Monday, March 4, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



The fractured Assembly mandate: UP is the loser

The editorial “UP is the loser” (Feb. 26) gives voice to the genuine concern of the millions of people of Uttar Pradesh about the fractured Assembly mandate there. Anyone (Mr Mulayam Singh or Ms Mayawati) may become the Chief Minister of U.P., poverty and unemployment will continue. The people don’t hope to get any respite from the present-day sectarian and opportunistic politicians who have been operating in the state for many years in the name of caste and creed. They raise high-sounding slogans but find themselves very badly handicapped by their inflated egos.

The common people have certainly voted against the BJP and its policies but the verdict in U.P. amply proves that the social fabric is deeply fragmented from East to West and from North to South in the biggest state of India. I find only the casteist and religious leaders active in the state and not a single popular leader who seems to be racking his brains about the development of the most backward region.

The social base of the BSP and the SP is the same: the semi-urban middle class intellectuals, small peasants and agriculture workers. Both political parties represent the hopes and aspirations of those social segments who have been ruthlessly exploited for thousands of years.

The grim reality which stares in the face of every native of U.P. is that this is one of the most backward states of India as The Tribune editorial also states this. Except its western parts, the entire state has become a big mine of have-nots and industrial workers. In the absence of gainful jobs available in villages and small towns, the common people are forced to migrate to Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra and Gujarat in search of greener pastures. Most of the destitutes, beggars, construction workers and even dreaded criminals belong to U.P.


It is quite unfortunate that even for petty jobs of Rs 1,000 per month, youth of UP have to go other states. Only the prosperous peasants and traders stay in villages and towns and contest elections. Such people have their own vested interests in maintaining a tacit silence on the questions of economic development of the state when the Assembly is in session. The cumulative effect of poverty, unemployment and apathy of the state government creates a deep sense of insecurity, helplessness and even resentment in the hearts and minds of the youth. They have to put up with a lot of insult and humiliation in other states just for the sake of sheer survival. Perhaps the “big and great national-level” leaders of UP are aware of these social realities.

It is also an irony that the most popular gods of Hindus — Lord Rama and Lord Krishna — were born in UP. This big state has been the cradle of eight Prime Ministers but its common people remain miles away from modern amenities of life, concrete roads and employment.


US visa

The US consular officers in New Delhi see an Osama bin Laden in the making in every Indian (male) citizen applying for a non-immigrant visa. Every visa applicant deposits Rs 2,205 as application fee, indirectly helping them to maintain their staff and meet their day-to-day expenses. The Embassy courier service agent, T.T. Services, gets Rs 400 for the courier passback system from every applicant, without ever having to courier back the visa stamped passport to the (un)successful applicants.


T.K. Ramasamy

“You write well. Why don’t you write for us?” his voice over the phone was gentle, encouraging and considerate.

It is not often that a freelancer gets to hear such words from a journalist of Mr Ramasamy’s seniority, especially when you have never met him. Thus started a relationship that lasted a little over three years. A strange relationship really. Here were two people confined to their respective rooms with little hope to be free birds, reaching out to each other through the technological marvel called telephone.

In this world where it is more important to be a somebody or have a somebody as your godfather, here was a man who was not interested in my “antecedants”. I had called on him over the phone and asked him if there was an opening for freelancers in The Tribune. I told him that I was published in various dailies and other publications. Cutting short my attempts at self-promotion, he asked me to submit a piece to him, which I promptly did through my father — my sole link to the outside world. Within 24 hours of the submission, my telephone bell rang. And I heard the words that sent joy coursing through my being.

Over a period of time I realised that he had a soft corner for the underdog. He would tell me to go soft on new writers’ books that came for review. “It is easy to hector a writer but very difficult to offer constructive criticism” he would say, “and it is easier still to tear a piece of writing to shreds, especially it is by someone else. Just put yourself in his or her place. How would you like to be at the receiving end of similar criticism?” Thus “go soft” became the mantra for all book reviews written by me.

I learnt from him the virtue of humility. Of trying to understand a contrary viewpoint and shedding ego. Such a “guru” is rare. I am lucky to have been associated with him.

“He is a saint,” said my sister, who had met him but once, and my father often referred to him as “a faqueer” (the ascetic). And that about sums up the man. I wish I could meet him in person at least once in my lifetime.


Outspoken: We were shocked to learn the sad demise of Mr Ramasamy. Ramu to his friends and admirers, he has left hundreds of them in a state of shock. He was a friend of friends, upright, straightforward and an outspoken journalist, who never mixed business with pleasure. Though a bachelor, he was married to journalism.

His editorials in The Tribune were well sought after as he called a spade a spade. He could write on any topic with ease and his flow of English was simple and well understood. He used to study a lot. Whenever I met him, I either saw him reading or writing or watching television, sometimes missing his meals.

Dr. P. K. VASUDEVA, Panchkula

Valiant T.K.R: I rang up TKR on Monday after I learnt from a friend that he was not well. He sounded quite lively on the line. That was his usual way of responding to any query. And on Wednesday he was no more.

TKR was an affable man always ready to help, ready to give, looking for no return, no barter, though shattered by the death of his brother a few years ago. He identified himself with The Tribune and built up a team of talented contributors to his column without meanwhile disowning the superannuated ones. He was indeed an affable personality.


A development model

A sum of Rs 190 crore (say) spent in petrochemicals industry would create 10,000 jobs and the same amount invested in forest plantations would create 10 lakh job opportunities. This idea and its practice is most relevant in a country where 37 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line and another 20 per cent lives on mere subsistence level. There is no need to stop technological and industrial development. Forest plantation and industrial development can go together.

Forest plantation (afforestation as well as reafforestation) provides us today and for many years to come a sure way of solving our biggest national problems of poverty and unemployment in the most economical way with little or no disruption of other activities, including industrial growth. Besides, it would create unimaginable wealth. Another advantage of such a development model would be that while industry uses up natural resources, forest plantation would substantially add to them.

It would also help create new demand for our products and services because the purchasing capacity of the nation’s masses would go up and bring the nation out of recession. The number of unemployed rushing to towns and cities with all attendant problems will fall dramatically, thus lowering the concentration of population in cities.

The basic purpose of industrial growth is to provide employment and improve the quality of life for the majority of the population. Every country, like every other individual, is different. As such we should not copy any model of development blindly but have our own model of development on the lines given above.

Dr. G.S. BHALLA, VANDANA DEM, GND University, Amritsar

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