Monday, October 8, 2001,
Chandigarh, India






THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
E D I T O R I A L   P A G E


EDITORIALS

Blair’s blank words
M
R Tony Blair did not come to New Delhi as the British Prime Minister but as a special representative of US President Bush to drum up support for the super power’s plans on Osama bin Laden and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. 

Gujarat's new helmsman
M
R Narendra Modi, the new BJP Chief Minister of Gujarat, has got the most difficult assignment of his career. His job is not only to effectively govern an earthquake-rocked state but also to refurbish his party's image, which has got seriously impaired because of poor relief management and too much intra-party bickerings.

OPINION

Afghan events’ impact on India
A study of changing political scenario
T.V. Rajeswar
T
HE war clouds are gathering over Afghanistan and when the US forces commence attacks the entire West Asia and the Indian subcontinent will feel the tremors. The economic consequences of the September 11 attacks by terrorists are already being felt, and the situation can only get worse. 


 

EARLIER ARTICLES

Concerted global effort needed to combat terrorism
October 7
, 2001
Hijack drama
October 6
, 2001
Saving the Taj
October 5
, 2001
After Taliban what?
October 4
, 2001
Killing spree unabated
October 3
, 2001
Madhavrao Scindia
October 2
, 2001
UN bans terrorism
October 1
, 2001
Kairon: Punjabi dynamism, American accent, lasting legacy
September 30
, 2001
India on the sidelines
September 29
, 2001
Dominant thinking in USA
September 28
, 2001
Shedding staff flab
September 27
, 2001
Proof muddle
September 26
, 2001
 

Too much talk, too little oil
G.K. Pandey
F
IRST ask all manner of questions to try and cast doubt on the findings of a study. Then, if those are answered satisfactorily, then question the credibility of those who have done the study. That, in a nutshell, is the strategy suggested by Sir Humphrey Appleby in the famous television series “Yes Minister”, to ensure that there is no progress on a project which one wants to delay.

ANALYSIS

USA: The ‘evil-doer’ wronged?
Bhupendra Yadav
R
ECENTLY at Chicago, President Bush declared a package of air security. He urged Americans to live without fear because the USA has begun a “War on Terror”. It has won the broadest coalition ever of “freedom loving nations”. It will be a long war; yet the USA will lead it to the end. 

Politicisation of police & bureaucracy
Sukhpal Singh Khaira
T
HE bureaucratic and policing system, inherited from the erstwhile British Empire, has failed to deliver justice to an ordinary Indian controlled as it is by politicians. Initially, we saw tall IAS and IPS officers, who could stand up with courage to unfair political diktats. History shows how the collectors and district police chiefs of British India would extensively tour their respective areas, study traits of various religions and castes and understand aspirations of people. 

TRENDS & POINTERS

Sikh assaulted in New Zealand
A
New Zealand Sikh restaurateur’s turban was knocked off his head and stamped upon by an abusive woman, in an apparent hate crime after the U.S. terror strikes. Maninderjit Singh Sandhu came to Nelson from Queenstown to see an art show with his wife and some friends, the Nelson Mail daily reported. Sandhu said the discrimination started with people hissing “Osama bin Laden” as they went past after the show.

  • Afghans cancel weddings

SPIRITUAL NUGGETS

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Blair’s blank words

MR Tony Blair did not come to New Delhi as the British Prime Minister but as a special representative of US President Bush to drum up support for the super power’s plans on Osama bin Laden and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Russia was his prime destination since the USA wants to deploy forces in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, both in the area of influence of Moscow. Now that he was in the neighbourhood, he decided to hop in at Islamabad and, as diplomatic courtesy demanded, New Delhi as well. Britain is not the imperial power that it was a long while ago but a mere voice of the USA, its special relations partner. So what Mr Blair said was a reliable echo of what the USA thinks. One, India is not on board in the so-called global alliance against terrorism. It may be a long sufferer and, ironically, the first to offer total assistance to the US war against terrorism. The USA greatly appreciates India’s prompt endorsement but is fully focused on its own task of smoking out Bin Laden, quashing his Al-Qaeda network and toppling the Taliban regime. And for this it craves for the cooperation of Pakistan, the frontline state. India’s terrorist trauma is not on its radar screen. Once the Bin Laden mess is cleared, it will be time to talk about — just talk about — cross-border terrorism in the Kashmir valley. President Bush, talking through Mr Blair, has rejected Prime Minister Vajpayee’s blunt remark that terrorism is indivisible and winking at wanton violence at one place encourages it in another. No nation is an island when it comes to terrorism. But the USA and the UK are yet to wake up to this reality. 
Mr Blair loftily declared that the outrage last Monday (the suicide attack on the J & K Assembly killing 42 persons, including a large number of civilians) was unacceptable in a civilised society (is it acceptable in any society, civilised or uncivilised?). He glibly slurred over the need to fight against such an outrage. Britain and India are supposed to be the key members of the global challenge to terrorism; yet an unacceptable outrage like the Srinagar blast on October 1 is out of focus of the so-called global challenge. Mr Vajpayee rightly pointed out the painful irony of giving prominence to Pakistan, a country exporting terrorism and promoting terrorism in Afghanistan, in the ongoing campaign against terrorists. India has handed over incontrovertible evidence of the neighbour’s open support to terrorist outfits in terms of funds, arms and training. This proof must be much more compelling than what the USA has compiled against Bin Laden. The US Administration revised the list of foreign terrorist organisations on Saturday, shrinkng it by two, deleting a Japanese and a Latin American outfits. Still the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed do not find mention. These had been declared as terrorist outfits by Britain long ago. The super power and its sidekick do not act in unison. 

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Gujarat's new helmsman

MR Narendra Modi, the new BJP Chief Minister of Gujarat, has got the most difficult assignment of his career. His job is not only to effectively govern an earthquake-rocked state but also to refurbish his party's image, which has got seriously impaired because of poor relief management and too much intra-party bickerings. People showed their disenchantment with the BJP in the recently held byelections when the ruling party lost the politically significant Sabarmati Assembly seat in Home Minister L. K. Advani's Lok Sabha constituency. Gujarat and UP have played a key role in the BJP's ascendancy at the Centre. The party cannot afford a poor showing in elections in either of the two states. Though the assembly polls in Gujarat are due only after March, 2003, the BJP wants to be sure of being in a comfortable position to trounce the opposition parties in the battle of the ballot. Mr Modi has to immediately start working on these lines. It seems he will try to cast himself in the Chandrababu Naidu mould. Though not so well known, the RSS pracharak is a techno-savvy leader and always carries with him a laptop computer. He demonstrated his penchant for IT (information technology) by organising the webcast of his swearing in ceremony as Chief Minister on Sunday. He also made arrangements for hosting at least 50,000 people at his "coronation". If somebody points it out to him that much of this huge expenditure (about Rs 20 lakh) should have been avoided when the state needed enormous funds to take care of the earthquake-hit, Mr Modi would have no difficulty in giving arguments to justy this extravaganza. He excels in arguing. After all, the party has to acquire a new image which can be done easily by such ideas, he may say. But the people are unlikely to be impressed by such gimmicks. They want development-oriented projects, as this aspect of governance has remained ignored because of the unending infighting within the BJP. If he wants to come to his party's expectations following the example of the Andhra Chief Minister, he should avoid gimmickry and concentrate on information technology-related projects as he indicated before taking the oath of office and secrecy.
What will come in his way more than anything else is his past role — when he was a BJP functionary in Gujarat. He recklessly promoted groupism in the state Ministry and party unit which led to much hue and cry and the ouster of the then Chief Minister. Mr Modi too lost his assignment. He is arrogant and uncompromising in nature. But his organisational skills make these minus points less significant. He is credited to have enlarged the BJP's base from 1000 to 16000 villages in a short period. Yet the going may be tough for Mr Modi as Chief Minister. He has never had an opportunity to gain administrative experience which is what he needs to deliver the goods today. He has to prove that he is a fast learner at 51, not a prohibitive age for a political player. 

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Afghan events’ impact on India
A study of changing political scenario
T.V. Rajeswar

THE war clouds are gathering over Afghanistan and when the US forces commence attacks the entire West Asia and the Indian subcontinent will feel the tremors. The economic consequences of the September 11 attacks by terrorists are already being felt, and the situation can only get worse. The Prime Minister has repeatedly warned the nation to be prepared for the difficult times ahead.

The delicate communal situation in the country as a consequence of the American plan against Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden needs careful watching. While the reactions among the Muslims in India are not as strong as in Pakistan, they also feel that the Americans are trying to target the Muslims of West Asia as a whole. Anti-US posters in support of Osama bin Laden have appeared in several cities where there is a sizeable Muslim population. This tense atmosphere can lead to communal clashes. The numerous ‘sleeper modules’ of the ISI, spread all over the country, can act as a trigger.

There are conflicting reports regarding terrorists, both of local origin and those who come from foreign countries, primarily the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad activists operating in Kashmir. While many foreign mercenaries have reportedly left for Afghanistan to participate in the “jehad” against the Americans, there are any number of them still in Kashmir. Their activities are bound to be influenced by the coming events in Afghanistan, the consequences of which may be felt in Delhi and other urban centres. The security authorities, indeed, have a very difficult task on their hands.

Against this confused and disturbing background loom the next year’s elections in the states like UP, Gujarat, J&K, Punjab and Uttaranchal. The outcome of the elections will have definite repercussions at the Centre and on the future of the NDA government. It seems the BJP has realised the seriousness of the forthcoming poll. It is taking the necessary steps to set its house in order. Uttar Pradesh is the largest and politically most important state. After the replacement of Mr Kalyan Singh by the current incumbent, Mr Rajnath Singh, the BJP’s fortunes have started looking up. Mr Rajnath Singh, a Thakur, has discovered a new Mandal formula by trying to please select backward classes and thereby encroach upon the so-called vote bank of Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav. How far he will succeed remains to be seen. If the civic elections held last November are any indication, the BJP’s slide appears to have been arrested as the party did better than its principal rivals, the SP (Samajwadi Party) and the BSP.

The SP led by Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav is the main contender for power in UP. He has gathered around him support of the Leftists and a few others under the banner of the Third Front against the BJP. The mainstay of Mr Mulayam Singh’s party constitutes the Yadavs, the Muslims and the backward classes. Interestingly, there are rumours that the SP will stand by the BJP and the NDA in the event of any serious challenge to its stability. A similar rumour pertains to the reported offer of Mr Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party. Whether these are political canards or if there is any truth in them is difficult to say.

The BSP of Mr Kanshi Ram and Ms Mayawati always excels in political formulations. The one thing the party is firm is on mobilising the Dalit votes as a strong force. During his tour in Punjab recently Mr Kanshi Ram expressed confidence that the BSP would become a constituent in the coalition governments in UP, Uttaranchal and Punjab. As the political situation prevails today, the BJP may not have a clear majority in the UP Assembly after the coming elections, but may emerge as the largest single party. It may try to form a coalition government with the help of the BSP, certain splinter groups and Independents.

The BJP could be decisively defeated in UP if all the non-BJP parties like the Congress, the SP, the BSP and the Leftists came together. To its good fortune, this is not likely to happen because of the strong feeling of hostility towards the Congress in the ranks of the S.P. Both the SP and the BSP also feel that their alliance with the Congress can only benefit that party and not vice-versa. They are, therefore, not interested in entering into any alliance deal with the Congress though it may result in the defeat of BJP and the possible installation of Mr Mulayam Singh as the next Chief Minister.

The second most important state for the BJP is Gujarat where the party’s election prospects have taken a nosedive. Cases of financial bungling scandals relating to the builders enjoying political patronage and the mishandling of earthquake relief operations in Kutch have all taken a heavy toll. The BJP suffered a major defeat in the civic elections held last year. Outgoing Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel had become the millstone round the neck of the BJP in Gujarat which it realised after the recent byelections. The defeat of the BJP candidate in the Sabarmati assembly constituency, which forms part of the parliamentary constituency of Home Minister, L.K. Advani, has sent shock-waves down the party rank and file. The BJP leadership rightly decided on the replacement of Mr Keshubhai Patel.

In J&K, there is a question mark over the assembly elections in view of the disturbed conditions prevailing there and the fear of the situation becoming worse when the war breaks out in Afghanistan. The Hurriyat Conference has consistently refused to participate in the elections under the Indian Constitution. Mr Shabir Shah is an exception, but whether he may participate in the elections eventually is difficult to say. But for the sudden turn in Afghanistan a dialogue could have been set in motion asking all the opposition parties, including the Hurriyat and the militants, to contest the poll with the promise that whichever part got the majority would be allowed to form its government followed by negotiations on the quantum of autonomy. “The sky is the limit”, declared former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao. While the return to the pre-1953 formulation may not be practicable, a very liberal dose of autonomy as permissible within the constitutional limits can be possible. A similar negotiation should have been held with the Nagas as well. However, now all this has to wait till the situation improves in Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent.

Coming back to the political situation, the prospects of the Congress party have improved. In the recent byelections, the Congress won four assembly seats and one Lok Sabha seat. Its success in the Sabarmati constituency in Gujarat is noteworthy. At the same time, its failure to wrest the Tonk Lok Sabha seat from the BJP in the Congress-ruled Rajasthan, in spite of its best efforts, also had a message for the party. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of Assam easily won the seat he contested. In Andhra Pradesh, in the Siddipet assembly constituency the erstwhile TDP member and convener of the newly formed Telangana Rajya Samiti, Mr Chandra Sekhar Rao, scored a remarkable victory. All 21 Congress MLAs of the Telangana stood by him and so did BJP rebel Narendra, now expelled from the party. In the forthcoming UP assembly poll, the Congress has decided to contest on its own, the explanation being that it wants to find its true strength there.

In Tamil Nadu, the melodrama following the unseating of Ms Jayalalitha by the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court seems to be never-ending. The erstwhile Chief Minister appears to be unwilling to relinquish power as she has effectively retained the Chief Minister’s office in her own residence in Poes Garden and even proposes to shift the new Chief Minister, Mr O. Panneerselvam — whom Ms Jayalalitha herself described as part of a temporary arrangement — to a house next door to ensure an effective grip over his activities. Sooner or later the courts may have to intervene and direct her to stop meddling in the state administration and confine herself to party activities.

What will be the shape of the NDA at the end of the assembly elections next year? Some of the stalwarts of the NDA like Mr George Fernandes, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan and Mr Sharad Yadav seem unhappy over the recent developments. What will be the outcome of the Tehelka enquiry after the commission appointed for the purpose completes its task is difficult to say. With all the imponderables facing the country, can stability at the Centre and a minimal growth economy be sustained?

The writer is a former Governor of West Bengal and Sikkim.
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Too much talk, too little oil
G.K. Pandey

FIRST ask all manner of questions to try and cast doubt on the findings of a study. Then, if those are answered satisfactorily, then question the credibility of those who have done the study. That, in a nutshell, is the strategy suggested by Sir Humphrey Appleby in the famous television series “Yes Minister”, to ensure that there is no progress on a project which one wants to delay.

Now, while that sounds funny when you watch it on the BBC (I am not sure if Jayant Kriplani has done this one yet in “Ji Mantriji” on Star TV), it has disastrous consequences when done in real life. But that, unfortunately, is exactly what is happening right now in the case of a major oilfield called Bombay High, an oilfield that even the most casual people know is critical as far as India’s efforts at drilling for oil are concerned.

The plan to boost Bombay High’s output, let us call it Bombay High-Plus, is aimed at providing more than 60 million tonnes of oil valued at $ 13 bn currently over a 30-year period from a field considered to be in its twilight years. A plan such as this should, ideally, have been embraced by the country’s decision-makers, and every step should have been taken to ensure that the project not only got underway on time but was also expedited. Instead, the ONGC’s proposal to spend $ 2 bn to boost the output at the Bombay High field has erupted into a major turf battle between the ONGC and the Directorate-General of Hydrocarbons (DGH).

The need to expedite Bombay High’s redevelopment, needless to say, is all the more urgent now since it is almost certain that oil prices will remain unstable in the coming months owing to the developments at the world level. Winter is also approaching fast when oil prices harden anyway. Add to this, the impact of a rapidly depreciating rupee — we pay for oil in rupees eventually — and we are talking of a very devastating impact.

Yet, the never-ending drama in the Ministry of Petroleum shows the DGH is managing to have its way, at least for now. Sadly, the DGH, whose track record in making predictions is less than pathetic, is the top technical expert in the country. All plans for exploiting oilfields have to be cleared by “experts” in the DGH. How good these experts are can be judged from the fact that in the past various DGH stalwarts had got their projections woefully wrong. It must be mentioned, though, that if you spend an afternoon with DGH boss Avinash Chandra and his maps, and various other studies that he is able to quote without reference, he is impressive. But, as they say, since the proof of the pudding lies in the eating, here are the estimates that various experts in the DGH put out for Bombay High in the past. In 1997, the DGH estimated that only around 19-20 per cent of the oil in Bombay High would be recovered (when the demitted office, ONGC chief B.C. Bora told us that his organisation had already recovered 19 per cent of the oil in place). And, what is more, the field is still performing at more than 50 per cent of its peak rates. (One can’t actually say with any degree of certainty, but one hopes the fact that Chandra was a candidate for the top job at the ONGC, and didn’t get the job, has nothing to do with the current impasse at Bombay High).

The DGH’s differences with the ONGC, of course, are well known, though this is the first time they’ve been expressed in so public a manner. One of the DGH’s experts, Mr K. Narayanan, wrote to Central Vigilance Commissioner N. Vittal saying that “there could be extraneous considerations (like) the much vaunted drilling lobby” that could be the reason for why the ONGC wants to go ahead with the project. He then followed this up with a letter to fellow — member A.B. Das Gupta last month said “there is no point in talking any more to the ONGC on technical matters”. In other words, we are convinced that the ONGC will foul up things again, and there is no question of them being able to get anywhere near the amount of oil they are hoping to get from Bombay High-Plus.

The question, however, is whether the DGH has examined the new data presented to them by the ONGC, and based on what I have seen and heard, the answer seem to be “no”. The ONGC had a meeting to review the progress made in the new wells on July 26 this year, and invited the Director-General of the DGH to the meeting — the DGH, however, did not attend the meeting!

According to the ONGC’s new chief, Mr Subir Raha, they have drilled new wells in Bombay High North, and these have shown very good oil flow — besides, the data from these wells substantially address the concerns of the DGH.

For the first time in the ONGC’s history, for instance, it has got 3-D seismic mapping done for the entire Bombay High field — this was part of the recommendations of one of the global consultants it had hired. The ONGC has also drilled a total of eight wells, and of these, two have also been extended horizontally across the sea-bottom. From three of the wells, it is getting a production of over a thousand barrels a day — this, as compared to the average of around 500-700 from the existing wells in other areas. Given that oil flows typically increase by around 20 per cent after the well is acidised, the ONGC’s new wells show phenomenal performance.

One well (N1-6H) is actually producing 2,900 barrels against the target of 1,000 barrels. The ONGC has also taken the five existing vertical wells, and has extended them horizontally — one of these wells (NE-1zH) is producing 1,776 barrels a day.

What is all the more curious about the controversy is that the DGH had approved of the redevelopment plan for Bombay High North subject to certain provisos. One, for example, said a review should be made of the new wells, and if this was not satisfactory, further discussions would be held. In addition, reviews would be done on the reservoir pressure, gas-oil ratios, water pressure, and so on. But the ONGC’s performance so far shows far better results, and, besides, if it is not able to meet the performance parameters, mid-course correction can always be done.

Under normal circumstances, one would appeal to the Petroleum Minister to take action to resolve matters quickly. However, his inability to take action to cut the burgeoning subsidy bill makers one wonder as to just how effective he is — the country is six months away from the dismantling of the APM when LPG subsidies have to be reduced to just 15 per cent, and Mr Ram Naik still has not been able to raise prices for close to a year now. Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha’s statements that a global oil price hike won’t impact India since it has long-term contracts shows that he is equally clueless — it is well known that for all manner of contracts, the prices that are taken are the average of those prevailing for a week before the vessel is loaded.

All that we are left with is the Prime Minister. More so when he has said that he wants “to govern” in what is left of his tenure.
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USA: The ‘evil-doer’ wronged?
Bhupendra Yadav

RECENTLY at Chicago, President Bush declared a package of air security. He urged Americans to live without fear because the USA has begun a “War on Terror”. It has won the broadest coalition ever of “freedom loving nations”. It will be a long war; yet the USA will lead it to the end. But he cautioned “some nations are wary today and the enthusiasm of others may wear off tomorrow.” Why are there such apprehensions? Are these allies congenitally undependable or is the track record of the USA unworthy of inspiring trust?

There are two views, the worm’s and the bird’s, about the “Terrible Tuesday” (September 11). The worm’s (or FBI’s) view might tell us how the tragedy was planned and who were involved. It has already given 40,000 leads on which 4,000 FBI agents are working night and day but this still does not reveal much. For instance, charges about the complicity of Osama are profuse but evidence on it is unmentionably scarce. In contrast with this, the bird’s (or scholar’s) view tells us why the tragedy happened and since when was it in-the-making.

In his book, “Rogue States: The Rule of Force in World Affairs” (London, Pluto Press, 2000), Noam Chomsky argues that the USA does not bother much about international law and does not believe in multilateral cooperation. The biggest “Rogue State”, says (not the Taliban but) Chomsky, is the USA. Chomsky is a major philosopher and linguist of our times now based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (USA).

The wronged

There are two kinds of “Rogue States”, said Chomsky. First, there are those who tyrannically get labelled as such. For propagandistic use they are called “enemies”. So the Taliban is an “enemy” now but in its older Mujhahideen/Jehadi incarnation till October 1989 (when Gorbachev called Soviet troops back) it was doing the heroic job of contesting “socialist expansionism”. This fundamentalist Osama bin Laden (only 44 years old) is an “enemy” today but the same man was a CIA operative, up to August 1990 (when USA started attacks on Iraq).

Similarly, Iraq is no longer a client state and hence, an “enemy”. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the USA enjoyed a relationship of great mutual benefit all through 1980s. In his war against Iran, Saddam was helped through a diplomatic, military and economic campaign by the USA and little wonder, therefore, that he won the war. In return, inter alia, Saddam’s client state trained several hundred Libyans sent by the USA so that they could overthrow the then principal “enemy”, Col Muamar Qadhafi. This list could go on and on.

Secondly, says Chomsky, there are literal “Rogue States” who regard themselves above both international law and norms. Both in their words and deeds, these literal “Rogue States” show scant respect for world opinion or global concerns. Let us first look at their words. It was said the “moral compass” of Bill Clinton, the Democrat, was functioning properly. He was the first Democratic President after three Republican terms. Yet, addressing the UN in 1993 (the first year of his Presidency) Clinton boasted that the USA would act “multilaterally when possible, but unilaterally when necessary.” In 1999, his Secretary of Defence, William Cohen, bragged that the USA was committed to the “unilateral use of military power” to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies and strategic resources.” Thus, we know why the USA is lusting after the oil-rich Middle East.

The rogue

Democrats being what they are can’t be as brazen as the Republicans, especially those of the Reagan era. Nicaragua had gone to the World Court against the economic sanctions imposed on it by its mighty neighbour, the USA. Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Shultz, derided those who advocated, “Utopian, legalistic means like outside mediation, the United Nations and the World Court, while ignoring the power element of the equation.” He added with pride, “Negotiations are an euphemism for capitulation if the shadow of power is not cast across the bargaining table.” After all this, the World Court, naturally, condemned the USA in 1986 for the “unlawful use of force.”

Here let us briefly consider the deeds of “The Biggest Super Power” of our times, which Chomsky considers the archetypal “Rogue State”. The USA uses a vast repertoire from paralysing economic sanctions to surgical military strikes to get sovereign states to bend their knees before its diktat. What it did to indigenous Indians or even to Afro-American slaves, over the centuries, could be called its own “internal business”. Not a bomb (except for the Pearl Harbour incident in which around 3,000 Marines were killed) was dropped on the USA during the two world wars. But the highest casualties of World War II were inflicted by the USA on Japan (including the test-dropping of the atom bomb). By 1960, 60,000 people were killed by the USA in North Vietnam alone. The hostilities, as we know, continued till mid-1970s. It was the experience of defeat in Vietnam that led the USA to fight proxy wars a la Afghanistan with the help of Mujahideens against Soviet Russia.

The USA supported “regimes of terror” like that of General Suharto in Indonesia who was hailed as “our kind of guy”. Indonesia is the largest country with Muslim population and Suharto’s rule lasted there for around three decades, i.e. 1968-97. He was made to go in 1997 not because of his crimes but for not accepting IMF conditionalities. In fact, some reports said that due to continuous instability thanks to the Timorese problem (inherited from Suharto) there, Osma bin Laden had escaped to Indonesia!

The bombing of Iraq is too well known to bear repetition. However, between 1991-96 around half a million children, at the rate of 5,000 per month, were counted as dead due to economic sanctions imposed on Iraq by the USA. The Democratic Clinton Administration’s Secretary, Madeleine Albright, was asked why this barbarity through sanctions was being allowed. She is reported to have replied — “a very hard choice... (but) we think the price is worth it”. Here is a case of continuity in Republican and Democratic policy. Both inflict wounds on others and have no remorse about it.
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Politicisation of police & bureaucracy
Sukhpal Singh Khaira

THE bureaucratic and policing system, inherited from the erstwhile British Empire, has failed to deliver justice to an ordinary Indian controlled as it is by politicians.

Initially, we saw tall IAS and IPS officers, who could stand up with courage to unfair political diktats. History shows how the collectors and district police chiefs of British India would extensively tour their respective areas, study traits of various religions and castes and understand aspirations of people. As a result, many of these officers would end up writing books while in service.

Do we have such officers now who would venture out in the field to understand the problems of our people? On the contrary, they lead luxurious lives and are unavailable to the public on one pretext or the other.

Grabbing important postings is the prime goal on the agenda of these officers. For that they are prepared to go to any extent to oblige their political bosses. Today a Director General of Police, for example, is so powerless that he cannot post even a DSP level officer according to his own wish. All postings and transfers from the rank of DSP and above are politically controlled. The criteria for the posting of an SSP of a district are not merit, efficiency or honesty but loyalty to the ruling politicians. Similarly, SSPs are unable to post SHOs according to their requirement. MLAs have SHOs of their choice in their respective constituencies.

The result is loud and clear: a complete breakdown of discipline in the police force. SHOs hardly care to listen to the SSP since they have their local MLA at their beck and call. The SSPs don't have to care for their DGP since he is not their appointing authority any more and they take their daily orders from the Chief Minister, totally disregarding the chain of command of their seniors from DIG to DGP.

Under these circumstances what is the need for such a heavy top brass police force, if the Chief Minister's household is to deal directly with the SSPs, bypassing and violating all rules and regulations laid down?

Ditto is the case of our bureaucratic set-up. All DCs are directly in touch with the Chief Minister and take orders from him, ignoring the Chief Secretary and other senior officers. Down the line all officers in the district, be they SDMs or BDOs, all obey their political masters and not their superior government functionaries.

This deterioration in the system is not limited to any state or any political party that is in power, but is a general trend in the country. Earlier, there were some visible indications showing regard for officers' autonomy and their official chain of command. Over the years officers have given up their right to take up cudgels with their political masters and started obeying even illegal orders. The outcome of this surrender by the police and the bureaucracy is total los of faith of people in these departments.

There is a general feeling in the public that no work can be got done by these officers without the help of money and political backing. Corruption is blatant, deals are struck in government offices since there is no fear in the minds of officers, having complete protection and patronisation of their political bosses.

Today we have bureaucrats and police officers in our state who are richer than any major industrialist. Has the Vigilance Department or income tax authorities ever tried to probe their wealth totally disappropriate to their known sources of income? The lifestyle of an SHO is that of a person earning more than Rs 1 lakh month and it improves as you go up the official ladder.

The elite services must stop the rot right here, lest the administrative system should collapse, resulting in chaos. Leaders must rise above narrow political considerations and appoint officers of integrity and ensure that they work for the interest of the people. Officers also must stand up to all illegal orders of the ruling party and be courageous enough to call a spade a spade so that the confidence amongst the people, which has taken a strong beating, is restored and they look up to these two administrative departments with respect.
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TRENDS & POINTERS

Sikh assaulted in New Zealand

A New Zealand Sikh restaurateur’s turban was knocked off his head and stamped upon by an abusive woman, in an apparent hate crime after the U.S. terror strikes.

Maninderjit Singh Sandhu came to Nelson from Queenstown to see an art show with his wife and some friends, the Nelson Mail daily reported. Sandhu said the discrimination started with people hissing “Osama bin Laden” as they went past after the show.

The Queenstown owner of an Indian restaurant and his friends decided to ignore the comments for being “uninformed.” Sandhu reportedly went to The Forum Bar later in the evening where the assault took place. A New Zealander initially congratulated him for being “very brave” to come into the bar late at night with a turban. Sandhu said he decided to disregard the comment, assuming the place was safe.

He was shocked when a woman came up from behind and started abusing him for being a “terrorist.” She reportedly then proceeded to knock Sandhu’s turban off his head and started stamping on it while continuing to swear. The man who had earlier congratulated the Indian New Zealander tried to restrain the offending woman but to no avail. She was then persuaded to leave the bar. A number of bar patrons later came up and apologised to Sandhu, for what he described as the “ultimate insult for a Sikh.”

Sandhu blamed the incident on ignorance about various religions and cultures. “It is like mistaking a Kiwi (New Zealander) to be an American,” he told the daily. IANS

Afghans cancel weddings

Bride-to-be Zinab Najam was supposed to send invitation cards, buy wedding clothes and book a banquet hall for her anticipated wedding next month. Instead, she is watching the news worried that her fiancee may soon be dodging rockets and missiles in Kabul.

Najam (28), An afghan who has been living in Islamabad for several years, was engaged to Homayun Darwish, a distant relative in Kabul, a year ago. The couple were anxious to wed since they barely saw each other during their engagement period.

But the anticipated American attacks on Afghanistan have delayed their union indefinitely, with the closure of the Afghan-Pakistan border. AFP
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