Thursday, April 18, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Bureaucracy & funds for panchayats

I beg to differ with the thrust of your argument “the rural requirements are enormous, and one must be realistic to admit that adequate funds cannot be made available from the state exchequer. Therefore, the panchayats have to find a way to generate financial resources at their own end too.” (“The case of panchayats”, April 8).

In all probability, you have glossed over what Mr George Fernandes, Defence Minister, remarked on April 6, while addressing the All India Panchayat Presidents’ Conference. He hit the nail on the head when he said, “Panchayats are being deprived of their actual rights due to the MPs, the bureaucracy and the state governments coming in their way” and went on to suggest “the MP Local Area Development (MPLAD) funds should be directly given to the district, block and village panchayats” (April 7).

And why not the MLA Local Area Development funds also be routed to these bodies directly and not through the district administration?

The crux of the problem is that the bureaucracy does not want to shed its powers for the effective transfer of the same to the panchayats. These grassroots symbols of Indian democracy are financially emaciated as it were and administratively hamstrung in the labyrinth of the bureaucracy. Another constitutional amendment is really called for to route LAD funds (MP & MLA) directly to PRIs, empower them administratively and strengthen them to generate their own resources as well for accelerated development.

Last but not the least, even the mandate of the national Finance Commission needs to be widened through constitutional amendment for effective devolution of financial resources to the grassroots Panchayati raj institutions.



CONG GOVT’S ROLE: Unfortunately all the successive governments at the Centre and in states have turned a volte face in devolution of powers to the panchayats despite their tall claims and shallow pronouncements. The bureaucracy at all levels is not only resisting and sabotaging these plans but also hampering developmental works merely on technical grounds and due to rampant corruption and red-tapism.

The Congress Government led by Capt Amarinder Singh is out to curtail the powers of the panchayats resulting into more bureaucratic control.

KULDIP SINGH, Sarpanch Kila Raipur

IAF aircraft

Harwant Singh in his analysis of the incident of the aircraft with Air Marshal Vinod Bhatia in the cockpit has come to the conclusion that the possibility of the aircraft straying across the LOC is remote. If there is reasonable doubt with regard to the impartiality of the inquiry headed by Air Marshal Manjit Singh Sekhon, it should be set aside and the incident being inquired into de novo.

Not withstanding this, I would like to state that the possibility of the IAF transport aircraft straying across the LOC into POK is highly likely.

I was the Brigade Major in Kargil in 1965-67. I remember one instance vividly wherein the helicopter after taking off from Kargil was following the designated Suru river route downstream. At the confluence of the Suru and Dras rivers, the pilot was to turn left and follow the Dras river upstream to Zojila Pass en route to Srinagar. The pilot by mistake turned right at the confluence and followed the Suru downstream into POK. The pilot decided to turn back since the mountain tops were covered with clouds and he could not fly over the cloud level. The POK pickets by then had realised that it was an Indian helicopter and fired machine guns from either side of the Suru river, fortunately the helicopter was not hit. The pilot never realised that anything was amiss till he landed back at Kargil and I apprised him of the same. This happened to a highly experienced pilot who had flown into Kargil on earlier occasions.

If due to an error on the part of the navigator or the pilot, the aircraft entered POK air space, it would be in the interest of the IAF in particular and the armed forces in general that this fact is admitted and we can close the chapter. Suppression of truth will be extremely harmful to all concerned.

Brig RAVI MEHTA (retd) New Delhi

‘No Taliban links’

The report “CIA unfolds Pak minister’s Taliban links” (Feb 2) is highly speculative and contrary to facts. Your report says: “The CIA of the USA has come across leads pointing to possible links of the Pakistani Minister of Science and Technology, Dr Atta ur Rehman, with the Taliban regime’s effects to develop chemical and biological warfare material.” The minister has vehemently denied this allegation. The minister has had absolutely no connection or even knowledge of such plans, if any, of the erstwhile Taliban regime. The basis given for your report is “diplomatic sources” and the charge made is of “possible links”. You would agree that this does not provide evidence for the charge levelled against the minister. In fact, it betrays that the report is based on hearsay and not on fact.

While the temptation of a journalist for a scoop is understandable, it certainly does not mean that fiction should be preferred over fact. Avid readers of your daily will agree.

KAMRAN ALI KHAN, Minister (Press), Pakistan High Commission, New Delhi


Apropos my article “Turmoil in the IAF” (March 27) and subsequent letters on the subject, views have been expressed regarding the source of my knowledge pertaining to certain technical issues, and the Kargil area as noted in my article. From Leh to Kargil there are only three flight routes. One, directly across Zanskar range and the Deosai mountains. Second from Nimmu to Padam along the Zanskar river over the Pinsila pass and then along the Suru valley to Kargil. The third route is along the Indus valley up to Khalsi, then over Lamayaru, the two passes of Nimikala and Fatula, Bodhkharbu, Mulbek on to Kargil. The first two pose the problem of circuit at Kargil while the third brings the aircraft straight to the ‘base leg.’ It is at the final stage to align the aircraft for landing, in every case, that it gets close to the LoC.

All crews of transport aircraft operating in support of 3 Infantry Division and now 14 Corps are familiar with this area. Therefore, the possibility of getting lost is indeed remote. During the Kargil war our fighter aircraft (with no navigator on board and flying at much higher speed!) carried out bombing missions 4 to 6 kms from the LoC. The aircraft carrying Air Marshal Bhatia (with a fully qualified navigator on board) was on an inaugural flight to Kargil where a large number of civilians and military personnel, including GOC 14 Corps, were waiting to receive the Air Marshal. Surely, the crew of the aircraft carrying the AOC-in-C would have carried out a trial landing and, therefore, seen the flight route.

I have flown over the area a number of times in Dakota, Packet and AN-32 aircraft, besides helicopters, as a passenger. I also have detailed knowledge of the ground. There must be some merit in my arguments in the article for Air HQ to order a fresh inquiry into the incident to be conducted by the Air Chief himself. I do not know Air Marshal Bhatia, whereas have close family connections with Air Marshal Sekhon. Undoubtedly Sekhon is an outstanding flier and his case has been grossly mishandled by Air HQ, yet nothing should refrain me from expressing my considered views on an issue of vital national security. Finally, I might mention that I am a qualified pilot.

Lt-Gen HARWANT SINGH (retd) Chandigarh

Muscular dystrophy

The news item (April 2) declaring that a disease called muscular dystrophy is incurable is not maintainable. Being a doctor in Govt Ayurvedic Dispensary, Sector 9, Chandigarh, I can assure the patients with muscular dystrophy that it is fully curable at the onset and partially at the advanced stage.

Having successfully treated numerous patients suffering from osteo arthritis, diabetes, hypertension migraine, digestive problems and paralysis, I have about 30 patients suffering from muscular dystrophy/atrophy aged 5 to 50 years who are being treated with ayurvedic medicines. All are responding to treatment well and improving.

One thing is quite sure that the condition of patients with muscular dystrophy becomes stable with the start of ayurvedic treatment. There is no further deterioration. The treatment takes two to three years for full recovery.

Dr KULDIP SINGH Chandigarh


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