on what is happening in the world economy and how other
countries react. The costs of disregarding such constraints
are very large and even the flexibility in taking political
actions has become limited. The USA has been trying to crush
Cuba for a long time, but with very limited effect, as Cuba
managed to utilise the channels of international trade to
withstand all the pressure. Iraq is another example. While
sanctions largely worked in Rhodesia and South Africa, they do
not seem to work today in Iraq. For less resourceful
countries, the loss of autonomy may be very severe. The
sanctions imposed upon us after the May, 1998, nuclear tests
were not comprehensive and fully enforced. But if they were,
and came anywhere near those imposed on Iraq, we would have
crumbled. Thank God that we do not have the dictatorial regime
of Iraq, but as a result, our democratic system is much more
vulnerable to economic disruptions.
The costs of
attempts to opt out of globalisation, however unsuccessful,
should be reckoned not simply in terms of loss of some
sovereignty or possible punitive reactions of the world
community, but mainly by the loss of the potential benefits.
For example, the WTO agreement does not fully satisfy our
demands, but we accepted a compromise, giving up some of our
perceived national interest, because other countries wanted
it. Now if we get out of the WTO, which we have to if we do
not fulfill our commitments, nobody will impose any sanctions
on us. But we shall be effectively out of the international
trading system. If anyone estimated the cost of our losing the
MFN status in world trade, he would not indulge in talks of
getting out of the WTO anymore.
the case of globalisation, though the benefits are more
difficult to measure, because they are largely potential, and
they require appropriate policy designs to be translated into
the actual. Globalisation expands the opportunities for a
country to realise more output, more employment, more social
development, or in short higher levels of social welfare from
the given resources at the country’s command. But expansion
of opportunities does not mean that they would be
automatically realised. They would be the need for state
action, in policy design, planning and coordination of
activities. There may be increased constraints on the state’s
autonomy but there will be no decline in the importance of the
occasion a serious rethinking on the structural reforms not of
governmental bypass kind or of the cosmetic human face variety
but as a serious revision of basic assumptions. Genuine
reforms are not just about removing excessive regulations but
about investing in people, addressing their real needs,
raising living standards, reducing disparities, not just
through the market but through judicious state intervention,
especially on behalf of the poor.
is not a matter of bargain. Nor is it a play of statistics. We
can’t of course live in isolation. India has to be a part of
global market forces with the due stress on the competitive
spirit for growth and quality. But economic revival is an
exciting proposition. It has to be invigorating,
self-generating and mass-based. Herein lies the test for the
nation’s nerves. Indeed India’s future depends on the
rational choices made today and those to be made from now on.
History is full of examples of countries, which got crushed
under their own follies just by ignoring the basic human
values and cultural roots. Every economic philosophy gains or
loses its credibility by its conduct and approach to human
beings, especially the poor. And we have a lot of them. They
can’t be left to the mercy of market operators. The
liberalisation policy has to address itself to the liberation
of the masses from the clutches of poverty and unemployment.
This book deals with many
subjects which I think have been amply captured by the tittle.
It is an economist’s world dealing with reforms, equity and
the IMF. These are addressed to general readers, students and
those interested in policies.
row, new evidence
Review by B.S. Thaur
on Sikh Gurus by Kirpal Singh. National Book Shop, Delhi.
Pages 320. Rs 200
book "Perspectives on Sikh Gurus" could not have
come at a more opportune time. The Sikh community is rocked by
religious issues like the identity of a Sikh, the Dasam Granth
and langer pratha. And this book by Kirpal Singh, a
titan among researchers of the annals of Sikhs, contains
enlightening and vital material.
Not that the
author had any premonition of the ongoing controversies but
chose to write about them with a view to making it a reference
issue of the definition of a Sikh, hardliners contend that
only those having faith in the Guru Granth Sahib and being a keshdhari
can be called a Sikh; others like the Sehajdharis, Udasis,
the Nirmalas can at best be devotees or Sikhs-in-the-making
and as such are not eligible to vote in the election to the
SGPC. The matter is before the SGPC and the Sikh clergy.
describing how Gurdwara Nanak Matta (UP), now in Uttaranchal,
came under the control of the Gurdwara Committee in 1935, the
author has quoted a court judgement and other details which is
relevant to the controversy on the definition of a Sikh.
declared that "For the real connection between the Udasis
and the Sikhs I have been referred to various authorities. In
Wilson’s ‘Sketch of the Religious Sects of the Hindus in
Volume XVII of Asiatic Research’, the Udasis are described
as genuine disciples of Nanak, professing as the name denotes,
indifference to worldly vicissitudes. They are purely
religious characters, devoting themselves to prayers and
meditation and usually collect in sangats, they also
travel to places of pilgrimage."
Oman, in his
"Mystics, Ascetics and Saints of India" mentions
three sects of the Sikhs — namely, Udasis, Nirmalas and
Nihangs or Akalis.
report of Punjab in its glossary on the tribes and castes
said, ".... it is a mistake to say that they the Udasis
are not generally recognised as Sikhs, they pay special
reverence to the Adi Granth, but also respect the granth of
Guru Gobind Singh and attend the same shrines as the Sikhs
had said, "There are two great divisions of Sikhs, ‘sehajdharis’
and Singhs. The latter are those who accept baptism introduced
by Guru Gobind Singh... All other Sikhs are called ‘sehajdharis’.
The Singhs after the time of Guru Gobind, were all warriors,
the ‘sehajdharis’ were those who lived at ease, as the
word denotes, practiced trade or agriculture. Among the Singhs
are the Nirmalas and Nihangs. The ‘sehajdharis’ include
ruled that it would seem from this that "sehajdhari"
Sikhs would be competent to institute a suit under Section 92
even if this temple were held to be an Udasi shrine.
On the langar
issue, the author has traced its origin and aim though not
in the context of the present controversy.
Amar Das popularised the institution of langar (common
kitchen) which served meals free of cost .... The institution
of langar served as an economic leveller as the rich
Sikhs used to give provisions out of which the poor were fed.
The high caste and low caste used to be fed side by side ...
(this) paved the way for social equality."
In part three
of this book "Age of Guru Nanak". a contrast between
caste ridden society of the Hindus and the democratic ideas of
the Muslims leading to equality among themselves has been
given. "It is very significant to note that the Muslim
rulers were inflicting all types of cruelties on their
non-Muslim subjects in the name of religion ... the Muslim was
to root out heresay and extricate fidelity as it had been laid
down in the Qoran.
Dr Srivastava, during the reign of Alauddin Khilji, Feroze
Tughlak and Sikandar Lodhi, the Hindus were not allowed to put
on fine clothes or ride on horseback. The temple of Keshav
Deva, the birth place of Lord Krishna at Mathura, was razed to
the ground by Feroze Tughlak and when it was rebuilt it was
again destroyed by Sikander Lodhi."
Bhai Gurdas, "The Hindu temples were razed to the ground
and at those very places and with the same material mosques
were built. In the present context of Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir
controversy and the destruction of the Buddha statues in
Afghanistan, the historical material brought out by the author
helps the reader in realising that religious bigotry was not
prevalent in the 14th and 15th centuries alone; it is
menancingly present even in the 21st century.
feature of the book is the information on the Gurus traced bit
by bit from sources still unexplored and built into a big
edifice. Akbarnama, Tuzk-i-Jahangiri and Ahkam-i-Alamgiri, all
in the Persian language, contain scant references to the
Gurus. The author has placed them together treating them as
vital records of Sikh history.
To quote, the
author has given a relative extract from Akbarnama. "Abul
Fazal was the contemporary of Guru Arjan and he has narrated
the history of Akbar uptil 1602 AD when he was murdered. He is
considered the official historian of Akbar’s reign and he
has mentioned the visit of Akbar to Guru Arjan at Goindwal in
the third part of Akbarnama.
13th of the month of Azar (November 24, 1598) His Majesty
crossed the river of Beas near Goindwal. On that day the
sanctuary of Guru Arjan was freshly illuminated by the
imperial presence through generations past, he was a religious
leader and he had abundant discipleship..."
The book is
divided into three parts. The first two are about the sources
on which the author has depended to draw perspectives on the
Gurus. A word about the sources. The historian in the author
has in fact extracted history from what is verse for a lay man
like varaan by Bhai Gurdas. Taking a cue from those vaars
and Janamsakhis, the author has drawn a catalogue
of the travels (udasis) of Guru Nanak. Interestingly,
the author personally visited Sri Lanka, Jaffna, to locate the
places Guru Nanak visited.
writes: "With the help of the Ceylon Government, I toured
the Batticaloa district of Ceylon. Fortunately I was able to
locate a village named Kurukal Mandap. The villagers told me
that the village was founded in memory of the Sidh Guru Nath
who came here from north India about 450 years ago. A Siva
temple has been built where he sat. One inscription has
recently been discovered there in the name of ‘Nanak Acharya’."
letters in Sikh faith are known as "hukamnamas",
command letters. The author mentions that 23 such letters from
Guru Teg Bahadur, Guru Gobind Singh, Mata Sundari and Mata
Sahib Devan are preserved at Takht Patna Sahib. These "hukamnamas"
being relics themselves also contain historical material. One
of the "hukamnamas" of Guru Gobind Singh implies
that Guru abolished the age-old masand system.
that Guru Gobind Singh had joined the service of Emperor
Bahadur Shah as writers like Malcolm, Cunningham and
Elphenstone say, has been squarely refuted by the author by
quoting relevant passages from Mehma Prakash when the Guru met
the emperor fully armed and was presented with a jewelled
scarf on July 23, 1707, at Agra.
is the description of an event by the one who himself
witnessed or learnt it in a first hand account. In the Sikh
annals, "janamsakhis" occupy an exalted place.
Dr Kirpal Singh has
assiduously worked on "janamsakhis" and produced
material which have been well received by the Sikhs and others
interested in Sikh history. In this book he has drawn
extensively from " janamsakhis", especially of Sodhi
Mehrvan who was a grandson of Guru Ram Das and knew about the
Gurus’ lives closely.
Space for spectacular
Review by Randeep Wadehra
the Stars by Gopal Raj. Viking, New Delhi. Pages +352. Rs 395.
INDIA is a respectable member of the exclusive space club.
The ISRO scientists have been able to achieve what our
aeronautical and even automobile engineers are still
struggling for — namely, self-dependence.
In the past
four decades ISRO has grown from a small band of committed
individuals into a large sophisticated set-up with several
work centres, programmes and projects. It has a work force of
Truly, in a
country where we have become adroit at snatching failure after
failure from the jaws of success, the ISRO success story is an
that our space programme owes much to Vikram Sarabhai’s
vision, the author notes that the legendary scientist had
recruited a modest group of young men and sent them for
training to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre. "On
November 21, 1963, a Nike-Apache rocket supplied by NASA was
assembled in a church building (the then ISRO premises), along
with a sodium vapour experiment provided by CNES of France.
American and French technicians were present to help the
Indians on this occasion...."
were a few hiccups before the rocket finally took off at 6.25
p.m.. That was ISRO’s first rocket launch. After that there
was no stopping our space scientists. Despite daunting odds,
our space programme has come of age. Indeed the Nehru-Sarabhai
vision of giving India a strong scientific and technological
base has been proved right. Today we are reaping the fruits of
those pioneering efforts.
can carry heavy and sophisticated payloads, thus giving the
more advanced rocket launching set-up of the USA and Europe a
run for their money. Spin-offs from our space programmes are
rich, both in terms of material progress and defence
indigenously fabricated rocket was a one-metre long RH-75. The
establishment of the Rocket Fabrication Facility for making
hardware, and of the Rocket Propellant Plant for casting solid
motors led to the birth of a whole family of sounding rockets.
The Menaka-I, which was launched in 1968 and the Menaka-II
that flew in 1970 were two-stage sounding rockets developed
for meteorological applications. These were the first firm
steps towards building our own rocket organisation.
logical step was to fabricate indigenous launch vehicles.
Sarabhai had pointed out that "applications in remote
sensing, communications and meteorology made possible by
satellites were directly relevant to India’s fundamental
problems. "He, however, conceded that transfer of space
technology from the developed to the developing countries was
not going to be easy as there were "military overtones of
a launcher development programme".
completely indigenous sounding rocket was actually built in
1969, Sarabhai’s decision in 1968 to go for a launch vehicle
must have sounded quixotic to sceptics. Nonetheless, it is a
tribute as much to the genius of our scientists as to the
faith reposed in them by the establishment that such a
programme was indeed given an enthusiastic go ahead.
states, "....sounding rockets can be made by a small
group of engineers. But to build even the simplest launch
vehicle is a very different story. A number of complex systems
have to work together for a launch vehicle to succeed ...
requires the activities of multi-disciplinary teams being
coordinated and focussed. Project management for the
development of a launch vehicle, from conception to execution,
is therefore a complicated exercise in itself."
From a humble
beginning and after a lot of struggle we consider the
manufacture and launch of ASLVs and PSLVs as normal, almost
routine activities, well within the capability of our space
scientists. We might not be able to make our own aircraft —
be they LCAs or passenger jets, we might fail miserably in
designing our own car — Indica is an Italian designed
product — but surely we can hold our head high in the
scientific world thanks to the achievements in space.
gives in detail the hows, whys and the wheres of our space
development programme. There are photographs, diagrams,
illustrations and other relevant data that could prove useful
to those interested in India’s quest for a niche in the
space. A good buy for general readers too!
Strategic Business Spiral by Lalitha Iyer. Response Books, New
Delhi. Pages 173. Rs 200.
invariably change causes discomfort, if not disruption — be
it in the life of an individual or an organisation. But when
an entire economy faces the prospect of a complete
transformation, as it appears to be the case in India, things
do look frighteningly uncertain both at the micro and the
macro levels. Yet change is inevitable since life cannot
remain static. The only alternative is to adapt to such
changes. How? That is what Lalitha Iyer deals with in this
scene has undergone such a transition that "global
management gurus now include India on their tour itineraries
and give us formulae and recipes that have worked well
elsewhere". While observing the ongoing perestroika in
the Indian economy, Iyer avers. "The year 1990 was in
itself a landmark that separated us from the insularity of the
1970s and 1980s. The mandarins in the Ministry of Finance are
busy dissecting the course of economic events...."
The trend of
economic events has certainly shifted into high gear with the
recent budget, after a period of uncertainty caused by the swadeshi
points out that today the corporate manager is hard pressed to
make the right choice from among a multitude of options and it
requires the skill of a very high order to surf the waves of
Now that the
protective barriers are more or less removed, or at least
substantially weakened, the India Inc is suddenly waking up to
the challenges of a demanding market place. Entrepreneurs, who
were so much used to operating in a sellers’ market, today
have to smarten up their act in order to compete in the global
buyers’ market, or at least survive the competition.
"Firms with global ambitions are discovering that there
are no short cuts to winning in international
markets...." All round corporate performance alone can
ensure success, and help one to survive in adversity.
cautions that even the domestic market is no more the India
Inc.’s exclusive domain. Specialisation in sunrise
enterprises has been used successfully by players with
transnational experience. Everyday we learn that new foreign
brands are entering the market which are better and cheaper.
explosion of information technology. "The arena for the
battle for the Indian bazaar has clearly shifted to drawing
rooms across the subcontinent. Advertising campaigns are
increasingly adopting the ‘desi idiom’ to tempt the
consumer...." And one would be wrong in assuming that the
rural areas remain unaffected with these dramatic changes in
our economy. Market research reveals that rural households
have switched over to the use of branded products in a big
has systematically dealt with the past and present of the
Indian economy. While evaluating the ongoing changes she has
not only pointed out the challenges, facing the Indian
business organisations but has also enumerated the ways and
means for meeting such tasks successfully.
Her style is
lucid and bereft of ideological dogmas.
"Catching up with the Joneses", "The strategic
spiral" and "Changing gears — a guide to the
perplexed" offer plenty of food for thought. For example,
she has highlighted the attitudinal change of the corporate
gurus through the change in mantras for success. She asserts.
"There are no invariant formulae for success.... Here are
some examples of rules that have changed completely in the
past few decades:
technology by indigenisation (upgrade by buying
state-of-the-art); l good wine needs no brush (do not
advertise but advertise or perish); l buyers beware (delight
the customer); l money is scarce, hoard it (money is
"easy", spend it); and l government knows the best
(market knows best).
will certainly delight free marketeers and upset socialists.
However, one question that no economist or corporate
management guru is ready to tackle is: when and how a social
security net for the common citizens (the major and perhaps
the only suppliers of workforce) of India will be provided?
Or, are we to assume that the faceless Indian does not deserve
a dignified lifestyle?
question: will our quest for economic prosperity ever
fructify, given the rampant corruption in the system? Will
tehelka.com expose, both inside and outside the Parliament
derail India’s quest for economic nirvana?
of Government Budgeting in India By S.P. Ganguly. Concept
Publishing, New Delhi. Pages 187. Rs 300.
budgeting is a sort of mystery for you or you feel that those
entrusted with the management of our public finances are
nincompoops, this book is for you. In a lucid and systematic
manner the art and science of budgeting at the national and
state levels has been explained.
rightly says: "Budgeting of government is an estimation
of its resources and application of those resources for
administrative and welfare expenditure in their widest
possible coverage. The estimate is prepared for a 12-monthly
period, which is called an accounting year or financial
quoted from the notes of a committee on change in financial
year to explain why it is pertinent to have April-March and
not January-December as the financial year. India being a
predominantly agricultural economy, wherein the monsoons,
especially the south-west monsoon, play a pivotal role, the
receipts and expenditure statement for April-March present a
more reliable picture of the economy’s health.
has also dealt with such topics as the structure of government
accounts, the budget documents, the art and science of budget
preparation, parliamentary legislative scrutiny of budget
estimates and expenditure against approved budget, and
economic and functional classification of the budget. In the
appendices relevant details regarding contingency fund, heads
of development, etc. have been provided.
You don’t have to be an
aspiring Finance Minister to read this book.