Sunday, September 9, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


‘Lift India from the despondency in
which it is immersed’
Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia
Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia’s call at 1893 Lahore session
HE article has been excerpted from Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia’s address to the 1893 Lahore session of the Indian National Congress in his capacity as the Chairman of the Reception Committee. His address was read out by Harkrishan Lall as Sardar Majithia was suffering from rheumatic problems and remained seated at the dais:

The print media: distortions and new challenges
Syed Nooruzzaman
F the Press Council of India is to be believed, the electronic media has failed to pose a serious threat to the future of newspapers. Even in developed countries where television journalism has scaled great heights, there is no decline in the circulation of newspapers as feared earlier.

Time to tackle starvation deaths
V. Eshwar Anand
EPORTS of 21 starvation deaths in Kashipur block of Rayagada district in Orissa are a matter of serious concern. 


Constitution and people’s will
September 8
, 2001
George turns critic
September 7
, 2001
Clueless on economy
September 6
, 2001
The enemy within
September 5
, 2001
No carrot, only stick
September 4
, 2001
Half-hearted reshuffle
September 3
, 2001
The privileged culture of colonial schooling
September 2
, 2001
Jaya’s game is up
September 1
, 2001
Railway travails
August 31
, 2001
RBI finds economy sick
August 30
, 2001
Ayodhya takes centre-stage
August 29
, 2001

Caught between two time-streams
Rakshat Puri
WO time-streams move in opposite directions in South Asia. One towards the past and the other towards the future. The people are bewildered, caught between political mumbo-jumbo and rituals.


Harihar Swarup
Jagmohan’s drive proved his nemesis
visibly tense Jagmohan was pacing the sprawling banquet hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan up and down. The swearing-in ceremony at the adjoining “Ashoka hall” was over and the invitees had gathered for the customary tea. 


Recipe for economic upturns stumps all
HE economic turnaround recipe outlined by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) not only took Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee by surprise but also some of the ministers handling core economic ministries. Nearly half-way through his five-year tenure barring the imponderables, Mr Vajpayee felt that the McKinsey blueprint to put the slowing economy on the overdrive appeared to be too good to be true.


Of Yuppy culture, coke, cocaine and success
Humra Quraishi
INCE I write this column on the eve of the International Literacy Day (Sept 8), I cannot help commenting that we are unaware of the realities around and the nexuses at work — the nexus between the ‘highs’ and people who form hi society here. I know the very term hi society repels but there is no substitute, nor is there any going back on the Yuppy culture that has inundated Delhi.



‘Lift India from the despondency in
which it is immersed’
Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia’s call at 1893 Lahore session

THE article has been excerpted from Sardar Dyal Singh Majithia’s address to the 1893 Lahore session of the Indian National Congress in his capacity as the Chairman of the Reception Committee. His address was read out by Harkrishan Lall as Sardar Majithia was suffering from rheumatic problems and remained seated at the dais:

The constitution of all civilised governments allows appeal to the highest authorities. British India is no exception to this rule. The laws in force here permit appeals in almost every branch of administration. The judgement of an inferior officer is open to examination by his superior. Why should then the exercise of this privilege in matters constitutional be looked on with any disfavour at all?

The Congress has been called seditious and disloyal not because it aims at overturning the foundations of British rule in India — for it is patent that its attempts are, on the contrary, directed towards consolidating those foundations — but because it petitions for the rights of the people guaranteed by repeated declarations of the highest authorities, and proposed in the case of ill success in this country to lay their case before Her Majesty’s Government in England, before the British Parliament and before the British nation, the ultimate courts of appeal in whose probity and sense of justice and fairplay they have unbounded confidence.

To do this effectually the Congress has to discuss questions vitally connected with the well-being of the Indian people and to lay their grievances before the Bar of English public opinion which otherwise cannot know, or understand those grievances, or grant any redress. Is there anything wrong or unnatural in this procedure?

It is the law of supply and demand which is a recognised principle in political economy. It is said that it is demand that brings in the supply. Man is so constituted that want is natural to him. When the want is felt the supply comes. Providence thus meets all demands.

Even the man of religion has said that there can be no supply without demand. Did not the greatest teacher, the prince of prophets, say: “Ask and it shall be given unto you, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you?” Of course, that is the law of prayer and inspiration in the world of spirit but the same interpreted in the language of flesh means the law of demand and supply.

Now, gentlemen, imagine if it is not the law of our Anglo-Indian opponents, the utterances of their acknowledged saviour? Is it not strange that they should object to our following the footsteps of their own great master? Is it not unwise and impolitic as well as unchristian of them to oppose the behaviour which “the beloved son of God” commands us to adopt? Besides this, there is a common saying that “the mother does not give milk till the child weeps.”

What wrong are we doing? Where is our crime? We are simply knocking at the door of the great British and Christian nation. We are crying for milk, say even for water before mother England. Is it improper on her part to give us a suckle? The hungry and thirsty children at her gate, the people of India, the weeping children of mother England, expect nourishment from that great English nation?

We might be alien in race and creed, in manners and customs, ideas and thoughts, but without asking, seeking and knocking hard at the door of our paternal government we cannot find redress. We should be foremost to admit that in times past before we could lisp we received precious gifts from the hands of the government, which we still possess and enjoy, but now that we have learnt to articulate it we are not precluded from praying for better gifts beneficial alike to ourselves and our rulers and also essential for the good government of the country.

The Congress has passed eight years of its existence but what are eight years in the life of a nation? Yet within this brief period it has succeeded in obtaining a few concessions which we highly prize, and these concessions should open the eyes of the wary and suspicious amongst us and encourage us all to preserve the cause we have taken up for amelioration of the condition of our country. These concessions prove the generosity of which the British nation is capable and they establish the consolation that if we apply to it for succour in our need our appeal will not be futile or abortive. Let us then keep steadily the object we have in view, work strenuously in “faith, hope and charity,” perfect our organisation, strike with all our might to lift our nation from the despondency in which it is immersed.

The distinguished President of the first and eighth Congresses in his inaugural address at Allahabad last year declared that the second cycle of the Congress began under his presidency. It is a happy coincidence that the second Congress of the second cycle should have been proposed to be held under the leadership of the same illustrious countryman of ours who guided the deliberations of the second Congress of the first cycle.

I shall not anticipate your proceedings but nevertheless I cannot help congratulating ourselves on having in our midst one who has devoted all the talents and energies of a lifetime, with supreme singleness of purpose to promoting our cause, and who by dint of ability, indomitable courage and perseverance has forced his way to the highest deliberative assembly in the British empire, the Imperial Parliament of Great Britain and Ireland. I am referring, I need scarcely tell you, to Mr Dadabhai Naoroji, who has inaugurated a new era in Indian political life and whose name now is a household word throughout the length and breadth of this land.

Those who asset that he does not represent the people of India in the House of Commons err grievously. The glorious receptions he has been accorded since his landing at Bombay should suffice to remove their error. All India with one heart accepts his representations, and hopes that immeasurable goodwill flow from it at no distant date.

We must heartily congratulate ourselves on having also in our midst him who first directed our aims and aspirations, guided and controlled our counsels, cheered us in our difficulties, spent large sums of money, abandoned rest and comfort to promote our tottering cause and laid the foundation-stone of that grand fabric which now proudly rears its lofty head — I mean our kind, noble, and affectionate friend Mr Hume, the Father of the Indian National Congress. Mr Hume has undertaken a long voyage to benefit us, to call us to our sense of duty, to rouse our flagging zeal, to stir up our drooping spirits, to encourage us with his presence and we are particularly fortunate in having the advantage of his guidance, advice and active co-operation at this the first session of the Congress in this province. May he and Mr Dadabhai Naoroji both be spared long to work on behalf of suffering humanity in general and this country in particular!



The print media: distortions and new challenges
Syed Nooruzzaman

IF the Press Council of India is to be believed, the electronic media has failed to pose a serious threat to the future of newspapers. Even in developed countries where television journalism has scaled great heights, there is no decline in the circulation of newspapers as feared earlier. In fact, people’s interest in the printed word has increased over the years. In India, the newspaper industry has grown at 5.6 per cent a year, an impressive achievement. There has been an upswing in readership and circulation. These observations form part of the statutory media watchdog’s latest 257-page study, “Future of Print Media”.

Radio journalism has been there for over eight decades. The advent of TV in 1959 began the electronic onslaught on the Press. Yet even today the print media is accepted as the most dependable source of information. TV has failed to emerge as a better alternative. Its role as an entertainer dominates over its function of news and views dissemination.

In the opinion of the Press Council, the electronic media has 10 definite advantages. It serves as a vehicle of quick communication, helps in understanding a matter at a glance, has its memorising effect, facilitates easy comparison, provides a bird’s eye-view, has the capacity to keep pace with a fast changing situation (dynamism), is more revealing and appealing to the eye, works as a stimulant, saves time and ensures audience participation. But these plus points make the electronic media promote the cause of the newspapers—— enhancing reader interest in the information, comment and views available in print.

There is no replacement for newspapers so far as their portability, simplicity, readability, durability, longevity, affordability, reliability, etc, are concerned. They have a natural advantage in a country like India where nearly 40 per cent of the population still lives below the poverty line, and at least 75 per cent cannot afford electronic gadgets. But most educated people can easily buy a newspaper in any part of the country. They can read it any time and anywhere, even sitting in a garden or a farm. In the course of a debate the printed material can be easily produced as proof to substantiate one’s argument.

Now a look at the role of online newspapers. The Press Council report does not say much about the threat, real or perceived, from news websites except for some generalised comments. It, however, makes a big and realistic claim that “as long as we are in flesh and blood, there will be need for written books and papers... CDs may not give the joy and ease of reading books” as well as newspapers.

The real picture of the online experiment emerges from the comments of senior journalists associated with the websites of the world’s most respected newspapers. Mr Brigid Callaghan, Editor of London’s Online Times, believes that a web newspaper is nothing but “one of the ways” to deliver a publication at the doors of its readers and prospective readers. This, therefore, amounts to increasing the reach and appeal of the parent paper. The Editor of the online edition of The Sun, Mr Pete Picton, supports the views of Mr Callaghan: “We are a marketing tool of the paper. So we hope we can convert the people who find us on the Net to buy The Sun.” But the views of the Editorial Director of The Hollinger Telegraph, Mr Kim Fletcher, are encouraging for those associated with the Internet ventures. He admits that “we have still no idea of the destination”. The online experiment is in the process of finding its real role. One thing is, however, certain: it cannot cause any harm to the interests of the Press.

Yet there is no room for complacency for the print media, as the Press Council warns. In tune with the changing times, newspapers will have to concentrate more on local and regional developments and what lies beyond the news. Special investigative reports add to a newspaper’s appeal, but the readers feel more satisfied when they are informed about the possible implications of a development as also the details which cannot be provided by the electronic media because of its inbuilt handicaps.

In the context of newspapers, the very concept of writing reports has to change. The old school-walahs may not agree, but the time has come for increasingly commentative reports in newspapers. Providing hard news is gradually becoming the domain of TV and radio. Even they too have to lace news with expert comments to keep the listeners’ interest intact. Thus, it is time to think of news-plus, not bare news.

Expressing its optimism about the future of the Press in India, the Press Council also points out the painful ground realities. It laments the growing canibalistic tendency among big newspapers, resorting to tactics like price wars and gift schemes. This amounts to bribing the readers. Success achieved with the help of such unhealthy practices belittles the significance of the newspapers as the watchdog of society. Owing to these developments, managements have begun to feel, though unjustifiably, that factors other than the editorial content play a major role in the growth of a publication. In the words of the Council, “This has no doubt strengthened the financial structure of the newspaper but has also brought with it substandard editorial material... The role of the editorial department has become just of a ‘filler’. Such a tendency has immensely affected the educative value of newspapers to the reader, since he is not getting the right stuff for his mental exercise, and food for thought.” Of course, this is not the case with all publications, but many of them definitely fall in this category.

In all, the Council report has listed 31 weaknesses of newspapers. Among these are their neglecting the problems of the less privileged, playing into the hands of powerful politicians, ignoring the ethical requirement of maintaining neutrality, taking to dishonest means of gathering information and helplessness in arresting the devaluation of the institution of editor. Anyone who has even a rudimentary knowledge of the working of the print media will agree that the erosion of the editor’s position is the cause of so many problems. In most multi-edition dailies there is no unified editorial command with the resident editors having been given the authority to run the show independently. Then there are new posts of editor/executive editor (news) and editor/executive editor (views) . All these have made “the management all-powerful to the detriment of editorial freedom”. This is not enough. The latest practice of appointing journalists on a contract basis for a short tenure, the Press Council feels, is cutting at the very root of Press freedom.

The Council believes that the time has come for the appointment of a third Press Commission as nearly two decades have elapsed since the Second Press Commission studied the problems of the print media and gave its findings in 1982. This suggestion is part of its 14-point wish-list in a situation when the print media’s entire complexion has undergone a sea-change with new production and communication technologies. The Council has also expressed its desire for promoting media watch groups at the regional level so that the Press does not forget its conventionally defined responsibilities.

Future of Print Media — a Report; Press Council of India; Pages 257; price Rs 200. Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg, New Delhi-110001.



Time to tackle starvation deaths
V. Eshwar Anand

REPORTS of 21 starvation deaths in Kashipur block of Rayagada district in Orissa are a matter of serious concern. The Centre and the Orissa Government have contradicted reports of deaths due to starvation or hunger, maintaining that the deaths in Bilamilla and Pitajodi villages were due to the intake of contaminated and poisonous food like mango kernel, meat of dead animal, mandia jau (paste of coarse mandia cereal) and menangitis.

However, one cannot underestimate the gravity of the situation in Rayagada district. A problem of this nature and magnitude should be kept above political considerations for a fair and objective assessment of the situation. For tribals of this district, mango kernel paste meal with wild mushroom and roots is not new. The Kondh tribals, landless or small farmers, know very well that their staple food is poisonous. But what could they do when their purchasing power is very low and they cannot afford rice? In fact, the extent of poverty among the people is so abysmal that they are unable to buy even subsidised rice available at Rs 4.75 a kg under schemes like the Integrated Tribal Development Programme (ITDP) or the Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP).

Surprisingly, the tribals in this region continue to reel under poverty even though the Centre and the State have been pumping huge funds under various developmental programmes. In 1987, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi launched the ITDP scheme under which over Rs 60 crore has been spent in the block. However, this has not made any impact on the beneficiaries. Similarly, Kashipur has the distinction of having got Rs 19 crore from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) under the ITDP. Even the most ambitious anti-poverty scheme — Area Development Approach for Poverty Termination (ADAPT) —launched in the undivided Koraput district (of which Rayagada was a part) in 1988 failed to bring any perceptible change in the condition of the tribals.

Worse, even though Rayagada got special treatment under the long-term action plan for the undivided Koraput, Bolangir and Kalahandi districts — popularly called the KBK scheme launched by former prime minister P. V. Narasimha Rao — it has not helped the tribals. This is particularly distressing because under the KBK scheme, the tribals were supposed to be the direct beneficiaries. The Poverty Profile Report of Action aid in 1998 in Bolangir district is revealing. The report suggests that the poor, to get a morsel of food, sell away or mortgage their PDS ration cards for one kilogram of rice. This situation is in no way different in Rayagada or Kalahandi districts. Rural employment opportunities in this region are inadequate throughout the year and the people can hardly earn anything during drought, floods or cyclone.

If the various schemes launched for the economic development of the people have floundered, the reasons are not far to seek. Apart from destitution and exploitation by middlemen and money lenders, corruption, political interference and official apathy have made a mess of the anti-poverty schemes. Monitoring is virtually non-existent and no accountability is fixed on the officials for lapses. Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Mrs Sonia Gandhi has urged Prime Minister A B Vajpayee to intensify the Food -for-work Programme (FWP) in Rayagada district. But will it help tackle the problem? The contractor-official-politician nexus seems to have hijacked the FWP in most States.

Conceptually, there is nothing wrong with the FWP which is supposed to help supplement the income of unskilled labour and in the creation of rural economic and social infrastructure. During the lean agricultural season, it would help rural labour. But then, as it involves a cash component of over 50 per cent in the total outlay, the state governments will have to shoulder greater responsibility in the implementation of the scheme. Reports suggest that it is only because of the lackadaisical attitude of some state governments in allocating funds that the scheme has failed to yield the desired results even when the Centre has given cereals free to the States.

Given the failure of the anti-poverty schemes over the years, doubts have been raised on the utility of the Rs. 10,000-crore Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (SGRY) announced by the Prime Minister on August 15. The SGRY is said to be a consolidation of all existing rural employment programmes into a new and expanded FWP. However, like other similar schemes, the SGRY too would serve little purpose if care is not taken in the execution of this scheme.

In view of the huge bufferstocks of foodgrains, the Centre has a special responsibility to strengthen the PDS in close co-operation with the States. The Supreme Court has come down heavily on the Centre, 12 States and four Union Territories for the tardy implementation of the PDS. Very recently, the Centre, through a directive under the Essential Commodities Act, has made it mandatory for States to identify all families below the poverty line (BPL) within two weeks, issue them ration cards and regulate the distribution of the PDS. It has also decided to fix accountability and invoke punitive measures against shirkers. However, doubts continue to persist on the sincerity and earnestness of the Centre and the States because the PDS has all along been implemented more in its breach than in practice.



Caught between two time-streams
Rakshat Puri

TWO time-streams move in opposite directions in South Asia. One towards the past and the other towards the future. The people are bewildered, caught between political mumbo-jumbo and rituals.

Those who swear by the time-stream towards the past rest on their understanding of culture and religion. Consider the controversy over the dress code in Jammu and Kashmir. An unknown terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Jabbar, threw acid on the faces of some girls to put them behind the burqa.

Strangely, a women’s group called Dukhteran-e-Millat — Daughter of the People — has supported this, seeking an extension of the deadline. The Dukhteran-e-Millat seems left untouched by the acid attack on women and other cowardly terrorist attacks on innocent women, men and children.

However, enforcement of a dress code is not confined to the self-proclaimed upholders of “Islam”. Reports from Manipur speak of a Manipuri underground group, Kanglei Yawol Kann Lup, has threatened to kill or maim Manipuri women who do not wear the traditional Manipuri dress. They don’t want the “culture” of Manipur to suffer before the onslaught of cultural fashions from outside this state. Does this version of “culture” and its values — where dress is of life-and-death importance — have any meaning in these times? It is not clear who or what this group represents? But its threat is as plainly understandable as the Lashkar-e-Jabbar’s in J-K. And the coincidence of its timing and nature with the threatened directive of the Lashkar-e-Jabbar is intriguing.

It is as intriguing as the coincidence of a common attitude towards Christians in the self-proclaimed fundamentalist protectors of “Islam” and the Hindutva-leading fundamentalist protectors of “Hindusim”, even though the two are hostile to each other. The Taliban which is closely knit with Pakistan-based fundamentalist “Islamic” groups such as the Lashkar-e-Toiba is reported to have put a group of foreign Christian aid-workers on trial for “trying to convert Muslims to Christianity”.

Spirituality has nothing to do with religion. Religions are not made by saints, spiritual masters, mystics, prophets but by their followers, and are organised socially.

Few leaders of the Islamic community in J-K and of the Hindutva sections in the north-eastern and other States have condemned enforcement of the meaningless and irrelevant “religion”-based or “culture”-based dress codes. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has condemned the acid attacks by the Lashkar-e-Jabbar. He has said little about the “religion”-based dress code for women.

Similarly terrorists and their leaders also use the latest technological means for their fell purposes. But the concepts which they push with technological help are narrow, fanatical and outdated. George Tenet, the American CIA Director, is reported to have indicated in testimony to the US Congress that “Islamic” terrorists were concealing messages in sports and pornographic images and movies and in music files, and were “using heavily-visited electronic chat rooms and bulletin boards ad “drop sites”. They had, Tenet was reported saying in alarm, “evaded successfully SIGINT or signals intelligence and COMINT or communications intelligence interception operations of the US National Security Agency”.

The other time-stream moving towards the future, is no less confusing and complex. This is evident in what the fast-moving technology current has done to language. Jeremiah Grossman, an internet security consultant, reportedly discovered “security holes” in hotmail: “He used a cross-site scripting technique to piggyback invasive code on tiny programmes that run live on web pages to make them more interactive.” That is language keeping pace with life lived in our technologically driven times.

The difference between the future and past time-streams is the technology, use directed at new ideas, concepts and notions and their influence on human thought, action and imagination. There are of course things partly familiar, such as George Bush’s national missile defence and the US “Star Wars” plans. There is also the new theory of Prof Stephen Hawking who says that human DNA needs should be modified and improved so that intelligent computer machines might successfully be prevented from “taking over the world”.

Possibly, Hawking had in mind some kind of leap-frogging computer development — once started by human intelligence and endeavour, it would extend itself, perhaps going eventually berserk and destroying the world. Not everyone has accepted tamely Hawking’s speculation and fear. Sue Mayer, director of the policy group, Genewatch, has reportedly criticised Hawking for “trying to take the debate about genetic engineering in the wrong direction”. But she did not seem to disagree with the basic assumption of computer intelligence moving ahead to leave human intelligence behind, saying “it is naive to think that genetic engineering will help us stay ahead of computers”. The important thing is to stay ahead!

So, what is the bewildered South Asian to do as he or she is caught between the two time-streams? Obviously, for the common fundamentalist-led Muslim and the common Hindutva-led Hindu, it seems urgently necessary to reconsider, the basics of religion and spirituality, and their relationship with social and cultural values. This will not be possible unless the political, social and religious leaders instill values among the people, the majority of which is ignorant, starving and exploited. (Asia Features)



Jagmohan’s drive proved his nemesis
Harihar Swarup

A visibly tense Jagmohan was pacing the sprawling banquet hall of the Rashtrapati Bhavan up and down. The swearing-in ceremony at the adjoining “Ashoka hall” was over and the invitees had gathered for the customary tea. There was an atmosphere of bonhomie as well as suspense; reshuffling of portfolios and the allocation of ministries to the new incumbents were yet to be announced. I casually asked him: “I hope everything is alright”. He looked at me and remarked: Meeray picche pade hain kutch log (some people are after my blood). I could realise in a split second that even Jagmohan’s portfolio could be changed; something which defied all logic. A couple of hours of waiting and it was officially confirmed that Jagmohan too had been shunted out of the Urban Development Ministry. That was the hot news that night and not the induction of new faces.

Go anywhere in the Union Capital — any market, shopping complex, residential areas, bus stops, parks, restaurants and refrain of the people has been same “a man of integrity , dedication and competence, Jagmohan was doing a fine job”. Their logical inference is: “the Prime Minister has, apparently, succumbed to pressure of the builders lobby, land mafia and so on”. Of course, the names of trio — V.K. Malhotra, Madan Lal Khurana and Sahib Singh Varma, widely known as benefactors of what has come to be known as the land mafia, was believed to be after Jagmohan’s blood. Still vulgar was the gala celebration by the inmates of palatial houses in “Sainik Farm”, said to be the poshest unauthorised colony and top builders ( or land grabbers) of Delhi and expression of profuse thanks to the Prime Minister for having “removed the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads”.

The message doing the rounds is: “If Jagmohan can be removed under pressure from vested interests, others with equally good image, for instance, Arun Shourie or Shanta Kumar, can also be axed in case they evoke the wrath of corporate bosses”. Senior BJP leaders have undertaken a damage control exercise and frantic efforts are on to erase the impression that Jagmohan was replaced under pressure. In the process, at least, some of the projects initiated by him may see the light of the day. Jagmohan’s drive against illegal construction, which proved his nemesis, revealed shocking details. Almost 90 per cent of DDA flats have some sort or other of illegal construction endangering the community life. The residents have become “a community of law violators”. There are big guys who break the law with impunity, as if, they have licence to carry out illegal construction. A residential accommodation meant for a family of four or six persons has turned into commercial structure, housing showrooms, offices and even godowns in the basement. Sainik farms, known as the hub of illegal construction, has been aptly described by a former Lt-Governor, P.K. Dave, as “a monument to corruption”.

Jagmohan feels that cities give an immense opportunity to integrate culture, values and heritage, provided that a creative and positive approach is adopted. For example, constant influx of migrants from rural to urban areas is a reality, but even such large-scale migration could be converted into an asset if skill-oriented patterns could be developed, if migrants could be settled in areas connected with their employment and avocation. Similarly, nallas could be converted into green canals. A positive attitude could transform liabilities into assets; great cities are made by great people. Taking simple steps like extending Rajpath in Delhi to the riverfront, and creating green belts and cultural nests along the length of the road, could create a cleaner environment, cultural awareness and a tourist attraction. Jagmohan was planning to extend his cleanliness drive to other major cities too as he was eased out of the Ministry of Urban Development.

Call him “demolition man” or give him any nomenclature.



Recipe for economic upturns stumps all

THE economic turnaround recipe outlined by the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) not only took Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee by surprise but also some of the ministers handling core economic ministries. Nearly half-way through his five-year tenure barring the imponderables, Mr Vajpayee felt that the McKinsey blueprint to put the slowing economy on the overdrive appeared to be too good to be true. Similarly, there were quite a few skeptics in the union council of ministers as well.

This is all the more so especially as the Tenth Five-Year Plan proposes a highly ambitious growth rate of 8 per cent while McKinsey insists that achieving a growth of 10 per cent is not a pipe dream provided there is political will to remove government controls in some critical areas like infrastructure, construction and product markets.

Apparently, the complexities involved with owning land and buildings is a major stumbling block in attracting multinationals and others who can create employment opportunities. Can the Vajpayee government gear up its loins in targetting a growth rate of 10 per cent or is it too much to expect from a disparate coalition government? That is the million dollar question.

Farooq’s fears

There is apprehension in the corridors of power that a sulking Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah might once again throw a tantrum at Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for impressing upon the law and order machinery to ensure free and fair elections in the sensitive border facing the brunt of Pakistan’s proxy war for more than a decade. Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office are sparing no effort in dispelling speculation that the Prime Minister’s observation about holding free and fair elections in J and K is not directed against Dr Abdullah or meant to displace him.

The Chief Minister, however, appears to be convinced that his honeymoon with the BJP-led NDA government is coming to an end. The Central leadership is acutely aware of Dr Abdullah’s compulsions and wants to assure him that the Vajpayee government is not targetting the National Conference. Dr Abdullah, however, for some time now has kept his distance from Mr Vajpayee and ducked meeting the Prime Minister the last time he was in Delhi. At the same time, despite all the rhetoric of quitting the NDA, the chief minister is clearly biding his time. After all his son Omar is in Mr Vajpayee’s council of ministers. Besides, the main threat for the NC is not from the BJP but the Congress and the possibly the All Party Hurriyat Conference if it decides to throw its hat in the electoral ring. The NC might try to have an electoral arrangement with the Congress for the assembly elections in J and K. The question is whether the Congress plays ball with the NC?

Disquiet in Congress

There is considerable disquiet in Congress party circles following the verdict of the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CSFL) experts that the letter purported to have been written by the Cabinet Secretary to the PMO over Air India disinvestment and which was raised in the Lok Sabha by Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi was forged. The question now being asked is whether Mr Dasmunshi was taken for a ride by his source and who was this source? Was Mr Dasmunshi himself a little unsure and that is why he declined to authenticate the letter when asked to do so in the Lok Sabha?

Congress party sources are now veering round to the view that their party leader should have taken all precautions before raising the matter in Parliament specially in view of the fact that Cabinet Secretay T.R. Prasad himself had denied having written any such letter. With the sleuths of the special investigating cell of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on the trail, there is also some apprehension among the staff of the ministries of disinvestment and the civil aviation, specially among those who were involved in the disinvestment of the Air India.

Sikh minister

S. Gurbax Singh Maini has been inducted in the Canadian Government as Deputy Minister for Labour, according to information received in New Delhi. He is the second member of the Sikh community in that country to have joined the Union Cabinet. Herb Dhariwal is also a Minister in Canada holding Cabinet rank and is ranked fourth in the order of precedence. The good tidings pertaining to the NRI Sikh community in Canada has been conveyed to External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh. A celebration is being organised with much fervour and enthusiasm in Toronto on September 14 connected with the bi-centenary of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s coronation. Many Canadian union ministers and about 20 MPs are expected to attend that function. India will be represented by Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertiliser Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and National Commission for Minorities Vice-Chairman Tarlochan Singh.

BJP’s stars

The stars of the BJP continue to be on the ascendant with the satraps of its principal adversary — the Congress — coming under negative focus one after the other. First it was the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh who had to answer a lot of uncomfortable questions after his name was found in a diary, traced by the Income-tax department, containing a list of those who had been allegedly paid money illegally.

Now it has been reported that Congress stalwart Arjun Singh, who was Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister when the gas leak tragedy struck Bhopal, ordered people not to move out of the city when the poisonous fumes were lurking in the air. Reports even said that Mr Singh left Bhopal at the time of tragedy. Though both Congress leaders have denied the allegations, their adversaries have enough ammunition to gun for them in the coming months.

Contributed by TRR, Ravi Bhatia and Prashant Sood.





Of Yuppy culture, coke, cocaine and success
Humra Quraishi

SINCE I write this column on the eve of the International Literacy Day (Sept 8), I cannot help commenting that we are unaware of the realities around and the nexuses at work — the nexus between the ‘highs’ and people who form hi society here. I know the very term hi society repels but there is no substitute, nor is there any going back on the Yuppy culture that has inundated Delhi.

Ashis Nandy once said that until we make it absolutely mandatory for each (upper class) Delhiite to gulp at least ten bottles of coke and consume several burgers and whatever frills that go along with it, the mania of materialism and going completely berserk following ‘western’ norms will continue. But now the situation is far beyond cokes and sandwiches. It is cocaine and together with that, the well publicised fact that some of those successful on the circuit are actually on a high.

Curiosity got me asking a well known designer about the link between cocaine and success, and she spelt it out succintly, saying that the underlying theory seems to be that it is during those highs that creativity is at its peak! And since there’s simply no countering this theory, it seems to be gathering momentum. Even when the glamorous are caught red-handed, it is made out to be part of that very glamour!

Lapierre's book

On the release of Dominique Lapierre’s book on the Bhopal tragedy, published by Full Circle, two functions were held here — one at the French Ambassador Bernard de Montferrand’s residence, followed by a ‘meet-the-author’ session at the Habitat Centre. Lapierre is going to Bhopal to release the book which is another reminder to the shabby treatment meted out to those affected.

I hope the written word will never go waste because Lionel Jospin, the Prime Minister of France, in his communication of April 23, 2001, had this to say : “Rest assured that I thought of it (Bhopal ) when I took the urgent decisions that warranted the situation on the site of Vimy’’ (Vimy is a town in France where a poisonous gas dump existed since World War II and the “urgent decision” that the French PM took upon reading this book was to immediately evacuate the town of Vimy in the middle of the night and also clear that dump).

Lapierre’s involvement with our problematic cities is commendable. I had an occasion of interacting with him and his nephew Javier Moro, who happens to be his co-author, when they were here two years back to launch his previous book ‘A Thousand Suns’. Lapiaree seemed so taken up with the myriad issues in our lives. Sixth sense tells me that Orissa could be next on his writing list.

Libyan Day

On the occasion of the 32nd anniversary of the Great September Revolution, Dr Nuri El Fituri Al Madani, the Ambassador of Libya, hosted one of the grandest receptions witnessed in the capital in recent years.

Hotel Oberoi, known for its rather unconstrained parking spread, couldn’t contain the vehicular load and there was a traffic jam of sorts.

The cuisine was perfect and since the Arabs, like the rest of the Asians, are perfect hosts so it was a fine evening. Impossible for me to fit in the guest list but nevertheless, present that evening were the envoys of almost all the countries represented here with the exception of Israel.

This time the boycott of Israel by the Arab countries seems very strong.


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