Saturday, June 9, 2001, Chandigarh, India



How Himachal can improve its fiscal health

Every now and then the Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister is heard about approaching the Centre with his begging bowl. This can bring temporary relief, but cannot provide a lasting solution. I suggest the following steps to streamline the state economy:

1. Reduce the number of ministers to one third and the number of bureaucrats to half.

2. Stop NPA to doctors and they should be allowed to do private practice. This will at least ensure their availability at the place of posting.

3. Start recruiting doctors on a revenue sharing basis. Under this scheme, doctors will use government facilities and in turn deposit 50 per cent of the consultation fee with the government.

4. Limit the medical reimbursement to government employees. Everyone knows that this facility is misused by almost all to purchase Chayvanprash, badam rogan and toiletries.

5. Leave education up to middle level to the panchayats/jila parishads/ local bodies. They should recruit local teachers at affordable rates. At present one can see teachers staying in Shimla and doing daily up and down from duty to distant places like Matyana and Narkanda. Often they are missing and on remaining days they hardly do justice with students because of the fatigue of a long journey.

The objective of education to all cannot be achieved by paying Rs 15,000 to teachers, who hardly attend duties for 80 to 100 days in a year. Local employment and controls will do a lot of good and will save government money.

The same policy should be adopted with regard to primary health centres and dispensaries.


6. Privatise government-run schools like Portmore Shimla, which has become an abode for the wives of government officers.

7. Small states like Himachal Pradesh cannot afford to copy the Centre in the matter of DA. The Fifth Pay Commission has made the government salaries so attractive that people are prepared to pay a bribe of Rs 5 to 10 lakh for a government job. The state government should freeze DA for the people drawing salary above Rs 10,000 and cut to 75 per cent for those drawing above Rs 6,000. Owing to the present DA system, the gap in the salary of a person working in the organised or government sector and the unorganised sector has become very big. Till such system continues, 90 per cent of the government revenue will go to pay salaries and pensions and no developmental job can be taken up. Further, there is a limit to which people in the unorganised sector can be taxed to meet the salary bill of government employees.

8. Introduce private transport companies to run buses on the main routes. When it is established that the running of transport business by the government body cannot be viable, it should be given up.

9. The government should be sincere in putting a check on the use of official cars and office peons as household servants. At present, ministers and bureaucrats manage to have five-six cars and five-six servants from the department under their control. Unobliging officers are transferred to backward areas.

10. Privatise all manufacturing government units like the packaging unit at Guma. Because of rampant corruption and inefficiency, such units can never make profit.

11. Those who are occupying government accommodation should be asked to pay rent at the market price.

12. Only emergency health services should be under the government. Systems like ayurveda should be privatised. Those fond of ayurveda should pay for it.

These measures call for a firm resolve and the CM will have to shed the temptation of votes.

Even by adopting a policy of appeasement toward government employees at the cost of the general public, a second term is not certain. So why not bring in good governance?


Order on foreigners

I have gone through Humra Quraishi’s “Citizens at mercy of local police” (May 27). The revival of the order under the Foreigners Act, 1946, is highly illogical. The local police has to be informed if your children or grandchildren come to see you and stay for a short duration, even one night.

The Government of India was seriously thinking of granting dual citizenship to NRIs. Where does the revival of the old law fit in?

Once you are allowed entry on your visa, no country requires this type of police reporting.

To avoid unnecessary hardship, the order should be withdrawn immediately.

R. N. PAL, Hisar


Layoffs? All trash

This refers to the news item “Narayana Murthy defends layoffs” (May 23). It is surprising how a man who is regarded as an intellectual in the Silicon circles could speak such trash. A man who started from scratch to become an icon in the Silicon Valley was until yesterday a commoner, just like Azim Premji of Wipro.

What we heard from his speech are words from a selfish businessman and not a man of principles. How else could he go to town propagating India to incorporate layoff rules on the lines of the USA?


District Forum scuffle

The news of a scuffle between the President and a member of the District Forum, Kurukshetra (May 10) is shocking. To avoid recurrence of such incidents, I suggest that a member of the District Forum should not be a local advocate who is also a member of the Bar Association. The latter is sure to back him.

Secondly, if a consumer represents his case himself and his opponent is an advocate, the member would hardly go against the fellow advocate unless the points raised by the consumer are much stronger.

G. D. GUPTA, Jagadhri

PG studies in colleges

This refers to the news item “MDU, KU asked to discourage PG studies in colleges” (May 30). It is strange that the government has advised MDU and KU to cut down the honours course to about one fourth of the present number. It is true that colleges are not equipped to deal with PG teaching, but they should be provided for rather than thinking of discouraging studies. I request the government to look into the matter again and continue the PG studies in colleges because it is not possible for everyone to join a PG course at the university; every aspirant cannot afford the expenses of staying in a city.


‘Koh-in-Noor’ lapse

Apropos “Koh-i-Noor story” (May 27), Bhagwan Singh has rightly pointed out many of the factual errors in Balkara Singh’s letter. I may refer to yet another lapse of his “trusted memory of 75 years”. He has mentioned that Dost Mohd Khan was an elder brother of Shah Shuja, which is absolutely incorrect. Dost Mohd Khan belonged to the Barakzai clan and was a usurper of the Kabul throne. Shah Shuja was a descendent of the Durrani kings.


A bridge on the Beas

The condition of the main bridge on the Beas river between Pathankot and Mukerian on the national highway is quite deplorable. The joint treatment between the slabs seems to be carried out by some non-engineering staff. The CPWD should come to the rescue of road users/tax-payers.

Er S. K. MITTAL, Shahpurkandi

Garcha’s honesty

The statement of Mr Jagdish Singh Garcha, Minister, Technical Education, Punjab, that except for experience and honesty no technical qualification is needed for appointment as Director (Outreach), Punjab Technical University, is thought provoking. The minister deserves appreciation for admitting his own shortcoming that if he, being not so qualified, can be sworn in as a Minister for Technical Education, there should be little objection to an undergraduate becoming a Director of PTU.


A matter of shame

It is a matter of shame that there should still exist a temple which debars entry to the Dalits (May 20). This causes disunity and disaffection among our people. The caste system has been one of the main weaknesses of the Hindu society in India.

Wing Cdr S. C. KAPOOR, Noida


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