Monday, February 25, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Electoral politics: hoping for basic reforms

Mr T.V. Rajeshwar in his article Hoping for basic reforms (Feb 18) has rightly painted a dismal picture of the electoral politics in India. Although the effect of “kamandalisation” has waned, one hopes, the sway of “mandalisation” will also banish in the near future. At present, though there is no reason to be optimistic in this respect. In this article, the role of money and corrupt electoral practices seems to have been understated. The casualties in such a scenario are talent, ideology, idealism and, of course, governance. It is virtually impossible for any gentleman, with good of the state or country in mind, to jump into the fray.

The election scene in Punjab and elsewhere clearly demonstrated that to fight the money power of the incumbents, opposition parties have also fielded “moneybags” as candidates. Since the voting pattern in Indian elections has been negative in nature i.e. to dislodge the incumbents for their misdeeds or for not fulfilling their promises; so the voter, in his zeal to punish, votes for the candidate who matches the resources of the incumbent, without ever thinking of the consequences. The result is there for all to see. After capturing power, first the phase of recovery starts and then starts the earning and obliging phase! Promises are made to be broken and people are sought to be forgotten, at least till the next elections! This precisely is the cascading effect of corruption and money power-linked electoral process.


In such a scenario how can there be good, corruption-free governance? And any promise of such a thing as clean government is an idea too far-fetched to be true. Since the governments change every five years, there seems to be a broad agreement of sorts amongst the stalwarts of electoral politics and it is — one crore for elections, two crores for five years and another crore for the next election. Here the values are variable with respect to wave, place and position! A hopeless situation, indeed. Salvation lies in people’s education on the seriousness of the election process and emergence of a firm, pan-national, credible alternative, which might take years to evolve.



Petro prices

The editorial Market ruled petro prices (Feb 16) has rightly stated that it is a step towards discarding the right philosophy of taxing the rich — the car owners — to help the poor. This step would promote car culture (at the cost of the poor). In the Indian economic setup promoting cars is bad economics. We have already done a lot of damage to the economy by diverting Indian savings by providing car loans on easy terms resulting in a car boom. The entry of foreign cars has made the things worse for it allowed the transfer of a major share of the Indian profits to the country foreign to us. Further, the fuel on which cars run depletes our foreign exchange.

The present policy of introducing market-ruled petro prices ignores the interests of the poor. Mahatma Gandhi writes: The acid test of right action is to bring into your imagination the poorest of the poor man you have ever seen and decide if your policy is going to benefit him.

Dr G.S. BHALLA, Amritsar.


VC should quit

The academic atmosphere on the campus of Punjabi University, Patiala, has been vitiated on account of the unsavoury controversy surrounding the Vice-Chancellor. Universities are meant for pursuits which are creative, productive and progressive. They are temples of learning and their sanctity must be maintained at any cost. It is a sad scenario when a temple of learning sinks to a low level and turns into an arena for intrigues, squabbles and denigrates those very values which are meant to be cultivated through education.

A Vice-Chancellor should be a role model for others. He should be mindful of the onerous responsibility he incurs in the discharge of his professional duties. People chosen for the august office of Vice-Chancellor should be men of impeccable credentials. But in most cases persons entrusted with the job of running the affairs of universities are self-serving individuals who cannot rise above the rough and tumble of politics. In fact, it is an expression of a deep moral crisis that may be encountered in almost every type of public institution in the state.

In a situation where a criminal case has been registered against the V.C., the Punjab Government should not resile from its role and responsibility to take cognisance of the gravity of the matter. It is unfortunate that a glaring act of professional misconduct is being condoned. No effort is being made to quell the storm of controversy that is blowing across the university, throwing dust on the noble traditions set by stalwarts like Bhai Jodh Singh, Dr Ganda Singh and Dr Fauja Singh. It would be in the fitness of things if wise sense prevails on the V.C. and he himself steps down gracefully.


Professor of History, Panjab University, Chandigarh.

Negative voting

The letter by Dr Rajesh K. Sharma (Feb 20) has raised a very timely issue of negative voting. The concept of negative voting can be given a try to reject corrupt and inefficient politicians. But that will not solve the problem. Because you cannot run democracy in a vacuum. There has to be politicians, and if — as according to Dr Rajesh — all are corrupt, then from where are the non-corrupt leaders to come? Because nobody from the intelligentsia or those who criticise the present lot are ready to come forward to actively participate in politics.

Instead of criticising from the sidelines, people like Dr Rajesh should come out of the drawingrooms and play a more meaningful role. Just by deciding not to vote one cannot change the system. If you feel so strongly about the future of the country, then shed your inhibitions and join the battle of the ballot. Use your intelligence, opinion-making power and all means at your command to change the very face of politics.

By staying away from it we are only giving those — whom we don’t like — an open space. Politicians are to come from this society only. Bad people are in politics because good people don’t feel the need to come in. In fact most of those who feel dejected with the present state of politics are not inclined to become politicians themselves or work as vigilant watchdogs of society. They only want to criticise and then sleep over it. The idea of not voting also reflects the same set of mind. I feel this is an escapist attitude.

General apathy for politics and mistrust for politicians is dangerous for the future of democracy. The intelligentsia and well-meaning critics of the present-day political system should offer positive and constructive suggestions to improve the system. Not only this, they should actually come forward to cleanse the system and offer alternatives, and if not then we will have to bear with these politicians with all their pluses and minuses. I appeal to all the like-minded and concerned people of this country to start playing a meaningful and constructive role in the political arena if we want to safeguard the institution of democracy in our country. Criticism, fault-finding and an escapist attitude will serve no purpose. We have to have politicians, whether good or bad, that is for us to decide. Choose good people, if available — if not, make good ones to join politics. Or stop lamenting and choose to have another system of governance.


Soldiers & votes

It is the constitutional right of a soldier to get himself registered as a voter at the place of posting and exercise his franchise. However, it is one thing to give this right on paper, but quite another to give it a practical shape. No practical and positive step is being taken to give effect to this important constitutional right of voting to a soldier. Conditions must be created where the soldier is not only treated as an honourable citizen but also must feel that he is wanted by his country. Nowhere else in the world a soldier is treated so shabbily as in this country.

Lt. Col. ANGAD SINGH (retd),

SAS Nagar.

Felling of trees

The report Development swallows Punjab’s tree cover (Feb 20) is an eye-opener. If this process continues, there will be hardly any tree left on the national and state highways and the state will be poorer in ecological balance and subsoil water.

Our planners must make use of the experience of developed countries. In Canada one-way four-laning roads are there and these are separated with trees.

Maj. PRITPAL SINGH KAHLON (retd), Ludhiana.

Dam oustees

The Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh has promised 137 plots to the dam oustees of Bilaspur town. There are a number of families living in the periphery of the Bhakra dam and have lost their fertile land and are forced to settle on this very land since the then government did nothing for their rehabilitation. They are living below the poverty line. Will the H.P. Government allot each family at least 10 bighas of land?

PANKAJ KUMAR, Khal Sai, (Bilaspur).

The SYL issue

The Tribune has carried a series of articles on the SYL issue by Mr Anupam Gupta. His views are conspicuously anti-Haryana. The Tribune is playing a pro-Punjab role in the debate. The writer again and again questions the power of the court to enforce good governance and also the knowledge level of the judges. It must be noted that the state and central governments have repeatedly failed to solve the issue and none is ready to bell the cat.

The court verdict should be seen as a wake-up call to the governments to act.

PARSHANT KUMAR, Paju Khurd (Jind).

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