Monday, May 7, 2001, Chandigarh, India



Border crisis: trifling with India

Some people have advocated restraint in dealing with Bangladesh on the present border crisis. To a reasonable degree, it may be desirable to show restraint, but a stage comes when restrain is taken for cowardice and becomes a constraint. Once in a while, even a peace-loving country like ours has to make an exhibition of its might, to be taken seriously.

My apprehension is that this skirmish on the Bangladesh border may be a plot of Pakistan either to test that territory or to divert our attention from something it may be planning somewhere else.

Time is ripe for us to subscribe to the theory that at times offence becomes the best and perhaps the only form of defence. Has our internal strife left us so weak that we cannot even rise to defend ourselves? In response to overwhelming pressure on this matter, Mr Jaswant Singh, the Defence Minister, lost his cool and made an angry statement: “Do you want that we should bomb them?” My unequivocal retort, as perhaps that of most Indians, is Yes, Mr Defence Minister. It is a shame that you still need to ask the question. You, who are so close to your American friends, ought to know the resolve with which they react to acts of terrorism and violence against their citizens. Israel has no qualms about taking harsh and swift deterrent action against acts of aggression perpetuated against its nationals.

World opinions can be and are made and moulded once you show that you cannot be trifled with.

vivek khanna, Panchkula


War of words

In the ‘war of words’ between Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the Prime Minister is misusing his oratory to attack the Leader of the Opposition. Mr Vajpayee should have honoured the initiative of the Speaker by making a cordial speech at the end of the Lok Sabha session. It was not fair of Mr Vajpayee to meet Mrs Sonia Gandhi in the presence of the Speaker with reservations and later make rude remarks such as ‘open mind viz empty mind’ on the question of forming a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) on the issue.

He misguided Parliament and the nation by overlooking the earlier disruption of parliamentary proceedings by its own party on issues like Bofors, Sukhram etc.

It is unfortunate that Mr Vajpayee, instead of behaving like a matured politician, further added fuel to the fire by attacking Mrs Sonia Gandhi even for her expressions which were the result of his harsh speech.


In defence of VRS

Much has been said about the voluntary retirement scheme in nationalised banks. An impression is created that all those who opted for the scheme are shirkers and have chosen to seek retirement to collect the huge amounts offered by the banks. Only the deadwood has grabbed the opportunity.

This may be true in a few cases, but the list also includes a large number of those who chose to say good-bye to their jobs because at one time or the other they had to suffer the ignominy of disciplinary action for a small mistake or even for no mistake on their part. Among them are hard and sincere workers who were punished severely for no fault or for very negligible faults. Such staff forms a big chunk of those who have opted for retirement.

The work culture in the country, as it prevails at present, is also responsible for the mass exodus of officers from the banks. While they have to shoulder all the responsibility, no one is ready to stand by them if a genuine error is committed or if a decision taken after weighing all the merits of a project does not work as foreseen. The man who took the decision is crucified. It is hoped that the situation will change for the better in the years to come, and dedicated and hard-working staff will not be forced to take such a decision in the future.




Promoting philately

The Indian Posts Department should promote philately in a manner suited to a developing country like India, rather than copying blindly the western pattern. “The single stamp sheet with multi-denominational stamps, is one such luxury which does not suit Indian conditions. Philately in India must suit the common philatilist’s pocket rather than become a rich person’s hobby. Since users of different denominations of stamps are different, stamps of only single denomination should be printed on one stamp sheet.

The practice of issuing commemorative stamps in higher but unpopular denominations also needs rectification. On every occasion, at least one commemorative stamps should be in the most commonly used denomination. Series of stamp may be issued but with stamps of different denominations in separate sheets. Commemorative stamps may also be issued for the ‘book post’ category.

Postal tariffs should be fixed in multiples of 50 paise making common tariff of 50 paise for each category of post cards. The heavy subsidy on post cards is misused by business firms. Very few among the poor use post cards but they are indirectly hit by increased taxes to cover the subsidy on post cards. Foreign postal tariffs (both air and surface) should also be simplified.


What ails farm research

Agricultural research went on a holiday from March 8 to 11 when farm scientist at the PAU enjoyed these holidays.

Crops do not stop growing when the government declares a holiday. The cattle also do not observe any holidays and their biological cycles remain unchanged. If they do not obey the dictates of the politicians, how can the scientists who conduct research on crops and livestock? Why do they not follow the work norms of the railways, the police, the armed forces, the airlines, privately run banks and hospitals?

No worthwhile agricultural research is possible as long as the scientists observe all the holidays that are allowed to government officials. At present over 90 per cent of PAU’s budget is consumed by salaries, and another seven per cent by peripherals, leaving merely about three per cent for research work.

The university has become a virtual department of the government, its autonomy being only notional. Also, it is full of an army of babus, their number exceeding the international norms or the actual requirements.

Looking at the fate of this premier farm university, the question that arises is why and how this institution has been made soulless. The problems that are nibbling at its vitals are many. Some of these are: Politically motivated appointments at all levels; too much staff, totally disproportionate to the funds and facilities available; existence of several departments and even colleges that could be dispensed with; an acute paucity of funds; and non-remunerative nature of jobs bringing in mediocre persons as scientists.

These factors also give birth to trade unionism and the lack of accountability of the scientists and teachers.

In the past, some of the Vice-chancellors decided that when some VIP died and the Punjab Government declared its offices closed for the day, the university would also stand closed. Never mind the vital data to be collected, samples that will be spoiled if not analysed immediately, irrigation to be given or sprays to be made against pest attack. They also decided that there was no need for scientists to work on Saturdays. So they made the university a five-day week affair.

The teachers’ association of this agricultural institution has not raised its voice for improving the working conditions of farm scientists. Pecuniary benefits and stress on not holding them accountable have been its major concerns, very much like the trade unions in factories and mines.

All said and done, for the amount spent on the Punjab Agricultural university, the return by its scientists even today is more than that of their counterparts in most other institutions in the country. The university is very much alive and kicking, capable of rejuvenation and growth if its mentors allow it to do so.

A.S. BINDRA, Ludhiana



Labour Day

This refers to “India must have own national Labour day” by Hasmukh D. Savlani (Tribune, May 1). The working class throughout the world has been fighting to end exploitation of man by man. It is in this context that May 1 is observed as International Labour Day. To have national days in the context of the working people’s basic struggle to end exploitation is negating the basic common interest of the down-trodden sections of society all over the world, and dividing them in their struggle.

Lord Vishvakarma is part of Hindu mythology and is a matter of belief. May Day is the outcome of historical events whereby working men struggled for their rights. It is not a day of prayer to any divine power. On this day working people all over the world pledge to continue their fight for creating a society based on equality and justice.

Let us not go to the extent of dividing the down-trodden sections. Our society is already divided on caste and creed lines. The approach should be to unite the working men of all hues if we sincerely desire their uplift.

ARUN MITRA, Ludhiana

Piara Singh Padam

The demise of the ever-smiling and bright-eyed octogenarian Punjabi writer Piara Singh Padam is a great blow to Punjabi language and literature. He was one of the pioneers in the field of research in Sikh history.

He wrote about 80 books, most of them published by his own concern, Qalam Mandir. He was a life-long Fellow of Punjabi University, Patiala, and got the Sahit Shiromani Award from the Languages Department of Punjab.

He had a rich library of literary, religious and history books and some rare manuscripts. Punjabi University should acquire these books and keep them safe for the use of the present and future generations.


Cricket and Pakistan

BCCI and some enthusiastic cricket fans are worried at the cancellation of cricket matches against Pakistan at three satellite venues. They tend to forget that in the seventies, the ICC banned playing cricket against South Africa on account of its racist policies. Thus India, even in the absence of any hostility, dispute or acrimony between the two, did not play against South Africa for 15 years. Where is the reason to feel upset over the suspension of matches against Pakistan which is always on the offensive and busy trying to destabilise our country.

Imagine that a cricket match is being played between the two countries and the media flashes the news that so many soldiers are killed in a mine-blast or so many innocents are killed by Pak militants. Will it not disturb or unsettle our players? What message do we want to send to our Jawans, who are facing bullets from Pak-sponsored terrorists every day?

The BCCI’s only interest is to make a fast buck for its administrators to enjoy foreign jaunts. If it has a conscience and national pride, it should not insist on playing against Pakistan.

J.K. MAGO, Panchkula


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